ARRL VHF Contest

The semi-annual VHF contest was this past weekend, and while I didn’t get a lot of time to play radio (High School Graduation Party for Graduate Number Two), I did get a little.  And it was my first contest with my new SunSDR2 Pro.  If you want to skip to the important part, it wasn’t a blow-out.  But it did go surprisingly well.  My setup for the contest was rather unimpressive.  I was running around 15watts on 6m and about 8watts on 2m.  Both ran through about 50ft of RG8x (yeah, I know) to poor antennas.  The 2m went to a J-Pole on the upstairs porch, and the 6m went to a 1/2 G5RV.  No beams.  No rotators.  Bad coax.  Wrong polarization.  And just plain bad antennas.  Yet I still managed contacts from here in Washington all the way down to Arizona and all the way East to New Hampshire.  Not bad for a horribly compromised setup operated on a very ad-hoc basis.  I learned a few things about my new radio.  For example, when operating in a contest, a step size of 50hz is just about right for the mouse wheel.  I haven’t gotten my ShuttleXpress working with Linux yet.  It’s on the to-do list.  I did manage to get a foot pedal wired up, which makes a huge difference, especially when combined with a headset/boom mic.  Below is a screen shot during the contest.  And you can download the IQ file here to play with.

I also added an 80mm fan to the top of the radio.  While it wasn’t hot enough to burn fingers, it was hotter than I was comfortable with.  Yuri (NSI Guy) says the temperature is fine, and I believe him, but I also believe that cooler electronics live longer, happier lives.  A fan cost me $11 at Vetco, and lowered the temperature by 41F, down to about 77F.  $11 well spent.  I do still need to find a way to secure it, but for the moment, it works just fine resting on top of the passive heat sink.

Last, but not least, it’s been interesting having an SDR when it comes to interference around the house.  I’ve always had horrible HF noise here at my location, but now I have the tools to see what’s going on.  The screen below, for example, is what things look like when the clothes washing machine kicks on:

One of these days when the entire family is out of the house for the day, I’m going to turn off every circuit breaker in the panel, then turn them on one by one until I track down all of the hash-making devices.  Then I’m going to burn them in unquenchable fire.  You’d think that living on acreage way out in the country would give you a nice quite RF spectrum.  But alas, no.


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