Electronics Flea Market and Inline Amplifiers

On Saturday morning I headed over to the monthly Electronics Flea Market over at the De Anza College parking lot.  My main reason for going was to pick up a few more of the $1 LED Keychain flashlights I got there a few months back, mine broke and Ellen wanted one.  Of course I wanted to check out the other “toys” there as well!

On the last row just as I was getting ready to leave I saw a brand new Mirage B-34 linear power amplifier sitting on a table.  They are hooked up in-line between a 5 watt handheld radio and the antenna, boosting the signal output up to 35 watts.  I’d never used one, but I know I could definitely benefit from some additional power.  Thought about buying it, the price was $40, then wandered away.

Before leaving, I pulled out my iPhone and checked Google and eBay for the prices of these things… saw prices ranging from $89-$120 for them, so $40 was a great deal, figured I could just sell it and make a profit.

Well, as soon as I got home I quickly talked myself in to at least “trying it out” which led to a long afternoon of playing with cables, connectors, and soldering irons.  I checked the max power consumption of my cigarette lighter adaptor for the car, saw it was good enough, so I soldered a lighter adaptor to the power cables on it.  Bought an antenna cable at radio shack, cut off the end, and soldered on another PL-259 to the end of it and got everything running.

I pulled out my second HT so I could test the audio differences with it on and off, and quickly learned about desensing a receiver… The HT would hear the “roger beep” style tone of the repeater, but I couldn’t hear the audio of my own transmission at all.  I even separated it from the antenna a ways and had it recording on my laptop so I could review the audio later, but still wasn’t able to get much.

It wasn’t until tonight when I was talking with Craig, W6WL, and he told me it was definitely just desensitizing the receiver, and after a quick test with him we proved both radios really were transmitting properly.  Sitting in my driveway with my mag-mount antenna he said he could receive me about 70% signal.  Then I flipped on the 35 watt amplifier and he said he could hear me at 104% hehe.  We chatted for a bit and my signal was quite strong to him, so long story short, I’m very pleased with my purchase!

In addition to that, while I was working on getting that wired up, I also did some additionall installation to get my RTrack APRS tracker wired up in a more permanent installation.  I’ve got it running to my old hershy kiss mag mount antenna.  We’ll see how often I make it to a digipeater now, and if I don’t get great results, I may toss the 35W amp inline for that transmitter for a little while and see if that brings about great improvement.

The tracker of course was primarily for the airplane, and I think the lower power of the unit will work just great.  Driving around this mountainous tree filled area with a small antenna some extra wattage might be beneficial!

My Kenwood TH-F6A returns!

I got the phone call on March 28th from Ham Radio Outlet in Sunnyvale that my radio was back from repair from Kenwood. Having experienced a bit of “radio withdrawl” even though I don’t talk a lot on it, I ran right over there on my lunch break. Picked up the radio, plugged in my programming cable in the car, and got all of the frequencies restored with no problems. Nice to have everything back to normal!

The other interesting news was that Mark Bronson (KI6FEA) and I finally made contact via radio. He’s over in the San Jose/Alviso area, and we met up on the K6FB Castle Rock repeater late one evening. Hopefully that encourages him in to the hobby at least a bit :-) Then after church we talked via simplex on our way to lunch and then over to his house.

We talked a lot more about APRS tracking for our aircraft that afternoon, and I’m putting together some of my thoughts on the options available to us regarding that shortly. Primarily I’m going to compare the options of the RPC-Electronics RTrack, Byonics TinyTrak3Plus, Byonics MicroTrack, or just using the Kenwood TH-D7 with an external GPS.

My goals are for something small, easy to set up, low power consumption, fewer wires the better, low cost, and to adjust it’s beaconing rate depending on speed if possible.  I’ll review the listed trackers above, look for others, and report back on which one I’ll probably end up buying. I’ll be sure to refer to this page to see which ones look the most interesting ones to take a deeper look at.