LED lighting woes

Pressed to replace working lighting with so-called ‘energy efficient’ lighting by well-meaning but narrow sighted conservationists, I recently replace about 25 CFL lamps with 12W LED MR16 lamps.

They have started failing now after a couple of years of service, perhaps a few thousand hours of service. So much for the claims of 100,000 hours… clearly preposterous.

In an effort to identify which of the switched mode power supply or LED assembly was the problem, I tried to substitute LEDs to different power supplied.

That was not a good idea, lets look at the anatomy of your typical Chinese junk MR16 LED.

Above is the complete 12W MR16 lamp with GU5.3 bipin connector on the back. Continue reading LED lighting woes

Icom IC-7410 – PTT tuner start doesn’t work

I have an IC-7410 with R1 of the firmware installed.

I have attempted to use its PTT tuner start feature (triggers ATU tune on PTT if frequency changed a significant amount)  with an MFJ-993B ATU, but it fails.

The symptoms are that the IC-7410 does not transmit its tune carrier, it remains in the mode active when PTT was pressed.

Tuner operations initiated from the IC-7410 TUNE switch appear to all work as expected.

Above is a logic trace of the ATU control wires on PTT tune. everything looks good, when the /START signal is recognised as valid, the ATU asserts KEY and the IC-7410 should put tune carrier out… but it doesn’t and the ATU aborts after about 0.5s without tuning. Continue reading Icom IC-7410 – PTT tuner start doesn’t work

Anatomy of an F barrel (F81)

The humble ‘F barrel’ as it is known, the F81 adapter, is specified by IEC 61169-24:2009. That specification includes an extended performance type good to 3GHz.

It seems that every seller on eBay has worked out that they cannot sell F81 adapters unless they state that they are 3GHz rated… and they almost all lie.


Above is the internals of an F81 purchased as 3GHz rated on eBay. The construction is simply the popular construction used since the 1970s and good to almost 1GHz, good enough for VHF/UHF TV. Continue reading Anatomy of an F barrel (F81)

Speaker-microphones and DMR portables

Speaker-mics (RSM) are popular with portables (hand-helds), and it turns out that a lot of the implementations which appeared to work properly with conventional FM radios have issues on DMR portables.

The frustration in buying these things online is that sellers typically have no idea of what they are selling.

This article deals with degraded audio in a form that is often described as motor boating. Continue reading Speaker-microphones and DMR portables

Reflected power alarm for the MFJ-993B

This article describes an add-on to a MFJ-993B auto ATU to provide an audible alarm when reflected power exceeds a set threshold. A deficiency of the original design IMHO.

The solution uses the generic heating / cooling controller (hcctl) configured for its alarm function only, including a function to silence the alarm.

screenshot-03_12_16-18_34_50Above is the directional coupler part of the MFJ-993B. The REF test point is designed to present voltages within the range 0-5V when used within the stated power ratings. Continue reading Reflected power alarm for the MFJ-993B

Radio-Kits SWR meter – build and review

This article describes my build of a Radio-Kits SWR meter (v1.1) and post implementation review.

Advertised features:

  • HF coverage – 1.8-30MHz
  • Displays VSWR, forward power, reverse power and supply voltage
  • Peak reading power meter
  • Bar graph or numerical format
  • Reverse power alarm with adjustable threshold
  • Auto turn on in presence of RF – sensitivity about 1 watt
  • Optional turn off after preset time – 10-240 seconds
  • Backlit LCD display with variable brightness
  • Reverse polarity protection

I purchased the kit some years ago, and on receiving it and reviewing the circuit I formed the view that it was likely to have unacceptable Insertion VSWR on 1.8Mhz, and probably 3.5MHz bands… so I lost interest in assembling the kit. However, I have belatedly constructed the kit, calibrated and tested it.


The kit is supplied as a PCB and parts, no casework is supplied.

The board was difficult to solder, the strain relieved ground plane connections of components have very little donut to contact for heat transfer and are much harder to solder than the other pads. The strain relief is a dubious feature that makes soldering difficult.


Above, the kit assembled in a die-cast aluminium box. An opening for the LCD was milled into the box, and holes drilled for the rest of the fit up. The kit does not lend itself to this boxing as the buttons out the top and display out the front are a problem to fit up. A poor mechanical design.


Above is the interior of the box showing the LCD display and the external BNC connectors fitted (substituted for the ubiquitous UHF connectors supplied with the kit). Continue reading Radio-Kits SWR meter – build and review

Grebenkember’s original Tandem match

(Grebenkemper 1987) describes a directional coupler that has become very popular, especially in commercial implementation.

screenshot-22_11_16-07_23_25The simplified circuit above from Grebenkemper’s article illustrates the key elements of the directional coupler.

An important detail of the design is that the primary of the right hand transformer appears in shunt with the antenna load, and the magnetising impedance of that transformer core compromises Insertion VSWR. It is important that the magnetising impedance is sufficiently high (or the admittance sufficiently low) to not cause significant Insertion VSWR.
Continue reading Grebenkember’s original Tandem match

KitsAndParts.com QRP SWR bridge

The project is to build a test a couple of QRP VSWR detectors by KitsAndParts.com (http://www.kitsandparts.com/bridge.php) rated at 10W.


Above are the completed kits.


Above is the schematic. The bridge uses a type of Sontheimer coupler (Sontheimer 1966) and these are commonly poorly designed. The first question is whether the magnetising impedance of T2 which appears in shunt with the load is sufficiently high to not give rise to poor insertion VSWR. Continue reading KitsAndParts.com QRP SWR bridge

DMR distance limit

I have heard ‘traditional wisdom’ that there is a timing limit imposed by the DMR protocol limit that limits radio path lengths to less than 70km.

There is indeed a limit and it is due to the 2ms guard interval between time slots, and half of that time is available for accomodation of round trip radio propagation delay (RTT), so 1ms with c0=3e8m/s gives a one way distance limit of 150km.

To put the ‘traditional wisdom’ to the test, I took a UHF DMR handheld up onto a nearby hill and successfully had a medium length QSO via the VK2RAG repeater netoworked to VK1BGT using the VK1RBM repeater.
Continue reading DMR distance limit