Australian amateur population trends 1998 – 2015

This is a 2015 update of an article written originally in October 2005, earlier editions published on which is now offline.

Over recent years to 2002, the number of issued amateur licences was declining, the trend was about 2.8% pa decline over the five years to 2002.

This has concerned some people, who took the view that the decline was a harbinger of the impending demise of Amateur Radio. Continue reading Australian amateur population trends 1998 – 2015

OpenLog for TinyTrak

There are a host of factors that contribute to data loss in APRS, to name just some:

  • non-standard / sub-standard / poorly configured digipeaters;
  • defect ridden iGates that lose, duplicate and corrupt packets;
  • poorly configured mobiles;
  • network congestion and interference;
  • unpredictable equipment failures;
  • basic geographical coverage of the network; and
  • dependence on the ionosphere for HF APRS.

This article describes an enhancement to the popular TinyTrak (and its clones) to also capture the GPS stream to an inexpensive local data logger.

The logger does not interfere with normal radio APRS, it coexists with it and creates a properly timestamped fine detail log of positions over a very long time, a log that can be post processed into a range of graphic / map and tabular reports.

Data logger

The datalogger used in an OpenLog. It is a simple logger that writes data to a micro SD card formatted FAT16/32 up to 32GB, costs about $A12 (inc post) for the logger and about A$10 (inc post) for a 16GB Class 10 micro SD card. (A slower card could be used, but they aren’t much cheaper.)


Above, the OpenLog data logger.
Continue reading OpenLog for TinyTrak

DK7ZB’s balun

(Steyer nd) describes the DK7ZB balun / match for VHF and UHF Yagis.


To understand how the “DK7ZB-Match” works look at the left picture. Inside the coax cable we have two currents I1 and I2 with the same amount but with a phase shift of 180°.

No. At any point along the coaxial line, a current I on the outer surface of the inner conductor causes an equal current in the opposite direction on the inner surface of the outer conductor.

As the currents are shown with the designated directions, I2=I1, not I2=I1<180.

A consequent simplification is that I4=I2-I3=I1-I3.

There is an issue with the current arrow I3 in the lower right of the diagram. It might imply that the only current in the conductors is I3, but the current between the nearby node and lower end of the shield is I3-I1.

If the structure was much much shorter than the wavelength, there would be negligible phase change in currents along the structure, so I1 would be uniform along the centre conductor, I2 uniform along the inside surface of the outer conductor, and I3 uniform along the outer surface of the outer conductor.

The diagram notation does show that I3 (which is equal to the dipole drive imbalance) is uniform along the structure, and that I3 flows to ground.

It seems that the diagram appears in (Straw 2003).

DK7ZB goes on:

If we connect a dipole or the radiator of a Yagi direct to the coax, a part of I2 is not running to the arm 2 but down the outer part of the coax shield. Therefore I1 and I4 are not in balance and the dipole is fed asymmetric.

But how can we suppress the common-mode current I3? A simple solution is to ground the outer shield in a distance of lambda/4 at the peak of the current.

So, the length of the structure is in fact a quarter wavelength electrically, or close to it to achieve the choking effect. I3 will be in the form of a standing wave with current maximum at the lower (‘grounded’) end, and current minimum at the upper end.

It happens also that his usual configuration of this balun is that there is a standing wave on the inside of the coax, and so I1 and I2 are not uniform along the conductor, and whilst it is relevant to the designed impedance transformation, it is inconsequential to reduction of dipole current imbalance.

DK7ZB continues with the development of his variation of a Pawsey balun:

But now we get a new interesting problem: For the transformation 28/50 Ohm we need a quarterwave piece of coax with an impedance of 37,5 Ohm (2×75 Ohm parallel). The velocity of the wave inside the coax is lower than outside (VF = 0,667 for PE).

The outside of the shield has air (and a litle bit of insulation) in the surrounding and VF = 0,97. For grounding the common mode currents this piece should have a length of 50 cm, with a VF = 0,667 and a length of 34,5 cm this piece of coax is to short. By making a loop of this two cables as shown in the picture down we get an additional inductivity and we come closer to an electrical length of lambda/4. Ideal is coax cable with foam-PE and a VF = 0,82

schleifeAbove is DK7ZB’s implementation of his balun with the loop and additional inductivity.

I copied the above implementation and measured the common mode impedance Zcm.


Above is the Zcm measurement. There is a quite narrow self resonance where Zcm is quite high for about 10MHz bandwidth centred on 125MHz, but at 144MHz Zcm=83-j260Ω which is too low to qualify as a good common mode choke.

Like all narrowband / tuned common mode chokes, tuning to the desired frequency band is essential to their effective operation.

Like most published balun designs, this one is published without measurements to demonstrate its operation or effectiveness.


Trombone capacitors in Small Transmitting Loops

Small Transmitting Loops (STL) usually require a capacitor to tune the loop to resonance for ease of efficient matching.

For an efficient STL that can handle moderate power, the capacitor must withstand extreme voltage, and must have extremely low equivalent series resistance (ESR).

(Straw 2007) describes the so-called ‘trombone’ capacitor which is attributed to Bill Jones, KD7S, originally in Nov 1994 QST.

05.pdf - Foxit Reader FoxitReader 25/10/2015 , 13:45:12Above is Jones’ trombone match. Continue reading Trombone capacitors in Small Transmitting Loops

A cheap and cheerful data logger

I had need of a portable serial data logger for proof of concept of a supplementary data logger for an APRS tracker.

The requirement is to capture RS232-TTL data at 4800bps, 8N1 to a data file for later extraction. The logger needs to restart automatically and append new records to the existing file.

A spare Raspberry Pi2 was applied to the job as a headless data logger.



Above is the RPi2 with an inexpensive FTDI USB/RS232-TTL adapter. Only the ground and RD wires attach to the modified TinyTrak. Continue reading A cheap and cheerful data logger

Adjusting KISS TNC AFSK tx level using an improved isochronous test packet

Adjusting KISS TNC AFSK tx level using an isochronous test packet explained a technique to drive a KISS TNC with a specially constructed packet that contains an ISOCHRONOUS test packet, a packet that will produce equal high and low tone alternation in the transmitted AFSK signal. The improved packet should be repeated by most digipeaters, allowing observation of their modulation performance.


Above is the waveform recovered from a receiver without de-emphasis (a Motorola R2009D communications analyser in this case).
Continue reading Adjusting KISS TNC AFSK tx level using an improved isochronous test packet

Steel wire CF dipole on 160m

A correspondent having seen recent discussion and models on eHam regarding steel dipoles, asked about the accuracy of my articles:

Galvanised steel wire CF dipole; and

Galvanised steel wire OCF dipole.

The eHam article gives the gain of a low half wave steel dipole on 160m as 0.5-1dB less than copper depending on steel composition. (The thread was entitled “galvanised steel wire”, but the model was clearly labelled steel. For discussion of the effect of galvanising, see Galvanised steel wire OCF dipole.)

The model used is not fully exposed, but the results are unlikely unless perhaps the permeability of the steel was ignored (NEC-2 does not natively model µr>1).

Clip 045

Above are the gain plots from NEC-4.2 for three different material types, copper, steel, and steel resistivity with µr=1 (-wrong). Continue reading Steel wire CF dipole on 160m

A prototype data logger for RFPM1

This project is a data logger accessory for Lou Destefano’s (VK3AQZ) RF Power Meter kit (RFPM1).

The RFPM1 develops an analog signal 0-2000mV corresponding to 0-100dB input power range, -85-16dBm. The module described here produces a digital output scaled -85.0 to 15.0 for 0-2000mV input.

Rrpm1Adc01The hardware is based on a clone of the Digispark ATTiny85 USB development board, about A$3 incl shipping on eBay. Differently to the original Digispark, the board above has a micro USB connector on board. The vero ‘mother board’ carries a resistor and 10t pot for calibration adjustment. Continue reading A prototype data logger for RFPM1

NAZE32 / Cleanflight trial


The Naze32 is hardly new, but it does seem to have reached a maturity where it, alternative firmware and the support tools are functional and fairly stable.

The article describes a project to fit a Naze32 to an existing quadcopter that used a Multiwii flight controller on a Atmega 328P platform, and initial perceptions.

The 32bit processor at 72MHz provides a lot more computing power than the old 8bit processor at 16MHz.


An early decision was made to try Cleanflight as first option, as it appears to work well, is responsive for user issues, has a good PC client and is configurable from Arduino using the EZ-GUI client that I use for Multiwii.

Naze32Above is the Naze32 undergoing Bluetooth testing before fitment to the quadcopter. Continue reading NAZE32 / Cleanflight trial

Does VSWR damage HF ham transmitters

This Jan 2011 article has been copied from my web site which is no longer online. It is for reference in further articles discussing the popular reflections explanations. The article may contain links to articles on that site and which are no longer available.

The statement is often made to the effect that:

VSWR will damage a HF ham transmitter, and the mechanism is that the ‘reflected power’ in a standing wave will be absorbed by the Power Amplifier (PA), increasing heat dissipation and damaging the PA.

There are two problems with this statement: Continue reading Does VSWR damage HF ham transmitters