Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A little something on communications

I have made some progress on communications lately, although some of it is in the nature of "Two steps forward, one step back" and an unfortunate incidence of "One step forward, two steps back."

This would all go better with pictures, but it's after 3 AM (reason for that below) and I'm not going to get pictures now.  Later maybe.

I have two vehicles that I'm adding 2 meter/440 Mhz gear to.  One is an older Chevy Suburban.  This means you have lots of room to work, plenty of places to put equipment and all sorts of choices of how and where to mount things.  The other is a newer Subaru Outback, which means you have no room for anything extra and damn few choices for mounting anything at all.

The Suburban is getting a Kenwood TM-D700 that I got from a Silent Key's estate.  While the radio has been well-loved,  it's in good operating condition and cleaned up nicely.  It's older, but paired with a Comet CA-2x4SR antenna it should do everything I need and more.  If I feel the urge to update it, I can pair it with the latest generation head piece for about $300.

I thought to have the install completed this weekend, but it seems that the cable I had pulled used wires that are too large for the connectors I purchased.  Doing some additional looking, it seems that with work, I can actually use the factory cable for the remote head.  This is a good thing, because if I make a wiring mistake, I'll be making that $300 upgrade.  But I'm going to have to remove 2 seats and peel back the carpet.  Again.  What you go through to have a professional looking installation....

The control head is mounted on a Lido Seat Bolt Mount.  Basically, one end goes under a seat bolt, then you bend the stalk to put the control head where you want it.  That's it to the left, on its initial test power up.  The top has a gimbal mount so you can position the head just where you want it.

The Subaru hasn't been started, but all the parts are in hand.  It's going to get a Kenwood TM-V71A.  Different feature set from the TM-D700, still way more than I'll probably use.  It too will be paired with a Comet CA-2x4SR antenna.

Mounting this one is going to be simple and ugly.  There is nowhere in the car to mount a radio, unless I take the stereo out, which I'm not.  So it's going to be mounted on the side of the console in the passenger footwell, but up high where I can see it.  The Subie is my daily driver, and it's not all that often anyone rides with me.  When they do...well, it's my car, so watch your knee on the radio if you don't mind.

One thing that is not going to be compromised on is how these radios will be programmed.  Yes, you get to program radios these days.  Kenwood, along with most other manufacturers, offers free software for the purpose.  It works for the most part, but it's not the greatest in the world, and you have to come up with a suitable cable.  RT Systems, on the other hand, has software that is customized to each radio and it comes with a custom cable.  Paired with a new Lenovo E550 that I picked up for a song. and a copy of the ARRL TravelPlus for Repeaters CD-ROM, I can easily program my radios with repeater frequencies for where I am plus any trips I take.

Obviously this has not been an inexpensive proposition.  I've noted before that, due to my job, I've been blessed with the income to be able to do these things.  However, it's perfectly possible to do something similar for less than half of what I have in this and still do it with new equipment.  You can do it new for even less if you are willing to go down market and use some of the Chinese gear that's out there.  I've heard that Alinco also makes some decent mobile gear (bump the price back up a bit), and there is always the used market.  You can also choose to forego the multi-band capability and just stick to 2 meter, which will save you a considerable amount.

Also bear in mind that this is not the sort of thing one does before you're squared away on "beans, band aids and bullets".  This is what you do once all that is done.

As I've mentioned in this space my prepping has taken a different track due to the changes in my health over the last few years.  I've tried ignoring those changes, but that hasn't worked out so well.  I still don't like it, but it is what it is and I must adapt.  There will be no change for the better--I am as good as I will ever be.  There is no magic cure for what ails me.  But one thing I can do is make myself valuable enough that folks consider me worth the trouble of keeping around in the event of an event.  Being the guy who can keep the last dregs of technology working might be a useful skill set.

I probably do need to see about some solar panels at some point....


jed said...

I really need to up my game on the ham front. I have an FT-2900 in the car, and I made a mount that uses PVC pipe to go into one of the cup holders in the center console, in front of the shift lever. Yeah, impinges on passenger space, but I never have any of those. But the lure of cross-band repeat is calling to me, and that Kenwood seems just the ticket.

Anonymous said...

None of us are as young as we used to be.

Would be interested in hearing more about your plans for the radios. APRS? A home shack?