Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays to everyone out there.

The packing continues.  Getting everything ready, deciding what goes with us, what stays here, and what goes in the trash is a never ending saga.  Plus stockpiling things that we won’t be able to get (peaches and cranberries are two big ones)

Band conditions have been abysmal of late, perfect time for me to brush up on my CW.

I also got a chance to work a station on split for the first time, station in the Canary Islands, it was interesting to say the least.

73, KE4TA, 9Xsomething

RIP Panadapter

So I got the panadapter installed correctly.  But maybe I did something wrong, who knows.  Maybe it just wasn’t designed to work with my radio, but I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t work.  To be fair, THE PANADAPTER WORKS!  I have no doubt that the design was solid.

Unfortunately, the panadapter most definitely caused major desensitization on my receiver.  On the order of 6db reductions on some bands.  Given what I heard regarding conditions in Rwanda, I believe that 6db reduction in reception would be catastrophic for my DX efforts.  I left the panadapter in the radio, but clipped off the wires and removed them.  I may revisit the project at another date, but for now, its unfortunate that I had to get rid of it.  Many thanks to the guys at HupRF for their expertise.  Perhaps I’ll revisit it at a later date.

73, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething

The Panadapter is installed!!!

Thanks to some help from a friend who builds satellites, and has a much steadier hand than I do, the panadapter from HupRF is installed. img_20161020_182715

Some thoughts for anyone installing this on an FT-991.  First, its on the bottom, not the top (mistake one, but nothing critical) looks like the internal tuner board is on the top of the radio.  The IF is on the bottom.

img_20161020_182458 img_20161020_183616 img_20161020_182432

Its hard to really see the scale in these photos. But the components are extremely close together, and very small.  Each soldered connection looks like its the size of a pinhead.

I did learn a neat trick from him. Don’t bother stripping insulation from a very thin wire when its a lot easier and more precise to just burn it off and clean your iron afterwards.

Also, specific to the FT-991, the back of this radio is really tight, you’ll either have to run the SMA cable out a vent hole in the back, or drill a hole thru the top if you want a mount that is really secure.  Right now, I took the SMA cable and tied a loop to keep it from getting pulled out.

I’ll add another post in the next few days to let everyone know how it works on the air.  I still need to figure out the best SDR software to display as a panadapter, and to see if i can get it to work with my android tablet.


KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething


Some notes from Jim 9X0JW/KB1ZSQ

So I was curious why I hadn’t heard from Jim, 9X0JW / KB1ZSQ on the air yet.  I got an email from him the other day, and the situation for him is difficult.  He detailed several of the issues.

  1. RFI – Apparently everyone loooooves to use cheap lightbulbs that have horrible RF emissions on HF.  I can’t blame the Rwandans, they’re not a rich country, but its annoying.  (anyone know the best way to get this one fixed?)
  2. Lightning – Weather is a big factor, apparently they recently had some nasty storms that knocked over some antennas on the roof where he’s staying.  I’ll need a rock solid grounding system in place wherever we are.
  3. Earthquakes – I don’t think I can do much about earthquakes.

So with the bad news out of the way, I also found out that installing a vertical antenna is possible.  Jim recommends I bring both a vertical and a dipole.


Alan KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething

New Power Supply for the trip

So I’ve ordered a new power supply.

I’ve always been a believer that, if you can afford it, you should spend a little more money on something that will last you the rest of your life, rather than buying something, upgrading, upgrading again, and spending more that you would have in the first place.  So I picked up an MFJ 75A power supply.  It will have more than enough power for my current needs, and will be able to handle 240v for Rwanda.  Anderson Powerpoles, accessory connections, the works.  I’m still taking the Astron 20A power supply as a back up in case something happens.

I’ll update with a picture for unboxing and set up.

Alan, KE4TA, 9Xsomething something

I just got a package today!

So I just got a package today, from hupRF.img_20160915_182105

and now the scary part is coming…

I went ahead and opened up the package, and I was quite surprised at the size  The whole circuit board is about the size of two quarters or two postage stamps, as you can see in the picture.


The entire package cost approximately 32$ USD, and will give me the ability to use my SDR as a panadapter.

Now the scary part of installing it begins… to be honest, I’m excited about building it, but nervous as hell about messing up my radio.

Cheers and 73 to G4HUP.  When it comes time to take the cover off and do the install, I’ll write another post with pictures of everything.  Perhaps with foul language if I end up destroying my radio…

73, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething

I’m getting a panadapter!!! Whoo hoo!!

I currently will be taking my FT-991 with me to Rwanda next year, and I will say, that it is a great radio, but not without limitations. Some of these limitations Yaesu has already acknowledged by announcing that there will be an FT-991a. The a-model will have the ability to listen and have a waterfall display at the same time, much like the Icom IC-7300. There is a plan to offer current FT-991 owners a possibility to upgrade, but it hasn’t been announced yet.

I’m impatient and I don’t want to wait.

So I bought an SDRPlay radio, which can work much like a panadapter, but not quite, and there is one limitation: if you transmit without some way of grounding out the receive antenna on the SDR, you’ll end up destroying it. I researched a few solutions: I looked at switches that I could incorporate with my foot switch (well, won’t work with my hand mike), I looked at solutions that would work with my very nice tuner (but what about VHF?). And then I came across this website: http://huprf.com/huprf/ .  This website is run by G4HUP, a fine gentleman who has been more than helpful in answering questions for me, and, well, he is certainly smarter than me.

I purchased his PAT board for the Yaesu FT-991.  The cost with shipping and some associated parts to make a clean installation cost me less than 40$ USD!!!  It will require breaking the seal on the radio, which yes, will likely void the warranty.  But I’m actually glad to do that.  If it ends up costing me 1000$ or more to learn more of the science and art of amateur radio, then its a cost worth paying.

When the board comes in, I’ll be sure to post some pictures of the install, and any tips I can give FT-991 users if they want to try installing this.  I will be using G4HUP’s PAT70 board, and connecting it to an SDR Play, which will be displayed via an Android tablet, that will end up somewhere on top of my tuner, power supply, hammered into the wall, I dunno….


Alan, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething.


What bands will I be on?

So I was asked by a few friends which bands I intend on operating. I won’t know for sure until I get to my QTH in Kigali, but from what I’ve been told, 20/17/12/10 are the best bands to use for getting to the United States and Europe.

Aside from the DX spotting networks, I will probably determine my operating band based on the VOACAP website below.

If you’re trying to find the best band to contact me, I will be in grid KI58.


73, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething


I don’t think anyone in Africa uses JT65 at all.  I have a friend who lives in an apartment, which means no external antennas.  JT65 is the only mode that will get his signal out of the US.  Using PSKreporter, I noticed that aside from South Africa, no one seemed to use JT65 in Africa.  Anyone know why?

Alan, KE4TA, 9Xsomethingsomething