How-to get a great soldering system setup. Buying used Metcal and Thermaltronics to assemble a great soldering system.
Video of how to take the Wouxun apart, complete down to the board level. Overview of repair areas.
BFDX TD-503 DMR RADIO
I've been using the BFDX TD-503 for several months on the local DMR repeater and NCPRN. The main reason I really like it and its found its place above my Mototrbo and Hytera is it the GUI by default shows the Frequency and Channel Name. Controls are standard and easy to use. The case is high quality and it has some heft to it.
It has been left out in the rain, taken on swift-water calls (submerged in the river), dropped, banged, and otherwise abused with no issues whatsoever.
Programming is easy and the cable is inexpensive. The audio quality is better or on par with both my Hytera and Mototrbo's in both analog and digital mode. This radio works great on analog repeaters as well. I've been using this pretty much exclusively for any outdoor adventures (UTV'n, Rafting, Swift-water Rescue, Climbing) without fail, mainly because of its price point and performance. At $250 brand new its much less expensive than a used Mototurbo or Hytera.
I had some issues with the audio on this so bear with it. Also standard definition only.
Just a quick video of what's next in Ham radio and some projects I've been working on, as well as others, to get there. Some highlights:
- MultiCodec - Codec2, AMBE...
- Remote Standardized Head Unit / Retrofit
- Less PC .. More Embedded
- More modular
- Easier to use and the possibility of installing station away from Radio.
- DSP development in the hands of more people.
- Older Designs get updates.
- Powerful Tools getting more accessible
- KiCad (New stable, RF Traces (Curved), Diff Pair Routing (USB, etc))
- Inexpensive STM32 and other DSP platforms
- Filter Creation and Simulation
An open source codec for compression is up and going (CODEC2).
AMBE is much easier to implement and get ahold of.
Remote heads are beginning to pop up commercially in the FlexRadio line.
More embedded projects/products including SM1000, FlexRadio head unit, and many many DStar node adaptors.
DMR radios have hit the market to warm up the digital voice market, many which are under $300 new.
ICOM IC-208H Background
Looking for something to play with I was the lucky bidder on a non-working IC-208H ICOM Dual Bander radio on Ebay. It looked ok but was listed as non-working. They also disclosed it would not power all. All of these things were correct. A more accurate description would have been "Used on the show Deadliest Catch but the boat sank to the bottom. Recovered 2 months later".
I'm guessing it was installed on a boat and wouldn't surprise me if said boat was at the bottom when this radio was removed. The head unit was in great shape so not a complete loss.
Since there was severe damage from the apparent reverse hookup and water damage it wasn't something I could or would repair. I did end up with some spare parts, a good IC-208H head, new power cord, and a working Mic.
The mic connector was completely trashed with green tented heavy corrosion. Inside both side of the board had been exposed to water and dirt. Even without the badly damaged PCB craters it was deemed a lost cause as soon as I opened the case. Stay tuned for a teardown of the IC-208H head unit as this appears to be in great shape and I want to see if and how it ticks before parting with it.
ICOM IC-208H Teardown Video
Teardown video of a beaten down ICOM IC-208H. I'd really like to know what this radio has seen.
HAMTRONICS REP 200 VHF REPEATER
The local club came to me to add TX PL Mod to the local VHF repeater. It's a well aged Hamtronics REP 200 that had one tone board installed for RX. They specifically requested that the TX board only transmit during reception of the RX PL tone. This is to allow you to setup a RX PL so that you only hear voice traffic.
I reviewed the new tone board and the REP-200 schematic and whipped up something that worked. I mounted the new Tone Board close to the existing one. I used a transistor on the new board to control the existing REP-200. Before giving it back to put into service, a slight alignment was done and thorough testing, including burn in. Its been on the mountain working now for at least 2 months with no issues.
AmScope SE400-Z Background
I have several implements for PCB inspection including real time macro video, several usb type microscopes and the old trusty head mounted magnifier. Many times the real time view of a microscope is the best option and most used one.
The AmScope SE400-Z is a stereo boom mounted scope with a flexible gooseneck LED light. There are several options available and I have the 10x and 20x wide-field eyepieces along with the 1x objective lower section. Other options can be purchased later if you so desire.
The theory is this will be realtime while soldering unlike the usb scopes, put you close to the work being done and still provide stereo vision for soldering and inspection of PCBs. This scope delivers exactly that and doesn't take up a lot of room on the bench. This scope is very economical and works great for PCB soldering and inspection.
At bit more use and the more I like it. It's just a pleasure to use. The LED light works well for changing the angle of light when needed. The optics are really nice now that I've gotten used to the height. Still highly recommended for PCB work.
AmScope SE400-Z Video Review
DANGER DISCLAIMER! High Voltage devices are dangerous. So first and foremost don't mess with one if you don't know what you are doing and even then it may not pan out. You've been warned.
I happened across a HV Supply and just couldn't resist. It was indicated that he had no idea if the HV supply worked and I knew prior that the HV module in these supplies really are not serviceable according to manufacture (Good Advice). The Tek TDS Scope that was to be traded for this device I was in my way and this was a great way to get ride of it. I in no way shape or form ever planned on using it. So, I pulled the trigger and swapped the Tek Scope for the HV Supply with the justification it would be less room taken in the lab. Really I just wanted it. The packages traversed the US and it took about a week for the traded items to arrive. The HV Supply arrived well packed and I begin to ponder what my procedure was going to be to ensure my safety during testing, how to test, and what the plan for it working as expected or not.
#1 Safety This particular device is rated at 10KV. It's perfectly capable of "reaching out" to "git" you. Rumor is it turns you to goo. I don't plan on finding out.
#2 I needed to keep #1 in mind for any testing or risk getting instantly cremated into a pile of ash or goo on the lab floor (Not really, but death is a possibility so care will be taken).
#3 Do I dare dive into the non-serviceable regions of the supply? I likely will but once that teardown occurs the device won't be placed back into service, again abiding by #1.
The supply itself is a Acopian P010HP6 Supply. It appears it is still sold and serviced by the manufacture. The face has analog meters for current and voltage and really nice vernier controls for both. A large ON/OFF switch is also supplied. At the rear there is a HV output connector which looks like a GES HS-10 connector. There are connections as well for remotely controlling the unit and prior to turn-up, I'll use the Acopian guide to verify it is in local mode.
Before I had planned to do the actual teardown/test I started thinking about how I might use this and here were some of the ideas that came to me while driving back and forth to work.
1. Mouse Trap - As novel as this sounds, I remembered I have a cat who would be very angry and hold a grudge if I took this duty away from her.
2. Flame Thrower - HV can certainly be used to ignite fuel. Not very practical or safe.
3. Plasma Speaker - I remember seeing this on the inter web somewhere. Nah
4. Rail Gun - Nah
Although they all sound like lots of fun I haven't come up with anything really practical yet for this supply if it works. But I'm sure it will come in handy for something.
Here is a video of the teardown and end result.
Wouxun Flash Issue Background
Wouxun's seem to either wear the flash chip out or are made with a bad batch of parts. Eventually all of them I've owned prior and everyone I know throws it in the trash. Below is a video of how to do the repair and its an easy fix. Wouxun used a very low write count part but there are better options as a direct replacement. The replacement part is a 24C64 found just about everywhere for under $1. Please repair these when possible and if you are unable or unwilling, hand it over to a new ham or send to an old one to be repaired.
I recommend using a hot air station but it is possible to carefully cut leads with cutters for parts replacement. When using cutters be sure to not rip any traces from the board. Go very slow and use a good tool. An alternative method is to heat and lift one lead a time. Mouser and Digikey both have alternatives for this part by searching for the 24C64. Right now links to these parts are as follows:
Wouxun Repair Video
Background of the GPSTM Conversion
I have several Symmetricom time references all of which are large. I really needed something compact for my newest bench area. I fumbled upon a Nortel card (GPSTM). It is basically a Trimble Thunderbolt. It has a few minor differences, utilizing the same software for configuration. It has a 10mhz output (SMB Connectors). I used a Symmetricom Distribution Amp to sync all my equipment on the bench (Signal Gen, HP 8935 Spectrum Analyzer, HP Frequency Counter). The only modification required is a 48V(24-48VDC) DC power supply. It is very straightforward to get one of these up and running as a repurposed GPSDO. It is small, compact, and won't break the bank. I completed this project for well under $200. A photo of the DC connection is below and a video as well.