Yaesu FT-7800R Mobile Installation

Living in the south Auckland countryside and working in the city means a reasonable commute (50kms/40 minutes on a good day) each way.  A lot of this time is filled listening to podcasts but for several years I had also been taking my Yaesu VX5.  

The VX5 is a neat little rig but at only 5 watts it was limited use for simplex,  it was a very wide receive front end so connecting it to my mobile antenna would cause serious overload as I passed through the central city, I ran it from batteries because a connecting to the car accessory socket caused too much noise on transmit and the installation was a bit messy.... cables snaking into the car from the antenna and the handheld lying on the passenger’s seat.  

I hadn't taken much notice of the prices on amateur transceivers until a recent trip to Los Angeles where I picked up a Yaesu FT-450 at HRO for US$750 (NZ$1000)… that is another story.  US prices for 2m/70cm transceivers were great but I wasn't going to the US in the foreseeable future... only Hong Kong next week.

Google told me there was one amateur radio dealer in Hong Kong - CQ Shop and emails in advance of traveling asking what models they stocked and pricing went unanswered.... so while there I just went for a visit.  CQ Shop is in Sham Shui Po... 4-5 MTR stops away from Tsim Tsa Tsui in a part of the city with few tourists and plenty of small shops selling electronic stuff to the locals.  Unlike the tourist combat zone of Tsim Tsa Tsui you don't need to bargain at CQ Shop... they are very helpful and will give you a price that is more than fair (actually cheaper than HRO because there is no state sales tax to add) (no interest here.... just a satisfied customer).  Compared to the large stores in the US the range is limited... mainly focusing on VHF/UHF transceivers and accessories.... makes sense given the lifestyle in Hong Kong I don't see many opportunities for large HF antennas and high power.  

I purchased a Yaesu FT-7800R for Hk$1780.00 (US$266 / NZ$360).  A great deal compared to NZ prices.  The CQ Shop staff were really helpful and because they knew it was for export they were very happy (actually insisted) on powering up the rig and checking it on both transmit and receive.

Why the FT-7800R?

I like Yaesu gear.  Not that I dislike other brands but my first contact with Amateur Radio was with ZL1BOK in the late 70's and he had a Yaesu FTDX-400 and this has certainly influenced my buying decisions.... I currently have an FT-450,FT-736R,FT-101ZD,FT-5200,VX5 and now the FT-7800R.



  • A removable head.   I wanted to install the rig in the Honda Civic I drive each day so the install options were limited.40-50w out on 2m (70cm less important as most 70cm stuff around Auckland is through repeaters but I do a bit of 2m simplex).
  • Not excessively affected by strong off frequency signals.
  • Wide band receive... specifically air band AM.
  • Enough buttons and knobs (rather than menus) so it can be operated by feel while driving.
  • Not too expensive.... I have enough other expensive hobbies (horses and airplanes).


Looking at the various options from Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood the FT-7800R won out.  I didn't think the extra paid for a "real" dual band rig like the FT-8800 was worth it... I have enough trouble listing to one QSO without trying to listen to two... I had no requirement for cross band repeat and I thought the lighted buttons on the FT-7800R would make it a lot easier to operate in the dark.

So the FT-7800R it was....  

Unlike the US the separation kit is not included in the standard price from CQ Shop.  It is quite pricey to buy the standard Yaesu kit separately so I went for the eBay option and ordered a third party kit from one of the vendors on eBay.  I could easily have made the cables myself but the plastic mount for the control heard was what I really wanted.  
If you do buy the kit on Ebay watch make sure you check the pricing carefully... the vendors often list multiple of the same item with completely different prices and shipping costs.  Mine ended up costing around AU$20 (the Yaesu kit seems to be around US$60) once shipping to NZ was included.... and was the best deal I could find at the time. It arrived, exactly as advertised and well packed within a week of ordering.

While waiting for the separation kit I planned the installation.... my main worry was how to get through the firewall to connect to the battery.  

The Civic has some existing grommets with cables but try as I might I would not cut through the rubber to push the rig power cables through.  The big stereo guys insist this is possible but after a few hours trying I gave up.  I also didn't want to drill through the firewall either so I took the alternative option and ran the cable from the engine compartment through the door pillar and behind the trim in the cab.  Not quite as tidy but pretty good.

Cables Into Cab


The rig is mounted in the trunk (boot in England/NZ/Australia) and screwed to the back of the passenger seats.

Rig in Trunk


The power cables connect "almost" directly to the battery.  The negative is on the same bolt that connects the battery negative lead to the chassis.  The positive is on the same bolt that connects the battery positive into the fuse box.  This needed a small amount of cutting of the plastic fuse box to allow the cable to enter but the result is very tidy.

Power from Fusebox

Power from Fusebox

Both positive and negative cables are protected by 10 amp fuses as close as possible to their attach points.  If anything shorts downstream these should blow and stop any damage.

To get the power cables into the cabin they route between the hood and the passenger door and then behind the internal trim.  

To prevent chaffing of the wires (particularly below the hood where there are sharp edges) the sites are run inside clear plastic tube.

The power cables run behind the trim down the passenger side of the car and emerge in the trunk.

The separation cables (panel and audio) run behind the trim on the driver’s side of the car and emerge under the driver seat.

The head unit is mounted using the separation kit mounting between the stick shift and the brake.  I spent a lot of time considering locations and I am very pleased with this... it is tidy, all the controls fall nicely to hand and it is easy to glance down if needed to read the display.

Head Unit Installation


There is a Jaycar communications speaker mounted under the driver’s seat.

The DTMF mic still floats around in the cabin and often sits on the passenger seat.  I guess I should install the mic holder.

Overall I am very pleased with the FT-7800R and how the installation worked out.  The rig works well and I have had good reports on the TX quality, no noise on the signal from the ignition or alternator.  The only thing that could be better is extra volume when driving at 100km on rough chip roads... although this is more an issue with the noise proofing (or lack of) in the Civic rather than a problem with the rig.

Would I buy another FT-7800R?  Absolutely.

 

Constellation for the Hitachi HPW-600ET

The Hitachi HPW-600ET (ePlate) is a Windows CE H/PC Pro Tablet with no keyboard.

The ePlate has the following specification:



Operating System Windows CE 2.11
Processor 128 MHz Hitachi SH4
Display 640 x 480 pixel 256 color LCD
Memory 16 MB SDRAM


Hitachi HPW-600ET

The following files are required to install Constellation on the Hitachi HPW-600ET:
Constellation 1.3 CAB (HPW-600ET)

Installation Instructions     
   
   1. Download the Constellation installation CAB.
   2. Use ActiveSync to establish a connection to the Handheld PC.
   3. Copy the Constellation installation CAB to the Handheld PC.
   4. On the Handheld PC open File Explorer and run the installation CAB.

 

Constellation for the HP-728

The HP Jornada 728 is a Windows CE Handheld PC with the following specification:



Operating System Windows CE 3.0
Processor 206 MHz 32-bit StrongArm RISC
Display 640 x 240 pixel 65536 color LCD
Memory 64 MB SDRAM


HP Jornada 728

The following files are required to install Constellation on the HP Jornada 728:
Constellation 1.3 CAB (HP728)

Installation Instructions     
   
   1. Download the Constellation installation CAB.
   2. Use ActiveSync to establish a connection to the Handheld PC.
   3. Copy the Constellation installation CAB to the Handheld PC.
   4. On the Handheld PC open File Explorer and run the installation CAB.

 

Constellation for the HP-720

The HP Jornada 720 is a Windows CE Handheld PC with the following specification:



Operating System Windows CE 3.0
Processor 206 MHz 32-bit StrongArm RISC
Display 640 x 240 pixel 65536 color LCD
Memory 32 MB SDRAM


HP Jornada 720

The following files are required to install Constellation on the HP Jornada 720:
Constellation 1.3 CAB (HP720)

Installation Instructions     
   
   1. Download the Constellation installation CAB.
   2. Use ActiveSync to establish a connection to the Handheld PC.
   3. Copy the Constellation installation CAB to the Handheld PC.
   4. On the Handheld PC open File Explorer and run the installation CAB.

 

Constellation for the HP-680

The HP Jornada 680 is a Windows CE Handheld PC with the following specification:



Operating System Windows CE 3.00
Processor 133 MHz Hitachi SH3
Display 640 x 240 pixel 256 color LCD
Memory 16 MB SDRAM


HP Jornada 680

The following files are required to install Constellation on the HP Jornada 680:
Constellation 1.3 CAB (HP680)

Installation Instructions     
   
   1. Download the Constellation installation CAB.
   2. Use ActiveSync to establish a connection to the Handheld PC.
   3. Copy the Constellation installation CAB to the Handheld PC.
   4. On the Handheld PC open File Explorer and run the installation CAB.

 

Constellation for the HP-620LX

The HP Jornada 620LX is a Windows CE Palmtop PC with the following specification:



Operating System Windows CE 2.0
Processor 75 MHz Hitachi SH3
Display 640 x 240 pixel 256 color LCD
Memory 16 MB SDRAM



HP 620LX

The following files are required to install Constellation on the HP Jornada 620LX:
Constellation 1.3 CAB (HP620LX)

Installation Instructions     
   
   1. Download the Constellation installation CAB.
   2. Use ActiveSync to establish a connection to the Handheld PC.
   3. Copy the Constellation installation CAB to the Handheld PC.
   4. On the Handheld PC open File Explorer and run the installation CAB.

 

Constellation - GPS for Windows CE

Constellation is Windows CE application that interprets and displays NMEA data strings from a GPS receiver. 

Constellation is not one of these new flashy moving map GPS applications.  This is because it runs on old Windows CE Handheld PC hardware which have limited processing power and it is written in Microsoft Embedded Visual Basic which is not blindingly fast (or even slightly fast).

What Constellation does do is provide a graphical and text display of NMEA data frames data received from a GPS receiver connected to the serial port.

Constellation

Constellation was written in 2006.

The hardware that it is written for was manufactured as early as 1998.

Why would anyone waste time doing that?

Four reasons:

  • I had two GPS modules sitting on my workbench that really needed to be hooked up.  They had only been sitting there for two years.......
  • I had a pile of obsolete Windows CE Handheld PC hardware sitting in the corner of my office.  These machines had all run various versions of software produced in my day job but didn't have much of a future.....
  • The development tools for the old hardware are free (if you can find it.... the HP 620LX was a challenge... Embedded Visual Basic doesn't directly support CE 2.0.... anyone remember Embedded  Tools for Visual Studio 5.0 and 6.0.... I had blocked that out too until this project forced me to remember!).
  • It looked like fun.

Constellation is the result of a couple of evenings playing with Embedded Visual Basic 3.0.
The project has been interesting... especially:



  • Discovering trigonometry again.... it has been a lot of years since school and my day job doesn't have much call for calculating distances between lat/long coordinates or drawing compasses.
  • Discovering that the old machines can still do something useful (well fun anyway).
  • That Embedded Visual Basic while definitely not cool, with assistance from sites like DevBuzz and HPC Factor can do more than you might expect.
 

Installing Joomla 1.5 on Site5

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The www.electricsoftware.co.nz web site is currently (June 2008) built using DotNetNuke.

I really like DotNetNuke, it runs well, is easy to understand and there is a great market of available extensions but I am considering moving the site to Joomla.

Why am I doing this?

 

Not because I necessarily think Joomla is better.... I guess I will find out on this point.... but mainly because I am trying to consolidate hosting of www.electricsoftware.co.nz with my other sites (www.railtrack.co.nz, www.quicktrip.co.nz and www.avmet.co.nz) which are all hosted at Site5 - a hosting provider based on Linux.

My first hurdle was getting Joomla going.... if you take the "standard" install that Site5 will do through Backstage you get Joomla version 1.0.14 or similar. This was really easy to get going but I couldn't quite work out why it looked different from the Joomla one of the guys at work demonstrated. This is because the Joomla you really want is version 1.5.

To install this at Site5 you need to manually install the files.... bit it caused a bit of head scratching to work out why I couldn't get the web install to go... the answer..... .htaccess.

If you do a manual install into Site5 (and likely other places) you must:

1. Rename the htaccess file provided as part of the distribution as .htaccess (quite understandable that the install doesn't overwrite what you have but a bit puzzling for those not really used to configuring linux based web servers).

2. Also I suggest using PHP5 which many require the following line in .htaccess:

 

AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .php

 

Once these are done it works great.

 

Hope this helps someone.

 

FT-101ZD Electrolytic Capacitor Replacement

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I previously wrote about replacing the 450v Electrolytics on PB-1968. I wanted to replace all the capacitors on this board but had difficulty finding these in the usual retail electronic component suppliers in New Zealand.

After replacing the 450v parts I discovered that Australian RF Kit supplier Minikits are involved with the VK5 Hybrid Radio Group and also sell a kit of electrolytics capacitors for the PB-1968 board and a 6kv rated capacitor for the grid/plate circuit.

I thought the price of around AU$25.00 was pretty reasonable so have ordered it and will replace all the capacitors on PB-1968.

 

Old Radios and Vintage Cars......

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I am having a lot of fun working on the FT-101ZD and I think I can relate to vintage car owners a bit better.... 

Each step through the process, each panel you open, each board you investigate you find something that either needs to or can be tweaked.... 

The process is certainly interesting.  As a Microcontroller guy (3.3v and 5v are good... nothing to bite... no sparks.... just a silent wimpering death when you do bad things) dealing with vacuum tubes and high voltage capacitors if cause for a little anxiety from time to time.... is it discharged... will it bite?

 I have learned about the requirement to discharge capacitors (not the hard way.... the FoxTango group on Yahoo is a mine of information on how not to hurt yourself) and spent some time building a capacitor discharger from 10 x 1M 1W resistors in parallel.  This is based on the circuit at http://www.repairfaq.org/sam/captest.htm#ctcds.  The resistance value works out at 100k and 10W based on suggestions from Murray ZL3MH.  Never got the diodes and the LED to work properly but the rest of the discharger works fine.

Blog_DisCharge.jpg

 

 

Fixing the FT-101ZD Digital Frequency Display

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In my previous post I talked about my "new" Yaesu FT-101ZD.  I had purchased it knowing that the digital frequency display was faulty and the seller included a Jaycar frequency counter kit.  I wanted to keep the rig a bit more original and was planning to build my own frequency counter using an AVR (or similar) microcontroller and use the existing 7 segment displays (or replacements if they provided to be faulty).

My ZD is a -16 serial number so was in the first batch to use the new frequency counter based on the MSM9520RS chip.  From comment on www.foxtango.org it appears that failure of this chip is not uncommon.  There is also a kit for a PIC based replacement from Teruhiko Hayashi (JA2SVZ).

Having more than enough projects in the queue I decided to go with Teruhiko's kit rather than reinvent the wheel.

Having ordered, built and installed the kit I have no hesitation recommending this to anyone wanting to replace the MSM9520RS in their transceiver.  The kit arrived promptly (Japan to my rural QTH in NZ took 4 days), was very well packed, included printed instructions (even through they were available on the internet) plus extra data on pin mappings, voltages and resistance to be expected which would be a great help fault finding plus Teruhiko appears genuinely concerned that you will be successful with the kit... we had a number of emails conversations where he provided hints and suggestions... particularly around removing the MSM9520RS which with 40 pins can be fun to unsolder.... the easiest option (and what I did) assuming you don't want to keep the chip for a museum is to cut the leads to remove the chip and then clean the cut legs from the holes.

If you are going to build the kit you need a fine tipped soldering iron (it makes assembling the PIC/MSM9520RS adapter board without solder bridges so much easier if you iron is fine tipped), a solder sucker (to clean out holes on the PB-2086 frequency counter board) and a set of side cutters (so remove the MSM9520RS and to trip excess leads from newly inserted components).

Here are some photos showing assembly steps:

1.  The assembled adapter board that allows the PIC to be used in place of the MSM9520RS.

Blog_Freq1.JPG

 
2.  The PB-2086 Frequency Counter board with MSM9520RS and other misc components removed and ready for replacements to be inserted.

Blog_Freq2.JPG

3.  The PB-2086 Frequency Counter board with replacement components (excluding the PIC) and ready for installation.  Initial install was done without the PIC so voltages on the adapter board could be checked with no risk of damage.

Blog_Freq3.JPG

4.  .... And the end result..... a working frequency display.  I still need to calibrate it which requires adjustment of the trimmer on the PB-2086 so will do this in the coming week by visiting a friend with an accurate frequency generator.  Looks good eh!

Blog_Freq4.JPG

As shown in the picture there is a slight mismatch between the counter and the VFO dial... I am sure this will be corrected once the alignment is done.

My next project after consultation with more experienced operators of the 101ZD is to replace the electrolytic capacitors on the PB-1968 rectifier board.  These are getting on a bit and failure might have some significant downstream effects. 

The Fox Tango web site has some very interesting 101ZD information and one PDF of particular interest is a re-review by G3LLL. . I found this interesting because it makes specific mention to check that the fuse that is installed is correct (3 amp quick blow for 234 Volts in NZ) so any failures have less chance of doing real damage.  I checked mine and found the fuse was 7 amp!  Remember to check yours.......

The project list after the PB-1968 board is done includes.....

  • Building a dummy load so I can check the driver and final tubes are OK.
  • Getting an antenna tuner.
  • Rigging an antenna.
  • Getting it on the air.

Plenty to keep me busy.

 


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Contact Andrew Quinn

jaquinn@ihug.co.nz http://twitter.com/jaquinn