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Station Maintenance Update

Under the watchful eye of our station trustee, Dave, KR4U, some work occurred this weekend at the SPARC Club Station to support the Remote Station project, On Friday, station engineer John, KI4UIP and Don N4KII ran the rotor line and LAN drop from side one of the room over to the remote side (closest to the window). This allows the main network switch to go to the side that needs more LAN drops. Having the rotor cable allows the Green Heron RT-21 computer-controlled rotor interface to be next to the K3.

On Saturday, after the SPARC board meeting. John and Tom, NY4I worked on installing some more equipment. First was a plywood backing John fabricated to add to the wall under the table. This was to mount some equipment to allow remote control of the devices in the radio room.

  • First, we added the new LAN switch (8 port GigE with CAT7 shielded cabled to minimize RF interference).
  • Then, a Lantronix 4 port Ethernet to Serial server. This device allows someone to map a serial port from a PC across the Internet to control one of 4 serial devices. We have 3 devices that require serial control: Alpha 9500 amplifier, Green Heron Rotor Controller and the Elecraft W2 wattmeter. By having these devices available to the network, a remote user from home can monitor the power out of the station as well as turn the rotor with their local Logging program (like HRD, DXLabs, N1MM or WriteLog). Your local software just thinks it is talking to a local serial port, but in reality,the data is routed across the Internet to the device at the SPARC station. A great by-product of this is that the local computers can also talk to the serial devices over the network. This allows either station A or station B to control the rotor for example without having to run a 2nd serial cable across the room and switch them with an A/B switch.
  • The last item installed was a DLI Web Connected Power Switch. This device has 8 LAN controlled ports to allow switching and resetting of devices remotely. Say we are operating remotely and the Rotor controller stops responding. If necessary, we can issue a command that will turn the rotor controller’s power off and then turn it back on. This allows the advice to reset.The web power switch is also smart enough to ping any of the devices plugged into and if they stop responding, it cycles the power port to reset the device.

A goal of this system is to make sure that the station can be used locally for contesting operations and when people want to come in and operate. It’s secondary function is to operate remotely. The way this has been engineered is to make sure that both goals are supported without having to switch anything.

Tom stayed later to tie up a few loose ends including updating the firmware on the Alpha 9500 to version 3.03. This drastically improves the auto-tune algorithm. The amp is even easier to operate now. He also connected the serial interface from the K3 into he RemoteRig box so it is accessible both remotely and for local computer control via WriteLog.

The next thing to install is some beefier coax jumpers to replace a few pieces of RG-8X. These will be replaced with LMR-400 UltraFlex. The last major item before we start full remote integration testing is to add a automatic band decoder to allow the K3 to drive the selection of the antennas. This will make local operation too in that no manual switching of the antennas will be required. In the remote operation, this is really a requirement as we need to switch the antennas between the Log Periodic and the dipole.

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