• [FOAR] The power supply connector dance contest... (10/21)

    From FOAR via rec.radio.info Admin@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jul 18 13:48:30 2022
    [continued from previous message]

    band comes alive with the sounds of Indonesia. Among the radio amateurs are plenty of pirate stations with massive AM transmitters enjoying the
    conditions, chatting, chanting and what ever else comes to voice. Not conductive to being on-air and making noise, but as far as I can tell, not commonly heard outside of VK6.

    That said, the Indonesian radio amateur community must have the patience of saints putting up with the interference that their non-licensed countrymen cause on a daily basis. My hat off to you!

    As I've said all along, this radio thing is about getting on air and having
    fun and I can tell you, we did.

    What did you get up to?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210620.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Removing technology for a change

    Posted: 12 Jun 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    My first ever interaction with amateur radio was a field day on
    Boterhuiseiland near Leiden in the Netherlands when I was about twelve. The station was set-up in an army tent and the setting was Jamboree On The Air,
    or JOTA. My second field-day, a decade ago, was a visit to a local club
    set-up in the bush. At that point I already had my licence and I'd just
    started taking the first baby steps in what so-far has been a decade long journey of discovery into this amazing hobby.

    A field day is really an excuse to build a portable station away from the
    shack and call CQ. A decade on, I vividly remember one member, Marty, now VK6RC, calling CQ DX and getting responses back from all over the world.

    From that day on I looked for any opportunity to get on air and make noise. Often that's something I do in the form of a contest. I love this as a way
    of making contacts because each interaction is short and sweet, there's
    lots of stations playing from all over the planet and each contest has
    rules and scores. As a result you can compare your activity with others and look back at your previous efforts to see if you improved or not.

    As you've heard me repeatedly say, I like to learn from each activity and
    see if there are things I could have done differently. I tend to think of
    this as a cycle of continuous improvement.

    A few months ago a friend asked me if I was interested in doing a contest
    with him. For me that was a simple question to answer, YES, of course!

    Over the last few months we've been talking about how we'd like to do this
    and what we'd like to accomplish. For example, for me there's been a
    regular dissatisfaction that during portable logging I've made mistakes
    with recording the band correctly in the log and having to manually go back
    and fix this, taking away from making contacts and having fun. To prevent
    that, I wanted to make sure that we had electronic logging that was linked
    to the radio in the same way as I do in my shack, so it didn't happen
    again. It was a small improvement, but I felt it was important.

    Doing this meant that we'd either need to sort out a computer link, known
    as CAT, or Computer Assisted Tuning for his radio in the vehicle, or bring
    my radio, CAT control, power adaptors as well as bring a laptop, power
    supply and last but not least find space in the vehicle to mount all this
    so it would work ergonomically for a 24 hour mobile contest. The vehicle in question is the pride and joy of Thomas VK6VCR, a twenty-odd year old
    Toyota Land Cruiser Ute with two seats, three if you count the middle of
    the bench, and neither of us would ever be described as petite, so space is strictly limited.

    In playing this out and trying to determine what needed to go where, we discovered that this wasn't going to work and I made the bold proposal to
    go old school and use a paper log.

    This would mean that we could use the existing radio, without needing to
    sort out CAT control, the need for any power adaptors, no space required
    for a laptop, no power for that, no extra wiring in the vehicle, and a
    whole lot more simplicity. So that's what we're doing, paper log and a
    headlamp to be able to see in the dark.

    I must confess that I'm apprehensive of this whole caper, but I keep
    reminding myself that this too is an experience, good or bad, and at the
    end of the day, we're here to have fun. I might learn that this was the
    worst idea I've ever had, or I might learn that this works great. It's not
    the first time I've used a paper-log, so I'm aware of plenty of pitfalls,
    not the least of which is deciphering my own handwriting, the ingenuous
    project of three, or was it four, different handwriting systems taught to
    me by subsequent teachers in different countries. There's the logistics of being able to read and write at an odd distance, trying to work out how to operate the microphone with the wrong hand, though we are trialling a
    headset and boom microphone with a push to talk button, and then there's
    the radio, one I've used before, but not in a contest setting and not
    whilst driving around on the seat of a 4WD hell-bent on rattling my teeth
    from their sockets.

    On the plus side, I've done a contest with my friend before and he is
    familiar with my competitive streak and we're both up for a laugh, so I'm confident that despite the challenges that lie ahead, we're going to make
    fun and enjoy the adventure.

    I can't wait to find out if simplifying things will result in a better experience and only trying it will tell. I'll let you know how it goes.

    When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and what did
    you do? How did it work out?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210613.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    What radio should I buy as my first one?

    Posted: 05 Jun 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Recently a budding new amateur asked the question: "What radio should I

    It's a common question, one I asked a decade ago. Over the years I've made several attempts at answering this innocent introduction into our community
    and as I've said before, the answer is simple but unhelpful.

    "It depends."

    Rather than explaining the various things it depends on, I'm going to
    attempt a different approach and in no particular order ask you some things
    to consider and answer for yourself in your journey towards an answer that
    is tailored specifically to your situation.

    "What's your budget?"

    How much money you have set aside for this experiment is a great start. In addition to training and license costs, you'll need to consider things like shipping, import duties and insurance, power leads and a power supply, coax leads and connectors and last but not least, adaptors, antennas and accessories.

    "Should you buy second hand or pre-loved?"

    If you have electronics experience that you can use to fix a problem with
    your new to you toy this is absolutely an option. When you're looking
    around, check the provenance associated with the equipment and avoid
    something randomly offered online with sketchy photos and limited
    information. Equipment is expensive. Check for stolen gear and unscrupulous sellers.

    "What do you want to do?"

    This hobby is vast. You can experiment with activities, locations, modes
    and propagation to name a few. If you're looking at a specific project, consider the needs for the accompanying equipment like a computer if what
    you want to explore requires that. You can look for the annual Amateur
    Radio Survey by Dustin N8RMA to read what others are doing.

    "What frequencies do you want to play on?"

    If you have lots of outdoor space you'll have many options to build
    antennas from anything that radiates, but if you're subject to restrictions because of where you live, you'll need to take those into account. You can
    also operate portable, in a car or on a hill, so you have plenty of options
    to get away from needing a station at home.

    "Are there other amateurs around you?"

    If you're within line of sight of other amateurs or a local repeater, then
    you should consider if you can start there. If that doesn't work, consider using HF or explore space communications. There are online tools to
    discover repeaters and local amateurs.

    "Is there a club you can connect to?"

    Amateur radio clubs are scattered far and wide across the planet and it's likely that there's one not too far from you. That said, there are plenty
    of clubs that interact with their members remotely. Some even offer remote access to the club radio shack using the internet.

    "Have you looked for communities to connect with?"

    There is plenty of amateur activity across the spectrum of social media, dedicated sites, discussion groups, email lists and chat groups. You can
    listen to podcasts, watch videos, read eBooks and if all that fails, your
    local library will have books about the fundamental aspects of our hobby.

    "Have you considered what you can do before spending money?"

    Figuring out the answers to many of these questions requires that you are somewhat familiar with your own needs. You need a radio to become an
    amateur, but you need to be an amateur to choose a radio. To get started,
    you don't need a radio. If you already have a license you can use tools
    like Echolink with a computer or a mobile phone. If you don't yet have a license, you can listen to online services like WebSDR, KiwiSDR and plenty
    of others. You can start receiving using a cheap RTL-SDR dongle and some

    "Which brand should you get?"

    Rob NC0B has been testing radios for longer than I've been an amateur. His Sherwood testing table contains test results for 151 devices. The top
    three, Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu count for more than half of those results.
    This means that you'll likely find more information, more support and more local familiarity with those three. I will point out that Rob's list has 27 different brands on it, so look around and read reviews both by people who
    test the gear and those who use it.

    And finally, "Why are you here?"

    It's a serious question. Different things draw different people into this community. Think about what you like about it and what you want to do more
    of. Take those things into consideration when you select your radio.

    As you explore the answers to these questions, you'll start building a
    picture of what amateur radio means to you and with that will come the
    answer to the question: "What radio should I buy as my first one?"

    If there are other questions you'd like to ask, don't hesitate to get in
    touch. My address is cq@vk6flab.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210606.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Bringing chaos into order

    Posted: 29 May 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    One of the questions you're faced with when you start your amateur journey
    is around connectors. You quickly discover that every piece of equipment
    with an RF socket has a different one fit for purpose for that particular device.

    That purpose includes the frequency range of the device, but also things
    like water ingress, number of mating cycles, power levels, size, cost and

    As an aside, the number of mating cycles, how often you connect and
    disconnect something is determined by several factors, including the type
    of connection, manufacturing precision and the thickness of the plating.
    That said, even a so-called low cycle count connector, like say an SMA connector lasting 500 cycles will work just fine for the next 40 years if
    you only connect it once a month.

    Back to variety. My PlutoSDR has SMA connectors on it as do my band pass filters, my handheld and one RTL-SDR dongle. The other dongle uses MCX.
    Both my antenna analyser and UHF antenna have an N-type connector which is
    the case for my Yaesu radio that also has an extra SO239 which is what my
    coax switches have. My HF antenna comes into the shack as an F-type and
    nothing I currently own has BNC, but stuff I've previously played with,

    When you go out on a field-day, you mix and match your gear with that of
    your friends, introducing more connectors and combinations.

    Invariably you acquire a collection of adaptors. At first this might be
    only a couple, quickly growing to a handful, but after a while you're
    likely to have dozens or more. My collection, a decade's worth, which
    currently includes more than 25 different combinations is over a hundred individual adaptors and growing.

    For most of the time these have been tossed into a little tool box with a transparent lid, but more and more as the collection and variety grew I
    started to realise that I was unable to quickly locate an adaptor that I
    was sure I had, since it had been used in a different situation previously.

    In addition to coming to the realisation that the reason I couldn't find a connector was because it was still in use, I began to notice that I had
    daisy chains of connectors.

    For example, my HF antenna has a PL259 connector that is adapted to an
    F-type connector with an SO239 barrel, a PL259 to BNC and a BNC to F-type adaptor. At the other end of the RG6 coax that runs from outside into the shack, the reverse happens, F-type to BNC and BNC to PL259. If you're
    counting along, that's five adaptors to get from PL259 to PL259 via F-type.

    At this point you might wonder why I'm using RG6 coax. The short answer is
    that I have several rolls of it, left over from my days as an installer for broadband satellite internet. RG6 is very low loss, robust and heavily shielded. Although it's 75 Ohm - a whole other discussion - in practice
    that's not an issue. What is a problem is that the only connectors
    available for it are F-type compression connectors. To get those to PL259 requires a step sideways via BNC.

    My point is that the number of adaptors is increasing by the day.

    I should acknowledge the existence of so-called universal connector kits.
    The idea being that you go from one connector to a universal joiner and
    from that to another connector. Generally these kits have around 30 connections, giving you plenty of options, but in reality more often than
    not, you only have half a dozen universal joiners, so your money is
    effectively buying you half a dozen conversions, great for a field day, not
    so great for a permanent installation. You could build your own collection
    and use something like SMA or BNC as your universal joiner, which is
    something I'm exploring.

    To keep track of my collection, recently I started a spreadsheet. It's essentially a list showing the number and types of connections. If you make
    a pivot table from that you'll end up with a grid showing totals of
    adaptors you have.

    You can use this grid to fill a set of fishing tackle boxes and all of a
    sudden you've got a system where everything has its own place.

    If you start this process you'll quickly notice that the table only needs
    to be half filled, since a BNC to SMA is the same as an SMA to BNC adaptor. This leaves you space to do some fancy footwork where the bottom right hand
    of the triangle can fit into the top left of the empty space, but I'll
    leave you to figure that out.

    My table also includes things like TNC and MCX adaptors, but I don't use
    those very often, so at the moment I'm putting them in their own box
    together with T-adaptors and other weird and wonderful things like FME and reverse SMA.

    For setting the order, I've gone for alphabetic, but if you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears. My email address as always is cq@vk6flab.com.

    What ideas have you come up with to organise the chaos that is your
    sprawling connector library?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210530.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Streaming a dozen repeaters with an RTL-SDR dongle

    Posted: 22 May 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    A while ago as part of my ongoing exploration into all things radio I came across a utility called rtlsdr-airband. It's a tool that uses a cheap
    software defined radio dongle to listen to a station frequency or channel
    and send it to a variety of different outputs. Originally written by Tony
    Wong in 2014, it's since been updated and is now maintained by Tomasz
    Lemiech. There are contributions by a dozen other developers.

    The original examples are based around listening to Air Traffic Control channels. I know of a local amateur who uses it to listen to and share the local emergency services communication channels, especially important
    during local bush fires.

    While sophisticated, it's a pretty simple tool to use, runs on a Raspberry
    Pi, or in my case, inside a Docker container. It's well documented, has instructions on how to compile it and how to configure it.

    Before I get into what I've done, as a test, let's have a look at the kinds
    of things that rtlsdr-airband can do.

    First of all, it's intended to be used for AM, but if you read the fine documentation, you'll learn that you can also make it support Narrowband
    FM. It can generate output in a variety of different ways, from a normal
    audio file, to an I/Q file - more about that at another time, and it can
    also send audio as a stream to a service like icecast, broadcastify or even
    to your local pulse audio server. If that last one doesn't mean much to
    you, it's a local network audio service, popular under Linux, but it runs
    on pretty much anything else thanks to the community efforts of many.

    So, on the face of it, you can listen to a channel, be it AM or Narrowband
    FM, and send that to some output, but I wouldn't spend anywhere as much
    time on this if that was all there was to it.

    The software can also dynamically change channels, support multiple
    dongles, or simultaneously listen to several channels at once and output
    each of those where ever you desire.

    Another interesting thing and ultimately the reason I thought to discuss it here is that rtlsdr-airband also supports the concept of a mixer. You can
    send multiple channels to a single mixer and output the result somewhere

    Using a mixer, in addition to setting cut off frequencies and other audio attributes, you can set the audio balance for each individual channel. This means that you can mix a channel exclusively to the left ear, or to the
    right ear, to both, or somewhere in between.

    Now, to add one extra little bit of information.

    In my location there's about a dozen or so amateur repeaters most of which
    can be heard at some time or another from my QTH. The frequency spread of
    those dozen repeaters is less than 2 MHz. A cheap RTL-SDR dongle can handle about 2.56 MHz.

    Perhaps you've not yet had the ah-ha moment, but what if you were to define
    an rtlsdr-airband receiver that listened to a dozen amateur radio repeaters
    - at the same time - and using the audio balance spread those repeaters
    between your left and right ear, you could stream that somewhere and listen
    to it.

    I'm sitting here with my headphones on, listening to the various repeaters
    do their idents, various discussions on different repeaters, a local
    beacon, incoming AllStar and other links, all spread out across my audio horizon, almost as if you can see where they are on the escarpment, though truth be told, I've just spaced them out evenly, but you get the idea.

    My original Raspberry Pi wasn't quite powerful enough to do this in the
    brute force way I've configured this, so as a proof of concept I'm running
    it on my main computer, but there's nothing to suggest that doing a little diligent tweaking won't make my Pi more than enough to make this happen.

    As for audio bandwidth, it's a single audio stream, so a dial-up connection
    to the internet should be sufficient to get the audio out to the world.

    I will point out that there may be legal implications with streaming your
    local amateur repeaters to the world, so don't do that without checking.

    For my efforts, this is an example of: "I wonder if ..."

    As it turns out, Yes you can. As it happens, my next challenge is to use
    this code on a PlutoSDR where the bandwidth is slightly larger, mind you,
    I'll have to do some fancy footwork to process the data without
    overwhelming the CPU, but that's another experiment in my future.

    What kind of crazy stuff have you tried that worked?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210523.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Soldering Irons and Software

    Posted: 15 May 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The activity of amateur radio revolves around experimentation. For over a century the amateur community has designed, sourced, scrounged and built experiments. Big or small, working or not, each of these is an expression
    of creativity, problem solving and experimentation.

    For most of the century that activity was accompanied by the heady smell of solder smoke. It still makes an appearance in many shacks and field
    stations today, even my own, coaxed by an unsteady hand, more and more
    light and bigger and bigger magnification, I manage to join bits of wire, attach components and attempt to keep my fingers from getting burnt and
    solder from landing on the floor.

    I've been soldering since I was nine or so. I think it started with a Morse key, a battery and a bicycle light with a wire running between my bedroom
    and the bedroom of my next door neighbour. In the decades since I've
    slightly improved my skill, but I have to confess, soldering isn't really
    my thing.

    My thing is computers. It was computers from the day I was introduced in
    1983 and nothing much has changed. For reasons I don't yet grasp, I just
    get what computers are about. They're user friendly, just picky whom they
    make friends with.

    When I joined the amateur community, it was to discover a hobby that was
    vast beyond my wildest imagination, technical beyond my understanding and
    it was not computing. Little did I know.

    Computing in amateur radio isn't a new thing. For example, packet radio was being experimented with in 1978 by members of the Montreal Amateur Radio
    Club, after having been granted permission by the Canadian government. In
    2010 when I came along we had logging, DX-clusters and the first weak
    signal modes were already almost a decade old.

    Software Defined Radio has an even longer history. The first "digital
    receiver" came along in 1970 and the first software transceiver was
    implemented in 1988. The term "software defined radio" itself was 15 years
    old when I joined the hobby and truth be told, it's a fascinating tale,
    I'll take a look at that at another time.

    When I started my amateur journey like every new licensee, I jumped in the
    deep end and kept swimming. From buying a radio, to discovering and
    building antennas, from going mobile to doing contests and putting together
    my home station, all of it done, one step at a time, one progressive
    experiment after another, significant to me, but hardly world shattering in
    the scheme of things.

    Now that I've been here for a decade I've come to see that my current experiments, mostly software based, are in exactly the same spirit as the circuit builders and scroungers, except that I'm doing this by flipping
    bits, changing configurations, writing software and solving problems that
    bear no relation to selecting the correct combination of capacitance and reactance to insert into a circuit just so.

    Instead I'm wrestling with compilers, designing virtual machines, sending packets, debugging serial ports and finding new and innovative ways to
    excite transceivers.

    For example, today I spent most of the day attempting to discover why when
    I generate a WSPR signal in one program, it cannot be decoded by another.
    If that sounds familiar, that was what I was doing last week too. This time
    I went back to basics and found tools inside the source code of WSJT-X and started experimenting. I'm still digging.

    As an aside I was asked recently why I want to do this with audio files and
    the short answer is: Little Steps.

    I can play an audio file through my Yaesu FT-857d. I can receive that and decode it. That's where I want to start with my PlutoSDR experiments, so
    when I'm doing this, I can use the same audio file and know that the information can be decoded and that any failure to do so is related to how
    I'm transmitting it.

    Back to soldering irons and software. In my experience as an amateur it's becoming increasingly clear that they're both the same thing, tools for experimentation, with or without burning your fingers.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210516.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Getting started on WSPR with a PlutoSDR

    Posted: 08 May 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    As you might recall, I took delivery of a device called a PlutoSDR some
    time ago. If you're not familiar, it's a single-board computer that has the ability to transmit and receive between 70 MHz and 6 GHz. The system is intended as a learning platform, it's open source, you get access to the firmware, compilers and a whole load of other interesting tools. I used it
    to play with aviation receive using a tool called dump1090 which I updated
    to use Open Street Map. If you're interested, it's on my VK6FLAB github

    Over the past few months I've been steadily acquiring little bits and
    pieces which today added up to a new project.

    Can I use my PlutoSDR to transmit WSPR?

    This all started because of an experiment and a conversation.

    The experiment was: "Using my FT-857d on 70cm can I transmit a weak signal
    mode like WSPR and have my friend on the other side of the city decode the transmission?" The answer to that was a qualified "Yes". I say qualified,
    since we weren't able to transmit a WSPR message, but using FT8 we were
    happily getting decodes across the city. We're not yet sure what the cause
    of this difference is, other than the possibility that the combined
    frequency instability at both ends was large enough to cause an issue for a WSPR message, which lasts about two minutes. On the other hand, I learned
    that my radio can in fact go down to 2 Watts on 70cm. I've owned that radio
    for over a decade, never knew.

    Now that I have a band pass filter, some SMA leads and the ability to talk
    to my Pluto across the Wi-Fi network, I can resurrect my Pluto adventures
    and start experimenting.

    I mentioned that this was the result of an experiment and a conversation.

    The conversation was about how to create a WSPR signal in the first place.
    At the moment if you run WSJT-X the software will generate audio that gets transmitted via a radio. All fine, except if you don't have a screen or a mouse. Interestingly a WSPR transmission doesn't contain any time
    information. It is an encoded signal, containing your callsign, a
    maidenhead locator - that's a four or six character code representing a
    grid square on Earth, and a power level. That message doesn't change every
    time your transmitter starts the cycle, so if you were to create say an
    audio file with that information in it, you could just play the audio to
    the nearest transmitter, like a handheld radio, or in my case a Pluto, and
    as long as you started it at the right time, the decoding station wouldn't
    know the difference.

    As an aside, if you're playing along with your own Pluto, and far be it for
    me to tell you to go and get one, you can set the Pluto up using either
    USB, in which case it's tethered to your computer, or you can get yourself
    a USB to Ethernet adaptor and connect to it via your network. If you have a spare Wi-Fi client lying around, you can get that to connect to your Wi-Fi network, connect the Pluto via Ethernet to the Wi-Fi client and your gadget
    is connected wirelessly to your network. I can tell you that this works,
    I'm typing commands on the Pluto as we speak.

    As is the case in any experiment in amateur radio, you start with one thing
    and work your way through. At the moment I want to make this as simple as possible. By that I mean, as few moving parts as I can get away with. I
    could right now fire up some or other SDR tool like say GNU Radio and get
    it to do the work and make the transmission, but what I'd really like to do
    is actually have the Pluto do all the work, so I'm starting small.

    Step One is to create an audio file that I can transmit using the Pluto.

    It turns out that Step One isn't quite as simple as I'd hoped. I located a
    tool that actually purports to generate an audio file, but the file that it builds cannot be decoded, so there's still some work to be done.

    On the face of it the level of progress is low, but then this whole thing
    has been going for months. The experiment on 70cm lasted half an hour, the discussion took all of a cup of coffee. So far, I've spent more time on
    this project making the Wi-Fi client talk to my network than all the rest
    put together and that includes finding and ordering the Pluto in the first place.

    You might well wonder why I'm even bothering to talk about this as yet unfinished project. The reason is simple. Every day is a new one.
    Experiments are what make this hobby what it is and every little thing you learn adds to the next thing you do. Some days you make lots of progress,
    other days you learn another way to not make a light bulb.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20210509.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Ergonomics in your shack

    Posted: 01 May 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    In my day job I work in computing. For many years that consisted of going on-site and fixing stuff. Invariably this involved me fixing servers that
    were installed into a room the size of a broom closet with an optional air conditioner screaming in my ear. The experience often included sitting on a crate, or the floor, holding a keyboard and if it was a Windows Server,
    rolling a mouse on my knee in order to click on stuff barely discernible on
    a tiny screen that likely sat a meter too high above my eye line with
    Ethernet wires going diagonally from one end of the room to the other.

    These days with ubiquitous internet connectivity that kind of experience is mostly a thing of the past.

    That said, operating a radio during a contest in many stations I've used
    over the years is not far from that kind of layout.

    Often a traditional shack starts off with a radio on a table with a notepad
    to record contacts. Over time that gets expanded with technology like a computer. It's common to have to juggle the radio display and keyboard, to
    find a spot for the mouse that doesn't interfere with the desk microphone,
    or to have to reach over to change band and to activate a different filter, select another antenna, use the rotator or some other essential tool that's required for making that elusive contact.

    Some stations have multiple monitors, sometimes they're even together, but
    more often than not they're a different size, sitting too high and the
    radio sits as a road-block between your eye line between the screen and the keyboard.

    I'm raising this because over the years I've not actually seen anyone spend
    any energy on discussing how you might improve this experience.

    If this was your workplace, the occupational health and safety police would
    be all over you and for good reason. You could argue that amateur radio is
    a hobby and that OH&S is of lesser concern, but to that I'd like to point
    out that you have the same risk of self injury at work as you do in your
    shack, especially if you're doing a contest for 24 or 48 hours.

    [continued in next message]

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