Monthly Archives: January 2013

Custom front panels for kits

I always look forward to my monthly issue of the K9YA Telepgraph e-zine. There are always interesting articles about ham radio, from radio kits and adventure stories to fascinating stories about amateur radio’s storied past. I don’t know how they always put out such a fine publication, but I’m sure a lot of hard work goes into it. Thanks guys!

The lead story of the February 2013 issue is about an audio filter kit called the Hi-Per-Mite, designed by David Cripe – NM0S – and the 4SQRP Club. While the project was pretty cool itself, what caught my attention was the way the designers created the kit’s front panel. They used a slick piece of freeware called Front Design provided by an online service called Front Panel Express.

What I’ve learned about kit building, especially when the kit provides no enclosure, is that creating the enclosure is no mean feat, especially without proper machine shop tools, like drill presses, brakes, etc. What to do? Front Panel Express offers an excellent option. Simply download their free, and quite sophisticated yet easy to use, software which enables you to design a front panel for your kit (they offer enclosures too).

But, wait, there’s more. Once you’re done designing the panel (actually at any point along the way) you can check pricing, which makes it a cinch to keep costs in line. Once you’re set, you can place your order from right within the application. Very nice!

The front panel I designed for my kit will be made of aluminum. You specify all dimensions (metric or English) and color. You can also specify engraved labels, in choice of fonts and colors! My total cost with shipping: $38.

I placed the order this evening (January 29) and can’t wait to see the finished product.

Back in December, I actually obtained enclosures in an attempt to machine my own front panel. But my results were, let’s just say, disappointing.

Once I receive the custom-designed panel, I’ll post photos so you can see my original work vs. the Front Panel Express product.

In the meantime, check out the K9YA Telegraph and Front Panel Express. I’m glad I did on both counts!

CabConverter 2.02

I recently purchased MacLoggerDX as my regular and contest logging application. It is a truly impressive product with myriad add-ins that make it a real Swiss Army Knife application for hams, whether you are a contester or not.

Along with your purchase of MacLoggerDX comes a working copy of CabConverter, a handy utility needed to convert MacLoggerDX ADIF exports to Cabrillo format for log submission. I failed to check whether the version of CabConverter supplied with MacLoggerDX was the most recent. It was 1.36 (2010), several versions behind. The current version is 2.02, released in January 2013.

The latest version of CabConverter is available at NE1RD’s web site. Once at the site, click the Zip download button near the top of the page. Once the TAR (Tape ARchive) file downloads to your Mac, double-click it to open the set of file folders.

The program has been completely rewritten in Java, so you need to ensure you’ve got a current version of Java on your Mac.

The best part about Scott Andersen’s new version of CabConverter, at least for me, is that hams can now create log files for contests not included in the default set of contests provided with the app. Creating a new log file for your contest is as simple as repurposing the code from an existing contest XML file. Since the files are simple XML files, all you need to edit them is a text editor program, such as TextEdit on the Mac.

Scott has provided instructions in the documentation included in the file download.

New Year, New Gear

I’ve been behind in in my posts since October 2012. Since then I’ve added some new gear to the shack. Most importantly, the KX3. What a machine! Really enjoying the features packed into this small SDR rig, especially the fact that I’m now able to do digital modes like PSK and RTTY. The KX3’s ability to reliably read RTTY and PSK through its 10 character display is very impressive. Have done two RTTY contests since October.

I often run the KX3 off 8 AA rechargeable cells. They run for hours, even under pretty heavy use at 3W. The rig can put out 5W or more, but I typically run lower.

Looking forward to doing some field operating once the weather permits in spring.

I also now have a Bencher BY-1 paddle, an excellent key.

The KX3 is a powerful contesting rig and its SDR architecture does a fine job of digging weak signals out of a crowd or QRM. I worked the CQ WW CW contest in November from K7SEL and did quite well running 5W to a roof-mounted vertical up about 40 feet. Worked into Europe, S. America, Canada, Mexico and Asia.

I also now have Bose Quiet Comfort noise canceling headphones which work great to shield my ears from ambient noise near the shack. They work so well, my XYL can stand within several feet of my while I’m on the air and be speaking to me, but I can’t hear a thing.

Also got my straight key back on their air again and have made a few QSOs with that as well. Really brings back memories of my novice days with a crystal controlled rig and longwire antenna. Still wish I had not gotten rid of my old Heathkit transmitter.