Chirp Gone?

I want to pass along my thanks to Hank, W6SX up in Mammoth Lakes for his assistance yesterday in working with me to resolve my “chirp” issue. Hank gave me a call and we met on 4 bands yesterday (80M-15M) in order for him to listen to my problem. All worked out well as we started on 40M and then moved to 80M. Both of these tests were run with 100 watts.

Upon moving to the higher bands I had to start the Alpha 76PA in order for Hank to hear me through the noise. Unfortunately 20M caused some RFI in the shack that knocked out my Internet gateway and USB functions and digital interface until. So I had to restart the PC and turn the input power down on the FT-1000MP in order to get about 500 watts out and not cause RFI.

We moved to 15M, which had been my problem band as reported by NK7U and W7POE (via an OO Advisory Notice). After sending a string of ‘VVV DE’ for about 45 seconds Hank could not distinguish any sort of chirp and commented that my signal sounded clean.

I suspect it could be an intermittent issue because my CW signal sounded different yesterday than it did during the 7QP (InQP & NEQP) when the problem was reported to me. This also makes me reflect back to last year when Iain, N6ML e-mailed regarding my signal as seen on CW Skimmer and the “chirp” could be seen. Interesting, but I didn’t put much into at that time.

I did find out, thanks to the brain trust on the NCCC Reflector and at the FT-1000MP Yahoo Group that I do in fact have an internal AC power supply. I do recall opening the FT-1000MP up and toggling the switches to convert the radio to 12VDC when I bought it from Ken, N6RO. From what I have learned on the Yahoo Group is that any 120VAC power code, like that for a personal computer should work. With any luck I will have an extra one in my wire pile and be able run the Ft-1000MP off the AC power supply and hopefully rid myself of the chirp.

What did we do before the Internet?

A great part of ham radio is not needing an Internet connection. Much of today our area has been plagued by some sort of Comcast outage that does not allow us to access the high-speed Internet connection or VOIP (phone). Why? Don’t know and all tech support would tell me is that they are aware of an outage and they are working on resolving it. The second time I called, the system recognized my address by my home phone number and said I had called previously, there is still an outage and I was not required to stay on the line. Intuitive, I guess.

I am currently sitting in the shack on 15M CW and working Asia without a care in the world as to when my Comcast signal comes back online. Now my XYL is peeved but not without right. Comcast allegedly said if there was an high speed Internet outage, the VOIP phone service would continue to function, just in case 911 call was needed. Unfortunately for the second outage now that has not been the case.

While I don’t know the ins and outs of VOIP, I don’t see how Comcast could guarantee phone service (VOIP) and not high speed Internet when they both use the SAME technology. Guess I could spend a few minutes to read up on it, but in any case my XYL has not been happy all day long because of this outage.

When service is restored I guess my XYL is going to raise hell with Comcast…again! I have already told her I refuse to go back to AT&T’s UVerse service since it would not work with my hobby, ham radio. She claims when I am operating my signal causes her latency to increase. Mind you, she is on Facebook and I continue to point my finger at Facebook and those game developers, not my radio. I will admit to having some RFI in the phones when I am transmitting (with the linear on) at times on certain bands.

Unfortunately with UVerse their gateway modem was Chinese made and very suseptible to RFI. I had done everything within my power to clean up my signal and RFI issues in the shack, but nothing I did as it related to their hardware fixed the problem. All of my calls to tech support were answered but none of the techs that came to the house would see any problem, nor could they provide me with a solution. So, in the end, AT&T was out and Comcast was back.

This is the first extended outage with Comcast I can recall. Being at work all day it has not had any effect on me, but I know my XYL’s opinion would differ strongly. With mobile phone such a big part of nearly everyone’s life, I was all for dropping traditional (or VOIP) phone service in favor of mobile coverage. Unfortunately Verizon’s signal strength at the QTH is not good at all. It is rare to see a ‘3G’ indication or more than a single bar.

Test the Season

Things have been relatively quiet on the radio front. I have been meaning to start troubleshooting the shack RF, but have not had enough time to delve into it. I have been a considerable amount of material on the subject, as well as on RF grounding. Then again, there is A LOT of information available via the Internet, but not all of it is good information. With my relative experience, I am calling on a few of the local guys to help me out, provide their insight and experience into my predicament.

I did put in a few hours in the CQWW DX CW contest a few weeks back recording some 50 contacts. I did have a nice run of JA contacts just after the sun set. Since that contest, there have only been a handful of contacts because I had taken the hex beam down for some work, as I detailed in the previous update. Looking at 20M, there still seems to be a bit of sag after I tied off the spreaders again, but it does not seem to have any effect, which is good. Function or form, right? I did log an EA8 last week on 20M, so things seem to be good.

This weekend is the ARRL 10-Meter Contest and while I had little interest in it last year, making about 6 contacts I did put in a few hours at the start of the contest, prior to the sun going down. I was rather surprised at all the signals I heard, especially on the CW portion of the band. Between SSB and CW I logged about 27 QSOs inside two hours. I know that is nothing impressive, but with what little time I have sent on the band it was nice to see some openings. Many of the contacts were CA, I did get an opening as far south as XE and east to AZ, NM and MT. Hopefully today is just as good and I should double what I worked yesterday.

I did talk to N6WM, working from N6RO and he is still trying to find time to give me some input on the RF issues. Thankfully last night I had no RF issues in the house when transmitting on 10M at about 500w. I did make the decision to dump AT&T UVerse and go back to Comcast. I know that won’t solve my RF issues, but hopefully I won’t be disconnecting the modem every time key up on 15 and 40M. We will see.

UVerse. Fixed?

I won’t go out on a limb and say our AT&T UVerse service is fixed after the technician spent about 3 hours at the house, last night working on moving out modem and fixing the shoddy work that was previous done from another AT&T tech. It’s funny, but the last three technicians who have come to the house have all fixed the connector leading from the street into the house. Not sure that says much about the quality of their technicians. I will say our original installer was terrible.

I explained the problems with their UVerse service from latency issue to dropped connections to the cheap 2wire gateway AT&T uses in the house. I wanted to move the modem from it’s original install local, the upstairs bedroom, which doubled as our computer room and later my shack to a downstairs location where my XYL’s computer currently is. The technician gave me a few options on how to accomplish this, neither which were aesthetically pleasing or acceptable, so I selected the less of two evils.

I was hoping a change of venue of the 2wire gateway, further away from the shack would lessen the RF that was previously disconnecting the gateway when I keyed up on 20/40/80M when working SSB. Oddly enough I did not have the problems when running the amplifier for CW or RTTY. I will test this theory this weekend with CQ WW DX (CW) starting today at 0000z.

Once he capped the old connection he moved all the hardware to it’s new location on the opposite side of the house. The new cables were run and he connected the connection up to his test equipment. We watched it for 35 minutes and there were no FECs detected in that time. Not surprising since many our our latency issues, and disconnects were random, except when I was transmitting SSB using the amp at 1 kW.

The televisions were then connected and all looked good. Usually it did not take more than about 20-30 seconds to drop the gateway connection when keying up. I tuned the amp for 40M and spun the dial to 7.279 and called CQ three times over the course of 5 minutes. Not once did the connection disconnect, nor did the stream video I was watching hiccup. Is this a sign of good things to come?

As I said, not sure this a fix, but it’s a step in the right direction. I inquired about ferrite and the technician responded, “What’s that?” I was somewhat taken back he had no idea what it was. When I showed him an example he told me AT&T did not use these any longer because they did not resolve any problems. Again, I was somewhat shocked in his response. I guess if AT&T wants to continue cutting corners, the not adding ferrite is one way to do it. The funny thing was the last tech we had about 6-8 months ago installed ferrite on the power cable leading to the gateway. Suddenly some months later it’s obsolete.

So I have gone around unsnapping all the ferrite that I had on different items. I am going to participate in CQ WW this weekend, at a leisurely pace and hopefully when I tune 40 and maybe 80M the gateway does not disconnect. I am planning on adding ferrite to the gateway. I also want to run some further noise tests around the house with my hand held to see if I can further pinpoint noise that is coming into my station.

We have decided to give AT&T UVerse one more month. If their service continues at the quality it is we will move back to Comcast. Supposedly there have been upgrades made in our area (not confirmed) that are allowing decent connections. Their local node was overloaded causing all sorts of issues, which was the main reason we dumped Comcast for the snake oil that is UVerse.


While last night did not end up on a happy note with the XYL being upset with the RF issues causing the AT&T gateway modem to disconnect, as well have some bad latency issues, I decided to get up early and play in the ARRL Sweepstakes before anyone was awake. 40M was somewhat fruitful, made numerous contacts and new sections as I worked towards 80 sections. I jumped to 20M real early and had a few opening into the midwest and southwest as well.

When 20M really opened up, I started working many contacts. Granted there was no record breaking pace but I was having a steady stream of contacts, all search and pounce. I never did run a frequency. Then my XYL woke up and the problems were only worse. It started the same way, when the amp was in line, the gateway would disconnect, even on 20M. Then the latency was nearly 700ms making her online game unplayable.

I decided to dial everything back and work 100w as best I could using the BigIR and the hex beam. Unfortunately, it made no difference which antenna was transmitting it was causing RF interference. It finally got so bad that I had my wife decide what she wanted me to do. It was a fairly easy decision. I had to shut down the radios and stop my participation in the contest. Only 268 QSOs and 71 sections worked. I probably could have had a clean sweep over the next 7 hours. Of course we won’t know now.

I am frustrated that this problem seems to be growing and not shrinking. I felt I had made some strides in the right direction, unfortunately none of them seem to be paying off. I have e=mailed the NCCC group via the reflector and hopefully there are a few who can really help me kick this problem in the butt so I can enjoy contesting without having to change my radio habits. Right now I am lucky to operate in a contest, but Sweepstakes was special since I had taken time off from work to participate and do my part to beat PVRC.

I did get some satisfaction in posting all my spots to the cluster in hopes of other club members working them. I will never know, but that is of little consolation now. While I doubt there will be any responses today regarding my problem rest assured I will have numerous responses in the coming day.

I will have a full report on my operating during SS later….