Category Archives: Accessories

Mark finds an affordable IP67 rated protective case for the Yaesu FT-891

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

Thomas,

I got a new FT-891 recently and wanted a protective case for taking it out into the field.

A mixture of internet searches and Amazon algorithms turned up this very affordable case which closely matches the size of the radio, as the enclosed photograph shows.

It uses the familiar pick and pluck foam, although in two layers.

The base layer is a bit thin, so I might put a layer of rigid plastic over it to stop the feet of the radio pushing down to the outer case.

I prioritised the side wall thickness opposite from the carry handle, as the case is designed to sit on its side like a briefcase.

Via Amazon USA ($29.31)

Via Amazon UK (£20.99)

Mark

Wow, Mark! I do love the size of this case and the fact that it fits the FT-891 so perfectly.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about building out a case to hold one of my smaller QRP transceivers (the KX1, KX2, or MTR3B) in the field to be used when it’s raining. Perhaps this has been on my mind because I’ve been enjoying nearly 5 straight days of rain and fog! A case like this would be an affordable solution and I wouldn’t feel terribly bad about drilling through the case to mount antenna, key, mic, and headphone ports.

I, for one, would love your thoughts about the Yaesu FT-891 as well. I’ve contemplated reviewing it this year mainly because so many field operators rave about it. I’d be curious what you think about it in terms of shortwave radio listening.

Thank you again for the tip!

Note that the Amazon affiliate links above support the SWLing Post at no cost to you. If you’d rather not use these links, simply search Amazon for “Max MAX004S.” Thank you!

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ABR Industries and the importance of quality cable and connectors

Two radio accessories I often forget to mention in my posts and reviews are cable and connectors. When a cable functions well, it’s taken for granted and easily overlooked.

You’ll hear me say that a radio is only as good as its antenna and while that’s true, the important link in the system is your antenna cable and connectors. If you have a fabulous antenna and a benchmark radio, but you connect the two with substandard cables, it will create unnecessary losses and even shorts if you’re not careful.

But let’s be honest: it’s easy to cheap out on cables.

When I first started using tabletop receivers and transceivers in my youth, I had a tight budget. When I would go to a local hamfest where I’d find excellent prices on cable assemblies from those accessory retailers who sell a little bit of everything.  You know…the tables with everything from $10 multimeters to $5 blinking lights–? I’d find their prices for cable assemblies too attractive and would grab them.

No more.

Back when I owned my original Yaesu FT-817, I used one of these cables on Field Day and blew my finals due to a small short ono a connector end (if memory serves, braiding was touching the conductor). From that point forward, I decided I’d invest in quality cables.

ABR Industries

At the Hamvention in 2010, I found ABR Industries’ table. The only thing they had on display were cable assemblies and a handful of cable accessories. I picked one cable up and inspected it–I could tell it was good quality. Although I know how to make my own cable assemblies (with PL-259s, at least) I appreciate professionally-built assemblies.

I spoke with the representative that day and learned about their company and how they go about making standard and custom cable assemblies in the USA for the consumer, commercial, and government markets.

Although the price was at least double what I would have paid at one of the discount retailers, I never looked back.

From that point forward, I’ve only purchased ABR cables typically at Hamvention, Universal Radio, or even directly from ABR’s website (when I ordered custom assemblies).

The quality of ABR cables is second to none. I have never had one fail at home or (especially) in the field.

For my QRP POTA activations, I started investing in ABR316 and ABR100 BNC to BNC assemblies. I’m especially fond of the ABR316 assemblies (above) because they’re so resistant to memory when I coil them.

You pay for what you get

I suppose this is on my mind because I’m about to do an assessment and make another ABR order so that my new field radio kits have their own dedicated cable assemblies with correct ends (so I’m also not forced to use BNC or PL adapters for matching).

I’m also replacing some of my 3 foot cable assemblies with SMA connectors to PL-259 for my bank of SDRs. This is a part of achieving one of my goals for 2021. I’ll know then that each receiver will have a quality link to my antenna splitter and antenna.

My point here is don’t skimp on your cable, adapters, or cable assemblies.

If you have the skill to build your own, buy quality components and take your time building them.

If you prefer purchasing pre-made cable assemblies, talk with your local ham radio retailer, or seek out cable assembly houses like ABR Industries. I’d avoid purchasing cheap cables you may find on eBay or Amazon.com, for example. That’s not to say that there aren’t quality discount assemblies out there, I just prefer buying from a company that takes pride in their work and stands behind the quality.

Click here to check out ABR Industries. 

ABR Industries isn’t a sponsor of the SWLing Post (although I’d love to add them!)–I’m just a long-time customer who is happy to plug their products. I can recommend them without reservation.

I’ve also bought numerous long cable runs, wire, DC cable, ladder line, paracord, and sealant from The Wireman. I also highly recommend them.

ABR isn’t the only quality cable assembly house–there are many others throughout the world. Who do you recommend? Please leave a comment and links to your picks!

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Frank translates the Tecsun PL-330 manual into German

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Frank, who writes:

Hi there,

I have written a manual for the Tecsun PL-330 in German after getting only a Chinese one. Perhaps it is helpful for somebody?

With friendly regards
Frank from Germany

Click here to download Tecsun PL-330 Deutsche Bedienungsanleitung (PDF 1.8 MB)

Thanks so much for sharing this, Frank!

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Reviving a Kindle, hacking a Nook, and more E-Ink, please?

I remember back in 2007 when Amazon announced their first Kindle E-Ink portable reader, I honestly couldn’t imagine how it could be useful. Why in the world would I abandon print books and stare at yet another screen?

A couple years later, I sat next to a (rather talkative) passenger on a trip to Seattle. She had an Amazon Kindle–it was the first time I’d seen one in person. While I knew all about the device’s functionality, I couldn’t get over how appealing the E-Ink display appeared.

The image was greyscale, there was no backlighting and the print was incredibly crisp. It looked like great paper copy. She handed me her Kindle and I read a couple pages and was hooked.

In November, 2011, I purchased my first Kindle E-Ink reader: the Kindle III keyboard. That particular model sported Wifi and free international 3G connectivity.  It also had a cool experimental page with a functional, basic web browser that could actually cruise the internet–albeit with an interface that was never designed to do so. For a while there, I had free 3G service through that browser which came in very handy when I was off-grid two months the following summer on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

While I didn’t use the Kindle every day (I do still love paper books) it became an amazing and useful travel companion. It was great hopping on a flight with a whole library of books in tow.

Fast-forward a decade…

These days, I’m not sure if the 3G functionality still works, but my Kindle still does. Indeed, it works as well as the day I purchased it, save the battery life.

I used to charge the Kindle and it would operate for weeks on one charge. Lately, it needed charging almost daily. Not a surprise as this device celebrates it’s 10th birthday this year.

Even though consumer electronics manufacturers these days don’t want you to know, you can almost always replace batteries in devices as long as you’re willing to crack open the case and even solder battery tabs on occasion. I’ve replaced batteries in iPhones, Android phones, tablets, and numerous rechargeable devices.

I ordered a $15 replacement battery for my Kindle and installed it last week; it was a very simple, solder-free installation.

And it works like new again!

I’m such a believer in E-Ink tablets, I backed the Earl Android tablet in 2013. Earl was a rugged device that was supposed to even include a basic shortwave radio receiver.

It was a brilliant concept, but sadly failed. I believe the guys behind the crowdfunding campaign were sincere in their desire to create the product, but they lacked the experience to bring it to fruition, were poor communicators with their backers, and many lost their crowdfund contributions when the Earl project simply disappeared. A very, very sad ending to what could have been a revolutionary product.

Nook Hacking

In 2018, I presented at Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE). My buddy, Dave Cripe (NM0S), and I split the cost of a room at the Hotel Pennsylvania where HOPE was held that year. One evening we started talking about the Earl tablet (I believe Dave was also a backer) then he showed me his uber-cool, do-it-yourself E-Ink tablet: a Hacked Nook Simple Touch.

He showed me how, through a fairly simple process, you could root the Nook and replace its operating system with a basic Android OS. This opened the Nook up to more uses like web browsing and even adding some apps from the Android market.

After returning home from HOPE 2018, I hopped on ShopGoodwill.com and purchased two Nook Simple Touch readers for a whopping $15 US.

I knew it was risky purchasing from ShopGoodwill.com because these devices had not been tested and I had no idea how old they were. Still, the bet (or winning $15 bid) paid off: both Nooks worked perfectly.

I rooted both units.

Funny thing is, I gave one of the units to my wife and it has become her favorite digital device. Once she discovered Project Gutenberg–a massive searchable repository of public domain books–and the fact that one of her favorite authors (P.G. Wodehouse) had numerous books in the archive, she was hooked. I loaded her Nook device with over 100 books she hand-picked from the archive.

My rooted Nook is loaded with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels and loads of other classics. I also have a PDF of my car’s owner’s manual, a copy of “Where There Is No Doctor,” and a number of other useful reference books (like issues of The Spectrum Monitor magazine!).

It must be the best $15 I’ve ever spent.

I also love the fact we gave these two discarded Nooks a second (upgraded!) life.

E-Ink love

E-Ink devices have improved over the years and backlighting options now are most impressive.

I’ve come so close to purchasing the Mobiscribe Origin, even though it lacks a GPS and other functionality I’d like.

Ideally, I’d still love to have an E-Ink tablet that’s somewhat weatherproof, sports a large rechargeable battery, allows for on-screen writing with a stylus, connectivity for a Bluetooth keyboard, features a GPS with topo maps, and supports full pinch-to-zoom functionality.

Please, if a device like this ever surfaces, let me know.

Any other fans of E-Ink devices in the SWLing Post community? Please comment!

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Upgrading my Yaesu FT-817 transceiver with the G7UHN rev2 Buddy board

Last August, SWLing Post contributor, Andy (G7UHN), shared his homebrew project with us: a genius companion control display for the venerable Yaesu FT-817 general coverage QRP transceiver.

Andy’s article caused me (yes, I blame him) to wax nostalgic about the popular FT-817 transceiver. You see, I owned one of the first production models of the FT-817 in 2001 when I lived in the UK.

At the time, there was nothing like it on the market: a very portable and efficient HF, VHF, UHF, multi-mode general coverage QRP transceiver…all for $670 US.

In 2001? Yeah, Yaesu knocked it out of the ballpark!

In fact, they knocked it out of the ballpark so hard, the radio is still in production two decades later and in demand under the model FT-818.

I sold my FT-817 in 2008 to raise funds for the purchase of an Elecraft KX1, if memory serves. My reasoning? The one thing I disliked about my FT-817 was its tiny front-facing display. When combined with the embedded menus and lack of controls, it could get frustrating at home and in the field.

I mentioned in a previous post that I purchased a used FT-817ND from my buddy, Don, in October, 2020. I do blame Andy for this purchase. Indeed, I hereby declare him an FT-817 enabler!

FT-817 Buddy board

When I told Andy about my ‘817ND purchase, he asked if I’d like to help him test the FT-817 Buddy board versions. How could I refuse?

Andy sent me a prototype of his Version 2 Buddy board which arrived in late November. I had to source out a few bits (an Arduino board, Nokia display, and multi-conductor CAT cable). Andy kindly pre-populated all of the SMD components so I only needed to solder the Arduino board and configure/solder the cable. I did take a lot of care preparing and soldering the cable, making sure there was no unintentional short between the voltage and ground conductors.

Overall, I found the construction and programming pretty straight-forward. It helped that Andy did a remote session with me during the programming process (thanks, OM!). Andy is doing an amazing job with the documentation.

I do love how the board makes it easier to read the frequency and have direct access to important functions without digging through embedded menus. While there’s nothing stopping you from changing the program to suit you, Andy’s done a brilliant job with this since he’s an experienced FT-817 user.

The Nokia display is very well backlit, high contrast, and easy very to read.

“Resistance is futile”

I mentioned on Twitter that, with the backlight on, the FT-817 Buddy makes my ‘817ND look like it was recently assimilated by The Borg.

Don’t tell any Star Trek captains, but I’m good with that.

Andy has a rev3 board in the works and it sports something that will be a game-changer for me in the field: K1EL’s keyer chip!

For more information about the FT-817 Buddy, check out Andy’s website. At time of posting, it’s not available yet, but as Andy says, “it’s nearly there!”

Of course, we’ll keep you updated here as well. Many thanks to Andy for taking this project to the next level. No doubt a lot of FT-817 users will benefit from this brilliant project!

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My initial review of the new Mat-Tuner mAT-705Plus on QRPer.com

If you’re an Icom IC-705 owner and have been waiting for Mat-Tuner to address the design shortcomings of their original mAT-705, you might want to check out my initial review of the new mAT-705Plus ATU posted over on QRPer.com. It includes a video of the new ATU in action.

In short, this upgraded model looks very promising. Not only does it address my concerns with the original model, but it also seems to tune very effectively and efficiently.

Click here to read the full review.

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Bluetooth adapter that also serves as a Belka stand

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Joe Patti (KD2QBK), who writes:

Not sure anyone would be interested, but in using a Bluetooth adapter with my Belka I inadvertently came up with a little stand for it.

I attached the adapter to the back of the radio with a piece of plastic 3M Command picture hanger strip. It props up the little radio at exactly the right angle.

Love the blog!

Thank you, Joe! Looks like this is the Bluetooth adapter you’re using. What a clever way to have your Bluetooth adapter do double duty! Also, I’m so glad you enjoy the Post!  Thanks for sharing your tip!

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