Monday 30 April 2018

CTARC Forthcoming Sale of Amateur Radio Equipment - 5 May '18

We have been informed by Klaus /ZS1QO that he and family are relocating offshore and consequently is to hold a sale of all his radio gear at his QTH in Cape Town's north-western suburbs.

The sale takes place on Saturday 5 May, starting at 10h00 and all radio hams and interested parties are welcome to attend. Everything must go!

Those who know Klaus will know his high standards in acquiring radio gear of high quality, so this will be an event not to miss.

All gear to be purchased must be inspected on the premises and removed once paid for.
No items can be sent via post or courier.

The list of equipment on sale is extensive, and includes
  • HF an VHF Rigs
  • Linear amplifiers
  • Test meters and equipment
  • Components
  • Coax cables
  • Antenna wire
  • Connectors
  • Antennas
  • Masts
  • Hardware
More specifically, the quality items for sale include...
  • Transistor Linear Amplifier Trans World Electronics TWE500A
    500W CW / 800W PEP in mint condition, for230 Vac,
    b/I Amp Meter 50A R 8500.00
  • Automatic Antenna Tuner Daiwa CNA2002
    2KW PeP R 4600.00
  • Transceiver Icom IC-751A with non-volatile RAM
    100% operational R 4500.00
  • 4-Step Coax Antenna Switch 1KW PEP  R 600.00
  • Receiver HF All Mode: Hagenuk RX1001M b/I pre-selector
    One of the best receivers ever built  R 5000.00
All parts can be seen and tested at his place by appointment. There is an updated list [here].
Klaus requests you contact him, during reasonable hours, by direct mobile phone call, NOT by WhatsUp nor by SMS. You can do so on: [ zero 8  three = 6 too six = six  9  six  4 ].

He may also be e-mailed at comlab at global dot co dot za

Sunday 29 April 2018

CTARC Photos of April Meeting - 28 Apr '18

Here are the photos of the April 2018 CTARC meeting (Sorry if some of them are fuzzy - they're photos of slides projected onto a wall in some cases!) (There are better photos of the station [here]). The written report-back is [here].

A full house in attendance
Chairman Rob / ZS1SA opens the meeting and reports back
on the recent committee meeting

Allan / ZS1LS hands out course notes before his presentation
Allan gave us a fascinating talk about
the Morningstar remote station

The remote station and antenna mast at Morningstar

The TS-2000 rig at the bottom, control PC, SWR monitor,
Signallink sound card and detachable fascia.

The solid state Metron Power Amp

Another view of the Optibeam antenna and mast

On the setup page in the software you can see a list
of the various international stations using the system

The interface which lets the remote operator adjust settings
on the transceiver and station via PC. In the lower right-hand
corner is the antenna rotation indicator

Georges / ZS1II accepts the SARL Anon Trophy from Rob / ZS1SA
Mike / ZS1FP makes an emphatic point during his slide show
Paul / ZS1PXK and Mike / ZS1CO who won the raffle

General chatter in the autumn afternoon air outside the clubhouse

CTARC Report-Back on April Meeting - 28 Apr ‘18

At 14h00B: on Saturday 28 April 2018, the CTARC held its monthly meeting at the clubhouse.

Addressing a very full clubhouse (word had got around!) our chairman Rob welcomed us all and mentioned apologies from Ian / ZS1SX and Barry / ZS1FJ (who is recuperating after a spell in the white house). He reminded us that there are several members’ club badges (currently magnetically stuck on the club fridge) that still need to be collected. He gave some feedback on the recent committee meeting held on Monday 23 April.

One item that needs addressing: we need somebody to take over the running of the Green Point Lighthouse Weekend operation each August. Rob took over the portfolio from Peter / ZS1PMH, and has run it successfully for the past eight years. The job entails liaison with the PortNet authorities, organising the event and sleeping over at the lighthouse for the actual weekend as the person responsible to PortNet. Obviously the transport, setting up, operation and taking down and re-transportation of the station and antennae is a team effort. Volunteers, please!

Rob mentioned our highly successful CTARC March 2018 flea market / car boot sale - see the full report [here] and photos of that event [here]. He also mentioned the recent Antenna Work Party (details here) where the Force 12 beam antenna has been re-established up on the main mast and is operational on 10 and 15m bands. One of the elements for the 10 metre band is, alas, damaged (would that make it a Force 11 ½??) and will need fixing for that band to fully work. However, the CTARC HF station is operational again on 15 and 20 metres.

Forthcoming meetings were announced – in May we will have a video offered by Paul / ZS1S, on the VK7VK DxPedition, and in June, Peter / ZS1PGC will give demonstration of the Libra Office inventory system he has proactively adapted for the accounting of the CTARC’s numerous and varied assets. Be warned - even the molecules thereof will get their own unique barcode...

Then Rob introduced us to Allan Saul / ZS1LS, who has been assisting Fred /ZS1FZ to set up the Morningstar Remote Control Station, and highly qualified to talk on the subject.

Using Google Earth, Allan showed us the location of the station at Morningstar in Cape Town’s North-Western Suburbs, where a solid container protects the rig and associated equipment and a 12m high coaxial tower supports a rotatable 9-element 5-band Optibeam yagi antenna. Alan has added a 5 element 6m beam above that. Also on the tower are a 2m antenna and two microwave dishes – one of which points to Dolphin Beach where the internet connection is and the other to Allan’s QTH. Thus it is that both Fred and Allan can operate the station directly from their respective locations via microwave links.

The main HF beam antenna covers five ham bands: 20 / 17 / 15 / 12 / 10 metres. Plans are also in the offing for wire dipoles to be set up, to operate on the 80m, 40m and 30m bands.

The transceiver is a Kenwood TS-2000 which covers the HF, 6m, 2m and 70 cm bands, with a maximum power output of 100 W on HF. However, this will be restricted to 30w in order not to overdrive the Metron Solid State linear amplifier, which can deliver 1000W PEP on phone and 500W on CW. There is also a small PC running the Windows operating system, a Signalink Sound Card, an electronic VSWR meter, a web switching device that allows for remote switching control, as well as battery backup. There is no ATU – the RF output leads directly to the well-tuned antennas. There is also comms equipment for connecting the microwave links, whose data is transmitted digitally.

Allan then described how the system works. The microwave link back to Dolphin Beach is down-converted to ADSL frequencies and that connects via an ADSL modem to the Internet. This means that, technically, anybody in the world with an internet connection could operate the Morningstar station remotely. Practically, access to the station will be limited to CTARC club members, but will still be useful to those as such who are operating from out of town in addition to the majority who will operate it from their QTHs around and about the Cape Peninsua..

What is interesting about the software is that it works through a server based somewhere in the Cloud, and that many other remote stations around the world using this system are in evidence on a list of several pages length. While there will very probably be restrictions to transmit via those remote, non-South African stations, their administrators might permit access to them for reception only, if requested politely.

Allan then described the freeware RemoteHams software which is used to control the rig remotely. Methods of obtaining and installing the software will be emailed to those CTARC members who buy into the scheme (more on which later). In essence, one logs in with a username and password and is taken to a setup page where you configure the Morningstar station to appear, along with a long list of other (international) ham stations that are part of this system.

One that is done, an interface of the TS-2000 appears and the audio of what it is tuned to comes through your PC’s soundcard. Allan recommends users purchase a Logitek USB headset (around R500 in computer retail emporia), but at a push one can use the space bar of your PC (once properly configured) to act as PTT and the audio of your PC’s speakers. You can also wire up a foot switch or PTT via a DB9 connector to a COM port.

Operators can change most of the various parameters of the rig: frequency, mode, mike gain, RF gain, the power output etc., as well as rotate the antenna in desired directions. There is also a small “chat” box interface at the bottom of the screen where messages can be texted between the operator and other users who are logged in. While only one person at a time can be logged in to transmit, others logged in can monitor the audio too. The frequencies you plug into memory are saved via a cookie so they’re available to you when you log on again.

Allan then showed us how using a Virtual Com Port the software could be configured to link to other associated software, such as MixW and Ham Radio Deluxe. Tjerk / ZS1J has used Logger32 successfully.

Allan answered various questions from the floor throughout the lecture. One issue is that the system will only work on Windows (from Windows XP to Windows 10) PC's or Android smart phones. Apple Mac computers and iPhones are not supported at present.

Another issue is that, while the system can receive and allow for the decoding (on the user’s computer) of digital signals, the software and codec currently used makes transmitted digital signals too distorted for practical use. So the station works using CW and SSB only (at present). Future revisions of the application might extend these modes to digital, however.

Also, the latency of the system is a bit “laggy” for contesting. Nevertheless it is a formidable system and will certainly be a huge boon to our club's members.

On conclusion of Allan's fascinating talk, Rob took the podium again to thank Allan and then to hand over the SARL Anon Trophy for 2017 to Georges Schleger / ZS1II, to a round of applause from the audience.

Rob then raised the issue of funding for the remote station. The CTARC pays the rental and electricity for the Morningstar site and this adds up to a substantial figure annually. So, operation is available to CTARC club members only. The committee feels it unfair to spread those costs across all CTARC  members (some of whom don’t use computers). So to keep the station running on a financially sustainable basis, we need at least thirty members willing to pay R 200-00 p.a. for access. However, until the CTARC’s July AGM, those members who wish to access the remote station need only pay R50-00 once for access between now and then. Thereafter the full fee pertains to all.

An exception to the above fees are Fred /ZS1FZ who built and generously paid for the station, and Allan, who added his own hardware and manages the station. Fred made the station available to the CTARC on condition that he has unrestricted access, which is only fair. Allan will have similar access privileges. However, as the station will be “alive” 24/7, there will be plenty of opportunity for the others to use it.

Once you have paid the fees, our club secretary Anne will email you the instructions to download and set up the software.

Then Rob read out a letter to the CTARC from Fred / ZS1FZ, where he described his reasons for building the Morningstar station. As a professional radio engineer of many years standing, and a CTARC member since 1961, Fred spent many happy years in this country, with his wife Waldi and daughter Eva. He was responsible for setting up a very complex HF and LF communications system for the SA Navy and has set up numerous remote control operations systems and experimental stations. Since his retirement he has been able to devote more time to Amateur Radio and has made this very generous contribution to our club as his way of thanking the CTARC, the city and the country. He also thanked the following radio hams for their assistance throughout: Deon / ZS1ZL, Tony / ZS1TK, Paul / ZS1S, Danny / ZS1BL and Allan / ZS1LS. Tjerk / ZS1J has also been involved as a beta-tester. Our response to Fred can only be one of huge gratitude.

Then Mike / ZS1FP treated us to a slide show of photos he has taken of the Cape Town radio ham community over the years. It was a treat to see a the faces, some, sadly, no longer with us.

Finally, Paul / ZS1PXK ran the monthly raffle. The winner was Mike /  ZS1CO, who got to keep half the raffle takings and walked off with a big smile.

The Swop Swop was in operation after the meeting as chairs were stacked, rags were chewed and Allan patiently answered numerous questions that very interested members had to ask about Morningstar. Overall, a most interesting meeting indeed. We look forward to seeing you all at the next monthly CTARC meeting in May.

Photos of the meeting are [here].

Further details on the Morningstar station will be published presently.

CTARC Remote Station at Morningstar - 28 April '18

Exciting news! After at least a year of secret preparations, the CTARC can now announce that its remote controlled amateur radio station at Morningstar in the northern suburbs of Cape Town is operational. We were treated to a very interesting talk about this by Allan / ZS1LS at the CTARC April 2018 Meeting.

The station consists of a suitably modified container and a fold-over crank up tower (that had belonged to Martin / ZS1SM /SK) which supports a rotatable 9-element Optibeam yagi antenna for the 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20 metre ham bands. On top of that sits a 6m yagi beam. There is aso a 2m antenna. Dipole wire antennae for 30, 40 and 80 metres are also planned.

Central to the system are a Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver, a Metron solid-state linear amplifier (capable of 1kW PEP on phone and 500W on CW), various modems, web-switches, SWR monitors and control equipment. The station links to the outside world via a microwave link to an internet hub at Dolphin Beach. It will be continuously operational, 24/7.

The system will enable an operator with an internet connection and a PC to connect to the station, log in, monitor a frequency (by default), change frequencies within a band, change ham bands, rotate the beam antenna towards a desired direction, and operate  in PTT mode via their PC’s keyboard or suitable interface.

Minimum PC requirements are:
  • A PC desktop or laptop computer or Android smartphone
    with at least a 1 GHz CPU and 1 Gb of RAM;
  • Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10 operating system, or Android if you use a smartphone.
    Windows 7 or better is preferred.
    (Sorry - the system will not work with Apple Macs or iPhones);
  • .NET Framework 4.0 installed
    (The remote control software setup will inform you of this requirement and install if needed);
  • Adobe Flash Player Active X.
Your internet connection should be at least 2 Mbit speed, which does work, but 4 Mbit is better

Third party software integration with logging programs and interfaces such as Ham Radio Deluxe are possible. One can even rig up a foot switch connection to the PC via a DB9 connector.

While only one operator can transmit at a time, others may log in and monitor the station in use at the same time. An operating protocol for this is being developed. All operations (operators, frequencies used and times) are continuously logged by the system.

The Morningstar station is the creation of Fred Ziss / ZS1FZ who’s relationship with both our club and with Cape Town goes back many years. We are extremely fortunate to have Fred’s highly professional design input and generously substantial financial contributions to the establishment of this unique facility for the CTARC. Fred has implemented this project as a “thank you” to our club, our city and our country, for providing him with, as he puts it, “some of the best years of my life and career”. We are honoured by his kind and very generous contribution, completed in spite of an inconvenient medical operation along the way. Allan will run the maintenance of the station.

Some practical matters

  • Operation of the Morningstar remote station is only available to paid-up members of the CTARC.
  • As the CTARC pays the running costs of this station, including rental and electricity, operators will be required to pay an annual fee for access. The committee feels it is only fair that payment is made only by users of the system, as opposed to non-users. We need at least 30 operators each contributing R200-00 p.a. (at current rates) to make this financially sustainable. Until the CTARC AGM in July, as a special deal, those club members who wish to operate the remote station must please pay R50-00 to the CTARC Secretary Anne. She will then e-mail you the necessary setup instructions. After the July AGM, access rights to CTARC club members will cost R200-00 per annum.
  • As with the operation of repeaters on our frequencies, it must be emphasised that as this is an experimental station, access and operation cannot be absolutely guaranteed 100% of the time.
  • All operators must, of course, be fully licensed radio amateur operators. Part of the setup of the remote control software requires you to upload a copy of your ICASA radio amateur license to the server.
  • As creator of the project, Fred /ZS1FZ has the right to operate the station at his convenience. In practice this will provide plenty of “free” time for others to operate the station too.
  • As administrator of the station, Alan / ZS1LS has similar operating privileges.
  • While it can monitor digital modes, the station can’t at present transmit them, owing to software codec and latency issues. It is hoped that future versions of the software will address this issue.
  • The response time of the station for some contesting formats is not instantaneous. This is, however, a small disadvantage for so fine a station and antennae in a quiet radio environment.
Further details will be published presently

CTARC Peter Breytenbach Silent Key - 7 Mar ‘18

It is with sadness that we must announce news of the passing of OM Peter Breytenbach / ZS1ADP, whose key fell silent on 7 March 2018. His late wife Sylvia had preceded him on 25 August 2017. News of Peter's passing was read out on the CTARC bulletin this morning, 28 April 2018 and a moment's silence was held.

It was Peter who put Dennis / ZS1AU in contact with Chuck Brady / N4BQW when he arrived in Cape Town in November 2000 to set off on the 3Y0C DxPedition to Bouvet Island. Dennis was the Cape Town link for Chuck on that adventure. It was also Peter who assisted Deon Irwin (then ZR1DQ, now ZS1ZL) to make the first CW contact from a ZR prefix call sign to Bouvet. For his assistance, Chuck handed over his famous spider beam antenna to Peter on his return to Cape Town. (This information via ZS1AU and

Peter had an interesting life, working as a mechanic for the Cape Town Traffic Department. Later on he ran his own bike shop in Milnerton.

He was resident in Bothasig, but his latter years were spent in Paarl.

Being by his own description something of a sports fanatic, his interests included Rugby, Soccer, Weight Training and Cycling; he took part in the Argus Cycle Tour. He was also a keen walker, making regular circuits at Canal Walk.

We extend our condolences to his family and friends.

R. I. P.

Wednesday 18 April 2018

CTARC Heads-up for JOTA/JOTI - Oct '18

Here is an early announcement for the forthcoming Jamboree On The Air / Jamboree On The Internet, which is set to take place on the weekend period of Friday 19th to Sunday 21st October 2018.

JOTA is a long-established opportunity for radio amateurs to assist the Scouts / Guides / Wolf Cub / Brownie groups within your community to make international radio contact with similar groups worldwide.

You can download the JOTA/JOTI Participants Guide as a PDF file [here].

More information is on the JOTA website [here].

Tuesday 17 April 2018

CTARC Committee Meeting - 23 April 2018

CTARC Committee Members are reminded of the committee meeting that will take place on Monday 23 April 2018, at 19h00 at the CTARC Clubhouse.

This will be an important meeting because there are a number of club issues that need to be addressed.

Please diarise and attempt to be there!

Monday 16 April 2018

CTARC Forthcoming April Meeting - 28 Apr '18

Alan / ZS1LS
Photo credit: SARL
As the CTARC meeting for March was the annual mega flea market held on 3rd March 2018, the next monthly meeting will only be held at 14h00 on Saturday, 28 April 2018. The venue, as per usual, will be the CTARC clubhouse.

At this meeting, Alan / ZS1LS will provide us with a fascinating talk on operating a remote-controlled ham station, and on the software being used. Don't miss this meeting!

There will also be the usual ham equipment swop-shop after the meeting.

Further details will be announced on this blog, on the Sunday morning bulletins on the 145.750 MHz repeater, and in our bi-monthly newsletter Ragchew.

NB This meeting has now taken place; the report is [here].

Tuesday 10 April 2018

CTARC Summits on the Air - 10 Apr '18

Here's a PDF file on SOTA (Summits On The Air) ham activity, with which Chris / ZS1CDG is getting involved. The Cape Peninsula has a good number of hills and mountains on top of which one may operate. In some cases these koppies have yet to be activated on SOTA, and your call sign could be the first!.

Download the PDF file here.

Thanks to Chris for the contribution.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

CTARC Solar Noon Calculator - 4 April '18

John / ZS1AGH kindly sent us this useful link:

It is an online calculator for Solar Noon at your QTH.

Solar Noon is when the sun is at its highest and the shadow cast is at its shortest; the shadow should then be pointing directly North - South. Useful for aligning antennas accurately, if you don't have a GPS.

First obtain the Latitude and Longitude coordinates of your antenna's location (which you can acquire from Google Maps - just click on the exact point with your mouse and a label will appear with the selected location's decimal coordinates).

Then go to the Solar Noon web page [here]

Then plug in the Latitude and Longitude coordinates into the fields provided. Remember to set your time zone (as GMT +2 hours for local time).

Then the web page prints out a year's table with the exact Solar Noon times for each of the 365 days.

Below is an example of the process done for the CTARC clubhouse's (approximate) location:

Sunday 1 April 2018

CTARC Ragchew - April 2018

The April 2018 edition of the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre's bi-monthly newsletter "Ragchew" is now published.

Grateful thanks once again to our editor, Anne, for all her excellent work in putting together this month's edition, and to all those who contributed articles.

Remember please, Anne is always on the look-out for articles to publish in Ragchew!

Download the PDF file [here];

Ragchew is also on our Newsletters Page