Maintenance Hanskop 20170722

Jan (ZS1VDV) and Rassie (ZS1YT) went to Hanskop to investigate the controller not responding to DTMF.

Started packing vehicle 06:30, left Stellenbosch 07:00.

Had to drive very slowly up as the road is in very bad condition and had the sun just over the horizon.

On site by 08:15. The temperature outside was 1.2 degrees, the wind was cutting through everything.

The problem with the controller was found to be interference on the 145.600 Repeater.  The interference is not from our equipment but most likely from WISP equipment.
The 145.600 repeater’s SQL was closed to 1.1uV (about 4 times more that what it should be).  This only helps about 80% of the time. The interference will need more work/investigation.

All SWR was checked. VHF repeater (1.1), UHF repeater (1.1), Jonaskop link (1.6).

CTCSS was added to the 434.650 repeater.

Home at Stellenbosch by 12:45.

Maintenance Hawequa 20170625

Today Jan ZS1VDV and David ZS1DDK went to the site to service the power problem.

It was found that the DC power distribution box was faulty and replaced.

VHF repeater SWR was tested (1.2)
UHF repeater SWR was tested (1.4)
Backup battery voltage was measured (13.8V)

Maintenance Hawequa 20170617

Jan, ZS1VDV went to Hawequa to investigate why the 650 VHF repeater was not working.  The worst was suspected, that the mast did not survive the storms.  Luckily this was not the case.  The mast and building was in good condition.

It was found that the repeater was on, but as soon as it started to transmit it restarted.  After long debugging, it was found that the repeater was not at fault but the dc power distribution box and power supply.  The fault was corrosion on the conductors in the connectors (dust and soot blasted in by the storms, as well as intermittent power would have caused this), as well as crackling sound in the power supply.

The power supply will have to be replaced on a next visit and serviced.

It was great to see the water flowing off the mountain.

Repeater Installation Bottelary 20170319

Panoramic View

The first digital repeater high site in the Western Cape was installed on Sunday.

ZS1VDV and ZS1DDK completed the main install on Sunday 19 March 2017.

UHF MMDVM Repeater and ICOM VHF DSTAR repeater and controller

The install on site started around 08:30. All equipment had to be carried a few 100m up the hill.

Uninstalled old equipment from rack.
Cleaned out all dead animals and dust.
Installed power supply unit.
Automatic transfer switch with low voltage dropout on battery side.
Power pole distribution block.
Installed networking router.
Did all network cabeling.
Installed MMDVM UHF repeater (DMR and DSTAR configured)
Installed ICOM ID RP2C controller and ID RP2000V repeater.
Installed VHF duplexer.

Equipment Rack

Made up coax fly leads.
Installed UHF HD 400 antenna.

ZS1VDV installing antennas

Did a final cleanup.

Returned home by 14:30

Maintenance Hawequa 20170221

The morning started early and ended late. The wind on site provided an extra challenge, gusting at near gale speeds.  Paul (ZS1V) started at 05:30 and met Jan (ZS1VDV) to load equipment in Stellenbosch at 05:50 before arriving on site at 06:20.

Battery was tested (12.6V).
Eskom power was down on the site, so no further debugging could be done.
Back in Stellenbosch 08:00

Left Stellenbosch 18:10.
On site 18:45.
Labelled all plugs.
Reprogrammed controller. (Flash memory in controller was corrupted after too many reboots.)

Sunset

Tested everything and left site 19:45.
Back home 20:45.

Digital Repeater Build Day

On Sunday 19 February 2017 a digital repeater build day was held in Stellenbosch at the home of Jan (ZS1VDV).  The result was that there are now three homebrew (MMDVM based) repeaters running in the Western Cape.

Digital repeater coverage as of 20 February 2017

In June 2016 the build process first started. Jan (ZS1VDV) and Paul (ZS1V) reached out to Ronald (ZS6RVC) and Johan (ZS6JPL) for some help and lessons. Johan provided ZS1VDV with a single PCB for an SP8NTH v6 shield. Orders were placed for Raspberry Pi’s, Arduino Due, SP8NTH v6.1 PCBs, components and Nextion screens.  ZS1VDV started to collect duplexers and radios.

SP8NTH v6.1 1st production

10 complete SP8NTH v 6.1 PCB were assembled of which 7 were shipped up country.

In September 2016 the first proof of concept repeater was built by ZS1VDV. The next step was to design and produce a case that can be used on a highsite. This was completed early November 2016.

Stainless steel case

In January 2017 the finer setup and software configuration were completed.

The next step was to build more repeaters.

A repeater that was built

ZS1MTF, ZS1BSD and ZS1VDV participated in the build day. It started the morning at 09:00 with a quick recap of what digital repeaters are, what they are made of and how they work. Then two repeaters were built and configured.  They are on temporary wooden boards to keep costs down.

Currently there are three UHF repeaters running in the Western Cape that are DMR and DSTAR capable. The WCRWG is in process of moving a VHF DSTAR repeater and a UHF MMDVM repeater to a high site. This will improve the current coverage area.

Hermanus maintenance 20170212

David (ZS1DDK), Jan (ZS1VDV) went to do some maintenance on the Hermanus repeater.

With the last installation of the repeater it was found that the repeater rf sensitivity was not what was expected and needed to be corrected.

The weather was on and off with rain, the same as installation day, which did not make it fun.

Rain, not fun.

Started 06:30 in Bellville.
Pickup and pack equipment in Stellenbosch 07:15

Equipment packed

Left Strand around 08:00
Arrived on site 09:15.
Debug repeater sensitivity. In the process to realign the front-end, it was found that one of the 4 notch filters tuning pots need to be replaced as it was damaged.
The spare repeater was installed, audio aligned and link controller reconfigured for new repeater.
Did some testing with Sam (ZS1OR). The spare repeater is better, but still some areas need to be looked at.
Left site around 11:30.
Extended the power supply power lead with 2m.
Got some “quick” lunch on the way back.
Unpacked at Stellenbosch 14:30.
Back in Bellville 15:00.

Link Installation Hermanus 20170115

ZS1TAF left home at 07:00. ZS1DDK, ZS1VDV, ZS1V and ZS1OR were collected and all the equipment was loaded in 2 vehicles.

The team arrived on site at about 09:45.

View

Unpacking

The weather was windy, misty and there was some rain to complicate matters. The team all got stuck in and many of the tasks were executed in parallel.

Raining, ZS1TAF sealing new UHF antenna, ZS1V keeping rain off ZS1VDV tuning the duplexer

The first step was to confirm the correct SWR on the current VHF installation.  This was found to be an acceptable 1.2:1.

The previous repeater was removed and the hut cleaned out.  A Webb HD400 UHF dipole, fed by half inch Heliax and an LMR400 patch lead, was installed with lightning protection, for the link to Hanskop some 40km away.

ZS1TAF sealing the UHF antenna with ZS1OR

The duplexer was retuned which improved the insertion loss from 3 dB to 1.5 dB, and the rejection from 65 dB to 82 dB).

145.725 duplexer results after tuning by ZS1VDV

The UHF power output was measured at 2W and SWR on the antenna system after installation at 1.1:1.

As with many of the WCRWG repeater installations, the new link controller installation includes inside and outside temperature sensors as well as a DC voltmeter that can be queried by sending DTMF codes.

The repeater power output was measured at 10w after the duplexer.  Due to local noise levels, the squelch of the repeater had to be tightened somewhat.

The team left the site at about 13:00 and everybody was back home with the vehicles unloaded by around 16:00.

Maintenance Hanskop 20161030

David (ZS1DDK), Andre (ZS1AN) and Jan (ZS1VDV) did maintenance on Hanskop.

Summary:
Removed UPS, replaced with battery and charger
Changed UHF repeater frequency (434.650 output/ 433.050 input)

Log:

Left Bellville 06:45.
Packed all equipment in Stellenbosch (07:45) (4 ammo crates, 2 x 15L storage boxes, 1 tool box(very heavy), Pelican case, comms test set, table and chair). (Takes about 1.5 hour to prep all equipment).
Collected battery and low drop out switch in Somerset West from ZS1V (08:00).
Collected key from ZS1YT (08:15).
Arrived on site at around 09:05. (15 degrees Celsius)

Unpacking

Unpacking

Removed faulty UPS (Battery banks is dead).
Installed new Victron Energy Charger.
Collect more equipment at N2 (Thank you Melissa (ZS1MEL) for driving from Stellenbosch).
Installed battery (donated by ZS1V).

Backup Battery

Backup Battery

Changed power wiring for new configuration.
Retuned UHF duplexer for new frequencies (434.650 output / 433.050 input).

Retuning Duplexer

Retuning Duplexer

Duplexer

Duplexer Results

Made changes to repeater configs.
Tested UHF repeater (1.5 SWR and 0.56uV sql)
Made changes to link controller.
Left site 14:23. (4 degrees Celsius)
Drop key at ZS1YT 15:15.
Unpack equipment in Stellenbosch 15:50.
Home in Bellville 16:30.

Maintenance Hawequa 20161009

ZS1YT, ZS1VDV and ZR1SWB went to Hawequa to investigate some errors after big Eskom/power outages/instability the last few weeks.

Vehicles Parked

Vehicles Parked

Wellington view

ZS1VDV and ZR1SWB

The morning started at around 07:00 with packing all tools and equipment. Left Stellenbosch around 08:00. On site at around 08:45.

First checked all voltage levels. It was found that the Benton Charger again was off and not charging the battery. The charger was replaced by an 10A Victron Energy charger which was donated by ZS1FX.

The link controller opened, and no damage could be seen. The audio paths was traced and all seemed in order. A complete firmware reload and configuration reprogram was done. At a stage last week the controller was rebooted numerous times(by power outages/spikes) and this caused the configuration to go faulty.

Left for home around 10:15.

Home and unpacked by 11:30.