REPEATER WORK (current)
REPEATER WORK (2015)
REPEATER WORK (2014)
REPEATER WORK (2013)
REPEATER WORK (2012)
REPEATER WORK (2010)
REPEATER WORK (2000 - 2010)
REPEATER WORK (1975 - 1999)
A record of trips to/work at various repeater sites by PEARS members or helpers (reverse time order)
|25 November||Lady's Slipper||ZS2GV, ZS2AAW||
Replace the VHF RX Antenna
The sponsored VHF Colinear antenna as supplied my Marius ZS2JR, was installed today. The hard work was done atop the pole by Glen, thanks! Unfortunately a post-installation VSWR test failed, so ZS2AAW then had his turn up the pole to undo the rubber-taped connector and check for water etc. It was indeed wet, thanks to the broken antenna feeding water down the coax tailpiece. The top heliax connector was replaced and all tested fine after that. A re-tape and all was complete.
Antenna replaced, but note the rusted stay-wire shackles
...and the badly rusted WiFi box - needs to be stainless steel!
The BBS PC is not quite ready to be returned to site, since it is hosting the email on a temporary basis until the email PC (my home machine) can be reformatted
|3 November||Uitenhage WiFi||ZS2AAW||
WiFi site re-instated
Returned to site with CAT5 tester, spare LAN cable, motherboard and Netbook. Replacing the LAN cable did not help, original cable tested fine. (Length = 14m) Had to fit the RB433 motherboard, but using the original radio cards. Board is blank, so to enable remote connection, it was set up to connect to Slipper as a normal user. No information was at hand to configure it on site, would have to be done from home later.
Also fitted is a 100Ah low maintenance battery, and Tait Charger in the UHF Digi rack. A 5 port Ethernet switch is also fitted, with built-in POE on port #1, so LAN activity can be monitored. The site is now immune to power dips, and will boot properly when power is restored.
Remote configuration using a carefully sequenced set of edits so as NOT to pull the carpet from under my feet (i.e. lose the connection thru which I was configuring) is successful and the users are online again late this evening.
|1 November||Uitenhage WiFi||ZS2AAW||
Wifi Site off the air
A Mains failure on Monday took the site off air, and it never came alive again. Inspection reveals the same RB531 motherboard PSU problem where it will not power up with both radio cards installed. Removing the R5H card allows a normal boot. Removed for inspection and test at home. Need to test the CAT5 cable too, to ensure the pairs that cary Power Over Ethernet are not open circuit
|1 November||Lady's Slipper||ZS2AAW||
The Kyodo VHF Repetaer and VHF Packet rigs were refitted on site. The repeater is borrowing the packet VHF Folded dipole for an RX antenna, because the wind is too hectic to allow tower climbing. Antenna also too long to be left on site!
The mains fail alarm is also re-connected, and tests OK, no lock-ups
|10 October||Lady's Slipper||ZS2AAW||
VHF Repeater RX faulty
Finally managed a trip to site to investigate the poor RX performance of this repeater. The cause was clearly evident once on site: MISSING RX CO-LINEAR (was at the centre-top of the main pole)
The insides are still visible draped to the left, but the fibreglass radome has disappeared thanks to the high PE winds. A replacement will be ordered! The VHF Repeater was removed to investigate the intermittent open squelch fault in the interim. The VHF Packet unit was also removed for re-programming to 144.800MHz
Another problem found was the BBS PC being without power - the cause was this relay socket (pictured below with the relay alongside) inadequately rated to carry the 12 - 220V Inverter input current. (OK, OK, so I was trying to save costs on relays - "goedkoop is duurkoop"). These relays perform the DTMF remote power control function for BBS PC, WiFi System and HF Rig
Faulty Relay socket and heat-damaged pin
Then the BBS PC itself did not want to boot up, and I fear moisture damage judging by the rust on the tray on which the PC rests, and on the various D connectors. It appears rain is being driven into the container through the upward-sloping vent direcly behind the rack by the infamous PE winds
Rusted PC mouting tray and corroded connectors
Then finally the standby battery bank appears to be at the end of its useful life - see the positive plate growth pushing the connector posts right up out of the plastic housings. Fortunately another "scrapped" bank is available to replace this one...
Positive plate growth pushing up the connector posts
|3 October||ADSL Line||ZS2AAW||
Telkom fault Centre
First thing Monday I had a call from Peter ZS2PF at Telkom, who took up the challenge and undertook to re-create the ADSL connection on the local exchange. I am ALWAYS thankful for local hams that are in the right place to help. The first attempt was not successful, but Peter had success at around 16h45 when asked to please check why we were still not online. Service restored, thanks Peter.
|2 October||WiFi ADSL||ZS2AAW||
ADSL connectivity problems
A fault was logged with Datapro to investigate the continued lock-ups of the ADSL router and subsequent lack of connectivity. The ADSL line remains synchronised with the exchange, but all IP connectivity is lost. A reboot of the router clears the problem for a short time, before it locks up again.
|28 September||PE Town||ZS2AAW||
The Kyodo was taken back to site this morning, with the added RX crystal filter installed internal to the casing. Unfortunately this has not helped cure the immediate lock-up when it is keyed, so the repeater was left installed and switched off. A fax was later sent to the local ICASA offices on the 30th Sept reporting the issue and requesting their assistance. Telephonic follow-up on the 3 October reveals an expected site visit on the 5th October, while I am away in Cape Town. Fortunately ICASA have keys for access to this specific site, so they will continue with their inpsection.
|25 September||Lady's Slipper||Sunday bulletin||
Receiver sensitivity down
Repeater has been showing problems on the Receive side for a week or two, with RX open squelch conditions showing up intermittently, sometime for hours. Now it appears to be very "deaf" with lots of mush on weaker signals, and some previously weak signals are now unable to access the repeater. In addition, intermittent crackle is also evident at times. Signals entering via the UHF link are perfect.
Also gone AWOL is the BBS PC up at Slipper, a remote reset was not successful in reviving the machine...
|22 September||PE Town||ZS2AAW||
Lock-up Permanent key
The repeater has been in TX mode with
machine-gun noise transmitted non-stop since Wednesday lunch time. DUe
to attending a training course, and other helpers bewing out of town, the site
was visited at the first opportunity on Thursday 12h00. Inspection of
the repeater showed no obvious problems:
It appears that there is an external intermodulation product being generated on site, which mixes with the TX signal and appears on the RX frequency. No method of filtering can cure this interference unless the source of the mix is found. ICASA will have to be contacted to do their stuff. The repeater was removed for workbench tests and the addition of a crystal RX pass filter as a last-ditch effort to ensure it is not local Receiver ramming. If the problem persists, the authorities will be summosed for assistance.
There were two preceding problems noted at this
Check UHF Link from Plett
The UHF link receiver from Plett that was out of action when tested some weeks ago, was investigated en route back from the Garden Route Rally. As Murphy would have it, the receiver was now operating perfectly! The link was re-connected and traffic from George to PE and further afield was once again through.
At the same time, the Link towards Slipper was checked, and netted, and the VHF repeater was also checked. This one has a problem on the reciver in that any modulation on weak signals causes the squelch to close, which is the reason for the severe chopping on mobile signals when in the Kareedouw area. Since this is not easily sorted out on site, the repeater was brought back to town for alignment and/or repairs. The links were left in place and operational so that the Coastal system is once again through from George to East London.
Replace VHF Repeater and UHF Link
Both radio units had been removed previously for maintenance in Port Elizabeth (see further down!) The were taken back to site and refitted into the old accommodation for the Garden Route Rally within the month. A later move to the Sentech facilities will be done after the rally.
Some experimentation was done in using other spare UHF antennas on site to get rid of the link dorp-out between George and Knysna, but making use of these Eastwards-facing antennas meant that the Riversdale link was not reachable to the West. However, local technicians will be requested to please connect to the spare antenna for the duration of the rally, to ensure that comms from George towards Knysna is NOT broken up making comms difficult. Hopefully this problem will be ironed out in the move to Sentech in future.
The Ham link coax (2nd from left) and a spare coax next to it (3rd from left)
Check on low TX output on VHF Repeater
In travelling past this site yesterday, it was noted that the TX coverage of the repeater was extremely poor. A decision to stop in there on the way home was fruitful, as the transmitter had ZERO output power into the antenna filters.
Fortunately this radio amateur came prepared, and a complete VHF repeater that used to be the PE Town Repeater, was available as a spare in the vehicle, so it was hastily commissioned by simply changing control card and Oscillator modules to maintain the DTMF code and 145.775MHz channel. However, what started out as 15W TX output later dropped to 2W output for no aparrent reason. But running out of time and spares meant it will have to stay that way for the next while. Coverage on the way back down the valley to Keurbooms was good.
Also changed was the water-soaked Long UHF Yagi towards Swartberg repeater. But the water had penetrated both top and bottom heliax connectors, so these had to be dried out and re-assembled before a reasonable SWR could be obtained. Unfortunately there appears to be a fault at the Swartberg end, as no UHF signal could be obtained to or from Swartberg, even on a handheld outside the cabin while keying 145.625 repeater. The UHF link signal was also picked up a long way down the road towards PE, even side-on to the long yagi, so it is radiating a signal.
Kareedouw link noted as faulty
The UHF Link receiver from Plett repeater is dead at Kareedouw Moutain. However, no daytime left on the return trip prevented fetching this link for repairs in town. A later trip will be planned to get this back on the air, but in the meantime, 7252 is switched off to prevent one-way comms frustrating the South Cape Amateurs.
|8 August||Knysna (Brenton)||ZS2AAW, Maleke||
Install 48V - 24V DC-DC Converter
This was required to run the site off the new 48V battery bank as fitted a few months ago. Also specified by the landlord was the installation of armoured cable between the container and our meterbox cubicle as a site standard compliance issue. Two cables were run, a 2x2.5mm for 48V DC and a 4x2.5mm for 220V AC Mains for a power outlet for test equipment within the cabinet.
Power cables exiting the Eskom container
Power cables entering the Radio Amateur cabinet
The new DC-DC converter was fastened to the back board and wired through an incoming 5A DC breaker that was spare. Its output feeds the other three DC load breakers for each of the 2 UHF links and VHF Repeater
The site was eventually put back on the air today after a few months' absence due to this power issue needing attention.
Temporary link to Baviaanskloof
A temporary UHF yagi was added to the tower to face the Baviaanskloof direction for the upcoming Trans-baviaans mountain bike race. The link will be used to feed a temporary repeater/crossband site at Grasnek in the kloof for comms to the intermediate checkpoints. The normal UHF link equipment was utilised, with multi-channel EPROMS set to the desired channel of 431.025/438.625MHz to connect to the ZS2GV special UHF repeater
This antenna is not according to spec, and will be removed after the event.
The coax is simple RG213 across the ground (definitely NOT to spec!)
|2 August||Baviaanskloof - Studtis||ZS2AAW, Siviwe Siwisa||
Temporary Digi Installed
A simple Kantronics KPC-3 plus Midland UHF Radio making up an APRS digi was installed at this site today, to serve as a tracking digi for the upcoming Trans-baviaans Mountainbike race.
The site is an existing Eskom VHF Repeater site, running on solar power, located on the South Side of the kloof behind "Babes se Winkel".
View to the East:
A temporary UHF folded dipole was added to the pole:
And the digi equipment mounted in the rack:
Then it was down the hill again. Note the deep valley to the left - a few hundred meters down...
The digi received signals from Slipper direct, over 150km away when switched on, and more strongly from Longmore. Using the correct tracking callsigns will be essential to ensure the packets get bounced FOUR times to reach the iGATE at Slipper and thence onto the internet.
APRS digi paths:
Standard digi configs are to allow only two to three hops, so a special path for the trackers will be used, being "via EC4-4", to which ALL local digis will respond and propagate. The fill-in digis at Uitenhage, Longmore, 650 Town and now Studtis are set up to only bounce the first hop, and will not bounce an APRS packet that has already been thru a digi before it reaches them - they are denoted by a "1" inside the star on APRS - meaning "1 hop only". This is to prevent jamming up the channel with meaningless repeats when the signal has already reached Slipper and the iGATE. But this means the Longmore digi would not repeat whatever it hears from Studtis or Grasnek (the other fill-in Baviaanskloof digi for the race) either. To get around this, the EC4-4 path is used, which will ensure that even the "1" digis will repeat the message until the 4 is depleted to zero.
So for example, a lead motorcycle sends a posit
report near Checkpoint 1 (West end), its path is to APRS via EC4-4.
|27 July 2011||Cradock||None||
Reports from the Eskom control centre are that the power line feeding Swaershoek site have been broken by snow and severe weather. The access road is still obstructed by snow, and so no repairs can yet be done. The Eskom site is in danger of going off the air due to exhausted batteries and a helicopter has been arranged to airlift personnel and a 4kVA generator just to keep the site alive. The Sentech and other users will be suffering the same fate, as diesel tankers cannot access the site. No cell comms in the area also makes life difficult for those without two way radio coverage...
This pic was posted by ZS2BW on Facebook:
|26 July 2011||Governorskop||
ZS2AE, ZS2AAW, Luthando, Aobakwe, Richard
750 Repeater reinstated
The cable replacement trip happened today at last. Armed with 6m of 2x16mm2 armoured cable, gland, jointing kit, ferrules, copper earth cable, bandit strapping, 4x 25kg bags of concrete premix, 60l water, wheelbarrow, spades etc, and lots of warm clothing, we descended on Governorskop.
First up was the removal of the remains of the damaged cable from the meterbox feed end, and the re-instatement of the earth mat connections to the meterbox and a replacement earth towards the ham container, using a line tap
The new piece of cable was
run, terminated, and then spliced onto the remains of the original feed
cable to the ham container, using the jointing kit. The replacement
earth was also connected using a line tap onto a crimped ferrule
The meterbox end was cleaned up, breaker cover replaced, the neutral connector fastened down, and the door lock serviced and straightened
The container end was saddled with blind rivets, and concrete poured where it enters the ground. A huge rock was added to the mix for good measure!
Richard sorted out the fence too...
A final view from the meterbox towards the ham container, everything closed up
The repair team:
|21 July 2011||Governorskop||
750 Repeater Mains Supply cable stolen!
At about midnight on the previous Monday, the mains fail alarm sounded on 145.750. Due to rally commitments, no trip could be undertaken to the site to investigate, and a few days later the site load disconnected due to drained batteries.
Today a trip was eventually taken to site, and the following damage had been done to the supply cable to the ham site, but near the Eskom transformer pole inside the Eskom yard. To gain access, the fence was first cut...
The cable was exposed at both ends...
... but only one end was then stripped of the armouring and a fire lit under the conductors to cause a trip. The criminals must have been disturbed, as the cable was not yet removed
The damage was noted and a return trip planned to joint the cable and re-instate power. The DC loads were totally isolated to prevent further battery drain
|16 June 2011||Longmore||
ZS2AAW, Samantha, Wayne, Rachel
625 Repeater repaired
After the recent rains and overcast days, the repeater and digi went off the air after three days of cloudy skies. However, only the digi came alive again when the sun shone once more.
Inspection of the Kyodo repeater showed the usual fault - the main incoming power fuse had detached itself thanks to a hot connection. The 20A fuse endcaps were resoldered, and the fuse was also soldered into the fuseholder itself. The same mod has been done on all the other Kyodo's in our area with success, so here's hoping there are no further fuse problems here either.
We took a detour past PPC Quarry and Loerie Dam on the way home to see the overflow for ourselves...
The waterfall behind the PPC quarry (Kleinrivier)
The young repeater technicians
Samantha and Rachel, at Loerie Dam
|14 June 2011||George||
700 Repeater removed
A colleague kindly chose to get some exercise while on holiday in George visiting family, and rode on Mountainbikes to the George Repeater site. A small challenge was carrying the two Storno units back down the mountain on backpacks...
The repeater had an intermittent RX problem, and the UHF link was also removed for alignment and TX power checks, since it is not reaching Brenton and Riversdale properly. This could of course be an antenna problem on site, too.
The repeater site may be required for the upcoming Motor Rally in the Knysna area in August.
Volunteer transport provider, Paulinus, en route from George repeater site:
|28 May 2011||Longmore||
Solar Regulator changed
The DC power issue at this site continues... The long term solution is AC power, however the site runs on a limited supply from three solar panels, until the power line is constructed.
Today, a second 155Ah gel cell battery was installed, and because it is not ideal to have batteries in parallel, two 40A circuit breakers were added - one for each battery, so that should one fault, the other will not be damaged. In addition, a 16A load breaker was also installed, through which the loads can now easily be disconnected for testing purposes. Thanks to Glen/Donovan for the loan of this solar regulator.
The temporary solar panel frame lies at ground level, and the grass had grown up enough to shadow the lower of the three panels...
To prevent the shadow from causing low current, the grass was cut...
SOLAR PANEL SPECS:
LOAD CURRENTS MEASURED:
Basic calculations show the following:
VHF Repeater and UHF Link
UHF APRS (434.800MHz) and TNC
|25 May 2011||Investec Building||
650 UHF Repeater reinstated
The aligned 438.650 UHF Repeater unit was re-fitted in the roof of the Investec Building under the watchfull eye of their security guard due to the sensitive nature of the top floor tenant. VSWR into the antenna measured at 1.35 :1, with 17W forward power, thanks to ZS2WG's quality SWR Meter.
Problem found with the link was a low-value de-coupling electrolytic capacitor C9 in the receiver audio card, causing the RX audio level to be far lower than spec, and not enough travel on the trimmer R15 to correct it. The cap was replaced, and the levels set correctly. The transmitter audio card was also checked, but all apepars to be fine.
The RX Audio Card Schematic:
|4 May 2011||
A sealed 155Ah lead acid battery was fitted on site, and the Dixon low maintenance battery removed. This battery showed high impedance, and as a result the solar regulator would toggle from Boost to float and load disconnect under low sunlight conditions, and the repeater would only work when sufficient current was available from the solar panels.
|19 April 2011||Investec Building||
650 UHF Repeater removed
Wolf kindly arranged to visit the site and remove the UHF Repeater for audio level checks and possible low transmit power.
|14 April 2011||Mount Rd||
Antenna replaced (and replaced again...)
The suspect VHF colinear antenna was replaced with a temporary folded dipole on site. SWR checks still showed a problem, whereafter the entry plate lightning arrestor was also removed for testing, the latter replaced with a bulkhead N-type F-F connector.
Stand-alone tests on the removed colinear antenna and the lightning arrestor terminated with a dummy load, showed NO PROBLEMS... But the repeater into the folded dipole was as bad as before. The only remaining common factor being the coax. DC continuity showed high impedance, whereas the folded dipole is a DC-grounded antenna. The dipole was again disconnected and terminated with a 50 Ohm dummy load. Now DC continuity was 50Ohms, once again SWR was poor, until it was found that the SWR meter was pickling up some DC earth circulating currents and giving a false reading. (Note to self - throw it away!!!).
The original colinear antenna was again refitted, this time using the APRS digipeater coax for a temporary test feeder. Performance was back to expected, and no crackle on weak stations. A further inspection will be done with a BIRD wattmeter in the near future, but until the the APRS digipeater remains switched off. A replacement coax will be taken along just in case...
|12 April 2011||Mount Rd||
Due to the poor repeater performance during the recent Ironman event, the VHF Co-linear antenna at Mount Rd was suspected faulty. Severe crackle on weaker signals entering the repeater on VHF, was the symptom. UHF incoming link signals were fine.
SWR checks showed an antenna, lightning arrestor or feeder problem, and to prevent frustration to the users, the repeater was switched off until a replacement antenna could be fitted.
|27 March 2011||Elandsrivier||
New WiFi Filler site commissioned
Allan, ZS2R erected a second filler repeater on his premises in the Elandsrivier area, to provide coverage for Patsy, ZR2PTY on an adjacent farm. Patys is totally isolated RF-wise, and her only hope of connectivity rested with Allan. He kindly agreed to and installed a second filler WiFi site (ZS2R-4), which hangs off his original filler site (ZS2R-3) which provides coverage for himself and two other WiFI users, ZS2SJE and ZR2LLD. ZR2PTY will hang off ZS2R-4, so a mini-network has evolved in the Elandsriver Valley!
The filler site became visible on the network today, and after some IP Routing table configurations done remotely by ZS2AAW, Patsy, ZR2PTY also became visible on the network. Additional routing information had to be edited at Lovemore Heights and Mount Road WiFi sites to provide for the new IP range used for ZS2R-4. Allan managed the basic confgurations all on his own after studying the various manuals, well done!
ZS2R-4 WiFi Repeater site
|6 March 2011||Mount Rd||
Mains Supply Failure
Mains failed at 07h00 again today. Restored at approx 16h00 again.
|5 March 2011||Mount Rd||
Mains Supply Failure
Mains failed at 07h26 today. Wifi and IRLP go off as a result, and because this is the central hub, it means EVERYONE is off. 650 Repeater drifts off the air in the afternoon when the small 40Ah standby battery is exhausted. Site remains dead until the evening 18h15 when power is mysteriously restored - thanks to however did that!
|1 February 2011||
Mains Supply Failure
Travelled to the Saltmine site, checked in at the Ham site too, to collect the APRS TNC and shelf as left on site last week, for further mods. Found the mains was off, had been since Monday. Battery volts still above 24V, so cells are OK. Charger did not yet have a low volts alarm. Investigation found the Eskom LV breaker near the pole transformer outside Sentech had tripped. Breaker reset and all back to normal.
Nico reports that Aliwal repeater is down, possibly another mains failure after storms moved through the area. Will investigate via Saltmine telemetry.
|25 January 2011||Cradock||ZS2AAW||
Battery clean-up and charger installation
The condition of the battery room floor and battery bank was terrible. The bank was suspected of being open-circuit thanks to corroded bolts. There appears to be some seepage of water through the building walls from outside (the room is cut into the mountain on the North face) and this moisture combined with corrosion products mixed to form a nasty green/brown goo on the floor.
The battery bank had to be disassembled, each cell washed, corroded bolts removed and discarded, the floor cleaned, a new stand moved in and the complete bank rebuilt on the stand with new bridging pieces. The previous 3A 24V charger was too small to handle the site load, so a replacement 10A 24V charger was also fitted on the wall, and new heavy gauge battery cables connected, with crimped lugs. To wrap it up, plenty of petroleum jelly had to be smothered on all battery posts and hardware to prevent corrosion.
A vast improvement!!
Still to be done:
|21 January 2011||Mount Rd||-||
Mains Supply Failure
Mains Supply lost in large areas of Port Elizabeth at 12h52. Because the WiFi box at Mount Rd is not yet on inverter supply off the standby battery, the central hub went down and revived itself at 16h25 when supply to Mount Rd was restored.
Lovemore Heights, Lady's Slipper, ZS2AAW were not affected by this outage.
|17 January 2011||Lady's Slipper||ZS2GV||
HF Antenna commissioned
Glen kindly visited the site while in the vicinity, and ended up being tasked with the installation of the DIY balun for the traveling wave HF antenna as left on site by ZS2AAW in December. The 1:1 balun was removed, and the mounting hardware drilled to take the plastic enclosure, whereafter it was refitted and installed on the tower again. Minor adjustments were required to keep the antenna legs clear of the mast.
Tests showed fwd power of 42W, reverse of 6W, so within the 2:1 specified, however this was not done at multiple frequencies across the various bands, only at 7070kHz. Glen could therefore switch off the "inhibit TX" of the PEARS remote control interface, and we can try it out remotely for performance. See notes further down this page for the Ham Radio Deluxe setup instructions...
REPEATER WORK (current)
REPEATER WORK (2015)
REPEATER WORK (2014)
REPEATER WORK (2013)
REPEATER WORK (2012)
REPEATER WORK (2010)
REPEATER WORK (2000 - 2010)
REPEATER WORK (1975 - 1999)