Personal Maestro vision realized
July 9th marked a milestone in my journey with the Flex Signature Series. It started back on Leap Day (Feb 29, 2016) when I traded in my Flex 5000 for a Maestro/6700/GPSDO upgrade. My QTH is in a rural setting, with a beautiful park-like yard. One of the visions I had in the depths of a Minnesota winter was sitting outside, under a spreading maple tree, with the Maestro on a table talking to the world any time the weather and spirit moved me.
The 6700/GPSDO came shortly after I ordered them, and I integrated it into the station in the basement. I’m still on the learning curve, but the radio install went together fairly easily and straightforwardly. I ran the 2016 CQWW WPX CW, making 400+ contacts in a very part time effort. Writelog, the Steppir, and PSTRotator ran on the shack desktop computer flawlessly. Now to wait for the Maestro and the weather to get better. Field Day is coming, maybe, just maybe the Maestro will get here by then.
Well, Field Day came, and the Maestro isn’t here yet. So, plan B was executed, and an IC-7600/Writelog/laptop setup was deployed at my QTH for a 1A effort. The Maestro arrived June 30th, and I started using it immediately in the living room (note that headphones are required to prevent marital discord) and running on batteries and wireless. Over the 4th of July weekend, the weather was beautiful, and I tried out the Maestro while in the front yard. Things were working. My vision is close to being fulfilled.
The weekend of July 9th came along. I decided to try the great outdoors again with the Maestro. I found a large number of stations on 20 meters, many of them DX. It’s the IARU HF World Championship in full swing! I spent 20 minutes, did a bit of setup, and had a contest station, complete with logging, Steppir control, and rotator control in the front yard. The vision was executed! (there is always room for optimization later).
A little more detail for those interested in what I did on that beautiful July afternoon.
Before I go through the story, today I realize that much of the “discovery” described here is well covered in the Flex community, but I was unaware of this fantastic resource until I did some research before composing this story. I’ll start researching questions in the community first next time...
As I mentioned earlier, I initially ventured outdoors with the Maestro alone. I hear the IARU contest going in full swing. Ok, so I get a bit excited, and decide I’d like to work this a bit. I need to get my laptop for logging. Oh, and the Steppir needs to tune. I’ll need to rotate the antenna. But, the laptop won’t be next to the 6700, the Steppir controller, or the rotator controller. What’s next?
Well, Writelog was on the laptop from Field day. Since I didn’t have the Maestro then, Writelog was set up for an Icom 7600. The laptop did have SmartSDR CAT loaded, which allowed Writelog to control the 6700 using the Kenwood emulation. Now for the Steppir control. I had noticed that if I used my laptop (before the Maestro arrived) and DDUTIL was running on the shack computer, the Steppir followed the frequency. I ran downstairs, booted the shack computer, starting DDUTIL. Now, when the Maestro changed frequency, the Steppir controller followed the frequency. Now all this network connected stuff is causing lightbulbs to go off. I gained understanding of what a change for the better this client server RADIO environment truly means.
The next item is the rotor control. This was a more mundane solution, I remoted my laptop to the shack computer and manipulated PstRotatorAz via TeamViewer to rotate the Steppir. I noticed a couple of drop outs on the Maestro even though I wasn’t too far from the wireless access point. I looked over at where the AP should be and realized there several walls between the Maestro and the AP. Solution: Move the operating position 40 feet west to be in front of a large window in almost line of sight to the AP. Drop out problem fixed! (using an D-Link DIR-868L AC 1750 wireless router)
Setup complete. Less than 20 minutes and I’m making contacts around the world using the Maestro/6700 combination and the standard FHM-1 microphone. As I tune the Maestro, I can hear the Steppir adjusting its frequency. Sweet! Writelog is working well, getting packet spots over the network so I can run assisted, and the remote control is working, so I can turn the rotor. 3 hours later, 100 contacts in the log, I realized the magic of Ham Radio is still alive and well, made even better with the Maestro/6700 combo. Attached is a picture of the setup, I could enjoy the setting, hear the birds, and in general a new wonderful ham radio experience.
Thank you to the Flex team!