Saturday, March 16, 2019

Adapting the Elecraft KX3 and KX2 for two keys - two keys / paddles or paddle plus computer keying

The Elecraft KX3 and KX2 have two CW paddle inputs, individually configurable. This is great, especially for contest operations which typically require one input for the computer and one for a paddle. In this article, I'll describe how adapt the KX-3 for two separate CW inputs. 

I recently operated in the 2019 ARRL DX CW contest from Belize with my KX-3 driving an SPE 1.3k amp. This was the first time I've used the KX-3 in a contest or DX trip and I was impressed with its performance and features. Before this trip I didn't even realize the radio has dual watch, something the K3 doesn't provide as a standard feature. I used it when I was running pileups and it worked very well. This radio is really more than meets the eye.

Another great feature of the KX3 is two individually configurable paddle inputs. There's just one problem, the front panel header, Key2, mates with a non-standard connector for Elecraft's accessory paddle. To solve this I purchased the matching 4 pin header off of Ebay. The finished adapter, shown below, consists of a molded 3.5mm stereo jack wired to the header according to the wiring instructions provided below. To protect the header connections I put heat shrink tubing over the header pins. I used a hot glue gun and filled the tubing with a bit of glue and slid it over the pins. The hot glue shrunk the tubing somewhat and then I used a heat gun to fully shrink it. The finished adapter is shown below. The two key inputs can be configured for hand-key, or paddle. I configured Key1 for the computer (hand key) and Key2 for the paddle. The dot and dit pins are menu configurable, don't worry about getting them reversed. The wiring instructions (when viewing the radio pins) are as follows: Upper right=ground; Upper left=none; Lower right=dah; Lower left= dit.

The finished adapter cable

This is the description of the connector taken from the ebay listing:

2.54mm Pitch 2X2 4 Pin Female Double Row Straight Header PCB Connector 284

PS - I had to purchase 50 of these. So, as of this posting, I have plenty of surplus.  If you are reading this, I still have some. If you want one, FREE, just send me a SASE.       

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The SOTA Cluster - Integrating SOTA RBN activator spots with Logging Software

This post is for SOTA activators and chasers interested in integrating SOTA spotting with a traditional logging program.  SotaWatch feeds the SOTA cluster system with manually posted spots as well as those picked up by the RBN (reverse beacon network) that match alerts previously posted on SotaWatch. This article describes how to tap into this system and feed these spots directly to a logging program. There are several advantages to this approach such as the ability to click on a spot to QSY the radio, have SOTA spots filtered or listed alongside DX spots, and keeping SOTA chaser QSO's in the main log (not running a separate chaser log). My logging program is DxLab, which I highly recommend. However, this technique can be applied to any logging program with a spot management feature allowing the use of multiple spotting sources.

To enable the cluster in DxLab launch the SpotCollector app and click on "Config", then click on "Spot Sources".  In the host address box enter the following address:; the port address is 7300; the caption is SOTA; the username is your callsign; and there is no password required.   (Thanks to Andy, MM0FMF, for providing this capability. )

If this is the only cluster enabled, only SOTA spots will display. In most cases other sources will also be enabled for DX sources as well. In that case, it is helpful to use some tricks to indicate the source and to filter the spots. The SpotCollector app has a column showing the Network from which a spot was obtained. Drag this column so that is will display on the page without scrolling. In my case, I put it next to the Freq column. To filter the display so that it shows only SOTA spots it will be necessary to set up a simple SQL filter. This is done by right clicking on a filter box. Enter SOTA in the caption column and enter the following SQL expression: (network="sota"). Now when you click on this box in the SpotCollector display, only SOTA spots will appear.

SpotCollector is a stand-alone app. This means that it can be used alongside a different logging program to watch for SOTA spots. However, it also integrates well with the other DxLab applications. There is no reason why the cluster cannot be used with other logging/spotting programs as well, with perhaps fewer filtering options, as long as those programs allow for manual configuration of spotting sources. In that case, simply enter the telnet address and port shown above.