W1WRA'S Floobydust

What the Skookum


What the Skookum?

Skookum (adjective) 1. Excellent, impressive. 2. Big, strong, durable, reliable, trustworthy, doughty.

So, this past weekend was Winter Field Day. Due to various family issues, I could not participate with our amateur radio club (though I was able to sneak by for a nighttime visit to say hi). Because of this, I decided to make a few contacts at home and play with a new (to me) contest logger.

Since I do not post much, let’s rewind and catch you up. I am a reasonably OS-agnostic person. While I am most at home in Linux, I have had to spend my fair share of time in Windows. About a decade ago, I also spent a reasonable amount of time in MacOS (once they became BSD-based).

My main amateur radio is my FlexRadio 6600. When I purchased my first Flex years ago (I have had a 6300, 6400, and now the 6600), Windows was the only option for effectively using the radio. They did, however, develop a robust API. This led to the development of the SmartSDR software for iOS and then for MacOS. I used the iOS client reasonably regularly on my iPad (sometimes on the iPhone) and decided to try the MacOS client on a borrowed Mac mini. The experience was good, which led to purchasing a Mac mini and a MacBook Pro laptop. Things have been running great for about a month and a half. I have only used Windows recently for amateur radio stuff for a little VarAC and Winlink. I plan to migrate some of that to the Mac (future blog post?).

Ok, back to Winter Field Day. The day-to-day logging programming I have been using (MacLogger DX) has been working out great! However, like many general-purpose loggers, its contesting features may be lacking. If you are a Windows user, you may instantly think N1MM Logger+, or maybe one of the N3FJP suite of contest software (a personal favorite of mine). After some brief searching, it seems like a popular MacOS choice is SkookumLogger, which is conveniently located in the MacOS App Store (and free).

So far, so good. I got a contest logger. I looked through the settings, and Winter Field Day is an easily in-the-list supported contest. Things are looking good. Except...

I made my first contact. So far so good. It has a nice, easy interface, nice dupe checking, and excellent DX Cluster support. However, as I started to search and pounce, I noticed that it was slow at BEST while getting information from my rig. Once I began to jumping around bands quickly, everything became unusable quickly.


So, to the internet for answers. You do not need to be a Google-Fu expert to find Flex users gripping about this issue quickly. At least it was not unique. For reasons I have not bothered to dive deeply into yet, it would appear that SmartSDR’s CAT control and Skookum do not have a good relationship. Skookum does not support native SmartSDR API commands, so one has to use Kenwood CAT control commands—no big deal. I have done that many times on the Windows side of the fence. But for some reason, Skookum and SmartSDR CAT don’t work well together.

Now what? Well, digging a bit more, people mentioned having good luck using xCAT. DL3LSM wrote xCAT “as a helper application for the FlexRadioTM 6000 series running on macOS (10.11 and higher). Its purpose is to provide a way for other applications to control a FlexRadioTM 6000 series by using legacy CAT commands via a TCP connection. xCat then translates these commands into native Flex commands using the TCP/IP API.”. Perhaps Mario (DL3LSM) had some issues somewhere along the way, inspiring him to write this app. I have used a few digital and logging apps with the Flex with no real issues yet, using built-in SmartSDR CAT and DAX. But I’ll try things if they provide solutions.

Sure enough, I disabled CAT in SmartSDR and started up xCAT, and Skookum followed my VFO changes in real-time. This made the logger usable again, especially for my quick search and pounce style. Some people suggest that if K1GQ supported native SmartSDR API support, this would not be an issue. This, of course, would be extra work for him. I am just happy I have a solution to the issue leveraging xCAT.

It should also be noted that DL3LSM also has a xDAX helper for DAX audio and an xKEY helper for assisting in remote CW operations. While I would like to use native SmartSDR when I can, it is GREAT to know that there is an alternative.

Speaking of alternatives, I realize I did not try replicating the setup using dogparkSDR, a great 3rd party Native Mac client for the Flex 600s series. I may need to run that test at some point, though again, I prefer the SmartSDR because it is very much like the iOS and Windows clients I am used to.

In the short amount of time I had to play WFD, I was able to get just under 50 contacts. Skookum did have a nice feel and flow once I worked out my CAT-related issues.

NearFest Wrapup


This weekend was Near-Fest weekend in New Hampshire. The event happens every spring and fall. It’s a great hamfest that runs Friday-Saturady. It is held at the Deerfield Fairgrounds and allows for overnight camping. I have not done the overnight in a while. This year I was there from about 9-5 on Friday.

I was able to visit the M17 Project folks early on in the fest. It’s always nice to see KC1AWV, N2XDD, N1IIM, and others from M17 at the various New England hamfests. Steve and Ed recently did a talk for our club talking about M17 and it was great. We have a video here.

While making the rounds of the flea market I found a guy selling a box of various electronic parts for “$3 for the box” of goodies. After quickly skimming the box I figured what the heck. The ham mentioned “I’ll throw in all this other stuff (more parts etc) for $10. I did not look closely at things but figured there is probably a treasure in there. I made the deal and grabbed my box of goodies. We’ll get back to this box later.

Making some further rounds I grabbed some very heavy-duty copper braids and bus bar to revisit grounding in the shack at some point (I have a major reorg in that department coming soon). I found some nicely priced RF terminators from Bird and Andrews, and stocked up on some banana plug adapters, cables, adapters, etc for the workbench area.

I bumped into KC1QDK and his wife Kim there. Kim had a nice table set up with things that would interest XYLs and kids. I purchased a sweet handmade candle for my YL there. Also, Tim made his first official CW contact there. I think he ended up getting a few in the logs for the day. Way to go Tim!

I was bumping into a bunch of hams I know. One person I chatted with for a while was AF1T. If you are in the northeast part of the country and/or look at VHF contest scores I’m sure you may recognize Dale’s call. We started talking about high the higher bands. I used to do VHF+ contesting back 20ish years ago. I would mostly rove and would be active on 6m/2m/1.25m/70cm/23cm. I have never really operated above 1.2 GHz in the ham bands. I do not have the house on the hill with a larger tower situation so any operations would be portable/rove. I picked Dale’s brain for a while and then had microwaves on my mind.

Walking around I noticed someone had a 2.3 GHz ham band amp for sale. While he did not have any transverters for sale we stopped and talked VHF+. This ham was W1FKF. We chatted about the NEWS (New England Weak Signal group) as well as other things. It really got me thinking more about exploring the higher bands.

Then, it happened. I came across K1OR’s table. Sitting there was a Down East Microwave 5.7 GHz transverter. It is a Low Power version and puts out 10mW so I will need to track down an amp. He also had a 5.7 GHz dish. This would give me a good head start to be able to get on the band. After making a bundle deal I made the purchase. He wrote down some notes for me on amps and other things. He also found a 5.7 GHz circulator that he threw into the deal. He and a table next to him grabbed my email and both will check to see if they have an amp around for the band. Maybe completing the station will be easier than I thought. We shall see.

Oh, the box. Remember that thing mentioned early on in the post (thanks for continuing to read). When I got home I was going through my $10 box of parts. Voltage regulators, interesting diodes, and other things that may be handy for future projects. Then, I found the baggie that made this purchase sweet. Now, recall this is the first thing I bought at the hamfest, not knowing I would become a potential microwave operator later in the day. The baggie had 2 small PCBs, some small parts, and 2 folded-up pieces of paper. Both read Down East Microwave Universal Wide Band Amplifier (one specifically listed for 2-6 GHz operation). Wow! What are the chances of that! While each board uses 1 amplifier component, I have a baggie of 6 (room for error). Perhaps the 5.7 GHz thing was meant to be after all.

Still need to gather things to complete that station, but perhaps that will be a future blog post.

Can’t wait for the fall Near-Fest.

Bringing life back to old oscilloscopes


Several weeks ago I got a notification from a friend about someone who wanted to get rid of some “electronic junk” from an outbuilding of a property they had just recently purchased. The pictures I was sent had some CB stuff, a large steel rack, and some interesting power supplies, but was caught my eye was a couple of oscilloscopes. I thought the trip would be worth the scopes and power supplies so I hopped in the truck and went to grab the gear.

Upon arrival, I found there were actually 3 oscilloscopes, as well as some mystery home-brew stuff (perhaps a future post) and other items. So after loading and then unloading the truck, a task easier said than done due to the monstrous steel rack, I took the scopes inside to be inspected.

I have only “worked” on one thus far: The B&K Precision 1461. This is a simple 10 MHz single-channel scope.

With all the dust, etc I had no idea how the first scope would be. As one probably should in these matters I connected up the scope to a variac to slowly bring the voltage up on the unit. I was pleasantly surprised when at about 25-30 volts AC I saw the power lamp light up. Perhaps there was hope for this unit after all. After some time had passed and the voltage slowly increased to about 70 volts AC I was surprised at seeing a trace appear on the scope.

At mid-intensity, a nice strong trace indeed. I calibrated one of the voltage settings on the unit and eventually figured out how to straighten the trace. I originally was over-complicating things. There were 2 set screws in the rear of the unit which allowed for the tube to be easily rotated.

After hooking it up to a signal generator, looks like things are displaying nicely.

All that’s really left to do is a dust cleanup, apply some DeoxIT on a couple of the pots, and walk through a complete calibration of the unit. After another quick “burn-in”, I’ll move on to the next scope.

One of my intentions in grabbing these scopes was to gift them to some ham radio operators in my local ham radio club. An oscilloscope is a great tool to help visualize things in electronic and RF circuits. Hopefully, the visualization will help spark more interest in diving deeper into some of the technical aspects of the hobby.

1 one, 2 to go.

#electronics #oscilloscope

DX Cluster Server


For those who do not know, I run a telnet DX cluster server running DXSpider software. Feel free to connect your cluster-capable logger or telnet directly to the following:

coax.w1wra.net port 7300

I hope this helps you catch some rare DX.




“Floobydust” is an old term that was invented here at National, a phrase coined by Dennis Bohn, meaning “miscellaneous” or “potpourri” – a “Mixed bag.”

Bob Pease

This will be where I will post my floobydust.

I have been a licensed Amateur Radio Operator since 1999. I enjoy listening to medium-wave and short-wave radio, FM broadcast radio, police scanners, etc.

I also enjoy playing with Software Defined Radio. My main HF ham radio is a Flex Radio Flex-6600. I also like experimenting with HackRF , PlutoSDR, and various SDR dongles in both Linux (mostly) and Windows. Some of the SDR software I tinker with is GNURadio, SDRAngel, sdr++, OpenWebRX, and others.

I like to tinker with the M17 digital voice protocol for VHF and higher.

You can follow me on Mastodon ( <mastodon.radio/@w1wra> ).

Besides radio, I like to tinker with electronics and play around with test equipment.

I have been a long-time Linux user since the mid-1990s. I have run Linux from 68000 processors, 486 (and beyond) x86 architectures, SPARC, ALPHA, ARM, etc.



“Floobydust” is an old term that was invented here at National, a phrase coined by Dennis Bohn, meaning “miscellaneous” or “potpourri” - a “Mixed bag.”

Bob Pease

This will be where I will post my floobydust, mainly of a technical hobby nature; amateur radio, electronics, or some Linux-related info.

This blog is not fancy, or flashy, but it will hopefully have some useful or entertaining content for some. If not, it will be a place where I can find my notes on something.