Sunday, May 26, 2013

Yaesu VX-8GR

At the 2013 Hamvention in Dayton I picked up a Yaesu VX-8GR for the APRS capabilities. According to the Yaesu representatives at Dayton the VX-8GR along with the submersible VX-7R are both soon to be discontinued (neither radio was on their HT display but still in their brochures). The VX-8GR will be replaced by FT-1DR which includes 12.5 kHz C4FM FDMA for about $210 more. This made my decision to purchase the VX-8GR critical as I do not wish to pay $200+ more for capabilities I don't need. So while at Dayton I played with the FT-1DR and the APRS capability has not appeared to have changed much from the VX-8GR. The FT-1DR doesn't allow appear to allow automatic decay, no shortcut to turn the GPS or TNC on/off, etc. I changed the Internet Key shortcut to the GPS Power setting and it makes it easier to toggle the GPS on and off.

I have read a few reports saying the VX-8GR doesn't pick up the GPS signal while inside of a house - well, neither does my Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, Garmin 60Cx, or my cell phone. It doesn't work as a full featured TNC, does not support QSY in beacons, etc. What it does to is APRS and it does it fairly well. As an example, on my trip from Ohio to Maryland I had both a OT2m tracker running with my Kenwood FT-V71a running 25 watts and the VX-8GR running 5 watts sitting on the dash. The results were about what I expected:

k8esr-7 (vx-8gr): 31 packets received

k8esr-9 (OT2m with TM-v71a): 62 packets received

I had low expectations for the handheld and I didn't think I would even get half of the received packets using the VX-8GR without and outside antenna and more power.

If you are looking for a good HT for APRS check out the Yaesu VX-8GR especially if you do not wish to pay $200+ more for the newer Yaesu FT-1DR.

This was not meant to be a review of the VX-8GR because there are already many reviews that you can google as well as a few un-boxings and reviews on YouTube.

If you are looking for a comparison of APRS HTs take a look one of these links
Review: Amateur Radio Handhelds (HTs), APRS, and Battery Tuning Tips
APRS Handies head to head

Both sites do a fairly good head to head comparison of the Yaesu VX-8GR and the Kenwood TH-72A.

Erik, K8ESR

Mystic Rain Water Collection System Review for my Rain Barrel

I have had a rain barrel for 4 years now from the Interstate Commission on the Potomic River Basin (or ICPRB). They modify 60 gal. food grade barrels (mine was a pickle barrel in its former life) and sell them locally rain barrels can be found at your local home improvement stores and online. They build it out as an open system which allows you to divert water into the container from a downspout and have water enter through a screen on the top of the barrel. This requires a runoff hose but during downpours I have found that it overflows over the top and lands near the foundation. You can fill a rain barrel in a light rain in a matter of minutes.

After researching various diverters I selected the Oatey Mystic Rainwater Collection System. It is easy to install in 4 steps and the only difficult (and LOUD) part is having to hacksaw out a 6 inch section of the downspout. Be sure to put cardboard or a similar item to protect your siding from the hacksaw. You can also use a rotary tool to make the cut. You will find that most, if not all, systems require you to cut into your downspout to insert the collection system. The Mystic system fits snug in your downspout so no screws are required to attach the collection unit to your downspout. 

My only complaint is the hose needs to be warmed to take out the bends. Don't expect to take the hose out of the box and immediately use it. It has been a cool spring here so I put it in the oven for about 15 minutes on warm and then stuck a PVC pice into it to remove the kinks. The instructions say to put it in a warm place for a few hours. 

Because this system works best with a closed rain barrel system I had to convert my open system rain barrel to a closed one. That was not all that difficult and we are back up and running. 

The completed system is as shown below.
ICPRB Rain Barrel with Mystic Rainwater Collection System
I recommend the Mystic Rain Water collection system for its ease of installation and the collection system.