12 December 2021

The View From The Bench - 12 December 2021

Christmas is coming and the view is... Christmas-y. Roberta and I put the final touches on the inside decorating, but I've still got to hang something - anything - outside that indicates we celebrate Christ's birth. We took a pause on the decorating scene to go camping last weekend, and now we're in a bit of a scramble to catch up.

So there's not a whole lot going on, ham radio wise. My shack is being used as a temporary gift storage area, so its hard to maneuver around. I literally have to step over boxes to get to my radios and workbench. That makes getting in there to work on projects a pain. But there are a few things to report:

Xiegu G90

I got my Xiegu G90 a few days back. I am still learning the radio's features and foibles, and so far there are plenty of each. I bought it mainly because it provides 20 watt output in a very small form factor (not Elecraft KX-2 small, but still small) and incorporates a really good antenna tuner. Plus I caught a very good Black Friday sale with Radioddity. I'll have more to report in a later post.


Speaking of the Elecraft KX-2, there's chatter on the Elecraft KX Groups.io site of a soon-to-be-released update to the KX-2 that allows charging of the battery while it's still inside the radio. If you know anything about the KX-2, you know that the internal battery must be physically removed from the radio for charging. This was an intentional design choice made by Elecraft back in 2016 when the radio was first released. Elecraft wanted to use lithium-ion batteries to power the little rig, but charging technology at the time wasn't good enough to ensure the batteries wouldn't over-charge, over-heat, explode, catch fire, etc. Yes, exploding lithium-ion batteries are a real thing, and a serious thing. Just Google 'hoverboard battery fires'. I'm not sure if Elecraft is planning on using a different battery chemistry, or has just settled on a safer charging technology to use with the existing batteries (which are very good, and made by Tenergy). The reason I'm confident that this is going to happen is because Wayne Burdick, N6KR, one of the founders of Elecraft and its principal designer, is leading the discussions. That's one of the things I really like about Elecraft - the guys who run the company and design the gear will get directly involved with their customer base. 


Prices, they are a-changing. Or soon will be. Soon. On 9 December, DX Engineering conducted a Manufacturers Showcase session with Ray Novak, Icom America's Amateur Radio product line manager. I like Ray - he's honest and will tell you straight up what's happening - and the word from Ray can be summed up as follows:

  • the chip shortage is still crippling a lot of manufacturers, including Icom, and there's a second wave of chip shortages just hitting the industry
  • shipping delays are still having a severe impact on getting product moved from the point of manufacture to the customer
  • any bright ideas Icom engineers may be working on have been put on hold until the chip shortage and shipping issues are behind us
  • prices for all Icom products are going up effective 1 January 2022

I got the impression from the way Ray was talking that the ID-52 DSTAR handheld will be the only new radio product that Icom will be shipping in 2022

Wrapping It Up - The Mooreland Mule

When I do these weekly-ish updates, I'll review my YouTube viewing history for the past week to see what things caught my attention that might be worth mentioning. This week there was a lot of ham radio drivel from the usual suspects, but nothing worth talking about. However, I did stumble on a YouTube channel titled Mooreland Mule by some guy in England. I don't know who he is, but he's fairly new to YouTube (at least the channel is). His claim to fame is that he's running all over England with a Codan 2110 backpack HF rig and making contacts into central and eastern Europe, and all the way into Australia. Thirty watts, backpack rig, battery power, simple longwire or whip antenna, cool tactical Bergan (backpack). Where the hell do these guys find this stuff? Daddy wants!

That's it for this week. W8BYH out.

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