Xiegu G90 Digital Modes with SignaLink Setup

The Xiegu G90 is a great little affordable radio which has digital capabilities. While Xiegu (CEE-eh Goo, not Zy-Goo for you non-Mandarin speakers) does supply a break out module, the CE-19 for connecting to a soundcard with digital modes, many hams prefer to use a little more robust plug-n-play setup like the Tigertronics SignaLink.

However setup information if you want to use the G90 and SignaLink together is sketchy and incomplete. I’ve spent a lot of time searching, and cobbling together the pieces from various sources including help from a couple of Elmer friends (Norm K7NWF and Don WQ1E) to get it working, so I’m going to document my own digital setup in this post in the hopes that it might be useful to someone else to have it all in one place.

What you will need:

  • Xiegu G90 Radio
  • SignaLink USB (SLUSB8PM) properly jumpered (SLMOD6PM) for the G90
  • SignaLink 8-pin Mini Din Cable (SLCAB8PM – included with the SLUSB8PM SignaLink, but you can buy one separately if needed)
  • USB B to USB A Cable
  • WSJT-X Software

(Note: No rig control – You’ll need to tune the radio to frequency yourself because the closest thing you’ll find to the G90 rig control commands are in the ICOM family of radio profiles, and not everything works properly in those profiles.)

Cable Connections:

Connect the Radio’s rear Accessory port to the SignaLink RJ45 jack using the 8-pin min-Din cable. Be careful to line up the arrow on the 8-pin connector of the cable pointing DOWN. The cable fits one way only and you can damage the socket or cable pins if you try to force it in the wrong way. (Ask me how I know that, I dare ya =) )

Connect the SignaLink to your computer’s USB port using the USB B to USB-A cable.

The computer should automatically install the drivers and treat the SignaLink as a USB Audio Codec device.

Computer Audio Configuration:

In your control panel, set the default Sound Playback and Recording devices on your computer to the regular speakers and microphone. (Your SignaLink should NOT be handling the regular computer system sounds, just the communications for the radio through the WSJT-X software.)

G90 Radio Configuration:

These settings come from OH8STN’s helpful video.

VOX – Enable VOX for the PTT setting

Line Input – Change the input from Mic to Line Input

Input Audio Levels – Set input Audio levels to 10.

Audio Out Level – Leave set to 15.

AGC – Turn AGC Off (Should Show AGC– on the display)

Power Level – Set to around 18w

SignaLink Settings:

Set the TX knob about halfway.

Set the RX knob about halfway.

Set the Delay knob to 0.

Software Configuration:

Open the WSJT-X Software.

In File > Settings

General Tab – Fill in your Callsign and Grid Square

Radio Tab – Set Radio to NONE. Set PTT Method to VOX

Audio Tab – Set the Soundcard to select your SignaLink USB Audio Codec in the Input and Output dropdowns.

Set the Power between the top two marks in WSJT-X on the right hand part of the screen.

WSJT-X Power level setting

You should now be ready to tune up your antenna to the chosen band, run the auto-tuner on your G90, and start making contacts!

Happy QSO-ing!

73 KJ7DJR

UPDATE: SignaLink and ALC – Maximizing Transmit Levels

As I’ve been working with the SignaLink on FT8 and FT4 I’ve noticed that you can use the SignaLink TX volume knob to control how much power is going to the antenna and maintain the ALC (Automatic Level Control) at acceptable levels.

G90 display: Watch the six arrows to the right of the S-meter. All six should be lit and red.
Turn up TX if any are yellow or all six not lit.
If ALC shows less than 100 percent turn TX knob down a little.

The way I do this on the G90 is that I watch the red arrows on the display as they radio starts transmitting. Ideally, they should be filled in red all the way across. If there are fewer than 6 arrows, or you see any part of the last arrow showing as yellow, gradually turn up the TX knob till all six are lit up red.

Then look at the ALC number shown below at the right hand side. If it’s 100 percent, there is no level control being applied and you have the volume spot on for full transmit power.

If you see ALC as something less than 100 percent, then the radio is turning the sound DOWN on you, and you have it a little too loud. (100 percent on the G90 means full sound levels going out, no sound dampening being applied.)

In that case turn the TX known down gradually till you see it just at 100 percent, with all arrows still red.

This can change as you’re transmitting over a period of time, so glance at it periodically and adjust as needed to bring it back to full power, but not so loud that the radio starts to employ ALC.

You can get away with 95 or 96 percent showing on ALC with the G90 without too much outgoing signal distortion happening, but any more than that, and you might have trouble making contacts.

(Thanks to Norm K7NWF for initially drawing my attention to the control of signal output with the TX knob!)

Random Wire Antenna Lengths

A very simple type of antenna is a plain random length of wire, but making one that can be used on multiple bands has been complicated.

Here’s an excellent article with a chart showing the best wire lengths for multiple band operations.

Random Wire Antenna Lengths

The trick is to make sure that the wire is not a multiple of 1/2 wave length on any band you want to use.

Vertical Antenna Theory: Loading and Ground Planes

Because of the sheer length of the radio waves in certain bands, portable antennas or antennas in low space/stealth applications use a number of tricks or compromises to get resonance and radiating power sufficient to make contacts.

Two of these tricks and compromises used with vertical antennas are Loading and Ground Radials.

Loading:

Loading is a technique where electrical length is added to the antenna by using coils of wire placed in the middle of the antenna. In effect, part of the antenna is compressed into a smaller space but the electrical current still “sees” a longer path.

There is a cost for this technique however, in the adding of more inductance to the antenna.

Loading most often is implemented at the base of the antenna for practical reasons– such as stability, but that is not the most efficient place compared to loading at the middle or top of the vertical.

Here are a couple of resources discussing how loading at different points in the antenna differ.

Base vs. Center Loading Vertical Antennas – Discussion of loading using different positions in the antenna at Ham.stackexchange.com

Center vs. Base Loading Antennas – Similar discussion of antenna loading positions, including the loading of fiberglass masts at worldWideDX.com

Ground Planes:

“The antenna ground plane acts as a simulated ground. It is found that for a monopole antenna like a quarter wavelength vertical, the ground acts as a plane to reflect the radio waves so that an image of the top half of the antenna is seen in the Earth.

It is possible to simulate this function by replacing the real earth with a conducting plane. To function as an antenna ground plane, the conducting surface must extend for least a quarter wavelength from the base of the antenna.”

Antenna Ground Plane: theory & design (At Electronics-Notes.com) – excellent discussion of how ground planes work, how impedance is altered depending on the angle of the radials.

Soda Can Battery From Trash

I really love DIY projects and proof of concepts with electricity and radio so when I saw this little project using soda cans, cardboard, copper wire, sand, and saltwater to build a battery, I was all over it.

(video from rumble.com, an alternative to YouTube’s increasingly anti-free speech platform)

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tops off of old soda cans carefully and deburr the can edges.
  2. Draw circles around the bottoms of the cans on a sheet of cardboard to create the bottom insulators.
  3. Cut out the circles, and place each one inside the cans at the bottom.
  4. Cut out rectangles of cardboard to just slightly under the height of the cans and wide enough to form a tube inside the can. These will be your insulators for the sides of the can battery cells.
  5. Insert the cardboard tubes into the cans.
  6. Create a coil out of copper wire for each can with about an inch of the wire sticking above the can top.
  7. Place the coils inside the cans and center. Fill the cans with play sand around the coils nearly to the top.
  8. Add 2T of salt to 16.9oz of water, and mix well.
  9. Fill the cans with the saltwater mix until the sand is completely saturated.
  10. Check the voltage and amps of each cell by clipping tester leads to the center copper wire and the can top edge.
  11. Use hot glue to fasten the cans down in place to a piece of foamcore board or plastic. Leave a little space between each cell to avoid shorting out across the cells.
  12. Wire the cells in series, from center conductor of one cell to side of the next cell. (The side of the can is negative, the center conductor is positive.)

MagLoop Antenna Construction Resources

Surprisingly, though ham radio operators usually have a ton of radios, antennas are even more important. You can have the most expensive radio in the world, but without a good antenna for your location that is tuned properly, you’ll have a hard time getting contacts at all. So hams are always testing, building, and fiddling with antennas.

MagLoop antennas are useful for confined spaces, indoor, or stealth installs such as in apartments.

Here are some really excellent resources for designing and building MagLoops.

80-20m MagLoop Antennas – Very in depth discussion on the different variables and principals that make for a good MagLoop.

Multi-Turn MagLoop Antenna – Comparison table of variables for a 6.5ft magnetic loop antenna for 40 meters.

3-Band Magnetic Loop Antenna Design – Short schematic design for a 20-30-40 meters Magnetic Loop antenna. Includes construction details.

How to Update Your Address on Your Ham Radio Operator License

A requirement of maintaining an amateur radio operators license is that you must update the FCC with your current address if you move.

Failure to keep your address updated and accurate can result in losing your ham radio license, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget to update it.

There are a number of independent companies that will do this for you, for a fee, but you can actually do this yourself online for free if you know how.

The FCC provides instructions on how to update your address here.

You will need your FCC Registration Number (FRN number). If you have forgotten what it is, your can look it up by searching the FCC License Database for your call sign.

Go to the FCC’s Online License Manager to file your change of address.

Login with your FRN and your password you created when you got your FRN.

Find your license in the list and look to the right hand side of the screen where it says Work on this License.

There is an update link in the box. Click the link to start the process to update your address.

Follow the prompts to update your address, and certify the application.

You’re done! Easy and free.

A few useful FCC links:

Taking Part in Public Events as a Ham

I had the opportunity as an amateur radio operator to take part in the communications network for the “Trunk or Treat” event held by a neighboring town recently.

It was the first such event I had participated in, and I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to get my feet wet with emergency communications– without an actual full bore emergency.

The event was projected to have up to 15k attendees and the city had used volunteer hams for event coordination on the previous two years.

The previous years, there had also been a couple of lost children, and at least one person with a medical issue, as well as booths running out of things, volunteers being sent where they are needed, and other issues.

Turning up in the early afternoon with my own handy talkie radio, headset, a spare battery, folding chair, and a bottle of water to the “Net Control” station I was handed a safety vest and given a final event briefing.

The volunteers had also met the week before at town hall to meet the event staff, discuss what to expect, learn the event layout, and what to bring, so we were prepared in advance– which was really useful.

We helped vendors find their way into their spots to set up before the event actually started and learned the “tactical” call signs being used for the event.

Tactical call signs were quite interesting as a concept. Instead of using our own FCC assigned call signs, each ham was assigned to a person or location, and that became their tactical call sign.

I can see the value of tactical call signs, because their are easier to remember and use at events.

Some example call signs– the event’s main coordinator’s name was Erica, so the ham assigned to roam with her went by ERICA.

Other tactical call signs were things like “Purple Trunk”, “Ticket One”, “Ashley”.

We had three frequencies that were being used and monitored by the group which we were given ahead of time- but one was a backup in case the first repeater went down.

Three or four hams were stationed at “Net Control” including me.

During the event, I listened to the broadcasts on the main frequency, providing a backup set of ears (sometimes it’s hard to understand what people said, and one person may have heard something another person did not) and helped give directions to people to find parking.

Later on, as parking filled up, we were taking turns metering how many people could enter and leave the lot we were next to. (You would not BELIEVE how hostile people can get when a lot is full and they want to park there anyway.)

During the event we had one missing child, two missing “rodeo queens”, and a case of “substance abuse” which required an ambulance.

All in all it was a very interesting and valuable experience.

Managing Website Backups in CPanel w/o Automated Backups Enabled

Some Cpanel web host providers provide automation for regular scheduled backups with their hosting plans for free, and some only allow you this feature as an expensive add-on.

If you are in the latter position and don’t want to pay an extra $50 a month for that, there’s a nice free backup script you can use to fudge it an protect your website with regular backups using cronjobs.

The script can be downloaded from TheCpanelAdmin.com free of charge.

Antenna Fundamentals, Propagation, Directivity and Bandwidth

A local ham radio group I occasionally attend events with recently had a very good antenna presentation with well known antenna inventor Edison Fong which inspired one member of the group to go looking for more information on antenna theory.

During that search, Brad uncovered three wonderful videos created by the Film Board of Canada for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

If you are looking for detailed information on how waves travel and radiate in antennas and how shapes affect direction and bandwidth of antenna propagation, check them out!

Antenna Propagation

Antenna Directivity

Antenna Bandwidth

Soft-Start Circuit Design to Stop Inrush Currents

Some appliances or components like solar inverters can trigger circuit protection to kick in when they care first connected.

The reason is that often they have large capacitors inside that can really spike current use while they are charging up on start-up.

In the video below, the Great Scott YouTube user, an electrical engineer from Germany, breaks down his solution to eliminating those huge start-up current spikes without sacrificing much power.