Frequently Asked Questions
It's not unusual for many people to have the same questions about their kits or the order process. In this section I will post as many of these frequently asked questions (FAQs) as I can come up with. You can click the name of the section you want to view to go directly to that section.
What does the "Degree of Challenge" mean?
I am adding this to each kit's page to let you know how challenging the kit will be to build, test, adjust and use. Some kits may have small parts, very fine soldering required, or have surface mount parts that require special techniques to solder. The "Degree of Challenge" indicates whether a kit is suitable for the first-time or novice builder, someone with a little more experience, or the dedicated builder. The meaning is shown in the table below:
How can I determine the shipping cost for my order?
Once you have the items you want to order added to your shopping cart, select "Checkout" from the top menu bar. Once you have entered your shipping information, you will see the total amount for your order including shipping. You do not have to enter payment information at this time; you can still change, cancel or come back and complete your order later.
Can I get my kit pre-assembled?
I have offered assembled and tested units at various times. In general, it's not something I like to do. The kits require only minimal assembly skills and time. If you see an "Assembled & tested" option when ordering, it's available assembled; otherwise, I am not offering that kit assembled. In any case, it may take a few extra days before your order is shipped depending on what I have on hand.
I want to order several kits for a club. Do you offer discounts?
Many items do have quantity discounts. Those that do, will have the price breaks listed on the item page. If you don't see any price breaks listed but are going to be ordering a large quantity, feel free to email me and discuss it.
How long will it take for my order to reach me?
I usually ship orders within a day or two of receiving them. In some cases it may take some extra time, especially if you are ordering kits assembled and tested. If your order will be delayed more than a couple of days, I will email you with that information.
Shipping via First Class Mail in the US usually takes 2-5 days, depending on your location. Priority Mail shipment is available if you're in a hurry, but most of the time delivery is pretty quick.
Shipping to locations outside the US will take longer, depending on the transit time and your country's Customs clearance. Due to the very high cost of shipping via tracked means (overnight couriers, Priority Mail International, etc) I cannot provide tracking information for DX packages.
Were you at the last Dayton Hamvention? Will you be there next time? What about other hamfests?
2009 was the first time I had been to Dayton. We had a booth and met many of our existing customers, new customers and prospective customers. We introducted the MasterKeyer MK-1 there and got a lot of very positive feedback (as well as happy customers). We did return to Dayton in 2010 and 2011, and plan to be back in 2012.
Aside from Dayton, we rarely attend hamfests. Between a full time job, HamGadgets and my family, we don't have a lot of leisure time and I don't want to dedicate my life to driving from hamfest to hamfest. We will occasionally attend one that is close by and short, such as the W0DXCC Convention in Kansas this July.
Your firmware version numbers can be confusing. What do they mean?
I will be the first to admit that version numbers have not always been consistent over the years. In the beginning I mainly used them for my own reference. I have more recently settled on a version numbering scheme that I will do my best to stick to in the future. Here is a brief explanation of the firmware version numbering I am using as of the Spring of 2011, using V1.31 as an example:
Do I need a computer to use the MasterKeyer?
No! The MasterKeyer can be used completely on its own, with no computer or USB drive. All of the features you would expect in a high end keyer are easily used without a computer. The USB connection can be used if you wish.
Can I use the MasterKeyer without a keyboard?
Absolutely. Again, you don't need anything but your paddle, your rig and the MK-1.
The MasterKeyer looks complicated, I don't think I can figure out how to use it.
It couldn't be much simpler, really. Plug in your paddle. Connect it to your rig's key jack. Turn the switch on, and turn the knob to adjust the speed. That's all you really need to do! The setup commands are very easy to use; memory recording and playback are a snap. If you need the more advanced features, they're all there and easy to use. And, if you get stuck and the manual doesn't help, support is just a quick email away.
Does the MK-1 support my logging software?
Yes!! Beginning with firmware version 1.20 (December 2009), the MK-1 supports the K1EL Winkeyer command interface. If your software supports the Winkeyer, it should support the MK-1 as well. See the MK-1 manual for more information.
Do you sell a power supply for the MK-1?
Not at this time. THe MK-1 comes with a 6' power cord with the correct 2.5mm/5mm connector on one end and tinned bare wires on the other end. You can use any DC or AC power source from 9 to 20 Volts. Your normal shack 12V/13.8V power supply will be fine.
Does the MK-1 come with cables for my transceiver?
No rig cables are included due to the wide variety of transceiver and amplifier requirements. The cables you may need are a 2.5mm (1/8") mono to whatever your rig requires for connecting a straight key - this may be 1/4" or 1/8", mono or in some cases stereo. For amplifier keying, if used, you will need a cable for the MK-1's RCA output to whatever your amp requires.
Will any USB keyboard work with my MK-1?
Most normal USB keyboards will work fine, including some (but not all) wireless models. Notable exceptions are Apple keyboards, and some keyboards with extra functions such as USB ports. If the keyboard has extra USB connectors on it, there's a fair chance it won't work with your MK-1.
My keyboard has a non-English key layout. Will that work?
Unfortunately, it seems the only way to know for sure is to try it out. Some German keyboards, for example, work as if they are QWERTY layout even when they are marked QWERTZ - so the Y and Z keys are swapped, and some others don't work as expected. I'm working to find a fix for this issue.
PicoKeyer and PicoKeyer-Plus
How does a straight key work with the PicoKeyer?
If you use a straight key with your PicoKeyer, you can send code by hand and still be able to send stored messages. You will NOT be able to record messages. Some menu functions are still available, though many are of very limited or no use with a straight key.
The paddle input to the PicoKeyer is a stereo jack. If you plug a mono plug into that jack, it will short one of the inputs to ground (the dash side, if your paddle is wired like most). When power is first applied to the PicoKeyer, such as when the battery is inserted, it looks at both of the paddle inputs. If one of them is shorted, the keyer assumes that you have a straight key plugged in. and whichever input is not shorted is used as a straight key input.
This only happens during power-up OR when a factory reset is done. You can also select "S" from the key mode menu; when you do this with a paddle plugged in, either paddle input will be treated like a straight key.
My PicoKeyer-Plus kit came with no 104 (.1 uF) capacitor,a nd three 103 (.01 uF)!
Those parts are correct for your kit. The current version of the board uses the same value capacitor in all three locations. Please refer to the current instructions.
My PicoKeyer-Plus kit is missing the 10K Ohm resistor!
No, it's not. Really! I promise. Resistor R1 is no longer needed. That fact is noted in the current instructions. Just leave the R1 component location empty.
I plan to use my PicoKeyer-Plus with [name of rig]. Will this work or do I need something else?
The PicoKeyer-Plus can handle up tp 60 Volts, positive or negative, and will key any modern solid state rig (anything made since the 1980s or so) and most hybrids with no problem. Some older tube gear uses grid-block or cathode keying; these may have very high voltages in the keying circuit. To determine if you will need something else, check the voltage of your rig's keying circuit with a volt meter. If it's under 60V, you don't need anything but your PicoKeyer-Plus. If it's over 60V, you should plan on ordering a UKA-3 or building something similar to keep the keying voltage under 60V.
I am aware of a few home-brew rig degisgns that key the power to the final power amp directly. These require the key or keyer to pass well over the 200 mA limit of the 2N7000, and more than the UKA-3 can handle as well. For those you'll need to do something else, like build in the keying circuit that the designer didn't.
How can I make the speaker louder?
Change the audio tone ("A" setup menu). If you use try higher frequency tones, you will notice a very sharp peak in the audio level right around 2000 Hz. This is where the speaker is near resonance, and it gets quite a bit louder! Aside from that, you can use a small amplified external speaker. The PicoKeyer cannot drive an external 8 Ohm speaker on its own.
Do you have any original PicoKeyer kits left?
Sorry, but no -- they're all gone. The PK-Plus can be built with the speed pot mounted remotely if you want; all the other features are the same other than the orientation of the pushbutton.
ID-O-Matic / ID-O-Matic II
I am using a USB to serial adapter cable, and can't get my ID-O-Matic II to talk to my laptop!
Most USB to serial adapter cables work fine with the ID-O-Matic series boards. There are, however, hundreds if not thousands of different brands and designs of these adapter cables. A few of them have either hardware or driver issues that don't properly support the RTS signal, which is needed by the serial interface of the ID-O-Matic. If you can't get your serial port cable to work, I suggest trying a different one. You can also modify your board to use its on-board voltage for the serial port. Remove resistor R5, and install a new 2.2K Ohm resistor from Pin 7 of the serial connector (the leg of R5 closest to the connector) to a convenient +5V source such as the "hot" side of R4.
I just received my ID-O-Matic II kit, and there is no R1 location on the board!
That's correct. Resistor R1 is no longer used. If your instructions call out R1, you should check to make sure you're using the latest instructions. Check the CD-ROM that came with your kit.
Can I connect an ID-O-Matic to my Motorola repeater?
The short answer is, "Yes". The longer answer is, you will need to determine the best way to do it for your particular rig. I have had a number of customers use an ID-O-Matic to with Motorola R.I.C.K. and GMR-300 type systems. In some cases they are simply using it to provide Morse ID; in others they are using it to control the repeater. The signal levels are within reason for an ID-O-Matic and Connection Kit to connect without issues. A very nice writeup (with pictures) was provided by Will Martin of Echo Communications, and can be found here (link to repeater-builder.com).
As I am not an expert on Motorola equipment, nor do I have any on hand to play with, I can't give you specific details for every application. I do, however, have copies of some of the documentation and will post more detailed information as time permits.
How about my Kenwood TKR-720?
I'm glad you asked! Looks like that has been done, too. (10.5MB PDF, courtesy of Bob, KI4RWL)
What are the dimensions of the ID-O-Matic II?
The board itself is 1.95" x 2.5". If you include the DB9 connector overhang, it's close to 2.5 x 2.5. There are two 1/8" diameter mounting holes, 2.25" apart and 1.25" in from the long (left) edge, just behind the serial connector (on the right side).
Can I use an ID-O-Matic to ID my crossband V/UHF rig?
That depends on your particular radio. For whatever reason, most (but not all) dual-band rigs that have a crossband repeat function completely shut off all microphone and data signals. In other words, there is no way with most rigs to use a local source of audio or PTT. It doesn't make a lot of sense! I have heard that there are a few exceptions, but I don't know for sure which rigs they are. If you know, please tell me and I'll post the information here.
I have two mobiles (or an HT and a mobile) that I want to set up as a repeater. Will the ID-O-Matic do it?
If your receiver has an easily accessible squelch, RSSI or COR signal, it's a snap. If they don't have a squelch or COR signal, it is a little more difficult but not impossible. Most mobiles and fixed station transceivers have such a signal on the packet connector.
The audio output of the ID-O-Matic II is too "hot" for my rig. How can I reduce it?
If it's just the ID volume that is too loud, you can try substituting a .01 uF capacitor for C4. If that doesn't do it for you, try a 10K Ohm resistor in series with C4 and a 1K Ohm resistor from pin 3 of the audio amp chip to ground. That should reduce the audio volume enough to do the job.
If the ID and receive audio are both too loud, you might get better results with an output attenuator. I would suggest a 1K Ohm potentiometer between the ID-O-Matic and transmitter. Conenct one end to the ID-O-Matic II audio output, the other end to ground, and the center (wiper) pin to your transmitter. With both of the on-board trimmers set at their midpoints, set the new output level pot for the audio level you want. You can then use the trimmers to fine tune the ID and receive audio levels.
Which end of the terminal block on my ID-O-Matic II is which?
It is marked on the PCB, but the terminal block tends to cover most of the silkscreened marking once it's installed. Terminal 1 (ground) is closest to the voltage regulator, and terminal 10 is at the corner of the board. I'll fix the silkscreen on the next PCB revision.
Why has Q1 failed one or more times on my older ID-O-Matic?
In some environments, the floating gate of Q1 can be damaged by static electricity or other factors. You can solder a relatively large value resistor between the gate and source (grounded side) of Q1 to prevent this from happening. Newer ID-0-Matic kits included a 1/8W 100K Ohm resistor for this purpose, and the issue was fixed for good on the ID-O-Matic II. If you need a resistor, send me an email and I'll get you a couple.
USB Universal Rig Interface
Should I get the SMD parts pre-installed?
The USB interface kit was discontinued, but after the first few dozen kits all were shipped with the SMT parts pre-installed. The USB connector and 28-pin fine pitch SOIC chip are not a lot of fun for most people to install!
Universal Keying Adapter (UKA, UKA-2, UKA-3)
Should I build my UKA-3 for AC or DC operation? My amp uses DC for the keying line.
I would recommend building it for AC, unless your intended load will exceed about 200 mA. AC wiring is good for either AC or DC, with any polarity. The DC build option is intended only for higher current (200-400 mA) loads.
I have an amp that uses negative (grid-block) keying. When I connect the amp to the UKA-2, it immediately keys up. What's wrong?
Reverse the wires at either the UKA end or the amp end. The UKA-2 (and UKA-3, if wired for DC) needs the "more positive" signal on the center pin of the output connector. You can also modify the UKA-2 for AC use - see the documentation for how to do this.
When I use a straight key, my PK-RM doesn't offset when I transmit!
This is a known bug -- contact me for an upgrade to the latest firmware version.