The Office Odyssey, March 2012

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N9JIG

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I have been using an Elfa shelf/desk system in my home office/Comms shack for almost 15 years. (See these threads for pics and descriptions):

http://forums.radioreference.com/pi...ile-setup/222289-n9jig-shack-fall-2011-a.html

http://forums.radioreference.com/pi...ile-setup/199661-n9jig-rearranged-2011-a.html

http://forums.radioreference.com/pi...ile-setup/168886-2010-update-n9jig-shack.html

http://forums.radioreference.com/pi...ile-setup/128660-latest-n9jig-radio-wall.html

This is a small second bedroom that we transformed. My wife and I grew bored with this and wanted to clear out some of the accumulated junk that has been gathering there. We spend a lot of time there so we wanted to do it right.

The first thing we did was clear out everything from, right down to the bare walls. We removed all the furniture and shelving and all of the support brackets except that in the closet that will be reused. We donated the stand-alone furniture to the Salvation Army resale shop along with a bunch of other accumulated and expendable items.

The room has a small closet along one wall of which I removed the sliding doors and closet rod to use as an extension to my radio nook.

We removed all the mounted stuff like the flat-screen TV, track lighting, pictures and clocks. We patched the various holes and removed the old ceiling fan in preparation for the painter and electrician. We will have an additional outlet installed on the one wall that lacks it and replace the ceiling fan and track-lighting with a new one.

We then bought 2 identical but reversible stand-alone corner desks. This will allow us to place them side-by-side or opposing each other depending on our moods of the moment. We also bought a nice leather recliner for the wife so she can knit and watch TV while I play radios. These remain stored until we are ready to move them into the office after painting and the radio shelves are up.

I have 2 dozen assorted antennas in the attic of our townhouse. The coax feeds come thru a hole in the ceiling in the former closet, behind a gusset. My painter is fashioning a free-standing wooden “downspout” to house the coaxes, this will be in the corner of the closet and painted to match the walls. At about 30 inches above the floor will be a pair of hinged doors with cutout corners to allow the currently used coax leads to be routed out and the unused ones will remain in the box out of sight. With a door on each of the two exposed edges I can route the coaxes for the two radio areas the proper directions.

Current plans are for me to have 2 radio areas. The left side will be scanners, computer controlled stuff and alert receivers. This will include radios for Pro96Com, Trunker and fire-tone decoding as well as alert receivers (BC15’s) for several local fire channels and scanners for various local channels and services. I figure I could do this with 18 radios, 4 2096’s (Pro96Com), 2 PSR600’s, 2 BC785’s, 2 BCD996XT’s, 2 BCT15X’s and 6 BCT15’s.

The 2096’s and 600’s will serve as decoding radios for Pro96Com and Trunker. The 785’s will be used for PL/DPL decoding as well as occasional voice radios for Trunker. The XT’s will serve for second radios for Pro96Com as well as local listening. The 15X’s will be used to decode fire tones and the 15’s will be used for fire tone alerting, railroad and aviation listening.

On the right side there will be various radios that transmit or are larger “knob twiddlers”. These include an R8500, R7000 and an R71 for receiving as well as a set of Motorola CDM1250’s for my work and GMRS channels. I also will have a Kenwood TMD-700A and Icom IC7000 for HF and VHF work. I will also have an HP-1 and perhaps an additional scanner for fiddling around with.

I will use a pair 30-amp switching power supply for the radios and the various accessories they will use (Tone and MDC decoders, multicouplers etc.). One power supply will be used on each side.

The left side radio accumulation will also house my Windows7 computer. With 9 GB of RAM I can run a half dozen instances of Pro96Com, ARC-XT and other applications with ease. I will figure out whether to use a wall mount for the monitor or perhaps get an elbow mount.

The right side radio set will not require a computer. My main everyday computer is a 27-inch quad-core iMac with a second monitor and 16GB of RAM. This is used for my web creation, email, web browsing etc. I also run Windows7 and my AirNav RadarBox via Parallels on this system.

My wife also has a similar iMac to mine but she doesn’t use a second monitor. Being deaf she has no need for radios, this also makes my nonsense palatable.

As for antennas, I have several decent scanner antennas of various types in the attic, these will run thru a set of Stridsberg multicouplers. I will use 2 8-port units for the regular and fire tone scanners and a 4-port 800 MHz. unit for the 2096’s. This will allow me to add a couple scanners to the mix later if I wish or plug in a handheld if needed.

The radios on the right side will mostly have their own antennas, and 2 of these have 2 antennas each (IC7000 and R8500). I will use a 4-port Stridsberg for the HP-1 and other scanner if needed.

All of this is subject to change as things shake out. While I have a good idea of what I want the way it looks in my head may not be practical once the room starts taking shape.

The goal here is to hide the wires as much as possible and provide enough wire length to allow easy pulling of radios for maintenance and replacement. While practical considerations of reach, visibility and operations will be the final determination on layout I am confident this plan will work well.

I will post pictures and update the thread after the room gets painted and as the project progresses.
 

blantonl

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Alrighty, is is going to be awesome - because I am redoing my office right now as well. It is game on! :)

One suggestion - I've replaced just about every wall wart in the shack with a centralized 12v switching power supply. Make sure you have a look at the rigrunner series of 12v connection terminals - they are fantastic and worth their weight in gold. I do a lot of HF listening and wall warts are terrible noise makers.

Good luck Rich on your conversion! I should have mine done before the end of the week and will post pics and details.
 

N9JIG

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Lindsay: Yes, I have gotten rid of every wall wart I could. All 12VDC stuff comes from the large power supplies.

The only wall warts I have left are the few that are not 12VDC. I have an MDC decoder that uses 5VAC, the HP1 uses 9VDC and a couple oddball portable chargers that use different voltages. For portable chargers I have a dedicated outlet strip that I can switch off when not in use so I can reduce the possibility of noise.

I converted to PowerPoles a year or so ago and they work great. I plan on using them on the new shack. This has made life a lot easier. I built a batch of coaxial power connector assemblies and custom cables for different devices. Each of the Icoms have dedicated cables as well as the Kenwood and Motorola's.
 

N9JIG

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Progress!

My painter has been hard at work in the office. He constructed the wire chase and has it in place. Instead of a more complicated hinge arrangement we decided to go with an opening large enough to get an arm into so wires can be pulled. Unused antenna cables can be stuffed into the lower section of the chase. A smaller hole and wire grommet will be added to the near side of the chase for a couple antenna cables going that way and a network jack added for the basement line.





Not shown in these pictures is that the chase is now primed and puttied and the low profile crown molding is up in the main portion of the room. The Elfa shelving rails will remain in the former closet as radio shelves will be there. On the side with the wire chase will be "listening scanners" used for aviation, rail and other stuff I commonly actively listen to. On the other side of the converted closet will be the "Data radios", including a batch of radios dedicated to ATCS, Pro96Com, Trunker derivatives, and my AirNav box. A Windows computer will be dedicated to that side.

Forward of the chase will be my desk, including my main Mac computer, desktop radios (R8500 etc.) and associated stuff.

Hopefully the painter will finish the room Monday, and the electrician can get in after that to add an outlet and the ceiling fan/lights. Once that is all done we can start assembling the desks, shelves, chairs and electronics.

I also ordered another PowerPole panel. I will have 3 of these set up, one for the the data scanners, one for the other receivers and a third for transceivers (2 CDM's and a TMD-700). The IC7000 will have a dedicated 30A supply, the rest will have dedicated 15A supplies. This way I can turn off everything but the data scanners when not in use. All the power, antenna and data cable sets have been assembled in my shop and are ready to install once I get my room back.
 

kruser

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I do a lot of HF listening and wall warts are terrible noise makers.
Really Lindsay?
Did you mean "switching" type wall warts are terrible noise makers?

I've never had conventional "linear" wall warts cause any radio noise.
Most linear warts just contain a transformer and a few diodes and a filter cap or two. Nothing that would cause any noise like a switcher wall wart often does.
I've seen many modern "switching" type wall warts cause so much noise that receiving anything on HF was impossible!
Switching supplies use high frequency switching (instead of transformers) in order to achieve their lower output voltage. It is this high frequency switching that causes the noise.
Many seem to oscillate between say 30 and 200 kHz but can emit harmonics all across the bands. I'm sure you know all that though!

Linear wall warts do not use the switching components so are virtually noise free. The transformer plates can vibrate and hum though.

I suspect you meant switching type wall warts.

I fully agree that switching type wall warts are horrible and I also get rid of them often before ever plugging them in. I also use a central supply that also charges a bank of batteries for the power loss times or when I pull the mains during bad electrical storms. My central supplies are of the linear type though and not the switching type. They are big and heavy!
Some manufacturers are very much aware of the radio hobbyist and do of course build "radio quiet" switching supplies. Even in the wall wart style. Icom's R75 receiver comes with a switching supply. Mine had a note in the box (from Icom) that said the power supply may cause unwanted noise or signals in the receiver! I laughed when I saw that. I did not use it though but did try it and it was actually pretty clean. I think I found more noise from it in the VHF low band area then I did in the HF spectrum.
I power my older Icom gear from my external battery rack. The R7000, R71A and R9000. Those radios do have decent linear supplies built in of course that create little to zero noise but my main reason was to move the heat out of the chassis so I let the supply that keeps the battery banks charged dissipate the heat. Those are all very nice but also very old radios today and I sure don't want to lose one from heat. I also have slow fans on the 7000 and 9000 as another precaution.

Most wall warts today are the switching type as they can build them so cheap plus they have high current outputs but you do still find the occasional linear wall wart with some new equipment. I'd guess it is these modern switching type wall warts that you are talking about and not yesteryears old linear type wall warts correct?

The old linear types were really no noisier than using a battery as a power source!

Or maybe I've just been really lucky all my life.

I still use linear wall warts to this day but not on a permanent basis. I use them when I need to power something up and cannot take a chance of causing any noise.

The biggest complaints I have with linear wall wart supplies is the heat they can generate even when having no load on their outputs, the fact that they can and will fall out of a typical wall outlet from their weight alone and the fact that each wall wart will often occupy two or three outlets in a typical power strip.
Other than those gripes, my linear wall warts have always been radio quiet. I wish I could say the same for the switching type wall warts.

The old linear wall warts that also had internal regulators could and did cause some noise but they were mostly useless anyway due to the low current capacity of the regulator itself except of course when used with the equipment they came with. They still had their time and place.

Todays push towards switching type wall warts is a poor decision in my eyes. I can remember when the FCC would have never allowed such a noisy power supply be sold in the country.
I won't even get into the modern CFL and some LED lamps on the market today! They often times use the same switching technology and can kill any chance at weak signal reception.
 

kruser

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I really like what you are doing Rich.
That is exactly what I have in mind. It's just a matter of actually starting the job that is holding me back.
 

russellmaher

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This sounds like an ambitious project and wish you well with it. Can't wait to see the completed photos.

Russell
 

kruser

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I do a lot of HF listening and wall warts are terrible noise makers.
Lindsay, one thing I meant to ask in my last message is if you use any of the Icom PCR series receivers like the R1500 or R2500?

I have the 2500 and it did come with a linear type wall wart. A huge one at that as it puts out almost 2 amps but it has an odd voltage of 10.5 VDC.

I can't say I've looked but was wondering if the 1500 and 2500 are safe running at 12 or 13.8 VDC.

For that radio I do use the wall wart and then for my other 12 and 5VDC computer equipment, I use large linear supplies that are powered by large UPS units (another source or radio noise!). The radios I power from the banks of batteries is all stuff that is also designed to be run in a mobile environment so they can handle the 14 VDC that the batteries float at.

I use large load limiting resistors to limit the inrush current to the batteries should the power fail and return while I'm away.
I actually use various wattages of aircraft landing lights for the ballast resistors. Just enough resistance to keep the inrush current at 10 amps or less but low enough that the power supply is still supplying the power to the equipment and not drawing off the batteries even when I fire up all equipment. That was a balancing act but was the cheapest way I could figure out how to limit high currents easily.
I also use Anderson products where the equipment actually attaches to the power source.
 

kruser

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The only wall warts I have left are the few that are not 12VDC. I have an MDC decoder that uses 5VAC, the HP1 uses 9VDC and a couple oddball portable chargers that use different voltages.
Rich, I also wondered about the HP1's wall wart. It is a switcher of course but... the included cigarette lighter cord just uses a simple 9 volt regulator circuit as far as I can tell. If you suspect noise from the HP1's wall wart, maybe try the cig lighter power cord instead.
I included a few cigarette lighter sockets in my power distribution setup just for these mobile type devices but I have never tried the HP1's cig lighter power cord.
I've honestly never found any significant noise from its switching wall wart either but that's not to say it is noise free.

Sometimes after I've added new equipment or made significant changes, I'll run a spectrum analyzer across the bands and look for "new" bad stuff. It's amazing sometimes at what can turn up. Even just relocating coax and/or power cables can "unhide" noise that has been non-existent for years!

Before I owned an analyzer, I'd manually run the radios through the bands making notes of any significant noise found. Then I'd make my changes and need to repeat the band scans again. Talk about a time consuming ordeal!
It was still better than making a bunch of changes only to find new noise weeks or months later as tracking down the offending change often took longer than doing the band sweeps!
 
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N9JIG

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Progress Report

The painter is done and the electrician will be in tomorrow to add the outlets and put in the ceiling fan/light, then I will be able to put the radios back in.

In the mean time we installed my new desk. We were surprised how large it was and decided to return the second desk, the wife relocated her computer to the living room since she uses her iPhone and iPad more anyway these days.

My regular Mac and second monitor is located on this desk, the radios will be to the right and left just to the rear of the desk.

When the electrician is done I will add a set of "Connections" shelving units (The Container Store - The Original Storage and Organization Store®) from The Container Store (Our favorite place!). This will house my larger radios and accessories to the left rear of the desk. The R8500, R7000, R71A, IC7000, CDM's and others will be there.

I will use remnants of the Elfa system for the "Computerized Scanning" section to the right rear of the desk. This includes the 6-8 Pro96Com receivers, and a similar number of BCT15's used as alert and data receivers. My Windows computer will also be there to support these radios.

Directly to the rear of the desk will be several Elfa shelves to house a portion of my aircraft models and other display items.

If all goes well I should be substantially complete this weekend. I have already constructed the wiring harnesses and have all the supplies ready to go in totes.

The antenna cable chase came out great. I added a second pass-thru on the other side since there will be 2 separate radio collections.

 

N9JIG

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Finally Finished!

We finally got out office back together after a month or so. After the painter and electrician finished their work we got to work. We replaced most of the stuff, only keeping a small portion of the white wall-mounted Elfa shelf system for the radio closet and my wife’s free-standing Elfa desk was re-purposed into an entertainment system.

I got a new desk which turned out to be a bit larger than I anticipated. We had originally bought two of these intending one for her and one for me but they were way too large so we returned one. My wife decided she wanted her computer downstairs anyway so we put together a small table for her iPad and knitting stuff.

Between my desk and the radio closet is a neat shelf system that they sell at the Container Store called “Connections” that uses metal risers connected by notched shelves. Takes seconds to assemble, just place the risers and put in the shelves, the notches keep the risers the proper distance and orientation. There are different sized shelves and risers for flexibility. Like anything else at the Container Store it ain’t cheap, but it is worth the money.

I have been playing with LED strip lighting. The red lights are from IKEA, they are a color-variable system that goes from red to white and everything in-between. Red kind of messes with the camera focus but makes for a nice nighttime view. The white lights are from Fry's and come with an IR remote that also allows them to dim. There are 3 strips behind the bollard above the radio shelves and another above the PC keyboard.



I still have to play with some wire management issues but the room is pretty much done.

On the main desk is the iMac 27”, a flatbed scanner, our iPads and iPhones along with a Kindle Fire I won at a conference. The Mac runs Parallels with W7P for the RadarBox.



On the Connections shelves is a second screen for the iMac in which I am running my AirNav RadarBox, above it is my MacBook Air. Below the screen is the RadarBox, keyer, CD-1 for the R8500 and desk mic for the IC7000.

On the next shelf down is the R8500, IC7000 and auto-tuner and a CD-1 for the R7000.

Below that is an R71 and R7000. On the bottom is a 30A power supply for the IC7000 and a 50A for the main radio group.



On the main radio shelves, from top to bottom:

5 BCT15’s, 1 BCT15X, used for fire toneouts.
4 Pro2096’s used for Pro96Com and a BCT15 used for local channels.
TDM-700A used on 2M and 440, a BCD996XT and a BCT15X, used for local stuff.
BCT15X and a BCT15 used for aircraft and railroads
PSR410, HP1X, and a set of CDM1250’s
The small laptop is used for radio programming and occasional remote PRO96Com use.
The PC is an i7 with 9GB RAM running W7P. It runs multiple instances of Pro96Com (usually 4 to 6) and other various radio programs. It is connected to an Apple Cinema Display.



On the corner shelves are:
Pro197, 2 BCD785’s, a BCD796, Pro163, a PSR600 and a Midland WX alert receiver.
2 CD-1’s, a DC440 and an MDC decoder are connected to these radios.

HH Scanners include
Uniden BCD396XT, BC330, BC346,
RadioShack Pro96, Pro 83 (2), Pro43 (Yes, it still works great!) and a freq counter
GRE PSR 310, PSR300, PSR700, PSR800
Motorola APX7000 and HT1550
Kenwood TH-F6A and TK-3140
Alinco DJ-S11 and DJ-C7
Yaesu VX-8
Wouxun KG-UV 3D

All the DC radios are connected via PowerPoles except the CDM’s, which are connected directly to the power supply. Most radios are run from the Astron 50A, the IC7000 runs from the Samlex 30A and the Pro96Com and Fire Tone-out radios are run off a 20A supply.

The antennas are all in the attic, including a DPD antenna for the RadarBox, a few of the large RS Scantenna clones, a few quarter-wave 800, VHF and UHF antennas and some discones among others. I have 4 Stridsberg multicouplers, 2 8-port and a 4-port wide band units and a 4-port 800 MHz. unit.

The setup allows me to leave the Pro96Com and toneout radios (and associated multicouplers) running 24/7 and a 1-switch turn off for everything else.

Do not fret, I still have all my airplane models, I just don't have a place to display them right now. They are packed away for a while.

Those white plastic boxes all have cables, parts, tools etc.
 

KA9QJGDON

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Very Nice Set up Rich , I just have one Question I Experimented with the LED Lighting Strips ,They run cool and draw Very little current , I did notice I was picking up some Noise in the Communications Equipment , I would turn the LEDS Off still had the Noise , BUT When I would actually unplug the light with small Wall wart The Noise would go away ,

I observed they are a Switching power supply,, Non transformer . So since it was only 12 Volts I just added My own plug with a Small 1 Amp fuse and wired that to My Radio Astron Power supply No more Noise ,

Just wondering if You have Experience any Problems like this , I also had a New Craftsman Cordless Drill I had the charger in the Radio room And when it was Plugged in I had a lot of Noise also .

Happy Scanning

Don KA9QJG
 

N9JIG

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Very Nice Set up Rich , I just have one Question I Experimented with the LED Lighting Strips ,They run cool and draw Very little current , I did notice I was picking up some Noise in the Communications Equipment , I would turn the LEDS Off still had the Noise , BUT When I would actually unplug the light with small Wall wart The Noise would go away ,

I observed they are a Switching power supply,, Non transformer . So since it was only 12 Volts I just added My own plug with a Small 1 Amp fuse and wired that to My Radio Astron Power supply No more Noise ,

Just wondering if You have Experience any Problems like this , I also had a New Craftsman Cordless Drill I had the charger in the Radio room And when it was Plugged in I had a lot of Noise also .

Happy Scanning

Don KA9QJG
I have not yet found any RF noise from the LED's power supplies. The white lights use a 12VDC wall wart with the same coaxial plug as on scanners and I tried using that but the lights themselves produced an audible hum that was very distracting. The color lights have a different power connector that I assume is also 12VDC but I haven't played around with rewiring them to use my existing supplies so they are all still using the wall warts.
 

N9JIG

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I have been thinking of some changes to the office. I would like to rackmount some of the scanners, specifically the ones that do not change much like the PRO2096's and BC15's used for Pro96Com and fire toneouts respectively.

One thing I was thinking about is construction of a rack box using Troy Command Console faceplates. I was thinking about putting together a box with 3 radios across and 3 levels down. The extra slot would be for the power supply.

Using a Stridsberg 8-port multicoupler the unit could be self-contained with just an antenna and 120VAC power connection to the outside.

Speakers would be required, I could mount these on the sides or even in the top panel. Using a metal screen type top would provide ventilation and a place to mount the speakers.

Building on this perhaps a second box of similar size and construction could be used for the other scanners. By using the Troy faceplates I could even use different sized scanners like my BCD796 or BCD785's.

Something like this could be placed on legs to provide an appropriate height or even onto a shelf or desktop.

I had considered retasking a CentraCom console system as a friend in starting to replace his agencies 9-1-1 center but standard 19 inch racks are too narrow for my needs, a custom rack would work better I think.

Has anyone built anything like this before for this type of application?
 
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