Thursday, 19 January 2017

JTDX - DXing with JT digimode

JTDX means "JT modes for DXing", it is being developed with main focus on the sensitivity and decoding efficiency, both, in overcrowded and half empty HF band conditions.

It is open source software distributed under the GPL v3 license, and is based on the WSJT-X r6462 source code. Optimal candidate selection logic, four/five pass decoding and decoders based on the matched filters making JTDX performance quite different from WSJT-X software for operation on the HF bands. Almost all work goes around JT65 mode, decoding efficienсy of JT9 mode is the same as in WSJT-X and might be addressed in the future JTDX versions. Initially based on the enthusiasm, now in average it taking close to 12 hours of daily work and your donations would be the only way to let me proceed with the further JTDX software development.
Many thanks for your support,
73, Igor UA3DJY

When watching PSK reporter lately I noticed most stations are using JTDX instead of WSJT-X or other software these days. So I thought, what could be the reason? This software has to be the top if so many use it. I installed the software latest version and first impression is that it looks a bit different from WSJT-X although it is based now on the latest WSJT-X 1.7. After some playing and configuring I was courageous enough to dare a TX cycle and suprisingly 3 calls came back, all 3 with only 1Hz apart from each other. So, I actually saw one signal in the waterfall but it was at least a layer of 3!!! I have never seen this in WSJT-X. Wow! I picked the weakest station (-20dB) while the other stations were at least -10dB and -6dB. After a few days I noticed that even weak traces half behind strong signals are decoded, something I hardly experienced with WSJT-X.

Some features not seen in WSJT-X:

To work stations faster I notice more and more stations are using the feature "skip locator" in JTDX, with other words they come back with the report directly in response on a CQ. This is especially useful for DX stations with large piles of calls waiting to make a QSO as fast as possible.

A SWL button increases the amount of decoding attempts. Realize that it will take a faster computer to decode everything before your transmission session will begin!

There is the "hint" decoder button, although I probabely will not use it. It is interesting development but I personally think it is cheating. The "hint" decoder looks for a hint in a file with calls and displays the best possible call it can find, it is to the operator to use it or not for a QSO. It actually is the same as the hints you can get in a contestlogger like N1MM(+). That is actually cheating as well although it helped me numerous times. Anyway, you don't have to use the "hint" decoder of course and actually most of the time JTDX is receiving well enough to do without it.

The filter button is another nice one. A passband filter for the desired signal especially usefull in crowded band situations.

While I was writing this article the software is still developed and another feature has been implemented which is a button for AGCcompensation. Not shure what it does, I've been switching it off/on but am not shure what the difference is? This is what the official release notes tell: AGCc button: use it only if AGC being triggered in receiver by JT signals at beginning of the RX interval. Noise level change in the waterfall might be used as criterion showing that AGC is triggered in the receiver. 


It is recommended to read the JTDX documentation and release notifications before installation.
I had trouble with the performance of my computer with this software package as I still work with my 2008 Intel dual core 2,6GHz. Sounds fast, well not for todays standards. The problem was that my transmitting audio started 3-6 seconds later after the actual transmission (in time) start. First I thought it was JT-Alert in combination with JTDX but without JT-Alert running I had the same problems. The original settings are for up-to-date not too old computers. I use both attempts and passes two steps less as set by the software when you install it. Till now with good results. Below something you have to consider when you got a slower computer.

Advanced settings tab:

- Number of decoding attempts: set it as per required decoding time. It might be set to 1 if CPU frequency is 2GHz, and set to 3 if CPU frequency is equal to 3GHz. Higher values make better decoding performance.
- Number of decoding passes = 4 (may be set to 3 or 2 for CPU frequency less than 2GHz if decoding attempts=1 is not enough to get into 10 second decoding time). For VHF usage optimal number of decoding passes = 2, and number of decoding attempts may be increased to improve decoding efficiency.
- Hinted decoding DT range = 1

I've been using JTDX now for a few times/days last couple of weeks and notice that it is very addictive. It simply detects so many signals. There is always something interesting to see in my opinion. Have you ever seen 3-5 different stations coming back on your call all at once? With this software you have to actually choose who you make QSO with first. Well, I hope I've helped some of my blog readers to get a better JT digimode experience. Now, back to the radio and make contacts...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

FSQ (Fast Simple QSO) mode experiment

Remembering my V4 chat efforts back in 2010 experimental chat mode software I tested with Kees  PE2KM? Well, ZL2AFP made another experimental chat mode software called FSQ or Fast Simple QSO in 2014. It is available as standalone program and you will find it implemented in FLDigi. I installed the software half a year ago but was never able to test it on air as I simply did not receive anyone to test and experiment with. Now, I came across a message on OH8STN Julian's blog that he organized a experimental weekend for FSQ mode this weekend and so I was eager to participate in this event. Unfortenately I had only some time at Sunday and kept the radio on 10.144 MHz FSQ to monitor and to send so called "sounding" beacons every 10 minutes. I was actually happy to see that I received OH8STN and OH5KUY. The chat with Julian went very difficult but I actually had a nice chat with Ari OH5KUY (see screenshot above).

I received a image from Julian in which you can see the logo from his weblog Survival Tech North. I send out 2 images personally but don't know if anyone received them...Anyway, the first experimental FSQ digimode contacts have been made and overall I liked it a lot more as V4 chat back in 2010. The advantage is that it is implemented in FLDigi and that program can be installed on alternative operating systems as well.

Link to FSQ software and documentation:

Thanks Julian OH8STN for letting us know that this event was on. I know for many it was the first time on FSQ and a lot of first were made. FSQ seems to be very interesting especially when you have a couple of friends on the air.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

2017 Agenda

This will be my (contest)agenda for 2017. I have to balance the hobby with my family and so it's better to make a schedule so my family knows when I definitely have to be in front of the radio. Not that I will be on the radio all the time, but these dates I will try to spend as much time in front of the radio.

The actual dates are already on the family planner. This post is for archive purposes.

First time in 2 years I will be able to spend more time in the PACC. Unfortenately the PACC is at the same time as the CQWW WPX RTTY. That means you'll never hear the biggest contest stations ever in the PACC. And I will not participate in this RTTY event either as the PACC is much more important for Dutch stations.

11/12 Feb. 12-12 UTC 24 hrs PACC 2017 contest
25/26 Mar. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX SSB 2017 contest
27/28 May 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX CW 2017 contest
03/04 Jun. 15-15 UTC 24 hrs Dutch Kingdom Contest 2017
23/24 Sep. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX RTTY 2017 contest
28/29 Okt. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX SSB 2017 contest
25/26 Nov. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX CW 2017 contest
09/10 Dec. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs 10m ARRL 2017 contest