Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summertime updating

I realize I haven't been updating my blog for a while. I've so many ideas and so many projects I want to share. I really should get it out of my head spending time for this radiohobby. Too many things that happen in and around the house and familywise that time of the year. So instead I publish some nice summer photos from our garden to look at...
Enjoy!




Garden July-August 2017

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Worlds within worlds

Many of us not realizing that the amateur radio hobby and this blog (other radioamateur related blogs as well) are part of a world within a world. A kind of parallel world besides the "normal" days of life. I realized it while discussing this with my dad. Others outside this world do see this world but most of the time do not know what is really going on.  In todays "modern" world full of communication technology people share their hobbies much easier and you have many ways to find people worldwide that share your interests and hobbies. The amount of blogs, websites and forums are countless about all kind of subjects from a obscure sport to a collection of rare poststamps. We radio amateurs already had a way to contact other people with the same hobby long before others could. Logically I think we as radio amateurs are living in one of the oldest parallel worlds which we created through communication.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Faster QSO in JT mode

Back in 2009, when I made my first experimental JT65A QSO there was no WSJT-X and no JTDX. We used WSJT (for EME use) and later JT65-HF which was developed W4CQZ, W4CQZ also had a reverse beacon and chat page on which you could meet other interested amateurs for experimenting. Actually I think JT65-HF was easier to use compared to WSJT and increased popularity of JT65 use on HF. Those first years a lot of amateurs were arguing that JT65 was intended for UHF/VHF communications on troposcatter and EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) and improperly used for HF. But soon many discovered that this mode is excellent for weak signal communications especially in surroundings with high noise floors and QRN/QRM. Today in 2017 the popularity of JT digimode is still growing and all radio amateurs want is make a quick QSO on a preferable as long distance as possible. Originally to complete a QSO would last 6 minutes in total. A example here making a contact with my neighbour Gerrie PA4GB:

WSJT-X buttons
CQ PE4BAS JO33
(1 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB JO33
(2 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS -1
(3 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB R-1
(4 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS RRR
(5 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB 73
(6 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS 73

JTDX buttons, notice the options!


Now, this are the rules that are made to complete a JT65 QSO. But why this difficult? HF operators are not really interested in QTH locators (except if distance is part of a contest or a personal issue). JTDX already has a option to skip the locator and skip the RRR. A QSO would look like this:

CQ PE4BAS JO33
(1 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB -1
(2 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS R-1
(3 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB RR73
(4 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS 73

A complete QSO in 4 minutes. And you can even skip the last 73 and call CQ again but that would not really be polite. For a DXpedition however that would be a essential amount of won time.

I already use this kind of 4 minute QSO making for as long as I use JTDX. However the QSO purists do not agree. And I got a lot of refused eQSL just because I did not send the locator or skipped the RRR or they didn't see my last "73". I really don't know why you would like to see a RRR to confirm a HF contact? And what's the use of that last "73" except that it is polite! Oh my, I'm going to get some hate comments now I guess.

Personally I would confirm a 4 minute contact without any problems. We did a signal report both ways just like you work a DXpedition and that is valid as well.

Imagine how fast a FT8 QSO goes when it will be implemented in JTDX! 1 minute!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Magnetic loop experiment

First test with this portable magnetic loop on WSPR TX/RX. The loop setup inside the house as you can see. TX with 5W from the FT-817. Results were good after 2 transmit periods. But receive was difficult as I had some QRN from the computer's power supply which (S5-7). Remember my transmit problems lately with my attempt to get on air from the field? Well, it seems when the laptop is not on a power supply it cuts the 5V supply on the USB port. I use that 5V for powering my USB modem. So, I did a separate receive session with the power supply disconnected.





Loop on RX, did reasonable but still had QRN from electronic equipment nearby.

Loop on TX was a surprise. Best distance with VE3UTT 5880km
I find the loop difficult to tune. Without a external analyzer of SWR meter it is almost impossible to find the resonance point. However it is almost ideal for use inside the house or if you need a antenna for a small footprint and low heigth. I homebrew this one myself with the help of PE1BVQ Hans and Hans kindly donated a nice 3x500pF capacitor as the hearth of the antenna. Thanks again for this Hans! It was not my first experience with a magnetic loop, but the way I build this one was very different from the coppertube one.

Update: just when I thought the band was dead and no spots were received anymore on WSPR I tuned into the JT65 frequency. I made 2x1 minute transmissions and left the receiver on till I had to close the station.

Results 20m JT65 with the loop inside the house
The strange thing is that there was nothing visible on waterfall and nothing was received on the WSPR frequency at that time. Though the JT65 frequency was full of signals.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

FT8 and T10 now accepted by eQSL

Happy to see that eQSL is now accepting the new digimodes C4FM, FT8 and T10. I uploaded my log with FT8 QSOs immidiatly. Nice to see that one of the first FT8 QSOs with A92AA from Bahrain has been confirmed. Thanks QSO & QSL Fawaz, it was a pleasure.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

FT-817 brackets & more thoughts

With some inspiration I got from OH8STN Julian's videos. Julian has brackets on his FT-817 from a company named Chameleon antenna. They make very neat products for the FT-817 and many other accessoires for the ham radio operator that likes to get his radio outside and use it in the field. Now, I don't have the money to buy such a bracket as it would cost me over 150 euro just for some pieces of Aluminium.






Although I am not a skilled machinist or metal worked though I built this militairy style brackets myself. Costs about 20 euro, includes 1 meter of 30x30 Aluminium angle section, RVS bolts, nuts and rings, aluminium primer and matt black spray. The "legs" are made from a scrap piece of RVS. Don't ask how much time it costs to cut the aluminium and filing everything in shape, but be assured it took some hours. Ok, they will not be as rugged and excellent like the Chameleon ones and I don't have the nice strap to hang it on to my shoulder. But it works fine for me.


 I like the way I now have some place for the 12V cable. At the front I have a piece of foam for when I have it in the bag. I secure everything with a piece of velcro.

As some operators have problems with the 12V connector breaking from the printboard I mounted the cable directly at the ground screw. That means that the 12V cable cannot be removed easily, But for my needs that doesn't matter as I don't plan to use it on the internal battery. Hopefully the 12V connector will be safer like this.

I've seen Julian's setup with some digimode modems on top secured,. A great solution which I probabely copy. There goes my idea of a USB stick modem. It also occured to me that I really need to have control over the volume of input/output sound outside the computer. So I'm thinking of rebuild the modem I use so it will fit on top of my FT-817.  It will contain two knobs now to regulate the volume.

Thinking about computers. I really need something else to get on air digital. My old Windows XP laptop was small and light in the past but it isn't anymore. It is slow and the screen is not bright enough to work outside. I was thinking about a tablet with Android. The only problem is that you have to pay for software like PSKdroid etc. If I would have a small laptop with Windows all digi software is free! Besides that you need a special modem to work with a tablet, costs money again which is a problem for me.Besides that I really like to make my own gear.

Just some thoughts...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Looks like RaDAR but isn't

Desperately seeking for time today to get my portable gear and get out for 4 hours.....well I can only dream of a RaDAR participation. But to get the feeling I put everything in the bag. FT-817, digimodem, MP-1 antenna, tripod, 7Ah battery, piece of RG58/U coax, RaDAR logsheets and a pencil. 8,3Kg in total. I travel all the way to the back of our garden and set it up in a hurry. Tuning the antenna after 5 minutes, didn't get a good SWR....5 minutes later I discovered I forgot to connect the radials. Too much hurry. It always amazes me how well the MP-1 receives. I had several stations on 20m with S9+, one of them was 4X6TT. I worked  LZ284SKD without any problem.




Now, I wanted to see if I could make any digi contact. I was planning to do some JT65 mode and for that you need to sync the time. To do that I made a portable WiFi hotspot with my phone so I had a connection with internet. That worked fine. Receive did very well but I couldn't get the whole setup to transmit my signal. Whatever I tried the radio did not switch to transmit. So, no further contacts. I was running out of time as it already started to get dark. So I quickly packed my gear and got it back in the shack were I tried and tested the whole digi setup again. It worked well this time so I guess I had a bad case of RFI into the modem.

I was actually glad I didn't pack for a real RaDAR challenge and just did this small experiment in the garden to get the feel of it. I really like the idea but to be successful you need some good preparation.

What I learned: Test the equipment in the field and not at the base station, I really need some kind of bracket or bag for my radio as I couldn't place it anywhere, don't use RG58 cable I had bad experiences with it in the past and had it again this time, use a light tablet instead of a laptop or get a small laptop.

The biggest problem I had with the laptop is that I could barely read the screen. I know a tablet does a lot better and has power enough for digimode.

Well, it will take some more testing and experience before I can participate in a RaDAR challenge for real. However the half hour I spend to get the feeling of it was very useful.




Thursday, 13 July 2017

Get ready for...RaDAR 15 July 2017



The challenge is on for 24 hours from 00:00-23:59 UTC but you have to pick a 4 hour period during this time to make your contacts.

Best description of the rules can be found in the SARL contest manual: http://www.sarl.org.za/Web3/Members/DoDocDownload.aspx?X=20161222085537waqSliCvbT.PDF

However, I found the description of the rules a little difficult to read. A short 10 point summary:

1. All legal modes can be used, all legal amateurradio bands can be used. Repeaters cannot be used.
2. Exchange: Callsign, Name, RS(T), QTH, Grid locator (6 digits, better 8 or 10 digits)
3. Scoring: 1 point every QSO. If the stations has moved you can make QSO again with a previous worked station.
4. Multipliers: 1x fixed RaDAR station (in building away from home), 2x field RaDAR station (camping), 3x Moving RaDAR station.
5. Bonus points: 5 points for one sat or digi QSO, 5 points for one RaDAR to RaDAR QSO on same continent, 10 points for one RaDAR to RaDAR intercontinental (DX) QSO.
6. After 5 QSOs you have to move, of course you are allowed to make more QSOs but they are not counting.
7. Distance to move see picture!
8. Use a log sheet for every different location see: http://radarops.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/11046905_10152762072212759_727315224761083499_n.jpg
9. A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new
location that moveable RaDAR stations visit.
10. Log sheets must be submitted by  29 July 2017 and
sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com


Extra link: https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/

See Eddie ZS6BNE's blog for background info: https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

FT8 digimode

No, it is not a new Yaesu radio but a new digimode from K1JT. I already read about it from beta testers lately on some facebook pages I follow. But today you can download it from the WSJT site. That will say the new WSJT-X 1.8 with the new FT8 mode.

Don't forget to download the newest JT-Alert 2.9.10 as well if you use this software.

I was actually flabbergasted by the amount of signals I already received at the 20m FT8 frequency. Within a few moments I already worked HA6NN and A92AA. It went that fast I noticed I should have updated JT-Alert first as I was not spotting anyone in this new mode.

Now I did update and can get a breath....this is a incredible fast mode but not as sensitive as JT65/JT9, it decodes only till -20dB. The QSO is half automatic, that will say. If you answer a CQ the software will answer after you receive a report and finish the QSO, if you call CQ you only have to click the call and after the software transmits the report it will handle the rest of the QSO automatically. A complete QSO starting with CQ is finished in....7x15 seconds = 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is really fast and you really need to concentrate not to miss anything. It is totally different from JT65 and JT9 and absolutely not "zen". I think this mode would qualify for contesting in the (near) future.

Just to let you know there is another new digimode based on the JT modes. Called T10 and developed in the JTDX software. I didn't test it yet as I have issues with the newer JTDX software. I really need a faster computer I think...

While writing this blogpost, look at the map below and at the right side of this blogpost at my latest QSOs. It is incredible....


I have seen fellow blogger PC4T also a few times on this new digimode and expect a blogpost from him soon.... ;-)

Monday, 10 July 2017

How I work JT digimode

I almost forgot but I promised some people to show how I work with the JT digimode. The software I use and what pages on the internet are useful to see were your signal is heard.



The video shows how I work JT modes. It doesn't show all the possebilities. I know it is possible to configure some alerts with a second soundcard to give you alerts when a certain station is calling CQ or even any new DX. I know there are radio amateurs who have the system on 24/7 and will get on the keyboard as soon as they hear a alert that a new station or DX can be contacted. Working DX is going to be completely different compared to a decade ago.

Some of you will notice that I don't work with the latest version of JTDX and JT-Alert. It still works fine. Personally I'm having issues with the newer version of JTDX, mainly because it doesn't have the audio input slider anymore. So, I hope in future versions it will be back in as JTDX is really fine software to work the DX on this great digimode.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

NLCs, PMSE and SSSP

I am not writing something new and am not the first to write about it. But at the 3rd of this month there was clearly a evidence that propagation between Europe and Japan, Korea and China is not ES or sporadic-E. The 3rd of July PA0O Jaap wrote it in his blog that propagation was very good and he made his first QSO with China on JT65.

At the same date there were very strong PMSEs (Polar Summertime Mesoshperic Echoes) measured at 56MHz from Norway. These echoes are related to NLCs (Noctilucent Clouds) which can be seen here in Europe at the evening just after sunset if you're lucky!

Years ago JE1BMJ discovered SSSP (Summer Solstice Shortpath Propagation) and named it like that after the translation help of G3WOS. You can read about SSSP in relation to PMSEs in this 2006 publication. If you like the ride the SSSP waves you can read Han's tips on radio and especially antennas in this publication as well. However, 10 years ago you really needed a big yagi and some power to explore the SSSP, these days with the use of JT modes it is theoretically possible to make a QSO via SSSP with a high enough vertical and 50W.

Noctilucent clouds seems to be getting stronger each year as it is believed CFCs, methane and carbon dioxide are contributing to forming these clouds. You can find a nice research here.

G3XBM Roger has been writing about this several times on his blog and you can read the following on his website about this:

NLCs typically appear about 20 days prior to the summer solstice, increase quickly to a high summer level, and then disappear about 50 days after the summer solstice. These clouds are mostly a high latitude phenomenon, and are believed to be composed of ice crystals. VHF radars see very strong echoes from these clouds, and since they are at mesospheric heights (80 to 90 km), they are also known as polar mesosphere summer echoes (PMSE). These clouds are hypothesized by JE1BMJ and others to be responsible for 6m propagation across high latitudes (for example, from the East Coast of North America to Japan) during the northern hemisphere summer. This mode of propagation has been dubbed Summer Solstice Short-path Propagation (SSSP).










Tuesday, 4 July 2017

40m FSQ last weekend

Heard list last weekend
Are you all very curious how my FSQ activation last weekend went? Well, I was not on the keyboard/radio much but at least my station was open for tests en experiments. Unfortenately we had a lot of QRM from a RTTY contest and sometimes the frequency was very much occupied causing the squelch not to open. I had the idea there is more activity on 40m FSQ compared to the 30m band but it could be the announcement and blogposts from Julian OH8STN and me helped. At daylight most stations are on 7044 for "local" contacts and at night most QSY to 7104 for any DX possebilities. I did the same but didn't see any DX. I saw Richard G3CWI did some tests to retrieve my webcam image. He did receive something but it was not that good (my webcam is not that good, it's just for test purposes). I discovered that if you leave the webcam window open the software (FSQcall) will give a message and your TX will lock. Most of the time I was "on-air" I was on remote with my phone and I was not at home. FSQ is, just like other digimode programs, ideal for remote operation. So far it still is a interesting program and there are enough possebilities you can experiment with to keep you busy for a long time.  From HB9AVK I understood there is a way to store messages for the opposite station, I saw him trying but could not find where message has been stored. It would be similair to packet radio and in some way ideal if you can read messages when you attend your radio shack or computer (by remote) but you would need a simple way to retrieve them. I also saw some differences between FSQcall and FLdigi in the station heard list were FLdigi gives a list with reports which is much more interesting. So, I decided to setup my second (portable) digimode station to test things and see what program is more useful and interesting for this mode. My portable station was pe4bas/p and my base station was just pe4bas. It gave me useful insights in the differences between FSQcall and FLdigi.

The differences

FSQcallFLdigi
Possible to send webcam images direct from webcamNot possible to send webcam images direct from webcam
Possible to start receive images manuallyNot possible to start receive images manually
Possible to add a message at sounding transmissionNot possible to add message but sends sounding time in monitor
Sends station heard list without reportsSends station heard list inclusing time heard and signal report
Sounding transmits between other transmissionsSounding has no priority and waits till other transmissions are over

There might be even more differences but these are the ones I discovered so far. It also occured to me that originally FLdigi callsigns are not set in lower case. If you want to work on FSQ with FLdigi please configure "call in lower case" under tab modems -> FSQ.

Then the case why my receive images were not opened automatically at FSQcall when someone started transmission of a image. My tests revealed that you always need to direct your message and also the transmission of your image. That means if you want to send your image to everyone for reviewing you need to do it like this "allcall%" open your picture send screen and send your message. In FLdigi it opens automatically. That way all receiving stations on the channel will automatically receive your picture. Now it puzzles me how to do that when you want to retrieve the webcam image from FSQ at you opposite station as it is a non directed transmission when you get it with for example "pe4bas% w" it just starts transmitting the image and for FLdigi users that is a problem as they cannot start the image receive manually as far as I know.

Well, I hope this is not to chaotic for you all to read. Most of it has come up in my mind yesterday and today. I don't know which program I prefer for FSQ. If you use Linux it is simple, you choose FLdigi. When using Windows you could run both programs at the same time and use what you please.


Just for FSQ beginners. The picture transmission is not synchronised. That means you have to correct your image after you receive it. The program is sensitive and you need to not start other programs when you receive a image. Above in the picture at the left after I received a photo and at the right after correction. The image was send from pe4bas/p (on dummyload) -> pe4bas and signal was about -5dB



Last but not least a picture from FLdigi with FSQ just after I send a webcam picture to "allcall". This time the receive pic screen opened and after correction this was the result, Don't look at the frequency, the radio was not CAT connected. I tested on 10.144.

I will keep an eye on this mode and software as this is worth some more experimenting. What I showed is just part of the possebilities FSQ has. If you read the manual you will discover that it is capable of exchange telemetry and could be connected to all kind of things like for example a weatherstation. These things are beyond me knowledge but interest me. I hope some of the users will try and make FSQ even more interesting.

Richard G3CWI observed some interesting things as well. You can find his research so far on his blog here: http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/blog/fsq-data-system-tested/

Friday, 30 June 2017

40m FSQ this weekend

Screenshot from part of the experiment...
I have decided to organize my own FSQ activation this weekend, but choose a different band to experiment within the Netherlands as well. Frequency of choice is 7044 KHz (40m band).

I'm planning to use a small webcam as well. You can get the image with the command "pe4bas% w".
Will try to setup some files for experimental download (if someone wishes).
However, remember this happening some years ago, I will not be on the keyboard most of the time as I've other things to do this weekend. I might occasionally log in on remote to view any results.

I've been testing with G3CWI Richard from England on 30m FSQ last wednesday evening. We had a very reliable connection although sometimes RTTY trying to interfere. We did some tests with relaying, chat mode and picture sending. At least a shortcoming of the chat mode was discovered. And I didn't get the program to start receiving a picture automatically, not shure if it is my fault?

Chatfunction:
It is important to first click the call in the heard list, then type your message so your message will show up in the chatscreen, otherwise you can only read it in the monitor screen. The problem however is that when you have typed part of your message and are transmitting that, everything you type while transmitting is not showing in the chatscreen. We found that it is a shortcoming of the software.

Receiving:
You can get best results with receiving FSQ if you apply a small filter. Like a 350Hz CW filter. Just letting the signal through and nothing else. Richard told me that with AGC off on the radio it seems to be better as well, at least he had better results.

Relay:
We tested the relay function, it works well. Don't forget to address it with the call you want to send your message to. See....the manual.


If you like, jump into the FSQ network. Just to experiment...hope to see some of you in my heard list.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Versatile FSQ digimode

Last weekend there was the fieldday. Julian OH8STN noted on facebook he was going to be QRV portable digital as his personal fieldday. I wrote about Fast Simple QSO digimode before. I tested it with Julian that time also with success. This time besides Julian there was a norwegian station LB9YH involved as well. We actually received each other very well. But....it would be nice if for example in a weekend of choice there would be a couple more radio experimenters on to test FSQ. If you're only want to make QSOs for your logbook this experiment is not interesting for  you as there is no QSO involved, only a connection to other stations. If you are interested this piece of software is easy to understand but has a lot of features you can experiment with...

So I was thinking. When there is a huge distaster or war going on and there is no internet anymore, no telephone, no "commercial" radio or TV even no electricity. I know, that is really worse....
We as hobby radio operators still have possebilities to send our messages, fax, pictures, files and whatever information you like. But what about those systems like Winlink and PSKmail which are widely used by emergency nets? They don't relay messages without internet as the "servers" are just relaying from air to landlines. No, you really need a simple independent system which can run individually or as a kind of network free for everyone with a amateurradio license to jump in without any membership, payment or code. I think FSQ comes close to this system.

So I downloaded and installed the newest version of FSQcall, although you can run FSQ also in FLdigi (FLdigi can run on both Windows and Linux). It really is a simple to understand program and most things are automatic. The interesting thing is that you can use a number of commands to get information from the station you see without intervention of the other operator. For example your signal report, location from the other station, a webcam image, fax, files etc.

FSQcall can be found on: http://www.qsl.net/zl1bpu/MFSK/FSQweb.htm
You can also find a powerpoint here which compares FSQ with pro ALE systems that are in use for example in the military.

FLdigi FSQ configuration here: http://www.w1hkj.com/FldigiHelp-3.22/fsq_configuration_page.html


I was planning to make a video but KB9RLW Kevin has already done it. You get a impression....



If you like to install the program yourself to experiment it could be wise to click help and read the FSQ introduction first.

Calling Frequencies

Region 1 (Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Northern Asia)
80m     3588 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7044 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10144 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Region 2 (The Americas)
80m     3594 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7104 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10144 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Region 3 (Asia-Pacific)
80m     3580 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7105 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10149 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Friday, 16 June 2017

The PL259 myth

You often read or hear that every PL259 connector on your coax adds 0,5dB loss. This might be the truth on UHF and higher. But on HF/VHF that's not the case.

Recently I was thinking about the 50m Aircell7 coax I run to my antenna now through a homemade disconnect/patch panel. So, this coaxcable to my HF antenna contains 4 PL259 connectors and a female/female barrel to connect the 2 pieces. 50m Aircell7 has a loss of about 1,8dB on 28MHz and 2,4dB on 50MHz. I've no interest in VHF/UHF so leave that out.

At the new antennamast I want to have another patchpanel at the bottom of the mast like I had before in my previous QTH. I want to add some lightning protectors and a galvanic isolation transformer for the highest (HF) antenna in my mast. Now I was afraid all the PL259 connectors would add a significant loss to my transmission line. But after all I think it is not that much.

Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6 demonstrated at the Dayton Hamvention in 1985 that the loss in an 83-1SP PL-259 connector averages .0435 dB per connector at 28 MHz.
The primary difference between a "zero loss" PL-259 installation and a lossy one is how the connector is installed


PE4BAS experimental test site
However, I'm not a believer. I like to test this out. Although I haven't any high sensitive equipment, only my trusty MFJ-259B. Is the PL259 loss a myth or can I bust this? I did some test this evening and made some interesting discoveries.

My not-so-scientific test setup: MFJ-259B, 2 pieces of 10m long Aircell7 coax laid down in the too long grass with PL259 connectors both sides. Only soldered at the center. Braid is screwed into the connector when I assembled it in 2005.

10m Aircell7 has a calculated loss of 0,36dB. 2 PL connectors have a calculated loss of 0,087dB = 0,3687dB (0,37dB including the female/female barrel connector). Total loss of the 2 pieces calculated 0,74dB. Lets see:

Left: 1 Piece of coax - Right 2 Pieces connected
Of course the MFJ-259 is not very accurate and has losses itself. However, this is not a bad result.
Ready to do a practical real life connector test...

13 connectors in total
I connected the 2 pieces of coax with as much connectors and connecting barrels as I had. Besides 2 times PL259 I added 11 connectors. This should add a calculated loss of about 0,4785 dB (0,48dB). But in real life it only add 0,1dB.


Another test....add 4 times a 90 degree connector. Now this is going to be serious!!! There could be a faulty connector. So test just one of them:


Still higher loss. 1 90 degree connector 0,7dB loss,  The 90 degree corner does probabely affect the impedance of 50 Ohm?

PE1BVQ Hans is always searching for silverplated old PL (and other) connectors at radio rallies. Preferable the original amphenol ones. I asked him why, he says they are the best, others can add a lot of loss in your system. Could that be true? Or is this another myth that's going to be busted?

Let's see:


I changed the 90 degree connector for a silverplated original Amphenol one. Gone is the loss! How strange is that?

Well, of course I don't use any superduper sensitive low loss equipment but it shows that there can be a difference in connectors. As long as the connectors are mounted in a straight line it hardly gives any loss. Very important of course is a good soldering connection between the coax and the PL connector.

A few tips:

* Solder both core and braid. Best way in my opinion is how it is done by K3LR.
* Keep connectors clean so they can make a good lossless connection
* Tighten them well. I checked that as well this evening, a loose connector gives about 1dB or more loss and propabely a lot of unwanted RF around the loose connection!
* Prefer silverplated (Amphenol) connectors, they probabely are the best you can get.
* Amphenol too expensive? Look for them on radio rallies. I payed about 50 cents for the 90 degree connector.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The 6m band holy grail

For us here in Europe the holy grail of the 6m band would be working Japan on 50MHz. There are several thoughts about how a distance like this can happen. But at least you need ES propagation or Sporadic E just what you like to call it. This happens only a few times a year and only at a small timeslot around 9 UTC it is possible to hear and transmit your signal to Japan. There are years that this doesn't even happen at all. With JT65/JT9 mode it is a lot easier to spot Japan, but a QSO is still difficult as the JT modes are just too slow. However I managed to spot a few Japanese, best distance was 9125km spotted JR2WYD. My neighbour PA0O even worked Korea on 6m for the first time in his 30 years DXing on the 6m band!  I was surprised I spotted DS4EOI from Korea today at -16dB myself, that's a great signal on JT65! Think of my antenna system which consists of my Watson W2000 triband at only 6m height and 3 pieces on Aircell7 coax all connected through PL connectors. Crappy 6m setup you would say. Imagine what could happen if I had my mast and 5 element 6m yagi up!



Another spot intrigues me. N6ML at that time of the day. Strange propagation....


Some 6m experiments

Did some experiments last evening. On 6m that was, a band that is only really open during the so called ES season. And wow, it is open for shure. Last couple of years it was not that good I remember, but this year it is very good.

First experiment was some CQ calling on CW and view if it was received. Wow, it was received. Did not expect that. A easy view if propagation is good and in what direction.

Second was to call CQ on USB, see if someone would come back to my tiny signal. Using about 50W this time on my 6m heigh W2000 triband antenna. And yes, they came back....a complete pile-up. Everyone wants to talk to me....feel like a important DXCC ;-)

Last experiment was to work DX on JT65, but although Brazil was received (-10dB!) it is not a easy task to work DX with my setup. However I know it is possible and just a matter of perseverance...


No real DX QSO, but I was spotted in the USA by WD8JJA with -18dB. Theoretically a QSO would have been possible... I used about 30W.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Digital revolution or evolution (VE7SL)

Don't do this very often. But this post is very interesting and intriguing. I've been thinking about this to write here in my blog but Steve VE7SL wrote about it already.

In case you missed it:

http://ve7sl.blogspot.nl/2017/06/digital-revolution-or-evolution.html

Monday, 5 June 2017

Dutch Kingdom Contest 2017 review

Event: Dutch Kingdom Contest 2017
Section: LOW power SSB (A1SSB)
Logger: N1MM+ latest version
Station: Icom IC-706MK2G at 100W
Antenna 1: Coppertape vertical (7,1m)  @9m agl
Antenna 2: Watson W2000 for 6m @6m agl

Just looking back at my last year effort. I had the feeling propagation was even worse. I started Saturday evening and there were only few on the 20m and 40m bands. However I made some DX, don't ask me how it was possible...Then Sunday morning, I woke up very early and started on 40m....an empty band. Really nothing could be heard except for some CW at the low part and of course the ever present JT signals on 7076 the rest was noise only. 20m band was empty as well, other bands are normally not open early in the morning. So, no one came back after calling CQ on both bands for 15 minutes and I decided to do some 60m JT65 operating instead, that went well although signals were not that strong. Later in the morning 40m and 20m still almost dead, only a few stations in the background. 6m seems to be opening and again decided to do some JT65 mode there to wait for better propagation. Then the family woke up and had to do other things. Just before the afternoon had some minutes to try again. 6m and 10m was much better and although most stations did not participate in the contest I still got some stations back to me as apparently there was another contest going on as well. Had to stop contesting before noon. Unfortenately I didn't work any known expat (extra points) like I did in previous years. I did work SO8FH (PA0F) Frits on 6m but he was not in the contest as he told me so I guess he is not known at the DKC organisation for extra points. On 10m I spoke TK/PH2A, not shure if he counts for extra points as well. In the end the 6m band saved the contest a bit, actually it was my best band after all. Total amount of QSOs is higher compared to last year. I defend my first place though I'm not shure I will be able to maintain.....time will tell.

Combined results map

Friday, 2 June 2017

6m band conditions - Reminder DKC contest this weekend! - Another record!


Above the 6m band yesterday evening. Heard HI3T several times but was unable to make a QSO. A directional antenna would be great but haven't got it yet and still do with the W2000 vertical. Neighbour station Jaap PA0O did make it to Japan yesterday morning

Just to remind you all that the Dutch Kingdom Contest is this weekend. Sections and rules here. Keep in mind that the IARU CW fieldday is on also and we don't want to interfere. The contest is from 15:00-15:00 UTC (24h).

My effort in the CQWW CW contest last year did pay off. It seems I have luck chasing Netherlands records. A lot of fun...

Thursday, 1 June 2017

GPS timing for JT modes

After my last post about the Denmark holiday experimental radio activity I got a lot of e-mail if the GPS timing I wanted to make is already working. Strange not many amateurs use GPS timing instead of a NTP internet timing. It is very common with for example the WSPR kits from Hans Summers G0UPL. If you are in the field without a internet connection GPS might do the trick and you get some extras as well. I know many blog readers are eagerly waiting for this post I even got a e-mail from HS0ZBS Kurt who only has a internet connection through his phone. He likes JT modes but has to pay lots of money only to keep his laptop on time, a GPS timing would be perfect for him.

So, I bought a cheap small bluetooth keyring GPS receiver for this task. I researched the minimum requirements for this task and think it is important to have a Sirf3 GPS module chip inside the receiver to have best receiving capabilities. I payed 25 euro for it but I'm certain there are cheaper ones with or without bluetooth. For instance this one on Aliexpress for 15 USD only. Unfortenately I had bad luck as the Li-ion 3,7V 450mAh battery inside was broken. I considered to send it back but that would mean it would take several more weeks to continue experimenting. So I decided to hook it up to an old tablet battery I had on my desk. The GPS was starting now and made connection with sats and with my laptop. Unfortenately my old Windows XP laptop didn't assign COM ports to the bluetooth communication ports automatically, but I solved that manually. Still it didn't show location and didn't sync time. Even a test tool couldn't make a connection. Finally as a last solution I restarted the computer and magically the GPS coms came alive...

I use a time sync program from IZ2BKT which is doing both synchronisation via internet and GPS. The extras and proof it is working are the exact coordinates and WW locator you are in together with the altitude. This is great info for those that are working in fieldday, RaDAR or portable configuration.


Friday, 26 May 2017

Prize giving and Jutberg 2017 radio rally

I had the opportunity to do the prize giving myself as Hans PE1BVQ did invite me to travel with him to the Jutberg radio rally. Hans did win the book "The complete DXer" when he finally found my location in the little give away contest I did last month. We had a great time at the radio rally searching for items we can use in our experiments and during the travel we talked a lot about the hobby and other things. If I never started this blog back in 2008 I would never have met Hans I guess. One of the great things that happened through writing about my radio experiments and adventures on the internet.

I made a small video with a impression of the radio rally and included some photos from items I found interesting.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Some solutions...

Sorry for not updating the blog for a few weeks. Other things besides the hobby occupied my time. Not that I was completely absent from the hobby. I removed the 10m HB9CV again and it was replaced with the Watson W2000 6/2/70 antenna for 6m mainly. Unfortanely so far I did not see much sporadic E coming this way. Although I was spotted in the Ukraine when the band seems to be closed! I've also been on MSK144 but only spotted a German and a English station. I probabely expect too much from this mode or I have to wait for ES or meteors.

Some solutions came up for the problems I encountered when operating portable in Denmark. First of all one of my colleagues on the job modified my tripod to mount the MP-1 directly on top just like the tripods superantenna is selling. Normally a tripod is provided with a plastic mount on which you can screw your camera, you can turn your camera then in several angles. Nice, but not strong enough to hold a long antenna in the wind. Now I just have a single 1/4" bolt on top of the tripod...

Another problem was how to handle a QSO on JT65/JT9 digimode with a extra prefix? The software is limited to just your call and when you're in another country you have a problem in handling a complete QSO as it just ignores for example OZ/. The solution came last week in a QSO with 5Z4/DL2RMC from Kenya. As you can see in the picture I tried to send 5Z4/DL2RMC TNX 73 but the software/mode is limited, confused as I was I clicked the wrong report message and quickly changed that to DL2RMC PE4BAS RR73. DL2RMC came back with his full call. So I assume not completely correct but when abroad you better send CQ OZ/PE4BAS (no locator as that is too long), in response there is no other possebility to send only your call without the extra prefix. For the opposite station it is important to finish with the full call like DE OZ/PE4BAS 73. Will think of that next time...

At the 4th day we were in Denmark the laptop lost his internet connection and since the internal clock from this old laptop has a 10 sec. delay every 5 minutes it completely lost it's time resulting in no decodes on WSPR anymore. I've thinking about this and this is also a problem when you want to do WSPR or JT modes in the field without a internet connection. As known these modes need exact timing from a highly accurate clock. So I was thinking about a small USB or bluetooth GPS receiver for this task. Together with IZ2BKT's BktTimeSync it should work. I will order a cheap keyring GPS receiver to test if it does and report about this later.


I finally combined PSK, JT and SSB logs and come till a total of 10 QSO from Denmark. That doesn't sound much but considering the setup and my holiday style operating I think it is well done.