Thursday, January 29, 2015

CQ DX thursday

Due to circumstances I had some hours to spend in the morning for some good old SSB DXing I so much like in this hobby. Looking for DX on various bands costs time. I decided only to go for 20-10m SSB and spend only 30 minutes on digimode. Propagation was very reasonable today and I first worked JW9JKA from Bear Isl. EU-027 Svalbard on 15m, he was real 5/9. I decided to call CQ on 12m as the band was open but not many active there. I have experienced I could be successful on that band. There was RA9OFE Alex coming back from Asiatic Russia. I continued calling CQ but it seems no one was listening.

V51WH Gunter
So up to 10m I listened to V51WH Gunter from Namibia for a while, it seems propagation was coming up. Gunter was going to work split but what he did not hear was 3B8HC Paul from Mauritius on his split frequency, I did hear him though and made a QSO. A while after that I met Gunter again lonely on the 10m band and made a QSO with him too. I decided to go back to 12m again, don't know but that band attracts me it's quiet and very suitable for DX. Surprisingly I met JW9JKA there and again I managed a QSO. After that I moved up a few kc and started calling DX again, now there were more stations listening and I was called by several east-europeans with most memorable contact RA3QVS/QRP who was working with a dipole and 8W. I worked him with 8W as well and we were both 5/9 at our signal meters. I then saw a spot on the cluster from VK1MA Matt in Melbourne on 20m and just tried to reach him as well, Australia on 20m is often not easy but I managed to work him.

VK6KXW Peter
At the last 30 minutes of the morning I decided to listen some music and do some JT mode and worked VK6KXW on 10m JT9 with the FT-817 5W on the HB9CV.

SSB has the disadvantage that you need to be concentrated all the time. Digimode has the advantage you can do several things at the same time, like blogging and listening music. I chose digimode in the evening and listened some music again. I worked only one station on 30m JT65. I moved down to 40m but it seems the real DX starts a lot later in the evening or at night. Did some CQ on JT9 but it seems no one was listening. I was only spotted by a few on hamspots. However, it was a nice DX day....

Screenshot WSJT-X/JT-Alert

Sunday, January 25, 2015

EP6T at the end of the DXpedition

Not much time for playing radio lately I decided to spend time this morning to try and work EP6T from Iran. I didn't give it much of a chance as EP6T was weak on 12m and 15m SSB this morning. The pile-up was still very busy. Luckely the operator did direct ON and PA stations to another split frequency in Dutch, that saved a lot of time as it took only one call to get in the log. I have been working Iran before so it is not a ATNO but to get QSL is another story. Hopefully EP6T will confirm via LOTW. Now, this DXpedition is located at Kish Island. But were is Kish Island? I've been looking for it and found it is a very touristic island with a large airport, shopping malls, touristic attractions, beautiful beaches and it has a free trade zone. I think it is one of the most luxuary parts of the country. What we see from Iran most of the time are women in black clothes and religious man with beards. But Iran has a very western side as well, a legacy of the past. At the moment there is a documentary on dutch TV about the life of the dutch journalist Thomas Erdbrink who is married with a Iranian women and lives in Iran. The documentary is in Dutch/English/Persian. I've just seen the first episode and it's very interesting. The documentary can be viewed online.


Thomas does like to interview people on the streets. And give a view of real life in Teheran. Not the thing we usually see in the news.

Iran has 80 million inhabitants and only 13 official radioamateurs. EP6T and the Rockall DX group are promoting hamradio in Iran and hopefully the number of radioamateurs will increase. However Iran is a country with many (invisible) rules and so I hope the new radioamateurs will be able to actually transmit in the end. Time will tell.

Update 26-Jan-2015: Totally unexpected I found EP6T transmitting in the afternoon on 10m, their signal was 5/9 on the HB9CV. But pile-up was huge. So all I could do was sticking on a frequency and repeat my call when I knew the operator was doing a S&P. I was lucky at the end and made another QSO with EP6T on 10m SSB. I've been calling on 17m as well, but had little spare radio time left and so I had to let them go there.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The award program

John MW1CFN pointed me to the new award program from via his blog today. So I thought to give it a try. Not that I am a award hunter. But it looks nice on your QRZ page. So if you like you can participate as well. And it's not just for XML subscribers but for every registered hamradio call. Just log in and click on your logbook, when it opens you can click the award button on top and acquire one ore two.

Now the problem is that only a few operators are uploading/confirming on giving you only limited chances to get awards. Luckely it's now possible to download your LOTW confirmations and so that will give you some more chance.

This is how it shows on after you got the awards:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ramifications of the 100% transmitting beacons

Reading and commenting on a post about the new 10m W5OLF WSPR beacon AE5X John made and tested, something important has been pointed out. Regarding the use of 100% transmitting beacons on WSPR, you should read this comment first! There are not yet so many of these new WSPR beacons around but if this type of beacon really becomes populair whe face a bit of a problem. WSPR signals can be heard on a fixed part of the band in a bandwidth of 2500 Hz (200Hz audiobandwidth), as long as beacons only transmit a percentage of a 100% time span it's easy to fit more then 100 stations in this bandwidth. But if these WSPR kits become populair and you live near some (20-30) of these continuous beacons it will be hard to find a free frequency to transmit or receive a WSPR signal. Luckely my 30m W5OLF WSPR beacon does not have this problem as it the 2 minute transmissions are triggered by a timer. Another thing you have to think of when using these kind of transmitters is that a TX only beacon is a bit selfish. If everyone is using these kind of TX only beacons no one is spotted anymore. Because of this I will only use my beacon occasionally.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

First Light

Bert PA1B wrote me a e-mail as he did read my first postings about the 30m W5OLF VCXO-AXE WSPR beacon. He wrote me his thoughts about it.This is my free translation:

I've been reading the first article and results about the 30m W5OLF VCXO-AXE beacon this afternoon. The fun of this hobby is that you build a small transmitter or receiver which you can test instantly with spectaculair distances as result. I saw your first spots of January 5th then I realized it's just like "First Light" when you look through a new built telescope. That's why I made a summary for your blog from these very first 2 minute transmission.

Bert is a very special radio amateur. As he sees milliWatts what we see as Watts. A 1000 milliWatt would be QRO for him. Bert, thanks for analyzing the first spots. If my beacon had a power of just 1 milliWatt it would have been spotted in Wales and Norway. Amazing!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

WSPR 30m 990 minute run

I decided to do a last run on the power supply in the shack. 99 times a 10 minute slot. This time I used the vertical. The advantage is that I can use my radio to listen elsewhere. I choose the 40m band to listen to on SSB and JT65/JT9. Wow, I didn't hear much 2 or 3 stations with very low signals, rest of the band was quiet. JT65/JT9 was very active though signals were just audible. I was spotted several times with 5W on JT9 but despite several CQs didn't make any QSOs. The results on 30m WSPR were not promising, some spots at night but it took till sunrise when spots really came in. Best DX was VK7DIK from Tasmania (16876km).

WW spots

EU spots

EU close spots

USA spots
Till now I'm satisfied with the performance of the WSPR kit. It doesn't run hot. The Gymboss timer has a 1 second deviation at a complete 99 times run, very acceptable. However the goal is to solar power it and leave it running apart from the radioshack with a dedicated antenna. So I'll stop the tests for now till I have the WSPR kit installed in the garage on the solar powered battery and made a dedicated antenna.

Friday, January 9, 2015

WSPR kit boxed

It seems building and testing a WSPR kit is not that interesting. The amount of blog readers dropped dramatically last couple of days. I don't care.....I'm having fun!

I decided I better spend all available hobby time to finish the kit like I want it to have it. I found a nice box with a transparant cover just big enough to fit the VCXO-AXE, Timer and voltage regulator in. The voltage regulator is a L78S10CV capable of doing 2A current at 10V. Input should of course be above 10V till about 35V. A solar powered battery would be just fine. The voltage regulator is mounted at the box together with a piece of aluminium for a bit of extra cooling. I also mounted a reverse polarity protection with a simple diode and a 1A fuse. I did a test again and the voltage regulator doesn't run warm at all, the kit gives a nice stable 1W now tested between about 11-16V input. Just to show you how small it all is I made a photo to compare is with the size of my FT-817.

I let it run again on 30m last night. Propagation was not very good. Have been looking at the results from Peter PA4PS who did 5W transmissions, he was reported by multiple stations with very low reports. I guess it is still a result of the solar storm and the effect on the magnetic field.

Results last night. TX WSPR 1W on 80m horizontal loop

The next step is to move the WSPR VCXO-AXE kit to the garage. I will install it near the solar powered battery that feeds the CG3000 automatic antennatuner. That way I have my solar powered WSPR beacon. The problem only is that the solar panel (50W max) is now getting to small. I will have to save some money in the future to upgrade. Another step is constructing a antenna for 30m near the garage not interfering with my other antennas too much. That will be another challenge.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

30m WSPR at night 7-8 Jan.

Results from last night transmitting with the VCXO-AXE on the horizontal loop. I hoped for a spot from AE5X who did some experiments with a Funcube Pro+. Unfortenately propagation was not good enough I guess. Still it is amazing were my signal was heard, the VCXO-AXE is very small with conventional components. But I guess with SMD it could have been half the size and that way it would fit in for example a matchbox (not a antenna matchbox).

Monday, January 5, 2015

30m W5OLF WSPR VCXO-AXE beacon kit (3)

When you were monitoring WSPR on 30m you probabely noticed I was on air with the WSPR VCXO-AXE. It does a excellent job. After I finished building I wanted to tune it with my frequency counter in the MFJ259B. Assuming we had to do with a USB signal I wanted to tune at the VFO frequency we normally use on our radios. But it didn't get that low. I asked AE5X John who built one a few years ago and he suggested I should try 1,65V on pin 1 of the VCXO as described in the manual. It then occured to me that the tx is probabely AM and you have to tune at the actual transmit frequency we all receive on. The tests I did proved that. At 1,65V on pin 1 the transmit frequency is 10.1402 MHz as seen on the photo from my test site.

I first connected the kit without the Gymboss timer to see if it would work. At the dummyload it gave exact 1W at 10V after I adjusted the variable cap. Just like advertised! Then I connected it at the horizontal loop and did transmission one! I monitored myself to see my signal en frequency. I noticed a lot of drift. Julian had noticed this as well and found out the problem is the heating of the 7805 voltage regulator affecting the VCXO which is nearby. Just in case I made some extra cooling with some alu foil.I later realized that the VCXO has to stabilize. And reports became better, 0 and -1 drift.

Reports from the first transmission
On the photo above you can see the oscillator signal when not transmitting and then at :26 and :30 the actual signal with drift and audio artifacts as the transmitter is very close to the receiver. I added the Gymboss timer as well now to let it run 99 cycles. I took a 8 minute time slot just like Julian did and let it run the rest of the day. For now I power it with my adjustable powersupply on 10V. But in the future I want it solar powered with a dedicated antenna. I probabely install it in the garage and not in the shack.
I was curious what the current drain would be as that is important for powering it with solar energy. I have a DC amp clamp meter which shows roughly 500mA when transmitting with 1W. A little high I think, should measure it with another multimeter. On standby it should be 34mA. At the end of the day I decided to switch it off. I was reported by 44 unique calls and best DX was VK5MR at 15690km. I ordered a 78L10 voltage regulator so I hope to connect the WSPR TX directly to a 12V supply like a solar powered battery. Not shure about the housing. And I probabely need to use a low pass filter to supress the harmonics. Anyway, that are worries for later. The WSPR TX kit works and that was one of the goals of this project.

30m W5OLF WSPR VCXO-AXE beacon kit (2)

 Our little girl was at grandma's house between Christmas and New Years eve. So, we had a couple of quiet days. Ideal to build a project like this. First of all I had to solder te small VCXO, the most difficult part to solder as it has no normal connections. It took me a while and after I thought it was allright I checked the connections with a magnifying glass. It looked ok so I continued with the resistors, capacitors and transistors. Jay provided a excellent step-to-tep description for the kit and I had no problems to assemble. Then I had to wind my first torroid ever. 29 turns on a small ring, a very small ring and very thin wire for my big hands. As you can see on the photos the ring is even smaller as the picture of Jay's description. Actually it didn't give me trouble at all, the picture of it in the manual how to count the windings is very clear. I didn't solder the power connector but attached a supply lead directly. Now it is time for the most exciting moment, does it work?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

30m W5OLF WSPR VCXO-AXE beacon kit (1)

It has been years ago already that I first noticed this kit from G4ILO's blog. I think that's the same post were I discovered AE5X John's blog. They were both very enthousiastic about the little WSPR kit and at a certain point I made a comment that this would be the ideal WSPR tx to power with solar energy. So far so good, I didn't order one as it was not clear to me how. Till Jay W5OLF wrote me he had them still available with ordering instructions. A few weeks later I received the kit and ordered a gymboss timer to trigger the switch on the kit as well. It was really my goal to build it that year and write about it on this blog. But other things happened and time did go on. Now it's almost 4 years later and since Roger G3XBM is experimenting with a new 10m WSPR kit from W5OLF I decided it was time to finally build the thing. I actually started with the Gymboss timer mod found on G4ILO's blog. I already printed that mod on paper as I don't know how long Julian's blog will be online now he left us. Julian did not make photos from the work he did on the Gymboss. I did, but it was a little difficult. Photos are not that good as I made them with my phone. But you get the idea. Dismanteling the timer is not the problem. Modifying didn't gave me much trouble. But then you have to put everything back in the case. Not easy but I managed it finally. The Gymboss timer is ready for connecting. Back to the WSPR kit now in a next post.

Friday, January 2, 2015

New JT-Alert 2.5.6

Just received via HamApps group post.
JTAlert 2.5.6 is available for download.

From the Release Notes...
  New Features:
    - "Blocked Spotting" popup window when spots sent to have been
       blocked due to wrong band spotting.
    - Band Activity Window JT65 and JT9 background colors user settable.
       (Window : Settings, Section: Window,Band Activity Display).
    - Works with new 0.9.92 version of JT65-HF HB9HQX Edition.
       (Important Note: Only JT65-Log, the default, is supported)
    - Decodes History Odd/Even row color changes no longer require restart.
    - JTAlertX 5 second delay in clearing QSO Partner Callsign now only applies
       if WSJT-X "Clear DX Call..." setting is enabled.
    - WSJT-X created temporary directory being held open by JTAlertX.
    - HB9HQX decodes not detected when WSJT-X instance is is also running.
    - Line 1179 error in JTDecodesHistory.plugin file.
    - JTMacros vertical size not restored correctly (short) when not docked.
    - Incorrect Date logged when QSO spans both sides of midnight, 0000 utc.
    - Recursion errors. Note: this error is rare and the exact cause is unknown.
       Internal code changes have been made to try and avoid this type of error.
       At this time it is unknown if the cause(s) have been completely removed.

Visit the web page for the
direct download link.

de Laurie VK3AMA

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Agenda

hamradio calendar from fun designs
A while ago I asked Franki OQ5M how he managed to spend that much time on contests while he has a household and family with young children like me. He answered that it was just good planning and a supportive XYL. Well, indeed most of the contest dates are already known. And so I made a list of the contests I really want to spend time in. I already did write them down on our family calendar as well.

Just for archive purposes:

14/15 Feb. PACC contest
28/29 Mar. CQWW WPX SSB contest
6/7 June DKARS contest
5/6 Sept. Fieldday contest
24/25 Okt. CQWW DX SSB contest
15 Nov. PA-beker contest
22 Nov. Friese 11 steden contest
28/29 Nov. CQWW DX CW contest
12/13 Dec. 10m ARRL contest