Monday, September 28, 2015

CQ WW RTTY contest 2015 report

Event: CQ WW RTTY 2015
Logger: N1MM+ most updated version
Station: Icom IC-706MKIIG (power max. 50W)
Antenna: Vertical HF multiband antenna at 9m AGL.

RTTY is not really my favorite mode, it is slow and not really sensitive and makes a lot of noise on the bands. I always look at the nice list of announced DX operations from NG3K to see if it would be interesting to take part in this contest. And yes, this time it was PJ6A and E51AAR that were needed for ATNO's. As always time for me is limited. I really need to wake up early to do some contesting, no time at "daylight". So a couple of hours in early in the morning and a few at Sunday evening. Not really good times to work the DX. Although I setup and update N1MM+ contestlogger last week already I ended up with a very slow starting software Saturday morning. Suddenly all function keys were gone as well after startup. None of them working either. Trying to figure it out and after a few restarts the function keys were there again. I tried MMTTY as decoder first, it worked well, but missed the waterfall screen.

So, I switched over to MMVARI later with the strange effect F4 didn't work anymore. I switched back to MMTTY and F4 works....a bug? I decided to reconfigure F6 to give my call twice in S&P so I could continue working with MMVARI. I still think DM780 from HRD is much easier when working on digimodes/RTTY but unfortenately has other issues and is not really a contestlogger. All this hassle took me over a hour precious contesttime. Sometimes even preparing before a contest doesn't help, I blame it all on Murphy. I think it is still a miracle that I worked PJ6A. Their signal was weak on 15m but came up just at the start of the greyline at Sunday evening, it was a hard QSO but I managed it finally. I better say they managed to get my call correct finally. I saw a E51 spotted several times, not shure it was E51AAR? But did not see him on screen. Wrong time wrong place of course...

Here a list of best DX:

80m: no real DX, best distance ES9C (Estonia). Did hear USA but very weak.
40m: P49X (Aruba), W9SN (TN, USA take a look at their antennas!), VA2UP (Canada)
20m: A61ZX (UAE), K1SFA (CT USA, got a 88 instead of 73...look at her page!), HK1T (Colombia), D4C (Cape verde), PT2CM (Brazil)
15m: KP2M (US Virgin Isl.), P49X/P40BC (Aruba), W8QR (CO USA), PY5VC (Brazil), VC7X (BC Canada), PJ6A (Saba), YV5KG (Venezuela)
10m: LV1F/LT0H (Argentina)

Monday, September 21, 2015

New one!

I happen to be on 15m JT65/JT9 this morning and kept an eye on DX clusters. I suddenly noticed D67GIA spotted himself on 21.180 MHz SSB. If someone spots himself it does mean he's not busy and waiting for a pile-up. So, I quickly pushed some buttons, D67GIA (Comoros) came in reasonable strong. I called 5 up and actually didn't expect him to come back. But he did, so I was not believing this and called again. And again he did give me a report. After returning the report and 73 I was really out of my mind...this certainly was my easiest ATNO in years....

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Some Yaesu FT-817 bugs previously unknown by many

I came across a bug of the Yaesu FT-817 today that was previously unknown by many people. At least I didn't know about it. Another bug or shortcoming of the FT-817 was pointed out to me last year by PE1BVQ.

The first one is the blown finals caused by a flat battery problem. As you all know a battery will go flat after a while due to internal self discharge. If so the voltage will drop of course. At a certain point the PA which is directly connected to Vbatt goes into self oscillation and basically commits suicide. I guess this will not happen when the battery is new but when it is getting older or if you leave the radio off for a long time the danger is growing. Best solution is to remove the battery. If you use the battery often you better install a switch to disconnect the battery.

The second one is the lack of a reverse polarity diode. Look at the diagram, you won't find any. That means if you make a polarity mistake (everyone does sometime) you damage your FT-817. If you're lucky a couple of components are smoking and your fuse is blowing. If not for some reason I can imagine the whole FT-817 goes up in smoke, although I think some print conductors will burn first. A solution is to install a diode outside the radio in the supply cord just after the connector.

Not a bug but something to keep in mind. The FT-817 has some hidden fuses. You find them on the diagram as FB1001 and FB1002. FB1002 is in the powerline to the finals and is only appearing in the ND version. If it blows your output power is gone and it looks like you got your finals blown. These fuses appear as microfuses, not the normal fuses we all know. They look just like electrolytic caps.

Update 22-Sept.: Steve G1KQH pointed me towards a glitch in the charging circuit. This can happen when the radio is fed with a quick on/off power supply like a broken supplycord. When you switch the radio on you don't have audio and display flashes. This is the solution found on G0FTD's site:

Insert some half charged batteries in the FT817 (so that the charger sense circuit knows that the batteries can be charged). Switch on the rig with a 13.8v PSU and follow the procedure to charge the internal batteries). This involves setting one menu to 6 hours time, and then on the 3 F-keys turning the charger on. Switch the rig off and the LED on the front panel glows orange.Allow the charge cycle to complete. Disconnect the rig PSU. Switch radio back on using the internal cells. Pull out one of the AA cells to make it look like the battery has depleted it's voltage.Now plug the rig back on to the main 13.8v PSU and switch the rig back on.

If anyone knows more bugs I'm happy to publish them here for future reference!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

60m (5MHz) in the Netherlands soon, what to expect?

May be you did read the news somewhere we probabely are able to get on 60m (5MHz) on a secundary basis soon here in the Netherlands. The frequencies will be between 5350 and 5450 KHz. I wonder how many of my Dutch full licensed readers have the ability to get on 60m? As this is not included in a unmodified HAMradio transceiver. I have been lucky to have my radio modified when I bought it new 17 years ago. The nice thing now is that I will be active on 60m the minute we are allowed transmit there. The antenna is all band, not only restricted to amateurbands. That's the advantage of a random length antena and a autotuner.

60m band expected in the Netherlands end of September

But what to expect on this new band. You can read much info here:

And some frequencies here:

Modes are CW and USB. It is not shure if we are allowed to use digimode. The amount of power you can use is also not known yet. The WSPR frequency on 5287.2 KHz is unfortenately not in this band.
You're free to receive however... The JT65 frequency is 5357 KHz and just inside the band but I'm not shure we are allowed to use that mode? See some notes from G0ISW about that here.

The ARRL published some "recommended operating practises" on their site in 2012. I hope the VERON and VRZA will do the same. It is a small band and I suspect at first everyone wants to have their share of DX.

I've been listening for a while on 60m yesterday evening and found a very quiet band. Noticed that 40m was also very quiet. Unfortenately it seems even 60m is also disturbed by OHR as you hear in the video. I did hear some UK stations chatting but couldn't get their callsigns. If the Netherlands is allowed to get on this band I guess the band will be crowded the first week.

Waarschijnlijk heb je ergens gelezen in het nieuws dat we mogelijk toegang krijgen tot de 60m band op een secundaire basis eind deze maand. De frequentie zal liggen tussen 5350 en 5450 KHz in. Ik vraag me af hoeveel van de Nederlandse lezers met een F(ull) licentie de mogelijkheid hebben om op deze nieuwe band uit te komen. Immers een ongemodificeerde zendontvanger zal alleen op de huidige amateurbanden kunnen zenden. Gelukkig kan mijn radio het wel, ik liet hem bij aankoop 17 jaar geleden gelijk modificeren. Het leuke is dat mijn antenne ook overal een match kan maken en dus zal ik direct kunnen uitkomen op deze nieuwe band zodra hij is vrijgegeven. Dat is het voordeel van een random antenne lengte met een autotuner.

Maar wat kunnen we verwachten op deze nieuwe band? Zie bovenstaande wiki link in het engels, een Nederlandstalige wiki is er nog niet. De modes zullen uiteraard CW en USB zijn. Ik weet niet of we ook digimodes kunnen gebruiken? De WSPR frequentie is 5287.2 KHz en dus buiten onze band. Uiteraard mag je wel ontvangen daar. De JT65 frequentie is 5357 KHz en net binnen de band, hoop dat we deze mode mogen gebruiken.

De ARRL heeft in 2012 een paar regels opgesteld voor het werken op de 60m band. Ik hoop dat de VERON en VRZA dit ook zullen doen. Het is maar een heel smal stukje spectrum en iedereen wil natuurlijk zo snel mogelijk DX/stations werken na vrijgave.

Ik zat gisterenavond even te luisteren op 60m en vond het aardig rustig op de band. Ik moet wel opmerken dat 40m ook erg rustig was. Helaas word 60m ook verstoord door OHR zoals de horen in de video. Ik hoorde een aantal Engelse stations praten maar kon er niet achter komen wat hun callsigns waren. Als Nederland op deze band mag zenden dan denk ik dat het aardig drukker word de eerste week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Welcome to the future 4

I think I will continue with my "Welcome to the future" of HAM radio series. I started my first post in this series in 2011. I think it was the time that the Elecraft KX3 was just on the market. Time flies and what I described then is already close to what you can have on your radio today. Though there are not many yet that let you program your features yourself. Still it would be nice to see a radio were you are free to program the buttons, knobs etc. I think that it will be just a matter of time to see more of these freely programmable radios on the market.

Last week I came across the video from VE3CNU aka "The radio hobbyist" about the new Icom 7300. It looks like a radio that could replace my old Icom IC-706 if I ever had the finance for it. I'm shure this is only the first SDR based Icom from many to follow...

The nice thing about this radio is that it will cover HF, 6m and 4m. Though it will not cover 2m and 70cm like the Icom-706MKIIG I have. Since I rarely be active on 2m and 70cm it would be no problem for me. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cleaning the blogroll

It is that time to clean the blogroll again. I inserted some very nice new ones this year. And did remove from those who did not update their blog for over a year. Gone are the blogs from NU8Z, PA1JIM, N4LA, VK2RH, PA5MW, PE2JMR, KD8RTT, AD7MI, DL1SDZ, JE1TRV, WA4FAT, VE3XYD. Some of them made a note in their blog they would stop some others did not and just stopped updating. Others did make a move to social sites like facebook. Sometimes I wonder why someone stops and still keep the blog online? Probabely they just forget it!

The only blog that's not updated and still in my blogroll is G4ILO for sentimental reasons.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Balloonfoxhunt 2015 report from the north

Great show! Very unusual path to the north this time. And it made a touch down in Friesland, something I already expected at Friday. Due to the north path I could follow the balloon all the way and still received signals when it was "only" a kilometer above ground. Very interesting the balloon did touch a height of at least 30km before it went down. I managed to make 1 QSO over the balloon transponder with PD2WVH Wim. Not easy as I only have my V2000 on 6m height. I tried to get my call into the PI4RCG log to get their balloonfoxhunt QSL. Unfortenately 40m was completely wiped out and I could barely hear the station. I figured (and others too) I had a better chance via the new northern setup of the 70cm repeater PI2NOS which has been installed in a TV tower. Unfortenately like many repeaters in that direction I can hear them but they cannot hear me. May be that is why I dislike UHF/VHF. I've been trying for a hour to reach the operator and though I almost made it. But it seems he only could hear the last 2 letters of my call. This new repeater is just outside my reach. I feel much better on HF and hope 40m will be open next year. I've been listening to the transponder and found the first hourwas too busy and too many rude people who wanted to play "boss". When the balloon came north it went better and did hear some well known stations from the north making QSOs without many problems. People should listen and wait and give others a chance. I did hear PD2WVH making about 10 QSOs, he was not calling but listening and took his chance when he could. Of course it is difficult but I think everyone should be limited to one or two QSOs and the listen to give others a chance, I guess thats just my thoughts about it...

Last prediction balloonfoxhunt

Prediction from friday evening seems to be pretty accurate. Path is still north. Ballon transponder is hitting S9+ and 100mW is weaker at S1-4.

Update final path:

Very nice to see I was close....

Friday, September 11, 2015

Balloon foxhunt 2015 (prediction)

I can cut and past the story but why bother. Find it here! The balloon will fly at Sunday.

The weather doesn't look promising (rain). So I am curious what the outcome will be. Last year I made the prediction too early. And made a last prediction when te balloon was already in the air. Showing complete different paths. Even if you predict when the balloon is flying there are many variables that are not predictable. I wish I could do a real time balloon foxhunt once together with some friends. However time and distance is a problem right now.

It is always nice to follow the signals and if you have some really good sat antennas like PE1BVQ has it is possible you can make some QSOs via the transponder. Years ago making a QSO via the balloon transponder was also possible with just a simple vertical but since interest in this project is growing the transponder is just to busy and you really need to have the strongest signal.

Since I probabely don't have time to do a prediction tomorrow I do one now. It shows a path to the north, probabely landing in the Flevopolder or Friesland. It could even land in water....Most of the times the path is south or east, this north path doesn't happen too often. I will run a prediction when the ballon has been launched because last year the launch was 30 minutes later as planned. This could be a very interesting balloon foxhunt this year....

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Real time bandconditions

Thanks to Bob VA3QV I found this very useful website from K5BIZ.

This is the description: 
The purpose of this experimental website is to provide 24-7-365 actual ( REALTIME ) band condition information to CW QRPp, QRPe and CW / SSB Contesters interested in increasing their scores. It can also be of benefit to other Radio Amateurs to determine band condtions for Nets and casual QSO's. This information is NOT based on any software predictions or any kind of satellite based readings. It's is based on a new Ionospheric sounding method called "HF Ionospheric Interferometry" which operates very similarly to the PolSAR system used by NASA

Curious? Just go there and read and view it yourself:

Don't forget to read the INSTRUCTIONS and choose the right region. For us here in the Netherlands the UK would be best choice.

Monday, September 7, 2015

IARU SSB #Fieldday @PE4BAS

Event: IARU SSB Fieldday 2015
QTH: JO33jk Eemshaven (harbour) Netherlands
Logger: Paper and pencil
Station: YAESU FT817ND 5W
Antenna: 12m vertical pole with 3 band PE1BVQ endfed on a dyke (10m agl). Modified DV27 for 15m on top of the car. Position near salt water.

My intention was to participate for about a hour in this fieldday event. I drove my car about 4 km north of my QTH to the Eemshaven harbour. I knew a ideal DX location at top of the dyke near salt water. Indeed the location was great and stations came in loud so time flies and 3 hours later I decided to stop. I experienced better propagation as last year or it has been the excellent location? Weather was not that great, showers and large windgusts from the north direction.

I managed to set up the 12m glasfiber mast but needed to fasten the guyropes all 3 on the wind side to hold it steady. Unfortenately 10m didn't open that well, I did hear stations but they didn't hear my QRP signal. 15m was open and made some nice QSOs. Of course 40m was the band with most fieldday stations and the majority of QSOs were made there again. Despite the large signals on the band I didn't hear much stations from the Netherlands, could be my vertical DX setup of course! Only PI4VPO/P and PD1RP/P were worked. I did hear good radio friend Bernard PB7Z/P a few times but was unable to work him. Time of the day was wrong for DX. I did hear a JA station on 20m but he only occupied his calling frequency as he was not replying to any caller. Best DX was made on 15m with Israël and Asiatic russia.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Experimental WSPR 30m setup

After 178 x 2 minute WSPR transmissions I have a result and can share the outcome of this experiment.
I have been transmitting with a homemade magnetic loop with a 92% efficiency installed inside the garage on the floor! Transmitter was the W5OLF WSPR VCXO-AXE 30m transmitter with 1W. This transmitter has been built last January. I always wanted to have a independent beacon transmitter which doesn't use the mains net and doesn't use my home base antennas. So I powered the transmitter with solar power. The result is amazing considering the setup. Best DX was ZL1RS with a distance of 17750km.

The magnetic loop has been made with 22mm copper tube which was left by the previous home owner. I found a nice "trombone" idea for the capacitor on the internet, it works very well. At first I contructed the pick up loop with copper wire and had not enough capacitance so I constructed a extra cap on top. PE1BVQ Hans suggested I really should use thick coax cable for pick up loop construction and it works very well. SWR on 10.140 is 1:1 and exactly 50 Ohm.
The transmitter finally at the place it was ment for. The only problem is I can activate it only 99 times a time slot of 2 minutes. After that I have to press a button again for another 99 times. I have programmed a 6 minute break for the experiment to get as many spots as possible. I'll probabely experiment with other time settings in the future.

I really didn't expect it would work this well with a antenna inside a building and on the floor.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Inside a IKEA flashlight

 My daughter had a IKEA flashlight. The model that you have to charge yourself. I broke inside after it felt on a hard floor.
 It is a amazing designed machine with a acceleration device using gear wheels.
Driving this small generator. Yes the flywheel is magnetic...
 Generated power goes to this small board containing not only 1 diode for rectifying but a complete bridge for double side rectifying using both positive as negative components from the generated AC.

 No batteries but a modern 1 Farad capacitor to store the current.

 Feeding 3 LED lights for some minutes when the cap is fully loaded. My daughter enjoyed it for a few years till now.

5 years old and a electronics degree already. We fixed the technical side but were unable to fix the mechanics. I made the suggestion for a small experimental windmill...

PE4BAS experimental 30m WSPR beacon tonight

If someone asks me what my hobby is regarding the antennas etc. I tell them I am a experimental radio researcher. It sounds so much more professional as HAMradio or amateurradio. Besides that we often are confused with radio pirates who do their transmissions on illigal frequencies. Tonight I have a run with my W5OLF 30m WSPR beacon at 1W. So far so good, it is a another experimental setup. I made some photos but will publish them after I have the results. So, try to catch me on 10.1387 MHz WSPR tonight.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Another hobby...

Toyota Starlet 1.0XL S6 12V (1988)
Don't be afraid, I will not leave HAM radio! It appeared already sometime on my blog. Another hobby from the Some time a while ago my hobby was tuning or actually styling my car. It was the time of the first "Fast&Furious" movie and I was a member of some tuning clubs and was driving a Toyota Corolla GTSi, customized of course. I soon discovered that the guys that earned most respect were those that kept their sometimes exclusive old cars in original and factory new shape. Now, I still drive a Corolla but it's a Verso = ugly family car. I actually prefer my bike and let my XYL drive it. Besides that I got the chance to buy (actually my XYL bought it) a Toyota Starlet 1.0XL from 1988. It has been purchased in '88 new by a aunt of my XYL and sold a few years later to grandpa. Grandpa was very keen on it but he got old and driving a car was too dangerous. Because we moved in 2008 we needed 2 cars, so we decided to buy this Starlet from Grandpa. I only drive it a few kilometers a year when the weather is extremely bad and I can't go to my job with my bicycle. The photo above is from a few years ago. Recently the car is getting worse and needs attention, I really should spend some time on it though my interest in cars has been not that of 15 years ago and I don't want to spend valuable time to repair this piece of antique. I'm growing too old to have too many hobbies. So I just keep driving in it till it dies. I guess Toyota never intended these cars get a long life like this 27 year old one. The strange thing is that there are still a lot of this Starlet model driving around even in my neighbourhood. I wonder if todays cars can make it that long...

Toyota Corolla GTSi -E2 16V (1994) customized
Niet bang zijn. Ik ga de radio hobby niet verlaten! Het heeft al eerder ergens op mijn blog gestaan. Een andere hobby die ik ooit's. Jaren geleden had ik als hobby ook nog het tunen/stylen van mijn auto. Het was in die tijd van de eerste "Fast&Furious" film en ik was lid van een paar tuning clubs en reed in een Toyota Corolla GTSi, geheel naar eigen wensen gestyled natuurlijk. Ik kwam er al snel achter dat degenen die het meest gerespecteerd werden binnen die hobby vaak oude exclusieve oude auto's zo origineel en goed mogelijk hielden. Nu rijden we nog steeds in een Toyota Corolla maar dit keer in een Verso=lelijke gezinsbak. Eigenlijk vind ik het leuker om te fietsen en laat ik m'n XYL er het meest in rijden. Buiten deze auto hadden we de kans om ook nog een Toyota Starlet 1.0XL van 1988 te kopen. Deze was in 1988 nieuw aangeschaft door een tante van mijn XYL en later doorverkocht aan haar Opa. Opa was er best wel zuinig op maar werd oud en rijden met een auto werd een beetje gevaarlijk. Omdat we in 2008 gingen verhuizen en we op dat moment 2 auto's nodig hadden besloten we deze Starlet over te nemen van Opa. Ik rijd maar een paar kilometer per jaar als het te slecht weer is om op de fiets naar het werk te gaan. De foto hierboven is van een paar jaar geleden. Op dit moment begint de auto slechter te worden en ik zou er eigenlijk wat aan moeten doen. Maar vind het zonde om er tijd aan te besteden en mijn interesse in auto's is niet meer dat van 15 jaar geleden. Ik begin te oud te worden voor veel hobby's denk ik. Dus rijd ik maar door tot het oude karretje echt niet meer verder kan. Ik denk dat Toyota nooit van te voren bedacht heeft dat hun auto's na 27 jaar nog zouden rijden. Het gekke is zelfs dat er nog veel van dit soort modelletjes rond rijden zelfs hier in de buurt. Ik vraag me af of de auto's van tegenwoordig ook zo lang mee zullen gaan...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New tools

Our main food supplier (LIDL) had some tools for sale I really wanted to have. You really don't want to miss these when you are doing experimental radio research....

I really don't know how they made it for these prices. I guess it came from China before the crisis there. I couldn't resist buying it as my last engraving tool is beyond repair. The extra "hand" is always helpfull especially with the magnifying glass, it has 2 LEDs for lightning and batteries are included. Incredible....

Now some projects...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yaesu FT-767GX units sale

In my post from 15 July I wrote I would send a list to all radio friends with all equipment for sale that I have to sell for PD0FF Foppe. After examining all the equipment I decided I will not send any list. As you know Foppe has the disease ALS but luckely feels a bit better and has been asking me for setting up a small station again. Returning some of his equipment is obvious. The problem though is that most of his equipment is having malfunctions, is old and worth less to nothing. The few things that are from value will be sold on the dutch marketplace. If it cannot be sold I will try to sell it on our yearly local radioclub auction.

Actually there is only 3 items that are valuable. These are the 2m, 70cm and 6m units for a Yaesy FT-767GX(II). If you are interested please let me know.

I prefer to sell the all for one price. But I sell them apart as well.

Update: SOLD!!