Sunday, October 30, 2016

#cqww Ham radio hobby public relations

Probabely not really interesting for english language readers so I will write this post also in Dutch. We did some p.r. for the hamradio contest hobby and welcomed regional radio and TV to interview us. Except the radio contacts everything is in dutch. Although it might be interesting to see our contest location.

Dit is voor engelstalige lezers niet zo heel erg interessant. Dus daarom dit stukje ook in het Nederlands. We hebben de lokale radio en TV uitgenodigd op onze contestlocatie voor een stukje promotie van onze radiohobby. Het lijkt ons wel geslaagd.

Hier is het terug te horen en te zien:

Radio Noord: Programma Noord en Ommeland met Hans Waalkens en Derk Bosscher het stukje begint specifiek rond de 41 minuten

TV Noord: Programma Expeditie Grunn begint rond de 7 minuten

#cqww Till now

Local reporter talking to PA4O Peter (left)
Lots of problems encountered when powering the station. Not everyting can be told but we had a power
failure and some problems with a broken computer. Besides that we had a lot of trouble with RFI. But everything solved so far. We use a 6KW petrol power generator now. Since propagation is not that good we decided to connect the amplifier and we will change our section to high power now. Not that I am personally impressed with what can be worked with 400W. The wire antenna we use for the low bands is not working well unfortenately. Only a few multipliers worked so far on those bands. We have a vertical for 15m and 10m that's doing a better job. We also had a visit from a local commercial radio station in the morning so we could promote our hobby here in our province, of course it did cost some time but it is a important aspect for this hobby as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#cqww Experimental realtime propagation PE4BAS

Just as experiment I want to make a chart and display the number of WSPR spots for some continents. Just to see what propagation is like on 20m just before the CQWW SSB contest. I tried to make a prediction for our contestlocation but it seems to be difficult if you don't know exactly how propagation will behave next days. This night there was a huge radio black out on the HF bands and so far my 1W signal on 20m has not been spotted anywere at nighttime! Surprisingly I spotted a station from Chile south america this night. Below a chart I will try to update through the day with new info. In 24 hours there will be a complete graph over de day on 20m. Spots are combined spots received and transmitted (1W).

Made with OnlineChartTool.Com

Above the propagation at Thursday 27-October-2016. Well the chart is complete now and I want to continue tommorow with a new one. I think it gives usefull info about when a certain part of the world can be heard and worked. Nothing seen from Asia, Japan or Australasia today. Hopefully propagation is rising a bit we'll have a look at it tomorrow.

Made with OnlineChartTool.Com

Above the chart at 28-October-2016

Although it seems propagation is rising a bit (1 spot from Japan seen, yesterday nothing) it is still very low.

Looking at the sunspot numbers today is only 12 with high A and K values. The red line above is the estimated (forecast) sunspot number. It should be rising! The green dots representing real values measured.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#cqww SSB 2016 from a contestsite

Together with my XYL I decided it was time to try someting else for contesting. I knew local contest station PA6GR had a need of operators for the upcoming CQWW SSB contest so I will participate the contest together with this team. We decided to apply for the section multi operator, one radio, low power. Unfortunately we only have one good antenna, a large 3 element 20m monoband beam at 20m agl. So main band will be 20m. At night we will use a wire antenna fed with through a 1:9 UNUN for other bands, not the best but good enough to get some multipliers I hope. Now, we wish some nice propagation and nice DX!  My shift is from Saturdaymorning 5 UTC - 13 UTC and 22 UTC- 8 UTC Sundaymorning. I wish everyone a lot of fun and hope to work some of you readers!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Observing my own 30m WSPR TX results last week(s)

I dare to have my WSPR W5OLF 1W transmitter almost on 24/7 with 18 minute TX intervals (still continues). It might be a interesting thing to analyse who received me and when. But I haven't got the time for it. Hoping for some new ones in my WSPR log, so far only one (9A2WB Croatia). Still nothing from south and central America, could it be they are not allowed on 30m digital? However some interesting reports in the morning did catch my eye. Those are the reports from the USA around 8-9 UTC. Most of the time just one spot, sometimes a couple of spots. It seems it is a different from normal path but excisting almost every day according to my log. PH0NO Lars did point me at some propagation predictor called Droidprop which is a app that installs on my android phone. I actually already installed the app but never used it before. Anyway, I predicted 30m on a particulair day I saw K4COD spotted me (just as a example so I have a locator).

Normally 30m opens late in the evening. But you see that one spot again on 8:10 UTC. Now what does the prediction say. I thought to use both Droidprop as VOACAP although they say the same. See that peak at 8 UTC? But it just is below 10MHz although there is a small possebility it could rise a bit. I discussed it with several operators because I think it is much more likely that it these spots are made on longpath.

Look at the prediction. The MUF goes beyond 10MHz, actually there is much more chance for a long path signal to travel to the USA over the day. But I haven't got a directional antenna on 30m and can't prove it. I'm not a expert either. Interesting to think about it just as a experiment.

The 1W WSPR TX is normally powered from my solarpowered battery in the garage but since it is in my shack now I connected it to a new homemade device. It's a mini switched power supply with over/under voltage protection. It gives a 4 Amps max with 13V output. Especially made to power my FT-817 at vacation as a conventional power supply was too heavy and too big. I'm testing the durability before I will take it with me. The small TX does a great job on it at least. I still want to change some minor things on it. So a review of the internals and test will be given later on on this blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Icom IC-7300 price drop

Lots of radioamateurs that don't want to spend all their money on their radiohobby are waiting for a expected price drop of the Icom IC-7300 including me. I know it's too early and the radio is still too new. But with a expected follow up SDR from Icom the IC-7610 I think the radio will be much cheaper. Price here in the Netherlands has dropped down with 30 euro, a new one will cost you 1339 euro now. I already saw the radio sold second hand on the dutch marktplaats (kind of eBay) for as much as 1150 euro for a 3 month old IC-7300. I think that's too much considering you can almost buy it new in the UK that price. Since the british pound has made a downfall compared to the euro it is now interesting to buy a IC-7300 in the UK I think. Several HAM stores in the UK sell it for 1049,95 GBP. Which is converted to euro 1160,55 and considerable cheaper as here in the Netherlands. Buying it via internet however is not interesting as you have to pay shipping and custom taxes importing the radio. But if you  dare to make a trip to England to get a few of these radios you can make some extra money or fund your own one . It's just a idea!

Update: It seems no problem to order one in the UK as you don't have to pay extra taxes within Europe. Thanks to some of my readers comments! So, this could really be interesting. Sorry for those living in the UK but I think it's just a matter of waiting till the british pound is dropping any further. You really can get a bargain out of this...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

WSPR DXCC active and needed

When starting with WSPR in 2009 I immidiatly got the  idea to see how many DXCC I could reach with only 1 Watt and a simple antenna. The ultimate goal of course is to reach 100 DXCC. Now, 7 years later I have not reached my goal yet. It seems not to be easy and it's not the propagation or my power. With only 1 Watt I can easily reach all the DX I want around the world even on longpath. I already have proof of that. The problem only is that there are not 100 DXCC on WSPR. That makes this list even more difficult compared to reaching 100 DXCC with 5W QRP or even with QRO. It's a matter of time, sometimes you see a "new" one in the activity list and then you have to be on WSPR and try just like I did last weekend. I'm not on WSPR every day 24/7 like some stations are. It certainly helps if I was. But I don't like the idea of having a WSPR system 24/7, that means you have the system online also when no one is at home and besides that it costs a lot of electricity. For me radio is just a hobby and I don't want to spend money to just keep a system on for just a few more DXCC on WSPR. Anyway, I kept a eye on the activity list and found some stations I need. Sometimes they are on, sometimes not. I still have 19 to go for 100 and I hope I will reach it before I have my 10 year anniversary on WSPR.

Stations seen in the activity list and needed:

C91PA (Mozambique), KP4MD (Puerto Rico last year, currently only seen on 2m/70cm), VR2UIF (Hong Kong), E51WL (North Cook Isl.), ZF1EJ (Cayman Isl. currently on 475KHz), YC0MLC (Indonesia). 

If I reached them all I would be on 87 DXCC.
Time to continue the hunt...

Monday, October 10, 2016

The hunt for new WSPR DXCC

It has been a while I hunted for new DXCC on WSPR. Sometimes it takes time before new DXCC show up on WSPR. A new one would be E51WL (North Cook Isl.) but so far he didn't copy much from Europe as far as I can see. However I have the feeling DX will be better again this time of the year. You can see that in PE1ITR's WSPR challenge too, the lines are rising! I saw 9K2/VO1DZA in the activity list on many bands at the same time. I guess he's receiving SDR style. So I aimed my 1 Watt arrow on him for a new DXCC. But it wasn't that easy. After more then 48 hours I was finally spotted on 20m. Only 2 times but enough for a new one in my list (nr. 81). Now, thinking about E51WL, I think best band would be 30m. But so far he spotted only JA, VK and ZL. So, I checked the activity list and found VR2UIF (Hong Kong), it would be a new one as well but see the same for him, spotted only JA, VK and ZL. Anyway, I keep an eye on them. What I find strange is that there are not many stations active on WSPR from south en central America. I did spot some of them in the past but also in the activity list you will not find many. Is it the propagation? Well I don't think so. But WSPR seems not to be populair there yet.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Interference (3) VDSL continued

Just before I got the notches on my VDSL line I experimented a lot with ferrite and my ground system and hoped for a good outcome. I already wrote a concept post on my blog including this video. And actually wanted to make a video as soon as I had a solution for the problem. After all that was not as easy as I thought.

This video shows what the interference does. First time short burst PSK on 60m it only gives a few hickups, second time the VDSL signal was completely gone. Modem had to be restarted and had to wait 5 minutes before the signal was back again. If it was only the TV it would be less a problem but the same modem does also internet and our telephone.

Still, I would like to fix things myself as a real radioamateur and experimenter. I decided to call for help, first tried to get a password for the official remoterig forum to ask about their RF-protection filter. Till this day I'm still waiting for access. But wait, there is also a remoterig yahoo group. I asked the about the RF-filter there. Luckely got some helpfull answers from some friendly fellow radioamateurs. Kostas SV1DPI mentioned that the RF-protection filter must be a kind of low pass filter not suitable for the high frequency of VDSL these days and normal ferrite clamps are not efficient enough to reduce RFI at low frequencies like 1,8-10 MHz. I should use #31 or #43 mix ferrite rings or clamps. Alle wires should be twisted (twisted pair) and use as much shielded CAT cabel as possible. He also directed me to a very usefull document regarding RFI. In which the RFI on DSL is described. However the solution is not a simple one and most important you should have chokes of >5K Ohm at the feedpoint of all your antennas. Difficult if you use a open feeder and a horizontal loop but I can manage it for the vertical. W8JI Tom (the master of RFI ;-)) came with a explanation and told a differential filter (with caps to ground) in your VDSL line will cut off the frequencies the line is using. He doesn't think the internet modem is the problem the internals are too small to pick up any of the HF transmissions. He suggested to stop common mode RF flowing from the VDSL line to the power source. According to his e-mail: A differential filter in the DC line or low resistance high impedance chokes would help. DC wires could be bypassed to ground (if available) or each other (with very small caps). All signal wires (and you could include power and ground after the filter) should go through a high impedance RF core as a parallel bundle with the exact same turns. This will effectively bypass all of the leads to each other for common mode. It will not bother the signal. This will probably require a stack of large diameter ferrite cores with very high permeability and low Q, much like used in HF high power tuner baluns.

Well enough tips and suggestions to go on with solving this problem. However the interference has already solved at my side by adding HAMradio frequency notches at the telecom side of the line. So there is nothing left to test for me. It probabely will help others that have the same problem. However I decided to buy some 3E25 ferrite with a very high permeability for solving RFI from low frequencies, they succesfully used them to solve RFI at other telephone/internet modems. I removed the ferrite clamps and added them in all the lines including power supply winding with as much wire on it as possible. I also ordered some FT240-31 cores to build a choke blocking especially the low frequencies and to insert at the feedpoint of my vertical. According to G3TXQ's common mode choke impedance chart it has a high resistance especially on low frequencies although a FT240-43 core might be better.

A few weeks ago PE1BVQ Hans was visiting me as he was on vacation nearby. He brought a line-isolator (FT240-43 inside) with him to test. As he had very good results with it at home. Using it between the tuner and endfed antenna. He didn't cause any interference anymore when transmitting and before there were same problems as here. Now, I got another antenna system with a autotuner at the feedpoint of the vertical. But though, it was worth trying the line-isolator behind the palstar tuner in the shack. Watching the touch-screen monitor, the only device I have some interference on in my shack, I noticed the interference was almost gone with the line-isolator connected. Tried other places as well, behind the radio, behind and before the connectorpanel (with grounding connection) but that made no difference at all. So, I left it connected behind the palstar. Hopefully it will help, time will tell.

If you have problems with interference on the VDSL line it will be a difficult task to solve the problem. Hopefully this post and some post before will help anyone that has the same problem.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Circular SWR ruler

The SWR ruler I made.
I'm not the first one writing about this ruler. IW0FFK mentioned it on his webpage/blog before. However I did not read that before and it was PA3GTM Hans that gave us the DIY "kit" on our radioclub evening. At first I was staring at it and although Hans made a working ruler I was not shure what to do with it or how to use it. After a good day of working the mind is not that sharp anymore I think. At home I was able to do a research and have a quiet look at it the next day. I assembled the ruler "kit" and played with it when transmitting myself and comparing to see what use it would have. And indeed it is a handy gadget every HAMradio operator should have in the shack.

Curious? Check out the website from TK5EP.

Well, what to do with it? I always like to know how much power is lost at a certain SWR. And that is not that much, the ruler shows you. Set the window for SWR 1,6 at the arrow. The blue outer disk gives input power and the black inside disc shows what power you lost with this SWR. In my example case 25W (PSK31) in then 1,4W is lost. You can also view the gain/attenuation in dB. For example the max. output from my Icom is 100W (blue numbers on outer disc.), my Yaesu 817 gives max. 5W (black numbers inner disc.) the gain difference is more then 13dB. If you count 6dB per S-unit it is only a difference of approx. 2 S-units. Ever wonder how much difference there is between 100W and 1KW? Well, according this handy ruler it is only 10dB. That is less than 2 S-units.

Good luck assembling the "kit"

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Digging in the dirt

The title of this post was borrowed from the title of Peter Gabriel's song. One of my favorite artists. Not that the lyrics have anything to do with my subject. But still, I was digging in the dirt and the video shows a lot of that ;-).

Anyway, I decided were the antennamast will be. So last week I dug a hole...

Never get a chance to make a photo from this angle again...

My most helpfull tool, digging in the dirt

The hole (1,85m, 6 ft)

Look what I found at the bottom, a pair of shoes!!!