Friday, June 30, 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?

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.

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.

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, June 27, 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. 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:
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:

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, June 16, 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, June 8, 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, June 7, 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:

Monday, June 5, 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 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, June 2, 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, June 1, 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.