Thursday, July 27, 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, July 19, 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, July 18, 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, July 16, 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, July 13, 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:

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:
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

Extra link:

See Eddie ZS6BNE's blog for background info:

Tuesday, July 11, 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, July 10, 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, July 6, 2017


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, July 4, 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

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: