Monday, November 27, 2017

#cqww CW 2017 80m

Event: CQWW CW 2017
SOA low/qrp dutch records

Section:  Single Operator unassisted  QRP 80M
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 5W
Antenna: Inverted-V apex 12m + multiband vertical
CW decoder: FLdigi newest version

Well, a few hours of participation time early in the morning and late in the evening resulted in only 60 QSOs. No DX, only European stations. I certainly miss my 80m horizontal loop in a contest like this. The inverted-V was not doing well, I guess it is because of the wet ladderline feeding the antenna giving me some loss. The vertical did sometimes better although it is very ineffective (too short) for 80m. When starting the contest Saturday morning my FLdigi was mysteriously disappeared? Had to install a new one and redirect N1MM+ to it before I could decode CW. After that it was no problem, although I had to finetune a bit till I got best decodes. Still, I had the idea the old FLdigi did a better job. Of course CWskimmer would be the best, I've been experimenting with it in 2015. I still hope for a free good CW decoder like CWskimmer one day. But when you are QRP it is not really important as most of the weaker signals are not able to copy you at all. For a new dutch record I switched off the telnet connection for a DXcluster to be unassisted. Actually in previous years the DXcluster didn't help me at all as spots are on the right frequency on CW but not for MCW in USB mode.

Friday, November 24, 2017

#FT8 tips by ZL2IFB and 3Y0Z band plan

Standard messages
The title of this blogpost could also be called "WSJT-X features you didn't know they exist". I was puzzling how some stations did come back to me in FT8 the way I was used to in JTDX. And after reading ZL2IFP's tricks&tips page I finally know now!

Alternative messages

This way a QSO is considerable shorter and you can move to the next caller. Now, there seems to be QSO purists that stick to the (old) QSO rules and don't want to validate a QSO that was not answered by the QTH locator and RRR or 73. Well, all I can say....look into the future and don't look back. At least I don't care if someone doesn't send me a QSL for a digimode contact that has not been going on according the old rules. As long as reports are exchanged and I get a message that my report has been received by a R or a 73 it's fine for me.

A how to can be found on ZL2IFB's page at tip number 25:

I just discovered that the Bouvet Island DXpedition will be on FT8 sporadically but not on the official FT8 frequencies. Oh yes, I like that and find it a very good decision. This way small QRP stations with a antenna inside a building have a chance to catch this very very rare DX.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Symbiotic HAMradio hobby

Although the biologic meaning of symbiotic strictly refers to "living together", regardless of the nature of the relationship, in casual speech the word typically implies a beneficial relationship. 

 When analyzing the problem I have connecting the laptop to my phone for a shared internet connection I was thinking of this. When you use digimode these days you need a time keeping device, a symbiotic device you can say. Most weak signal modes now have time slots which you need to be in within a few seconds otherwise there is nothing decoded. I described a GPS time keeping device earlier this year. However it is reliable only in the field as, at least my device, is not working well inside a building. That's why I use my phone. And what is in all these devices? Right, a radio transmitter, transceiver or receiver. I finally solved my laptop to phone connection with a bleutooth connection via a PAN (Personal Area Network). Strange enough my laptop would not connect to my phone via WiFi although I see it in my list it keeps trying to ask for network configuration. With PAN via bluetooth it was all solved and at least I can keep the time steady on my ancient XP laptop.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kenpro overhaul and another final test

The Kenpro KR600 rotor that was originally mounted in my antennatower is much more complicated as the Create RC5 I previously had on the bench. I remember from 10 years ago I had a problem with the potmeter so had to check that out. Besides that all the lubrication hardened in 9 years without movement. So, everything is going to be cleaned and it will get some new lubrication. I measured the potmeter and electrically it is ok. Though mechanically it is broken, it doesn't stop at 0 and 500 Ohm but turns continuously. Searching for a new pot was not giving me satisfying results on google. The pot I ordered for the Create came from UKWberichte in Germany. So I checked that shop as well, and incredibly they still store some parts for the KR600 and have the 500 Ohm potmeter in stock.

PSKreporter 12 UTC
The previous test with my magnetic loop went well, I made one QSO. That was great. This friday evening I will do a presentation about the JT and FT digimodes at our local radioamateur club and want to do at least a receive demonstration. For this last test I built the portable station again in my shack and let it receive in the 40m band FT8 frequency. It is incredible what the magloop receives in one day! If you need a fast signal comparisation by the way, FT8 is a great "tool" as alternative for WSPR were reports are given much much slower. And these days I think there are more stations active with FT8 compared to WSPR.

PSKreporter 19:30UTC
Strange enough PSKreporter has a limit I guess. I checked this evening again and saw many spots erased although I checked reports for 24hours. When I look into the log it will only give you a limited amount of spots. This picture is from about 15 UTC till 19 UTC. You see, there are just too many on FT8. PSKreporter has a limit. So, if you want to use PSKreporter for propagation research you should check every 3-4 hours! I noticed interesting propagation paths. Like long path propagation to west-coast USA at about 14-15UTC (still light here). I saw Japan in the morning at 10UTC but also in the afternoon at 14UTC. I checked now and then on my phone but forgot the make a printscreen. Don't forget these are all received with my magnetic loop in the shack. This would be a interesting thing for SWL stations as well. Imagine if I connected my inverted-V or vertical!

I think the demonstration station will do well, however there is one thing I have a issue with and that is the WiFi connection with my telephone to update the computer's time. Still try to solve that....

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Early end Frysian 11 cities contest

MUF elke 5 minuten in België
Just for archive purposes. Not in english as this is not really interesting for most other HAMs outside the Netherlands.

Dez post is voor archief doeleinden. Eigenlijk had ik na vorig jaar niet verwacht dat de organisatie van de Friese 11 steden contest weer 40m zou kiezen als contest band. Maar aan de andere kant mag je niet op 1 jaar afgaan als het een experiment betreft. Helaas waren de condities dit jaar nog slechter vergeleken met vorig jaar. Constant werd de MUF in de gaten gehouden maar rond 11:40 UTC ben ik toch maar gestopt. Het had geen zin om door te gaan. Had ik nog 10-20 minuten door gegaan had ik misschien nog een kleine opleving gezien maar de kans dat ik nog een multiplier in Friesland zou werken was gering...

Uiteindelijk werden er 12 stations gewerkt waarvan 2 uit Engeland en 1 uit Duitsland. PA3CWN uit Dokkum werd als enige multiplier gewerkt en had dus ook eigenlijk geen enkele meerwaarde.

Volgend jaar hoop ik een terugkeer naar 80m te zien, of nog mooier zou zijn een mix van 80m en 40m zoals bij de PA-beker contest. Zo kunnen eventueel PD stations ook meedoen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

FT8 with portable station

Well, yesterday evening I wanted to do what I wanted to for a long time. Testing my portable station from inside the house or another building but not from my shack. The original plan was to set it up in the garage. But since my XYL was working I could not leave my young daughter alone. Our garage is a separate building. So, I decided to set it up in the living room. The goal was to make at least one digimode QSO. I tried PSK31 but nothing could be heard, tried JT65 but signals to weak, the FT8 frequency was full of strong signals and finally my contact was made there. But it wasn't easy....

Setup of the station was done in about 5 minutes, after finishing it took about 5 minutes again to get everything in the bag. Still 2 things are limited but to change this would take some investment I can't affort at the moment. The 7Ah SLAB battery is too heavy and should be exchanged for lighter Li-Ion batteries. The laptop is too slow and the battery is weak, I should think about a replacement.

I did this experiment as well to see if I could bring this station with me when I do a talk about DXing with the weak signal modes like FT8 on HF at our monthly clubmeeting. It would be nice to set it up so I can show what can be received on FT8 while I do the talk.

Next experiment would be a phone QSO with my portable station...

Here is the video:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#FT8 puzzles me?

Yes, it puzzles me? I really don't understand two things. First of all it occurs to me lately that even with 30W output I don't see a lot of "good" signal reports. At least not what I expect? And even when a station is above 0dB (that's really, really strong in FT8) they doesn't seem to see me? Take a look at the reports from 2 QSO on the picture and compare my received report with the given report from TA4SO and SV5DKL. I'm transmitting 30W not really QRP, antenna is my vertical which is always doing fine. However I give SV5DKL a incredible report of +14dB and he's giving me only -19dB? I really don't understand why the difference is so big? Is my receive that great and/or does he have so much noise and QRM?

And no, it is not consistent, I get good reports when I look on received reports at HamSpots. At that same time I worked the stations in the picture above I get a -07dB report from a station in the USA and from DX stations as far as PY (Brazil) and CX (Chili) more then 10K km away I even get reasonable reports. No, the difference in signal reports puzzles me??

Second, it looks like many stations are applying a narrow filter when they are calling. I cannot forbid that, and I really understand why when the band is crowded with signals. But many FT8 users forget that it really doesn't matter where you reply on a CQ in the waterfall. You should not necessarily reply on exact same frequency. It is even not desirable! If two or three or even more stations reply on the same frequency at the same time the CQ giving station will not decode anything. However, it seems that most FT8 users don't understand and apply a narrow filter so they only see signals in the vicinity of their own. In the newest version of WSJT-X the RX/TX is not linked anymore. However you could link them by using the shift key together with were you point the mouse in the waterfall (or clicking on a CQ). I really shouldn't tell that but anyway people seem to be consistent in replying on the same frequency you call. Well, I do understand....or actually do I. I am confused. Hopefully more and more stations will understand and will change their FT8 habits.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

PA-beker 2017 report

Event: PA-beker contest
Section: SSB
Logger: N1MM+ 
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna: Inverted-V apex 12m

Just like last year this is a local contest. So a report in English is not very interesting for most readers. This blogpost will be in Dutch, possibly it can be translated with google.

Het was weer leuk meedoen met de PA-beker contest. Gelukkig hing mijn houtje-touwtje inverted-V nog nadat we afgelopen week flink wat wind gehad hebben. De antenne deed het in het geheel helemaal niet slecht. Alleen de condities op 40m vielen een beetje tegen en daarnaast had ik het idee dat er minder deelnemers waren. De PD stations waren waarschijnlijk meest afgehaakt want op 40m was het bagger. De kritische frequentie voor het terugkaatsen van de radiogolven op korte afstand, zeg maar 400km, kwam niet boven de 6,8 MHz. Tja, en dat was te merken ook. Alle 9 40m QSO die ik maakte gingen erg moeilijk en waarschijnlijk gewoon via grondgolf. CQ roepen had eigenlijk geen zin voor mij, althans ik heb het even gedaan maar er kwam niets terug. Eigenlijk vind ik het knap van de stations die mij uiteindelijk gewerkt hebben op de 40m band want het was niet makkelijk. Op 80m echter ging het als een trein, er werden 74 QSO's gemaakt waarvan 2 dupes. Dat viel eigenlijk niet tegen, de signalen waren ook best hard. Leuk was het even te werken met medeblogger PC4T Paul, uiteraard maakten we even een kort praatje. Het leukste is natuurlijk de regio's te werken in deze contest, liefst allemaal en anders zoveel mogelijk want het zijn wel multipliers. In N1MM+ zit een heel makkelijk schermpje die de gemelde multipliers laat zien. Ik heb zo zeker ook snel een paar multipliers gewerkt tussen het CQ roepen door. Kwestie van klikken op de call - werken - en weer terug naar de CQ frequentie. Dit jaar mis ik regio 5, 12, 16, 22, 25, 27, 32, 38, 39, 47 en 50. Vorig jaar miste ik er ook 11 en nu weer, maar wel weer andere regio's. Het aantal QSO's en punten zijn wel beduidend lager, maar gezien de condities op 40m zal iedereen dat wel hebben.

Volgende week de Friese 11 steden contest op 40m. Vorig jaar werkte dat totaal niet omdat de condities ons in de steek lieten. Dit jaar voorzie ik helaas het zelfde. Ook al ben ik 1 van de stations die juist een voorstander was van het gebruik van 40m voor deze contest om zo de novice stations ook mee te laten doen. Misschien moet de organisatie eens nadenken over het gebruik van zowel de 40m als 80m band zoals bij de PA-beker contest?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Smart spectrum display

In a recent article on the ARRL website something catched my eye:

In a related “lightning talk” at the 2017 ARRL-TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC) earlier this year, ARRL Contributing Editor Ward Silver, N0AX, challenged his savvy audience to develop a keyboard-to-keyboard mode “between FT8 and PSK31” that would support casual and competitive operating, be more interference and noise tolerant, and be usable by those with “compromised” stations and antennas. He also challenged his listeners to develop a “smart” spectrum display that would identify signals by mode, so Amateur Radio could move away from the practice of setting aside specific frequencies for digital modes. 

And when discussing this on the SIM31 facebook page with SIM programmer Nizar he asked me what they mean with a "smart spectrum display" I was thinking what I would like to see in a feature or software like that.

Some of you know that there is already a program called Artemis which allows you compare real-time spectra (from SDR waterfall for example) with those found in archives by comparison of the properties (such as frequency, bandwidth, modulation …) and verifying it through a sample image. A variety of filters allows you to narrow your search, facilitating the identification of unknown signals.

You can find it here:

The above might be the spectrum display that Ward had in mind. But is it smart? What would you like to see or experience, what kind of features do you have in mind?

There are so many digital modes and many are having fixed frequencies. What would be handy is software that detects the mode in realtime and then start the software for a specific detected mode to be able to decode and/or answer a call.

I know that attempts are made with reed solomon identifier like the TXid/RXid you can switch on/off in DM780 digimode program. However, if you don't send a indentifier with your transmission it will not decode or ident anything. What we need is a identifier that decodes a digimode in realtime. But this might be too much a futuristic thing?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Old antenna tower pictures (2)

Found some more pictures...Paul PC4T wish he had a tower like me, but it is big you need room.

The tower in the garden at my old QTH. It just fitted!
The garden was 6m wide and 20m long. Had the Diamond CP6 still on top which was swapped for a multiband GP later.

John MW1CFN noted I could use the tower as one leg of a sloper. I did at that QTH.

A 3 band sloper I believe. At least 80m and 40m, I guess 20m as well?

The shortened 160m band sloper with a coil. I added a cap head later, not really a hat on top but on top of the coil 1m above ground. I won a 160m band contest with this, nr. 1 Netherlands

One last one from the other side of our previous house....

Notice the big did help to get rid of birds on the beam. Though really brave birds just sat on the CP6 radials.

2017 goal: antenna tower up again!

Remember my yearly post "higlights and goals" from december last year. Well last summer I finally had time to apply for a antenna tower building permit. But things are going slow in our country so it took almost half a year before I finally got it. And if you think that's all, well when you get the building permit you need to wait for 6 weeks before it is official so any neighbours can make official complaints. But finally the mast is up again now since last saturday, the only goal I had for the hobby this year. I did some work on the winches and bought new clamps to fasten the cables. To mount the rotor and antennas on top will take a while. I decided to sell the Create rotor and take a look at the Kenpro KR600 again. Probabely the Kenpro needs a new potmeter as well.

Then last sunday I opened the "Electron". Which is the
monthly magazine from the VERON (Dutch hamradio organisation). One of the articles was about the PA-beker contest. A dutch national contest which I always participate in. I took a view in my agenda, it was not in! How could this be? I don't know but this contest happens upcoming weekend. I have no time to make any NVIS antenna this week. No time to install the 80m loop like I always did in previous years. Luckely I still had my old 80m loop copper wire (not the most recent) and figured out I could make a 80m band inverted-Vand mount it in the new tower. But how to feed it as I haven't got enough coax. No time to tune a antenna either and no time to construct a ladder line. So I've been searching around in my garage and found 4 pieces of 400 Ohm ladderline wich I soldered together so it was just enough to get from my shack to top of the "new" antenna tower. It seems to be working fine at least on the 80m band the signals are strong and compared to the old vertical noise is much less. It seems to have a narrower band width compared to the loop but tunes fine on all bands including 160m!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old antennatower pictures

I recently found some old photos from previous antenna towers I had. Nice to see what I had in the past. Great to see those old pictures again...

Not shure which year this was taken but I think it was around 2000. The big cross yagi is for receiving sats on 70cm and worked very well. On the mast is on top the W2000 I still use, below a 70cm/2m horizontal yagi, a 6m HB9CV and a HB9CV for 10m.

Same mast different antenna. The big one is the 6 elem. log periodic for 10m.
Had several antennas on the mast including a 2 element PDL2 Quad. Unfortenately can't find any photos from that at the moment. I think this one was taken in 2002.

After moving across the street (bought a house after renting the previous one). I already bought the versatower. On top a homemade GP with 1:9 balun for HF, the horizontal dual band 70cm/2m yagi and then the 10m logper. At the side a Diamond X30 for 2m/70cm. Made this photo winter 2006.

The mast at my previous QTH from another point of view...made from a new building which unfortenately blocked my DX path to Japan/New Zealand. Photo made in 2007 just a year before we moved to our previous home.

It could be I have other photos somewhere on a disc. Have to search for it one of these days, months, years ;-)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ideas accomplished

Well, I managed to accomplish the ideas from my test with the 30m W5OLF WSPR VCXO- AXE. The digital readout has been easy actually, a 5 minute job. The digital readout shows the voltage after the L78S10CV regulator which provides a constant 10V when the source is 12V and higher. However, when the battery is providing lower voltage when it gets empty voltage will stay 2V below input. The transmitter only has 1W when voltage is 10V. There was a power/voltage graph in the building instruction but unfortunately cannot find the instruction here anymore. From what I remember is that power/voltage was almost related. So a indication of 10.0V is 1000mW, 8V would be approx 800mW. It is a nice indication from what output to expect. And it looks nice as well.

While testing the new digital readout display I connected the transmitter to my magnetic loop inside the shack again. Look at the signal I have in south-west england at G8ZSG. It would be no problem to make a QSO in digital modes or CW.

Unfortunately the weather doesn't permit me to try the magnetic loop outside. We got a lot of rain these days. However I'm very curious what the difference would be if the magnetic loop is placed in the open air...

A piece of electronic art.....destroyed.....

I had a nice old SWR/Field Strength meter which I bought for a few bucks on a auction. It is almost a pity I use this piece of electronic art as a donor. But it features all the components I need except the 10nF caps which I removed from a old printboard. I used the very simple field strength diagram from KY6R's weblog this time as it seems it is a very sensitive design. The components were soldered together and the whole thing was tested with good result. I build the whole thing into the box with the varicap. It was a little tight but works fine for me.

The only thing I wish to modify is the pickup antenna of the FS meter. The whole thing seems to be having some handeffect. I might attach a plastic knob on the sensivity potmeter as well.