Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 highlights, 2018 goals

A traditional post for many years on my blog. A review of 2017 and preview on 2018. This year has gone in a flash, too fast, too many things happen. Another radio friend lost, I guess this will happen more often when you get older. But at least I did place the antenna tower finally after almost 10 years. When I moved to this house in 2008 I thought it would take a year or two to get the tower up again but besides the hobby other things occupied my time and the tower was the last thing that was on my mind. The "emergency" antennas worked reasonable well making the tower less important.
This was not a good year DX wise, only three new DXCC worked and three new on WSPR. I did work some interesting new ones on 60m, so it wasn't that bad. But I have been experimenting a lot more compared to previous years. I started with a power supply, did some FSQ and JTDX experiments, made a GPS timer working though it still has some hickups, measured the loss in PL259 connectors, failed a RaDAR activation, did various magnetic loop experiments that finally resulted in a very good usable portable magloop, did some tests with a WSPR transmitter kit and modified it a little and created another KISS digimode audio interface. Finally did some maintenance and repairs on both the Create as the Kenpro rotor. This year truly became a "maker" year and I learned a lot from the experiences. Did I meet my goal for this year, yes I did!

The tower is up again and now there is the challenge to reroute coax and cables to the new tower. I already took care over the Kenpro rotor that will be mounted in the mast again. There will be a small cabinet at the base of the mast that already has the lightning protectors and a galvanic separator mounted inside. I'm thinking about mounting the Alu tape multiband vertical on top of the antenna tower, it will be at a feedpoint height of about 16 meter which is 7 meters above the height I use now. It will not have the three radials I use now but a 7 meter wire as opposite capacity hanging outside the mast to make it a vertical dipole. I might try the mast as radiator as well, see what works best for me? The plan is to mount at least a 5 elem. beam for the 6m band. And till I have any idea about a multiband beam I mount a 5 element 10m beam as well below the 6m beam. At least, that's the idea and my goal for 2018...

Wishing all my readers a very healthy, prosperous and DX full new year!

Monday, December 25, 2017

WSPR new ones and WSPR LP?

The gigantic WSPR spider. TX/RX so far.
First of all Merry Christmas to you all.  Christmas is the time you spend with your family. However technology evolves and we can now spend both time on the hobby and family. So I decided to hunt for new WSPR DXCC the last week of this year. Since I heard 40m was open and in good shape the first two days were spend on that band but no spectaculair spots were received or made, it mainly stayed in and around Europe. So I decided to switch to 20m. With the forecast of a magnetic storm at 23 december I didn't expect much. But surprisingly my 1W WSPR signal was heard in 3 new DXCC: KP3FT Puerto Rico, HZ1AM Saudi Arabia and V51PJ Namibia. It has been a year ago I could add some new DXCC to my list counting 85 now. Hopefully I can add some more before the end of the year. However with the populair WSPR kits and RaspberryPi projects there are more transmitters compared to receivers. This doesn't make it easy to get to my goal of 100 DXCC with 1W on WSPR.

If you use a smartphone you naturally check your WSPR reports now and then. For IPhone you can use WSPR watch and for Android WSPR World Watch. Of course you can check on a computer as well on I use WSPR watch on my IPhone and when checking this morning I found out I was already spotted by only one station VE6JY from Alberta - Canada at 5:16 UTC in the morning. That's 4:16 local time and in the middle of the night. It was a consistent signal and the path did hold for about 45 minutes. I cannot proof anything as I don't have a directional antenna but this looks like a Long Path signal to me which is very rare for that part of the world at that time. Usually a short path is there at our early afternoon as you can see from the rest of the spots.

VE6JY antennafarm is shown in the video below...

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Replacing my log processing logbook

Slowly I came to the conclusion that I can't continue with Ham Radio Deluxe version 4 as my main QSO/QSL processing logbook. I still think V4 is the best in simplicity and it is clear as crystal in my eyes. But the hamradio hobby is a constant changing thing and there are new modes now which are and will not be implemented in V4. Logging JT9 and FT8 is a difficult thing now. So, naturally you would say change to HRD V5 latest free version, you can add modes there and it is very versatile. But V5 is not updated either except for a commercial V6 of course. Besides that it is not able to send logs to clublog, and hamlog from within the program as far as I know. Even LOTW happens to be a small problem in V5.

I'm using Ham Radio DeLuxe version 5 last free version as my logger in the shack. But all further processing is done on another computer. So far I used V4 because the analyze and search function for the logbook is just what I need. But after JT9 and now this year FT8 was introduced I got into trouble. HRD V4 doesn't have the ability to add new modes and the program is not updated either. Besides that V4 was made when LOTW, Clublog, log and so many others didn't even exist. So retreiving and sending digital QSLs was a matter of hard manual work.

So I was searching for new free software that could do it all and that would get updates preferable with a kind of helpdesk if you run into problems. The new log software should be at least having all the log features I was used to and do all the processing of QSL for me. I don't look for a immidiate replacement in the shack but a replacement for my main processing logbook which I have on another computer and in the cloud as a back-up.

Reading some dutch hamradio forums about logbook software I had several options. But I finally decided Log4OM would be the best choice for me. I think this free software is ready for the future and new versions are planned. The support via the Log4OM forum is excellent, I've experienced that myself.

Main feature I do like from this program is the easy upload/download for LOTW and eQSL. The thing I don't like is the unclear "Statistics and awards" tab, but luckely these days you can see real good DXCC statistics in Clublog. The DXcluster implemented is excellent, although I won't use this logger in my shack. Of course there are too many options on-board of this nice logbook, options I don't use and do not need.

To setup this logbook was a small challenge as it didn't do the things I expected. But the manual is excellent and I got some help from forum members.

If there was another logger with only QSL processing and statistics I would step over instantly. But as far as I know there is no such software around.

So far I will use Log4OM as my main processing logger.

The only feature I like in the Statistics tab: All my QSOs in one map.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kenpro overhaul (2)

In a previous post I wrote I would do some work on the Kenpro KR600 (not to be confused with the RC (Round Clock) model. Well, it took some time and effort to get everything ready. Besides that I discovered a few things I didn't find on the internet about this rotor. I found a excellent repair guidline for the KR400 by DL3LAR, he has some very good tips but doesn't tell you everything especially not when you forgot to mark everything. It also seems the KR400 doesn't have end-stop switches like the KR600. However the tip to set the potmeter in the center position and so set the clock to position North before you remount was a very good one.

First of all a cleaned everything including the bearing balls. The bearing shells were worn a little I solved that with a layer of 2 component "liquid steel".

The new potmeter unfortenately didn't fit well, had to do some metal filing. I had to file the hole which is circled red at the picture.

I my previous post I told there was no stop on the potmeter. When I received the new one there was a small paper enclosed to tell me the old potmeter didn't have a stop. Ah well, so that was not broken but the rest of it was not good either.

Another thing I discovered was the bearing shell / gear that fits over the first layer of balls. 4 sides are partly elevated and fit into the cover to connect it to the gear, first I thought all 4 had the same size, but when I mounted everything together I couldn't fit it straight. In the end it seemed one side has a larger elevated part (red circle). And of course that fits directly in the cover at just one place, which is the opposite of the end-stop activator inside the cover. If the rotor/potmeter is set at the center position this is the way the shell has to be mounted.

One of the end switches was not working well either, luckely with a bit of pressing and bending the switch arm it was quickly solved.

Of course everything was lubricated well with a thick layer of ball bearing grease. This way I hope the rotor will hold for years to come.

Well, in the end everything went well and the rotor is working fine again. It is a bit more complicated compared to the Create rotor I did before but at least as good I think.

Now, another thing I wanted to change. The metering scale of the controlbox is north oriented, that's fine if you live south of the equator or at least in other countries outside Europe. Probabely this is typical Japanese?

Credits G4DMF
So I was searching for a new scale as of course someone did this before. I found a reasonable one and printed it on photopaper with good enough results. When everything was ready of course I found another one in 600dpi GIF format, much sharper. But so far I'm satisfied with the result.
If you print this one you need to cut it in a photoshop program and print it measuring 8x7,2cm. The holes for the LEDs are not in the picture you need to figure it out yourself. Originally this scale was for the Kenpro KR400 which has probabely no LEDs for left/right turn indication.

When disassembling I noticed the lightbulb is a simple truck 24V dashboard light with Ba9s fitting. You can find several color LEDs for those on the internet. I had the idea to change the light match the green display of my Icom IC-706. But you can of course change it any colour you want. Don't forget the LED bulbs are DC and not AC, you need to add a diode to get a DC voltage on the LED.

Resulting in this:

Left: original light, right: New green LED light

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bouvet personal propagation prediction

You can find your personal propagation prediction for Bouvet Island here.

Very nice service from this most expensive DXpedition ever. I'll bet every serious DXer in the HAMradio community want to work them.

With my modest setup I can only hope for a contact!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#28MHz ARRL 10m contest review

Event: ARRL 10m contest
Section: Mixed (SSB/CW)
Logger: HRD log converted with log converter
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna: Multiband vertical at 9m agl

Well, never expected but there appeared to be some ES sunday afternoon. It was good enough to run for about half a hour which resulted in a few QSO extra. I had even less time for the contest today compared to yesterday but in the few times I slipped in to the shack and turned the VFO I made a lot of QSOs after all. Best DX today was V51YJ from Namibia.

 I made 65 QSOs into 23 DXCC in the end. 32 QSOs on CW and 33 QSOs on SSB. You can call that 50/50! However I think I logged some of the CW QSOs with the wrong progressive number, sorry for that.

I really never expected the band would be open like this. Every time I went to my shack there were signals on the band and I could work some stations. If I had time enough I certainly would be able to make a lot more QSOs for shure. I had a lot of fun though and will look out for next years ARRL 10m contest.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#28MHz 10m surprises me again!

Yes, 10m surprises me. I didn't have any propagation expectation at all and looking at the propagation last couple of days I did not expect to make many QSO's at all.

SFI:69 SN:11 A:10 K:1 today, does that tell much? Well the K index is low and that's good, the rest is all bad.

But I heard VK3KCX three times this morning on WSPR! So, that was promising!
Didn't have much time to contest though so it was 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there. I decided to do mix mode CW/SSB to spread my chances. At first I logged with N1MM+ but it went wrong at the first QSO already so I changed to HRD and DM780. Unfortenately that is not really a contest logger but it does serve well under difficult situations like this. However I logged and give some wrong numbers and so the log is not complete. I can always send in my log as checklog as fun is the most important thing here.

19 stations were worked today and most memorable contact was with FR4QT from Reunion Isl. Africa on SSB!

Friday, December 8, 2017

#28MHz 10m ARRL is going to be dramatic?

Will the 10m ARRL contest be just as dramatic as my effort in 2010? Only time will learn!
SFI:67 SN:11 A:10 K:2. They expect aurora next tuesday, a little too late for the contest.
However it looks like the propagation opened a little (ES?) late afternoon after sunset.

My results 10m today...
And PG0DX Henry again spotted Australia this morning at 09:24 UTC. The difference between a vertical at low height and a large beam on about 20m height is obvious.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

#28MHz ARRL 10m contest this weekend

Several posts about the 10m ARRL contest were made last year. Even with a detailed description of the propagation days before the contest. I took part with the biggest effort I could and it resulted in a first place surprisingly! But this year there is no time to make a good setup or even mount the HB9CV in the mast. Yes, I have the new antenna tower up and standing but I have to mount the rotor, cables, lightning protection, antennas. I don't even have all the hardware or the money to buy things. So it has to wait till next year. Better concentrate on the things I have here and that is not only the radiohobby. However, I'm still very interested in the 10m ARRL contest, participating or not, it is the contest that gives me the most pleasure of them all. Especially when propagation is not that good and you have to fight for every QSO.

I decided to leave my "spare" portable station on 10m WSPR today, antenna is my multiband vertical. The propagation doesn't look that good unfortunately, as expected of course. SFI:68 SN:13 A:16 K:3. And as expected I was only spotted and spotted only stations in my neighbourhood. Not even outside the Netherlands at all!

Truly amazing is what you can spot when you have a very good yagi on about 20m height. Look at PG0DX Henry his spots:

Henry spotted VK3KCX today. But overall he still is able to see propagation paths to Australia almost every day even without the propagation you normally should have for these kind of distances.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hamspots offline till 2018 will be offline until sometime in the new year (2018).

The services provided by HamSpots to JTAlert (Band Activity Data and TextMsg forwarding) will still be working. Spots sent by JTAlert to HamSpots will also be working (needed by the Band Activity display). It is the web interface that will not be available.

de Laurie VK3AMA

#cqww CW raw score

Looks like no one else in the Netherlands did submit a log for the section 80m QRP unassisted.
That means I will beat the 32 year old dutch record held by PA3AFF. The raw score of course is not the final count but after correction I will most likely have more points compared to the previous record. At least my goal seems to be fulfilled.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Catch up with comments moderation

Since I have my blog configured to keep spam away comments after 14 days of posting a article have to be moderated!

But....I just discovered today that there is a tab "comments waiting for moderation". And so I had to catch up!

If you ever made a comment that was not published or replied to on this weblog you can find it now....probabely!