Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 highlights, 2019 goals

My traditional post at the end of the year. Looking back at my amateurradio activities. Have I met my goals? What's going to happen next year?






Last years post didn't feature my PA6AA activity, I just forgot? Am
I getting old? I don't know....but at least I can write about it this time. For the last 2 years it is one of the highlights of the year for me but also for the other operators participating in the PA6AA contestgroup. We don't have a big conteststation but what we have is a excellent location at the northern coast of the netherlands and a great team with very positive operators. We have to build the "portable" station every year again and dismantle it after the contest, that takes a lot of planning and time. But when everything works like it should we can make a good score contestwise. And it is not only the score and the contest but also the great teamwork that gives us pleasure.

This was again not a good DX year. Only one ATNO DXCC was worked and Kosovo is still a doubt. So I found other DXCC challenges and this year I add 5 new DXCC to my "WSPR 1W heard" list. I might do the same in 2019 for 60m and 6m.

Shack dec. 2018
Did I meet my goals? Yes and no! Yes, I rerouted the coaxial cables, I mounted the rotor and the small distribution cabinet below the tower. And I mounted the 5 element 6m yagi which did a great job this year. And No, I didn't mount the old multiband coppertape vertical at top of the tower, it was a idea but I had troubles with my automatic antennatuner that should be below the vertical. Besides that the radials are really a problem, I can't use the mast as "radial" since some simulations in EZNEC did show a very bad radiating pattern on all bands except 160m and 80m. Not a good idea! I also didn't mount the 5 element 10m yagi but instead mounted a HF5B 2 element 5 band beam which is doing a reasonable job and features 5 bands instead of just 1. What is not really clearly on my blog, I did change my shack to apply the rotorcontroller on the desk. And I wanted to have space already (thinking ahead) for a Icom IC-7300 which is preferable my new radio in the future.

So what happened this year? Let's look back into the 2018 archives. First of all I rerouted the coax and cables for the rotor and mounted the rotor of course. Since my XYL doesn't want to have the horizontal 80m loop around the garden anymore I changed to a multiband 2x20m inverted-V hanging @12m agl in the tower sloping to about 3m from the ground. It does a great job except may be for 10 and 12m were it is much too long. At first I used original wireman ladderline but changed to homemade ladderline which gave me immidiate success with a QSO on 60m to New Zealand and is indeed a improvement. This year I also changed from operating system on my computer since the old system (vista) was not supported anymore by teamviewer, chrome and other software I need for the hobby. This OS change did work out at first but after a few updates it didn't give me the stability I wanted and it was still a old slow computer so I bought another faster one. Some simple solutions came to my mind as well. My old homemade VOX digimodem project was converted to a USB port CQ parrot which is doing a great job with N1MM+, I sold my old standalone CQ voicekeyer. This new voicekeyer/parrot supported me in the PACC 2018 contest in which I obtained 2nd place in the largest section SSB low power single operator all band. From a digimode perspective I experimented a lot with APRS-messenger this year till it was and is over shadowed by a new digimode package called JS8Call which has most of the features APRS-messenger and FSQ had. There is so much to experiment with and it looks like I'm the expert in digimodes but I'm not, I just like to experiment and see if contacts are possible with minimum gear. I proved that by using a predecessor of JS8Call (FT8Call) from my car on 20m with good results. I'm still busy to build my ultimate portable digital station and this year made some progress. Looking back at my radio activity I'm mainly on 60m and 6m when I'm not in a contest. A real 6m beam gave me many new DXCC in the logbook on the magic band. It was great to experience and will certainly do it again next year. I might even consider to extend the 5 element to a 7 element 6m beam. Again I tried to be active in a RaDAR event, I like the concept. But time is always a issue, and still my portable station is not ready yet. The rules sound easy but to build up a portable station within a few minutes and next make QSOs is not that easy. And at the end of the year there was my 10m ARRL contest participation again, propagation is very low these days but I proved there are still contacts possible on the 10m band.

A strong helper....
My goals for 2019...
Let me think about that. I have some goals but actually they are wishes. I would like to wish propagation is good enough again in ES season to make a 6m contact to Japan, this should be possible with my 5 element beam, I'm shure of that. The only critical thing is that you need to be on the radio at the right time! And time will be a issue in 2019 as well! Another wish is to buy another radio. Preferable the Icom IC-7300. My main radio the  IC-706 MK2G is still doing a fine job.....when it is working. But lately I've got some problems especially when I don't use the radio often, the PLL doesn't seem to lock with all kind of problems occuring. There is nothing I can do except waiting till it works. I think this will occur more often when time passes. Repair is probabely too expensive considering the age and value of the radio. More wishes....a multiband antenna. I currently use a Butternut HF5B but am not really impressed by this antenna. I would prefer a homemade multiband quad but am not shure it will fit into the mast actually. I've looked at other designs for a multiband beam but didn't make a final choice yet. Well, these are not really goals like I wrote, they are wishes.....let me dream on....

Last but not least, I wish you, readers of my blog, a very happy and healthy 2019.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

What's going on @ PE4BAS

Well, I might make a lot of postings this month but I've the feeling not much is happening actually. I'm monitoring 20m WSPR the last few days, not with my old Sony worldreceiver but with my FT817 and old laptop first to compare an old version of JTDX with the new WSJT-X on WSPR. So far I see no real difference. I monitored with the new desktop and IC-706MK2G with CW filter on yesterday. I think it can make a difference at least to surpress big signals near the WSPR frequency,

WSPR 20m last week, RX only.

I look at the PE1ITR WSPR challenge to see the result and compare it with others. There is no way I come close to EA8BFK or MW1CFN. Both are on excellent locations. But for the Netherlands I'm doing a fine job I think. I wish I could compare with other dutch stations but you hardly see them in the top 50! Anyone in the Netherlands like to compete? Some stats:

Started 22/12 with JTDX 1.7: RX: 178 place: 37.
23/12 with WSJT-X 2.0: RX: 163 place: 37.
24/12 with JTDX 1.7: RX: 196 place: 14.
The above is with software running on my old XP laptop and the FT-817.

Below the results with WSJT-X 2.0 running on my desktop and the IC-706 with CW filter.
25/12 not count as I changed computers and forgot to click send data box.
26/12 RX: 203 place: 18. (Number one is EA8BFK RX: 276!)

Antenne used: HF5B @14m position west.

I see no other dutch stations in the challenge? So, am I the only one that actually listens on 20m and is the rest only transmitting? Or is the amount of noise in other parts of the Netherlands that high?
I certainly would be curious!


My shack on second christmas day
The Christmas days are over now. I spend a lot of time repairing the tablet computer of my daughter. In her eyes I'm the best technician in the world, I can fix almost everything and certainly fix her tablet. The problem is a weak micro USB connector so charging the tablet is a real pain. I've fixed it before a month ago but now it broke again. You can find all kind of videos on youtube how to fix it but those never tell you what to do if even the almost invisible printboard traces from the double sided printboard are gone. This really became a big challenge. Even with a big magnifier lens it was a hard job to repair. At first I tried to restore every trace with a thin wire. But since I could  hardly see it soldering was impossible, at least for me.

Then, searching the internet, it became clear to me that only the most left and right poles of the connector are used for charging. Since we do not use the USB port to up or download data it would do fine if I managed to solder only those 2 outer poles to the printboard. At first I thought it was a success, but connecting to the charger didn't give the tablet any life again....you can imagine I was shure of my soldering job and of course put everything together again. My daughter was very sad, you can imagine that as well...2nd Christmas day I decided to give it a go again and first of all measured if 5V was supplied on the connector, it was. But not on the printboard. I could not see it, even not with the magnifier but apparently I didn't a good job soldering, touching the pole of the connector with the multimeter probe made the contact and the tablet felt the new current in the batteries. Soldering the + pole over again solved the problem and the tablet could be charged. It is amazing such a small problem actually costs you so many hours in the end!

Friday, December 21, 2018

#FT8 SWL with Sony worldreceiver

Cleaning up a cabinet I found my old Sony ICF-2001 worldreceiver again. I remember I wanted to repair the thing but things went wrong, no display showed, buttons didn't work anymore. I decided to take another look. The battery compartment for the processor memory and display looked fine at first sight but I decided to clean it anyway. Measuring the voltage after cleaning it was fine and indeed the diplay came up again. The radio went on and at least the 1,4 and 9, execute buttons as well as the up/down buttons were working. From the 2010 blogpost I dsee I had the problem before. I decided to dismantle the radio and tried to clean the button contacts with electronic cleaner spray. The contacts are made from copperfoil and you can't open it so this was the only way to do something hoping some of the fluid would be getting inside the contacts. Assembled the radio again and now a few more buttons were functioning to the point that I could easily change frequency and at least could program 3 memory buttons. I first wanted to test the radio with WSPR. But since the tuning only ends at 1 KHz that is difficult, it is possible but I have to calibrate transmitting a signal and then tune the radio with the SSB/CW compensation (clarifier). FT8 signals could be readily heard so I decided to play SWL on FT8 just with the telescopic whip on the radio inside the house. The results are really great considering this is an old radio, not state of the art, no realy good sensitivity, no filtering or whatever. Yellow is 20m, Blue is 40m other colors are 30m.



This is so easy for others to replicate if you have SSB receive on a old worldreceiver. Just plug a cable into the earphone connector of your receiver and plug it in the mic connector on your computer. Download WSJT-X and choose the right input. Important is to be on the right time, you use NTP or nettime. But most W10 computers are synced these days. A fun experiment even for those that are interested and short wave listeners but not yet licensed HAM operators.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

3Y0I Bouvet Isl. spotted


Pirate? or accidental test? 3Y0I was spotted on 60m by my neighbourstation PA4O yesterday...

https://www.rebeldxgroup.com/3y0i-pirates-and-slims/

Given the reports of +17dB (!) this is probabely a pirate from Germany.

Monday, December 17, 2018

CG3000 tuner test

Very bad connector....
black corroded pin was +12V
Remember my hamradio nightmare in June this year? Well, I let it dry a few weeks and I removed all the inside corrosion. The 12V connector was unrepairable, I removed it and mounted another one. I couldn't see any damage to the electronic components and no corrosion on the printboard as well. So I had good hopes the tuner had survived. However, when I connected everything it was not doing anything...
When removing the 12V cable I noticed a clicking noise. I connected it again and moved it a little a clicking noise could be heard, it was alive!
You'll see in my video that the tuner is still working. I can make plans for the use in a new HF antenna system now...





Sunday, December 16, 2018

New computer

Well, not new but used, it is new to me anyway. Remember my post from 2011 about hardware that fails due to a mechanism build in by manufacturers. I still believe in that. My old desktop had been in use since 2008 (10 years) !! I upgraded it with more RAM and even W10 this year. W10 worked better as Vista but lately I get more and more problems. First again with the videocard resulting in BSODs. Problem was solved. But the computer sometimes locks as well. Sometimes means, sometimes not for 24 hours, sometimes every hour. This happens especially when I use WSJT-X and JS8Call. The only thing that can be done is pressing the switch to start again which is taking at least 4 minutes. Most annoying especially when experimenting with digimode software. Besides that the computer seems to be slow with decoding especially FT8 and doesn't even decode when for instance I'm on internet with a browser at the same time. Another problem occured when N1MM+ (contestsoftware) was installed, communication between my computer and radio was lost every 5 minutes and only works reasonable when I set the baudrate to 4800bd. Time for another computer I though for the last couple of weeks. I bought a used HP laptop last year for my birthday from a internet shop that sells used professional computers. The laptop does well and so I decided to buy a desktop as well this time at the same shop.  So I sold some things and scraped some money together to  buy a HP Elitedesk 800 G1 with 8Gb RAM, i5 quad core processor up to 3,6Ghz and 256Gb SSD, the OS is W10 Pro 64bit again. It is a huge box with big low noise fans so cooling will be not a problem at all I suspect, very important when you want to enjoy electronics for a long time. The only thing that is not inside is a Wifi trx, luckely I already got a good one that can be connected trough a USB port. Hopefully this computer will last for another 10 years....

Specs...
Our wireless hobby...
What I wrote above has happened a while ago. I wanted to test the computer first before I could finally tell something about how it is performing. It was a hell of a job to install all the software back from what I had on the old desktop. And after installing there is the configuration. Luckely I had back-ups but still there was enough to configure manually like all the paths in the WSJT-X.ini and JS8Call.ini. Finally everything is working...The startup time has been descreased a lot, from 4 minutes on my old computer to less as 15 seconds on this new one. Actually the OS is already loaded before the videocard gives signal to the screen so 15 sec. is inlcuding me typing the password. The cooling fans are much quieter, actually it is at least 6dB less noise I think, I can barely hear the computer is on. Decoding FT8 in WSJT-X is in a blink of an eye, were the old computer was still decoding after the TX went in sometimes. And it still decodes when I'm doing other things with the computer like viewing a website. A lot of improvement. The most interesting thing is that it features a old serial port, COM1. It gave me the possebility to create a very simple automatic CW keyer like I wrote before. I made a final endurance tests before and during the ARRL 10m contest, the computer was on from wednesday till sundayevening that week without any lock up or error. I'm happy this part of the station is finally working well right now.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

More MSK144 tinkering

Well since the Geminides are still in vincinity I decided to try MSK144 once more. I finally found a dutch WSJT manual with some tips for MSK144. This manual tells that the IARU Region 1 MSK144 frequency is 50.380MHz from 18 nov 2018. 50.280MHz is the Region 2 frequency. But since that is programmed into the software (yes you can remove it or change the frequency) everyone is on 50.280MHz. It is also advisable to read about MSK144 in the WSJT 2.0 manual (Chapter 8.4)

It seems that my earlier "half " QSO with S58P was really a lucky shot since I did reply to many yesterday evening but never got any reply. Although my signal was certainly reflected as you can see in the map.

PE1BVQ Hans, who is more experienced with meteorscatter, suggested I really should make a sked with someone on the KST chat. Random MS is almost impossible.

However, I saw a few dutch stations like PA2REH and PA4VHF making contacts. I didn't see them on the KST chat and they responded on a CQ I saw as well. So, it should be possible. Although I might need more power and my 5 element yagi back on the tower...

It is a interesting mode when a meteorshower is nearby, However it costs a lot of time and effort to make a QSO. This might be interesting for me when I got retired.



Friday, December 14, 2018

Reflecting the Geminides on 6m

With the passing Geminides meteor shower I though it would be a interesting experience to monitor the MSK144 frequency last evening and night. I never did meteorscatter before so I asked PE1BVQ Hans for some info since he is experienced in this kind of thing. He suggested I should take a look at ON4KST chat since meteorscatter most of the time is not random but a pre arranged sked via internet. So I logged in on the KST chat but really don't know what to do there. I see some amateurs chatting but don't see much about arranging skeds? In the mean time I decoded some signals that looked like a contest exchange and some CQs from several stations. Am I on the right frequency? Can't find anything on the internet about the region 1 frequency for MSK144 at all? Is it via MS or is it just aircraftscatter? I really don't know? I transmitted a few CQs and see I'm received in Schotland, England, Germany, Skandinavia and Netherlands. Some reports are above 00dB! But no one came back to me. However, I remember Hans told me that it could take some time before you get something back at all if lucky. So I went to bed and marked "SWL" in WSJT-X. When I woke up this morning I saw this:


Indeed I gave S58P a report several times but didn't see anything back to me. But it seems he tried to get back to me and I received the report much later. Unfortunately I already went to bed and was not at  my shack. I couldn't give him the 73. I don't know if it is important with MS? The QSO purist definitely tell me the QSO is not complete, although we complete the report exchange both ways!

So, what do you think?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Fun tuning...

Originally found this link on "The SWLing Post" blog....

Remember tuning in on a old analog valve or transistorradio. I had a lot of fun trying this....it certainly gives the feel. Including english and russian number stations...

https://www.cdsshortwave.org/

I just discovered that the programming is changing. Different stories, different number stations and different sounds every day. So it is interesting to come back to this site once and a while...

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Error Loading LotW Users Data solution

Reading several forums and groups I see a lot of WSJT-X 2.0.0 updaters have the same error pop-up screen appearing. Not really shocking because the software works anyway. However it is annoying everytime you start WSJT-X.
Two solutions are given on page 5 of the quick start manual (Tnx John AE5X). You can download it to read here: https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/Quick_Start_WSJT-X_2.0.pdf

The article suggests to download and install a open SSL library. However, in my case and a few others this doesn't work at all. The easiest step, and till now it worked for many, is downloading this file: https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-user-activity.csv and move it to the WSJT-X log directory. This directory can be opened from within WSJT-X -> File -> Open log directory

Monday, December 10, 2018

World Wide #FT8 update - WSJT-X 2.0.0

Please update now!!

The current General Availability (GA) release is WSJT-X 2.0.0


The FT8 and MSK144 protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not backward compatible with older program versions.  The new protocols become the world-wide standards starting on December 10, 2018, and all users should upgrade to WSJT-X 2.0 by January 1, 2019.  After that date, only the new FT8 and MSK144 should be used on the air.

I just made the update and see lot of FT8 signals on 60m, only a few are decoded.....those that are aware of the update. Although it was announced a while ago that today december 10 is the world wide update day. Please update now....

I guess it will take a few days....

https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html

Important to write that this new version features a more sensitive WSPR decoder.

Is it 20m or 60m?


After some quiet days on 10m, with low propagation and only some faint signals that could just be decoded, I decided to tune the rig to 60m FT8 again last evening. When I saw the waterfall I checked the frequency was not on 20m or 40m and checked again. Not believing my eyes how many signals I saw! The propagation was very good, no doubt. Not only Europe but at the same time Asia, South America, South Africa and North America. I think the propagation was worldwide both long/shortpath at the same time? At least got my own signal decoded again once! A strange experience! It was hard to find a free spot in the waterfall to get my signal out. Managed to work China BA4RF for the first time.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

#10m ARRL contest day 2 - time consuming


SFI:70 SN:16 A:10 K:3

Event: ARRL 10m contest
Section: Single Operator mixed low assisted
Logger: N1MM+ / FLdigi / CWskimmer
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna: HF5B @14m agl


And time consuming it was. It was bad yesterday but it was even worse today. I did my best but only a few contacts were made, most of them with dutch stations since there was absolute nothing that could be decoded. The only exception was OY1CT who came up for a moment, I made the contact and never heard him again. OY1CT was reported all over europe/skandinavia and seem to have a lot of luck with 10m propagation. Most of the contest was on CW, there was nothing heard on SSB. The only DX I worked on SSB was LY1R on saturday. The other SSB contacts were with dutch stations. So you think there was really no propagation, and I'm shure many have been listening and heard nothing. But it is not true, there was propagation but no stations in the propagation direction. This is todays RBN:


Of course when the 3B8CW spot was there I gave CQ in that direction but nothing came back to me...same for OH6BG, at that time propagation with OH was good but nothing has been heard or came back to me. Again I heard some stations from the Netherlands with good signals but whatever I tried they didn't hear me. The CW keyer I made is a great improvement, I should have made it years ago...I'm able to respond quickly when someone calls now and I'm shure my contact with OY1CT would not have been possible without it.

This was certainly one of the worst ARRL 10m contests ever. I've been reading in the archives of this blog and see that in 2009 I worked 21 stations as well, though it was all on SSB at that time and most of it was DX, this year most of the stations are dutch! But the worst was in 2010 with only 5 QSO. Of course I know, we are at the sunspot cycle minimum what else could I expect. But you never know of course you always expect surprises. Besides that it is the experience, you really have to do your best for every QSO. It was also a nice experience to have the LFA up and see what it looks like although it was no success, that cost me some time but it was worth it. Not to forget the fun I had on 10m FT8 before the contest probing the 10m band.

After all I'm satisfied and shure looking forward to next years 10m ARRL contest.



Saturday, December 8, 2018

#10m ARRL contest day 1 - time absorption

SFI:70 SN:16 A:10 K:3

Wish I could tell you all I had a fantastic day on 10m contesting. But it isn't true. Unfortunately there was no ES cloud in reach for my area, despite a lot of dx cluster reports that the band was "open", not here that was! Even several dutch stations didn't hear me. Though that's no surprise as I hear far more compared to what I can reach. Actually I only spend 2 hours on the radio in total I think. Just a matter of go upstairs, tune over the band, nothing heard? Going downstairs to do some other things. If I heard anything I tried to work it, not always with results. I worked 11 stations today. It was a struggle since N1MM+ does not support audio CW or MCW. This is for a reason of course. However I managed to make some contacts. Tomorrow can be completely different....

So, time was still a issue. I had plans.....to put the 4 element LFA on the portable mast. And I did. But dismantled it as well again. I managed to test the antenna on 10m FM with PB7Z who is about 40km south of me. It had less strong signal compared to the HF5B. And the SWR was jumping around. The antenna was too low, and something was wrong. The weather was bad, storm, rain, but at least....we smiled. Just before it went dark I had everything stored in the garage again, better look at it later when time is no issue and the weather is much better.


Back on the radio I didn't hear anything, no signal at all. For the 3rd time N1MM+ had issues with FLdigi (communication lost, why?). I use FLdigi to generate audio CW. Last week I soldered a serial port CW keyer from a diagram I found on the internet. Made with a optocoupler to separate the computer from the radio. This one is keying with the RTS pin (yes my new computer still has a COM port). I have no experience with CW via a keyer or a key. So I really jumped into the unknown. But I thought I really should make it right now before the second day of the 10m contest. However, whatever I did....nothing happened on the RTS (pin 7). So back to soldering and trying the DTR (pin 4) as I found on another diagram. And yes the LED blinks now when I send morse and after connecting to the radio I hear morse out of the speaker. Though whatever I try, no HF is visible? Remember I have no experience whatsoever with CW on my radio, so all what I could do is guess and do some things by trail and error. After a half hour I finally found the BRK button in my menu which switch the radio "PTT" and HF on when the keyer is generating CW.
Hopefully this is doing the trick and it shure will be a lot easier tomorrow when making CW contacts.

The 4 element LFA. Not what I hoped for...

Friday, December 7, 2018

#10m #FT8 one day before the 10m ARRL contest

SFI:69 SN:17 A:5 K:2

Exciting isn't it. What will the weekend bring on 10m? So far the index is not that bad. But today was not that full of DX like yesterday. Although I received ZS6WB again this morning with a incredible +6dB!


I was not on the radio via remote at the right time to make QSOs. Since I'm on the job and am limited to my coffee/lunch breaks only I have no choice. Hopefully I will find the right times to be on the radio this weekend.

The PA6AA crew lend me their 4 element LFA (G0KSC design) for 10m. I'm planning to get it up in my portable mast. However, the weather forecast is not that good for the weekend so I've to see if it is possible to get on with my plans anyway...if not I will use my HF5B at 14m. The HF5B is just a 2 elements and has not that much gain. A choice between 2 antennas could get me some extra contacts.

I hope I did bring the hamradio world some inspiration to participate in the ARRL 10m contest. As a contester or as a SWListener. If so, wishing you all good luck and hope to work you in CW/SSB this weekend.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

#FT8 #10m and greyline enchanced sporadic E?

SFI:70 SN:16 A:5 K:1

Sunspot number increased today to 16! I expected some propagation but am always surprised by the signals. First station worked at my morning coffee break was RA1WY with excellent signals at the side of my HF5B beam.

OH propagation, notice the greyline
Is there something known like greyline enchanced sporadic E? I don't know, but probabely there is. It was definitely a large ES opening towards Finland today. And since most of the stations are in the greyline there I thought there has to be greyline enchanced sporadic E. My antenna is still pointing south, yet the OH stations are as strong as +18dB on FT8!!
Near real time MUF map at the time of OH propagation













After my lunchbreak I decided to leave it on 10m FT8 (what else could I do). I'm not able to remote control the direction of my beam. So it is left at the direction south.

At the afternoon coffeebreak there was time again to do make some remote calls, when I noticed I already received south africa just before local noon. These days the greyline is as early in the afternoon as my coffeebreak at the job. Lucky me! I could prove the enchanced greyline propagation, ES or not, is improving even as high as 28MHz. And indeed, the ZS stations came in very loud although it seems they didn't copy me. Then suddenly I see XT2BR (Burkina Faso) with loud signals even +2dB!! Is it possible.....yes it is, QSO made. Suddenly propagation is wide open to the south. Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Poland, England all coming in. Greyline is almost gone, but my coffeebreak is over...

Later that afternoon I got a message from another neighbour station PA4O Peter. He reported ZD7GWM (St.Helena island) with loud signals on 10. A few minutes later I received this screenshot. Certainly nice DX on 10! On PSK reporter I saw him as well with +3dB report from my station. Unfortunately, since I was on my job,  I had no time left to work him.

Results monitoring FT8 on 10m today. South america was spotted
late afternoon after the greyline.
Monitoring FT8 today proves that it could be better for probing propagation. However PA0O who was still on WSPR 10m today spotted some interesting paths I didn't see with FT8. A combination between FT8/WSPR would be ideal!

PA0O WSPR results on RX today

If propagation will hold like this till the weekend or even improves, well in that case we don't have to worry about making some DX contacts.


It could be my reception but zooming in at my country I see a lot of stations active on 10m today, it surprised me actually! Like always I seem to receive far more compared to others in my country. I can imagine that if you're living in a city or a large village. Many radioamateurs have a lot of QRM from all kind of appliances these days.



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#wspr #10m today on Sinterklaas

SFI:69 SN:0 A:10 K:1

Another day of WSPR. At first I thought a disaster but again there were surprises!

Suddenly there were spots from SM3ESX and LA9NEA, EA5CYA was spotted as well.

My 1W signal was spotted in Norway

A little late with todays 10m WSPR review since we traditionally have Sinterklaas evening in the Netherlands. Find PA0K Paul's video about this topic so you get the idea. This is a tradition event for children and at 5 december we got the presents in a jute bag delivered by zwarte piet (helper from Sinterklaas), Most of the presents are sweets of course. We get letters made from chocolate and speculaas pietjes from spiced bisquit and the children get too much small presents. You can compare this with Santa Claus and Christmas in other countries. Only Sinterklaas has a horse named Amerigo and no red nose rendeers.



Since PA0O is in my area but has a higher antenna he most of the time receives a bit more compared to me. I already noticed that yesterday when he received a station from South Africa, I did not...
However, I found he didn't receive Spain and Norway today were I did! Though I don't know exactly if Jaap is on 10m all the time?

PA0O RX

PA0O TX
Therefore I strongly believe that the spots to Skandinavia are aircraft scatter. The next two days will be on 10m FT8. Will I have more luck there?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Back on #10m

SFI:67 SN:0 A:10 K:2

With the upcoming 10m ARRL this weekend I decided to check 10m from now on. I really have no idea how 10m is these days. But don't expect too much since we are at the sunspot cycle minimum. I've got a weakness for 10m since I'm actually a gilded CBer. So, this contest is my last one of 2018 and it is actually one of my favourites even without real good propagation. 10m has a surprise element, you don't know what to expect. It went reasonable good last year though I got some comments from stations that listened over the weekend and did only hear noise. I think it is just a difference between QRM in the city and my quiet rural location. Compared to last years multiband vertical the HF5B antenna is much higher and better. But whatever your antenna is....10m is all about propagation. Is it going to be a dramatic year for the 10m ARRL contest? Or will it be reasonable like last year?

For a few years ago WSPR was the mode to check propagation on 10. But these days the FT8 frequency could be a better choice. I left the radio on 10m WSPR today to see if there is any propagation anyway? The antenna is pointed south towards the highest point of the sun at this time of the year. Is it a best choice? It would be better to point the antenna to the sun automatically, but unfortenately I don't have that feature yet...

Results today:

RX, a few bogus reports...
OH5XO was received at night, probabely airplane scatter

TX with 1W, some surprises



Monday, December 3, 2018

#ft8 Round Up review

Screenshot from my setup for FT8 RU.
Notice the fun callsign of the spanish station...
(click for a larger picture)
Event: FT8 Roundup
Section: Single Operator 
Logger: WSJT-X 2.0.0 RC5
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 25W
Antenna: Inverted-V (2x20m) apex 12m

The first ever FT8 worldwide contest took place this weekend. And, of course, I participated just for experimental reasons. Does it work? Yes it does although there are some shortcomings. I had only limited time when it was dark outside so I was on 80m most of the time and for a short while on 40m as well. Despite of being able to see many USA/Canadian stations I only made it to 2 stations in the USA on 40. It was a struggle on 40m and I lost some stations signals because their signals were doubled. I had the idea the 40m was just overcrowded, a directional antenna would help but is for most of us much too big! Things went better on 80m and there were times I got 3 stations coming back to me at once. A difficult situation since the software chooses which one to pick first and others have to wait. In that case it would be handy to be able to send more signals at the same time to respond, MSHV is capable to do that for instance but in this case not for this contest. It is just a matter of modifying the software. I'm shure it is only a matter of time to implement such a feature for contests as well. Another shortcoming (should I report it to the development group?) could be my own fault? When a station did not get my RR73 they send a R report again, however the software does not recognize that and will not send a RR73 again. Since you're used to everything automatic you have to reply fast and change the message back to RR73 and push the transmit button again, unfortenately sometimes even fast is too late with FT8. Could it be I have a wrong setting in the configuration or does everyone have this? I made 87 QSOs in the end, less as expected, it was a lack of time. The last shortcoming I noticed is known I guess, the software does not recognize dupes as far as I could see!

Since the frequencies were overpopulated with stations all the time I think FT8 will be a serious contest mode in the future. Though you don't need much operating skills for this mode and with some automated macros you can do a full time automatic participation, contesting even without being in the shack. It would be nice to build a fully automated FT8 contest station as a experiment just to see if it works. Would such a robot station win against a human station? I'm shure SV5DKL has though about this ;-)


Thursday, November 29, 2018

#ft8 first worldwide contest this weekend

It seems I've nothing else to write except about contests. Not true of course, I'm busy writing about other subjects as well but till now the stories are still concepts because I need to investigate. Time is always a issue...

Upcoming weekend there is the first worldwide FT8 roundup contest with certificates for all participants! However you need to install the latest beta version of WSJT-X to be compatible with other contesters. This version isn't compatible with the latest full WSJT-X release! Questions remain since I already noticed the new version does not decode the old WSJT-X version anymore so how to know if it is working? Well you need to find others to test with or wait till the contest begins!

To get more confused. If you're installing the new beta version the configuration will probabely mix with the old version configuration map. Even when you remove the old version first! Be aware of this! It might be wise to make a backup of this map before you remove/install the new WSJT-X.

If you dare to participate in the first real FT8 contest I suggest reading about it here:

https://www.rttycontesting.com/ft8-roundup/

Installing the new software is not enough, you need to do a lot of configuring yourself.

Well, I didn't install the software yet, I'll wait till saturday evening and will try. I'm curious how this contest will evolve and what problems will be encountered (or not!). These days you don't need to be a ham operator with operating practising skills! You need to be a computer nerd and have radio just as a transportation medium, push the button at the right moment and you're in!

Confused? Wait....read AE5X his blogpost here: http://ae5x.blogspot.com/2018/11/two-ft8-contests-this-weekend-one-mock.html#more

Monday, November 26, 2018

#cqww DX CW contest review

Event: CQWW DX CW 2018
Section: Single Operator 160m QRP assisted
Logger: N1MM+ / FLdigi / CWskimmer
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 4W (minimum power)
Antenna: Inverted-V (2x20m) apex 12m

Well, I've choosen one of the most difficult sections in the contest. 160m QRP with a too short and not so efficient antenna. But hey, I can tune it and first tests friday evening showed some spots from Germany on RBN. I've choosen this section for a reason....it's possible to make another "Netherlands Record". Fun to have a goal as I will never be able to compete with others in a CW contest. Actually I've tried 160m QRP a few years ago but after 1 hour calling with no one coming back to me I decided to do 80m or 160m low power then (can't remember). I set my goal to 25 QSOs at least but surprisingly I already made 30 QSOs at Saturday. So next goal was 50 and after a lot of effort I finally end the contest sunday evening with 52 QSOs. The thing I really have to take attention to should be a good CW keyer, I still use FLdigi to generate audio CW on USB. I'm already figuring out a simple keyer that works on my computer. Hope to have it ready before the 10m ARRL contest in 2 weeks. I didn't run too much with QRP, a few times just to see if I was spotted at the RBN. Actually did S&P 99% of the time. S&P for QRP contacts means you have to search for stations that are at least +60dB otherwise you will not be heard. It occured to me that there is nothing wrong with my receive I even received japanese stations. But I had the idea some really strong stations did have directional receive for DX. I name 9A1A, OG55W and OL1A for example, they were really strong here but I was not able to make any QSO. Best receive for me was SJ2W (congrats), worked them twice (sorry), they had a strong signal and they got my call correct already the first time I called in both QSOs.

This contest was a great experience. It was not easy and you need to have a lot....I repeat, a lot of patience. Sometimes calling 15 minutes for one station and then in the end just half a contact sometimes is depressing. At the other end, I managed 52 QSOs this way and think that's not at all bad.



Netherlands records PE4BAS CQWW CW:

SO Assisted 80m QRP 2014
SO Assisted 160m LOW 2016
SO 80m QRP 2017

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Friese 11 steden contest review

Since this is a pure Dutch contest I will write the review in Dutch for archive purpose. If you're interested to read it you can try a translate with google translate to your desired language.


Event: PA-beker contest
Section: Outside region 14
Logger: N1MM+ 
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna: Inverted-V apex 12m







De Friese 11 steden contest is weer over dit jaar. Persoonlijk vind ik dit de leukste Nederlandse contest. En dat komt met name door het gebruik van plaatsnamen als uitwisseling. Je hoort plaatsnamen voorbij komen waar je nog nooit van gehoord hebt. Ik bedoel maar een plaats als 'Aerdt', 'Chaam' of 'de Triemen'. Dit jaar heb ik 1 multiplier gemist en eerlijk gezegd denk ik ook niet dat er een station uit Harlingen aktief is geweest op 80m. Maar aan de andere kant heb ik 84 stations gewerkt en dat is uitzonderlijk veel voor deze contest. Toch blijf ik het vreemd vinden dat vooral de aktiviteit van Friese stations niet groot is voor een Fries event! Zo tel ik maar 23 stations uit regio 14 in mijn log en dat zijn dan ook nog niet eens allemaal Friese stations. Voor een contest als deze zou ik eerder 40-50 deelnemers uit regio 14 verwachten?? Waar zijn al die stations, er zitten toch wel meer dan 50 zendamateurs in Friesland? Maar goed, uit de rest van Nederland en ook met name uit Duitsland, België en dit keer Noorwegen was ook deelname. Men klaagt wel eens over condities, maar hoeveel condities moet je hebben. Op 80m lukt het meestal wel binnen Nederland. Ik had eigenlijk alleen moeite met 1 station uit Dokkum en verder waren de signalen hier allemaal prima op wat QSB op signalen na misschien. Wat mij bij de PA-beker contest opviel en met deze contest weer, stations weten hun eigen regio nummer niet. Ze hebben echt geen flauw idee. Ik hoorde zelfs een station waarvan ik het idee had dat hij er zelfs nog nooit van gehoord had. In hoeverre is het nodig om het regionummer uit te wisselen vraag ik me af. Maar goed, ik zit niet in de organisatie dus,,,
Ben blij dat de contest dit keer weer op 80m was, al ben ik nog steeds voorstander van een combinatie tussen 80 en 40 om zo ook novice amateurs mee te kunnen laten doen. In iedergeval heb ik me weer vermaakt en zat ik het laatste half uur niet helemaal voor niks te roepen deze keer.

Tot volgend jaar !



Sunday, November 11, 2018

PA-Beker 2018 contest review

Don't be afraid I'm not a die hard contester. I'm busy writing some interesting articles but it takes time. In the mean time I enjoy some small contests like the PA-beker contest this weekend and the Frysian 11 cities contest next weekend. Since these are pure Dutch contests I will write the review in Dutch for archive purpose. If you're interested to read it you can try a translate with google translate to your desired language.


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


Oke, de PA-Beker contest dit weekend. Eigenlijk had ik te weinig tijd om me voor te bereiden. Ik heb wat problemen met mijn huidige computer en heb zaterdag avond nog snel N1MM+ ge-update. Toen bleek dat de WAV file voor CQ nog engels was dus moest er snel een nederlandstalige cq gemaakt worden. In de tussentijd liep de computer weer vast. Maar goed zondag ochtend om 10 voor 10 lokale tijd de boel opgestart en precies om 10 uur was mijn computer eindelijk zover dat ik kon contesten, dat was dan wel weer mazzel. Helaas bleek de audio van de CQ.wav wat laag en gezien het aanbod van stations kon ik daar ondertussen weinig meer aan doen dan af en toe zelf maar roepen. Dat gaf dan wel weer onmiddelijk resultaat. Op 80m begonnen met runnen en de MUF en de 40m in de gaten gehouden. Rond 11:15 lokale tijd begon de MUF op te lopen naar 7,2MHz voor 100km afstand en dat is uiteraard uistekend. De signalen op 40m waren dan ook knetterhard en al snel had ik een redelijke pile up.

Helaas werd ik er na 34 QSOs (!) pas op gewezen dat ik 2 KHz lager zat dan de toegestane frequentie voor deze contest (bedankt Joop PA3JD). Dat betekend dus dat deze QSO's en mulitpliers afgekeurd worden. Dat is natuurlijk erg jammer voor mij maar ook voor de stations die mij gewerkt hebben. Waarom ben ik niet eerder gewaarschuwd? Nou doe ik mee voor de lol, ik hoef niet te winnen. Maar vind toch wel dat als je eens station hoort onder de als regel toegestane frequentie van deze contest je hem/haar gerust mag wijzen op dit feit. Immers de punten worden voor jou ook niet bijgeteld! Jammer maar het is gebeurd en niet terug te draaien. Uiteraard had ik van te voren de regels nogmaals moeten doorlezen. Door tijd gebrek helaas niet gebeurd.

Maar goed, dit buiten beschouwing gelaten, was het toch een leuke contest met dit keer een 40m band die redelijk goed open was voor NVIS binnen Nederland. Boven aan de multiplier lijst (regio nummers) zie je regio 00. Dit was LX/PA3A die denk ik veel contesters hoofdpijn heeft bezorgd. Omdat hij regio nummer 99 gaf en sommige loggers dat niet pikken. En ook de prefix LX geeft problemen omdat het een puur nederlandse contest is. Ik heb dit opgelost door alleen PA3A en regio 00 te loggen. Dit heb ik later weer aangepast maar regio 00 of 99 is niet geldig natuurlijk. PA3A had gewoon ook niet mee kunnen doen, waarom hij dit wel deed is mij een raadsel. Uiteraard had ik hem ook niet hoeven te werken. Maar ja, ik houd wel van een uitdaging ;-). Het viel me ook op dat stations gewoon niet wisten in welke regio ze zaten, dat werd ook vermeld. Ik "denk" dat ik in regio dit en dat zit. Tja.....?


Op 80m mis ik regio 5, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 22, 27, 30, 32, 35, 36, 38, 39, 50  en 51. 17 stuks dus. Op 40m waren dat er wat minder daar mis ik regio 5, 9, 11, 12, 15, 22, 27, 32, 35, 36, 38, 39 en 50. 13 dus. Wel een stuk meer vergeleken met voorgaande jaren. Waar ligt dit aan? Condities waren er wel, ik denk toch wat minder contesters? Of ik heb ze gewoon gemist...op 80m ben ik ook maar 1x gespot op het cluster, op 40m wel 4x en dat was te merken. Helaas schoot de MUF rond 12 uur weer naar beneden en ben ik weer naar 80m gegaan waar ik helaas weinig aanbod kreeg.


Alles bij elkaar was het toch een leuke contest. Het is altijd interessant om achteraf te analyseren. Ik heb toch weer een aantal bekende stations gesproken al mis ik wel de "grote" contesters in dit kleine evenement. Volgende week is er weer een kleine contest. De Friese 11 steden contest waarin de 11 steden van de bekende tocht de multipliers zijn. Dit jaar is deze contest weer terug op 80m. Dus hoop ik deze keer wel weer alle 11 steden + de extra multiplier Bartlehiem te kunnen werken. Tot volgende week...




Video by PD5LX Rob with permission