Sunday, January 28, 2018


The weather was reasonable this last saturday and I had some time to work on the antennatower. I had planned to place the rotor but after all it went well and I placed it as well as the top bearing and the top tube. Some photos were made for my blog.

The tube is a 5mtr 50mm thick wall Alu tube. Should hold several antennas/beams with ease. The photo above shows a picture from the tower through the top bearing just before I placed the tube.

Top of the tower now is 16 meter (52,5 ft). The plan is to mount the vertical on top with the autotuner. I might increase the total length of the vertical to 11 meter and mount the antennatuner just above the top bearing and use the tower as counterpoise. The plan is to add a few radials at the base before I do the groundwork. However this will not be done in a few weeks I guess. The plan is to mount a 5 element 10m beam to test. I sell it in the future but it is waiting for over 15 years to get into the mast. I also have a 5 element 6m beam and will test that one as well. The ultimate goal is a multiband beam.

And just before it went dark at saturday I decided to find a not so elegant way to lead the 450 Ohm open line in free space. You might find me a idiot but I had really no idea that a open line should be hanging or mounted free from walls or in my case the roof of my garage (thanks for the tip PG0DX and PE1BVQ).

After testing the inverted-V now I noticed I had other tuner settings. And the signal increase I'm used to is back on 80m. Even on 20m the signal is better in average. On 40m it's about the same as the vertical and sometimes better. But overall the inverted-V has much less noise.

However I think the wireman 450 Ohm open line I use now is not the best anymore. I connected about 4 or 5 pieces together to get this 30m long feed line. So I ordered some material to make my own open line with larger diameter wire. I'm curious to see the difference (or not).

Today (sunday) the weather was not so good unfortenately. A grey day with wind and rain. I decided to finish my box that covers the cable outlet from the garage through the wall to the tube under ground to the tower. The box is made from concrete form plywood also called concreteplex.

At the same time I lighted the woodstove in the garage so I could continue some work. Decided to measure some coax cable. Not only the length but also the loss. I was very surprised with the outcome.

I will get back to coax in another post. But at least this measuring session did open my eyes again.

I can reveal at least one thing. The difference between Aircell7 and H2007 (previously called H1007) might not be obvious as it looks the same. But inside it's different, I wrote about that in 2013 already. Never did a loss test to compare these cable but I had the opportunity now. It surprised me that 9,5 meter Aircell7 had a loss of 0,8dB and 10,5 meter only 0,6dB. A difference of 0,2dB on 50MHz.

Look at the specs for Aircell7 and H2007 which you can find on the internet. Aircell7 - 0,45dB@50MHz for 10m length. And H2007 - 0,45@50MHz for 10m length. Could the cables degrade after a couple of years? A quick search on the internet reveals they do!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

CQ parrot...a ultimate fieldday friend

Did get a tip from Hans PE1BVQ a long time ago and last summer I ordered this gadget from BOX73. It's a building kit but SMD parts are already on the printboard. It's a CQ parrot or voicekeyer integrated on a printboard that fits in the Yaesu MH-31 mike. You can order it with and without a mike but you need to built it in yourself.

I actually built it last summer but was afraid I did something wrong and other projects were more important at the time. So I left it for a later exposure. Yesterday there was finally some time to make the video and demonstrate all went well, de parrot does work. At first I had some problems programming the mike, so it seems my knowledge of the german language is not that good and the whole manual is in german. Luckely I got some help from Hans. Most important for programming is that you press FST for 4 seconds then letting go, mike is ready for recording now, then press PTT and speak your message. Letting go of the PTT saves the message. A short press on FST plays your message 1 time. Pressing it for about 2 seconds will activate the automatic voicekeyer and the recording plays over and over till you press PTT. You can set the time between recordings between 3,6 and 10 sec. with pressing PTT+FST shortly.

A great companion for Fielddays!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Well, about the new antenna tower. I have it up and it holds a emergency inverted-V with 2x20m wire fed through a 30m long open line. But it doesn't work that well mainly because I think it is too low and sloping to about 2m above the ground. I want to put it up higher a few meters but that means I need to install the rotor + alu top tube and extend the open line a bit. Unfortenately the weather is not really that good, freezing cold, high winds and a lot of rain. Everything on and around the tower is soaking wet and muddy (good for reflections). Besides that it seems I have no time, or actually time is consumed by other things. When I leave the house in the morning it is still dark en when I come home it is already dark, that's the time of the year and it frustrates me.

I can't remember if I showed some photos from the installation of the tower so this is a good time. I haven't got photos from the day we actually managed to put the mast itself on the buck as it was done with 3 men in soaking rain. So far I drilled some holes in the garage wall as coax and other wires will be passing through it. I also digged a 60mm tube in the soil to accommodate the cables from the garage to the mast. And I installed the cabinet that will accommodate the lightning arrestors and galvanic divider. So far, I guess, I did a whole lot. But it doesn't go fast enough. Most of it should be ready before the PACC and hopefully to work the 3Y0Z DXpedition on Bouvet Island. Time will tell if I manage to do all the things I want...

As seen on the left the tower buck is standing (I hope buck is the right word?) and it is exactly levelled. But though unfortunately the mast isn't, it is just a fraction and if have to look at it how to get it levelled as well. I can't remember if I had this problem on my previous location?
If only the weather would be better....

Some more photo's from the tower when it was just installed below

Well, I also did some maintenance on the winches. Actually I thought it would need more maintenance but they only needed some paint and grease. Cables are high quality stainless and didn't have any sign of wear. Shown on the right is also a "refurbished" top bearing. Now if only the weather would be better and if I had some more time I could install everything. Frustrating!

I listened at the 40m, 60m and 80m band this evening, other bands were closed. On 40m there was a lot of noise, S7 with attenuation on. I only managed to hear one station which was 4U13FEB as SES from Italy. Working him was no problem on the vertical, I could barely hear him on the inverted-V. 80m was better but not many stations on the band so I switched off the radio to write this blogpost. Through writing this I hope I can get rid of my frustration....

Friday, January 19, 2018

The dividing line...automation in the future

Contacts made with a robot!
After my post, the video from SV5DKL and the blogpost from AE5X I did a bit of creative thinking. From the comments I read here and there I see a dividing line drawing slowly. On one side of the line you find the radiohobbyists who did their best to earn DXCC for years on CW/SSB, it was a struggle and every new DXCC felt like a huge accomplishment. On the other side you find radiohobbyists that were thinking about a solution to make everything a lot easier, they adopted digital modes, RTTY in a early stage PSK31/64 and now FT8 or JT65/9. Revealing that a FT8 can be made completely automatic is something that make the other side very angry like this is a kind of DXCC blasphemy. Something that's going over the big red line, something that should never be revealed. But though they forget that automatic QSOs are already possible for years with SIM31 a alternative PSK mode. It still is a big questionmark for me why SIM31 never had more popularity as it is sensitive and working very well.

 However in 2018 it seems to be hot to work with FT8 and even the Bouvet DXpedition (nr. 2 on the most wanted DXCC) will be on air in that mode. Something radiohobbyists really look forward to and I think as soon as 3Y0Z is spotted DX hell breaks loose. It might not be the truth but I can imagine the Bouvet DXpedition team has been thinking about a automated station for FT8. Stathis SV5DKL has been doing it with a macro automation program but anyone with programmer skills can modify the open source WSJT-X in my opinion and make a special version for DXpedition use only. In FT8 mode the software is already 90% automated and the 10% only involves clicking the "enable transmit" button after a QSO and looking out for QSOs that get lost in the noise (program will keep trying till the operator ends it). As a matter of fact, if 3Y0Z is not using automated software future DXpeditions will.

It will even be possible to drop a full automated station on a Island or in a most wanted country that can work stations automatically without a operator being there. And not only in FT8 mode but in every digimode you want. Think about that...
And then....I discovered some Hawaiian radioamateurs did already in 2014 and have been experimenting with a fully autonomous marine robot called waveglider. They already have a version 3 ongoing at the moment and it makes and logs contacts in PSK31 and FT8. The callsign is KG6JF and you might already made a contact with it without knowing it is a fully automated robot.

Find more info on their clubsite:

Is this going to be the future? Or is the future already here and are there more automated stations? We probabely will not know as in most countries a automated system with a robot is not legal yet, But I guess it will not take long before it will be legal and in that case you will not be able to tell if you make contact with a robot or with a operator?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A paradigm shift within the radiohobby

Actually started to write this article at the end of 2017. But things are changing fast in this subject and so is my vision on this all.

Recently I read a couple of articles about the future of hamradio or the radiohobby overall. The article on FaradayRF did catch my eye. I'm interested in the future of our hobby and wrote some articles about it in the past. However it is nice to read other views as well to form your own vision on the future.

I notice there are many in our hobby that are against digital modes like JT65 and FT8 as it would be a computer to computer communication only. I even notice some amateurs that are not willing to confirm a JT65 or FT8 contact as they think everything is just a guess and the real communication is via the internet. Not that I completely disagree, I can emphatize with those people. But on the other hand there is a change going on right now. You can see it on the HF amateurradio bands and probabely also on UHF/VHF. More and more radioamateurs and especially the younger ones switch to digital and experimenting with all kind of software/digimodes/SDR/automation. You can hear it on the bands as there are evenings that I really hear only 2 or 3 stations on SSB and a same number on CW, even when there is propagation. At the same moment when you switch to digital mode the band or at least the digimode segment is crowded.

Personally I am involved in digital modes since the early ninetees of last century. I am one of the younger radioamateurs and partly grown up with computers. Under the influence of another radioamateur I started with packetradio on CB in the early 90s of last century and a little later I had my first experiences with RTTY, PSK31 and even CW with the computer. I like phone contacts but enjoy digimode contacts as well. I was a early user of JT65 and JT9 and some other less known modes. But with the FT8 mode that was introduced last year I have to admit that I make more digimode contacts compared to other digimodes. You have to remember I have limited time for the hobby and when I am in front of the radio I like to make contacts. When I compare that with the time we didn't have digimodes I can tell there were days that I didn't make a single contact in periods of bad propagation. Imagine hours of trying to make a contact and no one that replies to you, that doesn't feel much like a fun hobby! Those days are over now as even with very bad propagation other radioamateurs still see you in the waterfall, even on long distances.

But is FT8 (and JT9/JT65) a real communication mode. Well a post from OH8STN Julian opened my eyes. Julian loves FT8 for the part that it is fast and the ability to transmit a tiny signal over a large distance. But it is limited to 13 characters and actually the only thing you use it for is excanging a report. A so called "logbook filler" nothing more. However the idea is that it could be used for exchanging messages SMS style with software that codes/decodes in packages of 13 characters and use WSJT-X as the basic transmitting/receiving software. That would be a completely different view on communication, not only exchanging reports but short messages like in FSQ, extremely important in emergency situations. And suddenly this experimental programming from KN4CRD Jordan pops up! However there is a minor problem, FT8 depends on exact time keeping. This could be a problem in a emergency situation and/or in the field. When the world is on fire, there is no internet and sats and DCF signals are jammed how do you keep exact timing? In a emergency situation you need a mode that is fast and sensitive but is not depending on time keeping. I think there are other digimodes that are more capable but overall they are slow. Still best of all is CW coding/decoding with your own brain. That's why I still want to learn and practise CW in the near future.

Recently I received some blog comments from Stathis SV5DKL. He wrote he made a FT8 robot to completely automate WSJT-X so QSOs and logging is all done automatically. We exchanged some e-mails in which he wrote he used macro software but not exactly how. Recently he made a video which describes basically what he's doing. It's not really a difficult thing although Stathis is only giving the most basic parts of it. Stathis opninion is that the ARRL never should validate FT8, FT9 and JT65 like digimode contacts for DXCC or other certificates simply because all this can be done without the operator being in the shack. And by publishing this and using his robot he has made a point! However in most countries it is illigal to automatically make QSOs without the operator being in the shack. A while ago I wrote the dutch telecom authorities about the SIM31 software that can make automate contacts and log it as well. The answer was that at least in the Netherlands it is not illigal to use as long as the operator is in the shack (with sight on the radio). So my imaginary brains were thinking about this all. With the upcoming activation of Bouvet island and the known 3Y0Z call and the known FT8 frequencies it should not be that difficult to make a macro that calls 3Y0Z completely automatically as soon as the CQ of them appears in the rest of the QSO would be history.

But what is the fun of that? Besides it's fun to accomplish something like this to prove it can be done there is no fun of making any contact or working new DXCC using a robot. Is making a QSO and working new DXCC all what hamradio is about? No, there are so many subjects and luckely so many different operators. Personally I don't care if I made a QSO with a robot. Actually I think the operators at 3Y0Z should take a look at Stathis his work and automate a 24/7 FT8 station so the operator that would be otherwise involved can be used for other tasks or can take a rest. It could also be that 3Y0Z has a automated FT8 station and we don't know of it? A benefit for the whole DXpedition! But reading the comments on Stathis his work makes me laugh, there are operators that are not willing to confirm or validate a robot contact just like there are operators that are not willing to validate a digimode contact like FT/JT modes. If only those operators would know which station is a robot and which one is not!

But seriously, people can't stop the digital progress, not in real live and not in a hobby. It's the future and it will evolve. There is a paradigm shift going on but there are only a few that believe it...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Arctic WSPR beacon and monitoring station

The hardware for the planned WSPR beacon in Antarctica as a joint project from the technical university München, the hochschule of Bremen and the DARC E.v.. is on the way to the eternal ice. De equipment contains a beacon transmitter for 160-6m with a output of 5W which will be connected to a PROCOM vertical antenna at the main building.  A WSPR multiband receiver based on a red pitaya will be able to receive all bands simultaneously from 160-15m and is capable of sending 700 WSPR reports per hour. This rx station will be placed in a air chemistery laboratory 3km away from the main building and connected to 2 loops, one of 170m and one of 20m size. The planned uptime will be 1 solar cycle of 11 years.

The startup of the system on the german research station "Neumayer III" is still planned for this month. Callsign will probabely be DP0GVN.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 is back is back after some time off the net. Laurie did some changes which you can read on the site. This site is a great "propagation" viewer for digimodes like JT65/9, FT8, MSK144, SIM31 etc. etc. besides PSKreporter. I notice that there are stations spotting on both but also only on Hamspots (via JT-Alert) or only on PSKreporter. So, to see were you are heard you better view both sites.

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017 Statistics

Saw several blogposts show up in my blogroll with clublog statistics. I have to admit that clublog is by far the best statistic website around for what you want to know about the amount of QSOs and overview of your DXCC contacts and QSL. And again this post is for archive purposes, my radiohobby in 2017 statistically.

A few more QSO's compared to 2016. I asked myself why? And then it occured to me I forget to mention in my last post of 2017 I had a great time with some hamradio friends in the CQWW DX SSB 2017 contest last year. It certainly was another highlight from 2017 and hopefully we can do it again at the end of the year. When you count the approx. 600 QSOs I made in that contest and add them to my total I had a reasonable amount of QSOs in 2018. But does QSO amounts really matter? No not at all! Personally I thought I made more digimode contacts but it seems it was only 25% of all the contacts, SSB is still my favorite.

Above my worked DXCC status. Only 3 new ones last year. I'm curious what 2018 will bring for me DX wise. Propagation is really decreasing sometimes and you need to be lucky to get in the log of a most wanted DXCC. However my new antenna tower will support new antennas and hopefully give me more possebilities.

My QSL status, even worse only 2 new ones confirmed over the whole year. Still waiting for a few. That's something I really had to get used to; QSL via bureau can take years. QSL post on CB/11m DX was so much faster but though all QSL was send direct. I never send out direct QSL first for contacts on hamradio as most do want to have big money for postage and since this is a hobby I don't want to "buy" QSL cards. Besides that I don't really see the value of paper QSL anymore. A system like eQSL and LOTW these days is a lot better and faster. Paper QSL is a leftover from old hamradio days. However, for some radiohobbyists paper QSL is part of their hobby just like I write this blog as part of this radiohobby.

My top months for the amount of QSOs are February and March, the contest months for me. Only 2 QSOs in April is a absolute minimum.

If you look at the QSOs per band it looks like 80m is my favorite, but in reality it isn't. This is just a result of a lot of 80m contest QSO. Same counts for 40m, At the moment my favorites are 60m, 10m and 6m.

9 modes in total last year. A exclusive first with THOR. With the introduction of FT8 I already made 161 QSOs on that digimode. But still with 1304 QSOs SSB is the winner! Still digimode experimenting is very important for me. So what is that 9th mode that is not appearing in the graph? Well it was this digimode is not accepted in ADIF format it couldn't be found in my log. Indeed I made a few experimental FSQ QSOs but doubt I put them in my log as the QSOs were more like a chat and not really exchanging other info. Still one of my goals for 2018 could be working a number of digimodes again.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Agenda

A new year, a new agenda. First post this year and already made my plan, well the same old contests like last year. And again I can participate a full weekend in the PACC contest.

I don't know how this year will evolve hobby-wise. But I have to balance my time between my family and hobby. With a agenda and planning I want to prevent conflicts if possible.

This agenda is actually for archive purposes...

10/11 Feb. 12-12 UTC 24 hrs PACC 2018 contest
24/25 Mar. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX SSB 2018 contest
26/27 May 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX CW 2018 contest
02/03 Jun. 15-15 UTC 24 hrs Dutch Kingdom Contest 2018
29/30 Sep. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX RTTY 2018 contest
27/28 Okt. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX SSB 2018 contest
11 Nov. 10-12:30 local time PA-beker contest 2018
18 Nov. 11-14 local time Friese 11 steden contest 2018
24/25 Nov. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX CW 2018 contest
08/09 Dec. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs 10m ARRL 2018 contest