Wednesday, March 28, 2018

#cqww wpx ssb 2018 contest review

Event: CQWW WPX SSB 2018
Section:  Single Operator Low Power  All Band SSB
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna 1: Multiband Inverted-V 2x20m ladderline fed, apex 12m agl
Antenna 2: Multiband coppertape vertical 9m agl

Took me a while before I got to write this review. Too busy with too many things...

Despite my failing radio and poor antennas I did a good score in the WPX SSB. Is it my rare prefix that does the trick? Or is it just luck? I didn't work any new ones but did work some nice DX along the contest. This year I thought of making a video shot here and there from the nice DX on the bands. You really have to think of that because when you concentrate on the DX you most time forget everything except logging the right call and number, at least that is my experience. Luckely the radio was only failing once just after 15 minutes in the contest I could not receive and transmit for about 10 minutes when suddenly the sound of stations came back and transmit was fine again. No problem after that, even not when my radio was glowing hot. The only band not opening this year was 10m, although "not opening" is not the right word, there was just no activity when I listened. Strange enough 15m opened saturday late with DX to South Amerika and Sunday to Finland for a while.

Some DX worked by band:

15m: PQ5B (Brazil), CX2DK (Uruquay), FY5KE (French Guiana), CQ3W (Madeira), 4Z5LY (Israel), EK7DX (Armenia), FR4QT (Reunion Isl.), 9Y4D (Trinidad&Tobago), 9Q6BB (DRC)

20m: PJ4V (Bonaire), PX2A (Brazil), A61ZX (UAE), JE6RPM (Japan), A71AM (Quatar), P40WL (Aruba), PJ5Z (Saba&St.Eustasius), 8P5A (Barbados), KW7Y (USA, Washington state!), VY0ERC (Canada, Nunavut!), VU2YVK (India), KL7RA (Alaska), UP2L (Kazakhstan), JT5DX (Mongolia)

40m: ZM4T (New Zealand), A61EK (UAE), HZ1HZ (Saudi Arabia), NN2DX (USA), VC3J (Canada), PJ2T (Curacao), 8P5A (Barbados), UP2L (Kazakhstan), RV9UP (As. Russia), VK4KW (Australia), TI7W (Costa Rica), JT5DX (Mongolia)

80m: UP0L (Kazakhstan), CT9/CT1BWU (Madeira), WU2X (USA), 9K2HN (Kuwait), 8P5A (Barbados)

160m: VY2ZM (Canada)

VY2ZM came back on my CQ. I was surprised!

Did hear China and Japan on 40m but was not able to get to them. Signals were very weak and just audible. I heard China as well on 20m but just audible. Enjoy the video and listen carefully for ZM4T, he was weak but workable!

I can say I've spend a few hours in the contest. See my on/off times in the table. A big pile up at my prime time 20 UTC. The stations kept coming after I was spotted on the cluster. Actually I could have made 700 QSOs but stayed too long on 15m trying to work DX. I guess that is still the DXer in me. Below the country list and map. I have to admit I didn't work S0 Western Sahara, I had a error in my log which was corrected after I wrote this post. 80 DXCC in one weekend is not bad I think. I even worked more stations compared to previous years with better propagation...

Actually the WPX contest is my favorite contest in which you can work the best DX. Even a small station can do it. I didn't use any beam only a homemade vertical and inverted-V. The only problem for many is receiving these days. Luckely I have no problems with high noise levels at my location but I can imagine the frustration. Because if you don't hear the DX you cannot work it!

Although propagation seems not the best at the bottom of the solarcycle there is still a lot of DX that can be worked. Though the low bands like 160/80 and 40 are favorites at the moment. Actually propagation on those bands is still very good. I enjoyed the contest a lot this year and am glad my radio was still working. This is probabely the last time I worked a contest with my vertical on the 9m antennamast. I will dismantle this mast as everything will move to the new antennatower this year. I'm still not shure what to do with the vertical. I might place it on top of the tower....

Update 30-3-2018:

CQWW WPX SSB 2018 statistics

ODX ZM4T actual QTH locator is RF80LF: 18327Km (tnx ZL3IO)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Post nr.1000

Incredible, this is post number 1000. I've thought about writing something special but nothing comes to mind. So just a thank you for all readers. I hope you stay tuned for future posts.

Too busy last weeks so I didn't have much time to work all the interesting DX that is on the bands. I worked TN5R (Congo) but am not appearing in the log so I guess it didn't happen? I heard 3C0W (Annobon Isl.) on 17m with S7 but unfortenately my radio didn't work. Once and a while I'm dealing with a PLL or VCO problem, I guess my radio, which is 20 years old now, is at the end of a lifetime. Not shure if repair is going to be too expensive. So, I missed that DX... I hope to work some DX in the CQWW WPX SSB contest this weekend. I always check the Announced DX Operations list and found that new ones could be FK/4B4ALX (New Caledonia) and V73NC (Micronesia). XU7AEY (Cambodia) would be also a nice one. We'll see how it will turn out. If my radio has the same issues as last week the WPX contest will be limited to QRP only with the FT-817, which is still doing a fine job.

The FT-817 is running on 60m at the moment with 1W WSPR. First time for me on 60m WSPR and I had to find out what the dail frequency should be. So far I have it on 5364,7 MHz USB dail it seems to be allright!

However, I have mixed feelings about WSPR on this band. There are not so many active here. You need patience to see the DX. Might be interesting in the future...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Solar storm mania

Northern lights in Finland last night!
Over the past years I noticed a increased number of posts on all kind of media about solar magnetic storms. Just like the media posts and news about storm forecasts. The geomagnetic storm that wil arrive today will wipe out all radiocommunication, all GPS devices will be un-usable and there might be electric power grid problems, at least.....that is what the media wants to believe us!

Well, the predicted geomagnetic activity index number this night will be Kp5 (G1). That's just a minor storm. If the Kp would be 9 (G5) it is a extreme storm and in that case things could be worse. Aurora or northern light can be rarely seen here in the Netherlands. But in Finland it is very common. You can view beautiful aurora on this webcam:

There are people that think that geomagnetic storms can influence our thoughts. The same people say that it was all predicted by the Maya's and even claim it is written in the holy bible. They also have a good solution if you don't feel well. You should take a rest and drink a lot of water to reset your body and that way you can accept higher resonance frequencies in your body and thoughts. I guess this will help if you feel dizzy after a few hours of contesting as well ;-)

Well, Dr. Tamitha Skov, who is a Ph.D. in geophysics and space plasma physics is a modern kind of geomagnetic weather forecaster, will tell you all about the upcoming magnetic storm:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The subject of grounding

In the past weeks I had some questions about interference on VDSL2 modems and another question  if grounding would be necessary. So I was searching in my blog archive as I have been studying the subject several times. And even after studying, I could do some things wrong. So this is a small list from my previous articles about grounding and/or a shack earth point.

And this is what happens with static electricity build up when a thunderstorm is nearby. The reason why I have a ground at my antenna entrance.

Not that I always have a clue what I am talking about, but at least I try....
Best written articles about grounding can be found at

And even I made a fault to include a knife switch in my installation which was completely unnecessary.

So what I've learned:

- A ground in your shack which is bonded to a earth electrode is for safety. It is not a RF ground.
- Use a entrance panel for your coax and other cables that is grounded well outside the house.
- If possible ground your antenna supporting mast as well
- Prevent earthloops, they are a source of much RF problems.

A good tool for measuring is a simple multimeter. If you seem to have problems anywere try to find that second or even third uneccessary ground connection and remove it. Remember that the shield of your coax is ground as well. So a extra wire for example from your radio to the entrance panel is only giving you a groundloop and so, this is not necessary at all. For grounds sake, less is better in grounds case!

Think about this: Most of the mains grounds are bonded to the case of a appliance. In our case as radioamateurs we always have a power supply which is bonded through the ground via the mains connector cable. Most computers have this ground as well on the same mains net. A extra ground wire from the computer to your ground is not necessary (ground loop again). However, if you do digital modes you have your soundcard connected to your radio, is the ground from your connectors grounded to the mains ground in the computer? You could have a problem (ground loop). In my case the ground of my mains connecting cable is also bonded to my negative pole on the 13,8V output in my Astron RS-50A power supply, I've had a lot of groundloop problems before I discovered this. That's why measuring with a simple multimeter is important! 

Ground paths in my strokes are grounded.
Above the main net supplies, 12VDC supplies, coax and ground paths in my shack. My power supply has no galavanic connection to the main electricity net. The computer does however. Nothing is connected to main net safety earth. Everything is connected to the shacks own earth electrode which is bonded to my entrance panel. There is no separate earth wire connection to the entrance panel, I trust the coax shield is my earth connection. However, if a thunderstorm is nearby I disconnect the coax from the entrance panel leaving my equipment un-earthed. But that's no problem as I always switch my mains net off in the shack (have 2 master switches for both wall outlets) in that case. The central earth point is there but is only connected to a counterpoise which is existing of strokes alu foil tape below the floor. The radio is earthed through the coax connected to the Palstar tuner.

I don't say the above writing is the truth and nothing else. It is like other posts for archive purposes as well. I might think completely different in a couple of least I've the feeling I'm safe this way.

Friday, March 9, 2018

#APRS messenger on HF 2 - MFSK-4

It seems APRS messenger gets more attention worldwide. A number of stations are active now. In my last post about the APRS weekend I had doubts about the receiving capability of the messenger program. Well, Chris G4HYG, the APRS messenger programmer has changed some things in the program and in the last version it has now MFSK-4 capability.

Here are the changes from last week:

The latest latest version 3.37 has a bug fix for a decode problem with MFSK-4. Good packets were being rejected especially if the background RF noise was high. 

Version 3.36 has a new mode option MFSK-4. This is a very slow and narrow (176 Hz) mode which is 4-5 dB more sensitive than MFSK-16 at 18 dB in a 2.4 kHz bandwidth making it comparable to FT-8. Beacons are very slow taking typically 1 minute for the shortest callsign and lat/long position packet. Messaging without acks is available for MFSK-4 but watch your message length, the shorter the better. MFSK-4 transmits 210 Hz higher that the usual frequency used for APRS Messenger messages to allow slow MFSK-4 traffic to run without blocking the "fast" channel. On the 30m frequency (10.1497 MHz) used for APRS Messenger traffic the MFSK-4 signal just fits in between the normal traffic and the band edge. Before you use it check the frequency calibration of your transceiver against WWV on 10 MHz or RWM on 9996 kHz to make sure you don't transmit out of band. A checkbox to select 9600 bd GPS receivers is added to the main window, The GPRMC sentence is used for GPS beaconing. 

Version 3.35 has a new option to stop the start-up timer on the first page, switches the beacon off during messaging, add metric level squelch for MFSK-16 and a minor bug fix and text change. 

Curious about the receiving capability now! Another weekend of testing! The idea is to add -63 to your call to show you're working with APRS Messenger. That way all stations worldwide are easy to find for instance on

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Researching coax loss

As I'm in the process of rebuilding my antennamast and hardware I'm searching for the best options available. But not against any cost. Now I have measured almost no loss from PL-259 connectors on HF I think the best way to reduce loss is to buy a good coax cable. There are several options for this, the lower the loss the higher the price. But does 1 dB or less loss make your system a lot better? Another thing you have to think of is the amount of power and the length of coax you are going to use. You can imagine if you use several kilo watts you can't do with a simple (thin) coax cable. And when your mast is several hundred meter from your shack it will add considerable loss. But anyway, I'm not planning to use more power as 100W. The cables I will use are maximum 50m long. Do I need to have expensive coax for my system? I always had good results with Aircell7, but when I did a small research on the coax in 2013 I had it seems that my cheaper Belden H-1007 has better mechanical strength.

So, again some research revealed I have several options now. Available still is the original Aircell7. But Belden has the H-2007 as replacement of the H-1007. Messi+Paoloni has the Ultraflex 7. All the same kind of cable with losses close to each other and all with a diameter slightly over 7mm.
The H-2007 is the cheapest of these 3. Some specs of losses on 28MHz @50m 7mm coax:

H-2007 @28MHz: 1,4dB
Aircell7 @28MHz: 1,5dB
Ultraflex7 @28MHz: 1,5dB

Something else is very important, the outer screen on the Aircell7 has a density of 70%. The Ultraflex7 has a density of 83% and the H-2007? But the screen has more density compared to Aircell7 as my 2013 research showed. Cost is important. But losses are important as well. What will I gain with better coax. Some specs of expensive coax cables losses on 28MHz @50m.

Hyperflex10 @28MHz: 1,03dB
Hyperflex13 @28MHz: 0,7dB
LMR400 @28MHz: 1,1dB

The price of the Hyperflex/Ecoflex and LMR400 coax is about 3,8x higher per meter compared to the H-2007. And does it help at 50m coax length? Certainly it will help but I don't know if you can see that practically on HF. It is only 0,7-0,3 dB less loss. Just to get an idea I calculated output power in relation to the type of coax I prefer to use:

(preferable) 50m H-2007 @28MHz 100W input (1,4dB loss) 72.4W
50m Hyperflex13 @28MHz 100W input (0,7dB loss) 85.1W
50m RG58 @28MHz 100W input (3,15dB loss) 48,4W

The tool I use for calculating loss can be found here:

Is a price of 3,8x the price of H-2007 worth the 12,7W extra at the antenna? For the power purists yes, they have 100W and they want it at the antenna. Personally I don't care about those 12,7W. It is a different story when you have a high SWR and tune you antenna with a internal tuner or tuner in the shack. Because your radio will send 100W but most is heated up in the coax if SWR is not good, in that case a thick lossless coax helps a bit ;-). As regular readers know I got a remote autotuner at the feedpoint of my vertical and cancel out the most of the extra coax loss.

When I started on CB I used RG58 coax, I remember I always had a good SWR. But my signal with the legal 500mW was weaker compared to neighbour stations. I replaced the coax for RG213 later and it made a considerable difference, although my SWR was not as good as I thought.

The above is true but puzzles me. Or the 10m RG58 must have been very very bad at that time. Normally it should have a loss of approx 0,63dB. RG213 would have a loss of 0,12dB.
With the 500mW we were allowed to use the power at the antenna with RG58 is 432mW and with the RG213 it is 486mW. You should hardly notice this, however I did notice at both TX as RX. So investigating (you can google everything these days) showed me that coax cable degrades over years. Obviously the RG58 was old and the RG213 was brand new. I guess the RG58 I used in those days was degraded badly and had considerable more loss as the 0,36dB it should have...

Now I still had some leftover coax cables from my own tower and from PD0FF's tower. A great opportunity to measure loss and compare cables with my MFJ259B analyzer. I did it before to measure loss in connectors and although it isn't professional equipment it does a good enough job for amateurradio needs.

Then it became evident to me that you shouldn't buy expensive cables if you only use HF. The differences are only there on VHF/UHF and higher. On HF a good H2007 cable is just as good as expensive Aircom+ or Ecoflex10. Even better on lower bands. See my measurements below:

  Band  Loss Aircom+ l=10m (dB)Loss H2007 l=10m (dB)

All relative of course. Both cables are about 12 years old and the Aircom+ could be degraded a bit more? Factory specs show that the H2007 should have a loss of 0,3dB on 50MHz and Aircom+ a loss of 0,2dB at 10m length. However that is only theoretically and if new and not used. It will be could to test my length of coax before I install it between the shack and tower.

8-3-2018: Made some calculating changes thanks to a comment from PA1PRD. Tnx Erik!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

#FT8 todays hunting

Who is hunting who, that's the question of this test....


The first public test run for FT8 DXpedition Mode is scheduled for
March 6-7, 2018.  Each hour during the test has a designated frequency
and Fox callsign, that of "Fox_A" in the following table:

Date   UTC    Freq  Fox_A    Fox_B   NSlots
Mar 6 2300  14.080  K1JT     W7/KH7Z    3
Mar 7 0000  10.141  W1/KH7Z  K9AN       5
Mar 7 0100   7.080  W7/KH7Z  K1JT       4
Mar 7 0200   3.585  K9AN     W1/KH7Z    3

Detailed instructions for Fox and Hound stations are posted here:

It's important to read and follow these instructions carefully!  Don't
just try to wing it. Fox can conduct up to "NSlots" QSOs
simultaneously.  W7/KH7Z will be operated by AA7A, and W1/KH7Z by

Fox_A will operate for the full hour if plenty of Hounds keep
calling. Fox_B is on standby reserve.  If the QSO rate for Fox_A
approaches zero at the half-hour mark, Fox_A will stop transmitting
and Fox_B will call CQ.

If you (as a Hound) can legitimately use more than one callsign --
your spouse's call, club call, etc. -- please try to work each Fox
multiple times.  No dupe QSOs with the same call and same band,

Real-time liaison will be available via the "Ping Jockey Relief" chat
page (PJB), .  Everyone
should monitor this page for possible announcements of frequency
changes or switch-overs from Fox_A to Fox_B.  To ensure that
announcements from Fox stations are easily visible, Hounds should
monitor PJB but not post messages there during the test.

Monday, March 5, 2018

#APRS on HF with APRS Messenger weekend review

Well, over the weekend there was only one station consistently in my heard list OH8STN. Finally just before closing the station sunday evening my neighbour PA4GB popped up on the screen and heard list as well. We exchanged some messages in MFSK16 and GMSK250. So unfortunate actually the only international station heard was OH8STN Julian from Finland, we exchanged some messages on both saturday and sunday. Actually Julian and I seem to have a very reliable path every day around 1400-1500 UTC although today I already heard him strong in the morning as well. Late in the evening I saw some weak PSK-63 traces in the waterfall but APRS messenger didn't decode any of them therefore I have questionmarks about the receiving ability of the program. According I was heard in Romania and Puerto Rico. Not bad for 25W. Antenna first day was my inverted-V 2x20m apex 12m, the second day I used my 7m long multiband vertical at 9m agl. Interesting to see some of the participating stations had more luck then others. 30m is not really the band for short skip at least not in Europe. Personally I hoped for some spots from USA/Canada but unfortunately it didn't happen. However I found it interesting to test the software over the weekend. Not shure it could be useful in the field however. Though for contacts inside europe it probabely would be better to use the 80m or 40m band.

The heard list is not complete as I know OH8STN, PA1SDB and PA4GB did receive me as well. Why they don't show here is not clear to me?

Friday, March 2, 2018

#APRS messenger activity weekend

If you want to experiment HF APRS Messenger after reading my or Julian's blog it's time to join us this weekend. We shure want to learn from this. The ultimate goal is to do it portable.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

#HF APRS Messenger

Screendump from 1999 UIview map...
The APRS Messenger program provides a simple way to send and receive APRS messages over PSK, MFSK and GMSK modes on HF.

It has been a long, long time ago I was active with APRS. I remember some software called UIview and it was on VHF....let's was in 1999 and you needed to download maps instead of a instant view on google maps like on Wow, that was 17 years ago already. Since then I was more involved and occupied by other things and VHF/UHF never had my real interest. At the time we were only allowed to do radio experiments on VHF/UHF and HF was forbidden for us as tech license holders. Since 2003 we are allowed on all band HF as well. It opened up the hobby for me like I always would like to do.....DXing on HF. But back to the subject, I liked APRS and did various experiments which were not as comprehensive as they would be now. I remember in one occassion I met a Italian amateur who was sightseeing here and driving through with his van. He transmitted his position and the frequency he was listening to on phone. We made a QSO and it was a nice experience and a good example for APRS use. I made a screenshot of the situation which is not as sharp as todays standards, see picture above.

My location as seen on Notice you can even see a
weatherreport at the right side.
These days APRS is built into some UHF/VHF radios and you can view amateurradio stations as well as ships and sometimes other moving vehicles. You can view location and even use streetview to get an idea of the situation. I became aware of APRS on HF via OH8STN Julian and via the facebook group Portable & Digital QRP. We did some tests with FSQ software last year and this time there is a  HF APRS Messenger experiment going on. APRS Messenger is experimental software which is still developed and that makes it interesting. You don't make the usual QSO's with it, it is messenger (chat) software. Ideal for use under emergency situations. It is able to give a position report, you can send and receive short text messages and you can use the software to gain others access to internet (Inet gate) for position reporting and messaging. You can choose from several digimodes which are not time dependent like JT modes. The software, of course, is for mobile use primairely. However you need base stations to "Igate" to the internet. So far there have been a few activity weekends and it seems the program is getting populair.

The only problem I found was the configuration. With the last version it got easier but still I was uncertain how things should work. And I'm still experimenting with it. So far I exchanged a few short messages with Julian OH8STN and he received and forwarded my position report so I could view it on In this post I will try explain some of the config settings as far as I've done it to get the software working. I only use the soundcard setup as most people will use that. But it can be connected to various TNCs as well as the UZ7HO soundmodem.

You can find APRS messenger software here:

Setup screen
1. First of all you need to be at the right frequency. The worldwide frequency for this program is 10.149.7 MHz USB. The simplest way to achieve this frequency is to set the PSK63 audio tone in APRS Messenger to 1500 Hz, and the transceiver's RF ("dial frequency") to 10.148.2 MHz USB. You can choose other audio tones but the sum of both dail frequency and audio tone must be 10.149.7 MHz USB.

2. When you start the program you get 60 seconds to configure your program. This is fast, but if you can't do it within that time just close the program and start it again, all previous changes are saved. Above is my setup. I use PE4BAS-63 the SSID -63 is to indicate that I send PSK63 APRS, though you don't need to have any SSID it's just to indicate you're using APRS Messenger. Not really neccessary, it's your own choice. My computer takes the right soundcard setting automagically but it can be you need to choose the right transmit and receive soundcard. I cannot write about the com port settings to access the PTT to switch your radio on transmit, probabely it works but since I always work with VOX I don't have any experience.

Main screen
3. The main screen is showing after 60 secs or after you press start. You can only listen and see what is showing, but transmitting you beacon is more interesting. So, you press "Beacon ON" it will light green. You can manually send your beacon by pressing "Send Beacon". APRS messenger can send several modes. Choose what suites you. Most of the experimenters use MFSK-16 but PSK-63 or other modes are good as well. Don't worry about receiving the software is capable of receiving all modes at the same time.
Signal meter at the center
of this picture.

4. A hidden feature I didn't see in the manual (which manual ;-) ). You can set the squelch to a preferred position. Just click with you cursor on the yellow line in the signal meter and hold your mouse button. Best position is just above the "noise" indicated in grey. If you don't set the squelch you will only receive the strongest stations and never see QRP signals.

5. You can use a GPS if you have one the indicate your QTH or position if you're mobile. If you don't have a GPS you can enter your coordinates manually in the "Fixed Beacon or Status Text". If you don't like to give your position you can enter a status text if you wish. Or you can do both like me.
The GPS beacon text is created from latitude and longitude coordinates in GPS notation. You can calculate those but easier is to get it from this page: Just fill in your adress and you find your coordinates then use the ones under "DMS".

This is how it should be (example my beacon text, please don't copy but use your own!):


The "=" shows other programs that you can send and receive messages.
The "-" before "" is a APRS icon symbol. In this case it shows a house on the map. But there are other icons you can use. See for a list here:
""is my beacon comment but you can choose any text you want of course.

If someone else receives this beacon and relay it via the Igate you location will be shown on the map from

Screenshot from my phone when I messaged with Julian via remote
6. If you see some calls in the HF station heard box you can try to send those stations a message. Just
say hello, tell about the weather or give your station info. It will be appreciated. All messages are stored and you can find any traffic/rcvd and tx messages in the "Open log file" pull down menu.

7. In previous versions you did need a passcode to identify on a internet server. With the newest version I believe you don't need it anymore. However I'm not 100% shure. If you need a passcode you can google "aprs passcode" you will find a few and choose the one you like most.

Above is a very simple description of the configuration. Just enough to do a experiment. However there are more possebilities and experiments you can do. For a more detailed discription I would recommend the WA8LMF page about APRS messenger.