Monday, August 27, 2018

#JT9 activity days last weekend

Contact map (click to enlarge).
Event: RDRC JT9 activity days 2018
Software: JTDX 18
Logger: HRD5
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 25W
Antenna: Multiband Inverted-V 2x20m open line fed, apex 12m agl
Total distance worked: 95882km

Even less time compared to last year. At sunday there was a radio blackout due to a surprise CME. 20m went well late saturday evening when I finally had time to start. This year I decided to give JTDX another go. JTDX was previously the software to make JT65/JT9 contacts with better results compared to WSJT-X. But now I think the difference is not that big. However it is nice to experiment with other software packages. JTDX did a good job but the interface is different from WSJT-X. The big advantage is the partially autosequence on JT9. Sunday was the ideal JT9 day, no propagation or very weak, excellent for weak signal modes. Sundaymorning 20m was dead, no signal could be heard. 40m was were the activity was. Sunday evening late, no propagation on 20m, 40m again was full of JT9 signals. Different from last year, there was only activity on 40,30 and 20m. In the end I made only 28 QSO and ODX was with YV5OIE Venezuela (7999km).

Thursday, August 23, 2018

#JT9 RDRC Activity days 2018

We invite fans of digital modes of radio communication to JT9 Activity Days «Make haste slowly» which will take place from 00:00 UTC Saturday August 25 to 23:59 UTC Sunday August 26, 2018 on all HF-bands from 160 to 10 meters. Repeated QSO can be made on different bands. The obligatory condition of each QSO is to preserve in adif file of the Log the received locator. 

Last year I participated in the Russian Digital Radio Club JT9 activity. With JT9 almost dying these days I call those who really want to keep this fine very sensitive and narrow band mode to participate and generate some activity. I will certainly do my best to make as many DX as possible in my spare time.

The goal of this activity is the sum of distances you manage to make with contacts all over the world.

Rules can be found here:
Or in last years post here:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Butternut HF5B Butterfly overhaul

Ready for cleaning first
Recently I purchased a second hand HF5B Butternut mini multiband HF beam from PD5JFK Jelle. The beam covers 14-30MHz and is very light. It is a project and needs some work. The antenna construction is a little flimsy and I actually expect it will break after the first storm. However, PB7Z Bernard has this beam for some years now and obtained excellent results in both contesting as DX. We compared DX stations on several bands in the past and it most of the time showed better results against my multiband vertical when it was still up. The multiband vertical wil not go up in the mast anymore so I need a antenna for 20-30MHz since the 2x20m inverted-V works well on 3,5-10MHz but less on the higher frequencies. There are several options of course but I prefer to either refurbish a used antenna or build one from scratch. So far I cleaned everything, removed the rusty hardware and exchanged it for stainless. Modified the mast clamp to fit on 50mm. Now just find the time to set it up for a test on a short mast and hopefully don't have to tune too much...

Rusty bolts had to be removed

Exchanging for stainless (left done, right still rusty)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

FT8Call 20m today

Results FT8Call 20m (click for more detail)
In between busy times here I've been listening and experimenting with FT8Call today. I kept it on one band 20m as it is probabely the busiest band. Above the worldwide activity I heard. Not bad for a new project. OH8STN/QRP Julian was spotted several times during the day. I've tried to send him a message but don't know if he received it. I noticed from the comments on my previous post and from stations I monitored that most really don't know what the software is for and that it is far from finished. Most stations still want to fill their log, they want to collect contacts, they want to proof something I guess? But FT8Call is not for filling your log, it is for making a real contact or network without logging. Ok, you can log if you like, the feature is build in but you can better use the original WSJT-X for that. Another thing I notice is that stations really don't know what to do. I tried to make chats with several stations but I guess they think everything will go automatic like in WSJT-X. Sorry guys, you need to type and press buttons yourself ;-). In the end I only had one chat QSO with G3NYY Walt.

I also tested the relay function, had some issues with it, but with some help managed to relay a message via HB9AVK to ON6NL. However I really don't know if the message was received. This is a very important feature to use for stations that are QRP in the field and I think something that should be refined in the software.

FT8Call is still being developed and actually by using the software you should experiment it and make suggestions. So what I suggest to Jordan is:

1. Station select in every screen, not only from the callsign activity list.
2. Station activity list not in alphabetical order but in time order. Latest activity on top.
3. Automatic directed message receive save. So you can read directed messages in a txt file even without starting the FT8Call software.

In the mean time I'll test and experiment with the software once and a while. Time will learn if this will be something to keep. At least it seems more populair compared to earlier experiments with V4chat, FSQ and APRSmessenger. I hope you will all enjoy FT8Call not as a way to fill your log but as a experiment and a way to do something else with radio.

Related article from OH8STN:
Official FT8call page:
FT8call documentation:

Friday, August 17, 2018

FT8Call a new mode??

I already knew FT8Call being developed for a couple of months. KN4CRD Jordan announced his ideas several times on the portabledigitalQRP facebook group. Now, yesterday I saw FT8Call announced at the QRZnow site as being a new mode. Well it isn't! But it is a nice development since the concept is the same as we tested with FSQ last year. Only this time FT8 is choosen as so to say the bearer of information I guess it will be more populair because of this.

Just for the log filler lovers, this isn't about log filling. Yes you can log your contact, but everything is more about making a real contact and exchanging information in difficult situations like when you're portable or in worst case scenarios like a emergency. You always have advantages and disadvantages and in this case the  choice for FT8 is great because it is more sensitive as normal FSK like PSK modes etc. and it is reasonable fast. The disadvantage with this kind of mode is still that you are depending on the internet or satellites for time keeping as everyone needs to be on the exact same time for synchronisation.

It goes too far to write down all the features that are build into this software. I guess you better read about it here. However to give you a example this is a list of commands you can give to obtain info from others:

allcall [message] - broadcasting this message to all stations in network
cqcqcq [message] - broadcasting this message to those with cq enabled
[callsign]:? - what is my signal report
[callsign]:|[message] - relay this message (CALL1|CALL2|CALL3 Message)
[callsign]:@ - what is your station qth (location)?
[callsign]:& - what is your station qtc (message)?
[callsign]:$ - what stations have you heard?
[callsign]:% - what is your station information?

Personally I've just installed the software for review. I didn't have to time yet and still not have time to completely test it. But I keep an eye on the development and find it very interesting. Still keep in mind the software is in development and you can still contribute with ideas on the FT8Call group.
It is not a new mode and it is not a new idea but the concept is great!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Blogroll maintenance

Time for maintenance of my blogroll! After I received a couple of e-mails from bloggers that changed their URL. I noticed a lot of good amateur radio bloggers didn't update their blog for over a year. Not really up-to-date so to say. I decided to remove most of them. It's so unfortunate as over the years I did read a lot of articles on some of their blogs but suddenly it seems they lost interest? Interest in the radio hobby or interest in blogging. I think a lot of bloggers are moving to facebook, instagram, twitter and google+. Personally I do have all of these social media platforms but the messages I read there do not have the same experience as a personal and searchable blog.


Of course they will return in my blogroll as soon as they start blogging again. But for now I removed them.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Taste of magic - 6m at night 4-5 Aug.

Map from spotted stations (note: not everyone spots to PSK reporter!)
I have to admit that since I got the 5 element yagi into the tower I'm a 6m band addict. 50 MHz is the only frequency I'm interested in at this moment. And I tasted the magic again last night! 6m open at night? Yes! And how!

I check the 6m band from time to time and so I did yesterday. But nothing interesting happened during the day or during greyzone. However, just when I wanted to close the station to go to sleep the band suddenly opened. That was very late in the evening around 23 local time (21 UTC). And things went better as after I succesfully worked 2 new DXCC (VE2EBK Canada - 9Y4D Trinidad & Tobago) the band stays open. I even saw HK3W for over half a hour calling CQ. Although it seems only the strongest stations from europe could make it to him. My best DX was 9Y4D (7660km)... although from my log K5XI is from Phoenix AZ he was reported from locator FN65 which is probabely Maine USA? When I went to bed it was 00:30 local time and the band was still open but decreasing slowly.

Below a screenshot from the activity on FT8 on 6m last night just to show what a open 6m band looks like. (Click for a larger picture)

Most of the contacts are already confirmed via LoTW. That's nice but I prefer eQSL because of the pictures...(wish some stations would do more on their QSL design...)

FT8 still is HAMradio! Although some people do think it is not and still stick to SSB and CW. I had my doubts at first last year....but now I see the possibilities and the fun I have DXing on 6m with great results I'm totally into FT8. However if DX could be worked using any other mode I would do that as well. But let's be honest....most of the interesting DX happens on FT8 these days. Especially on 6m.

For those that think I've nothing else on my mind. I do, I have several new hobby projects I'm busy with. Like building a digital field strength meter, refurbishing a HF5B antenna, constructing a portable alu mast, a portable digital system with my broken tablet, a new FT8 mode that has to be tested and so many other things. But it has to wait. I'm also busy with some construction in the house to name a thing besides the hobby...and of course the usual balance that I try to keep between hobby and family.....

Keep coming back to my blog to read new articles, I'll make new posts as soon as time allows!

Friday, August 3, 2018

6m August 2

Glowing red towards the evening sun!
The ES season is still there. 2 new DXCC for me on 6m. 4Z5AV Israel and ER1PB Moldavia.

Late in the evening the band opened towards USA. And I met K1JT again, but now on 6! Tnx Joe!