Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Playing DX hound for the first time

You might think I'm a expert on FT8. Being one of the first using the mode and then write about the DXpedtion mode various times at first last year. But in fact, I never heard or seen a DXpedtion station in real FT8 DXpedition mode on air. Till now that is. I actually saw 2 signals at once from XX9D (Macao) on 17m. I realized this had to be the real thing. I immidiatly went into the configuration to switch on "Hound" mode and started to call around 2000Hz since that was a unused frequency. A few calls later I got a report and my transmit signal was changed to XX9D received signal automatically. Unfortunately he didn't seem to get my report and got back again with a report, my transmit signal moved again to the new receive frequency and I finally got the RR73. For those that think this will work without CAT control, no way! The DXpedition needs control over your TX signal to move it to the frequency they listen on. I never experienced this before and think this is really awesome. Last year I already wrote that this Fox/Hound DXpedition mode will change the world of DX forever and I'm shure it does! I guess I'm a "experienced" operator now...

Monday, February 25, 2019

How to get on nr. 1 in the WSPR 80m challenge list easy?

You want to know? Am I going to tell you.....
Is it that easy? Well, I think it is...

Last week I was monitoring 80m on the "official" WSPR frequency 3.5686MHz dail. I ended in the PE1ITR WSPR challenge list between place 26 and 12 I believe and with approx 70-90 unique stations every day. Then, watching the activity link, it occured to me half of the WSPR stations are still on the old WSPR frequency 3.5927MHz. What would happen if I run 2 WSPR stations on receive, one on the old frequency and the other on the "new" frequency. Well, you can see the result! And I wasn't even on for 24 hours since one station was used for 1 hour running the CQ 160m SSB contest.

Easy as that...

Strange thing 80m WSPR is divided over two frequencies. Why is the old frequency still used by so many users? Haven't they noticed? What are they doing with the data? Did they forget they have a station unattended transmitting on 80m (on the wrong frequency)?

Wake up!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Experimental shunt fed tower

Since my antenna tower is grounded I searched for a way to shunt feed with a autotuner like a gammamatch. I found a article from N6TZ Hal on eham and although I read it I picked only the most important things out of it and used what I got. N6TZ is a broadcast engineer and his website is mainly about his antenna setup, a good read. Most important I think is that the beam on top is grounded to the mast and luckely it is, normally coax should also be grounded at the bottom but I have my RF systems isolator box so there is no galvanic connection between coax of the tower and the coax to the shack. Another important thing is that all wires and coax should be running inside the tower and in my case it is.

Autotuner box, note the
groundrod at the left.
A simplified description of the system: See the photo, running a wire (red lines) from top of the tower and bonded to the metal to the autotuner which is 6m (20ft) away from the tower. Running a flat copper ribbon strap a few cm underground from the "earth" of the tuner to the bottom of the tower and also bonded to the metal. The "earth" connection on the tuner is also connected to a copper rod into the ground, connected to the copper rod are 2x 10m long elevated radials. Coax from the autotuner is first going a few times through a ferrite #61 ring and together with the 12V supply going the the box at the bottom of the tower were I grounded the coax again. From the box it is connected to the coax going to my shack.

View from the autotuner to the mast.
Some people will think now that I made a grounded delta loop, but that is not the case. This system is called a top loaded shunt unipole vertical. However this is really a experimental antenna since you will never be able to predict or calculate any radiation pattern or angle on any band, it is just a matter of trail and error.

The shunt fed tower should work fine from 160m-40m. I tried to transmit on the system and it was tuned easily on all bands. I made some contacts on 60m and found I got unexpected surprisingly good reports. Switching from the inverted-V to the shunt fed tower didn't show me real differences.

I  was thinking about my testing method to compare antennas and thought the only way to get a real(time) comparisation result should be with 2 transmitters on WSPR transmitting the same power at the same moment. So I made 2 WSPR stations PE4BAS on the shunt fed tower and PE4BAS/P on the inverted-V both transmitting 1W on different frequencies in the WSPR spectrum at the same time. I'm shure this is the best method determing which antenna is best under same circumstances taking a fast changing propagation in mind. I tried to find stations around Europe and DX to compare. Only on 60m there were no DX stations on the WSPR frequency.


Hopefully this will reduce some RFI on both TX as RX.
Note that during my test transmission on 160m I had only 2 stations that received both PE4BAS on the vertical and PE4BAS/P on the inverted-V. Actually only those 2 stations received my 1W signal on the inverted-V. At the same time 1W on the vertical (shunt fed tower) gave me 50 (!) spots in one 2 minute transmission. Just to show you the extreme difference. 15 minutes later I worked Japan on 160m FT8.

Improvement of this system

Oh yes, reading the N6TZ's website a lot of things came to my mind. I could attach a tracer wire from top to bottom wrapped a few times around the tower to make it a more constant conducting element. Then the groundsystem. I only use 2 short elevated radials now, but everyone knows you need much more to increase the radiation. On both tower as autotuner should be much more conductors. I'm even thinking about connecting the fence wire, used for the beverage experiments, to the ground. For receive I'm already thinking about another antenna since the vertical doesn't receive as well or the same as my inverted-V.

Test setup 2 WSPR stations PE4BAS (tower) & PE4BAS/P (inv-V)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Japan on 160m FT8

While testing and documenting a new antenna setup I discovered it did very well on 160m. Actually I was surprised. I will have to test a bit more before I can write about it but so far I can tell it is several dBs better compared to my inverted-V on 160m. Probabely as good or even better as my previous all band coppertape vertical. To prove it is good I made a QSO with Japan:

I was using 50W FT8. I always thought that working Japan on 160m could not be done without a good 160m antenna and a lot of power. I know much is the setup of JA8WKE, but he's certainly not the only one I heard. Unfortunately PSK reporter does not display all stations I have seen...

Info: To work Japan on 160m you need to work split. Japan is transmitting on 1908KHz and we are transmitting on 1840KHz.

Friday, February 15, 2019

What's your occupation?

A typical day at my job.
Years ago when I was still a 11m/CB radioamateur I was asked many times in QSOs "What is you occupation" a usual question in those days. And a greatful subject to talk about on the air. I haven't been asked ever on the HAM radio amateurbands. Could be this is not really something to talk about? Or did they in the past and is this question taboo now? Occupation has many translations but in this context it does mean what your profession is, your job, what you're doing for your living. Most people do, some do not because of their health. Most radioamateurs are retired but had a job or more jobs in their lifetime.

My job at the moment is difficult to explain sometimes. Officially my profession is electrician. I've been a electrician for a few years but don't like the work actually. So I have been a operator in factories for years. But since working in shifts is not for everyone and certainly not for me as I did get sick of it. I was lucky to get a job as a allround technician at a shop in (and now near) my village on a daily basis. It is a allround job, repairing almost everything the shop sells. In the first years we also sold agricultural corn dryers and remote electric driven garage doors. I had, because of my profession, a lot do do with the process and installation. But now these days we mainly repair lawnmowers, garden equipment, high pressure gear, electric powertool equipment and forced air heaters. We deliver parts as well from all kind of brands and we not only repair what we sold but everything that comes into the shop for repair. It is a interesting job with sometimes a challenge to solve a problem. And it is always nice to have satisfied and happy customers.

Since it seems no one is asking and so no one is ever telling....I ask you readers following this blog. Tell us more about your job, or what your job was since most HAMs are retired these days...

Monday, February 11, 2019

PACC 2019 review

Event: PACC 2019
Section:  Single Operator Low Power  All Band SSB
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
Station: Icom IC-706 MK2G 100W
Antenna 1: Inverted-V apex @12m
Antenna 2: Butternut HF5B @14m
Antenna 3: 3 band endfed @groundlevel

The most important (for me at least) dutch contest is over for this year. Just searching the archives for last years score, it was a better score compared to this year. No progression, I guess this is the limit of my station at this moment. If I want to have a better score the only way is to improve my antenna for 20m. The HF5B did a great job on 15m, as soon as there were slight conditions I could make the contact, it gave me some extra multipliers.

Some things I notice this year:

- Some spots that appeared on DXheat cluster didn't show in the bandmap of N1MM+. Most spots did, only a few didn't. I checked if I had any filters on or some adjustment wrong but so far I didn't find anything. Conlusion: it pays if you keep an eye on a second DX cluster.

- It could be propagation but even when I was spotted (I was spotted 10 times) there was no follow-up pile-up like last year and the years before. Didn't anyone hear me? Or was it just a lack of stations? In the end I had 40 QSO less compared to last year on 80m which is my "money" band.

At least one multiplier will not count, EP2C (Iran) was not giving serial numbers in the contest. I worked him on 40m which was nice but not counting in the contest. In my heart I'm more a DXer as a contester. Wrong attitude to win a contest :-).

But I worked some interesting DX and they were giving progressive numbers for the contest. Sometimes it was just a matter of asking. Propagation not good? Well indeed, but for "low sunspot" standards some pretty nice things happened. I worked 3 times USA on 80m and K3ZO was even coming back on my CQ. Last year I didn't work across the ocean on 80. On 40m I worked K3ZO as well just like a few others from USA. I checked 15m and 10m regularly and found 15m open for a few minutes on/off. OD5VB and A41NN and a few russian stations made it in the log.

The endfed was setup as spare antenna, actually it was quite good. Though the large wind was a problem this weekend, it kept sliding in no matter what. Tried some tape to hold it but that didn't work. I made some QSOs with it but that was all. I noticed 20m receive was just as good as on the HF5B beam, a confirmation that I should improve something on that band. On 40m it was sometimes better sometimes worse but most of the time receive was equal to my inverted-V. SWR was great and it worked well with 100W SSB although the antenna is made for QRP use.

Less off time compared with last year. I went to bed for about 3,5 hours. This contest might be interesting to do for a continuous 24h participation in CW but for the SSB section it hasn't much use. You better get some sleep to have a fresh mind in the early morning. 

Worked 47 DXCC, one more compared to last year. No south-america or central america, no Australia or Africa. I heard PJ4DX but so far he only appears to do some S&P and almost got a QSO with a VK2 but it didn't happen in the end.

I was up at 5 UTC in the morning, even that is too early...I made only 4 QSO, one every 15 minutes of calling. But you never know of course....next year it could be different. Made 7 last year at the same time. Best time was 20 UTC on 80m, almost like every year. Though last year my best time was at 18 and 21 UTC. The most difficult thing in this contest is what band to choose at daylight. I sometimes felt like I was on the wrong band at the wrong time. The problem is that every year is different. The only thing that works is to be at 80m at saturday evening for some extra QSOs.

Then the CQ WPX RTTY contest at the same time. It's the same every year...at night 40m is only usable from 7100 and up, below that frequency it is full of RTTY sigs. Another disadvantage is that most big contest stations and well known contesters participate in the RTTY contest. It's a pity...I don't think it will ever change since the date of the PACC contest is always the same since decades. We have to make the best of it as it is.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

UKEICC exercise for the PACC

I wrote about this UKEICC contest before and participated in the past. It is a 1 hour contest on 80m once a month. There is a CW and SSB section both on different dates. I'm most interested in the SSB version. You can get a automatic reminder e-mail a day before. So I did get the e-mail and decided to participate as a exercise for this upcoming PACC weekend. I really like this fast format since after the contest you need to submit your log within a hour. A short time after you already see your results. I obtained 4th place yesterday in the combined results. And I see a first place in the Low power section. I don't think there is a difference between assisted/unassisted, you can choose it but it hardly makes any sense since there are not many cluster spots anyway. If you don't like long contests or just want to contest for the fun of it this is the contest for you. I suggest try it some time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

PACC 2019 contest upcoming weekend

PACC contest 2019 upcoming weekend

Event: PACC 2019 contest
Modes: SSB/CW
Date: 9-10 Febr. 2019 12:00-12:00 UTC (24hrs)
Exchange: RS(T) + Province abbreviation of 2 letters, foreign: RS(T) + serial starting at 001
Foreign rules: https://pacc.veron.nl/foreign-rules/
Dutch rules: https://pacc.veron.nl/dutch-rules/

The PACC contest is the most important contest for Dutch radioamateurs. The nice thing is that everyone has to work the Netherlands so we dutch HAMs finally get a response on a CQ when calling. The only problem is that the CQWW WPX RTTY contest is going on in the same weekend. That means all the important big contest stations outside the Netherlands are not participating in the PACC unfortunately. Anyway, that doesn't matter as the PACC is a fun contest and if you send in a log with your address you will receive a very nice token of merit. I don't know of any contest that sends such a token and it is much appreciated.

Hopefully all of you readers will participate. Although not everyone likes to contest of course. But even if you don't want to really participate you can use this contest to test a antenna setup or just give a point to a known station (like me ;-))...

Lees deze handige tips voor de PACC en voor de setup van N1MM+ met additionele files:

Hopefully my radio will hold for this contest. Again the radio is sometimes not functioning like the PLL is not locking, I receive but with a lot of noise and hiss and stations sound like they all have a cold. Same for TX, modulation sounds if I have a bad cold and almost lost my voice. This is happening more often as last year. I guess at some point the radio will be completely dead.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The death of Google+

Just got the message that Google+ will shut down february 4 and ending second day of april.

Ok, I know Google+ never had the number of users Facebook has. But I got a lot of readers of this blog from Google+. I always post new blogposts in communities like Amateur Radio (48K users), Ham Radio (4,5K users) and my own page which has been followed by 183 followers. There are also a lot of bloggers that opened comments via Google+, something that you could choose a few years ago. Personally I didn't because I didn't like it. I'm happy I didn't do that in the past since all Google+ comments will be lost forever.

Yes, there is facebook, instagram and some other options to spread the word but they were not as easy as google+. It is unfortunate they close this platform. But there will be others, I'm shure of that...

Interesting read:


Monday, February 4, 2019

Experimental H-pole antenna

It has to be a year ago I got this vertical all band antenna info from dutch antenna "guru" PG0DX Henry. I almost forgot but when experimenting with the vertical I suddenly remembered it. The vertical aside the tower is no success, I tried it for a few days on several bands but it is not as good as the inverted-V, even not at low angles. Of course I read some comments on verticals compared to a full-size dipole and most of the times a dipole wins. A vertical is no miracle antenna. Though I had excellent results with my coppertape vertical before I managed to get the tower up. I'm confident there is a way to improve. So, this is about the experimental H-pole antenna which is described by HB9MTN. It is a allband antenna off center fed and kind of small due to the use of  lineair loading at top and bottom.The antenna needs a tuner to work and that is exactly what I want. It is quite easy to make with about 30m wire, some electricity tubes, rope and some insulating parts. It can be hung on top of a tower sloping down or on a fiberglass pole. Polarisation is vertical. HB9MTN simulated some take off angles with EZNEC and it looks good enough to try this vertical. Since it is about 10m long the buildings that are now affecting my vertical are less of a problem since the bottom is about 3m above the ground the way I want it to hang from my tower.

Sunday was a real beautiful day to work on antennas. Constructing the H-pole antenna was piece of cake. Actually making the ladderline was just as much work. Since Henry told me the antenna is sensitive for steel constructions like my mast I should try to mount it at the fiberglass pole. So I did, but I didn't trust it at all, shure it went up and shure it does well in this beautiful weather. But what if some wind will blow....I changed plans and went to the original plan. Sloping it down from my tower. I figured this would work as good as the vertical aside the mast. And actually it does.

This time I had DX stations to compare:

Actually I was surprised to see YB9AY (Indonesia) just after first receive tests with the H-pole. Actually first 2 white reports are with the vertical. But with the TX differences in mind I switched to the inverted-V since I didn't want to miss a new DXCC on 60. Last green report is with the H-pole.

Later in the evening I saw C5YK (The Gambia), a new one again...it's my lucky Sunday. After I worked him on the inverted-V I decided to change to the vertical. The 3 reports -13,-18, -18 are on the vertical, then I switched back on the inverted-V. No, the H-pole isn't a miracle antenna but for the short length it is working fine. I'm shure if you hang it free the results are excellent. A nice experiment though...

Still, to improve the signal on 60m I need something different I guess. 

I also tried the H-pole on 20m. Signals were equal to my HF5B but interference was a lot worse. On 160m signals were the same/better as on the inverted-V. Not bad...

To finish the sunday I had a QSO with LU8HF on 60m FT8 with the inverted-V, I was finally heard in South America. It really was my lucky Sunday!

Interesting spot from 9M2CNC (West Malaysia)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Experimental vertical antenna - elevated radials

Vertical wire aside the mast
I got some comments on my vertical from PG0DX Henry. He told me I probabely should try to elevate the radials. It is a very good idea and I now remember that if you use ground radials you nee a lot of them to actually have good results with it. Using elevated radials will improve gain with just a few of them. Even a few cm above the ground will help. N6LF Rudy described it in a very interesting paper.

So now the practical side of the radials, the problem is "room". I can elevate the radials but not permanent since it is my garden and there are other members of the family walking there as well. It is winter now so there is not much to do in the garden so just for a experiment I have elevated the 5 radials. I'm just curious how this works.

Base of my tower

On the photo at the left you see the autotuner below the plastic bag. After all the water in the tuner last year I don't take any risks anymore. The wooden block is for separating the radials from the grounded mast.

I've been testing before sunset with a interval from about 5 minutes. So far I don't see much difference in RX but in TX it is worse except at Henry's QTH but he's also receiving with the vertical. Of course this would be normal since the vertical should be worse since the angle of radiation is too low for Europe stations. The comparisation is estimated since propagation can change in those 5 minutes.

Some comparisations:

TX  (5W)             Inverted-V    Vertical                 RX                    Inverted-V      Vertical
DL3ANK              -17               -24                        MW0GSR        -08                   -07
ES2HV                  -04               -03                       DL5ZG             -16                   -16
SM2SUM               00                -11
G3SEP                   00                -09
M0ORH                -12               -22
M0TRP                 -14               -20
SM5FOQ              +9                -03

I had to wait to late in the evening to do a DX comparisation. But unfortunately propagation was not in my favour. I didn't see much north american stations at all to compare antennas. Only one at RX and one Argentinian station.

TX (5W)          Inverted-V     Vertical                     RX            Inverted-V      Vertical
PG0DX/1          -09                -08                            K1HTV     -15                   -16
SM5FQQ          -08                +2                             LU8ENU   -22                   -23
GM0HUU          00                -08
TA4/G8SCU     -20                -08

The thing is that both antennas receive equally but TX is much more difference. Although I was not spotted at DX (say about 5000km or more). I'm not really impressed!

I'm shure a vertical does well if placed completely free or near water with much more elevated radials may be. Henry is using a vertical with 10 elevated radials. He told me he just finished a FT8 QSO to ZL with only 1W QRP on 60m. Of course thats not only the antenna but the propagation as well.