Friday, August 30, 2019

The IC-705 a FT-817 successor?

Seems to be the hot news of the day. in the Netherlands already offers to make reservations for the radio without any costs. In the mean time some hints are getting published:

Most interesting is the bluetooth/LAN option. My guess is that you can connect to your radio with computer or even your phone via Bluetooth and or WiFi. Will it also have a USB connection like the IC-7300? Personally I've been busy to connect CAT/soundcard via bluetooth to my windows tablet a while ago. I still have some experiment waiting but this radio seems to have it build in.

Update 1-Sept-2019:

Some links to other articles about this new radio:

Thursday, August 29, 2019

World Wide Digi DX contest

The first WW digi DX contest will take place this weekend Sat 12- Sun 11:59 UTC. It's a contest in the digital modes FT8 and FT4. The exchange will be your maidenhead gridsquare. To connect N1MM+ contestlogger to WSJT-X you might find this article useful:

Of course you don't have to connect to a contestlogger, WSJT-X will make a ADIF logfile as well you can convert or load in a logger of choice.

Most interesting is the last General Rule For All Entrants:

13. Each QSO must require some action by the operator, e.g., selecting a QSO partner.

That means you are no allowed to use a FT8/FT4 robot like WSJT-Z. But...who will detect that??

Certainly if I would participate I would try the robot at night time for shure and risk being disqualified. I think I would be disqualified anyhowe since I wrote this article ;-) However I have no time to be on the radio this weekend. But robot or not I wish you all good luck contesting!

Update 30-8-2019: 

SQ9FVE made this change to the last WSJT-Z. Don't know why, others will contest with robots. But I think his version on WSJT is not completely ready for it. 

V0.21 - Preventing switching to contest modes in Auto CQ mode

I didn't try yet but it could be old versions do work with auto CQ mode.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Automation, the future is already here

When in Denmark I missed a lot of blog posts from others. Highlights last week were the blogposts about the ARRL prohibiting automated contacts being valid for awards and DXCC and automated contacts in general. Actually when I read about it I was planning a blogpost about it but unfortunately I had no time to write and others already did. So what's left? You would think nothing....but development goes fast, there is a lot to write about.

I've been writing about automation last year:

One of the things I wrote about is automation of FT8 contacts by DXpeditions. I think it is good idea, others however are not happy with it. I can imagine that...however for many earning DXCC is a way of life, they do nothing else on HAMradio. But the hobby has so much more challenges. Things are constant changing in life and so is our radio hobby. But back to automation....

Other articles about this topic can be read here:

I also wrote in 2018 that anyone with programming skills can make a automated WSJT version.
So far only Stathis SV5DKL was writing and documenting his FT8 robot, others could take the idea (and did) it was based on a program called Quick Macro. DG5LP actually made some macro program you can use with Quick Macro and WSJT-X and you can download it on his FT8-Helper site. Still Quick Macro is commercial sofware and the evaluation version stops after 30 days, that made me personally not experimenting with it. Other (freeware) macro program are able to do this as well but it takes time to experiment with it. So recently someone with programming skills made a modified WSJT-X version. Called WSJT-Z by SP9FVE. You can download it here:

I installed it this evening and did let it running under my supervision of course. Except the contact with OY1R (who I met personally in the past and is always special to me) all contacts on 20m FT4 and 60m FT8 are made by "robot" today. I didn't touch a thing and let it go, at the same time writing this blogpost 20 QSOs were made...

A screenshot:

It is just a test just out of the box, and I just made CQs. But it seems you can also auto reply on CQs and can even make filters so you work only the new DXCC for instance. Is it fun to experiment with? Yes it is! This software is what I already predicted last year. This is the future and you can't stop it.

But before you are going to write me "hate" comments now. Consider this: It is your choice to use it. You don't have to download and participate. If you think you have to ban me now, others read this and will make robot contacts with this software. I certainly will not be the only one and I think there are already hundreds of FT8/FT4 robots on air.

-- Be careful as making automated contacts without your supervision (being in the shack or connected remote) is not allowed in most countries by law! --

Now, I can't help it but I can almost predict that more digital mode software will provide automation. K1JT might even have the option in the next version? Or takes a note and will block the possebility to modify the software for automation? But would that help? I don't think so...

Oh my, exciting times....

Monday, August 26, 2019

Back from OZ

Not much activity this month. I finally got my 3 weeks vacation....that means I finally manage to do maintenance at home. 2 weeks of working at home doing all kind of things like painting and building. Last week we finally had our real vacation to Denmark. I didn't bring any radio equipment this time since I wanted to spend all the time with the family. However, you can't beat radio out of my head. Of course I spotted some nice antennas. With the help of it was easy to find out who the antennas belong to.

I spotted this antenna farm first near Saeby but couldn't make a picture because of rain. Drove by later and made this picture. It belongs to OZ1HNE as far as I can find. I seems the antennas are quite new. What made me wonder is how the antennas are turned? Not much info on unfortunately.

Just around a corner in Holtet on the coastal way to Hals I spotted this great antenna. It belongs to OZ5HP. He has a decent page about his antennas and masts.

I spotted some more antennas along the way. Some in Saeby village itself. But we couldn't stop there to make photographs.

Nice to see how others have their antennas around the house. Besides this, of course we did have a great holiday and especially enjoyed the surroundings which are always different from what we used to in our own country.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Meteorscatter fun !

I already experimented without much success December last year when the Gemenides meteors passed by. You can find my stories here and here. I was a bit sceptic after I made only one contact and even that one was only half. I knew the Perseid meteors would pass by at around my birthday, I knew that long before I even heard of the Perseids. When I was young my birthday was the only day of the year I could decide when I go to bed myself, it was a unwritten rule in our family. Most times at midnight my father and I would get out for a walk to see if we could see any "falling stars" to make a secret wish. And if it was a miracle, falling stars could always be seen at my birthday. Sometimes a few and hard to see. But I remember one year we could see it every 10 seconds, they were very bright and could even be heard! You can imagine this made just as much a impression on me as when my father called me to see aurora from the garden.

Anyway, since I just got my IC-7300 I decided to have it a go again. Just to see what I did wrong last time and what could be learned. I was active from 10-13 august and made 23 MSK144 QSOs from 18 DXCC. I think it's not bad with 50W into a 5 element yagi. Half of it was tropo or ES but the other half, especially at night, were real MS QSOs. Interesting to see that you can clearly see what meteorscatter is and what tropo or ES.

Above a screenshot from a QSO with SP3UR, at the right the waterfall, you clearly see the signal bursts. When the propagation is ES or tropo there are no bursts but one long signal with multiple decodes.

And this is what it is sounding (random recording), listen carefully:

What have I learned from these days by experimenting and asking:

- You don't have to aim your antenna at the meteorshower. Beam it to the station of choice. Or use a vertical.
- MS is not ES or tropo and can take time. Sometimes 10-20 minutes to complete a QSO. If you are a real fanatic it can last for 4 hours before a QSO is completed.
- If the calling frequency is busy it is a good habit to look for a free frequency at just call on 50.280, you can click the CQ 280 box in WSJT-X. It will automatically include your frequency in the CQ on the 50.280 calling channel.
- Many are just beginning with MSK144 (I am) it is fun but expect some errors from stations. Don't take it too hard.

It was a lot of fun these days, and others had fun as well. I got this e-mail from a happy Finnish radioamateur that made his first MSK144 QSO with me.

Hi Bas

I only say thank to you for our qso on msk144 mode.
I am so happy... old man and my first qso on that mode. two days i have tried.
Kenwood TS-480 SAT inside city area. no gad I say

Many msk qso's to you
73 de Elias

Isn't that great, this makes me happy as well. Thanks for the QSO Elias.

Range was limited to Europe. However it should be possible to extend range with a combination of MS, tropo and or ES.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Birthday present !

Today marks my 51 year birthday. And last week I already bought myself a birthday present. I've been saving money for it for almost 2 years. Now I finally sold some of my equipment and was able to buy it in the end. Actually it would have been a good present last year for my 50th birthday but other costs didn't allow me to buy the radio.  I have to say, the radio was not in stock last week, but just in time Marcus PA2DB from did e-mail me the radio was in stock again and offered me the IC-7300 for a better price without even knowing it is a birthday present ;-).

Of course setting it up was piece of "birthday" cake since I still have my SD card programmed with the settings from PC7B's IC-7300 I had here in the shack lately. The only thing that was different was the assignment of a different COM port. Of course that problem was solved quickly. First QSO I made a few days ago was with 5T5PA Johannes from Mauretania on 10m FT8. So far I only used and tried the radio on digimodes, I haven't even tried SSB yet.

Wow, I can't believe I finally have the radio that I wanted so badly. Not that it will give me more DX (or may be it will?). But it certainly has a lot more features and possebilities compared to my 21 year old IC-706MK2G. I already know a few, but there is a lot more to find out. I didn't want to try things on PC7B's IC-7300 but with my own now I'm free to experiment. I'm shure I'll write about the experiences here on my weblog.

Monday, August 5, 2019

CY9C finally

Working this DXpedition really was a struggle. The choice of time for the DXpedition to St. Paul Island near the coast of Canada is totally wrong considering time of year and in the solar minimum. However, because of that, it is of course a great challenge to work them. I didn't manage it last time they were on the island a few years ago, I didn't hear them at all then. This time I wanted to work them preferable on 60m but any other band would be great. But managing to hear them at all was a challenge alone. Finally their signal on 30m finally lifted for a short moment this morning. For amateur radio it is counting as a country (DXCC), however this island just belongs to Canada but can't be accessed without permission. I still hope they will activate CY9C on 60m again....


Update 17:30 - Worked CY9C on 20m SSB now as well.

Update 6-8-2019 - Finally worked CY9C on 60m as well. Like the other bands it was hard to copy the signal. It seems they have excellent receive on the island according to reports. However I cannot find the QSO in their log. I've dropped a message on their facebook page about this. Could I have worked a pirate station?

Update 7-8-2019 - Worked them again on 60m, this time I appear in their online and realtime log.