Saturday, August 1, 2020

JTDX optimal decoding settings

Something I didn't write myself but I wanted to publish it here. This document was created by DB6LL Hartmut in collaboration with ES1JA Arvo. It describes best possible settings for the populair FT8 DX software JTDX.

Published with permission. Click on the picture to get a bigger one.
Since my blog also has a archive function I wonder how we look at this document in a few years? Would there still be a digital mode like FT8? I think we just experience a start from what is possible with this kind of technology. I started with WSPR in 2009, 11 years ago. What will the next 11 years bring?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Going on...

Going on....or what's going on? That's the question. Lots of things happening but finally have my vacation now. I realize I didn't report much lately but I can assure you that I'm very active these days making QSOs all over the world.

In the mean time I can report that the garden including our tomatoes and cucumbers are doing very well.

We actually tasted the first cucumbers already! And they taste delicious. The tomatoes are not ready yet. I expect them to have their red color the end of next month depending on the weather.

Back to the radio hobby; I made some DX on 6m and 4m but want to report in a separate post about what happened in the ES season so far. I don't believe it is over yet....I remember very good propagation in August in previous years and just yesterday I still made some QSOs with the USA on 6m. However, unexpected, I made some DX on 60m. 6O1OO the only station from Somalia seems the be quite active on 60m FT8 these days. Not only this is a new one on 60m but a ATNO as well.

But his signal was difficult to read as it was covered by European station. I managed to get the R and report. Though I missed the "73". But I believe he transmitted it since he went to the next station in the period after the one I missed. Unfortunately I cannot check his log so it remains uncertain. I might try to get his QSL and send Ali the above copy of the contact as well. The problem only is he asks 5 USD for a QSL because he wants the extra money for his station. At least he's honest! But it is against my QSL policy.

Thursday, July 23, 2020


I don't know why but suddenly I remember my first encounter with radio back in the seventies. my favorite station was "radio Luxemburg".

We as radioamateurs do know about the name giving for the famous "Luxemburg effect". However it was not about the "famous 208" they were talking. It was a different station, RTL, transmitting on longwave.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Gained some....power/knowledge

Rerouted the coax lines. The PL259 in front is a
spare coax to the garage. 
Approx 2 years ago I wrote something about coax loss. I just discovered I had some coax routed the wrong way (read previous post). So, time to measure the actual loss in my coax to the tower and reroute the coax. Basically I use 2 coax lines to the tower, at the tower I got some lightning protection devices and a good quality coaxrelay which I can control remote from the shack. One coax line is made from 3 lengths of H2007 (similair to Aircell7) the other one is made from 2 lengths of H2007 and 1 large length of LMR400. Of course the line with LMR400 has less loss and therefore I use this exclusively for the highest frequencies I transmit on, at least I thought so....but after the reroute I do. But how much power have I gained by this action? And how much stronger will you see you meter swing when you hear me on air? Read and shiver...

Before I changed the cables I took the opportunity to measure the loss in the lines on 70MHz, 50MHz and 28MHz, the highest frequencies I'm using.

Loss in line 1: approx 35m H2007 coax

28MHz - 1,4dB
50Mhz - 2 dB
70Mhz - 2,5dB

Loss in line 2: approx 30m LMR400 + 5m H2007

28MHz - 1 dB
50MHz - 1,4dB
70MHz - 1,6dB

I use this site; for calculations.

I had the 10m LFA beam connected to line 1 which had a loss of 1,4dB. 100W in gave me 85W at the junction cabinet below the tower. Estimated loss in the coax from the cabinet to the beam including the 0,1dB loss from the lightning protection and coaxrelay is a additional 0,5dB. So in the end only 80W is arriving at the antenna.

Now I connected the HF vertical to line 1 and moved line 2 from the vertical to the 10m LFA beam. 1dB loss calculated 100W in gave me 89W at the junction cabinet. With a additional 0,5dB loss to the antenna I have 84W at the antenna.

Yes, by switching the cables I have 4W more power at the antenna. Will anyone notice??
I could have told you that before I did this experiment, but just to show that it doesn't matter much what coax you use on HF. I wrote about that before

On the other hand. Line 1 would be almost cut my power in half on 70Mhz! Coax is a whole different story on VHF. I have the 50MHz/70MHz yagi connected to line 2. Based on earlier measurements and calculations the coax from junction box to the antenna including loss from lightning protector and antennarelay for VHF will be 0,7dB.

50MHz total loss over coax 2,1dB. 100W in will give 78W at the antenna.
70MHz total loss over coax 2,3dB. 50W in will give 38W at the antenna.
(Why not 100W at 70MHz? We are only allowed 50W at that frequency...)

Well you see that the worst effect is on 70MHz. But would a coax upgrade make a huge difference?

Very expensive coax cable like M&P hyperflex13 or Ecoflex15 have a loss of about 0,6dB for 30m length. Even more expensive would be hardline like cellflex have 0,2dB loss for a cheap one and 0,15dB loss for a expensive one. (all on 50MHz). Would it be worth the expense to invest in such cables?

Let's asume I change the entire cable from shack to antenna for Ecoflex15. It is about 40m of coax and leave the relay and lighning protectors outside this. Loss would be 0,7dB in total including the connectors (N-type). 100W in will give 92W at the antenna. I think you will hardly notice the difference between 78W and 92W. But you will notice that your wallet is empty! (it would cost me €300 including quality connectors!)

Overall I won't change my coax. It is still good enough for me. If I want to gain something I better invest in a bigger antenna on 50MHz/70MHz. You can easily compensate your coax loss with a few extra directors on the beam and it could be cheaper as well.

Compensation for coax loss!!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

First 6m Japan contact 2020

I know the morning propagation on 6m with Japan/Korea is very good lately. Problem only is that it is always through the week and not in the weekend. So, I'm not at the radio when propagation occurs. Bernard PB7Z made some incredible QSOs to Japan/Korea yesterday and convinced me to try and work remote. I don't like to leave the radio/computer on while I'm not at home but for once I've let it go since I want at least one QSO with Japan this year. Unfortunately it is very busy on the job at the moment so I actually forgot till Bernard sent me a app that Japan was on. So I checked in on remote and gave a CQ. I made a screenshot what happened next :-). First 2020 Japan QSO on 6m with JE1GAP. And many others callling....but it didn't happen again. Propagation is there and next timeslot it is gone!

Discussing earthing the tower lately. Some HAMs do think it is the solution against static. Not shure about that although it probabely helps. I remember I always had a lot of static in winter on my glasfiber antenna (A-99). But since I installed a HF RF transformer in the cabinet below the tower I can't remember of any static at all. Can't prove it of course...
Here some photos from the cabinet with the transformer and the lightning protectors.

The big block at the middle in front between the protectors is a antenna relay so I can remotely choose between the 6m/4m yagi and the HF vertical. The transformer is connected to the 10m LFA. It should actually be connected to the vertical, need to change that (only found out now :-) ).

I really can't remember how I got this transformer. Probabely bought it on a radio rally. What it does basically is to isolate the antenna from the transceiver. There is no galvanic connection between the antenna and the radio.

Ok, one last picture...

(Click on the pictures to view larger ones)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Garden July 2020 - PACC trophy

Not that there is no radio activity....but it's also time to enjoy other things. This is the time our garden is full of flowers. Lots of colors all around...

And while we enjoy the garden a package arrived...

The PACC contest is the most important and biggest Dutch radiocontest organised by the dutch radio organisation VERON. I'm participating in this contest since 2006 when I was able to be on HF legally. The biggest section in this contest is the SSB Low Power section with over 100 participants every year. So you have a lot of competitors, some of them with excellent contesting skills. I discovered that you almost always find the same operators in the top 20 of this section every year. So you know what they are up to. My goal was, of course, to win this section at least once in my lifetime. So, I slowly crawled up every year, last years I always end in the top 10 and even got some third and second places. But this year I was lucky and finally won this section after 14 years of trying. I have to tell it was actually 12 times since I participated in the QRP section for 2 years. Next goal will be the QRP section again which is the most difficult. There is no SSB QRP and CW QRP section in this contest, only mixed QRP so it is both CW and SSB. It will be a big challenge for the next years....

Thursday, July 9, 2020

JW7QIA Svalbard worked on 6

Finally made a QSO with JW7QIA from Svalbard. I did see him last month and was spotted, but no QSO. This time he was unbelievable strong. QSO was easy. I know he's having 4m capabilities as well including a antenna. So far I did not see him on 4m. But the season is not over, anything can happen. Svalbard is special to the Dutch since the Dutchman Willem Barentz did discover the Island in 1596 and named it Spitsbergen. Actually the main and largest Island is still called Spitsbergen. The name came from the dutch language "spitse bergen" translated "pointed mountains" because that is what Willem saw from the Island.

From the QRZ page I notice that he's using a IC-7300 now. Same radio I use. Don't know what antenna he's using but it works well...propagation was good as well of course. Antenna pointing about 0-5 degrees north.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

First time USA on 6 this year

Yes, I know. More propagation openings are there in the afternoon. I view it all on the DXcluster. But unfortunately it takes another 16 years before I can think about retiring, I have a daily job and not at home in the afternoon. So I depend on propagation in the evening. This was the first evening I could actually see some USA stations. It was special since the stations came from the west and west-coast instead of the usual east-coast. It's much further away. I was spotted in Arizona and received stations as far as California. I don't think that happens often. Unfortunately no QSO, but others with better equipment from the Netherlands did. At least in the end I made a quite difficult QSO with K1TO who is from Florida. Not that bad for a first one with the US this year. I hope more has to come in the next few days...

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Shoreline propagation again?

Now you probabely think that I finally took my portable gear to the shoreline to compare a difference in signals with my basestation for example on WSPR signals. But no, that still has to come. At the moment I have a discussion with John MW1CFN about 50MHz propagation that occurs at the bottom of the solarcycle. It certainly has to do with sporadic-E or ES propagation as we call it. But how on earth is it possible to receive and sometimes transmit signals to Japan on 50MHz. Besides that John recorded some interesting signals with some signal peaks that occur on the Europe/USA path that needs explanation. I listened for those strange peak signals on the Europe/Japan path this morning and it occured to me that I hear them as well.

The above was recorded this morning between 7:47-7:50 UTC on 50.313MHz FT8 beaming 30 degrees. You can briefly hear the peaks on signals in the first 3 timeslots. Then suddenly like someone flipped a switch the propagation lifted and signals got very strong. A few moments later I worked 7Z1SJ from Saudi Arabia with very strong signals RX/TX +3/-4dB. A few time slots later the signals disappeared and it sounded like the first 3 timeslots on this recording again.

I only received 1 station from Japan this morning. Yesterday was a lot better with at least 10 stations received. Unfortunately transmitting a signal to Japan seems to be more difficult for me.

I'm not an expert in propagation or propagation anomalies. But I like to investigate and contribute to someone that does probabely know more. John wrote me something last year that I will always remember. Propagation on 50MHz is like the surface of the sea, lots of waves and sometimes you're in the the "water" between the waves. But sometimes you're on the shoreline, waves (signals) are just touching your antenna. You know what it is when you are standing close to the sea and waves are breaking, water flowing just touching your tones or if you're too close over your feet.

But who am I, just starting seriously with 50MHz DX. I find it very interesting but have no experience. I never experienced the DX possebilities they had back in 1978/79 and 1988. Will we have them ever again. Back in those days you could get a experimental 6m license here in the Netherlands and explore the (DX) possebilities. However you did need to keep a record and write a report for the authorities. I found such a report at the blog from PA2S Henk. Henk wrote this together with PF5X Enno. Both are still very active operators. The report is about F2 propagation at the peak of the solarcycle. And actually I think they know a lot more about the propagation anomalies that occur now since they have a lot of experience.

This certainly will not be the last post about 50MHz propagation. And though I'm actually more interested in HF I really like these kind of questions/challenges in this experimental radio hobby.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Finally in the 6m DX spotlight

I had a afternoon off the job since I had a dentist appointment. So I had some time for radio on a unusual time for me. Unfortunately didn't hear or see much signals on 6m but trying on 4m gave me a new DXCC on that band contacting M1BXF from England. Funny thing is that when I switched to 6m later on I worked him on 6m as well. Later in the afternoon propagation was increasing, I even managed to make some SSB contacts with Italian stations. Dx wise I was not that lucky, 7Z1SJ from Saudi Arabia had a great signal here with peak -3dB but I guess there were too many calling and I couldn't get through. Well, I guess there will be another chance another day...

After diner I got a message from PB7Z Bernard that he worked PV8DX on 6. Wow, I checked PSKreporter if I had received this station as well but I didn't although my beam was pointing towards South America. I had received PV8ABC, PZ5RA, 9Y4D, FG8OJ, WP4G and NP4W. Of course none of them were there when I returned to my radio. Disillusioned I installed my laptop downstairs and logged into the shack computer to keep an eye on things when I suddenly see PZ5RA from Surinam with a good signal. So, I just seems I was right in the spotlight since a couple of calls and I was in the log.

Thanks for a new one Ramon!

PZ5RA Ramon's 8 element 6m beam @12m high.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

FD? DX or not?

There was finally some propagation with the USA on 10m this afternoon. Happy me.....not. They are all calling FD, so what the heck??? So I just gave a report and in return I get a strange code. What do I have to send as report? I really didn't know and I realized too late it is FieldDay in the USA. I should have take notice before calling. So I installed WSJT-X new version again and searched for the FD rules to see what the FD setup should be. It seems the first number is the amount of radios you use, second is the class in which you participate (D is for home station not portable) and AL in the case would be the state (I guess Alabama?). I should have been answering something like WA1FCN PE4BAS 1D DX. DX because I'm from abroad. Well, I tried a few fieldday stations after I installed everything correct but no one replied. No problem, next year I'll try again.
6m/4m propagation today. Not really special for me, no new DXCC. Nothing special heard though I worked some nice stations.

You cannot have it all. I saw several Dutch DXers making contact with XE2X (Mexico) on 6m this evening. Is it a matter of bad luck for me? Or is their equipment much better. I think both....a 5 element yagi on about 15m high is not really serious equipment for DX, I just need much more luck with good propagation. I really didn't see anything from XE2X at all...I don't believe in much power but I do believe a big or a stack antenna would help a lot.

We are just at the the center of the summer ES propagation cycle, I know anything can happen. Even in August there can still be very good propagation. And July still has to come...besides what would be the fun if I could hear or see everything and work all the DX.

All those world maps are a bit boring don't you think so. Here some other pictures:

Our tomatoes are blooming now. It will take at least a month till our full grown tomatoes are ready.

4m, 6m and 10m DX today

I already noticed that the 4m band is open very briefly. It is a short "window" of ES you can use to make contacts and it can be very strong one moment and gone the other. I know it is the same on the 6m band but overall propagation holds on a little longer there. However I managed to catch a few new ones on 4m today: Croatia, Balearic isl, Spain and Slovak republic got it into the log! I almost got a contact with EA9 (Cueta&Mellila, north Africa), on SSB that was. He heard me but propagation was not holding on long enough.

Started this morning on 6m. I guess I was too late, or at least I think so. Big signals from Japan on both 50.313 and 50.323MHz FT8. But whatever I tried I didn't get a response on calling. Frustration gets very high when I see "neighbour" PA0O calling and get 3 replies from Japan in one time slot! His antenne probabely has twice the height compared to my antennaheight and I guess he's using some more power? I kept trying and at least I was received by JA6GCE and JN4MIV both reported -19dB.

I know, I did work Japan last year it is not that important. Though I want to confirm that my new beam is at least as good. This was probabely a "spotlight" matter, I was just on the edge and PA0O was just in there. It happens more often.

As a matter of fact I'm selling the 6m ZX yagi. It's a good antenna but only 6m. Now with the dual band beam I can use it on both 6m and 4m, If anyone is interested?

I saw a fellow dutch station contacting W4TAA, a few moments later I saw him as well. Unfortunately he didn't came back for my call. It is the only station from USA heard on 6m today.

When 6m propagation died early this evening I decided to try 10m for a while. At first it seems there was no propagation but when turning the beam to the west I saw J69DS from St.Lucia and a few moments later I was in the log. Later this evening I did it again with J68HZ. While writing this post I still see stations once and a while...trying to call them but no luck. Calling CQ I was at least heard in Florida, USA.

I receive far more as I can reach, at least that is what I experience. The 4 element LFA beam certainly has a low noise pick up. Actually I have the idea that the new dual band yagi is not picking up much noise either.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Longest day DX

21st of june, longest days of the year at the northern hemisphere. A excellent day to try for DX on the upper HF bands and VHF. With my new 5/5 element 4/6m yagi I've been trying today and worked several new ones on 6m and 4m. Not that there was top propagation, there was much QSB and it was just a matter of waiting for the right time, the right moment. I already noticed that DX on the (for me new) 70MHz (4m) band is something totally different from the 50MHz (6m) band. There is much more challenge in it and I like the difficulties. Almost every contact on that band is a new one for me and the past week I already managed to make some DX. Today I managed to work my longest distance till now with TF8SM (Iceland) +2000km which is DXCC nr. 9 on the 4m band.

So far most of the day you can't hear anything on the 4m band. So I check 6m regularly. Especially around 8:30-9 UTC there could be interesting DX I know. So you have to be there listening when it occurs, it could be there for 5-10 minutes and gone the next moment. Yesterday I just missed TT8SN from Chad, I was 5 minutes too late.
I heard a few stations from Japan this morning, all of them already worked last year. I also tried for 2 stations in Korea who had a excellent signal here, but no luck today. Bad luck with JW4PUA from Svalbard as well, he had a strong signal and I was heard. But no QSO unfortunately. Next time better....But I had luck as well. Worked OD5KU (Lebanon), ZA5G (Albania) and C31CT (Andorra) for 3 new ones on the 6m band today.

You probabely think now that I was on the radio all the time, but I was not. I just checked once and a while. Sometimes remote with my phone from the garden, sometimes I got into the shack. I noticed signals on 6m gone very faint in the afternoon, only a few hard to copy signals from eastern europe. So I checked the 10m band propagation and after a few minutes I saw a CQ from 4S7AB (Sri Lanka). A few calls later I was in the log, a new one for me on 10m. I already noticed extraordinairy propagation on 10m in the past week when I worked N7XR and K7RL from the state of Washington (west coast) USA late in the afternoon on Wednesday.

Found a video from TF8SM on the net:

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

First 6m DX with the new yagi

UN7ZO Dmitriy in his shack (photo
I had high hopes for DX on 4m with the new yagi but there is not much ES propagation at the moment. However, I did give some CQs on FT8 and managed to be heard at least in my own country, Germany and the UK. No international QSOs however, only within the Netherlands. From what I work in my own country (+400km) I'm shure the 4m section of the yagi does well. The 6m section made a first DX with Kazakhstan UN7ZO (+4000km), very happy with this first ATNO on 6m in 2020 for me. It proves the yagi does well. I need some more propagation now...

Red spots are from 6m, purple spots from 4m. The UN7ZO contact was not in PSKreporter because we didn't exchange QTH locators, only reports. I did spot OH0Z from Aland Isl. once. Would be a new one for me...

Sunday, June 14, 2020

4m/6m yagi - rise and shine!

Weather forecast was very bad for today. Expecting rain for most of the day. But it didn't happen...
Time enough to finish the yagi...

Align the 6m dipole.

No fancy boxes, just the KISS system.
Had to place a 500gr counterweight to get the beam in balance.
Test position. Measure first before mounting it in the tower
First test looks promising. Impedance will change at height.
Mounting the 4m/6m yagi into the tower en removing the 2m/70cm yagi.
Looks fine...
I certainly am satisfied with the results.
Rise and shine baby...
Waiting for propagation now. I made some local FM contacts on 4m to see if the antenna works. Also tried it on 6m but ES is not that strong today. However I managed to make some QSOs into Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Ukraine.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

4m/6m yagi - some progress 2

Todays progress building the antenna is small. Had other things to do...

Reflectors, 6m dipole/inductive 4m dipole and directors are mounted. I was a little worried since the first 4m director is longer as the inductive 4m dipole. But it seems it is all right, it's the design of this antenna.

I use straight new tubes. Exactly the same clamps, still the elements are not in line with each other. I'm puzzled why this is?
Boom is square! Benefit of a round boom is that alignment is simple. I don't know the best way to align elements on a square boom.

Almost forgot....this are our tomatoes. Growing fast...

Friday, June 12, 2020

4m/6m yagi - some progress

Wish I had more time for hobby projects like this. But have my daily job. It has benefits though and of course you need to get payed for a living. I had only a half hour to spend on the antenna project today.

Tubes delivered originally 5x6000mm cut in two. 10x3000mm radials now. I use 12x1mm alu tube. Yes it is just cheap alu no special stuff. I've used it in the past to build antennas and it is good enough.

Managed to mount some element clamps on the boom

Started to build brackets for the 6m dipole.
I first mounted the brackets with rivets but was not satisfied with it. So I drilled another hole completely through to boom and fixed both brackets with a large stainless steel bolt.
Hope to tell more tomorrow...