Thursday, January 30, 2020

Friese 11 steden contest trophy

When I came home today I found a package from the Friese 11 steden contest organisation. The package contained a huge and heavy trophy. Wow, I won the contest...

A dutch review of last years contest can be read here:

The final results can be found here:

It was a fun contest and I enjoyed it very much like always. A big thanks to the organisation of this event.

I won this contest before in 2011. So I'm a second time winner...

Antenna for PACC 2020

Last year I wrote about using the PE1BVQ 3 band endfed in the PACC contest. Because of large winds the antenna kept sliding in. But overall it did actually just as well as the HF5B on the tower except for about 3dB more noise. A vertical antenna in a contest is a good choice if propagation is good around you, but if you need extra gain it can't compete. However, I don't have a large multiband beam at the moment so I have to think about something else to improve my 20m signal. I would prefer to setup a antenna that does equal or better as my endfed and has a lot less noise. I was thinking about a phased vertical system first, but what I want is too complicated to setup at this time. I also thought of my endfed put up higher in the air with radials beneath. But I doubt it is any better as my vertical on top of the tower. So, I came up with the idea to use my GFK mast to make a delta loop for 20m. You can find a lot of drawings and designs on the internet about this antenna but they are all different, I posted a question about these different designs on a dutch hamradio forum and I got even more confused since everyone had other views on it. However, through the forum I found this link to some interesting delta loop designs and a usable formula. It is in dutch, and they use 1:2 balun instead of 1/4 wave 75Ohm coax, but what is left is the same in all languages. My thought is configure my deltaloop with one corner up in the mast. Fed at the corner at the north side to get the best radiation to the south. This way I have minimum interference from my neighbours solarpanels. Most of my QSOs on 20m in a contest are in the southern direction on 20m. A few are to the east and west but almost nothing to the north. The plan is to construct the antenna saturday or sunday depending on the weather. More about it hopefully in the weekend.

Monday, January 27, 2020

AM QSO party last weekend

After a post from MW1CFN John I got interested in this event. Most radioamateurs never ever use AM mode to make QSOs with. Except those who are collecting old WW2 equipment. A(mplitude) M(odulation) mode was the original way to make phone (voice) QSOs over the air waves till SSB and FM would become more populair after WW2. However there is a dutch AM net most time every sunday morning, most of the participants are using old or homebrew equipment. There are still a lot of AM enthousiasts all over the world...

I was planning to be active saturday late in the afternoon, but as you can read in my previous post I ran into problems with a defective fuse. By the time it was all fixed there was no time left to get on air. So, I attended the AM QSO party sundaymorning. A good test was to receive some AM stations in the dutch AM net. I have to write that the stations with the best signals and excellent modulation were the users of old WW2 equipment. Those old BC669 and GRC9 radios sound really good. I also heard some with Geloso radios, but I liked the modulation from the old radios better.

First QSO was on 20m with CT4RK Carlos from Portugal. Carlos told he had some problems the day before. And from the sound of his modulation I think something was still wrong, though it improved a little along the QSO.

My goal was to work fellow blogger MW1CFN from Wales. We tried on 80m first, but there was no propagation. When I was calling on 40m John told me he could hear my signal but had to change antennas. Anyway, we managed to make a QSO on 40m AM after all....mission accomplished.
John also made a recording from my signal after the QSO.

I was not really impressed by the AM modulation so far. But had a QSO with M0XTK which went a lot better. At least his modulation was very good understandable...

Well, I had a lot of fun with all these AM QSOs. But I didnt have the feel you could have with an old tube radio. The sound is just too clean with all these filtering features. The radio audio setup is for SSB and digital modes. For AM receive you should have your audio a bit wider, as wide as possible I think actually.

Some interesting links if interested:

List of stations worked:

YO9AYN     20m AM
G0OVU      40m AM
M0XTK      40m AM
MW1CFN   40m AM
PI4SRS      80m AM
CT4RK      20m AM

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Oh no?

Oh no....what happened here. I was transmitting and suddenly the radio was off! The screen was black and whatever I did it didn't switch back on....

The first thing you think of is.....the power supply. So I took my multimeter and measured 13,8V on the PS terminals. No failure. Then I measured the terminals from the distributionblock, voltage.

Could be 2 things. The fuse or the electronic over/under voltage device. So I started at the fuse. Measured the fuse with a ohm meter, no problems at all, strange....put it back into the fuse holder and the radio switched back on!

Problem solved you would think....

No, as soon as I started to transmit the radio switched off again! A strange malfunction...

So, in my life as electrician I once heard about old worn fuses. Technically a fuse will hold forever, but in reality when the current through the fuse is almost as high as it can hold the fuse will get warm and will suffer from constant expansion and crimping mechanically till it gets worn and breaks.
The fuse I use for the terminal distributionblock was 20A, close to the 18A a IC-7300 is using when transmitting. So I fiddled a little with the fuse and the radio went off and on....a clear case!

I wanted to know why I couldn't see any breaks in the fuse. Left the 20A fuse, you can't see anything and using a ohm meter it measures fine. At the right the same fuse touched by a small screwdriver, you clearly see the problem now...

The problem however was that I had no spare fuse! Stupid was to late to get to any shop and they are closed at sunday. Luckely an old colleague phoned asking if I could tune two CB antennas for garbage run cars. He had a spare fuse, just the one I need. So he and his mate were more then welcome. I tuned their antennas with the MFJ259 analyser and got the fuse(s) for free, everyone happy ;-)

These guys are really crazy actually. Using a old BMW 7 series to drive from the Netherlands through Denmark, Sweden and Norway just for fun in the middle of the winter. They have no idea what temperature it is in northern Norway I think at this time of the year.....besides that these are old cars using lots of fuel. A complete different adventure compared to our boring radiohobby...

Anyway I have a good quality 25A fuse now. It has a better designed calibration wire inside that can hold the stress much longer. I think my old 20A fuse was some chinese cheap quality after all...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

My LoTW app

Just want to point you to another nice amateurradio app. This one is made by SV2RMK Dimitris. It is  a very useful LoTW viewer app for your phone and/or your tablet (apple/android).

I particulary like the QSL feature. You can even save the QSL if you like...
Actually this is a graphic shell to view LoTW, something I miss in LoTW itself.
Find the app in the appstore. Have fun!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Nice surprise

I just received a nice surprise package from Lars PH0NO. I understand that RA1L has send all these awards to Danny ON4VT at first. It's a real surprise someone has the real HAM spirit to thank everyone that participated as activator in the WCA 10 year anniversary event. So, thank you RA1L...

In the package was not just one certificate but also 2 tokens and 2 magnets. I'm  certainly not a award collector but appreciate the effort another HAM takes to do this.

I like this rememberance token the most, it will get a nice place in my shack. It was fun to activate 5 castles for this event last summer...

Monday, January 13, 2020

QSL for sale

QSL card on photo are not for sale....just a collection sample.
The titel of this post says it all. In my opninion something bad has happened the last decade(s). Some of our fellow radio amateurs need to sell their QSL cards. In their opinion it is too expensive to exchange QSL, and in some occasions they are right. Ok, I know I've been writing about this in Nov. 2019 but it is still in my mind...

Online systems confirm your contact now, a QSL is not needed. 

However, there are still some paper QSL collectors left, although I expect that this will decrease. For those that still collect paper QSL cards the hobby is becoming very expensive, at least if you want those interesting QSLs from rare stations. There are also fellow radio amateurs that do ask money for their card because they don't want to send a QSL, most of them are contesters and make thousands of contacts every year. I really don't know why they ask money? Most of them have a page in which you can set your preferences and you can add a text as well. Just write you don't want to send QSL and QSL received will not be answered. This should be clear for those that still want to send a paper card.

Now, I was researching the QSL or confirmation method the DXCC stations have that I worked as "new ones" on 60m last year. Most of them do confirm by bureau/clublog OQRS/QSL manager OQRS/LOTW and eQSL. But a few of them do not, they only confirm direct, you have to buy your QSL in my opinion. Lets look at my list:

A50BOC - confirms via LOTW, via JH1AJT direct or clublog OQRS, no bureau. Cost: 3 USD
T6AA - confirms via LOTW - paper QSL possible. Cost: 3,50 USD
XW4XR - confirms via LOTW - paper QSL possible via E21EIC. Cost: 2 USD
J69DS - Only direct! Cost: 2 USD
CY9C - via clublog OQRS, no bureau. Cost: 4,50 USD
V31DL - confirms via LOTW - OQRS via clublog, no bureau. Cost: 3 USD
PJ6/NM1Y - Confirms via LOTW - direct paper QSL possible. Cost: 2 USD
3D2AG - confirms via LOTW. QSL request via paypal. Cost: 3 USD
8P2K - confirms via LOTW, via KU9C direct or clublog OQRS, no bureau. Cost: 3 USD

Total: 26 USD for 9 paper QSL cards (!)

6 stations do confirm via LOTW. If you are no paper card collector this will save you 16,50 USD.

Still, if you want to confirm J69DS, CY9C and 3D2AG you need to buy their cards. With CY9C at the top as the most expensive one! They do not confirm via LOTW. Why? Well, you decide for yourself...

Personally I think in case of asking money for a QSL for a good reason like helping people to buy medical supplies, food or other goods they need for a living it is ok with me. Some DXpeditions like the previous Mercy Ships DXpeditions in Africa are there to help people, this justifies asking money to confirm the contact. But for private stations or DXpeditions asking money!?!

If people want to do a DXpedition they should count the QSL confirmation in their budget as well. Most DXpeditions are doing that since it is possible to request for a bureau card most of the time. But sometimes, like the CY9C DXpedition in this example, it looks like they want to cover part of the costs. This are just examples for 60m contacts I worked during 2019. Sorry, but personally I don't understand? If you can't cover the costs don't go for a DXpedition and leave it to someone else who can. At least offer your fellow radio amateur hobbyists a confirmation via the free and valid LOTW but don't force everyone to buy your QSL card.

Sorry, if you as reader of this blog, have other opinions. I can imagine you want that QSL confirmation at any cost. Some people seem to have a lot of money to spend for their hobby, but most don't. However, in the end it is everyones own decision...

Just a reminder my QSL code of conduct logo/site:

Update 14-01-2020: Rectification and change of this post. I took A50BOC as (bad) example but received a LOTW confirmation today (coincidence?). When I did research for this post it was not clear to me they would confirm by LOTW it was not on their QRZ page, now it is. So I changed my post.

Update 12-03-2021: Rectification, 3D2AG confirms via LOTW now.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

#10m propagation 12-Jan. - strong ES

Wow, there was strong ES again. Signals were booming. No real DX though FR4OO spotted me on PSK reporter. I expected south america at least but it didn't happen. Others had more luck as I saw several stations contacted VP8LP from the Falklands.

It was fun and besides my robot contacts I was on the radio myself in both FT8 and SSB/CW.
Results 58 FT8, 1 CW and 10 SSB contacts in the log.

Today was certainly good into the east direction till early in the evening. When OY (Faroer Isl.) stations came in strong (9+30dB) I tried voor north america but no luck. From the map you can see that I didn't hear much from Spain or Portugal. I wonder if others did?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

#10m Saturday 11-Jan.+ 60m new one...

As you probabely know now I have my radio on 10m at daylight in the weekend. Running with a FT8 robot most of the time so I can do other things at the same time but keep an eye on the station once and a while. Waiting the whole day for some opening on 10m would be very boring but a robot has endless patience. Normally I gather about 10 QSOs over a day.

But today...

10m was exploding. ES propagation all around. I even made some SSB contacts on 10m with Croatia. After diner I made 2 QSOs with Brazil. ODX received was CX4CD from Uruquay (11521km). This was really a great day on 10m...60 QSOs were gathered in the log.

Remember my SSB QSO with V51WH from Namibia in December? Well, Gunther finally has FT8 running and is active on 60m as well. But these days everyone seems to have 60m capabilities and more and more countries have access to this band. Besides that I'm shure my blogpost about 60m DX did trigger other HAMs to try it on 60m. You're all welcome of course but the frequency gets very busy now. It really was a challenge to work Gunther since every time he is on the pile-up is huge. I have been trying for 6 days and don't know how many hours, but finally got my signal recieved. At first he lost my signal but I kept holding on sending RR73....and finally:

And no, this was not the FT8 robot. The robot is smart but cannot yet detect a empty spot in the waterfall to call on. And it does not have the capability to endless send RR73....

Friday, January 10, 2020

Portable digital with Raspberry Pi concept

KI6NAZ from Ham Radio Crash Coarse has made a great video of his ultimate portable setup with a Raspberry Pi. A different concept with the same goal. Doing digital modes with the freedom of connecting a laptop or tablet wireless with the radio.

I really like these videos. If my bluetooth concept will ever fail to work this is absolutely a good alternative.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Ultimate digital portable station concept progress

PE4BAS digital portable concept
If you want to know about my previous efforts and concepts I would like to redirect you to my 2018 posts:

The ultimate portable digital unit (1)
The ultimate portable digital unit (2)

The heart of the unit is a concept I thought of and actually is very simple. It is a bluetooth connection for CAT control, Audio in/out and GPS for time and location keeping. This is something that doesn't exist commercially as far as I know and I had to develop something myself.

I managed to get the GPS over bluetooth first with the help of a BT GPS module and BKTtimesync. After I did some experiments via a USB port and a Ublox7 GPS USB stick which didn't work at all. I also realized I could not simply split one USB port into multiple ones without problems even not with a USB hub, it would involve many cables which I wanted to avoid.

Bluetooth headset outside/inside
Second was the bluetooth audio connection. I bought a nice device with internal battery which could receive and transmit. However it didn't work because it could only receive or only transmit, you had to switch it with a external switch. I had to search for a full duplex unit to avoid switching. I bought a few 2 euro bluetooth in-ear headsets, the gold ones were the cheapest. Of course I tested them first before I dismantled them for the experiment. I really had no connection problems at all with these devices, they are real plug and play. However, they are only working in W10. In W7 I got it to receive audio but couldn't get any audio output for transmission. In W10 there was no problem at all. I mounted the BT module on a printboard and soldered in/outputs to connectors for the audiocables from my homemade digital modem, after some failures I finally managed to get it right with the third headset. To be shure I wouldn't get too much signal I mounted potmeters in both audio lines. I fitted the whole print in the same box as my GPS using the same (tablet)battery.

Third was the implementation of bluetooth CAT control. I bought one of those cheap ones from China. They cost about 10 euro including postage. First tests with connection via a Android app called pocketrxtx on a tablet are successful. But unfortunately connection on any computer with Windows failed. When I finally could get it paired, ham radio de luxe (or any other software) couldn't find the COM port connected to the bluetooth device although it was clearly there. I found a solution redirecting the port with serial splitter software, it worked, however this software isn't free and free versions (like for example VPSE) did not work. I didn't want to spend more money on software I spend on the whole device. Imagine it took me over a year to experiment, I couldn't find a good solution for this. And without CAT control the unit would not be ready. After a few tips I decided to try com0com again which is open source software and free. The problem with this software is that it is very basic and I couldn't get it to do what I wanted to. The hub4com package would solve my problems, but you almost guessed did simply not see the bluetooth assigned COM port. However, the strange thing is that ham radio de luxe does find the port now and I can finally connect to the radio via BT. Don't ask me why and how but com0com seems to install something so ham radio de luxe is able to find every COM port now.

Test of the prototype concept setup
I decided to test the device  working on a dummyload with 1W this afternoon. My base station was configured as FT8 robot answering automatic CQ calls on 10m for the experiment. Here some video footage of the experiment:

Now, this is working but far from ideal. The best option would be one box with BT CAT/BT audio and BT GPS in it, voltage supplied from the radio like the BT CAT is now. That would be a technical challenge but not impossible. However, time is a issue as usual. I'm already glad it is finally working now after such a long time. Things would be so easy if this box was commercially available. Since the new Icom IC-705 has bluetooth I suspect you can CAT control and connect audio via BT like I do. But I'm not shure and time will tell. Would it be commercially interesting to fabricate such a BT device?

Total cost of the bluetooth devices: BT GPS bought in 2017 15 euro, BT in ear headphone (full duplex) 2 euro, BT CAT control unit 10 euro. 27 euro in total, the box and battery were given to me and free. Of course you need some device to connect the audio to your radio, I simply made it myself. It is capable to trigger transmit via VOX but if CAT control is available PTT via CAT is a better option.

There is another approach to wireless connect your portable station. OH8STN for example does use a Raspberry-Pi minicomputer with linux OS connected to his radio. Another computer, phone or tablet can connect the Raspberry-Pi over WiFi for wireless remote. I don't know what the costs are for such a setup but I think the bluetooth solution is cheaper. Both systems are difficult to configure without knowledge of computers and operating systems.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Antenna changes

Below the tuner the counterpoise connection
Since I had to remove the christmas LED star from the tower I had the idea to do some changes. First one is the removal of the single radial that is attached to the autotuner. Not that it is not working but I wanted to know how things behave when I use the complete tower as counterpoise. You cannot simulate everything and it is a fun experiment.

From the tests I did I can confirm it is working like it did with the radial. I do hardly notice any difference except for a bit more noise may be. I hoped that it would perform better on low bands but so far I'm not shure there is any difference. Time will tell... The antenna tunes well on all bands and everything in between.

And I did something I didn't thought of recently. Triggered by the success DX contacts others had. I installed the VHF/UHF beam in the mast. Not that I expect to make contacts with it...however I might try in the FT8 activity contest on 2m. I actually didn't try it yet...I'm planning to use the FT-817 with 5W only. It might be not enough for DX. On the other hand, if ES and or tropo is strong, it will be enough for digimodes like FT8. Of course you'll read about my efforts in future posts.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

#10m propagation 5-Jan-2020

As long as I have the great 4 element LFA monoband in my tower I need to be active on the 10m band. Actually through the week I'm not really active except for some 60m in the evening. 10m however is my main band in the weekend. And although this band looks death  it is not. So far I can make contacts every weekend. Today my FT8 robot managed to make a contact with S01WS. Yes, I was in my shack and didn't do unattended operation. I was repairing the shack seat at the same time. With the robot I don't have to click at every station for the contact, it will reply to every new CQ if a station has not been worked before, The only thing I do sometimes is rotate the antenna. That depends in which direction I suspect propagation,

First 60m DXCC 2020 ZC4UW

The ZC4UW DXpedition was unlikely to be on 60m (as announced on their website). However the demand is big and I've heard them already on both SSB as CW yesterday. But no chance yet as the pile-up was unbelievable. But finally this evening just after dinner I was lucky to work the first 60m new one of the year. The ZC4UW team will not be on FT8 or FT4, it's hunting the good old way.
I'm shure a lot of HAMs will be happy with this descision.

Friday, January 3, 2020

2019 statistics

2019 statistics @PE4BAS. Surprisingly this was a real DX year. Low propagation due to the solar minimum? Well, it didn't stop me. I worked 8 ATNOs (All Time New Ones). 2 new ones on WSPR bringing the total on 92 DXCC that spotted my 1W signal. Eleven new 6m band DXCC and 60 new 60m band DXCC.

This was the first year that has a change in the amount of QSOs. 51,33% of the QSOs were made in data mode (RTTY, FT8, FT4, JT65 etc.). For me personally and for others FT8 is a real game changer. I worked a incredible 163 DXCC in total and 3690 QSOs, compare that to previous years. I'm shure I would not have worked the amount of ATNOs I worked this year if there was no FT8. The only one of the ATNOs I worked on 20m SSB was CY9C after I worked them on FT8.

DXCC confirmed

DXCC worked
Most of my DXCC efforts were on 60m. I actually love this band as most of the DX can be worked at night. Ideal for those that have a daytime job. The majority of DX can be made with FT8 which is ideal for remote operation. Most time I work with a laptop from the living room, with my tablet from anywere in the house and garden or when I'm away and really need to remote control my station I use my smartphone. I use teamviewer and google desktop for this task. Another big advantage is the possible use of a QSO robot, controversial, more about that in future posts.

I've been very active this year so it seems. I always have a high rate of QSOs in February and March due to contests. Then the amount of QSOs was steadily growing.

Last year I wrote SSB would always be my favourite mode, it actually still is. But these days the majority of QSOs are made with digimode. You see I entered MFSK as mode, but in reality this would be FT4, WSJT-X does convert the mode to MFSK in the ADIF file to get mixed up. For 2020 I hope to work many more new DXCC, the solar minimum does not affect low bands that much and even on 10m there is still activity.

The amount of QSOs on 30m still is very low. It has a reason. In the Netherlands we are officially not allowed to do digimodes below 10.140MHz. Yes, you will find Netherlands stations on the FT8 frequency there, they are transmitting illigal. But we are allowed on the FT4 frequency, unfortunately I don't find much activity there yet. But things could change in 2020 of course. The amount of QSOs on 60m has exploded compared to 2018 when I worked 219 stations on this band only. I even made VHF 2m QSOs last year, on FT8 that was of course...

Curious what 2020 will bring? Will FT8 win from SSB this year? I'm certain that the majority of DX will be worked with FT8 again. Will there be a slow change to FT4? Radio activity is were the stations are...

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020 agenda

As always for archive purposes...

My radiohobby agenda for 2020. Feel free to copy.

I always have to balance my time between my family and hobby. With a agenda and planning I want to prevent conflicts if possible.

08/09 Feb. 12-12 UTC 24 hrs PACC 2020 contest
28/29 Mar. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX SSB 2020 contest
30/31 May 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX CW 2020 contest
26/27 Sep. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX RTTY 2020 contest
24/25 Okt. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX SSB 2020 contest
15 Nov. 10-12:30 local time PA-beker contest SSB section 2020
22 Nov. 11-14 local time Friese 11 steden contest 2020
28/29 Nov. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX CW 2020 contest
12/13 Dec. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs 10m ARRL 2020 contest