Wednesday, February 26, 2020

MFJ-948 to S-match update progress


Original idea from the MFJ-989D to S-match conversion by PA0FRI. First tests are not promising.

The problem is room...

The coil needs to be isolated from "earth". It is, but it is probabely too close to the alu box floor causing a kind of capacitive loading. I'm also not shure the earth connection through the core of the S-match transformer is a wise choice. I will make some mods and test again.

For those that are interested:


MFJ-948 conversion to S-match scehematic diagram

Note: You cannot switch the transformer independable to 2 antenna's. You connect coax to the PL connector (coax 2) or open line to the coil or the capacitor(s). Not both at the same time! Switch is also used to connect second capacitor in parallel for low bands.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hints for FT8 operators


For beginners and those that really don't have any clue...

Hints for FT8 operators (by DL5RDQ)

1.   Listen/watch the band before transmitting and see where other operators are.  We were all born with two eyes and two ears and only one mouth.  We need to use them in that order.
 A special note for those internet trolls, who have very small minds - This is analogy!
 It really means Watch the waterfall for a minute or more and then pick a spot to transmit.  This ensures you aren’t transmitting on top of someone and they are not transmitting on top of you.

2.   If I am calling CQ and you answer me, please move off my frequency before you start calling CQ.  Otherwise, you may notice your ears reddening as I discuss your parentage and operating skills with the Gods of the Ether.

3.   The bands are tough, so please don't make them tougher.  If I am already working a station, please DO NOT come onto my transmit channel and blast all over him.

4.    If I ask for you to “Work Split"  I mean that you should move your transmit frequency away from my transmit frequency.  It’s easy to do,  You simply Shift Click on the waterfall to move your TX frequency (in JTDX hold CTRL + click on the waterfall).  Then I can clear the station I am working and come to work you or the next in line.

5.   If you are Local or strong station, and I am working, feel free to transmit close to me as long as you transmit when I transmit.  It stops our signals blocking each other when we are in the receive mode.  Listening before transmitting, and checking or unchecking the Tx Even/1st box easily solves this issue.

6.   FT8 is not a QRP mode but you don't need to run a kilowatt either.  Adjust your transmit power so that you get consistent signal reports around -10dB.  If you get a signal report over +00dB, then back off your transmit power.  It will vary on the path that you are working.

Please have a look at a very good guide on FT8 which can be found at
 http://www.g4ifb.com/FT8_Hinson_tips_for_HF_DXers.pdf

When we meet on the air, I hope that we are both working split and can have a quick and efficient QSO.  If I’m already working someone, keep calling, off my transmit frequency.  I will see you and get to you in order.  It’s not uncommon for me to have three or more stations stacked up, waiting to work them so patience is often essential.😉

--

I would like to add one hint that many are not aware about....

7. Open up your filters. Try to set it as wide as possible. Small filters are useless in JT modes. Stations can reply or call you everywhere in the waterfall which can be from 2500-4000Hz wide.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The downside of not paying for QSL

You probabely read my previous post about "QSL for sale". The title of this post was a little offending for those that are QSL manager or DXpeditioners, of course I have to make my excuse for that. It was not ment to offend anyone. My opinion is that paying for QSL is ridiculous in this digital age and I wanted to make that clear. Many commented and I got many e-mails about the subject, some agreed, some didn't. I had to change some text in my blog post after some comments because I was not right. I also add some text at the "QSL code of conduct" page. But in the end people have to decide themselves, to pay or not to pay! After reading all the comments and e-mail I discovered (learned)  two things that you all have to think about. First the hobby is experienced at many levels. You have serious people, people that do it all for fun, people that have lots of money to spend for the hobby and people that don't. And besides that there are a lot of other levels and subjects in this hobby. Second when you decide not to pay for QSL it has a downside.

There will be less interesting DX on the bands...

What is DX? Well, it is a station from a far away country, or a very rare country. The problem is that there are simply no radioamateurs living at the rarest DXCC. They send a DXpedition of radioamateurs to activate such a DXCC. This can be done solo or with a team of operators. One (or more members) of this team are the QSL managers, most time it is a person that is not on DXpedition but manages all QSL at home after the DXpedtion has finished.
There are also QSL managers that are part of many teams and provide QSL managing for many DXpeditions. However, modern QSL managers are also providing all kind of services like live logging via sat phone, OQRS, QSL via bureau, uploading to LoTW, clublog, eQSL etc. it is just what a DXpedition demands. A big DXpedition costs money, a lot of money. And the services that they provide you cost even more money. They all do it for you to get a new country or band slot in the log and get it confirmed. And of course they do it for themselves since it is great to be on DXpedition with a team and make as many contacts as possible, one big adventure!
So, most of the DXpeditions are funded by the operators and from gifts by individuals or clubs called DX associations or foundations. I'm shure the QSL cards design and print are payed for by the DXpedition, but the postage isn't (in my opinion, they should finance it).
However, there are also postage costs of bureau cards that are requested by OQRS. Most DX foundations that sponsor DXpeditions demand that bureau QSL has to be send for free to those that request a QSL. It only looks like this is free (you pay for your countries amateurradio association to be member of the QSL bureau) but it isn't. DXpeditions are no member from bureaus, the QSL manager has to send QSL packages to all country bureaus from incoming QSL requests. This costs money that isn't covered by the DXpedition (but actually should in my opinion). Part of it is payed for with the dollars that are incoming with direct cards and via paypal donations, so others are paying for your QSL when you do a OQRS request returning via bureau. You can read about all expenses on M0URX Tim's site.

But....what I read in a lot of comments and e-mail is that DXpeditions make their own rules. They activate a rare country or island so it is their party. They decide if you have to pay for QSL...or not.
You see, it is the downside of not paying for your QSL...less money, less DX. If a DXpedition has to pay for all costs they might consider not to go because it is simply too expensive. However, some DXpeditions are forcing you to make a huge donation for a paper QSL card to be send, they even do no QSL digitally or via bureau. In my opinion that is unfair.

- Do you think that there really will be less DX on the bands if you don't make donations or pay for your QSL card or confirmation? -

Does paper QSLstill have a future? Why all this hassle of confirming a contact with paper cards? I think people want to have something that they can touch, that they can cherish and collect. You can't do that with LoTW confirmations. Unfortunately for those that like QSL the way it is it will all change not too far in the future. QSLing can already be done with eQSL or LoTW for free, you don't have to be a member from anything. And as long as you don't want to have any (paper) certificates you don't have to pay anything. I can't imagine paper QSL cards, the way we know it now, will still exist in a few decades. But time will tell...

This blogpost is a follow up on my previous post. It does not change my "QSL code of conduct" or my opinion. This one was more about QSLing by DXpeditions. It was also a excuse to those that are DXpeditioners and QSL managers. They do excellent work. Hopefully it gives you something to think about...as long as paper QSL cards exist!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Ciara

During the PACC the wind was building up. Storm Ciara already arrived earlier as expected and before the contest was over. I had no problems to remove the 3 band endfed after the contest, it survived the high winds. The problem was lowering the tower because the wind pressed the inner tower section to the outer section. But with patience I succeeded. It feels better now. We still have large winds and it will hold on for the next few days. So I will suspend my radio activity for now. I might extend the tower again this thursday if weather allows.

Below a video just to get a impression...




Sunday, February 9, 2020

PACC 2020 contest review

Event: PACC 2020
Section:  Single Operator All band SSB low assisted
Logger: N1MM+ newest version
TRX: Icom IC-7300 100W
Antenna 1: Inverted-V 2x20m @12m apex
Antenna 2: Multiband vertical @16m
Antenna 3: 3 band PE1BVQ endfed @groundlevel with radials


Well, the most important HF contest for us dutch radioamateurs is over. We did have fun and have to wait till next year. Propagation was great......well at least for solarcycle minimum. No..... propagation has not been really good and at certain times I thought there was a almost complete blackout. But there was propagation for shure, only no stations on SSB. 15m was open at certain times but there were only few stations. I worked Israel and Brazil for the only 2 on that band. 20m was not really good, almost the same as last year. Worked only a few stations from north america. Most of the stations came from east european countries on that band with a few exceptions. Even not many Italians. 40m was good at times, again no participating stations. HZ1TT (Saudi Arabia) was booming in at saturday evening, worked him but he didn't participate in the PACC contest. A neighbour station PD2TW told me he had been calling for 1 hour on 40m without any response, he never had that before. I almost had the same experience on 80m. Normally in the past years, the time after the evening 8 O'clock news was always good for large pile ups. But this year I could call without much response. Best band actually was 160m, it was occupied by the dutch....and I had a steady response for a while. The score... well it is disappointing. I never had such a bad score ever in this section. I have been searching in my archives and always made 500-600 QSOs except for 2008 and a few years that I did participate in the QRP section. Is it a reflection of the bad propagation or is it just choosing the wrong band at the wrong time? I still miss a good antenna for the 20m band, I'm shure my score would improve if I had a good beam for that band. I tried my best on 20m this time but around 90 is really the max. I can do, almost the same as last year.

Some stats:


Best QSO rate was in the morning at 7 UTC actually. I took a break to sleep at 00:30 till 5:30 UTC. QSO rate at 00:00 went down to zero and I could hear almost no stations at all except for some die hard dutch contest club stations.


No north america on 80m or 40m this time. O yes, there was propagation, I heard several stations on the DX part of the 80m band, but non that participate in the PACC contest. 40m was also open to the middle east but did hear nothing. Have been chasing E44CC for a while sunday morning but although he had a good signal he didn't hear me at all.


48 DXCC worked, might not be bad under the circumstances.  But is was not all bad. I had a nice chat with OY1R (Faroer Isl.) Regin at night on both 160m and 80m with beautiful strong signals. As you know we met 4 years ago when Regin brought me his QSL card personally. And there were a lot of friendly operators all around like always in this contest. Some of them I know personally, others have familiar calls that always show up in this contest. It was fun and that's the most important thing...




Friday, February 7, 2020

Reminder: PACC 2020 contest this weekend

Event: PACC 2020 contest
Modes: SSB/CW
Date: 8-9 Febr. 2020 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/





This is really a fun contest, at least for the dutch ham ;-) And for others worldwide as well. Everyone that participate can earn a nice token of merit if you send in your log. I will take part in the SSB low power section again which is the biggest section in this contest. My province abbreviation for exchange will be GR (Golf Romeo). Hopefully I will meet some of you readers of this blog.

This is the first year I will use my new IC-7300. No overheated radio anymore, and I don't have to be afraid the radio malfunctions. The IC-7300 stays very cool were you can't touch the IC-706 during contesting.

Voor de nederlandse stations is deze pagina zeker de moeite waard om even door te lezen.

https://www.contestkalender.nl/pacc.php

Te downloaden zijn van deze pagina voor gebruik in N1MM+ de country file, de super-check file ende callhistory file. Dit zijn help files. De country file is voor de puntentelling (bij benadering). De super-check file is voor het call check scherm, dit is een scherm in N1MM waar men mogelijke calls in te zien krijgt wanneer je maar een paar letters kan opnemen van de call. De callhistory file is voor het automatisch invullen van de provincie afkorting, dit moet je dan wel aan zetten in N1MM. Toch is het wel opletten want stations kunnen natuurlijk verhuist zijn naar een andere provincie afgelopen jaar. Veel plezier met contesten...

Thursday, February 6, 2020

UKEICC contest rehearsal for PACC 2020


I took part in this contest last year as well. The UKEICC 80m contests have a fun format. Just one hour of contesting and already a certificate and results next day. That's the way I really like it.
They improved a lot since last year, a complete new website and more competitors makes it much more fun.

Visit their site at: https://www.ukeicc.com/

I wasn't too fanatic yesterday, did some S&P when searching for a free frequency to run on in the first few minutes. I moved up after I got a lot of QRM on my running frequency. Did run till 20:55UTC and S&P the last 5 minutes. A relax contest to test the equipment and N1MM+. I did not look at the DX cluster since it has no use in this contest, almost no one is spotting. I achieved 13th place overall and 4th place in the low power unassisted section.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Small JTDX v2.1.0 rc147 issues

I had questions about it and luckely they I got help from a friendly HAM on the JTDX evaluation site on facebook. Remember the rc versions are always evaluation versions, they can contain bugs. But overall my experience is that they work very well. The benefit is that you can experience en experiment with software that decodes better compared to WSJT-X and has many more features.

The issues:

What does the --style=fusion add? Well, see the pictures on the right. If you like the difference (the non fusion style is at top) you can add --style=fusion at the end of the commandline (you can find it at the JTDX icon -> properties at your desktop).

I installed the 64 bit version and noticed it has less audio output compared to older versions. If you have your soundcard already at 100% there is a problem if you don't get full power.
Luckely I can change the audio input since I have a Icom IC-7300. I changed USB mod level from 35% to 40%.

The last issue is that it is recommended to delete or rename JTDX.ini. However, this file contains the complete configuration of JTDX. If you delete it you have to configure everything again. Personally I didn't delete it and till now everything works fine, no problems at all. But if you experience trouble with the software you can try delete JTDX.ini first and configure everything again to see if it solves any problems.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

#60m band DX January 2020

You would think that I worked most of the DX that can be worked on 60m already last year. But that isn't the case. The 60m DX story goes on in 2020 and it seems not that much affected by the solar cycle. What is left are the more exotic DX stations far away and with sporadic activity. Let's look back at last month DX.

The 2020 60m band DX season begins with a DXpedtion to the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, british territory. The ZC4UW DXpedition refuses to use FT8 or any other JT mode and only used CW and SSB. Initially they wrote on their website they would probabely not activate 60m since they didn't expect to make much QSOs with only 15W CW/SSB. But they were wrong, they had a excellent signal on 60m and had decent pile-ups anyway. I worked ZC4UW on CW at 5 January as my first 60m new one in 2020.

Previously I worked V51WH from Namibia on 10m in the ARRL 10m contest. I did hear Gunter before on 60m SSB and CW in the past years but was never able to work him for a new one. Till I saw him appearing on FT8. Unfortunately it was a new one for many and the pile up was huge. It took me almost a whole week, calling for 6 evenings, hours and hours of calling. But in the end I finally got him in the log. I worked V51WH on FT8 at 11 January.

Suddenly XV1X Eddy appeared on 60m FT8. Eddy is a fellow dutch guy (previously known as PA0DDT) that has been living in Vietnam after he married his vietnamese wife. Unfortunately Eddy is not well, he suffered a heart attack and has almost no sight. Not certain he is operating FT8 himself, probabely he has help from his wife being his eyes. Eddy unfortunately had a lightning strike in his station last year and he uses borrowed equipment. He asks 3 USD for a QSL card. As you know I don't like to buy cards, but in this situation I'm certain he will use the money to buy new equipment and improve his station if he is capable to do so under the circumstances. I worked XV1X on FT8 at 17 January. I still see him regulary on 60m FT8, actually almost every day...

YS1RS El Salvador, you hardly see a station on 60m from that area. Roberto is a communication specialist working for the UN in various programmes. He has a nice QRZ page, well worth reading. I worked YS1RS on FT8 at 18 January.


JT1BV Mongolia, I've seen other stations working him on 60m FT8 but never saw him myself. Then suddenly at the evening of 21 January his signal was coming up and being up high in the band I had the chance to work him with some perseverance.




J88HF Harm is sailing around the Grenadines (Saint Vincent/Grenada). He has his own yacht charter business.  Harm is also a fellow dutchman and his dutch call is PE1IGM. We had some e-mail contact last year in september about RFI and how to solve it. Not easy to get rid of RFI when you're on a boat without a ideal antenna installation. But in the end a lot of ferrite did the trick. Being active on 60m has probabely something to do with his QSL manager and fellow blogger PA3C who recently got into 60m DX seriously. Harm and me did try to make a sked on 20m last year but it didn't work out. I managed to make the QSO now on 29 January.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

20m deltaloop experiment next day

Weather was good enough again this morning although rain was forecasted. So, I carried out some more tests on the deltaloop. First of all I thought the problem could be the place were I fed the deltaloop. Although I carefully measured 1/4 wave from the top it looks too high. So I lowered it by another 40cm down to the corner. Surprisingly after attaching my MFJ259 analyser nothing did change at all. So I finished the idea of feeding the deltaloop like this and decided to go for the next experiment. Feed it in the corner through a 75Ohm 1/4 wave matching stub. Now, things change. SWR was much better, almost 1:1. It also confirmed 21,5m was the right length as best SWR was on 14,2MHz again. I was quite happy with the result. But wasn't so happy when I tried it on the receiver. I still had significant noise (S3) were the vertical produces only S0-1 noise. And again the deltaloop performed less good as the vertical on top of the mast. It received equal or less and the noise was annoying. You probabely think now that the vertical receives much better at low angle signals, but I tried for a half hour listening to various stations far away and close by. Only in 2 occasions receiving a station from Spain and England the deltaloop performed better for a few seconds.

Time to abandon the deltaloop project. It is not a miracle antenna or my vertical is better as I think?
I probabely know what the real problem is. It is the same problem that is affecting my earlier vertical antenna experiments. Buildings around do have to much effect on the performance and the antenna is too low. On the picture you see a glass house, it has a iron/alu frame, the green hedge you see is not really a hedge, it is a iron frame with climbing plant. In front of the deltaloop is the house and then there is a garage with a lot of iron in it.....oh my not a good environment for a antenna close to the ground...

It started to rain when I dismantled the deltaloop. But I wanted to quickly install the PE1BVQ endfed. It is a 3 band 40m/20m/10m. Excellent as a back-up antenna. I ad some radials to increase some efficiency this time. I did a test on 20m after I placed it, it is not as good as the vertical on top of the mast but equal to the deltaloop including the S3 noise. The advantage however is that it includes 10m and 40m as well.

Well, no miracle antenna or secret weapon for the PACC contest next weekend. But I learned and tried something at least. It is fun experimenting with antennas although it doesn't always work as good as you hope for. I have to think of something else to improve my signal and possebilities on the 20m band. I guess the only thing that would really work is a directional beam...

Saturday, February 1, 2020

20m deltaloop experiment

As you know I'm thinking of a alternative 20m antenna to use in the PACC contest. A deltaloop antenna could be good choice. After some advise from PF5X Enno I decided to use his design. He provided me with some fantastic pictures.

Total wire length bare copperwire 1mm diameter would be 22,6m. So, isolated wire like I use would be 22,6x0,95=21,47m. The point to feed the antenna would be at 5,37m a quarter wave from the top.

The weather was great, dry with moderate wind. Setting up a mast of 10m became too heavy unfortunately. So the mast was 9m heigh. The design of Enno should have a 90 degree corner at the top. This looks easy but it isn't since it would take a large length of wire to guide the wire in the right direction you need a lot of room for that, 45 degree is a lot easier. I think in the end I had a 60 degree corner.

As always building such a antenna looks easier but is more complicated as you think. Wires that get wrapped up, cable ties that break.....but in the end the antenna was standing. Measuring with the MFJ analyzer revealed a SWR of 1:2 at around 14,2MHz. R=32 X=30. Not really what I thought of. This was the best SWR point. Enno told me I should look for a X=0 for resonance. But the nearest X=0 was at 15,6MHz. So, I don't know what to think about it? However, I tried to move the feed point a little but things didn't change at all. I also flattened the delta loop a bit to see if anything would change, but it didn't help much as well. Anyway it started to get dark already so I ended the experiment. My daughter did draw a nice impression of the antenna in the meantime... I connected the coax to the shack so I could get a impression of the antenna.


Deltaloop design pictures from PF5X.
Back in the shack I found 20m propagation just fading away, early this evening. I checked SWR and found a 1:1,5 this time, probabely loss from the long coax cable. I quickly compared the deltaloop with the vertical on top of my tower. I immidiatly noticed a lot of noise on the deltaloop, expected since this is coming from the neighbours. But unfortunately the noise does increase 2 S-units compared to my vertical, that is way too much. I compared signals between vertical and deltaloop, that was almost equal, most times the vertical wins.

So, this was a nice first experiment but not really a success. I will change the feedpoint to corner that is pointing to my neighbours and add a quarterwave 75 Ohm coax. This will give directivity but also will supress the noise hopefully. It will also add a higher radiation angle, something that I probabely need for advantage inside Europe. If this last experiment will not bring the improvement I need I will finish this project and set up the endfed again as second antenna in the contest.