Saturday, 28 January 2017

#DX on 60...Antarctica

60m DX is going up and down lately. Yesterday (friday) evening signals were almost completely vanished. But this evening the band is open. I saw a couple of CQ calls from KC4/N2TA and the JTDX software came up with NY, USA. Hamspots.net came up with USA, nothing could be seen spotted from this station and so I guess he's not spotting to hamspots or PSK reporter. But I googled the call and dxnews.com came up with the info. This station is located at Novolazarevskaya station in Antarctica. A couple of calls later I was in the log. And I was not the only one! Find info about this antarctic station on wikipedia.

After I finished the QSO with Antarctica I saw a CQ from A61EK United Arabic Emirates, another new one worked. Not bad for a few hours fishing...


Friday, 27 January 2017

#hamradio abbreviations (for my dad)

This blogpost is for my dad (as well for others who are interested). He noticed some amateurradio abbreviations I often use in my blog are difficult to find on the internet. Of course that's not true, it's just a matter of the searching with the right search words. But the list with abbreviations is long, too long. Many Q'codes are not in everyday use, a list like Q Signals, Prosigns and CW abbreviations is long and not even complete. So I just highlight the most used (in my blog).

Q-codes:

QRM - Interference (by another signal)
QRN - Interference (by static)
QRP - Station use 5W or lower power to transmit
QRO - Station use more as 5W to transmit
QRT - Stop transmitting/receiving
QRV - Ready to transmit/receive
QRX - A short stop
QRZ - Who is calling me?
QSB - Signals are fading
QSK - break into transmission (although not much in use in QSOs)
QSL - Confirmation of the contact, sometimes used on air to confirm a message has been received.
QSO - Communication/contact with another station
QSY - Move to another frequency
QTH - Location

CW (morse) abbreviations, some are also used in phone:

AGN - Again
AM - Amplitude modulation
ANT - Antenna
B4 - Before
BCI - Broadcast (Radio) Interference
BUG - Semi automatic key (to transmit morse)
CQ - Calling any station
CW - Continues Wave - Morse code
DX - Distant - Distance
FB - Fine Business, Excellent
FM - Frequency modulation
GA - Good afternoon
GM - Good morning
GN - Good night
HI - The telegraph laugh
HR - Here, Hear
HW - How
LID - Poor operator (not in terms of money)
LSB - Lower side band modulation
MSG - Message
N - Nine
NIL - Nothing
NW - Now
OM - Old Man (most of amateurradio operators are old ;-) )
OP - Operator
PSE - Please
PWR - Power
R - Received as transmitted (RRR is common)
RFI - Radio Frequent Interference
RIG - Station equipment
RTTY - Radio Tele Type, text via radiotransmission
RX - Receiver
SASE - Self Addressed Envelope (to send QSL in)
SKED - Schedule
SRI - Sorry
SSB - Single Side Band modulation
T - Zero
TNX/TKS - Thanks
TU - To You
TVI - Television Interference
TX - Transmiiter
USB - Upper Side band modulation
UR - You, you're, Your
VY - Very
WKD - Worked
WX - Weather
XYL - Married YL, Wife
YL - Young Lady

These are the most used in my opinion. Overall abbreviations are mainly used in morsecode.
Most "Q" codes are also very common in phone (speech).

When you end a QSO you normally end your transmission with:

73 - Best regards
88 - Love and kisses (in case you are a (X)YL)


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Leave those "touch" switches out of the house

My XYL would like to have some more light on the kitchen counter . So I found a suitable LED light. Not some cheap chinese alibaba light, no, it costs at least 50 euro. It is a high quality LED light with integrated touch switch. It works fantastic and it gives a lot of light. But with some trouble in mind reading about touch switches in several forums and sites from other HAMs I asked the guy in the shop if I could test it first before I buy it explaining the hamradio troubles. He agreed and I went home to test it. Well, on the vertical antenna which is standing 10-15m from the house there was no trouble at all. But then the horizontal loop. On 60m and 40m with 100W it gave me the trouble I didn't want. Flickering lights when transmitting. So, I brought it back to the shop. I know that many have trouble with these kind of switches and tried to solve it by filtering, I don't know if anyone succeeded? I did a simple test with ferrite but it doesn't solve anything. Touch switches well I don't know....I leave them out of my house and environment. I hope the neighbours will never get them as they probabely will think there is a ghost in their house switching the light on and off all the time.


Above the test and experiment in video. In the end I bought a roll of flexible cheap chinese LED strip with a infrared switch and remote control it's even dimmable, A small test today under the same circumstances revealed it was not affected by RF at all. Price: 15 euro. Think about it...


Thursday, 19 January 2017

JTDX - DXing with JT digimode

JTDX means "JT modes for DXing", it is being developed with main focus on the sensitivity and decoding efficiency, both, in overcrowded and half empty HF band conditions.

It is open source software distributed under the GPL v3 license, and is based on the WSJT-X r6462 source code. Optimal candidate selection logic, four/five pass decoding and decoders based on the matched filters making JTDX performance quite different from WSJT-X software for operation on the HF bands. Almost all work goes around JT65 mode, decoding efficienсy of JT9 mode is the same as in WSJT-X and might be addressed in the future JTDX versions. Initially based on the enthusiasm, now in average it taking close to 12 hours of daily work and your donations would be the only way to let me proceed with the further JTDX software development.
Many thanks for your support,
73, Igor UA3DJY

When watching PSK reporter lately I noticed most stations are using JTDX instead of WSJT-X or other software these days. So I thought, what could be the reason? This software has to be the top if so many use it. I installed the software latest version and first impression is that it looks a bit different from WSJT-X although it is based now on the latest WSJT-X 1.7. After some playing and configuring I was courageous enough to dare a TX cycle and suprisingly 3 calls came back, all 3 with only 1Hz apart from each other. So, I actually saw one signal in the waterfall but it was at least a layer of 3!!! I have never seen this in WSJT-X. Wow! I picked the weakest station (-20dB) while the other stations were at least -10dB and -6dB. After a few days I noticed that even weak traces half behind strong signals are decoded, something I hardly experienced with WSJT-X.

Some features not seen in WSJT-X:

To work stations faster I notice more and more stations are using the feature "skip locator" in JTDX, with other words they come back with the report directly in response on a CQ. This is especially useful for DX stations with large piles of calls waiting to make a QSO as fast as possible.



A SWL button increases the amount of decoding attempts. Realize that it will take a faster computer to decode everything before your transmission session will begin!

There is the "hint" decoder button, although I probabely will not use it. It is interesting development but I personally think it is cheating. The "hint" decoder looks for a hint in a file with calls and displays the best possible call it can find, it is to the operator to use it or not for a QSO. It actually is the same as the hints you can get in a contestlogger like N1MM(+). That is actually cheating as well although it helped me numerous times. Anyway, you don't have to use the "hint" decoder of course and actually most of the time JTDX is receiving well enough to do without it.

The filter button is another nice one. A passband filter for the desired signal especially usefull in crowded band situations.

While I was writing this article the software is still developed and another feature has been implemented which is a button for AGCcompensation. Not shure what it does, I've been switching it off/on but am not shure what the difference is? This is what the official release notes tell: AGCc button: use it only if AGC being triggered in receiver by JT signals at beginning of the RX interval. Noise level change in the waterfall might be used as criterion showing that AGC is triggered in the receiver. 

Links:

https://www.qrz.com/db/UA3DJY
http://www.qrz.lt/ly3bg/JTDX/jtdx.html

It is recommended to read the JTDX documentation and release notifications before installation.
I had trouble with the performance of my computer with this software package as I still work with my 2008 Intel dual core 2,6GHz. Sounds fast, well not for todays standards. The problem was that my transmitting audio started 3-6 seconds later after the actual transmission (in time) start. First I thought it was JT-Alert in combination with JTDX but without JT-Alert running I had the same problems. The original settings are for up-to-date not too old computers. I use both attempts and passes two steps less as set by the software when you install it. Till now with good results. Below something you have to consider when you got a slower computer.

Advanced settings tab:

- Number of decoding attempts: set it as per required decoding time. It might be set to 1 if CPU frequency is 2GHz, and set to 3 if CPU frequency is equal to 3GHz. Higher values make better decoding performance.
- Number of decoding passes = 4 (may be set to 3 or 2 for CPU frequency less than 2GHz if decoding attempts=1 is not enough to get into 10 second decoding time). For VHF usage optimal number of decoding passes = 2, and number of decoding attempts may be increased to improve decoding efficiency.
- Hinted decoding DT range = 1

I've been using JTDX now for a few times/days last couple of weeks and notice that it is very addictive. It simply detects so many signals. There is always something interesting to see in my opinion. Have you ever seen 3-5 different stations coming back on your call all at once? With this software you have to actually choose who you make QSO with first. Well, I hope I've helped some of my blog readers to get a better JT digimode experience. Now, back to the radio and make contacts...


Sunday, 15 January 2017

FSQ (Fast Simple QSO) mode experiment

Remembering my V4 chat efforts back in 2010 experimental chat mode software I tested with Kees  PE2KM? Well, ZL2AFP made another experimental chat mode software called FSQ or Fast Simple QSO in 2014. It is available as standalone program and you will find it implemented in FLDigi. I installed the software half a year ago but was never able to test it on air as I simply did not receive anyone to test and experiment with. Now, I came across a message on OH8STN Julian's blog that he organized a experimental weekend for FSQ mode this weekend and so I was eager to participate in this event. Unfortenately I had only some time at Sunday and kept the radio on 10.144 MHz FSQ to monitor and to send so called "sounding" beacons every 10 minutes. I was actually happy to see that I received OH8STN and OH5KUY. The chat with Julian went very difficult but I actually had a nice chat with Ari OH5KUY (see screenshot above).

I received a image from Julian in which you can see the logo from his weblog Survival Tech North. I send out 2 images personally but don't know if anyone received them...Anyway, the first experimental FSQ digimode contacts have been made and overall I liked it a lot more as V4 chat back in 2010. The advantage is that it is implemented in FLDigi and that program can be installed on alternative operating systems as well.


Link to FSQ software and documentation: http://www.qsl.net/zl1bpu/MFSK/FSQweb.htm

Thanks Julian OH8STN for letting us know that this event was on. I know for many it was the first time on FSQ and a lot of first were made. FSQ seems to be very interesting especially when you have a couple of friends on the air.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

2017 Agenda

This will be my (contest)agenda for 2017. I have to balance the hobby with my family and so it's better to make a schedule so my family knows when I definitely have to be in front of the radio. Not that I will be on the radio all the time, but these dates I will try to spend as much time in front of the radio.

The actual dates are already on the family planner. This post is for archive purposes.

First time in 2 years I will be able to spend more time in the PACC. Unfortenately the PACC is at the same time as the CQWW WPX RTTY. That means you'll never hear the biggest contest stations ever in the PACC. And I will not participate in this RTTY event either as the PACC is much more important for Dutch stations.


11/12 Feb. 12-12 UTC 24 hrs PACC 2017 contest
25/26 Mar. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX SSB 2017 contest
27/28 May 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX CW 2017 contest
03/04 Jun. 15-15 UTC 24 hrs Dutch Kingdom Contest 2017
23/24 Sep. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX RTTY 2017 contest
28/29 Okt. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX SSB 2017 contest
25/26 Nov. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX CW 2017 contest
09/10 Dec. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs 10m ARRL 2017 contest

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Finally ZS on 60m

Finally managed to work South Africa on 60m this evening. I aimed my signal several times before but since 60m is allowed in many countries now the 5357 JT frequency is very busy. South Africa is not allowed yet on the same 60m frequencies we use and so we have to work split. Split is not that difficult but to find a empty space to transmit is. Great to work this way, it's just a bit better as only clicking buttons. I recently switched to other JT RTX software and will write about this in one of my next posts.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A small 4A power supply

Look, matching display colors!
Mean Well RS 50-12 12V 4A power supply €18,30 (Conrad electronics)
ABS box 120x122x55mm €19,20
Pelican Maxivolt €10
Fuse holder with fuse €1,50
Mains supply cord €0 (from old appliance)
Bolts/nuts/ring/wire/ferrite ring/connectors €0 (junkbox).
Digital mini voltage meter €1,25

Total value: €40,25 euro.

I had fun to build this one as tight as possible. The PS is small enough to bring with me and has enough power to feed the FT-817. When constructing I found a very small blue mini voltage meter which gives it all a professional and luxury look (tnx LA3ZA).


Blue box on top is overvoltage protection
I removed later

I had no idea if the Mean Well powersupply has overvoltage protection but just to be shure I add a Pelikan Maxivolt over/undervoltage protection module. After all this is not needed since this PS has overvoltage protection. I removed the Maxivolt module to simplify and reduce weight. I have not searched for best price but I guess you can get these mean well power supply modules for less. The ABS box was even more expensive I guess that can be bought cheaper as well. In case you'll think this thing will make QRM like some other cheap chinese made switched power supplies, this PS is equipped with a EMI filter and to be shure I add a ferrite ring in the mains power cord as well inside the box I cannot hear any noise on my FT-817 coming from the supply at all.




I tested the supply first on my small W5OLF WSPR transmitter for a few days. Now it is ready I test it with my FT-817 on 1W WSPR. So far the supply does a good job and seems to be reliable.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Ham Radio Deluxe Blacklist Official Apology

As I am one of the bloggers that wrote about the Ham Radio DeLuxe issue I feel I have to give this link to my blog readers as well. I think the HRD developers do their best to earn the trust of users worldwide. But at the end people draw their own conclusion.

http://qrznow.com/ham-radio-deluxe-blacklist-official-apology/


Friday, 6 January 2017

2016 statistics

Just for archive reasons like every year I post some graphs about my radio activity. Though due to a lack of time I was unable to post this in 2016. Unlike previous years I will rely on the statistics of clublog at least for the DXCC part of it.

The activity this year seems to be a lot less as previous years. At least 1K less QSOs were made. I hope this will not be a trend for next years. However the percentage of digimode and CW have been rising.


Total DXCC worked all time, all mode. 6 ATNO over the year 2016. I expect it will take time before I will work new ones again.


Total DXCC confirmed by official QSL, no eQSL. Only paper and LOTW.


Confirmed by official QSL: SSB, CW, RTTY (digimode). Although there has to be a error in the log somewhere as I notice a phone QSO on 30m which has not been made...I will have to review my log.

 Most of the QSOs were made in March just like 2015 but a lot less as I was working QRP first 3 months of the year. However the quality of each QSO was a lot better.


In 2015 my favorite band was 40m, this year it was 80m. Don't count 60m out as I made a considerable amount of QSOs on this new band in 2016.

SSB is still my main mode although I like to experiment with digimode. Managed QSOs in 11 different modes. 


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The downfall of Ham Radio Deluxe

Lately some very unpleasant things happen regarding Ham Radio DeLuxe. First of all the issue most of you heard of a while ago.

http://forums.qrz.com/index.php?threads/ham-radio-deluxe-support-hacked-my-computer.547962/

Basically the user of HRD V6.* was blocked after some troubles in which he called for support. No good advertisement for a commercial software package.

Now it seems HRD V6 deliberately shutdown JT-Alert (a program that supports the populair WSJT-X and many other JT digimode software) without any warning to the user. There are some other issues as well that Laurie VK3AMA (the programmer of JT-Alert) made a decision not to support HRD V6 any longer in the newer versions.

His message last week:

To all JTAlert / HRD V6 users. 

I will no longer be providing support for HRD V6 logging within JTAlert.
This comes into effect with the next public release of JTAlert (2.9.0).

Affected HRD users can continue to use the current version of JTAlert (2.8.7) for as long as they want.
I will not be able to provide any support for that version, however, if a future HRD release breaks the JTAlert/HRD integration.

The free V5 of HRD will continue to be supported.

Moving forward, all future JTAlert versions will not support HRD V6 logging.

I will not be participating in any public or private discussions regarding this decision.

I sincerely apologise to the affected HRD users.

de Laurie VK3AMA

Since JT-Alert is the most used and most populair program to use bridging JT mode software with your own logger I guess this will affect HRD again. Many will look for alternative loggers now.

Is this the downfall of Ham Radio Deluxe?

I'm using HRD myself and will continue V4 for main logging and V5 for digimode logging. They are free and JT-Alert will continue the support for version 5.