73 OM! Thanks for dropping by...
Logging and QSLs: I generally immediately log contacts directly into eQSL. I do uploads to LOTW, QRZ, HRDLOG, and HAMQTH a couple of times a week. Posted snail-mail QSLs will always be replied to (but dont hold your breath). Bureau? What bureau? Dont bother I'll never see it.
Joiner stuff: Active member of the following: ARRL, Huntsville Amateur Radio Club, Huntsville/Madison County ARES, Boeing Auxilliary Communications Service, North Alabama Repeater Association, Six Meter International Radio Club (SMIRK #1859), Feldhell Club (FH#4653).
No blog tab on this site... tisk... I guess I will blogitize this page then... my blogography...
IMPORTANT JT-9 TIP: Call between 2500 and 2700 Hz above JT-65 QRG frequency for band in question if the frequencies are available. Other people's SSB filters cut off above 2700 Hz. If you go above that they have to retune to work you. Many of us are dual mode with WSJT-X.
MY AMATEUR RADIO BLOG...
July 18: HARC holds a 2M FM Simplex Sprint
Saturday evening alot of folk from the HARC club (39 was the final count including pilots and pack mules), turned out to participate in the 2M FM Simplex Sprint. Big kudos and thanks to MD/WA4DXP for organizing it! Great fun was had by all! Speaking for myself, I made up a little 3 element tape measure beam, but was not able to get the hairpin match right in time for the event. So I packed a tripod and my J-Pole and went up to visit my usual VHF perch in Rainbow Mountain Park. It was still very humid and in the high 90s, so I stayed in the parking lot running the air conditioning and just used my mobile antenna for about an hour and a half. After a while it became evident I was hearing all the same people over and over after I had worked about 20. They rules specified that you could work a station in a zipcode once for credit, zip codes being multipliers. We had a couple of hams up in an aircraft operating /AM, with Chris/KF4MMF was at the mike. They flew over a number of area zipcodes and orbited long enough to work 5 or 10 hams before moving on which added considerable excitement to the exercize. I packed up and changed zipcodes myself, moving to the Boeing Employee's park south of Huntsville Jetplex. I stuck up my Jpole on a 15' mast and proceeded to rework many of the stations I already had in my log including Chris a few more times getting more points and giving out the new multi. I didnt do to badly with 39 total contacts and a score of 1938 points I think, my showing looks like it might be on the order of 3rd or maybe 4th based on MD's early look at the data, but the results wont be in until the 31st. But our Aeronautical Mobile team slaughtered all the competition with 94 contacts, no question about who won!
I built an eXcel spreadsheet to log the contest and catch dups, which is still evolving based on user comments.
Next time we may try 6 letter grids instead of the very gerrymandered zipcodes aroung here. Look for me if you want EM64 Papa Romeo!
June 13: Battery Bandits
I participated in a road trip to help load and unload batteries with Mike Connolly/KG4OZK and Chris Reed/KF4MMF. We went to visit Randy Wilder/WB4LHD, President of the Tri-State Repeater Association of the metro Memphis TN region (with pickup in Collierville), to receive 34 units of 100 # 120 amp hour 12V AGM batteries. These were pull outs sourced from FedEx, removed from service in the data center where they provided power storage for their Uninteruptable Power Supplies. The batteries are warrenteed for 10 years service but were surplussed with less than 5 years use. The batteries were offered for $25 each, and terminal hardware (2 sets of 9mm stainless steel hex head screws and washers) for $1 per battery. Mike and Chis collected $5 per battery for transport costs. The price of the battery is approximately the recycle value. We met a few hams in the Gigaparts parking lot to distribute the haul, with the remainder going into the Gigaparts warehouse. Hams who preordered and did not pick up on the spot can recover theirs by buying them from Gigaparts during regular business hours.
A ton and a half of batteries! Whew!
Personally, I received one battery which will be used to power the 12 volt equipment in my shack during power outtages. In a pinch I can run a sinewave inverter to cover 120 VAC gear.
The batteries in question are EnerSys DataSafe 12HX500s. These batteries are not suitable for deep cycle use. Randy recommended that these not be drawn below 10.1 volts.
The Tri-State Repeater Association has organized these mass surplus orders for about 4 years, and plans are to continue this service to the Amateur Community.
Thanks to everyone involved! This is a very nice example of how hams and businesses can pull together as and for the community!
June 12, KV4PC was W1AW/4
Today I received a handsome little plaque from the ARRL that commemorates my operation as W1AW/4 during Alabama's turn for the Centennial celebration. For free even? I certainly dont remember ordering it.
June 8, Six Meter Squalo, Funcube TLM
Been a while since I wrote something here. I havent been super active last couple of months, pressure at work.
I have soldered together a Six Meter Squalo from 1/2" copper pipe, mounted on a PVC mast. Its looking good in my living room. My antenna analyzer says it is too long, however. About as high as I can make it resonate moving the feed point and shorting bar is 48.5 MHz. Im going to need to do a little power saw surgery on the cap ends. I needed something better than the dipole in the attic for 6m. Gonna flip the dipole vertical for FM and use the Squalo for SSB. The Squalo will also wind up in the attic (danged HOA covenants!). How is that Amateur antenna bill doing in Congress I wonder...?
UPDATE: Sawed the end caps off the pipe, resonance is about 50.066 MHz 1.5:1 SWR at 50.6 MHz. Close enough for Radio Amateur work.
I also got my Lindenblad working better. I was able to get the Funcube AO-73 TLM beacon to show in FLDIGI. It is becoming fairly obvious to me I need to rig a pan adaptor for the Yaesu FT-847 so I can see all the signals in the passband any satellite (maybe a 10.7 MHz IF Softrock SDR?), and find a way to do Doppler CAT. Analyzer says the Lindeblad is a little short on 2 meters, I need to see if adding stubs to the ends of all the dipoles will help me get it down to a low SWR. Also on my project list is to rig an RTLSDR to copy the TLM with the Funcube TLM program.
Oh, and when the 2m part of the Lindy is well enough for TX try to work some folk through the birds!
UPDATE: Tried an RTLSDR with SDR#. An 8 bit SDR like the RTL may not be sensitive enough on its own to copy Funcube using the Lindy. I needed to use some imagination to even tell where the the signal was on the waterfall. When I used the FT-847 to receive I got a nice crisp signal on the FLDIGI waterfall.
UPDATE: I got Doppler CAT working by using the SatPC32 software. I have some trouble with the software if I do anything to bounce the USB bus while it is operation, have to kill it and restart. It >almost< removes the lean from the Funcube TLM.
March 14, Happy Pi Day!
I hope everything is coming 'round for you today.
I guess my last entry was a huge fail. Havent added anything in the last month and a half. The day job can be like that. I guess I dont need to quit it to become a Journalist HiHi.
I got a new rig (new for me), a Yaesu FT-847 Earth Station on eBay last week. Hopefully I can get going on Satellite Modes soon, Its a nice clean beautiful radio, and functionally speaking 10 # in a 5 # bag. Everything in one radio sort of and it does true full duplex on 2 and 70 cm. I have ordered an Easy Digi for it for digital modes, and so far have it programed for 6m through70cm FM repeaters, I can leave the TYT mobile in the car now in the evenings!
A couple of those projects I havent been writing about are a dual band Lindenblad onmi RHCP satellite antenna that is reasonably portable, and a dual band switchable L&RHCP Texas Potato Masher antenna with AMSAT LNA for tracking the LEO birds. Im now getting anxious to finish these projects up so I can get them on the air.
I also have Version 2 of the Spiral Windom in work. I actually had it up on a tripod last weekend but strong wind tipped it over and broke a spoke. Honestly it is a bit top heavy, might need to put a guy ring on it and stake it next time I set it up. I have a little work to do to get it back in form. Even laying on the ground with the spoke broken It would tune very well on 4 bands. Didnt work anyone like that however :-P .
That's 3 projects listed I mostly havent mentioned before. I got a few more I could be describing, but I am out of breath. Maybe I'll write about them in May HiHi.
January 30, Wow... folk actually read this stuff..
It has come to my attention that a few folk I know but dont have conversations with very often actually visit this page now and then and are at least mildly interested in projects I am working on. With that in mind, I shall endeavor to be more forthcoming on my amateur radio projects. I imagine I will need to make a list of such things to get organized. For starters. I actually dont write about everything I am doing, just things with the community such that they are, or projects particularly having something to do with HF JT modes, because those are the likeliest things to bring random folks to my page.
January 23, A Couple More New DXCCs
Got Israel & Moldova. Israel is confirmed. Also upped my band total for 40 m about 5. And I just saw Austria and Lithuania. Gotta love 40 in the winter!
January 15, Awards awards...
Today I got Alaska confirmed by eQSL on 40 m. Woohoo! That's eWAS 40! I have actually had WAS 40 from the ARRL for several months now.
Yesterday QRZ opened up their awards program and I instantly got 100 grids mixed and digital, Continents Of the World (without Antarctica - I think they group it with Oceana) mixed and digital. Oddly enough I am no where near any of their 50 States endorsements. Folks I have worked seem to be pretty disinterested in logging contacts with QRZ. Me, I log directly into eQSL, dump the adi file, and then load it several places. Only takes a couple of minutes. I have a feeling the awards program might change this dynamic for the better. Anyhow, I will be watching that space closely for lots of old confirmations to show up. I know there are at least a couple of my 50 state awards rotting away in some other ham's log files.
I wonder if they keep on giving add-on grid endorcements as you continue to work grids like eQSL does prefix and DX endorsements?
January 4, Last day of holiday break
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and an Happy New Year (MX HNY)!
Looks like I logged approximately 1100 contacts in the last year, last 4 days inclusive.
Got WAS, WAS 40, WAS JT-65, eWAS, eWAS JT-65, ePFX300, eDX50
My DXCC list is hovering around 64.
I see these very often on JT-65 but havent gotten in yet:
Balearica, Bolivia, Cyprus, Dodecanese, Isle of Man, Israel, Moldova, Trinidad & Tobago
Close but no banana:
eWAS 40 needs AK
eWAS 20 needs 6 states (AR, HI, KY, MT SC VA)
eWAS WARC needs 8 (AK, HI, IA, MS, ND, SC , SD, TN)
eWAS JT-9 needs 4 (AK, ID, LA, SC)
ePFX300 JT-65 needs 21 contacts
I found a great mapping program called GCMWIN that produces AZ-EQ maps, and has a tool for plotting your contacts by 6 letter Maidenhead locators. I might try to do that soon to produce a 2014 retrospective activity poster. It also links to VOACAP to prduce a realtime greyline map clock with propagation overlay.
December 30, Earned the ePFX300 Mixed award from eQSL
Its kind of astonishing how many prefexes there are in the USA now. I actually wonder if one might earn this award without any DX in it. I still need 30 for the ePFX JT-65.
Speaking of astonishing, LU8EX has logged 1181 prefixes on JT-65 at this writing, One has to suppose that there might be more than that even.
OK the Mixed ePFX points leader is 4Z4DX with 3315 prefixes at the time of this writing. Wow. That is a TALL ladder.
I need to work an Alaskan JT-er on 40m that actually uses eQSL to get my eWAS 40m. These appear to be rare birds. I have several different Alaskan contacts on 40m to date but no eQSL confirmations. I have some similar issues with AK on other bands. Just to be clear, there are some some nice guys in AK that do eQSL, I just havent trapped them on all the bands yet.
December 27, Radials added for 60m and 80m to the Silver Saber vertical today..
I have spent alot of effort today getting resonances recorded for the number of clicks from top of the coil for these two bands. Anxious to see how it performs. 40m performance (as well as the higher bands) was awesome, it extended my DX authority considerably.
UPDATE: That was pretty quick. I tuned the rig to 3.576 and immediately copied an Italian and a German. My first receptions outside of North America on 80m. Yep, Im lovin' me some verticals here. Now to work 'em....
UPDATE 2: Trouble tuning it on 20m, added a radial for that as well. All fixed.
December 25, Merry Christmas! Santa must think I was a good lad...
Under the tree I found the RS-BA1 remoting software from ICOM for my IC-7200. Got that working on my local LAN. It will be nice to sit downstairs and operate now and then when something worthy is on the One Eyed Monster. Hopefully it will work for me for meeting the Boeing HF net from work as well as an occasional DX break during the day, or grabbing those last rays of sunshine on 10 meters before heading home. When I am away for the weekend I should be able to meet the State net on travel.
I also got an MFJ-266C Antenna Analyzer. Now I have the vector impedance measurements I have been whining about not getting from my little Fox Delta analyzer. I must say though I was disappointed that the MFJ doesnt graph. The litte Fox Delta does. Really the Fox Delta is a pretty awesome solder up kit and great value for the money! The FD agrees well with MFJ for freq vs SWR, and automatic freq sweep and SWR graphing are indispensible. Value for money though, MFJ also serves as a freq counter, freq generator, signal strength meter, inductance and capatance meter, not to mention expanding my reach thru 70 cm.
This activity was more learning experience than successful, alas. Darryl K4KIA erected a node (2.4 GHz, 6 watt, 12 dBi, at 20 ft) at Matt KA0S's QTH on Green Mountain. I and Darryl and Bruce KG4HLZ drove around in Huntsville and on Redstone Arsenal looking for signal. I have a Raspberry Pi running Kismet with a GPS puck, a 4 watt Alfa USB radio, and a 9 dBi omni magmount antenna. Kismet automatically listens for WIFI signals; and records the time, SSID, GPS coords, and signal strength of each signal heard. Additionally I set up at a couple of locations with a portable node (24 dBi dish, Linksys, 8 watt amplifier, tripod, at 8'). Here is a photo of the setup on the runway at John Hunt Park.
No one detected signal further than a few blocks from Matt's house.
I cant speak for the others, but I had alot of issues that were potential spoilers. If I exceeded 50 mph my mag mount antenna would flop over. If I came to a stop and forgot and turned off the ignition, I would loose cigaret lighter power and my Pi would drop off. Restarting Kismet is currently a several step manual process requiring a log in. I didnt always notice I had killed the Kismet drone either, so there was a considerable amount of driving around that did not make it into the can. I discovered the node I was running on the dish was set on default power of 28 dBm. The amplifier wants about 10 dBm drive so I was almost certainly running very distorted. I didnt notice and correct this until the third site I visited. My antenna jacks were also set to "diversity" instead of the dish antenna, so a strong signal nearby could theoretically have interfered with a far away signal on the dish. Not a good day.
I still havent examined the Kismet logs from this activity.
UPDATE: Kismet detected a BroadbandHamnet-V2.0 signal on Patton Road on Redstone Arsenal. The MAC address detected is consistent with a Ubiquiti product being the host. This proved to NOT be Darryl's node at Matt's QTH or for that matter anyone else we are aware of that might be close to that location or out driving around. Something new. Next time I am on the arsenal, I think I will take along a node to connect to it and see what the call sign on it is. Unfortunately, Kismet is not programmed to collect that information.
December 4, Mesh Radio Brief at MSFC ARC
Today I briefed Mesh Radios & Broadband Hamnet to the Marshall Space Flight Center Amateur Radio Club (MARC).
Click on the title above to download the Powerpoint brief. Or click here for a PDF.
December 2, 60m JT-Tuesday
I contacted some folks I worked back in September during a sort of activity breakout on 60m JT-65. We are attempting to establish a regular presence on the band. The thought is playing there for an hour or so in the evening once or twice a week would maybe help attract some activity. Maybe we can encourage the ARRL and/or eQSL to offer a WAS award for this? Anyway, 60m is a very good band and I hate it that no one much is using it. Made three contacts tonight, accounting for two new states.
I think my 80m loop is a little deaf on this band. Next go around I will use the T2FD. Or maybe the vertical if I see any DX lurking.
Update: The T2FD is better on 60m than the 80m loop. Side by side compare on several signals shows rather lower noise and higher signal strength. And my reports were much closer together wrt given vs received.
November 14, Mesh Radios Brief
Click on the title above to download the Powerpoint brief. Or click here for a PDF.
This is a work in progress that is intended to socialize and evangelize the local Amateur Radio community to what those of us involved are doing with HSMM/Broadband Hamnet, and where it COULD go with some cooperative effort.
November 1, Silver Saber Vertical
I finally got ME confirmed on 40m! Only lack AK to finish, or hope one of the guys I did work finally gets onto eQSL and confirms their stuff. I decided I needed to try a low angle antenna to get in to ME because my Skywire and my T2FD seemed to be coming in just short of that state all the time before the hop across the pond. I got a hint that a low angle antenna would get it when I was playing around with the vertically mounted Spiral OCF Dipole mentioned in an earlier post.
So I built a vertical. And I was right. Worked ME on 40m right away with it. I have been fooling around with winding my own loading coil to resonate a 102" CB whip on 80 and 40 and not having much luck. I was using a single elevated radial (works for Buddipole, no?) and was fiddling around with moving a coil tap around trying to resonate on 40m. I saw behavior with my antenna analyzer I frankly dont understand moving the tap to shorten the coil would move a resonance in the right direction and then suddenly it would disappear or start moving backward.. I think it might be interactions between the whip and tap, the "unused" side of the coil, and the less than satisfactory radial. Anyway I got frustrated and decided to find a manfactured coil.
Wolf River Coils makes a nice looking coil on PVC called the Silver Saber, made like a screwdriver antenna coil, except without the motor drive. It has a collar with a sliding contact that fits into the detent between the coil windings. You can slip it up and down with a little pressure but it will stay put when you release it. There is also a knob on a nylon screw to tighten it down securely. Anyway, so I ordered one of these and put it together on my handy-dandy Stellar Labs tripod. I took some photos of it set up.
Here is the funny thing. I set it up initially much like the coil I made. And guess what? Almost exactly the same behavior. It is a very touchy mother. So I made a three leg elevated radial which I cut for 40 meters; you can see it in the photos. Tunability settled down considerably, I can push the main resonance around now by slipping the contact collar toward or away from the whip. But there are several resonances, usually 3, and they are somewhat moveable as well - makes it hard to tell which one is the objective sometimes. Also, I made measurements near the mast so I had to hunker down and get my head below the radials or every little movement I made would jiggle the SWR reading on the analyzer. But I got it working. I imagine I could get the hand wound coil working now too based on what I have learned so far. I also believe the antenna will stablize further if I raise it up, say, another 10 ft. Once again, if I could read vector impedance I would have had a more clear idea of what was happening.
I put in a shunt inductance for base tuning. I wound one for approximately a micro Henry. I nearly blindly tuned it. I found I could move the SWR around at resonance by flexing it in and out and best results were "bunched" so I put a couple of tie wraps on it to keep it bunched. The fact that it is best bunched suggests that it might need to have a couple more turns. Anyway I was able to set a shunt inductance.
Operating with the vertical got me into many places I have never been before particularly on 10 and 15 meters. I added quite a new few states on those bands and a couple on 20 and 30. And, as we started this entry, ME on 40m. Interesting on 40 how my first hop spots on pskreporter make a perfect and surprisingly thin ring on the map at 600 miles. 40m being an NVIS band, I think this sort of confirms I have a really low angle antenna here. There was another fairly neat ring at about 1600 miles. I also saw Labrador for the first time on 20m with this antenna, a VO2 station.
I think the moral of the story is, mix it up people! Different antennas will yield different results even in the domain of simple quarter and half wave wires. I really NEEDED to see some different directions on the higher bands.
The Spiral OCF Windom was alot easier to deal with as a vertical polarized antenna, didnt need a trip outside to move a tuning collar when I wanted to change bands. And it certainly wins on space utilization! I think I will attempt a side by side comparison when I have my Spiral version 2.0 ready to go. The saber vertical may become a deployment or SOTA antenna. It really doesnt take long to set it up or tear it down.
October 27. Spiral OCF Dipole
Have you ever heard of the Spiral Dipole? QRZNow ran an article on it a few weeks ago here. There is apparently a commercial version available known as the TAKTenna.
Looks intriguing (lets face it, weird!) and some seemingly outrageous claims were made. So of course I had to built one. The antenna is basically a 40/60 percent half wave Windom off-center fed dipole where each leg has been collapsed into a spiral to compact it. My test unit leaves a bit to be desired mechanically, and I certainly wouldnt put it up in even the lightest of breezes, but it held together well enough to do some testing with my trusty Fox Delta Antenna Analyzer, followed by setting it up on a tripod and doing a couple of days of operating.
Im not going to bore you with the details, this is just a blog, not an Amateur Radio magazine article, but to describe what I found in a nutshell, the only claim that wasnt true (at least for the mechanically substandard unit that I just finished) is that the antenna can be used without a tuner on 40, 20, 15, and 10. Frankly, there was no resonance on 20, and the other resonances were neither deep enough nor, except for 40m, right on the band. However, using my MFJ-969 Versa Tuner II, I was able to get a good to excellent tune from 80m (nice surprise!!!) to 10m except for 60 m (useable but poor) when the antenna was mounted vertically, and good to OK mounted horizontally. Tuning was improved in either case by raising the antenna up, but set vertical it did quite well just 3 feet off the ground. I got on and operated some on every band, JT-65 or 9, and (I know this sounds like every corny "miracle" antenna brag by antenna hucksters everywhere) I made my longest contact ever (333 miles per watt), working Mauritius from Madison AL. In fact, I picked up 4 DXCCs in one afternoon after being stalled for months.
To be honest with myself this is at least partly due to finally operating with a vertically polarized antenna for the first time ever on HF (always felt like verticals were for FM :-) ). Also, be certain this was done on 10 m on a day where the Solar Flux number was about 220 - I havent actually seen alot of those this year.
The antenna was notably quieter than my T2FD and my 80m Horizontal Loop. I switched between them during the Alabama State net to get some idea of how different they sound.
One discovery I made on 20, 15, and 10 was that if I mounted the antenna horizontal I heard mostly domestic signals. If I mounted it vertical I heard mostly Europeans. And I tried flipping it several times over the course of a half hour so I am not inclined to attribute this to the band changing just when I decide to change the orientation. In horizontal mode, I found it to be reasonably bidirectional like a dipole, turn it and bring up some stations broadside and null out others along the axis. But with only a 40 inch wing span. Id like to have one of these babies on a 2 axis rotor. Imagine matching the arrival angle of incoming DX!
I also decided to see what would happen if I fed it like a Carolina Windom. I added a loop to the coax, 10 feet from the 4:1 balun, and put on 4 snap on toroid chokes. I elevated the antenna enough that this dangled straight and did not reach the ground. It seemed to improve tuning on the antenna over a coax choke located immediately at the feed point for the case of the antenna in vertical orientation and to sort of spoil tuning for the antenna in horizontal orientation. There are days I wish I had an antenna analyzer that does vector impedance, but I really cant afford it right now. I also dont have a field strength meter to see if this stub has the reputed effect of lowering radiation angle somewhat.
This was a fun exercize, and I have developed a bit of respect for the design. It is very compact, but doesnt seem to suffer as much from the usual efficiency losses. I plan to come up with a more solid and lighter weight version of the design, one that Im not embarassed to photograph and post.
October 18, First Hellschreiber contact
Today I made my first Hellschreiber contact. I worked Lew W8LEW. I have been a member of the Feldhell Club since about April. FH#4653. However, it appears that the community of regular Hell ops is fairly small, and many only come out for contests. I have made many attempts over the last few months, but the main HELL spotting site never seems to have any recent spots on it. This weekend there were two activities, The Spooky Sprint, and Hell in Hell MI where some W1AW/8 operators made an expedition to Hell MI to operate Hell mode. So I thought this weekend would be good hunting and so it was. I heard many stations calling or in QSO on 17 and 20 m including W1AW/8. Most were not printing really well, but Lew was when he called so I answered him. We had a nice little chat, my first on HF.
Speaking of Hell in Hell, Alabama is also active this week operating W1AW/4 for the Centennial QSO Party. When these guys published their note I decided to see if there was some way for Alabama to answer the challenge. So I got on Google Maps and tried Heaven, AL.... nope, Paradise AL... nope, Purgatory AL... nope, what about Hell? Hell Alabama they had an answer for. Must be that infamous Rammer Jammer cheer, dont you know. Or maybe there is an Auburn grad working out there in Mountain View... I suppose we will never know. Anyhow, seeing as how Google thinks there is a Hell in AL, and there is indeed a Hell in MI, I wrote the Station Trustee at W4UAL and suggested that maybe this was sufficient cause for them to operate their own Hell in Hell AL. While I received no reply to this message, I did indeed see W1AW/4 self-spotting their Hellschreiber Ops this afternoon. I may not win friends, but I sure do influence people... :-) .
October 16, W1AW/4
PLEASE BE SURE TO LOG W1AW/4 when you log a W1AW/4 portable contact.
The last two nights I have had the pleasure to represent Alabama as W1AW/4. I operated from 00:00- 06:00 Z October 15 on 40m JT-65 and 00:00-02:00 Z October 16 on 30 m. If you got W1AW/4 during those periods on JT-65, that was me. If I operate W1AW/4 tonight it will likely be after 02:00 Z band to be determined, as tonight is when all the local ARES and SKYWARN nets meet. We shall see about the rest of the Alabama week.
Being W1AW is fun and you should try it. Be a part of history! Channel the spirit of Hiram Percy Maxim for a few hours. He sounds like my kind of guy, liked guns, race car driving, and cinema in addition to radio.
The contestistas here kind of sneer at JT-65 as it is a very slow mode (10 Qs per hour is about my best pace) but there are plenty of slots to choose from on www.alabamacontestgroup.org. You can speed things up by calling me with the dB report first instead of the Grid. Grids are lost when you use use a compound call anyway. I am using WSJT-X and compound calls (/4) cause all kinds of awkwardness both me me as the Op using it, and for you the Op trying to work me. Because there are several different software packages for JT I cant offer specific guidance except to use FREE MSG to initially call instead of click-and-go and dont use the /4 in the call. Click-and-go will work for subsequent transmissions. For all Alabama W1AW/4 contacts you can see who you worked on www.alabamacontestgroup.org.
October 11: Alabama State Simulated Emergency Test
We had to select this date instead of the National date because Alabama is an SEC Football crazed community. Both Auburn and Alabama were either Away or did not have a game this weekend. SEC SEC SEC! War Eagle! Roll Tide!
Kellie KE4UAN and I KV4PC set up our stations at the Huntsville-Madison County Red Cross and ran the county Shelter Net and Liason with the Resources Net during Hurricane Nick (Exercize exercize exercize). I also had my HF station set up for State Liason. Everything went well, except that the inverter running my HF failed and I had to use house power. When the scenario called for wide spread power outages I had to switch off. And I lucked out that the evolving scenario included starting the emergency power at the Red Cross so I was able to still get in HF State check ins and a relay couple of messages. We had HF for voice and NBEMS digital, VHF and UHF FM for voice and UHF FM for digital modes, NBEMS and EASYPAL slowscan. There was steady traffic on all the nets and it was a busy few hours. I was Net Control for Shelter Net for a while. Kellie ran the Resource Net for a while.
September 30, Joe Taylor K1JT
Tonight I worked Joe Taylor JT-9 on 80m (Wowie!). In case you dont immediately recognize the name maybe you will recognize his callsign K1JT. Or particularly his initials: JT. Sound familiar? He's a major ham celebrity, Nobel Prize winning astronomer and the inventor of the JT weak signal modes. The lion's share of my activity on the HF bands is JT modes. Quite an honor to make that QSO! According to his QRZ details he doesnt eQSL alas. Might just have to lick a stamp for that one...
September 27, Hamstick Dipole
I have been working on my Simulated Emergency Test prep. Today I assembled a tripod in my driveway with a 12 foot mast capped by a pair of 40 meter MFJ hamsticks on a dipole mount. I got out my trusty Fox Delta antenna analyzer and slipped the whips in and out until I got resonance on 7243 kHz, the main Alabama State ARES SSB net frequency, then I marked the whip on the inside of the ferrule, and repeated the process for 7110 kHz where AL ARES does digital modes. Then I found and marked your favorite and mine, 7076 kHz for JT modes. I ran a 100' coax down from my second story shack to hook it up to the rig and made a few JT-65 contacts just to convince myself it works. Signal reports gotten were about equal to those given. It all breaks down into a fairly small package. I might have to try some SOTA hill topping with it soon.
UPDATE: The Hamstick Dipole performed wonderfully in the Alabama Simulated Emergency test on October 11. I was able to work Mike WX4AL in Auburn, the state emergency coordinator, on both SSB with 100w and PSK 31 w/ 30w. The short wingspan allowed me to turn it to peak up on signal even though it was crammed into a fairly small space on a sidewalk next to a wall. It operated well in steady rain, with an reasonable SWR. Although it was marked for 3 frequencies, it performed A-OK on 7110 and 7243 set for 7110. Didnt feel like venturing out into the rain to pull it down and retune.
September 16, T2FD
This last weekend I got my 180' T2FD working. It is an olive drab marvel of Homeowner's Association camouflage if I do say so myself. I made my first contact on Top Band Saturday night. It isnt working as well as I could have hoped for, because of at least two conscious compromises - spreader width and proximity to foliage and gutters. But it provides direct 2:1 SWR or less on ham bands from about 75m to 6m and better than 3:1 everywhere from 1.8 to 54 MHz. With the tuner in line I can get it better than 1.4:1 on every frequency Im allowed to use between 1.8 and 54 MHz. If I had used 55" spreaders instead of 16" spreaders I would have expected to see handy resonances in the ham bands too. Might fix that someday.
The pattern seems to be a bit different from the loop which should be a help. Using the loop on 15 meters especially, I hear great DX signals but it is nearly always the SAME DX - Brazil, Italy, New Zealand, Alaska and sometimes a few shorter or longer things along those great circle paths.With just the loop fed like it is I'll never get WAS or DXCC on 15. Maybe the T2FD will fill some holes.
UPDATE: Im finding that the T2FD is great for Winlink2000. I can run right down my VOACAP-sorted GREEN BBS list in tuner-bypass mode and not worry about messing with retuning for band changes. Consequently, I can get my weekly ARES message off in just two or 3 tries hunting for a BBS that will reply. Previously I would tune the loop for the band with the most GREEN BBS stations in it (usually 40m) and work my way through those, then tune for the next (usually 30m) and go through those. It often took me 10 or 12 trys to get on one and a few times no success at all. I imagine I will have another update about this antenna after the next time HFLINK holds a Global HF Interoperability Exercize. This antenna should be great for PC-ALE ops even if my rig is really not - band scanning is hard on your band switching relays. I will give it a try next March and see how it goes.
August 31, JT-65 Swim Lanes
It seems to me if we all made an effort to start our calls on 100 Hz boundries that the busy bands would organize themselves into swim lanes that would help manage the QRM better. Looking at spot reports on pskreporter it seems that modern rigs with synthesized VFOs are all pretty much in agreement within say 10 Hz or so. Swim lanes would work. In fact I see it happen spontaneously on 40m now and then.
August 29, NV is confirmed. AK, ME, ND remain for 40m WAS.
August 27, knocked off UT. But added on NV, several worked there but no eQSL as yet. AK also not confirmed as yet.
AK, ME, ND, NV for 40m WAS.
August 15 update on 40m got AK shortly after local midnight on Wednesday (gotta watch that Greyline like a hawk), and finally tagged up with N1CLG for RI.
August 14, 2014 Short strokes for 40m WAS
Im down to AK, ME, ND, RI, UT, and TN which is a mere 15 miles away.
I have a standing schedule with N1CLG in RI who is kindly defending the 40 m honor of his state (Thank you Ken!). AK is on every night but more or less out of reach probably until winter. The rest? Havent seen any ops in the spots for days or even weeks. Anyone up for a DXpedition? Somebody is going to have their hands full of pileup in those exotic locales!
I ought to be able to work TN on my Altoids Tin CW rig...
I am getting pretty close on 80, 30, 20, and 17 too, but not so close I can taste it yet. Gee? Can you submit two different WARC bands for 5BWAS?
August 11, 2014 eQSL Card Rant
Wow. Just Wow. Fellow Hams, there is alot of beauty and interesting things in the world. More to the point, there is alot of beauty and interesting things in YOUR world. You have a beautiful rig. You have a beautiful shack. You have beautiful antennas, family, pet, car, home, homebrew project, civic and natural wonders in your immediate neighborhood. Why I dare say even your face is beautiful (at least to your mother :-) ). Why oh why would you waste your QSL on the plain yellow card???
My QSLing activities are 98% electronic. I dont care to fool with postage and mailers though I always reciprocate, or send a paper card when required. I use eQSL primarily and LOTW to keep my ARRL awards logging in shape. I REALLY like that eQSL allows the user to design their QSL card. I am breathless with anticipation when some new QSLs show up in my inbox. All those lovely photos!; exotic locales, interesting people, lovely cities and vistas, gorgeous hamshacks! Well... sometimes.
What a disappointment when I get the plain yellow card! Or one of the stock photos that eQSL provides. Fooey. You can do better. I know you can!
Please take a photo of something and build a card around it, something that means something to you. matter of pride, or esthetics, or humor. Something that will mean somthing to the rest of us, or at least grant a moment of surprise or pleasure. Or if you just arent a photographer get something meaningful off the web. Local color, whatever. Something new and different. Just... you know.. something... please?
The good ones make it onto card stock on my inkjet printer and earn a place of honor on my trophy wall. Those plain old yellow cards? I just dont bother. How do you want to be remembered? Really?
April 26, 2014 - Happy International Marconi Day!
Im down to the short strokes on WAS. I have worked every state except ND on JT-65 since I got my HF rig 2 months ago, and I have fumbled no less than 3 attempts at folk in that state - it really doesnt pay to get excited and bump knobs and so forth. I also have yet to get confirmation from IN, OK, SC and WY. So this weekend I am working the Reverse Beacon and PSK Reporter networks pretty hard to see who is on, which band, and if they have made a transmission in the last 15 minutes or so. If you are from one of those states and I seem a little desperate to work you... well... it might be because I am :-) . The hard part is nearly everyone seem to be hanging out on 20m - cant blame them of course, that is where best the DX is. I seem to be having a fair amount of luck seeing folks in the spots for 40 or 30 and cold calling them. A little NVIS never hurts! Wyoming is extra hard though, only about 4 hams using the mode in 2014 in the entire state.
April 20, 2014 I have been trying to operate dual mode JT9 and JT65 using WSJT-X.
Here are some observations....
1) My receive data filter can be set very wide, 3800 Hz. If I do this I can see signals from X.076- X.0798. I can see almost all the usual JT9 and JT65 activity on a given band at once.
2) My SSB transmit filter is fixed. It is effective for transmiting JT9 out to about 2800 Hz. I can only hold a JT9 QSO with folks between about 2500-2800. If I select a frequency higher my watt meter is stubbornly glued to 0. If something interesting shows up above 2800 on the waterfall, I need to use the +2kHz button to go work them.
3) The fixed transmit filter issue is common to alot of radios, and the filter width may vary. My advice for JT9 Ops is if you are interested in getting JT65 ops to come up and play, you should call around 2600 Hz.
4) Conversly, it is a pretty good idea to not try to do JT65 higher than maybe 2300. I have seen European DX up there in that zone, and if they are occupying the same space as a JT9 signal guess who gets decoded?
April 05, 2014: I am focusing alot of time and energy to operatuing JT-65 right now.
Here are some operating tips I have discovered. I use
1) [Hugely important and rather counter-intuitive] Reduce your RF gain control on receive until your waterfall is the solid color assigned to no signal. Mow your grass fellow hams! Keep your baseline audio input level near zero. I routinely copy stations that are -25 dB. When I watch the spots of others I see many folks not copying any weaker than -14 or -15 dB. Few are the hams that can copy weaker than -20 dB. I have worked many exchanges where both ends are copying < -20 dB. As I write this in Alabama I am apparently the only station in North America copying YB2HI in Malaysia on 20 meter during the day (@ -23dB). Unfortunately for me he isnt posting any spots weaker than about -16 dB. I cant work him :~ -( . Which brings me to my next point...
2) Turn on your spots. If someone is trying to work you it is very helpful for them to see what you can decode, indeed to see if you are copying them at all. To turn on your spots in JT65-HF software select particularly "Enable RB" which posts spots to this site: http://jt65.w6cqz.org/receptions.html where you can see aggregate spots, by band spots, or enter yours or another call sign and see TX and RX spots only. VERY USEFUL THIS! You can also send spots using Enable PSKR, and I do, but I find the site format rather less useful. These spots go to http://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html.
3) If you must call a station that is actively in QSO, please step off at least 100 Hz. If they have "Enable Multi" selected they will still see your red stripe call and it will be preserved in their list for later attention. Calling split is a courtesy that applies to many modes (even SSB), but very nice here. Also select "Enable Multi" on your setup if you want to see off frequency calls while in QSO. Multi disabled is the default, and is aimed at slower PCs that cant handle the FFT load. Also to make an off frequency call or operate split you may need to deselect TXDF = RXDF. Yes tech purists; I know JT-65 has some insulation from on freq QRM (sync differential for one), but I absolutely had several critical DX contacts blown because some domestic dude started calling me before I received my Jolly Roger. That is the point, when I answer a CQ that I consider the contact legally complete from a contesting or certification perspective. And if I were the initial caller, then when they "73" my Jolly Roger. But I bloody well want to get that far before I attend the next guy.
4) DONT send wonky manual text messages that cant have correct automatic responses computed, a couple of common ones I see are RXCALL RRR 73 or CQ DX TXCALL. Just dont do it. We only have 5 seconds to decide how to reply - less if the band is busy, For one you may not get any replies, and if you do they will not be color coded for you. If you want to end a conversation early to go jump that dude calling from Belarus just send RXCALL TXCALL 73. If you want to filter out your domestic neighbors call CQ TXCALL DX. Makes life easier for everyone.
5) Keep your eyes open for grey stripe messages on your current frequency (DF). Many hams try to spice things up with personal messages TU BOB 73, TNTEC LOOP, TNX QSO, HEX BEAM for a few examples. Expect it, honor it, look for it. Try to acknowledge it. But be advised I have gotten frankly hostile responses when I look people up on QRZ, try to use their first name in a TU 73 phrase. I have stopped trying to "be friendly" on JT-65 or deviate from the established program unless the other ham does first. Also be aware that some hams use a free text response to terminate the QSO. He disappears with out ever sending a Jolly Roger. But you might scroll down in the list to the proper round and find that he said something equivalent in free test on a grey line. I kind of wish there was a color code that could be set on decodes received that are within, say, +-5 Hz DF of your last transmission, a little something extra to call your attention to possible free text from your partner in a QSO.
6) I occasinally see free text SRY NO DECODE. Really, this is a useless transmission. Similar to item 4 above you have made a wonky text to which no automated reply can be made. A better approach is to simply repeat your last transmission. Most ops will understand that something was wrong and they need to try again. And they can make the correct automatically generated reply.
7) Repeats are good but they can also be bad. Do please Halt your transmission when you are finished. JT programs set to use automated PTT will repeat transmission over and over while Enabled until the watch dog counter automatically halts them. It can be handy for things like calling CQ, but frustrating to others for things like sending 73. I have received 73 over and over again and was unsure if the sender failed to decode my reply and is requesting another or got up to get a sandwich from the kitchen and just let it run. Please dont just let it run.
Cheers & 73;
6641341 Last modified: 2015-08-14 23:17:15, 64596 bytes
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