POTA – FT8, FT4, SSTV, SSB – UPDATE – 18/3/24 –

After a very busy week, I had Sunday and getting out with my radio to look forward to. Thankfully the weather was being kind to me, whilst not warm, it wasnt raining as we had plenty of that over night !

Plenty of overnight rain at the QTH

I headed out to Boulderwood with the magloop and 705 and was on the air very quickly. Setup is quick and easy with the magloop and I actually learned a good wait to tune the antenna and get the SWR down quicker.

place hand UNDER feedline when tuning = better and quicker matching

I did run into issues starting out with WSJTX and FT8, the time on my computer was just ever so slightly out, but enough for a time sensitive decode of FT8 not to work correctly. I tried updating the time using the windows time server, to no avail ! I had to manually set the NTP server to rolex.ripe.net, sync the time and I was back in action !

I had 10 QSO’s in digital modes done in under 40 minutes, shifting between FT8 and FT4 on 20m, with POTA hunters chasing me thanks to the POTA app and RBN.

pskreport – 10W, FT8, 20M
PSK Report – 10W, FT4, 20m

Having completed enough contacts to activate the park, I was straight into Telephony and SSB. I went onto 17m, not that was any contests on, but I found it a good band for QRP operation, and sure enough I made two contacts, with EA1EC being a POTA Hunter, proving how using PoTA makes getting contacts that bit easier – when running QRP it all helps !

I jumped onto 20M, which was quite calm for a Sunday, and was able to tune around the band, making a contact with IK0VSY, with a good signal report. 20 meters really was the place to be today, so jumped onto SSTV and the pictures started rolling in from other SSTV users.

I waited my time and started to transmit and I made my first SSTV PoTA contact for 2024 ! I was really chuffed and excited, so big thanks to IK2QIN for the excellent QSO.

SSTV QSO received and uploaded to MAX SSTV by other SSTV receivers (Thanks MAX SSTV website!)

I then span the dial on 20m once more, and made 3 more SSB contacts, it was really great to make the contacts, with IU3EDQ being Portable !, but thanks again to EA2DT and EA4TL for hunting me and making the contact with excellent signal reports, with a 59 from me and a 5-5 for my reception report.

The IC-705 really done me a great service today, and being able to use the the voice repeat mode in conjunction with the ‘massive’ battery power of the ‘ultra max’ battery ensured I wasnt going to run out of power for the radio.

Sadly some massive QRM came in on frequency, but I was able to shift up and continue making contacts, that is the advantage of 20m over 17m, that it has more space in the band, so shifting isnt a problem. I quickly posted my frequency change on the POTA app and was able to continue making contacts !

QRM on frequency, maybe a new mode I’m not aware of !
the sun did try to come out

As the time approached for me to head to the supermarket to get my essential shopping, i packed up in no time, leaving the bunch and the park as I found it. Bolderwood is such a lovely place to come, its relaxing and gets me ready for the busy week ahead. I had a fantastic time getting out on the radio today.

Big thanks to all the people that made a contact with me today, it really is much appreciated and I really enjoy the amazing hobby that is amateur radio !

thanks for all the contacts !!!

*update 18/3/24*

Would like to say BIG thanks to Alessandro who contacted me with his QSL card, little did I know at the time that IU3EDK/P was up a mountain ! I received a lovely QSL card via email and a link to the activation – how amazing that it was a park-to-mountain activation all on 10W of power !!

Thank you Alessandro ! Please check out the activation from Alessandro here

QSL Card from IE3EDK up a mountain in Italy !

Unknown dipole testing at the QTH with the IC705

Whilst tidying up, I found an unknown dipole that was looking rather sorry for itself. All I needed was some good weather and I’ll be able to test it out – and today was to be that day, with plenty of glorious sunshine I was able to do some other work around the QTH and also then test out the ‘unknown dipole’.

the ‘unknown’ dipole

I purchased a ‘christmas string light reel organiser’ to wind the dipole onto once I had de-tangled it all. This worked well in keeping the antenna and insulators tidy. I then set about testing the mast having never used it before.

I was impressed how easy it was to get this ‘little’ mast setup, at just over 4m its a reasonable height off the ground, and very easy to pack away. I had the dipole attached and the wires attached to end-points in no time at all.

The SWR of the antenna wasnt spot on 1:1 but at least in the range of being tunable for at least the 40m and 15m bands. I setup my laptop to try testing WSPR with 0.1W of power to see how the antenna would do without any tuner to start with.

WSPR on 17M with 0.1W of power

I picked up serveral signals, so the antenna and 705 worked well together, I wasn’t to be disappointed with the reach on the 705 with just .1W (milliwat) of power.

WSPR reception on 17M with .1W into the dipole

Having proved the antenna, I then wanted to test FT8, but encountered the same issues I had when using the whip antenna, the radio would cause the laptop to cut out. Thankfully with testing at home, I was able to return to the ‘shack’ and pick up a common mode choke to insert into the feed line between the antenna and the MAT 705 tuner. This did require a few adaptors on the choke, but it worked excellently with WSJTX working perfectly on the dipole antenna.

I was soon getting out on FT8 with no problems at all, using 5 and 10W into the dipole, the MAT Tuner, doing an excellent job whilst I hopped between bands, this was a distinct advantage to the AlexLoop which would require tuning each time, where as the MAT tuner coupled to the 705 took care of the tuning itself every time, which results being between good (<1.5) to acceptable (<2.5 SWR).

I was able to have several FT8 qso’s across the bands, and was really greatful for those that persisted in completing the contact with signal reports and 73. The bands, esp 20m, was very busy and getting out QRP it a challenge ! In a short period of time in ‘noisy’ RF environment I was able to make 5 contacts all across Europe and into the UK.

20m PSK Reporter
17m PSK Reporter
40m PSK Reporter

I was able to pack down the antenna and mast easily, whilst taking slightly longer than the Alex Loop, it did make for an antenna I can easily setup and use to jump between bands and seemingly do well having made several FT8 contacts. I was able to get the choek into the accessories bag, so its looking like I can take two antennas out with me when packing the dipole along with the alexloop.

common mode choke packs away nicely

I think I will always carry this antenna and mast with me, its so light and easy to setup/use, it gives the flexibility to operate around the bands without having to re-tune the antenna each time manually. I think it will feature on some PoTA activations soon !

Until then, 73s and hope to see you on the airwaves.

G-0112 4th Feb 2024 + Webtechnology site updates !

had spring come early ? The sun was out today!

Some lovely sun kept the chills off today with flowers blooming and when it reach mid afternoon looked like turning into a great afternoon evening, I thought it would be great to make an impromptu visit to Bolderwood to try a PoTA activation.

compare to Janurary temptures, I was basking in the winter sunshin at a 12 celsisus !

I had everything packed away, i did one quick check for the power beiing packed, which it was, but had no idea on the battery level of the laptop, I knew I had used it recently so it shouldnt be too low. I headed off and it was great to to Bolderwood which whilst still pleasently busy, didnt feel over crowded. I’m sure this will change even by the end of the month !

I was on the air in no time, with the Alexloop attached to the bench with a bungie and hooked into the IC705, it was easy to tune into 30m to start with for FT8. I chose 30m as I had alot of contacts at home and its not a band I used /P for POTA before, I made 4 contacts within 10 minutes, so wasnt disappointed. I then moved to FT4 on 20M – it was *busy* even finding a gap in FT4 was getting tricky, but I was glad to find a gap and get out. The laptop was down to 40% power by now, so I stuck it in energy efficent mode, which kept the battery going without issue and no adverse effect on the radio/USB connection.

using the laptop energy efficeint mode to extend the life the laptop

I was pleased with a series of rapid FT4 QSOs on 20m, i later learned these where all PoTA Hunters – whilst I’m amazed by them all in the distance, ranging from Austria and Spain in Europe, it was the DX contact with KC1MMC that blew me away – 3217 miles on 10W of power on a mag loop, I was really happy to say the least.

Sun went down and 20M opened up more

As the sun went down the volume of QSO’s on 20M just kept rolling in, from 17:17 to 17:25 I was having a QSO on FT8 every 2 minutes ! I had to call it a day as it was getting dark and wanted to get my equipment put away safely, but I think I enjoy coming out at dusk – maybe a small lamp or pen-light will be worth bringing next time.

14 contacts, 5 POTA hunters made happy !

This was a really enjoyable PoTA outing with minimal planning, I was really impressed how well the antenna done and the PSK Reporter picture shows, it can really reach the entire planet !

Digital modes doing really on 10W of power

I have seen videos of great QRP Contacts and am wondering how well I would do, I really think I should give it a try the next time I am out as the setup really impresses me and think it should be good to make some telephony contacts.

Making contact with KC1MMC on 20m FT8

Webtechnologies website update – WSPR Bands added !

I’ve been making monthly updates to my webtechnologies site, which last month I got back up and running so the code would scrape the data from the ‘updated’ WSPR old-db. I’ve now added sections that allow filtering by band. This is all transmitted via the 6BTV which is doing an excellent job of getting out on all 6 bands it is setup for.

Webtechnologies site – now with spots per band functionality.

I’m aiming to keep building more features for the website each month, just small incremental changes, but I’m sure will keep adding making for a feature-rich site. There is so much that can be done with WSPR data, I really enjoy using this mode and its great ot use my programming skills for amateur radio also. Check it out at the webtechnologies site.

G-0112 – Bolderwood New Forest, Alex Loop to the rescue

With another bright but cold day, it was a good time to get out and get on the air. This time I was packing my trust Alexloop Ham pack antenna along with the IC705, determined to make an activation on my 3rd attempt from Bolderwood.

WX – I caught the ‘warmer’ part of the day at round 9 to 7 celsius

I was no sooner out the car and onto one of the many available benches and quickly setup. The alex loop was out the bag and with a bungee hook strapped pretty tightly to the bench. I tuned for 20m and got a great SWR of between 1.3 and 1.4 but no more than 1.5 and 10W of power. The FT8 contacts came rolling in, and with a busy 20m FT8 was then onto FT4, for even quicker overs.

It was great to get a mobile phone signal as I tethered my laptop to the phone wifi and could upload my contacts directly to QRZ via the excellent grid tracker application, I still kept a manual log so it would be easy to confirm the order and QSO’s I had today. The Reverse Beacon Network and POTA app was doing me a great service, as quite a few of my contact were POTA hunters. Getting 10 contacts in under an hour was great given just how cold it was, it was nice to see 5 of the contacts are POTA hunters.

I gave SSTV a go, but the signal where coming in thick and fast, I started to see a response to my transmission, but another station came in over the top. I try to use Robot72 and BW12 to keep my over time on 14.2300 short, but most people dont QSY on SSTV, and even then we tend to get other people talking over the SSTV CoA on 20m as well..

Still, having uploaded my ADIF file from WSJTX to POTA I was soon awarded my 2024 activation. Just in the nick of time ! A good start to POTA in 2024 !

POTA 2024 Award – a good start to the year

I am really excited about getting out and do more POTA – its a great start to the year !

73, Alan 2E0FWE

POTA from G-0112, cold but worth the effor

First POTA of 2024 – G-0112 New Forest (again)

So with new choke packed away and bringing the battery pack, i headed out to Bolderwood in the New Forest, arriving at around 10:15, it was still pretty quiet and I had pick of parking spaces and benches.

bolderwood on New Years Day 2024

I then setup the IC705 with the Toybox antenna and radials, which I found getting the radials out much easier this time. I was able to get the SWR down on 17m to a 1.6~1.7.

With the antenna setup I then connected the 705 without the MAT Tuner to start with, having the large battery with me was really good as it support the LC IC705 bag nicely keeping the antenna and bag vertical. I then went about attachign the choke-wound usb cable to the laptop.

Uh oh.. this doesnt look good

As soon as the USB cable was attached, the QRM returned ! I could hear the FT8 stations coming into WSJTX without problem, but again when hitting transmit, the audio disconnected. Whilst the QRM was much reduced, there was no doubt it USB cable and laptop was still effecting the radio. I went ahead and the MAT autotuner, to see if that improve the situation, i.e. would it act as any kind of choke between the radio and antenna.

The introduction of the MAT Tuner had no effect on the QRM, although I could see that with the longer coax between the tuner and antenna, I could potentially try putting chokes on here also. I disconnected the radio and just tried calling CQ on 17m QRP frequency, but to no avail. I could pull in signals and I tried jumping on the back on other QSO’s but think I wasnt getting out at all with the little whip antenna.

So I think whilst I have other options, I will explore those as well, I have always done well with the magloop, and its a great antenna, but the one I really want to try is the UK Antenna 40M EFHW, but currently my SOTA Beams mast is damaged from its first and only outing. I explored the website and was able to order the 3 replacement broken parts, which only cost £17.28 with 1st class postage.

The 40M EFHW UK Antenna – the next one to try when the replacement mast parts arrive…

I will continue experimenting with chokes and the Toybox antenna at the QTH before going back out with it again, I think with enough power, it would work well as a portable antenna, with QRP/10W,its giong to be hard work to get on the air with it…

Until the next time, 73s !

2E0FWE

IC705 USB Cable Choke

So a quick update, having received the 5M USB cable and cable ties, i then went on to test out the choke method to reduce/remove the inteference from the IC705 as shown by Temporarily Offline Ham Radio video included yesterday.

The RF Choke comes from here, as I dont suffer RF back into the shack thanks to the EFHW and RF Choke on the feedline, the PSU Choke was not being used. Winding the toride was made quite easy by the fact the choke can be opened up and wound up, once secured with a a couple of cable ties it was easier to put the turns into specifc locations, tighten the cable wraps up, then cut off the excess.

WSJTX in action – no sign of disconnects or loss of audio

I tested MMSTV and WSJTX into the 2M Comet Whip antenna, everything worked fine with no issue of disconnected audio or interference into the radio or the computer. I’m looking forward to taking the setup out and trying again with the Toybox whip antenna to see how it does this time out.

Testing the IC705 with the RF Choke USB cable and laptop with MMSTV and WSJTX

Final POTA of 2023 – G-0112 New Forest

So having got everything ready and with the weather, whilst chilly, was ok to go and venture out with the radio. I scheduled on the POTA activation website, and headed off to the New Forest to Bolderwood.

The drive in the Hyundai i10 was fine after its recent service, and was good to stretch its legs on the lively A roads in the area. For a small car its got a decent enough poke to make the journey without issue, as I was just carrying my IC705 and a few drinks.. I did notice I had left my ‘large’ battery behind – so I would be running real QRP from the 705’s internal battery and limited to 5W – still, i was nearer bolderwood than I was home, so pressed on.

I de-tangled the the 30 meters of radials, this took me a little while, but nethertheless wasn’t too problematic, the ends of the radials have a nice round terminator which makes de-tangling more a case of pulling the cables thru, rather than unpicking a ‘rats nest’ of wire (plenty of experience with the DX Commander and radials there!!!) I used the rig expert on 17m got the SWR across the band down to 2.1:1, which for a compromise antenna was ok.

I hooked up the laptop via Wfview, Virtual Comport and WSJTX. Signals came in no problem at all, and decodes appearing in WSJTX without issue. I then tried to TX, the SWR measurement was the same as the Rig Expert, but oddly the TX ‘pulsated’ as if it was getting disconnected. I went thru and checked the settings once more, no difference between home and here, only delta was the antenna. I tried the USB cable I had packed away to remove wifi/wfview/audio port as an issue, but the noise level went thru the roof! So I went back to trying to get wfview to work, at least at home on 2M I did get out (suprisngly!).

it was not to be my day to make an activation….

As I continued to try to connect, I checked PSK report on my phone – not a single RX. I could only put this down to the combination of the antenna and using wfview, as with a magloop and 5W on an ipad, I would at least get out, and as other POTA activations showed, worked without issue.

With 0 contacts and a slight piece of rain, i forgo the activation and headed home determinted to find out what I could do to solve my WSJTX TX issue.

TX issues with the 705 and using the Toybox antenna

Once home I searched around youtube and found several useful videos and this one demonstrated exactly the issues I faced when using my USB cable.

USB = QRM

With that I searched around the house, the longest USB cable I had was 2M long, and wouldn’t take many wraps of the toroids I have, so have ordered a 5M USB cable and some cable ties from Amazon, hopefully they will be here tomorrow, then I can try USB with a nice toroid to see if that removes the QRM.

a variety of ham specific toroids

I also thought that I should of tried with the ATU between the radio and antenna, as I think that would of also acted as a ‘common mode’ choke, but will try the USB route first as that looks the most promising solution at the moment.

Until next time (which is hopefully early in the new year) 73’s !

POTA Prep

Its been quite some time since I’ve been out and done a Parks On the Air (POTA) activation, but with the year coming to an end and a bank holiday for a day off, it as good a time as any to get outside and get on the air !

The IC705, when used, has mostly be used in the shack. I tend to use it on the 6BTV antenna and keep the 7300 on the End-fed Half-Wave (EFHW) for SSTV and other digimodes.

At the moment my Mazda Bongo is awaiting a garage visit due to a poorly alternator (its 27 years old…) so I will be in the Hyundai i10 (to be my son’s car once he passes his test), hence I will be working /P !

Hyundai i10, compact and cheap to run!

I will be taking the IC705 in its LC192 bag, some may say that this is a branding gimmick, but this bag suits the 705 so well, its brilliant! I’m going to the extreme on portable option of using the Comet Toybox antenna. This antenna tends to get pretty slated, but when I’ve taken the time to set it up myself, found it works really well, even with QRP operation.

Toybox antenna

I’ve previously made a video of me using this from the QTH, showing how I tune and make a contact with it, but this will be my first time using it for a POTA activation.

IC705 and Toybox antenna in use

I’m getting all the parts together again, making sure that batterys and the mat705 ATU are good for operation.

WX for around IO90

I’ll probably be heading for the New Forest, as there is plenty of places to park up and get the radio out, i’ll be logging old school pen and paper and using the upload feature once completed.

Hopefully the weather is kind to me and I get out, I have work to do on the eggbeaters still, and thats going well, but will put that in another post, for now, determined to get out with the radio and make some contacts!

New Forest POTA G-0112

With a second bank holiday in quick succession and the WX predictions for the bank holiday being ‘traditional’ I made a impromptu POTA activation in the New Forest. Whilst its not my nearest POTA, there are plenty of nice quite places to go, so I headed off for a evening of radio fun !

As is norm for me, I started out with FT8 – or should I say after some reacquainted got started with FT8 ! As I wanted to do SSTV I used my old laptop and USB cable. This has been running at home nicely for months for WSPR via the IC705/Laptop combo, sure enough, go out in the field and it starts playing up ! Firstly experienced disconnects on WSJTX on anything above 5W, and remembered that I had setup the 705 to be a 7300 to allow MMSSTV to use the same ‘hex codes’ – once I got the power and connection sorted, was soon on the air and the QSO’s started coming in. 17M was very busy but propagation good, the magloop and 5W was getting me all over the world, was very glad to see several contacts into the states from POTA hunters.

5W into magloop on 18 and 20m (FT8 / FT4)

I was soon getting drowned out on FT8 on 17m, so switched to 20M and FT4, whereby i was able to get the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park. I then switched to SSTV. Receiving was fine, and the absence ‘noise’ produced fantastic RX. I thought I would give it a go, even tho I was ‘limited’ to 10W.

A very good signal came in from OK1DNT and was reward with a 595 signal report on 10W ! I was overjoyed that the magloop, low power and noise floor worked so effectively. It really was a highlight for me and I think I shall work out how to the webcam on the laptop to capture some ‘live’ PoTA pictures, each time I’ve tried SSTV on PoTA, I’ve made a QSO, so it is most defineatly a viable mode with QRP power. Thanks to OK1DNT for the QSO as well !

I headed home with the Retevis RT73 working nicely doing its APRS positioning beaconing. Whilst the RT73 doesn’t have the TNC/Packet capabiilities of the THD7, it nethertheless does a great job of position reporting. I did struggle with updating the message, but I got it to read ‘POTA G’ I struggled to get numbers and symbols, so will investigate that next time. The RT73 is a ‘neater’ solution for 2m/70cm operation, tho admittedly I’ve not a QSO on it yet !

APRS via Retevis RT73 working well

En route i encountered the lovely horses/ponies of the new forest. I do love the nature and animals in the beautiful scenery.

Once home and unloaded from the Bongo I set about logging. I always use a manual log, even for digitial modes, incase something should happen to the computer/device I used. I was pleased to see some very cool new features on the POTA website, in that its possible to create a manual log via the PoTA page for submission.

I watched a video on how to do the manual log, shown below and it was easy to follow and create my own log submission.

POTA Manual Log Entry

Sure enough my log submission was done, it was so easy ! Also I could export the ADIF file and upload to QRZ

POTA ADIF to QRZ

Whilst the frequency and signal reports were not the ones from the event, it did at least have the time, band mode and contact, not bad at all and acertainly allot easier than when I first started POTA last year.

Overall, despite the early technical frustrations I really enjoyed this activation, it has made me think about a PoTA strategy for digital modes, i.e. use the mac ipad for FT8/FT4 and laptop for SSTV, if the ipad app had SSTV capabilitiy, that would be amazing, but its a great app as is being totally ‘wireless’. Still, I look forward to more PoTA as the year go on !

Thanks for reading and 73

QTH – Digital Modes

Whilst no POTA Activations myself I did enjoy making some POTA Hunter contacts this weekend, albeit on FT8.

Its nice to be part of something, even when I cant get out the shack to do PoTA activations, I appreciate those guys who do go out and operate from the parks !

G7WKX@G-0620 – Wirral and Thurstaston Country Park

I noticed I was having some issues with the IC7300, i.e. it kept on rebooting ! With some analysis I was able to find I had somehow knocked the power supply output voltage to 9v ! It was quite something to be making contacts at all, but rest assured 13.8V was soon restored and the 50W available to me soon back in use.

Having been playing/monitoring with QSSTV on Linux, I rebooted my Ham PC and went into Windows to use MSSTV – its been a while since I used it, but I must say I find the interface much more ‘friendly’ than QSSTV. I made really good QSO’s via SSTV.

EA3AUW SSTV QSO

First EA3AUW, a very nice QSO into Spain, with great signal reports. Looks like a slight typo in my callsign, but I was glad to make the contact and have the QSO on 14.2300. SSTV gets very busy on weekends, so getting clear images and completing was great.

IU5KZF – SSTV on 20M (14.2300)

I had another great QSO with IU5KZF on 20M – I was really getting thu with my 50W from the QTH, the RX pics was a true P5/595 for the best part. I think the USB Audio codec drivers under Windows are slightly better than under Linux/Ubuntu – I’ve not really looked under the hood, but I seem to get better pictures from MMSSTV than I do from QSSTV. Still, I was glad to make two really great SSTV QSO’s from the QTH.

Elsewhere I was prepping for my next PoTA – Whilst I find the iPad and SDR Control to be amazingly easy to use and setup, I have used my laptop and IC705 out in the field before, having made a SSTV contact for PoTA (Upton Heath Park), so I thought it a good time to check the laptop and IC705 again. My main ‘niggle’ with the laptop was having to the USB Cable. I installed WFView on the laptop, along with VBAudio Cable and the Serial Com Port emulator – whilst I could connected and hear audio from the laptop, the laptop is just old I think it cannot do all the things I need it to do via WFView – I reinstated the USB Cable and went ‘native’ and everything (SSTV, FT8, FT4) started working perfectly again.

IC705 and Laptop running WSJTX for WSPR via 6BTV on 40M

I have now setup my IC705 to hang off my 6BTV doing WSPR on the laptop, I’m running 1W into 40M to do the propergation reports, and its working really well, so I know for my next PoTA I can use the laptop and do/try SSTV again !

1W WSPR Reports – DX into VK on 1W!

I twasn’to be disappointed with how well the IC705 and WSJT~X was doing on 40M and 1W of power, in no less than 12 hours the 6BTV and IC705 had reached all over the planet, needless to say, I was very happy with that the IC705 and 6BTV was working correctly and getting some action, rather than being sat in a bag !

I’m now looking forward to G5TM’s 145 Alive Event on 2M – a way to have simplex contacts via 2M. G5TM has put allot of work coordinating the event and G5STU “should” be within my reach from IO90BS. I’m sure many of us know G5TM excellent youtube channel, but incase you’ve not been introduced, hers the 145 Alive Event posting.

G5TM 2M 145 Alive Event

So I’m almost making the postings back on a weekly basis and there is enough in the shack at least to make something interesting to talk about, hopefully I can keep new blog postings going reguarly.

Until then 73