Having a great time on SSTV

Recently I started to experiment with SSTV (again) on my IC7300 and Windows desktop.

I’ve not been able to get it to work with the band select, but the audio in, out and importantly PTT fine. I saved the main SSTV calling frequency to my IC7300 (14.2300 USB) and just recall that when i want to use SSTV.

I’ve learned to use, but not to rely on, other KiwiSDRs and other sites that scan SSTV images. Most of the time I am seeing one side of the QSO on the remote sites, a good example of this is the slowscan tv site in the Netherlands.

The conditions have been pretty bad lately, but once in a while I get a really good QSO via SSTV, an example from today below with IV3VBM. I’m using 50W into a 6BTV with conditions being reported as ‘poor’

I am really enjoying SSTV – during the day and overnight I can leave MMSSTV running to receive great pictures, and also look back to see how the propagation has varied. I was amazed to receive these transmissions from the US last night !

As you can see the propergation is clear to see as the quality of the pictures vary.

I’m now working out how to automate the upload and ‘most recent’ pictures to the hamradio website, it shouldnt take me long, but as every life is keeping me very busy !

I hope this encourages other users to try out SSTV, its great way of having a digital QSO with personalized content, so why not give it a go.

Until next time, stay safe and 73 !

Alan / 2E0FWE

15m DX at night ?!

Was just playing about on my radio with FT8, having had one phone QSO on 20m to Italy, then a number of FT8 on 20m as well, thought, lets give 15 meters a try. Having never really persisted at using 15m, it was an ideal time as I could keep an eye on WSJT-X and tidy/file stuff at the same time.

The band looked completely empty when I started, but as the CQ’s keep transmiting, lo and behold I was rewarded with a contact !

FT8 15m contact

There was even some reports to see on PSKReporter !

Reaching far on 15m with 50W of power

I was really suprised, and impressed, with how well the 6BTV is doing, its such a great antenna and I’m getting more out of it every time I have time to use it on the frequencys I previously didnt really use.

Moral of the story is, if the band looks dead, still give it a go ! you never know who you might contact !

10m skip FT8

Having kept an eye on the Kiwi WebSDR I could see plenty of activity on the 10m band, a sure sign that the ‘skip’ from the ‘E Layer’ had picked up. For those ‘new’ to skip, there is an excellent write up here by VK3FS on the behaviour of this ionospheric band.

Here I’ll be showing over the course of just a few short hours how the E-layer built up, the collapsed.

10m skip at 18:04 UTC in IO90BS

Tuning to the 10M frequency for FT8, 28.074, there was allot of activity, transmissions from Europe where coming in the strongest, and even as far as Brazil in South America. It was incredble to see the band so ‘alive’

pskreporter on 10m transmitting 40w

I started transmitting on what had now become a very noisy channel, with plenty of DX around Europe coming in very strong. My own signal from the Hustler 6BTV and 40 watts of power resulted in the QSO’s started to roll in, with little to no reties.

Racking up the QSO’s on FT8

Grid Tracker really came into its own here, making logging to QRZ effortless so I was able to focus on QSO’s rather than uploading ADIF files. This resulted in 2 confirmed QSO’s almost immediately, with an impressive the furthest being 950 miles to IS0SLM in Dolianova.

Band conditions at 19:22 UTC showing the changed in the ‘E Layer’ propagation

Just as quickly the band and opened up, the conditions returned back to the regular behaviour for the E-layer, as seen in the 19:22 and 19:39 signal spectrum from WSJTX.

Band conditions at 19:39 – signals were getting much weaker in WSJTX Wide Graph

By 20:30 I could still be heard but the 6BTV, a vertical and with that being non-directional, wasn’t pulling in the weaker signals for a QSO to be completed.

10m reach at 20:33 with 40W

My reception reports via Pskreporter showed a big difference. I’d be interested to know if this was a phenomenon of the grey-line as the sun set or just the charge in the E-layer collapsing and limiting propagation again.

9 10m QSOs with some great reports and distances

I was still really happy in this ‘short’ time to get so many FT8 QSO’s via 10m. It really is a fascinating band, and one I will do more research with as I continue to improve the performance of the 6BTV and also work 6m with my Yagi antenna

Is skip season coming ?

The great thing of having a WebSDR is the ability to monitor a huge amount of the HF spectrum visibly.

CB Operators on 27Mhz – mostly SSB, heard alot of French and Irish.

Seeing a sudden surge of red comms in the KiwiSDR, I then set about transmitting WSPR packets. And sure enough, I was reaching Italy with 5W on 10M !

WSPR on 10M with 5W

I still have my 2M/70cm and 6M beam to complete, but this really motivates me to get that done sooner rather than later, I hope the ‘skip’ season is around for a while, but it wont for me thats for sure !

In the mean time, here is an excellent video from Oxford Shortwave Youtube channel, demonstrating the reach he has on his 2m antenna, something I’d reallly like to do with FT8 as well !

The ‘coolest’ FT8 contact yet ?

Was one of those nights when I couldn’t get my head down after a great Easter bank holiday weekend, so had a little play on FT8 in the small hours. Having used WSJT-X for quite some time I wanted to experiment with other FT8 software, and gave JTDX a try. I followed the setup documents and was soon transmitting and receiving. Some say JTDX has better decode than WSJT-X – I think time will tell.

Tonight (Or is that very early this morning) I had what must be the coolest FT8 contact yet tho

DT8A – 8482 mi on the South Shetland Islands

I have never heard of the “South Shetland Islands” until they appeared in the JTDX log – I was quick to click and respond, then patiently wait in the hope my call got responded to. Sure enough, with a few minutes and on 20 watts of power DT8A responded and my signal report was received. What I do with all FT8 contacts is to check the QRZ page and read up to add a little more ‘this is more than just a signal report’ to the QSO, I was amazed at DT8A’s page and the fantastic photos !

In particular as my good lady is South Korean, I found it very interesting that Mr Lee was stationed in such a remote part of the world !

So glad to have reached Mr Lee and I hope his work/research in the South Shetlands goes really well !

Uni assignment takes over blog!

Hi all !

Not sure how many people read this on a regular basis, but needless to say apologies for the absence of updates in recent weeks. I’ve got loads of updates to do, with pictures and videos but my MSc has taken over my life at the moment (outside of work).

Good news one of my modules on Web Technologies i’ve embraced my course and my hobby and am using WSPR data, amongst others, as one of the components of a website I am building.

You’ll find the code over on github.

In the mean time, stay safe and keep well !

Alan, 2E0FWE

ICOM 7300 & SM-50

My HF Telephony problem

Whilst i enjoy a ‘ragchew’ on the IC-705 via D-STAR, the Internet and ‘Bit Encoding Rate’ (BER) has more to do with the quality of the received signal than an actual radio wave. (I use a Pi-Star hot-spot as there is no DSTAR repeater nearby IO90).

With that I know that the IC-7300 is a very capable radio on its own, but even with previous antennas having access to all bands did I ‘try’ telephony that much, preferring to stick to digital communications via the computer. I thought it was time to give it a try and get used to operating telephony on the IC-7300.

The inspiring video section !

I checked out this video and it gave very good examples of setting up the audio for various transmit types. If you have a 7300 it well worth the watch and I’m sure the same principals apply to other radios.

Setup the 7300 for optimal audio

Tim, G5TM, has a great video on calling CQ. Having watched the video I was up for trying calling CQ on the 40 meter dipole I am currently using !

G5TM with great advice on calling CQ

I started calling CQ not expecting any replies, but amazingly on 50W on a dipole I did ! My first QSO on 40m was with IZ6TGS. He was obivously a really experienced operator and it was amazing to reach him ! I was immeadilty drawn to how unprepared I was to ‘log’ – when doing FT8, its so well setup it make it easy. Suddenly I was trying write down the call sign and any other details. Thankfully Adrio was a patient and great operator, we managed to give a report each way and I had made my first HF SSB contact !

It did really show I needed some ‘help’ with logging and operating. Having seen both M0MCX and G5TM operate live on air (its great watching a live stream!) they use a free piece of software called N1MM Logger. You can see them both as they start the QSO they are typing in the call sign and any details they can garner. My problem was that I was restricted to the hand-microphone and my Windows PC neither has a screen or keyboard attached as I connect via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Whilst having recently tided my shack-tables up, there is still limited space on my 7300 table.

I was able to come up with the following solution !

Keyboard and Screen Technology

They keyboard and mouse come as a set from Amazon, the Perixx PERIDUO-212 Wired Mini Keyboard fits nicely on the keyboard shelf under the 7300, along side the BHI Dual In-Line Filter. For £16.99 this was a really good piece of kit, obviousy its not as good as the keyboard i use on my mac, but then i’m mostly using it for typing out call signs and reports, not developing stuff 🙂

I combined this with the 7 Inch Small HDMI Monitor with VGA which cost £36.99. Even at 7 inches and a respectable 1024×600 resolution, I could easily see NIMM with no problem when using my radio. It fits very nicely on the desk and comes with a fairly decent stand. I’ve not even had to fix it to the table and its staying up nicely.

SM-50

The last part of the equation, is no doubt, the most important. Whilst having a QSO i struggled to write down the call sign as my hand had a handmic in it. Whilst there are many microphones out there, the SM-50 is the recommended microphone within the 7300 manual and importantly receives very good reviews on eham. It is not a cheap microphone, nor is it expensive, as my son can attest in his experience of sound engineering, microphones can get *Very* expensive depending on what you want to record and where.

I orderd the SM-50, i was very impressed with how sturdy the base and the flexability of the neck. I could bend this perfectly over to me a few inches from my mouth to make operating alot easier.

The SM-50 is a fantastic microphone for the 7300

I went about setting the 7300 following the videos above and adjusting the microphone gain on the underside of the SM-50 to match the 7300. I also read the manual on how to setup recording my ‘best’ voice for 7300 so i could replay my CQ call.

This also made listening via Wesbree WEBSDR very easy and amazingly i could hear myself ! During this time my CQ call on repeat was picked up by DK4EI. We had a great QSO, his setup amazing, but i was happy with 50W and a dipole to come thru with a 5/9 report into Germany!

Conclusion

If you have been on ‘digital modes’ during the solar minimum, and also maybe slightly nervous of going on HF, i can say its worth putting the effort in to get onto SSB/Telephony.

My key points are

  1. As per Tim’s video sound enthusiastic/engaging – I took my time and made a ‘good’ recording/playback feature of the 7300 – it works !
  2. Set up your audio/microphone well and for the audience/conditions, the pileup busting video is really good for this. I’ve not had to change my settings, and i get great audio reports
  3. Get your logging software, or pen/pad easily to hand, fill in details as you go, it makes the QSO more rewarding and you can spot people again !
  4. Get a good microphone, for me the SM-50 suited *my* needs and had good reviews. You may want a different type of microphone and use it in a different way (VOX/PTT/Foot PTT, up/down buttons, on a bracket.. SO MANY FACTORS).

I am getting (braver?) better at HF QSOs and am currently limited to 40 meters, so you might hear me put the shout out during the evenings and night. Until then I really hope to have a QSO with you !

Stay safe / 73

Alan / 2E0FWE

IC-705 + Pistar (MMDVM-HS)

Having got the 705 which is DSTAR capable spent the afternoon/evening with getting this setup. I already had the components, it was a question of getting it all together !

Register your callsign with DSTAR!

To be able to use the reflectors on the DSTAR network, you need to register your ID. This took only a few hours, so if your waiting on your MMDVM, do this now and you’ll hit the ground running when both your registration and MMDVM arrive!

Register here, you will need your email, callsign and dont forget your password !

https://regist.dstargateway.org/instructions/

Once your registration is acknowledge you can then setup your gateways. You should add the ‘Z’ prefix, as this ensures the account will stay open (any left without modification for 2 weeks will be expired).

Add B and C for UHF and VHF frequencies to your callsign (which will be automatically populated)

Dstar personal information page completed

This will take time to propagate across the DSTAR network. For DSTAR Administration this is all I had to do to allow my hotspot to attach to the DSTAR network.

PI-STAR

The MMDVM being used is a popular one available from Amazon. This comes as a kit to assemble and includes all the necessary parts to get up and running – although I would recommend getting a dedicated power supply rather than depending on just USB ampage

MMDVM Hotpsot used from Amazon

70cm Antenna using Buddipole

I do have an external 2m/70cm antenna attached to a mast but was unable to get that to work (although later checks via SDR proved it was ok, will detract from the thread). I setup first in 2M configuration then ‘played’ with various lengths to get the VSWR down to 1.1. I used the IC705 internal SWR analyzer.

2M JPole from buddipole – adapted to 70cm

Lengths used and respective colours –

frequencyblackred
2m14.62″43.75
70cm67″32″
Buddipole antenna lengths
VSWR Sweep on 70cm
SWR on 70cm

Configure the IC-705 via Software

I used the IC-705 configuration software on Windows to be able to recreate the configuration steps. I’d advise you to first download your current configuration and save it to ensure you can recover to your pre DSTAR config.

The software is available to download from here – its a simple Windows Instal. The USB cable interface on the IC-705 is located just under the power cable.

This is the full video on how to configure, but snippets of the essentials are shown below.

Configure Icom radio for DSTAR

Once loaded, the essential configuration is the Digital/My Callsign. Although its called ‘your call sign’ it contains anything but (for this configuration). Add in the following table

NoNameCall Sign
1Use RepeaterCQCQCQ
2Unlink Repeater U
3Repeater Status I
4Echo Test E
Essential ‘your call sign’ entry. 7 Spaces for 2/3/4 then the character.

All, apart from CQ, DSTAR commands are 8 Characters long, so where you see the white-space these are created by 7 spaces, then the character, i.e. for Echo Test <SPACE><SPACE><SPACE><SPACE><SPACE><SPACE><SPACE>E

these are the messages you will send to the hotspot

You will then need to configure the radio for the new pistar hotspot

I created a new group called ‘hotspot’

Add Hotspot Group to the Repeater List

I then added the configuration for the hotspot to match the DSTAR configuration and the frequency of the radio (obtained from Amazon page – in this case, 433.550.000)

Configure the hotspot

You don’t need all the entries, the signifiant ones are as follows

NumberTypeNameSubnameRepeater Call SignGateway Call SignOperating FreqDUPtMode
1DV HostpotHotspot2E0FWE B2E0FWE G433.550.000DUP-DV
Settings for my call sign and MMDVM

I then pushed the configuration to the radio and rebooted. This completes the IC-705 Configuration.

Pistar Configuration

The next step is to configure the Pistar for DSTAR. If you havent configured your PI for Wifi yet, you’ll need to do that first. Probably the easiest way is to use the PiStar configuration tool, but that means sending your Wifi username and password, which some may not like, alternatly I connected a keyboard and screen with configuration on the commande line.

https://www.pistar.uk/wifi_builder.php

Once reachable on wifi, you will be able to reach the pi-star administration pages. Most routers running DHCP will allocate a record in the .local’ domain, so simply htttp://pistar.local/ will get you to the portal, default logins are username pistar and password raspberry. I suggest changing this on the admin page right away.

Navigate to ‘Admin’
the password is the very bottom of the page

Restart the pistar and login with the new password.

First configure to use DSTAR. from the panel. For now, keep it at DSTAR only.

Settings #1

If you make any changes, you must click on Apply Changes for *each section* else your changes will be lost.

Settings 2

The essential part here is to get the radio frequency and call sign correctly, i.e. 433.550.000 for frequency and your own call sign in place of 2E0FWE. I’ve removed my exact Long/Lat, but you can put your own in. Once complete, click apply changes. I believe in the UK we are required to put ‘Mode Type’ to Private as we cannot ‘broadcast’ as amateur radio users in the UK (which I think ‘public’ effectively does)

Settings 3

Here we match our hotspot config with the DSTAR network. As the node is on 433Mhz, Channel ‘B’ is the one to use, if it was 144Mhz, then C. Hit apply and that wil complete your configuration !

IC-705 Usage

With the DSTAR Registration, PiStar and IC-705 Configuration complete, its now time to enjoy using the IC-705 on DSTAR via your own hotspot !

DV Mode

PRess the CALL button situated on the left side of the radio and change from FM to DV. To use the hotspot tap ‘from’ on the screen, select ‘repeater list’, ‘hotspot’ then the hotpot added via the configuraiton tool, in my case 2E0FWEB.

To start using right away, tap ‘to’, select ‘your call sign’ and ‘use repeater’. You should now be able to key-up and call CQ on DSTAR ! Of course you can test using Local Echo and Status commands (just adjust the last step in ‘yor call sign’.

You will be able to confirm your radio is communicating with your hotspot and the DSTAR Network.

Local RF Activity shows our radio is speaking to the hotspot, gateway activity shows others in the talkgroup talking

The DSTAR ‘last heard‘ feature can then confirm you are on the DSTAR network.

Finding talk groups / repeaters,etc.

With your IC-705 now on DSTAR you can choose which Talk Groups and Nets to join. There is an extensive list available on here. You can configure the group via the Pistar admin page and putting or selecting the reflector.

choose your reflector!

I hope this helps people use the IC-705 on DStar, it took me a little while to piece together all the pieces (including the antenna !) to get it working, but is worth the effort. There seems to be an increase in simplex D-Star usage on HF with the IC-705 being able to do the full range of HF, VHF and UHF.

Hope to hear you in DSTAR !

OTH & JS8

Whilst enjoying my studies of Machine Learning I had the radio on in the background. I was very interested to see some ‘patterns’ on the 40m band

Interesting patterns in the waterfall

Not right at this time, but earlier in the day my fellow ‘neighbour’ ham G7VRD told me these are OTH. What is that ? Well this is Over the Horizon Radar, where radio signals are based off the ionosphere and then measured. They have been around a while, as in the 1950s, but technology has ‘evolved’ and ‘new’ arrays are being built ! These patterns were throughout the 40m band most of the evening ! Whilst annoying if you wanted to use the band for its intended use, nevertheless provided some interesting reading on what OTH was and how it worked.

FT8 and JS8 Call

Whilst I was busy with Juypter Notebooks, and as I now have the antennas plugged in thought it interesting to monitor JS8. Its nearby digital mode of FT8 gets plenty of traffic, JS8 is very sparse, which seems a shame as it looks a good way to ‘chat’ via FT8 digital mode.

I sent out HB and ACK’s and it was clear there are people listening, but not many sending CQ, nethertheless it was an interesting evening and this somewhat ‘dubious’ amateur transmission was observed, whilst interesting am wondering the legitimiacy of it.

Covid Stats transmitted into JS8 Call (no call signs only a reference of the source material)

I enjoyed seeing JS8 Call in operation though and didnt interrupt my studies, so i could do a bit of both.

late into the night… that’s data science for you and having a day job

So i enjoyed my FT8 and Data Science, having worked thru the night and with work-work the next day headed for bed eventually at 4AM.. 🙂

Stay safe and keep well !

Al / 2E0FWE