Having got the ‘shack’ into somewhat more operational functionality I pondered adding back in the MFJ Auto Tuner – I originally purchased this when I was using home-built vertical antenna and in that it could seemingly tune anything to matching the impedence of the antenna to the transceiver. With the 80m end fed, which does a excellent job across all its designed bands, it became a little redundant and sat in the ‘spares pile’.
With the recent ‘ham shack’ rejig and spotting the tuner, I’d thought Id give it another try, as digital modes on top band can experience some interesting propergation and having recently got the weather station back on line ready to start re-building the webtechnologies for WSPR data, seemed a good reason to at least put it back in place.
Fitting in the ATU wasnt as straight forward as planned – the additonal ‘gaps’ in the bookshelf paying off to allow the ‘sturdy’ coax of the ATU to the 7300 to be in place. I did attempt mounting directly underneath, but it was becoming more of a mess than it already is. With a rejig and some persusasion, the ATU was in place and functioning correctly.
I started out on FT8 – there was plenty of traffic on top-band and managed several QSO’s as well as seeing how well the antenna was doing being matched to 160M with 50W of power.
Having enjoyed a pleasent evening out and the fresh air of Poole Harbour, I resumed my work in the shack and started WSPR transmissions on 160M with 1W of power. I’ve been doing 10M during the day, and its been geat to see the data of how the propergation really varies and almost to immediate effect when the sun goes down, so it would be good to see the inverse of that. I was not to be dissapointed !
Suffice to say, the ATU was doing a great job in matching the antenna and still with a decent amount of power being transmitted on WSPR, the MFJ reported between .5 and .7W
Needless to say, as someone who enjoys digital modes and analysis of the data produced, its great to have this added functionality back. With the steady stream of WSPR data becoming available I’m looking forward to updating the webtechnologies site ready for early next year, so the MFJ will be staying for the foreseeable future ! Yes it is worth it !
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.
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 !
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.
Sure enough my log submission was done, it was so easy ! Also I could export the ADIF file and upload 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 !
So my biggest constraint of amateur radio activities is, yep, time. Mostly I run WSPR and monitor via the webtechnologies site for how well the IC705 and 6BTV are doing, as well as pull in the automated SSTV broadcasts from 20m available here.
So why the sudden ‘burst’ of telephony QSO’s – mostly thanks to scheduled (scheds) transmissions, firstly the most excellent 145 alive event organised by G5TM and then the regional contacts that setup out in the field.
I was lucky enough to contact G5STU who setup nearby – very line of sight, but was great to hear all the other people in. I did manage to make one other contact on the ‘net’ but left it to those with better setups to enjoy the QSO’s, it was great to listen in !
Not one to rest, G5STU then setup a live stream of his activity on 40M – based in Poole ! I thought I had to give it a try, to me on 2M Poole harbour is complete black spot due to the hills between the east side of Bournemouth and the low side of Poole, so thought it worth a try to have a QSO with G5STU, sure enough, was my first HF contact so near, was great to get in the log book.
So whilst I’ve been manicly busy, its been great to take time out for those that organise live events that are fun to join in with – I’ve scheduled my next PoTA – which will be at night during the week ! So am looking forward to that, I have no idea how I will do, but the main thing is to get out and enjoy radio.
In the mean time, I’ve setup the MFJ993B to get on top-band at home, and am able to hear the various ‘nets’ that occur, as well as get out nicely on FT8 mode, having made several QSO’s on top-band on a non-resonant 80m end-fed antenna, i was very happy that the MFJ993B got some action !
So, hoping the end of January and start of Feburary will allow more time for radio, more project parts are arriving, allow things to progress on the VHF/UHF and Microwave bands, so excited to tell and show more about that 🙂
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
Happy New year to you all who follow the blog ! Apologies for the absence of postings, hopefully I’ll keep them a little more regular, at least with doing a PoTA once a month.
Having watched several of my youtube hamradio favourites I was really inspired to get out with my radio and enjoy it. With amazingly good weather, I headed out to the New Forest, specifically to Bratley View.
I was quick to get the Alexloop Hampack antenna setup quickly and the IC705 tuned into 17m quickly. Using the excellent SDR Control on the IPad it wasn’t long before the contacts on FT8 started coming in.
In under 30 minutes I had made 13 FT8 QSO’s on 17M. I then tried FT4 on 20M, I could pick up the signals ok, but wasn’t haven’t much luck in making contacts.
I headed down the band to FT8 which was busy as ever ! I had no problem getting out and making contacts there.
With well in excess of my required 10 contacts for me to activate the park and with my lunch finished, I headed back to home to enjoy the rest of the day with XYL.
I wasn’t able to locate my pen, so couldn’t log manually, which I usually do just incase something happens to the IPad.
As I was totally dependent on the IPad for logging, I exported and ADIF file. Since I last done POTA there is now an option to upload your own log files, so I set about checking out how to do that. A great video really helped me along.
The log export from SDR Control is great, but requires a bit of ‘munging’ to get into PoTA format. I found a script ruby-pota-csv-to-adif available here which made getting the file uploaded right first time.
With the upload complete, the following morning most of the processing was complete, I was pleased to see other PoTA Hunters in the log.
It was great to get back out on the radio and enjoy the simplicity of FT8 – I’m hoping to get some practice and try out using Telephony QSO’s via SDR Control, or just using the microphone, it felt great to be back out with the radio and enjoying it again!
Hopefully I’l have more progress on other radio fronts as well, but until next time, 73!
Its been a busy time, and it really still is – but having plenty of work is a good thing, sadly that leaves little time for ‘hobbies’ – as such a recent hardware failure caused me to migrate my existing Windows PC to a micro PC, I’ve kept Windows on it, but have also installed Ubuntu on it. I’m mostly enjoying FT8, FT4 and WSPR, getting a good range of signal reports on 2M and 80M and automated reports via WSPR to populate the webtechnologies site.
The work I started in September on my dual-band rotator has come to a halt, with the shorter days and busy weekends, I’ve not had the time to investigate a high SWR issue. I suspect water ingress on the splitter at the mast-head, but haven’t got around to even unplugging it ! A recent holiday saw it took me well over a week to just reconnect my radios – I did enjoy the holiday, having enjoyed a wonderful long weekend in Switzerland.
I’m slowly working on getting apps on Ubuntu – my other favourite mode being SSTV. I have been receiving images via QSSTV which automatically get upload to the “Live” SSTV Page.
QSSTV appears to have many more features than MMSSTV, no doubt it will take me some time to learn them all. I do like how it has date-stamped and the frequency received of the pictures, I just have to learn how to use the template editor to create my own pictures.
Well, life never stops here and time is very hard to come by these days, but I’ll try updating the blog a little more often.
After a few weeks break of regular PoTA Activations, I was very excited to go out for my planned activation at Lodmoor Country Park near Weymouth.
I had completed my prep the evening before, checking that my batteries and accessories were all packed into the Alex loopham pack bag. In the morning I found that XYL Monica had even made me a pack lunch for my day out, which was much needed later in the day. An early start got me out with walking my dog Sweety at 5AM just as the sun came up, I then headed off to Weymouth, APRS beacon sending out packets as I did so, my full route wasnt covered today which seemed unusual, I did hear APRS packets on arrival in Weymouth.
I chose to go to Beach Car Park, as this was situated conveniently near to the park facilities, its always useful to have a WC available, also the park itself look great and venturing beyond the comfort of the Bongo to get into the park would be nice.
The Beach Car Park is open 24/7, and even free between 18:00 and 08:00, although the signage says ‘no overnight sleeping’. Interestingly I noticed that Motorhomes are banned outright (probably for this reason), and where as my Mazda Bongo is classified as a Campervan would still be limited to a ‘4 hour’ max visit – noticed this of course after I had paid £10 for the full day, and whilst I think during the less busy seasons its unlikely to be enforced, I can imagine during peak times its something to be of mindful of.
Before settling into the Bongo and setting up, I popped to the WC, even at this early hour the facilities are open and clean and tidy, nice to see. The park had great maps to help navigate around. There is alot to do here for a family, such as Sealife centre, gokarts, mini-golf, pitch and putt and Sandwolrd – maybe its the kind of place where the youngsters could be enjoy the activities whilst allowing others to be operating the radio, win all round !
Once back in the Bongo I was quickly on the air thanks to the fantastic Alex Loop Antenna – whilst I have other antennas, the ease and speed in which I can get this setup really makes it hard to use the alternatives. Using the bikestand as a support which I can drive the bongo onto ensures that the wind doesnt get the better of it as well !
With the magloop just out the door and feedline thru the front window, I could get the SWR pretty much always under 1.5 to 1:1 – 20m was alive with contesters – even FT8 was super busy – the excellent SDR Control really helped – I cant say how good this application is, I am getting more out of it every single time I use it, the ease of logging and connection to the IC705 via Wifi is excellent. FT8 got very busy, so remembering I had FT4 available also, headed up the band slightly and enjoyed a rapid sucsession of QSO’s. Within one hour I was very close to having enough QSOs to activate the park.
I also log manually just to ensure I have a backup, I found today that jumping between bands was getting easier – I tuned 1:1 on 17m in just one go, and by now with a great collection of data mode QSO’s under my belt, felt it was time for some telephony/SSB action.
I piggy backed on the back of the contest, it was great running QRP portable and even the contesters were happy to receive a mobile station, some even going beyond the usual contest rubber stamp asking my about my setup ! I really enjoyed that and a method I will use in the future (I actually was inspired to do this by VK3YE talk on how to get more HF contacts!)
After a great lunch in the Bongo, I decided to head out to the park for /P action !
I really enjoyed the walk around the park, I wore the Alexloop hampack bag without any problem. It was quite weighty and at first a little nervous of the straps – thinking about how much equipment and how much it costs tends to make one a little trepidatious in trusting it all to a couple of straps!
Whilst having a table/chair is my preferred ‘comfort’ of operation – and I even passed one picnic table, I liked this location, it was in the shade and the bench long enough to get everything on it without worrying about it falling off. A good bungee allowed me to strap the alexloop onto the bench, only once wobbling over when a big gust of wind came in.
It was nice that there was people interested in what I was doing, even a few comments by the passing runners on what a nice setup, as ever people where amazed with being able to make contacts around Europe – I think peoples perception of Amateur radio is that of huge Yagis and long wires, when they see the little loop and the SDR display with foreign voices booming from the IC705 they are interested to see it in action, I’m always happy to show the log book and talk about it.
I was able to make one more QSO from the bench and really enjoyed that, even on 5W of power the noise floor in the park was so good that I didnt need lots of power or a huge antenna to have a SSB contact. The fact that I had spotted on PoTA app meant other amateurs were looking for me helped for sure.
It was as easy to pack away as it was to setup from the bench, proving how versatile a well organised radio can be.
Heading back to the bongo I enjoyed seeing blackberrys growing and a giganttic overlflow carpark – it looked closed and judging by the meters had been for quite some time. I dare say this could be an excellent place to put a bigger mast and wire-type antenna up. I admired the view from the carpark once more before heading back to the QTH having had a really excellent time out with the radio. I will be back for sure and would like to investigate the bird reserve next time, it really is a big PoTA area to cover !
Following last weeks attempt, I headed back to Garston Park to attempt activating the park again. Armed with two lots of battery packs, mains charger and the iPad with SDR-Control loaded onto it I was determined to activate the park.
Having quickly setup, I was approached by two friendly chaps asking what I was doing with the equipment I had setup. Their initial assumption was bat watching ! (Makes senses with an antenna I guess !) We had a great conversation about parks on the air and also bat watching. Its something I’ve never heard of and with this park being quite near without a lock on it, something I wouldn’t mind trying – an overnight PoTA and bat watching. I’ve looked up some equipment and the bat watching website, so I’ll be looking into that later on in the year, probably when dusk/evening comes in a bit sooner.
With that I setup the IC705 to the IPad and SDR-Control – have to say that this application is fantastic – other than having to adjust the connectors in the IC-705 if I want to use the radio independent of the app, its as close to getting to 0 touch to getting on the air in FT4/FT8 modes.
Having experimented with FT4 at home and also updated my version of WSJT-X on the QTH windows machine, I was amazed at the rate QSO’s are completed. For me with a QRP radio and wanting to try battery usage where possible (I don’t always operate from the Bongo) this was great. At the QTH FT4 contacts where made in rapid succession, likewise in the field, when an opening came, the FT4 contacts came flying in ! within several minutes had equalled my previous weeks telephony contact ! I then went over to FT8 to try my luck there, sure enough, the QSO started to come in. The one problem with Garston Wood is the really weak mobile phone signal – for PoTA you really want to self-spot to get that first log on the page, then more will follow, sure enough I was determined to ‘self-spot’ and was rewarded with more FT8 QSO’s.
The SDR Control app made logging and contacting as easy as it could be, I was amazed at how well thought out this application is. It can be configured to automatically log, which I tested for the first time today and confirm works wonderfully. Essentially this means you could run FT8 & FT4 completely hands free.
I exported the log from my ipad to my icloud storage, with a bit of simple ‘grep’ and redirection I had the file in the format ready to submission to the POTA Administrator.
I tried SSTV with the black cat app, but it wouldn’t integrate with SDR Control, so I tried the old fashioned method of picking up a microphone, but whilst I could pick up SSTV from the IC705 with my own ears, the ipad app was pretty much deaf out in the field. As I am great fan of SSTV this is the one thing the SDR Control App is missing – if a way could be found to integrate either the black-cat app into SDR Control so they can run both the same time, or SDR Control had its own native SSTV app, that would be amazing !
I tried a few more SSB contacts on 20m, but to no avail. With the weak phone coverage self-spotting was tricky and when I could self-spot it would take another ‘strong’ station to come in over the the top of me to make that frequency out of use to me. I tried 2M and although hearing some activity (always glad just to hear something!) couldn’t complete a QSO.
So today turned into all about Data, and how important to activate a park SDR Control is, being my 2nd visit, I was determined to get the 10 contacts to activate, and I wasn’t let down by the application. Being restricted in self-spotting also meant that when I could get onto the POTA website, I was consistent, and I was rewarded with a FT8 contact from K3VAT in the US.
I’ve had a fantastic time of late travelling around to various PoTA locations and this was by far the most challenging one so far, with limited mobile coverage, varying conditions and generally being a bit busy, it was great to get the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park.
My next ‘planned’ PoTA is quite a few weeks off, and its getting further afield to find ‘unactivaetd’ parks, but I’m really excited about it, until then I’m going to be utilizing my season ticket for Upton Country Park, with lovely weather and long evenings, I can head over after work and set up for a fun evening of ‘parks on the air’ close to home.
Until then 73 and hope to catch you in the log book !
After a while away from PoTA and a previous experimentation locally with the AlexLoop only bag, it was time for my next PoTA activation. Based on my QTH location (IO90BS) I used the POTA site to find near but inactivate sites. This is becoming harder as PoTA becomes more popular (a good thing) but its always great to go out and activate a site, as the ‘hunters’ will be on the look out for a new location.
I carefully planned my trip, starting with the day before. I relinquished my beloved IC-705 purpose built bag (LC-192) for going fully Alex-Loop ham pack native. The main drawback of this bag is the lack of padding and overall robustness compared to the alex-loop bag, but I was determined to minimise what I was taking.
Not withstanding the mount itself (I used a bike repair stand) everything fitted nicely in the Alex Loop Hampack bag. This includes in the ‘accessories’ my LiFo battery to keep the IC-705 running for extended time over the internal battery, which as shown in my previous ‘test’ is only good for about 2-3 hours on 5W SSB. The observant will also notice I have my iPad in there, rather than my WinTel based laptop.
I had setup and tested SDR Control back at the QTH, so it should be no surprise that it works well out in the field. What I did notice is that (to its credit) it sets the ‘connectors’ all to WLAN in the app, thus when using the IC-705 microphone (which I currently still prefer), this needs to be set back, else no telephony contacts can be made without the iPad.
Whilst the WX (Weather) wasn’t the best to be operating outside, I got setup in the Bongo quite well, at least I was warm and dry, and the IC-705 was at no risk for rain damage (one of the main issues for SoTA, its just not that rugged compared to the KX series of radios). I set about going across the different FT8 frequency/bands. At least this would be a decent propagation test and also make some contacts. I was able to tune in 40M and get the SWR down to 2:1, which resulted in 2 FT8 contacts on 40M. For a magloop I am happy with those results and on a Data mode where the key-time is longer than that for a typical HF QSO. 17M gave excellent SWR readings and resulted in 3 DX contacts. I returned to 20M and worked a further 4 DX stations via FT8, all on 10W of power into a mag loop in pretty grim WX (rain, thunderstorms)
Whilst not the activation I was expecting due to the weather, being able to diversify and setup in the Bongo resulted in plenty of contacts and being able to (TBC) activate the park. I was really glad to start out on telephony contacts and people thanking me to activate the park, it really makes it worth the time and travel to enjoy PoTA.
Unusually for a bank-holiday (National holiday / day off work) the weather was quite nice, I had already planned my trip to my nearest PoTA park, namely G-0362 Avon Heath, and headed out. I wanted to take a minimal setup to see how I would do !
QRP & Minimal Portable Setup
Alex Loop Hampack antenna
Trolly for bags
I didn’t bring an external battery or even a chair to sit on, opting to just use the bench/seat at the location I was familiar with at Avon Heath. I was interested to see if I could make any contacts and for how long on only 5W and the Internal IC-705 battery. This made getting setup and on-air really easy, using a bungee to attach the loop antenna to the seat.
I’m now starting to start-with telephony QSO’s over FT8 to get started, as such I started out on 20M as this band has plenty of activity and easy to slighty tune the Alexloop between FT8, SSTV and the Phone section of the band.
I was quickly rewarded with QSO’s into Italy and Spain, with my furthest QSO being with EA4GJP with an amazing 860 miles ! Using the MPW calculator I was getting 172 miles per watt for a 595 QSO !
Once re-spotted on the PoTA app I had a flurry of QSOs into Spain – I was rapidly getting used to telephony contacts and logging with pen and paper !
I turned my hand to FT8 but faced computer difficulties again and not having a table/chair didn’t fancy fiddling about with a cable/computer on a bench, reverted to Telephony on 20M again. I did go searching for other PoTA activations, but no chance of a park-to-park today.
With around 2 hours of operating on 5W the battery on the IC705 was almost entirely drained, but with a good set of contacts I felt happy to pack up and head home, whilst I didn’t get 10 this time out, i was glad to see just how good the IC705 and Alexloop antenna is, making it a viable QRP setup which can be easily setup and transported.
I did learn that having a battery will not only extend the life of my operation, as to be expected, but I can operate with only 5W on SSB outside the noise of QTH, which makes doing PoTA all the worth while. My next planned activation is in a very exciting/interesting place and am really looking forward to that !