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 !

New QRZ Award

Had a great start to the day by having an FT8 QSO with ZL3IO – amazed that even without all the radials down on the Hustler, I’ve managed to reach New Zeeland.

I checked to see if the QSO had been logged on QRZ, where I could see that I’m now able to use the QSO’s from my other callsign (M7ALU) which already had Australia in it ! A quick application and sure enough I have received the Contienants of World award !

Fantastic start to the day and looking forward to increasing the Hustlers performance – have to say with only 3 days of activity, I’m really impressed with it.

RST Rcvd-10
RST Sent-7
Distance18693km (11615 mi) @ 355°
QSO Details

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

Bad weather in – antennas down !

So in the QTH down in IO90 the met office issued their warning of bad weather. I brought my antennas down as a precaution of lightening strike. Following a couple of messages on the DX-Commander Discord channel the UK Antennas multiband end-fed was mentioned as a comparison. As such I’ve not had the time or opptunity to get it in place, and with the wire at 39 meters long would require some prep on how to get it in place !

planning the long wire across the garden

The advantage of the DX Commanderj is that all the bands are vertical each, even 80m can be done lengthening the wire. With the End-fed finding how to route 36m of wire into the space I have was a challenge.

I have made a draft and took some measurements, and in combination with some sorta beam poless and mast, think I have a working configuration !

Will post as soon as the good weather has passed, really excited to try out a new antenna

A new QRZ Award

Have had a great weekend on the radio logging up QSO’s via FT8. I’m now also using LoTW and importing those into QRZ – this has helped with getting more awards. I dont think i will do any more ‘logging’ tho as managing two (and wanting to automate them) is getting enough !

Was really glad that I got another award via QRZ – the grid squared award !

Grid2 accomplished !

For the non amateur radio users what this means is that the globe is segmented into ‘grid locations’, the reference codes being ‘maidenhead locators’ – for this award there has to be 100 unique and confirmed grids. Was very happy to get this done on my foundation licence.

Also was very lucky and got a QSO in the Canary Islands – which is officially classified as being in Africa, which means I’m now only one continent away from the continents of the world award !

Whilst i have heard south america, i’ve never yet managed a confirmed QSO – so it will be quite a challenge but hopefully with the summer hear propergation will improve and i can make that QSO !

First Contact Australia !

Yes, its FT8, but for me on 10W I’m estatic !

First QSo to Australia

I’m so amazed that i can be sat here in Bournemouth and have a QSO wtih VK7AC in Victoria, Australia ! A memorable night for M7ALU

Edit – hopefully will get continents of the world and 2rd before getting my intermediate and have to start again !

Only South America and Africa to go !

PSK Reporter Map

10W QSO with -17db on FT8/40m