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
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 !
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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!
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
As per Tim’s video sound enthusiastic/engaging – I took my time and made a ‘good’ recording/playback feature of the 7300 – it works !
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
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 !
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 !
So apologies for the lack of posts – having passed my Intermediate, I then found myself with quite alot of work/other commitments, but heres a condensed update – i’ll do a lengthier one on each topic at a future date.
Up until recently I have been using a vertical di-pole, namely the DX Commander multibander. Whilst I’m happy with how good this antenna is, part of the hobby is learning and trying out new things ! After reading several very promising reports, I ordered the UK Antennas multiband end fed antenna. This product does deserve a write up of its own, which I will do in due course.
Needless to say, I am amazed at how well this antenna performs. It requires quite an extensive amount of space and I was able to re-use my DX-Commander masts as supports. I had ordered and tried to use Sotabeams, but for extended operation, they just didnt seem as stable and well built as the DX Commander. Good news is that I’ve ordered a DX Commander SOTA edition – looking forward to building and trying that out. The Sotabeams will probably stay in storage until i can go out /P /M and use them as ‘temporary’ mobile antennas.
Having built and used my own ‘V’ dipole for NOAA and METEOR and was really happy with the results, i went to the next level and ordered a helical antenna for improved reception.
This came from the US and I think is hand built to order by National Antenna Whilst I could build a DIY version, I’m averse to going to large shops unless its essential at the moment, the reviews of this antenna are fantastic.
I setup the antenna and started on my mac to start with, and was impressed with the results, as this is somewhat manual and labour intensive, i then setup a raspberry pi running raspberry-noaa Whilst I looked and tried other installations, this was by the far the simplests and easiest to setup. The combination of an amazing antenna and good programming produced frankly astounding results, including my first ever METEOR-M2 decode – all full automated !
First HF QSOs with 2E – new Digital and Telephony
I was very happy to make a QSO with G7VRD. Having metup via the reddit talkgroup and being ‘local’ in terms of radio, we had never been able to reach each other. With the new installation of the end-fed, I was able to make contact on 80m via firstly WSPR then we tried out a variety of different modes. G7VRD was really great in helping me thru and testing various types, having varying degrees of successes across them.
I was also able to make contacts for the first time via Telephony. I had a great QSO wtih G8MNY who gave me a very detailed signal report, including play back of how i sounded, which was really useful. The combination of end-fed and additonal power is really helping me more on HF.
Whats Next ?
So i have a couple of other immediate things I want to do and are in progress, probably the most important is getting a receive-only antenna setup to restore use of my MFJ-1026 which performed really well previously.
Here is the video from youtube which shows what I’m aiming for – with VDSL in the UK i’m hoping this will help eliminate the QRM in my urban setting.
Now i can also run a beacon, i want to get my PI-WSPR station going on 40m, so will see if i can get the 40m inverted v dipole up !
Until next time (which will be sooner !) take care, stay safe and 73 !
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 !
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 !
Was browsing my youtube recommendations when I saw Calum was live streaming, tuned in and could hear everyone, which was really amazing to hear Calum and everyone else coming out the radio live.
Calum was ace in putting out some calls for M7’s – given the amount of people that call into his CQ’s, it was so nice that there was a gap for us on lower power (10W) to try and have a QSO.
I put in my call and Cal took his time, but i was just too quiet, see the video below.
Listening i can barely hear my voice, with M7 being just about audiable and i can recognize the gaps of how i would say ‘Alpha Lima Uniform’. Its a shame i couldnt get on the log book, but nethertheless provided a very exciting and good evening enjoying Calum and using the DX Commander as well.
Hopefully the restrictions on exams will soon be lifted and the extra wattage will help me get out that bit more. Fingers crossed !
The DX Commander comes with 100m of very good wire, which is enough for making the 4 element (40,30,20,17m) vertical and some for radials. Having already bought 50 meters of wire for 80m I was still down on the count for both radials and the ‘all band’ – having complete the ‘all-band’ construction it was now time to sort the radials !
With the orignial wire and radials I had around 28-30 radials, which whilst much better than only 1 and improvement on 15, is still slighty short for 80m and also more radials=higher Db out at other wave lengths.
So what is the science about radials ? The Calum has a good video to help, and the references are very good, so I’ll put that here first.
So basically adding radials helps (I did try to find a video of a person fallilng off a boat getting onto a pier, but was getting to distracted…) I took 50 meters of wire (the same type I had use on the verticals) and set about making into 3.5 meter lengths, which some great help from my son Paul which saved my back alot in terms of getting up and measuring and cutting !
With the cutting done, it was time to return indoors for strip, crimp and solder !
I then returned outdoors to install the addtional elements. I doubled up on one existing element, but had a pretty decent fan of 3.5m wire elements going on now.
I’d need to an exact recount (will do so later) but I think I now have enough radials to accomodate the 80m vertical.
With having added the radials it was time to test ! For this I use FT8 as it has a great map and includes a signal report when a QSO is complete.
I was now reaching Kuwait on 17M and even better was that I could see the call sign in my WSJTX screen – i had to give it a try ! And sure enough within a few minutes (this guy was was getting alot of QSO’s in) I had made contact !
So i think i could continue to add more radials, but for now I’m happy with how the DX Commander is performing and the radials are performing their function. I will investigate more ‘science’ based ways of radial performance, but his helps for now !
So having got the bhi DIL DSP Receiver, the amount of QRM I was still getting wasn’t good. Although I was slightly tired, i really wanted to solve this issue.
I followed the DX Commanders Youtube posting on QRM here
So i then set about unplugging things around the house, the first thing I found was an electric blanket ! That put out a huge buzz, but there was still plenty of ‘noise’ amongst the signal. I turned everything off in my ‘lab’ and used a car battery to test –
So off a car battery there was a big reduction in noise, so it was something in the powersupply or surrouding room
At this point I used several of these magents and put on the power line in, HF and transformer
I set about winding, but still noise 🙁
By this time, i was still getting less, but still a big interference. I unplugged *eveything* from the transceiver and it stopped ! So it was something being plugged in.. I went thru each device, lo and behold the xggcomms CAT port was the main offender ! By this time it was getting late, and some much needed family time with a few brews and a good film was required to consider the next steps.
After the film and a nice walk of the dog at 11PM (to avoid other dogs/runners/etc) I cam in and started searching for ferrite cores, sure enough amazon had a huge variety, and on PRIME next day, so I ordered think, great i can get these Monday and get going ! Amazingly, even tho i ordered these at 11PM+, they was here the next day ! I was going to tidy the lab up, but set about attaching all the chokes I could to the cables between the mac and transceiver. The difference was amazing…
Within a course of an hour, i had made 9 QSO’s on FT8 on 40m, with 3 already confirmed on QRZ ! I was so happy that everything was working really well !
I think I am going to upgrade my chinese power supply which is meant to drive power-strip lighting, which is fine for VHF/UHF (A recommendation from FRED IN THE SHED on 27Mhz) but for HF I will get a decent 30~40 Amp campable linear PSU for the Kenwood to further reduce the QRM.
Now to stop playing on WSJT-X and tidy this place up !
Very excited, having started a chat on RedditNet IRC Channel about my concerns of 10W usage on HF, plenty of people stepped in with ideas for me to try.
I then got some very nice guidance on how to use FT8 from G7VRD and how to use WSJT-X.
Before long i was happily receiving signals via the DX Commander and into my Kenwood ! I was really amazed to get to this stage because of the amount of work in getting the mast and radio setup.
I then set about hooking up my XGGComms USB Digitalmode unit. This does CAT control and also plugs into the ACC2 port, which carries audio. I hooked up a simple USB soundcard to the mac as they no longer have ‘lne in’ after Thunderbolt replaced audio in ports.
With that, and some jiggling around of configs, I setup Flrig and WSJT-X. Was now able to control my radio from my computer and receive signals !