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

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 !

Tidying the shack

Was feeling a bit under the weather (aka sick) this weekend, nothing serious, but not well enough to think that working outside in the cold would help me feel any better.

Undettered I looked at what can be done in the shack (aka my home-office) and there is always plenty to do ! With the Nebula build the tidyness got a big neglected and mutliple things stated but not really progressed in a considerable way.

If any of you rememeber, or care to look back at earlier posts, you can see my ‘shack’ has really evolved. All the synths have move next door to their own mixing desk and imac just for running music related apps, so that has allowed me to fully expand one side of the room with other computer equipment

I am using a smaller ZMX862 mixer into a Yamaha A-S201. I take the line-out from the dual-line BHI noise canceller into the mixer, then into the amp. The sound quality is amazing (should record something when i get time). The down side to this setup is the absence of an integral USB interface that is on the larger mixing desk now used for the synths. To overcome this I’ve ordered a Behringer UCA222 USB Audio interface which will allow me to both record and take sound from the mac (why did they ever remove the optical line out ?!?!).

I’ve also setup my build bench used for kits and linux raspberry pis & servers to faciliate the use of the various SDR’s I have. My aim is to have a number of SDRs setup, ideally I will a full band SDR available over the internet. OpenWebRX is available from github whilst based on Python 2, looks good for the job for now.

A slightly tidier shack, more to be done, but progress !

I also had a ‘play’ on other frequencies over the weekend and was amazed to make contacts on the 10m band. I had always thought that 28Mhz would be pretty much line of sight, so was amazed to make make contacts in Israel and Spain !

FT8 Contacts on 10m – Spain, Israel and England

Was making endless contacts on 80, 40 and 30m over the weekend as my QRZ page will show !

Whilst taking the doggo out for a walk i noticed the 80m wire was ‘flapping’ somewhat, and on closer inspection, 20m wire had snapped completely ! I had probably done these too tightly, so for now have taken the mast down. With my health not at the best today, i just got the antenna down so i could inspect it more closely, thankfully 20m had just snaped (easily replaced) and a clip-carabina out of place on 80m had made it very loose.

I still have some fetttling to do on all the bands, so this will provide a good opputnity to get the vertical wires installed better thant he initial delviery.

I’m hoping i will feel somewhat better next week and can continue my exterior projects, esp the UHF/VHF 2m/70cm yagi, but will get the Nebula back up again as soon as possible, weather and my health permitting !

Take care & stay safe – Alan 2E0FWE

DX Commander – Build activities

It has been a lovely sunny down here in Bournemouth and have been able to take full advantage of the good weather by getting on with assembling and tidying the gardens.

First off i set about extending the Nebula as far as I could on my own. With much twist I managed to get it to 17m32cm, which is what the docs say is ok to use.

DX Commander Nebula – 17m32cm

I dont mind saying it took me a few times to get the antenna out fully, the first attempt with trying to get it to lock from the bottom-most sections didnt work out, so i put it all back down, then carefully took out the furthest (top) sections carefull and locked each section. There is a fair amount of flex, but I’m stil careful as the top looksl like it could snap if careless exertion took place.

Once extended, i set about putting electrical tape on each joint of the mast, to give additonal support and minimize any tension scratching from the jubilee clips.

Electrical tape was appliedto each joint (some had to be corrected, but mostly ok)

with the mast now ready for the plates, i headed back in and started work on those.

Building the radial and element plates was straight forward. The bolts, washers and wingnuts fitted perfectly with little or no resistance going into their thread – good manufaturing process there. The plates themselves look great and built to last. They are considerably bigger than the ‘classic’ plates, the amount of radial mounting points is great – and its those raidals which really helpin with the direction and ability to ‘push’ the transmission out.

I’m going to follow Callum’s advice and start with 3 elements, namely, 80, 40 and 20 – as those are the bands i use the most. When i have all the SWR for each band as good as they should be i will add all the elements for more band coverage, but walk before I can run so to speak!

Alignment by using the documentation provided was easy enough and one less job to do outside. I dont like littering and despite my best attempts previousy the label-backs have flown off after sticking on, theres a fair bit of nature (birds,insects,etc) and I dont want to ruin their habitat with sticky label backings (what a hedgehog makes of an 18m mast has yet to b eseen.. I did have a robin visitor earlier this year tho !).

With the spreaders in place i was able to take the measurements of the heights to calculate the length of the guy wires. I’m going to use (as per doc) 1, 2 4 spreader points for guying, but will start with #1 first to ensure my measurements and cutting are accurate. All values are cm

SpreaderHeightTime Selfx=(h*h)+(d*d)sqrt(x)total rope
131096100346100588.302
2580336400586400765.767
41134128595615359561239.336
7780.221
Diameter500
Guy rope length in sqrt(x)

I will double check these measurements again, so if your planning to do this between now and tomorrow morning – please do check your measurements as mine havent been applied yet!

I then set about tidying everything up and removing the existing end-fed wire. This took quite a bit of time and the end fed got caught in the tree – thankfully the tree wasnt damaged and a good ‘yank’ set it free ! Here is my video of the tour of the QTH after removing the end fed and the nebula work-in-progress.

Nebula Day one progres

And with that I then moved the nebula to the side garden where it will be erected. It was a real handful to move but i got it around the corner of the house from the front garden to the side eventually and have safely mounted it above ground height.

Tomorrows weather doesnt look as good as todays, so progress may be limited, however I’m pleased with what i have acheived so far, and as ever, am greateful for all the hard work Callum has put into creating what I’m sure will become a legendary antenna.

Stay safe and hope to publish more progress tomorrow !

Alan/2E0FWE

IC-705 – 2E0FWE/M kinda

So having not only being able to listen to G5TM on air today, he published yet another fantastic mobile operating video.

G5TM – Another excellent Mobile session on 15M

I was mulling over what to do today, I always have enough to do, but Tim’s video made the decision for me that I will at least try out my 20M antenna which I had purchased from Thunderpole.

As ever, there was a light drizzle, but i was determined to at least try out the IC-705. My Mazda Bongo already had a fitting for an antenna on it, which hasnt seen much action at all in ove ra year I suspect, but thought I would give it a try.

Mazda Bongo in the New Forest today (no antenna, but a cracking picture with the rainbow!)

I headed out with the the Rig Ex[ert AA-55 and started to read results off the antenna. First reading was ok

First reading off the 20m vertical on the bongo, not bad, but should be better

I took the anntena down and readjusted the bolts, simple enough, especially compared to putting a great big mast/vertical up and cutting/adding lengths each time.

Second attempt – far more reasonable results

The second adjustments brought very good results with almost less than 1:2 SWR across the band, with a very nice low in the morse area (more motivation to learn morse now !) with the SWR at 1.5 to 2.1 on the telephony side of the band I think this is acceptable, ideally i’d like to get it down further across the whole band but for 30 minutes fiddling, this was good enough to start with.

a bump in CW, but <1:2 on the upper half ot the 20m band

I continued my fettling and got the SWR down to 1.03 and less than 1:2 on the SSB telephony range. For a £19.99 antenna, i think this is a satisifactory result. I then went about attaching the IC-705 !

IC-705 in the bongo attached to a 20m whip

So i was very happy with the reception across the 20m band with the whip antenna, apologies for the quality of the video with putting my phone down,etc – i’m not even an ‘amateur’ when it comes to making videos like this, but I will get better 🙂

I tried a test transmit but the SWR was way off the readings the rig-expert had given me, which was slightly disappointing, but if everything went perfectly the first time of trying, it would make it the interesting hobby that it is.

As i said, the mount has been on the bongo for quite some time, and the metal around it has got quite corroded.

Removing the antenna mount from the Bongo revealed more rust

So i have brought in the antenna mount and intend to rub-back the rust and treat it before returning the mount to see if the SWR improves.

Rust on the interior of the clamp

I still am very happy that the intial experience was generally positive and am very much looking forward to operating mobile.

I’ve ordered an ATU kit from america, but that will take some time to come (Jan 2021), but am looking forward to building and trying it out!

Until next time, stay safe and 73

2E0FWE

Nebula update

Fantastic news is that my shipping label notification for the DX Commander Nebula arrived in my inbox. I am really looking forward to this antenna – hopefully it will be with me for this weekend.

I have measured a 5 meter guying radius ready for the whopping 18 meter tall antenna.

18 meter tall !

I reckon the build will take some time, everything is quite scaled up. So now I’m waiting for that big package to come.

Exciting – yes – alot of work to do, VERY MUCH SO !

73

Alan, 2E0FWE

Storm Alex. QRM

I can report that all the rigging and daily inspections insured that the end-fed antenna stayed up well despite storm alex lashing down wind and rain of epic proportion !

Whilst I have been enjoy several QSO’s on other digital modes (SSTV, BSPK) other than FT8, id thought I do an update on the next steps for the End-Fed antenna.

Whilst my signals are not bad, there is a noise floor present. Whilst I have largely removed alot of sources of QRM from ‘the shack’ (see earlier posts on QRM) my end-fed antenna seems particuarly good at picking up ‘noise’. Maybe its good to state what I think noise is as well.

When I tune the radio, I should be able to, ideally, hear all stations on that frequency (and mode). What noise brings is either man-made or remote interference to a weak signal. For noise that is ‘local’ the weak signals hide in a ‘noise’ band, this can be upto S9 for thinks like washing machines/VDSL/construction equipment.

With the ‘local’ noise its possible to use the an external antenna (lets call that a receive antenna) and transmit on the existing antenna, then between the two ‘phase’ the noise until it is no longer present.

I am going to use the MFJ-1028 noise canceller as I was using this already with my Kenwood and DX-Commander multi-band vertical, but as both a send and receive antenna making using of the ‘T/R Delay’ – The Icom 7300 doesnt come with its own ‘receive only’ port unlike its ‘bigger brothers’ in the Icom range, but is easily adapater to have one via the a plug-in kit from Inrad.

The installation looks simple enough as shown in the video below. I face the challenge that I am also using an external ATU (MFJ-993B) so getting both ports in will mean doing the install slightly differenty.

INRAD RX7300 mod

I have a number of antennas i could use as a receive only, but a recommended ‘noise gather’ is the ‘mini-whip’. I picked mine up off ebay and it arrived in a bout a week.

I have yet to install the miniwhip, but have all the necessary parts, including a rather impressive 4th ground pole ! I will be following the guidance from the following video

I will first try using the mini-whipa and end-fed combo and feedback on results !

Hopefully there will be less bad weather in the coming week allowing more ‘build’ work outside, for now i’m glad my masts have stayed up and we are all staying safe at home !

Until next post – 73 !

Passed the Intermediate Exam!

Having originally booked the Intermediate course and exam back in March events stopped that happening.

Thankfully the RSGB started with the Foundation Level exam in starting on-line exams and rumours of the Intermediate being made available on-line soon started. I had been building my kit for assesement since earlier in the year, and not sure what would happen about the practical assesment carried on with it, albeit at a much slower pace !

In July it was announced that the exams for Intermediate would be on-line so I immediately booked mine. I wanted to give myself enough time to kick-start my learning and give myself the best chance of pasting, but also fit in with everything else I have going on. Post September alot of my time outside of work will be taken up with my MSc and I had already booked a holiday for the bank holiday at the end of August, so went for August 23, first thing in the morning !

All the participants of the exam were given an invite earlier in the week and hooked up. This was a great idea and we was given a nice introduction to our group. Vitally I learned i would need *two* webcams, one on my PC I was using and another to see me from behind. So i set that up via my ipad. I would say if you dont have 2 webcams, use your PC for your main camera and use your phone – you will need WebEx on your phone, but belive that is possible.

In the two weeks upto the exam I made myself a schedule and broke down the notes/exams questions into days. I found this really helped me understand where I need to focus my learning. I had no problem at all on anything related to licencing and safety, most of the challenges come from the maths and equations on theory.

Invaluable advice !

Although the video came out close to my exam and the revision was well underway, the video from Tim G5TM really helped ! I followed his techqnique and it made me much more at ease during the exam. I took my time and went thru the ones i knew for sure and left the ones i didnt until the end, and at worse could take an educated guess – but i was in control (or it seemed!)

In the week leading upto the exam i continsualy tested myself on both the RSGB provided Test Papers and the questions in ‘Exam Secrets’. I cant recall the questions word-for-word but for sure there were many that were very close to what were present, and probably doing the test exams in ‘rote’ method got me over the line to get a pass mark 🙂

The only negative side to the on-line experience was other people making a noise during an exam, as they finished or whilst they worked, there was a level of noise I wouldnt expect during an exam situation. For this i just removed my headphones and concentrated on my exam but listening for anythign that the invigulator might say (rather than just random noises).

I was told immediately of my score and I had passed, so am now just waiting notification from Ofcom so i can apply for my Intermediate licence ! I can wait to setup a working beacon and use 50W on HF, i think it will make a difference on the telephony contacts for sure.

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