maandag 11 juni 2018

New project : ON4CCP on the air with.... 1 Watt

After a very successful fieldday -- some need >1 week to send a log to the UBA, so we don't know at this moment if we  won the contest-- , it's time for new business.

I activated my FT817 QRP station on FT8, with only 1 Watt of outgoing power.

Goal is to make 1000 QSO with ON4CCP.
Everybody will receive a qsl, logs also available on Eqsl and LOTW.

It's almost incredible that such a small signals travel allover the world.

With my optibeam 1-30m dipole, I was even heard in VK.

Next time I hope to make a full 2 way contact with VK.

After only one weekend, I was able to make 105 QSO's, good for a total distance of 105.000 km.

I never used such a low power level.

Some QSO's were even made on 6 meter (using the 5th harmonic resonance point on my 10Mhz antenna).

Not everything runs like wanted. 
This weekend a problem occured on my Acom1000. 
I suspect a issue with the relay inside the ampli.  A "hot switching error", even with 7W of drive appears on the display.   To be investigated the next weeks.

I also read some comments on FT8 : link

Oh boy, what a high level of literature...

No changes , no evolution allowed; let's climb into our trees in the jungle, together with Adam & Eve.   With such an attitude, Darwin should have been workless.

Strange that those pessimistic guys use internet to complain...

woensdag 23 mei 2018

DX analysis of FT8 contacts

It's one of my interests to analyse why and how contacts can made possible on a specified band.

This weekend I worked a YC6 at 19h UTC.  It was before sunset on my side and before sunrise in Indonesia.  So this contact is a surprise for me.  We exchanged -16dBm and -15dBm.

At 22h UTC I worked another YB.  This time we were both in the twilight zone.  In accordance with the expectations on 80m.  We exchanged -24dBm and -16dBm.

Same graph for the USA contacts.  Although the West coast was in also in the twilight zone around 3h UTC, nobody came back to my call.  I suspect the G5RV in this case.  To be continued

dinsdag 22 mei 2018

80m DX with a G5RV antenna

This weekend I started a new era in my ham career. 
Go for DX on the low bands.

The plan for the coming years is :

- try different antennas for 160/80/40, i.e. now the G5RV, later the 160m windom and maybe a double G5RV if the windom isn't working as expected on 160m.
- focus on DX for DXCC, WAZ, WAS
- without high new costs
- without too much work

This weekend I've put up my G5RV, since 25 years my most reliable low-cost antenna.
Reliable if some basic rules are respected.
The most important rule is to keep the ladder line a free as possible and at least a few meters above ground.  Second rule is to keep a high angle between the two 16m horizontal wires.

The purpose was to focus on some mechanical aspects, especially on how to keep the wires as high as possible and to check FT8 behaviour on a lower band.

For this test I the antenna was @18m with the wires slightly slopering, but with an angle above 120°.

I made 260 Q's, of which 50 with the US.
Power : 150 W, 7 W drive into the Acom1000 and terminated on a manual tuner in the shack.

First highlight :
YC6JRT and YB0AZ around 22h UTC (sunset/sunrise).  New country and new zone.
I made allready a qso with YB on 80m SSB, but my green stamps were never responded.  This time LOTW allready confirmed one.

These QSOs were made between a series of DL and G callsigns.

It should be an improvement if the user can setup WSJT to make the contact with f.e. longest distance station. 
Now it is only based on response time when multiple stations are answering a CQ.
A checkbox with preferred zone, needed country, etc... should be an advantage for better DX-ing.
And yes... you can call for dx only.

Second highlight : I was able to decode stations with a level of -24 (!) dB.  Stations impossible to hear in morse.

Third highlight : my 150W signal on a non-dx antenna was heard almost everywhere in the world, exept in the western US States.   This will of course change in winter-time.

Even my missing zones CE, XE en ZS were alerting my signal at -10 dB to -17dB, easily workable in FT8 terms.  So for the comings weeks, I can expect more new countries.

I also copied JA, CO (new one on 80m), PY.
I added West Virginia for the WAS award on 80m.

One of the coming days, my 160m windom antenna will arrive. 

With a total length of 83m, a new challenge for my qth. 
Howeve, thanks to the surprising good G5RV results I will wait for autumn-time to use it.

Within the same order, a FT817 cable will arrive to connect to the Microham. 
I'll be able to listen on a BOG on a power-friendly way and see what comes in on the lower bands.

maandag 16 april 2018

Finally : DXCC on 30 meter


It took me sooooooo long to achieve this award.  This wasn't my favourite band.

- no contest qso's possible
- no ssb, only cw and digital
- no directional antenna

FT8 changed a lot to achieve this next goal.   8B-DXCC sounds good.

After 1400 Q's on FT8, I can return to contest modus, finally !

In June, the 30m antenna will be changed to a 40m dipole.

The coming month I'll be active as OT70RSX on 30m CW, and if FT8 allows (but I have doubts how this special call will be handled by receiving stations), also in this new mode.

Now it's time for new goals :

- work KH7 and Z19 (strange, never got confirmed this zone) on 40m
- work last 5 States for 40m WAS
- work as many zones/WAS as possible on 80m
- increase the number of DXCC on 160m (now only 50 confirmed countries)

It's also time for new work in the garden :

- make an underground coaxial connection between main tower and 80m structure.
- prepare beverages on ground

This is also fun :

I encountered also many comments on FT8.
This new mode divides the opinions on our hobby.

It seems that the most controversial point is how the operator handles the information sent to the transceiver.

Discussions are always about the low frequency part.  SSB and CW are "better" than a predefined package of computer data.   It is (too ?) easy to let the PC making the contact in FT8.
What about CW skimming, voice recorders, ESM modus, digital voices, etc... ?

Sure FT8 is easy, but it's also easy to make a contact with a high-end sophisticated transceiver and a commercial antenna.
50 years ago, the guys that are complaining now about FT8 should have complained on commercial equipment.  Too easy to make contacts with roofing filters and DSP.

For me, there is no importance what LF information is sent, and how it is sent.
The game is to let this information fly around the world and to receive an answer.

My hobby is about high frequencies and propagation.  About antennas and station setup.  About not blowing  up equipment.  About avoiding neighbour complaints.  About receiving the most weakest signals.

Certainly not about what LF information is transported from and to my transceiver.

maandag 5 maart 2018

FT8 is a game changer

600 qso, 59 countries from all continents.

Some hours of playing on a 30m dipole only at 15m with FT8 shows a huge world wide activity in this mode.

Sure, it is a new hype, and for sure data players want to test this new mode, but it goes further than rtty or psk.
It delivers a number of advantages that other modes do not have.  It is not a low power mode like psk, but a weak signal mode.  It's not a chatting mode like rtty, but a strictly defined process.

With room for further improvement.

Not everyone needs a gridsquare and a RRR message and a 73s message.

The basic progress stream is now :
W1ABC OT1A -10

This takes 1min 30 sec if all goes fine.  A die hard CW op makes 9 QSO in that timestamp.

On the air, in practice,  there is allready a shorter QSO flow

OT1A W1ABC -10

1 minute.  6 times slower than a full speed cw op.

Repeating something in CW takes seconds, in FT8 at least half a minute.

But :
- 100W is allready high power. I used 180W (dxcc hunting) putting 15W into the Acom1000, and taking care of the alc.
- sensitivity is far under the CW limit, -20dB is workable to make a qso
- allmost full automatic, no errors in copying

There is improvement for DXpeditions allowing up to 500 Q/hr to be deliverable for the Baker Isl exp. later this year.

It smells also like a new mode for contesting will be born, needing only 50Hz of bandwidth per station.

What if... this process can be 100% automated, putting eg. a robot on Heard Island ?
Is it the end of costly DXpeditions ?
Is it the end of huge crazy high power pileups with qrm and policemen ?
Is this mode opening the path for non qualified operators buying just a black box and play ?

There is certainly not a waaaw effect when looking on a pc, clicking on a screen.  I can imagine that this is not the most attractive demo for new potential hams.

The waaw effect is on the propagation level.  Making contacts with so less power and difficult conditions is quite amazing.

I can not look into the future, but I'm sure this kind of mode is a game changer (repeating the JT65 miracle on EME operations).

80 DXCc confirmed on 30m, 12 worked to be confirmed, 8 new ones needed.

Looking forward to see what this does on topband DXing...

And until now, CW rules !

maandag 19 februari 2018

FT8 on the air - finally - Yaesu FT1000MP MKV problems with rear signal injection

Problem :

- WSJT-x uses USB and not LSB
- Yaesu  receives the outgoing PC signal via the packet port at the rear of the TX.
- If the working mode is USB, Yaesu automatically takes the microphone signal, which is not connected
- If mode is PKT, Yaesu allways switches to LSB.

Stupid design, known problem described on the internet, but no clear solution.

I've found out this :

Step 1 : menu 8-6 -> "easy setting" with right VFO, "PSK-U" with left VFO -> ENT
Step 2 : press PKT
Step 3 : re-press PKT and hold 1 second

Even if the TX stays in LSB, something has changed.

And it works : I made about 50 QSO's on 30m using FT8 with 80W.  2x VK, 2x JA and 9 new countries on 30m.

FT8 seems the new Holy Grail.

I've read many comments about this mode.

It's not the warm ssb qso , it's not cw, it's all automatic, it's the end of the hobby, it opens ports for non qualified operators, etc...

For me it's just a way to make 2 way qso's around the globe, giving opportunities that were not available before.

I don't see the difference between a 40wpm 599 and a grid square received by the computer.
I don't see the difference between OT1A fiveninefifteen and OT1A R73 on the screen.

Using 100 W with the same results as using 2KW (I'm not sure that this is a true comparison at this moment, certainly not in a pile-up situation) gives advantages :

I can make QSO's without disturbing neighbours, in a silent mode while the kids are sleeping and more important, I can finally construct my receive system for 160m avoiding high power radiating into my receive antenna.

Next step : go on with FT8 on 30m (70 DXCC cfd, 8 wkd but not yet cfd) until DXCC100.

Then play on 160m as much as possible with two beverages on ground.

The future looks bright :-)