Saturday, April 12, 2014

More on FO-29 and VO-52 operation with the V2000 vertical

As I went into the shack this morning, GPREDICT told me that VO-52 was close by, with a nice overhead pass. I decided to see if I could hear myself on CW. Sure enough I found myself and tried a few CQs, although without any replies. I got the hang of tuning my transmit signal to keep the downlink the same place.

A little later FO-29 was due over and I wondered if I might be able to hear anything. The pass was quite quiet, but I did hear my Twitter friend, Berend, PA3ARK on CW. I was able to find my signal and place it reasonably close to Berend's and we had a bit of a sketchy, but valid QSO.

Really pleasing to find that some simple CW satellite operation is viable with just a vertical antenna.

Berend sent a nice photo of the entry of the QSO in his logbook!


Evening update: I caught a late afternoon pass of VO-52 and was hearing myself well enough to have a tune around and was able to answer UT3UX who was calling CQ on CW and work him. I've not found too much CW activity so far. I'm sure I can work some SSB, but with the slightly lower signal levels, CW gives a bit more latitude!


Saturday, April 05, 2014

More smartphone PSK from the mobile, with PSKer

After I mentioned running a PSK program on my iPhone the other day, my friend Simon asked which one it was and whether it was PSKer. That was a program that I hadn't heard of, so when I had a moment yesterday, I decided to investigate.

PSKer looks a very nice program and I decided to give it a go. When I got back to the car yesterday evening, I ran it up and set the receiver running on 28.120. There was plenty happening.

PSKer seems to decode a little easier than the Multimode program I was using the other day. I haven't yet tried it on transmit. However, I did discover that it can be set to send tones through the speaker, rather than the earphone socket, which is what you want when you are too lazy to make up a lead!

Friday, April 04, 2014

An evening on 472khz WSPR receive

I realise that I have not been very active monitoring 472khz WSPR this winter season. HF conditions seem to have been so good that I have rather ignored LF.

Noticing Roger, G3XBM blogging that 472khz WSPR was quiet, last night, I decided to run the FT847/HF6V on 472khz WSPR receive overnight. Sure enough it was quiet, but it was good to hear PA3ABK/2 and DF2JP, who I think is a new station to me.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

More 28MHz mobile fun: PSK and TX6G

This morning, 28MHz seemed pretty quiet as I drove to the station this morning - very little on SSB. When I got to the station, I tried CW which was just as quiet. As I spun up the band to the beacon area, I noticed some PSK on 28.120.

Some months ago, I downloaded the Multimode application for my iPhone which decodes PSK and RTTY. I just fired up the app, held the phone reasonably close to the rig and saw PSK signals appear on the display. To tune the signal in, you just drag the centre of the bar to the centre of the required signal and with any luck it displays.

This morning, it was fun to see 5B4/SQ2MQM working a JA station. And this evening when I got back to the car, LW5ER was coming through nicely.

Obviously you can't have all this going whilst you're actually driving. That would be dangerous! So, I tuned up the band to the SSB segment and the very first signal I heard was TX6G coming through - really great signals. In a perfect world, the next sentence would be that I cracked the enormous pileup running 10W to the whip.

Sadly no! The Anytone can't deal with split frequency operation, so it was just a case of enjoying listening to the signals coming through from the other side of the world. I did stop in a lay-by and text Justin, G4TSH, who's there, that they had a great signal to the mobile.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DMR and DSTAR on the same radio?

Imagine that! DMR and DSTAR on the same radio.

Take a look at this post which I found on the VE3XPR site - which is an interview with Jerry Wagner of Connect Systems.

It will be really good to see if this comes to pass.

Good luck Jerry, good luck Connect Systems!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Experiments with the SSB satellites (AO-73, FO-29 and VO-52) with the V2000 vertical

Browsing around the AMSAT-UK site yesterday, I came across this article by the ever inspirational Ray, W2RS about how he had made QSOs on the SSB satellites using nothing more than a dual band mobile whip, a diplexer and SSB transceivers for 144 and 432MHz.

Well! I wondered if I could do something similar, given that I had the V2000 vertical up on the mast. In some respects, it is a 'long whip' as Ray discusses, putting quite a lot of radiation towards the horizon, which is what's normally wanted for tropo, but not for satellites, but there are certainly some vertical lobes.

So, I fed the V2000 into the Diamond diplexer and then connected the appropriate coax from the diplexer to the FT847's 144MHz port and (separate) 432MHz port.

An initial test to see if there was much desense or crackle was positive.

The first satellite around was AO-73, which was testing its' transponder in daylight. After a bit of fiddling around, I was able to hear my CW, just as the satellite flew over the horizon! Then VO-52 came over and I was receiving good signals on 145MHz and again was able to hear my CW, sufficiently to call CQ. No-one came back, but it's a start! I also managed to hear myself on a pass of FO-29 with reasonable elevation.

This is all quite promising and I'm pretty sure that I will be able to make some QSOs in due course, most likely on CW.

However, all of this enthused me sufficiently that I'm aiming to be able to take the FT847 out into the garden (or out portable) with the diplexer and the Elk to try and make some contacts with the yagi.

Good fun - thank you for the inspiration, Ray!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A bit of ISS packet radio

I hadn't put the receiver on 145.825 and monitored the packet transmissions from the ISS digipeater for a while. Nice to do so over the last couple of days and see plenty of stations plotted on the map.

I haven't been in shack at the right time to press the transmit button - but it's just interesting to see what's been heard

Gear is the FT8900 / V2000 vertical - UZ7HO soundcard modem software/UISS software

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Aircraft scatter propagation and the Air Scout software by DL2ALF

This morning as I was putting the Practical Wireless column together and in particular, some microwave reports, I remembered that sometime ago I had heard about the Air Scout software by DL2ALF. This software uses data from FlightRadar24.com and plots it on a map. Not only that, but you can enter in your locator, the target station's locator and the software will give you an idea of when there are aircraft in the right place to reflect the signals and enable a brief contact.


The first path I tried was quite a simple one, from here to the GB3VHF beacon on 144MHz. Although I can hear it all the time, even on the collinear, it is very quickly apparent when there are aircraft on the path, by the Doppler shift. It didn't take long for me to see that the software was working and aircraft reflections were being heard at 'the right time'.

A more challenging path was the 432MHz one from here to PI7CIS in JO22. At the moment, with the 10el yagi, I am not hearing the beacon all the time, so I left the FT847 running with the beam pointing towards Holland and after a few minutes, I heard a weak signal from the beacon. Sure enough, referring back to the AirScout software, there was an aircraft along the path.

Very interesting! I must look at this software a little more and see if I can learn a little more about how I might use it to make some aircraft scatter contacts.

You can download a copy of AirScout here

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

More fun on 29MHz AM

Over the weekend I had my first QSOs on 29MHz AM from the home station, using the FT847.  It seemed to work fine, although I had a sense that my long feeder run was a bit of a barrier and I was probably doing better with slightly less power from the mobile!

On the train last night I was chatting on Twitter to Jon, G0IUE. Jon is located in Corsham, some 35 miles or so to the west of me. Jon had been working some nice DX in the late afternoon on 29MHz AM and I suggested that as I would soon be back at the car, we have a go and see if we could make a QSO.

As I was getting of the train, I had a tweet from Jon to say that he was working OX1B on 29.050 AM. I hurried along the platform as quickly as I could and got back to the car, but the frequency was quiet. However, I left the rig on the frequency and started my journey.

As I got out of the built up area, I could start to hear some weak signals and realised it was Jon calling CQ. Although I couldn't copy him fully at that stage, I could tell he was there. Larry K1IED replied to Jon's CQ and started a QSO. During one of the breaks in transmission, I dropped my call in and was delighted when Larry heard me.

Heading west all the time, near Abingdon, I was able to hear Jon quite well on ground wave. We were able to have a three way QSO for several minutes. Larry signed with us and Jon and I QSYed to GB3WH on 2m FM.

My destination, the Gym at Carswell, has quite a good take off in Jon's direction, so on my arrival, I suggested to Jon we try on 29MHz AM. We did and we just able to exchange signals. Jon was easy copy for me, but my slightly lower power from the Anytone was only just making it. We moved onto SSB and it was a very easy QSO. Larry K1IED had been listening and joined in on SSB which was great fun.

A really nice, fun QSO - the stuff that memories of solar cycles are made of!

Jon shot a bit of video of the QSO (on AM) with Larry coming in really well.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nostalgia post: 49MHz handhelds and AM CBs

I was thinking about the 'Handy from Tandy' conversion from 49MHz and it occurred to me that the first set that I ever transmitted on was a 49MHz handheld.

It must have been around 1980 when I was a keen shortwave listener and starting to get interested in getting an amateur licence. My parents had taken us on holiday to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire. Just along the A487 from Fishguard towards Cardigan is the village of Dinas. This particular year, a new shop had appeared in Dinas, a CB shop. I was very keen on looking in the shop window!

Of course, at this stage, CB was illegal in the UK and as I was living at home - there was no possibility of illegal operation - not that I would have done anyway :-)

I can remember a number of 49MHz handhelds for sale in the shop as well as the 27MHz AM sets.

When I returned home to Cheltenham, I researched the 49MHz handhelds. They were very low power and they appeared to be legal to use. I bought a set of two. The range was probably 100-200 yards in a built up area. A couple of doors from me lived Jon, G6BHS, so it made perfect sense for Jon to have the other handheld and for us to use them to chat. Good fun!

27MHz CB was legalised in 1981, on FM, and I very quickly purchased a CB licence and a Cybernet Beta 1000 set (great receiver!) and had some fun and learned some basics about aerials and propagation.

Of course, it was just the push I needed to get my first amateur licence, G6TTU early in 1983.

Friday, February 28, 2014

50mW on 50MHz FM - 'The Handy from Tandy'

Earlier in the week, I noticed a handheld 50MHz FM transceiver on eBay for £6.99. I read a little and it turned out to be a converted Tandy/Realistic 49MHz handheld. Back in the late 1980s (I think), Practical Wireless ran an article by Peter Julian, G7PRO on how to convert one of these on to 50MHz FM.

There had been a follow up article by Mike Hadley G4JXX and by coincidence, the transceiver on eBay was Mike's! Unfortunately, Mike didn't have a copy of his article, although he did kindly send me a scan of the original G7PRO one. I'm sure I can locate a copy of Mike's article.

The little transceiver arrived today and I wasted no time in putting a 9v battery in it! It works fine and transmits and receives quite happily on 51.510MHz FM. The original article suggests the power output is in the region of 50mW, but I think Mike's modification is for a little more output.

Actually, my thought was not particularly to use this as a transceiver, although it will be fun to play with the low power and see how far it will go, but in the Es season, to use it as a monitor receiver in the greenhouse/garden and see if I can hear any Es on it.

As for the price, I think it's provided £6.99 worth of enjoyment already!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A book for DXers and dreamers: Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

Out for a lunchtime walk yesterday, I decided to pop into the local bookshop for a browse, not particularly intending to buy anything.

However, in the 'travel' section, I came across a lovely little book called 'Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will' by Judith Schlansky. As I leafed through the book, beautifully presented, I realised that in a manner of speaking, I had 'visited' many of the islands mentioned through the medium of radio.

When we have a contact with a distant island though, it is easy for it to be just a tick on a list and very often we have little sense of what life is like there. This is where this book comes in nicely!

For each island, there's a map - as well as a couple of pages with some background to the island. In fact, the entry for Annabon relates directly to amateur radio and the aborted DXpedition in the early years of the 'noughties'.St Kilda's entry was even sadder, describing the issues of infant mortality that had beset the island.

I only browsed a handful of islands last night, but for anyone who is interested in the big wide world out there, and I'm certain that includes many radio amateurs - you'll love this book!

Find the book on Amazon


Sunday, February 23, 2014

TX Factor - new online 'TV' amateur show

I'm always a bit apprehensive when I hear there's going to be a new amateur radio podcast. There have been some very good ones and some very bad ones! Just because someone is a keen radio amateur, doesn't necessarily make them a good broadcaster on the subject!

The 'TX Factor' (corny name, but hey...) boded well. The presenters are all professional broadcasters. Bob, G0FGX is someone that I have come across on air a couple of times recently and he's an engaging and interesting guy with plenty of broadcast experience. Mike G1IAR and Nick 2E0FGQ both have impressive CVs. Mike looks to have a particularly interesting job, mastering recording sessions for some big names.

I had a chance to catch up with the first TX Factor show yesterday. It's well produced, engaging and inspires you to want to have a go. I really recommend you take a look.



I love Cornwall and it was interesting to see the Poldhu segment. I was glad to see that Bob addressed the question of whether Marconi's 'S' signal really did get heard in Newfoundland! The SOTA activation was very nicely demonstrated by Tom M1EYP and  it was good to see Mike G1IAR visit the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Devon. Great stuff.

Well done and I'm looking forward to seeing more shows. They must take quite a bit of production - well done to the team.

Find the TX Factor's website here

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Great 29MHz conditions

For the second time in a few days, I had a 29MHz QSO through the KQ2H repeater on 29.620 (input on 29.520) on the way home from the station. With the days lengthening, the propagation is lasting a little longer too and KQ2H has been a really great signal even at 1830z.

Last Friday I worked M0CGL through the box and then this evening it was nice to have a QSO with Terry G0VHS in Weymouth.

Gear is the Anytone AT5555 at around 20W into the Sirio whip on the car.

The band has been quiet in the morning, although I've tried a few CQs on 29.600 at around 0715z - I'm sure it's open somewhere. Judging by the Russian taxi controllers on 27MHz - it's good out in that direction!

Good to hear some people making 29MHz AM QSOs today as well - though the AM segment was quiet by the time I got back to the car.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A spring day stolen from winter - a chance for some satellite QSOs

After the appalling weather of the last few weeks - the storm on Friday/Saturday was probably the worst windstorm I can remember here - today dawned sunny and still. And mild!

I decided to take advantage and see if I could make some garden portable satellite QSOs. The first useful pass was from FO-29. I decided to try it half duplex rather than dragging everything out for the full duplex kit. Perhaps I should have done! I called CQ but no QSOs. I did hear EA6VQ and a DL5 on CW (whose call I've forgotten!) quite nicely. Had I had the full duplex kit going, I could have hopefully tuned around and make the contacts. Never mind!

Next pass was SO-50. I'm not usually so optimistic about SO-50 passes at weekends as they can be quite busy and chaotic, but I thought I would listen anyway. CT2GOY was the first station heard, working a Frenchman. The QSO finished and I dropped my call in and worked him for the first time. Next station heard was EA6VQ - obviously having a satellite morning too! He had a couple of QSOs before I was able to work him, which I was delighted about - my first Balearic Islands QSO on satellite.

I missed the the next FO-29 pass somehow - doing a little work in the garden - and what a pleasure it was to be outside again! My last SO-50 pass of the morning and my window for activity was quite a low one up to the North - maxing at around 15 degrees. Those can sometimes be a bit of a challenge with my 5W and handheld gear but anyway, I heard a couple of SP stations that I missed and then worked OH2FQV - always a nice QSO.

We have to pop out this afternoon, so no more opportunity to be outside with the gear - but feels nice to have been out there!

Monday, February 03, 2014

New release of WSJT-X (February 2014)

I wondered why there had been so many hits on an old WSJT-X post over the last week. I guess you were all looking for a new version.

The good news is that it is available on K1JT's WSJT-X page now.

I've downloaded it this evening and had a quick 7MHz JT65A QSO with CT3IB and everything seems well. I can't see any huge differences so far, so guess it is a maintenance release, fixing any issues that the team have become aware of.

I'm looking forward to when some of the other WSJT modes are included in the new WSJT-X interface, as hinted at on Joe's site.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

DSTAR: ON8JL's Babystar and - the chickens speak with South Korea

In the course of my reading around about DMR yesterday, I came across some interesting DSTAR developments that I had missed.

ON8JL has an interesting range of standalone gateways, the Dadystar and the Babystar. The Babystar, in particular, looks like an alternative to the DVAP/Raspberry Pi gateway. It retails around EUR280 and comprises of a standalone unit with a 430MHz 10mW transmitter, receiver and Ethernet interface.

You can plug the Babystar into your internet router and use your 70cms DSTAR handheld to access the DSTAR network. It looks like you can program the necessary settings into the Babystar by means of a web interface hosted on the device.

See ON8JL's webpage about the Babystar device

See MM0DUN's page on using the Babystar

Meanwhile here, it was a more pleasant February morning, so I was able to get out into the garden for some chores this morning, taking the IC-E92 handheld. I'd just completed cleaning out the henhouse when Joe HL5KY put a call out on REF001C

I gave Joe a call and we had a very pleasant chat, and the chickens made their voices heard in South Korea!

DMR talk - and a great blog (Grapevine Ham Radio)

Over the last week or two, I've been aware of quite a few people taking a bit more interest in DMR in various places. Not knowing very much about it, I've been doing a bit more reading to try and understand what sort of kit is available other than the 'full price' gear.

I keep an eye on e-Bay, of course, and had seen the Kirisun units around. These, it seems, are DPMR, using FDMA and whilst are no doubt very interesting to try out, they won't get you anywhere down the DMR route.

A DMR handheld that won't break the bank is the Connect Systems CS700 which is retailing in the US at around USD180. There's a really nice writeup over at the Grapevine Ham Radio blog. Incidentally, I can't believe I have missed Jason's blog up until now. There's lots of great stuff there. And to make it even more embarrassing, he kindly includes a link to my blog on his site. Sorry, Jason - this will be fixed! Hans, PD0AC also carries an interesting item about the CS-700 on his blog.

It will be interesting to see if or how the talk develops and whether DMR makes any sort of impression in terms of on-air activity over the next few months

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Playing with the portable satellite gear on SO-50 and FO-29

Yesterday, the weather was good enough (just) that I felt like taking the gear out into the garden to try and use the satellites. I was particularly interested in FO-29, which is one of the SSB satellites.

Shortly before Christmas, a very kind benefactor gave me a diplexer and I was keen to give that a whirl, connecting up both the FT817, FT790 and using the both on the Elk antenna.

So, out into the garden we go, with the FT817 and Palm Paddle, for 2m transmit, the diplexer, the FT790 for 70cms receive, the Elk antenna and a Lead Acid battery! I got it all setup prior to the pass and started to have a listen around. Signals started coming through on 70cms, which was good. However, there was obviously a poor connection somewhere, as when I try to send a few dits on 2m, there were a lot of crunchy noises on 70cms. It sounded like a connector not done up properly, as I was able to make it go away - mostly.

By this time I'd missed much of the pass, but I did just manage to find myself on the satellite downlink. However, I did discover that it is not possible to hold and aim the antenna, tune the 70cms downlink and send dits all at the same time! Patrick, WD9EWK suggested that I could probably send dits and tune the TX with one hand which is probably the way to go.

For the next pass of FO-29 which was quite a low one (12 degree elevation) I decided that I wouldn't lug everything back out into the garden (especially as it was starting to gently rain at this stage), so I just took the FT817, the battery and the Elk out.

Ages ago, Pete 2E0SQL had suggested to me that if I transmit on 145.945 up it would come out on around 435.862 at the start of the pass. So I decided to make it a half duplex pass and give that a go. Despite the rather weak signals from the low pass - and the fact that it was mostly behind the lime tree at the end of our garden, I was pleased to be called by F6CTW with whom I was able to make a scratchy QSO. We'll do it better another time, I'm sure. It was good to make an FO-29 QSO again and I'm excited to try it again, be it full duplex, which will be much better of course, or a cheap and cheerful half duplex. If you hear me gently drifting down the transponder, that will be why.

Later in the afternoon, I thought I would get on SO-50. I particularly wanted to look out for Ken G0PPM who has been working on getting QRV and I wondered if he would be able to be on. I decided to use my trusty Baofeng UV-5R. In some respects the UVB-6 is nicer, but there's something a bit strange about the squelch that I couldn't quite set completely off. Must have a look at that.

The satellite seemed to take ages to 'arrive', but it did and as it was a nice overhead pass, signals were great. First station heard was Dave M0SAT - not far away, near Watford (we last worked on 70MHz). I signed with Dave and heard G0PPM's call, so was delighted to be able to work Ken, who had a great sounding signal from his portable location. Ken is often on the road, so it will be fun to work him from various locations around the south and south-west of England and occasionally, South Wales. R1AO then put a call through and worked a couple of stations - I was delighted to be able to catch him for a new country on the satellite. With DG0BBE and an OE6 coming through, but not worked, I was pleased to be able to work Branko 9A3ST just before the pass was over.

A really exciting satellite day and a good bit of encouragement for me to get on a bit more often - when the weather allows!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

uLog - a new, simple logging program from M0PZT

For the last year or so, I've been using PZTLog written by Charlie, M0PZT, which I have found excellent and a pleasure to use.

Charlie has just released uLog (Micro log). As its' name suggests, it's a stripped down logging program for people who don't want anything complicated.It seems to do just that! I downloaded it (like PZTLog, it is free) and installed it in seconds.

It is compatible with the PZTLog database too - so I found that I could point it at my existing PZTLog database file and log QSOs successfully. I checked, too, that I could go back in and use PZTLog - it's all fine. Some of the database fields used in PZTLog are not populated in uLog - but remember - the point is simple logging!

I like the simplicity of the logging window - which you can just have running - and tab over to the application from whereever you were, when you need to log a QSO.


The Flexi-input is a neat feature too (also in PZTLog) where you can enter the QSO information and uLog will have a go at working out which field it wanted to put it in (eg 59S will place 59 in the RST-Sent field). Maybe it was me, but it didn't quite get the locator right and wanted to put it in a WAB field - but hey, details...

The tabs across the top allow access to the Log Viewer where you can see a list of previous QSOs, as well as extract them to ADIF files (should you want to upload to eQSL, Clublog or whatever). I liked the colour coding of QSOs by mode, too!


The message is simple - if you want a simple, fun and easy to use logging program for the Windows platform, you should look at uLog. 


Update In normal, super-responsive Charlie style - he took a look at the issue I mentioned regarding the Flexi-input and the locator/WAB issue and has amended it. Thanks, Charlie!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

SOTA Goat - your friendly mountain top companion (for iOS)

Over the weekend, I decided to grab a copy of the iOS application 'SOTA Goat' written by WW1X. I'd seen some nice reviews and I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at some of the SOTA activity.

The application allows you to look at SOTA summits, worldwide, on a map - search for it by name and so on.

You can also look at SOTA related spots from the DX Cluster as well as upcoming alerts of activity from the SOTAWatch website.

It's nicely put together and particularly at the weekend, it was fun to look at the activity and have a little listen to see what could be heard.

This *might* be where I rethink getting rid of the FT1000MP! The HF antenna was on the FT847 and I was looking for one of the SOTA portables on 14MHz. On the FT847 there was a great deal of noise - I swapped the antenna over onto the FT1000MP and it was clear as a - clear thing! I do have a CW filter in the FT847 too.

I was hoping to hear Richard G3CWI of SOTABeams fame, last weekend operating as GW3CWI/P, but things weren't quite right on 7 and 14MHz for us.

I like the SOTAGoat app. It's not free, but it's well put together and informative. I sense I will enjoy looking out for the SOTA stations. And on the iPhone, it looks a nice way of alerting people, if you're out portable on a SOTA summit.

Not many summits like the one above close to me! But the screenshot gives you a good idea of the information available about each summit.

Monday, January 20, 2014

And it's back! GB3VHF back on air

An update from Chris G0FDZ on the GB3VHF service page shows that the beacon came back on air this morning.

There will be a temporary interruption to service at some point when the electricity supply is moved back to the mains from the generator - but the timing of this is not known.

Thanks Chris for sorting it out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

GB3VHF 144MHz beacon currently off air

Chris, G0FDZ, the beacon keeper of the GB3VHF 144MHz beacon reports it as off air at the moment.

Unfortunately, there has been an equipment failure of the power supplies. No particular problem - Chris has the bits to mend it! However, unfortunately, due to the very wet weather, it's not possible to get in the door, as it has swollen!

See the service updates page for GB3VHF

From the pictures, particularly the fallen oak tree, it would appear that the weather at the site has been very bad recently.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

What to do when WSJT tells you 'invalid number of channels'

My excursion onto JT6M last night was a bit fraught, although ultimately very worthwhile and enjoyable. When I fired up WSJT, it errored - saying invalid number of channels.

I realised it was probably something to do with the fact that I had installed the VB-Cable audio driver onto the PC to route audio from the FCD to other applications. No worries, it's just a simple case of adjusting the various device numbers.

Except that it wasn't. Everything I tried still came up with the same error. WSJT-X was still working ok as was PZTLog, so I knew there wasn't anything wrong with the interface or cabling. I disabled the VB-Cable driver, which put device numbers back where they originally were.No.

Starting to doubt my sanity which has been in question recently, anyway, I Googled it, realising that it was one of those times when the error was not what it seemed to be.

Fortunately I found this thread - thank you N0RQ! It looks like this can happen when you add or remove audio devices on your machine.

Deleted the WSJT.INI file, restarted WSJT, which of course creates a new INI file - entered my defaults and all was well!

A frustrating hour, but easily fixed once you know...

Friday, January 03, 2014

My first 50MHz JT6M Meteor Scatter QSO

This evening, I was watching the tweets go by and realised that it was the peak of the Quadrantids meteor shower. Not having a 2m beam up at the moment, the only possibility was 50MHz. And though I have got my old 50MHz beam back from a friend who had it on long term loan, it's not in a state to go up at short notice. So the only game in town is the V2000 vertical.

I wasn't too worried as I had heard a few meteor bursts on the vertical in the past, so I guessed if there was any reasonable activity, I might hear something.

I quickly saw some bursts from an SM7 station and then a very considerable number from SK0TM up in JO86. So many, that I decided to go up to the shack, having been monitoring it all from the comfort of the sofa on the iPad.

Very much tongue-in-cheek, I started to call SK0TM with a report. To my enormous surprise, I very quickly got a R26 report back so was able to send Rogers and receive them. By the time we got to try and exchange 73s, the conditions seemed to have dried up, but we both had all we needed for a complete QSO.

Thank you, Stig - I know it's possible to make MS QSOs using simple aerials, but I've never done it with a vertical before!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Musings on reworking the station

I haven't bottomed this out yet, but it's in my mind that I almost never use the FT1000MP anymore. It's a lovely rig if you're into CW and SSB DX chasing and has a great receiver, particularly on LF. I'm not doing any of those things currently. Most of my HF activity is using the FT847, which doesn't have anything like the same receiver performance, but it works well for JT65/JT9 on 14MHz and above which is where I tend to be.

The FT1000MP doesn't get switched on so much. I'm wondering whether to trade it in against something like a TS2000X, which would give me another nice flexible HF/VHF rig, with the benefit of 1296MHz. Again, I don't think the HF performance is likely to be the same as the MP - but maybe that doesn't matter so much.

If I do want to try and work a DXpedition then I ought to be able to do it on anything with a couple of VFOs!

Then there's some antenna work to think about - particularly on the VHF side. The 2m beam on the mast isn't working at the moment - that needs to be replaced. Again, I think with something quite compact - 5 elements or so, is quite adequate for what I need. The 70cms 10 element seems to work well - and if I go for 23cms, then, if I can get something small on the top of the mast, that could be good. I think I'll need to replace the rotator really - it's probably worth doing, to avoid failure.

I'm quite keen to put together something which makes it easy to put up temporary (and slightly larger) VHF beams in the back garden, for things like MS or EME tests - perhaps on a tripod. All that really needs is a decent run of coax down the garden to the shed or greenhouse where cables can be brought in.

I think the 50 and 70MHz Es systems are fine as they are on the vertical antennas - particularly with the addition of the Funcube Dongle receiver which should allow for good monitoring.

So, there's quite a lot to think about here - and some exciting possibilities. How much of it will come to pass - I don't know! But it's good to dream!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A few tweaks to the UZ7HO packet config - more copy from the ISS

I mentioned yesterday that I only seemed to be copying a few frames from each ISS pass. Those seemed to be when the satellite was closest. Which is fair enough of course.

This morning, I spent a few moments reading the UZ7HO manual (which is very good!). You might argue that I should have done that a week ago. But I'm really not that sort of person, I'm afraid.

It transpired that my audio levels into the program weren't as high as they should have been. I cranked these up almost as far as they would go and left the program monitoring the next ISS pass.

Definitely an improvement! Many more frames copied - great, including some more distant stations such as HG8PL. Rather than copying frames over a short period of time, it was usable over several minutes.

The default setting for the UZ7HO software seemed to be a monochrome waterfall display. I changed it into colour and then followed the manual's advice to make it a green colour, with red when packet signals are received.

So, a few more frames digi-ed via the ISS today, and messages swapped between Pete, 2E0SQL and myself, over a ground path of around 12 miles, via a spacecraft travelling above us at 17,500MPH.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Packet signals through the ISS digipeater - success!

I posted a few days ago that I was hoping to have a go at digipeating my 145MHz packet signal through the digipeater on the International Space Station. I got all the gear and software set up and then the digipeater seemed to be switched off.

In fact, I think it was switched off for very good reason, whilst the astronauts were space walking; repairing the pump and deploying the cameras (and then undeploying them again).

I set it all up yesterday, before we went out family visiting. Apart from the fact that I didn't connect the aerial!

Today I was slightly better organised and left things running whilst Julie and I went out for a chilly, but sunny walk. I was pleased to find that I had copied a frame from IW3RGK when I got back.

The next pass looked promising, being pretty much directly overhead. I started to hear the signals as the spacecraft approached, around 300 miles away and got some decodes so I decided to press the transmit button. To my delight, I saw the digipeater repeat my position: you can see on the screenshot below from the UISS program.

On transmit I was using the FT8900 to the V2000 collinear, so nothing too special. Although I am hearing quite a few packets on the pass, I only seem to be decoding the ones when the spacecraft is almost overhead - I suspect it's the signal strength - or perhaps the doppler shift is messing with the Soundmodem decodes.

Great fun!

Friday, December 27, 2013

More fun with the Funcube Dongle Pro Plus (Skimmers, Spacewalks, 50MHz ES and more)

This morning, I decided to try the Funcube Dongle Pro Plus on HF. I connected it up to the Butternut vertical and tuned to 14MHz. First impressions were very good, with plenty of signals coming through with good quality.

Zipping around the signals on CW, I wondered whether I could get a Skimmer going. The Skimmer decodes the CW from an SDR (or other receiver) and shows the text on the screen. CW Skimmer software was developed by VE3NEA a few years back and it has changed CW contesting for ever, I understand. Happily we don't need to worry about that here!

I downloaded the trial version of the software and installed it. When I looked at the setup, there was no mention of a Funcube Dongle, so I decided to try it as a Softrock receiver as suggested on this web page. I also grabbed the FCD Frequency utility which allows you to control the frequency of the dongle. I set it up to run on 28MHz and set it going - sure enough it worked!

Even more impressive was when I set the Skimmer going on 7MHz, with Ws and JAs coming through (good band at this time of year, if you're so minded, 7MHz). There were a few false decodes, which looked like Skimmer had done its best to resolve something that wasn't really a CW signal, out of band, into CW! Fun though.

I have no particular need for a Skimmer on HF, although perhaps it might be fun on 28MHz, but certainly I can see it would be good during an Es opening on 50MHz.

I had hoped to be trying to receive the packet digi signals from the ISS today, but the digi was still switched off, with the astronauts engaged in a spacewalk to fix the errant pump. This proved a mixed blessing - as both Peter MI0VAX and Andrew M6GTG mentioned they'd been listening to the EVA comms from the astronauts on 143.625MHz, so I decided to try that.

Once the ISS was in range of Moscow, a huge signal, doppler shifting, appeared around 143.625MHz and it was easily possible to hear the astronauts talking in Russian. The FCD was connected to the V2000 vertical for this.

I noticed that the VO-52 satellite was making a fairly low pass during the late afternoon. I was curious to see if I transmitted a CW signal, using my terrestrial 70cms antenna, whether I would be able to hear myself coming back through the VO-52 transponder on 145MHz, using the FCD and the vertical antenna.

I haven't quite figured out the doppler shift and where to transmit and where to listen, but after a bit of fiddling and faffing, I was indeed able to hear my CW coming back through the satellite. I tried a hasty CQ, but no luck this time... but it is the first time I have heard myself on VO-52. I will do better I am quite sure!

Feeling quite happy with all of that, I was just about to pack up in the shack, come downstairs and be sociable, when I noticed a tweet saying that there was some 50MHz Es about. I had missed an opening yesterday, so was keen to see if I could pick something up today.

I tuned the FCD to 50MHz and could immediately see LY1R coming through with a nice signal, so moved the antenna onto the FT847 and worked him after a couple of calls followed by OK1DOL. Things seemed to quieten down, so I popped the antenna back on the FCD for the benefit of the panoramic display.

This was very handy and I spotted several signals which I might have missed, had I just been on the FT847, so there was some rapid switching of the antenna between the FT847 and the FCD as I worked people, including DL1AX and DL3RBH on CW. I missed an SP5 on CW, who dived into the noise before I could work him.

All in all though, a very nice winter Es opening and I was delighted to find that the FCD worked so well on the band - the panoramic display proved so useful for spotting signals across the band.

Several times today, I have thought - why didn't I get one of these FCDs before! Thank you again, Santa!

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