More Digital Thoughts

Well, I’ve been using JT-65/JT-9 for several days now, and I do have a few thoughts to share. It’s amazing being able to copy a signal you can hardly see on the waterfall or hear. As a weak-signal mode, it is really unsurpassed. I’ve been using 5 to 10 watts output and find that more than sufficient in most cases. Using WSJT-X software from K1JT, it’s almost foolproof once you’ve got a few QSOs under your belt.

For me, the biggest negative is the limited ability to actually say anything of consequence. With a 13-character limit on your message — well, that’s not a lot of chat time. But all this has been said before, and it is what it is. Within the constraints of the format, it works exceedingly well.

It’s been a while since I’ve dabbled in the more verbose digital modes, so I’m going to try to get back to the “keyboard” modes for a while (PSK-31/63, etc. While the JT-x modes are great for propagation research (pskreporter) and snagging some new ones relatively easily, I think I prefer the more free-structured keyboard-to-keyboard, give and take of the more conventional modes.

73 de Dick k4ftw

DIgital and Low Power Stuff

I finally got around to setting up WSJT-X and JT Alert on the new laptop, and found quite a bit of action. I worked 18 stations (mostly Europe and the US) in a couple of hours on 20 Meters. I seemed to have a lot more luck on JT-9 than on JT-65. Sort of like watching paint dry, but I did fill in a few missing digital Grid squares, prefixes, etc in the meantime.

QCWA Chapter 119 activated Fort Monroe National Monument recently, and although I couldn’t lend a hand with the operation due to a prior commitment, I did manage to work them on CW. I haven’t heard how they did number wise, but it was a beautiful day to be operating portable.

We’ve found a site for W4MT, our 146.73 repeater. We lost our previous site and had been searching for a new location for quite a few months. In the interim, we’ve been having our Tuesday evening club net on the WN4HRT repeater.

Overall, the bands have not been the greatest, but the digital modes offer an opportunity to make contacts with lower power. I made those 18 contacts this evening using 10 watts to a vertical tied to the clothesline pole. Nothing sophisticated about that, folks! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Don’t forget, CW was the original digital mode.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Celebration of Life for Bill, WB4UYA

Before Bill passed away, he told his family that his wish was for them to throw a party in memory of him, and to invite all his ham buddies. Well, today that happened. We met at Nick’s at Gloucester Point for a celebration and get together. Everyone was given 5 raffle tickets upon arrival and had the opportunity to buy more.There were several HF radios (Icom 746, TenTec Orion) and several VHF/UHF radios (Kennwood TH-F6A, several mobiles) raffled off, along with miscellaneous items (RigBlaster, antennas, microphones, a fifth of Jamieson’s, etc). Not to be forgotten was his collection of coffee cups.All proceeds of the raffle went to the ARRL. I won the Kenwood TH-F6A and several coffee cups.We had a great lunch as well, and left laden with our wins and lots of fond memories of Bill.

de Dick, K4FTW

PARC 2M Net

Tonight was the first scheduled PARC (Peninsula Amateur Radio Club) 2M net in a long time. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Tom (WE4TOM) & I were the only ones that showed up. Everyone else must have forgotten. We used the WN4HRT (144MHz, -.600, 100Hz) repeater at Riverside Hospital. Hopefully, participation will increase.

The bands have been iffy, with lots of QSB. A station will be there one minute and then disappear. I’ve done more listening than talking.

Saturday there is a celebration of life in memory of Bill Howell, WB4UYA, at Nick’s in Gloucester. Bill passed away several months ago. Everyone is invited.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Back Again

I seem to show up here apologizing for not posting in a while quite often. What is it they say? “Good intentions pave the highway to Hell” … or something like that. Anyway, I have been somewhat productive. I’ve been experimenting with a homemade magnetic loop antenna for QRP operation, and it looks promising. I am AMAZED at what I can hear and work with a 13-ft loop of wire at ground level on twenty meters. Sure, it’s obviously not as good as a beam at 75 feet, but I can get on the air and communicate with it.

I also finally gotten around to loading FLDigi onto the new laptop. I expected a lot more trouble, as I remembered that there were problems when I first started using it. I must say, WIndows 10 cooperated wonderfully. The setup seemed to go much easier, too. Maybe experience counts for something.

I’ve been lurking on 20 meters in the digital portion of the band (14.070+) and reading the mail. Just trying to get a feel for QSO content and so forth. The last time I really was serious about RTTY/PSK/DIgital/etc. was when I was operating as VQ9RB on Diego Garcia. Those were the good old days … hamming pretty much every night from the club station, and a great bunch of guys. Some now Silent Keys and others still very much alive and kicking. It was a good mix of people, too. Navy guys who were fluent in CW and Merchant seamen (mostly Radio Officers who, in those days, were REALLY CW ops). Satellite communications on ships was fairly new, and CW was still required. Me, I was one of the few there that did CW only for fun! For all the others, it was job-related.

I think the first time I ever did RTTY was when I was VQ9D or S79D in the Seychelles. I had a Commodore 64 computer with a plug-in module on the backside that generated the keying signal. Worked great.

Well, enough reminiscing. Look for me again around the digital frequencies. I’d be pleased to have a chat.

73 de Dick K4FTW

CQ WW CW 2015

Well, I spent a lot of time (for me) working this contest. Conditions were OK, but nothing spectacular. Probably a lot of that has to do with my antennas. But I did manage to work about a hundred stations … a lot of search and pounce. I put N1MM+ logger to good use. I remember the old days of dupe sheets and paper logs … I don’t even want to go back to that.

I think I worked a few ATNOs, but I’m not sure. I did hear some, but couldn’t break the pileups … Senegal, Mozambique, 3B9 … mostly African stations. The only pacific station I heard was Hawaii, and he was steaming in here with a 59+.

All in all, it was a nice weekend to get my hand back into some hard-core CW.

73 de k4ftw, Dick

CQ WW SSB

Well, I dabbled in the CQ WW SSB this weekend. Not seriously, just for fun and to get back on the air after a long break. It was lively, to say the least. Ten and Fifteen meters were SMOKIN’ most of the time I was on … actually crowded. The HF bands are not dead yet!

Last week, QCWA Chapter 119 held its monthly meeting here on the Peninsula. Had a great meal, and watched a presentation about the Virginia Air and Space Museum Ham Radio exhibit.

Fall is in the air now. Cooler days and even cooler nights. Good weather for antenna work or staying in the house to “play radio!”

73 de Dick K4FTW

Computer work

Well, I was going to be good and get that 80M antenna up in the air last night, but rain and thunderstorms took care of that idea. The weather is supposed to continue this way for the next couple of days, so I decided to do some work in the shack. I needed to back up the laptop, since the last time that was done was in April. I saved an image to my 1TB external drive, so that’s done now. I also made an image of my newer Dell Venue Pro 7140 11-inch tablet, just in case.

I think I’ll keep the laptop at Windows 7 and not upgrade to 10 right away. Most of the hams that have tried the Windows 10 previews find that almost all the ham software that I use runs fine under Windows 10, but I think I’ll wait a bit before I do something drastic.The Win 8.1 tablet is already in the queue for the upgrade at the end of July, though.

I am having an issue with the laptop and a very slow boot, however. The drive activity light really does a lot of blinking, which tells me that it’s getting accessed a lot. It takes 5 minutes or so to completely boot. I know there’s a lot of junk on there … it’s 4 or 5 years old now and still has the original Windows 7 install on it, and I know people that do a fresh install every six months. I just hate to have to reload LOTS of software, and then configure it again for all the radio gadgets.

Oh well, tonight is the monthly Radio Club meeting, so I can postpone my decision for a day or so, anyway. I’m sure there will be a lot of info about the upcoming Field Day effort, and an after-the-fact review of the picnic last Saturday.

73 de Dick K4FTW
dick@k4ftw.us

 

What happened to Spring?

We had a few nice Spring days, but it seems like Summer has arrived about a month early. Temperatures and humidity here in coastal Virginia have been Summer-like already. I sure hope this is not a taste of an unbearable August.

Saturday, we had our annual Southeastern Virginia Ham picnic at Deer Park, in Newport News. It was a nice get together, with a chance to put faces to some of the calls I hear on the local repeaters. We had hamburgers and hot dogs with a few sides, and just generally relaxed and got to know each other a bit better.

Field Day is approaching, and once again our club, PARC, will do a joint venture with SPARK at the usual Hampton location. Things will be as usual, but I don’t think we are going to run a GOTA station this year. Last year we had zero luck with that. We are always looking forward to improving every year, and hopefully we can make a better CW showing this year.

I still haven’t had a chance to get an 80M antenna up in the air yet, but with the good weather, I’m going to have to get out into the yard and just do it. I’ve got the wire, 9:1 UN-UN, rope, coax, and slingshot, so the only thing holding me back is lack of motivation! I’m going to go out on a limb here (not literally!) and promise myself to GET THIS DONE!

I’ve recently started trying to make a contact or two at lunchtime from work, using the HB1B from the truck, but not a lot of luck so far. Yeah, I’ve gotten a couple of contacts, but with only a half-hour for lunch, it’s difficult to get some food into myself, get the rig connected and then dismantled, and not feel terribly rushed. Maybe it’ll get easier as I get more familiar with it.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Spring!

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and my sinuses are dripping because of allergies … Spring is officially here now! I’ve started digging through winter storage boxes to collect my portable QRP goodies so I can once more play radio from the great outdoors.

I was going to operate while on a Scouting weekend last week, but it was cold and rainy … not a great experience. As it turned out, I was pretty busy as well, so time was at a premium. Everything seems to work well set up at home, so I’m going to at least get out into the back yard and test things in an actual field setting on Saturday or Sunday.

I have been on 20M CW recently, and worked a few Europeans. The signals have been a bit poor when I was able to get on, but the QSOs went OK. I hope to get organized enough to be able to operate /P from the parking lot at work at lunchtime soon. I think that affords the best chance for a regular radio session.

We’re still looking for a location for our 2M repeater (W4MT). We lost our site a couple of months ago and are working several possibilities now. There are several other repeaters in the area that we can use, but it’d be nice to get ours up and running again.

73 de Dick K4FTW