A Voice from the Past

I recently received an email requesting a QSL from a Russian station for a contact when I was VQ9RB, on Diego Garcia. Even more interesting, I got a card in the mail from a Brazilian station for one of my Seychelles cards! Needless to say, I no longer have any blank cards for those QTHs. They were all used up or lost in a move many moons ago.

So, necessity is the mother of invention, they say. I searched the OfficeMax location here and believe it or not, could not find any card stock in the weight I was looking. So, Amazon Prime to the rescue. I ordered a 200-sheet pack for about ten bucks, and will roll my own. Microsoft Publisher and the ol’ laser printer should work just fine. The trouble I go to for you guys out there still working at increasing your DXCC numbers :-D.

Remember, the final courtesy of a QSO is the QSL. If I can, through some earthly process, supply you with a needed card, I’ll take care of it. I have been there, guys! My pleasure!

73 de Dick K4FTW (ex-VQ9D, VQ9D/D, S79D, VQ9RB, G0/WB4YZU, WB4YZU, ad nauseum :-).

In a Real Rut

I seem to have settled into a rut lately. I get home from work, turn on the rig, and work a few JT-9 contacts, and then shut down. I think I need a bit more spice in my life :-). I hereby resolve to try and inject more variety into my ham radio practices. This weekend, I think I’ll do a bit of PSK and a bit of CW, and MAYBE even a little SSB. If it wasn’t so darned hot and humid (106 deg. heat index), I might even venture a little antenna work and generator servicing.

I’m at work right now waiting for the HVAC guy to show up and service the failed A/C unit at one of our radio sites. I don’t like to see high-temp alarms at my sites!

I just finished up a week long class today on Motorola Networking Essentials. I learned a lot and am looking forward to more classes this summer. These classes are a result of us updating our analog trunking system with a new P25 digital trunking system. It’s all IP-based, so networking is an integral part of the infrastructure.

73 de Dick K4FTW


Wow! The sun is naked. The sunspot number has been at ZERO for several days now, and the propagation shows it. I was working a station in New Jersey last night on JT-9, and he had a strong signal  … +00. I watched his trace on the waterfall slowly fade away to nothing. He was not copyable, and JT-9 can usually pull out the data when you can barely see a trace. Really DEEP QSB.

That said, I have been working stations all over North and South America and Europe these past few days. Signals are not great, but they’re readable. When you figure that I’m only running 10 to 20 watts to a vertical on the digital modes, it’s nothing short of amazing.

So the moral of the story is … get on and call CQ. Make some noise! You’ll be surprised at what’s out there. I haven’t heard a lot on SSB, but there’s plenty of action on the digital modes … CW, JT, PSK, Olivia, etc.). Too many people just fire up the rig, tune across the bands and sigh … “Darn! It’s dead tonight!”. If everybody just tunes, there’s nothing to hear.

73 de Dick K4FTW


I worked with Tom, WE4TOM, to get his PSK31 up and running. We only live a couple of miles apart, at most, but it was great when I finally saw his transmission on my waterfall and printing out on my screen.

We had tried a couple of times over the past two weeks to get something going. He could copy my transmissions, but I wan’t getting a whisper from him. I still don’t know what he did to get it working, but after a couple of iterations, HE DID! Sometimes you have to keep banging away at the problem until you get a break.

So Tom … guess what I’ve got for you? That’s right – a shiny new QSL card. I’ll deliver it at the next Club meeting. Great job of figuring out HRD and DM780. Here’s a preview …

Office Lens 20160623-210240


73 de Dick

ZERO Sunspots

The sunspot count is ZERO! Can’t get much lower than that. But … in spite of the low numbers (and a minor solar disturbance), I still make contacts. Even CW seems pretty sparse, but the digital parts of the band still amaze me.

I have been mostly working JT-9 and JT-65, and there’s been a lot of action. Good openings into Europe and South America, as well as stateside  and Canada. Twenty meters has been productive as has forty meters, but that’s about it. Above 20 just sucks, to put it bluntly (although they say 6 meters has been promising).

Well, tonight we’ll have the PARC 2-meter net. At least propagation is consistent on the repeater 🙂 .

73 de Dick k4ftw

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