2020-02-04 Chasing more DX with HamAlert 2 weeks ago
This weekend I had some random radio time so I made a number of contacts. By numbers mainly in FT4 and FT8 but also some SSB and CW via the remote radio. I activated HamAlert triggers and used that to get a few countries in the log that I wanted confirmed via LoTW. This worked for Corsica and San Marino. I got an alert for a San Marino call on Saturday and worked it reasonably fast after an FT8 CQ from that station. On Sunday I saw a notification for a Corsican call on FT8. When I saw the activity I noticed the station was just calling other stations. So I just started answering the callsign in the hope of getting the contact and after a few tries the hint came across and I got the contact in the log. This is an area where an alerting system that uses more sources than just the DX cluster network works better: the station from Corsica never showed up on the DX cluster, but the activity was seen by PSKreporter and filtered by HamAlert into a notification to me. The contact with Corsica is already confirmed on LoTW.
2020-01-08 Changed to a new alerting option for radio amateurs 1 month ago
I turned on the remote radio today and saw in the DX cluster that the ZC4UW dxpedition was still active although 7 January was the last day. The signals were never good enough to make the contact, but this made me rethink the DX alerting options I have. I used 'DX Alert' on Android before, but this program had some difficulties and I can't find it anymore on the google play store which suggests it's really going out of support. The new suggestion is HamAlert which processes data from the DX Cluster network, PSKreporter, Reverse Beacon network and Sotawatch, allows the user to set triggers and report via push notification to a Android/Iphone when the HamAlert android app or equivalent iPhone app is installed. I created an account, installed the app and set up my first triggers: countries in and around Europe I don't yet have confirmed in bands/modes that I can use. It's a lot easier in HamAlert to set these up compared to DX Alert because it can all be done on the HamAlert website and can be customized more easily. Update 2020-01-12: First score: I activated the alerts today because I had some time to get on the radio between other things. I saw alerts for E44RU which is in Palestine on a non-standard FT8 frequency. I spun the dial, adjusted a bit and made the contact. And that's a new country for me.
2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back 1 month ago
Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. Months with contests are quite visible. After the peak in number of contacts in July there was first a holday and after that no big peaks in number of contacts. December 2019 jumps out a bit again due to the FT8 roundup on 8/9 December in which I made 66 contacts and later in the month the troposperic ducting allowing contacts over interesting distances in the 70 centimeter and 2 meter band added to a sprint at the end. In 2019 I made a few more contacts than in the previous record year 2017. Looking back at my amateur radio resolutions for 2019 I think most came true. If I look at them one by one:
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.
- Keep learning morse! - I'm still working on my morse, but there is measurable improvement. I have learned the full set for the Belgian CW exam and I'm working on accuracy and speed.
- Get more countries on more HF bands in the log - More countries and more slots on HF are in the log. I also use the club station to achieve that goal. The ARRL DXCC Award shows that I'm getting somewhere.
- Moonbounce on 2 meter - I've listened on the right frequencies to the moon on 2 meter. Nothing heard.
- Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests - I participated in two phone contests and a number of digimode contests. No serious improvement in scores.
- Operate HF outside - I operated HF outside. Not as much as I would like.
- At least one satellite contact - Multiple satellite contacts have been made!
2019-12-29 New countries.. on the 70 centimeter band 1 month ago
I saw reports of special propagation on the 2 meter band and even on 70 centimeters today. Normally I can get something further than line of sight on 2 meter and line of sight is the hard limit on 70 centimeter. But with some propagation types it's different and signals can get further. So I tried FT8 on both bands and got Belgium, France, Germany and England in the log on 70cm and new callsigns on both bands. Denmark still got away, I had an almost-contact with a Danish station on 70 centimeters but it stopped after the initial exchange. This is all with the vertical antenna on the roof. I wonder what a beam or big wheel antenna for 70cm or 2meter could do. At the same time I spun the dial on the remote HF radio so I also got some calls in the log on 20 meters. Update: Current distance record on the 70 cm band is 803 kilometers to F8DBF in France and the first contact with Denmark has been made.
2019-04-24 I applied for the ARRL DXCC award 10 months ago
After getting to the magic number of getting contacts with 100 DXCC entities confirmed I applied for (and paid for) the ARRL DXCC award, the American Radio Relay League DX Century Club award. So I guess I have to admit I'm a serious DX chaser!
2019-04-21 New countries in amateur radio: Egypt and Colombia 10 months ago
After working on the URE 70 year anniversary special event I also made contact with two new countries: Egypt and Colombia. Egypt is not too far away but there aren't many active radio amateurs in Egypt so this one is harder. This evening SU9JG is active and I got the contact. Right after that I got HK3C in the log from Colombia. Not a very rare country in Amateur radio, but with my current setup I have trouble reaching South America. The definition of 'rare' or 'not so rare' countries (or rather: DX entities, but that's another story) in Amateur radio is based on the statistics gathered by Club Log and published as the DXCC Most Wanted List which is based on the assumption that every active Club Log member wants contacts with all available DXCC entities. Countries with lots of active amateurs such as the United States of America and Italy are at the bottom of the list, countries or entities that restrict amateur radio or are very hard to reach such as North Korea and Bouvet Island are at the top. Update 2019-04-22: And both are already confirmed on Logbook of the World which gets the number of countries confirmed via electronic qsls on Logbook of the World to a round 100, the magic number for the DX Century Club. So, time to start checking my options to get an actual DXCC certificate! I also have three countries confirmed via QSL card which aren't confirmed electronically, so I have to look into the Dutch QSL card checker option one day.
2019-04-14 Getting countries on new bands in the log 10 months ago
I haven't made an amateur radio contact with a completely new country in a while, but I have worked on getting countries on new bands in the log. This weekend I had the 6-40m longwire antenna out. It did not want to tune on 12 meters but I made contacts on the 10, 15, 17, 30 and 40 meter bands. Some new country/band combinations were added: Moldova, Montenegro, Japan and the Slovak Republic on 30 meters, Estonia on 17 meters, Latvia on 15 meters. I also made contacts with several stations in the URE 70 year anniversary special event. Update 2019-04-15: Tuned the longwire for 80 meters and added Serbia and Norway as new 80 meter countries.
2019-01-08 Amateur radio resolutions for 2019 1 year ago
The last time I did those was in 2017: Reviewing my 2016 amateur radio resolutions, and the new ones for 2017 and the hindsight results for 2017/2018 are:
The Sotabeams newsletter had an item "Setting your targets for 2019" which had some nice ideas and which triggered me to write this post. Things I want to try :
- Improve the holiday/portable setup with solar power and a lightweight multiband inverted V
No solar power (due to costs) but the portable setup is improved and tested: the fiber mast I bought for playing radio from several locations including amateur radio from a local park. Now to find more time to actually use it.
- Keep doing the digimode contests
That part went better in 2017 and I had less time and/or energy for contests in 2018. Also in 2018 the interference situation got worse. So my net results in contests improved in 2017 and got worse in 2018.
- Maybe those satellites
I tried at least receiving them a few times, but no contacts yet.
- Get a 2m/70cm vertical antenna on the roof of the dormer
It's there, it has already been upgraded to a bigger antenna with higher gain and it's mostly used for 2 meter FT8. But also for actual talking to other radio amateurs sometimes.
- Keep learning morse!
- Get more countries on more HF bands in the log
- Moonbounce on 2 meter
- Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests
- Operate HF outside
- At least one satellite contact
2019-01-02 New country in amateur radio: West Malaysia 1 year ago
In between a few other not too far FT8 contacts I suddenly had a contact with 9M2TO in West Malaysia, a new country for me in amateur radio. I had seen the call before but I did not expect the contact to happen. And it's already confirmed via Logbook of The World too.
2018-12-28 Serious tropospheric ducting over Christmas 1 year ago
Normally, radio signals travel in a straight line and refraction in the ionosphere only happens on relatively low frequencies (below 30 MHz). Signals in the 2 meter band (144-146 MHz) don't get refracted in the ionosphere, they just leave earth. But in certain weather conditions with stable high-pressure areas layers can form that reflect these signals back to earth or create ducts in the air where the radio signals travel along the surface for much bigger distances than normal. For Christmas 2018 there was some troposperic ducting predicted on William Hepburn's Worldwide Tropospheric Ducting Forecast. This site forecasts ducting areas based on predicted weather patterns. To see the actual distances seen in radio contacts I check VHF propagation map based on APRS reception which uses input from APRS messages with location data received at other sites to find long distance contacts. During the Christmas festivities I checked that site from time to time and saw the big distance signal reports mostly over France, slowly creeping North. So on 25, 26, 27 and 28 December I ran the radio when possible on 2 meter FT8 and got some new distance records and some new gridsquares in the log. New distance record: 639 kilometer to G4RRA. Several other new calls in the log, some new gridsquares. When visiting the qrz pages of those calls I usually see serious setups with directional antennas so they all do the hard work transmitting in my direction and decoding my signal. This is all still with the 'simple' vertical for 2m/70cm: a Diamond X-300N on the roof. I wonder what I can do on a good day with a directional antenna and a rotor.
2018-12-19 New 2 meter distance: 506 kilometers 1 year ago
Today I had a listen on the 2 meter band with FT8 from wsjt-x 1.9.1, which is currently the near-ancient version but I can't upgrade yet (wsjt-x 2.0.0 requires newer Qt libraries which require a newer linux environment). But I decoded some signals including a new callsign from Germany. It's always nice to work a new callsign so I answered it and the contact was made after a few tries. Only when I checked the gridsquare and the map I saw that DK1FG is a new 2 meter band distance record for me : 506 kilometers. Looking at that qrz page makes clear why that was possible: on that end 8 stacked 12 element antennes are available for 2 meter DX. Update 2018-12-21: I just saw wsjt-x packages for other ubuntu versions are available in the WSJTX General Availability Release ppa but the 'oldest' Ubuntu version supported is Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS 'Xenial'.
2018-12-03 Being active in amateur radio at a strange time on a strange band: new country 1 year ago
Today I had a day off to arrange some stuff and found some time for amateur radio. I decided to put the longwire antenna outside and use the tuner to get on different bands than the standard 10/20/40. So I was active at a strange time (during a working day) on a band I haven't been active on in months. Soon I saw signals from C5YK who is in The Gambia. After several tries I made the contact and had a new country in the log. I also tried a lot of times to contact a station from Rodrigues Island but they never heard me.
2018-11-25 New country in the amateur radio logs 1 year ago
This weekend I had some time and energy to power up the amateur radio set and trying to get interesting contacts. All in FT8 digital mode as the local interference levels are high. I do my voice contacts at the radio club or out in the field. This Saturday I managed to make a contact with 5T2AI on Mauritania, a new country in amateur radio for me. At first the other station did not receive me but using the power amplifier helped to make the contact. I also did a lot of attempts to get a contact with the current radio expedition to Rodriguez Islands but failed.
2018-10-10 New countries in amateur radio using the radio at the club 1 year ago
My amateur club Veron A08 call PI4UTR has a really good clubstation with multiple nice antennas. In an environment with a lot less interference than I have at home. Last Tuesday I used the clubstation to make a few connections and got some nice calls in the log, adding two new countries. VP8LP on the Falkland Islands and CE2ML in Chili.
2018-06-30 New 2 meter distance: 483 kilometers 1 year ago
While trying to get an idea of how much interference I have on the 2 meter band I still worked on my distance records: I had a contact with G8GXP which is a distance of 483 kilometers, a new record for me on the 2 meter band. This is with S5/S6 interference on the 2 meter band as long as the sun is more than a bit above the horizon, which at the moment is very long. Some ferrite added to the solar power convertor already helped, but I guess the solar optimizers also need some work to clear the 2 meter band again.
2018-06-17 More kilometers distance into Australia 1 year ago
This evening I made an FT8 contact with VK7AC which is a new distance record: 16918 kilometers. Which is an improvement over the previous record: 16581 kilometers to Melbourne. With Australia being huge I'm not surprised distances can be very different. The contact was hard to make but callsigns and signal reports got exchanged eventually. This was on the 40 meter band so that's also a new band for that country. In the rest of the weekend I made more FT8 contacts on different bands and some SSB (voice) contacts to several active stations. Noticable was that several high-power stations were active on the 10 meter band Friday evening enjoying the band opening.
2018-06-04 First 'Sporadic E' contact on 2 meter 1 year ago
As guessed when I got earlier personal distance records with FT8 on the 2 meter band bigger distances are possible with 'Sporadic E', a condition in which even higher frequencies can be propagated through the ionosphere. This evening G8EOH came back to an FT8 cq on 2 meter and I found out that gave me a new distance record: 342 kilometer.
2018-06-04 An active weekend on the 10 meter band, Faroe islands in the log 1 year ago
This weekend had enough time available to be active on the radio. And the 10 meter band was open again, just like the evening opening on 10 meters three weeks ago. This weekend the 10 meter band cooperated most of Friday evening, a few hours Saturday morning and most of Sunday afternoon and evening. Especially 10 meters FT8 was busy and I worked a lot of European countries on the 10 meter band. On Thursday evening I had 15 countries confirmed (lotw or paper qsl) on 10 meter for my call PE4KH, on Sunday evening that number was 25. I added the Faroe islands to the log Sunday (also on 10 meter FT8) when I saw OY1DZ active and had a contact. Not yet confirmed, I have requested a card via the OQRS system in use for OY1DZ and other calls. According to that page the LoTW confirmation will also happen soon. I also got a few voice contacts in the log: special event calls and world wide flora and fauna activations are always nice to have. The flora and fauna location spff-450 activated by SP5KD/P was hard to understand at home so I used the utwente websdr to receive and the transmitter at home to transmit.
2018-04-06 And a contact with South Africa, new country 1 year ago
Another new country that should not be too hard to get in the log but did not happen until today: South Africa. ZS6ZA was active on 40 meter FT8 and received my answers.
2018-03-30 More FT8 on the 2 meter band 1 year agoOlder news items for tag dx ⇒
I have now tried FT8 on the 2 meter band several times. One time I received a message via FT8 to try it on the 70cm band too but I haven't figured out the right frequency on that band yet. DX contacts have been made into England, France and Germany. Furthest 2 meter contact at the moment is 323 kilometers. From the doppler shift I see the most probably reason for these distances is aircraft scatter, which means I'm using big metal reflectors in the sky to bounce my signal, without even paying for an airplane ticket. I'm looking forward to 'E-skip' and other phenomena that can make 2 meter radio signals reach larger distances. I wonder what that will bring me.