News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2019-08-21 Comparing yfktest and tlf for linux-based amateur radio contesting 3 days ago
Episode 295 of Linux in the Ham Shack is about the TLF Contest Logger. I wrote to Linux in the Ham Shack about my experiences with both programs. In 2017 I participated in the IARU-HF contest using yfktest and in 2019 I participated in the IARU-HF contest using TLF.
My opionion about both is clearly formed by my style of contesting. Phone contesting is rare for me, and I am a very casual contester. I operate in search and pounce mode, where I search for other stations calling CQ.

My experiences:

Both are textmode programs, which try to mimic DOS-based contest programs. No dragging around windows, you'll have to deal with how the makers decided to set up the screen. Also, on a graphical system, try to find the biggest and baddest monospace font to fill as much of your screen with the contesting software as possible.

The role of contest logging software is making it easier to log contacts in a contest. It does this by automating a lot of the tasks in a CW contest, by keeping the log and showing the outgoing serial number (if needed). It's a plus when contest logger can keep the live claimed score in the contest and when it can connect to a DX-cluster and show possible contacts being spotted. Both packages can do the basic contesting and scorekeeping, tlf is the only one that supports DX clusters

yfktest is written in Perl, tlf in C. For adding a new contest to yfktest you will soon have to do some programming in perl to handle the score calculations. For a new contest in tlf you may have to do some C programming.

yfktest has no cluster support, but tlf does have it. This is a huge difference to me. With tlf I could open a cluster window showing me where new calls were spotted and on what frequencies recent contacts were, so I could hunt for interesting new calls and multipliers

Specific to the IARU-HF contest and my use of the packages: yfktest supports the IARU-HF contest out of the box, so it gets the multipliers right. When I did the IARU-HF contest with tlf, I asked about it on the list and someone shared a configuration right at the beginning of the contest so it worked. Mostly: It did not count the multipliers correctly, so I had no idea of the claimed score during the contest.

Both are open source and welcome any additions. Looking at the commit history tlf is somewhat more active recently.

If you want to really add a contest to either of them you'll probably have to start thinking about that months before the contest and take your time to debug your rules/scoring configuration if you want good scoring during the contest.

I will probably stick with tlf because of the cluster support.
Linux in the Ham Shack took my shallow dive a lot further and went into a deep dive with installing, configuring and running TLF. Awesome episode, I really enjoyed it!

Links to all the stuff: Show Notes #295: TLF Contest Logger Deep Dive - Linux in the Ham Shack
yfktest linux based ham radio contest logger, TLF, a linux based ham radio contest logger.

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2019-08-05 Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts 2 weeks ago
QSO count plot up to July 2019 Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. Months with contest(s) stand out again as they elevate the number of contacts. In July 2019 I participated in the DL-DX RTTY Contest 2019 and the IARU-HF Championship 2019. That last one has added a few countries to my list of countries confirmed in phone modes.

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2019-07-29 Tried receiving ISS SSTV with the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ 3 weeks ago
This evening had scheduled Amateur Radio on the International Space Station slow-scan TV transmissions so I took Arrow antenna, the new FUNcube Dongle Pro+, cables and laptop outside.

I found out gqrx crashes when the dongle is on the righthandside USB port of the laptop, so that one is out. On the backside port everything was working, and audio routing worked routing the analog output audio (created by qgrx) to the recording by audacity and the image decoding with qsstv. Gpredict was set up to control the reception frequency in gqrx, and this whole setup was working ok.

But the signal from the ISS looked very very weak in gqrx, just a small rise in level above the noise when I pointed at the general direction of the ISS. No idea why. No images were decoded from it.

After the pass I tried receiving some other sources with this setup and receiving the PI2NOS repeater went fine. But that's on the 70 centimeters band. I saw no activity on PI3UTR which would have enabled a test on 2 meters.

This needs more testing. Maybe something to hold the antenna cables so they don't get pulled from the laptop/radio during a pass.

Update: Most likely culprit: interference in the 2 meter amateur band. With a handheld radio that has received ISS packet sounds before I could now only hear them very faint in the noise. The local 2 meter noise is killing weak signal reception.

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2019-07-20 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 14: Switch to FUNcube Dongle Pro+ 1 month ago
FUNcube Dongle Pro+ I saw a radio amateur offering a secondhand FUNcube Dongle Pro+ for a very reasonable price and remembered my work to get into linear satellites and the problems with the input filtering on an rtl-sdr while transmitting. So I checked the specifications for that dongle and saw a lot better filtering.

I decided to go for it and a few mails later the dongle was on the way to my letterbox. Literally, as it fitted in a small package that could be delivered in the letterbox. With tracking, so I received a notification from the package tracker app after the mailman put it in the letterbox.

There is good support for the FUNcube dongle Pro+ in gqrx so I tried that first. It does give some USB errors:
[46918.612090] usb 2-1: new full-speed USB device number 10 using xhci_hcd
[46918.762268] usb 2-1: New USB device found, idVendor=04d8, idProduct=fb31
[46918.762273] usb 2-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
[46918.762276] usb 2-1: Product: FUNcube Dongle V2.0  
[46918.762278] usb 2-1: Manufacturer: Hanlincrest Ltd.         
[46918.797477] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
[46918.803092] hid-generic 0003:04D8:FB31.0003: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.11 Device [Hanlincrest Ltd.          FUNcube Dongle V2.0  ] on usb-0000:00:14.0-1/input2
[46918.917284] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
[46918.955162] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
It does show as a valid device in gqrx and I was soon decoding audio with it. The easiest decoding was in the VHF II FM broadcast band. After all the work with the 2 MHz wide spectrum from the rtl-sdr it takes a bit of adjusting to start working with 192 kHz spectrum from the FUNcube dongle but qgrx moves that bit nicely when needed.

To the computer, the dongle is an USB device with two subfunctions: an usbaudio device and a usbhid device. The audio device is used to deliver sampled radio spectrum and the hid device is used to control the dongle. This is why it's relatively easy to use softwarewise: modern operating systems have usbaudio support and usb hid control from a user application isn't too hard either.

One of the things I do want is a lot of interesting audio routing to be able to record both the downlink audio and my own audio. So I fired up pavucontrol and gqrx crashed. Restarting gqrx did not work until I closed pavucontrol. Some searching found gqrx crash with Funcube Pro+ which suggests to turn the device off for PulseAudio. Which may seem strange but PulseAudio is also using the alsa drivers which gqrx tries to use. I guess there is some conflict between gqrx and PulseAudio in dealing with the alsa drivers. After switching the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ in PulseAudio I could open the dongle in gqrx and play with audio settings for other channels in pavucontrol.

The setup with gpredict controlling the receive frequency of gqrx also worked fine, so this is looking good. Now to find out how things work on an FM or linear satellite.

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2019-07-14 I participated in the IARU-HF championship 2019 1 month ago
This weekend I participated in the IARU HF Championship and made a nice number of contacts given the available time in which I could call out my callsign. Before the contest the radio propagation was a bit dissapointing and I did most of my preparation at the very last minute.

For the contest logging I used the TLF linux contest logger which does not support the IARU HF Championship out of the box. But someone posted about this contest to the TLF development mailing list and shared the configuration and initial exchange list, so it was minimal work to get going. With this configuration TLF worked as a logger, it just didn't calculate the multipliers in the contest correctly.

In the end I made 95 contacts, which is a nice improvement over the previous time I participated in this contest: IARU HF Championship PE4KH 2017. Of the 95 contacts, 19 were on the 40 meter band (Saturday evening) and 76 on the 20 meter band (Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning).

I did not participate in the 2018 edition because it was the weekend we left for our summer holiday. The 2018 IARU HF championship was also the World Radio Team Championship 2018 so I missed the chance to work one of those stations. I did follow the whole preparation for the WRTC 2018 and had a look at the developments in the scores during that weekend.

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2019-07-08 I participated in the DL-DX RTTY Contest 2019 1 month ago
RTTY contest on websdr This weekend was the DL-DX RTTY Contest 2019. In the category 'B': single operator, multiband, 6 hours. Not in the category for dipole or groundplane antenna since I used the endfed antenna.

I made 80 contacts, 37 on the 20 meter band and 43 on the 40 meter band. Propagation wasn't great and most of my contacts were search & pounce mode, answering calls from other contest stations. I did call CQ a few times, and one of those was spotted by the reverse beacon network instantly and gave me 3 contacts in short succession.

Operation in the contest was limited due to other things in the weekend so I fitted in the 6 hour category nicely. I did some other things on the radio on Sunday and somewhere in the afternoon I noticed a funny electronics smell and the output power from the amplifier had dropped. I found out the output voltage from the modified HP DPS-700 GB server power supply had dropped to about 10.6 volts. Time to find out whether this problem fixes itself or it's time to find another server power supply that will deliver over 40 ampere current at somewhere around 13 volt.

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2019-06-26 De test gedaan: een draadloze microfoon afgeluisterd 1 month ago
Ontvanger draadloze microfoon

Ik was vandaag weer eens op de lokatie waar ik eerder tot de conclusie kwam Je draadloze microfoon is prima af te luisteren en dit keer heb ik die bewering gecontroleerd.

Niet eens met een scanner maar met een nog makkelijkere aanpak: een laptop met een rtl-sdr dongle er aan en gqrx er op.

De draadloze microfoons en de ontvangers op die lokatie zijn van Sennheiser, wat als voordeel heeft dat ze niet in kanalen denken maar dat de frequentie waar ze op staan gewoon op het display staat. Ik kon dus simpel aflezen van de ontvangers waar ik de microfoons moest 'zoeken'. In een testje kon ik inderdaad de draaggolf van de microfoon prima vinden na inschakelen en met een FM demodulator ook het geluid prima weergeven op de laptop.

Omdat dit een bijeenkomst was waar ook informatie besproken werd die niet vrij de wereld in mag was ik hier even alert op. Maar dankzij een toegevoegde ruimtemicrofoon aan het plafond werden de draadloze microfoons niet gebruikt tijdens de bespreking van gevoelige informatie. Na de besprekingen ben ik even aan de gang gegaan met de laptop en kon toen de ingeschakelde microfoon prima ontvangen.

Op zich is er niets mis met draadloze microfoons, maar er zijn dus situaties te bedenken waarin je denkt dat je stemgeluid alleen binnen een beperkte ruimte versterkt wordt maar wat er net buiten misschien ook opgevangen wordt.

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2019-06-23 A weekend with nice 10 meter openings 2 months ago
This weekend I had time for the radio hobby and made some interesting new contacts. Friday evening was a bad start, with serious difficulties reaching other stations with FT8 on 20 or 40 meters. But Saturday daytime the 10 meter band was open and I even made contacts with two new countries on the 10 meter band: Lithuania and Montenegro. I guess it was an E-skip opening as I saw mostly "nearby" stations from Germany, England and other European countries. With ionospheric propagation those are usually "too close".

If you look at the map of 10 meter HF contacts by PD4KH there is a 'ring' with almost no contacts around my home location (I have made some really close contacts, but that would be via direct line of sight). Other contacts start in the south of France, the west of England and Poland. Nowadays ionospheric propagation on 10 meters doesn't happen very often so when I do make contacts it is via other forms of propagation that allow for shorter skip distances.

Later on Saturday the 10 meter band propagation stopped and 20 and 40 meters allowed nice amounts of contacts.

When I can make what contact on what frequency is still magical sometimes. I learn patterns that repeat themselves, but there are still enough surprises left.

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2019-06-13 Visiting the Trintelhaven location again for amateur radio 2 months ago
After my earlier stories about amateur radio at the Trintelhaven location Kees PA5Z wanted to go there too to test a dipole antenna for 80 meters that wasn't going to fit in his garden. I felt like taking the fibermast again and the linked dipole on 40 meters, an endfed antenna and enough rope to be able to hang it in some tree.

So we loaded radios and antenna material in a car and drove over there. Weather was nice, not too hot. We were hoping to get on one of the grassy fields of the site, but most of the site was taken up by the trucks and equipment for the work going on.
Antenna at Checkpoint Charlie restaurant
Antenna at Checkpoint Charlie restaurant, picture by Kees PA5Z

So we settled for the far end of the parking lot, away from the restaurant Checkpoint Charlie. We saw that Checkpoint Charlie had a big antenna themselves, most likely an antenna for the 11 meter (27 MHz) band.

80 meter dipole PA5Z
The 80 meter dipole set up by PA5Z, picture by Kees PA5Z
Kees soon found a frame around a garbage can which could hold the aluminum mast for the middle of the dipole. It all worked fine on the 80 meter band. The dipole antenna became a bit detuned when there was a big truck parked right next to it. We were at the edge of the parking lot so it could happen.
PE4KH Trintelhaven radio
PE4KH behind the radio at Trintelhaven, picture by Kees PA5Z

I set up my fibermast and used the rubber strips to lock the elements, because it was windy. I set up the linked dipole for the 40 meter band. There wasn't a lot of room for the guy wires and after a while one came lose making the fiber mast fall over. Some damage: one corner of the balun broke and the antenna wire came lose. But with a simple fix it was up again. Later one element collapsed because one rubber strip wasn't tight enough.

I made only five contacts on the 40 meter band. Propagation wasn't cooperating a lot. Kees did not hear a lot on the 80 meter band until later in the day when some Dutch amateurs where in a conversation. Kees was able to report in and get some signal reports.

PE4KH with Arrow Antenna at Trintelhaven
PE4KH with Arrow Antenna at Trintelhaven, picture by Kees PA5Z
I also took my Arrow Antenna and a handheld radio to try and receive a pass of the Fox-1D satellite. But I heard no signal. It did make for a nice picture, trying to receive the satellite standing on the dike.

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2019-05-19 Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact) 3 months ago
After getting a satellite contact via SO-50 the next thing was to get it in the log correctly. I followed the instructions from Logging Satellite QSOs with Logbook of the World - Amsat, logging the contact in the tqsl program, uploading that log to Logbook of the World and importing the logfile (ADIF) into CQRLOG later.

But later I found out that CQRLOG now supports satellite logging after enabling it in the preferences. Since version 2.3.0 satellite support is included.
Read the rest of Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact)

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2019-05-17 Back on amateur satellites: I made a contact via SO-50 3 months ago
This evening I checked 'Sky at a glance' in gpredict and saw a nice SO-50 pass come up. It was a southwest - northeast pass with a very high maximum elevation. So a good chance to listen to the satellite for a while. I took the Arrow antenna together with the Wouxun handheld radio outside, which I programmed for the SO50 frequencies when I started with amateur satellites years ago.

I started hearing the satellite right after it got above the houses. I heard one familiair callsign: Peter 2M0SQL. In a silent moment I answered his call, he heard me fine and we had a contact.

My first satellite contact since August 2014 and directly someone in the log who I really wanted to get in the log.

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2019-05-15 Taking steps to get back on the amateur satellites 3 months ago
Saudisat 1c / SO-50 cube satellite
Saudisat 1c / SO-50
Tuesday evening we had a good presentation at our radio club about getting active on the QO-100 geostationary amateur satellite. This was a very technical presentation by René Stevens PE1CMO. This amateur satellite is actually a transponder on the Es'Hail2 satellite. The transponder is active on amateur bands: 2.4 GHz up and 10 GHz down.

A very interesting and good presentation. And for now I find it very interesting but I'm not going to invest the time and money to get on that satellite.

This did remind me that I wanted to get back into amateur satellites as planned for several years. Looking back I see a clear moment when the satellite activity stopped: The last successful amateur satellite contact was 2014-08-10: Success with the new radio and the SO-50 amateur satellite and the first HF contact was 2014-08-29: First PSK31 on HF contacts. It's easier to make a lot more contacts on HF for the same amount of work as one satellite contact.

As a first step I took out the arrow antenna and a handheld radio just to listen to some passes. And that showed the well-known problem with satellite passes: They have to fit in your schedule or otherwise you will miss them completely. But there are a lot of amateur satellites to listen to. I had two Fox-1A (AO-85) passes not higher than 23 degrees elevation. And I heard nothing on those passes, but that wasn't a big surprise given earlier experiences and what people have shared. I had one pass of Saudisat (SO-50) which went up to 29 degrees elevation and I heard at least a few callsigns on that pass. And no really bad behaviour, but maybe a Wednesday daytime is better in that regard.
Read the rest of Taking steps to get back on the amateur satellites

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2019-04-29 I participated in the BARTG Sprint75 contest 2019 3 months ago
I participated in the British amateur radio teledata group RTTY Sprint75 contest 2019. The special thing with the 75 is that this is 75baud RTTY and not the normal 45baud RTTY.

This is a relatively short contest (4 hours) on a Sunday evening and I did not participate in the contest the whole time, I also watched some television with my family. All a matter of priorities.

I made 27 contacts on the 20 and 40 meter bands. Since I now have an RF power meter I was able to make sure my output power was right below 100 watts so I could enter in the '100 watts' category and not 'high power'.

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2019-04-24 I applied for the ARRL DXCC award 4 months ago
ARRL DXCC certificate sample 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!

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2019-04-21 New countries in amateur radio: Egypt and Colombia 4 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.

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2019-04-14 Getting countries on new bands in the log 4 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.

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2019-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY Contest 2019 4 months ago
In an otherwise quite filled weekend there was also the EA RTTY Contest 2019. I participated for somewhat over an hour on Sunday and made 28 contacts, 24 on the 20 meter band and 4 on the 40 meter band.

Preliminary results: 28 valid contacts, 44 points, multiplier 23, total 1012 points.
Read the rest of I participated in the EA RTTY Contest 2019

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2019-04-01 Plotting the number of radio contacts after varying months 4 months ago
QSO count plot up to March 2019 After a month with a holiday and a month with one contest I redid the QSO count plot to see the development.

before, before, before, before, before

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2019-03-29 Still looking for the correct frequency for FT8 on the 70 centimeter band 4 months ago
Although FT8 does great work for weak signal reception on HF bands it's also nice for the 2 meter band and the 70 centimeter band. So after lots of tries with the 2 meter band I decided to give the 70 centimeter band another try. But, there is one thing: there aren't many stations active in FT8 on 70 centimeter and even when one is active in the nearby area that station may be on a different FT8 frequency. The real standard is not there yet.

Until now I've seen:
  • 432.174 MHz
  • 432.176 MHz
  • 434.670 MHz
I check for activity via the PSKreporter site. My two FT8 on 70 centimeter contacts where on 432.174 and 432.176.

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2019-03-24 Now also mapping 70cm gridsquares 5 months ago
In the past week I made my second 70cm FT8 contact, and again with another amateur in the JO22 gridsquare. So the map for 70cm gridsquares contacted and confirmed isn't very spectacular yet, but I'm going to generate and maintain it anyway.

Now in the list of maps at pe4kh.idefix.net.

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