2020-06-29 Newish electronics project: an igate 1 week ago
Some time ago I saw announcements of an igate build project from PI4RAZ, the amateur radio club in Zoetermeer. An igate is a system that receives APRS messages and forwards them to the Internet aprs servers. There is a distinct lack of APRS coverage here in Utrecht, so more places that receive those messages and pass them to the Internet are a good idea. A specialized repeater to repeat them on the air would be even better, but that needs a special radio license which is one step too far and expensive at the moment for me. The electronics came in months ago, but time to pick up the soldering iron and start with the hard part wasn't available. I started this monday with that hard part: soldering a VHF module on top using something close to surface mounting. Just with a lot more space between the soldering islands than real surface mount. Still needed good light and a magnifying glass to check my work constantly. I only had to desolder one small blob of solder which went in the wrong direction. After that I soldered the resistors. That went fine. After that my eyes were too tired, but the first step has been made.
2020-06-28 Future cycling goals (2) 1 week ago
As I mentioned before I have some future cycling goals which include some form of long-distance cycling journey, with serious influences from the book Computing Across America. Naturally amateur radio will play a part in such a cycling journey, just as Steven K. Roberts had on his trips. Via the german amateur radio club DARC I found this bit in the "Deutschland-Rundspruch 24/2020":DK3JB erreicht erstes Ziel auf seiner Funk-Fahrrad-Reise Hans-Gerhard Maiwald, DK3JB, hat nach mühsamer und beschwerlicher Fahrt, teilweise auch wegen schlechter Radwege, am 15. Juni gegen 21 Uhr sein erstes Ziel, Kappel im Hochschwarzwald, erreicht. Dabei legte er ohne E-Unterstützung 580 km mit seinem 40 kg schweren Radanhänger zurück. Dem 72-jährigen OM geht es gesundheitlich gut. Hans-Gerhard gelang es, den weitaus größten Teil der Strecke permanent mit seinem TH-D74 in APRS aufzuzeichnen. Dabei hat sich der 1200 g schwere 12 V/20-Ah-Lithium-Ionen-Akku sehr bewährt. DK3JB hat zahlreiche Verbindungen in FM und D-Star vom Fahrrad aus getätigt. Durch Ludwigshafen wurde er von mehreren Funkamateuren gelotst und seine Route mitverfolgt. Hans-Gerhard bleibt bis Sonntag in Kappel und radelt danach vorerst an den Bodensee weiter.And I found out more about the cycling tours between Siegen and Friedrichshafen in Germany via Funk-Fahrradtouren of DK3JB and it is very inspiring to me. There is also an article DK3JB wieder mit dem Fahrrad unterwegs nach Friedrichshafen - funkamateur.de with information about this tour in 2020 (all in German, which I can read but not really write). He has done this tour several years already, I found an article from the June 2008 trip: Mit Fahrrad, Zelft und FTM-10SE durch Süddeutschland (pdf). After having read a book about cycling through Europe with the Rhine as one possible route, this confirms my earlier thoughts. Combining recumbent cycling, amateur radio and a nice ride through Europe is the direction I'm thinking.
2020-06-07 CQRLOG and repeater contacts 1 month ago
Friday evening I had a contact with PI4AA via the PI2NOS repeater. So I logged the contact with those parameters in CQRLOG. After a number of other contacts I wanted to upload my new contacts to LoTW. In an upload, CQRLOG creates an ADIF file of the contacts and lets tqsl sign the resulting file before sending the signed file to LoTW. But tqsl doesn't want to include repeater contacts (those aren't valid for LoTW, so it interprets the rules correctly) and it gives a return status 9 meaning "some QSOs suppressed" which CQRLOG displays correctly. But as a result of that return code it doesn't allow for the other contacts to be uploaded at all, leaving me with a growing number of contacts not uploaded to LoTW. I reported the bug to the CQRLOG forums: Propagation type RPT (repeater) should not be uploaded to LoTW - Forums » CQRLOG » CQRLOG - bugs with a suggestion for a program fix. From my experience, good bugreports for CQRLOG will be acted upon fast. In the mean time as a workaround I mark all contacts with propagation type 'repeater' as already uploaded to LoTW to skip them. MySQL statement:$ mysql -S /home/koos/.config/cqrlog/database/sock cqrlog002 mysql> update cqrlog_main set lotw_qslsdate=curdate() where prop_mode='RPT' AND lotw_qslsdate is NULL; Query OK, 1 row affected (0.03 sec) Rows matched: 1 Changed: 1 Warnings: 0and now other contacts can be uploaded fine.
2020-06-03 I participated in the Dutch PACC 2020 in February 1 month ago
But I forgot to write about it, because I made a very minimal number of contacts: 6. I wanted to get the Veron A08 contest group using call PA0AA in the log and added some others. And on submitting the log I didn't set the category to 'checklog' so there is a result with a ranking. I got reminded today because our friendly mail delivery person brought an envelope with the token of merit (het vaantje) which is very special for this contest. The good part is all 6 contacts were valid, so 6 contacts, 6 points, 3 multipliers making a stunning score of 18, and not the last in my category! Ranking 117 (out of 122) in single operator all band low power ssb only.
2020-06-01 I participated in the CQ WPX CW contest 2020 1 month ago
After a number of recent morse contacts with special event stations I decided to participate in the CQ WPX CW contest during the weekend. Not for getting a big score, but to get experience with morse contesting. Morse speeds in a contest like this are 25-30 words per minute which I can't decode, so I used fldigi to decode most of the morse. This means I have to enter my results as 'assisted'. And 'most' of the morse is the correct description because the important detail to decode are callsigns and serial numbers. The signal report is always 599 or 5NN which is usually sent faster than the rest of the conversation because it's a specific pattern a trained morse operator hears anyway. I really didn't participate very long and still made 65 contacts. I'm not sure they all went correct, but it's a start. If I make 10 errors each of those is only 1 error for the other station. It's interesting how this approach to morse contesting gets me 65 contacts when serious participation in a digital mode contest will get me about 120 contacts. But high numbers of contacts are quite normal in a morse contest. I have received serial numbers over 2000. Logs are processed and the first confirmations via ARRL Logbook of the world are already coming in.
2020-05-27 PMR channels have been expanded. In 2018, but I found out today 1 month ago
It's been a very long time since I was busy with pure radio frequency scanning. Being active on the sending side too has made me less interested in frequencies where I can only listen. But recently I was looking at what is available, and noticed the marine VHF channels. I could program them all in a scanner, but I decided to use software defined radio to see if anything is active in that band. Late in the evening there is currently no activity. But I set a scanner to scan all known channels and heard some chatter on PMR channels. On one channel was a remark that there was interference and they should switch to channel 14. In my memory analog PMR had 8 channels. So I looked it up and found out analog PMR was expanded to 16 channels on 1 January 2018. There is also DMR446 (same frequencies but with time division multiple access) on the same frequencies and dPMR446 with 32 possible frequencies in the same range. So now the scanner is updated with the new analog frequencies and I can hear a baby monitor, motorcycle driving lessons and a building site.
2020-05-24 Going for countries on other amateur bands 1 month ago
In the past few days I used the long-wire antenna with tuner to get on 'other' amateur bands. I added contacts on the 17 and 15 meter bands to several countries around my country. Some of those countries were new on those bands, so that's nice. No spectaculair new distances or countries, but a good flow of new contacts.
2020-05-24 Shared my script to optimize outgoing QSL cards 1 month ago
As a radio amateur I like sending and receiving QSL cards. QSL is the Q-code for "I confirm reception" and a QSL card is the way to confirm a contact. I have my own QSL card design and a big box of cards to send out. With contacts I usually do a check if a fellow amateur mentions the wish for cards via the QSL bureau on her/his qrz.com page, because I only want to send cards to interested amateurs. Due to the way I process my cards I can put up to 4 contacts on one card, so it's a simple optimization that if I have one contact that I want to send a card for I also check for other contacts with the same callsign. The qslmaximizer.pl script does this for the CQRLOG database.
2020-05-17 New countries in the log, now waiting for confirmation 1 month ago
Two new countries in the log, now the wait is for the amateurs on the other side to confirm the contact via Logbook of the World. Or maybe not, but both seemed solid contacts. First was to the island of Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles. A lot of Dutch stations will have Curacao in the log because the Americas are the 'easy' DX but with my antenna position it has always been easier to get to the east. Second one was to Kenia, which was a sort of surprise contact, I suddenly saw signals from a station there without any other indication that there was an opening towards Africa. In other amateur radio experiences I've also had some really nice 10 meter openings recently. This is remarkable at the bottom of the sunspot cycle, but I guess sporadic E and other special propagation modes help. So I got some new countries on 10 meter. Earlier North Macedonia and today Albania.Read the rest of New countries in the log, now waiting for confirmation
2020-05-03 New country in the log: St. Lucia 2 months ago
In my earlier activity on the 60 meter band I had a "maybe" contact to St. Lucia. This is one of the islands in the West Indies in the Eastern Carribian Sea. But in the end the "maybe" contact was no contact. Ok, fine with me, on to the next chance. That happened Friday evening in a 10 meter opening: I came to the radio with the computer decoding FT8 signals ready to go to bed, but I saw J68HZ active as only non-European station, answering European stations. So I had to try! After a number of tries I got a reply with a very weak signal report, so I kept my fingers crossed for the next exchange and it came, closing the contact. And the next evening the contact was confirmed, giving me a new DXCC entity.
2020-05-01 Time for a plot of the number of contacts in amateur radio after a busy month 2 months ago
Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. As usual contest months are quite visible and January is for me the month with the most contests. But April 2020 is also quite visible. This last week I had a lot of time for radio due to holiday and not going anywhere. And other radio amateurs also had the time to be active, so there were a lot of new calls to get in the log. Combined with a good 10 meter band opening this added to a high number of contacts for a month with only one contest.
2020-05-01 I'm not intimidated by morse anymore 2 months ago
Today I "chased" the special amateur radio call for the Bulgarian Saint of this month, LZ177GL. The Bulgarian Saints are a set of special amateur radio calls each month, organized in Bulgaria by Bulgarian Radio Club BLAGOVESTNIK LZ1KCP. The callsigns are in honour of saints from the orthodox church. LZ177GL was calling CQ at a rate of about 28 words per minute. My current rate is 12-13 words per minute, so that's quite a lot faster. But it doesn't intimidate me anymore, I can hear the callsign on a few repeats, I can hear when the return is with my full callsign and a 5NN (signal report) or a part of my callsign and a question mark. Or when the answer is for another station. And that's enough to make the contact with the absolute minimum information, exchanging callsigns and signal reports. When I'm convinced my callsign got across I send '5NN TU 73' to finish the contact. I also made some other contacts in morse because I could hear CQ calls and was able to decode them by ear together with some help from fldigi. So my conclusion is that morse isn't "intimidating" anymore. I can understand enough to get an idea what is going on and use it.
2020-04-29 More 10 meter band fun 2 months ago
This month is somewhere near the absolute minimum of the solar cycle but today FT8 is active on the 10 meter band. I listened to other things on the 10 meter band but when I heard some morse I soon found out it was a beacon from Italy. It would have been nice to do some other mode than ft8 on the band. But I made the possible FT8 contacts and got bigger distances than yesterday. In the evening I got Asiatic Russia and Belarus in the log.
2020-04-28 A nice 10 meter opening this afternoon 2 months ago
I'm at home at the moment with a few days off from work. Time to play some radio, and with the current stay at home measures there are a lot of stations active. I spun the dial to the 10 meter band this afternoon and heard signals. There was a nice E-skip opening to Spain and I even decoded some signals from Brazil. With normal ionospheric propagation South-America isn't that hard for most of the Dutch HF amateurs, but it's usually my difficult corner. I made several contacts with stations in Southern Europe, including AM2WARD so that's a new slot in the IARU 95th anniversary stations as organized by the Spanish radio amateurs. In the weekend I had contacts with other stations part of that activity, including several in morse. Those stations are using fast computer-generated morse so I can't decode everything 'live' but by now I do know what 'PE4KH 5NN' sounds like at rather high speeds.
2020-04-19 Going horizontal on 2 meters FT8 2 months ago
For all of my FT8 contacts from home until now I used the vertical diamond X-300N antenna on the roof. Most 2 meter DX stations will use a directional horizontal antenna, so I lose some signal when I try to communicate with them. So last weekend I put the Arrow satellite antenna in the attic pointing out the window with the 2 meter elements in horizontal mode. Pointing out this window means southeast direction so I hoped to make some DX contacts into Germany or beyond. Beyond did not happen, there was no special propagation on the 2 meter band. But the furthest contact was with DJ5FI with a distance of 360 kilometers. I'll try this again when there is special propagation in that direction.
2020-04-13 Beeping -- --- .-. ... . loud enough (2) 2 months ago
Today I had time to work on the transistor switching to make the morse oscillator work. As I noticed before the Kent Morse practise oscillator kit is powered directly via the key which draws more current than the nanokeyer I built can handle. So I had to calculate a transistor switch. That's something I learned a long time ago when I did electronics trade school from 1985 to 1989. In Dutch: MTS electronica. That knowledge had to be dug up again when I did the advanced radio amateur course but since I didn't have to use that knowledge it all sunk away. But, google to the rescue and I found lots of examples, but the easiest one was at Transistor as a Switch - ElectronicsTutorials which explained exactly what I wanted. The next item was 'which transistor'. The default NPN transistor is the BC547B, but the theoretical current through the oscillator is a bit more than this transistor can handle. But a fellow amateur had a few BC337 transistors spare in his junkbox, so I could continue with this project. Today I did the drawing and the calculations. I looked up the specifications for the BC337 in full saturation, at which time the Vbe is 1.2 Volt, Vce is 0.7 volt and Ibase is 1 milliAmpere. So I ended up with a resistor of 6800 Ohm at the input (which is (9 Volt - 1.2 Volt)/1 millAmpere rounded) and after building it on a breadboard it went beep with an input current of somewhat over 1.0 milliAmpere. Update: Second test was with the nanokeyer, which first gave no sound, but that was due to me turning the volume down on the practise oscillator. Turning it back up fixed the problem, and I now have loud morse! In the end this is giving me a good feeling. I had a kind of problem I haven't had to solve in ages so I had to relearn how to solve this, I found the solution method and was able to apply it in theory, practice followed the theory and it all worked as designed.
2020-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY contest 2020 3 months ago
Last weekend was the EA RTTY Contest 2020 edition. I decided to participate beforehand so I set up radio, antenna and macros in time before the start. There was quite some time for the contest available since we're not going anywhere. Things started slow, I couldn't get as much contacts in the log on Saturday as I had in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 on Saturday. But on Sunday the contacts started happening and I ended with 143 contacts in the contest. 110 on the 20 meter band and 33 on the 40 meter band. I logged 26 unique provinces in Spain.Read the rest of I participated in the EA RTTY contest 2020
2020-04-03 I participated in the Dutch Digital Activity Contest April 2020 3 months ago
There is a new 'activity' promoting digital modes on the 2 meter band. It's short, which is probably why it's called an activity rather than a contest. And it's on a weekday evening. Information in Vanaf nu elke maand een VHF-UHF Digitale Mode Activiteitscontest - VHF en hoger Veron (in Dutch). On the first Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 2 meter band, on the second Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 70 centimeter band. I participated 1 April 2020 and made 22 contacts within the activity. Several new calls for me in the log, so that's always good. The contestlog processing website generates a map with locators after submitting a log, so I use that map in this newsitem. The preferred mode is FT8, and some participants were using the FT8 software in 'EU-VHF mode' exchanging serial numbers and 6-character maidenhead locators. My wsjt-x decided to switch on receiving such an exchange. The interesting part was that in a few of the next contacts the software also switched but other contacts failed with that information so I switched back to normal FT8 with the 'EU-VHF mode' disabled.
2020-04-02 Beeping -- --- .-. ... . loud enough 3 months ago
To practise my morse at the radioclub I looked for a simple morse practise oscillator and found Morse practise oscillator kit - Kent and ordered it at the beginning of Februari. It took a while for it to arrive, but it arrived and I built it in one evening. It's a quite simple kit. Which means the power for the whole circuit runs via the morse key, in theory about 120 mA. And that is more than the octocoupler on the CW output of the nanokeyer I built is willing to deliver (50 mA). So I can't use the practise oscillator straight away, there will need to be a small amplifier in between. Some searching suggests I can use a transistor as 'power amplifier'. Time to look at what I may have (which is not a lot) or find a transistor somewhere. Solution: order a bunch of transistors in a collection so I have some in the junkbox. Oh and: The dashes and dots in the title are the word 'MORSE' in morse.
The Kent morse practise oscillator built
2020-03-17 I participated in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 3 months agoOlder news items for tag hamradio ⇒
Last weekend was the EAPSK63 contest and I participated on Saturday. Lots of stations from Spain active and I managed to work 29 unique Spanish provinces. A total of 82 contacts. I could only participate Saturday afternoon and evening so that limited my time in the contest.Read the rest of I participated in the EAPSK63 contest 2020