News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2019-12-06 Received ISS SSTV again 3 days ago
This week had an opportunity to receive ISS SSTV pictures. The Russian on the ISS were transmitting SSTV images as part of the Inter-MAI-75 project. ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image

The pass had a partial first image, a nice decode of one full image and the start of a third image. Even the good receives are a bit noisy/unsharp, I'm not sure whether that's an artifact of the PD120 mode or some local noise ending up in the image.

This is one of the rare occasions where living close to Russia is a good thing: the Russians time the passes to optimize reception in Russia.

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2019-12-01 Better audio for learning morse 1 week ago
I installed xcwcp from the unixcw packages on a different system and noticed it did not use PulseAudio. It said it could not find PulseAudio and skipped to ALSA. The downside of ALSA in xcwcp is that it pushes audio 10 characters ahead, with PulseAudio the buffer is smaller.

Some searching using strace found that xcwcp tries to open libpulse-simple.so which wasn't found on that system. It is available on my laptop, as part of:
$ dpkg -S /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so
libpulse-dev:amd64: /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so
while the files linked to a part of the runtime package:
$ dpkg -S /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so.0
libpulse0:amd64: /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so.0
$ dpkg -S /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so.0.1.1
libpulse0:amd64: /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libpulse-simple.so.0.1.1
But I don't have package libpulse-dev on that other system.

Solution: make the symlink by hand in /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu with:
user@system:/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu$ sudo ln -sf libpulse-simple.so.0 libpulse-simple.so
And I reported it as a bug for ubuntu: Bug #1854630: xcwcp doesn't use pulseaudio but given the list of bugs in Ubuntu I reported or commented on before with a lot of 'undecided' and not a lot of progress I'm not sure anything will happen.

Back to practising morse after this diversion!

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2019-11-24 Morse with the Kenwood TS-480 and remoterig 2 weeks ago
The next thing I want to get working is morse with the remoterig and the Kenwood TS-480. The good thing is that the remoterig has a built-in morse keyer to overcome jitter problems.

And that keyer has the option to make a winkeyer usb interface available. I did some minor testing with the winkeydaemon driver together with the paddle and it works. So I can use both the keyer from the computer and the paddle at the same time, just like with the nanokeyer and the FT-857 radio.

There is one strange thing though: this keyer responds somewhat different from the nanokeyer when I do a fast dah-dit. I expect the dit to follow after the dah even when I already stopped touching the left paddle (dit) before the dah ends.

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2019-11-23 PC control of the TS-480 radio working again, including for remoterig 2 weeks ago
I dug into the "why isn't remote CAT control not working" on the Kenwood TS-480SAT with the remoterig setup and as the debugging session progressed I found out it wasn't even working locally. The Kenwood TS-480 radios have a male db9 connector just like the PC had, and the non-intuitive part is that it needs a straight-through cable with data lines and hardware flow control.

I had a bunch of serial cables and adapters cobbled together to get from DB9 female to DB9 female with wires 2 and 3 coming out uncrossed, but it did not have hardware flow control and that had worked one evening before but now it decided to go on strike.

Thanks to the visit to the "Dag van de radio amateur" (DvdRA) ham convention and the extra parts ordered on-line from Conrad I had enough parts to make my own serial cable with the right wiring, including covers for the connectors with the cable coming out on the side.

So my skills in building right serial cables using a soldering iron, flexible wire and an amount of patience were recalled. I am very sure I haven't done that yet this century. Old CAT-5E cables are a good source of flexible cable with 8 wires.

When I had a finished cable with hardware flow control I first did a local test before I started putting the covers on the connectors and when that did work fine I put the covers on, redid the test and switched to testing over the remoterig connection. That also worked.

Update: And for the laptop which doesn't have serial ports I activated the COM port to USB translation on the control side. It took a bit of searching before I found that /dev/ttyACM0 was the active port, so now I can run CQRLOG on the laptop with full control of the radio.

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2019-11-22 Finished the remoterig setup and made the first contact 2 weeks ago
I finished the setup of the remoterig system. The second part is with lots of wires, first setting jumper wires in the radio box and the control box and after that connecting lots of wires to radio, frontpanel, microphone and other parts.

It took a bit of browsing the manual, checking my jumper wires under good light and redoing the checks but eventually it got all connected.

After that it was setting the software parameters for the specific radio and the connection to the control panel. And the next step: pressing the power button on the frontpanel on the control box and seeing it become active and hearing audio from the radio.

So it's now working. The bit that doesn't work yet is CAT control of the radio (Computer Assisted Tuning, where I can read the status and give commands over the serial port). The forwarding of the CAT port to a USB serial port on the other side did not give me any communication on the connected computer. I'm sure I'll get that fixed.

Next step was to spin the dial and find someone searching for a contact. Not a lot of activity on the 40 meter band, but I heard a greek station calling, answered it and got into the log.
Read the rest of Finished the remoterig setup and made the first contact

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2019-11-21 First setup of the remoterig interfaces 2 weeks ago
The remoterig set I ordered arrived.

At first I found the box somewhat empty: no manuals. But the entire manual can be found on-line: User manuals - RemoteRig. The manual is about 200 pages so printing it would be a bad idea. The remoterig site is somewhat slow so I downloaded the PDF manual to my computer.

Most of the setup is done via a webinterface, but the initial network setup needs either the right IP addresses hardcoded or a USB connection and the Microbit setup software which is only available for Windows. I did try to see whether one of the four com-ports via USB that showed up would allow me to do a minimal setup via a terminal program but that wasn't true. So I booted Windows to change the units to DHCP. For the radio-side I made an address allocation in the DHCP server, for the client side it is fine to have any usable address.

And for my next minor issue: they only use IPv4. So my inner linux and networking geek is a bit dissapointed, but my inner radio geek will do just fine.

After that bit I went back to Linux, the rest of the software setup is via a webbrowser. For the hardware setup, which is how it connects to the radio (which pin has audio, which pin has power) it needs a number of internal jumpers and jumper wires connected.

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2019-11-17 Pointing the Arrow antenna at SO-50 again 3 weeks ago
HF propagation has been really bad the last weeks. At least on the moments I had time to look at the radio. The maximum usable frequency was dropping below 14 MHz as soon as it started getting dark. This means that I can only make contacts on the lowest band (40 meters) with the endfed antenna set up outside and the experience from earlier weekends was that it was still a lot of work to get contacts on FT8.

So this weekend I did some 2 meter FT8 and made contacts with some new call signs. I was lucky: the 2 meter interference stopped after dark. My computer decoded one Danish callsign but I wasn't near it at that moment.

And I tried a pass of the SO-50 satellite. A pure southwest-northeast pas was coming up at the start of the evening, so I planned to be outside in the cold with antenna and handheld radio. I was hoping to get some country to the south of me in the log, but I ended up with a southeasterly contact: Croatia. I heard 9A2EY in a contact so I called him and made the contact.

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2019-11-16 Getting distracted by weird noises and listening to data from car tires 3 weeks ago
I was tuning across the 70cm amateur band and heard lots of weird noises around 433.92 MHz. Which is logical: that's the ISM band (industrial, scientific and medical) so lots of unlicensed low-power signals there.

That triggered me to update rtl_433 and see what I could receive. The answer after some searching how to build a running version: a lot. Including tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS) on a nearby car:

time      : 2019-11-16 15:33:25
model     : Toyota       type      : TPMS          id        : fb8c8bf9
status    : 128          pressure_PSI: 38.500      temperature_C: 6.000
mic       : CRC
There is indeed a Toyota parked across the street. I see three different values for 'id' suggesting that three wheels are 'awake' and reporting tire pressure data about every two minutes. According to eavesdropping the wheels, a close look at TPMS signals the sensors should only activate when the car is going faster than 40 km/h or when a special LF signal is active.
Read the rest of Getting distracted by weird noises and listening to data from car tires

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2019-11-13 More investment in remote HF operation 3 weeks ago
So the order for the remoterig duo to work on my remote HF operation plans is out the door. I ordered them with HamShop to get Dutch warranty rules.

I also ordered some other stuff from Conrad to be able to get everything cabled correctly. I may have missed something but I hope to have enough to get going and be able to have frontpanel and main radio hardware separated by Internet.

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2019-11-06 Tested and attached wires to the new 12V powersupply 1 month ago
Powersupply with wires attached
Powersupply with wires attached
I had time to do some soldering and I tested and wired the 12V server powersupply I bought last Saturday at the "Dag van de Radioamateur" ham convention.

The powersupply that I bought is an HP DPS-800GB A and it already had two wires to make it start up when input voltage is applied. I just soldered thick wires to the output terminals so I can connect it to the HF amplifier. Unlike the previous HP DPS-700 powersupply this one has two builtin fans so it won't overheat.

Time to test it with the HF amplifier is this weekend. I'll test the output power with the current output voltage left as-is. It's currently at 12.2 Volt when no load is applied. There are simple modifications to raise the voltage as described by Server supply DPS-800GB - PA0FRI.

Update: After some testing it's clear there are two problems: the output voltage of this power supply does not get very high before it switches off. About 13 volts. At that voltage the output power of the HF amplifier is limited. And when using the external amplifier I had a lot of problem with the connection between the computer and the radio. As soon as I started transmitting the computer started giving error messages about the communication with the radio.

So back to just the radio and its output power at the moment.

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2019-11-02 I visited the "Dag van de radio amateur" (DvdRA) ham convention 1 month ago
Today was the Dag voor de Radioamateur edition 2019, and I went there.

My main todo item was to deliver outgoing qsl cards to the Dutch QSL bureau and pick up the new ones for Region 08. So I walked in with a big shopping bag and after visiting the Dutch QSL bureau market stall I returned to the car right away with a new box full of cards. After that I walked in again and started looking around. I was looking for certain parts I needed recently such as RCA connectors, 2.5 mm stereo jack connectors. I also had some specific things in mind such as a newer high amperage 12V supply because the previous server power supply smoked itself and an antennaswitch and serial connectors for remote HF operation which I found. I found no USBaudio and USBserial interfaces so those will be picked up in the next electronics web order.

I attended a lecture on the QO-100 amateur satellite and the story behind the Patch of the Year antenna co-developed by Remco PA3FYM.

I also met a lot of amateur radio friends, more than I expected!

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2019-10-14 Sharing some of my CQRLOG scripts 1 month ago
Since January 2015 I've been using CQRLOG as the main amateur radio logging program. So each contact that I make ends up in the databases of this program eventually.

Being the person I am I added some scripts of my own to export data from CQRLOG to the PE4KH amateur radio station website in several formats.

I've made a few of these scripts available for the public via KHoos/CQRLOG-scripts: A collection of scripts around the CQRLOG amateur radio logging software on github. I've set the license to GPLv2, but I may have to change this as one script contains a lot of imported code.

Anyway, share and enjoy. Maybe these are of use to someone. Or someone adds the enhancements I've been thinking about but never got around to.


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2019-10-06 A new HF radio, with plans for remote operation 2 months ago
The last years I've been dealing with increasing levels of interference on the HF bands at home. One clear source is the rising numbers of solar panel installations, with a clear difference between hiring the cheapest installer versus hiring a good installer but paying more.

I don't want to start discussions with all neighbours about their solar installation and the latest news seems to be that the Dutch telecoms regulator takes the stance of solar panels being needed for our economy so radio amateurs have to accept the interference.

Moving house is not in our plans for the coming years so I started reading about the options for remote operations, where I can sit at home with the microphone and morse key looking at the display of the radio and hearing the audio while the receiving/sending part is at a remote site with a lot less interference.

I found out about RemoteRig which does just that, and with the right choice of radio allows complete remote operation over the Internet. With their offering I started looking at compatible HF radios and found a nice secondhand Kenwood TS-480SAT. This radio has better filtering options for SSB and morse than my Yaesu FT-857D.

The radio is now at home and I made the first few SSB contacts with it. The filtering already helped me understand stations better.

Now for the next steps, cables, remoterig units and other things. And a remote location. I have an offer from a fellow radio amateur to do the first tests at his house. When all that works out I'll go and find a nearby location to do the complete installation.

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2019-09-22 First morse contact, trying FT4 for the first time and participating in the BARTG Sprint75 contest 2 months ago
This weekend is the BARTG Sprint75 RTTY contest. I set up my endfed antenna on Friday evening. On Friday I listened around the band for any morse special event stations and found LZ304EW active. The station was calling with a morse speed of about 21 words per minute and I answered my callsign with 12 words per minute. And no, I can't decode morse at 21 words per minute, I used the computer (fldigi) to help me decode the morse and the nanoKeyer to help me send my callsign and the 5nn TU 73 to finish the 'contact'. I felt secure enough in hearing my own callsign in morse to be able to do this.

Most of Saturday I made a number of FT8 contacts all over Europe. Nothing really exciting, just trying to get a number of new calls in the log. I think I saw some new gridsquares.

The planned amateur radio activity was the British Amateur Radio Teledata Group Sprint75 contest on Sunday evening (17:00 utc to 20:59 utc which is 19:00 - 22:59 local time). I set up the radio Sunday afternoon and listened on 14.080 MHz, which is the default frequency for RTTY on the 20 meter band for as far as I know. I saw different signals, which turned out to be FT4 signals, the relatively new mode in WSJT-X. It's been around for a while, I just never got around to playing with it.

So I started WSJT-X and tried FT4. I made three contacts, one with an amateur in England, one with 4S6NCH in Sri Lanka which is a new country for me, and one with an amateur in India, which was a new 20 meter country for me. Not bad for trying a mode for the first time.

After dinner it was time for the contest and that was a misery. I made 17 contacts in total, 4 on the 20 meter band and 13 on the 40 meter band. Propagation was not cooperating at all, mostly just giving noise and sometimes signals faded in and I had to work hard to get a contact.

Update: The bartg sprint75 rtty contest was a weekend earlier! Only when I tried to submit my results and the website told me all my contacts were outside of the contest timeframe I noticed my error. I guess some more radio amateurs had the wrong date as I have seen 'CQ BART SPRINT75' calls. And 75 baud RTTY mode is also rare. I notified the BARTG contest manageress to let her know. Not to complain since it was my error, but to make her aware of the problem.

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2019-09-14 The nanoKeyer morse keyer in its case 2 months ago
The nanoKeyer morsekeyer in case with paddles
The nanoKeyer morsekeyer in case
I found help at the radio club, Kees PA5Z made his metalworking skills available and now the nanoKeyer has a nice case and works fine in it.

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2019-09-06 The morse keyer is working with cqrlog 3 months ago
Next step was linking the morse keyer with the Linux radio logging and operating software cqrlog. A simple search gave me Nanokeyer with cqrlog - CQRLOG and indeed the suggested option 'WinKeyer USB' works. The option 'K3NG keyer' always stopped after a few characters of morse.

Now to get other software like fldigi and tlf working. And not have conflicts with both of them running.

Update: In the tlf manual I found a link to N0NB/winkeydaemon on github which works great too. I changed the default port /dev/ttyUSB0 to /dev/ttywinkey because USB0 is where my radio CAT control usually ends up, and two applications trying to use that serial port confuses the radio. The /dev/ttywinkey link is maintained by udev, with a rule in /etc/udev/rules.d/99-usb-serial.rules :
SUBSYSTEM=="tty", ATTRS{idVendor}=="1a86", ATTRS{idProduct}=="7523", SYMLINK+="ttywinkey"
I can't select on a serial number or anything more specific so devices with a QinHeng Electronics HL-340 USB-Serial adapter will probably all try to get a symlink to /dev/winkeyer.

I tested the result with cqrlog (selecting the cwdaemon option in cqrlog cw settings) and it works fine too. Next step will be to test with tlf.

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2019-09-06 The morse keyer is working 3 months ago
nanoKeyer morse keyer and morse paddle key
The nanoKeyer and the morse paddle key. Connections to the nanoKeyer from left to right: cw to radio, input from paddle and usb to the computer
After a few hours of thoroughly soldering and checking the results the nanoKeyer is done. I did find an error in my work so I had to get out the desoldering iron to fix it: I put the wrong resistor in one place.

Next step was to get the arduino that is the core of the nanoKeyer tested. There was an arduino nano included with the kit preprogrammed with the nanoKeyer software, but it still needed the print headers soldered: two rows of 15 pins and very secure soldering work. I did put the small tip on my soldering station for this work and used a magnifying glass to check my results. It seemed to work fine but I noticed soon the speed control potentiometer and the menu buttons gave no response. Both those functions use an analog input of the Arduino in the nanoKeyer. I had bought an arduino at a previous radio parts market so I tried that one. This one already had the print headers installed so there was less chance of causing a defect.

That one had to be programmed first, so I dove into getting the Arduino integrated development environment installed. After a few tries it seemed the only way to have working USB communications is to run the whole Arduino IDE as root (using sudo). Not very secure but at least I could continue my work. The right settings were made according to the nanoKeyer Firmware Upload Guide 2 and the Arduino nano I bought myself works fine. The result: sending morse code, changing settings with the menu button all worked fine.

The ultimate step was to get software controlled CW generation working. I soon found Winkey USB works in Linux - OK1RR which has a driver binary (no source unfortunately) which communicates fine with the nanoKeyer. The network UDP protocol is somewhat very binary so I used one of the cwdaemon test programs to get actual morse code sent from the computer.

Now for the (for me) hard part: making the right holes in the case. I'll try to find some help at my radio club.

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2019-09-04 New electronics project: a morse keyer 3 months ago
My learning morse is still ongoing and I'm taking the first steps in generating morse. I decided on a paddle as a first morse key to get the dot/dash (or better: Dit and Dah) timing correct automatically. Opinions on tbe best choice for first morse key differ: some say a straight key is the best, others say a paddle. I'm sticking with the paddle at the moment because I also have a tendency to develop RSI. Telegraph operators were the first profession to have cases of RSI so I hope to avoid that.

I recently bought a paddle: the uniHam UNI-730a which is a nice affordable paddle for a starting morse operator. With the built-in keyer in my Yaesu FT-857 radio it is possible to create good morse code. I use the option to create the morse tone on the radio without transmitting to practise sending morse. I check the results with the Android application Rx Morse.

But, I want to be able to participate in morse contests in the future. For those a cw keyer is necessary that can be controlled both from a paddle (or a straight key) and the computer. I was looking at options when a fellow club member mentioned he had a nanoKeyer morse keyer kit available that he wasn't going to build himself because his radio can do all that work. So I bought the kit from him, including case and I'm soldering the first parts.

Since all parts are through-hole, I am soldering with the components 'hanging' from the board. I want all components to be as close to the printed circuit board as possible so for some things that want to 'fall' I use rubber bands to make them stay close to the board for the first soldering connections. I do avoid warming up the rubber bands, they will probably break and/or burn causing a nasty smell.

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2019-08-21 Comparing yfktest and tlf for linux-based amateur radio contesting 3 months 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 4 months 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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