News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2020-02-20 I think I figured out why I didn't hear satellites with 2 meter downlink 5 days ago
I was preparing for trying some satellite contacts and noticed the Fox-1B and Fox-1D had nicer opportunities for a contact. But I always have problems receiving any signal from those satellites on the handheld radio that I use for satellite contacts, which is the Wouxun KG-UVD1P I got for Christmas in 2012. Not the ideal radio for amateur satellites, but easy to bring along and to program with split frequencies.

A while ago I noticed that radio was constantly receiving noise on the 2 meter band and I had to set the squelch level quite high to stop it. I thought it was some local overload or local noise in the 2 meter band. But today while working on the preparations for some satellite contact possibilities I figured the problem is with the radio and something is actually wrong on the 2 meter receive side.

I have two other handheld radios. One is a Kenwood TH-D7 where I can't change the squelch level so it's not really usable for satellite contacts and the other is a Baofeng UV-5R which can't be programmed via the computer.

So I spent a lot of time entering all the possible doppler-shifted frequencies of both satellites on the keypad of the Baofeng UV-5R. I hope that gives me a working radio for Fox-1B/Fox-1D and I can get a few new contacts in the log.

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2020-02-15 Active on the 60 meter amateur band again 1 week ago
I had one whole contact on the 60 meter band a few years ago with a German station. This band is supposed to be outside of the reach of my longwire, but with a lot of tuning it can work.

This weekend the longwire and the tuner absolutely did not want to get to a workable state on the 80 meter band so I tried the 60 meter band again. In FT8 mode, as that is what gets me the most result from home outside of contests.

This got me a number of contacts. Also one new country already confirmed: Tajikistan. And a new country with a questionable contact, so I'm waiting to see whether the other side will confirm or not. Formally 60 meter doesn't count for ARRL DXCC, but to me every contact counts in some way. I even got stations responding to me before I called CQ, I guess some amateurs are keen on getting a new callsign in the log.

I took down the wire antenna Saturday early in the evening because the winds were picking up for another storm.

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2020-02-08 Still learning morse, getting some help 2 weeks ago
I'm still working on learning morse code. Sending morse code with the paddle is going ok at about 10-12 words per minute. Receiving is also somewhere around that rate, but I make more errors receiving.

I practise receiving morse with G4FON (Windows), xcwcp (Linux) and IZ2UUF morse trainer (Android). G4FON offers Farnsworth timing, where the letters are transmitted at a higher rate but there is extra spacing between letters to lower the rate of transmission. In xcwcp I can add extra dots between letters and in IZ2UUF morse trainer I can set extra length as a factor of the letter length. Three somewhat different methods to help learn morse at a reasonable speed.

To practise sending morse I use either the FT-857 radio or the control unit of the remote radio as expensive morse sounders. For the morse training at the radio club this is somewhat bulky and the internal buzzer of the nanokeyer is not loud enough so I ordered a practise oscillator kit from Kent morse equipment in the UK.

I also joined The Less Involved Data Society where I hope to meet newcomers to morse on the air. So I am now LIDS member number 414.

And for the rest: practice, practice, practice. Changing between modes of practice such as whole words in English or Dutch or back to random characters or groups of 5 letters helps improving speed and accuracy.

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2020-02-04 Chasing more DX with HamAlert 3 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.

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2020-01-13 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 1 month ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Like in previous years I participated in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the weekend.

Overall it was a nice contest, with 111 contacts in total which makes this a good contest score. I started in the 20 meter band on Saturday, moved to the 40 meter band after propagation died down due to the sun going down.

On Sunday morning I started on the 40 meter band but soon gave up, there was a lot of interference on that band. I switched to 20 meters and made some more contacts. In the end: 38 contacts in the 20 meter band and 73 in the 40 meter band.
Read the rest of I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest

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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.

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2020-01-06 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2020 1 month ago
RTTY Contest on websdr This weekend was the ARRL RTTY Roundup edition 2020 and I participated. Late Saturday evening I saw a few US stations come up on 40 meters. Sunday afternoon I made a lot of contacts to mostly European stations on 20 meters. In the evening after dark the contacts from Europe seemed to stop after the first 24 hours were over but when I checked again late in the evening more US and some Canadian stations were decoded on my end and I worked them.

In the end 110 contacts, a nice score for this contest. Claimed score: 110 qso points * 33 multipliers = 3630.

The one that got away: I saw a station from California calling and giving state 'CA' in contacts, but he never heard me. That's the first time I heard or saw anything from one of the western US states.

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2020-01-06 Security tools can help practise morse 1 month ago
Today I needed blocks of random letters to practise sending morse. What better tool to create those blocks than good old pwgen with the right settings:
$ pwgen -0 -A 5 12
ahhud eizaa kuoku ahyoo aequi epiis eiwei eimap sohsh papai ikeit oucho
And the trick for generating groups of five digits is a bit longer:
$ pwgen -r abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz -A 5 12
97228 85996 98876 38451 06091 98556 53369 73632 29509 29032 89601 16078
Use better parameters with pwgen to generate actual passwords.

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2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back 1 month ago
QSO count plot up to December 2019 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:
  • 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!
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.

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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.

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2019-12-27 First radio contacts with the radio and antenna setup at a remote location 2 months ago
The main unit of the Kenwood TS-480SAT radio is now at a different location and the frontpanel is at home. With an OpenVPN connection between them so it's not exposed to the big bad internet.

And it's working! I currently have access to a 10/15/17/20 meter antenna and I have already heard stations I wouldn't dream of receiving at home. And the first country in SSB in the log that I only had in digital modes before: Ceuta and Melilla, the Spain enclaves in Africa.

Lag is minimal, audio is less delayed than listening to the utwente websdr to the same signal. Control works fine, so I can control the radio like I'm sitting behind it, including menu settings.

Comparing received signals on the local radio with the attic dipole and the remote radio is hell and heaven: local noise is S9+ and the remote location has almost no local noise (while still being in an urban environment) so I can hear even weak stations fine. I leave the noise blanker off most of the time because it's not needed to hear signals fine.

Not making loads and loads of contacts yet, propagation isn't cooperating very well and there aren't many people calling CQ. But when a somewhat special station calls CQ there are a lot of answers so there are numerous amateurs active. Or I guess they go to their set when they see an interesting callsign on the DX-cluster.

I also got morse keying by paddle working beforehand. Hearing the sidetone from the radio with just a bit of lag got annoying fast when doing morse at a bit of speed so the sidetone is now from the control unit and the sidetone in the radio is silent. It's still set to the same audio frequency as the sidetone in the control unit to allow for finding the zero beat frequency.

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2019-12-06 Received ISS SSTV again 2 months 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 2 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 months 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 months 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.
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2019-11-13 More investment in remote HF operation 3 months 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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