News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2020-09-16 My amateur radio activity versus the sunspot cycle 1 week ago
PD4KH start on HF bands versus the sunspot cycle
My start on the HF bands versus the sunspot cycle. Click for full graph with legend.
Recently the start of the new sunspot cycle is mentioned a lot in radio amateur news because the influence on ionospheric propagation is strong and the start of counted sunspot cycle 25 has started. Looking at the graphs I felt like I started just at the downward trend of the previous sunspot cycle.

So I looked it up at Solar Cycle Progression - NOAA / NWS Space Weather Prediction Center and zoomed in to the time when I made my first contacts making the screenshot in this article. And indeed, August / September 2014 was part of the last peaks of cycle 24, and it went mostly downhill from there. So my experience that I made my first HF contacts on 10 meter and soon had to go to lower frequencies to get any propagation matches those measurements.

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2020-09-15 VDSL hikt als ik actief ben op de radio binnen het VDSL spectrum, maar ook er na 1 week ago
Dit weekend was ik weer eens behoorlijk actief met amateurradio en als ik ging zenden was dit eigenlijk iedere keer onder de 17 MHz, dus binnen het VDSL spectrum. Ik was actief net boven 14 MHz (20 meter band) en net boven 7 MHz (40 meter band). Iedere keer als ik naar een andere frequentie ging verbrak de VDSL de verbinding en moest die opnieuw opgebouwd worden, ook als ik binnen dezelfde band opschoof. Ook waren er in de nachten nadat ik actief geweest was nog onderbrekingen.

Dit keer ook opvallend: het 'geheugen' van de VDSL verbinding is veel korter. Een avond later kreeg ik weer een onderbreking als ik op dezelfde frequenties actief werd, ik was gewend dat dat bij meer dan een week was.

Al met al is de VDSL dus een stuk gevoeliger voor het soort storingen wat amateurradio veroorzaakt (korte storingen op wisselende frequenties). Ik dacht dat dat in DSL termen "impulse noise". Nu begrijp ik ook dat de firmware met 'optimized for KPN' modem driver die ik nu gebruik anders reageert op dit punt dan de versie die ik gebruikte voordat er problemen met rare verbroken verbindingen kwamen. Geen vooruitgang dus. Wanneer komt er glasvezel naar de huizen? Glasvezel veroorzaakt geen storing op radiofrequenties en het raakt niet verstoort van nabij radiogebruik.

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2020-09-13 A weekend with some radio: first hand-paddled morse contact, a new country and data contacts 1 week ago
After lots of other things a weekend where I made time for amateur radio. I set up the endfed antenna and used a mast to raise the antenna at the end of the garden a bit, which hopefully increases the range a bit.

The big new thing was the last radio contact of the weekend: I decided to get on the air with the paddle as an exercise in morse. After looking for a contact at a reasonable speed where the exchange would be more than just callsigns and signal report I heard someone call CQ on the 40 meter band at about 20 words per minute. So to exercise my sending and not try to decode everything at 20 words per minute I cheated and used the computer to decode most of the morse code. I answered with my call and some basic information, with the printed CW QSO example in front of me. The other radio amateur had the patience to listen to my relatively slow speed (12 words per minute) and I had the contact. So I ended with a good - ..- which is morse for TU which is the abbreviation for "Thank You!"

Earlier in the weekend I made lots of FT8 and some FT4 contacts, just getting more calls in the log. I saw some for me new countries active. I managed to get French Guadeloupe as a new country in the log, and Saint Julia on a new band.

My notifications for the Bulgarian Saints showed me that LZ595IP was active in PSK31. I haven't used that mode in a while. I made the contact, so now I have that call in morse and PSK31, still looking for other modes.

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2020-08-03 Trying a number of amateur satellite passes with a new radio and finally success 1 month ago
Saudisat 1c / SO-50 cube satellite
Saudisat 1c / SO-50
A few weeks ago I tried the Baofeng UV-5R on a satellite pass again to at least receive signal. It did receive something but kept closing the squelch during reception even at squelch level 0. This seems to be a common problem with this model radio.

I decided to put some money into a handheld radio that can do full-duplex. My original Wouxun seems to have developed serious issues receiving on the 2 meter side, but it has served me very well as a handheld radio over the years. So based on reviews about the Wouxun KG-UVD8D/KG-UVD9D models and how their full-duplex capabilities worked in combination with satellites I decided to buy one of these. The current model is the KG-UV9K which adds airband receive capability. I ordered one from bamiporto which came after a few days.

Based on the settings in AO-85 & Wouxun KG-UV9D - more testing I set mine up and tried a number of passes. The passes on satellites AO-91 (Fox-1B) and AO-92 (Fox-1D) all failed. The passes weren't too high and during busy weekends so there was a lot of competition for the uplink. With only 4 watts I am a bit limited there.

The difference between the Baofeng UV-5R and the Wouxun KG-UV9K in handling audio from satellites with the squelch full open is clear: with the Wouxun I only get an interruption when I let go of the transmit button.

Yesterday evening I tried a high SO-50 pass. A southwest to northeast pass, which gave me the option to stand in the front yard with radio, antenna and a smartphone with the W1ANT satellite tracker. I had trouble understanding some stations but could hear others fine who seemed to understand most stations fine, given the contacts I heard. In a gap I called F5ERS/P which turned into a good first contact and after that G0ABI called me and that was a good second contact.

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2020-07-31 Letting the nanokeyer decode my morse attempts 1 month ago
I'm still trying to learn morse and I currently make too many errors while sending with the paddle at a reasonable speed (12 words per minute).

Digging into the documentation for the winkeyer protocol showed me the option to get the morse it thinks I sent back to the computer.

This is even a supported option in winkeydaemon, the -e option.
       -e     Turns  on  winkeyer's  'echo'  feature and makes the daemon echo
              transmitted CW to all active clients (see '-p').

              Test this feature with the  'netcat'  utility:  'echo  |  nc  -u
              127.0.0.1  6789'.  This creates an active, echo-only client ses‐
              sion.
And indeed I can test my work:
$ ./winkeydaemon -s 13 -e
$ echo | nc -u localhost 6789
CQ CQ DE PE4KH
This could be used to write a morse trainer program. For now I use it to test whether I paddle what I want.
Read the rest of Letting the nanokeyer decode my morse attempts

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2020-07-12 I participated in the IARU HF contest this weekend 2 months ago
Again this year one of the important radiocontests for me: the IARU HF contest was this weekend. I made both SSB and CW contacts on several bands.

I made 22 contacts in morse. I concentrated on SSB during the day, aiming to get some nice contacts in the log. There were good 10 and 15 meter openings which is always nice in a contest. I haven't done a lot of contesting on those bands so those enabled me to get more multipliers and a higher score.

In the end I made 159 contacts, with a claimed score of 343 qso points * 74 multipliers = 25382.

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2020-06-29 Newish electronics project: an igate 2 months 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.

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2020-06-28 Future cycling goals (2) 2 months 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.

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2020-06-07 CQRLOG and repeater contacts 3 months 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: 0
and now other contacts can be uploaded fine.

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2020-06-03 I participated in the Dutch PACC 2020 in February 3 months 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.

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2020-06-01 I participated in the CQ WPX CW contest 2020 3 months 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.

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2020-05-27 PMR channels have been expanded. In 2018, but I found out today 4 months 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.

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2020-05-24 Going for countries on other amateur bands 4 months 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.

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2020-05-24 Shared my script to optimize outgoing QSL cards 4 months 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.

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2020-05-17 New countries in the log, now waiting for confirmation 4 months 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

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2020-05-03 New country in the log: St. Lucia 4 months ago
St Lucia on OpenStreetMap, map by OpenStreetMap contributors 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.

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2020-05-01 Time for a plot of the number of contacts in amateur radio after a busy month 4 months ago
QSO count plot up to April 2020 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.

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2020-05-01 I'm not intimidated by morse anymore 4 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.

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2020-04-29 More 10 meter band fun 4 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.

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2020-04-28 A nice 10 meter opening this afternoon 5 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.

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