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.
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.
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.
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 ouchoAnd 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 16078Use better parameters with pwgen to generate actual passwords.
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:
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.
- 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!
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.sowhile 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.0.1.1But 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.soAnd 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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.Read the rest of Getting distracted by weird noises and listening to data from car tires
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 : CRCThere 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.
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.
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.
Powersupply with wires attached
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!
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.
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.