News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2018-02-19 Again new countries in amateur radio in a pair 4 days ago
This evening another two new countries in my amateur radio log: Lebanon and Gibraltar. First OD5ZF from Lebanon and 4 minutes later ZB3M from Gibraltar. That makes three pairs in two months.

These two were both in FT8 mode on the 40 meter band. FT8 is very good at fast contacts at low received signal levels.

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2018-02-18 Two new countries in the log and I participated in the Russian worldwide PSK contest 2018 5 days ago
Two new countries in the PE4KH log: Oman and India. Oman was Friday afternoon when I was home early and decided to turn the dial over the 40 meter band to make some phone contacts and heard A41CK call. Who took my call on the second try!

India was late Friday evening. The call VU2NKS showed up in FT8 and it had a direct pile-up (lots of people answering). But with some persistance from my side and good operating skills from the other side the contact was made.

And this weekend was the Russian Worldwide PSK Contest so I participated Saturday afternoon / evening and a bit Sunday right before 12:00 UTC. I managed to start Saturday 12:00 UTC sharp calling CQ. Which worked at that time for getting contacts. I chose the 40 meter band category because I expected most radio time this weekend would be after sunset.

In the end I made 64 contacts. Not a very high score, but I had times were several contacts happened in short succession so I am improving in digimode contesting.
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      64     0    388    28
20       0     0      0     0
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
======================================
Total   64     0    388    28
Claimed score is 10864 points
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2018-02-11 Plotting the number of amateur radio contacts 1 week ago
After the end of January I decided to plot the number of contacts again. QSL count plot up to January 2018 January is a busy month with two contests for me but I did not make a lot of contacts outside of those contests this year. I added contacts from holidays and the PE4KH/P activities to the total count.

Some more work on the plot script, I think bars look better than a line graph. But you could spend hours in gnuplot making the plot just right...

The new script:
set output "qslcount.png"
set terminal png size 640,300 fontscale 0.7
set timefmt "%Y-%m"
set xlabel "Month"
set ylabel "Number of contacts"
set xdata time
set style fill solid
set xtics format "%b %Y"
set xtics rotate
set grid
set boxwidth 0.75 relative
set autoscale xfixmin
set autoscale xfixmax
plot "dataset-qsocount" using 1:2 title "Contacts/Month" with boxes
Update: And indeed the change in x autoscale was one bit more 'just right'. The first graph was in February 2017: Rising number of amateur radio contacts.

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2018-01-15 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 1 month ago
PSK63 contest As planned I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest in the weekend. Activity was Saturday evening and Sunday morning interrupted by some good sleep.

Compared to my experiences in the ARRL RTTY roundup one weekend earlier the 40 meter band decided to act quite differently. On Saturday evening it was quite hard to make a contact. A lot of interference, no far away stations and it was hard to get heard by the other side. I stopped before 22:00 UTC (23:00 localtime) because I thought some sleep would be more effective than getting annoyed by the lack of contacts.

Indeed, Sunday morning things got better although I heard only nearby signals on the 40 meter band, including some Belgian stations. No serious DX. Belgian stations are good for extra multipliers so it was good for the score.

In the end I made 76 contacts. The last contact was started by a CQ I called at 11:59 UTC but it was only answered at 12:00, so it does count but I had to note it in the log as originating at 11:59 where the software normally logs the moment I see the callsign for the first time.

Log submitted and de Veron afdelingscompetitie updated.
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2018-01-12 I am planning to participate in the UBA PSK63 contest 1 month ago
As in previous years, I am planning to participate in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the upcoming weekend.

I can't participate for 24 hours since other things have to be done too in the weekend including the all important 'sleep'.

I just finished the preparations:
  • The endfed antenna for 10/20/40 is hanging outside
  • The contest macros have been updated to call CQ UBA PFX TEST
On Saturday evening the 20 meter band will probably be closed by the time I am available for contesting. So I'll start on the 40 meter band. The choice for 40 meter band only or all band will have to be made on Sunday morning, depending on the amount of new contacts I can make in the 40 meter band.
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2018-01-08 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2018 1 month ago
RTTY contest on websdr For the past weekend I had the ARRL RTTY Roundup planned, meaning I had reserved time in the family calendar. Other things had to happen too but I reserved time for contesting and made sure I had the right macros available before the contest started. I hoped to find time to set up the endfed antenna before the contest but that did not happen so it was the first thing to do when we got home at the beginning of Saturday evening.

In the contest I only operated on the 40 meter band. Most of the time I was able to participate were in the dark when I did not expect the 20 meter band to cooperate and I thought that operating in just one band would make me end higher in the rankings for that more specific category. Only after the contest I read the rules exactly and noticed that this specific contest does not differentiate between single and multi band operation.

In the end I made 95 contacts. Local noise is high in my current setup so only the strongest stations came through the noise. I made only one contact in CQ mode, the rest was search and pounce. Propagation wasn't really good until late in the evenings when I managed to score some US contacts. I did see someone from Prince Edwards Island in Canada but that station did not hear me return. I noticed WP2B did not give me a US state but a serial number and found out that is a US Virgin Island callsign, so that was a new country for me.

In the end a nice contest. For upcoming contests: check the rules / propagation predictions and plan my strategy.
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2017-12-27 The 10 meter band is alive the last few days 1 month ago
Yesterday on the 26th of December I saw FT8 activity on the 10 meter amateur radio band (28.0 MHz-29.7 MHz) and made a few contacts. Propagation dropped around 12:35 UTC after which I made one contact with a nearby amateur.

Today I spun the big dial on the radio to the 10 meter band after dark and made contacts (around 17:20 UTC). This is extra special as the maximum frequency at which propagation across the ionosphere occurs drops after the sun stops illuminating it and therefore the 10 meter band is the first band to drop after sunset.

All this was predicted: the most recent 'space weather news' had some good news for radio amateurs. Today I found an article The sun will probably knock out the grid someday | Popular Science which mentions the 'Space Weather Woman' Tamitha Skov and her youtube channel TamithaSkov. I have watched a few episodes and I read articles here and there with the predictions of solar flares and solar wind.
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2017-12-24 First radio contact with Armenia 2 months ago
As if one new country today wasn't enough, I also managed to get Armenia in the log with station EK1KE also in FT8 mode.

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2017-12-24 First radio contact with Australia 2 months ago
Map from pskreporter with Australia A special first for me: an amateur radio contact with Australia, with VK3EW who seems to be a serious DX chaser. For me, this is almost the other side of the world.

This was an FT8 contact, which is a digital mode specific for making contacts with very weak signals using the minimal exchange of information to have a valid contact. I think the neighbours have heard my happy shout after I saw the first response come back to me. The exciting part was making it a full contact complete with signal reports exchanged.

The distance of this contact is 16581 kilometers! The scaling of the generated maps at PE4KH amateur radio has been adjusted to make this contact visible.
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2017-12-02 Preparing gpredict for AO-91 Fox-1B RadFxSat 2 months ago
Although reports are showing up that AO-91 has the usual 'zoo' when it's over southern Europe I still want to prepare for making contacts on interesting passes. So I dove into adding satellite transponder details to Gpredict again. According to [amsat-bb] AMSAT-OSCAR 91 identified it is Norad object 43017. And when Nico Janssen finds a satellite using his methods of doppler-curve fitting it's a very good indication it's the right one.

So time to create a .config/Gpredict/trsp/43017.trsp with the right frequencies and details:
[Fox-1B trsp 67 Hz PL]
UP_LOW=435250000
DOWN_LOW=145960000
MODE=FM
Now to find a pass at a for me usable time.

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2017-11-25 Portable operation close to my home 3 months ago
Today I had some time left and the choice was between staying at home and throwing out the endfed and making a lot of contacts in digital modes or going out and trying a nearby park and making a lot less contacts but learning about my options there.

Fibermast on parkbench I chose the latter one: I loaded my gear in the bicycle trailer and cycled to a nearby park, just outside the city limits of Utrecht. I took the fiber mast and used two elastic straps to tie it to a parkbench. The effect was that the mast was slanted but using it with the wire of the endfed twisted around it the fiber mast stayed up fine without needing its guy wires. And I forgot to bring the tent pegs anyway so I was unable to guy the mast.

I tried the endfed as a vertical with some slack at the bottom and the transformer at the bottom. This gave me a horrible standing wave ratio on 40 and 20 meters. I guess the endfed is only balanced when it is stretched. The quick fix was to add a common-mode choke in the coax to the radio. I also added a counterpoise wire to the earth of the endfed to be somewhat balanced again.

On the 40 meter band reception was ok but I could not understand a lot of stations. On the 20 meter band there was local interference.

In the end I logged one whole contact on the 40 meter band with an Italian special event station. He gave me a 4-4 report and I gave him a 5-9+. After a few tries I gave up making him log me as /portable so I logged it in my PE4KH log. The location is still within JO22NC so I logged in my home log.

As soon as the sun set it started cooling down and the grass got wet and I went home.

It's a nice location and quite reachable from home. It's 10 minutes cycling and in 10 minutes I had the mast and the radio set up.

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2017-11-08 Trying to receive Fox-1A (AO85) telemetry 3 months ago
I decided to try to receive telemetry data from the Fox-1A (AO85) satellite to prepare for receiving telemetry from the new RadFxSat right after launch. The FoxTelem program is ready to receive data from all the Fox series satellites so this was a good way to test my receiving setup.

This afternoon there was a reasonable pass so I decided to give it a try. With the FT-857D radio tuned to the downlink frequency 145.978 MHz in FM packet mode. While I did hear the conversations on the satellite in the noise the program did not seem to receive anything. And then I noticed the sound display in the program reacted strongly when I tapped the microphone connected to the mixing board. I chose the wrong audio device. I have two USB audio devices connected to the computer, one feeds audio from a mixing desk and one feeds audio from the radio. Normally I can keep them apart but FoxTelem was only showing one of them.

The solution was to set FoxTelem to the audio device 'default' and use pavucontrol to switch the input of the application to the right USB audio device. But by the time I figured that out the satellite was already too far to receive any useful telemetry data.

Time to find another nice pass with useful elevation (above 10 degrees) to try this again. And it's a good preparation for the launch of Fox-1B.

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2017-11-07 Waiting for the launch of RadFxSat (Fox 1B) 3 months ago
The subset of radio amateurs that is interested in amateur satellites is waiting for the launch of RadFxSat / Fox 1B. The name 'RadFxSat' stands for 'Radiation Effects Satellite'. The primary mission is in cooperation with Vanderbilt University ISDE studying radiation effects on commercial off the shelf components.

The amateur radio mission is a FM U/v repeater with CTCSS, which means it can be used by radio amateurs to make long distance contacts.

As any new satellite, the first phase after launch is a lot of testing before any experiments or radio services are started. During the testing phase the satellite will transmit short radio messages (audio with data mixed in as low frequency tones) with telemetry data. By receiving the telemetry data and forwarding it to the operators radio amateurs can help the testing. This telemetry includes voltages and temperatures which allow the operator to find out if the satellite operates as designed and whether the power budget (generated power from solar panels minus used power) is good.

To receive telemetry from the Fox series satellites and forward it a program has been developed named FoxTelem and I am glad to see a linux version is available. This allows me to receive the satellite unattended and forward the data. I will at least try to participate in the 'Launch and Early Orbit program' during the first few days.

Current launch date is planned at November 14th.

More information:

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2017-10-30 I participated in the CQWW DX contest 3 months ago
This weekend was the CQ World Wide DX Contest. This is indeed another phone (voice) contest, so I connected headset, footswitch and the remote head of my radio. I had some time to participate on Sunday early afternoon and Sunday evening. On Sunday afternoon the logical band to try was 20 meters, on Sunday evening 40 meters. In the end I made 51 contacts.

All I did was 'search and pounce', checking for stations calling CQ that I could understand good enough and transmit my call back to them in the hope they would hear me. Some stations had me on the first try, some took several tries and some never heard me. The DX that got away was a Kazakhstan station who could not decode my call even after several tries.

I used the yfktest contest software for Linux again. This wasn't very hard as yfktest has a standard definition for the CQWW DX contest.

I heard both serious contest stations and single operators just calling CQ on the air. Interesting was to work OH1LWZ/M who according to his qrz page is really contesting mobile from his car or bicycle.

For next time I have to check the compression and gain settings for SSB on my Yaesu FT-857D radio when using the headset.

Claimed results:
Band    QSO    Qpts   Dupes Countries Zones
-------------------------------------------
  20     40      48       0      15       5
  40     11      19       0       9       6
-------------------------------------------
 ALL     51      67       0      24      11
===========================================
 Total Score: 2,345
A few times I heard the contest call PA0AA of my radio club who worked very hard to get the antenna at the club ready for contesting, but only in the background when I was trying other calls. It would have been nice to get them in the log.

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2017-10-20 Testing the new fibermast from a remote location 4 months ago
I had time this week to test the fibermast I ordered and I wanted to do this at a location away from houses. Someone suggested the location 'Trintelhaven' which is a small harbour in the dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad. This is a harbour of refuge in which ships on the Ijsselmeer can find a safe location to spend the night or wait out a storm.

Usually I do my outdoor radio activities at cycling distance, but this was an interesting location, I had the day available and I felt like going a bit further.

The Trintelhaven is originally an island created for the construction of the dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, which was going to form the 'Markerwaard'. But that plan was cancelled and now it is the 'Markermeer' (lake) with a new project to bring more life into it.

In the end I learned things about the new fiber mast, played radio, enjoyed the outdoors and had fun.
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2017-10-10 Plotting the number of contacts (again) 4 months ago
After working through the results of my participation in the Russian worldwide digimode contest 2017 I decided to run a graph again of contacts per month as I did in Februari 2017. And remember how I made those graphs this time and save it in a plot script. qsl count plot

And the plotscript:
set output "qslcount.png"
set terminal png size 440,300 fontscale 0.7
set timefmt "%Y-%m"
set xlabel "Month"
set ylabel "Number of contacts"
set xdata time
set style data lines
set xtics format "%b %Y" 
set xtics rotate
plot "dataset-qsocount" using 1:2 title "Contacts/Month"
The interesting peak in January 2017 is still visible, it was caused by two contests I participated in: the ARRL RTTY roundup 2017 and the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 2017.

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2017-10-09 I participated in the Russian worldwide Digimode contest 4 months ago
Past weekend was the Russian worldwide digimode contest edition 2017. I mounted the endfed antenna outside and participated when time was available.

Thinks went good in search and pounce mode, there were multiple instances of making more than one contact in the same minute according to the log. Calling cq gave less response but I also got some contacts logged that way.
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      46     0    280    32
20      41     0    129    35
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
======================================
Total   87     0    409    67
Claimed score is 27403 points
Since I operated in more than one band and with power above QRP levels I entered in the SINGLE-OP ALL HIGH category.

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2017-09-25 I participated in the CQWW RTTY contest 2017 5 months ago
This weekend was the CQ WW RTTY Contest 2017. I participated when possible in an otherwise very filled weekend.

In the end I made 81 contacts, 32 on the 20 meter band and 49 on the 40 meter band. One station in the US, KI1G in the state of Rhode Island (a new state). And the counter of worked DXCC's went up one, so I was browsing the log trying to find out which was the new country and it turned out that I made the first contact with Luxembourgh, LX7X. I will put that call on the list for a QSL card.

Finishing the log took a while. I set fldigi to contest style "CQWW RTTY" and used that template to export the log. But the logged CQ zone and state did not show in the Cabrillo export. I had to do that all by hand. Next time prepare the macros to log this correctly!

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2017-09-14 A portable mast for outdoor operations 5 months ago
As noted the last time I operated portable from an outdoor location it would be easier to deploy outside with a portable fiber mast. I borrowed a fiber mast for supporting an antenna earlier and it was really nice to have this option. It takes a bit of work to set it up, but it makes HF antenna work easy.

So I wanted one myself. The advice from fellow club members was to look at the offerings at DX-Wire which includes fiberglass telescopic poles and accessories to set them up. I ordered the 11,5m GRP pole "MIDI" complete with a spool of guying wire, a guying ring and other material to be able to set it up.

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2017-09-08 I built a common mode choke 5 months ago
After the problems with the laptop controlling the radio when I participated in the SCC RTTY contest 2017 I decided to build a common mode choke. This is a filter that should keep the radio frequency signals at the side of the antenna.

Based on the simple design with a piece of PVC pipe with 8 windings of Aircell-7 coax I still had lying around. The PVC pipe was donated by a fellow radio amateur who had it in his junkbox.

I drew a pencil line on the pipe, decided where to drill holes for the coax cable (using a 16 millimeter drill) and where to drill holes for tiewraps to hold the coax. After drilling the holes it was a matter of winding the coax correctly, mounting the cable with tiewraps and soldering the connectors to the cable.

In the first testing the filter worked fine, completely stopping the interference to the keyboard of my "shack computer" and even reducing incoming noise on the 10 meter band.
Common mode choke: materials - KvdHout on FlickrCommon mode choke: materials
Common mode choke: finding where to drill holes - KvdHout on FlickrCommon mode choke: finding where to drill holes
Common mode choke: holes drilled - KvdHout on FlickrCommon mode choke: holes drilled
Common mode choke: cable mounted - KvdHout on FlickrCommon mode choke: cable mounted
Common mode choke: connectors done - KvdHout on FlickrCommon mode choke: connectors done

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