2017-01-16 Living in two timezones 1 day ago
Radio amateurs who make contacts over the borders constantly live in two timezones: both their local timezone and the UTC timezone. Logging contacts with UTC timestamps ensures the timestamps align across different parts of the world. To help with this logging programs for amateur radio like CQRLOG will show the current time in UTC and log in UTC. But I also like having a desktop clock in Linux with both the local time and the UTC time. One of the reasons is with WSJT-X: in this mode transmissions start at second :00 and end at second :50 so I have to check the WSJT-X screen every minute between seconds 50 and 00 (or every second minute when I'm in a contact). This gets tedious and I get distracted when there is 50 or 110 seconds to just wait. There are hardware 'amateur radio' clocks like the CK-2 LED Digital Dual Time Zone Clock which is over 200 US dollars and looks like it would fit into a missile launch command center. Or from MFJ: MFJ-148RC dual time LCD clock, atomic W/GMT ZONE, id timer at nearly 60 US dollars. I decided to just look for some software for this task and after a few searches I ended up with PyHamClock which is now running on my amateur radio desktop system.
2017-01-15 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 2017 2 days ago
I had the UBA PSK63 prefix contest in my planning again this year. This year I set up the antennas in advance, checked the contestmacros and I was ready. Some things at home delayed the start a bit, so I did not fire of a CQ UBA PSK63 PFX TEST right at 12:00 UTC but I managed nicely. In the end I made 133 contacts. I started on 20 meters but that 'dried out' soon especially after the sun started to come down. I switched to 40 meters and this was the first time in this contest that I had access to the part of the 40 meter band below 7.050 MHz, which is where all my 40 meter contacts were made. Late in the evening 40 meter started showing some more distant stations, I saw Indonesia and Surinam callsigns but they did not hear my reply (which was not for lack of trying). Total 133 contacts, 59 on the 20 meter band and 74 on the 40 meter band, so I entered as SOAB (single operator all band). A simple script counts 65 prefixes on 20 meter and 52 prefixes on 40 meter so that would make my total score 15561 points. Looking at my contesting results the rates of contacts are improving (even with radio propagation getting worse) so I think I am doing fine.
2017-01-11 Debugging a crashing cqrlog 6 days ago
This morning cqrlog crashed soon after I started it. On a restart it crashed instantly without even giving me any option to select anything. Since there was some mysql corruption in my system anyway I decided to completely wipe out the databases/configuration, start over, import the backups again and be on my way. I never got that far, every time shortly after initializing cqrlog it started crashing. So I started testing what could be causing this and ended up with the DXCC update being the cause. So I did not do this update, loaded my logs from the backup, improved some things in my configuration and reported my findings via mail to de cqrlog developer. I can live with the DXCC tables being somewhat outdated, I have contacts with stable countries here in Europe. I hope an update comes out soon for cqrlog. Also noted in the cqrlog forums where at least one other user has seen the same workaround. I haven't posted it on the forum yet as I wasn't registered there. Update 2017-01-12: During the day an update for cqrlog was made available which fixes the problem. Applause to the developers of cqrlog for responding this fast.
2017-01-09 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2017 1 week ago
This weekend I wasn't planning on radio contesting but some other plans got changed and in the evenings the 40 meter band around 7.040 MHz was filled with the deedle deedle of RTTY signals. It was the ARRL RTTY Roundup so I participated some hours. Given the limited time and the not so optimal propagation I did not expect a top score. In the end I made 62 contacts. Better than my score in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2016 where I made 24 contacts (after logs were checked).
2017-01-05 Outdoor and cold amateur radio 1 week ago
Today I had time for outdoor amateur radio but it was a bit cold. So I took the car to recreation area "De Leyen" near Groenekan again, which I also did in April 2015 with warmer weather. This time it was cold enough to stay in the car and still get cold after a few hours. I tried and worked 20 meter PSK31 and SSB, and again had the luxury of the environment there being almost free of radionoise on 20 meters. On 40 meters it was quite different, the only thing I heard from the radio was the typical noise of electrified wire nearby. No loads of contacts, PSK31 wasn't very busy. I had the advantage of hearing stations a lot better on SSB (voice) but they did not hear my reply over the pile-up of other stations trying to contact them. I heard VP8LP which is impossible for me to hear at home, but he did not hear my replies. The interesting contact was with A70X which is a radio expedition to Al-Safliyah island in Qatar.
2017-01-04 Reviewing my 2016 amateur radio resolutions, and the new ones for 2017 1 week ago
Again on reddit /r/amateurradio there was a thread HNY! What are your 2017 Amateur Radio resolutions? so I checked the results for My 2016 Amateur Radio resolutions and thought about what I want to do in 2017 with amateur radio. So, first to review what I hoped to do in 2016:
- Pass the exam for the full license on 2 March
Prepared, and failed: antenna wasn't working and by the time things were fixed the 40 meter band wasn't cooperating.
- Participate in "Mills on the air" in May
No contacts made, I got an antenna rotor and built a holder for the arrow antenna on that rotor, but I only used it to receive SSTV from the ISS.
- Making amateur satellite contacts when the weather permits
Done: did better in a few contests compared to my 2015 scores. Also worked on and improved my contest macros. I even did a little voice contesting.
- Participate in a few digimode contests 'seriously' (preparing, using an outside antenna, optimizing score). Sofar I usuallly go 'oh there is a contest I'll throw in my call and see if I can score some points'
Brought the radio and an endfed antenna on a holiday in northern England. Found out the endfed gets into problems when cold (which was probably also the reason "Mills on the air" failed first). And by the time the weather was nice enough for the endfed to work again the battery of the radio was drained. So, for 2017:
- Bring some radio stuff on summer holiday (a full license makes this possible in a lot more countries around here)
- Improve the holiday/portable setup with solar power and a lightweight multiband inverted V.
- Keep doing the digimode contests
- Maybe those satellites, time/weather permitting
- Get a 2m/70cm vertical antenna on the roof of the dormer. Antenna and a mount for a flat roof are already waiting: Testing an antenna for the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur bands and I have plans and materials to make the white antenna less visible: Amateur radio antenna camouflage.
2016-12-30 The weather confirms antenna theory 2 weeks ago
Last afternoon I hung up the endfed antenna outside to make some contacts on different radio bands. This morning I noticed it was all covered in frost due to a night with temperatures below freezing and with lots of mist. So I took the camera for some pictures of the frost on different parts of the antenna, gathered at flickr: img_3365 | Coil in endfed antenna with ice growth | Koos van den Hout | Flickr. After I took a set of pictures I started transmitting PSK31 on the 20 meter bands at 50 watts power. And my antenna theory tells me that the part of the antenna radiating the best is where the most current of the standing wave happens which is right after the transformer in an endfed antenna. Which I got confirmed: img_3380 | Endfed antenna with ice growth on transformer | Koos van den Hout | Flickr was taken before I transmitted and img_3378 | Result of using the enfed antenna: ice vaporized | Koos van den Hout | Flickr after. The ice is gone on the first part.
2016-12-24 "Nice" view of the local noise 3 weeks ago
With HF conditions being bad I chose the JT65 mode in the hope of having a chance of making a contact. None happened, and the noise patterns in the waterfall display make it very clear how much local noise there is and how the local noise sources change frequencies and power. Transmissions take 50 seconds in JT65 and start right at the beginning of the minute, at each yellow horizontal line in the waterfall display. The only valid JT65 signal is in the top right corner right of the '1400' marker.
2016-12-11 New band in amateur radio: 17 meters (18 MHz) 1 month ago
This weekend I had some time to 'play radio' and used the LW-10 longwire antenna for 6 to 40 meters because I wanted to try the 30 meter band. But there was no activity on the 30 meter band in PSK modes. So I tried other PSK31 frequencies as programmed in fldigi and ended up at 18.100 MHz and had a few contacts with Greece, Russia and Spain. The 17 meter band is from 18.068 MHz to 18.168 MHz and one of the WARC bands, named after the World Administrative Radio Conference in 1979 which allocated small parts of the spectrum in 10 MHz (30 meter), 18 MHz (17 meter) and 24 MHz (12 meter) to radio amateurs. Partly on a secondary basis (10 MHz), partly as primary user (18 MHz and 24 MHz).
2016-11-27 Finished the homebrewed QYT KT-8900 programming cable 1 month ago
I finished the homebrewed QYT KT-8900 programming cable by using tiewraps to clamp the two pieces of cable together and using heatshring tube to cover the wires and pack it all together. More about Creating the homebrewed QYT KT-8900 programming cable and instructions for building a 3-pin programming cable for QYT/BTech/others and the KT-8900 FAQ at Mikklor.com.
Homebrewed QYT KT-8900 programming cable
2016-11-24 Creating a programming cable for a QYT KT-8900 with some soldering 1 month ago
I bought a cheap 2m/70cm mobile/base radio, a QYT KT-8900 which has the special feature of being very small but still able of putting out 25 Watt on the 2 meter VHF band and 20 Watt on the 70 centimeter UHF band. The display looks a lot like my Wouxun KG-UVD1P, complete with battery status indicator which is not much use when the radio has a constant 13.8V feed. The menus are quite similar, so this is probably not a coincidence. I bought it via aliexpress and it got shipped at a reasonable speed to my house. In the original listing was mention of a programming cable, but it showed up without one. I asked the seller about this and directly a baofeng programming cable was shipped to me. But, the QYT KT-8900 has a different programming interface, just a 3.5 millimeter plug with ground, rx and tx data. So I found a very good resource for chinese radios which has the answers: 3 PIN Programming Cable for a BTech, QYT, etc Mobile which has the right pinout. I just cut the Baofeng cable to get at the gnd, rx and tx wires. Next I had to wait for a cable with the right 3.5mm connector to show up. The connector in the back is sunk into the case and the 3.5mm connectors I had in the junkbox did not fit. But a broken PC speaker set wanted to donate a cable with 3.5mm connectors that were slim enough. Next trying the result with chirp radio programming software under Linux. And suddenly I could copy a list of channels I had and upload it to the radio in 5 minutes, which is a lot faster than manual programming where getting more than one channel programmed in correctly under 5 minutes is hard, see for example Programming Repeaters into the QYT KT8900 Mini Dual Band Mobile Radio Review - AF5DN - Youtube. At the moment the cable looks very experimental. Now it has been tested I will use tiewraps and heatshrink tube to make it sturdier and make it look a lot better. As a radio it's ok, but not ideal. I was testing with meetnetwerk baretta - hobbyscoop and the antenna on the roof for 2 meter and 70 centimeter and noticed I had pulsing audio of the output frequency of PI2NOS on the Baretta frequency. Pulsing audio is a known problem in this radio, see KT8900 FAQ at miklor.com but I have no channels with receive CTCSS.
QYT KT-8900 radio with homebrewed interface cable, CC-BY-SA
2016-11-22 A bit of hope for radio contacts 1 month ago
Recently getting some new contacts on amateur radio has been very difficult. And news articles like Sunspot cycle plunges to lowest level in 5 years - Southgate arc which points at source Sunspot cycle at lowest level in 5 years - spaceweather.com tell us things aren't going to improve soon. But sometimes interesting radio contacts are possible. Last Friday I complained somewhere about propagation being down and the next morning I saw a reply that propagation had improved after 23:00, by which time I was asleep. Yesterday evening I had some time to try the radio after 21:30 and I first added Albania to the list of countries I contacted with a PSK31 contact on 40 meters with ZA5G and later I even had a voice contact with RA3QK who gave me an S5 report. I kept scanning around the band and heard pileups for some popular stations from the Brazil and the US, who never heard my answer. And later I heard an active net on 7178 kHz with a number of US and Canada stations active. I tried breaking in but they also could not decode my callsign. One of the active members in that net was WA3RSL whose qrz page clearly shows he is a big 40 meter fan and has the space for huge antennas.
2016-11-20 Ik heb mee proberen te doen aan een contest.. en geen contacten gemaakt 1 month ago
Vandaag heb ik geprobeerd mee te doen aan de Friese elfstedencontest 2016 (waarschuwing: pagina met comic sans) en heb in totaal nul (0) contacten gemaakt in die contest. Ik had de hele opstelling al zaterdag gereed gemaakt: endfed antenne naar buiten, headset interface aan de radio, separator kit aan de radio. En ik had tijd gestoken in aanpassingen aan yfktest zodat het het logging formaat voor deze contest snapte. Deze contest is tussen 11:00 en 14:00 lokale tijd, en ik kon pas later beginnen door andere afspraken. En als ik zo de berichten lees bij Friese 11 steden contest 2016 - zendamateur.com was de meeste kans om nog ergens contact mee te maken in het eerste uur. Ik heb een roepend station gevonden dankzij de dx-cluster, maar ook die hoorde mijn antwoorden niet. De ernstig tegenwerkende factor was de slechte NVIS propagatie (radiosignalen wilden niet tegen de ionosfeer recht naar beneden reflecteren). Volgende keer beter natuurlijk, volgens berichtgeving zijn we bij het dieptepunt van de zonnevlekkencyclus en kan het met een paar jaar dus weer beter worden.
Frisian flag, wikimedia commons, CC-BY-SA
2016-11-17 De zoektocht naar niet-storende LED lampen 2 months ago
In onze keuken hadden we 5 spotjes met halogeen lampjes achter een dimmer om zo op het werkblad goed licht te hebben. Toen kort na elkaar 2 van die lampjes stukgingen was de conclusie dat er binnenkort wel meer stuk zouden gaan en dat dit een mooi moment was om aan LED lampen te beginnen. Ondertussen zijn er dimbare LED lampen die ook halogeen spotjes kunnen vervangen. Alleen was de gedachte in mijn achterhoofd natuurlijk of ze dat ook kunnen zonder radiostoring op te leveren. In de Electron, het verenigingsblad van de Veron heeft recent een stukje gestaan van een radio amateur die na eerdere storingen geen storing meer had na het vervangen van goedkope LED lampen door Philips LED lampen. Ik heb het er dus op gewaagd en 5 philips LED lampen gekocht, type LED Spot 8718696483824 van Philips, GU10 fitting, 4W (vervangt 35W) dimbaar, warm wit. Het licht is inderdaad serieus anders dan van halogeen lampen, dus ze alle 5 tegelijk vervangen was een goed idee. En de storing is minimaal, pas als ik heel dichtbij kom met een kortegolfontvanger krijg ik een storing binnen die net zo goed via de electriciteitsdraden kan komen.
2016-11-06 One source of interference found: osram halotronic htm 70 transformers 2 months ago
Recently I noticed one source of radio interference on 40 meter was the lighting in our bathroom. There are two sets of lights in the bathroom, one with a switch which causes heavy interference and one with a dimmer. The lights in the bathroom are all 12volt based and the transformers are in a weird corner above the bathroom, but accessible for me. So I found out the "osram halotronic htm 70" electronic transformers (the specs read like switching power supplies) are quite audible on the 40 meter band. The other two a lot less than the switched one. Time to complain to Osram and/or replace them. The Osram Halotronic HTM 70 specifications at Osram say the maximum length of the wire after the transformer is 2 meters to keep RF interference below acceptible levels, I am not completely sure the complete wires until the lamps are shorter than that, so it may also be an installation fault. Searching for "osram halotronic htm 70 interference" finds this interesting bit: Installation LED Leuchten in Spanndecke with:Aber auch wenn "nur" der Meßwagen der Bundesnetzagentur vorbeikommt und Deine Konstruktion kostenpflichtig stillegt, kommt wenig Freude auf.The German Bundesnetzagentur is a lot stricter in finding and stopping interference to amateur bands.
2016-10-30 Testing an antenna for the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur bands 2 months ago
I have the idea to put up an antenna for the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur bands on the dormer on our house and camouflage it as best as possible. With this idea in mind I could not resist the offer of a secondhand Diamond X-30N antenna for a very reasonable price. I know there are antennas with a lot better gain but I also wanted to minimize the visual impact. I had the time to test the antenna and used the painters pole I used earlier in TV DX experiments, receiving DVB-T television from 167 kilometres away. On the painters pole out the window the antenna is even higher than the PA0FBK j-pole antenna, which made me try an experiment: participate in the Zondag Avond Roep Ronde (ZARR) radio amateur net which is operated from Maren-Kessel (near Den Bosch) which is a considerable distance on 2 meter. Earlier I was unable to hear the CQ calls for that net on my own radio while hearing them via a nearby 2 meter SDR (mounted at serious higher elevation than my antenna). But this time I heard the call when the directional antenna of the net manager was pointed in my general direction and he heard my answer, so I had a nice contact on 2 meter FM. This position of the antenna is quite temporary and I brought it back in after my participation in the amateur radio net. But this makes a better place for the antenna on the roof of the dormer and some camouflage to make it less visible a good idea.
Diamond X-30N antenna mounted on painters pole in the window of our dormer, CC-BY-SA
2016-10-17 Jamboree On The Air 2016 (JOTA) 3 months ago
Afgelopen weekend was Jamboree On The Air 2016, dit is een evenement waarbij scouts uit de hele wereld via amateur radio contact maken. Dit evenement is gecombineerd met Jamboree On The Internet (JOTI) waarbij de chat mogelijkheden via Internet gebruikt worden om de scouts met elkaar in contact te brengen. Sinds de Veron afdeling Centrum een nieuwe locatie heeft bij scouting groep Peka 18 in Utrecht ben ik ook wat meer aan het volgen wat er met de JOTA gebeurt. Omdat Wijnand PD5WL een kabel zocht die ik had voor zijn JOTA 2016 ATV experimenten kreeg ik ook gelijk de uitnodiging om even te komen kijken op die locatie. Ik ben zaterdagmiddag gaan kijken en het zag er leuk uit, en ik heb met diverse zendamateurs gesproken daar. En er waren zeker enthousiaste scouts bezig met radio! Zaterdagavond heb ik ook wat PSK verbindingen gemaakt op de 20 meter band waarvan een met een scouting station van de Rover Crofts groep in Bilthoven met callsign PA6RCG/J. Ook zijn er leden van Veron Centrum actief geweest: Special Event PE18KA/j bij ons clubhuis tijdens JOTA waar vermoedelijk ook nog meer beelden en verslag van komen.
2016-10-12 New for me amateur radio band activated: 15 meters (21 MHz) 3 months ago
My full radio amateur privileges let me play on quite a number of radio bands and I haven't activated most of them. Partly due to missing equipment, but partly just not getting around to it. A fellow amateur pointed out to me that the 15 meter band can be quite interesting for making contacts with some new stations. The 15 meter band is from 21.00 MHz to 21.45 MHz. I sort of do have the equipment for working on that band: the LW-10 longwire antenna for 6 to 40 meters which needs an antenna tuner. In earlier experiments in using the antenna tuner the tuner failed on the 15 meter band. Today I made sure the balun of the LW-10 antenna was grounded with an earth wire to the nearest heating radiator. Not an ideal RF ground but better than nothing. On the second try the antenna tuner did its magic and the radio was happy with the result. And there were no crashing USB devices! There was one thing: I hear a ticking noise when transmitting trough the tuner. That is an indication of stray RF problems in the tuner itself so I added a ferrite core to the power cable of the tuner which did not fix this problem completely. One thing I really have to do is try to tune above the frequency I want to use. So the antenna did want to tune and work and I tried some PSK contacts on that band. And success: I made several contacts, including one with PB0ACU. I had a contact before with PB0ACU when I still had my previous callsign so this was a nice return contact. It was clearly not DX, but other contacts were further away. I already received eQSL confirmations for this and a few other 15 meter PSK contacts so this band is now truly activated for me.
LW-10 HF antenna with earth wire
2016-10-02 I participated in the Russian worldwide digimode contest 2016 for a bit 3 months ago
I tried to get another Miguel de Cervantes special event station in the log and it seemed the easiest way was to participate in the RUS-WW-DIGI Russian worldwide digimode contest 2016. But the weekend was filled with other things (such as chasing more of those special event stations, bad weather and lousy propagation) so my participation started in the last half hour of the contest, was very short and I made 9 valid contacts which I uploaded as a checklog. I thought I had a contact number 10 but that was after the end of the contest. The results:Band QSOs Dupes Points Mults 160 0 0 0 0 80 0 0 0 0 40 0 0 0 0 20 9 0 29 9 15 0 0 0 0 10 0 0 0 0 ====================================== Total 9 0 29 9 Claimed score is 261 pointsBut I got AN400G in the log in digimode, so another slot filled.
2016-10-01 Avoiding the local noise with help of a websdr 3 months agoOlder news items for tag hamradio ⇒
Local radio noise at home is at high levels again and the HF propagation isn't cooperating very well. This means that it's hard to make contacts which can be frustrating when I finally get some radio time. At the moment I am chasing the Miguel de Cervantes special event stations organized by the Spanish radio amateur club with radio operators active all over the Spanish country. With the distance it should not be too hard, but band conditions don't cooperate very well, especially when I can't hear the remote station due to local noise. Solution: listen on the websdr in twente and transmit on my local radio with maximum power (100 watts). The delay in the audio from the websdr means I have to adjust my timing but it is good enough to get my callsign across and check whether the other side received it correctly. So I manage to make a few more SSB contacts, since this works better on SSB than on digital radio modes.