News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2019-01-14 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix radio contest 4 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Like in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 I participated in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the past weekend. Before I really dove into the contest I first mounted a new end-fed 10/20/40 antenna which can handle more power and tested it.

It took a few tries to get the antenna tuned on the 40 meter band. I tested this with the amplifier which has proven to be really precise about the SWR of the antenna in the 40 meter band, as noted in my post about the ARRL RTTY roundup 2019. I had planned to get this antenna up and running before that contest but that did not work out.

After testing I switched back to 50 watts power without the amplifier because the rules of the UBA PSK63 prefix contest limit the power.

I made a total of 69 contacts as single operator 40 meter. I had a short look at PSK63 activity in the 20 meter band during daylight but it was completely none.

After the contest I tried some FT8 contacts on the 40 meter band with the amplifier active. The amplifier did not like this and went into SWR protection. I must have tuned it perfectly for 7.040 - 7.050 MHz but the SWR is already outside the limits for the amplifier at 7.074 MHz.
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2019-01-08 Amateur radio resolutions for 2019 4 months ago
The last time I did those was in 2017: Reviewing my 2016 amateur radio resolutions, and the new ones for 2017 and the hindsight results for 2017/2018 are:
  • Improve the holiday/portable setup with solar power and a lightweight multiband inverted V
    No solar power (due to costs) but the portable setup is improved and tested: the fiber mast I bought for playing radio from several locations including amateur radio from a local park. Now to find more time to actually use it.
  • Keep doing the digimode contests
    That part went better in 2017 and I had less time and/or energy for contests in 2018. Also in 2018 the interference situation got worse. So my net results in contests improved in 2017 and got worse in 2018.
  • Maybe those satellites
    I tried at least receiving them a few times, but no contacts yet.
  • Get a 2m/70cm vertical antenna on the roof of the dormer
    It's there, it has already been upgraded to a bigger antenna with higher gain and it's mostly used for 2 meter FT8. But also for actual talking to other radio amateurs sometimes.
The Sotabeams newsletter had an item "Setting your targets for 2019" which had some nice ideas and which triggered me to write this post. Things I want to try :
  • Keep learning morse!
  • Get more countries on more HF bands in the log
  • Moonbounce on 2 meter
  • Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests
  • Operate HF outside
  • At least one satellite contact

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2019-01-07 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 4 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr As planned I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup contest this weekend. It was possible to participate in FT8 mode but since I had not prepared for that and had no duplicate checking between FT8 and RTTY I decided to use the mode I am familiair with for this contest: RTTY.

I operated on the 40 meter band Saturday and Sunday evening, and on the 20 meter band during the daylight hours of Sunday. Everything was search and pounce, no responses to calling CQ. I used the power amplifier on the 20 meter band which did help in getting the contacts to almost every station I could decode. The amplifier does not like the SWR from the antenna on 40 meters so I ran without the amplifier on that band.

I made 115 contacts. A number of US stations, already the first new US state confirmed via LoTW. Two more new US states in the log, hope I can get those confirmed too.

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2019-01-02 New country in amateur radio: West Malaysia 4 months ago
In between a few other not too far FT8 contacts I suddenly had a contact with 9M2TO in West Malaysia, a new country for me in amateur radio. I had seen the call before but I did not expect the contact to happen.

And it's already confirmed via Logbook of The World too.

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2018-12-30 New GcmWin for Linux 4 months ago
The author of GcmWin for Linux responded quickly to my report of being unable to install gcmwin after installing a new Linux version and made a new version available which does run fine on Ubuntu 18.04. Again my thanks to Roger Hedin SM3GSJ for making GcmWin available.

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2018-12-28 Serious tropospheric ducting over Christmas 4 months ago
Normally, radio signals travel in a straight line and refraction in the ionosphere only happens on relatively low frequencies (below 30 MHz).

Signals in the 2 meter band (144-146 MHz) don't get refracted in the ionosphere, they just leave earth. But in certain weather conditions with stable high-pressure areas layers can form that reflect these signals back to earth or create ducts in the air where the radio signals travel along the surface for much bigger distances than normal.

For Christmas 2018 there was some troposperic ducting predicted on William Hepburn's Worldwide Tropospheric Ducting Forecast. This site forecasts ducting areas based on predicted weather patterns.

To see the actual distances seen in radio contacts I check VHF propagation map based on APRS reception which uses input from APRS messages with location data received at other sites to find long distance contacts. During the Christmas festivities I checked that site from time to time and saw the big distance signal reports mostly over France, slowly creeping North.

So on 25, 26, 27 and 28 December I ran the radio when possible on 2 meter FT8 and got some new distance records and some new gridsquares in the log. New distance record: 639 kilometer to G4RRA. Several other new calls in the log, some new gridsquares. When visiting the qrz pages of those calls I usually see serious setups with directional antennas so they all do the hard work transmitting in my direction and decoding my signal.

This is all still with the 'simple' vertical for 2m/70cm: a Diamond X-300N on the roof. I wonder what I can do on a good day with a directional antenna and a rotor.

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2018-12-23 I upgraded the 'radio workstation' thompson 4 months ago
As mentioned in New 2 meter distance: 506 kilometers I was still running the old wsjt-x because a newer version requires a newer Linux environment. With a bit of time in the christmas holidays available and more and more things depending on this upgrade I ordered a new disk from Azerty so the reinstallation would be easier. The old linux installation on the radio workstation was several Ubuntu versions old, it was still a 32-bit installation because of earlier hardware compatibility issues and something in D-Bus communication gave lots of errors at bootup, so I expected another upgrade to give me an unavailable system.

The new disk came faster than expected, and I did an install with Xubuntu because I'm ok with the Xfce environment.

One problem is back: the system starts with the two monitors swapped and after the screensaver kicks in the monitors somehow end up in mirrored mode.

And Gcmwin for linux failed in the upgrade since it depends on older libraries. Already reported to the author.

Lots of upgraded software, the most important ones in amateur radio are CQRLOG which showed the well-known MySQL problems until I used the version from the CQRLOG ppa. Everything now works fine and all the earlier confirmations of PSK contacts have been imported. And the trigger that all started this upgrade WSJT-X has been upgraded using the WSJTX General Availability Release ppa.

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2018-12-19 New 2 meter distance: 506 kilometers 5 months ago
Today I had a listen on the 2 meter band with FT8 from wsjt-x 1.9.1, which is currently the near-ancient version but I can't upgrade yet (wsjt-x 2.0.0 requires newer Qt libraries which require a newer linux environment).

But I decoded some signals including a new callsign from Germany. It's always nice to work a new callsign so I answered it and the contact was made after a few tries. Only when I checked the gridsquare and the map I saw that DK1FG is a new 2 meter band distance record for me : 506 kilometers. Looking at that qrz page makes clear why that was possible: on that end 8 stacked 12 element antennes are available for 2 meter DX.

Update 2018-12-21: I just saw wsjt-x packages for other ubuntu versions are available in the WSJTX General Availability Release ppa but the 'oldest' Ubuntu version supported is Ubuntu 16.04.5 LTS 'Xenial'.

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2018-12-03 Being active in amateur radio at a strange time on a strange band: new country 5 months ago
Today I had a day off to arrange some stuff and found some time for amateur radio. I decided to put the longwire antenna outside and use the tuner to get on different bands than the standard 10/20/40.

So I was active at a strange time (during a working day) on a band I haven't been active on in months. Soon I saw signals from C5YK who is in The Gambia. After several tries I made the contact and had a new country in the log.

I also tried a lot of times to contact a station from Rodrigues Island but they never heard me.

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2018-11-25 New country in the amateur radio logs 5 months ago
This weekend I had some time and energy to power up the amateur radio set and trying to get interesting contacts. All in FT8 digital mode as the local interference levels are high. I do my voice contacts at the radio club or out in the field.

This Saturday I managed to make a contact with 5T2AI on Mauritania, a new country in amateur radio for me. At first the other station did not receive me but using the power amplifier helped to make the contact.

I also did a lot of attempts to get a contact with the current radio expedition to Rodriguez Islands but failed.

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2018-11-02 Stroomstoring afgelopen dinsdag 6 months ago
Er was een stroomstoring afgelopen dinsdag. Ik ontdekte dat op een hele typische manier: ik werd wakker voor de tijd van opstaan, wat me wel vaker overkomt en ik wilde op de wekker kijken maar die was donker.

Uiteindelijk was de stroomstoring van 06:23 tot 08:07, in een aardig gebied rondom ons huis. Helaas was er in de ochtenddrukte geen tijd om te testen wat het gevolg van deze uitval was voor het storingsniveau op de amateur radio HF banden.

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2018-10-21 One of my first radio contacts (re)confirmed 7 months ago
From time to time I check whether eQSL has new incoming confirmations for PD4KH contacts. Recently I found one for a contact that goes way back, and it was before I used a linux radio logging program so I did not have the details stored in my logging program. But my website still has those details: Vanavond vanuit de achtertuin contact met PI4HAL via repeater PI3UTR.

It turns out PI4HAL decided to stop sending out paper cards and started using eQSL. I guess they uploaded all old logs.

I do remember the contact and being nervous about actually talking "on the air" and finding my turn between other callers to that station.

This was a trigger for me to check my old logs and make sure I upload things correctly to ARRL Logbook of The World including the few satellite contacts.

Oh and I never started using hrdlog as PE4KH. It did not add a lot for me.
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2018-10-10 New countries in amateur radio using the radio at the club 7 months ago
My amateur club Veron A08 call PI4UTR has a really good clubstation with multiple nice antennas. In an environment with a lot less interference than I have at home.

Last Tuesday I used the clubstation to make a few connections and got some nice calls in the log, adding two new countries. VP8LP on the Falkland Islands and CE2ML in Chili.

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2018-09-13 Missing bit for the HF amplifier: the PA control cable 8 months ago
The HF linear amplifier I bought had one missing link: the control cable to signal when to start transmitting.

I first looked for such a cable at Hamshop but the cable was not available anymore. Further searching found the right cable at 8 pin linear amp switching cable for Yaesu FT-817 FT-857 FT-891 FT-897 FT-991 - TechnoFix UK and ordered it. It came in, so time to test it in the upcoming weekend.

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2018-09-07 Plotting the number of amateur radio contacts 8 months ago
QSL count plot up to August 2018 After the SCC RTTY contest in August I decided to plot the number of amateur radio contacts again. Clearly visible are months with contests I participate in. And the influence of the summer holiday.

before, before, before

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2018-09-02 Ok weather and time for outdoor radio 8 months ago
Outdoor radio
Outdoor radio, picture by PA5Z
Last Friday I had time available for outdoor radio and the weather prediction looked nice. Fellow radio amateur PA5Z had time available too and joined me. We cycled to the local park and found a nice spot for some radio, complete with a bench available to sit and run the radio.

First decision was which band, because changing the band after raising the linked dipole means having to take it all down again. It was a tough decision between 40 and 20 meters, both looked not too promising. We decided on 40 meters.

I also extended the mast and tie-wrapped the balun of the linked dipole to the mast (three segments below the top) before getting the mast upright. This worked nicer for me on an earlier setup. The downside is that we had to be very careful in where the guy-wires and the dipole wires are around the fiber mast to avoid tangled lines and twists. And the right way to lengthen the mast is twisting the segments to lock them together.

With two people it is a lot easier to get the mast straight and it looked very nice. Soon contacts were made, but after a few tries I received a report that the audio sounded like I had RF interference. I heard this remark before at the end of my testing the mast at Trintelhaven and this time I found out what the problem was: the lead-acid battery I was using was running low and when the voltage drops from 12.0 to 9.6 volts on transmitting the output gets distorted. The fix was to lower the output power, a local radio amateur who we contacted was willing to help test this and confirm my theory that the drop in voltage was causing distortion.

Eventually it started to rain a bit, the batteries started to get depleted even at lower power and we decided it was time to pack up and go back home.

A nice day for radio, I ordered a new battery to replace the failing ones and I'll be doing this again some day!
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2018-08-26 I participated in the SCC RTTY contest 8 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr As planned and prepared for I participated in the SCC RTTY contest this weekend. I was aiming for 100+ contacts but due to local interference and not very cooperating propagation those did not happen. In the end I made 83 contacts, 2 on the 40 meter band and 81 on the 20 meter band. I entered in the 'single operator 20 meter' category which was the most fitting for me. That does mean the 2 40 meter contacts only count for log checking.

Interesting things that happened: I got YV5AAX in the log. This has happened before in RTTY contests. But I do see YV5AAX from time to time in FT8 but never made a contact in that mode. I guess the station uses different antennas for contests. I also worked several US stations but I don't think those have resulted in a new US state for my statistics.

The new amplifier was working fine although I noticed the fan control and fan in the power supply stopped completely when I transmitted RTTY in the 10 meter band. This was not a very big problem this time as there was no propagation at all on that band. But it will have to be fixed before the next contest.

With this amount of power I can work almost all stations that I can decode. That is a nice improvement!
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2018-08-19 Testing the fiber mast with antenna at home 9 months ago
Today I set up the fiber mast against the back fence of our yard and used it to raise the endfed wire antenna as a vertical, with the coil between the 10/20 meter and 40 meter parts of the wire a few segments beneath the top of the fibermast.

This works ok. Interference on the 10 meter band is nearly gone, interference on the 20 meter band is about the same. What is also interesting is that this setup gives more balanced results on the pskreporter map. With the endfed antenna from the roof to the end of the garden the results are that most of what I receive is to the east of me. With the fibermast and the endfed as a vertical the reception is more balanced and I see more North and South America.

There is a downside: with even the slightest bit of wind the top of the fibermast starts to move a bit much. So to keep this setup safe for a weekend I would need to do something with guy wires.

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2018-08-13 Trying to receive amateur radio through local interference 9 months ago
This evening I tried several things to improve my chances of actually receiving anything other than the loudest stations in the upcoming SCC RTTY contest.

First try was with a borrowed receive loop indoor and using an HF upconvertor, an rtl-sdr dongle and gqrx as receiving software. This did not work for digital modes: letting wsjt-x (FT8 software) 'listen' to the audio output of gqrx gave no decodes.

Interesting detail: looking at the right piece of spectrum for FT8 showed that the frequency wasn't 100% stable, with frequencies slowly changing. Touching the rtl-sdr gave a bump in frequency.

Another attempt was with the loop indoor and reception on the FT-857D radio. Reception of a strong SSB station seemed somewhat better on the loop, but I heard no improvement of weaker stations.

So I moved the loop outside to the end of the garden and layed a long cable back to the radio setup. This made interference worse! It was already dark so this was not related to any solar panel setup, but some other source of interference on HF. The loop is supposed to receive less local interference but I could not get it to do that this time (it did work for SSB some other time).

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2018-08-12 Making the HP DPS-700GB power supply less noisy 9 months ago
The HP DPS-700 GB power supply adapted to feed the linear amplifier has no own internal fans so I connected a recycled 50mm PC fan. Which runs at full speed which is a lot of noise. I ordered a 12 volt fan control module on-line so it can run slower and keep the noise down a bit.

I'll probably replace the current fan with an 80mm PC fan and set a low minimum speed. The air has to move as the power supply has no internal fans and is quite good at a thermal shutdown. But as long as things don't get warm it would be nice to reduce the noise as this was very noisy.
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