News items for tag hamradio - Koos van den Hout

2020-04-19 Going horizontal on 2 meters FT8 5 months ago
For all of my FT8 contacts from home until now I used the vertical diamond X-300N antenna on the roof. Most 2 meter DX stations will use a directional horizontal antenna, so I lose some signal when I try to communicate with them.

So last weekend I put the Arrow satellite antenna in the attic pointing out the window with the 2 meter elements in horizontal mode. Pointing out this window means southeast direction so I hoped to make some DX contacts into Germany or beyond.

Beyond did not happen, there was no special propagation on the 2 meter band. But the furthest contact was with DJ5FI with a distance of 360 kilometers. I'll try this again when there is special propagation in that direction.

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2020-04-13 Beeping -- --- .-. ... . loud enough (2) 5 months ago
Today I had time to work on the transistor switching to make the morse oscillator work. As I noticed before the Kent Morse practise oscillator kit is powered directly via the key which draws more current than the nanokeyer I built can handle.

So I had to calculate a transistor switch. That's something I learned a long time ago when I did electronics trade school from 1985 to 1989. In Dutch: MTS electronica. That knowledge had to be dug up again when I did the advanced radio amateur course but since I didn't have to use that knowledge it all sunk away.

But, google to the rescue and I found lots of examples, but the easiest one was at Transistor as a Switch - ElectronicsTutorials which explained exactly what I wanted. The next item was 'which transistor'. The default NPN transistor is the BC547B, but the theoretical current through the oscillator is a bit more than this transistor can handle. But a fellow amateur had a few BC337 transistors spare in his junkbox, so I could continue with this project.

Today I did the drawing and the calculations. I looked up the specifications for the BC337 in full saturation, at which time the Vbe is 1.2 Volt, Vce is 0.7 volt and Ibase is 1 milliAmpere. So I ended up with a resistor of 6800 Ohm at the input (which is (9 Volt - 1.2 Volt)/1 millAmpere rounded) and after building it on a breadboard it went beep with an input current of somewhat over 1.0 milliAmpere.

Update: Second test was with the nanokeyer, which first gave no sound, but that was due to me turning the volume down on the practise oscillator. Turning it back up fixed the problem, and I now have loud morse!

In the end this is giving me a good feeling. I had a kind of problem I haven't had to solve in ages so I had to relearn how to solve this, I found the solution method and was able to apply it in theory, practice followed the theory and it all worked as designed.

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2020-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY contest 2020 5 months ago
RTTY Contest on websdr Last weekend was the EA RTTY Contest 2020 edition. I decided to participate beforehand so I set up radio, antenna and macros in time before the start. There was quite some time for the contest available since we're not going anywhere.

Things started slow, I couldn't get as much contacts in the log on Saturday as I had in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 on Saturday.

But on Sunday the contacts started happening and I ended with 143 contacts in the contest. 110 on the 20 meter band and 33 on the 40 meter band. I logged 26 unique provinces in Spain.
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2020-04-03 I participated in the Dutch Digital Activity Contest April 2020 5 months ago
PE4KH claim in the 2 meter Dutch Digital Activity Contest April 2020 There is a new 'activity' promoting digital modes on the 2 meter band. It's short, which is probably why it's called an activity rather than a contest. And it's on a weekday evening. Information in Vanaf nu elke maand een VHF-UHF Digitale Mode Activiteitscontest - VHF en hoger Veron (in Dutch). On the first Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 2 meter band, on the second Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 70 centimeter band.

I participated 1 April 2020 and made 22 contacts within the activity. Several new calls for me in the log, so that's always good. The contestlog processing website generates a map with locators after submitting a log, so I use that map in this newsitem.

The preferred mode is FT8, and some participants were using the FT8 software in 'EU-VHF mode' exchanging serial numbers and 6-character maidenhead locators. My wsjt-x decided to switch on receiving such an exchange. The interesting part was that in a few of the next contacts the software also switched but other contacts failed with that information so I switched back to normal FT8 with the 'EU-VHF mode' disabled.

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2020-04-02 Beeping -- --- .-. ... . loud enough 5 months ago
Kent morse practise oscillator built
The Kent morse practise oscillator built
To practise my morse at the radioclub I looked for a simple morse practise oscillator and found Morse practise oscillator kit - Kent and ordered it at the beginning of Februari. It took a while for it to arrive, but it arrived and I built it in one evening.

It's a quite simple kit. Which means the power for the whole circuit runs via the morse key, in theory about 120 mA. And that is more than the octocoupler on the CW output of the nanokeyer I built is willing to deliver (50 mA). So I can't use the practise oscillator straight away, there will need to be a small amplifier in between.

Some searching suggests I can use a transistor as 'power amplifier'. Time to look at what I may have (which is not a lot) or find a transistor somewhere.

Solution: order a bunch of transistors in a collection so I have some in the junkbox.

Oh and: The dashes and dots in the title are the word 'MORSE' in morse.

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2020-03-17 I participated in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 6 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Last weekend was the EAPSK63 contest and I participated on Saturday. Lots of stations from Spain active and I managed to work 29 unique Spanish provinces. A total of 82 contacts. I could only participate Saturday afternoon and evening so that limited my time in the contest.
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2020-03-09 Newer power supply not yet delivering what I want 6 months ago
I did some more testing with the HP power supply I bought last November. In previous tests the output voltage seemed to be limited at 13 volts and it seems limited to 13.10 volt at the moment. The RM Italy HLA300V plus amplifier I have will only output about 55 watts maximum in digital modes so that's less than I expect. A higher input voltage may fix this, but I'm not sure how to get the power supply to deliver this and keep running. The previous power supply gave up in a busy weekend but before that the HF linear amplifier delivered more power. I have seen it go over a 100 watt on digital modes. The difference in output from the linear amplifier with 13.10 or 13.27 volt power is quite large, which surprises me.

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2020-03-02 Trying amateur satellites between the mountains with snow falling 6 months ago
During our wintersport holiday in Austria I also brought my Arrow antenna and handheld radios along to try a satellite contact.

Before the holiday I read on twitter that Peter Goodhall 2M0SQL has unconfirmed gridsquares which included the place I was going on holiday. So I prepared for trying to make the contact during the holiday. In the preparation I got a theory why I had problems with the satellites with a 2 meter downlink frequency.

During the holiday I soon figured out there wasn't a lot of time for contacts, during the day we were on the pistes and we went to bed early because we had a lot of physical activity. And the place we stayed was between the mountains so for satellite passes I was limited to high passes.

In the end I did listen to one Fox-1D pass which was high and long enough. In a serious amount of falling snow so that was a new experience in amateur radio: trying to make contacts in the snow. Reception of Fox-1D was quite good on the Baofeng UV-5R radio, but transmitting back up didn't work out, I never made a contact.

I did not hear Peter on that pass, so that did not work out at all. But I learned several things, including the fact that the theory about the 2 meter downlink frequencies and the Wouxun KG-UVD1P was correct so the result is positive anyway.

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2020-02-20 I think I figured out why I didn't hear satellites with 2 meter downlink 7 months ago
I was preparing for trying some satellite contacts and noticed the Fox-1B and Fox-1D had nicer opportunities for a contact. But I always have problems receiving any signal from those satellites on the handheld radio that I use for satellite contacts, which is the Wouxun KG-UVD1P I got for Christmas in 2012. Not the ideal radio for amateur satellites, but easy to bring along and to program with split frequencies.

A while ago I noticed that radio was constantly receiving noise on the 2 meter band and I had to set the squelch level quite high to stop it. I thought it was some local overload or local noise in the 2 meter band. But today while working on the preparations for some satellite contact possibilities I figured the problem is with the radio and something is actually wrong on the 2 meter receive side.

I have two other handheld radios. One is a Kenwood TH-D7 where I can't change the squelch level so it's not really usable for satellite contacts and the other is a Baofeng UV-5R which can't be programmed via the computer.

So I spent a lot of time entering all the possible doppler-shifted frequencies of both satellites on the keypad of the Baofeng UV-5R. I hope that gives me a working radio for Fox-1B/Fox-1D and I can get a few new contacts in the log.

Update 2020-02-27: I was correct! I tried a Fox-1D pass with the Baofeng UV-5R radio and I had easy reception of the satellite. Trying to get my signal over the satellite didn't work, but at least I know what the reception problem was.

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2020-02-15 Active on the 60 meter amateur band again 7 months ago
I had one whole contact on the 60 meter band a few years ago with a German station. This band is supposed to be outside of the reach of my longwire, but with a lot of tuning it can work.

This weekend the longwire and the tuner absolutely did not want to get to a workable state on the 80 meter band so I tried the 60 meter band again. In FT8 mode, as that is what gets me the most result from home outside of contests.

This got me a number of contacts. Also one new country already confirmed: Tajikistan. And a new country with a questionable contact, so I'm waiting to see whether the other side will confirm or not. Formally 60 meter doesn't count for ARRL DXCC, but to me every contact counts in some way. I even got stations responding to me before I called CQ, I guess some amateurs are keen on getting a new callsign in the log.

I took down the wire antenna Saturday early in the evening because the winds were picking up for another storm.

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2020-02-08 Still learning morse, getting some help 7 months ago
I'm still working on learning morse code. Sending morse code with the paddle is going ok at about 10-12 words per minute. Receiving is also somewhere around that rate, but I make more errors receiving.

I practise receiving morse with G4FON (Windows), xcwcp (Linux) and IZ2UUF morse trainer (Android). G4FON offers Farnsworth timing, where the letters are transmitted at a higher rate but there is extra spacing between letters to lower the rate of transmission. In xcwcp I can add extra dots between letters and in IZ2UUF morse trainer I can set extra length as a factor of the letter length. Three somewhat different methods to help learn morse at a reasonable speed.

To practise sending morse I use either the FT-857 radio or the control unit of the remote radio as expensive morse sounders. For the morse training at the radio club this is somewhat bulky and the internal buzzer of the nanokeyer is not loud enough so I ordered a practise oscillator kit from Kent morse equipment in the UK.

I also joined The Less Involved Data Society where I hope to meet newcomers to morse on the air. So I am now LIDS member number 414.

And for the rest: practice, practice, practice. Changing between modes of practice such as whole words in English or Dutch or back to random characters or groups of 5 letters helps improving speed and accuracy.

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2020-02-04 Chasing more DX with HamAlert 7 months ago
This weekend I had some random radio time so I made a number of contacts. By numbers mainly in FT4 and FT8 but also some SSB and CW via the remote radio.

I activated HamAlert triggers and used that to get a few countries in the log that I wanted confirmed via LoTW. This worked for Corsica and San Marino. I got an alert for a San Marino call on Saturday and worked it reasonably fast after an FT8 CQ from that station.

On Sunday I saw a notification for a Corsican call on FT8. When I saw the activity I noticed the station was just calling other stations. So I just started answering the callsign in the hope of getting the contact and after a few tries the hint came across and I got the contact in the log.

This is an area where an alerting system that uses more sources than just the DX cluster network works better: the station from Corsica never showed up on the DX cluster, but the activity was seen by PSKreporter and filtered by HamAlert into a notification to me.

The contact with Corsica is already confirmed on LoTW.

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2020-01-13 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 8 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi 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.
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2020-01-08 Changed to a new alerting option for radio amateurs 8 months ago
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.

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2020-01-06 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2020 8 months ago
RTTY Contest on websdr 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.

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2020-01-06 Security tools can help practise morse 8 months ago
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 oucho
And 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 16078
Or both letters and digits:
$ pwgen -A 5 12
sa7la oc7ko an5ne axae6 vohz6 aez5i eh3qu sha5m inai8 eor3a fuv1o ro6ha
Use better parameters with pwgen to generate actual passwords.

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2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back 8 months ago
QSO count plot up to December 2019 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:
  • 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!
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.

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2019-12-29 New countries.. on the 70 centimeter band 9 months ago
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.

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2019-12-27 First radio contacts with the radio and antenna setup at a remote location 9 months ago
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.

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2019-12-06 Received ISS SSTV again 9 months ago
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. ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image

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.

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