Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Some solutions...

Sorry for not updating the blog for a few weeks. Other things besides the hobby occupied my time. Not that I was completely absent from the hobby. I removed the 10m HB9CV again and it was replaced with the Watson W2000 6/2/70 antenna for 6m mainly. Unfortanely so far I did not see much sporadic E coming this way. Although I was spotted in the Ukraine when the band seems to be closed! I've also been on MSK144 but only spotted a German and a English station. I probabely expect too much from this mode or I have to wait for ES or meteors.

Some solutions came up for the problems I encountered when operating portable in Denmark. First of all one of my colleagues on the job modified my tripod to mount the MP-1 directly on top just like the tripods superantenna is selling. Normally a tripod is provided with a plastic mount on which you can screw your camera, you can turn your camera then in several angles. Nice, but not strong enough to hold a long antenna in the wind. Now I just have a single 1/4" bolt on top of the tripod...

Another problem was how to handle a QSO on JT65/JT9 digimode with a extra prefix? The software is limited to just your call and when you're in another country you have a problem in handling a complete QSO as it just ignores for example OZ/. The solution came last week in a QSO with 5Z4/DL2RMC from Kenya. As you can see in the picture I tried to send 5Z4/DL2RMC TNX 73 but the software/mode is limited, confused as I was I clicked the wrong report message and quickly changed that to DL2RMC PE4BAS RR73. DL2RMC came back with his full call. So I assume not completely correct but when abroad you better send CQ OZ/PE4BAS (no locator as that is too long), in response there is no other possebility to send only your call without the extra prefix. For the opposite station it is important to finish with the full call like DE OZ/PE4BAS 73. Will think of that next time...

At the 4th day we were in Denmark the laptop lost his internet connection and since the internal clock from this old laptop has a 10 sec. delay every 5 minutes it completely lost it's time resulting in no decodes on WSPR anymore. I've thinking about this and this is also a problem when you want to do WSPR or JT modes in the field without a internet connection. As known these modes need exact timing from a highly accurate clock. So I was thinking about a small USB or bluetooth GPS receiver for this task. Together with IZ2BKT's BktTimeSync it should work. I will order a cheap keyring GPS receiver to test if it does and report about this later.

I finally combined PSK, JT and SSB logs and come till a total of 10 QSO from Denmark. That doesn't sound much but considering the setup and my holiday style operating I think it is well done.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

While we were away...

While we were in Denmark last week this huge windmill was build en visible from our Garden. So we went out to take a look nearby. This windmill is 200m high and supposed to be the largest one in our country. Several of these will be build in the Eemshaven near my QTH. This one can make 4,5MW of energy and produce for 5000 households.

Imagine in the last century and even before the highest building in our province was the Martinitower in Groningen city. It is (only) 100m high. This windmill is twice the height of the tower.

Look at the size of the large crane and truck at the feet of the mill. They look like tiny toys...

A view from the back of our garden...in the center you see the windmill...

Friday, 28 April 2017

We have a winner...

We finally have a winner. It is PE1BVQ Hans who came with the final location. Was it hard to find me? It seems so because there were no other right answers. Actually not many seem to have a interest in a book about DX? Hans, you will get the book and it is interesting for shure. Well, to find me was not that hard. Even without a radio it would be possible. Just check the activity list at wsprnet.org and find me. Then it is just a matter of writing my call in the database to find the locator. The hard part was the exact name of the location. If you think logical the best guess was somewhere on a vacation park which is as far as I know the only one in this square. 3 options were right. The exact location was Selkaer Molle but Selkaer or Glesborg would be right also.

Well I ended transmissions, the whole station is packed again. We will go home tomorrow and leave early. It was a great vacation. Hobby wise I learned a lot again. The superantenna MP-1 tripped over by the wind again and I really find another way to connect the antenna to the tripod as it cracked again. I know the tripod is made for a camera and not for a (heavy) antenna. I've been active on 20,30 and 40m and made some QSOs in SSB, JT65 and JT9. Only one QSO with the homeland.PD0ME Margienus was the lucky one. PB7Z and PA4GB almost made it but were unable to pick my weak signal out of the noise.

At a certain time on 40m I had a small pile-up ;-)....
Well, look at the picture. JTDX still is amazing. 2 decodes on the same (722Hz) frequency. I worked M0PXS by the way...

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

OZ/PE4BAS update

My separate shack on the left!!!
A small update from mu vacation qth in Denmark. I'm surprised there is still no definitive winner in de give away contest. PE1BVQ is close but does miss the QTH name. Just 2 tips: I'm not in the center of the locator square and of course I'm on a holiday park.

Till now I've been on 30m and 20m band in PSK, JT65, JT9 and SSB. So far made only 3 QSO. In PSK seems to be difficult, I don't know why? I have made many calls and am not spotted anywhere? WSPR is a great success. See the map.Will be switching to 40m soon...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

??/PE4BAS/P from ? (give-away contest)

At the time I write this I'm somewhere on the bands. I'm portable but will not tell my location or exact call. I don't tell which band or mode I will transmit. Like last year I would like to know if you can find me? Tell me:

- What call I'm using
- Which country I am in
- my exact location (locator and nearby town)

Please respond with a comment below this post. The first one that has a correct answer will get the book
"The complete DX'er" from Bob W9KNI send to the adres I will find on QRZ.com.
Since I will not only use WSPR but also other (digi) modes this will not be easy I guess. I'm curious if someone will find me during the week.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

More portable tests

Had one evening to do final tests. I think all the radio gear is still too heavy. I use 8 Mtr Aircell7 coax and a small piece of 3 Mtr RG58 with a home made window "throughput". The Aircell is heavier then RG58 but has considerable less loss, it is a choice. I still think the VOX modem can be build smaller and another heavy weight is the SWR meter. I don't put the antennas in the backpack as it will travel in a corner of the cars trunk.

Anyway, had a few hours to test the superantenna MP-1 for the upcoming portable event. This antenna is small and doesn't weight much. It is not too tall so it will not be visible by others when standing on a side of a house. Didn't change much on the antenna but last year it felt on the ground and I had to repair the telescopic part again which is in my opinion the weakest part of the whole antenna. I decided to make a spare telescope antenna and take it with me...however I didn't have the time to actually test this "new" homemade part.

I chose the 40m band and build the antenna in the garden just beneath my shack. Complete setup takes about 5 minutes. It includes the tripod, antenna and the 4 wire radials. The tripod is held firmly on the ground by extra guylines and tent pegs. This tripod is not suitable for use on concrete or rocky soil as it is just too light and the antenna and tripod will be blown over by the wind.

After some tweaking the SWR was almost perfect. Unfortenately on 40m bandwidth with SWR beneath 1:2 is only 100 KHz. Doesn't matter for me, tweaking is not difficult.

Great, ready to go.....forgot something....

Had to do some tests of course...some PSK31/63 tests didn't work. Don't know if it is the modulation on FLdigi or just the QRM on the receiving stations site. However JTDX did a great job! It does surprisingly well on my old Windows XP laptop.

First station received was JF3VAX from Japan. Both antenna and software still are amazing!
Made only one QSO with RN3ZRD from european russia and got a -21dB report. I was TXing with 5W.


A QSL is the final courtesy of a QSO. I know as that is one of my own rules. So I have to apologize. It took almost a half year since I updated clublog and  LoTW. I did update eQSL but didn't look after the QSL received after that. QSL (confirmation of a contact) is a important part of our radio hobby but all the administration that comes with it does take time and for many this is not a hobby within the radio hobby. Anyway, I once again decided to take another batch of my received paper QSL cards to the garbage. I'm so sorry but I think the paper QSL era is really over, it is not of this time anymore and I think it will disappear in the future. It's my opinion and I'm not afraid to write it down here. I guess there are a lot of HAM radio operators that will not agree! However as long as the paper QSL exists I will follow the "QSL code of conduct". Of course I did not throw away everything....I kept the QSL cards from exotic stations and those that I want to remember because they have a personal meaning for me. I like QSL cards that you can tell a story about...

Here are some of those QSL cards I kept and will not throw away:

AH0K Mariana Islands worked 26 Oct 2014 on 10m SSB. My first QSO with this exotic Island

BW2/JP1RIW Taiwan worked 30 March 2013 on 15m SSB still my only QSO with Taiwan

EI9KC Ark from Ireland worked 6 Jan 2016 on 80m SSB in one of the UK-EI contests. Ark has his own interesting blog. Although it has been a while ago since he wrote something there.

FT4TA Tromelin Island worked 9 November 2014 on 10m SSB. Not always easy to break pile-ups but this one was easy for me.

KH2F Guam Island worked 19 Oct. 2013 20m RTTY. Another exotic location at the other side of the world for me.

OH2YOTA Finland worked 18 Jul. 2014 40/20m SSB. Youngsters On The Air activation. Story behind this QSL can be read here.

OQ5M Belgium worked 15 dec 2013 on 10m SSB. I worked Franki on backscatter. Actually normal skip to Belgium occurs only in summer if you're lucky, it is just too nearby. Story and video can be found here. Frank has a nice blog but has a busy family live just like me and not much time left for radio.

P40BC Aruba worked 27 Sept 2015 on 15m RTTY. A happy island for shure but not heard very often. This contact was made in a contest. Most of the small islands seems to have contest stations that you can rent for a activation. It's someones bussines...

LA/PA3FYG/P SOTA LA/RL-061 Aslandsnuten Norway worked 16 Jul 2014 on 40m SSB. Can you see yourself sitting on a mountain top making contacts? Well Hans does, read the story behind the QSL from this QSO here.

PA45FREEDOM worked 16 May 2015 on 40m SSB. With a group of friends across the Netherlands activating 8 different stations in the month of may 2015. It was great to participate. Read my story here.

PA61ZRK worked 8 Feb. 2014 on 40m SSB. On front of the QSL is the transmitter that was used for emergency traffic when there was the big flood disaster in 1953.

PB7Z worked 8/9 Feb 2014 on 160/80/20 SSB. But worked Bernard on almost all bands. We are radio friends since a long time. I think the first time I talked to him was around 1990 on the 11m band. We are both HAM radio operators and stil enjoy the hobby. I meet him a lot in contests. Another big hobby of him are husky dogs and fishing. Bernard lives about 50km south of my QTH.

PB14MILL worked 10 May 2014 (national mill day) on 40m SSB. Another project from PB7Z and friends. They "activate" this mill every year via HAM radio. I want to do a similair project in the future if time allows as I live close to a polder mill which has never been activated before.

PE1BVQ worked 9 Sept. 2014 on 80m SSB in the PA-beker contest. Actually I know Hans from his comments on my blog. We met a few times personally and went to a radio rally with him. We are planning to do that again this year. Hans is truly my most loyal blog reader!

PF5T worked 13 Feb 2016 in the PACC contest on 80m SSB. Frank is a follower of my blog and does his comment most time with a e-mail. Frank is doing QRP most of the time and has a busy family live as well.

S9TF Principe Island worked 8 Feb 2014 on 10m SSB. One of those exotic islands you never hear on the bands. My first and only contact. It will take some years before we can hear such DX again on the 10m band.

UX5UO Ukraine worked 21 Okt. 2013 on 15m SSB. I worked Gennady a couple of times now. It is my QSL printer and shure recognizes you on air if you did business with him. Nice to say hello and thank you personally to him over the radio.

VK0EK Heard Island worked 7 Apr 2017 on 40m CW. Heard Island on of the most remote places on earth. It took the DXpedition 2 weeks to get there from south africa. I took me several evenings before I was in the log with a error, it was corrected within a day. Read my story here.

VK9XSP Christmas Island worked 27 okt 2014 on 10m SSB. I remember that it was one of my lucky QSOs. Pointing the antenna, made the call, made the QSO.

ZD8O Ascension Island worked 29 Okt 2011. Another exotic island which is not heard very often on the radio. Can't remember the QSO well but it is still a nice card from a far away place.

Well, I hope you readers enjoyed the stories and background of some of my QSL cards. I have some more but for now this is it. 30-20 years ago I stored everything in maps. I was still on 11m CB radio and have confirmation of about 240 DXCC there. On CB you haven't got QSL bureaus and need to send everything by post which makes QSLs more valuable of course. I have lots of QSL cards from that time that are more valuable to me then any of my HAM radio QSL cards. Sometimes when I look through those old maps I really get a warm feeling and wish the 11m CB DX bands could be a legal part of our radio experimentation as well. Time will tell...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Preliminary portable digi tests

Unfortenately I'm not a fulltime experimental radio researcher. Wish I was and could do that for a job. Just experimenting with antenna's, setup, power, supplies etc. ect. Unfortenately the real world is different. I have my 45 hour a week job and besides that my family which are both very important. The 5 or 10 minutes left are for radio experiments and writing articles for this blog is done in the evening or at lunchbreaks on my job.

Sorry for the blurry photo. The modem is inside
the white box beneath the FT-817. Nice and tiny.
Since a light weight portable activation is upcoming I'm trying to have my portable radio package as small and light as possible. I already downsized my power supply. I now had to downsize my soundcard modem and yes, you can buy things. But I still had my unfinished prototype of Julian G4ILO's design VOX modem. I decided to take that and finish it. I already had a case to build the print in and after a first test it seems to work reasonable. Only problem was a much too high input and output signal which I solved with 5K trimmer potentiometers in the line. Now I have a decent signal in the waterfall and can transmit without ALC reading on the radio. I left the test setup running as duty called, actually I forgot it till next day. The problem always is that I have to leave my shack during experimentation as there is always something more important to do.

This are the results so far on 20m with 1W on the base antenna which is a coppertape vertical at 9m high.

Red spots are received, green spots are sent
Software is JTDX 17.6.1 which is doing fine on my old XP laptop. So far I only made one short QSO on PSK63 with FLdigi. I then noticed I should sort out the macros for transmitting. Time to do some more tests if there is still time left.

Friday, 14 April 2017

HAM radio consuming (or downgrade your hamradio station)

Lately I saw a documentary about a american woman that lives in northern Thailand. She told the interviewer that she wanted to live outside the consuming world were everyone wants things better and bigger. Just living from the land, the jungle provided her with most food she needed. I have to admit that I was impressed by these words and some of it shows the truth. Most of us radio amateurs are living in a consuming world, people always want better things, more money, bigger cars, a nice house and garden and for our hobby the best radio or the most modern one with the latest technology and the biggest antenna possible.

20 years ago this was "it"!
 I know, I'm guilty as well as I dream of a nice and shiny Icom IC-7300 to replace my 18 year old IC-706MK2G. Will I make more or better QSOs with it? I don't think so, but it is fun to play. Another option is to downgrade, I have the Yaesu FT-817 which is a great little radio and it will never leave me as long as it lives. I have this Yaesu for portable and mobile use mainly and as a backup when the Icom should break. Actually I would not care if I only had the FT-817, a laptop and a multiband antenna. I already proved a base station setup is capable of DX worldwide working 100 DXCC in just 79 days. Will I be more happy with a IC-7300 or with just a FT-817 as main radio? I don't know as I only have the IC-706MK2G and the FT-817 and know what a great little radio the Yaesu is. I respect those that have nothing else to transmit. The radioamateur with nice and shiny radios and shacks are most time just playing with their gear and miss some real nice QSOs I think, although that will not count for everyone. We, as radioamateurs in the rich countries, have plenty to choose. It's just how much money you want to spend at the hobby. For example I take a radioamateur in my neighbourhood, he bought a new multiband beam and placed it high on his mast. He tested it and it was a easy job talking to New Zealand and Australia. Well he had done it and seen it, he rarely shows up on the bands and actually has other priorities.
Yaesu FT-817 still the best HF/VHF/UHF
QRP transceiver around 

But there are a lot of hobbyists that don't have that opportunity, they have to build their own gear like in the early days of radio. I think contacts with those stations are more valuable and the other way around every QSO is valuable for them as well. It's a interesting thought I think, something I consider and probabely others do not.

From the comments on my previous post I noticed that many are happy with the radio they have. They don't need te latest new technology but rather have a reliable radio which works for them. So this proves that within the hamradio community not everyone is the same...

Everyone and everything has a purpose in the radio hobby. Whatever your experience or station consists of. We are all experimental radio researchers...

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Into the future...I was right!

In the past years I wrote some articles about the future of radio. 4 years ago I did a prediction. I found out today that with availability of the Icom IC-7300 this prediction was right! The new Icom IC-7610 is probabely available June this year. Of course this IC-7610 model was already on the prototype shelf when the IC-7300 was introduced.  I'm curious now what Icom has on it's design shelf at the moment? 4 years ago I was pretty confident about a future radio but this time I have no idea?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

QRM/QRN interference

We radioamateurs investigate the radio spectrum, we experiment we listen to others trying to get a signal out. But if you live in a dense populated area like most of people do in the Netherlands it can be hard. PE1BVQ Hans wrote me he has seen some of my videos and it occured to him I had much less interference as he has at home. He wondered he had something wrong with his antenna, using a shortened endfed in sloper configuration. Well, I decided to make a "interference" video on my QTH. I live at a rural area with free sight to the north and to the south. Nearest neighbours are 20-30m from my vertical antenna. I decided to leave ATT, AGC and all filtering off. However it's just a video shot at a certain moment of the day. Interference is different from time to time and from day to day, at least at my QTH. Below a video from daylight situation.

Remember, this is without any attenuation or filtering. Just normal receive without any help. Although in the video you will see I do a short test on 80m and 60m to show the effect of the filters.
I can choose between ATT on/off, DSP ANF on/off, DSP NR on/off, filtering 1,9KHz SSB on/off. Normally with ATT and 1,9KHz filter on I have a noisefloor of S0 on 160/80/60/40m. Without you can see in the video about S7. From 20m and higher it is lower, although it actually depends on time of day and propagation. Below a video from darkeness situation early in the evening.

QRM on 160m is much higher now. Rest of the bands are equal I think, Except for 17m which shows higher QRM. This happens sometimes on 20m and 17m, not always on the same time. But most of the evenings I have a much higher noisefloor on 20m/17m about S3-5.

When I look and listen to the videos I think it is amazing I can actually hear weak signals. Filtering helps a lot. And am I on a quiet location with a low noisefloor? I really don't know as I cannot compare. I think if you still have S7 noise with attenuation on you have a big problem....I can hardly imagine such a bad situation. But if you live in a big city here in the Netherlands (or anywere else)  it could be....

Saturday, 1 April 2017

60m allocation change in the Netherlands today

Sorry to announce this, it certainly is not a april fool's joke....

Above the official statement from the dutch goverment. From the 1st of April 2017 on we are allowed on 5351,5 - 5.366,5 MHz with 15W EIRP.

Official document here: https://www.officielebekendmakingen.nl/stcrt-2017-17502.html

A sad day? No, it is still possible to make nice DX on 60m with less power! Luckely I was just in time participating in the Blue HAM exercise event, this makes it even more rare...

Friday, 31 March 2017

RaDAR challenge April 1st Saturday

Not a contest but a challenge. If I would have time this Saturday I certainly would give it a try. The challenge sounds most interesting:

The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. Categories may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.

RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self sufficient during each challenge, not only with power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter, not forgetting the first aid kit.\

The challenge is on for 24 hours from 00:00-23:59 UTC but you have to pick a 4 hour period during this time to make your contacts.

Best description of the rules can be found in the SARL contest manual: http://www.sarl.org.za/Web3/Members/DoDocDownload.aspx?X=20161222085537waqSliCvbT.PDF

However, I found the description of the rules a little difficult to read. A short 10 point summary:

1. All legal modes can be used, all legal amateurradio bands can be used. Repeaters cannot be used.
2. Exchange: Callsign, Name, RS(T), QTH, Grid locator (6 digits, better 8 or 10 digits)
3. Scoring: 1 point every QSO. If the stations has moved you can make QSO again with a previous worked station.
4. Multipliers: 1x fixed RaDAR station (in building away from home), 2x field RaDAR station (camping), 3x Moving RaDAR station.
5. Bonus points: 5 points for one sat or digi QSO, 5 points for one RaDAR to RaDAR QSO on same continent, 10 points for one RaDAR to RaDAR intercontinental (DX) QSO.
6. After 5 QSOs you have to move, of course you are allowed to make more QSOs but they are not counting.
7. Distance to move see picture!
8. Use a log sheet for every different location see: http://radarops.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/11046905_10152762072212759_727315224761083499_n.jpg
9. A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new
location that moveable RaDAR stations visit.
10. Log sheets must be submitted by 15 April 2017, 29 July and 18 November 2017 and
sent by e-mail to edleighton@gmail.com

Extra link: https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/radar-calling-frequencies/

See Eddie ZS6BNE's blog for background info: https://zs6bne.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

#cqww WPX 2017 contest review

Event: CQWW WPX SSB 2017
Section: LOW power SSB
Logger: N1MM+ latest version
Station: Icom IC-706MK2G at 100W
Antenna 1: 84m horizontal loop @7m agl
Antenna 2: Coppertape vertical (7,1m)  @9m agl
Antenna 3: 10m HB9CV @6m agl

A litte late with the review, just didn't have the time to review the log and things. I didn't spend all the time at contesting. It actually was less then expected. Therefore I probabely missed some nice openings on 15m. The weather was great and there were some chores that had to be done. My little girl already asked if I would build the trampoline again for her and so it had be done. After that I had to play with her of course, a lot of fun. I really don't know how on earth I managed to make 455 QSOs after all and reasonable DX as well last weekend. I attended a rock concert at friday and was back home at 01:30 local time in the morning. Up 06:30 local time (5:30 UTC) and started with the contest. Propagation was great on 160/80/40.

I managed a New Zealand QSO on 40m with ZL4YL Xenia, absolutely my best DX this weekend. She made many operators happy, although she was very very weak her high voice was cutting through like a knife making many QSOs to Europe. I heard her on Sunday morning as well. Unfortenately I never heard a whisper from S21 or E51 not even on other (WARC) bands as well. So, no ATNO this weekend...however I made some nice DX even on a almost dead 15m band.

The propagation on 20m, 15m and 10m was on and off. Like bursts. The only station I heard on 10m the whole weekend was 9A1A but I was not able to make any QSO there. When I tuned over the 20m band Saturday evening it was already completely dead very soon after sunset. But later on around 22:30 UTC it came to life again when I heard and worked several USA and Canadian stations. It was difficult to get into the shack at daylight but when I sometimes did for 5 or 10 minutes I luckely worked some DX. Sometimes the DX station was the only one on the band strange enough, like there was a pipeline between us. I noticed many strong stations were S9 at one moment and 5 minutes later they were covered by noise and signals were decreasing very fast. The low bands were much better, I even heard a few stations from the USA on 160m SSB although I was not able to get my tiny signal through and make a QSO. I noticed A lot of stations from the USA now between 3,6-3,7 MHz, they suddenly discovered this part of the 80m band? Or is it a change in restrictions? In the years past I always worked USA split were they transmit above 3,8 MHz and listen between 3,6-3,7 MHz. Propagations were indeed great sunday morning as most of the USA stations were S9 here on 80m. Last contacts were made on 80m sunday night, I struggled to get to 400 when suddenly I was spotted by good friend PB7Z, followed by a huge pile-up getting my 72 QSO extra in the log that hour. Tnx Bernard!

There are several ways to analyze the log. I have choosen a map per band worked to view:

15m only propagation tp the south and especially Africa. Daylight propagation when I had not much time playing radio.

20m always the DX band. Best DX with Japan

40m was exceptional good. Best DX New Zealand

80m was very good as well with some transatalantic contacts

160m was in very good shape for Europe. Although USA has been heard here
Last year I did the 100 DXCC QRP within 100 days challenge. I was in this contest with QRP, only 5W from my Yaesu FT-817. After I submitted my log at the CQWW WPX site I obtained my certificate for last year and discovered I was number one in the Netherlands ;-) Happy with the result!