Thursday, 21 September 2017

The shielded faraday coupling loop myth and other considerations

Most common made "shielded" faraday loop
Experimenting with the magnetic loop is still going on. To couple  the loop to the feedline I use a faraday loop inductive coupling in my loop. Now there are several designs, shielded and unshielded. The main advantage of a shielded loop would be canceling out a vertical or horizontal E-field (electro magnetic interference) or both. The question is if this would be really working?

Some explanation of this theory has been given on N4SPP's site:

However, W8JI has written many articles about antennas and has been working as a tech at a commercial radio station. This is what he comments on the internet:

There is no such thing as a "Faraday shield loop". All radiation and reception comes from the shield. Always. Just like it is a single turn conductor.

The idea you can shield the loop is as silly as the idea you can shield a ground lead.

Once you understand that you will also understand that the only way to not have common mode on the feedline is to make the shield perfectly symmetrical about the feedpoint and have both sides of the "shield" symmetrical and identical with the grounding and feedline entry.

My website shows why high frequency fields cannot penetrate the shield, and why the radiation and reception all comes from the outside of the shield.

A shielded loop is electrically no different than a equally balanced unshielded loop.


Some others comment that the so called shielded faraday loop helps to balance the feedpoint. However, it is all about the feedline that radiates or pickup noises. So a simple 1:1 balun or RF choke should do the trick. You see something like that at the Chameleon loops.

Well, technically speaking or writing it all sounds likely. But I don't like likely and want to test and experiment myself. All what counts is practical use, you can only transmit and receive theoretically in your dreams ;-)

I want to know the difference in receiving interference with a shielded and unshielded coupling loop if there is any difference? Besides that I want to know why many use 1/5 diameter faraday loop and others use 1/4 or even 1/3 diameter? Well, first of all I did a test with two faraday loops 1/4 diameter size. One unshielded the other one shielded as in the picture above. See my not so scientific practical test in the video:

What it revealed to me is actually in the video the shielded loop did receive about the same RFI compared to a unshielded loop. I did not move the loop and I did not move the PSU wich caused the RFI.  The RF choke made from about 8 ferrite cores doesn't help much it seems, although it could help for transmit purposes? Myth busted? Well I don't know for shure, but my practical test shows that you can also use a piece of cheap electrical wire and bend it in a round shape then connect it to a coax with just a thermoplastic connector or solder it to the loop.

And well, I did just that to test more faraday coupling loop sizes. A practical experiment. I made 3 faraday loops. 1/5, 1/4 and 1/3 diameter (compared to the main loop diameter). All loops did well and minimum and maximum frequency with reasonable SWR were the same. However if you need a good SWR on a low frequency you need a bigger coupling loop and for a good SWR on a higher frequency you need a smaller one (at least that is what this test reveals). A good average is 1/4 size. I measured the SWR with my MFJ259 analyzer.

Coupling loop diaFreq.min60m40m30m20m17m15mFreq.max
Shielded coupling
loop 1/4

I'm not the only one that discovered this of course. There are so many things tested and written about the magnetic loop including articles about different feed methodes, skin effect, impedances, radiation resistance etc. ect. But I found only one document from a american experimenter that used a variable coupling loop. Great idea....but he used a square loop and a square coupling loop which is easier to adjust.

Just for testing purposes I made a adjustable coupling loop. I can bend/slide it from 1/3-1/5 size of the main radiating loop. That test revealed about the same as above done with 3 different loops. However I was not limited to 1/4-1/5 and 1/3 size but could get anything in between. While testing it became clear to me that a 1/4 or 1/5 size is not always the way to go. But that story takes too long for this post so I write more about that later.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Tune indicator

Interesting video which shows a very simple indicator. However it only works well with a endfed type antenna. I've tried it on a loop just besides the varco, the led blinks but not at the right moment.
I remember in the past I had a commercially made simple clamp on meter which you could clamp on a mobile antenna to tune it without the use of a SWR meter. It is just the same as this device, although this one is fun to make and a lot simpler and cheaper.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Still think it is a miracle

FT8. Started at the highest band with propagation which was 15m. But only one weak signal was received. 17m much more DX, but my signal didn't come out, at least I was unable to work the DX, same for 20m. 30m some more luck, but no real DX. 60m same thing.....ehhh, but then....the miracle happened. So unfortunate Australia is still not allowed on 60m. Great report -15dB from VK7BO Tasmania. I was working with 15W FT8 on my multiband coppertape vertical.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Could this be a future for #HAMradio

No, I have no connections with the company or business that have this idea. But I wouldn't be surprised if some radioamateurs were involved. Could this be a future for HAMradio and especially for emergency comms? I think this is a great idea!

Gotoky is device which allows you to stay connected with your friends and family no matter where you are. Gotoky connects to your SmartPhone wirelessly and allows you to seamlessly connect with other users within the range up to 5 miles or 8 kilometers through your Smartphone app. It works over standard license-free radio frequencies and it does not require any cellular infrastructure or satellites. You can talk, send/receive messages, send/receive location information, SOS signal and much more to other gotoky users for free. It is also compatible with standard Walkie-Talkies.

Well to make a long story short. This device turns a transmitter into a telephone network including text messaging etc. etc.  it has so many features especially if you are in need at a remote location. The device has a range of 5-15km but if it is compatible like they write I think the range for us radioamateurs could be significant higher. However, radio regulations for us as licensed operators could be a problem to use this device worldwide. Besides that you still need a smartphone to communicate, most of us do have it. But still a lot of (older) people don't. And there you have it, the average radioamateur is "old". The technology is available but I think it is going too fast for most of us within our hobby.  However, this could be the future also in our hobby!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

#FT8 digimode again

20m waterfall FT8
Well it has been a while ago I wrote one of the first user blogposts on the internet about the new digimode FT8. Since that day this post has been read about 5000 times. Not only it seems to be a successful post but I got many e-mails as well with questions. It seems to be they think I know all about it ;-) Well, I've not been a lot on FT8 actually and I only updated to RC2 version of WSJT-X this evening. Other things kept my mind and this evening I was not able to transmit only receive. The problem is that the solar powered battery I use to power my autotuner is at the end of his lifetime and it died actually. But still I was able to do a 20 minute receive session from 160-15m. I was astonished about the amount of stations on all bands with propagation here. It is difficult to find a clear spot on the waterfall as you can see in the screenshot above. This was the result after 20 minutes switching between bands:

Results 160-15m. Click for bigger picture.
Even Australia on 80 and 30m was no problem to receive with -21dB. I really don't know how propagation is these days as I don't listen much HF these days. But this result gives me a wow factor. At the moment FT8 seems to be very good for a quick personal propagation research. Take about 4-5 minutes to receive per band and you know what is possible...

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Balloonfoxhunt 2017 report from the north

Well, not a great show. Although the organisation did their best to build in a surprise element. This year it was unknown were the balloon would start so a prediction could not be calculated at all. It would be a real foxhunt and in the end due to technical problems it was even a foxhunt for the organisation. However, the wind was south-west and I'm living in the opposite direction so there was a good chance the balloon would head my way. I started listening late and my first reception was in the car on my baofeng HT. It occured to me that I could only hear a weak tone of a beacon and no transponder although this year there would only be a transponder? Strange! It seems there was a technical problem with the receiving part of the transponder on 70cm, so almost no one had the ability to work via the balloon, only a few stations with stacked yagis and power had some luck. For me that was a big downer. However, remember my efforts to try a QSO on the 70cm PI2NOS repeater without luck in 2015? Well it seems the repeater has better ears this time and I worked the headquarters of the balloon organisation to let them know I received the ballon at that moment with S9+. So unfortunate the transponder was not working....

At the end the balloon was hunted down in Germany near the city of Munster.

More info at:

Thursday, 7 September 2017

More magnetic loop experiments

Experimenting is the main thing of this hobby I think. So, my goal this time is to make a usable small portable magnetic loop that is reasonable easy to tune. There are several designs that you can find on the internet and some of them claim to be better then others. I choose the coax version for myself as it is light to carry and can be very small. I discussed some possebilities with PE1BVQ Hans and he gave me the measurements of his own loop that does well. I already had the 3x 500pF varco from him and decided to use it again but in a bigger box. The problem of tuning still is very difficult and Hans told me I should build a reduction. Glad the box is big enough.... I first thought of building another varco myself but let that go eventually. I have the luck to have a colleague that happens to be also studing for mechanical engineer and he always has good ideas. He designed a reduction system with isolation (less handeffect) from scrap and some new parts. The idea is simple but effective, this guy has nothing with my radio hobby but though of the exact good solution within 5 minutes. I think that is incredible! And besides that he helped to realize the mechanical part. We finally build this together and tuning is now a lot easier.

But still I would like to have a indicator besides the indication at the tuning knob. It should be no problem, but that is another experiment. Now, I was thinking of were to really use this antenna in case of emergency. And just when I was thinking this video shows up:

Of course you use it inside a shelter. I would use it in the basement as that is the most safe place in the house when disasters like hurricanes will happen. When my loop is ready I will test it for shure and post a video, at least that is the idea...

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

SSTV 17 years ago

Coincedentally I came across this capture of a SSTV image sent by me almost 17 years ago when searching (googling) for another subject. Around that time I have been quite active with SSTV on UHF.  Some of the components you see on the picture are still in my shack. The cat has died several years back.

Other things, jobs and tasks are taking my time these days. And although I'm always busy with the radio hobby I can't finish several projects and write about them here. Where a project would take a day or two for others it will take a couple of weeks or even months for me at the moment. Last weekend I decided not to take part in the fieldday contest this year and it could be I will cancel other activities as well. Don't be afraid I will never stop with this great hobby, that would be no option. I will only stop when I die and even after that people will be able to read about my experiences from this blog :-)

Friday, 1 September 2017

#IARU R1 Fieldday SSB this weekend

Just to remind you all that the IARU Region 1 fieldday SSB is this weekend starting Saturday 2nd September at 13:00 UTC.

I'll probabely take the opportunity to test various antennas at home. The photo takes you back to 2 years ago when I was taking part from the Eemshaven (harbour) near my QTH.

Monday, 28 August 2017

RDRC JT9 activity days - false start

Event: RDRC JT9 Activity Days
Date: 25,26, 27 Aug. 2017
Logger: HRD V5
Station: Icom IC-706MK2G at 10W
Antenna: Coppertape vertical (7,1m)  @9m agl
Total km: 191036

At first IV3FPX Boris mentioned I noted the wrong dates for this weekend. Sorry for that it has been corrected immidiatly. Friday was day one of the JT9 activity days this weekend. And indeed there was a lot of activity but I didn't see it when I hastely switched on the station equipment this morning. At lunchbreak I logged in via remote from my job and noticed almost no stations at all been received on JT9, only a few russians with very low reports. Strange, I switched over from JTDX to WSJT-X to see if it was a software problem. Nothing.... Switched over to FT8....signals enough but the software did no single decode!!! Then it occured to me it might be a radio problem, and it was. The radio was on LSB? Why? I don't know? It has been weeks ago I turned on the radio so I guess I left it on LSB, the strange thing was that it was on LSB on all bands. I had to switch back to USB. The problem was solved then but I lost valuable time I rather spend on making QSOs. Anyway I tested with 2 QSOs and saw a lot of activity so I just had to wait to get home from the job to continue.

Sunday evening spots after I stopped
Of course, like always, time was not on my side and being on the air was limited to nighttime and a few QSO via remote at daylight. However I managed to make some DX, actually best propagation was Saturday night on 20m compared to Sunday evening were 20m closed quite early. But 40m seems to be better at Sunday evening when I made my best DX to the RSA. JT9 was alive at least on 80, 40, 30, 20 and 17m. I've been trying on 160m but although I was spotted I was unable to see any signal there. In the end I made 71 QSOs to 27 DXCC this weekend. Best DX was with ZS1BHJ 9591km on 40m. Although I was spotted in Australia on 40m I didn't see anyone from VK.

Map of my QSOs
With a total of 191036km I guess I will get the certificate now although I don't really care. I had a lot of fun using JT9 and I think it is still the best mode to use for low power and QRP. Besides that it is a great mode for activity as looking for a empty part on the waterfall never is a problem even with 20-30 stations calling at the same time. I certainly take a look at this activity next year....

Thursday, 24 August 2017

#JT9 RDRC Activity days

Just to generate more activity I thought I post it again with the rules in short.

Date: 25, 26, 27 August 2017
Time: Friday 00:00 UTC - Sunday 23:59 UTC
Mode: JT9

 In setting general be shure your locator is correct in "My Grid". Please don't "tick" the box "display in miles" as distance will be sum up in km.

Don't forget to write the amount of km in the comments box for every QSO.
Your log in ADIF format can be send to: 01-10(at) before 23:59 UTC 31 August 2017.

Certificates of JT9 Activity Days «Make haste slowly» in electronic form will be reawarded with all participants at whom the sum of distances up to correspondents will exceed 100.000 kilometers. 

Although I will be not on the frequency all the time I will be spotting at least one band. If time allows I will log in via remote or get into the shack if I am at home to make as many QSOs I can. You can spot which band I am here on my blog at the right of this blogpost.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

6T9 (promoting JT9)

Henk PA2S has mentioned it at the start of this year. The JT65 frequencies are going to be overcrowded. Strangely enough I still see few on the even more sensitive mode JT9. Did you know for instance that it is possible to receive JT65 and JT9 on the same frequency, especially important because there is no JT9 allocation on 60m and 6m. Besides that, on 60m, british stations are not allowed above 1000Hz in the waterfall and do call/listen with JT9.

Hopefully this post will contribute to the migration from JT65 to JT9. Henk PA2S and Steve GM0HUU contributed with the invention of 6T9. Henk wrote a nice article about it and posted a 6T9 logo on his site. You are free to use this logo anywhere you want to promote JT65 to JT9.

Now, with the new mode FT8 this all sounds a little silly. However, don't forget that FT8 would only decode till -20dB. It is not nearly as sensitive as JT9. When propagation is really bad JT9 can still save your QSO.

If you like to be more active on JT9 an finally meet more stations there as activity has been lower since the introduction of FT8, you can spend this weekend in the JT9 activity days. See for more info on the website of the Russian Digital Radio Club (RDRC):

Sunday, 20 August 2017

LOFAR antennas

Remember this post from 2009? Probabely not! But of course I remembered my old post as I wrote it myself ;-). Something I wanted to do for a long time is to visit and investigate this LOFAR remote site myself. I think not many people here do know about this receive station site in their village Roodeschool. With the help of google maps though it is easy to find (if you know were to look for). And so this morning I went on my bicycle to make my "tourist" sightseeing. This LOFAR RS509 site is one of many to make a array of antennas forming a radio telescope. My main interest is not what they can do with it but what the construction of the antennas is made of. I found detailed information in this PDF document.

More info about LOFAR can be found on:

LBA Low Band Antenna contains a LNA Low Noise Amplifier in the top cap. Dipole arms are from 1,38m long thin insulated copperwire as far as I could observe. Resonance frequency is 52 MHz. The groundplate is made from simple concrete mesh you can also buy at he DIY.

HBA High Band Antenna are made from alu. It consists of 4x4 dual lineair polarization dipoles housed in a polystyrene structure covered by polypropylene sheets also known as agricultural plastic sheet. Of course I could not take a look under the sheet so exact construction will remain a secret to me.

I observed another antenna at top of the first server housing. It is pointed to the nearby road. I guess it is a WiFi antenna so any maintance read out can be done from the road? Not shure why it is done like this as the whole site is connected to high speed internet via a optical fibre cable.

The whole site is situated about a kilometer from my home. And although the antennas are mainly pointed upwards I would still have doubts about interference from nearby amateur radio stations like me. Although I'm not transmitting signals 24/7 on the 6m band of course.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summertime updating

I realize I haven't been updating my blog for a while. I've so many ideas and so many projects I want to share. I really should get it out of my mind spending time for this radiohobby in summer. Too many things that happen in and around the house and familywise this time of the year. So instead I publish some nice summer photos from our garden to look at...

Garden July-August 2017

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Worlds within worlds

Many of us not realizing that the amateur radio hobby and this blog (other radioamateur related blogs as well) are part of a world within a world. A kind of parallel world besides the "normal" days of life. I realized it while discussing this with my dad. Others outside this world do see this world but most of the time do not know what is really going on.  In todays "modern" world full of communication technology people share their hobbies much easier and you have many ways to find people worldwide that share your interests and hobbies. The amount of blogs, websites and forums are countless about all kind of subjects from a obscure sport to a collection of rare poststamps. We radio amateurs already had a way to contact other people with the same hobby long before others could. Logically I think we as radio amateurs are living in one of the oldest parallel worlds which we created through communication.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Faster QSO in JT mode

Back in 2009, when I made my first experimental JT65A QSO there was no WSJT-X and no JTDX. We used WSJT (for EME use) and later JT65-HF which was developed W4CQZ, W4CQZ also had a reverse beacon and chat page on which you could meet other interested amateurs for experimenting. Actually I think JT65-HF was easier to use compared to WSJT and increased popularity of JT65 use on HF. Those first years a lot of amateurs were arguing that JT65 was intended for UHF/VHF communications on troposcatter and EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) and improperly used for HF. But soon many discovered that this mode is excellent for weak signal communications especially in surroundings with high noise floors and QRN/QRM. Today in 2017 the popularity of JT digimode is still growing and all radio amateurs want is make a quick QSO on a preferable as long distance as possible. Originally to complete a QSO would last 6 minutes in total. A example here making a contact with my neighbour Gerrie PA4GB:

WSJT-X buttons
(1 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB JO33
(2 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS -1
(3 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB R-1
(4 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS RRR
(5 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB 73
(6 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS 73

JTDX buttons, notice the options!

Now, this are the rules that are made to complete a JT65 QSO. But why this difficult? HF operators are not really interested in QTH locators (except if distance is part of a contest or a personal issue). JTDX already has a option to skip the locator and skip the RRR. A QSO would look like this:

(1 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB -1
(2 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS R-1
(3 minute) PE4BAS PA4GB RR73
(4 minute) PA4GB PE4BAS 73

A complete QSO in 4 minutes. And you can even skip the last 73 and call CQ again but that would not really be polite. For a DXpedition however that would be a essential amount of won time.

I already use this kind of 4 minute QSO making for as long as I use JTDX. However the QSO purists do not agree. And I got a lot of refused eQSL just because I did not send the locator or skipped the RRR or they didn't see my last "73". I really don't know why you would like to see a RRR to confirm a HF contact? And what's the use of that last "73" except that it is polite! Oh my, I'm going to get some hate comments now I guess.

Personally I would confirm a 4 minute contact without any problems. We did a signal report both ways just like you work a DXpedition and that is valid as well.

Imagine how fast a FT8 QSO goes when it will be implemented in JTDX! 1 minute!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Magnetic loop experiment

First test with this portable magnetic loop on WSPR TX/RX. The loop setup inside the house as you can see. TX with 5W from the FT-817. Results were good after 2 transmit periods. But receive was difficult as I had some QRN from the computer's power supply which (S5-7). Remember my transmit problems lately with my attempt to get on air from the field? Well, it seems when the laptop is not on a power supply it cuts the 5V supply on the USB port. I use that 5V for powering my USB modem. So, I did a separate receive session with the power supply disconnected.

Loop on RX, did reasonable but still had QRN from electronic equipment nearby.

Loop on TX was a surprise. Best distance with VE3UTT 5880km
I find the loop difficult to tune. Without a external analyzer of SWR meter it is almost impossible to find the resonance point. However it is almost ideal for use inside the house or if you need a antenna for a small footprint and low heigth. I homebrew this one myself with the help of PE1BVQ Hans and Hans kindly donated a nice 3x500pF capacitor as the hearth of the antenna. Thanks again for this Hans! It was not my first experience with a magnetic loop, but the way I build this one was very different from the coppertube one.

Update: just when I thought the band was dead and no spots were received anymore on WSPR I tuned into the JT65 frequency. I made 2x1 minute transmissions and left the receiver on till I had to close the station.

Results 20m JT65 with the loop inside the house
The strange thing is that there was nothing visible on waterfall and nothing was received on the WSPR frequency at that time. Though the JT65 frequency was full of signals.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

FT8 and T10 now accepted by eQSL

Happy to see that eQSL is now accepting the new digimodes C4FM, FT8 and T10. I uploaded my log with FT8 QSOs immidiatly. Nice to see that one of the first FT8 QSOs with A92AA from Bahrain has been confirmed. Thanks QSO & QSL Fawaz, it was a pleasure.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

FT-817 brackets & more thoughts

With some inspiration I got from OH8STN Julian's videos. Julian has brackets on his FT-817 from a company named Chameleon antenna. They make very neat products for the FT-817 and many other accessoires for the ham radio operator that likes to get his radio outside and use it in the field. Now, I don't have the money to buy such a bracket as it would cost me over 150 euro just for some pieces of Aluminium.

Although I am not a skilled machinist or metal worked though I built this militairy style brackets myself. Costs about 20 euro, includes 1 meter of 30x30 Aluminium angle section, RVS bolts, nuts and rings, aluminium primer and matt black spray. The "legs" are made from a scrap piece of RVS. Don't ask how much time it costs to cut the aluminium and filing everything in shape, but be assured it took some hours. Ok, they will not be as rugged and excellent like the Chameleon ones and I don't have the nice strap to hang it on to my shoulder. But it works fine for me.

 I like the way I now have some place for the 12V cable. At the front I have a piece of foam for when I have it in the bag. I secure everything with a piece of velcro.

As some operators have problems with the 12V connector breaking from the printboard I mounted the cable directly at the ground screw. That means that the 12V cable cannot be removed easily, But for my needs that doesn't matter as I don't plan to use it on the internal battery. Hopefully the 12V connector will be safer like this.

I've seen Julian's setup with some digimode modems on top secured,. A great solution which I probabely copy. There goes my idea of a USB stick modem. It also occured to me that I really need to have control over the volume of input/output sound outside the computer. So I'm thinking of rebuild the modem I use so it will fit on top of my FT-817.  It will contain two knobs now to regulate the volume.

Thinking about computers. I really need something else to get on air digital. My old Windows XP laptop was small and light in the past but it isn't anymore. It is slow and the screen is not bright enough to work outside. I was thinking about a tablet with Android. The only problem is that you have to pay for software like PSKdroid etc. If I would have a small laptop with Windows all digi software is free! Besides that you need a special modem to work with a tablet, costs money again which is a problem for me.Besides that I really like to make my own gear.

Just some thoughts...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Looks like RaDAR but isn't

Desperately seeking for time today to get my portable gear and get out for 4 hours.....well I can only dream of a RaDAR participation. But to get the feeling I put everything in the bag. FT-817, digimodem, MP-1 antenna, tripod, 7Ah battery, piece of RG58/U coax, RaDAR logsheets and a pencil. 8,3Kg in total. I travel all the way to the back of our garden and set it up in a hurry. Tuning the antenna after 5 minutes, didn't get a good SWR....5 minutes later I discovered I forgot to connect the radials. Too much hurry. It always amazes me how well the MP-1 receives. I had several stations on 20m with S9+, one of them was 4X6TT. I worked  LZ284SKD without any problem.

Now, I wanted to see if I could make any digi contact. I was planning to do some JT65 mode and for that you need to sync the time. To do that I made a portable WiFi hotspot with my phone so I had a connection with internet. That worked fine. Receive did very well but I couldn't get the whole setup to transmit my signal. Whatever I tried the radio did not switch to transmit. So, no further contacts. I was running out of time as it already started to get dark. So I quickly packed my gear and got it back in the shack were I tried and tested the whole digi setup again. It worked well this time so I guess I had a bad case of RFI into the modem.

I was actually glad I didn't pack for a real RaDAR challenge and just did this small experiment in the garden to get the feel of it. I really like the idea but to be successful you need some good preparation.

What I learned: Test the equipment in the field and not at the base station, I really need some kind of bracket or bag for my radio as I couldn't place it anywhere, don't use RG58 cable I had bad experiences with it in the past and had it again this time, use a light tablet instead of a laptop or get a small laptop.

The biggest problem I had with the laptop is that I could barely read the screen. I know a tablet does a lot better and has power enough for digimode.

Well, it will take some more testing and experience before I can participate in a RaDAR challenge for real. However the half hour I spend to get the feeling of it was very useful.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Get ready for...RaDAR 15 July 2017

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:

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:
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  29 July 2017 and
sent by e-mail to

Extra link:

See Eddie ZS6BNE's blog for background info:

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

FT8 digimode

No, it is not a new Yaesu radio but a new digimode from K1JT. I already read about it from beta testers lately on some facebook pages I follow. But today you can download it from the WSJT site. That will say the new WSJT-X 1.8 with the new FT8 mode.

Don't forget to download the newest JT-Alert 2.9.10 as well if you use this software.

I was actually flabbergasted by the amount of signals I already received at the 20m FT8 frequency. Within a few moments I already worked HA6NN and A92AA. It went that fast I noticed I should have updated JT-Alert first as I was not spotting anyone in this new mode.

Now I did update and can get a breath....this is a incredible fast mode but not as sensitive as JT65/JT9, it decodes only till -20dB. The QSO is half automatic, that will say. If you answer a CQ the software will answer after you receive a report and finish the QSO, if you call CQ you only have to click the call and after the software transmits the report it will handle the rest of the QSO automatically. A complete QSO starting with CQ is finished in....7x15 seconds = 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is really fast and you really need to concentrate not to miss anything. It is totally different from JT65 and JT9 and absolutely not "zen". I think this mode would qualify for contesting in the (near) future.

Just to let you know there is another new digimode based on the JT modes. Called T10 and developed in the JTDX software. I didn't test it yet as I have issues with the newer JTDX software. I really need a faster computer I think...

While writing this blogpost, look at the map below and at the right side of this blogpost at my latest QSOs. It is incredible....

I have seen fellow blogger PC4T also a few times on this new digimode and expect a blogpost from him soon.... ;-)

Monday, 10 July 2017

How I work JT digimode

I almost forgot but I promised some people to show how I work with the JT digimode. The software I use and what pages on the internet are useful to see were your signal is heard.

The video shows how I work JT modes. It doesn't show all the possebilities. I know it is possible to configure some alerts with a second soundcard to give you alerts when a certain station is calling CQ or even any new DX. I know there are radio amateurs who have the system on 24/7 and will get on the keyboard as soon as they hear a alert that a new station or DX can be contacted. Working DX is going to be completely different compared to a decade ago.

Some of you will notice that I don't work with the latest version of JTDX and JT-Alert. It still works fine. Personally I'm having issues with the newer version of JTDX, mainly because it doesn't have the audio input slider anymore. So, I hope in future versions it will be back in as JTDX is really fine software to work the DX on this great digimode.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


I am not writing something new and am not the first to write about it. But at the 3rd of this month there was clearly a evidence that propagation between Europe and Japan, Korea and China is not ES or sporadic-E. The 3rd of July PA0O Jaap wrote it in his blog that propagation was very good and he made his first QSO with China on JT65.

At the same date there were very strong PMSEs (Polar Summertime Mesoshperic Echoes) measured at 56MHz from Norway. These echoes are related to NLCs (Noctilucent Clouds) which can be seen here in Europe at the evening just after sunset if you're lucky!

Years ago JE1BMJ discovered SSSP (Summer Solstice Shortpath Propagation) and named it like that after the translation help of G3WOS. You can read about SSSP in relation to PMSEs in this 2006 publication. If you like the ride the SSSP waves you can read Han's tips on radio and especially antennas in this publication as well. However, 10 years ago you really needed a big yagi and some power to explore the SSSP, these days with the use of JT modes it is theoretically possible to make a QSO via SSSP with a high enough vertical and 50W.

Noctilucent clouds seems to be getting stronger each year as it is believed CFCs, methane and carbon dioxide are contributing to forming these clouds. You can find a nice research here.

G3XBM Roger has been writing about this several times on his blog and you can read the following on his website about this:

NLCs typically appear about 20 days prior to the summer solstice, increase quickly to a high summer level, and then disappear about 50 days after the summer solstice. These clouds are mostly a high latitude phenomenon, and are believed to be composed of ice crystals. VHF radars see very strong echoes from these clouds, and since they are at mesospheric heights (80 to 90 km), they are also known as polar mesosphere summer echoes (PMSE). These clouds are hypothesized by JE1BMJ and others to be responsible for 6m propagation across high latitudes (for example, from the East Coast of North America to Japan) during the northern hemisphere summer. This mode of propagation has been dubbed Summer Solstice Short-path Propagation (SSSP).

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

40m FSQ last weekend

Heard list last weekend
Are you all very curious how my FSQ activation last weekend went? Well, I was not on the keyboard/radio much but at least my station was open for tests en experiments. Unfortenately we had a lot of QRM from a RTTY contest and sometimes the frequency was very much occupied causing the squelch not to open. I had the idea there is more activity on 40m FSQ compared to the 30m band but it could be the announcement and blogposts from Julian OH8STN and me helped. At daylight most stations are on 7044 for "local" contacts and at night most QSY to 7104 for any DX possebilities. I did the same but didn't see any DX. I saw Richard G3CWI did some tests to retrieve my webcam image. He did receive something but it was not that good (my webcam is not that good, it's just for test purposes). I discovered that if you leave the webcam window open the software (FSQcall) will give a message and your TX will lock. Most of the time I was "on-air" I was on remote with my phone and I was not at home. FSQ is, just like other digimode programs, ideal for remote operation. So far it still is a interesting program and there are enough possebilities you can experiment with to keep you busy for a long time.  From HB9AVK I understood there is a way to store messages for the opposite station, I saw him trying but could not find where message has been stored. It would be similair to packet radio and in some way ideal if you can read messages when you attend your radio shack or computer (by remote) but you would need a simple way to retrieve them. I also saw some differences between FSQcall and FLdigi in the station heard list were FLdigi gives a list with reports which is much more interesting. So, I decided to setup my second (portable) digimode station to test things and see what program is more useful and interesting for this mode. My portable station was pe4bas/p and my base station was just pe4bas. It gave me useful insights in the differences between FSQcall and FLdigi.

The differences

Possible to send webcam images direct from webcamNot possible to send webcam images direct from webcam
Possible to start receive images manuallyNot possible to start receive images manually
Possible to add a message at sounding transmissionNot possible to add message but sends sounding time in monitor
Sends station heard list without reportsSends station heard list inclusing time heard and signal report
Sounding transmits between other transmissionsSounding has no priority and waits till other transmissions are over

There might be even more differences but these are the ones I discovered so far. It also occured to me that originally FLdigi callsigns are not set in lower case. If you want to work on FSQ with FLdigi please configure "call in lower case" under tab modems -> FSQ.

Then the case why my receive images were not opened automatically at FSQcall when someone started transmission of a image. My tests revealed that you always need to direct your message and also the transmission of your image. That means if you want to send your image to everyone for reviewing you need to do it like this "allcall%" open your picture send screen and send your message. In FLdigi it opens automatically. That way all receiving stations on the channel will automatically receive your picture. Now it puzzles me how to do that when you want to retrieve the webcam image from FSQ at you opposite station as it is a non directed transmission when you get it with for example "pe4bas% w" it just starts transmitting the image and for FLdigi users that is a problem as they cannot start the image receive manually as far as I know.

Well, I hope this is not to chaotic for you all to read. Most of it has come up in my mind yesterday and today. I don't know which program I prefer for FSQ. If you use Linux it is simple, you choose FLdigi. When using Windows you could run both programs at the same time and use what you please.

Just for FSQ beginners. The picture transmission is not synchronised. That means you have to correct your image after you receive it. The program is sensitive and you need to not start other programs when you receive a image. Above in the picture at the left after I received a photo and at the right after correction. The image was send from pe4bas/p (on dummyload) -> pe4bas and signal was about -5dB

Last but not least a picture from FLdigi with FSQ just after I send a webcam picture to "allcall". This time the receive pic screen opened and after correction this was the result, Don't look at the frequency, the radio was not CAT connected. I tested on 10.144.

I will keep an eye on this mode and software as this is worth some more experimenting. What I showed is just part of the possebilities FSQ has. If you read the manual you will discover that it is capable of exchange telemetry and could be connected to all kind of things like for example a weatherstation. These things are beyond me knowledge but interest me. I hope some of the users will try and make FSQ even more interesting.

Richard G3CWI observed some interesting things as well. You can find his research so far on his blog here:

Friday, 30 June 2017

40m FSQ this weekend

Screenshot from part of the experiment...
I have decided to organize my own FSQ activation this weekend, but choose a different band to experiment within the Netherlands as well. Frequency of choice is 7044 KHz (40m band).

I'm planning to use a small webcam as well. You can get the image with the command "pe4bas% w".
Will try to setup some files for experimental download (if someone wishes).
However, remember this happening some years ago, I will not be on the keyboard most of the time as I've other things to do this weekend. I might occasionally log in on remote to view any results.

I've been testing with G3CWI Richard from England on 30m FSQ last wednesday evening. We had a very reliable connection although sometimes RTTY trying to interfere. We did some tests with relaying, chat mode and picture sending. At least a shortcoming of the chat mode was discovered. And I didn't get the program to start receiving a picture automatically, not shure if it is my fault?

It is important to first click the call in the heard list, then type your message so your message will show up in the chatscreen, otherwise you can only read it in the monitor screen. The problem however is that when you have typed part of your message and are transmitting that, everything you type while transmitting is not showing in the chatscreen. We found that it is a shortcoming of the software.

You can get best results with receiving FSQ if you apply a small filter. Like a 350Hz CW filter. Just letting the signal through and nothing else. Richard told me that with AGC off on the radio it seems to be better as well, at least he had better results.

We tested the relay function, it works well. Don't forget to address it with the call you want to send your message to. See....the manual.

If you like, jump into the FSQ network. Just to experiment...hope to see some of you in my heard list.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Versatile FSQ digimode

Last weekend there was the fieldday. Julian OH8STN noted on facebook he was going to be QRV portable digital as his personal fieldday. I wrote about Fast Simple QSO digimode before. I tested it with Julian that time also with success. This time besides Julian there was a norwegian station LB9YH involved as well. We actually received each other very well. would be nice if for example in a weekend of choice there would be a couple more radio experimenters on to test FSQ. If you're only want to make QSOs for your logbook this experiment is not interesting for  you as there is no QSO involved, only a connection to other stations. If you are interested this piece of software is easy to understand but has a lot of features you can experiment with...

So I was thinking. When there is a huge distaster or war going on and there is no internet anymore, no telephone, no "commercial" radio or TV even no electricity. I know, that is really worse....
We as hobby radio operators still have possebilities to send our messages, fax, pictures, files and whatever information you like. But what about those systems like Winlink and PSKmail which are widely used by emergency nets? They don't relay messages without internet as the "servers" are just relaying from air to landlines. No, you really need a simple independent system which can run individually or as a kind of network free for everyone with a amateurradio license to jump in without any membership, payment or code. I think FSQ comes close to this system.

So I downloaded and installed the newest version of FSQcall, although you can run FSQ also in FLdigi (FLdigi can run on both Windows and Linux). It really is a simple to understand program and most things are automatic. The interesting thing is that you can use a number of commands to get information from the station you see without intervention of the other operator. For example your signal report, location from the other station, a webcam image, fax, files etc.

FSQcall can be found on:
You can also find a powerpoint here which compares FSQ with pro ALE systems that are in use for example in the military.

FLdigi FSQ configuration here:

I was planning to make a video but KB9RLW Kevin has already done it. You get a impression....

If you like to install the program yourself to experiment it could be wise to click help and read the FSQ introduction first.

Calling Frequencies

Region 1 (Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Northern Asia)
80m     3588 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7044 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10144 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Region 2 (The Americas)
80m     3594 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7104 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10144 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Region 3 (Asia-Pacific)
80m     3580 kHz USB (sunset to sunrise)
40m     7105 kHz USB (sunrise to sunset)
30m    10149 kHz USB (local day, DX night)

Friday, 16 June 2017

The PL259 myth

You often read or hear that every PL259 connector on your coax adds 0,5dB loss. This might be the truth on UHF and higher. But on HF/VHF that's not the case.

Recently I was thinking about the 50m Aircell7 coax I run to my antenna now through a homemade disconnect/patch panel. So, this coaxcable to my HF antenna contains 4 PL259 connectors and a female/female barrel to connect the 2 pieces. 50m Aircell7 has a loss of about 1,8dB on 28MHz and 2,4dB on 50MHz. I've no interest in VHF/UHF so leave that out.

At the new antennamast I want to have another patchpanel at the bottom of the mast like I had before in my previous QTH. I want to add some lightning protectors and a galvanic isolation transformer for the highest (HF) antenna in my mast. Now I was afraid all the PL259 connectors would add a significant loss to my transmission line. But after all I think it is not that much.

Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6 demonstrated at the Dayton Hamvention in 1985 that the loss in an 83-1SP PL-259 connector averages .0435 dB per connector at 28 MHz.
The primary difference between a "zero loss" PL-259 installation and a lossy one is how the connector is installed

PE4BAS experimental test site
However, I'm not a believer. I like to test this out. Although I haven't any high sensitive equipment, only my trusty MFJ-259B. Is the PL259 loss a myth or can I bust this? I did some test this evening and made some interesting discoveries.

My not-so-scientific test setup: MFJ-259B, 2 pieces of 10m long Aircell7 coax laid down in the too long grass with PL259 connectors both sides. Only soldered at the center. Braid is screwed into the connector when I assembled it in 2005.

10m Aircell7 has a calculated loss of 0,36dB. 2 PL connectors have a calculated loss of 0,087dB = 0,3687dB (0,37dB including the female/female barrel connector). Total loss of the 2 pieces calculated 0,74dB. Lets see:

Left: 1 Piece of coax - Right 2 Pieces connected
Of course the MFJ-259 is not very accurate and has losses itself. However, this is not a bad result.
Ready to do a practical real life connector test...

13 connectors in total
I connected the 2 pieces of coax with as much connectors and connecting barrels as I had. Besides 2 times PL259 I added 11 connectors. This should add a calculated loss of about 0,4785 dB (0,48dB). But in real life it only add 0,1dB.

Another test....add 4 times a 90 degree connector. Now this is going to be serious!!! There could be a faulty connector. So test just one of them:

Still higher loss. 1 90 degree connector 0,7dB loss,  The 90 degree corner does probabely affect the impedance of 50 Ohm?

PE1BVQ Hans is always searching for silverplated old PL (and other) connectors at radio rallies. Preferable the original amphenol ones. I asked him why, he says they are the best, others can add a lot of loss in your system. Could that be true? Or is this another myth that's going to be busted?

Let's see:

I changed the 90 degree connector for a silverplated original Amphenol one. Gone is the loss! How strange is that?

Well, of course I don't use any superduper sensitive low loss equipment but it shows that there can be a difference in connectors. As long as the connectors are mounted in a straight line it hardly gives any loss. Very important of course is a good soldering connection between the coax and the PL connector.

A few tips:

* Solder both core and braid. Best way in my opinion is how it is done by K3LR.
* Keep connectors clean so they can make a good lossless connection
* Tighten them well. I checked that as well this evening, a loose connector gives about 1dB or more loss and propabely a lot of unwanted RF around the loose connection!
* Prefer silverplated (Amphenol) connectors, they probabely are the best you can get.
* Amphenol too expensive? Look for them on radio rallies. I payed about 50 cents for the 90 degree connector.