New Portable/Mobile Antenna

Based on several good reviews, I’ve picked up a Silver Bullet 1000 Take-It-Along Antenna Kit from Wolf River Coils. It consists of 3 – 33-foot radials, a tripod, an adjustable coil, and a 120-inch adjustable whip. Works from 80 through 10 meters. Quick setup and reasonable performance.

They were out of stock when I checked, so I looked at the “Lite” model, which is the same without the adjustable whip (and cheaper), and that was in stock. Guess they’re out of whips! I ordered a whip from Buddipole, and all’s well now.

Yeah, I know an inverted-V or a dipole would be more efficient, BUT … if it pans out, it should be the perfect tool for rapid setup in parks and portable operations. As a bonus, I could use it on the truck as well with a mag mount.

I just love experimenting with antennas!

73 de Dick N4BC

Issues with WSJT-X 1.8.0 rc1

Well, everything was going along well … no problems … just great! When I booted up the computer the next day, max power out had decreased from 20 watts to 5 watts. Can’t get it above that. I didn’t change anything, and I can’t find anything in the computer that’s changed … audio levels the same, right source for the audio … everything the same. No changes to the Signalink USB or the radio settings. Just can’t figure it out. All the computer settings are the same for PSK-31 with FLDigi and power out there is the same as it always has been.

Well, I have enough to keep me busy with other modes, so I’ll just wait until the final version is released and see if it gets fixed. Just odd that it did that all of a sudden.

73 de Dick N4BC

JTAlert-X Update

Well, the issues that I was experiencing with JTAlert-X in my last post seem to have been resolved with that latest revision (2.10.0). Good job and quick work! I gather from what I read that the previous version was not a full implementation of WSJT-X rc1.

Still plugging away with the new mode. The band segment is still quite crowded, and it’s sometimes difficult to squeeze in.

I’ve been trying to fit some antenna work in, but with the heat index at 100+F lately, it’s been difficult. I’ve pretty much got everything I need now to get my Cobweb in the air, except for the wall mount for the mast, and that’s on order. I’ve been slow rolling this job, but am determined to finish it up soon.

I’ve got other yard work to tend to as well. A fast-growing vine has nearly taken over the back porch and one side of the house. I thought I had killed it, but it seems to have come back from the dead. I also have a tree down next to the property line with my neighbor to the rear … it came from his yard, but it’s mine now, since it’s laying in my yard! It’s not a big tree, so I should be able to work some chain saw magic on it.

That’s about all for now … stay tuned …

73 de Dick N4BC

More FT8 Stuff …

OK, I played with the new mode for a while last night, and feel a little better talking about it now. FT8 is a new mode with a lot of interest. Twenty meters at times was wall-to-wall with signals on my waterfall, without a space to squeeze in … definitely lots of people trying it out!

As I mentioned before, it’s FAST! If you’re used to JT65 or JT9 modes, it’s a screamer. It’s almost unnerving to try and keep up. Remember when you were scrambling when you first started learning and using the JT modes? Well, this is that experience on steroids. It’ll get more calm as I get more familiar with it.

I did notice a couple of anomalies while I was operating. JTAlert-X (2.9.10, the compatible version) sometimes seemed to not populate the boxes with the decoded callsigns. Not always, but sometimes. Another odd thing was the auto-sequencing ( a new feature) worked well, except for one solitary station that tried to work me twice. In response to his signal report to me, WSJT-X should have replied with my signal report to him. WSJT-X kept transmitting the “RRR” exchange. Every single other one of the 13 QSOs that I had last evening performed flawlessly. Not sure if it was the software or something he had wrong, although I would suspect the latter. We need to remember that this is a release candidate software, not the final, polished software. They’re still ironing out the kinks, and a few glitches are to be expected. Overall, this is a gem of a program.

It’s a learning curve, but worth the effort. Another arrow in the quiver to nail the elusive QSO. My congratulations to K1JT (who, by the way, I worked on FT8 last night) and his crew for their hard work! Well done!

73 and see you on the bands,

Dick N4BC

 

FT8 Works!

FT8 DIGITAL MODES WORK!

Downloaded the rc1 version of WSJT-X with the new FT8 mode, and made several contacts. Works as advertised! It’s so fast, that I don’t have time to read the guy’s bio on QRZ like I do with the slower modes. I had to modify TQSL and DXKeeper for the mode. More experimentation required, but it’s neat to try something new!

73 de Dick N4BC

IARU HF Contest

Wow … first time I’ve participated in a major contest in a long time. Not a truly serious competition … only about 150 QSOs over the 24-hour period. Enough for me, though. All S&P (search and pounce, if  you’re not familiar with the term), and all CW.

Had contacts on all of the bands except for 80. Eighty was really noisy … I could hear some weak signals, but they obviously couldn’t hear me. Forty was good and twenty was also good. Fifteen and ten were workable, but not a lot of signals that I could hear. There were some strong ones though!

I’ve already got my LOTW logs uploaded, QRZ, ClubLog, and eQSL uploaded, and imported the N1MM .adi file into my logbook. Contest —> DONE!

The Yaesu 450D performed well. The DSP was a blessing to use. I really could bring a lot of the signals out of the mud and to a comfortable listening level.

All in all, it was fun … no regrets. Lots of stations, and I didn’t see any poor behavior … everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. That’s the way it should be.

‘Til next time, 73!
de Dick N4BC

A little life in the ol’ bands (and me) yet …

It’s been a while, but I didn’t fade away … I’m still here and kicking! Most of my activity has been digital modes (and I include CW in that). Just last night, I worked a station about 150 miles away on 80 meters JT9 that I literally could not detect on the waterfall … zilch, nada, nyet! The waterfall was pretty much flat except for background noise, yet WSJT-X detected and decoded the signal. Spooky magic!

The weather has been a bit dodgy lately … HOT and afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Not conducive to safe operating. I did remember to renew my ARRL equipment insurance, though. The reminder was a particular loud and near BOOM! Didn’t affect me, but it sure made me jump! this weekend’s forecast is for mid 90’s and heat indices in the low 100’s. I think I’ll skip portable operation until we get a break.

I missed field day this year … didn’t get a chance to participate at all. I had family obligations. Oh well … maybe next year. I really missed getting together with the guys. At the club meeting last night there were lots of photos and talk about how much better we did this year than last year.

I had a neighbor’s tree drop in our yard, so now it’s MY tree. I have to get out there with the chainsaw and knock it down to size. It’s not a big trunk, thankfully … about 4 inches in diameter. If it wasn’t for the hot weather, it would be an easy job.

Well, that’s enough for now. Catch you later!

73 de Dick N4BC

Looking up …

Not literally … I meant that conditions improved quite a bit over the past couple of days. Forty meters really seems to be the workhorse, but twenty had its moments. I was working JT-65 and JT-9 with one hand, while doing some catching up on paperwork with the other and the waterfall was full, with stations stacked on top of stations. I would transmit a CQ and at least two stations would decode coming back to me. Midwest, East coast, and Europe were all workable. Lots of fun!

Yesterday afternoon, I adjusted the hamsticks for my truck using my handy-dandy MINI60 Antenna Analyzer. Yes, I parted with my hard-earned cash and I must say, I’m really pleased with the device. It’s well-built and does what it’s supposed to. With the Bluetooth linked to my smartphone, It’s easy to see where the resonance is … the answer is just a scan away. I’m hoping to get some portable operations in from some nearby parks soon, now that the weather is nice.

So, I’ll catch you later.

73 de Dick N4BC

Updates

I did get on yesterday afternoon, using JT-9 and had propagation into the US and Europe. My signal reports were not great, but were obviously sufficient for QSOs. I was hearing them much stronger (in most cases) than they were hearing me. I have GOT to get out this weekend and try to get my Cobwebb antenna put together and raised. Now that the weather is improved, I really don’t have any excuses. I guess it’ll REALLY upset me if it doesn’t perform better than my homebrew wire vertical!

I’ve been looking at the SARK-100 MINI-60 Antenna Analyzer and AM impressed. I have a MFJ-295 and it works fine, but a graphical analyzer (with BlueTooth now, as well as USB!) and functional PC and Android software is almost too good to pass up at the price point (~$140). If I keep on like this, I’ll eventually talk myself into springing for it. That’s how it usually winds up!

Well, back to work … later!

73 de Dick N4BC