IRMA!

Even though the storm track is still unknown, our Emergency Operations Center here in Tidewater Virginia is already in storm preparation mode. Since I work for the city communications folks, we have started assessing our readiness. Right now, we’re charging up spare batteries from our stocks. What we’re looking at is mainly a rain event, with all the ensuing flooding. there’s one apartment complex here that usually has the ground floor under water after major rain events.

Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma, predicted to turn North over Florida.

Our infrastructure should be OK. We just upgraded to the latest Motorola system version (R 7.17, if you’re interested), so everything has just been tested and is running fine. All sites have emergency power, so now we just wait …

The upcoming weekend is busy for me without all these complications. The XYL is having cataract surgery … it’s the Virginia Beach Hamfest on Saturday … I’m preaching Sunday at my church … lots going on. I will be on call as well.

73 de Dick N4BC

The Radio Gods Are Pleased

Looks like solar activity is “heating” up a bit. Propagation has been erratic, but last night I got on for a while and was pleasantly surprised.

Propagation on 9/4/2017 from N4BC

I didn’t work anything new or spectacular, but as you can see, I was certainly being heard all over.

According to the predictions, we’re due for a rocky time in the next few days from some pretty big solar storms. But … don’t rely on the predictions … turn on the radio … the bands are always open to somewhere.

Next item … a RANT! One thing I noticed last night was that some ops are running way too much power. A couple of stations were running so much power, they were distorted and you could actually hear it “crackling” in their audio. Luckily the JT modes are robust … you could copy in spite of the splatter. Please, watch your power!

72 & 73 de Dick N4BC

WSJT-X 1.8.0 rc2

The latest release¬†candidate of the WSJT-X software incorporating FT-8 mode has been released (rc2), and it seems to have cured my power output problem. I worked several stations on 20, 17, and 15 meters this afternoon and everything looks ok — JT65, JT9, and FT8 all worked great.

The bands seem OK today … much better than the recent past. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on later this evening to see who’s about. It’s a dreary day outside with thunderstorms in the forecast so that might put a damper on later operations but hey … that’s ham radio, isn’t it?

73 de Dick N4BC

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