Lots of Action Yesterday

I was pretty busy yesterday afternoon after work. I downloaded the software for the new FT8CALL and installed it, and then fired it up. It’s a very easy setup, especially if you’re already running FT8 … it’s almost identical. I’ll have to admit, keeping track of all the functions and following the QSOs on the screen can be confusing at first … there’s lots going on. It’s really essential to read the documentation first and then keep it handy to refer to. Will it become a popular mode? I don’t know … it is sort of a ragchew mode, and many don’t seem to be interested in interacting beyond the minimal exchange, but time will see. It does have its place.

Last night, we had our weekly DMR net on TG 31515 (Tidewater, VA), with a good, lively crowd and some interesting discussions. We hesitate to call it a “net” … it’s more of a very loose roundtable. Very casual compared to a formal net. We had eleven area hams check in, which was a record, I believe. We discussed “Static TGs vs Dynamic TGs, a Meet-Up at the Virginia Beach Hamfest on the 6th of September, Talkgroups vs reflectors. I noticed that a couple of the guys were showing up as unidentified on my display, which reminded me that I hadn’t updated the DMR user database in my HT for a while. I did a quick download of the data into my portable and VOILA! … they were no longer unknown!

The DMR 31515 Thursday Night Group keeps growing. If you’re a participant, invite a friend! Everybody is welcome! If you’re not a participant, here’s an open invitation to just ‘holler’ at us when we pause for people checking in.

We also talked about a local DMR simplex frequency and decided that we would adopt 441.0000 (TG99,TS1,CC1) as our common simplex frequency. We’ll try it out and see if we can find each other at the hamfest in a few weeks.

73 de Dick N4BC

D-Star On Scene

The new Icom ID-51A PLUS 2 that I won in Icom’s monthly drawing arrived late yesterday, and I’ve been exploring the intricacies of programming  it. I still haven’t totally conquered the software. I do have it working reliably with my hotspot … Raspberry Pi / MMDVM / Pi-Star. There was lots of reading and watching YouTube! I am experiencing some short momentary dropouts that I’ve got to track down. I’m not sure where the problem lies … there are so many variables in the chain.

The radio itself is so chock full of features, it’s gonna take a while to get familiar with all the menus and where things are located. It took a trip to the manual to figure out how to change the power level to “super low” to conserve battery and not overload the hotspot.

I’ve been sitting here “reading the mail” on REF001C while I’m composing and editing this post. Lots of interesting things going on there. Right now I’m listening to a couple of guys talking about Chevy Camaros. One’s in Texas and one’s in Florida. They’re both pretty knowledgeable about classic cars.

This is pretty solid communications, and I love it! No QRM … no QRN … no straining to hear. It’s either there or not there. Great for laid back chats, especially during these lean times.

73 de Dick N4BC

Pi-Star Update/Upgrade On My Hotspot

I discovered something about Pi-Star upgrading. The documentation was good … I just didn’t pay attention to it!

After I did an upgrade, I noticed I was not at the latest revision. Huh? I just did an upgrade, didn’t I? So what did I do wrong? I ran it again … the revision number incremented by one. Click again on Update and it ratcheted up one more. All in all, I clicked 4 or 5 times until it told me I was at the latest revision.

So … the upgrades are not cumulative. You have to go through them all, one by one, until you reach the latest. It DOES say in the documentation that you may have to press update more than once. Moral of this story … read the instructions! I thought I was current but …

73 de Dick N4BC


If nothing else, I’m methodical. If I’m going to buy something … pretty much anything … I’ll spend some time researching and reading reviews. It just makes sense … I want the best I can get for what I have to spend … value for money. This applies to appliances as well as radio equipment.

Recently, I’ve been trying to decide whether to buy a new washer or repair the old one. I think I’ve just about convinced myself to spring for the new one. The dryer is another story … it’s over 25 years old and still going strong. All I’ve ever done to it is replace a fuse about ten years back. Good investment!

I just got notification last night that the Icom ID-51 Plus 2 DStar radio that I won has shipped. It should be here next Wednesday. I’ve spent way too many hours researching DStar programming and operation, but I want to hit the ground running when it does show up. Same principle as above …try to know what you’re doing before you act.

Let me tell you, there’s a LOT of information out there on the WWW. Most is helpful, some is downright UNhelpful, and some is just … I don’t know … wrong is the best way to describe it. You really have to sort through everything to mine the nuggets of information that are useful. I DO think I’ve gained a lot  more understanding of DStar than I started with, which was pretty much zilch! I now feel like I can get on the air without making a fool of myself … that’s the goal, isn’t it.

73 de Dick N4BC

A Bit of Nostalgia

Good Morning, everyone!

I was just looking at my QSO confirmation rates … not too bad, actually. With the advent of electronic QSLing, the percentages are really pretty high, I think.

I track QSLing on two sites, primarily … Logbook Of TheWorld and QRZ. I also upload to EQsl and ClubLog, but seldom visit. I do that mostly for others. On LOTW my confirmation rate is a bit over 66% and on QRZ.com, it’s a whopping 76%.

Obviously, for the “biggie” awards (ARRL and CQ), the LOTW logbook is the major one, but just look at those percentages. I don’t have any numbers, but I guarantee you that I never approached that before electronic QSLing … maybe when I was rare DX, but not as a lowly US ham. 

Looking back on it, as a DX station with US managers, I was pretty isolated from the confirmation part of the hobby. I really didn’t care about that aspect of hamming. I just had a blast operating. Without the burden of LOTS of cards arriving in my mailbox, I was continually on the air when I was free. That being said, I still got a LOT of QSLs sent directly to my overseas mailbox … mostly foreign hams and HUGE stacks of bureau cards. I remember getting an entire mailbag of VQ9 (Seychelles) cards one time from the Russian Bureau at Box 99, Moscow (I was the VQ9 bureau). They got answered, but it took time.

Nowadays, it’s a lot cheaper. Essentially free. Back in the “good ole days”, all QSLs went either via the bureau or direct. With the cost of postage now, it’s just not a viable method for most hams.

Times change and we just have to change to keep up. I think LOTW was a great idea, and I’ve never had any problem, either setting up an account or using it, but I DO miss all the paper QSLs. Sigh … times change for sure.

73 de Dick N4BC