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

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

On again!

Well, I’ve been somewhat of a slacker … my last sustained activity was in February. I just had an accumulation of things that couldn’t be put off any longer that took precedence. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I have managed to get some JT activity the past couple of days. Yesterday, in particular, seemed to be pretty good propagation during the early afternoon, but I didn’t have the time to get much operating done. Ah, well … I can only hope!

The weather is decidedly more cooperative lately, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get the cobweb antenna up, and do some portable operations from the truck as well. I checked out my FT-817ND and the associated mobile and portable goodies the other evening, and I think I’m OK there.

I got a couple of QSL cards this week, too! That’s an unusual occurrence for me nowadays. Back in the “good old days,” it was NOT unusual to get a few cards every week. Of course, when I was rare DX, I used to get LOTS of cards every week. Times change.

Well, I’m about finished my lunch break at work, so let me get back to work. See you later …

73 de Dick N4BC

80 Meter Activity and Antennas

Eighty meters was pretty good at the QTH here last evening. Made contacts on JT9 up and down the East Coast. The QRN was minimal, and some stations were pretty strong, too. It’s the best I’ve seen it in quite a while.

It amazes me that my 31-foot wire vertical loads so well on 80 meters, too. The LDG tuner grinds a bit, but it does find a match. I don’t want to think about the efficiency of that antenna. The inverted-L is a disappointment though … nowhere near as good as the vertical and much noisier. I had the thought last night that maybe the coax is not up to snuff. It’s probably around twenty years old, even though it’s only been in use for maybe five years. I think I’ll substitute a new piece and see if that makes any difference.

I’ve got a new MFJ-1835 Cobweb antenna, still in the box. The weather hasn’t been cooperating since it arrived, and I’m hoping for some reasonable temperatures the week before Christmas, because I’m taking vacation then. I’ve read some pretty good reviews, and am really interested in experimenting with this antenna.

Hope everybody has a great Holiday season …

73 de Dick N4BC

Catching Up …

There’s not much new to report, especially on the operating front, but I do have some new antenna news. Yesterday, I ordered an MFJ-1835 Cobweb antenna, and it is due to be delivered by the big brown truck today from HRO. Can’t beat their shipping and service. There have been some pretty good reviews in the forums and on YouTube, so I decided to go ahead and pick up one.When I get it assembled and up in the air, I’ll report further.

Last night was the combined PARC/SPARK clubs Holiday Banquet at Angelo’s. and it was a really good turnout, at least from the SPARK membership. PARC only had a handful of members present. The food and fellowship was great, as was the service, and the XYL even found someone she knew there to talk to.

73 & Happy Holidays de Dick N4BC

A New One!

Scored a new country on digital last evening … South Africa. Ten watts to a vertical on JT-9 mode. He copied me at -15 DBm on 20 meters, and he was much stronger. I’ve seen him on several times before, but had no luck connecting with him. Now just waiting for a LOTW confirmation.

First ZS on JT-9/20 meters
First ZS on JT-9/20 meters

The bands were not especially hot last night … as a matter of fact, there was not much happening other than stateside and European stations. But there he was … and relatively strong, too. That’s what’s so exciting about ham radio. “The thrill of the hunt,” if you like.

I’ve tried listening in the early morning to see what might be happening, but no luck so far. For instance, this morning at 4am I tuned the bands and heard ZILCH! Not so much as a stray CW signal that was readable. I’ll keep on trying, though. One of these days …

73 de Dick N4BC

 

A Good Evening

Had a good evening on the radio last night using JT65/JT9 modes! For supposedly poor to fair propagation, Europe was booming in during the early afternoon. Later in the evening, there was lots of stateside action, with a few Europeans thrown in for good measure … all at 10 to 20 watts.

Most of the action was on 20 meters, but 40 and 80 were doing well also. I actually made my first JT-65 contacts on 80 meters, loading up my 31-ft vertical. I’m going to try and get up an 80 meter end fed this evening.

It looks as if we may get some action from the approaching hurricane. The latest predictions show a high probability that we will AT LEAST get rain, tidal flooding, rip currents, and erosion at the beaches. I will most likely be at work 24/7 during the storm and aftermath if this happens, since I am part of the team that maintains my city’s communication system. In the meantime, we’re performing pre-storm checks to make sure everything is operating properly.

73 de Dick N4BC

P.S.

I did get home today at a reasonable hour and in between showers I put up an end-fed multiband antenna with a 9:1 UNUN. It seems to tune well on all the bands, and the S-meter says its a bit better than the vertical. I haven’t had a chance to check it out with the analyzer yet. I’ll give it a whirl tonight!

Dick

Zero!

Wow! The sun is naked. The sunspot number has been at ZERO for several days now, and the propagation shows it. I was working a station in New Jersey last night on JT-9, and he had a strong signal  … +00. I watched his trace on the waterfall slowly fade away to nothing. He was not copyable, and JT-9 can usually pull out the data when you can barely see a trace. Really DEEP QSB.

That said, I have been working stations all over North and South America and Europe these past few days. Signals are not great, but they’re readable. When you figure that I’m only running 10 to 20 watts to a vertical on the digital modes, it’s nothing short of amazing.

So the moral of the story is … get on and call CQ. Make some noise! You’ll be surprised at what’s out there. I haven’t heard a lot on SSB, but there’s plenty of action on the digital modes … CW, JT, PSK, Olivia, etc.). Too many people just fire up the rig, tune across the bands and sigh … “Darn! It’s dead tonight!”. If everybody just tunes, there’s nothing to hear.

73 de Dick K4FTW