I did a bit of FT8 yesterday evening. I managed one contact on 80M and three on 15M. The other bands were sounding good, but I just couldn’t seem to connect. Not a real dense map either … nothing showing anywhere except North America, and one reception report in Venezuela.
I did have an equipment problem surface, though. My USB hub kept dropping out or resetting. Wiggling the USB-A connector at the laptop duplicated the problem. Over time, with connecting and disconnecting, the plug has gotten worn and is loose. At least, I hope it’s the plug and not the laptop socket that’s worn. I looked for a replacement cord, but the hub end is a USB-B connector … like you find on most printers … sort of a square plug, rather than a rectangular one. Ah well, Amazon Basics … should be here Friday. Love Amazon Prime! The old one is still usable … I just have to make sure I don’t wiggle the cord, though.
I’m looking forward to the loooong Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully, conditions will improve a bit. I’ve been reading a bit about Olivia and want to give that a try. Maybe I’ll also have a chance to do some antenna experimenting, too. We’ll see.
Right now, I need to find a plumber. The kitchen sink decided to plug up on Thanksgiving eve, when the kitchen is a beehive of activity. Figures …
Went to our monthly QCWA Chapter meeting (Chapter 119). I really enjoy it when I can be there, because it seems like at age 74, I’m one of the youngest ones there!
Seriously, though, it’s a great group of guys with a lot of ham experience under their belts. Today’s presentation was on downsizing from a large house to a condo, and some practical solutions to antennas in a HOA. The presenter (whose name and call escape me at the moment), has a great sense of humor, and really entertained while passing on some great tips. I just wish I could attend more often, but usually the meetings are on Fridays, not Saturdays, and I’m still a working man.
I worked a bunch of stations on all bands (80 through 10) today. FT8 was the mode, and I guess the furthermost was VK3XQ. I was only running fifteen watts to my trusty vertical, and was quite pleased.
I tried a new mode last night … WSPR. Essentially a way of checking propagation. “WSPR implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions. Normal transmissions carry a station’s callsign, Maidenhead grid locator, and transmitter power in dBm. The program can decode signals with S/N as low as -28 dB in a 2500 Hz bandwidth. Stations with internet access can automatically upload their reception reports to a central database called WSPRnet, which includes a mapping facility. To see a live version of the map pictured at top right, click here.”
Above you can see the results of my efforts. I was transmitting 5 watts with my 31-foot vertical on 20 meters and 40 meters (mostly 20 meters). It does give you a good idea where you’re being heard.
Got on 80 & 40 last night and worked about 15 stations around 2300/0000. Signals were pretty STRONG … some peaking well above S9. Most of the contacts were East Coast and Midwest. I did hear W6B in LA, but wasn’t able to get in. Eighty meters was the real workhorse, and that’s on my 31-ft vertical … not the most efficient of antennas.
The higher bands were crappy! Twenty was really bad here at my QTH. Usually, in the afternoon when I get home around 1430, there’s a few CW stations going, but all I could hear was the ARRL CW practice transmission and a few stations down in the mud.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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 …