Public Service

I volunteered to help with communications for the annual Boys & Girls Club Smart Smiles 5K race this coming Saturday. I got the email for assignments, frequencies, duties, etc. yesterday. This’ll be the first time I’ve done one of these public service events in years … maybe even decades! Looking forward to it!

However (there’s always a however, you know) … that means I’ve got to program a couple of radios to contain the repeater and simplex frequencies we’ll be using. It’s probably been over a year since I programmed any radios. It’s a shame that every radio has its own proprietary software and unique programming cable as well. First, I have to find the cables and then, try to remember how to manipulate the software. None of it is very intuitive!

One radio uses Chirp for programming, so that’s not too bad … I can handle that. The other is a D-Star radio, and I remember how much sweat and tears I shed the first time I tackled programming that 🙁 . Hopefully, it’ll come back to me! Everything I have to enter is analog, so maybe it’ll be easier.

I’ve also got to add some repeaters to my hamshack base radio. I don’t have some of the SkyWarn backup repeaters programmed, and I need to get that done with hurricane season approaching.

Anyhow, wish me luck. I’ll report back and let you know how I did.

73 de Dick N4BC

Doin’ the Contest Thing

I spent a good part of the day working stations in the ARRL RTTY Roundup. I decided to use “classic” RTTY, rather than one of the new modes (FT8, PSK31, etc). I had to fiddle a while to get all the software working together, but nothing serious. I used Win4Icom, my IC-7300, FLDIGI, and N1MM+ Logger. It all played well together. I was running about 30 watts power out.

My first contacts in the contest …

I had tried to use a different RTTY engine before (MMTTY), but had a few issues with it. It worked … but I was less than impressed with some aspects of it and that’s what led me to try FLDIGI.

I operated AFSK (Audio Frequency Shift Keying), using the sound card in the IC-7300 and the only little nag there, is my ALC was at about 50 percent on transmit. The manual says this is OK, but I’ve always tried to get it as close to zero as possible. I think there’s a way to use both the USB and CI-V cables to use FSK (Frequency Shift Keying). I’ll have to research that.

The IC-7300 will do FSK in the RTTY mode, and there’s lots of memories for preprogramming contest messages, so I guess you could work a contest just sitting there reading the display and pressing buttons, but then you don’t get the integrated logging that N1MM+ gives you. Synergy, I think they call that!

I probably would have continued on a bit more, but !!MAN!! — did that stint at the radio do a job on my lower back. I definitely know I’ve been sitting in a “not too comfortable” chair for a long time. I definitely need to take more frequent breaks and walk around a bit.

So that’s the story! Maybe I’ll get on the air a bit more tomorrow afternoon … we’ll see. I have good intentions …

So far, my stats are 75 QSOs and 2,625 points … only 3 DX QSOs … all the rest USA and Canada. Pretty pathetic, huh? Hey, don’t judge me … I’m playing radio!

UPDATE: I ended up with 161 QSOs, 7 of which were DX stations, and 8,050 points. I had fun!

73 de Dick N4BC

FT8 Roundup

This weekend I dabbled in the FT8 Roundup. I was on the air when I had some free time, and made a total of 70 QSOs … not even a big effort, but it was interesting.

When the contest first started, there was lots of confusion, especially about operating frequencies. The normal frequencies were not used … special ranges of frequencies were specified. Also, there were several settings that had to be changed in the software itself, and that confused some. The instructions were well-written, and I had no problems at all.

Contest action!

To do things right, it was necessary to go into the files and create backups and then delete specific files. I was leery of that, but I followed the instructions to the letter … no problems were noted when restoring everything afterwards. I even worked another ten stations afterwards to make sure everything was copacetic (HA! Look that one up!).

SO … everything is back to normal, all the contacts are uploaded to LOTW, ClubLog, eQSL, and QRZ, and I’m already seeing some confirmations, minutes after the contest.

Have you been a ham long enough to remember contests back in the “Dark Ages”? Submitting a log then was a real trial … dupe sheets, deciphering handscribbled logs, counting multipliers, computing scores on your fingers and toes, snail mail submission … like I said, the “Dark Ages”. Soooooo much easier now!

Of course, my mouse quit working during all of this. “Must be the battery,” says I. I replace the battery … still bad. Look all over the house for a spare mouse. Finally, a light went on … I tried another AA battery … success! The first replacement was no good. I need to turn in my Technician badge!

Hope you had a good ham weekend. I had thought about pulling out my manual tuner and making some contacts in the 160-meter contest, but I was busy enough with what I was doing. There’re never enough hours in the weekend, are there?

The next few weeks leading up to the holidays are going to be hectic … banquets, dinners, parties, concerts … all sorts of things to keep me busy. But, I’ll still do radio when I have a chance!

73 and Happy Holidays de Dick N4BC

Returns

I was just fiddling with numbers this afternoon and was surprised to find that my LOTW account shows a 68.42% confirmation rate. That’s a pretty good number, isn’t it? Had to recheck my cipherin’. I had no idea it was that good. If only the lottery had that kind of return, I could put up that 75-foot tower with multiple beams on it!!

A lot of those confirmations are due to digital modes. Lots of digital operators are uploading to LOTW in near real-time, as the QSO is ending, or very soon after. Logging programs make it so easy nowadays. The software does it for you.

I see WSJT-X 2.0 rc5 is now available. Joe says that it is pretty much what the final release on December 10th will look like. I haven’t had a LOT of luck working stations using the new 77-bit message format. Lots of people still hanging on to the older 75-bit messaging. Hopefully, they’ll move to the new format, but I expect it’ll take a while. Hams can be slow to change …

One incentive is the contesting mode that’s built-in and the ARRL RTTY Roundup on the radar in January. This’ll be the first time FT-8 has been a contest mode, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

73 de Dick N4BC

Eureka!

I was right about the Win4Icom/N1MM+/WinKeyer USB problem … it was a port conflict. I had Win4Icom and N1MM+ both pointing to the same serial port for the WinKeyer. The simplest solution was to temporarily disconnect the connection from Win4Icom to the WinKeyer, and now N1MM+ works fine. If I’m not using N1MM+, I can just toggle the port back on in Win4Icom and all is well again … easy peasy!

I rushed home from choir practice and caught the last half of the Tidewater VA DMR Net (TG31515). It was a small group tonight and Darrell, KF4HJW was doing the honors as Net Control. Don’t know where Howard was … hopefully he’ll be back next week.

I downloaded the latest version of JS8Call this evening … JS8Call v0.7.5-devel. The main update is a fix for some decode issues, and there are several other fixes as well. Jordan, KN4CRD, is really responsive to feedback and the groups.io site is a good way to provide that interaction.

73 for now de Dick N4BC