This Digital Stuff

The bands have been a bit sparse the past few days, but you can just about always find signals on FT8 frequencies when nothing else can be heard. Last night was a bit lean, but I did work nine North American stations on FT8 … all on forty meters.

There were a few CW stations participating in a CWT Contest, but I have my paddles disassembled at the moment, so I’ll make it a priority to reassemble them and get them back in action. There weren’t a lot of stations there, but several were quite strong. Nothing exciting, though, unless you were actually participating in the contest.

We dodged the bullet on this last Nor’easter … we only had a mix, with no accumulation, mostly rain, and above freezing temperatures. Further north, they got the brunt of the storm. This coming Saturday, we’re looking at some sleet and rain overnight, but the temperatures are supposed be be in the upper forties. I’m ready for Spring!

73 de Dick N4BC


I was all fired up to work the Virginia QSO Party last weekend. I got comfy at the operating position, tuned to 40 meters, and … didn’t hear a single Virginia station calling! Scratching my head, I wondered if propagation could be THAT bad.

Oops … turns out that the QSO party is this coming weekend, not last weekend. I managed to transition to Daylight Savings Time correctly, but managed to be a weekend off for the VQP. Oh well, I’m too old to be embarrassed!

Got on last night and worked a bunch of FT8 stations … some DX but mostly USA … 80 through 18 meters. I even heard some FT8 signals on 15 meters, but couldn’t make the QSO.  Kept trying to get Easter Island, but never could connect. I tried. Most of the stations he worked were tailending, and I’m not quite sure how that works on FT8. I’ll Google the answer later to see if I was doing it right.

It snowed again here last night. Wasn’t supposed to be any accumulation, but we got 2 or 3 inches at my house. Meteorology is obviously not an exact science!

73 de Dick N4BC


I got on the bands last night to see what was happening on FT8, and 40 meters was really busy. I tried replying to several station, but either they couldn’t hear me or were ignoring me. I ended up working one station in California that was a repeat contact. Eighty meters had a few stations, but no luck there either. Just a bummer of an evening.

I fired up the DMR rig and hotspot and talked to a couple of guys … one in Yorkshire, England, and another in Malta, and had a pleasant chat with them. That’s a great medium for ragchewing. Crystal clear most of the time … world-wide.

Well, that should hold me for this morning. I’ve got a radio club meeting tonight … not sure what the program is. I should be able to hit the local DMR repeater from our meeting location (which I can’t do from home, thus the reliance on a hotspot). Maybe I can demo some DMR to a bunch of D-Star folks!

73 de Dick N4BC

Last Weekend

Well, the best laid plans … . I had planned to participate in the NC QSO Party, but circumstances changed that. I just had too many honey-dos to finish.

I did get my Tytera MD-380 codeplug programmed, but can’t hit my local DMR repeater from my house (maybe improved antenna?). I drove a few miles closer and did hit the repeater OK. Checking, I see that his antenna is only at 30 feet, but he does have plans to raise it, I believe.

So, my solution is to add a hotspot to the mix. I have a Raspberry pi lying around, and ordered a dvMega to link into the network from the DMR portable. It should be here on Tuesday, so I’ll let you know how it works. Yes, I know some people say it’s not “real” ham radio if it uses the internet, but I want it for communications, not for awards. I’ve already created a SD card ready to plug into the pi with the Pi-Star image on it.

Well, that should do it for now. I’ve done a lot of research on this DMR stuff, and actually think I’m beginning to understand what’s going on. Oh, I knew a lot, due to working with Motorola radios and systems for years, but this is a new realm for ham radio.

73 de Dick N4BC

Digital Dive

So … I’ve taken the plunge into DMR radio. I had an unused gift card on Amazon and sprung for a Tytera MD-380 hand-held radio. A ham just a few miles from me has put a UHF DMR repeater on the air. I ordered the radio today and Amazon says that it’ll be here tomorrow. Can’t wait!! (but I’ll have to!)

I keep reading online about how difficult the programming software is, so I checked it out. Maybe if you’re not used to it, but I’ve been building codeplugs for Motorola radios for more years than I care to think. Looks like a piece of cake to me.

I’ve been interested in DMR for a while now, but there was no local repeater within a reasonable range of my QTH. Lots of them to the north, south, east, and west, but none here at ground zero.

There are DStar repeaters near me, but I just couldn’t justify the cost. This little Chinese gem cost less than ninety bucks. Can’t beat that. And … it got pretty good reviews in the November 2017 QST.

I’ve still been keeping up with CW and FT-8 contacts on HF, and the NC QSO Party is this coming Sunday. I’ll be there on HF!

73 de Dick N4BC