I got on for a while last night, but didn’t have much luck. I did work a couple of stations on 80 meters, but although 40 and 20 were pretty active on FT8, I just couldn’t buy a contact. I was running 15 watts, but there were some humongous signals on the waterfall. Either they had multi-element beams or were running some serious power.
I tried to connect with a British station /portable on St. Pierre et Miquelon on CW. He was up and down in the noise, but on the peaks he was about S5. No luck there either. Ah, well … I can always talk about “the one that got away.” It’s like fishing … sometimes you get a bite … sometimes you don’t.
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.
Eighty meters was pretty good last night. I worked quite a few stations on FT8 mode … all of them North Americans. FT8 is still crowded, to the detriment of JT9 & JT65. I find it puzzling that JT65 seems to be the preferred mode, since JT9 is more bandwidth-efficient and a more robust mode. I usually don’t see many, if any, JT9 signals on the waterfall, so I resort to calling CQ. Sometimes I get a bite … sometimes I don’t.
I DO see the allure of FT8, though. It’s fast. True fact … JT65 & JT9 are like watching paint dry! But … I like being able to do radio while working on other things that have to get done. Hey … radio is radio … right?
Today is the Virginia Beach Hamfest, but I’ve decided to give it a pass this year. I’ve just got too much going on today that has to be done. I’m filling in for the Pastor at church tomorrow, and need to polish up my sermon and a few other things before then.
It looks like we have dodged the worst of Irma here on the Virginia coast. I really feel bad for Florida, though. This has the potential to devastate a lot of Florida. Our prayers are with the people of that state.
Looks like solar activity is “heating” up a bit. Propagation has been erratic, but last night I got on for a while and was pleasantly surprised.
I didn’t work anything new or spectacular, but as you can see, I was certainly being heard all over.
According to the predictions, we’re due for a rocky time in the next few days from some pretty big solar storms. But … don’t rely on the predictions … turn on the radio … the bands are always open to somewhere.
Next item … a RANT! One thing I noticed last night was that some ops are running way too much power. A couple of stations were running so much power, they were distorted and you could actually hear it “crackling” in their audio. Luckily the JT modes are robust … you could copy in spite of the splatter. Please, watch your power!
The latest release candidate of the WSJT-X software incorporating FT-8 mode has been released (rc2), and it seems to have cured my power output problem. I worked several stations on 20, 17, and 15 meters this afternoon and everything looks ok — JT65, JT9, and FT8 all worked great.
The bands seem OK today … much better than the recent past. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on later this evening to see who’s about. It’s a dreary day outside with thunderstorms in the forecast so that might put a damper on later operations but hey … that’s ham radio, isn’t it?
Well, everything was going along well … no problems … just great! When I booted up the computer the next day, max power out had decreased from 20 watts to 5 watts. Can’t get it above that. I didn’t change anything, and I can’t find anything in the computer that’s changed … audio levels the same, right source for the audio … everything the same. No changes to the Signalink USB or the radio settings. Just can’t figure it out. All the computer settings are the same for PSK-31 with FLDigi and power out there is the same as it always has been.
Well, I have enough to keep me busy with other modes, so I’ll just wait until the final version is released and see if it gets fixed. Just odd that it did that all of a sudden.
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.
OK, I played with the new mode for a while last night, and feel a little better talking about it now. FT8 is a new mode with a lot of interest. Twenty meters at times was wall-to-wall with signals on my waterfall, without a space to squeeze in … definitely lots of people trying it out!
As I mentioned before, it’s FAST! If you’re used to JT65 or JT9 modes, it’s a screamer. It’s almost unnerving to try and keep up. Remember when you were scrambling when you first started learning and using the JT modes? Well, this is that experience on steroids. It’ll get more calm as I get more familiar with it.
I did notice a couple of anomalies while I was operating. JTAlert-X (2.9.10, the compatible version) sometimes seemed to not populate the boxes with the decoded callsigns. Not always, but sometimes. Another odd thing was the auto-sequencing ( a new feature) worked well, except for one solitary station that tried to work me twice. In response to his signal report to me, WSJT-X should have replied with my signal report to him. WSJT-X kept transmitting the “RRR” exchange. Every single other one of the 13 QSOs that I had last evening performed flawlessly. Not sure if it was the software or something he had wrong, although I would suspect the latter. We need to remember that this is a release candidate software, not the final, polished software. They’re still ironing out the kinks, and a few glitches are to be expected. Overall, this is a gem of a program.
It’s a learning curve, but worth the effort. Another arrow in the quiver to nail the elusive QSO. My congratulations to K1JT (who, by the way, I worked on FT8 last night) and his crew for their hard work! Well done!
Downloaded the rc1 version of WSJT-X with the new FT8 mode, and made several contacts. Works as advertised! It’s so fast, that I don’t have time to read the guy’s bio on QRZ like I do with the slower modes. I had to modify TQSL and DXKeeper for the mode. More experimentation required, but it’s neat to try something new!