In a Real Rut

I seem to have settled into a rut lately. I get home from work, turn on the rig, and work a few JT-9 contacts, and then shut down. I think I need a bit more spice in my life :-). I hereby resolve to try and inject more variety into my ham radio practices. This weekend, I think I’ll do a bit of PSK and a bit of CW, and MAYBE even a little SSB. If it wasn’t so darned hot and humid (106 deg. heat index), I might even venture a little antenna work and generator servicing.

I’m at work right now waiting for the HVAC guy to show up and service the failed A/C unit at one of our radio sites. I don’t like to see high-temp alarms at my sites!

I just finished up a week long class today on Motorola Networking Essentials. I learned a lot and am looking forward to more classes this summer. These classes are a result of us updating our analog trunking system with a new P25 digital trunking system. It’s all IP-based, so networking is an integral part of the infrastructure.

73 de Dick K4FTW


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


I worked with Tom, WE4TOM, to get his PSK31 up and running. We only live a couple of miles apart, at most, but it was great when I finally saw his transmission on my waterfall and printing out on my screen.

We had tried a couple of times over the past two weeks to get something going. He could copy my transmissions, but I wan’t getting a whisper from him. I still don’t know what he did to get it working, but after a couple of iterations, HE DID! Sometimes you have to keep banging away at the problem until you get a break.

So Tom … guess what I’ve got for you? That’s right – a shiny new QSL card. I’ll deliver it at the next Club meeting. Great job of figuring out HRD and DM780. Here’s a preview …

Office Lens 20160623-210240


73 de Dick

ZERO Sunspots

The sunspot count is ZERO! Can’t get much lower than that. But … in spite of the low numbers (and a minor solar disturbance), I still make contacts. Even CW seems pretty sparse, but the digital parts of the band still amaze me.

I have been mostly working JT-9 and JT-65, and there’s been a lot of action. Good openings into Europe and South America, as well as stateside  and Canada. Twenty meters has been productive as has forty meters, but that’s about it. Above 20 just sucks, to put it bluntly (although they say 6 meters has been promising).

Well, tonight we’ll have the PARC 2-meter net. At least propagation is consistent on the repeater 🙂 .

73 de Dick k4ftw

More Digital Thoughts

Well, I’ve been using JT-65/JT-9 for several days now, and I do have a few thoughts to share. It’s amazing being able to copy a signal you can hardly see on the waterfall or hear. As a weak-signal mode, it is really unsurpassed. I’ve been using 5 to 10 watts output and find that more than sufficient in most cases. Using WSJT-X software from K1JT, it’s almost foolproof once you’ve got a few QSOs under your belt.

For me, the biggest negative is the limited ability to actually say anything of consequence. With a 13-character limit on your message — well, that’s not a lot of chat time. But all this has been said before, and it is what it is. Within the constraints of the format, it works exceedingly well.

It’s been a while since I’ve dabbled in the more verbose digital modes, so I’m going to try to get back to the “keyboard” modes for a while (PSK-31/63, etc. While the JT-x modes are great for propagation research (pskreporter) and snagging some new ones relatively easily, I think I prefer the more free-structured keyboard-to-keyboard, give and take of the more conventional modes.

73 de Dick k4ftw