A New One!

Scored a new country on digital last evening … South Africa. Ten watts to a vertical on JT-9 mode. He copied me at -15 DBm on 20 meters, and he was much stronger. I’ve seen him on several times before, but had no luck connecting with him. Now just waiting for a LOTW confirmation.

First ZS on JT-9/20 meters
First ZS on JT-9/20 meters

The bands were not especially hot last night … as a matter of fact, there was not much happening other than stateside and European stations. But there he was … and relatively strong, too. That’s what’s so exciting about ham radio. “The thrill of the hunt,” if you like.

I’ve tried listening in the early morning to see what might be happening, but no luck so far. For instance, this morning at 4am I tuned the bands and heard ZILCH! Not so much as a stray CW signal that was readable. I’ll keep on trying, though. One of these days …

73 de Dick N4BC

 

Weekend Doings – Storms, QSO Parties, and a New One!

This was the weekend of the big storm … Hurricane Matthew … so I planned on hunkering down at home and doing some operating (if the power cooperated). Well, we didn’t lose power (except for a few momentary blips), but we did get a LOT of rain (10.5 inches at my QTH) and some pretty stiff winds (gusts up to 35 mph). There was a lot of flooding in the area and lots of downed trees. I’m just lucky that I never really lost my AC. Of course, I could have gone to qrp and battery power. I’m also lucky I didn’t get called in for work … that could have been nasty during the heavier part of the storm.

This weekend was the Pennsylvania QSO Party, and I spent a bit of time chasing PA stations. Lots of fun. I was mostly on 40 meters, but did operate a bit on 80 and 20 meters as well. I didn’t make a lot of contacts, but that was by choice. There were certainly a lot of stations to contact. Participation was high.

I also worked a lot of DX, mostly on JT65 and JT9. There was a lot of activity in the digital segments of the band as well. I still find it strangely satisfying to sit there for a minute with nothing happening and then the exchange is displayed. Magic!

I worked my one and only Delaware station EVER on 80 meter SSB, too. For some reason (other than the fact that there aren’t a lot of Delaware hams), I have never worked that state before. I was happy to finally fill out my WAS. To top that, he’s already confirmed the QSO by LOTW.

All in all, it was a fun, productive weekend, in spite of all the drama with the storm. It was a great weekend to be indoors!

73 de Dick N4BC

A Good Evening

Had a good evening on the radio last night using JT65/JT9 modes! For supposedly poor to fair propagation, Europe was booming in during the early afternoon. Later in the evening, there was lots of stateside action, with a few Europeans thrown in for good measure … all at 10 to 20 watts.

Most of the action was on 20 meters, but 40 and 80 were doing well also. I actually made my first JT-65 contacts on 80 meters, loading up my 31-ft vertical. I’m going to try and get up an 80 meter end fed this evening.

It looks as if we may get some action from the approaching hurricane. The latest predictions show a high probability that we will AT LEAST get rain, tidal flooding, rip currents, and erosion at the beaches. I will most likely be at work 24/7 during the storm and aftermath if this happens, since I am part of the team that maintains my city’s communication system. In the meantime, we’re performing pre-storm checks to make sure everything is operating properly.

73 de Dick N4BC

P.S.

I did get home today at a reasonable hour and in between showers I put up an end-fed multiband antenna with a 9:1 UNUN. It seems to tune well on all the bands, and the S-meter says its a bit better than the vertical. I haven’t had a chance to check it out with the analyzer yet. I’ll give it a whirl tonight!

Dick

Back into the fray …

I sat down to the radio equipment tonight and got a little bit of operating done … JT65. Conditions were doable, but certainly not what you would call good. Twenty and forty were usable, and I did make a few contacts.

I spent most of the evening paying bills and changing emails and usernames on accounts that use my callsign. I never realized just how many there were!

We were under a tornado watch and threats of flash flooding, but luckily nothing materialized. They are predicting rain and thunderstorms on into Saturday, so I don’t think I’ll do much outside work this weekend.

73 de Dick N4BC

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

Zero!

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

Elmering

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

DIgital and Low Power Stuff

I finally got around to setting up WSJT-X and JT Alert on the new laptop, and found quite a bit of action. I worked 18 stations (mostly Europe and the US) in a couple of hours on 20 Meters. I seemed to have a lot more luck on JT-9 than on JT-65. Sort of like watching paint dry, but I did fill in a few missing digital Grid squares, prefixes, etc in the meantime.

QCWA Chapter 119 activated Fort Monroe National Monument recently, and although I couldn’t lend a hand with the operation due to a prior commitment, I did manage to work them on CW. I haven’t heard how they did number wise, but it was a beautiful day to be operating portable.

We’ve found a site for W4MT, our 146.73 repeater. We lost our previous site and had been searching for a new location for quite a few months. In the interim, we’ve been having our Tuesday evening club net on the WN4HRT repeater.

Overall, the bands have not been the greatest, but the digital modes offer an opportunity to make contacts with lower power. I made those 18 contacts this evening using 10 watts to a vertical tied to the clothesline pole. Nothing sophisticated about that, folks! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Don’t forget, CW was the original digital mode.

73 de Dick K4FTW