Crankin’ ’em out again

I had a good evening on sixty meters FT8. It’s been raining all day, so I camped out in the shack and got some operating time in. I worked England, The Netherlands, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada, and, of course, the good ol’ U S of A. Signals were good. FT8 is primarily found on 5357.0. There’s lots of activity, and sometimes you find real gems there.

60 Meters 12/29/2018

That’s not bad for what I’m using as an antenna. I’ve got a 31-foot piece of wire wire-tied to a fiberglass mast with a 4:1 UNUN, fed by 50 watts through a LDG tuner and 100-feet of RG-8X. I’ve got one radial on the ground of indeterminate length. Definitely non-resonant and non-directional. BUT … it works! If you can’t have an elaborate, expensive antenna … just get some wire into the air. ANY antenna is better than NO antenna!

73 de Dick N4BC

A New Baby!

Look, guys … it’s a new baby straight key!

Black Micro Morse Key with Red Knob

It’s a 3-D printed straight key mounted on a solid aluminum base … really stable (also available without the base). The base is 3.75 x 1.5 inches (10 x 3.8 cm). It’s produced by a father/son team in Texas and the price is reasonable. The service is super fast, too!  The company is CW Morse and there are all sorts of color combinations and styles available. A more limited selection is available at MFJ, under MFJ’s own part number. Check out CW Morse’s site for more details and prices. I’m really looking forward to getting out in the field with this one. Actually, I think it’ll be put to use in the shack on the ARRL Straight Key Night, January 1st, from 0000 to 2359 UTC. See you there!

73 de Dick N4BC


Michael has come and gone now, and it was nowhere as bad as it could have been here at my QTH in Tidewater, VA. There were tornadoes and heavy rains all around us … to the South, West, and North … but most of the really nasty stuff was to the North of us. At the house, it was mostly high winds, rain, overturned trash cans, and lots of silver maple branches in the front yard. Many people are without power, but my power never failed. I did lose internet for about a half hour. When I look at the videos of the storm hitting the Florida panhandle, it’s sobering to see what Mother Nature can dish out.

Of course, the internet dropout was in the middle of the weekly Tidewater DMR Net on TG 31515, so my hotspot became a nice paperweight with a pretty blinky red led. Before I lost my link, we had nine check-ins, and several regulars were absent, no doubt because of the storm. So, better luck next week!

After the Net went away for me, I went ahead and got the DXLab Suite working with Win4Icom. Simple, really … just set up the virtual ports to interface with DXCommander and all worked well. I’m using two monitors and if I don’t judiciously manage what applications I’ve got open, I find I’m running out of room on the monitor desktops. You have to be creative in closing or minimizing and resizing windows on the monitors to keep things from piling up on top of each other.

Today, things are getting back to normal. Michael is heading out to sea, and I’m at work, looking forward to the weekend (as I always do!). We still have generators running at our tower sites that are without power. My daughter, who is doing her practice teaching for her teaching certification/licence, has the day off, since schools are closed today (again!) due to trees down, minor flooding, and power outages.

73 de Dick N4BC

A Mixed Weekend

This weekend was not a stellar weekend for operating, for myself. Although the bands were very active, with lots of interesting stations, I didn’t have much luck. I did work one new one, though.

I think the problem was that there were such good conditions, with so many contests going on, I just didn’t have the oomph to break the pileups.

But, on to the pluses! I downloaded and tried the beta for WSJT-X ver. 2, and found the transition painless. The old message format worked flawlessly and so did the new one. I’m quite satisfied with the update, and especially am pleased that “RR73” is the default now instead of being an option. It was a real pain having to set up the change every time I opened the application.

Also, FT8Call is now JS8CALL, and a new version of that developmental software is available. I downloaded the new version, but didn’t see much activity when I checked. More to try this week!

I also downloaded Win4IcomSuite which, if you don’t know, is a control software that works with my IC-7300 and other radios. It allows you to control all aspects of your Icom radio from your computer. It also allows remote control of those radios over the internet. I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces. Reviews by users are positive.

Another thing I like about it is that it supports the integration of third-party applications through virtual com ports, and seems to do it very well.

I’ve ordered a rapid charging base for my Icom handheld. I looked at the official Icom offering, but I can get a third party one for less than half the price on Amazon, and it has good reviews. We’ll see …

I’m still looking for an earpiece for my D-Star handheld. Once again, Icom thinks the thing is made from precious metals and gem-grade plastic. I want something that doesn’t require a loan to acquire.

So you can see, lots of new(er) software to play with this week, and that should keep me busy. We’re watching Hurricane Michael, which may bring us some heavy rain and winds this weekend. Lots of variables there, though, and a long time until Saturday.

73 de Dick N4BC

Saturday Morning

I got an early session on the radio as the sun was rising this morning. The solar conditions were shown as “Poor” and “Unsettled”, but there was some good stuff out there. New Caledonia, Australia, and Japan were all seen on FT8 and were making contacts with US stations. The Mayotte DXPedition (TO6OK) was really strong here on the East Coast on FT8, but there were lots of callers worldwide, and I didn’t luck out, though I really tried. I did work a new one (Belize) on forty meters, so my morning efforts were a success as far as I was concerned.

I’m not lacking stations to work, and my best success seems to be on the lower bands (80, 60, 40, 30). I’m not running anything special here … 30 to 40 watts on digital modes through a LDG tuner to a 31-ft vertical wire, through a 100-ft RG-8X feedline, with a 4-to-1 unun at the base of the antenna, and one 31-ft counterpoise laid on the ground. I get acceptable SWR on all the HF bands except 160. The fiberglass antenna support is fastened to a clothesline support with several pieces of stiff twisted wire. Can’t get much more kludgy than that!

73 de Dick N4BC and good hunting!