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!

D-Star On Scene

The new Icom ID-51A PLUS 2 that I won in Icom’s monthly drawing arrived late yesterday, and I’ve been exploring the intricacies of programming  it. I still haven’t totally conquered the software. I do have it working reliably with my hotspot … Raspberry Pi / MMDVM / Pi-Star. There was lots of reading and watching YouTube! I am experiencing some short momentary dropouts that I’ve got to track down. I’m not sure where the problem lies … there are so many variables in the chain.

The radio itself is so chock full of features, it’s gonna take a while to get familiar with all the menus and where things are located. It took a trip to the manual to figure out how to change the power level to “super low” to conserve battery and not overload the hotspot.

I’ve been sitting here “reading the mail” on REF001C while I’m composing and editing this post. Lots of interesting things going on there. Right now I’m listening to a couple of guys talking about Chevy Camaros. One’s in Texas and one’s in Florida. They’re both pretty knowledgeable about classic cars.

This is pretty solid communications, and I love it! No QRM … no QRN … no straining to hear. It’s either there or not there. Great for laid back chats, especially during these lean times.

73 de Dick N4BC

Pi-Star Update/Upgrade On My Hotspot

I discovered something about Pi-Star upgrading. The documentation was good … I just didn’t pay attention to it!

After I did an upgrade, I noticed I was not at the latest revision. Huh? I just did an upgrade, didn’t I? So what did I do wrong? I ran it again … the revision number incremented by one. Click again on Update and it ratcheted up one more. All in all, I clicked 4 or 5 times until it told me I was at the latest revision.

So … the upgrades are not cumulative. You have to go through them all, one by one, until you reach the latest. It DOES say in the documentation that you may have to press update more than once. Moral of this story … read the instructions! I thought I was current but …

73 de Dick N4BC

Methodical

If nothing else, I’m methodical. If I’m going to buy something … pretty much anything … I’ll spend some time researching and reading reviews. It just makes sense … I want the best I can get for what I have to spend … value for money. This applies to appliances as well as radio equipment.

Recently, I’ve been trying to decide whether to buy a new washer or repair the old one. I think I’ve just about convinced myself to spring for the new one. The dryer is another story … it’s over 25 years old and still going strong. All I’ve ever done to it is replace a fuse about ten years back. Good investment!

I just got notification last night that the Icom ID-51 Plus 2 DStar radio that I won has shipped. It should be here next Wednesday. I’ve spent way too many hours researching DStar programming and operation, but I want to hit the ground running when it does show up. Same principle as above …try to know what you’re doing before you act.

Let me tell you, there’s a LOT of information out there on the WWW. Most is helpful, some is downright UNhelpful, and some is just … I don’t know … wrong is the best way to describe it. You really have to sort through everything to mine the nuggets of information that are useful. I DO think I’ve gained a lot  more understanding of DStar than I started with, which was pretty much zilch! I now feel like I can get on the air without making a fool of myself … that’s the goal, isn’t it.

73 de Dick N4BC

Configuring the IC-7300

I was determined to get the external Spectrum Display function of the IC-7300 working with N1MM+. I’d tried before, but had issues. For the external display to work, you need to set the baud rate to 115200, and the fastest I can get WSJT-X to run with the IC-7300 is 9600. Any faster, and it loses sync with the radio.

The solution was actually simple … I can run WSJT-X just fine with the “baseline” configuration I have saved on the SD card, so I created another file with the N1MM+ settings saved. Now, when I want to do the contest thing and want to have a big spectrum display, I load that file. When I’m done and am ready to go back to “normal” operation, I load the baseline file. Hey, it works! I know I’m missing something, but … . 

I also updated my Pi-Star software on my hotspot and activated the D-Star functionality as well, in anticipation of the arrival of the new ID-51A Plus 2. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about D-Star when I have a chance, and I think I’ve got a fair understanding about operating and programming now. Thank goodness for the internet!

It was a pretty sparse crowd for the DMR net last night. Only four of us showed up, but it was still OK. We talked a bit about the new mobile interface that someone has written for Pi-Star. I think it runs in a browser or maybe it’s an app, but anyway, Howard, WZ4K, is planning on trying it out this week. We should have a blow-by-blow description for the next net meeting!

The button battery in my MFJ clock died, so I was off to the drugstore to find a replacement. Of course, they had a different brand, which means a different part number. The internet on the smartphone helped me there too, but of course, they didn’t have the one I needed. I’ll try another place tomorrow.

I’ve been doing a bit of FT-8 after work and picked up a new country. I caught 9G5AR in Ghana calling CQ and pounced. I’ve got him in the log and now I just have to wait for the LOTW confirmation. I also saw a station in Bahrain, but couldn’t connect with him. This was on twenty meters, so the DX is out there. You’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time. I also worked a bunch of other stations 40,30,20,17, and 15 meters, too.

Well, the XYL just reminded me that we have a birthday party to go to tomorrow that I had completely forgotten about, so there went my weekend plans. Gotta be fast and think on your feet around this house.

See you on the bands!

73 de Dick N4BC