Software stories …

I’m still trying to get Win4Icom interfaced with N1MM. I’m close … I can’t get the WinKeyer USB working properly … I think it may be a port conflict, but a bit more study and experimenting is required.

I’ve got JS8Call working OK. That was pretty simple. All I had to do was install a pair of virtual ports with com0com and it worked the first try. It’s still difficult to make a contact, though, with so few users. Unless you catch them on the air, there are long periods of no activity. The mode is still in development and users haven’t reached a critical mass yet.

I went to the SKYWARN class last night. It was interesting … a lot of it came back to me from years ago when I was a pilot and had to learn it for my license, but I did pick up some new things, too. There was a good crowd … probably about twenty people. There were military, CERT, hams, old folks, young folks, in-between folks … just a good cross-section of the population. Maybe the tornadoes we had when the remnants of Michael passed last week spurred attendance?

My shack is getting to the point where I can’t find anything without tearing everything apart. I’ve got stuff on top of stuff. I think this weekend, there’ll have to be a reckoning with stuff!

73 de Dick N4BC

WSJT-X 2.0 rc2

I was on the air for a while last night, and was trying the new message format for WSJT-X  2.0 rc2 FT-8 (incompatible with the “current” version 1.9.1 message format). I set anything up and called CQ on both 40 and 20 meters, with no takers. Some evenings you luck out and others … FAIL! I guess there were no “experimenters” listening on the bands when I was on.

I did make a couple of sixty meter FT8 QSOs, but for some reason, I was just not having a lot of luck last night. I could hear (see?) plenty of stations on 80 through 17 meters, but couldn’t get an answer for trying. I called CQ and didn’t have any takers. It’s like fishing … sometimes you don’t even get a nibble!

I’m driving up to the Gloucester EOC for SKYWARN training tonight. It’s about a one hour drive and then a couple hours for the class. I should be home by 9, hopefully. I’m looking forward to it.

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

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

Antenna Analysis

There are lots of antenna analyzers on the market now … and at all price points. Here’s an extremely affordable one … the RigExpert AA-30ZERO. Barebones, but looks interesting, even if only from an experimental viewpoint. Eric, who has a great YouTube channel covering all aspects of ham radio (HamRadioConcepts), did a pretty thorough demonstration :

The boards are available from Gigaparts for $75 + S&H as I’m writing this. I’m getting one!

And don’t forget to check out all of Eric’s videos (and he’s got a LOT!) … he talks about antennas, radios, DMR, accessories… you name it!

73 de Dick N4BC