Up, Up, and Away

I tuned in to Tom, W5KUB’s videocast last night. One of the guests was Bill, WB8ELK, who is quite an authority on balloons, telemetry, tracking … well, all things “balloon”.

Bill and his balloons!

He’s been on the roundtable before, but I usually catch the broadcast after the fact, on YouTube, and then I just skim through the “good parts” (strictly subjective). This was the first time in a long time that I have watched it live, start to finish, and really paid attention to everything.

Fascinating“, is the first word that springs to mind. I was rapt. I never really knew much about this balloon sub-genre of ham radio. This is really neat stuff. If I were a bit younger and had more free time, I would definitely be into this part of the hobby. Unfortunately, it’s all I can do to keep up with my present interests.

The other parts of the broadcast were interesting, too. It’s well worth the time to check it out … either live or on YouTube later. You can find details at w5kub.com, or on their social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter …) accounts.

73 de Dick N4BC

Sixty Meters

Ya’ know … if you haven’t tried this newer band yet, you’re missing out. It’s not a heavily used band, but there are people there. I’ve only done FT8 on 5.357 MHz (Channel 3, I think), but I’ve bagged a few new ones there. My LDG tuner tunes my vertical just fine. I have no idea what kind of efficiency, but I’ve worked all over the world with around 50 watts.

This is where I was heard this evening

It’s an odd band. It’s shared with government and military, and they’ve got priority use … it’s channelized … the max power is 100 watts. Really an odd duck, but it is what it is. We just have to work with what the FCC allows us. Oh, and not all countries have given the amateurs the same channels, so that complicates things even more. Hey … just work ’em when you hear ’em. Try it … you’ll like it!

73 de Dick N4BC

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