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

The Changing Face Of How We Operate

I was reading through posts in one of the on-line forums (sorry, I can’t remember the  poster), and he made a comment that made me stop and say to myself, “That’s so true.” The gist of his post was that with the advent of spectrum displays in more state-of-the-art SDR radios (such as FLEX, IC-7300, et cetera) we have changed the way we search for stations to work. With the older radios, we tune around, listening for other stations to work. Unless you happen across a station while he is putting out a signal, he doesn’t exist as far as you’re concerned. He could have stopped transmitting just a second before you reached his frequency, and you wouldn’t know he had been there. But, with a spectrum display, you’re looking at a broad swath of the band and seeing ALL the activity … ALL the stations. One of those “light bulb over the head moments” for me. ‘Ain’t technology grand?’

73 de Dick N4BC

Good Vibrations …

Good vibrations … to quote the Beach Boys … RF vibrations, that is. Last night, I heard stations on just about all HF bands, some quite strong. I worked over a dozen FT8 stations on 40 and 60 meters. The higher frequencies, not so much luck. Although they were solid reception, I just couldn’t connect. Even 80 meters was reasonably devoid of QRN.

I got my RTTY setup working. I was using the wrong mode on the IC-7300. I was set to RTTY and should have been in USB-D since I was using AFSK. At least, it seems to work now. I couldn’t find any RTTY stations on the air yesterday evening to do a final test. But … listening on another receiver, I can hear the diddle and mark/space tones when doing a test transmission.

73 de Dick N4BC


The Pits …

I see the sunspot number is still at zero … where it’s been for the last three weeks. Those scientists much  smarter than me say it’ll be there for at least the NEXT three weeks, too. Ah, well … even with secret rites in the dark of night, I don’t think we can make any difference. We just have to wait for old Mother Nature to crank up the next solar cycle.

BUT … as I noted last weekend … even with the numbers as abysmal as they are, there’re always QSOs to be had. Contest weekends, especially, seem to light up the ionosphere.

Our DMR net (TG 31515, Tidewater VA) yesterday evening was a bit sparse … only four of us checked in. It’s pretty much the doldrums of summer now. People are on vacation, outside doing family things … you know the drill. This weekend we’re looking forward to scattered thunderstorms and rain. A typical summer weekend. At least it’s been cooler the past few days.

Not much ham stuff going on this weekend that I’m interested in. The North American QSO Party for RTTY is happening. I haven’t participated in that in forever, so I might dabble a bit there. I’ve got to get me a thicker cushion for my shack chair, though. The IARU CW contest last weekend was murder on my butt!

Well, enough blather! Have a great weekend and do some radio!

73 de Dick N4BC

A New One …

There was a nice opening on 10 meters yesterday evening, and I was lucky enough to work a new one … Saint Pierre et Miquelon – FP. I worked FP/KV1J, Eric, on FT8 at 1920Z. He popped up calling CQ and I pounced! He’ll be on Miquelon Island through the 17th of this month and will be on for the IARU HF Contest this coming weekend. He’s operating SSB/RTTY/FT8 and satellite also. You can check him out on his web page here. Always exciting to catch a new one when you’re not expecting it.

Actually, I worked a dozen stations on 10/12/15 meters, all domestic except for Eric. All up and down the East Coast, with a few odd ones in the midwest. Ten meters has shown some interesting and exciting propagation lately. FT8 certainly seems to be the mode for making contacts, even on dead-appearing bands.

The cool weather continues here in coastal Virginia. The past couple of mornings, I’ve actually used the heat rather than the A/C on the way to work at 5:30 in the morning.

73 de Dick N4BC