I did a bit of FT8 yesterday evening. I managed one contact on 80M and three on 15M. The other bands were sounding good, but I just couldn’t seem to connect. Not a real dense map either … nothing showing anywhere except North America, and one reception report in Venezuela.
I did have an equipment problem surface, though. My USB hub kept dropping out or resetting. Wiggling the USB-A connector at the laptop duplicated the problem. Over time, with connecting and disconnecting, the plug has gotten worn and is loose. At least, I hope it’s the plug and not the laptop socket that’s worn. I looked for a replacement cord, but the hub end is a USB-B connector … like you find on most printers … sort of a square plug, rather than a rectangular one. Ah well, Amazon Basics … should be here Friday. Love Amazon Prime! The old one is still usable … I just have to make sure I don’t wiggle the cord, though.
I’m looking forward to the loooong Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully, conditions will improve a bit. I’ve been reading a bit about Olivia and want to give that a try. Maybe I’ll also have a chance to do some antenna experimenting, too. We’ll see.
Right now, I need to find a plumber. The kitchen sink decided to plug up on Thanksgiving eve, when the kitchen is a beehive of activity. Figures …
It’s been a while since I posted, so I reckon I need to check in to let everyone know I’m still alive. I worked twenty-some stations this afternoon on FT-8. Around 1900Z I could hear signals on all the bands, 80 through 10. Went out to dinner with the wife and when we got back around 7:30 pm, 80-40-30 were pretty good, and twenty was marginal. It felt good to get on again this evening. I haven’t had much spare time for ham radio, and when I did, the bands were terrible.
I got on for a while last night, but didn’t have much luck. I did work a couple of stations on 80 meters, but although 40 and 20 were pretty active on FT8, I just couldn’t buy a contact. I was running 15 watts, but there were some humongous signals on the waterfall. Either they had multi-element beams or were running some serious power.
I tried to connect with a British station /portable on St. Pierre et Miquelon on CW. He was up and down in the noise, but on the peaks he was about S5. No luck there either. Ah, well … I can always talk about “the one that got away.” It’s like fishing … sometimes you get a bite … sometimes you don’t.
I tried a new mode last night … WSPR. Essentially a way of checking propagation. “WSPR implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions. Normal transmissions carry a station’s callsign, Maidenhead grid locator, and transmitter power in dBm. The program can decode signals with S/N as low as -28 dB in a 2500 Hz bandwidth. Stations with internet access can automatically upload their reception reports to a central database called WSPRnet, which includes a mapping facility. To see a live version of the map pictured at top right, click here.”
Above you can see the results of my efforts. I was transmitting 5 watts with my 31-foot vertical on 20 meters and 40 meters (mostly 20 meters). It does give you a good idea where you’re being heard.
Got on 80 & 40 last night and worked about 15 stations around 2300/0000. Signals were pretty STRONG … some peaking well above S9. Most of the contacts were East Coast and Midwest. I did hear W6B in LA, but wasn’t able to get in. Eighty meters was the real workhorse, and that’s on my 31-ft vertical … not the most efficient of antennas.
The higher bands were crappy! Twenty was really bad here at my QTH. Usually, in the afternoon when I get home around 1430, there’s a few CW stations going, but all I could hear was the ARRL CW practice transmission and a few stations down in the mud.
Looks like solar activity is “heating” up a bit. Propagation has been erratic, but last night I got on for a while and was pleasantly surprised.
I didn’t work anything new or spectacular, but as you can see, I was certainly being heard all over.
According to the predictions, we’re due for a rocky time in the next few days from some pretty big solar storms. But … don’t rely on the predictions … turn on the radio … the bands are always open to somewhere.
Next item … a RANT! One thing I noticed last night was that some ops are running way too much power. A couple of stations were running so much power, they were distorted and you could actually hear it “crackling” in their audio. Luckily the JT modes are robust … you could copy in spite of the splatter. Please, watch your power!
The latest release candidate of the WSJT-X software incorporating FT-8 mode has been released (rc2), and it seems to have cured my power output problem. I worked several stations on 20, 17, and 15 meters this afternoon and everything looks ok — JT65, JT9, and FT8 all worked great.
The bands seem OK today … much better than the recent past. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on later this evening to see who’s about. It’s a dreary day outside with thunderstorms in the forecast so that might put a damper on later operations but hey … that’s ham radio, isn’t it?
It’s been a while, but I didn’t fade away … I’m still here and kicking! Most of my activity has been digital modes (and I include CW in that). Just last night, I worked a station about 150 miles away on 80 meters JT9 that I literally could not detect on the waterfall … zilch, nada, nyet! The waterfall was pretty much flat except for background noise, yet WSJT-X detected and decoded the signal. Spooky magic!
The weather has been a bit dodgy lately … HOT and afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Not conducive to safe operating. I did remember to renew my ARRL equipment insurance, though. The reminder was a particular loud and near BOOM! Didn’t affect me, but it sure made me jump! this weekend’s forecast is for mid 90’s and heat indices in the low 100’s. I think I’ll skip portable operation until we get a break.
I missed field day this year … didn’t get a chance to participate at all. I had family obligations. Oh well … maybe next year. I really missed getting together with the guys. At the club meeting last night there were lots of photos and talk about how much better we did this year than last year.
I had a neighbor’s tree drop in our yard, so now it’s MY tree. I have to get out there with the chainsaw and knock it down to size. It’s not a big trunk, thankfully … about 4 inches in diameter. If it wasn’t for the hot weather, it would be an easy job.
I did get on yesterday afternoon, using JT-9 and had propagation into the US and Europe. My signal reports were not great, but were obviously sufficient for QSOs. I was hearing them much stronger (in most cases) than they were hearing me. I have GOT to get out this weekend and try to get my Cobwebb antenna put together and raised. Now that the weather is improved, I really don’t have any excuses. I guess it’ll REALLY upset me if it doesn’t perform better than my homebrew wire vertical!
I’ve been looking at the SARK-100 MINI-60 Antenna Analyzer and AM impressed. I have a MFJ-295 and it works fine, but a graphical analyzer (with BlueTooth now, as well as USB!) and functional PC and Android software is almost too good to pass up at the price point (~$140). If I keep on like this, I’ll eventually talk myself into springing for it. That’s how it usually winds up!
Yesterday evening, around 0200Z I flipped the rig on and tried answering a few JT CQs on 40, 30, and 20. No reply. Just couldn’t seem to conjure up an answer from anybody. I finally just gave up.
I wish I had looked at PSKREPORTER to see where I was being heard. Europe, Asia, North America, South America … pretty much all over the world. Had I known that, I would have cranked out a few CQs myself. I think I just gave up too soon. Live and learn!