Nice bit of fun tonight listening to the International Space Station on 145.8 – 2nd attempt by the ARISS guys and all credit to them and their excellent team for persevering for the YOTA17 event. Heard astronaut Paolo (IZ0JPA) here on NA1SS at 57 before it moved out of reach of my 2m horizontal dipole in the loft. Also nice streaming by the BATC. I hope the YOTA members there enjoyed it and glad it worked out after the troubles on the first pass earlier in the evening. Hopefully this will mean more radio amateurs – good for the hobby.
(This reminds me that I once knew an astronaut – well ok before he became an astronaut – Piers Sellers R.I.P.)
A new mode (to me) – FT8, part of the latest WSJT-X package and widely discussed of late. Having been away from radio for a few weeks I’ve been keeping up on this via a Facebook group and e-mail and itching to get back home and grab the software. I did so late last night and managed to answer one CQ after reminding myself about the mode while watching the band activity. The auto sequence was a surprise the first time I saw it working. I had a ‘proper’ go today with several successful answers to CQs. It all happens very fast!
I have also now started logging QSOs within the WSJT-X package. I had not done this previously because really I only dip in and out of this and other modes, and have plenty of time to log the few QSOs I actually make by hand. But as it’s now rather frantic I decided to have a go and it all works nicely. Of course you will by now be questioning my sanity due to the fact that previously I had no indication of DXCC or callsign worked etc., resorting to my own lookup script that checks QRZ.com to see if a callsign is new. But there was time, plus as I had fiddled with the API for QRZ.com I have a simple bit of PHP that does lookups directly.
I really must find some time to throw more wire into the loft and work different bands, as I still only have 20m and 6m to play with. Hmmm.
Another new mode for me, well, only receiving in this case. I had always been interested in SSTV but that many decades ago there were no PCs and I never did get round to building anything when the BBC Micro came along. Anyway, I was dialling across 20m the other day and came across a very strong SSTV signal which brought back memories of the mode.
So I installed qsstv – which needed a few extra bits installing but it all complied up with no errors. To my surprise, as soon as I ran it last night with the rig on 14.230 it decoded and showed SSTV images after just a few seconds! I thought it was a self test at first, but no it was live. A useful feature is it stores images automatically.
So now I need to make some images up and have a go at calling CQ SSTV…
…well actually aluminium. I finally cut down an old ‘fm’ radio dipole to 2m and quietly ran yet another run of WF103 into the loft. So the Trio TR-9130 I got a few weeks ago finally has an aerial. SWR is not bad at 1.2 or so on the VNA. It’s mounted horizontally as I got the transceiver in the hope of one day finding some 2m SSB… well it’s been 3 hours, nothing yet! Impatient!
Anyway it worked fine for the local RSGB News this morning, and to hear someone asking if 145.5 was in use but with no callsign…
This also means I finally have a use for the KW520 SWR/power meter. However, it would not register any power on the 20W setting on the 140-525MHz range but did on the 1.8-200MHz range (both of course cover 2m). I took the lid off, discovered it would be rather difficult to get at the switches to check them so put it back together. Of course it now works fine. Perhaps the initial swearing at it actually worked.
The Trio causes some QRM on the speakers of one of our PCs – actually in the room below the dipole. But as I cured our mains-bourne QRM in general I feel I’m still winning.
It’s amazing what a single wall-wart can do. I have some X10 controllers around the place controlling the outside lights and the dimmers in our family room. For ages now, one outside light refused to co-operate. I changed my scripts to fire several on or off commands to this light which worked for a time but then nothing. All the other lights seemed ok.
Then the family room lights would either come on or go off at random, but only occasionally. I went round the house with the ICR2 on MW and open squelch and there was a hash coming from one indoor camera but not the other. It also came out of many of the 13A sockets around the house. By now I was convinced I’d have multiple noise sources, potentially all of our wall-warts.
Anyway, it got to the stage that the X10 controller running from the house server could no longer reliably control any lights so I got another controller and ran that from the radio PC upstairs. That, at least got most lights back to normal operation, all except the one that had seemingly given up completely.
I finally made time to investigate more properly and began by unplugging the noisy cameral. Silence! All hash gone. Ok. Took the wall-wart out to the workshop and plugged it in. Instant hash, on or off load. I replaced it with another and although that camera still makes a hash on the ICR2 when close by there is nothing anywhere else in the house. And the X10 lights all work, controlled once more by the server, including that apparently uncooperative outside light.
I dismantled the offending wall-wart. It has the relevant filtering components so I assume one or more of them have gone duff over time.
Now, if I can just get rid of the ticking noises from the CAT5 cabling…
I was informed of my first, hopefully only log error today by a station that had already sent me an eQSL. I had recorded it as JT9 instead of JT65 and not checked the eQSL which clearly says JT65! Oh well… must check. At least he told me of my mistake. Also, uploading the entire log to eQSL is a bad idea because it duplicated several entries.
It’s probably time I used a local logger and export as necessary rather than the way I am working currently, but I just want a simple logger without the frills as I use flrig / fldigi or wsjtx for rig control. I shall have a think. Currently I use qrz.com as my logger because it’s nice and simple. I wrote some PHP to query qrz.com via its API giving me a little window where I type a callsign to see if it is my log – a method that works for me, probably not for anyone else! I’ve just always tended to make my own code where things are not just the way I want them…
And another first, a PSK250 QSO. That’s really fast and gives very little think time. Mind you, the speed does mean I can use my more detailed reply macro, which is a bit drawn out down at PSK31…
50MHz seems alive just now, and after one incomplete JT65 QSO I finally managed to complete a call with a station in the Slovak Republic at 1,600km or so and then with a station about 3km away! My first, and second ever 6m QSOs.
Up to now I have been wondering if my 6m loft dipole even works, but today I left wstjx running on 50.276 and received 3 decodes. I called CQ too and had a reply but we could not complete unfortunately. Still, it at least proves the antenna does actually work.
Well 20m seems to keep springing into life these days, JT-wise anyway. Lots of American stations (north and south) but I have had little luck in managing many QSOs. Then last night I had a JT9 QSO all the way to Chile at 11,800km. Not bad for my bit of wet string in the loft. Mind you, looking him up on qrz.com shows a massive antenna array so he was doing all the work!
Today my first QSO was JT65 at a mere 620km. There are a lot of European stations on right now.
Well last night 20m was alive with JT65 and JT9. I saw lots of stations from North America and a number from South America. I replied to a dozen or so US but no-one heard me. Oh well. I tried a couple of EU stations, again nothing. Hmmm. Then the band died off… try again tonight! Mind you, if this stuff was too easy it would not be fun.
One thing that would be useful is a clock that bleeps every minute but on the, say 45th second to remind you to look for CQs.