Local Club Seminar on Digital Voice

Our Local club C.H.A.R.R.O. held a seminar on Saturday which I was unable to attend. Part of the presentation was the following presentation by Bruce Perens, K6BP:

 

It is a very well done video by a legend in the open source community.

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ARRl Sweepstakes 2017 – Roundup

The 2017 ARRL Sweepstakes was this weekend. I had some personal issues to deal with on Saturday and did not actually start working the contest until Saturday evening, 5 hours after the start of the contest. At this time of day 20m and up were closed down at the QTH. I started by working on 40m and spent most of my time there. The 40m 1/4 wave vertical worked great.I made contacts easily and the exchange was copied 100% about 95% of the time. I tried 80m on both the vertical and the DXtreme end fed and while both tuned up initially, there were problems when it came time to actually make contacts. The auto-tuner would start trying to re-tune every time I went to transmit. I only made one contact on 80m to North Texas. I worked Saturday until about 11:30 pm.

I ran a few more contacts on 40m early on Sunday morning before I left for church service. I picked up again in the early afternoon and started working on 20m and 15m. 20m was very busy and there was considerable QRM. 15m was open but there were significantly fewer stations. I struggled to make contacts initially but after about an hours they started to come in easily. I suspect that this was due to propagation changes. I quit around 5:30pm after making a few final contacts on 40m.

All in all, I worked the contest for only 6 hours and 33 minutes, made 124 QSO’s across 63 of the 83 available sections. I worked enough “rare” states that I completed my ARRL WAS for the phone endorsement using only LoTW confirmations.

What worked:

  1. Very pleased with the 1/4 wave vertical, with the IC-7300 and received several complements on my audio quality.
  2.  The Timewave ANC-4 has become easier and easier to setup and use. It is very valuable when noise conditions changes during the day. I am finding it to be effective at reducing shack noise.
  3. N1MM logger+ is very very handy for contest especially with the spectrum display on the PC with the IC-7300

What I need to improve:

  1. I don’t have a capability to work 80m and below effectively. This is a problem that I need to address as there were rich contact opportunities on 80m during the evening hours. I thought I could use the DXtreme for this purpose as I did in 2015 but I suspect there is something with that antenna that has changed. It may be time to bring it down.
  2. My foot gets tired using the foot switch. I switched back to the hand switch occasionally but I need a better switch for this purpose.
  3. Need to work on adjusting the receiver when there are many stations close in causing QRM.

I don’t really compete in contests for the prizes or fame. I work contests to test my setup over various bands and look for areas that I can improve. I think I was successful in that this year. That being said I was only 20 sections from a clean sweep mug so who knows? maybe next year?

 

 

 

2017 Field Day Results

New QST came in with the results of this years Field Day. Here is my score. My score is #3 on the following list:

2017-11-15_16-32-15

I was only one of two stations claiming a 1B1 class in the STX section and I had the higher score. Out of all STX stations reportiong across all classes I came in 54 out of 72 stations. In the 1B1 class, I came in at 60 out of 102 stations. Top score had 1371 Q’s! Overall happy with these results considering I only worked FD for about 8 hours and was running 45W on solar charged battery power. Looking forward to improving the score in 2018!

A 20m 2 element Vertical Array

I previously reported on my tests of the Garden-beam antenna. While I haven’t given up on this design I did come across some “gotchas” in my implementation. Working on this antenna lead me to think about my soil conditions which I have now measured and confirmed to be quite good due to our proximity to the Gulf coast. I also starting thinking about implementing a 2 element vertical array. So here are a few options that I am looking at trying. The first step is of course to build two 20m 1/4 verticals and match them as closely as possible. I’ll get into the spacing between the elements shortly.

After considerable research I came across the first design that looked interesting in “Practical Antenna Handbook” by Joseph Carr. The idea is to space the two elements at 1/2 wavelength and use a phase transform to switch between o° and 180° phase. The phase transformer is made using a 1:1 balun kit wired as follows:

20171115_161522000_iOS

The switch changes the phase 180°. The arrangement give the following two patterns:

20171115_161737000_iOS 1A20171115_161737000_iOS

The only “gotcha” here is the 1/2 wave spacing is about 33 feet. My backyard may not be able to accommodate this due to a slope down to the resaca as well as some patio areas having pavers. A 1/4 would work much nicer but gives the following patterns:

quarter onequarter two

Not as cool but still workable.

The last option is two use 1/4 wavelength spacing and Christman Phasing. This technique uses lengths of feedline to provide the appropriate delays into each leg to provide for 0° and 90° phasing. The feed arrangement is as follows:

twin_vertical_relay_layout_spst_

For a 20m array using RG-8X cable having a velocity factor of 0.82 and at 14.20 Mhz, the 84° line should be 13.253 ft long and the 71° line should be 11.202 ft long. When both feed-lines are equal there will be a 0° case  and the pattern will be as follows:

quarter one

The 71° feed-line can be added to either leg and creates the following pattern (direction dependent on which leg it is added to):

90 degree

So these are my options, I’ll be measuring out the backyard and see what I can accommodate. Based on my QTH, I’d like to arrange the array to point to 45° with the directions as follows:

world

I’d like to start with the first arrangement but need to confirm I have the space.

 

Working Asia on 40m FT-8 & JT-65

Band conditions on 40m to Asia have been quite good the past few days. Generally good conditions in Japan especially after 7:00 am until about 8:30 am local time. Here is my PSKreporter spots page after a few minutes of sending CQ DX this morning:

2017-11-15 (1)

Nice ring of stations hearing my FT-8 signals starting in Hawaii then on to Figi, New Caledonia, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. Also notice the density of signals on the waterfall. So many stations working FT-8 that there are increasingly few open areas to park in.

In contrast JT-65 is increasingly quiet. This is actually an advantage in tha the stations that are there can pick up my signal easily with little effect from nearby strong stations. here is my JT-65 map:

2017-11-15 (2)

I am starting to get used to the pacer of FT-8 and today found the longer time on JT-65 a bit tedious. I guess it is hard to change gears and accommodate a different rhythm of QSO’s.JT-65 is definitely more relaxed now that there are fewer competing signals.

I continue to be very pleased with the performance of the 40m 1/4 wave vertical.

Initial impressions of the Timewave ANC-4 Antenna Noise Canceller

My used Timewave ANC-4 arrived yesterday from Ebay. It lacked a power connector which fortunately I had in my junk box. I wired the cable up and added some power poles. It came with an antenna that consists of about 8 feet of wire connected to the center pin of an RCA plug. I set this up roughly vertically inside the shack. The unit must be grounded to work effectively with this wire antenna. I fiddled with it awhile but did not have much luck in reducing noise initially. Per the manual, the first thing to try was ensure that the sense antenna was picking up the noise at about the same amplitude as the main antenna. The receiver is setup to an unused frequency and the noise level measured on the S-meter. The phase and noise gain controls are fully CCW. The  main antenna was disconnected and the noise gain adjusted until it matches the S-meter reading  measured previously. The main antenna is then reconnected and the phase control is adjusted until a null is found.

This took awhile to figure out but with the IC-7300 it is easy to see the results on the waterfall. As you get close to a null the background on the waterfall will darken and signals will become more distinct. I estimate that the change is about a 2 S unit reduction in noise. I have run the unit on 20m WSPR and over a 1 hour period had 42 unique spots compared to N5CEY’s 21 unique spots.

So initial results look promising. I will need to work more with this and collect some data on to its effectiveness.

Noise!

Here I go again, a noise hunt. Since getting the IC-7300 I have been able to observe various noise conditions on various bands. Most of what I see is broadband and pulsing. This causes horizontal stripes to appear on my waterfall. Noise blanking has no effect. There are other less frequency types that show up. Sometimes there is a “chirp” signal that will scroll across the band showing up as vertical stripes. Other times a similar chirp begins mid band and slowly works down a few kc then starts to move up a few kc. I have tried to track local noise sources in the shack with only mixed results. To devices that produce some noise are the Ipad and the 21″ monitor though these seem to be limited in range. I shut off various noise sources including the computers, drives, cable modem and Wifi hub but did not see a significant reduction in noise levels.

I decided to try something a bit different. I found a Timewave ANC-4 noise reduction unit for a decent price on Ebay and have ordered it:

anc4

The idea of these devices is to use a sense antenna to sample the local noise and then combine it with the signal from the main antenna such that the amplitude is the same but reversed 180°:

Noise-Canceller_thumb

I have heard mixed reviews on these types of units dependent largely on the sense antenna and its ability to sample the offending noise. I will be giving this a try and will report on how well it works in my situation.

Insight from running 20m WSPR

The 40m vertical has been deployed for the past few months supported by a 10m SOTAbeams travel mast. It has held up well to the abuse of constant use over the summer. We had a few windy days last week and some of the seconds of telescoping pole retracted so I had to bring the whole thing down to fix. During this time I ran the 20m vertical on its own using 20m WSPR for receive only. Over this two day period I was comparing with Cliff’s (N5CEY) 20m WSPR station about 15-20 miles away near Bayview. Cliff consistently gets a larger number of unique spots as well as a larger amount of DX calls with his setup. Cliff is in a rural setting while I am in the middle of the city. What the WSPR data is telling me is that my noise floor is higher so I am not receiving as well as Cliff does out in the country. I took some measurements with the IC-7300 at various times of day and found the following noise floors:

Band Time
1800 UTC 2100 UTC 1300 UTC
80m S3 S4-S5 S6
40m S6 S6-S7 S9+5
20m S1 S2 S4-S5
17m S3 S3-S4 S5
15m S3 S1 S7
12m S2 S0 S3
10m S1-S3 S1 S5

These measurements were made with no preamp on 20m and below. All others had preamp #1 engaged. Friday night was awful, S9+ noise on 40m! Dick, WB5B said it best: “WSPR is telling you that you have a noise problem!” Doh!

FT-8 vs JT-65

FT-8 has taken digital operating by storm since it’s release this summer. I had been running JT-65 early mornings to Asia on 40m but lately I am seeing the number of spots on pskreporter drop considerably in favor of FT-8. I have been using FT-8 with increasing frequency the last few days. This morning conditions on 40m were good with eight QSO’s to Asia in 40 minutes. Most were with Japan but had one each in South Korea and Indonesia.

I am finding that I have better results on FT-8 when calling CQ than answering CQ. WSJT-X takes over by responding to the first call that answers the CQ. Some monitoring is needed as there are times the responding station goes out of sequence in the response. In FT-8, the computer does most of the work when calling CQ as the sequences are so quick. I am finding that with FT-8 I have to repeat a sequence as the other station seems to have trouble decoding my signal (probably due to fading). As a result, I may have to add four or five extra calls to complete a QSO. In some cases the other station never responds again. This happens far less on JT-65. I suspect this is due to the longer receive cycle that helps balance fading as well as the greater sensitivity overall.

The bottom line is that I will likely be operating more on FT-8 only because there are fewer and fewer stations using JT-65.

 

DX100 Award!!!

I achieved the QRZ.com DX100 award today thanks to an early morning JT-65 contact with DV1FZE in the Philippines. As of today I have logged a total of 2878 QSO’s and confirmed 100 countries using QRZ electronic logging only. I am now working to close the ARRL DXCC award and need only 5 more entities via LoTW contacts.