July 14, 2017
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Made my first two DX contacts to Australia today on 40m FT8. I need to get used to the faster pace but otherwise looks like it works pretty well. I added the FT8 mode to HRD logging software and am uploading the contacts as “DATA” to LoTW.
June 4, 2017
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I reconfigured what has become my main antenna, the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. This is still a temporary installation but I am growing increasingly happy with the results I am getting. I frankly can’t remember the last time I used the horizontal end fed. I have had to roll up the radials on occasion to mow the yard and have not yet deployed my permanent radials. Currently I am using the 30 foot travel mast from SOTAbeams to support the vertical wire and have four 27 foot radials deployed. I am using my homebrew 1:1 current balun at the feedpoint and running to the shack with 50 ft of RG-8X.
If I get the chance I’ll start operating around 6:30 am local time on 40m JT-65. I can usually snag several contacts in Japan with the occasional contact into Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines. The action is over by about 7:30am local time as the band closes quickly after sunrise.
Saturday afternoon, I was checking the bands and came across a strong VK station on 17m SSB. We exchanged signals reports in the 54 to 55 range. I moved over to JT-65 and found that there was DX activity including another VK contact. Today Sunday I am finding about the same conditions, great 40m propagation to the far east in the early morning and some light DX into Europe & South America on 17m in the late afternoon.
May 27, 2017
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I made a 20m SSB contact to Guadalupe in the Caribbean yesterday which got my unofficial DX count to 100. It is unofficial because I don’t have the electronic confirmation either though QRZ or LoTW. My official tally is 85 for DXCC and 88 for QRZ DX World. It has taken awhile to get here and the new antennas I have been testing help quite a bit. Wish more folks could confirm either through QRZ or LoTW!
May 15, 2017
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I came a cross a very helpful web page in determining the amount of power needed for JT-65. It is called dbCalc and allows you to enter your transmit power and signal report and then calculates what your report would have been with other transmit power levels. I tried this out today on 40m JT-65, lowered my power in half and still made several DX contacts to Japan and Argentina. You can easily measure how your signal is doing at a given power by sending a CQ and then checking the Pskreporter reports. Feed these into dbCalc and you can optimize your power settings for given band conditions. I suspect that in most cases operators are using a lot more power than necessary to make JT-65 contacts which makes it harder for weaker signals to get through.
May 14, 2017
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Most of this week was sent collecting WSPR data on the 40m 1/4 wave vertical. The vertical is holding up better to the breezy days after placing some duct tape on the joints of the travel mast. The vertical radiator is a 32 foot length of insulated #14 speaker wire. There are only four 27 foot ground radials deployed at this time. There is a 1:1 current balun at the feed point and about 50 feet of coax to the shack after that. Here is the SWR plot:
SWR is under 1.5:1 across the whole band with a resonant point 7.125 MHz. This antenna has been a solid performer on 40m without a tuner. I am noticing that the band starts opening up to DX about an hour before dusk. Last night I made several SSB contacts with Europe after 10pm local time.
Switching to 40m JT-65 at that time was very interesting as well as the propagation conditions can be somewhat visualized with pskreporter. I really tested the JTDX software last night and have gotten the hang of the user interface which is subtly different from WSJT-X. I set the IC-7100 with AGC-off and the bandwidth filter set to 3.6 kHz. Rather than search and pounce, I would look for a quiet spot at the extremes of the band and call CQ DX. This strategy worked well with many European stations answering. Over time, I can see my signals fading on the pskreporter map as eastern Europe’s morning progresses. As dawn approaches in Western Europe, stations start coming online and start to see my signal. At the same time, the opposite terminator starts approaching New Zealand and Australia and my signals starts picking up there as well. I knocked off at about midnight local time and picked up at about 7am and repeated. This time JA stations were answering my CQ and I was running a JT-65 “pile-up” with several JA stations calling at the end of a QSO.
Very pleased with the antenna performance on this band. 20m is acceptable through a tuner but the WSPR data indicates some degradation in performance over a resonant vertical or even the end fed antenna.
The winds have died down a bit here at the QTH and the travel mast has been up about a week now. The duct tape on the joints may have something to do with it. On 40m, the antenna is a winner. Made contacts on SSB to Europe in late afternoon early evening on Saturday. Making JT-65 contacts into Japan is like shooting fish in a barrel on early mornings. On 20m, I run the antenna through the tuner and also made some DX into Europe and the South Pacific. I switched between the vertical and the horizontal DXtreme end fed antenna and found that the vertical can definitely hear signals that the horizontal cannot. Propagation conditions seems to be shifting these past couple of weeks. 40m is solid into Asia early morning and Europe in the early evening. 20m has been weak in the morning but picks up in the late afternoon. 17m has been really hurting lately with some small windows opening up from time to time. All in all a good weekend of radio activity.
April 22, 2017
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Had a good club meeting this morning and chatted on quite a few and varied radio topics. Will be starting the HF voice and Digital Nets next week on 40m at 1pm local time. Voice will be on 7.250 Mhz and MT63 1000L digital following shortly thereafter on 7.060 Mhz. There is a major geomagnetic storm going on now that has impacted the HF bands. Not much in the way of QSO’s going on right now except for JT-65. Good time to play with some other projects.
Tested the new 10Ahr LiFePo4 battery this afternoon with the solar charge controller and a non-radio load (5V USB charger on 12V lighter plug). Pleased to report this battery worked like a champ and is a drop in replacement for the lead Acid SLA batteries. It is half the weight of the 7Ahr SLA battery and can provide at least 80% of its capacity without shortening the life of the battery. So I am replacing two 7Ahr batteries that provided 7Ahr of capacity at about 10 pounds with a single 10Ahr LiFePo4 that can provide 8Ahrs and weights only 2 lbs! Nice!
I ordered a USB OTG cable from Ebay. This cable allows me to hook up and SDR dongle to an amazon fire with the SDRTouch Android app. The only downside is that you need an external power source to get enough power to the SDR dongle. I hooked it up to the USB charger I was testing with the new battery and it ran fine.
April 13, 2017
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Ran WSPR last night on 40m with the 1/4 wave antenna. Here is the Map as of this morning:
Started running some JT-65 this morning and while difficult to run pile ups, I am getting QSO’s with JA by calling CQ. On my third one since starting this morning:
Overall I am very pleased with the performance of this antenna. I’ll be doing some tests on 15m as well although the band has been quiet.
March 29, 2017
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I finally setup the 20m 1/4 Wave vertical this morning and started collecting WSPR data. I am run 1/2 Watt WSPR on 20m as NO5V/3 with this antenna. It is really fairly compact as only about 16 feet of mast is needed. I am using 12, 16 foot radials as before and am using the 1:1 current balun I made previously. It is less than 1.5 SWR across the whole 20m band. I’ll run this a couple of days and see what happens. I may try and lengthen this for 40m later this week.
March 27, 2017
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I installed the RA0SMS Mini-whip just in time to use it during the CQ WPX SSB contest this weekend. I use the N1MM Logger+ software during contests. This is a great piece of software with many many features useful in contesting. I am particularly fond of its “memory” and in alerting me to dupes. It connects to my rig via serial port which is ok but it has prevented me from using the panadapter at least until now. I am using a piece of software called VSPE (virtual serial port emulator) that allows multiple applications share the same serial port. In my case my rig is on COM11. The software creates a port called COM21 which can be used with multiple applications. This is useful as the HDSDR software is controlled using Ham Radio Deluxe to control my rig when using it as a panadapter.With this setup I can open HRD and HDSDR as I do during normal HF operations. This gives me the panadapter functionality. Then I can open N1MM Logger plus which links to the radio for frequency information during logging. Her is what the whole thing looks like while running:
The panadapter display is on top allowing me to see activity across the whole band and select with a click what I want to hear. The contest logger is running at the bottom. Ham radio deluxe is running but minimized as I don’t need its functionality other than rig control. The lower left shows HamCAP propagation prediction tool which is also useful in contests to see what directions I can expect to receive from.
Really happy with the way this worked out! I am a casual contester and generally use the opportunities to evaluate antennas. I made over 70 QSO’s during this contest over 30 prefixes on 40m, 20, 15m and 10m using the end fed vertical antenna.