December 12, 2017
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Tips for FT-8 DXers by Gary Hinson, ZL2IFB is online at the WSJT website. Nice tips on using FT-8. Check it out.
November 28, 2017
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Tried 20m FT-8 early this morning as VOACAP indicated this was the best time for EU contacts on this band. My signals were heard toward the Northeast US but very few were heard in the EU. I made no QSO’s. WSPR results over 24 hours are here:
This data appears to confirm that this antenna is directional (I have it pointed at a 45° bearing from my QTH) but the F/B ratio is still relatively poor. The antenna is about the same as the 1/4 wave vertical overall. I must say that my single reports in the forward direction on SSB have been very good. Propagation on 20m is not helping. VOACAP shows the following based on 100W SSB with the receiving antenna based on a dipole at 10m:
20m has been largely dead after dark. This chart indicates that 20m contacts with this combination of antennas and power will be challenging to the EU.
Overall, The ground beam – QEC antenna is an easy to carry and deploy vertical antenna with just enough directionality to help in some situation. It is well suited to my QTH on filed day as it has a wide enough bandwidth to cover the USA and Canada.
November 27, 2017
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I previously reported on m y attempt top build a 2 element vertical parasitic beam antenna based on a design by JP1QEC. My first attempt had mixed results and I beileve the lengths I used were incorrect and tuning was negatively influenced by proximity to a metal hurricane fence.
I contacted Mot-San, JP1QEC and he provided my with additional information including a recent article that was published in QRP Quarterly. Here is the configuration based on Mot-San’s design:
I followed this design and supported the vertical elements with the fiberglass fishing poles. It is pointed to radiate at a bearing of 45° (NE) from my QTH. First tests showed the minimum SWR was around 13.2 Mhz. I shortened the counterpoise wires by about 4 feet and that brought the min SWR to the middle of the band:
So the first question is whether it is directional. It is. Here is a plot of FT-8 spots after a few minutes of calling CQ:
Hard to tell if I have reasonable forward gain improvement. So far very little activity to Europe has resulted. Best conditions to the EU would be at 7am local time so I’ll try tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have received excellent reports on SSB domestically. A quick A vs B with the 1/4 wave vertical showed about 1S unit improvement with a conact I made in Colorado. This would imply some gain.
So far so good. I’ll play with this some more over the next few days. This does look like a potentially good antenna to use on Field day as it provides good reports and is easy to setup in the field.
November 15, 2017
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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:
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:
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.
November 7, 2017
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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.
October 18, 2017
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For the past three or four months I was having great success early in the morning with 40m JT-65 contacts to Asia on the 1/4 wave vertical antenna. The band would be great at around 6:45 am and be open till around 8:30 am. Japan especially would be easy to make contacts with on JT-65.
I have been noticing a definite shift in early morning 40m to Asia. First, I should note that JT-65 activity has dropped off quite a bit now that FT-8 is getting so rapidly popular. Just in the last few weeks I have noticed a drastic reduction in the number of JT-65 spots showing on pskreporter. The second observation is that the band seems to open to Asia a bit later now from about 7:30 am to about 8:30 am.
So this morning I started out trying JT-65 and made two contacts to Japan but there were very few signals on the waterfall. FT-8 had much more activity overall. I switched to FT-8 and started calling CQ DX and the first response was from Indonesia. The next 8 QSO’s were from Japan.
Overall, I have mixed felling about this. I enjoy the early morning pace of JT-65. I can check my emails while checking the bands. FT-8 takes quite a bit more work and attention. One other effect is that FT-8 is a bit more difficult to close a weak signal QSO. It is easy for the signals to drop below the noise floor and disappear between transmissions.
October 5, 2017
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I prepared a short how-to on setting up and ICOM-7300 with WSJT-X for working digital modes. If you can get this working, other digital software can be easily configured in a similar fashion. The file can be found on the “Projects” page or from this link:
ICOM 7300 Setup with WSJT-X
August 23, 2017
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I spent some time playing with the new IC-7300 transceiver this weekend on various modes. My first comment is that having used an IC-7100 for some time I was instantly familiar with about 90% of the IC-7300 controls. Most of the buttons are labeled the same and many of the setting menus are also the same. First thing I installed was a headset adapter so I can use the Koss SB-45 headset. I needed a plug adapter (which I luckily had on hand) to plug in my Vibroplex paddles. Rig control via Ham Radio Deluxe was fairly straightforward as the USB drivers are the same as the IC-7100. I started operating on 20m during the North America QSO party on Saturday with the 1/4 wave verticals.
My first impressions are that the rig works well (and possibly better) than the IC-7100 on SSB. My signal reports were solid 59’s and occasionally 59+ all across the USA. Also made some DX with favorable reports. Receive options make it easy to adjust RF gain controls and filters to help clean up the signals. I like the overload indicator which tells me to back off on the preamp or RF gain or both. The main learning curve for me thus far is in using the scope screen. Once you play with this awhile you get used to operating more visually. You can see whats going on across the whole band and find signals to tune into or find dead spots where the frequency is open. It is also easy to switch in the audio monitor to hear what you are transmitting.
Also tested digital modes JT-65, FT-8 and PSK31 after configuring the software for the rig. The audio scope helps look at the signal quality on digital modes. I did not find any notable differences in using the 7300 vs the 7100 on digital.
So overall I am impressed by the new rig especially on SSB Phone. I’ll likely expand on this review as I get some more time on the rig but I am happy with what I have seen thus far.
The IC-7100 is now setup as my base VHF/UHF rig and I hope to play with DSTAR on it for the first time sooner rather than later. I will continue to have it connected to my PC for rig control and can switch in HF when needed.