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.
June 23, 2017
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My Field Day preps are done. Tested the EFHW and its ready to roll on 20m and 15m. There is 12Ahr of solar charged battery ready as well. I won’t be able to join the club at the NWS office as I have a commitment in the morning I have to deal with. I may start late but I am ready for operations in the backyard. Will get some water bottles and snacks for daytime ops. There is a 30% of rain tomorrow afternoon so I’ll keep an eye on that as well to see if I need to deploy the tarp tent. Rain means clouds so that may help moderate the heat. Today the NWS is advising people to stay indoors between 1pm and 5pm!
Tested the EFHW a bit and am finding Common Mode Current issues if I run higher than 90W. The SWR increases with power and foldback starts kicking in if I try and run at 100W. This should not be a problem on FD as I’ll be running at 5W where everything behaves itself. I’ll be trying computer logging this year as well. If things get real tough on Phone I plan to try PSK31 and have setup some DM78- macros for that.
Looking forward to a great Field Day in the outdoors!
June 4, 2017
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I have two more weekends to prep for 2017 ARRL Field Day. Next weekend I plan to test the Homebrew buddistick on 20m WSPR and compare to the 20m Buddipole I tested last week. I need to complete a 1:1 current balun for both of these antennas. I am also reconfiguring my go-kits. I have a case for solar power generation, another to carry gear for digital ops, and yet another for the FT-817ND and other equipment. I have also sourced a “tarp tent” which I hope to test next weekend as well. Just missing a field portable chair and table at this point. Need the shade and will need plenty of water as well.
My plan now is to run solar powered battery operation from start of the event on Saturday, run 20m & 15m through the day then switch to 40m once the sunsets and operate till the late evening. I will not likely operate on Sunday at all. I plan to start with SSB and switch to digital PSK31 if band conditions limit QRP SSB operation.
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.
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.
February 25, 2017
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Back in December, I setup the 20m EFHW antenna up as a 20m vertical and was able to make enough unique receive contacts to make the WSPR Challenge board.I have not since reproduced this performance. Today I started from scratch in a way. I first checked the matchbox I had built previously and confirmed the capacitor setting for 20m. This was dead on as before with a 3.9k Ohm resistor. Next up I replaced the 20 gauge wire with 16 gauge. This required about 30.5 feet to start out with . I setup the travel mast and the wire and then pruned it to resonance on the 20m capacitor position. I wired it up and immediately started seeing good performance on SSB compared to the end fed wire horizontal. There was a marked improvement in received signal strength. Running about an hour on WSPR showed 50 unique receive spots. Running JT65 is showing my signal making good rounds to Europe, South America and Japan.
I am going to play with this setup awhile and then turn it over to WSPR overnight and see how it does.
UPDATE: Should note that I made an SSB contact in South Carolina today and received a S9+10dB for the first time using this antenna. Right around dusk the travel mast collapsed and it was to dark to fix…sigh
February 22, 2017
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Haven’t operated much over the last few days but did manage to get some time on the air today. Didn’t have much luck on 20m and 17m today. For grins I moved over to 10m which has been really spotty lately and heard VP6EU on Pitcairn Island coming in about 57 with considerable QSB. He was working split up 5-10. It took awhile, mainly to hear him come in without fade but I was able to make contact with him. This is of course an nice addition to my Oceania contact log. Pitcairn Island was the final home of the HMS Bounty.
February 18, 2017
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Noticed that 17m has been open in the morning and early afternoon into Europe and Central & South America. I made some SSB contacts as well as a bunch of JT-65. So now I am operating a bit more as I recover from the surgery. Can’t really work on my antennas yet although I do have plans for installing the S9V31 soon. I will be laying out at least 16 radials and will use the LDG RT-100 remote tuner I just acquired used at the base of the antenna. Hopefully the doc will clear me to do some light work next week about the time the tuner arrives.
January 19, 2017
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I am on lesson 6 of the CW Academy course. We meet twice a week online via Skype. Our sixth meeting will be tomorrow evening. So far I have learned to recognize 17 characters of the alphabet. I learned two additional ones to complete my name and call sign. We have covered 6 out of ten numerical digits plus a question mark. I am finding my progress to be quite good in learning individual characters and in sending with these characters. We are learning at a 20 WPM rate. I can read a bit slower than I can send and I often need to hear it a few times to get it right. We are concentrating on doing head copy. Overall this is good progress compared to trying this alone. Expect to have the whole alphabet and numbers down in two more weeks. Will be practicing basic QSO’s after that.