Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Video of My Lunchtime Portable Operation

Yesterday, I shot a bunch of video while I was out operating during my lunchtime QRP session.

I got it all edited and it is ready for you to view!  This is my first video, so any comments or helpful advice is more than welcomed.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lunchtime Portable - It's been a while!

After reading about Mike, VE3WDM going portable, it got my blood pumping to get back out for some lunch time QRP operations!

So last night I tracked down the coax and put the gear in the Pilot.  It has cooled off a bit this week, it was only 83 deg here when I arrived at the park.  I quickly got the Portable QRP Antenna put up and was on the air!

I worked a total of 6 stations during my one hour of operation.  20 meters was decent stateside, but 17 meters was a disappointment.  17 meters has typically been my favorite band for some lunch time DX!

Here is the run down of todays activity:

W1AW/9 20 meters into Indiana
KW7D 17 meters Paul in New Mexico

I called CQ and...

K7TAN answered me - Don was in Idaho, we had a brief QSO which was nice.

Then back to search and pounce...

K6TW was activating W6/CT-003 Mt. San Antonio which is east of Los Angeles.  I would really like to be a SOTA activator sometime!

W1AW/9 this time on 17 meters

and finally...

W0FV was calling CQ on 20 meters and was very loud!  Doug was in Grand Junction, CO - we had a brief contact as he gave me a 359 RST.  Thanks for pulling me out Doug!

Then it was time to head back to work, so I quickly pulled everything down and headed back to the office.

Another fun lunch time portable QRP session in the books!

Monday, July 28, 2014

IARU HF World Championship 2014 Results

Click to Enlarge - I am towards the bottom!
A couple weeks ago the IARU HF World Championship 2014 was held.  It started at 7:00 AM local time on Saturday morning and ended 7:00 AM local time on Sunday morning.

I have been wanting to work a big contest, and I was able to squeeze a few hours of "shack time" into my schedule on Saturday.

I hit the ground running on Saturday morning right when the contest started.  I did a bit of band hopping for the next 90 minutes.  Then I was able to get back on about 3:00 pm local for an hour, then back on again about 11:00 pm local for an hour or so.

I worked 55 stations during this limited operating time.  I worked mostly stateside stations, but I was able to pick up a couple DX contacts as well.

The only HQ station I worked was W100AW - which was a thrill.  I also worked stations in Canada, Bermuda, Europe, Jamaica and Brazil.  I also worked Hawaii several times, which I had never done before.

Here is the breakdown per band:
40 Meters: 34 Contacts
20 Meters: 5 Contacts
15 Meters: 15 Contacts (This would have been more productive if I had more time in the afternoon)
10 Meters: 1 Contact

The good news about my high noise level at the QTH is that if I can hear them, I can almost surely work them.  I think I only called 2 people that I did not end up working.

I operated "search and pounce" the entire contest.  Starting at one end of the band and working my way to the other end.  One thing I found interesting is that I would finish scanning from end to end, then start over.  On the next pass I would hear stations I didn't hear on the first past.  Very interesting!

The other thing I was happy to see is that I was not last!  I uploaded my scores to 3830scores.com and as you can see in the image above, I was not last.

I will officially submit my score to the contest, just to eventually see my call sign in print.

This was very fun!  I know I will never by a big gun contest station, but contests are a great way to improve your CW speed, operating skills, and have lots of fun!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Random Antenna Musings and Power Line Noise

As I have shared in the past I have a 66' dipole in the attic fed with ladder line.  I live in a HOA controlled neighborhood so my antenna options are pretty limited.

Last night I set WSPR up running 2 watts on 20 meters.  Started about 2200 UTC.  Wow it really seemed open.  My 2 watts was spotted multiple times into Europe, Alaska and all over the USA.  This antenna does not have a problem getting out.

The problem with my antenna setup is on receive.  I have minimum S5 noise on 40 and 30 meters.  Typically S7 on 20 meters.  Interestingly enough 15 is quieter and 10 meters is typically S2 or so.  The noise is static with some noticeable "crackling".

Last night on WSPR was a great example.  I was getting heard ALL over, but I was only decoding about 2 or 3 stations - all in the USA.  Also on PSK31 or JT-65 I see guys working DX that I can't even here or see on the waterfall - my noise level is just too high.

Sometime soon I am going to cut all the power to my QTH and see what the noise level is.  If significantly reduced, I will see what I identify as noise sources in my QTH.

Beyond that, less than a 1/4 mile as the crow flies I have identified some very noisy power lines.  They are so noisy that it they will completely blank the AM radio in your car when you drive past them.

Here is a picture of where my house sits in relation to the power lines (my dipole runs parallel to the power lines):

Blue marker is my QTH - Red line is power line (X's are noisy poles)
I will be contacting the utility company at some point, but first I want to see how much of the noise is coming from my own QTH.

I think the other problem with my poor receive performance is that fact that the antenna is in the attic.  I have been thinking about some solutions to get some wire outside the house to see if that can help.

I have to be very stealth, for both the happiness of the XYL and the HOA :)

I was thinking about setting up a long wire using the 9:1 UNUN that I use for my Portable QRP Antenna - only using trees and setting it up as an inverted L.

You can see in the picture below, I have 2 trees that are taller than my house.  The tree on the left, which is the front of the house will hold the vertical portion of the wire, and then it will run horizontal to the tree on the right, which is in the back of the house.  

Red markers are trees - red line would be horizontal leg of inverted L
I am thinking if I use like a 22 or 24 gauge grey wire it should be almost invisible.  The horizontal leg will be about 25' fee in the air.  All told I should be able to get about 70-80 feet of wire for the inverted L.

I will probably wait until the leaves drop this fall to make it easier to fish the wires through the trees.  I just wonder how much of a difference getting wire in the clear will make to my receive quality and noise issues.

I guess that's enough rambling for today.  If you have any thoughts I would be happy to hear them!



Monday, July 21, 2014

What is This? Digital Modes on KX3

I have been having a blast lately with digital modes like PSK-31 and JT-65/JT-9.  My little KX3 is doing a great job even without having run the temperature compensation. Of course I am keeping my power to 2 or 3 watts - which helps a lot.

I have noticed a strange thing for a while, but I am just now getting around to asking about it.

When I look at the waterfall there is an area that is basically blanked out - for lack of a better term.

Here is a screen shot of the waterfall in WSJTX (JT-65).  You will notice the black area on the left.

Waterfall of WSJTX - What is "black" on left edge?
As you can see there is an area on the left that is in the frequency range, but it is "blacked out".  I wonder how many signals are in this area?

Those if you with a KX3 or those of you that might know what this is - please let me know!  If you know how to fix this, please let me know that as well!

I am looking forward to hearing the responses - I appreciate the help!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

China heard on JT-65? Call 3T4CAV?

Did I really hear China on 40M JT-65?
Last night I played around some more with JT-65.  The band conditions did not appear to be as good as they were the other night.  I was on both 20m and 40m.

I worked a few stateside stations in the 40 minutes I played on the bands.

When I looked at PSK Reporter this morning I was greatly surprised to see one of the stations that I had spotted.  It must have been one of the very first decodes I had after firing the rig up.

3T4CAV - in CHINA!  I can't find this call sign on any of the online databases, so I don't know if this is a mistake in the database, I guess I doubt it is, but this is pretty amazing.  And the signal report was -5db - which is actually a pretty strong signal report on JT-65.

I don't remember seeing the decode on my screen, but I could have missed it as I was getting everything configured.

Anyway, that is pretty amazing if true.

Judging by the location of spots (both sent and received) around the country and down to South America, my 66' ladder fed dipole in the attic seems to be working pretty well for this mode.

I do see lots of stateside stations working DX that I am unable to decode, so I think my initial feeling that receive is weak could still be true.  But its not stopping me from having fun on this mode!

Monday, June 30, 2014

First JT-65A Contacts!

JT-65 Spots on 40 Meter with 2 Watts
Over the weekend I setup WSJT-X on my old XP computer.  I let it do some decoding off and on over the weekend on several bands - and I was decoding well!

So last night I went down to the shack about 0350 UTC and fired up the rig on 40 meters.  I set WSJT-X to 40 meters and started seeing several signals on the waterfall, and decodes started coming in.

Over the next 45 minutes I worked 6 stations - 5 on JT-65 and one on JT-9.  It was pretty much back to back QSO's which was fun.  I have read a few people complain about the slow speed, and the short contest style exchange.

I actually loved both aspects on this mode!  I am really not much of a rag chewer, I prefer the hit and run style of contacts.  The speed didn't seem abnormally slow to me, about the same length of time a typical CW QSO takes at my speed.

Anyway, this mode is a blast, especially in my noisy environment.  The weak signals still come through and get decoded in the noise.

Here are the stations I worked:

WB0N - Bert in Minnesota JT-65
NC7L - Robert in Arizona JT-65
W6PDP - Charles in California JT-65
K7IPP - Neil in Arizona JT-65
KF7DRU - David in Arizona JT-9
KI5PM - Ken in Texas JT-65

This was a very fun session playing radio!  I will definitely be back to the JT modes for more contacts. 

On a side note - my little 2 watt signal was decoded in Switzerland as well!  Not bad for 2 watts on 40 meters from an attic antenna.  I did see a couple decodes of stations in South America, but I did not work them, or attempt to work them.

If you haven't ventured into the digital modes, what are you waiting for?  Jump in and have some fun!