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!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

CWT Mini-Contest - QRP Style

In my continuing effort to evaluate my attic dipole, several guys have given me advice to get on during a contest because the activity level is higher on the bands and I could better evaluate what I can hear.

Every Wednesday (local) evening from 0300-0400Z (Thursday) the CW Operators Club has a mini-contest the call CWT.  The exchange is name and member number or name and state if a non-member.

These guys are serious CW operators, and I knew the pace would be fast.  I downloaded N1MM for logging as they have a dedicated module for the contest.  They also have a call history file that you can load which allows you to enter the call and it matches the name and member number up for you.

So I had everything setup and ready. I started on 20 meters and heard some activity.  I made one contact there before heading to 40 meters.

On 40 meters the band was filled with signals - this warmed my heart after my recent worries with my antenna!

CW was being sent very fast - but after several listens I could usually get the call.  I just looked at the scores here - I ended up last in the QRP category, but NOT last in the contest!

I ended the night with 6 QSO's during the hour long contest.  Honestly, I am happy with those results.  My goal was 10 contacts, but I learned some valuable lessons which will help me next time!

Here is the list of my contacts (all CW Ops Members):
K1BG Bruce 20M - MA
N1LN Bruce 40M - NC
KC4D Bill 40M - VA
N5ZO Marko 40M - CA
AD4EB Jim 40M - TN
N5AW Marv 40M - TX

So I worked 6 different states - MA, NC, VA, CA, TN, TX - coast to coast!

Thanks to those that pulled my QRP signal out!  I will be back to this contest in the future!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Just get on the air!

So after my complaining in my post yesterday, I had a chance last night at about 11:00 pm local (0400 Z) to get to the shack and spin the dial on 40 meters.

I heard several QSO's going on - including N1CC calling CQ.  He was a bit faster than I like, but I could at least copy his call and CQ CENT.  I heard a couple guys work him and when he called CQ again, I threw out my call.

He came right back to me for a quick contest style exchange.  Jim is down in Texas and is VERY ACTIVE!  H says on his QRZ page he has had over 16,000 QSO's in 2014.

He is also offering a special QSL card for the centennial year.  I might have to take him up on that.

He also does a Christmas Carol special event station at Christmas.  Very interesting guy, and a fun contact.

I also heard a few 4 zone stations in QSO's as I tuned around 40 meters.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Still struggling to hear....or am I?

I still think something is just not quite right with my setup.  If you remember from a few posts back I installed a 66' ladder fed dipole in the attic.  I thought this would increase my reception ability, but now I am not to sure.

Maybe I am just spoiled by the low noise floor when operating portable in the park, but across multiple weekends and multiple evenings I am beginning to think I just don't hear as well with the attic antenna.

Sure the noise floor is higher, about S5 - which can be helped with the NR and the ATT, but I just don't hear signals like I think I should.

For example, typical weeknight on 40 meter CW about 11:00 pm local time.  I hear maybe 2 or 3 QSO's.  During the weekend days, I have scanned 30 meters thru 10 meters - CW and SSB portions of the band, and hear nothing - may one or two QSO's but that is it.

I read about others working DX and plenty of local stations with an attic mounted dipole.

I have worked people on PSK31 on 20 meters in the evenings - even some DX to South America - but overall the signals in general seem very weak.

It just seems like it is more than the higher noise floor that is impacting my operating.

The thing that has me most confused is that when I don't hear anyone, and then decided to call CQ, I almost always make a contact.

I have not gotten on during a contest, even a QRP sprint, which might be a better way to gauge what I am hearing - I suppose I need to do this.

Am I just expecting more activity than there actually is?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Meet KE0ATH...

Nick (KE0ATH) and his new Baofeng UV5
So Nick's info showed up on the FCC site today.  His call is KE0ATH.

Nick is a great, hard working, fun loving teenager - we are very proud of him.

He will be a Junior next year in High School and is spending the summer running his mowing business, playing radio and building a few projects.

This year he also completed the requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout and had his Eagle Court of Honor in May.

It is so much fun to watch your children develop into young adults, especially when they are as solid as Nick is!

Love you son!