Thursday, 20 April 2017

More portable tests

Had one evening to do final tests. I think all the radio gear is still too heavy. I use 8 Mtr Aircell7 coax and a small piece of 3 Mtr RG58 with a home made window "throughput". The Aircell is heavier then RG58 but has considerable less loss, it is a choice. I still think the VOX modem can be build smaller and another heavy weight is the SWR meter. I don't put the antennas in the backpack as it will travel in a corner of the cars trunk.

Anyway, had a few hours to test the superantenna MP-1 for the upcoming portable event. This antenna is small and doesn't weight much. It is not too tall so it will not be visible by others when standing on a side of a house. Didn't change much on the antenna but last year it felt on the ground and I had to repair the telescopic part again which is in my opinion the weakest part of the whole antenna. I decided to make a spare telescope antenna and take it with me...however I didn't have the time to actually test this "new" homemade part.

I chose the 40m band and build the antenna in the garden just beneath my shack. Complete setup takes about 5 minutes. It includes the tripod, antenna and the 4 wire radials. The tripod is held firmly on the ground by extra guylines and tent pegs. This tripod is not suitable for use on concrete or rocky soil as it is just too light and the antenna and tripod will be blown over by the wind.

After some tweaking the SWR was almost perfect. Unfortenately on 40m bandwidth with SWR beneath 1:2 is only 100 KHz. Doesn't matter for me, tweaking is not difficult.

Great, ready to go.....forgot something....

Had to do some tests of course...some PSK31/63 tests didn't work. Don't know if it is the modulation on FLdigi or just the QRM on the receiving stations site. However JTDX did a great job! It does surprisingly well on my old Windows XP laptop.

First station received was JF3VAX from Japan. Both antenna and software still are amazing!
Made only one QSO with RN3ZRD from european russia and got a -21dB report. I was TXing with 5W.


A QSL is the final courtesy of a QSO. I know as that is one of my own rules. So I have to apologize. It took almost a half year since I updated clublog and  LoTW. I did update eQSL but didn't look after the QSL received after that. QSL (confirmation of a contact) is a important part of our radio hobby but all the administration that comes with it does take time and for many this is not a hobby within the radio hobby. Anyway, I once again decided to take another batch of my received paper QSL cards to the garbage. I'm so sorry but I think the paper QSL era is really over, it is not of this time anymore and I think it will disappear in the future. It's my opinion and I'm not afraid to write it down here. I guess there are a lot of HAM radio operators that will not agree! However as long as the paper QSL exists I will follow the "QSL code of conduct". Of course I did not throw away everything....I kept the QSL cards from exotic stations and those that I want to remember because they have a personal meaning for me. I like QSL cards that you can tell a story about...

Here are some of those QSL cards I kept and will not throw away:

AH0K Mariana Islands worked 26 Oct 2014 on 10m SSB. My first QSO with this exotic Island

BW2/JP1RIW Taiwan worked 30 March 2013 on 15m SSB still my only QSO with Taiwan

EI9KC Ark from Ireland worked 6 Jan 2016 on 80m SSB in one of the UK-EI contests. Ark has his own interesting blog. Although it has been a while ago since he wrote something there.

FT4TA Tromelin Island worked 9 November 2014 on 10m SSB. Not always easy to break pile-ups but this one was easy for me.

KH2F Guam Island worked 19 Oct. 2013 20m RTTY. Another exotic location at the other side of the world for me.

OH2YOTA Finland worked 18 Jul. 2014 40/20m SSB. Youngsters On The Air activation. Story behind this QSL can be read here.

OQ5M Belgium worked 15 dec 2013 on 10m SSB. I worked Franki on backscatter. Actually normal skip to Belgium occurs only in summer if you're lucky, it is just too nearby. Story and video can be found here. Frank has a nice blog but has a busy family live just like me and not much time left for radio.

P40BC Aruba worked 27 Sept 2015 on 15m RTTY. A happy island for shure but not heard very often. This contact was made in a contest. Most of the small islands seems to have contest stations that you can rent for a activation. It's someones bussines...

LA/PA3FYG/P SOTA LA/RL-061 Aslandsnuten Norway worked 16 Jul 2014 on 40m SSB. Can you see yourself sitting on a mountain top making contacts? Well Hans does, read the story behind the QSL from this QSO here.

PA45FREEDOM worked 16 May 2015 on 40m SSB. With a group of friends across the Netherlands activating 8 different stations in the month of may 2015. It was great to participate. Read my story here.

PA61ZRK worked 8 Feb. 2014 on 40m SSB. On front of the QSL is the transmitter that was used for emergency traffic when there was the big flood disaster in 1953.

PB7Z worked 8/9 Feb 2014 on 160/80/20 SSB. But worked Bernard on almost all bands. We are radio friends since a long time. I think the first time I talked to him was around 1990 on the 11m band. We are both HAM radio operators and stil enjoy the hobby. I meet him a lot in contests. Another big hobby of him are husky dogs and fishing. Bernard lives about 50km south of my QTH.

PB14MILL worked 10 May 2014 (national mill day) on 40m SSB. Another project from PB7Z and friends. They "activate" this mill every year via HAM radio. I want to do a similair project in the future if time allows as I live close to a polder mill which has never been activated before.

PE1BVQ worked 9 Sept. 2014 on 80m SSB in the PA-beker contest. Actually I know Hans from his comments on my blog. We met a few times personally and went to a radio rally with him. We are planning to do that again this year. Hans is truly my most loyal blog reader!

PF5T worked 13 Feb 2016 in the PACC contest on 80m SSB. Frank is a follower of my blog and does his comment most time with a e-mail. Frank is doing QRP most of the time and has a busy family live as well.

S9TF Principe Island worked 8 Feb 2014 on 10m SSB. One of those exotic islands you never hear on the bands. My first and only contact. It will take some years before we can hear such DX again on the 10m band.

UX5UO Ukraine worked 21 Okt. 2013 on 15m SSB. I worked Gennady a couple of times now. It is my QSL printer and shure recognizes you on air if you did business with him. Nice to say hello and thank you personally to him over the radio.

VK0EK Heard Island worked 7 Apr 2017 on 40m CW. Heard Island on of the most remote places on earth. It took the DXpedition 2 weeks to get there from south africa. I took me several evenings before I was in the log with a error, it was corrected within a day. Read my story here.

VK9XSP Christmas Island worked 27 okt 2014 on 10m SSB. I remember that it was one of my lucky QSOs. Pointing the antenna, made the call, made the QSO.

ZD8O Ascension Island worked 29 Okt 2011. Another exotic island which is not heard very often on the radio. Can't remember the QSO well but it is still a nice card from a far away place.

Well, I hope you readers enjoyed the stories and background of some of my QSL cards. I have some more but for now this is it. 30-20 years ago I stored everything in maps. I was still on 11m CB radio and have confirmation of about 240 DXCC there. On CB you haven't got QSL bureaus and need to send everything by post which makes QSLs more valuable of course. I have lots of QSL cards from that time that are more valuable to me then any of my HAM radio QSL cards. Sometimes when I look through those old maps I really get a warm feeling and wish the 11m CB DX bands could be a legal part of our radio experimentation as well. Time will tell...

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Preliminary portable digi tests

Unfortenately I'm not a fulltime experimental radio researcher. Wish I was and could do that for a job. Just experimenting with antenna's, setup, power, supplies etc. ect. Unfortenately the real world is different. I have my 45 hour a week job and besides that my family which are both very important. The 5 or 10 minutes left are for radio experiments and writing articles for this blog is done in the evening or at lunchbreaks on my job.

Sorry for the blurry photo. The modem is inside
the white box beneath the FT-817. Nice and tiny.
Since a light weight portable activation is upcoming I'm trying to have my portable radio package as small and light as possible. I already downsized my power supply. I now had to downsize my soundcard modem and yes, you can buy things. But I still had my unfinished prototype of Julian G4ILO's design VOX modem. I decided to take that and finish it. I already had a case to build the print in and after a first test it seems to work reasonable. Only problem was a much too high input and output signal which I solved with 5K trimmer potentiometers in the line. Now I have a decent signal in the waterfall and can transmit without ALC reading on the radio. I left the test setup running as duty called, actually I forgot it till next day. The problem always is that I have to leave my shack during experimentation as there is always something more important to do.

This are the results so far on 20m with 1W on the base antenna which is a coppertape vertical at 9m high.

Red spots are received, green spots are sent
Software is JTDX 17.6.1 which is doing fine on my old XP laptop. So far I only made one short QSO on PSK63 with FLdigi. I then noticed I should sort out the macros for transmitting. Time to do some more tests if there is still time left.