Saturday, April 30, 2016

OD5PY at his Sunrise

The bands are a little noisy tonight but I managed to pull OD5PY out of the mud.  Marwan was in and out on 30M CW.  I seem to be working a LOT of 30 CW lately, making many contacts.  

Barely a trail in the waterfall 

Band noise was running -111dBm with some QSB

Even the skimmerfall showed only a few dots.  It took a few calls in order for him to fill in my call.  I was hearing him fine.  Soon enough we were in each others logs.  

Gratifying QSO Marwan tnx es 73


Thursday, April 28, 2016

VU2GSM India at Sundown

The internet and its tools are amazing.  Tonight I was noodling around the bands at sundown and heard Kanti VU2GSM on 30M.  I looked him up on google maps and he was as is above, BUT I could drill down to his very QTH

So I'm talking to a guy almost 9000 miles away and I can see he lives across the street from the Arora grocery store north east of New Delhi.  Mind blowing detail.  

He was on 30M and I was about 15 minutes from sundown, perfect grayline time.  You can see the grayline almost smack over his head.

He was working simplex, mostly W2's.  Nice fist about 20 per and good ears.  I called a couple times and he came right back. 

As you can see from the waterfall he wasn't very strong but good Q5 except for some QSB.

My band noise on 30M tonight is about -116 dBm.  We exchanged reports QTH and names and 73's and he was on to the next contact.  Nice QSO.  He popped up on 40M and I thought I might get the daily double but no dice.

73  W9OY

Sunday, April 24, 2016

LEO's come of Age

I was never much of a space nut in terms of enthusiasm.  Some guys went nuts with all kinds of computer controlled AZ-EL ground stations etc.  My contribution was to drill some holes in a broom stick and poke some #10 wire through to make a beam and put that on a tripod next to a lawn chair.  I  remember when QST was full of news about  LEO (low earth orbit) Oscar satellites etc.  I made some contacts and learned a little bit and it was all very interesting but where's the practicality?   I even set up a ground station one field day to provide the ISS points.  That was fun, totally minimalist.  I remember there was a port and forward packet radio contingent where you could store and forward messages.  Precursors, all precursors.  Ham radio continues to be cutting edge IMHO.

Fast  forward about 30 years.  I came to FL when I was in the Navy in 1989.  I was an anesthesiologist/critical care/pain management specialist at NHO the naval hospital attached to the Naval Training Center (NTC) in Orlando.  Eventually I got out when NTC closed.  I moved around FL and wound up in Titusville.  Titusville is part of the space coast.  My hospital was the designated NASA hospital in case of disaster and I could look out the window and see the vehicle assembly building directly across the Indian River.  There were rockets going off all the time and my house was 13 miles from the shuttle launch pads.  I knew it was 13 miles since I could watch the candle light to the SSE and 61 sec later I would hear the noise.  Since sound travels at 1127 fps at sea level I was 13 miles away.  I knew that physics would come in handy.  

So my life progressed in a space community.  It was the local industry with employees from a 70+ mile radius filtering into my berg every morning.  Then the shuttle went away and doom and gloom, except this is America and we don't doom and gloom it for long.  Private space has taken hold.  We have Bezos we have Musk we have United Space Alliance and half a dozen others.  What Silicon Valley is to high tech, Titusville is to space.  

Just released:  OneWeb

LEO's are going commercial.  The idea is to promulgate a grid of LEO's across the sky giving internet access to everyone who needs it.  Imagine a train of LEO's flying over head.  As soon as one goes out of sight another comes into range and all you need is a ground station therefore to have continuous access.  This leapfrogs the infrastructure hurdle and it also leapfrogs the attempt by governments to put a lid on information.  An African village can set up a ground station, access the LEO system and then the ground station could act as a repeater to cell phones and tablets around the village.  Now I find LEO's VERY exciting.  We were flying satellites and port and forwarding messages decades ago and now look what's happened.  

73  W9OY

VK2IR on the Long Path

This morning I was in the shack futzin around and I flipped on 40M and it was DEAD DEAD.  It was my own fault since I slept in any hope of grayline or exotic DX was long gone, or so I thought.  I turned on 30M to maybe find a domestic QSO and heard VK2IR tearing it up on 10.112

He was so loud I was amazed.  S9 at 8 AM long path?  LP to FL from the continent of Australia is about 15500 miles, a fur piece.  

We exchanged pleasantries and I put him in the log, and I looked VK2IR up on QRZ and I came to understand he was using a SteppIR dream beam on 30M.  I sat and listened for about an hour as he continued to knock off one after another simplex in a very casual fashion, while I was doing other things and even an hour later he was still smokin into FL.  Ham radio has changed a bit.  It's still in many ways the same as when I started 53 years ago with a XTAL 6L6 and a Hallicrafters S40B.  The same satisfaction of making a QSO with a distant station under remarkable conditions, but now I can look someone up as well and get a whole different insight into their life.  I can look up the place they are operating from, and often view their station location on a satellite image.  Sometimes I can even see the beam in the back yard.  Amazing.

73  W9OY

Friday, April 22, 2016

V63GG Micronesia in a Minute

Yap Island FSM QTH of V63GG

Dropped by the shack this morning to check the email before heading out the door.  V63GG was spotted on 40M and I thought "yea right.." but I clicked the spot anyway on SpotCollector and that automatically brought up my station, amp, and correct antenna choice to V63GG's freq.  I didn't even check the SWR or power out.  There was no time to waste and I knew everything was ready to pounce if he was there.   Seemed at first like nothing, nada, no one calling, then  -.-. --.-  one dBm out of the noise.  I powered up the amp,  (I LOVE instant on amps) turned down the keyer speed and gave him a call.  The iron was hot so I struck!  The result:

The terminator was quickly approaching as day was breaking.

And he was growing in strength with grayline enhancement.  Others were now calling him simplex

I captured these pics a couple minutes after I logged him and you can get some idea of his strength in the skimmer screen and at the bottom of the pan/waterfall, 

Band noise was -105 dBm on the average and V63GG was -104 dBm with 3 dBm peak variability

The band was quiet but I didn't have time to grab a lightning tracker shot.  What I had was all I needed to get the job done, Flex 6500, ALS-1300, 1/2 wave end fed vertical on 40M, all integrated with my logging and spotting software.  I was nano seconds from being late getting out the door, so out I went.  Never did get the email checked but that is the job of my cellphone anyway.  As I drove away the sun was in my eyes just peeking over the tree line as I drove due east toward the Atlantic, the grayline had arrived.  Micronesia in the log, in one minute.  Nice way to start my Friday  :)   

73  W9OY

Thursday, April 21, 2016

KH8/KC0W American Samoa

KC0W is out on the road doing his "Cows over the World CW DXpedition".   This morning I flipped on the rig and heard V73NS on his usual 7.035 and I looked at the DX world map in DXLab suite and saw a couple other blips listed

One was T32TV in East Kiribati on 40M SSB (the red dot ENE of the blue dot) and the other was Tom KH8/KC0W (the blue dot) burning up the band.  I don't do SSB DXing so I focused on KH8/KC0W.

My band noise was -106 dBm and he was peaking as high as -86 dBm.   Mercifully the static was low and the band pretty well settled with A at 4 and K at 1.

The lightning map I use is real time and you can watch the strike on the map and it often corresponds to the static crash you hear.  Sometimes you can use this this visual/audio correspondence as a propagation tool.

His sigs were nice and strong  

You can see the relative intensity of his signal on the waterfall below the 7.021 slice, and the corresponding skimmer signal next to the 599.  The pileup was minimal so I figured were he was listening, up 1.4 and gave him a call and was rewarded with immediate success, a nice 40M band fill.

I'm not super big on bandfills but I do like 80M 40M and 30M bandfills.  I'm going to be looking for this cat on the rest of his itinerary.  He is a good op with good ears.  Some interesting places are scheduled.  Time to get ready for work

73  W9OY

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

V73NS Marshall Island

Florida is the biosphere.  Every biologic such as pollen there is we get in spades year round.  I don't use much in the way of antihistamines or nasal sprays since the antihistamines tend to mess with one's neurochemistry and sleep and nasal sprays tend to have a rebound addictive quality.  The more you use the more you need to use.  My solution is saline up the schnoz and postural drainage when my nose gets socked in.  This morning I woke up about 4 all clogged up, and got up and wandered into the shack to hear who I could hear, and who I could hear was V73NS on Marshall.  I always have trouble with Neil as the path is fraught with deep fading QSB.  Just about the time I make contact he fades into oblivion, only to come back in a while.

The band was empty and conditions were quite noisy, sounding more like July than April, but he was knocking off a few stations one at a time simplex as he is want to do, at about 33 wpm.

All of those bright green lines against the dark blue is severe static.  I checked the lightning map and about the only stuff active was in Oklahoma 

Even the Atlantic was quiet so not sure where all the noise was coming from but it sure was coming.  I gave him a couple calls, after waiting my turn and he came back and we exchanged reports.

By now I was breathing again so headed back to bed well satisfied.  Neil V73NS is an excellent op, and it was a pleasure to catch him on the air.

73  W9OY

Saturday, April 16, 2016

EP2A bang bang 30M then 40M

It's prom day at my QTH and I was out getting some pics of my 17 y.o. and her BF on their way to the dance.  i got the pics, kissed her on the head, told her she was beautiful and headed back into the house.   As I walked by the shack I decided to see if I could hear Iran on 30M or 40M.  Both bands were being spotted but I still had an hour of daylight so I figured chances were slim... hmmm maybe not so slim...

They were 10 dBm out of the noise on 30m, so I found a likely place where I thought EP2A was listening and pulled the trigger and he came back in 2 calls.  I logged him at 23:06z.  I thought I'd click over to 40M expecting nothing... wait a minute 

he was 4 dBm out of my noise and Q5 on 40m soooo I flipped on the amp... 
He was in the log at 23:13

Not bad 2 EP2A QSO's on 2 bands in the log in 7 minutes before dinner!   These guys are doing well, nice sigs good ops.  

73  W9OY 

Friday, April 15, 2016


I've made about 2 RTTY contacts in my life.  I worked W1AW/3 and W1AW/9 using the 6300 and Winwarbler from the DXLab suite back in 2014.  The setup was kind of primitive in those days and the only way I could figure how to run split was to use XIT.  With the redesign of DAX in the most recent SSDR release it has become child's play to set this up with 2 Slices.

My goal was to see if I could hear EP2A which started a DXpedition today, a day early.  They were on 30M RTTY.  I've gone through several computers since 2014 and never bothered to set up any digital modes, so I figured I'd at least set up RX and see if I could print them.  I scratched my head for a few and opened up WinWarbler and set up the Flex DAX channels which are recognized by WW as virtual sound cards.

I set up the RTTY tab

I then turned on the DAX channels in the DAX control panel.

And made sure I had DAX 1 turned on in VFOA

Set the transmit profile to RTTY default 

And the mode and filters to RTTY, 400hz BW

And the dang thing started decoding

He had a pretty good signal so I decided to see if I could get TX running also.   Flex used to have a separate TX and RX audio channel for each slice but in the redesign they collapsed the TX channel down to 1, and made that channel follow the TX flag in the slice.  This way your TX signal simply followed which slice was transmitting.  Super smart move.  This makes working split child's play, and improves compatibility with terminal programs.  No more XIT and no more guessing where you are transmitting, and I could click tune the pan adapter to my heart's content.  So I set up that DAX channel and hit start in WW and nothing happened.  When in doubt RTFM.  I googled "Flex RTTY DXlab" and found this document  All I needed to know! 

I next set up PTT which was the missing link and the reason nothing happened.  DXLab connects to my Flex in a client/server fashion with it's own IP address instead of via CAT so I didn't have to mess around trying to get CAT ports to fire PTT.  Can you say BLESSING!

And added a couple of macros to WW's alternate macro screen

This allowed me to start send my call 3 times and stop with 1 button press.  The second sent  start W9OY 599 and TU stop.  I turned down the power in the 6500 and did a couple dry runs and things worked perfectly, so I cranked the power back up and commenced to try and figure out where EP2A was listening

I was getting along to their sunrise and signals were variable with slow QSB but occasionally he would peak.  I noticed on their website they have a 4sq on 30M and 40M so maybe he was just changing directions between calls.  Like I said I'm a RTTY pileup novice aka one step above clueless.   Though the pileup was pretty big and dense he was calling CQ quite often so I'm not sure if he was having trouble hearing or what,  I had good luck with the Iran path before so I was confident this would pan out. (That's a pun as in panadapter)

I guessed his RX freq correctly by watching the too and fro between contacts in the panadapter, and in just a few calls he was printing my contact info.

So instead of wondering if I could hear him I wound up working him!  My first RTTY DX contact, running split to Iran.  TOO MUCH FUN

73  W9OY

I'd like to thank Dave AA6YQ, the brainiac behind DXLabSuite.   He did the work to move DXLab beyond CAT interconnection to full DAX and IP compatibility.  Also thanks to Flex who created the API in SSDR to allow this tight integration to occur.  It was this combo that made my setup so quick and painless.