Tuesday, May 31, 2016

XR0YS Easter Island

Jeff K5WE is set up on Easter Island off the coast of Chile till June 8th using XR0YS.  I worked him on 15M during the WPX and on 30M tonight.  

Very clean effective operator at 25wpm

4-5 dB out of the noise Q5 copy, the pileup was larger than it looks as he was working much eastern EU and Russians I could not copy.

His QTH on the Island is Hanga Roa and from what I saw on the internet that's the way to DXpedition.

73  W9OY

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Playing in the WPX test

I recently redid my computer and none of my contest software was on the new machine so I decided to set things up.  I like WPX since it gives me some bandfills.  I use Writelog for contest software.  One of these days I'm going to have to give N1MM+ a whirl.  I like 40 CW so I decided to concentrate on 40M.

My set up is Writelog 11, DDUTIL which has a bunch of custom macos for controlling my station,

SDR-Bridge, CW skimmer and DXLab.  My hardware line up is a Flex 6500, a ALS-1300 which is automatically controlled by the 6500, a MFJ-998 antenna tuner, a MFJ RCS-4 antenna switch which I modified to automatically band follow the 6500 and choose the correct antenna.  The antennas are high performance optimized verticals for each band 160-20 and a horizontal W5GI at about 50ft.   

I didn't have Writelog installed, so I installed it and booted it and it virtually set itself up.  I think thiis SDR-Bridge's doing since SDR-Bridge uses Writelog as its favored contest client, but it was a convenience not have to go through the menus ticking off what I wanted.   I decided to use 2 panadapters on the same band.  This allows me to use 2 skimmers and sift through and display more data in terms of needed band fills.  

DXKeeper  from the DXLab suite is my logbook database.  I recently moved that database off my computer to cloud storage after my recent mishap with a dead motherboard on my previous shack computer.  All new contacts are now updated on some offsite server and if I have another disaster no problemo.  I'm using one drive which comes with win 10.  I think it's a great feature of the DXLab software.

SpotCollecter which is DXLabs spot client keeps me informed of needed bandfils.  

It has a color coded "need" reporting feature.  ATNO's in my scheme are bright red.  Bandfils are burnt orange.  Blue is unconfirmed and black is confirmed.  As you can see not too much red or orange in this data base for 40M

Here is a screen shot of 15M.   I don't spend much time on 15 so a lot of burnt orange bandfils needed.  It's a very good system for understanding ones needs at a glance.  Another gold star for Dave AA6YQ the author of DXLab.  

Spot collector has another feature that is very useful.  It can connect to the telnet of CW skimmer

This allows skimmer spots to be imported into SpotCollector and SpotCollector allows bandfils therefore to be imported directly into DXWrite the log book, and the whole point for me is to increase my bandfils as easily as possible.  

I can turn on and off the skimmer feed to SpotCollector from the front panel of SpotCollector if I want, which is handy.  

The bandmap is populated by skimmer over telnet.  This gives me a way to inset stations into Writelog to be worked and logged

The focus between pan A and Pan B is controlled from the keyboard by using the up-down arrows.  When focus is changed the TX also changes so I am ready to transmit on which ever pan is in focus.  

The focus also changes by clicking a skimmer also changing the TX and clicking a station will insert that station into the logger ready for workin'.  

I use a hardware winkey USB as my keyer, and I have a couple of FlexControl knobs connected, one for each pan for fine tuning.  I use 50hz filters and am continually amazed at how quiet the 6500 is in a contest environment.  The radio's presentation is very calming.  Quiet non-fatiguing audio, easy ergonomics, quick response, great versatility, razor sharp filters, band following hardware, a huge amount of easily discernible contest information, me like.

If I was interested in going for the gold I would set things up differently in more of a SO2R format with everything controlled from the keyboard, but for bandfil radio where my main goal is to give ops a point and give myself needed log entries, this setup works great.  It's been running non-stop for nearly 24hrs without a burp.  I was amazed at how many EU stations were running 45-50 wpm.  Most US guys were below 40.

73  W9OY

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Backup Puter

I recently had the MB blow in my shack computer.  I worked Palestine and came into the shack the next morning and the puter was deader than a door nail.  Everything else in the box, SSD, RAM WIFI was OK.  I had a little $80 Atom 1.3 MHZ quadcore I was using as a backup.  It has 2gb ram and 32gb SSD built in and upgraded to Win 10.  It works OK except being an $80 fanless computer its thermal management kind of stinks and the CPU would throttle back, meaning I couldn't run the full compliment of software I like to run.  SSDR worked fine but when I added DDUTIL FRStack SDR-Bridge Chrome CW Skimmer and opened a DAX channel the processor power started to throttle back.  None the less I was able to make a dozen DX contacts using the little Atom box, while waiting for the new main shack computer to arrive.  

I decided I wanted something more powerful as a backup, plus I like playing with computers, so I went to AliExpress and had me a look around.  I wanted something cheap and fanless but effective, which meant one of the i's, i3, i5 or i7.  I decided on a i3.  Next is to determine which version of the i3.  There is an older Haswell chip which has the 4000u video  chipset which was the cheapest and the model I chose which is the 5500u video chipset, the latest 14nm Broadwell version.  The price differential is only a few bucks and my experience is 5500 chips are better, so 13 5005u with the 5500 video it is.  

The spec sheet looked good.  Plenty of ports, dual monitors if desired, 2 drive options (SATA and mSATA) half length card slot for WIFI, GB LAN.  Since I already had RAM and a SSD I bought it barebone.  There was a $3 coupon so it was $125 out the door delivered airmail via DHL. I've dealt with this company before with good service.  

Here is what CPU boss has to say about the i3 5005u performance.

My suggestion is 8gb RAM if your going to purchase new RAM.  4gb is enough but the price difference between 4 and 8 is small.   The chip uses 1.35v 204 pin laptop memory.  8gb single stick (there is only 1 slot) on Newewgg is $33.  There are a little cheaper choices but this memory has CAS 9 latency which is desirable.  SSD choice is next.  I had a 32gb SATA III  on the shelf.  32gb is more than enough for this dedicated kind of back up application.  I checked Newegg and found a  64gb mSATA for $32, which fits the mMSATA slot and has 6gb/s transfer spec so if I was buying new this is what I would choose.  This leaves the SATA III slot open for expansion if you want to turn the puter into a media server or something.  Again cheaper choices exist but this would be my best bang for the buck.  I had a WIFI card so I stuck it in but I virtually never run my ham stuff off WIFI as I prefer the wire.

So for under $200 a good setup.  I loaded Win 10 pro using a genuine OEM license I purchased off ebay for $20.  So it's a fresh install and not an upgrade.  Since I had the RAM WIFI and SSD my total was $155 for an i3 5005u Broadwell homebrew computer, not too shabby.

The SSD space required for Win 10 pro plus recovery partition plus Chrome Firefox SSDR FRStack DDUTIL SDR-Bridge and CW skimmer was only about 17gb which left plenty of space for other programs if I wanted.

So howzit work?

With nothing open 0% utilization and 1.4gb memory usage (video memory is shared with RAM)

SSDR Chrome and my screen shot app 12% usage throttled back to 1.24 ghz

My typical compliment SSDR, CW skimmer, 1 DAX channel. DDUTIL, SDR-Bridge, FRStack all customized to my operating habits.  SSDR Display is set to 70 on the Rate and 30 on AVG and 25 fps.  DAX and skimmer are set to 4800.  

2 pans and 2 skimmers

  Full tilt 4 pans 4 skimmers 4 DAX channels still plenty of overhead.

My normal pileup mode  2 slices in one Pan, SDR-Bridge set to split mode FRStack DDUTIL Chrome.  I have several chrome extensions active like hangouts that also take some clicks.

The new computer in the shack is a close cousin to this one except better chip: Fanless i7 Broadwell, Iris pro video, 8gb faster memory, 254 SSD and 2 HDMI ports.  That computer runs like butter even with everything hanging out and running OBS video screen capture of one monitor.  It's kind of overkill for SSDR and I bought it specifically for its graphic performance with video capture.  At some point I may give OBS capture software a whirl on the i3 computer just to see how it flies.

73  W9OY

Monday, May 9, 2016

E44QX Palestine

Bodo E44QX is on from Jericho, the oldest city in the world.  I tuned in and was greeted by this 

Some ridiculous wideband noise.  He was there but totally uncopiable.  I started fooling around with the noise abatement in the 6500.  I added WNB, NR, APF, and the second NB

  All of which helped but still pretty shaky.   I then tried an old trick, turn OFF the AGC.

That periodic noise was for sure pumping the heck out of the AGC just when I needed gain the most.  There was also considerable QSB,  Bodo was calling CQ so even though some were calling up the band, I didn't have much competition.  I called twice on the freq I thought he was listening to and he came right back and we were in each others logs.

Palestine is about 6500 miles as the electron flies.  

I made a video to show the difficulty this noise produced 


Shortly after the contact the noise subsided 

So I worked him again just to be sure.  

73  W9OY

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A45XR Oman

The bands have been a lot of fun for me lately and I've been enjoying the heck out of the 6500.  I watched all day as A45XR Chris in Oman was being spotted across the world.  Japan, EU etc.  Unfortunately when I was watching it was early afternoon and he was on 80M CW and I had another 5 hours of daylight.  I tuned into his freq on 3.506 to hear what I could hear, nada.  Sometimes I can hear EU as early as 1800Z and I thought I might hear some one trying to work him.  I got busy doing other things and walked into the shack about 01:00Z and the rig was still on 3.506 from earlier and low and behold he was in my passband.

He was peaking a good S6 but I have some lightning in the 800 mile range out in the ocean for competition.

Fortunately the 6500 has pretty good noise abatement so I was able to minimize the QRN by adjusting the AGC-T, WNB and filter bandwidth.  

He was working mostly USA simplex at about 20 wpm.  Knocking us off one by one.  I got in the queue and gave a few calls.  80M ops tend to develop a calling rhythm where one calls then another then another kind of round robin style without just a dump it in free for all giving the DX a chance to respond between each mans stab at the ether.  It makes for a nice friendly rational competition and increases dramatically the chances of getting through.  About the third round I hit paydirt and we exchanged reports.  

I was well into my darkness and he was coming up on his sunrise, perfect timing.  Oman's about 8000 miles and I'm running a full size 80M vert and a lot of water between us, so it's a pretty good setup for working the middle east.  Chris is also running a vert on 80M.  

73  W9OY 

PY0F/PY7RP Fernando De Noronha

Could you live here or what!!  This afternoon I was fooling around in the shack listening to 40M and reading about the new Android N which is about to come out.  My phone is an old Nexus 5 I bought used off ebay and I guess old Nexi isn't going to make the cut for the new O/S, so I'm trying to figure out what to do.  I glanced over at Spot collector and saw PY0F/PY7RP Renner on Fernando De Noronha holding forth on 15M.  I'm a low band snob, such a snob that I normally have anything above 30M filtered out in Spot Collector but today 160-6 was turned on so he showed up in the queue.  So I fired up the rig on 15, chose my W5GI dipole at 50ft and tried to figure out where he was listening

Skimmer looked like this.  He was on 21.013 and the pile up the band, so I chose a spot which tail ended a recent 599 and called him 

He was quite loud at my QTH and came right back and we exchanged reports and in the log.  

The gray line was just touching his QTH and soon he QRT'd.  Hope I can snag him on 40M or 30M  He's there till May 9

73  W9OY

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

SV9BAI Crete

As I was toddling off to bed I chanced by the shack and SV9BAI was pounding the brass at about 25 wpm.  He was knocking them off simplex, so I figured I'd see if he could knock me off.  The band was pretty unsettled with a lot of QSB and he was already into his daylight but I waited till he peaked and it happened to coincide with a QSO break so I got him in one call

Weak weak weak but in the logbook.

As you can see he more than an hour into daylight.  After we signed he disappeared though I could hear other stations working him, so I got in at the nick of time.  Crete civilization dates back to the 7th millennium BC.  That's a long damn time ago!  Stone tools have been found that date back 130,000 years thought to be used by pre-hominids.  Amazing 

73 W9OY