Saturday, November 28, 2009

Setting up your D-STAR radio - great videos from Gary, KN4AQ

When I first talk to people about D-STAR, one the things that they often ask is how difficult it is to set up the rig? It's not difficult and if you've played with Packet Radio, you'll see some similarities. But looking through some documentation about the Icom E-92 handheld yesterday, I found reference to a couple of videos made by Gary, KN4AQ about how to set up your D-STAR rig and make some QSOs. Do have a look if you haven't seen them, they're really helpful

Part 2 is here

Thanks, Gary - I learned loads!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lots of interest in WSPR 2.0 - and the changing nature of QSOs

I can see from the search results on the blog that a lot of people are interested in the new version of WSPR from Joe, K1JT. Just to encourage you further, I wanted to pass along some excellent results which a couple of friends have had since installing the new version of software.

Pete, 2E0SQL set up WSPR, running 5w on 10.140 and was delighted to find that his signals were received by ZL2FT in New Zealand. And Jerry, KD0BIK has been trying WSPR out too and was getting great reports from all across the USA last night.

I was contemplating how I can get some WSPR going at home. I can use the FT1000 and main antenna, but I was wondering about setting up the FT817 and a small portable antenna (the one I use on holidays) and see just how far I can make that go. I'll have to see if I can interface the FT817 with my laptop, which doesn't have a COM port! Hopefully I can fix something up and we'll see what happens.

I was thinking last night about how activity such as WSPR, APRS, Propnet and so on do not comprise 'typical' radio contacts. If I hear you on WSPR and you hear me, did we make a contact? Probably not, although we could probably argue by at least one definition of a 'contact' that we'd exchanged some unknown information - I think we fall down on the fact that we can't verify that the information was successfully received. Not on the radio at least!

But back to the original point that WSPR, APRS, PropNet etc do not fit with our traditional type radio contacts. Do we care? I'm not sure I do! Although some people enjoy long conversations on HF, that's at least partially the preserve of those who are lucky enough to have nice large antennas! (Yes, I know that's simplistic). For the rest of us, we're probably happy to get through, exchange a quick report and move on. I know I am.

But what I like about WSPR, APRS and PropNet is that I know that 'someone or something' will be listening and if there's propagation, then I'll know that someone heard my signals.

Comes down, I suppose to the fact that for me, Amateur Radio is largely about the Medium, not the Message. YMMV.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CQWW CW this weekend

The major CW contest of the year, CQ WW CW takes place this coming weekend. Tuning around the bands last night, it was clear that some expeditions to far-flung parts of the world are already in place and making contacts to raise interest in their contest activity.

I was listening to a fairly big pile-up on the bottom end of 7MHz - which was actually a classic illustration of why I don't play much contesting or Dxing these days! The DX station didn't send a callsign in about 10 minutes of listening - just punctuating the end of each contact by 'NA/SA'. And the idiots were in force transmitting 'LID' and various other charming phrases. Hey, whatever, but I'm not going to get involved....

More interestingly, up on 14MHz which had all but closed, I was listening to a KP4 station from Puerto Rico making a contact with an Australian station, who I couldn't hear. And on 3.5MHz I could hear European stations making contacts into Japan.

So, there's plenty going on of interest - whatever conditions are like - you should be able to find some good contacts to make over the weekend.

MB6AM D-STAR coverage in Oxfordshire

Having read about the new MB6AM node yesterday, I tuned one of the receivers of the FT8900 in the car to 144.8625. That's FM only and doesn't receive D-STAR but I thought I'd be able to see what signals were like.

Pretty much as soon as I drove out of the car-park at Didcot, I heard the GMSK 'buzz' which was encouraging. Driving home, I also heard a couple of packet nodes on the frequency, which might be interesting - not sure where they were. Just around the corner from home I could hear the D-STAR signal.

But from home, with the E92 D-STAR handheld, I couldn't open up MB6AM. That was a little disappointing, but on reflection, I suspect I'm just a little bit shielded in that direction. Conceivably, a collinear on the top of the mast might sort that out.

To capitalise on what looks like a viable 'mobile' signal from MB6AM, I've ordered an adapter patch lead to allow me to plug the handheld into the mobile aerial, so I can give that a go when it arrives and I'm pretty sure that will be successful.

I brought the E-92 into London today and when I got out of the car at Didcot, I tried blipping up MB6AM which was successful from a couple of areas of the station car park, so it looks like there's hand-held D-STAR coverage from that part of Oxfordshire now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

MB6AM: D-STAR coverage getting closer to home

I was excited this morning to read of a new D-STAR node, MB6AM coming on the air from Tring in Hertfordshire. As I hear various beacons and repeaters from that part of the world, it may be that this gives me some D-STAR coverage from home, or close to home.

From the 77hz site here's the press release about MB6AM:

MB6AM, 2m D-Star Simplex Node: Tring, Herts.

After several weeks in testing, MB6AM went live this afternoon, sharing
the same mast as the 70cm GB3TU repeater. MB6AM is located in Tring, North
West of London and is well appointed to provide Digital Voice (DV) coverage
across many of the Home Counties and parts of Oxfordshire.

MB6AM is the reincarnation of the old GB7AM packet node, using the same
antenna and 2m frequency. Chris, G0WTZ, kindly donated his own Yaseu
FT-7800R for the project and David, G4ULF provided custom software to link
into the global D-Star network. G4ULF's software was developed with the full
cooperation of the Trust Server team and has been fully tested for G2
compatibility, with support for G2 direct routing and dplus linking across
to other D-Star repeaters, via the Internet.

MB6AM will be routinely connected to reflector REF013B which has been
dubbed TechNet, a meeting place for repeater keepers, software developers
and D-Star hardware hackers. User control of dplus linking and unlinking is
enabled, so mobile users on the busy M1 and M40 motorways, can re-task the
simplex node as required. When the dplus connection is left unlinked, a
script will automatically re-establish contact with TechNet.

To access MB6AM, users should configure their radios in simplex mode on
144.8625 MHz, with no RPT settings required. If RPT settings are used, then
the following settings must be programmed:


RPT1: MB6AM^^C (^ = space)

Duplex Offset: +/- 0 MHz

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A great Moonbounce video from HB9MOON

If you've never seen or heard a moonbounce contact, take a look at this video from the really excellent HB9MOON group. You'll see and hear HB9MOON working LX1DB.

Moonbounce, if you've not come across it before, is exactly that. Both stations point their antennas at the moon and hope there will be enough reflected signal to make a contact. When you've got superb dish antennas like the ones in use here, then there's no problem.

The signal takes around 1 1/2 seconds to travel to the moon and back, so you can hear your own signals coming back. Have a listen here, as the HB9MOON operator stops speaking, you'll hear his voice coming back - via the Moon 250,000 miles away!

CW, APRS and.... Goats

Our friends, Steve, Peanut and Rooster have been busy again. In this excellent video, they seamlessly merge APRS, CW and the great American outdoors. Enjoy it!

Oh, and if you want to track Steve and the goats on APRS, click here

Friday, November 20, 2009

WSPR version 2 is available

Version 2.0 of the fascinating propagation research program written by Joe Taylor, K1JT, WSPR is now available.

"WSPR implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions. Normal transmissions carry a station's callsign, Maidenhead grid locator, and transmitter power in dBm. The program can decode signals with S/N as low as -28 dB in a 2500 Hz bandwidth. Stations with internet access can automatically upload their reception reports to a central database called WSPRnet, which includes a mapping facility. To see a live version of the map pictured at top right, click here.

WSPR 2.0 introduces a number of new features including a user-friendly setup screen with drop-down selection of audio devices and rig-control parameters, support for compound callsigns, fine selection of the fractional time for transmitting, and a Tune button. A new Advanced setup screen offers optional CW identification and tools for frequency calibration and automated frequency corrections for your radio. Full details are presented in the WSPR 2.0 User's Guide, which you will need to read in order to use the new features. For the first time, a binary installation package is made available for Ubuntu Linux (versions 8.10 and later), Debian 5.03, and other Debian-based 32-bit Linux distributions"

Read more and download the software here

Saturday, November 14, 2009

G4VXE Weather Station Data now on APRS

Having become a little more interested in APRS this week, having played with the iBCNU program, I remembered that the excellent Cumulus software that I use to publish my weather station data to Twitter and the Weather Underground also supports APRS. This morning, I've configured Cumulus to upload the G4VXE weather station data to APRS.

You can see it on the map here

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marconi Memorial CW Contest last weekend

More traditional activity at G4VXE last weekend during the 144MHz Marconi Memorial Contest. This is a CW contest and though activity isn't generally frenetic, there's usually enough to be of interest.

I managed a few quick sessions on the air and though conditions were pretty poor, I was pleased to work a couple of stations from the Netherlands (PA6NL and PC5M) as well as several French stations, around JN19 area. I did hear a weak German station at one point but didn't make contact.

Enjoyable contacts!

A quick update on iBCNU - APRS application for the iPhone

I've been enjoying the little iBCNU APRS application for the iPhone. When I originally posted about it, I said that I hadn't yet used it to exchange APRS messages. I have now - including messages with Jerry, KD0BIK in Denver and VK6ZUK in Brisbane.

Position tracking works well and the iBCNU site provides some nice tracking functionality similar to the Findu site. See where I am with the iBCNU site here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Taking another look at APRS

I noticed a tweet from Jerry, KD0BIK this morning saying that he'd just installed a copy of an application called iBCNU on his iPhone. I'd never heard of it, so I googled it and found the iBCNU application here iBCNU was written by David, AB3Y and looks to be a nice piece of work!

iBCNU is an APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) client for the iPhone. It allows you to transmit position reports or send short messages from your iPhone, through the APRS Internet server. Messages may be sent to other amateurs using APRS and position reports may be viewed through the Internet on sites such as APRS.FI

I quite like APRS, though I never really know what to do with it! I first became aware of APRS in the mid to late 1990s when I lived in Toronto. I remember connecting an Icom IC2E up to a TNC and hooking up a DOS APRS program to it, which showed simple (by today's standards) maps on the Ontario area. It was fun to get going but I wasn't quite sure what to do with after that!

Last time I looked at APRS was when we were running GB50 from Windsor Castle and I had the pleasure of explaining it to HRH Prince Philip!

Because I liked maps, radios and the internet; APRS does have a fascination, so I was interested to install the iBCNU application on my iPhone and it happily transmits position reports, which you can see on the Internet! And I think I can send messages to other APRS users, but I haven't tried that out yet.

So if you want to see where iBCNU thinks I am, have a look on Findu.Com and see!


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