Thursday, August 25, 2011

More on JT65A and why there there's more to Ham Radio than Morse Code

Despite the fact that I haven't managed to make JT65-HF work on my laptop yet, the more I read about the JT65 modes and how people are working great DX with them, the more I'm impressed.

When PSK31 came out, it slipped into the 'almost mainstream' as a mode for people to work DX when they didn't have a big station for CW/SSB (wonder if we'll get to call them legacy modes one of these days...). PSK31 has built a great following over 10 or 12 years. I see JT65A for HF following in these footsteps.

Oh yes! Talking of legacy modes... someone who I greatly admire for a number of reasons recently posted on his Facebook status,'without CW it's just CB'.

Maybe it was a bit tongue-in-cheek - but I did laugh! What a 1980s view of the world! Sure Morse code is fun and it'll get through in many challenging conditions. I enjoy it myself and try to use it as well as I can. It's hardly the centre of the hobby or even advancement of the hobby, is it? To even suggest that without morse code that ham radio is just a 'appliance service' is pretty demeaning to people who have broader interests! And I think it's pretty demeaning to people who enjoy CB too ;-)

Anyway - have a look at these great articles from W6DTW and NW7US about JT65 - how it works and how you can use it in operation.

See the articles from David and Tomas here

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Low power portable on HF

If you've been reading this blog recently, you may have got the impression that I've rather lost interest in HF operation. That's not entirely true. But I do think that DXing in general has lost its appeal on HF for me. There's the antisocial behaviour which dogs a lot of DX operations these days. And also, once you've played with WSPR and JT65 on HF, there's the nagging doubt that using CW or SSB at 100w or more is somewhat akin to fishing by lobbing a hand grenade into the water and seeing what floats to the surface. Of course, that's completely unfair, but it's a fun analogy! Nevertheless, it's clear that efficiency of an 'average' HF DX contact is suboptimal compared to a few mW and a 'decent' mode.

All that having been said, I still love being able to connect up a simple HF transceiver such as my FT817 and a simple antenna like my MP1 vertical and make CW contacts over hundreds or thousands of miles. It's particularly satisfying to do that from a portable location.

And so it was yesterday that I thoroughly enjoyed some 17 and 20m CW QSOs around Europe. It was good, too, to hear Mongolia coming in loud and clear on 30m. But I wasn't remotely tempted to get involved with the pileup!

Adventures in programming the Anytone AT5555

As the Anytone 10m rig arrived, the different band segments were fine, but I thought it might be fun to reprogram it a little. One thing I was keen to do was to be able to listen (only listen, mind you) lower down on 27MHz ssb. I guessed that activity would be higher there than on 28MHz and that it might provide some useful propagation indicators.

I ordered the programming disk and lead which arrived quickly. However, I had an enormous amount of frustration getting the lead to install on my PC (and actually I tried pretty much every PC in the house). Sometimes the PC would detect it as a COM port and sometimes it wouldn't. I thought it must be me doing something wrong. However in the end, I talked with Paul in the sales/service department at Nevada and we agreed that I would send it back. I completely expected him to say that it worked fine for him, but happily he declared it a faulty lead. Unfortunately, though they were out of stock so I had to wait for a replacement.

The replacement duly arrived last week and the PC immediately picked up the COM port. I still had to fiddle and faff somewhat as I didn't realise that my Anytone had v4 software in it rather than v3. Once I ot that sorted out, I was able to retask one of the band segments so that I could listen around 27.555. This works well (on receive!).

And as I hoped, it has already shown that the band is open more often than activity on 28MHz would have us believe. Sadly, I have already heard music and mildly abusive language on there! Not much difference, in case anyone's feeling smug, to your average DX pileup on the amateur bands.

Positively though, the Anytone has been a real favourite through the summer, listening for Es on 28MHz. With the reprogrammed segment, I'm certain that it will be a great indication of when to put a CQ out on 10m.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Just as I thought the 70MHz Es season was over

I was only saying to Andy G6REG this evening that I seemed to have missed all the 70MHz Es openings this year. After supper I popped up to the shack to listen on 28MHz and noticed a tweet from Gav M1BXF to say that 50 and 70MHz were open to Scandinavia. I was pleased to work several stations and new squares. After I'd got the ones in the log, I put the iPhone video camera on to record OH1LEU working one of my locals, G8CUL.

Remember, this is a little 70MHz station - the antenna is just a vertical

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