CW and FT8 and PSK, oh my!

In the past month, I’ve finally unblocked my antenna issues and made great strides in the digital realm of ham radio. Using the PreciseRF HG-1 magnetic loop antenna along with my RigExpert AA-600 to get the lowest possible SWR, I have found that I can get out to virtually all over the country simply from putting the antenna on the street. The loop only supports max 45W PEP, so it is definitely a low-power antenna. But I can only imagine how it would function if I were in a flat field or on a peak. With gray-line propagation some days, I see strong signal spots via Reverse Beacon Network or… Read More

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Sent first SSTV image

Using SSTV for iOS on my phone and a BTECH APRS-K1 Audio Interface Cable (albeit connected to a Kenwood TH-D74A), I just sent my first SSTV image on 145.510 MHz FM simplex. I don’t think anyone heard, but it was a proof of concept exercise. I recorded the transmission on a separate handheld, using a small voice recorder. Despite this lossy recording method, I was able to reconstruct the image pretty well using the same SSTV app. Here is the recording, give it a try with your decoder: Encoded with Scottie 1, try decoding this SSTV transmission with your own SSTV app. (here’s a media file download link) The implications of this mode are fascinating.… Read More

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Choosing the Next Rig

In my quest to find the next portable rig (I already decided), I made a comparison sheet with stats about the various rigs I was considering. Here is my portable rig matrix (including handhelds). Hopefully this list could be of help to others.  Bear in mind, I had specific goals in this rig evaluation: Portability of station setup Ease of use in multiple modes CW practice wherever I was Expansion of my amateur radio capabilities into other modes, e.g. APRS, packet, digital HF, base and mobile antenna improvement Versatility and integration with my existing setup While I was dead set on getting the Elecraft KX3 fully loaded, I decided… Read More

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80m RTTY

I found a load of RTTY on 80m band on Sunday night (1/7/2018). I tuned to 3580 kHz and found a particularly strong signal, so I hooked up my USB soundcard to my laptop, fired up fldigi and made attempts to reply, but I guess my QRP setup didn’t get heard in all the pileup chatter. Turns out, January 6-7 was “ARRL RTTY Roundup“, a nationwide contest to make contacts in the digital format, so it was easy to catch the conversations on almost all HF bands. I found the CQ‘s in this format a bit odd, and didn’t really know how to format my responses or how to call… Read More

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What is this transmission?

I checked in to W6VVR Vaca Valley Radio Club net this evening and they said post-net they’d be hopping on to 7.190MHz. Quickly set up my bugcatcher for 40m and listened, but nothing heard, except for a QSO in progress on 7.192 from Arizona to Los Angeles. So I thought I’d tune around on the new Extra sections of 7.075-7.100MHz (Hawaii and Alaska can use this for voice, but we mainlanders can’t.) Was expecting CW and perhaps some blurty digital sounds. Instead I found this: What is this? I imagine it’s a digital mode (somewhat like Olivia) but I’ve never heard anything like it. Makes me think of a harmonic… Read More

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APRS iGate

Last night I set up an Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) iGate to listen on 144.390 MHz for packets and report them to APRS Internet Service (APRS-IS). This is like a listening station that will improve my area APRS coverage. This can be done relatively inexpensively with a Raspberry Pi (~$35), a RTL-SDR receiver (~$26), and some opensource linux software available online. The latest RTL-SDR v3 is a capable little Software Defined Radio (SDR) receiver that can even receive to HF frequencies. For much cheaper than a standalone HF receiver, you can get the kit that includes a whip dipole, extension SMA cables, and mounting hardware. I lengthened the whips to 2m… Read More

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Learning Morse Code

I’ve found that learning CW is hindered by my preconceptions I’ve had about Morse code. When initially starting on the Koch Method using HamMorse, I would turn the sound I heard into a mental picture of dots and dashes, then I’d do an internal lookup of what that picture in my mind was against the alphabet. As you can imagine, this takes way too long, and takes too much concentration to effectively work in real-time CW translation. After many hours of trying and listening, I realize now what others have said all along about Morse: Just relax, and let the sounds come in on their own. The sounds need to… Read More

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