Radio Weekend 2016

Icom IC-7300 main shack rig

Let’s do a Radio Weekend!

A while ago I planned Radio Weekend with a few HAM-friends; Karel PE2KDK, Marco PH4M and Henk PE1PEX.

Arriving

On Friday Marco and Karel picked me up and we put all my gear into a Fiat 500 (new model). After a 1,5 hour drive we arrived at the Hunehuis in Darp (JO32CT). That is in the east part of the Netherlands. While it is quite a remote location (especially relevant for low QRM on the radio bands) there are enough possibilities to build antenna’s.
After picking out our operating area we left for some groceries and later that afternoon we explored the lot to find good antenna positions. We had all kind of wire antennas like a G5RV (short and long version), a ZS6BKW and a MFJ1777. Also we took 2 verticals. A 40 meter mono-band and a 10 meter long multi-band vertical. First we shoot some ropes in the trees with a crossbow and pulled up the long G5RV. In the front yard we put up the multi-band vertical.

On air

Then we went on air on Friday night and were astonished because of the lack of QRM. Consequently the IC-7300 became an even more excited radio to work with in this environment. While tune in on really low signals, I was able to copy (not just my ears, also FLdigi) even the smallest signals. Rather a great experience! Therefore I immediately start searching for some rare DX-stations. Due to the involvement in searching for DX, it became 01:30 AM in no time.

Saturday

After a few hours of sleep I was back at the radio at 06:30 AM. Rather working DX then sleeping! After working a few DX-stations we headed outside again for some more antenna experiments. On the backside a 40 meter vertical was set up and in the front we hung up a MFJ-1777 wire antenna.
Because we played radio for a whole day, we went out for a bite that night in a local restaurant. When we came back I searched some more for DX-stations. I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 1 o’clock so I went for bed.

Sunday

Due to a little more sleep this time I was QRV again on Sunday morning around 07:30 AM. Still a few hours left for searching DX. Around lunchtime we broke everything up and headed for home.
First of all it was an absolutely great Radio Weekend. The location was about to be perfect, antennas where almost perfect and the company was, without a doubt, perfect!
As a result of this we will be returning on this location again somewhere next year. I think about putting up a vertical array then for transmitting and a beverage for receiving.

WSPR keynote

wsprLast week Remco PA3FYM did a keynote at the club about WSPR. Remco explained a lot about Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and the theory behind WSPR.
He told the idea behind the WSPR-challenge which he and Rob PE1ITR organized.

As always with good quality keynotes, this one tickles me to anticipate in this WSPR-challenge. But I have to be careful not to have too many things on my agenda. With my daily Morse training this is not a good time for another challenge.

Nonetheless a great keynote and many thanks to Remco. Another item on my bucket list 😉

Just an update

tl922f updateJust an update from the PA1JIM studio. I realize it is a bit quite on my blog lately. Not that there is nothing going on in the shack but I did not think it is post worthy. None the less I could put little things in one blog post.

Arduino CW keyer
I made some changes to the Arduino CW keyer, add a volume potentiometer to the speaker line and add a tx key line for the TS-590. Unfortunately the line seems closed and the rig is on tx all the time. Need to figure out what that problem is.

Mexican RTTY contest
First contest this year (for me)was a little one: the Mexican RTTY contest. I did not had a lot of time this weekend but I did manage to put some hours in. There were not a whole lot of participants, I only managed to make 50 Q’s. But it was great fun to do a RTTY-contest again. It reminded me I need to spend more time doing these.

Kenwood TL-922
This weekend is the most important contest for us Dutchies: PACC. Once every year we ‘100 watts and a wire’-HAM’s turn the tables and we will switch from Search & Pounce to Run and calling CQ.
If you are participating in a contest as calling station, you have other problems then when you are in S&P-modus. For instance: on a crowded band it is hard to hold a frequency, especially with only 100 watts. This year I borrowed a very beautiful classic linear amplifier from a good friend, a Kenwood TL-922. Before I can use it, I need to make a remote cable between my 590 and the amplifier.
Even if I got it up and running, I need to be very careful making too much RF. I’m in the middle of a residential area so there is a great change there will be RF interference. But none the less it is interesting to give it a try and see how it works. Will I be able to run my legal limit of 400 Watts without any problems?

Make your own ISS contact via APRS

ISS contact
International Space Station ISS
Last weekend I followed the Sandringham School GB1SAN, as they made their contact with Tim Peak on the International Space Station GB1SS. This contact even got the attention of the BBC who made full report on it.
It reminds me of an article I read some time ago from the same AMSAT-UK how you can make your own ISS contact via APRS. Then I did put it on my wish list but forget about it.
When I was watching the report of Jessica Leigh M6LPJ and others it triggered my memory.

How cool would it be to succeed in making a APRS-contact with the ISS with just my current setup? If I understand it correctly, it must be possible to reach the ISS with just your average vertical for 2 meters. I do own a Diamond X-200N. And my Kenwood TM-D710 has all the APRS-capabilities on board to make the contact. On of these days I will pick a pass-over of the ISS and try to make a contact. Of course I will report on it here!

Serial problems Ultimeter – TM-D710

serial problemsAfter a few successful months, again we have serial problems with the connection between the Peet Bro’s Ultimeter 2100 weather station and my Kenwood TM-D710. A few days ago I noticed some ‘flat lines’ on aprs.fi in my weather station telemetry. That is extra weird if you think about it. If telemetry is flat lining the Kenwood must send the same data over and over again. When I checked the settings I noticed indeed a static set of data was on the Kenwood and it did not seem to update anymore although the weather station was updating.

That (and the fact that it worked without problems for a few months) make me suspect the problem is in the Kenwood and it is not necessarily serial problems. So I turned the power off and disconnect the power supply for a minute or so. Turned everything on and waited until the first telemetry from the weather station was on the screen of the Kenwood again. Everything worked fine for a few hours and then same freeze happened again. And again.
So now I turned off the Kenwood permanently and I have to investigate this problem further. I already did check the serial levels from the Ultimeter. Those seem okay. I think I have to give the Kenwood a full reset. I know it’s possible, but I do not know how to do that exactly. RTFM!
On Twitter I read Matthew W2MDW also has TNC-problems with his brand new TM-D710G. Maybe there is a 2016-bug in its software? 😉

*update* found the problem; clocks of the Ultimeter and TM-D710 have to be on the same time. After a few months they where a few minutes apart. Then the time stamps on the APRS-packets gave errors and the TM-D710 doesn’t recognize the packets anymore. I guess I have the check and adjust time every month of both devices. Feels like I own a really old watch 😉

New iPhone app: aprs.fi

aprs.fiOne of my club-members, Peter PA3PM, showed me a new cool app a few weeks ago; from aprs.fi! A simple sleek app with all the functionality in it that you want from an APRS-app. Really cool!
I searched in the AppStore but no luck. A quick mail to Peter learned me it was still a beta-phase and you needed to be a tester to get the app. I mailed APRS.fi to volunteer but Heikki let me know the app was almost live anyway.
So a few days later I tried to install it on my iPhone 4S with iOS7. No luck again. It needs at least iOS8.0.
I forgot about it for a week or so when I realized I could try to install it on my iPod with iOS9! No problem! It installed in a bit and I was able to play with it.
The next day I picked up my iPhone and to my surprise the aprs.fi-app was on my iPhone too! Apparently the iOS/iCloud-functionality to synchronize apps between devices took care for the installation of the app on my iOS7-device even when it’s not coded for. Even more surprisingly the app runs without any problems on my iPhone.
At least I got bang for my buck on both my iOS-devices!

Radio weekend planned in April

Radio WeekendA few weeks ago Karel, PE2KDK send an e-mail to a few friends with the idea to spend a weekend in a rental house somewhere remote in the woods. All these guys are HAM’s so you can imagine this will be a full blown Radio Weekend! Attending: Karel PE2KDK, Marco PH4M, Henk PE1PEX and me, Jim PA1JIM.
Meanwhile Karel has booked the house for the weekend of 2nd and 3th of April. I immediately checked the contest-calendar to see if there are any contest that weekend but there are not. Rumor is that Henk has a backorder on one of the first Icom IC-7300’s that will come out in The Netherlands. 2016 for me is all about the new Icom IC-7300, so I am looking forward a little extra for this weekend! Maybe I can play with the new rig then for the first time. If the rumor is true and Henk will take the new rig to this weekend, maybe we have to make a schedule when we are allowed to operate it 😉

Can you imagine, a whole weekend just about radio’s, a very low noise level and almost unlimited possibilities to build antenna’s?

The next thing to do is to figure out what kind of antenna’s we want to build that weekend. I do have some green glass-fiber sticks which can be used to build little antenna masts. Each piece is 1,2 meters (almost 4 feet) and you can put them together very easily. Maybe I will take a ZS6BKW with me to cover all 80 to 10 meter bands. I don’t know yet how much space we can use for antenna setup but if it is enough, we could build a beverage receiving antenna for 160 meters. And of course the 40-meter-PA3FYM-antenna (details follow) should be there all weekend!

A radio weekend full of coax cables, antenna’s, rigs and weak radio signals, I am looking forward to it!