Not much going on. I started off the year flying but ended it very slow. It will stay this way: too many other things going on.
More adventures on medium wave: DZSR-AM PBS Sports Radio (50 kW) from near Manila came in on 918 kHz around 11 UTC, as well as NHK 2 on 873 kHz from Kumamoto. The last one is 500 kW, so quite strong. Another powerhouse coming in is KCBS from North Korea on 657 kHz. 1500 kW from near Pyongyang, but too much side band splatter for easy reception.
We had a warm 23 degrees today, with some sunshine. The Chistmas dinner was good, with roast chicken and at night I scanned the medium wave band, just like old times. Heard Metro Plus on 1044, a Japanese station on 1107 and an unknown Chinese station on 918. The VOA came in loud on 1170 and so I went to bed a happy man.
The Raspberry Pi is losing its network connection randomly. I suspected the power supply, so I switched to an external hub for the 1-Wire fob and the USB-RS232 converter, but that didn't make a difference. I then switched back to the old - noisy - power supply, but that didn't help either. Without a stable network connection the RasPi is pretty much useless, so I will have to abandon the whole project for now.
And to add insult to injury: the rainbucket also stopped working. We had a day full of rain, but not one reading from the bucket. Sigh!
The second OT+ also decided to call it quits. No receive whatsoever. I switched back to the HT, but also no dice.
I put together the APRS/weather station today for some testing. The first tracker/TNC didn't decode incoming packets, so I switched it for another one, which did work.
The DC-DC converter with two 7805 regulators for the Pi and the USB hub. It does run quite hot, but I am still waiting on the 2A 78S05 regulators. I hope they will be somewhat cooler.
I managed to build a DC-DC convertor today to power the RasPi with a solid state PSU.
Today I began something that I finished and that hasn't happened in a long time. The idea was to box up the Condor and make a solid set up of all the connections. I had already cut two pieces of Plexi-glass, so today I drilled the holes, cut another piece for the speaker and fixed everything. It looks alright, although it is not my finest piece of work.
At 13.8 Volts the output into the DCA is 13 Watts.
Sent the barometer sensor to HB.
Eric from Hobby Boards requested that I send in the sensor for repairs.
I determined that the two voltage regulators in the HB barometer were not delivering the 5 and 12 Volts they should. i poster a question on Cocoon.net.
After a week with mostly rain I finally was able to cut the cable to the FARS sensors. W1retap is still not recording anything. The search continues.
Again, w1retap is not recording data, but it seems this time it is the hardware that is failing. If I disconnect the outside sensors it will record the pressure from the sensor inside. It's raining too hard to get on the balcony to go after the fault, so I will shut the system down completely for now.
W1retap is not recording data anymore. I will write to /tmp/.w1retap.dat, but not the regular log file. Spent 4 hours today tinkering, but to no avail. I think I will do a fresh install of the whole RasPi system.
I installed the FARS today, but it wouldn't work at first. I put on a new connector and then if came alive.
I made the FARS today.
[This link is invalid. Try to find the original post]
I spent the last couple of days dealing with aprx and its config file. I managed to get beacons out to APRSIS, so I hooked up the tracker to the Pi and lo-and-behold, it also sent it out via the AX.25 port. However, the weather beacons were not relayed, even though they also went via the AX.25 port. Never mind, BX2ABT-10 is on the map now.
I had some time in the afternoon and decided to get the Condor out and connect it to the tracker. The wire mess got to me so I decided to first mount the tracker on a PCB and connect it with PCB connectors. After that it went smooth and I got the Condor sending out some beacons. But all-in-all I spent a couple of hours finishing this step of the project. Next up is getting another USB-RS232 converter connected to the tracker.
This afternoon I finally had some luck in getting images from the NOAA satellites. I tried it before, but of course I had some configuration issues, which I solved today. The audio cable between the RX2F and was flakey so the first images from NOAA 18 are a bit noisy. But the DCA is working fine and that is the most important conclusion today. NOAA 15 also came in fine, but NOAA 17 is definitely is broken. Its signal strenght was fine, but only white lines coming in. Click on the thumbnails for the original images.
I also got some more material for a 70 cm DCA and made one of the dipoles for testing purposes.
Load the ax25 modules by editing the /etc/modules file and simply add "ax25".
At night I hooked up the newly built OT+ with the KISS firmware to the Pi. When I sent out beacons the LED blinked brightly, so I guess the whole setup is working. Next step: hooking up the radio.
I bought a RS232-to-USB converter, but it turned out to be a Prolific one, so I am not going to risk it. Otherwise I got the AX25 stack working on the Pi, but the modules don't load at boot, so I will have to find out how to do that.
I finally had a whole evening to myself. I made two OpenTracker+ modules, but I messed up so it took a little longer than expected. Still, by the end of the evening I had a working one.
I compiled W1retap today and it installed without a hitch. Running it was a bit more difficult but after I set the SUID ROOT permissions to the w1retap executable everything worked fine. Just do "chmod 4755 /usr/local/bin/w1retap". I connected the sensors, including the rain sensor and found out it had rained 48 mm in the last day and a half. QNH is 1015.9 and dropping. Outside temp 17.1 degrees Celsius. I have a weather server again!!!!
I finished the break-out board for the power supply and connected the Pi to the switch. It powered up fine with ssh enabled so I established a connection with "ssh email@example.com". I had already given the Pi a fixed IP address by modifying /etc/network/interfaces. When it first booted it gave the message: "NOTICE: the software on this Raspberry Pi has not been fully configured. Please run 'sudo raspi-config'" which I did. After that a system upgrade and I installed goodies like dselect and mc. I then got the w1retap source code and tried to configure it. It needed additional libraries (libglib2.0-dev and libusb-dev), but then it configured without problems. The make part will have to wait till tomorrow.
[YOUTUBE ELEMENT NEEDS CHECKING]
I prepared the SD card with Debian Wheezy on Sunday and today I managed to get the power supply connected to the Pi. I used an old analog TV to get some images from composite out and saw it boot just fine.
The Pi is in! I finally got mine in today. DHL was so nice to phone us with the delivery problems (they can't deliver to a P.O.Box, surprise!!) and they dropped it off at the service centre today. Here the unboxing photos.
I spent a couple of Euros to buy nice box for the Pi.
I got up early yesterday and finished the remaining three dipoles for the DCA. We then went to HomeBox to get some supplies and in the afternoon I finished the antenna and took it upstairs. The SWR for one of the dipoles was 1:1 at 137 MHz, so right on the dot. I then managed to make the four coax leads, but left it at that. So today I finished the job and connected everything. SWR of 1:1 on exactly 144 MHz, so the leads are a bit off, but that doesn't matter I guess, because 144.6 MHz is the frequency I want the antenna to be resonant on. Now the only job is to get the antenna ready for outside use.
Double 10 is a national holiday, so we cleaned the garage and I started the build of the 2 meter version of the Double Cross Antenna. The frame is ready and one dipole too. I ran out of 3/16" bolts, so we'll have to wait till Saturday to get some more.
At night I made a break-out board for the Condor. I had all the parts, so it was a piece of cake. Everything works, including my old Eprom, which Wouter was so nice to sent to me. I routed some internet radio through the mike input and it sounded fine. I'm really happy with this radio, because it brings back memories from my time back home and the old white van which we had, with a Condor installed in the dash.
I had a very productive day. Drilled some holes to feed cables from the balcony to the shack. Then I installed the rain bucket on the balcony and tidied all the cables. I also made new clamps for the Spiderbeam, but this time I used shrink-tubing for protection: works easy and fast. At night I put the TS-440S back on the desk and listened to some medium-wave stations. Still no interest what-so-ever to make some QSOs.
Made a bazooka/sleeve antenna for 2 meters yesterday. SWR is 1:2 so not great, but today I hung it in the spiderbeam and when it was towering above the roof line I was successful in getting weather and regular beacons out to BV3BA and BU3AA. The path to BV3BA seems a bit better though. The weather beacons were sent with made-up data.
After playing with APRS this week I decided to switch my attention to the weather station. I got a 1-Wire sensor out and the USB device and downloaded W1retap. Jonathan really wrote some excellent software. It compiled and installed without a hitch and after setting up the sensor info and the rc file I had readings coming in. I will have to think about where to install the sensors now, but that will be fun.
Got a replacement switch from WA4WIP in the mail today and fitted it in the TS440S tonight. It did fire up a bit strange with the display completely lit, but after a reset it worked fine. I'm too tired from Taekwondo to sit behind the set and play, but I know I'll sleep tight knowing that my favorite rig is operational again.
After a failed attempt yesterday I got some APRS beacons out via 144.640 MHz using the ArgentData Opentracker1+ in KISS mode. BU3AA was the lucky one to receive them. The first screenshot is from aprs.fi showing the path between BU3AA and me.
This is the screenshot from Xastir with the info on BU3AA.
I used the wrong interface in Xastir, but the Xastir wiki was very helpfull in resolving the problem.
Of course, the trick was to use the proper settings in the /etc/axports file and then choosing the AX25 TNC interface, not the Serial Kiss TNC. Also connecting to the proper serial port is important and I used this....
sudo /usr/sbin/kissattach /dev/ttyUSB0 aprs 126.96.36.199 sudo /usr/sbin/kissparms -p aprs -t 500 -s 200 -r 32 -l 100 -f n
That did the trick, but I'm not yet sure how or why, so that needs some more study.
Another trick was to use the Kenwood TH-F7e for transmitting. The Baofeng just lacks enough power to get a signal far out. When the Condor has been prepped this problem will also be solved.
Autumn definitely has arrived. We had nighttime temperatures below 20 degrees last night and daytime temps don't get above 25 degrees.
Tried to put the TS-440S into operation again to catch NH6S. The display was completely blank and resetting didn't do anything. I'm about to give up on that rig; I have gotten more frustrations out of it than pleasure.
I love little projects that turn out right. Today I made a Delta loop for 6 meters. I used 6.15 meter speaker wire strung in a tri-angle, 1.10 meters 75 ohm coax for the impedence transfer, also rolled into a choke and two fiberglass rods to make the tri-angle. My cross needle SWR meter can't measure the return power, because it is so low, but unfortunately no conditions right now so I can't find out if the 20 Watts I'm putting out are really getting across to someone.
I disassembled the selectivity switch from the TS-440S and the problem is the axle in the switch which has broken in two. No way to glue it, so I need to find another switch.
We went to Taipei today and I did the APRS thing. I got beacons through to far inside Banqiao, so there were pretty good signal paths.
The All Asian contest. Gave some points away with only 5 Watts from my TS-130V. Got some nice comments from some hams.
The problem with the selectivity seems to be the switch itself. Can only get continuity in one position, the one that switches the M1 filter. Called BU2BA and he probably has a spare switch for me.
I also got my fixed station license in the mail today. Thank you NCC. See you in five years.
Got up early this morning and heard a South Carolina station. Then the selectivity switch of the TS-440S decided to call it quits. The circuitry behind it seems to be fine, but we'll have to take a better look at it.
Got a QSL from KC9KBB in the mail and two programmes microprocessors from ArgentData. These are really nice guys to do that without me even asking for it.
This morning I finally finished the home brew PSU. It still needs a bigger heat sink and the front needs some work, but that can wait. If functions and that is most important.
In the afternoon I did the other part of the TS-440S keypad, but it was not a success. The glue dries too quickly and as a result a couple of keys didn't work.
At night I tried to install the two ICs needed for the TS-440S CAT interface. Only then I found out that one of the ICs was the wrong one, so another unsuccessful operation. I did fix one faulty key on the keypad, though, so now at least the band up switch is working again.
After I put the TS-440S together again I scanned the bands. A lot of noise tonight, but I did manage to pick up a signal from Radio Rossii on 279 kHz. Mongolian Radio is coming in on 227 kHz // 209 kHz and 164 kHz. On 189 kHz a strong Radio Rossii // to 279 and 153 kHz.
Got an e-mail from RS Components that the shipment of the Raspberry Pi will be delayed until the end of September. Bummer.[LINK to PA-to-BX needs checking]
I did the WSPR thing again today, but only for a short while in the evening. I didn't receive many stations, but my 5 Watts did make it into a nice star spanning the globe.
I was at home but too busy to play radio, so I did the WSPR thing on 10 MHz all day. Here is a screen shot of the local morning session.
As you can see I am right in the middle between JA2GRC, DU1MGA and W8TOD in Beijing. W8TOD in Beijing??? There must be something wrong with his set up of WSPR! But there isn’t. On the QRZ.com page of Warren you can read the following:
"I live in Beijing, China currently and am operating under the “less than one watt” and the “it’s legal if you don’t get caught” rules."
There you go! Stay under the radar, mingle in the crowd and you can get your radio fix, even if it is not allowed. The radio situation in Asia is messy, so turn it into your advantage. I care too much about my licence to do something like this, but I admire Warren's guts.
The NCC people finally came to inspect my station. An hour late, but we're in Taiwan, so get used to it. There were two guys and one started off with a strange question: if I had any questions about regulations? Ehh...no! I passed the exam, so I know what they are, right? And then again, I ignore them when I feel like it, because that is what we do in Taiwan, not? But the guy in question was Mr. Liu and he wasn't so bad at all. In fact, he wanted my e-mail address so he could consult me on changes in the examination question pool, which is going to be changed in November. His view is that it should be more difficult to keep only superficially interested people out, like taxi drivers, and that there will be an age limit so that 7 year olds can not take the exam and hold a 5 Watt HT next to their heads. Quite refreshing, but frustrating at the same time, because changes are not easy to achieve in the hierarchy that still plagues Taiwanese government.
In the mean time the other guy tested my TS-440S. On 80 and 40 meters my harmonics suppression was only just 40 dB, but on the other bands around 50 dB: it passed. The power output was measured at around 80 Watts, but I saw that the SWR of the whole setup was 1:1.5, so then it's no surprise that the rig doesn't show its full potential.
I also asked them about changing call signs. I live in area 3, so I would like to have a BX3-prefix. But....no-can-do....there aren't many calls available and the ones given out are locked for 20 years. Brother China still has some grip on Taiwan, even though it is indirect.
After the NCC folk were gone the TS-440S was still on 10 meters, so I tuned that band for a bit. Heard beacons from DU1EV/B on @28195 (very weak) and HS0BBD/B on 28205.9 (in OK03, strong at times).
The tropical bands are not dead yet: right now at 14 UTC I'm listening to RRI Palangka Raya with an S9+40dB signal on 3325 kHz. Brings back some memories.
I paid another visit to BX3AA and his Saturday afternoon get-together. This time we had a photo op.
The NCC called today. They are going to pay me a visit this coming Tuesday. This is going to be fun! More thunder in the afternoon.
The sunspots are gone and loads of afternoon thunder showers, so not much going on radio wise.
I received the papers from the NCC today, so all is well and I can set up a fixed station.
Also went to San-zhi today to get our last stuff. I tested APRS and got my beaons read all the way to Dan-shui. It's really funny which station picks up my beacons and then passes it on to whom. It more than often defies logic.
Lucky break today. I reduced my vertical antenna from 13 to 12 meters to see if there was less feedback above 18 MHz. That was not the case, but when cruising the 20 meter band I came onto YN2N from Nicaragua. First time Central America, so I am very happy meeting Octavio on the band.
Today I visited BX3AA (Sam) who holds a weekly meeting in his shop in down town Taoyuan. There were some seven hams present and it was a nice and quiet atmosphere. We talked about this-n-that and I got Sam and another ham interested in APRS. Unfortunately I parked my car in a bad spot and it got towed away. Sam brought me to the impound and after paying NT$800 I got my car back. Now I still have to pay a fine of NT$900. So, al-in-all a mixed day which got worse because I couldn't sleep at night. I stayed up until four local time and did some lesson prepping, the laundry and worked some station in the WAE contest. New country was 4Z worked in CW.
Lost of activity, most notably VQ9JC.
I had a visit from BV3TI and his daughter BX3AAU today. We already had plans to meet, but all of a sudden he called and said he would drop by. We had a nice chat in my shack, although BX3AAU rather played with her iPhone. Granted, she is only 9, just a little younger than my son. BV3TI told my about a weekly meeting in Taoyuan, so maybe I 'll check this out.
I boxed up my Hi-Per-Mite today and cleaned up the shack a bit. At night I did work 9M4SLL - the SPRATLY LAYANG LAYANG ISLAND expedition on 15 meters CW and 20 meters SSB. I'm still using the newly aquired J37 key for CW and it works fantastic.
YOUTUBE NEEDS CHECKING
First successful test of the APRS setup in the car: Baofeng UV-5R + JWX antenna, OT1+ with a GPS mouse. Thanks to BV2Y I got a lot of beacons out from Longtan to Tucheng, but otherwise it is not 100% coverage. I wonder why BX3AA's iGate is so insensitive. The location of his iGate and his home QTH are not the same.
This was the trip I took in the morning. First to Taoyuan City to get some paperwork done. Then to Banqiao, but after taking a turn on highway 3 my beacons could not be received.
The return trip was a little better, but overall the reception limitations were the same. I could look into increasing my power to 10 Watts, but I'd rather not.
In the afernoon a visit to the NCC. I got all the paperwork correct, so now I have to wait until they come and visit me at home for my fixed licence.
Gave the Datong FL-3 some TLC, got rid of the crystal stuff by using contact spray and tested it out on 20 meters. First QSO was with Hans N6TCZ from Longbeach, CA. This is how my desk looked like during the QSO
Visit to the NCC to get my fixed station licence in order. I need to get some papers from my landlady and then come back. Bother.
Opened up the FL-3 and found there was some crystal growth on the trimming pots. Will have to ask what to do about that.
Back home. Everything is still there, only a bit dirtier. Back in Holland I scoured the local version of E-bay and got some nice finds. The best one, a Datong FL-3, here already cleaned up and sitting on my TS-440S. A superb audio filter and I am glad to get one again and only for 25 Euros.
From a friend I got a 2 meter linear amp, the SV-50 and from the Jan Corver museum I bought a Condor 16 (35 Euros).
A great find was this J37 key, with original cable and only little users damage. Paid 11 Euros for it.
My friend Wouter ordered a JWX antenna for me: 45 Euros.
And also from the Corver Museum a 70 cm mag-mount antenna for only 7.50 Euros
Off to the Netherlands for a family visit. Back in 5 weeks.
Since I'm not getting a complete signal to any digipeaters or iGates because of my lousy antenna situation I decided to keep it local today and use Xastir with my Kenwood HT to monitor signals in the region. I then took the car to Longtan and beaconed from the car with the Baofeng and the Opentracker+. Finally some real world results. I did successfully receive some beacons from downtown Longtan, but it was not much. I really need to get an antenna up higher.
Went to Taipei today to get a lot of goodies for my friend Wouter and myself. Got most of the stuff, except for the nibbler. There was an 4.9 magnitude earthquake near Longtan at 16:22 local time, but I was still in Banqiao, so I didn't feel a thing. There were some things that fell on the ground, though.
On the way home some idiot lost a helmet on the highway and I couldn't avoid it, so I ran over it. Brought the car to a safe stop and removed the darn thing. Some people are just too stupid and reckless, especially with other peoples lives.
Couldn't sleep last night due to the thunderstorms. Couldn't sleep tonight because I wasn't tired enough! Worked A52VE just after 1600 (so June 13 over here in Taiwan) and he was very loud on 15 meters in RTTY. Also heard D2QR in psk63, but he was gone before I could catch him.
We went to Miaoli today and I took the APRS setup with me, connected to the TH-F7E with the whip in the car. Needless to say I wasn't putting out much of a signal, especially since the Kenwood decided to switch to 430.980 MHz instead of 144.640 MHz. But I did get one complete beacon out to the world near Hsin Chu, so the next step is a better antenna on the car. In Holland there is a JWX antenna waiting for me.
At night, just before the lightning started, I heard C4Z calling in a contest. It took some effort, but we exchanged calls and reports. DXCC 105.
I'm getting back into RTTY and I regularly check the bands for signals now. I heard UK7AL on 20 meters tonight but he was weak and his signal had some nasty form of QSB. Partly readable, but still enough for a QSO, so DXCC 104 in the log.
The bands were pretty much empty, so I checked the DXclusters if anything was going on. Yes, A5A from Bhutan on 17 meters. Not expecting much I went to 17 meters and heard them with a decent SSB signal. After setting up the split and a couple of shouts he responded. He couldn't quite figure out my call, but once he got it he gave me a 599. DXCC 103 in the log.
A bit earlier I heard 7K1CPT in CW on 17 meters as well and since he is a FISTS member too I called him for a short QSO. Thanks Yama.
I went out to get a null-modem cable, but they don't sell them anymore, so I soldered my own. The OpenTracker+ wouldn't connect to the laptop, so I took out the schematics and found out that the part of the PCB I damaged yesterday was quite important. I had some wire-wrap wire to make a by-pass and that helped. After configuring the tracker and hooking it up to the TH-F7E it started to come alive and I was sending out APRS packets. I had the Baofeng UV-5R hooked up to Xastir and it showed me on the map with GPS data, so the little GPS mouse is also working. All's well that ends well, but it was quite a difficult way with a lot of sighing.
Soldered the resistors and then the capacitors and all the other components. I did well and the joints were looking good. Then I fitted the DB-9 connectors and then I messed up. I switched the male and female, so I ended up not being able to connect the tracker at all. After an hour and a lot of soldering wick I had them removed and installed properly, but I noticed on lead on the PCB was damaged. Too tired and disappointed in myself to go on, so it'll have to wait.
But.....I was up early this morning and just before it became June 2 in UTC I worked some European stations on 21 MHz. Quite late for that band, but it yielded DXCC 102 in the log, namely CT1ILT.
Fitted all the resistors on the OpenTracker+ PCB, but didn't solder them. Too tired and dizzy because of the anti-biotics.
Turned 45 today. Can't really believe I made it this far. Went to the doctor after school and then to bed: sinusitis and I have to take anti-biotics to get it cured. Bummer. But on the bright side: I finally could open my OpenTracker+ kit and inspect the contents.
Finally got all the video's I shot yesterday together and made them into a YouTube clip. The result....
I got a better map for Xastir to display. I made a geo-file myself and now got a much better picture to look at. It's a 30 MB file from the Directorate General of Highways from the M.O.T.C. Thank you Taiwanese government.
I finaly had some success with APRS. For the past couple of months I have been trying to get Xastir to work. APRS-IS (sending packets via the internet) is okay, but I couldn't get any packets coming in from other sources. I tried setting up soundmodem in KISS mode and there was audio input, but no decoding. Then I tried the AX.25 route. It didn't make any difference, but the process in setting it up was very educational.
First load the modules AX26 and MKISS. Then configure soundmodem with soundmodemconfig and use the standard settings. As device use sm0. Add the following line to /etc/ax25/axports:
"APRS BX2ABT 4800 255 2 144.64 (1000 bps)". Then configure Xastir and use "APRS" the AX.25 device name (same as in the axports file). Start everything up and you're good to go.
But I still had no packets coming in. I tried sending some packets out of the speakers and that was fine. I recorded them with another laptop and then fed them back to Xastir: perfect decoding. So my TH-F7E is not giving me clear enough audio for the signals that are received at my home location. The nearest I-gate is XinZhu and at 18 kilometers that is quite far. It means I need to put up a better antenna. I found a good article on this at the Australian APRS site. Still, I'm quite happy with what I achieved today. My APRS set up is finally coming together.
It would have been my father's 72nd birthday today. I'm feeling a bit melancholic, which I know is no use and counter productive, but I feel it non-the-less.
After dinner I went to the shack/office/work shop/storage room to do a chore, but I also did turn on the rig and gave the dial a swing just to see what was going on. After hearing the umpteenth JA station I checked up higher in the RTTY portion of the 15 meter band. And yes, there he was, XV2W, my friend Larry in Vietnam. He is a rag chew buddy and I only caught him once this year, so I called him and we did have a very nice QSO as usual, even though our signal path wasn't the best.
After talking to the wife and putting the kids to bed I returned to the radio, which was still tuned to 15 meters around 21.084 kHz. There were quite a few RTTY signals around and when I checked one of them I found it to be a ham from the eastern parts of the States. Weird, but nice, because the east coast is usually hard to get, especially strong and decent signals. For a change I started calling CQ and within an hour I had worked stations from Mississippi, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas all with good signals. Feels good to do RTTY again and work some real DX stations.
I also took delivery of the Hi-Per-Mite CW filter today. It looks very good, especially the PCB. I hope I can get it assembled this weekend as it doesn't look too complicated. I do think I'm going to change the bandpass to 800 Hz so better match my Kenwood rigs.
Had a nice rag chew QSO with BX8AAD, Gene from Taitung. Unfortunately 20 meters didn't work in our favour, so we switched to Skype. Modern technology at work!
Worked my second Ecuadorian station today, HC2AC a new station run by expat Anthony Clarke. It took some effort, because of all the Japanese stations calling him. But he took a break and I was patient and when he came back I was one of the first to call him.
Just before bringing Iris to the airport I turned on the rig. It sprang to 15 meters and I heard a HD prefix calling CQ. Looked it up and it turned out to be HD2A from Ecuador. No problems working him, so DXCC101 in the log.
Friday nights are usually ones where I am tired and go to bed early. Not much going on the bands, except for the shouting of a few DXpeditions. Caught a fairly strong signal from 7Q7PRO from Malawi and after a few attempts he finally heard me. DXCC 100 in the log after a year and 5 months being BX2ABT.
I finally got my act together and started working on the power supply again. I drilled the holes in the front plate and fitted all the components.
Over two months since I last had a digi QSO. After being inactive for three weeks I switched on the set today, but not much going on. 15 Meters had some PSK31 signals and I found a decent one from DK2OM. The QSO was short and standard, which is common with PSK31 nowadays, but I was still glad to see my modest setup reach Europe.
This is a short piece I wrote for AmateurRadio.com.
The handsome man in this photo is my father, the little one me. It was 1967 and he introduced me to this little magic box full of sound called radio. I guess the bug bit me then. His passion was photography and art, not electronics, because that was his 9-to-5 job.
But he always supported me in my endeavours and taught me so much. The Weller soldering station he used for so long is sitting proudly on my desk, now being used by me. He was the best father I could have wished for.
He is with the angels now, without pain, without frustration. I am sad, but I am glad. Thanks dad, for everything.
After spending a day in Hsin-chu yesterday I had some time to do my own stuff today. I worked on the PSU and really made a big leap forward. I installed the heat sink with the power transistors, the main transformer and the rectifer. I also made one hole for the Amp-meter and made a beginning with the other. I wired up the fuse and the transformer so now we have some AC coming out of the cold side. If I do a bit every evening I might be able to finish it next week.
I made only two QSOs today, one with V73NS from the Marshall Islands and one with PA4VHF, the second one, but now in CW and on a new band.
I think I'm coming down with a cold, but I still managed to get behind the set and work some stations. The result: 7 QSOs in two hours, 6 new prefixes for the prefix award and three new countries worked: ES1TU from Estonia - who also was the first contact I made as PA2BX - A61Q from the UAE and GM3WOJ from Scotland. I'm starting to notice that when the A-index is moderately high there are quite favourable conditions. Today the numbers were as follows: SFI=101 SSN=50 A=13 K=1.
I haven't had a QSO in a week and didn't even turn on my radio. Tonight I didn't feel well, so I only tuned around a bit. The only good news today was my friend Wouter who mailed me that a QSL card from C35MO came in via the bureau. That brings my tally for the PD3WHO/PA2BX DXCC score to 55 out of 61 entities worked. That is over 90% so a very good score indeed.
Today was a day for meeting friends. In the morning I had a couple of minutes and the lone signal on 15 meters was a very fast, 559 signal beginning with 6 or BV or something. Not so, after the RST exchange and 73 I finally got it: XV2W, Larry is back in Vietnam. We exchanged e-mails during the day and it is good to have a friend back in the neighbourhood. At night the bands were almost empty. Again a lone signal on 15 meters, this time from ZS6ME, Eric from Pretoria. I worked him a couple of days ago on 17 meters, so this is the third band I worked him on. Hopefully I can catch him on 12 and 10 next. Also quite a coincident, but I also sent him a letter today.
It is spring time which means the winter took all my energy away and I feel exhausted. On top of that things go wrong, which I just can't take very well right now. Examples: I found out that part of this blog was missing. From back-ups I could restore most of it, but three weeks just after Chinese New Year are missing forever. I covered it with a piece I wrote for amateurradio.com, so not all is lost.
I also discovered the batteries in my AA0ZZ keyer were leaking, which explains the erratic behaviour. Cleaning up was not difficult, but I have to think of another way to power it. I am contemplating a 12V mini-cell with a 78L05 to bring it down to 5 Volts.
These two days the bands were filled with stations participating in the WPX-SSB contest. I only called some stations to give away point and see how the Cobweb would perform. Worked Alaska for the first time (KL7RA) but otherwise nothing special. LP1H was really amazing. I worked him just after 08:00, but he was still coming in strong around 13:00. And strong he was: S9+30dB.
But the most amazing thing happened just before 08:00 when I heard BX8AAD calling on 20 meters. I called him and looked him up on QRZ.com: Gene Anderson from Taidong. I'm not good at names, but he remembered me: we visited the Sangean factory in Zhonghe together, some 15 years ago. We were both BCB DXers then and now both hams. We lost contact after I moved back to the Netherlands, but miracles still happen and I'm glad to have found him again. Good excuse to visit Taidong and see how he is doing.
Tired after a weeks worth of classes, but I still wanted to get on air and do some CW. Heard VK4CU tuning up on 20 meters, but his code was too fast for me to take. After we finished the QSO FK8IK called me and we had a better QSO. Later he mailed me telling that my signal had some "artifacts" probably due to the power supply. Will have to scrape some funds together to get me a new one. Sigh.
And now for something completely different: I split the QSO maps into maps for bands and modes, so you get a better view of what I worked and where. Wasn't difficult to set up and I made a bash script to ease the process. Now with the adif file in place it only takes the execution of one script to process everything and upload it to the server.
Not much going on the last few days. The bands are not noisy, but not crowded either. Worked some Russians and regional stations, thus slowly increasing my prefix count: 56%. Today I had a lucky break, though. I turned on the radio and switched to 12 meters. Heard a station calling CQ and it turned out to be JG8NQJ/JD1 from Marcus Island, Japan's most easterly point. Called him and we had the usual exchange. After another call the frenzy started with the big gun Japanese trying to reach him.
I worked all stations with the Cobweb antenna, which I put up again. I hooked up the 6 meter rig, because there has been some activity lately, but today no luck.
Went to Taipei today to buy some stuff for my wife, but I ended up buying a nice box for the home made power supply. Only 260 NT dollars, so quite a bargain.
Very little noise on the bands today and I had an early start in the evening. Got past the 200 log mark for 2012, so I am still not running out of steam. Finally got a VU station in the log after I managed to work G3VMW on 12 meters. VU2GSM first called CQ only 100 Hz from where we were having our QSO, but I caught him later a few kiloHertz up. Also worked A35YZ for a second time on 30 meters and now he got my call right. Let's wait and see if it will end up in their log correctly.
I've heard A35YZ before and quite strong, too. But when they work DX they don't reply to Asian stations. Today on 30 meters was different. Few takers for their CQs, so it was quite easy to get them in the log. DXCC number 92. Only one problem: he got my call wrong in the log: BX2AT instead of BX2ABT.
Managed to get a couple of stations in the log and with it I reached the 50% mark for the FISTS prefix award.
Can it get stranger? Yes: SFI=146 SSN=96 A=68 K=3. I'm hearing stations on 12 meter at 12 UTC, which is very abnormal. 15 meters is brimming with stations, alas only Asian.
SFI 136 and an A-index of 44 due to a huge solar storm today. Wanted to know how it influenced the bands and around 14 hours UTC on 12 MHz it sounded like a sea which was howling. The lower bands were pretty normal, but 20 meters was noisy and I was lucky to hear a CQ on 14.057, the FISTS calling frequency. I had a successful QSO with VK6XM and VK4TJ, two FISTS Down Under members. At 15.00, when I was shutting down, I bumped into 4S7WI from Sri Lanka. Not a country you hear daily, so I was quite happy to work him.
My throat was hurting and swollen, so I stayed home today. Worked on the RS232 interface for the TS-440S and since I already made a lay-out for the circuitry around the MAX232 it was good working even though I didn't feel very well. I called CQ on 15 meters during the soldering, but not much takers, only some Japanese. Still, some 5 new prefixes for the FISTS award.
In between a lot of chores I managed a couple of QSOs and gathered four new prefixes for my award. At night I heard ZS6ME, Eric from Pretoria, but even though he is still listed in the FISTS membership list he claimed he was not a member.
Not much going on today. We had monsoon rains with strong winds for most of the day, but the fiber glass pole is holding up. Still, not much going on the bands, so I worked on the second part of the audio filter.
At night, when I was soldering away, I noticed the 15 meter band opening up. Had some great fun working stations from Switzerland, Austria (first time), Turkey (first time), Armenia (first time) and a lighthouse activation from Uruguay (first time in CW and via long path so difficult to copy). Six new prefixes for my FISTS award, so I'm up to 100 prefixes now, or 40% of the total.
After last Sunday's CW extravaganza I don't feel like doing much CW now. So tonight I tuned in 516 kHz and tried to receive some NAVTEX broadcasts. It has been over a year, the last time being in Banqiao. Without much problem and with the 10 meter vertical I was able to pick up station K and L from region XI(CWP). K is JNX Kushiro and L is VRX from Hong Kong. Later I also picked up M, O and P, XSI Sanya, XSL Fuzhou and XSX Jilong.
I didn't make a single QSO yesterday. We had to go to my principle's wedding in Taizhong and when we came home the radio only made noise with very few signals around. The K-index was 4 if I remember correctly, so that explains a bit. So I finished another part of my audio filter. A Saturday night well spent. Today was a different story. I hadn't planned on participating in the ARRL contest, but there were so many signals on 15 meters from the States that it was too easy to log some prefixes for the FISTS award. I spent an hour in the morning and logged 13 stations. There was no FEA net today, so I logged E73W (new country) and then took down the Cobweb. It was making too much noise in the wind last night and I need to get the wire tension fixed anyway. I put up the 10 meter vertical and what a difference that makes! 40 meters was brimming with stations and even with the attenuator switched on they were still booming. 80 meters and 160 meters only yielded Asian stations, so in the course of the evening I spent an hour altogether logging another 11 stations from North America. In the end I counted the following 16 new prefixes: K0, KV0 / N2 / K5 / AA6, K6, KA6, N6, W6 / K7, N7, NJ7, NK7, VE7, WA7 / N9. All of them from the Western part of NA. Add to that the E73 prefix and I didn't do so bad at all this weekend. I'm up to a 37% score now and I haven't even been busy for two months.
I noticed it before, but now we know for sure: when on 20 meters CW the garage door spontaneously opens and when on 30 meters CW I can't use the touchpad on my laptop. Two not so great side effects from the Cobweb. Usually you can find more info on a station on-line, but today I worked ZS1AEG and he is quite obscure. Could not find any recent info on Jack, but he apparently hails from Cape Town and you can find his antenna's on Google Maps. Better send him a QSL card.
T6MO didn't put me in the log, so that is a disappointment. I guess I take him out of my log too then.
Did a lot today. Worked 7 hours, did the laundry, baked two breads and a cake, painted part of a wall and worked a new country. E51BKV was on his last day at Mangaia Island (IOTA OC-159) and he was weak but readable on 17 meters in SSB. Not many takers, so easy to score. Otherwise conditions were strange. 20 meters at night was open, but with a lot of flutter fading, so I didn't score many CW contacts. Luckily I already had BV6JO in the log. First time I scored BV6. It's rather difficult to hear stations from down south up here.
Couldn't get H40FN in the log, but there was FW0NAR and he was easier to get on 15 meters. Weak and fading, but no pile up. DXCC 84 in the log. According to their blog they are using 100 Watts because their main amp went south. [I apparently lost a part of my blog here. I could restore some of it from back-ups, but not the three weeks from Jan 22 - Feb 11. Luckily not much going on then, except for tuning and testing the Cobweb antenna. Here is a piece I wrote for AmateurRadio.com on the subject.]
Over the Chinese New Year’s holiday I managed to start and (almost) finish a project I have been brooding over for months: a Cobweb antenna. Lightweight, small, multi-band, no tuning needed, in one-word “ideal.” There was a very interesting thread over at QRZ.com about building one and I read all the other literature I could find on the subject. I finally settled for the alternative design by G3TXQ using single wire dipoles which would be easier to tune, but required a balun for impedance transformation.
I’m still on a very tight budget, so the antenna had to be build on the cheap. That means thinking outside the box and start by taking a good look around. Fishing rods are expensive here. The cheapest I could find were almost 400 NT dollars per piece. But hey, we’re in Asia: bamboo is cheap, but it is also strong and lightweight. So I spend 200 NT dollars (5 euro’s or 7.50 USD) on bamboo instead of 2000 NT on fishing rods. Aluminium is hard to get in Taiwan, because people find it too soft. Stainless steel is widely used, so the local iron monger cut me two pieces for a little less than 200 NT dollars. U-bolts were also cheap at the local hardware store. Twin lead costed me 400 NT dollars for 50 meters and after two days of work it all looked like this….
The G3TXQ version requires a 1:4 balun to bring up the impedance to 50 ohms, as square folded dipoles have an impedance of 12 ohms (which every one knows, right?). The ferrite of choice is the Amidon FT140-61, but ferrite is not easy to get in Taiwan. Over in Taipei there is a little shop called RF-Parts, run by Mr. Dong, so I went to see what he got. He only had the FT-114-61, so that would mean two stacked together and that twice. Suddenly the Cobweb started to get expensive, because when I left Mr. Dong my wallet was NT$720 lighter. Add another 160 NT dollars for two meters of RG316 coax and the cost of the balun gets close to NT$1000, That’s almost more than the rest of the materials for the antenna together! But the final result looks like this….
After Chinese New Year we had two days of mild weather. Great for pruning the antenna on the balcony. Centimeter by centimeter I started cutting the wires until I had the SWR 1:1 on the frequency I wanted. The five dipoles influence each other, so it was going back and forth from 20 to 10 meters, measuring and cutting. The balcony was full of little pieces of wire afterwards, which refused to be swept up, so they were picked up by hand. But after two days the job was finally done and I could start enjoying my new creation.
NOT! Where are those sun spots when you need them? The bands were pretty empty and my first QSO was with 4W0VB in East Timor on 30 meters, at night. I know, that is not one of the band the Cobweb covers, but the TS-440S build-in tuner did it’s job well. And then it started to rain and I started to cry. Because the rain caused my carefully tuned 1:1 SWR to wander off two to 300 kHz below the resonant frequency that I tuned it for. Again, the TS-440S tuner could manage that, but why? Why does a little bit of rain de-tune my new baby? I don’t want to use a tuner. That’s not why I build the Cobweb.
I did manage to work some nice stations during the last week though: C31HA twice, 4W0VB twice more, XW3DT, PY6HD, CX3TQ and N7DR who mailed me to say I need to be patient, because conditions are indeed pretty lousy. I put up the CB whip to compare signal quality and indeed the Cobweb is quieter than a vertical. Signals are also a bit weaker, but only by one or two S-points.
So, am I happy now? No, because after the rain the wind started to play games. Longtan is not Port Martin, but it comes close. Winds howling all day long and gusts that make you and the house shiver. Longtan is situated on a plateau about 300 meters ASL and the area is known for wind and moisture. The Cobweb is light and strong, but the wires on my version were sweeping and swaying so much that SWR was not stable for a second. And the sectioned fiber glass pole that the Cobweb is mounted on was turning too much and the coax curled around it.
I need to start thinking about a sturdier construction. I saw some springs in a hardware store and I’m thinking about using them to keep the dipoles tight. That is the easy part, but I also need to figure out why moisture is influencing the SWR so much. Could it be the bamboo? Or is it the heavy reinforcement in the house?
I’ll keep the antenna up for another couple of days and then put the 10 meter vertical back up again. I miss roaming the upper bands at night and I want to keep my CW streak going. But a fun project it was and I learned a lot from it. And that’s what it’s all about, not?
Chinese New Year is around the corner, so too busy with cleaning the house and other chores. Had to get the Cobweb out of the garage, so I put it up on the balcony. It still needs tuning, but that can wait a few days.
Did a lot around the house today, including putting together the Cobweb antenna. Right now it looks like this.....
I tied the wires to the poles with cable ties for now. Once I get the dipoles resonant on the frequencies I want I will drill holes and use stainless steel wire to hold down the wire. I also managed to work three new countries today. Actually the first was yesterday UTC, but 0704 local time. 4W0VB didn't have any takers on 20 meters, so it was easy to work him, although I am not sure he got my call correct. Later I worked C21HA and those guys were great: weak signals, QRQ, but they slowed down instantly when they got my call. They were 529, but gave me the obligatory 599. In early evening I worked Norway for the first time, long path. LA7EU was the lucky one, but due to flutter fading it was difficult to take his code, also because of the speed. Also some SSB today, simply because I couldn't find any interesting CW signals. The nicest catches were M3JDF and F5PAU. Already 57 QSOs in the log and it's only January 19th!
It's pretty warm with 20 degrees and not very windy, but solar weather is lousy: lots of noise. Worked CE5HGE on 20 meters, but spent the rest of the evening putting together the balun for the Cobweb while listening to the BBC.
Spent a couple of days in southern Taiwan, Kenting to be precise. Didn't take any radio with me, but had an interesting experience in the taxi over there. The guy had a 2m/70cm rig installed in his console, so I asked him his call sign. He didn't know because it was over 10 years ago since he took the exam and he only used his nick-name on air. Besides, it was only to talk with colleagues to warn them about where the police is having radar check points. And that's the way thing are done in Taiwan.
In between cleaning the house for Chinese New Year I managed quite some QSOs. There was a duct between Taiwan and Kazakhstan because I logged three UN stations on 15 meters. Most Kazakh hams do quick 599 exchanges, but UN8GV was quite relaxed, even though he didn't go QRS for me.
Wow, spent a lot of money today. First off all things for the Cobweb....
1) a watertight box: NT$105
2) 2 meters of RG316 for the balun: NT$160
3) four FT114-61 ferrite toroids: NT$720!!!!
Mr. Dong from RF Parts didn't have FT140-61 toroids, so after consulting with G3TXQ I settled for the smaller FT114-61, but two stacked together. If you buy them from Amidon they are only US$2.25, so over here almost three times that price. Okay, maybe two times if you consider shipping costs. On the other hand, I also bought a BNC crimp tool, because if there is one thing I hate doing it is soldering connectors. Only NT$450, while prices in Europe and the States are 1.5 to 2 times higher. The connectors were only NT$12 per piece, but probably not the best quality in the world. For me it will do.
First day of winter break and I decided to have a flying start. Put the kids in school and went to buy bamboo rods and speaker wire. After that the local iron monger and he cut two pieces of stainless steel for me. NT$180 for the bamboo, NT$450 for the wire and NT$400 for the stainless steel. Yes, the brooms were for free. Couldn't find a place where they sold rods only, so this was the second best thing. I started with the small piece of stainless steel (20 x 20 cm) and used the U-bolts that I bought before. The result looked like this..... The other piece of stainless steel (40 x 40 cm) was too big, so I went back and they cut it up into smaller pieces (25 x 25 cm plus some smaller bits). Also went to the hardware store to buy some more U-bolts (NT$110). After two hours the result was this...... And here a detail of the centre..... A day well spent, but tiring, so I only did one QSO with V85AN in CW.
Heard BV2DQ calling CQ on 14.220 kHz and tagged along. Worked two Chilean stations and got a 59 report from one of them. He was 59+30dB, so it was a true report.
Short note: New Star BC on 5400 kHz @02:30 UTC. Didn't do so many QSOs today. Felt a bit tired and I needed to tend to the kids and the house. Still I was lucky to catch LU2JCI on 20 meters and JF3KNW (FISTS member 15001) on 40 meters. Late at night I tuned to 20 meters again and heard those weird tone sequences again around 14.107 MHz. I tried my luck and could indeed print them using Olivia 16/500. It was XU7AAJ, Franco from Cambodia and we had a nice long QSO. Olivia is great for QRP and noisy backgrounds, but Franco still faded out completely during one of his overs. Otherwise it was good fun.
Came home early and put up the 10 meter vertical in the pouring rain. No luck catching anything and after an hour and a half I finally had a QSO with SM3DBU. After dinner I checked 160 meter and had a QSO with JA8ISU, all the way up in Hokkaido. Amazing that he heard me, but it took quite some calling. Long path towards the America's was open around 12:00 on 20 meters and I worked LU7YS from Argentina. I thought he was LA7YS, but he corrected me and the flutter fading also gave it away. I later got a mail from Sergio saying how amazed he was to be able to work me. I also heard a very fluttery signal from K3RA and when we were about to have a QSO the circuit breaker popped: two space heaters and 20 Amps from my rig was too much. Luckily he was still there when I had restored electricity and turned off my shack heater. I also had a QSO with YO8BDW and the fun thing about that was that his speed and code were slower and sloppier than mine. Still good practice. And I finally had my first FISTS QSO this year with JM6FMW on 40 meters. Naka is FISTS #5545 and we had a QSO for over half an hour. I am going for the new FISTS award and so number 6 is in the books now. Nine more FISTS to go.
Was home a bit early and I was amazed to hear PY2IU on 15 meters. I called him and he came back to me. Difficult QSO, especially due to the short fadings and I only could get his name: Sasso. Later I heard a lone ZL2JU calling on 17 meters and I answered him. Had a standard QSO with Les, but the nicest thing was that both Sasso and Les lowered speed for me so that I could take their code by hand, which I did. Two great guys, then. I would have spend more time behind the shack, but the temperature suddenly dropped last night and we're having 6.4 degrees outside right now and not much more inside. Our A/C can hardly keep it at 18 degrees Celsius in our bedroom and the shack only has a 700 Watt space heater, so it's early bedtime tonight.
I worked on the audio filter I'm planning to make. Put the ua741's on the breadboard and did some basic wiring. Other than that I only made on QSO with VK2DX. He is doing a 100 QSO-a-day marathon, but he already has over 1200 QSOs in his log in three days. I guess his goal of 36,500 QSOs will be met easily.
A typically windy day here in Longtan. Good start of the year.
Had two QSOs today, one with EW8MK on 20 meters and one with OZ3FD on 40 meters. First time Europe on that band. Henry started out very strong, but then he faded. I'm doing CW from now on as I am getting the hang of it.