Archive for the ‘ham radio’ Category

Life as a Slacker DXer

Those of you who follow my blog know that my primary ham radio passion is operating above 50 MHz. But I also enjoy getting on the HF bands for POTA and chasing DX. I’ve also done a few holiday-style DXpeditions: V29RW and ZF2NR. Compared to my friends that are serious about DXing, I consider myself a Slacker DXer™.

The Sun Is Your Friend

You are probably aware that we are approaching the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, which means that the propagation on the higher HF bands is great. When I do operate HF, I really enjoy having 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m open worldwide. Back in December, I noted that the ARRL 10m contest was happening and I decided to give that a try. Because we have been doing some renovation at our place in the mountains, I had pulled down my HF antennas (all wires in trees). No problem, I just strung up a J-pole antenna I have for 10 meters. I got on the air during the contest using SSB and had a great time working DX all over the world. This gave me the bug of trying to accumulate a few more countries/entities for DXCC. At the time, I had 140 entities confirmed in Logbook of The World (LoTW). I also set up FT8 and FT4 and worked quite a few stations on digital.

Later, I started to think about the other high HF bands (20m and up), so I took down the 10m J-pole and put up a random-wire end-fed antenna. See my previous post to learn more about it.

An Easy HF Antenna

The wire length on this antenna was 36 feet, so it is nearly vertical when strung from our tall pine trees. I was pleased to find that the antenna worked well on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. It was at this time that I realized I had hardly used 12 meters, so it was fun to try out a new band. I was working a lot of stateside stations and DX at this point on these 5 bands. One day, I was pondering the 30m band, which I had always thought of as a CW-only band. Actually, it is a CW and digital band, so FT8 is commonly used. (I sometimes operate CW but it is not a focus for me.) So I checked out my antenna on 30m and the IC-7610 tuned up just fine. In fact, I tried using 40m with the same antenna, and it also works on that band. So now I have a basic wire antenna that works well on 40m and up. Very nice.

Worked All Zones (WAZ)

I have often found that having a particular operating goal, usually some kind of award or certificate, can help motivate and guide my radio activity. Driving up the DXCC count is always good but I am also intrigued by the CQ Worked All Zones award.. The 40 CQ zones are distributed worldwide, providing a more consistent way of measuring how well you have worked the world. (In contrast, DXCC is strongly influenced by the history of world and how the various governments are organized.) LoTW supports WAZ so a check of my LoTW log revealed that I had 30 zones confirmed. So my operating objective became adding new DXCC countries and WAZ zones, on any band.

Map of the 40 CQ Zones

In the past few months, my DXCC count has increased to 158, as confirmed in LoTW. Being a Slacker DXer™, I don’t spend the time chasing down QSL cards. It is either confirmed via LoTW or nothing. For WAZ, I have 38 zones confirmed, still looking for Zone 22 (Southern Asia) and Zone 34 (Northeast Africa). For me, it is important to “stay in the hunt” but not get overly obsessed with working a particular country. If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong.

I emphasize to newer hams that I am doing this with the classic 100 watts and a wire station. Working DX does not require a huge tower and amplifiers. Using FT8 really helps but CW and SSB are also viable modes. Take your pick. Now is the time to get on HF and enjoy the excellent propagation.

Work any DX lately?

73 Bob K0NR

The post Life as a Slacker DXer appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Joining the ARDC Board

Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) is a unique organization in the world of amateur radio. ARDC is organized as a foundation with two main roles: management of 44Net and a grants program. The foundation has assets a bit over $100M and funds grants roughly at the $5M level each year. (These are very rough numbers. For the specifics, take a look at the audited financial statements.)

I started out serving on the Grants Advisory Committee and told my ARDC story here:

What’s This ARDC Grant Thing?

I am honored to be asked to join the ARDC Board of Directors and I look forward to serving in that volunteer role. See the ARDC announcement here:

Bob Witte, K0NR, joins ARDC’s Board of Directors

I am new to the Board but have worked with them as a member of the Grants Advisory Committee. I can tell you that they are a great bunch of people, all motivated to do the best for amateur radio and digital communications. ARDC also has a small paid staff that makes things happen on a daily basis, all great folks to work with.

If you have feedback or suggestions for ARDC, my door (and inbox [email protected]) is always open. If you want to apply for a grant, working directly with the ARDC staff is best. The grant process is described well here.

73 Bob K0NR

The post Joining the ARDC Board appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Magic Band Revealed

My ham radio pursuits have tended towards the VHF/UHF bands and the 6-meter band (50 MHz) has always been interesting to me. I like to think of 6 meters as a VHF band with some strong HF tendencies. Most of the time, propagation is local, certainly beyond line-of-sight, but also not long distance. When sporadic-e and F2 propagation show up, 6m tries its best to act like an HF band, skipping the signal off the ionosphere.

We call it the magic band because magical propagation occurs just when we least expect it. A more accurate name might be the fickle band because 6 meters provides short periods of random excitement followed by long periods of severe quiet. And that is why we like it so much.

Jim Wilson K5ND recently completed the third edition of the book Magic Band Revealed. Of course, I had to read it and I surely did enjoy this book. Jim hits all of the different operating and propagation modes that hams use on 50 MHz: sporadic-e, F2, TEP, meteor scatter, ionoscatter, etc. The WSJT-X modes have had a huge impact on what’s possible on the band, so Jim provides a good overview of the various options (FT8, FT4, MSK144, Q65). Jim also provides some helpful information on VHF contests and operating as a rover.

The best attribute of the book is that it is primarily written as a first-person account of K5ND’s operating experiences. Reading the book is just like having a friend tell you about what they’ve experienced on the band, along with some great operating tips. Great work, Jim!

The book is available as a free PDF download from Jim’s website or in print version via Amazon.
Go to https://k5nd.net/2023/11/magic-band-revealed/

73 Bob K0NR

The post Magic Band Revealed appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

An Easy HF Antenna

When radio amateurs get ready to put an HF station on the air, they often have questions about what antenna to use. The good news is that there are many options to choose from. The bad news is that there are too many options to choose from. It can be overwhelming. This post describes an antenna I just installed that is easy to put up and works well.

The ponderosa pine tree supports the endfed wire antenna.

Having 30-foot tall pine trees on our property, my usual approach for HF antennas is “wires in the trees.” I have several ropes strung up over these tall trees so that I can raise and lower wire antennas as needed. These ropes were installed using a slingshot to launch a fishing line over the top of the tree, and then pull up a lightweight rope.

The 9:1 UNUN provides the matching at the end of the wire antenna.

End Fed Long Wire

The antenna is the EFLW-1K from MyAntennas.com, which is an End Fed Long Wire Antenna. (This should not be confused with an End Fed Half Wave antenna.) This antenna is intentionally cut to not be a resonant length on any of the bands. The 9:1 UNUN transforms the high impedance at the end of the wire down to something closer to 50 ohms. The match is not perfect so an antenna tuner is required to cover all of the bands. MyAntennas offers this antenna with different lengths of wire, with longer wires required to support the lower HF bands. I purchased the 53-foot version but decided to shorten the wire. My interest is working 20 meters and higher and I wanted the antenna to be mostly vertical, so I shortened the wire to about 30 feet. The MyAntennas products are good but any 9:1 UNUN on the end of a wire will work.

An endfed antenna like this needs some kind of counterpoise to balance out the antenna operation. Many people have written about this and there are many different approaches. The MyAntenna UNUN has a connector intended to support adding a short length of counterpoise wire. A decent length of coaxial cable lying on the ground can function as this counterpoise and that’s what I decided to use. I have a 50-foot length of LMR 400 connected to this antenna, lying on the ground.

The B11ISO isolation transformer is inserted in line with the coaxial cable.

I also added an inline isolation transformer to minimize the common mode currents getting back to the transceiver. I don’t know that this is required but I had one available so I used it. The antenna has 50 feet of LMR coax to the inline transformer and then another 25 feet of RG-8X to the transceiver. The internal antenna tuner in my Icom IC-7610 handles this antenna quite well, tuning up on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. This means I can instantly switch between the bands and be ready to go.

I’ve been running SSB, FT8 and FT4 on this antenna, working many stations in all regions: Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America. Conditions are great and I keep telling newer folks: now is the time to be on HF! This basic antenna is a great way to get on the air and work some DX.

73 Bob K0NR

The post An Easy HF Antenna appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

All New Technician License Class – Monument, CO

The Technician license is your gateway to the worldwide excitement of Amateur Radio, and the very best emergency communications capability available! This is the entry-level class for people who do not currently have an amateur (ham) radio license.

The Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association (Monument, CO) is introducing a new approach to teaching the Technician Level ham radio license class. We have completely overhauled the delivery format of our Tech Class to make good use of both in-person and online training methods. The biggest change is that most of the core material will be delivered to the student via bite-sized online videos, ebook sections, and additional content from Ham Radio School. This dramatically increases the flexibility on how and when the student views this material, eliminating long, all-day classroom sessions. We will have three live Zoom sessions along the way to review the material and answer any questions you might have.

We understand that in-person training is extremely valuable for certain types of activities. Accordingly, we will have an in-person kickoff session (Feb 17) for the instructors to meet the students and show them how ham radio equipment is used. The licensing exam session (Mar 9) is another in-person event. Finally, after you receive your new license, we will have an in-person Get On The Air event (Mar 16) where you will make your first radio contact. To help guide you through this process, an experienced radio ham will connect with you, monitor your progress, and help you through the class.

The cost of the class is $50 ($40 for anyone under 18 years old), which includes everything you need for the class. A non-expiring subscription to the Ham Radio School Technician resources is included. We used to require you to have a printed copy of the Ham Radio School Technician book, but that same material will be delivered to you online as an ebook. Proceeds from this class go to support the Tri-Lakes Monument Radio Association, a non-profit organization.

You still need to pay a $35 license fee directly to the FCC after passing the license exam.

More details are in the attached flyer.

To register, go here:
https://w0tlm.com/radio-classes/tech-registration

You can probably tell I am excited about the new format for this class. It will make it easier on the instructors to deliver the material AND easier for the students to learn it. If you have questions, let me know!

Bob K0NR
[email protected]

The post All New Technician License Class – Monument, CO appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

24 December to 31 December: 1st Ever Winter Olivia Digital Mode QSO Party

Special Event Week: Dec 24-Dec 31, 2023

The 1st annual Olivia Digital Mode on HF Winter QSO Party, celebrating 20 years of Olivia.

The Olivia Digital DXers Club (we’re on ClubLog!) is holding the first annual Winter Olivia Digital Mode on HF QSO Party, starting at 00:00 UTC, 24 December 2023, and ending at 23:59 UTC, 31 December, 2023.

Minimum logging requirements:  Callsign worked, Band (or Frequency), Mode (I.e., Olivia 8/250, or other variations), Time QSO Started.  You can log more than that, but for the sake of the certificate, please send at least the minimum information per QSO, to NW7US (email is on QRZ profile).  Logs can be any common method, from an .ADI file, to a screen shot.

Full details are on our website:
https://OliviaDigitalMode.org

Olivia, a Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) radioteletype digital mode, is an amateur radioteletype protocol designed to work in difficult (low signal-to-noise ratio plus multipath) propagation conditions on shortwave radio (i.e., high-frequency, or HF) bands. The typical Olivia signal is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is over ten times that of the digital signal!

Here is an introduction to the Olivia digital mode:

73 de NW7US

Better Than FT8? Olivia Digital Chat Mode – Raleigh Amateur Radio Society Video

Olivia is the digital communications mode on shortwave (high frequency sub band, or, HF) for amateur radio operators who want more than the “Check Propagation” FT8 mode. This video is an introduction that was presented to the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society ( https://www.rars.org/ ) on December 12, 2023, presented by Tomas Hood, NW7US

Olivia information can be found, here:
https://OliviaDigitalMode.org

Olivia, a Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) radioteletype digital mode, is an amateur radioteletype protocol designed to work in difficult (low signal-to-noise ratio plus multipath) propagation conditions on shortwave radio (i.e., high-frequency, or HF) bands. The typical Olivia signal is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is over ten times that of the digital signal! It is commonly used by amateur radio operators to reliably transmit ASCII characters over noisy channels (slices of high-frequency spectrum — i.e., frequencies from 3 MHz to 30 MHz; HF) exhibiting significant fading and propagation phasing.

The Olivia digital modes are commonly referred to by the number of tones and the bandwidth used (in Hz). Therefore, it is common to express the Olivia digital mode as Olivia X/Y (or, alternatively, Olivia Y/X ), where X refers to the number of different audio tones transmitted, and Y refers to the bandwidth in Hertz over which these signals are spread. Examples of common Olivia modes are, 8/250 (meaning, 8 tones/250-Hertz bandwidth), 16/500, and, 32/1000.

The protocol was developed at the end of 2003 by Pawel Jalocha. The first on-the-air tests were performed by two radio amateurs, Fred OH/DK4ZC and Les VK2DSG, on the Europe-Australia propagation path in the 20-meter shortwave radio amateur band. The tests proved that the Olivia protocol (or, digital mode) works well and can allow regular intercontinental radio contacts with as little as one-watt RF power (when propagation is highly-favorable). Since 2005, Olivia has become a standard for digital data transfer under white noise, fading and multipath, flutter (polar path) and auroral conditions.

Olivia can perform nearly as good as the very popular WSJT mode, FT8, and better than FT4.

See you on the waterfall!

73 de NW7US

 


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