Archive for the ‘ham’ Category

Check Out My New SDRplay RSPdx Software-Defined Radio Receiver – Live!

My new SDRplay RSPdx software-defined radio receiver is live, via http://www.sdrspace.com/Version-3, using the SDR Console software (Version 3).

The receivers are online whenever I am not transmitting and when there are no local thunderstorms.

Antenna Port A is a wire antenna (100′), while Antenna Port B is a VHF/UHF discone. Both have an AM Broadcast band reject filter, reducing local AM Broadcast signals by about 30 to 40 dB. I need to use these because the very close KLIN transmitting tower is just miles away and those signals overwhelm the receiver. When I use the signal filters, the local AM Broadcasting signals no longer overwhelm the receiver.

Let me know what you think. Enjoy!

To use my receiver:

Install the latest version of SDR-Console which can be downloaded from https://www.sdr-radio.com/download

Install SDR Console according to the directions given. Once you have the software installed, you will want to add my server.

It takes a little to get familiar with the software, but there are online FAQs on how to begin.

My server is known as, ‘0 NW7US‘ — it will be online when I am not using my antenna systems for transmitting. It will be offline during thunderstorms, or during times when I must use the systems for transmitting.

Software-defined radio is a great way to hear all sorts of communications, from local AM broadcast stations, FM stations, VHF Air Traffic, to shortwave radio stations including amateur radio HF communications.

Thank you for watching, commenting, and most of all, for subscribing; please subscribe to my YouTube Channel: https://YouTube.com/NW7US Also, please click on the bell, to enable alerts so that when I post a new video, you will be notified. By subscribing, you will be kept in the loop for new videos and more.

Video:

73!

 

One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World

This article is part two of the series taking a look at band plans and gentlemen agreements.
See part one, here: Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab.  See part three, here: In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Displaced and Marginalized

There are some unhappy amateur radio operators in the world of shortwave operations. Users of Morse code, and digital modes other than the highly-popular modes engineered by Joe Taylor, K1JT, feel displaced on the many amateur radio bands where Joe’s wildly-popular mode FT8 has erupted.

Joe (born March 29, 1941), is a friend of hams everywhere, and is an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate (https://g.nw7us.us/2Ptquv1) for his discovery with Russell Alan Hulse of a “new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.”

Many have asked questions like, “Did Joe Taylor K1JT Destroy Amateur Radio? Did Joe Taylor K1JT, Nobel Laureate and noted friend of hams everywhere, accidentally destroy amateur radio?” This question remains relevant, even as more and more FT8 operators take to the HF bands to chase wallpaper and awards.

FT8 Has Validity and Usefulness

Full disclosure: I administer a Facebook group for FT8 and FT8-related modes, because I believe that the mode has a valid place in our amateur radio technology portfolio.  Here is the Facebook group URL, if you would like to join the fun: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FT8.FT4.HF.6m/. Understand, I have used and will continue to use FT8.

Because it has a place, it stands to reason that everyone should become more aware of the impact of using FT8 on the bands. It also stands to reason that it should be used ethically, and in the best spirit of amateur radio.

Many amateur operators use the FT8 digital mode as a novelty when there isn’t much else happening on amateur radio shortwave bands. One of the great things about it is that you can tell when a band is open–even though you don’t hear any other signals of other modes on the band in question, you very well may hear the roar of FT8 on the band where propagation actually exists to somewhere else than your QTH.

Others use it to finally get their DXCC, or WAS, or other award and wallpaper. This is especially popular during this season of the sunspot cycle where there are no sunspots–propagation is limited to lower-HF amateur bands because there’s just not enough solar activity to energize the ionosphere enough to open up the higher segment of shortwave.

FT8 Has Limitations

Can FT8 be used for two-way conversations? No. However, the JS8CALL digital mode is designed from the FT8 mode, by changing the protocol in a way that allows free text. It is designed for ragchewing and the new version 2.0 offers three modes of chat with 50 Hz and 16 wpm, 80 Hz and 24 wpm, and the turbo mode at 160hz and 40wpm with turbo only having a 6-second turn around time. The designated frequency is 7.078, which many find much nicer to use.

However, many find JS8CALL combersome, and non-intuitive.  How fast and how reliably can it handle critical messages, say, during an emergency?  I’m sure the software will improve, but how good is the protocol?

A mode such as Olivia has been field proven, and time tested.  It can reliably handle traffic.

The Rant

During the early days of widespread FT8 operation that came with the first public non-Beta release of FT8-equipped WSJT-X software, I tried to reason with the FT8 development leadership team. I made a polite attempt at explaining how incredibly rude they were in purposefully programming into the software the default operating frequencies such as 7.075, 14.075, and so on.

One of the main leaders of that team slammed me and stated that “we only suggested those frequencies; the operator is free to change them.” Additionally, he stated that the team used a common QSO/Mode spotting website to see what digital modes or other operations (like CW) were sparser. They perceived that the frequencies they proposed where no longer active because they saw few if any spots. They thought that no one would care.

I explained that a single website-spotting strategy was illogical and very lazy. This is true for several reasons, at least.

I guess you have to have a Ph.D. to know better than any average ham who went by gentleman’s agreements. I have an extremely dim view of JT and his disciples. CW is not the only operating group he’s engineered out of traditional slices of spectrum. Olivia, and other modes, now have been pushed down into PSK subbands, and everyone is feeling the crowding. As far as my thinking of FT8, well, it is radio, but it doesn’t foster goodwill and building serious communications skill. IMHO.

Play Nice, Be Positive and Polite. Smile.

I’ve received wise counsel from a number of fellow amateur radio operators.  They implore us to not promote hostility between “us and them.”  That even though the WSJT team is playing the playground bully, we should not be vengeful, but polite and willing to negotiate in good faith.

If we don’t play nice with the bully then the bully won’t play with us.  And, the general public will side with the bully because the bully has the nice toys…

Good negotiations, though, take a willingness by both sides, so that conversation evolves,  resulting in positive, cooperative actions embraced by both parties. There are other amateur radio operators who have made attempts to open up talks with Joe and crew.  What are the results, so far?

We can hope that Joe Taylor and his group of developers and leadership take a proactive role and join a conversation that is with a wider group of amateurs than just the WSJT enthusiasts.  We hope that they will play fairly, and cooperatively, with the rest of the amateur radio community.

 

 

Tomas, NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to ‘CQ Amateur Radio Magazine’, and ‘The Spectrum Monitor’ magazine.

Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab (Part 1)

This article is part one in a multi-part series.  Part 2 is located here: One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World.  Part 3 is located here: In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

 

We’ve all heard it at least once:  no one owns a frequency.

By law, amateurs must keep the transmissions from their station within the bounds of the allocations granted to license-holding operators–within these bands that are allocated for amateur radio use.  Amateurs are expected to follow band-plans, which guide us to which mode can be used in a band.

Subbands — Band Plans

There are many decades of constant refining of the standard operating procedures–perhaps we can call them, traditions–that, for the most part, work out pretty well for most amateur radio operations on our precious allocations in the radio spectrum.  Each band–a slice of radio spectrum between a lower frequency and a higher frequency–is made up of subbands.  These subbands are slices within a specific band (allocation), in which amateurs participate in two-way communications by using a particular mode of transmission, like single side band or CW.

For instance, Morse code enthusiasts use CW (continuous-wave modulation, i.e., A1A) between 14.000 MHz and 14.150, which is the subband that exists in the larger allocations known as the 20-Meter Band.  The 20-Meter Band is 14.000 MHz to 14.350 MHz, and the regulating bodies (such as the FCC in the USA) have directed through law that voice modes cannot be used between those subband frequencies from 14.00 MHz to 14.15 MHz. Voice modes can be used from 14.15 MHz up to 14.35 MHz, with certain license class variations. Read the PDF from the FCC: FCC ONLINE TABLE OF FREQUENCY ALLOCATIONS

CW is not the only mode allowed in the 14.00-MHz-to-14.15-MHz subband.  The regulations stipulate that a number of data modes can be used in this subband. There are specific requirements that a mode must meet, in order to comply with regulations–these are known as the authorized emission types.

Gentlemen’s Agreements

Amateur radio operators, decades ago, began discussing, then agreeing to, agreements between all operators as to where specific modes can be used, so those operating the different modes do not trample on each other’s transmissions.  These agreements are known as our band-plan gentlemen’s agreements.  They exist to help minimize interference–QRM–and to help foster good operating procedures between the different groups.

The band plans that have evolved through the decades are not regulations, and do not mean that any particular group of amateur radio operators own any frequency or subband.  A mode does not own a particular subband.  Amateur radio operators are not encouraged to start transmitting a mode that is typically found in that subband, if someone else is on that frequency using a mode not expected.

Just because some other operator is using the subband for a mode not in compliance with the gentlemen’s agreement, don’t purposefully try to eject that operator.  At the same time, the gentlemen’s agreements exist to help amateurs avoid interference with others that are using different modes.  Thus, the operator who has chosen to use a non-standard mode for a subband known to be used for some other mode should move that operation to the subband identified to be for that operator’s current mode of transmitter emissions.  In other words, do not QRM another amateur radio operator, and do not cause confusion and frustration by barging into a subband for a mode that you are not intending to use.  Use the mode expected in the subband of your current operations.

This concept is especially helpful when we consider weak-signal operations.  If a very strong, loud teletype transmission begins in a subband that is set aside for weak-signal propagation modes like WSPR, then it defeats the efforts of the operators making the attempt to have successful weak-signal two-way communications.  Thus, the teletype transmission should be made in a subband where teletype operation is expected and acceptable.  And, WSPR should stay in the subband where people expect to find WSPR signals.

This concept is also applied to VHF or higher bands.  Why?  If repeaters are parked on known repeater subbands, then weak-signal single-sideband communications can take place in a subband where repeaters are not allowed.  By allowed, though, I mean, by agreement with gentlemen’s agreements.  Regulators have stayed out of the amateur radio operations except by creating regulations at a high-level–for instance, the FCC stipulating that voice communications are not allowed between 14.000 MHz and 14.150 MHz, in the 20-Meter band.

The Frequency Grabs by the WSJT Developers, Planners, and Leadership

With several current release candidates of the WSJT-X software by Joe Taylor, the group of developers and leadership have programmed into the WSJT-X software a set of NEW default frequencies.  These new frequencies are in addition to their current pre-programmed frequencies that the amateur community now identifies as, The FT8 Subbands.

The new proposed frequencies are right on top of other subbands where other modes have been operating for decades (such as PSK and Olivia, and many others).  There was no community discussion, except within the WSJT community.  And, when someone protested the take-over of other well-established subbands, those protests were shot down.  The stated reasons included, “Well, those other modes are not very active or popular, because spots are not showing up on various spotting networks.”  Such reasons break down on deeper consideration–for instance, most spotting networks are not programmed to automatically identify Olivia transmissions.  CW, PSK, and FT8 are programmed into scanners, but other modes are ignored.

This behavior, considered rude, arrogant, presumptuous, and anti-gentlemanly (referring to well-established gentlemen’s agreements) has happened before, with the initial release of FT8.  They (the WSJT-X developers and leadership) simply picked a frequency slice of each subband, without true collaboration with the wider amateur radio community.

When this columnist and fellow amateur radio community member, attempted a discussion, the retort from an official representative was an absolute dismissal of any protest against the choice and method of frequency options within the WSJT software. While the software marks these frequency as suggestions, only, these defaults are used without question by the operators of said software.  And, the mode is so fast that there’s no human way of truly monitoring the frequency before use, to see if some other mode is in operation.  Besides, weak-signals that are present but cannot be heard by one’s ear, might well be in operation.  Subbands exist to keep QRM from covering up the weak signals of the mode expected at that frequency.

Enter the IARU…

The IARU has decided to step in and join the discussion.  “The International Amateur Radio Union has been the worldwide voice of radio amateurs, securing and safeguarding the amateur radio spectrum since 1925.”  The IARU guides regulating bodies like the FCC, regarding the administration and rule-making pertaining to amateur radio.

The IARU states, on their website,

The radio spectrum is a priceless natural resource. Because radio waves do not respect borders, the use of the spectrum must be regulated internationally. This is accomplished through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Through World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) held approximately every four years the ITU revises the international Radio Regulations which have the force and effect of a treaty. The Radio Regulations allocate the spectrum to different radiocommunication services such as broadcasting, mobile, radar, and radionavigation (GPS). The most recent WRC was held in October-November 2019. The next one is not yet scheduled but is expected to be held in 2023, so it is usually referred to as WRC-23.

New uses of the spectrum are being developed every day. This puts enormous pressure on incumbent users who are called upon to share their spectrum access with new arrivals. The allocation process is extremely complex, especially when satellite services are involved.

Reportedly, from first-hand communication from one IARU representative,

WSJT-X RC3 has 14074 kHz again for FT8. IARU is intervening. Stay tuned. I am asking for further suggestions.

73 Tom DF5JL
IARU R1 HF Manager

This is very welcomed news!

What ought to take place, as quickly as possible, is to rally the different interested parties, like the Olivia group, the PSK groups, the various CW groups like CWOps, FISTS, and the SKCC, and many others, for ideas and suggestions.  A discussion must take place in the hope that new gentlemen’s agreements can be made, that include the FT8 and FT4 operations, without stepping on the subbands of other digital modes.

As Tom says, STAY TUNED.

If you have suggestions, please comment. This columnist will summarize the main ideas of the comments and forward them to Tom.  You may also contact the IARU managers and let them know your suggestions.

Discussions in the Olivia community are ongoing, too.  Join in at OliviaDigitalMode.net even if you are not yet an Olivia operator.

On Facebook, you may also discuss your thoughts, in either the Olivia Digital Modes on HF group or in the Digital Modes on HF group.

If you use FT8 and FT4, voice your concerns and ideas, too.  Open dialog, without declaring war, is welcomed and hopefully will prove productive.

This article is the first in a series focusing on band plans, and gentlemen’s agreements. Please stay tuned for more installments.

 

Tomas, NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to ‘CQ Amateur Radio Magazine’, and ‘The Spectrum Monitor’ magazine.

Yet in Quarantine, Life Blossoms!

About a month ago, I asked,

What is going on with you during this challenging situation?” and, “How do you use amateur radio, now that we are all stuck at home?  Are you using ham radio more, now?  Less?

I am moved to say, “Thank you, to each of you who commented and even those who made a video response. I sure appreciate it!

During that video blog (or, Vlog), back a month ago (link: Chat From a Quarantined Software Engineer – Welfare Check!), I mentioned my need for dental surgery. 

I did have to have the tooth removed.  It was completely split down the middle (top to bottom), down to the root.  There was no justifiable way to save the tooth. 

I now am missing two bottom back-most teeth, and one bottom, back-most tooth.  I can report that I have healed up nicely.  I am starting to enjoy a hamburger or two.

Through all of this, I’ve still been working. Also, I’ve been involved with a LOT more ham radio–especially with Morse code activities.

How has the last month treated you?  After watching this new video (below), please leave a comment or two, or three; let hear from you, okay?

More than anything, please leave a comment to let me know how you are doing.  I hope to hear from you.

Here’s the video:

73 de NW7US dit dit

 

Chat From a Quarantined Software Engineer – Welfare Check!

This is a welfare check on you. Please leave a comment on how you are faring, what is happening in your situation with the lock-down.

Are you quarantined? Working from home? Did you lose your job? How are you doing during this crazy time?

What is going on with you during this challenging situation?

I talk about what I’m doing, too.  I’m quarantined at home.  I can work from home, as I am a senior software engineer.  I can do my job by remote access to a virtual workstation, through a secure VPN connection.  I’m blessed that I still can work during this lock-down.

But, I have a medical emergency – a dental problem – and trying to be seen by a dentist is difficult, because all of the local dentists were told to shut down their daily business and quarantine.  Only emergency appointments are being made!  I was finally, after two days of phone calls, able to schedule an emergency visit to my dentist!

I want to know: How do you use amateur radio, now that we are all stuck at home?  Are you using ham radio more, now?  Less?

Please leave a comment to let me know how you are doing, and answer the other questions, too.  I hope to hear from you.

I hope to meet you on the shortwave amateur radio bands.  I am usually using Olivia, or Morse code CW.  More information about Olivia: http://OliviaDigitalMode.net.

Be healthy, be safe, stay sane!

 

Contest Morse Code, Computers, and an Icom Rig

This past weekend (third full weekend in February, February 15-16, 2020) is the ARRL International CW Contest (ARRL DX CW link: http://www.arrl.org/arrl-dx ). This is interesting to my study of radio signal propagation as a columnist and as an amateur radio operator​ because of the contest objective: “To encourage W/VE stations to expand knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands…” This contest is a good way to get a feel for current propagation–though there are caveats.

Speaking of Morse code and the CW mode on our amateur bands: those of you using CW during contests, do you send by hand or by computer?  Do you copy the code by head, or do you use a computer for decoding?

Do you use a computer for Morse code operation?

Just curious about those of you who use CW. Do you send by hand or computer? Receive by head or computer?

In most contests like the ARRL DX CW contest, I copy by ear, and send mostly by rig keyer. If needed, I use a single paddle key with the Icom rig’s internal keyer to answer unique questions and so on.

Below is a quick demo of using the internal Morse code keyer in my Icom IC-7610 transceiver.

V47T, in the Saint Kitts and Nevis Island in the Caribbean, is calling CQ TEST in the ARRL DX CW contest.

Using the programmable virtual buttons, in which I programmed my callsign, NW7US, and other info, I answer and make a complete contest QSO.

In activity like the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC – https://SKCCGroup.com) K3Y special event, it is all manual. I send my Morse code using a WWII Navy Flameproof Signal Key, and decode with my ears.  It is contextual for me.

How do you do contesting Morse code?  Bonus question: How do you do logging while doing contest operation?

73 es best dx = de NW7US dit dit

 

“BEST REGARDSES” AND “BEST REGARDS’S”

Meme: Car and Woman Arguing, 73

Meme: Car and Woman Arguing, 73

“Best regardses” and “Best regards’s”

That’s silly, of course. We who speak and write in the English language know that you should not pluralize a word that is already in its plural form. “Best regards” means, “I wish you the best of regards.” It is implied that there is more than one regard. Perhaps there are a few, perhaps many more. It then is clear that we wouldn’t normally pluralize “regards,” into, “regardses.”

It is also silly to say that the best of regards owns something.  How can a regard let alone a group of regards own anything?  So, why “73’s” when written?

Old SWLer QSL Card With 73's

Old SWLer QSL Card With 73’s

The usage of “73” comes from early landline telegraph (typically railroad telegraphy landlines). Originally devised in the era of telegraphs, 73 and other numbers were used to speed up the transmission of common messages over landlines by mapping common messages to these specific numbers.  And, numbers were quicker to send than the longer messages the numbers replaced.

QST, April 1935, on page 60, contains a short article on the origin of the amateur radio vernacular, 73. This article was a summation of another article that appeared in the “December Bulletin from the Navy Department Office of the Chief of Naval Operations,” published December of 1934.

Landline (Railroad) Morse Code

A skilled landline Morse code operator, in action.

Here’s a quotation from that Navy article:

“It appears from a research of telegraph histories that in 1859 the [land-line] telegraph people held a convention, and one of its features was a discussion as to the saving of ‘line time.’

A committee was appointed to devise a code to reduce standard expressions to symbols or figures. This committee worked out a figure code, from figure 1 to 92.

Most of these figure symbols became obsolescent, but a few remain to this date, such as 4, which means “Where shall I go ahead?’. Figure 9 means ‘wire,’ the wire chief being on the wire and that everyone should close their keys. Symbol 13 means ‘I don’t understand’; 22 is ‘love and a kiss’; 30 means ‘good night’ or ‘the end.’

The symbol most often used now is 73, which means ‘my compliments’ and 92 is for the word ‘deliver.’ The other figures in between the forgoing have fallen into almost complete disuse.”

We can see, then, that “73” mapped to “best regards” or “my compliments” and was intended as a general valediction for transmitted messages.  That’s why it is silly to say, “73s,” as that maps to, “best regardses” – 73s adds the plural to a plural.  (And, don’t make it possessive, as in using, “73’s” – a regard cannot own something).

Jeeves, there's no plural for 73

Cartoon: Jeeves, there is no plural for 73…

For reference and some more interesting background on this, see http://www.signalharbor.com/73.html

An example of on-the-air conversation (or, QSO—“QSO” is the shorthand Q-code for, “two-way exchange of communications”) illustrates proper usage of 73. When saying your goodbye, you would tap out the Morse code as follows:

TNX FER FB QSO. C U AGN. 73 ES HPY NEW YR.

That is interpreted as, “Thanks for the fine-business chat. I hope to see you again for another chat. Best regards and happy new year.”

This, if you choose to throw around shorthand Morse code number codes when you are speaking, you wouldn’t say, “73s.” You would say, “73.”

Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW QSL Card with 73's

The Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW used 73’s on his QSL cards.

My friend, David Edenfield, opined, “This idea is beyond turning into glue from the dead horse it’s beating again. This is so petty to be concerned with this. Even the Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW used 73s on his QSL cards.”

Well, even Hiram Percy Maxim has been incorrect and incorrectly used grammar. (chuckle)

There is something to be said about teaching new amateur radio operators the best of our traditions, history, skills, procedures, protocols, ethics, and culture. There’s no rational argument that can make a case that allowing these aspects of our service and hobby to degrade over time (by the lack of Elmering) is a good way to see our service and hobby thrive and progress.

I don’t see any slippage from high standards as being a good strategy for nurturing growth, progress, and effectiveness of our service and hobby. Keeping some level of excellence in every aspect of our hobby can only be beneficial.

In this case, how many new hams that learn to repeat ham lingo know anything of the history behind the common “73?” My dead horse turned glue is educational and it is my belief that educating about origins elevates the current.

73 – NW7US

NW7US QSL Card (circa 2019)

NW7US QSL Card (circa 2019)

..

 


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