Archive for the ‘hf’ Category
To save time, let me get this out of the way:
Yes, I do know that making contacts via FT8 is not as personal and may not be as much fun as running a pileup on SSB or CW. Still, it is Real Ham Radio and enjoyable in a different way.
I’ve used this station on multiple activations now but I have to admit that these have been mostly for POTA. It seems that whenever I get on top of a SOTA summit, I tend to focus on making VHF contacts which consumes the available time and the HF gear remains stashed way in my pack. This is more about my operating habits than anything else. Looking at spots though, there is a lot of FT8 on POTA and not nearly as much on SOTA. The SOTA crowd tends to have a lot of traditional CW enthusiasts and maybe POTA has fewer of them. Also, SOTA operating is usually backpack portable so carrying a compute device for FT8 may be considered an unnecessary hassle. POTA stations are often in or near a vehicle, so station size/weight is less of a concern.
For POTA, I make sure my activation is posted at pota.app, indicating the park number I am activating. When calling CQ, I modify the standard FT8 text to be “CQ POTA” to indicate that I am doing an activation. When my signal is detected by the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN), a spot is created that shows me doing a POTA activation from that park. Pretty cool. If I have an internet connection, I monitor my spots using the Ham Alert app. This provides useful feedback about where my signal is showing up around the world.
But what are the main reasons that FT8 is useful for POTA?
FT8 is popular
In case you haven’t noticed, FT8 has emerged from being just a niche activity to now being very popular on most ham bands. At times this can be a problem with the standard FT8 frequency slice being overloaded with signals. There is a lot of FT8 activity on the bands, for general ham use and SOTA/POTA.
FT8 works well with low power
FT8 and the other WSJT-X modes are designed to work well with weak signals, so they are a great match for low-power operation. Of course, QRP power levels are very common for backpack portable activations, mostly due to the limitations of carrying a reasonable-size battery.
FT8 signals are spotted on RBN
As mentioned earlier, FT8 signals are picked up and spotted by RBN. For better or worse, people have come to rely on spotting for many types of ham radio operating. When on a SOTA or POTA activation, you really want to be spotted as such. For phone activations, I usually do that with a smartphone but that requires some extra effort and a mobile phone connection. FT8 and RBN take care of that for you.
FT8 logging is automated
The various FT8 software applications automatically log the QSO information, which means it is easy and less error-prone. After the activation, I just pull up the ADIF log file, check it for obvious errors, add in the SOTA/POTA info, and submit it to the appropriate websites.
FT8 is campsite friendly
This last one may be a bit subtle but I’ve found FT8 to be campsite friendly. By that, I mean I can get on the air at any time (early, late or at nap time) and not disturb anyone else. (On SSB, I would likely be enthusiastically yelling into the microphone trying to work a pileup.) Besides the audio noise factor, FT8 operation allows for multitasking. I can converse with my fellow campers while still keeping up with the FT8 flow. Alternatively, I can cook dinner, make a fire, or pack my backpack while the FT8 QSOs roll in. This may sound a little bit like cheating but, hey, whatever works.
So clearly, I’ve been having fun with FT8 for POTA. I consider it to be another tool in the toolkit. There are times when I will make good use of it but there will also be times to use other modes.
73 Bob K0NR
This past year, Joyce/\K0JJW and I did quite a few Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA) activations, often as part of an RV camping trip. During this time, we made some improvements to our portable gear. For SOTA, we primarily use the VHF/UHF bands but we have been sprinkling in a bit more HF activity. For POTA, we often don’t have a Height Above Average Terrain advantage, so we definitely use the HF bands.
Our main goal was to have a backpack portable station for SOTA and POTA that can cover HF through 70 cm, on the most popular bands/modes including CW, SSB, FM and FT8.
Using The IC-705
The Icom IC-705 is a great transceiver for covering most HF, VHF and UHF bands. With an external battery, the transceiver puts out 10 watts of RF power. (This is a bit less than the 50 watts from our Yaesu FT-90, which is our default choice for 2m and 70 cm SOTA.) We have accumulated a number of Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries from Bioenno. They are all set up with PowerPole connectors and are easily interchanged. See a previous post, My SOTA Battery Journey.
Arguably the biggest weakness of the IC-705 is the lack of an internal antenna tuner for the HF bands. Of course, you can operate without a tuner by making sure your antenna is always 50 ohms. I find that limiting, especially under portable conditions where the antenna configuration might be compromised. Also, some common end-fed antennas that cover multiple bands are not a good match for all bands. There are external automatic antenna tuners available for the IC-705, so initially those looked like a good solution. Then I remembered that I had a small MFJ-902 Travel Tuner that could do the job. The MFJ-902 is a classic T-network with two variable capacitors and one variable inductor. I gave it a try and was impressed with how easy it was to tune using the SWR meter of the IC-705. This thing is simple and it works.
The rear panel of the tuner has two SO-239 connectors, one for the transceiver and one for the antenna. I put a BNC adapter onto the transceiver port and used a short BNC cable to connect to the IC-705.
The Travel Tuner is compact and not very heavy, so it works out well for backpack portable use. It can handle up to 150 watts, which is overkill for the IC-705 but it may come in handy when used with a higher power transceiver. Still, I am on the lookout for an even more compact (probably lower power) manual antenna tuner.
We have collected a variety of HF antennas, focused mostly on 20 meters and higher. These are typically end-fed, including single-band half-wave designs as well as multiband random-length antennas. These are used in the classic SOTA configuration with one end of the wire supported by a lightweight fishing pole and the coax connection on the ground, fed by a 25-foot length of RG-8X coaxial cable.
With the popularity of FT8 on the HF bands as well as 6 meters, I figured we should include that mode in our portable kit. My first thought was to use a compact Windows computer running the standard WSJT-X software. Ultimately, I chose the SDR Control app for the Apple iPad (by Marcus/DL8MRE), which supports specific Icom radios. The iPad connects to the IC-705 via its WiFi connection, which simplifies the connection/cabling challenge. The SDR Control app does cost $49.99, so it is not your inexpensive iOS app but I have found it to be worth the price. Because this app is focused only on iOS and certain Icom radios, it is well-tuned to be a no-fuss solution. I am currently using the app only for FT8 but it has other features and modes for me to explore.
The Powerwerx PWRbox is shown in the photo above, which we often use for operating POTA. (This box is a bit heavy for hiking.) The PWRbox holds a 20 Ah battery as described here. Also shown in the photo is a handy little stand for the IC-705, the NEEWER Folding Z Flex Tilt Head. It does a great job of holding and stabilizing the radio at a variety of angles. (Hat tip to Kyle/KD0TRD.) It is also a little heavy for backpack portable, so it usually gets left behind on a hike.
For a protective case for the IC-705, we use the Maxpedition 12-Inch X 5-Inch Bottle Holder. I’ve seen other IC-705 users recommend it and OH8STN mentioned it on his blog. At first glance, the case seems a bit large but this provides enough room inside to stow a small Bioenno battery and other accessories. The side pouch is a good place for storing the microphone and power cord.
This post shares some new equipment configurations we are using for SOTA and POTA, mostly focused on the IC-705. I really like that radio for portable ops as it is the best solution for operating HF through UHF. The SDR Control software on an iPad has also turned out to be a win for us.
What are you using for your portable station?
Do you have any tips or other operating ideas?
73 Bob K0NR
Joyce/K0JJW and I enjoy visiting the National Parks in the US, an activity that naturally combines with Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA). While planning a visit to Isle Royale National Park in upper Michigan, we decided to activate at least one SOTA summit as well as activate the park for POTA. The park is one large island surrounded by many smaller ones, accessible by boat or airplane. The park is actually closer to Canada than the US mainland.
There is quite a bit of information about visiting the park on the Isle Royale National Park website, so I won’t repeat that here. We opted to take the Isle Royale Queen IV ferry from Copper Harbor, MI to and from the island and stay for three nights at Rock Harbor Lodge on the northeast end of the park.
The closest SOTA summit to Rock Harbor is Mount Ojibway (W8M/UP-059), which soon became the objective for our SOTA activation. This summit had been activated only once, by Scott/WA9STI in 2017. I contacted Scott, who was very helpful in sharing his experience on Ojibway. (There are three other SOTA summits in the park, with first activations by Mark/NK8Q.)
We had four friends join us on this trip, including the hike to Mount Ojibway. Two of them were licensed radio amateurs: Paul/KF9EY and Beth/KB9DOU with Paul joining us in doing the SOTA activation.
We normally do SOTA activations using VHF/UHF, so this raised the issue of whether that was possible given the remote nature of the island. I poked around on the interwebz and reached out to radio clubs on both the US and Canadian sides. Randy/VA3OJ in Thunder Bay and Bill/KD8JAM on the Keweenaw Peninsula were particularly helpful and they both confirmed they can work stations on Isle Royale from their locations using 2m FM. The distance is not that far, especially to the Canadian side, and it is a straight shot over water.
There were two things that I worried about on this activation: bugs and rain, neither of which were under our control. For bugs, we loaded up on a variety of insect repellents and head nets. However, once we arrived at the island, it was pretty clear the bugs were not bad at all, probably because we were late enough in the year (late August). For the rain, we made sure we had rain gear and synthetic clothes, with the attitude of expecting to get soaked and being able to survive it.
There was no internet on the island (the lodge says they have it but it was not working). Occasionally we would get 1 bar of Verizon LTE service at Rock Harbor but is was not reliable. This meant that we were very limited in sending any email updates out to people. I emailed our plans to interested parties and posted an Alert on SOTAwatch before we hopped on the ferry.
For equipment, we decided to take our Icom IC-705 and an external battery pack for 10 watts of RF on all bands of interest. Our priority was VHF but we also took along antennas for 40m through 10m. In addition, I configured an iPad for FT8 but we did not end up using that capability.
Mount Ojibway is about a 7-mile hike from the Rock Harbor Lodge, so we decided to have the water taxi drop us off at Daisy Farm Campground and hike in from there, which is about 2 miles one way. We also scheduled the water taxi to pick us up for the return trip. So this set us up for a 4-mile round trip hike with modest elevation gain.
On the morning of our activation, a thunderstorm rolled into Rock Harbor delivering a good dose of lightning to the area. I checked on the status of the water taxi and it was uncertain whether it would be running due to the storm. We sat tight and the weather cleared up enough such that we could go. Still, it was cloudy and the forecast included some rain in the afternoon. I told our group, “We are going to get wet today.”
Mount Ojibway at 1150 feet is part of the Greenstone Ridge that runs along the top of the island. It is also the location of an observation tower, now used as a radio site. The SOTA database shows the summit a bit to the northeast of the tower and the ridge is quite flat with a broad activation zone. My GPS app showed our hike as 1.9 miles one-way, with 540 feet vertical. The trail is well-established and in good condition. There were several narrow boardwalks (narrow planks) over marshy areas that were unnerving for some of our group.
At the summit, we appreciated some blue sky and nice weather that appeared while we set up the IC-705 and 3-element Yagi for 2 meters. We called CQ SOTA on 146.52 MHz and soon worked KD8JAM and VA3OJ. We kept calling and picked up two more 2m FM contacts: W9GY and VA3DVE. About this time, we set up the endfed antenna for the HF bands and (just barely) worked W0BV in Colorado on 20m SSB. (My phone was not able to spot us but I used my Garmin inReach to message W0BV and he came up on frequency.) I also worked W4GO, who had a decent 55 signal at the summit. But 20m was not working very well for us and I started to consider what changes I should make to the station. However, the dark clouds approaching from the northwest made that a moot point as we packed up our gear and headed down the trail. Sorry, we were not able to do more on HF.
On the way down the summit, things got a bit more exciting, and not in a good way. The storm clouds moved in and the light rain we experienced off and on during the day turned into a downpour. My warning of “we are going to get wet today” became all too true. This is the kind of rain that turned the nice, well-developed trail into a river of flowing water. With the rain came lightning, not close by but close enough. We were walking through a well-established forest so the lightning exposure was not too bad. The muddy trail definitely slowed us down as we did not want to add injury to our adventure.
We all were thoroughly drenched by the time we arrived at Daisy Farm Campground. At that point, the storm quit and we hung out on the dock waiting for the water taxi to pick us up. The water taxi apparently had its schedule adjusted and arrived over an hour later than expected. I guess we were on island time.
It was a successful but wet activation. Thank you so much to the radio amateurs who worked us, especially KD8JAM and VA3OJ. We couldn’t have done it without you.
73 Bob K0NR
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OLIVIA DIGITAL MODE AUGUST 2023 QSO PARTY
Dates: August 11, 12, 13, 14 UTC
These are UTC dates,
starting at 00:00 UTC on first date, and,
ending at 23:59:59 UTC on last date
Our August Olivia QSO Party Weekend is published in QST!
On Facebook, the event link is: https://www.facebook.com/events/1332228534167891/
For full information about using Olivia, please visit our Groups dot io Olivia Group:
What is unique about THIS particular QSO party?
Olivia is the digital (HF) protocol developed at the end of 2003 by Pawel Jalocha. This is the 20th Year Anniversary QSO party by the Olivia Digital DXers Club (we’re on Clublog).
Using UTC (GMT), starting at 00:00 UTC, August 11, through 23:59:59 UTC, August 14, 2023 – Olivia on the HF bands. Chat is encouraged, not the number of contacts, but the quality…
We will issue PDF certificates, after you send your ADIF log to NW7US (see QRZ dot com for email address for NW7US).
Those of you interested in the Olivia Digital Mode on HF (Amateur Radio Chat mode), we have a live Discord server for live spotting, etc. Here is the Discord chat: https://discord.gg/yktw8vC3HX
Our email reflector is: http://OliviaDigitalMode.org
ABOUT OLIVIA DIGITAL MODE ON HF
Below are suggested frequencies on which can be found Olivia signals (note: Olivia is a weak-signal mode, NOT a low-power mode). While it is easy to spot a STRONG Olivia signal anywhere on the waterfall, by using these suggested calling frequencies at least once and a while, you will enable us to find your signal when the signal is too weak to hear and too faint to see on the waterfall.
Olivia can do well with weak signals. Yes, our suggested 8 tone with 250 Hz bandwidth results in slow transmissions. But it is one of the better settings when attempting to decode very weak signals. Once you make contact, you can move up or down a bit, away from the calling frequency, and then change to 16/500 to make the conversation go faster. But, on a calling frequency, it is advisable to configure operations in such a way as to increase the likelihood that you will find and decode that weak signal.
In the following list, CENTER is where you place the center of the software’s cursor, and click to select that center frequency on the waterfall. If you use the DIAL frequency from this list, then click 1500 Hz offset up the waterfall (1500 Hz to the RIGHT of the LEFT side of the waterfall, if your waterfall is oriented horizontally with the lowest frequency on the left). This results in the software and transceiver being correctly tuned for the CENTER frequency.
The listing shows CENTER, then DIAL, then the number of tones and the bandwidth.
CENTER DIAL Tones/Bandwidth (Notes) 1.8390 MHz 1.8375 MHz 8/250 (ITU Region 1, etc.; Primary International) 1.8270 MHz 1.8255 MHz 8/250 (ITU Region 2; Secondary) 3.5830 MHz 3.5815 MHz 8/250 7.0400 MHz 7.0385 MHz 8/250 (ITU Region 2, etc., Primary International) 7.0730 MHz 7.0715 MHz 8/250 (Secondary) 10.1430 MHz 10.1415 MHz 8/250 10.1440 MHz 10.1425 MHz 16/1000 (Potential - be mindful of other stations) 14.0730 MHz 14.0715 MHz 8/250 14.1075 MHz 14.1060 MHz 32/1000 18.0990 MHz 18.0975 MHz 8/250 21.0730 MHz 21.0715 MHz 8/250 24.9230 MHz 24.9215 MHz 8/250 28.1230 MHz 28.1215 MHz 8/250
REMEMBER THAT IF YOU USE THE DIAL FREQUENCY (THE SECOND FREQUENCY PER ROW), SET YOUR WATERFALL CENTER AT 1500 Hz)
ALSO: If your software is able to decode/encode the Reed-Solomon Identification signals (RSID), please turn on both received and transmit RSID. An example is shown in the following video, which demonstrates enabling RSID in a popular software suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBIacwD9nNM
Please share this everywhere possible, as part of our effort to rekindle the love for our conversational mode, Olivia.
73 de NW7US
August 4 through 7, 2023
www.ham14er.orgAmateur Radio operators from around Colorado will be climbing Colorado Summits On The Air (SOTA) peaks and communicating with other radio amateurs across the state and around the world. Join in on the fun during the annual event by activating a summit or contacting (chasing) the mountaintop stations.This event is normally held the first full weekend in August. Again this year, we will add two bonus days to the Colorado 14er Event. The main two days remain Saturday and Sunday (Aug 5 & 6), while the bonus days are Friday Aug 4 and Monday Aug 7th, for those SOTA enthusiasts that need more than two days of SOTA fun! Be aware that many mountaintop activators will hit the trail early with the goal of being off the summits by (1800 UTC) noon due to lightning safety concerns.
The 14er event includes Summits On the Air (SOTA) peaks, which provide over 1700 summits to activate. (See the W0C SOTA web page or browse the SOTA Atlas.) The Colorado 14er Event was started in 1991, about 19 years before the SOTA program was set up in Colorado. As SOTA grew in popularity, this event expanded from just the 14,000-foot mountains (14ers) to include all of the SOTA summits in the state. We still call it the Colorado 14er Event because, well, that’s where it all started and the 14ers are the iconic summits in the state.
Important: The recommended 2m FM frequencies have been changed to 146.58, 146.55, and 146.49 MHz, to align with the use of the North America Adventure Frequency for SOTA (146.58). The National Simplex Calling Frequency (146.52) may be used as appropriate. There will be plenty of action on the other ham bands, for more information see the operating frequencies page.
Colorado 14er Event webpage – Everything to Know About The Colorado 14er Event
Beginner Guide – For the first-time activator
Ham14er Groups.io – Discussion Group for the event
Colorado SOTA groups.io – Colorado SOTA discussion group
Colorado 14er Event Task Force
I had so many plans for my Hamvention 2023 visit on Friday and Saturday, May 19-20, 2023. For example, I planned on many interviews including one with N3ZN, maker of great Morse code keys. I also needed to visit the Card Checker Service of the ARRL DXCC program. I had a handful of DX cards I was submitting toward DXCC credits.
But, I collapsed about 40 minutes after I got to the Hamvention, on Friday morning! I had just finished getting my DX QSL cards checked at the ARRL booth, then I collapsed. After only being at my first Hamvention for a brief 40-some minutes, I was taken by ambulance to an ER of a Xenia-area hospital. My blood pressure was difficult to measure at the initial moments of being at the emergency room — it was about 60 over 40, and I had NO radial pulse.
After a CT scan of heart and neck, and blood lab work, I was transported again by ambulance to a hospital near Dayton. There, I was admitted to that hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) around 5:30 PM on Friday.
I’m writing this on Saturday, from my hospital bed, as I’m still in ICU in Dayton. I hope to be discharged tomorrow (Sunday, 21 May 2023).
The working diagnosis is Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), caused by a combination of issues starting with my parathyroidectomy surgery, a few months back. I had three of my four parathyroid glands removed because they were completely tumorous. I wrote about that in my previous entry on this website.
Turns out my calcium levels were lower than they should be, causing problems throughout my body, but especially in my heart. Additionally, I was severally dehydrated due to two medications I had been taking because the VA doctors thought I should be on them. But, these meds were working against me. One of those I don’t even need, but the VA had me taking. That one is FUROSEMIDE. The other is LISINOPRIL. I don’t have high blood pressure, nor water retention.
At the ICU, I have stopped taking those meds. I’m on an IV, getting hydrated, and getting calcium supplements.
My kidney function is improving but I’m going to spend another night in ICU until they feel confident I’ve made full recovery. I hope to be discharged on Sunday, 21 May, 2023.
I hope all of you that were at this year’s Hamvention have enjoyed the fellowship of radio enthusiasts. Maybe I’ll meet many of you, next year! I will make videos of Hamvention 2024, if all goes well in a year’s time.
If you were at Hamvention 2023, share some highlights in the comments!
UPDATE: On Sunday, I was released from the ICU, and I am now home recuperating. Monday is a bit rough, so am not at work, yet. BP is normal, and I am on new medication for my heart so that I do not get dehydrated by the furosemide and lisinopril. Here’s hoping for next year’s Hamvention, which I hope to attend.
73 de NW7US
Morse Code Day on April 27 (every year) honors one of the inventers of the Morse code, Samuel Morse, who was born on this day in 1791.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American inventor and painter. After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of Morse code and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.
Alfred Vail developed the dot-dash structure, and Leonard Gale along with Vail was instrumental in developing the mechanical receiving apparatus for code.
Samuel Morse gets most of the credit because of his work in promoting this code as a viable means of communication. Morse code is still used now. Amateur radio is one of the communities in which Morse code is popular and in daily use.
73 de NW7US dit dit