Archive for the ‘radio’ Category

Part 2 of 2: Life-changing Moment and Solar Cycle 25

From the RAIN HamCast episode #57, 2021-XII-25 (used with permission):

RAIN’s Hap Holly/KC9RP spoke with Tomas recently about Solar Cycle 25. This is the second and final excerpt from their discussion.

From the introduction to The RAIN HamCast, Episode #57:

In this episode, we continue our discussion with Tomas Hood/NW7US, the author of many writings about space weather and effects of solar activity the past 20-plus years.

(Part 1 of 2 can be found here: Episode #56, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnuSOXhFELQ)

Tomas has been a short wave enthusiast since 1973, a ham operator since 1990, and is a United States Army Signal Corps veteran today. He launched the first civilian space weather propagation website, HFRadio.org, in the mid 90’s; HFradio later spawned SunSpotWatch.com; at press time Sunspotwatch.com is being revamped for the new Solar Cycle 25.

Tomas has contributed to the Space Weather Propagation column in CQ magazine for over 20 years, and for The Spectrum Monitor magazine since 2014. A product of the Pacific northwest, Tomas resides now in Fayetteville, Ohio.

RAIN’s Hap Holly/KC9RP spoke with Tomas recently about Solar Cycle 25. This is the second and final excerpt from their discussion.​

Here is the second part of the two-part interview:

If you missed part one of this conversation, you’ll find it as RAIN Hamcast #56 both on therainreport.com and on the RAIN Hamcast page on YouTube, as well as here: Episode #56, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnuSOXhFELQ.

RAIN Hamcast #58 will post January 8, 2022. Hap Holly/KC9RP edits and produces this biweekly ham radio podcast. It is copyright 1985-2021 , RAIN, all rights reserved. RAIN programming is made available under a Creative Commons license ; you are encouraged to download, share, post and transmit the RAIN Hamcast in its entirety via Amateur Radio. Your support and feedback are welcome on therainreport.com. Thanks for YouTube Technical Assistance from Tom Shimizu/N9JDI. I’m Will Rogers/K5WLR bidding you very 73 and 44 from the Radio Amateur Information Network.

KEEP ON HAMMING!

Footnote: Yes, NW7US misspoke about the time it takes sunlight to travel from the Sun to the Earth. He meant that it takes sunlight and radio waves just over 8 minutes to make that trip…

 

Solar Cycle 25, and a Life-Changing Event (Part 1 of 2)

From the RAIN HamCast episode #56, 2021-XII-11 (used with permission):

When you were knee high to a grasshopper, did you undergo a game-changing experience that shaped your future career?

Here is text from the introduction:

Tomas Hood/NW7US did. Tomas has been a shortwave enthusiast since 1973. He was first licensed as a ham in 1990 at age 25.

In the mid 1990s Tomas launched the first civilian space weather propagation website, HFRadio.org, which later spawned SunSpotWatch.com. His website, NW7US has been up and running since June, 1999. Tomas has contributed to the Space Weather Propagation column in CQ magazine for over 20 years, and for The Spectrum Monitor magazine since 2014.

A product of the Pacific northwest, Tomas resides today in Fayetteville, OH. RAIN’s Hap Holly/KC9RP spoke with Tomas recently about Solar Cycle 25 and the game-changing afternoon Tomas experienced in 1973 at age 8 ( Read more about this, at his amateur radio and space weather blog: https://blog.NW7US.us/ ).

Here is the first part of the two-part interview:

Mentioned in the interview is Skylab:

From Wikipedia’s article on Skylab: Skylab was the first United States space station, launched by NASA, occupied for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and February 1974. It was operated by three separate three-astronaut crews: Skylab 2, Skylab 3, and Skylab 4. Major operations included an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, Earth observation, and hundreds of experiments.

Tomas was drawn into space weather as a life-long passion, by inspiration from Skylab, and from the hourly propagation bulletin from the radio station WWV.

WATCH FOR THE NEXT EPISODE, PART TWO

This video is only part one. The RAIN HamCast will conclude Hap’s conversation with Tomas in RAIN HamCast #57, scheduled for posting Christmas Day.

Hap Holly, of the infamous RAIN Report (RAIN = Radio Amateur Information Network), is now producing The RAIN HamCast. The results are both on https://therainreport.com and on the RAIN HamCast YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUbNkaUvX_lt5IiDkS9aS4g

KEEP ON HAMMING!

The RAIN Hamcast is produced and edited by Hap Holly/KC9RP; this biweekly podcast is copyright 1985-2021 RAIN, All rights reserved. RAIN programming is formatted for Amateur Radio transmission and is made available under a Creative Commons license; downloading, sharing, posting and transmission of this ham radio program via Amateur Radio in its entirety are encouraged. Your support and feedback are welcome on https://therainreport.com. Thanks for YouTube Technical Assistance from Tom Shimizu/N9JDI.

 

Interested in Amateur Radio Digital Mode FT8 Operations?

A VISUAL + AUDIO AIR CHECK OF DIGITAL MODE FT8 QSOs, ON THE 30-METER BAND

Here is a video capture of the reception and transmission of many digital FT8-mode amateur radio high-frequency (HF; Shortwave) communication signals. This video is a front-seat view of the software operation performed at the radio room of amateur radio operator, NW7US, Tomas Hood.

The software packages demonstrated are installed and operational on a modern personal computer. The computer is connected to an Icom IC-7610 radio transceiver, controlled by the software. While there is no narration in the video, the video provides an opportunity for you to see first-hand how typical FT8 operations are performed. The signals can be heard.

The frequency used for the FT8 communication in this video is on or about 10.136 MHz, in the 30-Meter shortwave amateur radio allocation (or, band). As can be seen, the 30-Meter band was active at this time of day (0720 UTC, onward–local nighttime).

In this video you see (and hear) NW7US make two-way contacts, or QSOs, with stations from around the country and the world.

There are amateur radio operators within the amateur radio community who regard the FT8 digital mode (FT8 stands for “Franke-Taylor design, 8-FSK modulation“, and refers to the mode created by Joe Taylor, K1JT and Steve Franke, K9AN) as robotic (automatic, automated, and unattended) computer-to-computer communications, and not ‘true’ human communications–thus negating the spirit of ham radio. In other words, FT8, in their opinion, is not real amateur radio. While they pontificate about supposed automated computer communications, many of those holding this position have not installed and configured the software, nor tried communicating with the FT8 digital mode. They have perhaps formed their anti-FT8 opinion in a vacuum of knowledge. (This writer has other issues with FT8, but not on this point–see below)

As you watch the video linked in this article, consider these concepts:

+ A QSO is defined (as per common knowledge–see below) as the exchange of at least the minimum information needed as set by the requirements of a particular award, or, as is defined by law–for instance, a QSO would have at least an exchange of the legal call sign assigned to the radio station and/or control operator, the location of the station making the transmission, and a signal report of some kind about the signal received from the other transmitter at the other end of the QSO.

+ Just how much human involvement is required to make a full FT8 QSO? Does WSJT-X software run all by itself, with no human control? Is WSJT-X a robot, in the sense that it picks a frequency, then initiates or answers a CQ call automatically, or is it just powerful digital-mode software that still requires human control?

The video was captured from the screen of the PC running the following software packages interacting together as a system:

+ WSJT-X: The primary software featuring the digital mode, FT8. (See below for some background on WSJT-X software.)

+ JTAlert: Provides several audio and visual alert types based on decoded Callsigns within WSJT-X.

+ Log4OM, Version 2: A full-featured logging program, which integrates well with WSJT-X and JTAlert.

+ Win4IcomSuite: A full-featured radio controlling program which can remote control rigs, and provide control through virtual communication port-sharing.

+ Com0Com: The Null-modem emulator allows you to create an unlimited number of virtual COM port pairs and use any pair to connect one COM port based application to another. Each COM port pair provides two COM ports. The output to one port is the input from other port and vice versa.

As mentioned, above, the radio used for the communication of FT8 at the station, NW7US, is an Icom IC-7610 transceiver. The antenna is an off-center fed dipole that is over 200 feet in total length (end-to-end measurement).

Some Notes:

About WSJT-X

WSJT-X is a computer program used for weak-signal radio communication between amateur radio operators, or used by Shortwave Radio Listeners (SWLers; SWL) interested in monitoring the FT8 digital communications between amateur radio operators. The program was initially written by Joe Taylor, K1JT with Steve Franke, K9AN, but is now open source and is developed by a small team. The digital signal processing techniques in WSJT-X make it substantially easier for amateur radio operators to employ esoteric propagation modes, such as high-speed meteor scatter and moonbounce.

WSJT-X implements communication protocols or “modes” called FST4, FST4W, FT4, FT8, JT4, JT9, JT65, Q65, MSK144, and WSPR, as well as one called Echo for detecting and measuring your own radio signals reflected from the Moon. These modes were all designed for making reliable, confirmed QSOs under extreme weak-signal conditions. JT4, JT9, and JT65 use nearly identical message structure and source encoding (the efficient compression of standard messages used for minimal QSOs). They use timed 60-second Transmit/Rreceive (T/R) sequences synchronized with UTC (Universal Time, Coordinated). JT4 and JT65 were designed for Earth-Moon-Earth communications (EME, or, moonbounce) on the Very-High Frequency (VHF), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and microwave bands. JT9 is optimized for the Medium-Frequency (MF) and High-Frequency (HF) bands. It is about 2 dB more sensitive than JT65 while using less than 10% of the bandwidth. Q65 offers submodes with a wide range of T/R sequence lengths and tone spacings.FT4 and FT8 are operationally similar but use T/R cycles only 7.5 and 15 seconds long, respectively. MSK144 is designed for Meteor Scatter on the VHF bands. These modes offer enhanced message formats with support for nonstandard call signs and some popular contests. (The MSK in MSK144 stands for, Multiple Frequency Shift Keying.)

FST4 and FST4W are designed particularly for the Low-Frequency (LF) and MF bands. On these bands, their fundamental sensitivities are better than other WSJT-X modes with the same sequence lengths, approaching the theoretical limits for their rates of information throughput. FST4 is optimized for two-way QSOs, while FST4W is for quasi-beacon transmissions of WSPR-style messages. FST4 and FST4W do not require the strict, independent time synchronization and phase locking of modes like EbNaut.

As described more fully on its own page, WSPR mode implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions. WSPR is fully implemented within WSJT-X, including programmable band-hopping.

What is a QSO?

Under the title, CONTACTS, at the Sierra Foothills Amateur Radio Club’s 2014 Technician Class webpage, https://www.hsdivers.com/Ham/Mod15.html, they teach,

An amateur radio contact (called a QSO), is an exchange of info between two amateur radio stations. The exchange usually consists of an initial call (CQ = call to all stations). Then, a response from another amateur radio operator, and usually at least a signal report.

Contacts can be limited to just a minimal exchange of call signs & signal reports generally between amateurs previously unknown to each other. Very short contacts are usually done only during contests while longer, extended ‘rag chews’ may be between newly met friends with some common interest or someone you have known for a long time.

Wikipedia has an entry for QSO, too.

My Issue With FT8 and WSJT-X

I have written in the past, on this website, about an issue that came about during the course of the development of the WSJT-X software package. The development team decided to widen the slice of ‘default’ (pre-programmed) frequencies on which to operate FT8. The issue was how the choice of new frequencies was made, and what choices were implemented in an upcoming software release. Read more about all of this, in these three articles:

+ Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab (Part 1)

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

+ In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Has this issue been resolved? For now, yes. There appears to be more coordination between interested groups, and the proposed new frequencies were removed from the software defaults in WSJT-X. At least, up to this point, at the time of publishing this article.

..

New Antenna: The Following Footprints Are of My CW Signals (2021-March-14 @ 04:00 to 04:20 UTC).

The following footprints are of my CW signals on 2021-March-14 at about 04:00 to 04:20 UTC.

Click on this image to see a larger version of this image:
Footprint of NW7US Test CW Transmissions, Using New OCF Antenna

Location: EM89ad – Ohio
Antenna: OCD (Off-center Dipole)

Description of Antenna:

This is an off-center dipole, with the two legs running East-East-South (approximately 125 degrees of North), and West-West-North (about 306 degrees on the compass). The westward wire (leg) is approximately 107 feet in length, while the eastward leg is about 95 feet in length.

These legs (an off-center-fed dipole) is directly connected to about 90 feet of 450-ohm ladder line, which is hanging directly below, vertically, the feed point. The feed point is 50 feet above the ground.

The ladder line terminates (at the 12-feet-above-ground point) to a 4:1 current balun. This current balun then connects to a 100-foot LMR 50-ohm coax, which is running into the radio shack. It is connected via an antenna switch to my Icom IC-7610 transceiver. I am transmitting a 100-watt CW signal using an Icom IC-7610, in the following format:

TEST TEST TEST DE NW7US NW7US NW7US

The Reverse Beacon Network reports any spotting of this test transmission. The beta mapping interface, at http://beta.reversebeacon.net/main.php, then maps the resulting spots. To learn more about the RBN, visit http://beta.reversebeacon.net/index.php, or, http://reversebeacon.net/index.php.

I show the 20-, 30-, 40-, 60-, 80-, and 160-Meter band footprints.

I’ve been capturing these CW transmission spots, at different times of the day, today. I’ll get data from several days, at regular intervals, and create a overview of how the antenna appears to be working during this month and under these propagation conditions.

73 de NW7US dit dit

..

Strongest X-Ray Solar Flare in New Cycle 25! A Class M4.4 Flare on 29 Nov 2020

At 13:11 UTC, 29-Nov-2020, the largest X-ray flare so far in new Sunspot Cycle 25 peaked at M4.4 (NOAA scale). The flare was not Earth-facing; the active sunspot region hasn’t rotated into Earth view.  If it had erupted while the sunspot group faced Earth, it likely would have measured as an X-class flare.  As this sunspot region rotates into view, we may see many more flares in the coming days.
Strongest X-Ray Solar Flare So Far in Cycle 25 - M4.4 on 29 Nov 2020

Here’s a look at the strongest X-ray flare so far in Cycle 25, and the strongest in three years. The flare measured as an M4.4-class Solar Flare, and it peaked at 13:11 UTC on 29 NOV 2020.

This is exciting! Why? Some scientists are speculating that a rapid start to Cycle 25 will result in one of the most active cycles in recent solar cycle history. Which could mean that we could work the world with a wet noodle, on the 10-Meter band!
With a rapid increase in sunspot activity as we ramp up in Sunspot Cycle 25, the solar flux (the 10.7-cm Radio Flux measurement) will be increasing. That means, generally, we will see better HF conditions on the frequencies above 7 MHz on through 30 MHz or higher. 
The bad news is that larger flares cause radio blackout events, because the ionospheric D-Layer absorption increases for the duration of an Earth-facing solar X-ray flare. During this M4.4 X-ray flare, we had a level R1 event, causing some shortwave blackout regions.

Just Get On The Air! (A Makeshift Temporary Dipole Shortwave Antenna)

It might not take as much antenna as you may think would be necessary to make two-way contacts on shortwave radio (as an amateur radio operator putting an HF transceiver on the air). However, often, makeshift antennae are effective enough to be viable–just look at all the contacts many amateur radio operators make with their low-power (QRP) rigs (transceivers) using short, helically-wound, mobile antenna sticks. If they can work magic with such inefficient antenna setups, surely your effort at an antenna would pay off to some degree. Right?

Of course, I want to make a proper dipole out of this example antenna. But, while I wait for the rest of the parts I need to complete this antenna project (pulleys and a ladder, and maybe a potato launcher), I’ve put this makeshift antenna on the air, with it just high enough so that I can enjoy some time on the shortwave bands.

With this antenna, I’ve made successful two-way voice and Morse code contacts (QSOs) with stations in Europe and across North America. I am able to tune it on the 60-, 40-, 30-, 20-, 15-, 17-, 12-, and 10-Meter bands. Reverse beacon detection picks up my Morse-code CW signals, especially on 40 meters (the band on which it is tuned physically).

The bottom line: just get something up in the air and start communicating. Improve things over time. You’ll have much fun that way.

73 de NW7US dit dit

Perfect Straight-Key Morse Code? Can It Be Made Without Machines?

What is the proper (and most efficient) technique for creating Morse code by hand, using a manual Morse code key?
Ham radio operators find Morse code (and the CW mode, or Continuous Wave keying mode) very useful, even though Morse code is no longer required as part of the licensing process.
Morse code is highly effective in weak-signal radio work.  And, Preppers love Morse code because it is the most efficient way to communicate when there is a major disaster that could wipe out the communications infrastructure.
While this military film is antique, the vintage information is timeless, as the material is applicable to Morse code, even today.  This film has the answer to the question, “Can a person craft perfect Morse code by straight key, without the help of a computer or machine?
The International Morse Code (sometimes referred to as CW in amateur radio jargon because a continuous wave is turned on and off with the long and short elements of the Morse code characters) is a type of character encoding that transmits telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses a standardized sequence of short and long elements to represent the letters, numerals, punctuation and special characters of a given message. The short and long elements can be formed by sounds, marks, or pulses, in on off keying and are commonly known as dots and dashes or, dits and dahs. The speed of Morse code is measured in words per minute (WPM) or characters per minute, while fixed-length data forms of telecommunication transmission are usually measured in baud or bps.
Why is it called Morse code? This character encoding was devised by Samuel F. B. Morse, the creator of the electric telegraph. This Morse code came in two flavors, in the beginning years of its usage. One was in use by the railroads of America, and is known as American Morse Code. And, there is a unified, internationally-used version (adopted by radio operators), now known as the International Morse Code. Now, when most people refer to Morse code, or CW, they mean, International Morse Code.
Currently, the most popular use of Morse code is by amateur radio operators, although it is no longer a requirement for amateur licensing in many countries. In the professional field, pilots and air traffic controllers are usually familiar with Morse code and require a basic understanding. Navigational aids in the field of aviation, such as VORs and NDBs, constantly transmit their identity in Morse code.
Morse code is designed to be read by humans without a decoding device, making it useful for sending automated digital data in voice channels. For emergency signaling, Morse code can be sent by way of improvised sources that can be easily keyed on and off, making Morse code one of the most versatile methods of telecommunication in existence.
More about Morse code, at my website: http://cw.hfradio.org
73 de NW7US dit dit

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