*** The following blog was originally published in 2016 but is still very applicable in 2020! ***
How often have you struggled to pull a weak signal out of the noise? "Just give me one more db", you tell yourself.
A recent posting to the Topband reflector by Frank, W3LPL, sent me to the interesting webpage of Dave, AB7E. Dave had been pondering two antenna systems, one of which would provide a 2db improvement in forward gain but at a much higher cost ... he wondered if the extra expense would be worthwhile and could he even hear the difference that 2db would make? He created a series of CW files, incrementing the signal level in 1db steps to see for himself!
Now I've always been told that you need to increase signal strength by at least 3db before your ears can detect any difference ... but listen carefully and you may be in for a surprise, as AB7E discovered.
It's probably best to listen to this signal with headphones but, even on my I-Pad's tiny speaker, the demonstration is clear. The first recording starts at "zero db", which is sent twice while the next signal is "one db", sent twice. See if you can hear the difference between each 1 db increment as he steps up to "six db":
Lastly, AB7E demonstrates the problem with sending too fast when conditions are very marginal. Here, several signals are sent at 20, 25, 30 and 35 WPM. Sending calls at high speed can often seem effective, even under poor conditions but this seems to demonstrate that slowing down just a bit would make it somewhat easier:
One of the more interesting comments posted regarding these recordings was from Bob, N6RW who cited his work in satellite communications:
"I spent part of my engineering career designing satellite command FSK
demodulators - including the deep space Pioneer Venus orbiter. To test
the performance of them, we would mix the test signal with white noise.
When you look at the FSK Bit-Error-Rate (BER) curve (bit errors versus
signal to noise ratio in a bandwidth equal to the bit rate), you can see
the BER improves by a factor of 10 to 1 for every dB in S/N ratio. In
other words, for every dB improvement, you get one tenth the errors."
Now Dave never did tell us if he bought the bigger antenna or not but I'm betting that he did ... it looks like "just one more db" may really be just enough after all.
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
News from QRP-Labs….
Homebrew Hero 2019 Hans Summers has been very busy and not from handling sales and QSX design efforts! The next generation of Homebrew Heroes has arrived in the form of Baby Atlas, another son in the Summers household. Hans writes:
Yes, new baby in the house! Born 30-Jun-2020, baby “Atlas”, his weight 3.7kg. My XYL is doing fine too thanks…Hope you enjoy the attached pics! I cuddled my son just a few minutes after he was born and as you see, wearing the homebrew hero T-shirt. The other occasions were when my XYL found a local photographer to do a photoshoot, she did two – one a couple of weeks before the birth and one a couple of weeks after. I was wearing my hero T-shirt in both because the photographer requested whiteHans Summers Hero 2019
After suffering a back injury last December, Hans has been slowed in the QSX development cycle what with continuing sales of current products being a strategic business revenue source and, ahem, a few family matters to stay attuned to! But progress is being made as he updates the marketplace via his QRP-Labs.com website.
The impact of the donated prizes by our sponsors has been significant:
Yes thanks the Benchduino PCBs did get here but I have not had much chance to think about what to do about them yet. The sponsor prizes that get absolutely DAILY use are the Siglent ‘scope and the Heil headphones which sound great on my QCX kits. I have also made good use of the MFJ antenna analyzer and the Analog Discovery2 pack, though less frequently as of this writing.Hans Summers Hero 2019
It’s been a very fast-paced year for our 2019 Homebrew Hero. Next month in October, we will announce the Hero for 2020. Stay tuned!
Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
You have discovered the 365th installment of Linux in the Ham Shack. Due to new experiences with the D-STAR digital voice system, Russ has decided he wanted to set up a D-STAR reflector. XLX is a multi-protocol, open-source reflector system for D-STAR (and DMR and YSF) that anyone can run on a Pi, in a virtual machine or what have you. Tune in as we have an in depth discussion on downloading, building and running your own XLX reflector plus basic communication using D-STAR. We hope you have a wonderful and digital voice filled week.
73 de The LHS Crew
Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].
Visit, subscribe: NW7US Radio Communications and Propagation YouTube Channel
Last week while making some FT8 contacts I received a message from one of the contacts I had made and he asked if I was going to be taking part in the upcoming WW Digi contest? He told me if I used WSJT-X software it was a simple matter of a few mouse clicks and I was good to good for the contest. I do have WSJT-X on my desktop but I am a user of JTDX for my digital operation. I had to update my WSJT-X software to 2.2.2 and as I was advised it was just a few simple clicks to set the software up for the contest. As I began the contest and started to send my CQ WW on the waterfall I was met with frustrations. Here are some of the issues I had:
- At first, the auto sequence was not working and as stations that were answering my CQ were going unanswered unless I did it manually. I don't have an issue with that but the auto sequence was turned on but not working.
- In the frequency drop-down menu, WSJT-X did not offer the contest frequency which was 14090 to 14092.8. When I tuned my radio manually to this frequency the software had the frequency in red and not the normal green.
- For some unknown reason and it was very random my rig would tune back to 14074. This had me calling CQ WW outside the contest frequency.
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
Here is this week’s space weather and geophysical report, issued 2020 Aug 31 0137 UTC.
Highlights of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 24 – 30 August 2020
Solar activity was very low for the highlight period. No spotted regions were present on the visible disk. There were no Earth-directed CMEs observed during the period.
No proton events were observed at geosynchronous orbit.
The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit was at normal to moderate levels on 24-29 Aug. High levels were observed on 30 Aug with a peak flux of 2,800 pfu observed at 30/1845 UTC.
Geomagnetic field activity was at quiet levels on 24-26 Aug under a nominal solar wind environment. Activity levels increased to unsettled on 27 Aug as a positive polarity CH HSS moved into a geoeffective position. G1 (minor) storm levels were observed on 28 Aug with unsettled to active conditions observed on 29-30 Aug, all due to positive polarity CH HSS influences. During this period of activity, solar wind speeds reached a peak of 530 km/s at 29/0631 UTC, total field reached a maximum of 11nt on mid to late 28 Aug while the Bz component reached a maximum southward extent of -8 nT during that same time frame. Phi angle was in a mostly negative solar sector through about midday on 25 Aug when it switched to a predominately positive orientation through the remainder of the period.
Forecast of Solar and Geomagnetic Activity 31 August – 26 September 2020
Solar activity is expected to be very low for the outlook period.
No proton events are expected at geosynchronous orbit.
The greater than 2 MeV electron flux at geosynchronous orbit is expected to be at moderate to high levels on 31 Aug – 07 Sep and again on 26 Sep due to recurrent CH HSS influences. The remainder of the period is expected to be at normal to moderate levels.
Geomagnetic field activity is expected to be at unsettled to active levels on 31 Aug – 02 Sep, unsettled levels on 18-19 Sep and unsettled to active levels on 23-26 Sep, all due to recurrent CH HSS influences. The remainder of the outlook period is expected to be at quiet levels.
Don’t forget to visit our live space weather and radio propagation web site, at: http://SunSpotWatch.com/
Live Aurora mapping is at http://aurora.sunspotwatch.com/
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
Be sure to subscribe to our space weather and propagation email group, on Groups.io
Spread the word!
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
Links of interest:
Space Weather and Ham Radio YouTube Channel News:
I am working on launching a YouTube channel overhaul, that includes series of videos about space weather, radio signal propagation, and more.
Additionally, I am working on improving the educational efforts via the email, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and other activities.
You can help!
Please consider becoming a Patron of these space weather and radio communications services, beginning with the YouTube channel:
The YouTube channel:
Visit, subscribe: NW7US Radio Communications and Propagation YouTube Channel
During last week I had some spare time available (very rare at the moment) so I applied again, this time I was accepted and the Adsense account was opened. Nothing different had changed on my part or had the blog been altered in anyway?
If folk don't understand what Adsense is, it is a system that places adverts around the blog's spare unused space. Down the sides, along the top or bottom, or sometimes within the content. It can either be setup manually, or auto. The latter is how I have set it up, because I have little spare time to mess around, adverts will be automatically placed in the areas it thinks best.
Yes I get paid a small amount in return, mainly if someone clicks on the advert and goes off and views it.
I have tried to set it up that it will show advertising from things that will be of interest to you the person that comes here and that reads the blog. Although this cannot be guaranteed the adverts will be applicable to its content?
How will this help me?
I don't expect I will be riding around in a Ferrari! But it may help fund the purchase of small items, which may be of interest to the hobby to test out and review in the future and make the blog more exciting with content.
So it is a win win situation for us all, get clicking!
Steve, G1KQH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from England. Contact him at [email protected].