Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

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.

A funny thing happened on the way down the hall to work today…….

A funny thing happened on the way down the hall to work today......I'm retired so I guess it was not my way to work but my wife Julie. She is a tech support person and is now working from home. She takes both phone calls and internet chat to solve issues. Earlier this week we set her up to work from home and her office is in the same room as my radio setup and her sewing hobby. So it's now a radio room/home office/ sewing room space.
What was going through my mind was how was the radio and Julies' new company PC and internet phone going to react to my Icom 7610? All was good and the only issue was her two monitors would wake up from sleep when I transmitted on certain bands (40m and 60m) I had this same issue with my PC and I added snap on toroids and it did the trick. So I did the same to Julies monitors and the problem was solved. We were operating both PC's from a wifi connection and Julie felt her PC was running a bit slow. It was no big deal for me to run a LAN cable from the modem to a gigabit ethernet network switch in our office. Julie was thrilled as was I too as both our connections were much faster. Now here is the catch.....I was on my PC today looking up some info regarding the upcoming weekend QSO parties. Julie was on a call and all of a sudden her call dropped and a type of busy signal was going off in her ear. I was not on my radio and only my PC. The day before I was on my PC while Julie was working away and without issue. When I shut my PC down her phone reset and all was good again. My way to deal with this is to think about what was different from yesterday and today when the issue happened. The only difference I could think of is we are off the wifi and on LAN connection. What this has to do with this new issue is beyond me but I left Julies PC on the LAN connection and I moved my PC back over to the wifi connection. After I did this and many tests all was ok.......I have no idea why both PC's being on LAN would cause this issue as with both being on wifi or one on wifi and one on LAN there was no issue. All that concerns me is that Juile's PC is working without issue and can get on my PC and my rig. My question is does anyone out there have any idea why I had the issue?

Upgrading to Windows 10…..for a short time anyway.

Last week I decided it was time to update my computer OS from Windows 7 pro to Windows 10 pro. Because I have a registered version of Windows 7 the Windows 10 is a free upgrade and with this upgrade, I am able to keep all my programs on the computer that I had on Windows 7. I did the upgrade and it went off without a hitch and all my programs there were in Windows 7 were alive and well in Windows 10.......or, so I thought!
After the update was done I check my virus software, OpenOffice documents, ham radio programs and the virtual com port program. All seemed to be fine so next, I started my radio programs Win4Icom, N3FJP logging and finally JTDX digital program. The radio and software had no issues with communication and in no time I was up and running with FT8 making contacts. Now it's time for the "BUT" I noticed my JTDX waterfall started moving very slow, I was not getting any decodes and finally on the waterfall you normally get a horizontal line containing the band and time. These lines show up once you finish transmitting and go back to receive. I was getting these lines one after the other and very closely spaced. I checked PSK reporter and my signal was being decoded by other stations but I had no decodes.
I shut down the program and restarted it and all was good for about 10 minutes and then it started to happen again. I then tried WSJT-X and it did the same thing within about 10 minutes again. This time
Missing Microphone icon. 
I noticed in the taskbar a strange behaviour happening. In Windows 10 if the taskbar is full there is an arrow and when you click on it the remainder of the icons appear, this area is called the overflow. In this overflow area, there is an icon that looked like a microphone. This microphone appeared and then disappeared. The other icons in this overflow were shacking which the best way to describe it. So much for not having any issues, I did some digging on the internet and some were saying it was an RF issue. This did not surprise me as the Endfed antenna has been full of surprises.



Here is what I did:
After my fresh install of Windows 10, what did I add to the PC?
1. I added a USB 3 cable to an external hard drive for backup purposes.
2. I updated my video driver.

I removed the USB 3 cable and this made no difference. The thought was it had no toroids on it thus a good RF antenna. This did not fix the issue.

I could not see the video driver being the issue but for &%*# and giggles I downgraded the driver and as I suspected it made no difference.

Next, I wanted to check possible sources of RF:
1. Check all my connections on the radio (Icom 7610) and the accessories.
2. I removed the Endfed from the picture and transmitted into a dummy load.
3 I lowered the wattage output to zero.

Here is what I found:

All the connections were good and tight.

When I transmitted into a dummy load I had the same issue with both JTDX and WSJT-X.

With the wattage on the 7610 at zero, I once again found the same issue with both programs.

This led me away from RF from my radio setup being the issue and I looked at other options.
While I was surfing the internet I found numerous posts about Windows 10 has a mind of its own by changing or deleting sound settings. I began to investigate the sound settings specifically the settings that would have anything to with digital modes. The Icom 7610 (when software has been installed) has one I/Q port and 2 USB ports for digital programs.  I went into device manager and all ports were there. I then opened the properties' menu for the  2 Icom USB ports (sound and mic properties) to make a long story short I spent a huge amount of time adjusting, reinstalling, turning off and on again each of these 2 devices.  Toward the end of my fiddling, I did notice the microphone icon in the overflow tray started to act up just like before!
This was my confirmation that it was not an RF issue but in fact, a software issue and it was a software issue I NEVER had with Windows 7 pro.  At this point, I could have done more investigating but I had just about enough of Windows 10! There is an option to downgrade back to Windows 7 but it has to be done within 10 days of the Windows 10 upgrade.......hmmm 10 days for Windows 10.......was it 7 days for Windows 7 to downgrade back to XP..... I digress.
I chose to downgrade back to Windows 7 pro and later I will find the answer as I am still able to upgrade back to Windows 10 pro.
Windows 7 error message
Once the computer restarted I was greeted with an error message, I thought screw it, for now, I clicked "OK" on the error message to see if Windows 7 pro loaded. It loaded and now I wanted to see if I had the sound issue I had with Windows 10 pro. All programs started ok and after extensive testing my digital programs I had no issues at all. It was now time to deal with this error message, it turns out it was from my NVIDIA video card. I reloaded the drivers from the NVIDIA installation CD and all was good. 
Has anyone out there using Windows 10 had this similar issue and if so what did you do to overcome it? As for me now that things are working again I am going to take my time and see if I can sort this issue out.

30m FT8

A shot from PSK reporter of my signal FT8 signal on 30m. No problem getting into Europe and I am very pleased with my Endfed antenna set up at only 20 feet off the ground. The power is set to 30 watts. My go-to software for FT8 is JTDX alongside JT-Alert. I am also running the Win4icom suite as well as AClog software.

Good old Murphy!!!

Just like every other morning, the alarm clock went off at 7:30 and I made myself a coffee and then sat down at the radio to see how 30m FT8 conditions were. As always I turned on the Icom 7610, the PC and then started JTDX software. Everything seemed to be as it should be until I tried to transmit my FT8 signal into the pool. My radio went into transmit but no power output, now in the past I had the power on the Icom turned down to zero and it was a matter of just adjusting the power. I checked and the power was set properly but something was wrong. I then oped the settings tab in JTDX and looked at the audio sub-tab to my surprise the audio input and output selections had changed. I could not see in the drop-down list my Icom audio selection in either the playback or recording tabs? When all else fails with a PC shut down and restart! I checked the playback and recording tabs and now there was an Icom Codec selection but why was it gone, why did it change in the first place and finally what happen to the custom names I gave these selections? I have no idea why JTDX changed the audio selection and why windows removed the Icom recording and playback selections and then they returned but the custom names were gone. All is back to normal and JTDX is functioning just fine but it is very frustrating when these anomalies happen.

Time to update!

Today was my time to sit down at the PC and check out what amateur radio programs needed updating........now this has always lead me into a computer/software adventure. I use the word "adventure" loosely as it's more like a grey hair adventure. The programs I planned to tackle were:
                    - N1MM+ my contesting program
                    - WSJT-X my digi program
                    - JTDX my digi program I am testing out to see if I like it over WSJT-X
                    - Amateur contact log my logging program and sometime contest program
                    - WSJT-X JTAlert 
                    - Win4icom my Icom 7610 radio control program
                    -  Win4K3 my Elecraft KX3 radio control program

After I had finished with all that excitement it was then time to do a Windows update (running windows 7 64 bit pro), virus software which is Bitedefender and  malware software which is Malwarebytes.

The first program I tackled was N1MM+ contest program and this was one program I have updated many times in the past without issue. I thought this would be a nice place to start off the whole process. I had everything updated and install. When I started the program I was greeted with the message below on my PC.
It read "The remote server returned an error (404) Not found" so it would seem for some reason the great option this programs offers that it looks for new updates to the program and it informs you has an issue. I am  not sure if this is my issue or one with N1MM+ site. I will be later today posting on the N1MM+ user site for further info.
I then moved onto Win4icom radio control program for it's latest and greatest! All downloaded just fine and then when I started the program all was well and it connected with my rig no problem. I then tried to connect my logging program and Win4icom was not able to connect to it. I then went to the settings page of Win4icom and was greeted with the message below:
All of my Aux/CAT ports were now blank but fortunately this has happened to me in the past and  I now keep track of the port assignments. This was not a big deal but it still takes time to redo the whole deal.
My next task was to upgrade WSJT-X to the latest and greatest 2.1.0 rc7 and once done and I started it for the first time I was greeted with the message below:
In a nut shell it was telling me (which I knew) that this program was a per-release version but also (which I did not know) this program was not going to run this weekend. Since I wanted to see  how all my programs were getting along this was not going to do. So I just uninstalled this program BUT it seemed to uninstall ALL my previous WSJT-X programs so it was time to start from scratch and install the version I was using. Fortunately the DLL file was in-tacked and all my settings were loading and I was up and running in no time.
To keep track of my ports, order of program start up and some common problem fixes I have post it notes on the PC desktop.
 Win4k3 was very smooth but it has never been setup to communicate with any other programs at this point it just a stand alone program that controls my Elecraft KX3. WSJT-X JTAlert was the smoothest off all the programs to update.  The windows updates, malware update and scan and the bitedefender scan went off without a hitch. I was going to type that I was "all set to go" BUT software can be a funny thing and so I am just going to just leave to a warm fuzzy feeling inside and that's it.

Slimming down

This post builds on the RPi Zero W Cloudlog installation that I did in December with a RPi 3 that was destined to be used in the shack for something. I have long used a laptop to do most of the heavy lifting but have moved most of the clever stuff on to individual machines. The line up is growing but is a bit all over the place. I have….

  • A RPi3 as a VHF SatNOGS station that runs nicely but needs a proper home (antenna ia indoors and a lash up)
  • A RPi3 as a UHF SatNOGS station that is subject to loads of noise at the moment which needs a cure. It also needs a better home
  • A RPi2 as a Flight Radar receiver

A spare RPi3 that was used as a media player in the lounge. Now redundant really as tech has moved on. This needed a new function. So I thought I would bring it into service as a shack server. Trouble is I have no expereince of servers and even the word makes me quiver. I tend to smile, nod politely (It’s a British thing) then retreat carefully to avoid uncomfortable conversation. Anyway it’s time to take the plunge a bit further. I have after all mastered the Cloudlog thing.

What distribution?

Normally I would run straight to Rasbian, but this time I made a detour through to DietPi. It’s a lightweight distribution that supports a few bits of software that are simple to install and configure. Perfect for the lazy, like me. The game is pretty much the same s every Raspberry Pi installation. Find a suitable SD card, burn the image to it and start the machine up. For this the recommendation is to hook up a screen and keyboard for the first bit until it’s all running then you can use SSH or whichever is your preferred method for getting into the machine once it is up and running.

 

What software?

Well Cloudlog for a start. That needed the webserver reinstalling. Guess what? DietPi had one. check the box and that gets installed. Then it was a simple fact of getting Cloudlog reinstalled. Job done and it took a lot less time this go. (need to find a log for this).

Next up was Pi-hole. I’m ok with a bit of advertising, people have got to make a living I suppose but I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of bollocks (figuratively of course, I couldn’t really visualise this literally and don’t want too). Pi-hole claims to reduce the adverts to a more normal level and stops my browser looking like a version of the $1m dollar website (if you can remember that). Something has got to change. Installation was again more simple that you might imagine. Check the box and let the installer do its thing. As I had no idea what I was doing I used the default installation but made the error of not pointing my DNS server to the installation in my router settings. Don’t forget to do that otherwise it won’t do a thing.

There is a nice dashboard that gets filled with clever stuff. Bottom line is that there are already fewer ads on all my devices. Ace!

Stats window

So what happens now?

Not much really. If you would like to have a go with a really lightweight distro for your raspberry pi (or other sbc – they support all sorts) then give it a go. The easy installation of software make a big difference for dullards like me and avoids time wasting.

I have thought about plugin in a RTL-SDR as a server but don’t really have a need at the moment. Perhaps something for the PiKon telescope now that I have got the lens. We’ll see how the thing goes. One thing I would like is a really simlpe website that does one thing on a button press, but that is a whole new game and perhaps another post.

I’m going to start planning my SOTA activations now 😉


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