Posts Tagged ‘Operating Digital’

Propagation seems to be picking up.

 


Yesterday afternoon I was on FT8 and was spotted in Tasmania which for me was a great sign of propagation. Then a surprise showed up on the waterfall VK7AC from Tasmania was calling me. We exchanged reports I received -11 and sent -04.

Software can bring you joy or grey hair…….

Not what you want to see after a program restart! 

This weekend contained some QSO parties to partake in. Almost every weekend there has been a QSO party I wanted to take part as I have a personal goal to see if I can make some contacts in all the QSO parties. I am not officially enrolled in the QSO party challenge as I have no hope of placing anywhere other than close to the bottom of the pile. It is just a thing for me to do during the COVID 19 stay at home order. I have managed to make at least one successful contact in each of the QSO parties up to this point in time (I have a feeling that may end once the Hawaii QSO party happens) But this weekend I thought the streek was going to come to an end. I was having huge issues with hearing anyone in the Nebraska QSO party! BUT I then remembered reading they also accept FT8 QSO"s and not many QSO parties do. So it was off to FT8 to see what I could find. The contest software I use is N!MM+ and it does integrate with both WSJT-X or JTDX software. The issue here was I had not as of yet made the integration. I found online a very nice video of a step by step process and as Picard would say "make it so". Before I ever venture into making program and radio changes I always back up both my PC (system restore) and my radio settings.
I following the setting changes that needed to be made in N1MM+ and JTDX software I then did the smoke test and restarted the programs. I was greeted with an error message and the program stopped working altogether. To save the day I restored the JTDX settings and rig settings back to their previous settings. I then was able to make 2 Nebraska contacts on FT8 using the "old" settings in JTDX.  My next step was to figure out how to convert the ADIF file that JTDX gave me into a Cab file which the Nebraska QSO party needed for submission. I went online and found SP7DQR's program called ADIF2CABR program and it did the trick.
The next day it was time to tackle the JTDX integration with N1MM+ so I went back to the video and figuring the issue was I was rushing the day before. Since everything was backed up from the day before I got right down to it. Once done I tried a restart and low and behold all worked fine. I reviewed what I did and it came down to the file location of JTDX I had to enter into N1MM+ I don't believe I enter the exe file last time.
A much better message. 
There was one very odd thing that happened it had nothing to do with N1MM+ or JTDX it was my setting for my windows microphone. What clued me into this was the receive level in the JTDX program was off the scale. I open Windows microphone settings and it went from a set level of 4 to 100. It's just the magic of Windows and for whatever reason, it decides to do whatever
it wants!

Spotted in China on FT8

I was very pleased to see my FT-8 signal on 30m spotted in China the other day. I could not see them on the waterfall but none the less it was a nice surprise to see.

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.

Olivia Digital Mode (1000 Hz) on Twenty Meters – A Simple Video

The Olivia digital mode on HF radio is a mode capable of two-way chat (QSO) communication (keyboard to keyboard, like RTTY) over long-distance shortwave (HF) ionospheric propagation paths, especially over polar regions.

If you are interested in more than a logbook QSO (such as is typical with FT8 and other propagation-checking modes) but want to chat with other hams around the world using digital modes, consider Olivia as one option.

This video captures a few moments of two-way conversation on the Twenty-Meter band, up in the sub-band where 1000-Hz digital modes are commonplace. More narrow-bandwidth settings are used in a lower subband in the digital slice of Twenty Meters. More details about the mode are in the files section of this website: http://OliviaDigitalMode.org.

In 2005, SP9VRC, Pawel Jalocha, released to the world a mode that he developed starting in 2003 to overcome difficult radio signal propagation conditions on the shortwave (high-frequency, or HF) bands. By difficult, we are talking significant phase distortions and low signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) plus multipath propagation effects. The Olivia-modulated radio signals are decoded even when it is ten to fourteen dB below the noise floor. That means that Olivia is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is slightly over three times that of the digital signal!

Olivia decodes well under other conditions that are a complex mix of atmospheric noise, signal fading (QSB), interference (QRM), polar flutter caused by a radio signal traversing a polar path. Olivia is even capable when the signal is affected by auroral conditions (including the Sporadic-E Auroral Mode, where signals are refracted off of the highly-energized E-region in which the Aurora is active).

Currently, the only other digital modes that match or exceed Olivia in their sensitivity are some of the modes designed by Joe Taylor as implemented in the WSJT programs, including FT8, JT65A, and JT65-HF–each of which are certainly limited in usage and definitely not able to provide true conversation capabilities.  Olivia is useful for emergency communications, unlike JT65A or the popular FT8. One other mode is better than Olivia for keyboard-to-keyboard comms under difficult conditions: MT63. Yet, Olivia is a good compromise that delivers a lot. One reason for this is that there are configurations that use much less bandwidth than 1000 Hz. 16 tones in 250 Hz is our common calling-frequency configuration, which we use lower down in the Twenty-Meter band, with a center frequency of 14.0729 MHz.

Q: What’s a ‘CENTER’ Frequency? Is That Where I Set My Radio’s Dial?

For those new to waterfalls: the CENTER frequency is the CENTER of the cursor shown by common software. The cursor is what you use to set the transceiver’s frequency on the waterfall. If your software’s waterfall shows the frequency, then you simply place the cursor so that its center is right on the center frequency listed, above. If your software is set to show OFFSET, then you might, for example, set your radio’s dial frequency to 14.0714, and place the center of your waterfall cursor to 1500 (1500 Hz). That would translate to the 14.0729 CENTER frequency.

The standard Olivia formats (shown as the number of tones/bandwidth in Hz) are 8/250, 8/500, 16/500, 8/1000, 16/1000, and 32/1000. Some even use 16/2000 for series emergency communication. The most commonly-used formats are 16/500, 8/500, and 8/250. However, the 32/1000 and 16/1000 configurations are popular in some areas of the world (Europe) and on certain bands.

These different choices in bandwidth and tone settings can cause some confusion and problems–so many formats and so many other digital modes can make it difficult to figure out which mode you are seeing and hearing. After getting used to the sound and look of Olivia in the waterfall, though, it becomes easier to identify the format when you encounter it. To aid in your detection of what mode is being used, there is a feature of many digital-mode software implementation suites: the RSID. The next video, below, is a demonstration on how to set the Reed-Solomon Identification (RSID) feature in Ham Radio Deluxe’s Digital Master 780 module (HRD DM780).

I encourage ALL operators, using any digital mode such as Olivia, to TURN ON the RSID feature as shown in this example. In Fldigi, the RSID is the TXID and RXID; make sure to check (turn on) each, the TXID and RXID.

Please, make sure you are using the RSID (Reed Solomon Identification – RSID or TXID, RXID) option in your software. RSID transmits a short burst at the start of your transmission which identifies the mode you are using. When it does that, those amateur radio operators also using RSID while listening will be alerted by their software that you are transmitting in the specific mode (Olivia, hopefully), the settings (like 8/250), and where on the waterfall your transmission is located. This might be a popup window and/or text on the receive text panel. When the operator clicks on that, the software moves the waterfall cursor right on top of the signal and changes the mode in the software. This will help you make more contacts!

RSID Setting:

+ NOTE: The MixW software doesn’t have RSID features. Request it!

Voluntary Olivia Channelization 

Since Olivia signals can be decoded even when received signals are extremely weak, (signal to noise ratio of -14db), signals strong enough to be decoded are sometimes below the noise floor and therefore impossible to search for manually. As a result, amateur radio operators have voluntarily decided upon channelization for this mode. This channelization allows even imperceptibly weak signals to be properly tuned for reception and decoding. By common convention amateur stations initiate contacts utilizing 8/250, 16/500, or 32/1000 configuration of the Olivia mode. After negotiating the initial exchange, sometimes one of the operators will suggest switching to other configurations to continue the conversation at more reliable settings, or faster when conditions allow. The following table lists the common center frequencies used in the amateur radio bands.

Olivia (CENTER) Frequencies (kHz) for Calling, Initiating QSOs

Current Olivia Digital Mode Calling Frequencies

Current Olivia Digital Mode Calling Frequencies on Shortwave (HF)

It is often best to get on standard calling frequencies with this mode because you can miss a lot of weak signals if you don’t. However, with Olivia activity on the rise AND all the other modes vying for space, a good deal of the time you can operate wherever you can find a clear spot–as close as you can to a standard calling frequency.

Note: some websites publish frequencies in this band, that are right on top of weak-signal JT65, JT9, and FT8 segmentsDO NOT QRM weak-signal QSOs!

We (active Olivia community members) suggest 8/250 as the starting settings when calling CQ on the USB frequencies designated as ‘Calling Frequencies.’ A Calling Frequency is a center frequency on which you initially call, ‘CQ CQ CQ. . .’ and then, with the agreement of the answering operator, move to a new nearby frequency, changing the number of tones and bandwidth at your discretion. Even though 8/250 is slow, the CQ call is short. But, it is narrow, to allow room for other QSOs nearby. It is also one of the best possible Olivia configurations for weak-signal decoding.

Let’s Call CQ – QSO Today Episode 184 with NW7US

I got a Skype call a few weeks ago from Eric, 4Z1UG–the creator and host of the QSO Today Podcast–during which he asked me about how and why I got into amateur radio.  Here’s the result.

Eric writes,

We talk a lot about the band conditions due to the Sunspot cycle. Most of it on Facebook and other places is about how “dead” the bands are at this point. We all can’t wait until the cycle starts to rise and we will be making contacts with little effort. I remember in my conversation with Chuck Adams, K7QO in Episode 58, that he really enjoys operating is “Pigrig”, one watt, CW transceiver on 20 meters. When I asked him, (I liberally paraphrase) “but Chuck, the bands are dead. How does that work for you?”. His reply was that while most hams are listening to the bands, he calls CQ until he gets a reply. Works every time.

My QSO this week is with Tomas Hood, NW7US, who has years of expertise in propagation and Solar activity. He is the propagation editor of more than a few radio magazines and websites. In our post-recording conversation we discussed this phenomenon of listening and not calling CQ. I even had this idea that maybe one of the reasons that the digital modes are so successful is because they “beacon”, as part of the whole digital experience, the same as calling CQ. This is why they make contacts. From what I see, looking at PSK Reporter, hams are making lots of contacts worldwide using the digital modes. While SSB may not be working so well, CW and the digital modes seem to work fine.

I like to work on my bench or make the podcast while listening to the bands. Jeff Damm, WA7MLH, in Episode 177, says that he will put his keyer in CQ mode while he is working on a new radio. Invariably, sometimes after many minutes, he gets a reply. Great idea Jeff!

73,

Eric, 4Z1UG

Episode 184 can be found here: https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/nw7us

Highlights of Episode 184:

Tomas Hood, NW7US is the propagation editor of a number of shortwave and amateur radio magazines, and has a wide variety of websites, that grew out of his love for all things radio, and for listening on the bands to far off DX and commercial broadcast stations. Tomas shares his understanding of propagation and the lessons we can learn from listening, really listening to the QSOs and exchanges during contest operation.

All of the QSO Today episodes are great.  I enjoy hearing about many different hams.  Do check out all of the episodes that Eric has published.

73 de NW7US dit dit

 

A fantastic FT8 guide!

If you have or are thinking of diving into the FT8 digi world I was made aware via a Dutch blogger Paul PA0K (his brand new call) of this amazing FT8 operating guide by Gary Hinson ZL2ifb. This guide is for the seasoned FT8 op, the beginner and those who are not sure if they really want to give it a go but would like to learn what it's all about. I won't to go on and on about the guide..... just read it and find out for yourselves, it's a great addition to anyone interested or operating FT8.

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