Virtual ham radio…sounds interesting!

For the past few weeks I have been up and down the bands in the evening hours looking for some CW activity and with the current conditions signals have been few and fare between. This has forced me to get a firm handle on the digi modes and to be more specific JT-65 and JT-9. As the saying goes "if you don't use it you loose it" and this is my concern due to the lack of CW activity I have been involved in lately, I have worked to dare hard getting my CW speed up to just see it drop off due to lack of activity. Last evening this got me thinking.....what about the internet there must be some interactive over broad band CW happening out there?? In my travels I came across two programs neither are free but they offer CW (and SSB) operating over the internet. Not really ham radio as such but it helps my CW skill stay sharp until the band slump is over. The first program I came across was QsoNet based out of Canada the cost is a modest 40.00 per year and you are given a free 30 day trial which is great. I looked the website over and found the their discussion forum, the last posting was from 2012 and the latest update was back in 2011. This made me wonder if I was just going to be listening to empty broadband due to the fact no one was around. I also wondered if there was active support for the site as well. I then moved on to another site called Hamsphere base out of Europe. This program was 30 EU per year along with a free trial but I was not able to locate for how long. This site seemed to be very up to date and a new version 4 had come out that looked very professional. Their forum was very up to date with postings from 2016 so it seemed like things were alive and well. Hamsphere seemed to be a very in-depth program with such things as a virtual Ionosphere, DX alert system, awards, contesting, multiple antennas to choose from, you can use your own keyer and DX cluster.....and the list goes on! I checked out some online YouTube videos of the program and WOW it sure is a professional program. I was watching one video when the commentator said "these are the antenna selections I have PURCHASED" I thought.....wait a minute what did I just hear and sure enough that's what was said "PURCHASED". I investigated this and found Hamsphere shop and this was the show stopper for me. It seems the 30 EU per year is not the only cost, at this site you can purchase antennas were the price goes as high as 90 EU!! Check out the link and it seems that there is lots of items for the radio that need to be purchased. I was not able to find anywhere on the home page information about extra purchases. It did say you could build your own rig and that there were a 100 antennas to choose from but again nothing about added cost. Another odd thing was you were never asked for your radio license. At QsoNet you had to fax in a photo copy of your license, it seemed not so with Hamsphere. Has anyone out there used either of these programs?? Do you know of any other interactive CW over the internet programs out there??
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

10 Responses to “Virtual ham radio…sounds interesting!”

  • Mike KK4UGD:

    I travel a lot and QSOnet sounded like a great option for me, so I signed up for the 30 day free trial. I then realized that you send CW with the spacebar and that really wasn’t what I was after. Maybe they’ve changed it to accept a paddle or straight key now; its been a year or so since I tried it out.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good mooring Mike, I was trying to find a YouTube video showing someone using QsoNet and CW and I was not able to find one. It seemed that everyone one YouTube only had SSB videos. I agree with you that using the space bar is not the idea I too am looking for. Thanks for the input Mike and also for taking the time to comment.
    73, Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Mike, thats good to hear and I was searching YouTube for some QsoNet were CW was being used and I could only find SSB. Using the space bar is not my idea of CW but for some it’s an option I guess. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
    73 Mike

  • Jack wilde va3jfw:

    i have been using ham sphere for over a year i love it..you don`t need to buy any antennas unless you want to get out better..it comes with a vertical antenna that works GREAT … no problem talking around the world on the vertical…also you get credits when you make contacts and qsl cards..then you can use those credits to buy what you want..i have hundreds of qsl cards from around the world even on 2 meters and 70 cm.. you don`t need to be an amateur to use it… lots of hams that have moved into high rise buildings use hamsphere because you do not have a real antenna..so….no restrictions i bought some different antennas and a rotor to turn them..you can buy used ones also… the rig has many filters to get rid of noise[just like the real ones….try the 30 day free trial before you condemm it….

  • Kevin, K4IVE:

    It should be fairly simple to adapt a wireless keyboard receiver to remap a spacebar input from an actual key. That sounds like a fun project for tinkerers like me!

    73!

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Jack, thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s great to finally hear from someone who is actually using the program. I am one of those condo hams but I still am able to get out with what I have I was just wanting some extra CW practice. With this program are you operating any CW at all?? I was wanting to use my own key and was wondering how that work? I did not want to sound in the blog post that I was condemning the program I was just making some observations about the make up of the web pages advertising.
    73 Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening Kevin, tinker away and let me know how it goes.
    73, Mike

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening again Jack just a question, I went to QRZ.COM to look up your call (VA3IFW) to see if there was anymore info about HamSphere. I was not able to find your call? I then went to Industry Canada and could not find it but it was listed as an valuable call still? Did you enter a call typo when filling in your comment?
    Mike

  • Jack KG6ASD:

    Mike

    I think Jack call is VA3JFW which is why you missed it.

    73, Jack

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    My apologies to Jack Wilde, as my wife would say “put on your dam glasses”.
    Mike

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