Tuesday, 1 August 2017

New FT8 digital mode

I haven't been on air much lately due to poor HF band conditions, so thought I'd get on air using  digital mode, as this will get through when bands are not too good. After reading some blogs decided to try the new digital mode, FT8. This is a lot faster to use compared to JT65, instead of waiting 60 seconds per over it transmits an over in 15 seconds. This makes it good for modes such as sporadic e where there is rapid QSB. The downside to overs speed is a drop in sensitivity, only able to decode down to around -20db, but this is good enough for contacts.

The software is still in beta and can be downloaded from Joe Taylor K1JTs website at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html It was v1.8.0-rc1 when I downloaded it.

Install was fairly easy. I needed to update JTAlert as well to the latest version, and also edit a couple of config files in my logging program Log4OM to include this new mode.

I started on 80m, as this is fairly quiet and not much range, mainly around VK, so wouldn't make a spectacle of myself testing it out. Note the FT8 working frequencies are 2 Khz down from the JT65 working frequencies. The software tunes to this for you.

Spotted a CQ call by VK4AAN, Alan in Stanthorpe. He was strong, -01 so gave him a call, by clicking on his spot on the waterfall and waiting for his CQ to end and hitting the Enable TX button.

Once he answered my call the software takes over and controls the QSO. Usual swapping of reports, RRR and 73s exchanged. This was a strange experience, a computer controlled QSO!
Screenshot of the QSO

I checked after on PSKReporter, he was the only station to hear me. There is not much digital activity on 80m as most hams tend to head to 40m for DX. A pity as it can be a good DX band, opening up to the USA later in the evening here.

As a bit more confident I changed to the main evening DX band, 40m. Plenty of signals on here from VK, Asia and the USA. Tried a call to N6QQ John in CA. It took a few goes to get heard above other USA stations calling him as well, but eventually he came back to me Screenshot of the QSO

Checked PSK reporter, seemed to be getting out okay to several parts of the USA. Running around 30w from my IC-7300.

FT8 contacts logged to eQSL okay. LOTW is still to be updated, so will wait for this new mode to be added in before uploading.

A fun mode that will be good when bands are poor... Could even be used for SOTA or parks activations with the right location and equipment. Would need a laptop with time sync to an internet connection.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

VKFF Hunter 450 Parks, Activator Sapphire 75 and Murray River Parks 30 Awards

After working over 450 World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) Australian VKFF park references was able to apply for the VKFF 450 parks VKFF Hunter award (Honour roll)

Received promptly from the VKFF awards manager Paul VK5PAS

Also following my portable activations of 2 new parks recently down the NSW South Coast reached 75 park activations with 10 or more contacts. Therefore able to apply for the VKFF Sapphire award.

Lastly, managed to work 30 park references listed in the Murray River Parks Award, and able to apply for the next award level.

The next level is to work all the Murray River parks, this won't be easy...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

WWFF Hunter 444 references Award

I've managed to confirm contacting 444 WWFF park references, so applied for the award on the WWFF website. Received promptly from the awards Manager Pit YO3JW.

Monday, 12 June 2017

WWFF Eurobodalla National Park VKFF-0164

After staying at Batemans Bay over the June Queens Birthday long weekend decided to do another WWFF park activation before going home. Activated Eurobodalla National Park, VKFF-0164.

This park is made up of several fragments of bush land from Moruya Heads down to Mystery Bay to the North of Bermagui. Map from Protected Planet.

I chose to activate from the nearest point to Batemans Bay, Moruya Heads, at the mouth of the Deua River.

You enter the park on Coronation Drive, a one way loop around the headland. There was a lookout and historic graveyard on the right, parked in front of this and walked along a secluded track on the left to an enclosed park in the middle of the heads, with the Trig for the headland.

Nameplate on the trig, Toragy

I could have operated off the trig, however there was a more comfortable picnic table nearby... Set up the squid pole on the table. One dipole leg was fine, running out into the reserve, however the other leg was a bit of a scrub bash to set up. There were some branches touching the wire, but the dipole still seemed to load up okay on 40m.

Radio, my IC-7300 set up on the table, running off LifePO4 batteries. Wound the power down to 15W to conserve the batteries.

Got on 40m. Could see from the scope only 3 signals on the whole band, they were all park activations...

Worked VK3XV/p Tony in VKFF-0752 Broken-Boosey State Park. Mark VK5QI/m in VKFF-0892 Hogwash Bend Conservation Park. Then VK5PAS/p Paul and VK5FMAZ/p Marija in VKFF-0797 Glen Roy Conservation Park.

Also worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1170 Goolawah National Park. Lots of park hunters called me from VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5. I had problems with deep QSB, some callers were strong and then faded right out, some solar disturbance on the band.

I also had problems on my frequency 7.130. The frequency 7.125 is used by AM enthusiasts, some strong AM station came up and splashed over me.

Finished with another park to park contact with Stef VK5HSX.2 in VKFF-0410 Paroo-Darling National Park.

Packed up after 19 contacts and had lunch, headed home. A nice National park that I will enjoy returning to for completing the 44 contacts for WWFF sometime, maybe picking another location.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

WWFF Batemans Marine Park VKFF-1406

For the June Queens Birthday long weekend decided to escape the Canberra cold and head down to the NSW South Coast, stopping at Batemans Bay. Decided to activate a WWFF park that has not been activated before, Batemans Marine Park VKFF-1406.

Batemans Marine Park extends from the most northerly point of Murramarang Beach near Bawley Point to the southern side of Wallaga Lake entrance at Murunna Point, covering parts of the coast, lakes, rivers, lagoons and estuaries, the Tollgate Islands off Batemans Bay and Montague Island.

Map of the protected areas from Protected Planet website.

For an access point to the park I went to Guerilla Bay, turning off Burri Point Rd onto Beach Parade, then taking Bay St down to the beach. Map also from Protected Planet.

At the end of Bay St is a very small car park for the beach and a sign for the park. The headland across the bay is Burrewarra Point.

In the grassy area to the right of the sign was a picnic table that I used for the activation. Sorry forgot to take photos of my setup this time...

This was the weekend of the Shires contest, so stations were giving their shires out in reports. I was in Eurobodalla Shire here, ES2.

Started on 40m with S2S contacts with VK3XV/p Tony in VKFF-0739 Barmah National Park and VK3ZPF/p Peter in VKFF-0774 Warrandyte State Park.

Peter offered to let me use his frequency as he had the required number of contacts, and spotted me on ParksnPeaks.

Went on to work VK4TJ, VK4RF/HA, another S2S with VK2YK Adam in VKFF-0606 Sea Acres National Park, VK3PF, VK3GGG/VK3PMG.

Worked Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0296 Lower Glenelg National Park with good signals.

Went on to work VK2IO/p, VK4AAC/2, VK3ARH, VK2KYO and VK4SMA. Another S2S with Stef VK5HSX/2 in VKFF-0410 Paroo-Darling National Park.

Worked Bill ZL2AYZ with a good signal, fairly easy to get New Zealand here on the South Coast.

Finished with VK2LEE and VK3KMH. A total of 19 contacts, so need to return to this park for the 44 for WWFF.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

WIA AGM 2017 General and Gold Awards

The WIA Annual General Meeting in Hahndorf South Australia offered 2 awards for working the special Event Stations VK5WOW and VI5WOW on air leading up to and after the event.

The 2 awards require the following, taken from the WIA Awards page:

The General Award
-  5 contacts with VK5WOW or VI5WOW
 Among the 5 contacts, at least two different modes or channels (eg SSB and RTTY, or analogue FM Echolink and CW) need to have been used, OR, at least one contact has to be with the callsigns when they have been activated from a Park under the terms of the VK5 Parks awards. (watch the usual parks activation alert sites for times and parks)

The Gold Award
 - 5 contacts with VK5WOW & 1 contact with VI5WOW - must include a digital data or voice modes contact and contact with at least one VK5WOW or VI5WOW parks activation

I worked VI5WOW/p 4 times and VK5WOW/p 6 times, so no problems getting both awards 😄
Most of the contacts were with Paul VK5PAS/p using the callsigns in WWFF/VK5 parks which I chase anyway...

I first needed to upload my logs to Clublog to confirm them, after which just a matter of applying and downloading the awards.

The General Award

The Gold Award

Monday, 8 May 2017

WWFF VKFF Honour Roll 425 areas award

Noticed on WWFF Logsearch that I've reached 425 VKFF references hunted, so able to apply for the award.

For interest did a breakdown of the number of parks hunted per call area. Using ParksnPeaks to get the total number of parks in each call area, able to work out the % of parks hunted so far.

 State Number Worked Total Parks % hunted
VK1 19                         45                 42
VK2 89                     394                 23
VK3 110                         119            92
VK4 56                     541           10
VK5 124                   375           33
VK6 12                     145           8
VK7 14                     46             30
VK8 0                        54             0
VK9 1                          7               14

Total 425                    1726         25

VK1 I've got 42%, There are not many park activators here, so this figure is quite good,,,
VK2 23%, still heaps of parks to chase. Its a big state.
VK3 92%, in fact only missing 9 parks to get them all! Lots of activators in a small state helps.
VK4 10%. A vast state with few activators. Many more left...distance also makes it hard to hear them
VK5 33% A fairly active lot of park activators. Some parks are remote and won't be heard often
VK6 8% A vast state with a low amateur population. Also a long way away so some park activations are not workable, especially on 40m in the daytime.
VK7 30% A small state with not many parks, but also not many activators.
VK8 0% Yet to hear a VK8 park... A big area with a low population, and a long way away from me.
VK9 14% Not many parks but they are all rare DX islands.

I've reached 25% of the total number of parks. Here is the award received from the VKFF Awards Manager Paul VK5PAS