Amazed at 400th Anniversary of Cervantes Radio Event

I am absolutely blown away by what the URE (Union Radioaficionados Espanoles – their equivalent of the ARRL) – put together to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes.  The event last for only THREE WEEKS, starting September 19th and containing through October 9th.

Spanish hams have been operating under 14 different callsigns, racking up over 660,000 contacts as of today.  That’s a rate of about 50,000 QSOs per day on all bands from 160-m to 10-m; operating SSB, CW and various digital modes.


They have various “print your own” certificates for various achievement levels.  For example, the “Gold” certificate for contacting at least 6 different stations on each of 3 different bands looks like this:


Lots of effort and planning clearly went into this, their webpage provides an online log, automatic score keeping and production of certificates.  A store gives people options of purchasing printed certificates or buying mementos.  Other tools identify AN400x stations that are currently on the air, global rankings, statistics, and team challenge information.

Imagine a DXpedition that had 650,000+ contacts.  Now imagine that DXpedition being to Spain!  Yet that is EXACTLY what happened.  Spain has over 60,000 hams, and over 12,000 of them belong to the URE.  What they have accomplished is nothing short of remarkable. Hat’s off to the members of the URE that made this fun event available worldwide. They have provided a template of a successful radio event that could be emulated by many different groups.

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Touch-Tone Control of DVmega Hotspot

The DVmega, running ircDBGateway software, supports control/linking via DTMF Touch-Tone commands (that is an option that can be turned off, but it defaults to on).  This is generally much easier to do than struggling with trying to reprogram the UR field to accomplish the desired task.

To use the DTMF commands, it is essential that the UR field be set to CQCQCQ, the RPT1 field be set to “WB4SON C”and the RPT2 field be set to “WB4SON G”.  Also, as always it is critical that the Hotspot be accessed with Duplex + or – and an offset of 0 (failure to do that prevents the digital audio from being decoded by the Hotspot).

DTMF # –> Is the Unlink Command

DTMF 0 –> The Check Status Command (responds “unlinked” or “linked to …”)

DTMF ** –> This will set the Hotspot to the default gateway (REF069C in my case)

DTMF A –> Disconnects CCS call routing

To link to a reflector, use the following DTMF commands. By trial and error, I’ve found that you must hold the PTT button for a second or so after you finish sending any tones — makes sense, usual DSTAR propagation delays.

DTMF *50C –> Links to REF050C

DTMF *69C –> Links to REF069C

DTMF B12A –> Links to XRF012A

DTMF B21B –> Links to XRF021B

My TouchTone keypad does NOT include the “D” character so I haven’t tested the DCS Reflectors

To do callsign routing, simply enter the 7 digit code

DTMF 3109071 –> Fran, W1FJM

DTMF 3144032 –> Bob, WB4SON

Send a DTMF “A” to disconnect when done




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The Easiest DSTAR I’ve Ever Used

I’ve laid hands on six different Icom DSTAR radios, included the latest/greatest, and they all suffer from horrible illogical human interface designs.  Perhaps it is simply a cultural thing — what the Japanese find easy to do, frustrates someone from North America, but you would think they would get a clue.

I had the exact opposite experience when setting up an Internet Labs DV3K Dongle.


I first setup my Macbook, which required loading the latest  FTDI drivers and obtaining the DVtool software from the site (which provides hot links to everything).  That process was completed in less than 2 minutes.  Opening the DVTool, revealed a logical panel asking me to enter my callsign, and desired message.


I entered my call, picked Reflector 69C, and away I went.  Chatting instantly came out my laptop speaker, and when I clicked on PTT, the built-in speaker picked up my void.

Moving the dongle over to my Win10 PC provided a similar experience.  Simply plugging in the DV3K Dongle automatically loaded the FTDI drivers.  Downloading the PC version of the DVTool was quick and simple.

There was one slight glitch – my desktop doesn’t have a microphone plugged in.  DVTool detected that and refused to start.  I simply plugged in my headset and away I went.

While there is no RF involved, the DV3K Dongle makes it VERY easy to monitor your favorite Reflector.






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15 Minutes of Fame?

Andy Warhol once said “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”.

A satellite buddy, WD9EWK, sent me a tweet about 12:30 this morning about the QRZ.COM page which was featuring my QSL card:


Thanks, Patrick — that’s pretty amazing that anyone would notice at all.  I wonder how long that was up?  Hopefully it didn’t use up all my potential minutes of fame!

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A Cool Linking Tool for Hotspots

Now that my DVmega is up and running, I am happy to report that a pretty cool App, “ircddb remote“, works just fine as long as you setup the port (usually 10022) and password in the ircDBBgateway program.  At the moment I don’t have that port forwarded, as I don’t need to access it outside my home network, but you could do that.

ircdd remote allows you to link to any XRF, REF, or DCS reflectors.  It allows the creation of presets, or you can simply dial in what you want.  And it will display the current link status as well.

The app is available on iTunes or Google Play.


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It’s Alive (DVmega Part 2)


It took more than a little bit of doing, but my DVmega/RPi3 is up and running just fine now.

I can access the hotspot anywhere in my home using my ID-80AD on Super Low Power — this is a great improvement over trying to hit our local W1AAD machine, which I could only do in a few spots in my home while running high power (causing my hand to catch fire — the 80AD gets VERY hot).  So far REF/XRF linking works just fine, and I’ve seen my DGPS DVG position reports make it to the APRS network.

I will document the problems that I found with the pre-configured OS, and how I ultimately set the hotspot up.



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Getting a DVmega/RPi3 Hotspot Running – Part 1

As a backup to some local DSTAR machines that require a bit more than a HT on low power with a rubber duck antenna to access, I thought it would be nice to install a DV Hotspot in my house.  The traditional approach of using a DVAP hooked up to a PC sounded klunky and power hungry.  Some folks were making devices like that using a RPi.

DVmega came out with their dual band board designed to plug into a RPi, and that seemed ideal. I discovered that Gigaparts was offering a DVMega Pi3 2M/70cm Kit that seemed ideal.  Most appealing was that the OS was already loaded along with the repeater and ircDDB Gateway software.  Sounded pretty turnkey.


The case, shown above, went together nicely.  Note the DVmega dual band board is not installed so that the special mounting frame is visible in the top.

Sure enough the RPi3 booted, and the GUI came up with a ircDDB Gateway and Repeater screen, plus the “readme” instruction file.  The later was VERY simple, suggesting that your callsign be plugged into a few places, the proper RF module selected, followed by a reboot, and life would be wonderful.

Life was only partially wonderful…

The RF side seemed to work well.  It heard my HT (configured to talk to the hotspot WB4SON C and WB4SON G in RPT1/RPT2).  The hotspot send my repeater information  over the air.

However, nothing I could do would get the gateway functions to work.  The gateway status screen always showed it as disconnected.

I’ve been working that problem for about 10 hours so far today.  I’m still not sure if it is a DPLUS registration issue (needing a WB4SON C “terminal ID” to be registered with the US Trust) or if it is a port forwarding issue.

Details will follow as I make progress.

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DXCC Update for August

Wow, have things ever slowed down.  I did fill in several missing band-slots for CY9C, and a few more random band-slots for other countries.  But I haven’t worked an ATNO in ages. So no new countries to report, and only six new band-points.  Both DXCC 275 and Challenge 1500 will be a long time coming.

WB4SON DXCC Update Sept 1

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CY9C – St. Paul Island DXpedition – via Satellite

I was fortunate enough to work CY9C today at 21:08:39 during a pass of AO-7.  Great operator on the other end and great signals too.  Heard him work quite a few prior to me as well.


SatPC32 Screen Photo taken shortly after working CY9C on AO-7 (about 21:10 UTC)

Did the same thing when they weren’t busy on a XW-2C pass at 22:07:25.  Even stronger signals.

image (11)

Clayton, W5PFG, published the following table on the AMSAT-BB (He reported hearing my call to CY9C down in Texas):

CY9C satellite passes for next 24 hours.  They make work others as available. Asterisks * indicates a prioritized pass for best geographical coverage. All dates/times are UTC

25.08.2016  AO-85   16:51-17:02
25.08.2016  AO-07   17:15-17:34
25.08.2016  AO-85   18:32-18:42
25.08.2016  AO-07   19:06-19:27
25.08.2016  XW-2C   20:28-20:37    *
25.08.2016  AO-07   21:04-21:19    *
25.08.2016  XW-2C   22:02-22:11
25.08.2016  XW-2F   22:16-22:25
25.08.2016  XW-2A   23:38-23:44    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   01:46-01:52    *
26.08.2016  SO-50   03:10-03:21
26.08.2016  FO-29   03:28-03:45    *
26.08.2016  SO-50   04:50-05:02    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   05:13-05:30
26.08.2016  SO-50   06:33-06:42    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   06:59-07:11    *

Posted in AO-7, DX, Satellite, XW-2C | Leave a comment

Gotta Love Portable Operation

My family and I went to Lake George in early August for a week of fun — I’m not as bendy as they are, so while they were parasailing and kayaking, I hung back at our hotel to make a few QRP contacts while portable.

We had a nice room with a second story balcony that overlooked the lake.  I was able to hang my dipole from the two far ends of the balcony, about 24 feet across (short for 20-meters).  Using that sub-optimal antenna I did work a pair of CW QRP contacts with WW4LL, Fred in GA, and K1DW, Dallas in LA.

Dipole fed with RG174 strung from the columns about 24 feet apart on our deck.

Dipole fed with RG174 strung from the columns about 24 feet apart on our deck.

KX3 operating portable CW

KX3 operating portable CW

One funny thing — on my second day using the KX3, the internal battery was running low, so I replaced it with a spare, and when I picked the rig back up, the main tuning knob fell off.  I watched it roll across the bottom of the deck railing, noticing that the knob was taller than the gap.  Whew!  Unfortunately it rolled to the very end of the deck, where the gap was much larger.  I then watched the knob roll off the end of the deck, and heard it bounce off of several other decks then into the grass below.  Fortunately my son found the knob in some flowers, and I actually found the felt washer that provides a bit of back drag under our deck rail.  Now that was very lucky!

Posted in From the OM, Gear, Operating, QRP | Leave a comment