Updating to WSJT-X version 1.8 for FT8 Mode

I see a lot of activity on 20 meters using the new FT8 mode (14.074.000), so I figured I would bite the bullet and update.  The latest WSJT-X release candidate requires an update to JTAlert, which I was avoiding since it no longer works with HRD version 6+ logging.

There is a utility out there called “QSO Relay” that acts as a go-between from JTAlert and HRD.  It works fine, but there is a deeper issue.  Older versions of the HRD logging program such as mine ( don’t know what the mode “FT8” is.  The QSO Relay utility will populate the HRD log with the mode set to FT8, but if you touch the log entry at all, perhaps adding a comment, or just doing a lookup to populate the remaining contact info (like name, city, etc.), the Mode is forced to “FM” — I guess it is the closest thing HRD can find to “FT8”.  (Why HRD needs to modify that field is beyond me.)

So that is a show stopper in terms of using HRD.  Even with everything else working correctly, without an update to HRD to a version that understands FT8, things are not going to work for contact confirmation.

Another show stopper is that LotW does NOT recognize FT8 as a valid mode (like JT65, or JT9), so it is not possible to upload these to LotW, without changing the mode to something like “DIGITAL” using the TQSL ADIF Mode Overlay.

Anyway, thanks to W5LE for being my first FT8 QSO.  I’ll manually upload it to LotW as soon as that mode is supported.

Ignore the “14.073 000” shown above — there is a slight polling delay when going from transmit to receive, the display above was still showing my transmit VFO setting, and had not updated to the usual 14.074 000 receive setting.

Waterfall showing FT8 exchanges.  W5LE QSO is in the middle (you can see the shorter TX bars)

Posted in Digital Mode, FT8, WSJT-X | 7 Comments

Nice 6-meter Opening Today

The JT65 segment of 6-meters was white hot today.  Even heard Joe Taylor (K1JT).  Map below shows stations that heard my signals around 21:00 UTC today.

Posted in From the OM, Propagation | Leave a comment

Worked All 13 Colonies

Last night I was NCS for my club’s HF net.  Right after our net cleared, K2C, a station in RI started calling CQ for the 13 Colony Special Event, and I picked him up, along with several of the other net members.  At that point, I figured it was prime time for 40 and 80 meters up and down the East Coast, so I went looking for some others.  About 45 minutes later I had worked 11 of the 13 stations.  It took quite awhile to find a PA station (I thought that was unusual), and I was still missing K2L in SC before I turned in for the night.  This morning after my club breakfast, I found K2L on 40 meter CW as well as WM3PEN, the Liberty Bell Bonus station, completing a clean sweep of all original colonies plus a bonus station:

My thanks to all the operators of stations K2A to K2L for making this a fun event.

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Yearning for Solar Cycle 25: But will it even happen?

According to Dr. Sten Odenwall, we will start seeing the new sunspots of Cycle 25 appear sometime in late-2019. Sunspot maximum is likely to occur in 2024, with most forecasts predicting about half as many sunspots as in Cycle 24.

The bad news is that some studies show sunspot magnetic field strengths have been declining since 2000 and are already close to the minimum needed to sustain sunspots on the solar surface. This is also supported by independent work in 2015 published in the journal Nature. By Cycle 25 or 26, magnetic fields may be too weak to punch through the solar surface and form recognizable sunspots at all, spelling the end of the sunspot cycle phenomenon, and the start of another Maunder Minimum cooling period perhaps lasting until 2100.

Let’s hope that Cycle 24 isn’t our last!

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Mid-way through 2017, DX is Crawling

At this point halfway to the bottom of cycle 24 (2020), I suppose it is only natural for things to slow down, not only due to the sunspot cycle decline, but also just because there are fewer needed DX entities to obtain.

In the first six months of 2017, the country count is up four to 262.  The DX Challenge is up 18 to 1,243.  (Up one country total and 6 countries in the Challenge in the last quarter).

No luck hearing a WV station on 12 meters, my one remaining state needed for 9-band WAS.  At this point, there is almost no activity on 12 meters anyway.  Maybe on the next sunspot cycle maximum I’ll pick it up.  Meanwhile I’ve picked up a couple more states on 6 meters, and a couple more states on satellite.  This fall/winter should be interesting on 160 meters with my new antenna.

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Calibrating the Uplinks for FD

The satellites are conspiring against me this year, mostly passes in the dark (nothing like stumbling/fumbling around in the dark in a field), but I’m getting the uplink calibrated again on my IC-9100.

Anyway, was able to calibrate AO-7 uplink (off about 200 Hz from last year), in both CW and SSB.  XW-2B, 2C, and 2F were easy to setup, but no takers for my CQs.

Made a couple of contacts with KK4PP and W4FS on SO-50.  Even had a contact via ISS Digipeat with W4MII

  • 20170621210810 : W4MII]CQ,RS0ISS*,qAR,WB4SON:=4102.57N/07496.02W- Greetings from Tony in grid FN21ma

XW-2A and XW-2D were also calibrated.  Had QSOs with W2JAZ on XW-2D CW, and again later on XW-2B SSB.  Also had a QSO on CW with KA8NCR on XW-2B.

Later at night, I heard myself on the AO-85 downlink around 01:23 to 01:26 UTC, but no takers.  AO-73 continues in sunlight so its impossible to test.

While I had no trouble calibrating for FO-29, and heard my downlink loud/clear from 01:39 to 01:51 UTC, there were no takers for SSB or CW CQs.  I did hear one response to a SSB QSO, but sadly below my local noise floor.

Posted in AO-7, AO-73, AO-85, ISS, Satellite, SO-50, XW-2A, XW-2B, XW-2C, XW-2D, XW-2F | Leave a comment

Field Day 2017 Satellite Passes

As usual, here is the list of decent satellite passes for Field Day 2017.  Times are in EDT, and the station location is set to FN41 (Rhode Island).  Many of them this year are after dark.  Going to have to hope AO-7 works, or some of the XW satellites.


Posted in From the OM, Satellite | Leave a comment

First Radials on the Ground for Inverted L

I’ve been using a low loop, about 450 feet of wire, around 20 to 30 feet off the ground for years.  It worked well for me, enabling me to get 9-band DXCC and 8-band WAS.  But the sunspots have diminished, and longer wavelength bands are coming into their prime.  I’d really like to get DXCC & WAS on 160 meters.  A low loop is a cloud warmer at that frequency.

The new plan is to install an inverted-L antenna.  It will have a 55 foot vertical element, then run horizontal to the ground for another 90 feet +/-.  That wire will be attached to a remotely tuned L-Network which is coax fed.  Since the tuner will present a 50 ohm load on the coax side, the feedline loss will be minimal.

A decent radial system will be required for the Inverted-L to work effectively.  So far only 5 radials are on the ground (each 123 feet long), and more will be installed before the first snows this winter.  I’m hoping that this start will be enough to give things a try on 160 and 80 meters.


Posted in Antennas, DX, Propagation, Testing | 1 Comment

Amazing LOTW Participation in NEQP

I just uploaded my New England QSO Party log to LowT and was expecting a few confirmations.  I was stunned when I saw that 60% of the 163 QSOs I uploaded were already confirmed not even 48 hours after the contest conclusion.

As an interesting tidbit, eQSL only had 14% confirmations despite the fact that many log programs automatically update eQSL.  Just shows how it is slowly dying off.

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New England QSO Party Fun

I don’t recall ever operating in the New England QSO Party before, but several emails were circulating encouraging activity, so I thought I’d give it a go.  Conditions were OK on the lower frequency bands — not a lot of noise.  15-meters even opened up for a brief time Sunday afternoon on a North/South path.

Posted in Contests, QRP | Leave a comment