Monthly Archives: August 2017

FT8 WAS: One more to go

It’s over. I’m all in on FT8. It actually is very interesting and a lot of fun. Over this last month aside from some WSPRing the day of the eclipse and some SSB contacts mobile while driving to and from work, home operation, which actually hasn’t been all that much in the face of other non-radio projects, has been 99% FT8 on 20m and 40m. I’m down to one more state, Nebraska. I’ve got multiple contacts in Alaska and Hawaii and even Washington, D.C. but I haven’t found a station in Nebraska yet, but I’ve enlisted the help of PSK Reporter to find the needed station.

FT8 WAS

WSJT-X provides the ability to send all of your decodes to PSK Reporter.

WSJT-X PSK reporter Spotting

My understanding is that WSJT-X reports a spot for every station that you decode, not just those that you work. Using PSK Reporter in combination with WSJT-X effectively closes the loop on your digital operations. With the spotting information available you can use PSK Reporter to determine who is hearing your signal including signal strength in a manner similar to that of WSPR. I’ve been varying my power output to see how it impacts signal reports. Additionally, the spotting information can be used with FT8 to attempt to make a directed contact with a station. I had this happen once to me while in an FT8 QSO. I noticed a call to me in the Band Activity pane (left pane) from a call different than that of the station I was communicating with in the Rx Frequency pane (right pane.) Once my QSO was complete I  responded to the other stations call on the frequency upon which they called me. I adapted a form of this technique to get my North Dakota contact with KDoUXO. I noticed in PSK Reporter that he heard me but didn’t see his call in the Band Activity pane so I picked a clear spot on the waterfall and called directly for him. After a few rounds of calling CQ he responded to my call and I put my first (and only thus far) North Dakota FT8 contact in the my log. Given a bit more time and observation of PSK Reporter I should be able to put a Nebraska station in my log for the fastest WAS I’ve ever completed.

FT8 cat

Our youngest cat appears to like FT8 as well, while our older cats find it too fast paced. Or it could be that they can’t fit on my desk between the keyboard and radio.

UPDATE: FT8 WAS is complete! AJ0Z confirmed Nebraska.

 

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Eclipse WSPRing

In the run-up to the eclipse there was plenty of information concerning the eclipse and its relation to propagation. Of particular interest to me was the Eclipse Experiment proposed by HamSCI and especially their use of data from WSPRNet and PSK Reporter as well as the Reverse Beacon Network. There is an amazing amount of data collected each day by these systems that has a practical use for checking propagation conditions and a scientific use for observing the affect of events like the eclipse. WSRPNet alone averages around 1 million spots per day. Yesterday was over 1.2 million. The spots per hour broke the chart:

WSPR Spots per Hour

About 1600 UTC of the morning of the eclipse I started my WSPRLite on 20m. Band conditions were as follows:

Band conditions @ 1631 UTC

I was using my 4BTV with the WSPRlite transmitter at 200mW. I let it run for a couple of transmit rounds as a test and obtained the following results:

WSPR @ 200mW (1637 UTC)

As you can see, all the spots are in North America. I then changed to my TS-590SG and WSJT-X with the 4BTV so that I could both transmit and receive. I set the TX power to 5 W and started to WSPR on 20m.

By 1709 UTC the map looked like this:

WSPR @ 5W  (1709 UTC)

As you can see a lot more North America stations and VY0ERC on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean. VY0ERC claims to quite possibly be the most northerly Amateur Radio club in the world. At 79 degrees 59 minutes N there really isn’t all that much latitude remaining for challengers.

By 1742 UTC I received my first spots in Central and South America as well as the first spot by a station in Europe, F4GUK in France.

WSPR @ 5W (1742 UTC)

According to this NASA map, in the US, the eclipse started at 9:06 AM PDT\16:06 UTC in Madras, OR and ended in the US at 4:06 PM EDT/2006 UTC in Columbia, SC, so the US time window for the eclipse was roughly 1600 to 2000 UTC.

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

By 2100 I received a spot in Australia, VK2CBD and Europe as well as South America had opened up to some degree and a spot by VE8GER, northwest of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. I had two odd ones, KG9BEP that appears to be in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk and KC6EVC which was off the top of the map. Neither were legitimate callsigns.

US WSPR detail @ 2100 UTC

I forgot to capture band conditions at 2100, but at 2153 they were as follows:

Band conditions @ 2153 UTC

The most noticeable changes were that A dropped to 11 from 22, and K from 3 to 2 over the course of roughly 5 hours. I want to say that conditions improved over the course of the day and the data supports this to large extent, though what portion of this is attributable to the eclipse or just the fluctuating conditions that we find ourselves in is hard to say.

By the time that I pulled the hook at about 2200 UTC I had received 1868 spots. I placed all of my spots in Excel and made a simple chart of the number of spots per time period. I hesitate to put this up as there are about 34.785 variables at play so don’t take this too seriously:

Spots over time

The red lines are the time boundaries of the eclipse. The time runs from 1628 UTC to 21:58 UTC. The maximum number of spots was 99. The first two points were at 200mW and the rest were at 5W. That explains the jump to the third datapoint. As I said, 34,785 variables. My station was heard by 297 unique stations and I heard 179 unique stations. There were a lot of receive only spotters.

As for what all of this means, that I’ll leave to the actual scientists, based just upon WSPRnet they certainly obtained a pile of data. My conclusions are that WSPRing continues to be intriguing and as always, Amateur Radio is an interesting hobby.

 

More FT8

Around a fair amount of non-radio activities this weekend I was able to fit in a wee bit of digital operation with FT8. Band conditions were poor but there was a fair amount of FT8 activity on 20m and 40m. I was up Saturday night well past midnight operating. It’s growing on me. I now have 38 states (including two contacts in HI, AH6BI and KH6DC) and 12 countries. Plus K1JT himself:

K1JT with FT8

I’ve added JTAlert with WSJT-X. It comes in handy for tracking and announcing decoded stations, indicating those that are new among a bunch of other alerts that you can configure. It has some interface to ACLog for logging though I’ve not configured that as of yet. I simply let WSJT-X log to an ADI file and import that to ACLog at the end of an operating session.

There were two that got away, FK8HA on New Caledonia and 5W1SA on Samoa. I could hear both of them with good signals (-4 or -5) but they couldn’t hear me. It’s interesting that a wee bit before they appeared in the decode I had worked ZL3TRR, John in New Zealand again and he was using a KX3 at 10W (-7 signal report in WSJT-X, -13 when I worked him on 8/13/17) and a Hex Beam (verified by an email exchange.) It was good to be able to hear them and I’ll try again next time I see them appear.

I was using my TS-590SG and Hustler 4BTV typically at 30 watts though I occasionally varied the power up and down (watching ALC) to see how it impacted signal reports for contacts and reports by monitors on PSK Reporter.

The lowest signal level report that I received was -21 from LU2CHP in Argentina and the lowest I was able to receive, decode, and respond to was -15 to 9Z4Y in Trinidad & Tobago.

My status as a CCOG™ (Certified Crabby Old Guy) is in serious jeopardy.

 

The moment has finally arrived…

The most anticipated moment in recent Amateur Radio history has finally arrived. No it’s not the pricing and release for the ICOM IC-7610. Nor is it the next radio from Elecraft (KX3.5? K4S?) or when Kenwood is going to introduce an SDR-in-a-box rig. Nope, it’s way more important than any of these.

LoTW now accepts FT8!!!

With the recently released update for TSQL’s Config.xml file (version 11.1), contacts made with the most amazingly popular new mode in Amateur Radio, FT8, are now supported in LoTW.

LoTW updated

Has there ever been a mode that has been adopted so quickly? FT8 seems to be everywhere. As of the time of this writing look at the PSK Reporter stats:

PSK Reporter stats 8/16/17 @ 01:02 UTC

I added my comparatively small FT8 log from the wsjtx_log.adi file created by the WSJT-X software into my ACLog software log file and uploaded to LoTW tonight. It appears as if there is a rather large backlog at LoTW Server Central:

LoTW processing queue status

I’ve not looked at the LoTW processing status page before so I don’t know if this is normal. It seems like a lot of QSOs have been processed or are in process in the last several hours. Based upon the PSK Reporter stats I wonder if this is a flood of pent up FT8 contacts? Was the Internet bogged down today with thousands of operators uploading their FT8 contacts? I know that the WAE DX CW contest was this past weekend. Maybe that accounts for some of the influx? That would certainly put a smile on the face of the average CW op to know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 CW QSOs were recently added to LoTW!

As for me and FT8, it’s sort of growing on me. Typically I’m a CCOG™ (Certified Crabby Old Guy) and don’t take kindly to all these newfangled modes. I dabbled with it a bit this past weekend on 20m and I must admit it is sort of fun and pretty interesting. With not all that much time invested I was able to make a fair number of contacts across the US, some in Canada, a few in Europe, and three New Zealand stations in a row! The lowest signal levels I decoded were -14 from DL9RDM in Germany and -13 from ZL3TRR in New Zealand (the other two New Zealand stations were -7 and -9 and all within 5 minutes of each other.) The lowest signal level reports that I received were -18 from ZL3TRR and -16 from MM0CPZ in Scotland. Most all of these contacts were made with 30 watts (some with a wee bit more) from my TS-590SG into my 4BTV.

I’m not going all in and selling my mic and key but I suspect that there will be some additional FT8 operation in my future. If a CCOG like me finds it interesting you may as well.

UPDATE: 8/17/17

The spanner in the works at LoTW Server Central has apparently been removed. There was quite a backlog to chew threw. I just updated my ACLog with LoTW and a whole host of FT8 confirmations came pouring in. We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

LoTW back to normal