Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Releases their Browser - Chrome

Google has entered the Internet Browser arena and has released their own browser called Google Chrome.  I've downloaded and installed it.  I had it import my Mozilla Firefox settings, bookmarks, etc. and all went flawlessly.  When you first run it there is a tab with several of the new features shown and you can watch a You-Tube video of how each feature works.  I spent about 5 minutes watching the various videos so that I would have some idea of how Chrome works.  So far, it seems to be pretty fast.  And, all my bookmarks imported in just the same order as they were in Mozilla.

If you like Tabs, here are some of the features of the Tabs in Chrome:
  • The tabs are at the very top of the screen - I like this.
  • There is a "+" sign to the right of the last tab.  Click on this to open a new tab.
  • Click & Hold then drag to reposition any tab.  You can change the order the tabs appear really fast!
  • Drag a tab away from the top of the screen and it opens in a new window - COOL!
  • Right-click in the blank area to the right of the tabs and choose "Task Manager" and you can see how much of your memory and CPU resources each tab is using.
I've opened several pages (some that I know are a bit slow) and I swear, it sure seems like it is working faster than Firefox.  I'm listening to my "Beachboys" channel on Pandora radio in one tab while I'm doing all this.  

BACK and FORWARD buttons.  Smaller than Firefox but just "click & hold" on either to see the history.  That's an improvement.  Just one button to access.  Overall the whole look is cleaner and leaner than Firefox. More "stuff" from the page I'm viewing is being displayed on my monitor.

I just signed onto my Blog and it did not even ask for my password (just like in Firefox) so that imported successfully.  I made a modification to my last Blog post and the update was made and displayed in record speed.  I can't get an actual number for the speed improvement but it seems to be 50% faster (at least) in some cases.

Now that I've visited a few web sites, when I open a new Tab, it shows thumbnails of my "favorite" web sites.  At least on the four sites it is displaying, this does not see to be too useful (except it gives me a very fast way to click on a commonly accessed web site.

OK, the "One Box for Everything" concept is going to take a little bit of getting used to.  However, I think it can be another vast speed improvement.  You have just one "Box" to type text into.  This is both an "Address" box AND a "Google Search" box AND a "History" search box combined.  I typed in "WB2D" and after each letter I got pop-ups below the box where Chrome was trying to guess at what I wanted.  When I had typed all of "WB2D" I hit Enter and it took me to the Google search engine with 10 results displayed.  

At this point I'm extremely pleased with Google Chrome.  You may want to download it and see what you thing but at this point, I'm Thumbs Up!  CLICK HERE for the Google Chrome download page.  And, if you just want to watch the You-Tube videos of the various features, CLICK HERE for that.  Oh, it's only available for XP and VISTA at this point.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Software Defined Radio

The WV DX Association has been asked to prepare the 2008 DX Forum for the 50th Annual WV ARRL Convention (and Roanoke Division Convention) and I have agreed to give a demonstration of the software program, CW Skimmer, at that Forum. In preparing for that, I realized in order to fully display all the power of CW Skimmer I needed to be able to input a broadband portion of the radio spectrum. CW Skimmer works well with just the 3 kHz passband of a regular transceiver but it works SO much better if it can see a larger slice of the band.
This can be done with a very simple, direct conversion type receiver which delivers I-Q audio signals to a computer's sound card. The receiver downconverts a 48 kHz section of RF and then quadrature samples that and produces two signals at audio frequencies which represent that RF but which have a 90° phase difference with each other. The computer then takes those signals and processes them in much the same way a regular radio does.
In searching for a simple way to do this, I came across the SoftRock series of "Software Defined Radios" (SDR for short.) These are sold as kits by Tony Parks, KB9YIG, of Springport, IN. I contacted Tony via email and he agreed to build a 40-M version of the SoftRock Lite version 6.2 receiver for me. THANKS TONY! Below you can see a photo of the completed receiver. It is just 1.5 inches square. (Click on the photos for a larger view.)

Connecting this radio could not be simpler. An antenna is connected to the antenna input, 9 VDC to the black/red wires, and the Stereo Audio Output cable is plugged into the Line (or Microphone) input of the computer. Now all you need is the "software" portion of the "Software Defined Radio." For that I downloaded THREE different programs which were all FREE! Click on the names of the programs to visit their respective web sites:

Rocky by VE3NEA who is also the author of CW Skimmer.
SDRadio by I2PHD.

I was able to use all three of those programs with the SoftRock 40 just fine. All have a different "look and feel" and have different features. You can also use PowerSDR which is the software used with the FLEX radios sold by Flex Radio Systems. They produce a very high-end SDR that you may have read about in a recent QST review.

But, since my purpose in acquiring the SoftRock 40 was to demonstrate CW Skimmer, I needed to download and get that program running. That turned out to be a simple task. HERE is the page that describes CW Skimmer. You can download a 30-day free trial from the "Download" link on the top right of that page.

Below you can see what I was able to copy on the SoftRock 40 using CW Skimmer for about 4 minutes on Saturday night. The list of stations copied by CW Skimmer totals 31 including: 9A2EU, F3NB, GM4FAM, HA9PP, I2AZ, LZ3FN, RA1AR, UT7NW and VE1DT among several others. Not too shabby for just a 1-1/2 inch square circuit board, a laptop computer and an 80-M Inverted-V antenna!!

I will demonstrate several other VERY interesting features of both the SDR radios and CW Skimmer at the 2008 DX Forum at Jackson's Mill on Sunday, August 24th, at 9:30 a.m. Oh, I should mention, as I stated above, the software part is FREE and the SoftRock 40 kit costs a whopping $10. WOOF! That's the best "bang for the buck" I've seen in a LONG time!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Japan on 6-M via E-skip

My last post about a wire antenna for 6-M shows what you can do with very little antenna. But, sometimes you need more. So, I purchased a 4-L yagi from Directive Systems and installed it INSIDE my attic! The very next morning I was able to work TO5E for a New One (No. 102) on 6-M. Yippee!

But, a couple of days later, Tim, KC8UHE, pointed out a spot on 6-M where stations were working Japan. What? You can't do that I said. Too many Es hops. But, apparently it IS possible because on July 8th, both KC8UHE and I actually DID hear a JA station. I copied the full callsign of JE1BMJ on just that 4-L yagi in the attic. I did not have the amp wired into my station then so had no chance to call him but Tim did call and the JA came back but no QSO resulted.

Who wudda thunk it? Japan via E-skip. Un-real.

In fact, the station we heard, JE1BMJ, is pretty much considered to be the guy who discovered this mode of propagation. He has written an article on the subject called Short-path Summer Solstice Propagation (SSSP) and you can download a copy HERE:

The next night I was better prepared and was able to actually record a Japanese station as I heard him on the 4-L ATTIC antenna. HERE is an MP3 file of that. What is being transmitted is "de JHØRNN K" and you might have to listen to the file a couple of times to pull it all out but it is all there.

This is just amazing to me that I am able to hear Japan on 6-M in the summer. AND, using just a 4-L yagi in my attic to boot! This is the first time I have EVER even HEARD Japan on the Magic Band in 44 years of operating on 6-M! Outstanding!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

6-Meters with a Wire Antenna

Well, the June ARRL VHF Contest suddenly appeared on my radar and I "still" did not have a 6-M antenna in the air at the new QTH. And, since my friend Steve, KØCS, was mounting a rover expedition to Capulin Mountain (an extinct volcano) in New Mexico, I thought it would be really cool to be able to work him while he was there. So, on Friday afternoon I gathered some old RG-8X coax that had been in my last "flood" plus a couple of pieces of PVC pipe for a support and I proceeded to erect a 6-M Inverted-V just outside the shack. Below is a photo of the antenna:

Once I had the antenna up, I got on the air with the Kenwood TS-2000 and made my first 6-M QSO from the new QTH with Tim, KD4LEJ. I figured the new antenna was working quite well and I had probably hooked up with a Florida station. However, when I told KD4LEJ I was in Hurricane, WV, he replied, "I'm in Hurricane, WV!" DUH! Great DX, huh? But, later that night I did work a couple of FL stations so the antenna did seem to radiate.

Then on Saturday afternoon the contest started. My first QSO was W6OAL in Parker, CO. That appeared to be a good omen. As the contest went on, I was working a lot of 5-land stations and sometimes a station in FL. I had to quit after about 3 hours to attend my wife's high school reunion but when I got home, the band was still open. In fact, stations from Texas were STILL being copied my me at 1:50 a.m. when I finally pulled the plug.

Sunday morning yielded a nice opening to New England and I had one 10 minute run where I worked 13 stations. Not quite what I can do on HF but considering just a wire antenna, I was very happy.

Over the course of the contest I managed to work a couple of Canadians, one station in Mexico and a nice QSO with Oscar, CO2OJ, in Cuba Sunday evening. The contest still has almost an hour to run so I might still snag another QSO or another multiplier but right now I have 128 QSO's with 59 Multipliers for a total score of 7,552 Points. Not the best score I've ever turned in but considering I was only using a wire antenna, I'm one VERY happy camper!

So, as it was with the Monster-L, you just never know what you can do until you give it a try.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

W8TN Installs Filters in W8QHG's FT-1000MP MkV

At the 2008 Dayton Hamvention, Bob, W8QHG, had me pick up two crystal filters and a roofing filter for his Yaesu FT-1000MP MkV. It was cheaper to have them shipped than to pay Ohio Sales Tax so that's what I did (but I still got the 10% Dayton discount!) Once the filters arrived I needed to go down to Bob's and install them. I had already done this on my FT-1000MP so I was somewhat experienced. Below is a shot of me doing the install snapped by Bob. I tell you, that Optivisor is the berries when it comes to seeing small items!

Things went really well until we hooked the radio back into the station and heard ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! RATS! What had I screwed up? The radio seemed to work in all regards but as Bob commented, "It sounds like there is no antenna connected." Well, we tripled checked that the antenna wire was plugged into the correct jack and that antenna jack was selected in the radio and the antenna switch was turned on and in the proper position - but still - NOTHING! So, a break for lunch was in order.

After being refreshed at Bob Evans we returned to Bob's QTH, removed the radio from the station, removed the 15 case screws and pulled the case apart to check and see what might have been messed up. Just as I got the case apart I heard Bob exclaim "OH, NO!" That was when he realized we had failed to connect the antenna wire from the station to the outside antenna cable where he removes it for lightning protection. DUH! You would think two guys with all our combined experience would have thought of that already. NOT!

So, another "lesson learned." Don't overlook the obvious. Bob hit the nail on the head when he said it sounded like there was no antenna connected - because there WASN'T! Once we checked out everything, re-assembled the radio and re-installed it in his station, it performed flawlessly! The filters helped out quite a bit and Bob was pleased with his purchase.

Now, I seem to have heard that KC8UHE bought a roofing filter for his FT-1000MP MkV at Dayton and I think W8UV has one on his shelf as well. Maybe I should just set up a small assembly line and get all those rigs done at once, hummm . . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

W8TN Now WSPR'ing on HF

Have you ever wondered just how much power it takes to communicate on Ham Radio? Or, if a particular band is really open for communication? Well, Ham Radio's Nobel laureate, Joe Taylor, K1JT, has recently written a new piece of digital soundcard software for HF Propagation. It is called WSPR (pronounced "whisper") and stands for "Weak Signal Propagation Reporter." You can see a screen shot of the program running HERE.

Basically this software runs on your computer and transmits and receives over your HF (or VHF) radio. Running very low power (on the order of 1/2 to 5 watts) the program allows reception of signals at distances and times of the day that most DX'ers might think impossible for that power level.

To give it a try I downloaded the software from Joe's web site HERE, installed in on my computer and configured it by typing in my callsign, my grid, the power level I was running in dBm and the soundcard numbers for input and output. Within a few minutes I had it operational and was transmitting on 30-M at a power level of 32 dBm (less than 1.6 watts!) This was between 4 and 6 p.m. today so I was not really able to utilize any nighttime propagation. Over a period of 40-minutes here is a list of the stations I was able to copy (click on the box below to enlarge it):
Note that I was able to copy SV8CS at a distance of 5242 miles while he was running 5 watts. This took place 3 hours BEFORE my sunset. Also, here is a list of stations that were able to copy me while I was running just under 1.6 watts output power:

Best DX of stations that heard me was IV3GTH at a distance of 4612 miles. Oh, did I forget to mention that I do not have a 30-M antenna! Yep, I was using my 80-M Inverted-V as an antenna with the FT-1000MP MkV's internal tuner. Without the tuner the SWR was 4.92 : 1.

If you wonder how I was able to determine who heard me, there is a web site that allows stations to upload their logs so everyone can see who has heard them (and who else is being heard.) It even has a map that shows the paths that are open on any particular band. That web site (which has a Chat/Sked Page, Forums and other useful information) is available HERE. BTW, I was the 344th distinct callsign reported using this mode.

Tonight I plan to fire up my WSPR signal on the Monster-L and see who can hear me on Top Band with such low power. I'll add a note to this post after tonight's session.

160-M Addendum: Well, my evening on 160-M was not quite as exciting as on 30-M this afternoon but still VERY interesting. I copied F6IRF at 10-watts and he copied me at 10-W. He is in JN35au so that is 4,312 miles on Top Band with just 10-watts at each end. Later I was copied by F1US when I was transmitting at 3-watts! He is in JN04fv so that is 4,099 miles at just THREE watts! On 160-M no less! Pretty awesome if you ask me. Also, my 3-watt signal was heard by GI3HXY at 3,580 miles.

An interesting footnote is that I checked over 1,000 spots from 0245 to 0500 GMT and my 10-W contact with F6IRF was the LONGEST one reported! That is, except for one report where K4CML copied CM8RF who was running 126 watts. Not quite in the same league I'd say. Thank you Monster-L!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Serious DX on Top Band

On Tuesday night 160-M sounded very quiet. The night before I had worked 5T5DC but conditions were lousy. But, Tuesday they sounded so much better I set the alarm for 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to try and work something out in the Pacific. When I struggled awake to the blaring of the radio I almost turned over and went back to sleep. I had only been in bed about 3-1/2 hours and was rather bleary-eyed. But, I turned on the radio instead to see what was afoot.

I heard W8JI and AA1K calling CQ but not a trace of any DX signals. Then, I heard W8JI working someone and it turned out to be VK6HD! I had never heard a VK6 so I listened and was just barely able to copy him. So, I started warming up the amp, just in case.

There was nothing being spotted on the PacketCluster so things did not look too good. I tuned around a bit more and then heard K1JO a bit above W8JI and he was working VK6HD! I still did not have great copy on VK6HD but thought I'd set up shop a couple of kc. above K1JO and see what happened if I called "CQ DX."

Lo and behold, after my very first CQ (my first CQ DX in quite a long time - years maybe) I was answered by VK6HD !! WOW! His signal was now MUCH better than before. (As it turned out, it was just exactly my sunrise and one day before the spring equinox.) The QSO we had was not pretty as I was so nervous I could barely work the paddles. But I completed the QSO with Mike (VK6HD) successfully. This was the longest DX I have EVER worked on 160-M.

As you can see by the above map (Click on it for a larger view), VK6HD is just 1,128 miles away from the point that is the exact opposite side of the world from me. And, there is nothing very near that point (except water) so I expect that this will stand as my longest QSO (on the Earth) EVER! The distance from my QTH to VK6HD's QTH is 11,313.4 miles. WOOF! That's a haul, AND I did it on Top Band with the Monster-L!

Oh, and when I turned to the computer to log the QSO, I saw the following on the PacketCluster:

W8TN 1829.1 19 Mar 11:41 VK6HD tnx

VK6HD had spotted ME as if I was rare DX! Amazing!

By the way, it was 7:41 a.m. here in Hurricane, WV, when I made this QSO but it was 8:41 P.M., TOMORROW, for VK6HD! I worked him on Wednesday MORNING my time but it was Thursday EVENING, his time! Aren't you glad we use GMT for our logs and QSL's?

I'm now up to 110 Countries Worked and 72 Confirmed on 160-M. VK6HD gives me a new Zone so I now have 27 Zones Worked and 19 Confirmed. The last 12 weeks have just been a hellava good time for me on 160-M.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

VP6DX - A Clean Sweep

With the VP6DX DX'pedition to Ducie Island drawing to a close, it has now broken the record for the most QSO's worked by any previous DX'pedition. Many people have managed to work Ducie for a new one or for new Bands or Modes that they were not able to do in previous DX'peditions. Personally, I only had three Bands and two Modes confirmed from previous operations.

But, now that I have moved to the New QTH on the Top of the Hill, and have installed the Monster-L for 160-M, I decided to see if I could fill in some of those needed Bands and Modes. As you can see from the VP6DX "Leader Board" below, I managed to do that - in style!

I do not believe I have ever swept a DX'pedition on ALL Bands and Modes they were operating on before. And, this is especially pleasing since I only have two antennas - an 80-M Inverted-L and the Monster-L for 160-M. All other bands were worked by loading one or the other of those two antennas with a Drake MN-2000 tuner. Working 20 Band/Mode "slots" is the MOST that ANY operator has accomplished with this DX'pedition! But, I'd trade a lot of those "slots" for a single 6-M QSO - Hi!

The most difficult contact by far was the 30-M RTTY QSO - and it was the last one I made. I probably spent 5 hours on the air calling them on that Band/Mode. Being restricted to 200-watts on 30-M and not having a 30-M antenna was really a challenge. But, as the DX'pedition was drawing to a close, lots of folks had already made their QSO's and that left room for the "little pistols" to make it into the log.

Now that I have all the "Greenies" showing in the VP6DX log, I'll send for my QSL's using their on-line QSL request service. And, I'll include an extra contribution for the huge expenses incurred by this operation to take all their equipment to such a remote location and, at the bottom of the sunspot cycle, pull off one of (if not THE) best DX'peditions of all time! Thanks VP6DX!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Antennas Work Best if You Bleed on Them

Yesterday I was feeling a little "under the weather." I had a sinus headache for most of the day but it did not stop me from working CT3/OM3GI in Madeira Islands for Country No. 99 on 160-M. However, I did go to bed a bit early to try and shake the headache and general bad feeling.

About 11:00 a.m. today, Tim, KC8UHE, called and said he was not working and was coming over to help me find why the Famous W8TN 160-M Inverted-L antenna was not performing as well as it had at first. Tim knew the CQ 160-M CW Contest started tonight and he wanted to help me get up to speed with the antenna. I tried to beg off, telling him I'd just work on it later, but he would have nothing of that. When I told him it was just too cold to work on the antenna he said the cold didn't bother him and I could just stay inside and he would go over the hill and see what had happened to the antenna. Since I was not able to dissuade him from coming over, I agreed and struggled out of bed to take some more Tylenol.

By the time he showed up I had most of my gear together. Tim brought his spin-casting rod and some new 20 pound test line. He strung the new line on the Zebco reel and we were ready to go. Down over the hill we slid (lots of snow still there) but no one fell. At the antenna I could see that the top-hat portion of the antenna had pulled back out of the trees and the antenna was "drooping" in the vertical section as well. I had known something was wrong since the SWR had creeped up to where it was 1.43 : 1 at resonance and that resonant point had crept up to 1.850 MHz. At 1.830 and below it was well over 2 : 1 which is bad for working DX!

The tree I needed to put the line over was about 90 feet tall and we did not think we could cast the line from the ground. So, up the tower I went (boy that steel was cold!) At about the 65-foot level I belted on and got ready to cast. However, the line was fouled in the reel! So, for about 40 minutes I hung off the side of the tower, disassembled the Zebco spinning reel, and removed the tangled line. I had to cut off the tangled part then re-string the pole and re-tie the lead weight.

Finally, I was ready to make the cast. The line sang out and the yellow lead weight sailed right over the spot I wanted. Then, it suddenly stopped! I had run out of line! Rats! So, I thought I would just cut off the line and tie it to the end of the support line for the top-hat portion of the antenna and hope the weight would pull the line down to the ground (about 85 feet worth!) But, I could not pull the top of the antenna out of the trees. It had gotten fouled in there and no matter how hard I pulled, the tree just bent and the line stayed tight.

Now I had to think quick and formulate a Plan B. I decided that since the line was tight in the tree, I would just climb further up the tower and tie off the vertical portion of the Inverted-L a little higher up. That's what I did and it worked! The vertical portion was now about 15 feet higher and there was a little more of an angle for the top-hat but the antenna was firm. When we finally made it back to the house (only 1 fall - me!), the SWR was now 1.25 : 1 at resonance and the resonant point was at 1.838 MHz. much nicer! The Alpha was very happy and would put out 1,500 watts with only about 20 watts reflected.

I'm sure most seasoned DX'ers are familiar with the old saw that an antenna does not work well unless you leave some blood or skin on them. Well, that's what I did. In cutting the excess line I managed to cut myself twice! Once on my thumb and once on my ring finger.

I can now attest that the old saw about bleeding on your antenna is TRUE! With the new antenna I managed to work SIX New Ones on 160-M in just my first 1-1/2 hours of the contest. Yee, Haw! And, those were worked with an A-Index of 11 and a K-Index of 2 which is not all that great.

I worked EI-Ireland, V3-Belize, YU-Serbia, UA2-Kalingrad, VP9-Bermuda and CT-Portugal. This brings me to 105 Countries Worked on Top Band. That's about 83 New Ones in the last 9 weeks since I put up the Famous W8TN 160-M Inverted-L. I think I'll hit the sack now and see if I can snag a ZL or a VK6 early Saturday morning.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Received EME Signals on 7 MHz.

The High Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP) ran some tests on the 40-M band this weekend. They transmitted a 2 second carrier from their station in Gakona, Alaska, then were silent for three seconds. Hams and SWL's were asked to see if they could hear the resultant echoes from the moon. It takes 2.7 seconds for a signal to reach the moon and return to the Earth. So, a little over 1/2 second after the HAARP transmitter went silent (if you could hear it directly), the echo from the moon would appear.

I did not try to hear the test on Friday night since I felt I had no chance with only an 80-M Inverted-V and the Famous 160-M Inverted-L for antennas. But based on the fact that many hams did hear the signal (see this YouTube video), I decided to give it a try on Saturday night. Last night Garie, K8KFJ, heard it on his Icom 706-MkIIG with a vertical and Don, W8DL, heard it using an Icom IC-746 and a 270-ft. longwire.

The first hour of the test was on 6.7925 MHz and I heard NOTHING. I was drowsy and about gave it up but decided to at least spend a few minutes on the second hour of the test on 7.4075 MHz just to see if it was any different. I peaked up the Yaesu FT-1000MP MkV for the weakest signal I could detect. The AGC was OFF, no attenuation, RF Gain at maximum, the VRF was ON and peaked and the 125 Hz crystal filter was switched in to give the maximum signal to noise ratio.

About 9 minutes into the test I began to hear a signal. So, I began recording the audio out of the radio on my computer. I noticed I was only hearing one signal. Was it the HAARP transmitter directly via the ionosphere or was it the signal reflected from the moon? I didn't know. However, I had very carefully adjusted my station clock to WWV just before the test. My digital seconds would click over to the next second exactly as WWV "clicked." Also, I began the audio recording as close to 0839 and 00 seconds GMT as possible.

After about 13 minutes of recording the signal was getting fairly strong. I carefully watched the digital clock and the signal began at 2-1/2 seconds, 7-1/2 seconds, 12-1/2 seconds, 17-1/2 seconds and so on. I was receiving the signal from the MOON!

Of course, this conclusion was based on the assumption that the HAARP signal was begun exactly on the minute and every 5 seconds thereafter. Later on in the test, after a period when I could hear no signal, I began to hear a signal again and this time I noticed that it began exactly at 00, 05, 10, 15 seconds. So, I was now hearing the HAARP transmitter. (There was a short period where I "think" I could hear both signals but the EME signal was so weak I could not be sure. I'll check the audio file later to see if both signals can be pulled out.)

Here is a spectrogram that was recorded in real-time as I was receiving the signal. The width of the graph is just about 15 seconds and you can see three of the 2-second long transmissions.

When I played back that portion of the audio I had recorded on the computer, I found that section 13 minutes and 17 seconds into the file. If you look closely at the timeline from the audio program below, you can see that each signal starts at 17-1/2 seconds, 22-1/2 seconds and 27-1/2 seconds. This shows it is the signal reflected from the moon!

You can listen to the 14-second MP3 file of this signal HERE. The file size is 227 K. The audio tone is at about 580 Hz.

This signal is a good deal stronger than a lot of EME signals I had QSO's with on 432 MHz. from Ravenswood. It was definitely good enough to make a contact, IF the HAARP station could have heard my 1,500 watts (unlikely since they were transmitting in the range of 3.2 MEGA WATTS!)

All in all, I had hoped to do a little better. But, conditions tonight may not have been as good as last night. The A-Index was 9 and the K-Index was 3. But, it was still a hoot to have heard an EME signal on 40-M. Not something you run across just any day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New W8TN QSLs Going Out

I recently received my QSL's from the printer and I am starting to send them out. It has been a long time since I had nice QSL's and these are FINE. I had them printed by UX5UO in the Ukraine and they were delivered to my door just TWENTY-TWO DAYS after I approved the proof he emailed me. That's just astounding! It normally takes three times that long for me to get them from a U.S. printer. And, the cost was just $65 per thousand - DELIVERED - for 4-color PHOTO cards! Un-real!

You can see my new QSL on CLICK HERE.

The cards I've started sending out are already yielding a result! I have now received a QSL from a Top of the Honor Roll DX'er for an 80-M QSO I had with him earlier this week.

Thanks, Bob. I'll be putting this QSL in a place of honor in my shack.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Learning to Use the FT-1000MP MkV

Click HERE to listen to a brief MP3 audio file I recorded tonight. It will give you some idea of what my radio is able to hear. I picked a weak signal on 160-M to better demonstrate the dramatic ability to improve on what might be considered a very difficult signal to copy.

I have recorded a CQ being sent by SM5EDX at about 0550 GMT. This is 1 hour and 45 minutes before his sunrise.

The first 7 seconds of the CQ are with my 400 Hz filter in line. Then, I switch in the 125 Hz filter. I think you will hear a marked decrease in the QRN and a resultant improvement in the signal-to-noise of the received signal. Then, at 12 seconds into the file I switch on the VRF (Variable RF Front-end Filter). This is a narrow band-pass "preselector" filter in the RF circuit path. As you can see, it turns the signal into nearly arm-chair copy when it would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to copy it otherwise.

Below is a graphic showing the resultant waveform of this audio file. The improvement in noise reduction added by the 125 Hz. filter is obvious. And, you can see a further noise reduction when the VRF is engaged.

I am still learning about all the controls on this radio but the more I use it, the better I like it. I expect the receiver (and the filters) are part of why I am able to hear so much on the Inverted-L, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

KC8UHE's Inverted "L" for Top Band

Today, Steve, KC8FVE, and I helped Tim, KC8UHE, erect a clone of my 160-M Inverted "L" antenna. Shortly after I left he worked a station on SSB in Iowa and later he was in the pile-up for NP4A but was beaten out by Phil, W8UV, with his new "Killer" antenna. Of course, we don't know how much power Phil was running (Tim was running 200 watts.) And, after Phil completed his QSO, Tim broke the pileup next. Not bad I'd say.

Here are a couple of photos of the antenna. The first shows the feedpoint. The unmarked lines are just support ropes. The second photo shows the elevated radial being supported by 5-foot lengths of PVC.

Tim used a 30-year old Zebco Model 33 spinning reel (with rotten line!) to cast a lead weight over two of his neighbor's trees. (The neighbor is very friendly in letting Tim use her trees as antenna supports.) A support rope over the first tree held a pulley that the center of the Inverted-L was threaded through and pulled horizontal by a rope that was cast over the other tree. The first iteration had the antenna about 6-feet too long. So, we let down the end of the center conductor, cut off 6-feet and pulled it back up. The process could not have been simpler. The new length had the SWR 1.0:1 at 1.840 MHz. The photo below shows the tree which supports the end of the "hot" side of the antenna after it transitions from vertical through the pulley on a similar tree.

Now that Tim has joined the ranks of those using the infamous "W8TN - Inverted-L" 160-M antenna. We will both be in competition with Phil in the pileups. It will be interesting to see which antenna wins out.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Posted these two photos without commenting on them so here is what you are seeing. This is the back and then the front of a sweatshirt I saw at the Charleston Department Store. This, of course, relates to the win by the WVU football team over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Since WVU's coach bolted and went to Michigan, WVU was given "No Chance" to win this game. Oklahoma even petitioned the BCS committee for a "more worthy" opponent. I guess WVU pushed those words right down their throats!