Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Keep trying and you will finally get it!

My first PSK31 contact
For some time now I have been trying to get my feet wet with the digital modes and have had no luck. This morning I gave it another go with the setup, in the past I have tried Fldigi, Digipan, Digital Master 780 and WinPSK and the list goes on. These are all great programs as many use them and have great success but as for me I just was not able to make them tick with my set up. I became frustrated and it was do to me just not figuring out the setup. As I said this morning I tried it again but from another angle, there are two programs I use to control my rig from my PC the first being N4PY's program and the other program is DXlab. The DXlab program has many modules  from rig control, logbook, propagation, DX cluster and a digital program that's called Winwarbler! DXlab already controls my
Screen shot 
radio and does a fine job of it so I added the Winwarbler module and with a few configuration tweaks I had radio control and was able to read signals from the waterfall. It was now time for the moment of truth to see if I am transmitting a PSK signal. On 20m I pressed the "call CQ" macro button and low and behold my power meter showed 5 watts making it's way to the antenna!!! Next was to find someone calling CQ and make my first contact with PSK31. I saw W1AW/5 calling CQ and I gave him a call and W1AW/5 came back to me with a 599 report. I now can say that I am PSK active but there was not much time left to make any other contacts as things around the house had to be done. I was thrilled to get things up and running and the waterfall was very busy. One of the drawbacks to Winwabler is it's limited to PSK and RTTY but for now I'm ok with that.
The K3 all ready to go
This is the setup that I am running….
Rig is the Elecraft K3 in DATA A mode set at 5 watts
The sound card interface is the Signalink USB
Software is DXlab's  Winwabler
Antenna is the MFJ 1788
Some of the items on the "to do list" are
1. Set the macro's up as they are generic ones right now.
2. Learn more about the Winwabler  program.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Making your radio time interesting is what counts!

I spent some time on 20m in the CW portion of the band and as always I wanted to make contacts with the lowest power possible. I came across 9A2G who was calling CQ and at the time he was not to busy with takers. This is a great opportunity for me to drop my call to someone who is listening. I started out at 500mW's and moved all the way up to 5 watts and nothing no contact. He did have some stations answer his CQ  and some where very weak so  he had good ears but not for VE3WDM. I then came across EG7MAL and I worked my way up to 5 watts and he came back to me with VE3?. He decided to move on as I was just not making the trip. At this point I was wondering how my low power signal was doing so I decided to call CQ at the QRP watering hole on 20m. I was checking with the Reverse Beacon Network to see how I was doing.  My 500mW signal was heard by AA4VV in North Carolina which was just over 1,000 miles per watt. I then bumped my power up to 1 watt and was very happy to see F4DXW was hearing me which meant my 1 watt of power made it 3461 miles. I did not make any contacts but I did find a way to make the radio evening a bit exciting even without making a two way contact.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another QRPp contact with the MFJ 1788 antenna

Transmitting with my wet noodle
I was off work on Friday and in the afternoon I found some time to get on the radio, I was pleased to see conditions had somewhat improved. The bands most active for me were 20 and 17 meters. The MFJ 1788 loop was very good at picking up DX I heard but was not able to contact G3XOV from England his signal was a strong S8 but as I waited for him to clear the callers who were before me his signal faded to S2 I still tried but was not able to make the contact. I then came across a station who's call started with "Z" that letter always gets my attention. From these parts a "Z" call could be very good DX. The call was Z63MED very odd call I thought maybe a special event station, I looked it up on QRZ.COM and found out it was a station from Kosovo. This country is still a developing story when it comes to ham radio. It does not as of yet have DXCC recognition as it just became a country in 2008. For more Kosovo ham radio history go to QRZ.COM and look up the call Z60A this is the call for the Amateur Radio Society of Kosovo.
Now for the exciting news…….I ended up only making one contact and it was with EG4GET and this I found out was a special event station in Spain and has to do with football or soccer as we know it here in North America. There are 20 special event stations you can contact and contact (from North America) with 5 gets you a silver award and 10 will get you the gold award, for more information follow this link . So back to the exciting news…….I dropped the power on my K3 to 1 watt and made the contact with this special event station without really any trouble for a distance of 3,754 miles per watt! Looking back when I moved into the condo and only being able to use a small antenna  in less than ideal conditions I felt my DX was going to be south of the boarder and that's it. I have come full circle to hitting over and above thousand miles per watt contacts. My record for miles per watt at this location is still 18,470 per watt in the ARRL CW contest.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Take time to listen it pays off.

W1ZU's home setup.
I had some spare time just before dinner time and thought it would be a nice idea to sit down and relax at the radio. The rig was set to the QRP watering hole of 14.060 and very soon after I heard W1ZU calling CQ. Now having said that I just read the other evening in my CQ magazine of how important it is to listen, so I thought I would give the ears a workout and the key could sit idle. By listening I found out that W1ZU was operating from a summit in Maine, that he was activating SOTA (summits on the air) summit W1/DI 006. Not being an active SOTA chaser I did some more listening and was very surprised how fast the pileup developed to contact him. It would seem you can obtain points for contacting summits and this one was worth one point. Once the pileup settled down I threw my call out and Scott came back to me with a decent report. If I did not spend the time to listen and just tossed my call in and make the contact and move on I would never had learned the detailed info about this contact.