Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I put up an inverted L for 160 with 3 radials. Let's see how that plays on 160. I need to get cranking on the "top band" in order to get my 9BDXCC
73 and good DX
Friday, December 25, 2009
Heard HS0CZY/4 and 4S7NE tonight. HS0 was buried under EU, I did not want to get into a pileup on simplex frequency for 4S7NE, esp since I already have a card from Nelson on 17 meters.
Seems like 40 is almost always offering some sort of DX! Makes me want to rethink my antenna situation, possibly put up something with more gain on 40. I had been looking at 160 for a basic antenna, and trying to get my hex beam up higher. Maybe I am focused on the wrong bands!
Christmas gifts from Santa included an Arrow Antennas 4 element yagi for 6 meters, a 6 meter handbook, a 6 meter pre-amp. So look out Meteor-Scatter fans, and when those sporadic-E clouds starting forming in April I will be all over that!
73, happy holidays, and good DX!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
2. I copied VR4VBI on 20 meters JT65A, using the Zero-Five vertical.
Both of these events represent something significant. For the first time in MANY years, I am hearing Asia for real. Not just JA, but further out beyond that. This bodes well for my quest into Asia for additional DX.
Also, put up my 6 meter hex yagi into the attic. Will try for some meteor scatter in the coming mornings.
73 and good DX!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Tinkered with it all afternoon, FINALLY set it up so I can send CW using the MixW interface/keyboard...and CW Skimmer works!!! Also using DX4Win to pounce on spots.
Here's what it looks like
A busy screen! SDR for controlling the radio is on the left, CW Skimmer to the right, then Bandmaster. MixW is on the bottom center, with DX4Win on the left side.
My favorite programs, all placed properly on the screen.
Now, the other computer with the screen on the left is my digital/satellite station. It has satellite tracker, WSJT software, web browser, BandMaster and DX Atlas, HamRadioDeluxe sat tracker, and two radios: TS570 for HF, and TS480 for 6 meter CW/SSB and meteor scatter.
This is fun, now that I finally got everything working together!
6 meter yagi arrives on Wednesday for the attic. Still trying to decide what I want to do for Earth-Moon-Earth comms...something in the attic, or rover operations with better access to the horizon. Decisions decisions! What an awesome hobby!
73 and good DX!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Making a QSO with Martti is an honor and a thrill for me, a junior DXer who hopes one day to reach the honor roll of DXCC. I have worked him on CW before, but never on SSB. It was a medium-sized pileup, and I broke through on the second try only because Martti was (as usual) following a very consistent pattern to the pileup. He waited for the chaos to die down after 3 seconds, then picked the first call he heard. I guessed right and made it through with 100 wats and my dipole at 44 feet! This QSO, combined with the one with John Devoldere ON4UN of Low Band DXing fame, will be two that I will remember for my lifetime.
Anyway...it's 0100 local now Saturday night/Sunday morning, and I am on 40 CW, MINUS MY BELOVED F3K (no worries, the folks at Flex ALREADY have it repaired! Back in the mail this week, AWESOME customer service!). I can see some interesting spots for South Cook (E51), but nothing new. I have the Zero-Five 43 foot vertical online, after replacing the remote CG-3000 antenna tuner earlier today (I think water permeated it, but that's a separate story). Suddenly, I see a spot for JA. Probably from Europe, since they are both about on the gray line this time of year. I check it out, and it's from a W4. So I tune there, hear a watery signal RST 529, copy JA7DLE, call him twice, he gets my call, BAM he is in the log. I have ONE JA QSO on 80, and this is my SECOND EVER on 40 (the other is JM7OLW, have worked him several times on 20 and once on 40). The vertical is WORKING! What is neat about this is that it happens while I can hear EU stations 599 AND South Cook Islands 559. So I am copying Pacific, JA, AND Europe at the same time. ANd still an hour until sunset for JA. WOW, 40 meters is impressive.
That is quite a NEAT situation. I can remember doing that on 20 meters late at night in 1990, when I lived in Georgia, during the solar peak of cycle 22. But that is to be expected on 20, especially at the peak of the solar cycle.
But on 40 meters? With a vertical antenna? Never would have guessed it could happen to me!
So WHAT IS THAT SOUND? It's a JA station...I am working Asia, my intended target for DX!
73 and good DX!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I sent it in for repairs (pre-amp chip failed) and for the warranty fix for the pre-amp overall.
Wow, using my TS-570 is such a travel back in time. I can only use my ears and not my eyes with this rig. I know Flex will take good care and do the fixes right, but I sure hope the rig is back in time for my holiday break! Fingers crossed.
I put up more antennas today: Par End-Fedz models for 40 and 30 meters. These are stealthy, half-wave wire antennas for single-band operation. The models I have are designed for 100 watts. They work quite well, especially on 40 and 30 meters. High efficiency, no ground field needed like a quarter wave. How is the impedance matched at the end of a half wave, for a 50 ohm coax feed? I am GLAD you asked! Here's an excellent article on performance, matching networks, and more details.
The antennas are efficient. Overall performance depends upon the properties of the ground. Some folks claim that common-mode currents are induced in the coax, since the outer braid is serving as the counterpoise. Well, a couple of turns of coax into a lazy man's 1:1 current balun fixes that.
So how did the end-fed antenna work? Well, I worked CE0Y/SM6CUK on the first call tonight. That's not a scientific test, but it does prove that I AM radiating a signal.
73 and good DX!
Friday, November 27, 2009
Something was weird about his signal, though. At first I thought it was flutter, but that's ridiculous - the path is 080 short path. Then I thought someone was intentionally interfering. But it was simultaneous; started as son as he started, and ended immediately after he ended. Fast CW, no way it was intentional interferece...too closely timed.
Then it hit me; I was receiving short path AND long path AT THE SAME TIME! Never would happen with a directional antenna, but I was using the off-center-fed dipole at 64 feet. I was hearing BOTH signals at the same time, the long-path one just barely delayed and sounding like interference!
5798 miles short path, long pah 15782 miles. I listened for a few minutes and was fascinated! I had never heard this before, at least not that I could recall!
At about 1615 UTC, the short path took over and the interfering long path signal decreased quickly until it was gone.
Using some quick calculations, the time to trave short path is 31.2 msec. Long path is 84.5 msec. That would explain the noticeable overlap.
Wow, propagation never ceases to amaze me.
73 and good DX!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
On Saturday night, I put up the 43 foot vertical.
On Tuesday, I put up a 160-10 off-center-fed dipole from Buckmaster up at 64 feet, beaming 330/150 broadsied. I used a secret weapon to put up the antenna. Whoa, this thing is a DREAM! Worth every penny!
Today (Thursday), I put up the 20 meter hex beam...only at 32 feet for now...need to have it up for the CQ WW CW contest this weekend.
I took down the 80-10 off-center-fed Buckmaster, I will re-orient it next week on an East/West heading.
So, what results have I achieved so far?
Well, the new QTH continues to be VERY quiet. On 20 CW, I heard JA1NUT 579, VR2MY 539. Did not have time to try and break the pileup.
What have I worked, that is interesting?
12 meters: ZL1BYz, CE0/SM6CUK
15 meters: A25NW, ZP6CW
17 meters: V51AS, A25WN (CW - 10 min; SSB, huge pileup, 30 min of attempts), 9L1NH
20 meters: 9G5TT, A25NW
30 meters: CE0/SM6CUK, A25NW
40 meters: 3B8CF, RW0CN
80 meters: 4L6AA
160 meters: PJ2/K8ND (easy), need to get some EU DX to work towards 9BDXCC
Kudos to Tom, K9NW, down on Botswana with the A25NW call. What a fantastic op. The SSB pileup on 17 meters was a real zoo, but he kept it moving and never lost his cool.
1. The 43 foot vertical is working well with 10 radials down, each 50 feet in length. I need to add another 10 radials. The remote tuner is, as always, essential
2. The total coax run is about 250 feet to each antenna. I need some lower-loss coax, I suspect, althouth the RG-213 is not hurting me all that much.
3. The Buckmaster at 64 feet has the ends drooped, to form a two-element broadside phased vertical pattern.
4. The 20 meter hex beam is BACK ON LINE.
I am ready for the contest! Hope to work at least three new ones.
- Get the remote antenna switch in place.
- Get the 80-10 Buckmaster up and running.
- Get the satellite station back online.
73 and GOOD DX!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I have been very busy with work since the move on Oct 29, and this morning was my first opportunity to listen during gray-line propagation in the morning. This time of year, there are no thunderstorms about and the nighttime is more favorable for 40 and 80 meter propagation to my intended target - ASIA!
So far, the only antenna I have up is the off-center-fed dipole with the ends vertical. This acts as two 1/4 wave verticals in phase with a broadside pattern. It's my favorite basic antenna, and has served me quite well over the years.
It works surprisingly well at 1/4 wave height on 40...of course, a LOT better than a straight dipole at that height. I had some challenges getting it up in the trees (hammer throwing is not the most efficient way to raise an antenna, and it damages the shoulder, but it's quick and it gets the job done...as long as the hammer does not get caught in the branches! That's another post, though)
Anyway, I have the antenna oriented for maximum radiation towards about 330 degrees, direct towards SE Asia. At the old QTH, I really struggled to hear in that direction. Regardless of the antenna, it was ALWAYS a challenge...even to work and hear JA. I always suspected some sort of natural terrain was reflecting/deflecting the signal, but the terrain seemed favorable. It was NOT a problem with the antennas - Africa and South Pacific and VK/ZL were easy to reach on all bands - even 80 with my much-maligned 43 foot vertical. But I never could hear Guam, Phillipines, Brunei, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, etc. Only once did I work Taiwan and China...and only on 20 meters with the 2 element hex beam. JA was very infrequent.
So I had high hopes that things would get better after the relocation to the new QTH.
After working 3B8CF (Jacky always has a strong signal), I knew that the antenna was fundamentally working fine.
So this morning, after taking out the dog, I sat down at 0600 local and flipped on the rig.
Mongolian DX contest in progress: I heard JT1CO on 40 CW. I worked him twice over the years on 20 CW. Weak at this time, but NO BACKGROUND NOISE! Great band conditions! Called him for 10 min, but he never heard me. But....this is the first time I ever heard Mongolia on 40. Also heard several JA.
Tuned around and heard RWoCN (Mikhail) in PN87, definitely in the desired target area just above Korea. About 10 stations calling, pileup in progress, nabbed him on the 4th call. SWEET!
Tuned around some more, and I heard DU/OH1RX working a medium-sized pileup, simplex (West Coast and South America, but he was mostly working JA). But I had Q5 copy for the entire time. Unlikely to break through; he was already well-spoted on the DX cluster. But I could copy him 100%! NEVER had that happen before!!
Tuned around some more on 40, and could just barely copy P29CW. That's a new one for me. Not going to try and work him, big pileup in progress, but nice to know I can hear him.
And the icing on the cake, heard WH2D on CW on 40, and KH2L on 40 SSB. Now all I need is to get some directional antennas in the air and point them that way!
I decided to see what was going on for 80 meters CW. Already past sunrise at 0730 local, I heard TX3A working a huge pileup, he was Q5 copy. Tuned around and heard some JA stations as well - weak but Q5 copy. AMAZING - I NEVER heard that at the old QTH! Not bad for a dipole at 32 feet!!!
I think I am going to be VERY happy with the DX from this QTH. I hope to get more antennas in the air over the coming Thanksgiving weekend, and see what I can do for enw DX in the CQ WW DX Contest.
73 and good DX!
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Also, work has kept me on the road for the past two weeks.
I did put together the shack on the weekends, all I need to do now is put up the antennas.
The shack has the TS570 for digital/search and pounce/backup, with the Flex F3K as primary CW/SSB.
The two FT817ND rigs are in place for satellite.
I will put up the 2 meter FM rig also, for weather monitoring and any 2 meter repeaters in the area.
I have the TS480SAT in the car, although I don't expect a lot of driving...mostly air travel.
The priority for my antennas:
(1) get the coax in place - 200 foot run of a single coax
(2) get an all-band wire up to begin with. This will be the Buckmaster off-center-fed dipole for 80-10.
(3) get the HF yagi up - this will be the hex beam for 20 meters on the 32 foot mast
(4) get the antenna switch out there so I can run multiple antennas
(5) get a second run of coax, and a second antenna switch
(6) get the 160 meter wire antenna up (in time for the 160 meter contest)
(7) get the 43 foot vertical up and put down radials (getting colder, maybe wait until spring!)
That's enought to keep me busy over the holiday break!
73 and good DX
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Some of the highlights (not in order):
- Finally collected enough QSL's for DXCC
- Worked 100 countries on 80 meters
- Did some working on 160 meters
- Put up my first directional antenna, a hex beam for 20 meters, WOW
- Started working ham satellites, very cool
- Upgraded my main HF rig, from TS520S to TS570
- Added mobile HF with TS480SAT
- Did some serious remote operation while on the road
- Started weak signal work with WSJT software
- Started 6 meter work with meteor scatter and sporadic E, with a hex 6 meter antenna
- Started really analyzing antennas with EZNEC, and understanding what is going on
- Leveraged the power of the PC in the shack: DX4WIN, Ionoprobe, Bandmaster, DX Atlas, and a bunch of other programs
- Jumped into digital modes with MixW
- Put up some good antennas for low bands: Cushcraft MA8040V, Zero-Five muli-band vertical
- Reached total worked DX at 260
- Put up a home page and a blog related to ham radio
- Jumped into Software Defined Radio with a Flex 3000
- Participated in several Field Days at the local club
- Put together quite a diverse antenna farm
- Did some work as a QSL manager for a DX station
- Made a lot of friends around the world
- Learned a LOT about antennas, propagation, and operating procedures
I thought I knew a couple of things with my Amateur Extra class licenses and 27 years of hamming when we moved in back in 2001.
Eight years later I realize how much I do NOT know and how much more I need to learn.
It has been an amazing journey at this QTH. I am excited about starting at the new QTH. Look for me on the air soon!
73 and good DX!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Time has expired, the quarterback throws a long pass and the receiver jumps to catch it. The defensive safety interferes and a penalty flag is thrown. Time has run out. IS THE GAME OVER OR IS THERE A REPLAY? YOU MAKE THE CALL"
This would be followed by some advert for shaving cream or beer or some such rubbish, followed by a return to the scenario and an answer which the viewer had awaited through the useless advert.
So, it's 2020 UTC, I worked UA0FAI on Sakhalin Island near Japan. SHORT PATH OR LONG PATH PROPO? YOU MAKE THE CALL!
Before we break for a silly advert, let's look at the facts.
1. We know there is a well-established LP in fall and winter to JA from East Coast USA (I just worked this path on 17 meters two weeks ago). This happened on 18072 kHz, same band.
2. Does my antenna give any clues? It was the low (32 foot high) off-center-fed dipole. What is the pattern for the antenna? What does EZNEC tell us?
3. What about propagation? Well, the DX was IN the gray zone, and I was getting close to the gray zone.
4. The signal was fairly strong with no apparent polar flutter. However, we know from the great guidance given by an OT in my previous post, that this is not always a good indicator.
5. Look at it holistically. Who else worked him? http://www.dxsummit.fi/Search.aspx reveals two other spots: W5 and W8. Inconclusive.
So, YOU MAKE THE CALL! LP or SP! Inquiring minds want to know.
73 and good DX
I have 32 years in the hobby, some would refer to me as an Old Timer (OT) even though I am only 45 years old. (Such a reference to me would be a compliment, OT hams are looked up to with respect and deference as those who have "been there, done that")
Anyway, I have had an excellent exchange with an Old Timer, Jim W9VNE, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jim and I worked each other last year on the ham radio satellites (a future post on this is coming from me). Well, after I worked TX5SPM, I saw Jim spot the DX and added the comment "long path" on the DX Cluster network.
Since I worked TX5SPM on my vertical, I wondered how Jim could tell it was long path. My confusion is taht I thought the DX (Marquesas Island) was not too far from Hawaii, so it had to be a daylight propagation path. What did the path look like at that time?
So I was confused. I did not think that my signal from my vertical could be travelling LP! I have worked Laura, 3A2MD, via LP because she has mountains to her west headed from Monaco to US. We did this when my Hex Beam was up, back on 1 January 2008 in the morning local time.
I decided to ask Jim, W9VNE, for his thoughts on this. Jim has been in the hobby for more than 50 years and he is on the DXCC Honor Roll at #1, so he knows what he is talking about!
Jim provided me some GREAT information, and with his permission I am posting his thoughts here, bceause I find this fascinating:
How do I know that the path was long path (LP) ? That is a good question. Two ways of knowing. First is turning your beam and peaking them. If LP then you will not hear them SP. While that sounds simple it is not intuitive. Sometimes a station will be both SP and LP. You can tell that too without much trouble (to the educated ear). The signal will have a flutter or echo on it. One signal coming from different directions will be out of phase since one is going 5,000 miles from Eastern Europe to USA and the other signal from the same station is going close to 20,000 miles. The 15,000 mile difference divided by the speed of sound 186,000 miles will give you that delay in the fraction of a second.
There are patterns (long established) about LP and SP. From the Eastern USA short path (SP) to the Pacific Islands occurs on 20 meters late in our evening from around midnight until it gets daylight. Since this QSO that I made occurred around 3 PM Eastern time it would not be short path. It was over South Africa. Other well known LP paths are into Europe from Midwest and Western states in dead of winter (late Dec into Feb) when it is getting dark in Eastern Europe 3 to 4 pm it is 9:30 or a little later in the morning. Turning the beam to Europe and you do not hear them and beaming to the South West you will hear them. Early sunset for EU but late sunrise for USA.
A good DX station; 3A2MD (a YL) is active on 20 cw. Her location in Monaco prevents her 2 element beam from doing much good as she is beaming directly into the high hills of Monaco City. She turns her beam about 10 AM my time and beams the long way around and I hear her out of the South West.
So how do you tell. Turn the beam. If no beam, become familiar with the times when this phenomena does occur. The Western Pac into NA is well known about 3:30 PM. I work many VK stations then on LP. I have worked Japan LP on Ten Meters about 9:30 AM when it was 9:30 PM in JA land. Beam is over Africa. You would not hear a thing if beam was on JA SP. Often you can work South East Asia in the morning by beaming into the South East. Stuff like HS and 9V1 9M2 can be heard on LP but not SP.
I look at the Terminator (grey line where the sun is just starting to shine or just starting to set. There is always a grey line around the globe. When you are in it (the grey line) you should look for stations on the other end of the grey line. The path will always be LP. I used to work JA on forty meters about 4:30 PM on forty meters and that would be 4:30 AM in JA land. It is dependent upon frequency as much as time of day. LP propagation is most prevalent on 40, 30 and 20 meters. As I noted I have experienced it on 10 meters but that is very rare.
I akso asked Jim to comment on my earlier post on this blog regarding my JA long path QSO on 17 meters. Jim kindly responded with some more TERRIFIC analysis:
I did a cursory view of your blog. Working LP on 40 and 30 in the late afternoon is fairly routine. It is LP. Because it does NOT have flutter does not mean it is not LP. You can go over the pole(s) and not have flutter too. Flutter does occur on polar paths but not always. Depends on the amount of magnetic activity then and there.
A SKEWED path is something that is used to refer to an anomaly i.e., neither LP or SP. I have seen that with extreme magnetic activity. The signals from EU or AS can start off and then be DEFLECTED from their routine paths. An example is to receive EU from a direction of 70 degrees when it normally is 40 degrees. The signals peak at 70 and fall way off at normal 40 degrees. All of that occurs with high sun spots and high solar activity. Same occurs from JA.
So the term SKEWED should not be used as you used it. It was LP for sure at that time of day YB and 9V come in on 30 and 40 from the SOUTH EAST at that time of day.
So there you have it, excellent words of wisdom from an Old Timer. Thanks, Jim!
73 and good DX
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
No luck on 17, 20, 30, or 40. Never heard him on 80 or the other bands. Pileups usually too intense for me to get through.
But TODAY! Saw TX5SPM on Marquesas on 20 CW and worked him on the second call. 100 watts to the vertical. Not new DX (I have FO/M on 40 confirmed), but new on 20.
The Flex DSP helped with making him copyable, and I could clearly see the stations he was answering in the split, so it was like shooting fish in a barrel to work him.
My only challenge is being heard now, and with 100 watts that is not going to change. So I just need more patience.
One week until the move. Cannot wait to get the antennas up!
73 and good DX!
Friday, October 9, 2009
I don't often hear Japan, which is amazing because there are so many thousands of active hams there. When I do hear them, it is normally over the polar path and the signal;s are weak and fluttery. (I notice the same with China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, etc).
There are exceptions: I worked Indonesia on 15 meter SSB at 8 AM local, but that was back in early 2002 just after the solar sunspot peak. And I did work Indonesia again on 40 meter CW in 2005, Dec 31st, late in the afternoon. That was pretty amazing and unique, strong signals and a huge pileup. Must have been unique because I was running 100 watts into a Cushcraft vertical. Clearly, that signal was NOT polar. It must have been skew, or more likely long-path because the time was late afternoon for me and there path of darkness for 40 meter prop was long path (40 meter signals don't propagate very well in sunlight, that's another story). Here's a pic of the solar position as it was on Dec 31.
With a strong non-fluttery signal, it did NOT come over the pole. But I have never had that happen again, so it probably was a one-time thing.
Back to today - I heard JA1LZR, Joe in Tokyo, on 17 meters, coming in really strong at 5 PM local time. NO POLAR FLUTTER. Wow, I thought, this is not a common occurrence. And he was a LOT stronger on the off-center-fed dipole than the vertical.
17 meter signals DO propagate better in sunlight. If they propagate (remember the solar conditions are pretty poor). I have tried to work JA on 17 meters before, with very limited success.
What is the position of the sun today?
What did JA1LZR look like today? Strong!
And it was not point-to-point just to me like my VK QSO three weeks ago. JA1LZR worked KP4, W9, W8, and another W4 after me.
What other data points would indicate that this was long path and not over the pole? Take a look at the radiation pattern of the off-center-fed dipole. It has a lobe in the long-path direction (although also in SP direction).
What other facts support the long-path hypothesis, besides strong signal with no polar flutter? Look again at the picture above in the lower left, of the PATH! The long-path signal travels almost along the sun line. This is also known as the grey-line, a special region with enhanced propagation signals.
More proof? Joe was running 800 watts to a 4 element SteppIR yagi. His signal never varied in intensity in the 20 minutes I listened. If he had gone the short path, the signal should have increased in strength as the sunlight over the direct path improved.
About 5:45 PM, his signal was suddenly no longer there. Gone. He had just been in a QSO shortly before then, and other stations were calling him. If the sunlight was increasing over Japan and I still had daylight, how could the path just disappear? It didn't. What disappeared (or changed) was the long path via the gray-line!
Now it could have been a skewed path, not direct long or short but indirect. No way to confirm or refute this, but normally skewed paths are (I believe) point-to-point like what happened with my 5 watt VK4 QSO on the dipole several weeks ago on 20 meters CW. NOONE ELSE HEARD HIM, HE WAS S9 HERE, THEN HE WAS GONE. That was a skew path.
This is not that circumstance.
So, I worked JA on 17 meters this afternoon, first call, on the dipole. He was strong. I am happy. Even the blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally!
73 and good DX
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Well, I am obsessed like a labrador retriever and his tennis ball; even though we are moving in just over two weeks, I am still improving on my current antenna situation. The chase for DX never ends.
I put my off-center-fed Buckmaster dipole BACK UP in at 32 feet, with the ends in vertical fashion to provide some gain and directivity on 40 (yes, even at 1/4 wavelength in height, this thing DOES work DX because the ends act like two quarter-wave radiators separated by a half wavelength, giving some broadside directivity).
So I have my 43 foot vertical and the Buckmaster (NOT Buxcomm) OCF dipole. This gives me options on all bands.
With challenging conditions, I'm still getting through with 100 watts. Oh, it takes longer and I have to listen a LOT more. I never did hear FT5GA or 3D20CR (FT5GA would have been an all-time new one). But yesterday I worked E51NOU on 17 meters CW on the OCF, and the evening before (my time) I worked E51NOU on 40 CW on the vertical.
Today I finally heard TX5SPA and was able to work him on the vertical after repeating my call several times, on 20 CW. (Oh how I miss my 2 element Hex yagi, never knew how much until I took it down to prepare for the move!)
Now let's take a look at how marginal the signals are with my setup now. Here's a shot of the TX5SPA signal on my Flex 3000 panadapter.
The blue window is the CW filter in very narrow mode. Notice the signal that is stronger just to the left, and the background noise that, although quiet, is not much below TX5SPA. (With the Flex 3000, I cannot even tell that the other signal is nearby, and the audio processing lets the signal "pop out" into my headphones.
Let's conclude two things: (1) TX5SPA is an excellent CW operator to hear me, and (2) my Flex 3000 technology gives me a great advantage to hear HIM in very marginal conditions. I will say the same for Bill, N7OU. From both ZL7/N7OU and E51NOU the conditions were not all that great. It sure helps when the DXer is an FB operator.
On my end, I have been DXing on CW for 32 years. But the technology does help me to hear the signal above the noise.
73 and good DX
Monday, September 28, 2009
If John had been in the ham shack this morning, making the play-by-play call while I worked DX #260, ZL7/N7OU Chatham Island at my sunrise on 40 CW, he would have uttered those words!
Yes, I did it with 100 watts and my 43 foot vertical antenna.
Of course, it helps that N7OU is a SUPERB operator with terrific hearing.
But give me some credit; the only reason I was able to see his signal and copy him was because of my FlexRadio 3000. How sweet it is/was. Not a lot of folks calling him, and the 43 foot antenna is really superb on 40 meters.
OK, so what DX is next? Bring it, Southeast Asia! 9V1, 9M2, and DU - you are next.
73 and good DX
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Back to my obsession: antennas and DX. When I get to the new QTH, I will be cooking with gas! I plan to bust up some serious pileups after October with my plans.
I did some more simulations for the new QTH for 20 meters, since sunspots are not going to improve soon enough to get me to where I need to be on 15 and 10 for long haul DX.
Here's what I have concluded for 20 meters at the new QTH:
- I will put up two 20 meter hex yagis - one at 32 feet and one at 64 feet
- I will feed the two yagis in phase
- Instead of using a tower, I will use a rope suspension system. I will raise the two antennas and suspend them from a cross-rope at 70 feet. The ropes will use a pulley to connect them at the T junction.
- I will use a pneumatic tennis ball launcher to set up the ropes
Take a look at the NEC pattern here: blue is what I had at the old QTH for a single hex at 32 feet, green is what I had planned with a single hex at 64 feet, and black is the two hexes fed in phase. YOWZA!
In the meantime, here at the old QTH, I heard 9M2CNC on 20 CW on the bobtail antenna. Q3 copy. I was not able to work him. But this is important: it's the first time I have EVER heard a 9M station in my 30+ years of hamming. And it's the first time in a long time that I heard SE Asia. Granted it is prime propagation time with the autumnal equinox cycle, but with our conditions in the doldrums this is a reflection upon the effectiveness of the bobtail. Not quite enough to get INTO SE Asia, but a LOT better than my other antennas.
73 and good DX
Thursday, September 17, 2009
To borrow from Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now and his quote,
"I love the sound of signals coming in long-path or with polar flutter in the morning. It reminds me of...DX IS"
So back to my dilemma of achieving low angle radiation in the direction of SE Asia, I am experimenting with a Bobtail antenna. It's an arrangement of wire that acts as if there are three vertical quarter-wave antennas in phase. Radiation direction maximum is broadside, at low angles (19 degrees).
MFJ has an explanation on their website with some interesting guidance on additional performance enhancements, although the gain claims are (in my opinion) exaggerated.
K3KY has an excellent discussion around the design and considerations for ground.
N8FSC, on his website, has an excellent description of the antenna:
The antenna system of Fig 62 uses the principles of cophased verticals to produce a broadside, bi-directional pattern providing approximately 5.8 dB of gain over a single element. The antenna performs as three in-phase top-fed vertical radiators approximately 1/4 wavelength in height and spaced approximately 1/2 wavelength. It is most effective for low angel signals and makes an excellent long-distance antenna for either 3.5 or 7 MHz.
The three vertical sections are the actual radiating components, but only the center element is fed directly. The two horizontal parts A, act as phasing lines and contribute very little to the radiation pattern. Because the current in the center element must be divided between the end sections, the current distribution approaches a binomial 1:2:1 ration.
The vertical elements should be as vertical as possible. The height for the horizontal portion should be slightly greater than B, as shown in Fig 62. The tuning network is resonant at the operating frequency. The L/C ration should be fairly low to provide good loading characteristics. As a starting point, a maximum capacitor value of 75 to 150 pF is recommended, and the inductor value is determined by C and the operating frequency. The network is first turned to resonance and then the tap point is adjusted for the best match. A slight readjustment of C may be necessary. A link coil consisting of a few turns can also be used to feed the antenna.
In the picture above, the antenna is fed at the base of the center vertical section. It presents a high impedance...well above 50 ohms. This can be addressed with the components as shown, or a remote coupler like those made by CG corporation or SGC. I already have the CG-3000 on my 43 foot vertical, but don't want to move it over to the Bobtail AND lay down another radial field.
Fortunately, there is another option: the Bobtail can be fed at the top corner of one of the end vertical elements. The impedance here is on the order of 120 ohms with some reactance, easily matched with a tuner in the shack. With low-loss coax like RG-213, even longer runs (like 200 feet of coax in my case), the calculated losses due to SWR on the line are 2.2 dB (I measured my SWR as 2:7 to 1 on my instance). This means 100 watts into the system results in 60+ watts provided to the antenna.
I picked up one of these from K4TR, since my free time is very limited for building antennas. I wanted to experiment on 20, since my trusty Hex beam is stowed in anticipation of the upcoming move. If things work well, I would like to try something like this on 40 and 80. Also, this would fill in the radiation gaps at very low angles on the 20 meter band at the new QTH.
The antenna arrived last Saturday, and I put it up quickly on Saturday night with the tails hanging 6 feet off the ground. SWR as I mentioned above for the corner feed was 2.7 to 1. Not ideal, but I am experimenting here.
So how did it do in the first 24 hours? I pointed it WSW/ENE so that the broadside was towards SE Asia and S Africa. Here's the email I fired off to K4TR on results. Beside the fact that his product is sturdy and super-stealthy, I was pleasantly surprised:
0745 local, UA9MC booming in 589. Can’t hear the US stations that he is in QSO with, but I work him on first call. Nice. Looking at the log I see very few QSO with UA9/UA0 except on the hex beam. And normally after sunset my time. I only see one or two QSO’s with UA9/UA0 at this time of day. One in January of this year on the vertical, noting a very strong UA9. Granted, I am normally not on the air in the morning but if I am…I would always try to work Asia.
0750 local, I can just barely hear FS/W6IZT (as it should be – right direction but short skip), LZ1FM heard 599
Unable to hear UK8WFF as spotted, he is spotted by EU only
0810 local, P41USA worked 599+ (short skip, but correct direction SSW). Got a 599 back from him as well. I can barely hear some EU working him
1428 local, worked KH6MB 559 exchanged both ways (interesting broadside to the pattern, although weak. I was able to hear him because the ANTENNA is very quiet compared to my vertical)
1550 local, heard 5N/LZ1QK, UA6CVE 339 (as expected)
1551 local, heard LU5BE, 459; WG7E 569, Z30GV 559
1556 local, worked 9A4WY sent 569 rcvd 559
2020 local, heard LU6CAT 579 (hardly ever heard on the hex)
2022 local, heard JT1BE 579 YESSSS! This is why I bought the antenna!!! Louder than I heard him on my hex beam last fall!
2023 local, heard DS5USH 549 YESSS! The thing works! Have not heard him on my hex beam
Since lat Sunday, I have repeatedly heard JT1BE. I have not been able to work him, but maybe I need more power. Conditions not all that great, but I am hearing him consistently.
- The design works. Although quickly discarded for 20 meters by most folks, I have a specific need and this can fill that need.
- On 40, this could be a real addition for getting into SE Asia. The 43 footer is great on that band, but omni-directional.
- On 80, if I can get the antenna up 64 feet high (should be do-able at the new QTH), I need to find 256 feet of straight run (a challenge). But this would be a killer improvement on 80.
- I recognize the reductions in performance provided by corner-feeding the Bobtail. Perhaps I will try feeding the bottom of the center leg with a remote tuner. This will require ground screen of some sort. It's something I will look into after the move is complete.
73 and good DX!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
A 43 foot piece of aluminum tubing. Big deal. Why all the hype and criticism? It's all about perception versus reality, facts versus fiction, knowledge versus hype.
One old timer: The vertical radiates poorly in all directions.
One new ham: I can tune it for 1:1 SWR, so it works great!
Another old timer: You can't get a good signal without a bazillion radials laid down.
Another new ham: I can work everything I hear, so this is a KILLER antenna (5/5 eham.net review)
STOP! Let's clear some of this up right now.
Misconception: Low SWR means a good neasure of antenna performance.
Truth: Wrong, Chief. SWR simply indicates the match (or mismatch) between the transmission source and the antenna (with some impact from the feedline, in some instances). Some antennas (ladderline fed doublet for all bands) run at very high SWR. The key factor is the LOSS incurred by the feed line. Some coax is very lossy at high SWR, and some ladder line is very lossless. It all depends.
Misconception: the vertical antenna hears better
Truth: Incorrect, Batman. Answer is that it depends. In general, human-generated noise is vertically polarized, so the vertical antenna will generally be noisier than a dipole in the same situation. But not always.
Misconception: The vertical antenna is better than a dipole.
Truth: I don't think so, Jackson. It depends! Are you trying to work a low angle of DX? What angle is the signal coming from? Is the signal broadside to the dipole? How well-situated is the vertical? The dipole? It's not a simple answer. Verticals have lower angles of radiation in general. But verticals are normally not as efficient as a horizontal resonant dipole. Here's a good theoretical analysis of the 43 foot vertical:
Misconception: My rig tunes the vertical antenna just fine, so it's working.
Truth: NOT SO FAST, Tonto! What is the SWR on your feedline? You could be losing a lot of signal due to the SWR in the coax.
This is the main reason why I went with a remote tuner - I want every bit of RF energy going TO THE ANTENNA and NOT being lost in the coax.
For me, I don't see why anyone would tinker with a 4:1 un-un. But that's just me.
Misconception: If I can hear 'em, I can work 'em.
Truth: No way, Jose. What you cannot hear is what you're missing!
So let's look at this antenna in a different light.
Take a look at my review on the antenna, and keep in mind why I bought the thing:
Now, take a look at my results. Remember I am trying to work new DX with 100 watts (or new DX on a particular band): Look at these callsigns...omnidirectional/all directions.
Some noteworthy results: VQ9LA and A25/DL7DF on 80. ALso my first JA on 80 and my first ZL and VK on 80.
Interesting DX (some of it new): LX1DL, IS0AFM, EA5/UT2XD, YT7WM, TA3D, CE4ETZ, LU5XM, 6W1SJ, E51NOU, NH7O, J28JA, D2NX, ZL1BYZ, 9L1X, FO/DJ7RJ, 9J2BO, VQ9RD, 9H3YL, 4L0A, PY7ZY, A73A, EL2DX, RW0CN, 9K2MU, FW5RE, EL2DX, PS0F, YK1BA, UP7A, 5N0OCH.
Did the vertical outperform the dipole? It appears so. I increased my country count on 80 and 40 (and even on 17 and 15!). But my dipoles are low on 80 and 40 are low, so I expect this to happen (it is why I bought the 43 footer).
Did the vertical outperform my directional hex beam on 20? Not in a million years, EXCEPT for a few times when I could not hear the station off the back of the hex, and the vertical helped out.
Is my antenna efficient? Verticals are inherently LESS efficient than a resonant dipole or direcetional yagi. But so what? I have a good radial field, and I am increasing my country count with 100 watts. Objective achieved.
Do I have a 1:1 SWR antenna? Who cares? I let the remote tuner do the work so I don't lose any significant RF in the feedline
Is it worth the price? For me, yes. The thing is sturdy, stealthy (wrapped in black electrical tape), simple, and easy to put up and take down. Plus I have learned a LOT of information just using the thing and reading about it.
So remember to understand the facts, and use your brain cells to separate hype and fiction from fact and reality. Don't expect what cannot happen, and make sure you have goals that can be met by the antenna(s) you put up.
73 and good DX!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Our goal is to outperform the half wavelength dipole at a half wavelength in heigh for a takeoff angle of 10 degrees.
Here's the azimuth pattern for that dipole over real ground.
The number to beat at 10 degrees take-off angle is 1.49 dBi. Remember this number, we will revisit it.
Let's look at some plots for 20 meters. First, we see for the Buckmaster off-center-fed dipole oriented N/S and flat at 64 feet, we have a good radiation pattern at 10 degrees takeoff NW and NE (SE Asia and SW Asia for low angles of arrival, which is what we want) COMPARED TO THE DIPOLE. In fact, we have multiple lobes in directions all around the compass at 10 degrees takeoff angle. 7.31 dBi at 55 degrees azimuth for 10 degree takeoff angle. NO WAY will we get that from a half wavelength dipole at 32 feet! (Remember 1.49 dBi) So it looks like this is our answer for the low angles of radiation.
When combined with the hex beam at 32 feet, which covers the patters around 30 degrees (thanks to W1GQL http://www.midcoast.com/~w1gql/hex/hwp10020.gif) - looking at the leftmost pattern for the hex beam at 30 feet...
Let's take a look at a simple elevated vertical with two radials, a quarter wave in length and placed with the base a quarter wave in height.
Slightly worse than an isotropic radiator at 10 degrees takeoff angle, and it does not exceed the 1.49 dBi threshold of the dipole. So we're still better with the dipole on 40 at a have wavelength high. (NOTE: On 80 meters, this would NOT be the case at all! No way can I get a dipole that high...128 feet. So the elevated vertical WOULD be better).
Back to 40 meters. What about the Buckmaster flat at 64 feet?
Looks like 2.34 dBi, which just beats out the half wave dipole (and this makes sense, since the off center fed dipole/Buckmaster is at the same height as the half wave but is twice as long).
Let's revisit the Buckmaster at 32 feet with the ends vertical to make like phased vertical pair.
The result? 3.02 dBi, 1.5 dB better than the dipole reference. Imagine that! We get better results at the low angle with an antenna that is raised at HALF the height! Pretty neat.
Back to the previous post on this blog, my plans now look like 20 meters will include the Buckmaster at 64 feet and the hex beam at 32 feet.
40 meters will have a second Buckmaster at 32 feet with the ends vertical.
I will also put up the 43 foot vertical as a second antenna for both bands. Always good to have options!
The remaining question here is: IS THIS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE PATH? With the sunspots still in the doldrums, and me with 100 watts, can I get through with these antennas? I have increased my chances, but I don't want to have a situation where I double the chance and the original chance was ZERO, so TWO multiplied by ZERO is still ZERO.
Only one way to find out...put 'em up and get on the air. I can hardly wait for the end of October when we move!!
Friday, September 4, 2009
I am moving locations! The new QTH as of the end of October (just in time for CQ WW SSB!) will be about 70 km West of my current location. We are moving due to wife's job, so that her commute is reduced from an hour to just 15 minutes (the GOLDEN RULE of marriage: if Momma is happy, everybody is happy!)
Looks like more land to play with for antennas, a LOT more trees, and nobody behind me at the back end of the property.
I still have some CC&R to deal with, but stealth antennas have always been my standard.
So what to do in terms of antenna design? As the sunspots continue to disappoint, my primary bands are 20 and 40 meters (I do get on 30 occasionally, but just to work a new DXCC entity).
In my antenna portfolio, I have the following:
1. Zero-Five 43 foot vertical with remote tuner
2. Buckmaster 135 foot off-center-fed dipole (Not the BuxComm antenna)
3. Hex-beam 2 element yagi for 20 meters
4. Center-fed half-wave dipoles for 20 and 40 meters
So, when analyzing the problem as an engineer the first question I ask is "What is it that I am trying to achieve?" If you look at my home page, you can see that I have just over 250 DXCC worked and just under that number confirmed. Not bad, but not honor-roll worthy. Since I only have 100 watts to play with (for now), I need the best radiators that I can get.
What determines best? Looking at my DXCC tally, I see a lack of long-distance DX into Southeast Asia. This is confirmed by looking at my log books. For whatever reason, my current QTH does not measure up on the SE Asia path. What to do?
Well, I should be able to work them, but I suspect a hill to the North is reflecting much of my signal. The new QTH won't have that problem. But what about the right antennas for the job?
With the mix I have listed above, I can add another twist. If I drop to vertical position the last 32 feet of each end on the off-center-fed dipole, I will add an equivalent of two quarter-wave active elements on 40 meters that are spaced a half-wavelength apart. BINGO! That will give me some gain broadside on 40, if the antenna is at 32 feet. A nice and simple mod, especially considering that the flat version of the antenna at 32 feet is basically NVIS/radiating at high angles.
Back to the task at hand. What do I need to reach SE Asia? Let's look at some ARRL data for angle-of-arrival statistics. The graphs below show the percentage of time that the RF signal arrives at a particular angle, for all hours and days over the entire 11 year sunspot cycle. The graphs show for both 20 and 40 meters:
What can we conclude from these graphs? How low can we go, is the real question. The angles of arrival are VERY low. The radiation pattern needs to be below 30 degrees to work DX, as a general rule of thumb. These graphs show that the angle of radiation needs to be below 10 degrees to realistically get into SE Asia. That's a real challenge. I cannot put a yagi at 100 feet, so I will need to get creative. And I don't want to lose my 30 degree radiation arrival angles for EU (not shown here).
I did some calcs with EZNEC, used real ground reflection coefficients, and came up with the following table. The values to beat as the standard are shown in gree, the baseline half wave dipole at a half wavelength in height. The values in the table are in dBi.
The off-center-fed dipole at 64 feet would give me that radiation at the lower angles for 20 meters. (What I am not showing here is the azimuthal pattern which is for the next post). Suffice it to say that 7.67 dbi at 10 degrees is pretty darn good for what I am trying to achieve. It comes with a cost, though - a HUGE null at 30 degrees. I can compensate that by using the hex beam at 32 feet to fill in that hole.
For 40 meters, it looks like the off-center-fed dipole at 32 feet, with the vertical legs for the last 32 feet, still beats out everything else for RF at 10 degrees elevation. The vertical is close second.
So, it looks like I will be putting up the off-center-fed Buckmaster at 64 feet, the hex beam at 32 feet, and another Buckmaster at 32 feet with the vertical "tails" option. Finally, I will put up the Zero-Five vertical with a good radial field All I need to do is figure out what direction to orient the off-center fed dipoles by looking at their azimuth pattern, and get a pneumatic tennis ball launcher/antenna raising device for the higher trees.
Like Anthony Michael Hall said in the 1984 flick "16 Candles"
"This...is getting good."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Here's my analysis:
First generation radio was Marconi and the spark gap. Below 200 meters, huge antennas. Pre WW-2.
Second generation is exemplified by continuous wave and amplitude modulation. Spurred on by the Second World War, the technology leapfrogged with tubes and manufacturing which made radio gear smaller and more efficient (although hams could not operate during the war).
Third generation is represented by the introduction of Single Side Band, the transistor, and smaller rigs of the 60's. This also included economic boom-times which led to dramatic growth in our hobby.
Fourth generation (where I come in, licensed in 1977 as a teenager) is the late 70's to mid 80's. Smaller gear with much more transistor implementation, CW and SSB filtering using mechanical devices. Handheld VHF. Also, AMSAT (separate post for a future date).
Fifth generation is the 90's and early in this century, which included signal processing implementation and further miniaturization. Also, we saw the emergence of computers providing audio input to rigs for widepsread digital communications (PSK, for example).
At this point, you see that each generation builds upon the previous one; however, the differences and advances are becoming less and less from each previous generation. We're improving the way we do things, but we're not really CHANGING it. Roofing filters, high end rigs, second receivers.
This is all an improvement on how we LISTEN to the radio and TUNE the dial. Even if we use a computer to tune the radio or operate over the internet, it is still the same fundamental concept: listen, tune, listen. Tweak. Listen, tune, listen.
Now comes 6th generation radio. SDR. Mr Gerald Youngblood (K5SDR) in Austin Texas gets an idea and develops a prototype transceiver in 2004. It catches fire. Why? Partly timing, and let's give credit where it is due to genius on his part. But hams are looking to take operating to the NEXT level. DXCC? Got it, they say. Honor roll? Lot of them have it. Digital, CW, satellite, meteor scatter, earth-moon-earth. What's left? A PARADIGM SHIFT. (Side note, programs like MixW can give you a small taste of 6th generation when operating digital, but only with the spectrum available from the receiver...a couple of kHz. You can already hear what you can see, so it's neat but not really 6th gen).
Instead of LISTENING to a single frequency, imagine being able to SEE the entire spectrum. You could use PANADAPTER view to see everything. Here we see ALL signals from 6995 kHz to 7025 kHz SIMULTANEOUSLY! We are listening to a sub-segment which is indicated by the green vertical stripe, nut we can shift to any signal we want in a single mouse click.
You could use the WATERFALL view to see signals over time (time is vertical, frequency is horizontal. If you have never seen a waterfall view of frequency spectrum, it is 6th generation implementation!).
Here we see 60 seconds of history for the frequency segment 6995 kHz to 7025 kHz. The vertical green lines represent signals. The horizontal green lines represent jumps in the noise floor across the spectrum (there were thunderstorms coming in when this image was taken).
Notice how you can observe past history of station transmissions on the waterfall display. This is very helpful...you can tell if the band is open even if you don't hear anyone on your frequency, because you have a displayed record of the spectrum for 60 seconds! Also, yo can SEE where a station was transmitting even if you were not listening on that frequency at the time of the transmission. Maybe you missed a CQ. You can watch for the station to transmit again (this is a HUGE advantage in pileups, more on that in another post). You can also monitor beacons on 10 and 6 meters to see if the band is open, while simultaneously calling CQ or looking for other stations during brief openings!
You can combine them (I like this one best). While the panadaptor on the top may not show a signal instantaneously, there is a RECORD of it in the waterfall. Also, by watching the panadapter levels, you may see a signal pop up for just an instant and it does not display a differentiating color in the waterfall. These are the signals which DXers need to focus on...weak, in and out, the rare and distant DX who has not yet been pounced upon with a huge pileup.
This is just a brief sampling (pun intended, DSP lingo) of what 6th generation radio has to offer. Think about it for a minute. Tradtionally, you listen, tune the dial, listen some more. Maybe you get more efficient with DX clusters. But you're still using your ears in the traditional way. Why not use another part of your brain, ENGAGE it for the expansion of fun for your hobby?
SDR uses your EYES AND YOUR EARS! Now relying upon TWO sensory inputs. And the information from the eyes can augment what you hear. Or even show you that a signal is there when you cannot hear it (which means you tweak the receiver so you CAN hear it).
Monday, July 6, 2009
I decided to branch out beyond just SDR, because there are so many more interesting things about the hobby that I want to share.
After doing this for 30+ years, and the hobby having a major impact on every aspect of my life (career, education, hobby), I figure there may be some interesting tidbits out there for you blog readers.