Getting closer to being portable – not that I go anywhere! I now have an LDG Z817 automatic tuner. It seems to be working fine although it arrived with dead batteries, one of which had leaked a bit. That cleaned up ok and it now sports a set of Energizer Max batteries (ok, I had a box…)
Having run up FT8 on the Mac 40m was packed but I did manage a contact with an EA station on 80m with 2.5W via the random bit of wire in the loft.
Having two radios, two SignaLinks and multiple computers I figured why not spread a little… so here’s 4m FT8 from the FT450D and transverter plus 2m FT8 from the FT817. Well, it would be rude not to use both together…
Mind you, the poor old i7 MacBook Pro does seem to have a whinge if I dare do something else at the same time – it seems to temporarily forget the USB and gives a rig control error. On the other hand it is quite convenient to have the Mac set up as now because it is always on and I can very quickly get onto 2m FT8 (or indeed 70cm FT8 but my best QSO so far has been all of 7km!)
My first FT8 on 70cm. Only 25km, but still a first for me. No reply sadly, so no QSO this time. At the time I sent a few CQs while watching pskreporter and seeing nothing. I checked this morning just out of interest and there was this one reception report.
This was via the FT817 and 2.5W into a 70cm big wheel, which isn’t at all big at that frequency! I had only just installed it which itself was a bit of a comedy of errors. I had some M&P cable ready for it but just never got round to making it up, so soldering iron out, BNC at the shack end, cable pushed through the hole in the ceiling, N male at the antenna end. The centre pin fell out! So, picture me managing to pull the loft end of the cable back down the ladder and across there landing floor to the shack (hard enough feeding the cable through the hole so I really didn’t want to have to pull it put again!), supporting it with my knee, soldering iron at maximum reach and more heat… the NanoVNA showed the SWR to be just right where it needed to be so all was well. And clearly too much cable to be able to do that maneuver! But it reminds me I really do need to sort my coax feeds out, and sort out the ceiling hole by fitting some trunking.
Edit: I did manage one QSO later on, at just 7km. But hey, it’s my first on 70cm FT8.
I did a bit of experimenting today with WSJT-X on the Mac and using the FT817. So far, so good. Ok, no surprises there, lots of people are doing the same thing! This is part of my master plan (I’m up to Plan G so far I think) which involves using the FT817 for VHF / UHF instead of the FT450D and transverters and switches, and being able to take the kit elsewhere, either in the UK or abroad.
The only laptop I have is the rather old now 2013 MacBook Pro. Still my workhorse for just about everything, I tend to run it plugged into power and with an external monitor. But the battery still holds up for a good while. I wanted to get a Mac Mini because I always use the laptop with the screen closed, using a wireless keyboard, trackpad and mouse, and wired Ethernet. Mostly it works fine, just sometimes it manages to jumble the size and position of all the windows when logging into the thing. No biggie. But used 2018 Mac Minis cost a bunch, so I’ll stick with this for now.
WSJT-X went on just fine – again, no surprise there. On 2m FT8 and connected to the big wheel in the loft I could see my CQ on the Linux box but nothing on pskreporter. Ok, it was on the lowest power setting. Turned that up. Nothing… read the manual, turned the power up to 2.5W (which is where I thought I had it!) and pskreporter showed two contacts, the furthest at 177km. Ok, it works, and it appears to be pretty stable, unlike the transverters I have.
So, back to Plan G, I will now have a 2m and a 70cm transverter for sale and I can tidy up a bit of wiring. I’ll keep the 4m transverter as the FT817 doesn’t have that band.
It’s been an impressive two days on 2m FT8. Yesterday (3/march) pskreporter showed that I had been received in GI, EI, GD and GW as well as right down into Devon, and today similarly so with the exception of Ireland and the addition of GM. Not bad for my cobbled together dipole in the loft.
Of course it’s likely that all the reports are from stations with humungous antennas but hey, a report is a report. And yes, tidying the loft is on my to-do list!
Well, sort of. On FT8 I mean. I just received a couple of transverters from the transverters store in the Ukraine. These are not the newer model with the TCXO but are cheap and cheerful. Yes, they do drift a little but it’s a toe in the water for me pending something else later on. I already have the Spectrum Communications 70MHz transverter and that works nicely but these are small units when compared, so I got a 70MHz and a 144MHz one.
I connected the 144MHz one up today and set the FT450D to 28.174 and immediately heard FT8 tones. I’d not even fired up WSJT-X but sorted that quickly and made my first 144MHz FT8 contact within 2 minutes of turning the transverter on – followed by one further QSO and an indication via pskreporter that I had been heard all the way in NI.
Yes, I know this is a minor achievement compared to those of other radio amateurs but it’s still a new one to me…
I now plan to sell off some kit including the Trio TR-9130 which has worked well. The one thing I don’t like about that set is the notchy and fairly slow tuning when in sideband which makes it hard to scroll across the band looking for signals – having the transverter means I can use the FT450D’s tuning which I am far more used to.
A new mode (to me) – FT8, part of the latest WSJT-X package and widely discussed of late. Having been away from radio for a few weeks I’ve been keeping up on this via a Facebook group and e-mail and itching to get back home and grab the software. I did so late last night and managed to answer one CQ after reminding myself about the mode while watching the band activity. The auto sequence was a surprise the first time I saw it working. I had a ‘proper’ go today with several successful answers to CQs. It all happens very fast!
I have also now started logging QSOs within the WSJT-X package. I had not done this previously because really I only dip in and out of this and other modes, and have plenty of time to log the few QSOs I actually make by hand. But as it’s now rather frantic I decided to have a go and it all works nicely. Of course you will by now be questioning my sanity due to the fact that previously I had no indication of DXCC or callsign worked etc., resorting to my own lookup script that checks QRZ.com to see if a callsign is new. But there was time, plus as I had fiddled with the API for QRZ.com I have a simple bit of PHP that does lookups directly.
I really must find some time to throw more wire into the loft and work different bands, as I still only have 20m and 6m to play with. Hmmm.