Posts Tagged ‘Ham Radio Deluxe’

So how was your weekend?

December 16, 2013

Mine was fine….

I managed to make a few contacts in the ARRL 10m contest among other stuff….

The other stuff included a shopping trip (groceries and Christmas Presents) and a whole bunch of snow shovelling as on Saturday evening and Sunday morning we had a major storm blow through the Ottawa Area ( among other areas of Eastern North America).

fbyo1

tongue_stuck99

It was cold with Frostbite warnings given by the local Regional Health Department…  On the brighter side of things the snow was very fluffy and light which meant that there was no stress to the body when I had to shovel out things (twice)…

For those of you who know my history…  The words “No chest pains!” was a good thing…  If it had been heavy snow then the neighbors kid would of been making money…

On the radio side of things….  I did not as much time as I hoped for the contest but then again I was more interested in testing out the station as this was the first radio event since the Flex has become part of my shack…  The 10m band conditions were not the best but I was able to make enough contacts to see that the gear will work as expected…

The rig (as you know) was my Flex 1500 which is a SDR QRP Radio and the antenna was my 65 foot (approx) end fed long wire with 4 radials….  The rough description of the antenna is below and the wire goes over a tree branch at the 30 foot mark

new_wire_antenna

The antenna is in an inverted Vee configuration and is fed by RG58 coax (not the most efficient for a QRP station) and a 4:1 unun…  Its fairly stealthy which is not required but is an added bonus and I have made contacts on all bands between 10m and 160m with the exception of 30m.

I am using the Power SDR software that comes with the Flex, along with CWGET which is a computerised CW decoding program and the logging program in Ham Radio Deluxe for logging.  Power SDR also has a keyboard CW keyer built in it…

The purists in you might object to the CW keyer and CW decoder used along with the word Computer but hear me out…  Its been 20 years since I have used my CW skills…  I took my test and got my HF Privs as required by Industry Canada at the time.

However…. it was never my favourite mode of operating, perhaps because it was forced on me…  I’m not sure but for many years I just never used it and as they say use it or lose it…  Well for the sake of a better term I guess I lost it…

Recently due to seeing some local examples (thanks VE3DTI/VA3PCJ) I am seeing first hand what I already knew before.  The CW signal coming out of a QRP Rig do get heard better than a SSB signal and so since I operate two QRP Rigs (Flex 1500 at home and FT817 in the park) I thought it might be better to brush up (re learn) a bit on my CW skills….

For me the first stage is just to get used to hearing it…  Towards that end I am now using the CW Get Program to decode when i listen to CW.  Its nice to follow along and look at the screen when I’m not sure if I missed something or not.  The DM 780 program in Ham Radio Deluxe works just as good but as the Flex chews up a fair bit of computer resources to start with the system runs better with CW Get as it seems to need less horsepower to run…

Flex_and_CWGET

Right now the computer is decoding about 75% while my rusty ear is doing about 20% and we both miss a little bit….  For now I’m not even going to worry about sending it…. in this case it is much better to Receive than to give…

When I do give out a contest exchange though….  my Callsign….  5nn (and the contest exchange)  AGN and 73 TU and so far that been as much as I have needed.  Gotta love the built in keyer on the Flex with the Power SDR Software

The second stage will be when I am using more ear than CW Get…  At that time …. I will start working on my fist as well….  So far with the excellent RCV section with the Flex I am hearing lots… and trying to get about 2 hours a day in the practice mode….

Some people have accused me of cheating…  I prefer to think of it as using the tools at my disposal…

Getting back to the ARRL 10m contest…  I managed to make 6 contacts in 4 different states in the limited time I had to practice in.  I managed to work Texas (CW and SSB), Florida (CW), Montana (CW) and Arkansas (SSB).  Heck nothing to brag about but its a start…

canadacallmap

I’ll keep on trying and hopefully get the skills a bit more refined in time for the RAC Canada Winter Contest coming up in just under two weeks from now…  Hope to hear you on the air…

73bob

It seems to be working now…

December 12, 2013

The ongoing saga of how a non computer Geek style ham trying to get his Software Defined Radio (SDR) to function is finally drawing to a close…

As of Wednesday evening… The logging program, the Morse Code Decoding program and Flex Keyer and the Flex Power SDR Software itself are all talking between each other nicely.

In addition my USB headset is now also working with the radio gear… and so now everything is plugged into the Laptop.  Only the Powercord, the Antenna and the USB connection(to the laptop are plugged into the radio…

ja1kih_EQSL

My Logging progam (Ham Radio Deluxe) is once again updating my backup log on HRDLog.net as each entry is made.  At the same time as its updating on HRDLog the same info is automatically being sent to EQSL and an Electronic QSL Card goes out for each contact logged….

va3qveqsl

lotw-logo-c

The only thing left is to get my logbook to once again transfer and  recieve data with the ARRL Logbook of the World Server and that hopefully will be done sometime on Thursday cuz I am now starting to run out of steam…

Things are almost back to normal but then again… Whats normal???

114436FLEX-3000screen

One nice thing about this is that if I find that I really like the SDR gear that when I buy the Flex 3000 as the upgrade to the 1500 I have now its all just plug and play… The 3000 also has a better RCV section than the 1500 (hard to believe) and its also comes with a built in Automatic Antenna Tuner and also has VOX as well.  You do get what you pay for but its a bit more than the 1500…

F3k_front

The config for the 1500 is the same as the 3000 so its just unplug the 1500 and insert the 3000 and just as simple as that I am now on the air with 100w radio instead of the 5w of power the 1500 has for output…  Just like that…

73bob

Finally success

December 11, 2013

Its a “Virtual Happy Dance“…

happydance

Late last evening I managed to get the Virtual Com Ports and the Virtual Audio Cables all in place between Ham Radio Deluxe and the Power SDR software that runs the Flex 1500…

Its all up and running with the only things to do being getting the Dell Laptop to talk to the LoTW and the EQSL groups and will be attempted later today.  I have done it on two other computers so I should be able to remember how to do it again…

Side bets anyone?

73bob

Progress on the install but not success

December 10, 2013

Well,

Yesterday I went through a lot of configurations and re installs and at the end of the day was no further ahead than I was at the start of the day but…  I was able to rule out some gremlins so there is less to work on over the next few days…

As of this am I can confirm that the built in soundcard on my ACER Desktop is not operating up to specs… 

Now the ACER has taken quite a beating over the years so I am not dissing it… My daughter used to use it as her game computer and she beat the heck out of it… I took it over for a shack computer when I needed my Dell Laptop for other things and I kept it running for hours on end with the VA3QV-4 APRS IGATE ….and thinking about it…

aprs

The I GATE suddenly stopped working a few months ago and I never could find the problem… Bet it was with the sound card!!!

campbeltowntripaprs

I did get it to talk to the FLEX via the Virtual Audio Cable but the audio was choppy and DM780 and CW Get could not decode the audio enough to copy computer generated CW.  This was confirmed by deciding to listen to a MP3 that was already on my hard drive.

For those of you not up to speed on the computer programs that claim to decode CW…  It has to be real good CW with a real good operator with a real good fist to get decoded every time.  In most cases this means someone using a computer keyer… Like I do when I send CW with the Flex (as an example)…

Not sure what is causing the problem but its past my pay grade so rather than mess with it and just waste time… lets go on to the Dell Laptop…

FLEX_Display_1

Above- the Display from Power SDR for the Flex

My Dell Laptop is working fine from an audio point of view and the Flex is sending audio via the “Virtual Audio Cable” to the Dell with no issues and my version of CW Get was  able to decode well enough to make contacts in the ARRL 160m Contest as reported earlier in the Blog here.

CAT HRD

Above- Screen Display of Ham Radio Deluxe from one of my installs (I think)

I also have gotten a copy of the Last Free Version of Ham Radio Deluxe (ver 5.???something)  and have installed it on the Dell.  Some of you might remember that the Dell Laptop was my shack computer for over a year and it was running the complete HRD Package (Computer control, Logbook and DM780 Decoding).  As strange as it seems though…

I have the virtual comport stuff working fine on the ACER so I can use HRD to a limited capacity (remember the bad sound card) so I know how to configure everything.  Created the virtual comports and did all the virtual connections…  However…  After doing all the same virtual stuff on the DELL Laptop…  no joy…  The Dell will not allow me to connect the Flex to HRD or vice versa.  Just won’t find it…

So where I stand… is that I know I can’t use the ACER cuz the ACER needs a new sound card and as its under waranty it means sending the CPU back as the soundcard is mounted on the motherboard.  This would force me to back up everything on the ACER and send it out… Not much point doing this till after the Christmas Rush…   So now I have to get the Flex to connect to HRD so it can talk to the Dell and then everything will be fine…

Amateur_radio_prefixes_in_Canada

and I will able to Send and Receive CW enough to get a few extra multis in the contests that I do actively participate in (RAC Canada Day, RAC Canada Winter and the Ontario QSO Party)

seontario

and more than enough to give out contacts to the serious contestors  in the rest of the QSO Parties and other major contests that the ARRL and CQ sponsors.

Contacts_Map

So it can be done and I have done it in the past.  Granted it was in different times on different computers but it has been done…  The Dell used to run HRD and decode via DM 780 when I had my FT 450 and my FT 817.

In reality all I am doing is swapping out one QRP Rig for another so…. outside off configuring a Virtual Com Port and some Virtual Audio Cables correctly (which I know how to do) there should be nothing to it and I should avoid having a “Virtual Cardiac Arrest or a Virtual Stroke”

I joke about this stuff,  but the doctor does tell me to watch out for the stress causing activities  for a reason and I was lucky in the past and don’t really want to tempt fate… again…

So stay tuned… Later today I start working on the Virtual Com Ports (again) will the Dell and hopefully will get everything (Laptop/Flex1500/PowerSDR and Ham radio Deluxe Package) all talking together and all playing nice in time for Christmas.

73bob

A few more contacts before the Sweeps

November 15, 2013

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the shack but the QSO rate is not that high…  On the bright side of things… more bells and whistles are now running with the Flex than were before…  Managed to make some contacts across North America and also into Europe with few issues.  Slowly but surely its all starting to come together…

I’ve not got Ham Radio Deluxe running with the Power SDR software which gives me the same setup that I have had with my other radios here in the last year.  I am still having some issues with that darn “Virtual Audio Cable”  (VAC) but then again as I am not a digital mode operator I’m not sure if I ever had that set up right before.

ARRL-logo

ARRL_November_Sweepstakes.

I hope (plan) to spend some time on the Flex this weekend giving out some contacts in the ARRL Sweeps…  I’m guessing even a QRP station giving out Ontario East (ONE) would be welcome as if you don’t get ONE in your log …. no clean sweep…

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As a QRP station with a Wire for the low bands and a vertical for the higher bands I don’t really think that a Sweep in the picture for me but I think that I have a pretty good chance of being in anyones log who makes a sweep.

popgunQRP Station (5w max)

Toy_popgun

Low Power Station (150w max)

biggun

Hi Power Station (1500w max)

SS-80 logo

However on Sunday afternoon the Big Guns will be listening very closely for any Pop Guns who might be lucky enough be be in a ARRL/RAC Section that is needed…  Ontario South and the GTA have a fairly high concentration of contesters (strong low power stations and high power stations) but in Ontario East and Ontario North…  good operators and equipment but less of them…

Hope to get in your log over the weekend…

73bob

Cross another thing off the list…

November 12, 2013

That “thing” would be the virtual com port needed to run things like my logging program and other parts of Ham Radio Deluxe…  Thanks have to go out to Steve K5FR who emailed me a link to a wonderful piece of software that was easy enough to use that even I could create the com ports needed to get Ham Radio Deluxe to talk to Power SDR.

CAT HRD

After the install I was able to configure the two virtual com ports needed so I can now get parts of HRD to talk to my Flex 1500.  So far I have been able to get the RCV section set up and working great.  With the help of VE3EMB last night I got the XMIT set up for great sounding audio and the best power level I can expect for a QRP radio….

FLEX_Display_1

Next of my list is “Virtual Audio Cables” which should allow DM780 which is the Digital Modes Program that comes with Ham Radio Deluxe to talk to the Flex 1500 and vice versa.

dm780

Seeing that I did not think I would be able to get as far as I have so far…  Tomorrow is another day… and the learning process will continue…

73bob

 

So lets try this again shall we???

November 4, 2012

A few of you will notice that there was a couple lines of a post made here… That no longer on line…  I fell victim to the old “Too many fingers on keyboard issue” while typing and somehow managed to post something way before it was finished…  Rather than try to edit it I just deleted all reference to it but as we know nothing is ever really deleted on the internet….

So lets try this again shall we???

Between sitting in the shack following the ARRL CW Sweepstakes using my DM780 software and heading outside with the FT 817 its been a great day…

I have not been participating in the Sweeps but I have been following it at times…  I am finding that the faster contesters are using some sort of computer assistance as I doubt anyone (or at least very few) could decode as fast as they are sending and the code they are sending is perfect…

If my CW Decoding program can copy it 100% then you have to be sending it with a computer…  If the spacing is off and the speed not constant then I think of a Key rather than a Keyer but when the speeds are constantly over 35wpm and the spacing is perfect then I am thinking some sort of computer assist is present….

Not that theres nothing wrong with that…  I was actually thinking of buying a Winkeyer and doing the same thing…  Using DM780 to decode and having DM780 also control the Winkeyer because it seems that is what everyone else is doing…  There has been a couple of DXPeditons I have heard operating CW that I have not been able to contacts (because my CW sucks) so why not use some computer assist just to get a few more on the DXCC list?  Everyone else does…

For those of you who don’t know… DM 780 is the Digital Mode part of Ham Radio Deluxe and it includes CW Decode and will also drive a Winkeyer… if configured correctly…  Now there are also lots of great software that will do all if what I have just mentioned but after a year I almost have HRD figured out so…  I’ll stick with what I know…  Nothing against the other great programs out there…

Above- The Par end Fed QRP Tri band (10-20-40m antenna)

When not watching the CW on my monitor I headed over to Weston Park with the FT 817 and the Par end fed QRP antenna and managed to make a couple of contacts on 10, 20 and 40m (SSB)…  I went out solely to make contacts on a couple of Canadian Nets that I just don’t seem to check in with as often as I used to…

I left the house around 1230 EST (yes there was a time change) and I got over to Weston around 1245.  One nice thing is with all the leaves off the trees its much easier to get the weighted line over the branch to support the Par in the sloper configuration…  This seems to work best for me… and only having to get one line over the tree branch works great as well…  At 1300 EST (1800 UTC) I checked into the Trans Canada Net on 14.140 USB.  This net runs every Sunday (and holiday) from 1800 UTC till they run out of checkins.

As the net name implies it is mostly for Canadian Stations but we do take all stations who wish to check in.  Canadians in the States or US Stations have to check in on CW as the US Bandplans do not allow Voice transmissions on 20m below 14.150 but the Canadian Bandplan does…

The net usually runs with 3 NCS stations (one in Ontario (VA3 VE3), one in Manitoba (VA4 VE4) and one in BC (VA7 VE7)) and that seems to cover the country quite well…  Today I checked in with VA7TA (Tom on Vancouver Island) and he was able to hear me but for him my signal was not the best but it was stong enough to make it from a park in Ottawa to Tom’s QTH which is just under 2300 miles away…  Not that bad for a 5w ssb signal and a wire antenna…

After that I jumped down to 10m and made a contact with VA3MPM (Mike) and VE3DLJ (Doug) who both live in Ottawa…  This would be a groundwave contact but I had talked to them on a local repeater when I was walking over to the park so I figured I would give them a contact on 10ssb and let them know what they were missing by staying inside where it was warm…

After that I aimed for 40m and checked into the ARES Ontario Net on 7.080.  This net meets at 1300 EST or EDST) every Sunday and is an informal roundtable where the participants compare notes on what their local ARES Groups have done in the previous week.  Over the summer I tend not to be in the right place at the right time to make this net and now that the cooler months are now with us I hope to check in more frequently…

If you have voice privs on 7.080 why not join them one Sunday and just say hi…

At about 1430 EST I decided that I had had enough fresh air… Also my thermos was out of hot coffee and so I packed up and headed back home.   Another fantastic time playing radio in the great outdoors…

So as you can see my day has been going quite well and also fairly busy…  Hope yours was just as good…

73bob

Thursday in the shack

October 25, 2012

Where else could I be today?

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The CQWW SSB contest starts in just over 24 hours from now at 0000 UTC on Saturday and all the Big Guns are testing out their muscles in anticipation

One nice thing about using HRD as a logging program is that it tells me the last time I worked some of these stations and guess what???  It was one year ago in the 2011 contest…

So far today (October 25th) on 10-15-20m I have managed to make 19 contacts in 18 different DXCC entities (Worked 2 different station on Cyprus).  I’ve been having a blast with the excellent band conditions.  According to HRD I did not work any new ones today but I now have a chance of back filling a couple of my unconfirmed ones as some of the new ones are on LOTW.  So far I am sitting at 94 out of 142 confirmed…

Tomorrow will be a quiet day…  The WX in Ottawa will be close to 20 deg C and sunny…  We are planning an early supper, to take advantage of the warm WX and have a family BBQ before the sun sets (cuz when the sun goes down so do the temps) and also to have dinner out of the way so I can participate in the contest until the bands die out or I run out of steam…

In the meantime… CQ DX  CQ DX…

73bob

EQSL return rates

July 18, 2012

Heres a bit of info for you….

Out of 1488 EQSL Cards that I have sent out I have recieved 617 back.  If I have done the math correctly that works out to be a 41.46% return rate.

Out of the 135 countries that I have sent an EQSL Card to I have 57 confirmed which works out to be a 42.22% confirmation rate.

Both percentages are remarkably close (41.46% VS 42.22%)

So now I’m wondering how my results match up with yours?

Now these do not count in the Direct/Buro sending and receiving of the Paper QSLs.  That could be a whole series of blog posts as we debate the future of paper QSLs…

I am starting to look at LOTW (Logbook of the World) now and in the near future it would be interesting what percentages of my contacts and my DXCC countries get confimred by that mode.

But in the meantime….  Do you think my EQSL return rates are about normal, good or bad?

In closing I will mention that I am happy with the EQSL Service.  I really like the way it interacts with Ham Radio Deluxe so that every time I enter a contact in HRD it automatically sends out an EQSL to the station.  It sure makes it easier for me…  Once I get my LOTW account open and get the logs uploaded who knows what the percentages will be..

73bob

But you know that already…

July 9, 2012

Good Monday Morning….

The weekend (Radio Wise) was not a total bust but to be polite the bands are less than optimal…  To be honest…. They would have to improve to be concidered Poor…

But you know that already!!!

I managed a couple of QRP Contacts on Friday PM from the Mer Bleu Swamp on 20m and 40m but not much else after that.  On Saturday I had a couple of great contacts from home including CK6S which is a special event station from the Calgary Stampede in Calagry Alberta (VE6).  That contact was a bit of a teaser as I listened along for about an hour after and I heard everyone that made contact with Calgary.  I thought things were starting to look up…  Like I said it was a teaser…

Later in the afternoon I walked over to VA3PSJ’s qth and we jumped in his jeep and took his IC703 over to Mer Bleu and tossed his Par End Fed into the air and tried to make some contacts…  Although it was not rare DX we did manage a couple of contacts on 40 and 20 but we did have to work for it… The 13 colonies special event stations did help and they were strong and were also listening…

Yesterday (Sunday) was a complete bust…  Nothing in the log although I did try a few times….

Actually with the exception of the RAC Canada Day Contest there have not been many log entries made this month and the RAC Log does not get posted in HRD as I  use the RAC logger for that one and can’t figure out an easy way to merge the logs…  Its on my list of things to do…

This week the plan is to try and get some yardwork done today and tomorrow (Tuesday) with the main idea being to get the radials for the S9 Vertical stretched out a bit better and then cover them with a topsoil and grass seed mixture so I won’t continue to trip when I walk in the back yard…  From my previous posts you should remember that the back yard is only 20 feet X 20 feet so its not as strenous as it sounds…

I’ve managed to check into the ECARS Net on 7.255 so far today with K1WTX in Turner Maine, who was the NCS for the hour.   Guess the band was a bit long…  Thats about 275 miles East-South-East of my home in Ottawa.  Not booming but he was a solid 5/7.

I guess its about time to head over and find the grass seed and the bags of topsoil that is available at the Property Managers Office and get to work before the sun gets too hot for yardwork…

73bob

 

 

 


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