Friday, April 24, 2009

PSK Propagation Reporter

Visitors to my site and regular readers of my blog will know of my interest in propagation reporting. I find it endlessly fascinating to see how the ionosphere and other propagation mechanisms manage to convey weak radio signals huge distances.

Last year I became interested in WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter.) However, I found that I turned on the rig to send and receive propagation spots less and less often. So much of the activity was focussed on 30m that I found it was telling me nothing of interest, so I couldn't be bothered to switch everything on when I had no other use for the radio. When I was using the radio it wasn't free for WSPR, so no WSPR spotting was possible anyway.

A couple of days ago I came across a system similar to WSPR that used spots of regular PSK transmissions, PSK Reporter. Actually, I think I first found it several months ago. At the time, it didn't seem to show much activity and I dismissed it as an interesting idea that was not very useful because no popular applications supported sending spots. Since then, Simon Brown has added spotting support to his Ham Radio Deluxe / DM780 suite, and Dave Freese has added it to his excellent Fldigi. The result is that there is now often around 100 stations sending in spots from round the world, making the site a very good indicator of propagation and who's currently active on digimodes.


What I like about PSK Reporter compared to WSPR is that the reports are of actual stations heard or worked using a real digital communication mode like PSK31, which means that the stations logged are stations you could actually have contacted. But what is really great about it is that submitting reports is done in the background by the digimode software, so using it doesn't prevent you from getting on the air and making contacts.

I also think that the PSK Reporter site is probably the best example of an application using Google Maps I have ever seen. The site itself isn't very fancy but the ease with which you can see what other people are hearing just by clicking on the markers within the application is very impressive. And it looks so beautiful I wouldn't mind having it up on the TV in the living room so I could watch what was happening on the bands even while relaxing by the fire with a glass of wine - though the XYL might not be so enthusiastic!

PSK Reporter is so much more useful and easy to participate in that I think I'll be contributing spots much more regularly, even when I'm not otherwise using the radio. In fact, I'm already using a script by N9MXQ that Google found for me in the HRD forum to display the most recent PSK stations heard at G4ILO on a web page.
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