Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter blues

I like Christmas, but with that sole exception I hate this time of year. The short days, when it's dark at breakfast time, dark at tea time, and in between the sun struggles to reach an elevation where it can be seen over the tops of neighbouring houses.

It's not just the daylight the sun fails to make much impact on. There's next to no propagation on any of the higher HF bands. I believe that LF band enthusiasts have their best time at this time of year. But I have never been lucky enough to have an antenna for the LF bands. My attic multiband dipole will work on 80 metres but it is shortened so much that the usable bandwidth is barely 60kHz. It is really only usable on the QRP CW frequency and the PSK31 operating frequencies.

Yesterday I thought I would try some digital work on the 30m band. I couldn't hear any PSK31 at first but I did hear some JT65 so I thought I would try that. I made three QSOs including one with N4ABN which I thought was quite good nfor mid-morning. The trouble with JT65 is that I find it difficult to maintain concentration. It's 50 seconds before anything is decoded, and during that time my mind has drifted off and I have missed the moment when I should have responded.

Just as an aside, I noticed a quirk with the JT65-HF software. I don't use CAT control of my K3 (never could get it to work) so I have to set the frequency of the radio and the software manually. But whenever I did this, after a few seconds the frequency would reset itself to 0. I happened to notice that the frequency was being displayed with a comma as the decimal separator. I had left the PC configured like that after testing the fix for the problem with KComm. On a hunch, I reset the separator to a dot (period) and lo and behold the frequency stayed as I set it. I'm surprised that no-one seems to have spotted this but at least we know now how to fix it.

After making a bit of a meal of three JT65 QSOs I decided to switch to PSK31. Although it is not such a good mode for DX, if proof were needed, there were 3 or 4 spots of me on JT65A in the USA but my PSK31 at slightly higher power never penetrated beyond Western Europe.

I do find PSK31 a more rewarding mode to operate, though, because you do usually find out something about the other operator or his station. Having said that, has anyone noticed a trend towards shorter QSOs in PSK31? Quite often now it's name, report, qth, locator and goodbye. Whilst I can't say I miss knowing the make and model of the operator's computer and the colour of the interface cable, I do like to know what power they are running and what antenna they are using.

9 comments:

Paul PC4T said...

I am jealous on hams who could run their equipment with CAT control. Me either haven't CAT control because what ever I tried, drivers etc etc. it doesn't help. So I use VOX for 4 years now to work digital modes.

Indeed the qso's are becomes shorter with PSK and all other modes. For the reply macro I have an extended one and a real short one. It depends if the other will give more information.

I am happy that my newest dipole, 2x18m can handle 80 meter. So in time to come with low sun activity, the 80 m will become more important for me. I like 160 m too but no real good antenna for it. With my end fed for 40 m I can tune on 160 m and with wspr and JT65 I can work some countries.

73 Paul

Dick said...

My YL also suffers from "Winter Blues". If the sun doesn't shine 24/7 she is irritable and depressed. Never been the case with me.

Other sources of the blahs for me, hi.

Fortunately, I have my Kindle and do much more evening reading now.

QRV on 17/20 = daylight.

Julian Moss said...

Hi Dick. I sympathize with your YL. I also get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) In my shack I have some bright white "natural light" lamps which are supposed to combat the problem.

Have a happy Christmas. Keep in touch.

Julian, G4ILO

Ari Kosonen said...

Don't take this as a spam, but have you tried plugging
bright white LEDs into your ears?

http://www.valkee.com/de/

(Unfortunately their English pages are down)

Seasons Greetings and 73 de Ari OH3KAV
(with less than 6 hours of daylight up here)

SV1GRN said...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Julian and to all of you.
Go to pskreporter:
http://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html
and hover your mouse over a station, you can see many infos icluding power (i.e. in JT65-HF the station parameters must be filled in Configuration / RB and PSKR / Antenna description field).
73

Tim said...

I also hate this time of year. At least this is the shortest day and the light is on its way back!

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tim

Roger G3XBM said...

One positive is that we have now passed the longest night so, very slowly at first, the days lengthen. Following a sine wave it takes until February or so before the changes become really noticeable. My remedy is to stay in bed longer in the morning (get up when it is light) and pull the curtains and enjoy a warm cosy fire as soon as it starts to get dark in the late afternoon.

PE4BAS, Bas said...

I alway feel guilty when someone sends me just a report and 73 in PSK. Actually I like to exchange some txt. But like you wrote, it's a tendency these days to keep it a short QSO so they could work as many a possible in a short time span. 73, Bas

VE3WDM said...

Good evening Julian, yes the short days can be a pain we decided to put our tree up on Sunday and did not get finished. We could not put the lights or decorations during the as it was to dark in the living room to do any decorating.....so this weekend we will finish it up.
Marry Christmas and Happy new year to you and your wife Julian.
Mike