Monday, November 26, 2012

10m 26 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 26 November 2012
What this map doesn't show is that all the spots are barely visible, -25 to -27dB, so propagation would not be good enough to support a regular communication mode.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

25 November 2012

The last day of the CQ WW DX CW contest. But nothing of interest to report. Sunday morning was one of those mornings when I didn't seem to fully wake up. It was after 11am before I got into the shack.

My intention was to make some more contest contacts on 10m. Although I don't compete seriously, I usually decide what category I am going to play in - single or multi-band, QRP or Low Power - and stick to it so that if I do make a decent number of contacts I can send an entry in. But this time my effort didn't even justify sending in a check log.

I heard some interesting big gun stations such as in Africa (Gambia, Senegal) but I just could not be heard over the others calling. One Russian station seemed to be following me around and he wasn't having much luck either. It was hard going even with the more run of the mill stations. I felt like I was running QRP. In fact, I've had better results when I did run QRP (such as for the CQ WW WPX back in May, when I used the KX3 ) than I was having this weekend.

It was obviously a mistake to limit myself to 10 metres. Not everyone was having such bad luck as me though. I heard a DX station who wasn't hearing my calls working fellow blogger Tim G4VXE. So much for the magic dipole!

After I broke off for lunch I couldn't be bothered to get back on the air again and so I spent the afternoon listening to a broadcast concert. I will draw a veil over my lamentable effort. (Those who are really interested to see the extent of my embarrassment can take a look at my contact log.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

10m 24 November 2012

The first day of the CQ WW DX CW contest and propagation on 10m is disappointingly down compared to previous days.

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 24 November 2012
No propagation to USA as you can see.

I have made a handful of contest contacts on 10m but I have been too preoccupied with computer issues to really get into it. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

10m 23 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 23 November 2012
Propagation on 10m was not as good as yesterday. WSPR traces were fainter as signals were weaker. On the air conditions were not stable and deep QSB affected most QSOs. An hour in the afternoon resulted in these contacts:

2012/11/2314:2928.121BPSK31KC2VOU599539JonEarlville, NY
2012/11/2314:4128.122BPSK31K2PSD599599RonRandolph, New...
2012/11/2314:4928.122BPSK31KF2GQ599599RobertJupiter FL
2012/11/2314:5828.122BPSK31WA4FLZ599589ShepMiami FL
2012/11/2315:2128.121BPSK31N0BIV599599DonJefferson Cit...


Gotaways were: CN2OS (Morocco) and HK2LS (Colombia).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

10m 22 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 22 November 2012
Really excellent propagation this afternoon to the eastern USA as the WSPR spots show. An hour's break before afternoon tea resulted in QSOs with 7 new stations.  I actually had people calling me after I signed with another station. I like the callsign of the first station...

2012/11/2214:4128.123BPSK31W2PSK599599AndySouth River, ...
2012/11/2214:5328.121BPSK31KB8ZUN599599JeffreyNorth Ridgevi...
2012/11/2214:5728.122BPSK31KD4JMV599599HarryNaples FL
2012/11/2215:0728.123BPSK31W3SW599599AndyBinghamton NY
2012/11/2215:2028.120BPSK31KA3UJE599599TerryLykens, PA
2012/11/2215:2628.120BPSK31WA2VMO599579BobStaten Is. NY
2012/11/2215:3628.121BPSK31KB3CUP599599ElzaGreensboro, PA

Not so smart phone

My Motorola Milestone 2 (which I think is known in some places as a Motorola Droid) has started acting up. I've had it more than a year now so it is out of warranty.

A couple of days ago I picked it up one evening and it was stone cold dead. Pulling the battery made no difference so I dropped it into the multimedia base and when it came to life it showed the battery was at 0%. The phone sleeps in the multimedia base so it is always fully charged and there is normally 60% left by the evening unless I've been running some GPS applications, which for just this reason I don't. How odd.

The next day after a full charge the phone appeared to be OK. A couple of hours later I scrolled to the page where the Gmail app lives and its icon had changed to a box with a gear wheel in front of it. When I tried to run it I got a message "Application not installed." Even odder.

I tried the tech support guy's standard fix which is to switch it off and then switch it on again. To my relief this did the trick. The Gmail icon was back again and the app seemed to be working normally. Until this morning.

When I got up I was surprised that the phone wasn't winking its green light at me to show there was email waiting. Had no-one at all commented to my blog? After breakfast I turned on the shack PC and lo and behold there were 4 messages in my inbox. The phone still showed nothing. Eventually I checked the account settings and every one of my Google accounts had the "Synchronize Gmail" setting turned off. How very peculiar.

I turned sync on again and the phone is checking my mail as normal. But I just wonder what it's going to do next?

WSPRnet issue with Chrome

Has anyone else noticed that when you open the map page at wsprnet.org in Google Chrome the sliders (the bit you drag to scroll up/down or left/right) are missing from the scroll bars? They still work if you drag on where they ought to be, but as they are invisible it's a bit confusing.

Truth in advertising

From the website wouxun.us


If only all amateur radio dealers were this honest!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

10m 21 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 21 November 2012

QRZCQ Update

I have just uploaded a couple of new images to QRZCQ.com, the new ham radio database site.


If you wondered where the nice QSL images in recent blog posts came from, I took them from those ham's profile pages on QRZCQ.com. I thought it was a good idea to use a QSL image for the page, so I scanned one of my printed QSL cards and uploaded it to my own profile on the site. You are allowed two pictures, a main one and a secondary one, so I uploaded a photo of me in the shack for the secondary image. It's good that the site developers allow decent sized high resolution images.

Somebody will probably take me to task for stealing images from a web site. But in my opinion (for what that's worth) a QSL image should be okay. If I received it from the bureau what's to stop me from scanning and uploading the image of cards I receive? I'm just anticipating receiving it. :)

I have also uploaded my contact log to QRZCQ.com. That was a simple matter of exporting the log to an ADIF file from KComm. The most up to date copy of my log will always be the one at G4ILO's Shack, though, because that is taken directly from the off-site backup copy of my log, uploaded automatically whenever I close KComm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 November 2012

Today my main rig has spent even more time on other things than WSPR. Besides trying to work some PSK31 DX I have also been testing a beta release of K3 firmware. This new version has an improved CW decoder that is a bit less finicky about settings. It works very well but is still beaten by the Windows program MRP40 which I regard as the gold standard for CW decoders. As Wayne N6KR says, the MRP40 algorithm is probably ten times more sophisticated and the K3 MCU doesn't have enough code space for it.

I've been interested in Morse decoders since the first home computers and can remember keying in a program listing in BASIC from a QST article in the late 70s. Later I wrote a decoder in Hisoft Pascal which ran on my ZX Spectrum. It actually decoded strong, perfectly sent Morse but it was not reliable enough to be useful. More recently I tried implementing a Morse decoder in KComm but it was a total failure.

I didn't have a lot of success with PSK31 DXing on 10m either. I only made two contacts but I heard what would have been two new South American countries: HC7AE in Ecuador and CE4BRO in Chile. I didn't need to look up HC in a book as I remember from my teenage SWLing days hearing HCJB Quito, the Voice of the Andes!

I think band conditions were better today but they supported more propagation from Europe so there were higher QRM levels (and lower operating standards ;) ) I moved up the band to try and get away from all the IMD products but hardly anyone was listening up there so it was a bit futile.


Someone who did hear my CQ calls was Vito IZ7DMT. He was a whopping signal but was signing IZ7DMT/QRP. He told me he was running 5 watts from an FT-817 and was rather indignant that I wouldn't use the illegal /QRP suffix during handovers. Nice QSL though!

Here is the result of today's WSPRing:
10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 20 November 2012

VOAProp Repackaged

If you are a user of my program VOAProp you probably know by now that it has a problem due to NOAA having made a slight change to the format of the WWV solar data report. I cannot fix the problem in the program as I no longer have the files needed to rebuild it. Thanks to Mirek, OK1DUB a solution was found that involves changing the web address of the solar data file to download a slightly edited version from Mirek's web site. The Troubleshooting page in the VOAProp help was updated to include this information. Unfortunately hams never read the frigging manual and so I have had to use the holiday absence message of Gmail to send a rather annoying automatic reply directing those with a question about VOAProp to the aforementioned page in order to save myself the even greater annoyance of receiving several emails a week about it. (It would be really nice if GMail's Filters could include the option of sending an automatic reply only if an email meets certain conditions.)


It occurred to me this morning that I could fix the problem for new installations by including a configuration file containing the address of the file on Mirek's web site. So I rebuilt the setup file including this extra file and have now uploaded it to G4ILO's Shack. It will not help existing users if they download the new file as the installer will not overwrite their existing configuration file so as to preserve the user's settings during an update. As emails about the issue are still coming in I will have to continue sending the automated reply to everyone who writes to me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

10m 19 November 2012

Another day of good propagation allowed my love affair with 10m to continue.

2012/11/1912:3428.121BPSK31NP4EG599599EdgarN. Puerto Rico
2012/11/1912:5028.122BPSK31UT5AJ599599VladKramatorsk
2012/11/1913:5028.123BPSK31UR4QX599599YuriBerdyansk
2012/11/1914:1128.121BPSK31RG5A599599AlexMoscow
2012/11/1914:2528.122BPSK31YY4HAH599599HeirounValencia Vene...
2012/11/1914:3528.122BPSK31N4PJL559599PeteDeep Creek La...
2012/11/1914:4128.122BPSK31AB8O599599JohnMilford, OH n...
2012/11/1914:5928.122BPSK31KJ4LEC599599MarionCumberland Ga...
2012/11/1915:0828.122BPSK31W5FER599599JimSan Antonio, TX
2012/11/1915:1728.122BPSK31VE3NOO599599MichaelSandhurst, On...
2012/11/1915:2328.122BPSK31AE5XI599599TerryLas Cruces, NM
2012/11/1915:4428.122BPSK31K9ZJ579579RichWaukesha, WI
Besides these contacts I heard, but couldn't catch, stations in Mexico and Paraguay. I'm hoping the good propagation will continue so that I can add these to the log.

Because of this, not too much time was spent on WSPR today, so the WSPR map looked like this:

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 19 November 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

10m 18 November 2012

I nearly got myself locked out of the WSPR map page today. I must have managed to save the settings to try to display spots for all bands for the last 24 jours, or something like that, because whenever I went to the page the web browser froze up while it tried to render the map and I couln't get back to the settings boxes to change it. I had to find out how to delete all cached files in Chrome before I could access it again.

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 18 November 2012
I lost quite a lot of time trying to sort that out. I also spent an hour or so seeing what I could work on 10m PSK31. I managed to QSO with several US stations including N7WET in Tucson, Arizona and KB5IAV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I worked two all time new countries as well. Fabio CU3HN in the Azores has one of those QSLs that never fail to bring a smile to my face.
QSL of CU3HN
Victor, HP1AVS in Panama I had heard before but not managed to work. So I was pleased to add his call to the log as well.
QSL of HP1AVS
I love 10 metres!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

10m 17 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 17 November 2012
Another day of good propagation. I don't know why OH1CO was using the suffix /QRP (aren't most WSPRers using 5w or less?) but it really upset the WSPR encoding algorithm. His call was being decoded at my end as OH1/P00XEK!

It's magic!

I'm starting to believe that my attic dipole does have magical powers on 10 metres. Right now I'm hearing or being heard by 8 different stations but they are only hearing or being heard by me!

Friday, November 16, 2012

10m 16 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 16 November 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

KComm is 2.0!

I have taken advantage of the poor propagation conditions - the WSPR application waterfall has been blank all day and just two stations have spotted my 10m beacons, while APRS on 30m is only just beginning to receive any other stations - to make available a new version of my logging program for Elecraft transceivers, KComm, which is now version 2.0.


The main difference in the new version is that the Elecraft KX3 is supported (though it could be used in older versions by pretending it is a K3.) I have also added an option for specifying alternative URLs such as QRZCQ.com for looking-up callsigns, so you can now say goodbye to logging in to QRZ.com every five minutes if you want to.

The other changes are all minor bug fixes and small improvements that probably no-one will notice.

My regrets to Linux users but I no longer have a Linux system available so I cannot provide a Linux archive of the new version. I really need a Linux user to install Lazarus and compile the source code then send me a new tar.gz file to put on the web site.

Poor conditions

Propagation is really poor at the moment. Never has my WebProp propagation widget been quite so accurate. On 10m WSPR I am hearing nothing and no-one is hearing me. On 30m APRS it's just as bad. I'm not picking up a single packet.

I opened WebProp's page in Google Chrome and noticed that the small format widget had a vertical scrollbar on the right hand side. I thought I could remove it by adding a few pixels to the iframe height attribute but it didn't seem to make any difference. I think a bug in Chrome might be causing this. The presence of the scrollbar reduces the width of the table causing several lines to wrap and making the table taller.

I found that the scrollbar was eliminated by adding the attribute scrolling="no" to the iframe definition. If you are using WebProp on your website I recommend you do the same. If you aren't sure exactly what to do then go to the WebProp web page. The code examples have all been updated with this extra attribute.

I recommend you to do this even if you don't see the scrollbar in Google Chrome. That will prevent it from appearing in any web browser.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10m 13 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 13 November 2012
Some pretty good propagation on 10m today, though not exceptional. During the morning it was interesting to note several spots of G and GW stations. I was received by fellow blogger Tim G4VXE. I didn't hear him though.

I took time out to make a few digital contacts. I worked two Russians on 12m (using the 10m dipole) then a few more plus a couple of Americans on 10m. Best contact was NP3IR Hector in Puerto Rico, who has just this minute spotted me on WSPR too!

2012/11/1311:4624.921BPSK31RV9MA599599VladOmsk
2012/11/1312:1024.922BPSK31RN1TV599599SergeyStaraya-Russa
2012/11/1312:2428.122BPSK31RZ1OK599599YuriOnega
2012/11/1312:4028.120BPSK31NP3IR599599HectorAibonito
2012/11/1314:3428.122BPSK31RZ6AVM439599EwgeniyKrasnodar
2012/11/1314:3828.122BPSK31RA3TAC599599VladNizhny
2012/11/1314:4528.122BPSK31W4ECZ559579Waynenr Tampa
2012/11/1314:5128.122BPSK31UY7QL599599OlegPologni nr Zo...
2012/11/1314:5728.122BPSK31RW9SQ599599VictorOrenburg
2012/11/1315:0528.122BPSK31KC4FNE599599BobBlacksburg, V...

That's cool! I can mark and copy lines from my contact log, then paste them into Blogger and they come out formatted. Never knew you could do that.

Monday, November 12, 2012

10m 12 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 12 November 2012

Farewell Firefox

After many years as a stalwart Firefox user I have today made Google Chrome my default web browser.
I had tried Chrome once before. It was probably too early a version as I could not get on with it and missed too many of my Firefox extensions. Since then I have grown less dependent on those extensions and Chrome has become compatible with or has gained alternatives to those I need.

I installed Chrome a second time in an attempt to solve a problem that I thought was an issue with Firefox and turned out to be something else entirely! The installation was quick and easy. Chrome imported all my Firefox bookmarks with ease, reminding me to close Firefox so it could access them. I didn't allow the installer to make Chrome the default browser initially, but after half an hour I was ready to take the plunge.

This won't be news to those of you already using Google Chrome but the new browser feels much faster than Firefox. I see that 20% of visitors to G4ILO's Shack are using the Chrome browser. I think it won't be long until it overtakes the 27% of my visitors using Firefox.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

10m 11 November 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 11 November 2012
Ten metres seems to have perked up a bit today, though conditions don't seem as good as they were a week or so ago.

During the afternoon on PSK31 I heard, but didn't work, Mexico and Panama. No WSPR monitors there so they don't show up on the map.

Calling CQ resulted in contacts with some East coast USA stations. Propagation to Europe can't have been that good. I think this is the first time that I didn't get called by European and Russian stations.

I heard several USA stations working in a 10-10 contest. I don't have a 10-10 number so I didn't try to contact them. As a fan of 10m I like the idea of 10-10 but to be a member you have got to be sponsored by several existing members and then pay a membership fee. That's way too much hassle and expense just to get a number to send people. The European PSK Club has the right idea. Membership is free to anyone and communication with members is via a web site.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

10m 8 Nov 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 7 November 2012
 Another fairly quiet day on 10m. I took time out from WSPR during the early afternoon to do some PSK31 operating. There was some good DX about. First I worked Ian 3B8IK in Mauritius. I heard 5H3NP in Tanzania, but he didn't appear to be CQing. I found a clear spot and called CQ myself hoping to be heard by the African station but every time a station from the Eastern USA called me! It was better than when the band was wide open as there was less QRM making it easier to hear stations.

I like working stateside because ops seem more willing to have a proper QSO instead of just exchanging reports and details. I don't think that says anything about the relative friendliness of Americans and Europeans, it's just down to the fact that Yanks and us both speak the same language whereas for the European stations that are all I can usually work English is not their native language.

PSK Reporter map showing stations heard/worked by G4ILO on 8 November 2012

No-IP Free

A few months ago I began using the No-IP Free service in order to be able to access my home network using a hostname or  fixed IP address. This worked well until a couple of weeks ago when I started getting the error "no host". I logged in to No-IP and could find no reference to my account. So I recreated it with the same details and it is working fine again.

I vaguely recall seeing something to the effect that to keep the free account active you are supposed to log in once a month. The trouble is I find it hard enough remembering what day of the week it is never mind something like that. Previously I had used the DynDNS free service but that didn't like the frequency with which my broadband changes IP address. My broadband provider says that I can only have a fixed IP address if I have a business account. It would be cheaper to stump up $20 a year for the No-IP Enhanced account. But being a dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate I'd like to avoid doing that. Any recommendations for free IP services that stay working as long as you want?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

10m WSPR spots 7 Nov 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 7 November 2012
Very few WSPR signals received at G4ILO today. A number of weak transatlantic spots of my 2 watt signal make the picture look better than expected.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

10m WSPR spots 6 Nov 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 6 November 2012
Strange conditions today. I'm seeing hardly any traces at the moment but several east coast US stations are spotting me. I even checked to make sure I wasn't running 100w by accident!

Is my web site down?

My website G4ILO's Shack is currently down. It appears to be down for everyone, not just me.

Sometimes a site appears to be down when it's really a problem at your end. There's a really useful site you can use to check if the server is down or not. It goes by the memorable name downforeveryoneorjustme.com. It's worth bookmarking, especially if you have a website of your own.

I've opened a support ticket with the hosting service. Hopefully my site will be back up by the time you read this.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Go To blazes

Is it just me or do you also get irritated when you see or hear someone abusing the term "go to"? As in "The Buddipole is my go to portable antenna" or "G4ILO's Shack is my go to website for interesting articles about ham radio". Okay, I made the last one up.

What are they trying to say? That the Buddipole is their preferred antenna or mine is their favourite website? If so, why don't they just use the perfectly good words that have existed for years to say so?

Who started this? I think I first saw it in a computer magazine about a year ago. Journalists are responsible for spreading many linguistic abominations. I should know. I was one.

I assume that this is an Americanism which has recently crossed the Atlantic but I have no evidence to back that up.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

10m WSPR spots 3 Nov 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 3 November 2012
The number of spots is fewer and the signal strengths weaker. It appears that the period of good 10m propagation may be over.

Friday, November 02, 2012

10m WSPR spots 2 Nov 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 2 November 2012
No WSPR yesterday as I had to keep a hospital appointment. Today you can see that propagation is appreciably worse than on previous days when I have run WSPR. There were significantly fewer and fainter traces on the WSPR application screen as well.