Sunday, 28 February 2010

This week's WSPR

The nearest and furthest reports for me on WSPR this week:

Nearest -
Freq Call Grid Distance
10.140206 M0JFE IO83lw 21
28.126121 G7IEI IO83rn 74
28.126096 G0MJI IO83ni 86
10.140214 MW0GRJ IO83kf 97
3.594101 G4YKE IO92nh 253
3.594139 G4YND JO02en 293
3.594103 G0KTN IO81ti 311
3.594069 M0GBZ IO91vv 317
3.594105 G3THQ IO91un 344
3.594102 G3YSX IO91wg 377
3.594107 G4ZFQ IO90ir 397
3.594101 G3JKF JO00bs 434
3.594104 G7JVN JO00gv 438

Furthest -
Freq Call Grid Distance
14.097122 VK3SMC QF22oc 17023
10.140205 DP1POL IB59uh 13882
18.10611 PU2BFG GH64ci 8831
18.106071 WA6MTZ DM14pw 8251
18.106138 K7ZTM DN41ab 7455
10.14021 W3HH EL89 6754
18.106114 W6YQ DN84ic 6744
7.040073 K9OHI EM92xu 6285
18.106108 K9AN EN50wc 6209
18.106151 W9TTY EN61 6036
7.040109 WB8HWF EN80sc 5864
10.140226 KJ4KNI FM07kk 5862
7.040098 W8LIW EN81go 5811
10.140203 K8CT EN83ce 5712
10.140193 KB3EDF FM18rh 5631
18.106129 WB4KLJ FM18ku 5627
10.140207 KB3VR FM19la 5609
10.140204 W3CSW FM19kd 5605
18.106112 W3GXT FM19ol 5558
18.106107 N2NOM FN22bg 5294
10.140215 SWL-VE3 FN25cg 5076
10.140196 VE3GHM FN25ig 5046
7.040125 N1PQ FN42fm 5004
3.594106 W1XP FN42fo 4998
18.106111 W1BW FN42hl 4997

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Remote Control

I've now got remote control of the Icom IC-7000 over the network at home, with audio too. There is a remote control option in Ham Radio Deluxe but I used a separate serial-over-IP program to send remote commands from Ham Radio Deluxe (or any other program with CAT control) to the radio.
On the PC connected to the radio, the CI-V interface cable is on serial port COM3, it's a USB serial converter. Piracom serial port redirector (free) is used to allow network access to the COM port. At the client PC, HW Virtual Serial Port (free) is used to assign a serial port number to the remote port. To the rig control software running on the client PC, it looks like there is an IC-7000 connected to COM3 by a CI-V interface cable.
But remote control isn't much good unless you can transmit and receive so I've installed PC Telephone at both ends of the link. This can be used for both dialling out to normal phone numbers or just between computers. I set the server to auto answer after 5 seconds of ringing. To call another computer you type in the IP address of the machine you want to connect with.
The audio sounds quite low-bitrate which makes very weak signals hard to hear but it's OK most of the time.
There is a bit of a delay on the rig control, and a few dropouts on the audio but this might be something to do with the wireless network.

I was received by DP1POL in Antarctica last night on 10 MHz WSPR.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sound Card Trouble

In the last few days I'd been thinking that maybe there was something wrong with my transmitted signal from home on packet, as no stations were receiving me. I had a listen to my own signal and the deviation didn't seem too high but there was a lot of hum in the background (not a harmonic of 50Hz, some other frequencies).
Changing the transmitter power made no difference so it wasn't RF getting back into the audio leads. The hum went away when I unplugged the cable between the Edirol UA-25's output jack and the radio's data socket. I tried the onboard sound and the noise also went away. So the hum was coming from the UA-25 but never used to be there.
When I moved cables around at the back of the PC, the noise went away. In the end I found it was a cable between the Record output of my audio amplifier which went to a 3.5mm stereo jack plug. This had been unplugged from the back of the PC but left nearby. At some point, the tip of the jack plug had touched the metal case of the PC.
Somehow this had created a loop which made noise from inside the PC appear on the outputs of the USB sound device. For now I'm sticking with the internal sound for radio stuff because it's good enough.
The output volume of the internal sound had to be lowered to 10% to stop the IC-7000 being overdriven through its data port. The data port is far more sensitive than a 'line' level signal which you would get from a mixer or other equipment. It also doesn't work when keying the rig by a CI-V command. When the IC-7000 gets the transmit command by CI-V, it expects you to be talking into the microphone. That's a pity because it would have meant one less serial port being used.
Things I don't like about the IC-7000's serial port:
1)Distorted on narrow FM - see the picture below. This is FM noise (no signal present) from the data port on the 7000 (filter setting 2). There is a sharp bandpass filter between 300 and 3000Hz but something is distorting the audio after this.


Below is the same noise but taken from the headphone socket:
There is less noise above 3KHz and the noise sounds more erm...noisy, the distortion on the data port made it more crackly sounding.

2)No squelch - the audio is taken from before the squelch control so is useless for recording programs which use VOX. There is a squelch output so you could build a circuit for muting the audio.
3)No operation by remote control - must use a serial/parallel/VOX interface to key the rig for data. The rig's own VOX doesn't work on the data port either

Monday, 15 February 2010

MixW

I'm now using MixW as a software TNC instead of AGWPE. I'd had lots of problems with AGWPE being unstable in Vista, shutting down with the rig keyed etc. Even in XP it didn't seem that good. To connect MixW with Ui-View and other packet programs, I've got it emulating a TNC on a virtual serial port.
For this I've got MixW's TNC on COM8 and Ui-View connected to COM9.
With MixW you can see more of what's going on, with a waterfall graph and message window showing all the received and transmitted packets.

Here are my settings for:
1)Ui-View's comms
2)MixW's TNC emulation
3)Com0Com's virtual serial ports to link MixW to Ui-View

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Preston Masts

After a few weeks playing around with the APRS TNC in the car, I've noticed how much worse the range is than for FM voice. There is also a big difference in range between when moving and stopped, because of quick fading which wouldn't matter with voice.
I drove to Ingleton from Barrow, receiving my own transmissions at home on 144.800 MHz. No packets were received from me once I got past Lindal, until I stopped at the car park in Ingleton. There would have been areas I passed through on the way where the signal would have been stronger than Ingleton.
Some pages about packet audio and noise

The pictures below are the mast at Holt Lane near Preston. The 2 folded dipoles are for Lancashire County Council's trunked system in the 177 MHz band (data on 177.375 MHz). There are also 2 4-stack dipoles for Airwave. The folded dipoles are facing towards Blackburn, so there will be a null towards Billinge Hill where there is another council base station. The mast looks like it was originally for Cellnet (O2) analogue phones.



Another mast near Preston is at Windy Harbour. This is a higher site than Holt Lane, with a lot more antennas including what look like United Utilities 139 MHz dipoles with reflectors.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Whitfell and Ingleborough

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went up Whitfell (SOTA LD-032). Took the 6m half wave up there with the FT-817 and handhelds for 2m/70cm/4m. Was going to do 23cm but forgot the handheld's original antenna which would cover that band. I wonder if a normal dual band 2m/70cm one would work just as well because 432*3 = 1296.
Got some of the local regulars on 4m and 6m, G6LKB, G7RNX, G6CRV and G1KLZ. Most of the 6m activity seems to be in this area, unless there are people on there further away and can't hear me. 6 metres hasn't taken off like 4m has, it's one of those bands where you've either got it because your equipment happens to include that band (tri-band verticals etc.) or you don't use it at all. Users of 70MHz are more likely to have built something specially for that band and be looking out for any activity on there. 70MHz now has enough users to be able to get all 4 qualifying SOTA QSOs on there.
The band which has always stayed about the same for SOTA is 70cm. Almost everyone has an antenna at home and on the car for that band yet hardly anybody uses it. Why? Is it because it's usually combined with 2m so on many rigs you can only listen to one band at a time? Or because it's just 'the other band', almost exactly like 2m but with less people.

Today (Thursday) I went up Ingleborough (SOTA NP-005).
Just took the Wouxun 4m handheld and the Alinco DJG-7. It was a nice day except for being very cold at the top. The last few metres of climbing were a crawl over some snow. This is the steepest part of the path from Ingleton.
Made QSOs on 23cm, 4m and 2m (some people on more than one band). On 4m using the Wouxun, the best signals seemed to be when I had my back in the direction of the other station. I've noticed this with a CB handheld too, but it's the opposite on 2m and above, where you have to face towards them.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Taxi Data

A lot of taxi firms are now using data for their dispatching. The main frequencies for this are between 163 and 165 MHz. I found a little (97KB!) program to decode this data. It's a Java application so should run on most OSs. It decoded 2 different sorts of taxi data but there are some which it doesn't recognise.
Also I tried Trunkview which is an MPT1327 trunking decoder program for Windows. As well as in Band 3, there are quite a few trunked radio systems in the UHF bands round here. Trunked systems are annoying when scanning because of the continuous data channels but these data channels could also be used as propagation beacons because they are usually in good locations and transmit 24/7. The ones in the 440 MHz band are good for 70cm propagation and there are 2 of these in the West Midlands on 440.800 and 442.9125 MHz which appear whenever there are lift conditions on 70cm. There are also the data transmissions between 440.0125 and 440.4875, which are 24/7 (the 'click click click' sounds) which are in good locations but not as useful as they reuse channels more closely. 440.100 is from the centre of Preston and the best 'beacon' for this area.
Is XP just as bad for synchronising the clock as Vista? According to Windows, it synchronised with pool.ntp.org when starting up at 9:10pm. 10 minutes later, the time error was so bad that WSPR would not work at all. Using About Time, the time was corrected by 9 seconds (also using pool.ntp.org).
Downloaded and tried Shutdown Monster, which can shut down the computer at a certain time, after a countdown, when CPU use drops etc. Could be useful for when I want to go out and leave the PC on for a while but not all day.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Electronic Organizers

Once upon a time, before the iDevices, there were these things called Electronic Organizers and they had real keyboards, standby times measured in months and displays you could see in the brightest sunlight.
Here is a site with lots of pictures of them, including the Sharp EL-6890 which I have. The display is starting to go on my Sharp so I've ordered a Jaytech JT-32, which seems to be the last available one of these devices (there's a Sharp EL-6910B too, which is also a Spanish translator). I think they're brilliant for portable radio use, standing up to the cold and wet better than most pens and paper. But to be useful they need a full keyboard, both letters and numbers. I used to have another of these which I got in 1995 (from Argos?) and it had about 15KB of memory.