Sunday, 1 January 2017

Meteor scatter software developments, Xmas propagation, and HNY.

First of all may I wish you all a Happy New Year.

May all your DX be far away, may all your antennas be well supported, and may the transistors in your final stage stay cool and efficient.

Oh, and may your power supplies keep going. My MyDel 50 amp returned two days ago and is now back in service. With no circuit diagram or component list I had little to go on, apart from working out that the buzz suggested to me a failure in the switching circuit.

Then John, G1VVU ran his eyes over it and delved into the surface mount components on the driver board. John had in his mind the circuit of a much older MyDel unit which suggested two transistors in the driver board might be at fault. Sure enough his hunch proved correct. He ordered two bcx54 devices, guided by the specification on the old design (which were 2sc2313), but in the case sot89 to match the faulty ones. And it worked. Component replacement cost £2.07 or 1.5% of a new PSU.

This just highlights how much at risk we are with surface mount devices. Me, never having worked in the electronics industry, and not having a single qualification in that area, was completely lost. Not only are the devices all looking strangely similar, often they are not marked with anything meaningful, and too small to work out what they are.

In days of yore amateurs would have built their own equipment and changed individual components. Now we are operating at the level of changing entire power supplies. Happily not mine though. It is working again until something else gives up the ghost. Great work John, thanks.

John was fairly sceptical about using this power supply at the full 48 amps I might need to drive the 6m linear. True, but I cannot find any other way of generating 13.8V at that sort of current which is both affordable and fits into the shack. Anyway, in general use it only draws a mere 32 amps (!) at the output power I tend to run.
Moving on, Xmas brings the RSGB Christmas Cumulative Contests. I have taken part in these for some years. There was Sporadic E all around the times of the four day contest, but none for me during the actual contest periods.

In fact, since I reported on the Es opening on 26 December I have completely missed out on various Es openings. I can hear other stations in G and GM working stations I cannot hear. I have been a bit unlucky, but that is what you can expect on Es. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

There was a little bit of tropo on the 2m part of the contest on 27 December.
2m contacts at GM4FVM on 27 December 2016
Goodness! F6DBI!

After all my fulminations about how I cannot work south from here, I managed to work France on 2m tropo! I have only worked France on 2 metres once before from here, and that was a meteor scatter contact with a station almost far enough away to be on the border with Spain. But France had never been done by me on 2m SSB or tropo before.

Well, it did take 8 years to do it.

I am not about to revise my views about the rather large hill outside the window. It does block me to the south and east, and if you look at the map above you can see that this particular station was west of south. I know that I can work along that path into Devon, so this cannot come as too much of a surprise.

I was actually trying to find stations round the side of the hill when I heard F6DBI.
All-time squares worked on 2m from GM4FVM
If you look at my all-time squares worked from here on 2m you can see a pretty definite pattern. This site definitely favours the east for dx working.

Mind you, 2m has never been my favourite band and I guess that is partly due to that hill. Perhaps if I tried harder I would do better. On the other hand, I think I can see the shadow of the hill, stretching from the Isle of Wight to the Pyrenees, and from Belgium to the Alps, plus everywhere in between.

Hey, look on the bright side Jim. Now you have worked France on tropo. Even if you ignore the shadow of the hill, there is still all the coast down to the Bay of Biscay, and all of Spain as a possibility.

While I have been busy reporting on WSJT, MSHV has been revised several times.

We have now reached v1.31. Recent additions include the ability to double click on callsigns and reports to enter them into the tx messages. Also, v1.31 includes three additional measures of MSK144 signal quality. These are "Navg", "Bit err" and "Eye", new macros for contest exchanges and RX equalisation selections (off, standard, dynamic, and standard +  dynamic).

I am not exactly sure how all of these will pan out as I have not had much chance to try them.

So why, if everyone is so taken with WSJT-X 1.7.0 am I still persevering with MSHV?

Well two main reasons:-

1) MSHV uses a lot less processor power, and
2) MSHV has the only route I know to run FSK441 and JT6M with CAT control.

As I run two or three rigs at once I could easily overstress my PC with various demands, so something lighter helps. As for FSK441 and JT6M, well my view of those modes is well known. I do not like them but until they die out I need to be able to summon up MSHV.

But there are less significant reasons for using MSHV. Unlike WSJT-X it does not changes the frequency of the rig without me knowing. Yes, it is great on WSJT to change band and mode, and even rig, without touching them, and to have everything done for you. But somewhere you lose control and I am yet to be convinced that I can avoid some terrible mistake while I was on autopilot.

The automation in WSJT is a joy to watch, but you still need to show it who is master.

Speaking of which, this may well be my latest piece of confusion:-
Above is WSJT with its QRG setting, which you set up by setting your receiver on the rig dial and selecting which frequency you wish to Tx CQ on: and
Above this time is MSHV, which you set up QRG as to where you are going to RX and then TX that on the calling frequency, using the split control on the rig.

In practice the two systems work in an opposite sense. With WSJT, you enter where you want to call CQ and as you turn the rx frequency on the VFO the entry on the CQ lines changes with the VFO dial ... whereas on MSHV you enter where you are going to Rx, not where you are going to Tx, and that sets up the Tx line message.

As they used to say on the marvellous Tv 1970s series "Soap", starring Billy Crystal and the superb Robert Guillaume as the butler, after their long explanations of the plot so far:-



Yes, I got WSJT back to front this week. Have I got it right now? Hard to tell as my USBs all failed today ... and the IC-7100 had to be re-set and ... well, I will let you know.

Thanks to David, GM4JJJ, for pointing out my confusion (but I couldn't get it work either way, which really threw me off my path). I will try again later.

This never happened with the FR50B/FL50 combination.
Have a great 2017 everyone, and calm down, it is only a hobby.

HNY es 73


1 comment:

  1. Jim,

    I agree it is easy to become confused, especially when using 2 different pieces of software. I have kept away from MSHV mainly because I don't need it. I like a lot of the things that I feel MSHV lacks, though they may be added and I am unaware. Namely

    CW ID
    Auto sequencing of QSO
    Transmit watchdog timer
    Full CAT control, so the software knows what band and frequency the radio is on and as a result the reports to PSK Reporter show that information correctly. I see too many reports on PSK Reporter that are for the wrong band, purely because of a human operator not changing band settings in software.

    It is good to have choices though and Joe K1JT has acknowledged that knock offs both flatter and in some cases add additional features.

    Wishing you the very best for 2017 and look forward to more blog posts which educate us all. Good DX