Sunday, 19 June 2022

On having a hunch

OK, I have written a long turgid waffle about a month of 23cm tropo and worthy stuff about gradually improving conditions. It was well annotated and carefully phrased. However, I wouldn't want to read it myself and my belief is neither would you. Nothing new there then.

So this will have to do.

Here is the first image from that non-posting just to make me feel that composing it was worth all the effort. It shows broadcast stations making their mark on 70MHz, which actually has some relevance to this posting too.

OIRT broadcast stations on 70MHz on 9 June 2022

This is about me learning to trust my instincts, or me backing my hunches.

Some of my best radio moments have come from hunches. Like the hunch which kept me on the 6m band for three hours after an aurora had faded just in case there might be an auroral Es opening to the North of me. There was and I worked JX9JKA, the only time I have worked Jan Mayen.

Or the hunch that 2m might open into the Baltic so that I waited from 13:30 to 18:30 on 13 July 2020 before working Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (and missed out on Kaliningrad). 

Five hours sitting here working a total of two G stations (no disrespect to G stations, but sometimes I need some DX too). Five hours with the Sun beating down outside and grass waiting to be cut. Five hours watching broadcast stations fill the 4m waterfall and having this hunch that something is about to happen on 2m. And I was right.

Let us have no mention of the times when I am not "right". However, I think that the odds work out in my favour most of the time.

It is a bit more than a hunch of course. I follow the propagation across bands and use some dead reckoning to suggest where an opening will happen. I work from given fixed points and fit the variable elements around that. After almost 50 years I am getting almost competent at doing this.

The period covered by this posting is 11 and 12 June 2022. 50MHz was full of stations each day during an excellent Sporadic E opening there. I noted this and moved up to 70MHz on both days. My hunch is that it will open too. Anyway, with just a half wave vertical on 6m at the moment I guess I am not going to work much in the way of DX (wrong, see later).

The result of the first hunch was this outcome on 4m

Contacts on 70MHz at GM4FVM on 11 and 12 June 2022

Click  to enlarge if you need to see the image more clearly.

52 QSOs in two days, 18 DXCC, 38 squares and two continents, with a best DX of 3884km to 4Z1TL. On 4m. The RSGB basic award for 4m starts at 20 squares and four countries. I would not expect to qualify for an award in a day (which I would have done if 11 June had been my first day on the band).

I was not even trying very hard. I heard but did not work Cyprus. If I had really needed more countries I might have worked Scotland (a fair bet if I tried), the Isle of Man or Northern Ireland, not DX but still DXCCs. I did not call stations I heard in Belgium and Netherlands in case they thought I was "too local". What the total might have been if I been looking for a record I cannot imagine. The 55 squares and ten countries needed for the highest RSGB award might have been done in a weekend.

So seeing 6m open and deciding to head for 4m is a hunch that worked. It often does.

Moving up again from 70MHz to 144MHz is not so straight forward a proposition. Sporadic E on 2m is much rarer than it is on 4m, just as on 4m it is rarer than 6m. The frequency gap is wider, the area covered by each opening is narrower, and there is not so much of it (meaning it is just rare). However, Es on 2m seems to be a lot easier to work these days. FT8 means the whole continent of data nuts is listening on the same frequency at the same time. 

I waited for just over four hours between 4m opening and my first contact on 2m. On 11 June 2m opened in the same direction as it had on 4m, which was towards Spain. I worked three stations in 17 minutes and the 144MHz opening was over. That is the way it works. You have to work the ones you hear immediately or they are gone (and a fourth one faded mid-QSO). It only takes 75 seconds to work someone on FT8, but that might be too long to complete on 2m Es.

All three stations were new to me on this band and there was one new square. A good result on 2m into Spain from here.

This could be the only 2m Es opening for me to Spain this year, and after that wait it lasted 17 minutes.

Contacts on 144MHz at GM4FVM on 11 and 12 June 2022

It is not quite so easy is working out if an opening is going to occur towards Italy. For some years now Italy has not granted access to the 70MHz bands for its amateurs. So I watched for stations on 70MHz in that general direction, particularly Slovenia which borders Italy. My hunch then moved to the possibility of an opening into Italy on 4m. There were huge broadcast signals on 4m which seemed to be coming from Moldova, certainly suggesting that pointing the beam at EA was no longer the best bet.

19 minutes after the opening to Spain ended, a prolonged 2m opening to Italy started. I was right to stick to my hunch. I worked ten stations in Italy, only four of which were new callsigns to me. As usual on 144MHz, they barely stayed above the noise for long enough to be worked and I lost five more in QSB.

When I say "prolonged" opening I mean 52 minutes in total. And it is not as though I could hear a station for 52 minutes, none could be heard for more that 3 or 4 minutes each. With a tropo opening you might hear a single 2m station for hours, whereas with Sporadic E I basically had a series of 10 separate short openings with gaps in between filled with failed QSOs to others.

It says something about how obsessed I am about all this that of the ten Italian stations on 2m I had worked six of them before on 2m Sporadic E. Or perhaps it says something about how obsessed they are. 

Anyway, one new square in Italy to add to one new square in Spain, a total of 14 QSOs to 14 squares, best DX being IW8PQU in JM88, 2339km away. Not bad for 144MHz.

Before I leave the 2m side of things it is worth noting that there was no 144MHz Es opening on 12 June. How come I can rely on the evidence of an opening on 6m and 4m to expect a 2m opening on 11 June, and yet the same thing did not happen on 12 June? Well, that is why it is a hunch and not one of the Laws of Physics. Sporadic E does not play by strict rules. All my hunch can do is show where to look, it does not promise where I can find.

As a general rule if I look at 4m and see reports less than 0dB in FT8 it is not worth me looking at 2m. If I see reports about +10dB it is definitely worth looking at 2m. On 11 June 4m reports peaked on 4m at +30dB and were around +05 before I moved up. But of course this is just an invitation to look, not a promise of a find. On 12 June the highest report I gave on 4m was +33, and the highest I received was +38.

Was there no Es here on 144MHz on 12 June? Maybe not. If I was seeking a justification for what I do I could simply point to the fact that 2m Es is very localised and lasts only for a short time. Thus there might have been Es into an area covering a bay or sea, or a region in which no amateur happened to be listening at the time. Given the locations of few amateurs with good VHF DX stations that is certainly possible. 

Looking at the 144MHz map the openings could easily have been into the Western Mediterranean, the Tyrrhenian Sea or the Adriatic Sea instead and I would have heard nothing. There are so few stations operating on VHF from North Africa that openings there might produce no response at all. And from the other end the path might lead into the North Sea and not directly to GM4FVM. So often when I have a hunch and hear nothing, it may not be because there is no opening.

I do not need to make up a theory. I just do not know if there was Es and I missed it, or there was none.

My hunch is just to help me know when to look. The big plus is that I can look at the situation and quickly assess when I can turn off and go and watch Masterchef Canada on the television. Given the variables I cannot say for sure that something definitely will happen, but I can be pretty confident when it won't.

Secretly I might admit to the hope that we never find a way to predict Es more accurately. I love the anticipation. I actually enjoy forming an idea and listening to see if it happens. I get the sense that it is not my equipment that decides how well I can do, but nature itself. 

Nothing I do here is down to me. All of it is thanks to nature. I really enjoy pushing the boundary of what I do until it is nature which is holding me back.

Before I started using these tactics I investigated 2m Es and concluded that it was a pointless exercise to try to work it, especially from this far North. It was too rare and would require too much listening time to cover every chance occasion when it might happen. Back then of course I had not worked out the progression from 50 to 70MHz which would give a clue to the best times to watch. 

By concentrating on 144MHz I do not want to minimise the success on 70MHz. 11 and 12 June netted a lot of interesting QSOs on 4m. I had managed to work SV9FBM on 22 May to achieve DXCC number 49. It looked during 11 and 12 June that I might find number 50. I heard but did not work Albania, which would have done the trick. It is getting close. I have now reached 270 squares too, quite a few more than the 55 to make the highest RSGB award.

And finally, just because I now only have a half wave vertical and 100W does not mean that I have given up on 50MHz. On 17 June I worked HI3T. I have worked him before so Dominican Republic is not a new country, but it is for barefoot with that antenna.

I suppose it just goes to prove that kilowatts and a big beam are not always needed.




Tuesday, 17 May 2022

More on masthead preamps.

Can it really be three years since I last opined on masthead preamps? I rarely take so long to ramble on again about things.

This time I wish to drone on about how I use the sequencers I have which were made by Down East Microwave Inc (DEMI) in Florida USA. It seems like time for some practical examples.

I have ended up with three of these sequencers. After failing to make a decent job of wiring them up using trailing leads, I built the first one I built into an ABS box with sockets on the outside. The second one had the same box but the sequencer is outside fed by a multicore cable. The third and hopefully final one is built into a much smaller box.

The project to interface the sequencer to the cables is simple. A very low level of technical expertise is needed which can be demonstrated by the fact that I could do it. 

If anyone else wants to try this, the exact wiring they need may well be different from mine, depending on whether they need to run preamps, fans, transverters, or whatever. The DEMI instructions explain which pin does what and I shall not delve into great detail about that.

The DEMI sequencers are available as kit for $60

or built for $80

As I live in the Scotland there is the International Postage to add, plus possibly also tax at this end if they charge it.

The W6PQL sequencers are good too, and they are installed in my Gemini linears. He sells a rather similar four event sequencer kit which seems to be larger and does not come with a box - but it is only $37.50. You can also buy sequencers that just plug in ready for use. SSB-Electronic make one suitable for 6m to 70cms with built in bias-tee for over £200. I need three, and one of those is for 23cms, so cost comes into this as well as frequency range.

Having chosen the DEMI version, I completed the job on the cheap. These hook-up arrangements I made were built out of my bits and pieces boxes and seem to work fine, and all I needed to buy each time was the basic unit from DEMI. The only exception was the multipin plug which I changed from the one supplied by DEMI.

The DEMI sequencer is not what I would call a stand alone unit. It is a circuit board in a case which is terminated in a 15 pin plug of the type once used on computer monitors. You need to interface to it. I started off just trying to wire directly into the plug, got into a pickle, and then decided to box one up. After that I built the other two as break-out boxes allowing for sockets, switches and fuses on the box which supplies the DEMI unit down a multi-core screened cable.

A DEM sequencer showing stock configuration.

The DEMI sequencer is very easy to wire up for a multiple range of different tasks. It produces four outcomes, all timed to occur sequentially after pressing the PTT and in the reverse sequence on releasing the PTT. Note that, unlike some sequencers which connect into the microphone lead, the DEM ones work on the PTT output from the radio and thus will work with data modes.

There are five options as to what happens at the four stages. These are 

a) Power on during receive (for a preamp) = DC voltage at max 2 amps.

b) Power on during transmit (to power a relay or fans) = DC voltage at 2 max amps

c) Grounding another voltage (to activate a linear amplifier PTT connection)

d) Power on during receive = DC voltage at max 50mA

e) Power on during transmit = 0.7V DC at max 50mA.

You can set the wiring to do these in various (though not all) combinations for the four sequential actions. The ready-made version comes with a standard wiring layout which will suit most situations and you can change that later if you wish. Certainly in my case I do not need all these options and the standard wiring on the built unit is fine for me.

The DC voltage can be between 9 and 17V.

In order, the standard sequence on grounding the PTT line in (when you press the mic button to transmit and your radio grounds its PTT out line) is:-

1) Turn off the voltage to pin 1 (turn off the preamp), then after a pause

2) Turn on the voltage to pin 2 (turn on fans, TX power circuits, etc), then after a pause

3) Ground pin 3 (activate a linear amplifier PTT), then after a pause

4) Ground pin 4 (activate a linear amplifier PTT)

The sequence is reversed when the PTT line in is not grounded, so when you let go of your mic button the steps occur in the order 4 -3 -2 - 1 cutting off power to pin 2 and turning back on the preamp via pin 1.

Pins 3 and 4 could be used to switch a transverter and a linear amplifier in the correct sequence.

The timing gap between the steps is fixed and not defined, but I would guess it is several hundred milliseconds. It is certainly a noticeable between PTT activation and each step after the first one. As the unit is entirely solid state there is no relay delay to add to the sequencing delay, though there is in my linears. It is important therefore to think about the total delay if you are using FM or data modes where hot switching could be a problem. All my radios have adjustable TX delays to account for this.

When it came to the practical installation, the "pin" activations referred to above happen via a DB-15 connector. To begin with I simply wired the unit up in whatever way suited using a DB-15 plug which is supplied with the kit. This requires soldering of a three layer 15 pin computer plug which I never find a very happy task. Then I needed to terminate the resulting wire output with whatever plugs and cables were needed.

This rather ramshackle arrangement ended with me losing a sequencer for some unexplained reason. I suspect that I must have accidentally shorted the coax while working outside on an antenna and this caused something to fry in the sequencer (You should have turned it off first, Jim, so fit a switch and an LED). I had fused the unit on the supply side, but crucially at 3 amps. 3 amps on the input is the recommended fuse as stated in the rather vague instructions. As my preamps draw about 300mA I now fuse the output at 500mA.

It became clear to me that this trailing wire system is not likely to protect the units sufficiently in the environment that I run. Thus I took a sequencer and built it into an ABS box. I decided that it needed (a) fuses on both the input and output, (b) reverse polarity protection, (c) properly fixed sockets so that PTT lines could by fitted (d) a switch so that I can easily turn off the voltage in the coax while working on the antennas and (e) some sort of LED to show it was working. The sequencer has a red/green LED to show it is working but as I was burying it in a box that would hardly help unless I drilled viewing holes in the box which seemed a bit pointless.

The point of the box is really to provide mechanical stability. I found that flexing of the wires in and out of the BD-15 plug would pull the solder joints apart, causing unreliability. The resulting unit mounted in an ABS box looks a bit over-engineered but it has survived for three years without incident apart from the odd blown fuse. It need not be a thing of beauty but it will rarely be seen behind the shelving.

The first boxed DEM sequencer at GM4FVM (the lid is on back to front)

The sockets on the back are phono 1 (PTT in) phono 2 (linear PTT out), 2.1mm DC in, on the side is a phono for preamp out and on/off switch, and on the near side are two fuse holders, on for input (1000mA) and one for output (500mA). The front panel has two LEDs for transmit and receive. On the top you can just discern the trace left by a tea cup, showing that this item is multi-purpose.

I needed sequencing because I use an IC-7100 for 432MHz, and that radio cannot supply the voltage for the preamp. I then acquired a splendid linear amplifier for 1296MHz. This had previously been used by Sid, G8SFA, and I drive it as a second stage with my existing 1296 linear fed by the IC-9700.

Whilst the 9700 can supply the voltage for the preamp, I could not arrange the two 23cms linears to switch simultaneously (one has a sprung antenna relay, the other a latching one). It occurred to me that the DEMI sequencer could switch two linears via pin 3 and pin 4, and that all the output pins are isolated. I had a spare sequencer left since I had used one for 2m with a transverter, so I put it to use. I needed to rewire it as I had never used pin 4 before but it all worked fine.

This second installation actually used the first sequencer I bought and this was the one which had been initially wired up with trailing leads which was an unreliable method to use. At first I thought of putting this one in a box too. That seemed crazy so I decided to use the box as a break-out box, leaving the smaller sequencer unit itself at the front of the bench. The larger break-out box will lurk at the back out of sight. This one has the same plugs, fuses and on/off switch as the first one, with an extra socket for "linear 2". There is still an LED, but just to show that the preamp voltage is reaching the break-out box. I did wonder if this LED was necessary, but I managed to blow the output fuse at an early stage and the LED proved where the problem lay.

Now using the two timed grounded outputs on 1296 means that there is a slight delay between the two linears switching, but this does not seem to matter at all. The advantage is that they are isolated from each other. The preamp is powered directly from the 9700 so no need to use that socket for now, but it is still available should I move it somewhere else. I also used a DB-15 plug with screw terminals just in case I wanted to alter the pin wiring later too.

Screw terminal DB-15 plug saves soldering 3 rows of tiny pins.

There was a slight delay in building it when it turned out that the DB-15 plug with screw terminals, which I had been safeguarding for this purpose for years, turned out to be male and I needed a female one. D'oh. They come from China and take weeks to arrive. Luckily I could buy a cheap "MINI GENDER CHANGER" to tide me over. Because I had not discussed my plan in this direction with her, Mrs FVM was a bit surprised to see a gender changer arrive in the post for me.

My MINI GENDER CHANGER & sequencer - what a relief.

I might point out that a lot of this effort would have been saved if DEMI had used similar pin connections to those on standard SVGA display leads. These leads are terminated in DB-15 plugs. Long ago I thought I could just cut an SVGA lead in two and use both ends as two sequencer leads. Sadly standard SVGA leads are not "all pin wired", and several pins you could need for the sequencer are combined as ground connections. Ironically, I ran out of the 9 core screened cable for my next sequencer project and I had to use an SVGA cable instead - I had to cut the DB-15 plugs off and throw them both away and then connect one end to a new DB-15 plug.

Next, for another project I needed a third sequencer. Once again I have bought a DEMI one. I have finally decided to use a smaller box. And, oddly, I am using the same way of getting the cable from the sequencer into the box - an ugly gland. For the second sequencer the original plan was to use an 8 pin DIN plug and socket. Then it occurred to me that I was never likely to disconnect it and anyway there is a plug and socket at the sequencer end. So I delved into the "gardening electrics" box hoping for a grommet and found instead a waterproof gland, total cost zero. So if the tide ever rises 60 metres above mean sea level at least that aspect of the GM4FVM set-up will be safe. Mind you the water will just get in down the centre of the phono sockets instead, but more gradually, allowing me time to bale it out again with a spoon.

Break-out box for third sequencer under construction

This new smaller box features the same over-sized (but cost free) gland for wire access, on/off switch, LED plus output and input fuses. The five sockets are on the rear panel. At last this beginning to look a bit neater.

I suspect that the DEMI sequencer is based on the circuit used by them on their transverters. As such I guess that most of the ones they supply get built into other equipment and not too many end up stand-alone. My use of them initially standing beside the rigs with trailing cables simply connected into the plug on the back was pushing things. I think they really need a break-out box if used in that way, even if only to protect the wiring and tidy things up.

My preamps all have RF VOX switching, which I regard as a back-up safety system. I know that some people rely on using this to switch a preamp or transverter rather than installing a sequencer. When I have tried it I can see the SWR spike in the rig when going to transmit. There is a risk here of either this damaging the output stage of the radio, or of hot switching damaging the preamp. Given the cost of preamps and radios compared to the cost of sequencers, I know which solution I would choose.

Box number 3 being tested.

The first basic one has been in continuous use on the 70cms radio for 3 years. The second one has seen a couple of stretches of use, and I am happy now that it is tidied up and working on 23cms. The third one ... well you will just have to wait and see what that project is.

Finally, with the last sequencer came a strange note from DEMI stating that the latest release has a wrong package style for Q2 installed causing incorrect operation of sequenced step 2. It did not explain whether this applies to my one, only that kits and some assembled units dating back to Dec 2020 are affected. It states that "the assembled units will pass out test fixture testings to verify switching but the units will not operate correctly with a current drain above 10mA". It then goes on to show a modification using a leaded 220 ohm resistor to replace SMD resistor R2 in a different place. This looks like an easy modification to make.

I was not exactly sure if that meant the unit I had was affected. If I did the modification would that stop my unit working if it was not affected? Anyway, I decided to test it with the masthead preamp which draws about 300mA and it worked fine. For the moment I will leave it at that.




Wednesday, 4 May 2022

When is a 50MHz opening really a 50MHz non-opening?

I am a great one for watching the Internet for opportunities to work DX.

Many sources of intelligence are used at GM4FVM, Solarham, PSK Reporter and often also the excellent DX Maps.

DX Maps is very useful on three counts. It has contact maps so that I know where to point my antennas. Then secondly the MUF Sp-E map is derived from that information and it shows the predicted maximum usable frequency for locator squares over Europe. This means that I can see Es developing and, perhaps more importantly, fading. And finally it shows lists of QSOs reported and also allows me to post formatted reports myself.

Here is a map showing all the activity as reported to DX Maps

DX Maps showing all reported 50MHz activity on 2 May 2022

Despite this there was no sign at GM4FVM that the 50MHz band was open.

When I went into the "Select Options" tab on DX Maps and chose "Only DX-Cluster" this was the map which resulted, which was much closer to what I was observing from here.

DX Maps showing "Only DX Cluster" on 2 May 2022

The difference between the two maps is, broadly, that the standard map shows anything reported (which includes automatic uploads), whereas the second one shows entries made by amateurs manually posting things to the Cluster. Not all of the manual postings to the cluster are for actual QSOs, some report simply stations heard, usually unusual ones. However, most of them are QSOs. On the other hand, the upper graph contains dozens and dozens of automatically generated reports many of which are simply single decodes.

The thing about this time of year on 50MHz is that there are a lot of stations calling CQ but not many having contacts. So these CQs get picked up and reported automatically by stations normally on receive. There is nothing wrong with this, but it tends to clog up the reporting system. Just decoding a single FT8 message (most are FT8, but not all) does not make a QSO. Not only is the E layer very unstable at this time of year, there is also the Eta Aquariids meteor shower which often generates these single decodes, plus of course random meteor pings.

Just selecting "Only DX-Cluster" often makes a dramatic difference. The effect can be seen on the "List" section of DX Maps which shows the postings in tabular form. Here is the latest one and as usual with images here you can click on it to enlarge the text.

DX Maps List on 4 May 2022.

When I clicked "Only DX-Cluster" every one of these red automatic entries disappeared to be replaced by a list of manual postings in black type. Basically, everything recorded had been a single decode and in one case the same signal decoded on two frequencies at the same time. As far as I could see nobody  was actually having a two way contact. Changing to manual postings suggested that, rather than several contacts every minute all over the Continent, there had not been a QSQ recorded for more than twenty minutes and the ones that were had been largely concentrated in a single area in Germany.

DX Maps is not the only site affected by this effect - PSK Reporter is too. In fact PSK Reporter is affected even more because you cannot switch it to "Only DX-Cluster". In that sense DX Maps adds a very useful ability to screen out almost all these one-off reports. Of course there will always be the odd one-off report, often due to random propagation enhancements, possibly caused by cosmic ray ionisation, orbiting objects, meteors, aircraft scatter etc. They can be quite fun to see on the higher VHF bands, but they never seem to last long enough to work someone. If only. I still reply to a few just "to be sure".

The very useful MUF Sp-E chart on DX-Maps seems to always include all the reports and you cannot screen out the "red" ones. It works very well when there is only really Sporadic E and not the random meteor scatter pings we are getting at the moment.

It is very handy to see the one off ones too, but it is easy to get carried away and think that there is an opening when there isn't.

For the record there have been a few short Es openings on 50MHz at GM4FVM but nothing on 70MHz yet. 

As for 144MHz Sporadic E, well that will have to wait until ... (who knows?).




Monday, 18 April 2022

Living the multiband life, Q65 on 23 cms, KST, Airscout, IC9700 vs Leo Bodnar and all that stuff.

This is another long one, sorry.

I am grieving for the loss of 6m. I have put up the half wave vertical. How sad, I will not be able to work Japan any more. Perhaps I should let that rest. Get over it.

The QSL cards arrived from the bureau today! Ten in total, one took five years, two took four years and the rest between three and one year to arrive.

And one was this, in case I had forgotten, or was trying to forget ...

QSL Card received by GM4FVM on 16 April 2022

This card is, of course, lovely to receive. However, it reminds me what I will not be doing this Summer. I will not be joining the throng trying to work Japan on 50MHz, nor those striving for various Caribbean and South American countries either.

Instead I will be ploughing a more isolated furrow on higher bands. That is fine by me. Erm, I think.

Is the 6m yagi still in the garage?

I mean, a decision is only made on the basis of the available evidence. As John Maynard Keynes never actually did say "When the facts change, I may change my opinion". There may be wiggle room there.

There was a bit of a radio aurora on 14 April, not that I could participate. I was feeling a bit tired and had to skip that one.

I did manage quite a bit of activity on 1296MHz. First, on 12 April I tried and failed to work G4BAO in JO02 square using JT9F fast mode. 423km seemed a long way but JO02 would have been a new square for me on 23cms.

1296MHz data mode contacts at GM4FVM, 13 to 17 April 2022

Then on 13 April I tried and failed to work David G4YTL. Not only would IO92 have made my 23rd square on 1296, at 428km it would be a handy bit of DX for that band. I am still living under the impression that 23cms is just a thing on the IC9700 which I am not likely to use. Evidence suggests that has been proved to be old history now.

That non-QSO was established in the KST chat room. I do not like KST chat room but it has its uses and especially for 23cms. Many of my 23cms QSOs have been set up using KST. So that day I had gone on to KST and Dave G0DJA asked for a try on 23cms Q65, which led me eventually to trying with G4YTL. I am a big fan of modes such as JT9, ISCAT and Q65 for use on 23cms as they are less distorted by Doppler effects and therefore best placed to benefit from scatter enhancements.

To be fair, I had never used Q65 before apart from listening on moonbounce. It was designed mainly as a Earth-Moon-Earth mode but then so was JT65 and it was well used all the way from Top Band to microwaves for terrestrial contacts. So I tried Q65, mode B, 30 second periods and I was able to work Dave easily. He also kindly sent me some WAV file recordings of my signal as recorded at his station. I went on to work him on 70cms to complete contacts with him on five bands.

Now I have to say how pleased I was with this 23cms contact to G0DJA. This was a "flat band" QSO with a comparable station but bear in mind 297km on 23cms is far beyond what I ever expected under normal conditions. As far as I know Dave uses an IC-9700 barefoot with 10 Watts, so reports of -15 from me and -10 from him suggest that 10W would have done it for me too. 

As part of that effort I also worked Nick G4KUX. At 135km this is more the sort of contact I had been expecting on 23cms. I sent Nick a +04dB report. It just goes to show that this is a handy band for all sorts of contacts. The stories I have heard about total lack of activity do not seem to be correct when I can work two stations and attempt a third in an hour or so.

G4YTL would have been 429km. I thought that was asking rather a lot. Another time maybe?

I was back on 1296 on 16 April. Jeremy, M0XVF in IO94, saw me on KST and suggested an SSB QSO. This was the strongest signal I have heard from Jeremy on the band, S7 on average but up to S9 at times. The path length is almost the same as to G4KUX, but it is over much more difficult terrain. We had a good chat, one of the benefits of SSB which is often forgotten.

After this David, G4YTL, came on and we tried again on Q65, this time successfully. I gave David -18 and he gave me -22, and the path was still 429km. That is not bad at all. Of course I almost messed it up by transmitting on the wrong period despite David making it clear which one he was using. Still it was a really good one and square number 23 was in the bag.

Then after that Richard G4HGI in IO83 got in touch and we completed a QSO in which I gave him a -01 report over a difficult 267km path.

1296MHz QSO with G4HGI at GM4FVM on 16 April 2022

I was pretty pleased with that one too. HGI's signal was stable and clear, and you can see aircraft crossing the path by the inclined reflections on the waterfall. However, for the most part Q65 coped with the Doppler interference and continued to decode. It seems to me that Q65 is both sensitive and reliable for 1296MHz tropo contacts, and certainly better than FT8 for this purpose. Richard sent me a screenshot of the QSO as seen from his end ...
1296MHz QSO with GM4FVM as seen by G4HGI on 16 April 2022 (Image: Tnx G4HGI)

Once again, a good QSO by my standards. Richard went further and captured the Airscout image at the time the QSO was going on. It is well known that aircraft scatter is important for securing QSOs on 23cms, and this is especially so for SSB contacts during contests. For this to work you need to know an aircraft will be in the right spot at the right time. Perhaps surprisingly, there are often enough planes around to make it fairly likely to happen.

Airscout is a piece of software created by DL2ALF which allows amateurs to see any aircraft which may cross the paths along which they want to work. Not only does Airscout show up the planes, it shows the area of sky in which a plane is likely to influence the signals. To do this it builds a database of the terrain between the two stations. Whilst planes on different paths show in grey, ones likely to produce a reflection are shown in red, along with the time until they are likely to reach the key area.

Airscout during G4HGI-GM4FVM QSO on 16 April 2022 (Image: Tnx G4HGI)

On the Airscout map you can see the path between our two stations by the red line. Red aircraft show planes which are likely to affect us. When the software is active, if you hover the cursor over the plane icon you can see the flight number, altitude, design of aircraft, and other details which can be looked up on aeronautical sites. These other sites will show, for example, where the flight started and ended and so forth.

The information can be very useful, for example, as it is possible to check if a flight which looks helpful is going to land nearby. In my case if it is landing at Edinburgh or Newcastle it will hardly do much good. The aircraft design can be very useful information. On the face of it, a 747 or military transport plane is likely to have a good chance of giving a strong reflection. The word "Heavy" or just the letter "H" can indicate a large aircraft, and this designation is used by pilots to show that this plane may well create turbulence in its wake. For amateurs "Heavy" is a good sign of a chance of a big reflection. 

It does not always work out that way, as I completed a 1296MHz QSO with GD1MIP some time ago using a reflection from a Jetstream, a small turboprop passenger or corporate aircraft, after larger planes had failed to produce strong reflections.

Jetstream 41, even a small aircraft can help for Aircraft Scatter (Image: Arpingstone, Wikimedia)

At the bottom of the Airscout screen is a map of the terrain. In the case of the path to G4HGI (above) you can see the large mass on the Pennine range of hills. Getting over the Pennines makes this type of path into a very satisfying route to work. A year or two back I would not have thought it possible on 23cms. I think that Q65 mostly defeats rather than uses aircraft scatter but I am willing to be corrected on that point. Certainly if it has some Doppler correction it can only stand to gain from added scatter, but I need to learn more about how it works before being certain. Anyway, it clearly does work.

The diagram on Airscout between the terrain map and the aircraft map is a vertical section of the area (shown in pink shading) into which a plane must fly is there is likely to be a reflection. This is constructed from the terrain data, the path direction and the aircraft height, direction and speed information. A plane flying too low or too high will not help, but neither will it work in an area where the terrain casts a shadow. It does not follow that the centre of the path is the best place for a plane, and this is especially true for me if I am beaming South towards the headland in that direction. Once a plane shows up as a red square within the pink shaded area you may be in business for an aircraft scatter QSO.

Airscout for GM4FVM-G4YTL, note small area available for reflections offset to the GM4FVM end

In my opinion Q65 during tropo is the star of these QSOs. Aircraft scatter is great where you would normally not have path. However in these cases I reckon that the path existed in the troposphere using Q65 even without aircraft assistance. Although there was some QSB, the signals were mostly stable and surprisingly strong, unlike the sudden off-on-off I see on aircraft scatter contacts. As the G4YTL chart above shows, very little of the path is open to aircraft scatter anyway. It may help, but I think it was not key in this case.

As if this was not enough, I was feeling bold enough on 17 April to call CQ on 1296. It has often been said that calling CQ at random on 23cms is very unlikely to succeed. Jeremy, M0XVF has told me it works for him sometimes so I decided to try. I tried SSB first and then FT8. On FT8 I saw a trace which was mangled by aircraft scatter. Was someone replying? Swinging the antenna I managed to peak it though the signal was impossible to copy. Eventually one decode worked and it was G4HGI again, but he was very hard to copy using FT8 compared with Q65. I tried replying but he said later that he could only see a strong distorted signal with no decode.

At this stage I turned on KST to find that Richard was trying to work Martin GM6VXB in IO97 on Q65. Martin asked for a test after that contact and I worked him at -05dB here and I was -07 at his end. The path is 204km. On this occasion Q65-60C was in use with 60 second periods. Q65-60C is more of  a moonbounce configuration so that was probably as sensitive as possible. I think that 30 seconds in mode B would have worked just as well.

As an aside I have been talking with Richard HGI about using a GPS with the IC-9700. Oddly enough, my Leo Bodnar GPS stopped working at some point on 16 April. I noticed it when checking the GB3NGI 1296MHz beacon. I took a screenshot of the result.

GB3NGI beacon at GM4FVM on 16 April 2022 showing effect of disciplining

 At the lower part of the waterfall you can see the beacon gradually appearing to drift upwards in frequency (left to right) suggesting that the IC-9700 receiver was drifting slowly downwards. At 15:55 I turned on the GPS (the DC supply plug had fallen out of the socket). There is a sudden wobble as the radio received the GPS signal followed by a jump to more or less the right frequency and a corkscrew action as it begins to stabilise.

In my set-up the IC-9700 is not directly locked to the GPS but the TXCO is disciplined to it. Thus it takes a few minutes to stabilise fully. Eventually it shows a rock steady link to the GPS-locked beacon.

GB3NGI beacon at GM4FVM on 16 April 2022 showing IC-9700 stabilising after linking to GPS

So what do I learn from all this?

1) I cannot do everything so trying 23cms means downgrading 6m,

2) Q65 seems to work very well on 1296MHz tropo,

3) Aircraft scatter is pretty ruinous to FT8 signals on 1296, so that mode is really only useful for me when AS is not present (such as ducting where it works exceptionally well),

4) GPS frequency stability is needed for the IC-9700 on 23cms (but maybe not on other bands),

5) I may not like KST on lower frequencies, but it works well on microwaves,

6) 1296MHz is not as deserted as I had thought.

Microwave operation can be fun. The 1296MHz band is not just available on the IC-9700 for show. I think that many 9700 operators do not use it. It may be worth a try.


Jim GM4FVM. 

P.S. There was an Es opening here on 17 April and I worked OE4WHG, 9A1Z, OE5XBL and GM3PPE. So even with a half wave vertical there is still DX to work. [Don't give up, Jim].

Friday, 8 April 2022

Configurations in WJST-X plus human decay.

Thanks to those of you who enquired about my health. I am not too bad. Perhaps I can try to explain what happened in terms which a radio amateur might understand.

1) First they went under my outer panel by cutting a hole, rebuilt a leaking electrolytic capacitor and then they put the cut bit of panel back and waited for it to rust back together again. Painful and slow to recover.

2) Second they decided to check out the circuitry by shoving a camera and a pair of wire cutters up the rear SO-239 antenna socket. Leaving me to watch it all on the screen, they cut a few bits of circuitry out and retrieved them for testing. Undignified, but at least it avoided cutting another hole through the outer panel and leaving it for weeks to heal over. Of course the RF stage had to thoroughly emptied before all of this, which was more of an issue than anything else. It was rather like applying a depth charge down the rig from the microphone end and then blasting everything out the antenna socket.

3) Ongoing knee issues which are like a sticking VFO control. This is one of those old time VFOs with ball bearings. Either the VFO control is rubbing somewhere and some easing will help, or the ball bearings have gone and are crunching and biding together. Both have happened in the past on this old worn equipment I live in.

So there we are. None of this is unusual or unexpected on old equipment. It is just that it is all happening together. Thanks for asking and for your support.

Moving on...

I have mentioned WSJT-X Configuration settings before on this blog. It is time for some discussion about what use these can be put to. Sadly I cannot cut and paste the drop down menus so I will photograph them, which means that the images for that part of this posting will not be up to the usual standard (whatever that is).

As is well known, I monitor several bands at once using several radios. However, you do not need to be as mad as me and configurations can be useful for many set-ups including just one radio.

First of all I will consider my 70MHz layout where I use an IC-7300 for either MSK144 or FT8. I can also use the IC-7300 for 50MHz by swapping round antennas and rigs using an RF transfer relay. For MSK I use different settings for the watchdog from the ones I use on FT8. For FT8 I only use a 3 minute watchdog, whereas for MSK I prefer it much longer. Also, for 50MHz I use more power as 70MHz has a more limited peak power authorisation. Sure, I could use a single configuration and change the power or the watchdog time each time I switch. Maybe somebody else can do this, but when I tried that I tended to transmit for the wrong time or with the wrong power.

Configuration options for the IC-7300 at GM4FVM

Now if I want to change bands or modes all I do is select the right configuration. In each configuration you can set lot of parameters beyond power and mode such as stored frequencies, reporting preferences and so on. What you cannot do is use one instance of WSJT to control two or more rigs - for that you need separate instances.

Unfortunately you cannot alter the received signal strength as recorded by WSJT-X using configurations. This is set at rig level in the audio tab. Early versions of WSJT had a slider for receive gain which you could set independently. That setting disappeared years ago. I would find it handy to have that setting back as the background noise levels here on 50MHz and 432MHz are very different (see later about controlling the IC-7100). Last time I used MSHV it did have a receive gain setting slider, but here I am only talking about WSJT-X. As it stands I believe that you cannot set the receive level to a different value for different bands on one instance of WSJT-X. Unless you know differently ....??? 

Actually setting up the different configurations is a bit tricky as the options on the drop down menu are hard to understand. I generally clone the one I am using, switch to the copy, and then rename it and reset all the other settings.

Another advantage of using different configurations to change band rather than changing band on the WSJT-X panel directly is that changing configurations closes that instance of WSJT-X and reopens it afresh. The benefit of that is that, unlike changing just the band, you do not report to PSK reporter all the stations you heard on the first band but marked as stations on the second band. I see this often on PSK Reporter where a band suddenly seems to have opened, but on close inspection somebody has changed from the 20 metre band or the like onto 2 metres, and all the stations they heard on 20 metres just before they changed are reported as 2m contacts. That is hardly earth shattering but I do not want to look like an idiot any more than I need to. I find that being an idiot in private is less concerning than proving I am an idiot to the entire amateur community.

Configurations can do much more than this. I use my cheap second hand IC-7100 for both 50MHz and 432MHz (plenty of scope for reporting the wrong thing to PSK Reporter there).

Configuration options for IC-7100 at GM4FVM

Here I need to switch between the power levels and modes for 4m and 6m in the same way as I do with the IC-7300 but adding 70cms makes it even more complicated. If I use the 70cms configurations the IC-7100 also changes over to UHF and transfers the antenna connection to the right port. My 70cms linear needs only 3 watts drive so the power change is very important to avoid blowing up the linear - the 70cms configuration takes care of that. So too does selecting 6m WSPR, where the power is already set under 5W in that configuration.

For the 70cms JT65 configuration I have various beacon frequencies programmed in and power set to zero. When I do EME I put a long series of moonbounce frequencies in on a separate configuration called 70cm EME, but I have deleted that for now and it will reappear in Q65 mode. It is very handy to have the moonbounce frequencies in that configuration but missing from the others as it makes the lists of frequency both mode-specific and shorter. That creates less of a chance of getting things wrong. 

Since I set this up I hardly need to touch the IC-7100 at all. That is a big plus as it is not a great device to work with. It tends to tip up when I try to use the VFO (even with the stabilisers extended) and it slides around when I adjust anything directly. Plus, the display and ergonomics are not in the same league as the 7300 or 9700. However it has many other pluses such as it is quite cheap and it does a lot of things the other two cannot do.

With the IC-9700 the multiple configurations are not so straight forward if you use the second receiver. This problem has nothing to do with WSJT-X configurations; the 9700 is apt to confuse me in any mode or band. I have two instances of WSJT-X, one for the main radio and the other for the second receiver. The second receiver cannot be controlled by CAT. The rather odd way the IC-9700 works means that if I change the frequency to a different band in the main radio using the CAT, what happens next depends on the VFO in use for the second receiver. If, as in my case, the second receiver is set to a 23cms frequency, the radio changes to 23cms and substitutes the 2m frequency I was using into the second receiver, making this a different frequency from that shown on the second instance of WSJT-X on the second receiver. To prevent mis-reporting to PSK Reporter I have turned PSK reporting off for the second receiver, which stops mis-reporting but means that version of WSJT-X then shows 2m contacts with a 23cms frequency readout. At least only I see that, not the whole PSK Reporter world. Handily, just two clicks brings up the 2m configuration on the second receiver instance of WSJT-X.

As I monitor four bands I find it far too complex to remember all the permutations of settings and power levels needed. The risk for me is that I might exceed the power limits, blow up a linear or, deary me, miss some DX. Missing DX would never do. Setting up different configurations takes a bit of time but it is worth it for me.

If you install any new version of WSJT-X to the same location as the one you are using the settings should transfer to the new version. It is worth being careful over this as other settings could be lost too if you get the installation wrong.

So there we are. Simples! Well, not so easy with my set-up because I make my life unnecessarily complex whatever way I run my shack. But still, if you want one click to change settings, bands, power, reporting or any other thing short of changing rig, that is the way to do it in WSJT-X.

Incidentally, this is period of the year when Trans-Equatorial Propagation occurs. Occurs somewhere else, not for me. Maybe on the Southern extremities of the UK, but not in GM. I have to sit and watch, waiting for Sporadic E to restart. Grrr.

50MHz on PSK reporter, as seen at GM4FVM on 5 April 2022

Well I suppose I cannot have everything.

Hey, why not?




Monday, 21 March 2022

Getting ready for "the season".

Sorry I have been absent for a while but things other than radio have been keeping me busy.

I have at last got round to my Springtime re-organisation of antenna. What has been different this year is that there never was a Winter change over. I did the entire winter season with last Summer's configuration, which meant that five large antennas braved the colossal Storm Arwen. Trees and walls were blown down all around us, but the antennas at GM4FVM, somehow, managed to resist.

The new arrangement is based on my decision to go for single band antenna for now. Great though the two Dual antennas are, I am seeking the extra decibel or two which having separate antennas will (might?) give me. But I will have lost the benefit of halving the space required on the masts. Something has to give and that is my 6m operations. I hope to put up a 6m vertical to compensate, to be used mostly as a receiving antenna to help me work the higher bands. I still have a 6m HB9CV which could be used if I feel the need to get back on 6m more seriously.

Anybody who reads this blog regularly will know that it is only a matter of time before I change everything back and put the big 6m beam back up. I think that is a key aspect to this hobby - keep changing and experimenting so that you don't get bored. Meanwhile there are at least 4 good 6m beams in the garage waiting to be dusted off again.

Antennas at GM4FVM on 20 March 2022

The only new antenna is an 8 element I0JXX for 144MHz. At a bit over 3.5m boom it is a step up on the 2m side of the Dual that I have taken down. Below that is the Wimo 18 element for 432MHz. In the distance is the 5 element 70MHz PowABeam which is now back up below the 36 element Dual for 1296MHz.

This is my first experience of the I0JXX antenna. I was a bit doubtful of the boom getting thinner towards the ends but it is well constructed and looks very strong. The elements are held in place using hand tightened self-locking nylon bushes. Or so it says, as I could not find the strength to tighten them and had to carefully use spanners, even though the instructions said "never do that". Anyway, we shall see how that performs. What is up now may have longer booms but they are much smaller in area, weight and wind area, just in case Storm Arwen returns.

This whole process has been delayed by my dodgy knee which has given several months of pain. As for the other things, well I deal with all that later. Suffice to say I am going again now.

There has been a little tropo opening to welcome me back 

144MHz stations worked at GM4FVM from 18 to 21 March 2021.

Working 4 DXCC on 144MHz with a best DX of 695km is a nice outcome. Even nicer was working OZ2ND and OZ1JMN on 432 MHz, where 695km is even nicer. And just to play the trump card, I then worked OZ2ND on 1296MHz where 689km is really rather pleasant in every way.

Actually, just to show the stage we have reached, as soon as I worked OZ2ND on 2 metres we both switched to 70cms. And while I was then working OZ1JMN on 70cms I glanced at the screen and ON2ND was calling me on 23cms. So Niels Erik doesn't wait for any request, he goes up onto 23cms and calls me expecting me to be there - and I was.

Even though it is becoming common, I still find the idea of all this astounding. A station on the other side of the North Sea will have sufficient confidence in me turning up that he just calls me on 1296MHz. True, I have improved my 23cms station. I now have a second hand 150W linear formerly used by G8SFA and a 36 element beam. However, who would have thought that such a thing was possible? Not me for sure.

Also on the up is solar activity. There have been a few auroras recently, but none produced much radio at this end. However, this is a sign that the long solar minimum lull in aurora activity is coming to an end. The radio aurora peak trails the sunspot peak by a year or two so maybe we are at last near the end of the drought.




Monday, 27 December 2021

Storm Arwen, back in the shack and a Tropo opening.

Storm Arwen passed here bringing 100mph (160km/h) winds and heavy rain. The rain was beaten against the house from the North, not the usual direction. It came though the windows and flooded the kitchen but we suffered very little. The damage to property round here was terrible. Our local Co-op store has been closed for three weeks. This is the only general store around here and we have to go to England (!) for shopping. Still, the 150mph winds during the typhoon in the Philippines must have been dreadful, so I cannot complain.

The power at GM4FVM was off for a day and the internet for another 8 hours. Needless to say, there was no radio operation without electricity. Others waited a week for their power to be restored. When it came to the important things in life, such as the antennas, I seemed to do OK.

Missing ridge tile at GM4FVM, which fell without damaging the mast

There was some damage to the roof here. When a ridge tile blew off it managed to fall without damaging the mast which it hit on the way down. The tile shattered into pieces, and it has now been replaced with a (slightly too long) second hand one, and we are going again.

Overall we were very lucky that the damage was not worse. This is one of those "rare" weather events which now seem to happen a lot more regularly.

I have been down the A1 road to the Spire Hospital in Washington and had the operation I mentioned earlier. In the weeks running up to the 3 December op I have hardly been on the radio thanks to being in some pain, so there has not been much said on this blog then.

GM4FVM looking dozy in the Washington hospital

I am back in the shack now. I am already 3 weeks into the 2 month recuperation. Although the operation was pretty minor as these things go, I am left with a 10cm wound which will take a while to heal. Ouch. A few of those antenna elements look a bit bent after the storm but that will have to wait as my movement is somewhat restricted.

I was back in time for a long tropo opening. The usual pattern for these things is for a high pressure system to arrive, usually from the West but sometimes from the East, and for that to stop over the North Sea giving me paths into Scandinavia and the Baltic. Then as it subsides and slips away to the South East when I can work into Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.

This one was different as it formed over France and was predicted to move due North before heading off over Norway. In the event it moved very slowly and covered the UK for several days before gradually filling.

The total for all bands over 7 days was 93 QSOs and 53 squares in 13 countries with the best DX being to EA1G in IN52 square at 1539km on 144MHz.

16 December marked the start here with 19 QSOs involving 5 DXCC, with best DX to EA2XR on 2m a distance of 1392km. 70cms was particularly good with the best DX being to F1OTU in JN05, a distance of 1202km and a new square. F6DBF in JN27 was also a new square on 70cm, as was F8DBF in IN78. While there is no "worked all DBF in France" award, I worked F8DBF on 2m as well, though I had worked him before on that band.

17 December was interesting too but I did not work outside the UK. 18 December produced more DX. Starting with 3 stations in Denmark on 2m, SM6CEN and OZ2ND followed on 70cms. Then came SM and OZ on 2m, LA on 70cms. 19 December produced a string of German stations on 2m, PA on 2m and 70cm, and finally ON on 2m. So 18 and 19 December was more like a "normal" tropo opening in terms of the paths available, but the next day was definitely not typical.

On 20 December I was flipping between 2m and 70cms to work France, Netherlands, Switzerland,  Spain and England. In fact it went 70, 70, 2, 2, 70, 70, 70, 70, 2, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, 70, with quite a few new squares on 70cms in France. It was notable that most of the stations I worked on 70cms were stations I had worked before on 2m but which I had no idea had 432MHz. Perhaps there is more interest in UHF in France now, as I have not seen a lot of activity there on DX Maps on the past. However, you can never really tell as I so rarely have a tropo opening in that direction. On this day I was working 70cms stations around Bordeaux, Poitiers and in the Loire Valley, areas I had never reached on 432MHz before.

 By 21 December things were beginning to tail off here, though French stations were still present on 70cms. This sort of count ignores the nature of the opening. Each day was different. There were several ducts. EA2XR was present for hours on end. Jean-Louis, F5DYD/P, near Toulouse, was heard for two days. In fact F5DYD/P is now my best DX on SSB on 70cms when I worked him in JN03 square on 21 December (1415km). We also tried 23cms, and although I could receive him clearly he could not decode me on FT8 nor receive me Q5 on SSB - hardly surprising on my puny 65W. This failed QSO was the only thing I heard on 23cms during the entire lift.

432MHz contacts at GM4FVM 16 to 22 December 2021.

 As usual, click the image to enlarge it, if you need to.

22 December saw the whole thing drawing to a close here. I worked F5RD on 2m and F8DBF on 70cms, both of which would have made my day in any other circumstances. Good though, of course, but at first I could hear stations South of me working DX. As the day progressed I was in the classic "outside the tropo" situation which I have described before. When this occurs I hear nothing, not even the UK stations working the DX. They are all beaming the other way, and there is an eerie silence as the cluster showed stations towards the south of G-land who I could not hear. They were working Switzerland and Italy. No doubt while I was working into Spain and France during the previous few days they were seeing me and wondering what they could do.

144MHz contacts at GM4FVM 16 to 22 December 2021.

Under the FVM scoring system, higher frequency band contacts score double points. As we know POINTS MEAN PRIZES. Thus my 47 2m QSOs mean less to me than my 46 70cms ones. The difference is small but I was concentrating on the higher band. 

That was certainly an opening to remember. I have now reached 80 squares on 70cms (excluding EME), as opposed to 223 on 2m. However, each of the 70cms ones mean more to me. My little 12 element on 70cms is doing fairly well.


May I wish everybody a Happy New Year. 

Usually at this time I would be working during the RSGB "Christmas" 4 band 4 day contest, but not this year. The Contest Committee have seen fit to change the format into one involving 4 one day single band contests. Having lost the multi-band aspect I am no longer motivated to try. Ah, progress. The concept of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" appears to be unknown to the Contest Committee. 

Meanwhile the EU FT8 contests are to be extended to 23cms. Thanks for Martin, GM8IEM for that information. There was something that was broken - there was a lack of 23cm data contests. And in a wonderful bit of Euro-fudging, the 23cms FT8 contest includes non-FT8 modes. I would like to try ISCAT and fast JT modes for that, if anybody else bothers with it. We shall see, and I hope to be involved in their 70cm and 2m contests next year too.

So good luck everybody, and may 2022 bring you health, happiness, and more DX.




P.S. With some enhanced geomagnetic activity predicted over the next days, I will be watching 4m and 6m just in case.