Welcome to my amateur radio and electronics Blog. My name is Carl and I live between Northwood and Rickmansworth on the Greater London / Hertfordshire border. This new blog was started 26th December 2020 although I am in the process of transferring some of the more interesting posts from my old Blogspot pages. My main radio interests are:
* VHF to SHF DXing and contesting * HF Dxing, digital modes and contesting (particularly RTTY contesting) * Equipment and antenna construction, including homebrew and kits
I am proud to be a founding member of the Drowned Rats Radio Group, if you want to know more about the Rats check out our webpage at About Us | Drowned Rats Radio Group (g3rat.com). We are VHF and above enthusiasts (although we also do some HF!), we do contesting and more.
We are always looking for new members to join the team
We welcome newcomers and old-hands alike, full training is given and we have a lot of fun! If you are in the UK and would like more information including how to get involved in the weekly VHF-SHF activity contests and/or to come out with us on one of our field events please contact us on the link above or feel free to email me direct. If you’re new to VHF and above contesting in the UK check out my beginners guide here.
Look for us on air with our club calls M0HRF, G3RAT and our contest call G2D.
There are about half a dozen Digital Modes club offering colourful awards for simply uploading your log and it being compared against their database. The awards are off course completely useless as far as DXCC as so on is concerned but they are at least colourful! I’ve printed a couple out to add some colour to the shack alongside DXCC and various ‘proper’ contest certificates.
For uploading my log and applying for awards I use the excellent Ultimate AAC application available here:
Delighted by QRP Labs QLG2 GPS module and patch antenna arrived this morning. Especially pleased because the item is has gone of of stock in the last few days as Hans is having supply problems with the microcontroller due to the current global semiconductor chip shortage. The microcontroller is based on a 32-bit STM32 ARM processor.
With optional 16×02 LCD diplay:
Features of the QLG2:
Supply voltage range 3.3 to 6V.
Board 80 x 37mm (Same as Ultimate3S, VFO and Clock kits).
Multi GNSS satellite constellation receiver supports GPS (US), Galileo (Europe),
GLONASS (Russia) and Beidou (Chinese) – (default GPS + Beidou) – giving a faster
more accurate position fix – Module is E108-GN01 (GK9501 GNSS chip set)
• Serial to USB converter, using onboard USB B connector, for convenient interface to
PC software if required – no drivers required. Jumpers select either the GPS serial
data, or your own externally connected serial data, for example you could use this as
a USB to Serial data converter for CAT control of QCX, QCX+ and QCX-mini
• Can optionally be connected to a standard 1602 LCD, in the same style as the
Ultimate3S, VFO and Clock kits, to GPS date, time and satellite information using
the onboard microcontroller.
• Supplied with included magnetic-mount active antenna, approx 2m coax and SMA
• Supply voltage range 3.3 to 6V.
• Board 80 x 37mm (Same as, and compatible with, Ultimate3S, VFO and Clock kits).
• Onboard LEDs for status indication: Red (Power), Yellow (Serial data) and Green
• 2.8 to 5V logic level conversion to provide 5V serial data for full compatibility with all
QRP Labs kits.
• Supports 2.8/3.3V logic OR 5V logic (jumper wire selected)
• SMD assembly already undertaken by factory facility – only SMA connector, and
optional USB B connector to solder.
• Space provided for optional ultra-capacitor for faster hot-start
The QLG2 will be used to provide the GPS controlled time synch signal for both my QCX range of QRP Labs transceivers and also my Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon. I’ll post ‘build and boxing’ images here soon. I am considering adding the device to a clock module using a 20×4 LCD display for more information including Maidenhead locator, Lat and Lon and altitude.
This is a guide for those who do not send CW by hand or decode CW by ‘brain’. It is targeted at getting you going on the monthly 80m Club Contests run by the RSGB but the basic principles will apply to other CW contests. This guide assumes you are using Mixw2 version 3.2 or better (but not version 4).M0ICR
Setting up Mixw2 for CW using a modulated SSB signal
Make sure you are in menu Layout 2:
2. Tick CW from the Mode Tab:
3. Many operators will use letters as shortcuts for certain numbers, personally I only do this for 0 (to letter T) but that’s a personal choice. I don’t select 9 as N because whilst I prefer to send 5NN for signal report (which I will hardcode in the macros) I don’t like a 9 in a serial number to appear as an N. You can set the default transmit WPM here for contests also (but you can adjust that later using another breakout windows as I will explain later). I tend to use 25wpm as my default (this is the maximum I have any change of decoding by ear!). For this basic set up there is no need to adjust any of the other settings.
4. Setting up the hardware connection between your PC and your radio (in my case an Icom 7300 on COM Port 5 at 38400 bps).
5. Basic Macros. These are the basic Macros I use:
Finally, a couple of other tips for using Mixw2 in contests:
6. Setting your TX speed.
When you select the CW mode Mixw2 will automatically bring up a little CW window, you can adjust your CW transmit speed here:
If you want to set your TX speed to the speed you are decoding your current QSO station you can see that at the bottom right of the main Mixw2 window here:
73, de Carl M0ICR
I also find it helpful to have CWGet running as a second means of decoding: https://www.dxsoft.com/en/products/cwget/
Before you start: When you have set up Mixw2 as described below make sure you close it down correctly using the FILE menu. If you just close the window some of your settings may not be correctly saved!
You should also save the configuration file once it is setup (but not during a contest!):
Set menu layout view to layout 1
2. Enter personal Data
You don’t need you Lat and Long – they are calculated automatically from your Maidenhead locator.
3. Setup the CAT control for your radio
This is the most tricky part for a lot of people and is generally caused by them not knowing the correct CAT values for their radio (eg. they have set the Baud rate on their radio to something different to the figure they have selected in Mixw2, or they are using the incorrect COM port). If Mixw2 doesn’t appear to be working then trying another programme like WSJT-X, if that works then transcribe your CAT setting from there_/
Select the TRCVR CAT/PTT Option on the Configure menu (whilst you are at it make sure Merge Macros is ticked. At this stage Disable CAT would be ticked but we will want to enable it once we have set up the CAT.
The Serial port details are found on the Details button
In the option above:
I am using an Icom 7300 on COM Port 5 at baud 38400 (my radio is also set to 38400 in the menu settings of the radio).
PTT is operated by the CAT signal
For RTTY and PSK I am using AFSK not FASK (I’ll leave the reasons for that for another post)
I have correctly set the default digital mode to USB
I am using my mouse wheel to tune, that’s really handy in a contest!
Make sure the CAT is now enabled by unticking as shown below:
4. Soundcard Settings
Fairly straightforward proving you know the name of your soundcard and which COM port it’s on. With the 7300 it’s saved as USB audio.
5. Setting up for contest mode
Select Contest mode from the View option on the menu bar
Make sue the start and end covers the duration of the contest
For a contest require just serial number then click on Number and serial under autograb
6. Setting up and changing modes
From the Mode option on the menu bar:
Select mode settings
Make sure Baudrate is 62.5 (for PSK63)
7. Setting up contest layout
8. The Macro Bar and my Macros
Probably the second most tricky part, and I don’t profess to be a Macros ninja! I think there are some clever things Mixw2 can do with Macros that I don’t really understand or haven’t explored enough!
First, click the cog to the right of the macros bar to get the extended bar, this will give you 4 lines instead of the usual 1:
To change a macro button right click on it
Next a bit of Mixw2 macro taxonomy: All macros are inside pointed brackets, eg. <TX> set to transmit and <RX> to receive. Macros can be type in by hand or selected from the drop down option (subset) on the macro edit windows as shown below (the key macros we will be using here are listed under Text or Programme macros).
<MYCALL> is your callsign
<CALL> is the other stations call
<GRABCALL> inserts the other stations call (last received in your rx window) into you Log entry focus window
<NRS> is your serial number to send, this should auto increment and will automatically add any leading zeros
<SAVEQSO> Saves the QSO to your log automatically
My macros for running mode / calling CQ
Used the extend macro view opens up 4 lines of macros, in this example I am using line 3 for my CQing/Running and the 4th bottom line for when I am S&P:
SO, Starting with line 3 and move from left to right (nut skipping AUTOCQ for now).
This first macro: Switches my radio to transmit, clears the transmit window, sends CQ TEST M0ICR CQ and the sets the radio back to receive. Normally I might sent my call 2 or 3 times though in which case I would have a string of 3 <MYCALL> remembering to but a space between them all, so it would be:
<TX><CLEARTXWINDOW>CQ TEST <MYCALL> <MY CALL> <MYCALL> CQ<RX>
This macro grabs the call of the last (ie. latest) station decoded in the RX Window, pressing it multiple times will scroll through a buffer. By grabbing the his callsign it automatically fills the <CALL> value with his callsign.
Alternatively I could type the other guys call manually into the log entry (the bottom of the calls listed in the log entry window), like this:
When the other station has replied, I send him the contest exchange (my Exch Macro) as follows (Assuming he is M1ABC and I have grabbed or entered his callsign correctly and that he is my serial 001):
M1ABC 599 001 001
Note: Often the other stations callsign is also sent at the end of the contest exchange, ie: M1ABC 599 001 001 M1ABC
Which of course would be:
<TX><CALL> 599 <NRS> <NRS> <CALL><RX>
Of course we always send 599 in HF contests(!) but if I wanted to be totally correct I would replace 599 with <RSTS> which would send him the RST I manually enter.
The final basic Macro of the end of a QSO when I am CQing is follows. This macro will: Clear the TX window and switch the radio to transmit and send:
M1ABC TU 73 DE M0ICR CQ
(the TU means thank you!)
and then save the QSO in my log, and switch back to receive:
My Macros for S&P
Send my callsign twice (I also have another macro that sends it 4 times for really marginal QSO). Note: It’s useful to have grabbed the other station’s callsign first (or to have manually entered it into the log)
… and finally, sending the other station the QSO details. Assuming he is M1ABC and serial 001 this would send (after switching the radio to TX):
M1ABC 599 001 001 001 (some folks send the serial number just twice)
and then save the QSO before switching to receive. Note: this is a different exchange Macro to the one I use when calling CQ as the <SAVEQSO> part is in the 73 macro in CQ mode!
Again, as in the earlier macro, it’s quite common to also add the other station’s callsign at the end of this QSO string:
M1ABC 599 001 001 001 M1ABC
And, again, if you want to be a purist you would replace the 599 with <RSTS>
A few other macros I find helpful to have in the bar:
<TX> To switch the radio to TX and keep it into transmit (useful if I want to send a manual string of text off the keyboard.
<RX> To switch back to receive again!
<TX>NR? NR? NR? <RX> If I want the other station to repeat his serial to me
<TX> QRZ? QRZ?<RX> To ask the other station to repeat his call … some folks use: <TX> AGN? AGN?<RX> as a more general request for repeats
Auto CQing and Macros
Setting up for AutoCQing:
Select Auto CQ from the Options Menu
Enter the text you want to AutoCQ:
…. which will send my callsign twice in a repeating CQ call
CQ TEST M0ICR M0ICR CQ
To set the delay between AutoCQ:
Note: Grabbing a call or hitting Escape will turn the AutoCQ off, to restart it again hit your AutoCQ macro
QSO Rate Meter
Editing the Logbook
The spectacles allow you to search the logfile, display a QSO and view the whole log:
From this view you can first highlight and then save all the logs to a Cabrillo or ADIF file (not the by default the files are unhelpfully saved to the Appdata/Roaming folder in your Windows user folder!
Double clicking on a row in that whole log view lets you also edit the QSO:
You can also edit the last QSO by using the file icon (you can also just change the details in the log window if you’d rather)
Deletes the QSO highlighted in the log (it asks first)
Save the latest QSO if you’re not using a <SAVEQSO> Macro
Menu layout config:
My radio isn’t connecting – Did you set up the CAT with the correct values (also in the Details tab) and did you make sure disable CAT is unticked?
I can’t see the CAT window with frequency –
I can see lots of PSK traces but I am not decoding anything – Are you in PSK31 or PSK63?
I can see lots of RTTY traces but I am not decoding anything – Are you inverted? Is the shift and baud rate setup correctly in Mixw2? (Most contests will be 45.45 baud (and 170Hz shift), but the BARTG75 contest in Baud 75, that’s caught me out a couple of times!)
Things I haven’t included in this basic guide (yet)
Adjusting the RX/TX and logging windows sizes
Mode focused macros
Setting up the cluster
The bandscope and identification of dupes (callsigns worked show up in red, not worked in green)
Domains and special multipliers (setting them up in the contest configuration)
… and a load of other stuff!
By the way, this is what my screen layout like:
If you want to get into RTTY and other modes of contesting from LF to Microwave, come and join the Drowned Rats Radio Group. We are always looking for new members. Check us out at www.g3rat.com
Today the RV Polar Stern leaves the German Antarctic Research Station and heads from Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.
Update #17 – 2145 20th Jan 2021
Still being received by RV Polarstern and the Research Station.
Update #16 – 1600 20th Jan 2021
Update #15 – 1930 19th Jan 2021
Update #14 – 1700 19th Jan 2021
Update #13 – 2245 18th Jan 2021
Update #12 – 2200 18th Jan 2021
Two way QSO with DP0POL/MM on 30m FT8 (80W using Icom 7300)
Update #11 – 2130 18th Jan 2021
Update #10 – 0900 18th Jan 2021
Update #9 – 2100 17th Jan 2021
RV Polar Stern now almost at the Research Station and still copying my 5W beacon!
…. about 100Km to go:
Good conditions on 40m, great spots for 5w QCX-Mini:
Update #8 – 2100 16th Jan 2021
Delighted to say that the RV Polar Stern has picked up my 5W beacon, perhaps for the final day as she closes in to the German Antarctic Research Station, less than 1000Km to go! Nice to see that the station itself (GVN) is also continuing to hear me!
Update #7 – 0700 16th Jan 2021
It’s a few days since I posted an update. I’ve not been heard by the ship for a little while now. It’s still a couple of days before she arrives in Antarctica so hopefully I will get another reception report from her before then. In the meantime the WSPR beacon from the QCX Mini is working well on 40m with multiple spots from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii etc. Pleasingly the German research at Antarctica (DP0GVN) continues to receive my beacon with little difficulty:
Spots this morning:
Update #6 – 0600 11th Jan 2021
At over 10,000Km from London the RV PolarStern continues to hear my tiny WSPR beacon on 40m
From the vessel:
Update #5 – 0015 9th Jan 2021
Interesting tonight to not only be heard by DP0POL/MM but also to hear and decode their transmissions.
For something different this VOCAP ‘wheel’ shows the probability of the path between M0ICR and DP0POL/MM on 40m WSPR as currently 80-90%:
HF Conditions are not great with the current MUF for south England at around 7MHz (40m)
From the vessel:
Update #4 – 2000 6th Jan 2021
PolatStern DP0POL/MM continues it’s journey South and the radio station onboard continues to receive my 40m beacon from the QCX Mini.
The ship is now well over 8000Km away, I wonder if I will manage to ‘reverse’ track her all the way to the Antarctic?
Update #3 – 0700 5th Jan 2021
This time a Google Earth View showing the position from which DP0POL/MM PolarStern has heard my 40m beacon:
Update #2 – 2100 3nd Jan 2021
Update #1 – 1900 2nd Jan 2021 RV Polarstern has just started picking up my QCX Mini 40m WSPR beacon again.
I’ll keep transmitting my WSPR Beacon from the QCX Mini and see if the RV Polarstern can continue to receive me.
0850 UTC 2nd Jan 2021
Felix Riess, DL5XL is currently active as DP0POL/MM from Research Vessel “Polarstern” on route to the South Atlantic and Antarctica to conduct ‘Research Programme 123 and 134’.