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.
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’.
It was pleasant to enter the first RSGB UK Activity Contest (UKAC) on Tuesdy night. Being the first Tuesday of the month this contest was on 2m (144MHz).
Activity levels were good although conditions were nothing special with many reporting high levels of QRM and deep QSO. It was particularly disappointing now to work any /P stations (portable operating is not allowed under current VHFCC contest rules, in accordance with HM Government Covid restriction in ‘Lockdown 3’). I did miss working some of the stalwarts of the UKAC like Chris (G4FZN/P) and Pauline up in IO94 and Gordon (G8PNN) in IO95. Despite missing some of these regulars it was a pleasure to work, amongst others Gordon (another Gordon!) GI6ATZ for my ODX at a shade under 500km.
Here is my map of contests map, note that there’s nothing much to the South / South East – I have rotten take-off in that direction.
The marvel that is the QCX Mini is already equipped with a rudimentary electronic keyer for Iambic modes and including memories, beaconing and practice modes but I wanted to add a K16 keyer for increased features.
The K16 Keyer from Steve Elliot K1EL is perfect for both contesting and casual use and fits on a PCB measuring just 38mm x 35mm. I am using the Kanga UK version of the board available here. Detail of the full range of keyers from K1EL (US site) are here. The K16 chip can be purchased separately if you wish to design your own PCB here (US) or in the UK, again from Kanga UK, here.
Further details of K16 features and operation can be found here.
I have previously built a K14 keyer into an Altoids tin but on this occasion I am salvaging a defunct USB soundcard case to build the keyer into (matches the QCX Mini styling) and will be supplying the power from 2 x CR2032 cells (the keyer only draw 1mA when on and uA when in standby mode) rather than the larger PP3 specified by Kanga.
This is the original soundcard and box:
The K16 keyer in progress:
I intend to integrate my old K14 Keyer into my 20m QCX (vanilla).
The QCX mini is a high-performance single band HF QRP CW transceiver kit available for just $55 with a 50W amp for an additional $29.50.
My QCX Mini kit from Hans Summers QRP Labs arrived just before Christmas and was sitting under the Christmas tree for me to open. I’ll be documenting the journey with some links to other useful sites along the way. Watch this space!
Made sure to install the IC holder as far to the top of the PCB as possible to ensure sufficient space for the paddle socket and the TCXO board.
Now for a nice cup of coffee before alignment this evening
Initial findings are that it’s receiving very well and RF output at 12V is just a shade over 3W.
Having a Bud to celebrate progress so far!
Transmit test to follow …
Testing the Mini QCX in WSPR TX mode:
My very first transmission tests on WSPR:
And the results – AMAZING – Decoded in Antractica on first transmission, how excellent is that for something that was a bag of components 2 days ago!
Received on both receivers at DP0GVN – Neumayer Station III Ekstroem Ice Shelf, Atka Bay, Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica
Top 50 spots, all over 1000Km in less than 10min (note only ONE station is reporting drift). Ignore the power shown as 5W, it’s actually 3.6W!:
… and also DP0POL/MM the German Ice-breaker Maritime Mobile (at this very moment the Polarstern, a German research icebreaker is presently off the coast of Africa en route to the scientific station in Antarctica. )
Time to play with CW I think …
No reply to CQ call but picked up on the reverse beacon network in USA and Russia.
Now to bed … Looking forward to some CW QSO’s tomorrow 🙂 Anyone for a QCX to QCX sked?
AJD – Worked all (10) Japan Districts / Call areas. WAJA – Worked all Japan prefectures (47 of them!) Click here for a useful map of districts and prefectures: Details of these and other Japan awards are at the pdf leaflet hosted on the ARRL site here. For more details look-up the JARL Awards site here. I am going to use this blog to keep track of progress on AJD and WAJA. Note that presently the JARL does not accept LOTW verification but it does accept EQSL cards (if they are printed out).
Always a pleasure to work the Falkland Islands on any band. This was my first QSO to the islands on 30m (FT4). A nice digital QSO with Donald Betts in Port Stanley on Christmas Day 2020. Over 12,000Km using 100W and a DX Commander Lite vertical. All my previous QSO’s to the Falklands have been with VP8LP (60m, 20m and 17m).
Thank you to Steve Hartley G0FUW and all the team at GQRP for the excellent virtual GQRP Convention run over the weekend 5-6th September.
A thoroughly enjoyable event. I have attended a number of the conventions in person over the years and was a little apprehensive about how well it would run as an online event. Whilst I admit I missed the face to face conversations and annual ‘meet-up’ given the circumstances this year I thought the event was a huge success, so much so that I hope the online element continues in future years – if nothing else it provides a much greater global reach and provided a valuable source of videos to watch over again for ideas and stimulation.