Welcome

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.


Digital Modes awards

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:

EPC-Member Center (epc-mc.eu)

QRP Labs QLG2 module arrived

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
  • transceivers.
  • • 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
  • connectors
  • • 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
  • (PPS).
  • • 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.

The clock module is available here: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/clock

Once back in stock the GPS receiver module can be purchased here: http://shop.qrp-labs.com/qlg2
In the meantime, Hans has temporarily replaced the module with a QLG2-SE which provides the same functionality as the QLG2 without the microcontroller functionality. http://shop.qrp-labs.com/kits/QLG2SE

Setting up Mixw2 for the RSGB 80m CW contests and some general CW software advice

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

Details/rules etc for the RSGB 80m Club Championship Contest is here:
3.5MHz Club Championship Contests (rsgbcc.org)
Dates for 2021 can be found here:
2021 calendar (rsgbcc.org)

Setting up Mixw2 for CW using a modulated SSB signal

  1. 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.


CW 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:

Sending CQ plus my callsign twice
Grab the call of the station I am decoding and load it into the log buffer, I could of course alternatively type the call into the QSO entry line of the logging bar or double left-click on the callsign being received in the decode window
Replying to a station calling CQ with my callsign *once*. I normally have this macro clear the TX window first (less clutter!). You can of course add as many <MYCALL> iterations as you like. In fact, I usually have <MYCALL> in here twice … YMMV!
Send a contest exchange. In this contest it just RST and Serial number so this macro will just send the other guys callsign, RST and S/N twice – tinker as you wish. Technically I should send <RSTS> rather than 5NN but what contest QSOs are not 5NN (or 599 for that matter!)

Continued ….

Ending a QSO with a Thanks a 73 and then straight into my call followed by another CQ … ready for the next caller. This Macro also saves the QSO into the log automatically, but you’d rather do that manually just remove the <SAVEQSO> script.
It’s not unusual to be asked for a repeat (especially with my low power signals!). This macro will resend the details if you have already saved it to the log.

Finally, a couple of other tips for using Mixw2 in contests:

Make sure you are in Contest Mode
When setting up the contest make sure you have covered the correct start and end time otherwise the QSOs will not show up in your log view (they are there, you just wont see them)

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:

Faster/Slower !

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


Afterthought

I also find it helpful to have CWGet running as a second means of decoding:
https://www.dxsoft.com/en/products/cwget/

I’ve also found MRP40 very good (although it does cost 50 Euro after a trial):
http://www.polar-electric.com/Morse/MRP40-EN/

and finally

CW Skimmer is great for seeing decodes from all CW signals being received in your passband, again it’s not free but I think it’s worth every penny!
http://www.dxatlas.com/cwskimmer/

or, when you have a serious pile-up!

If you are keen to see how far your CW signals are being decoded it also fun to use the Reverse Beacon Network (a bit like PSK Reporter but for CW)
http://www.reversebeacon.net/

If you want to practice your traditional CW skills, ie. sending and receiving without a PC I can recommend Morse Runner, a CW Contest Simulator:
http://www.dxatlas.com/morserunner/

If you want to get the feel for handling pile-ups it also worth looking up Pileup Runner (from the same DXAtlas.com stables as CW Skimmer and Morse Runner):
http://www.dxatlas.com/PileupRunner/

If you are keen to learn CW I can highly recommend the Koch method software from Ray G4FON, his lecture from the 2018 RSGB convention is worth watching: http://www.g4fon.net/CW%20Trainer2.php

Ray’s contest trainer is also worth a look and a robust alternative to Morse Runner mentioned above:
https://www.g4fon.net/Contest_Trainer_V3.php



Setting up Mixw2 for RSGB DATA mode contests

Using Mixw2 in DATA contests – a guide to the basics

DOWNLOAD THIS: http://www.mixw.net/files/SetupMixW3_2_105.exe

Why chose Mixw2, one word simplicity. There is nothing Mixw2 can do that can not be done with N1MM / Writelog and other software but what Mixw2 lacks in bells and whistles it gains in simplicity.

Other files you may find helpful:

http://pub.agrarix.net/Windows/MixW2/MixW202%20HELP%20FILE.pdf

http://k6ix.net/MixW/MixWManual.pdf

Very useful quick start manual from NK7Z:
https://www.nk7z.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/mixw_quickstart.pdf


!!! WARNING !!!

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!):


  1. 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

Add new

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:

For RTTY

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!

I’m not a Macro ninja!

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).

Some basics:

  • <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:


Help!

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
  • Statistics
  • 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

Tracking DP0POL/MM as she heads South

Update ~19 – 0015 19th Feb 2021

It’s been a while since I fired up the QCX Mini on 40m WSPR but delighted to see the DP0POL/MM is receiving my signals again 🙂

https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/service/press/single-view/default-519c9b1992.html

Update ~18 – 1400 24th Jan 2021

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

Almost there:

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%:

https://www.voacap.com/hf/

HF Conditions are not great with the current MUF for south England at around 7MHz (40m)

http://www.spacew.com/www/realtime.php

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:

Tracks 30th Dec 2020 to 5th Jan 2021

Update #22100 3nd Jan 2021

Update #1 1900 2nd Jan 2021
RV Polarstern has just started picking up my QCX Mini 40m WSPR beacon again.

Heading South!

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’.

Info here:
https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/53217/1/PS_123_Expeditionsprogramm.pdf

https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/53220/1/PS_124_Expeditionsprogramm.pdf

ETA
* Neumayer III Research Station in Antarctica (DP0GVN) 18th Jan 21
* Port Stanley (Falkland Islands) 1st Feb 21

Fascinating to see the RV Polarstern receiving my tiny WSPR signals (from the QCX Mini on 40) as she makes her way south. Spots of my signal from the vessel in the last 24 hours (2nd Jan 21):

Current Spots from the QCX Mini to the PolarStern as t 0800UTC 2nd Jan 21.


Not for this expedition (this video is from 2017) but shows the RV Polarstern on mission. Amazing!

Polarstern Expedition to Amundsen Sea 2017


Reference material on the Polarstern
Information sheet: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/268048407.pdf