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.


Another QCX mini (this one for 20m … and 30m!)

… just need to box it up!

Delighted that it worked first time, I just need to box it up now and connect it up to the GPS unit. Information on the QCX Mini is here and the GPS unit (QLG2) is here.

I’ve just been playing with the QCX on WSPR and very happy to see my signals being received in Antarctica.

See my other post for the adventures tracking the MV Polar Stern (polar resupply and research ship) as she headed south on my first QCX Mini (on 40m) here: https://m0icr.com/tracking-dp0pol-mm-as-she-heads-south

This in 12min of operating (3 calls):


As an added bonus the QCX Mini 20 also seems to work ok on 30m:


RX in Australia, 0.5W on 20m and 30m with the new QCX Mini


Both receivers in the German Neumayer III Antarctic Station receiving me on 30m!


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