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FT8 Checklist

  • Posted on December 3, 2017 at 10:45 am

The following information deals with my ham radio hobby, and is designed to be shared with my friends who may want to try a new, low power weak signal operating mode that’s become very popular: FT8.  We’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Here’s a checklist of useful information which you’ll need as you  get ready to use FT8:

  1. Bookmark the main FT8  page: http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html and the online manual: http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx-doc/wsjtx-main-1.8.0.html You’ll need to refer to the manual often.  Download the latest version of WSJT-X, which at the moment is 1.8.0. 
  2. Fix the time on your computer. Click here to see how far off your time is now.  Follow the instructions for your computer in Section 3 of the manual to install one of the recommended programs which will make sure you are in sync with everyone else. 
  3. Google is your friend.  Search for your rig and “FT8” or “JT65”.  There are likely to be several helpful YouTube videos explaining exactly how to set up your rig to work with these modes.
  4. Dig out your rig’s manual because you need to interface your rig’s control signals with the program.  If you’re lucky, you got a USB cable with the rig or may have another way to interface the two.  If not, you may need to get a Signalink.
  5. If you want to use your computer’s sound card, follow the adjustment procedures in Section 3.  Most people have better luck either using an external USB sound dongle or an external device such as Signalink.  You also need two stereo 3.5mm plugs to go from the dongle to your rig’s audio input and output. 
  6. The software will create its own ADIF file which you can import into your favorite log, or the qrz.com online logbook.  In addition, several other logging programs interface directly with the software, including Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD), and the DXLab suite or Log4OM.  I use N3FJB’s Amateur Contact Log.  Whatever you use, get it working with the ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) and eqsl.cc .

Fort Laramie

  • Posted on August 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm

If any ham radio operators read this, are interested in the NPOTA contest and are looking for a great place to activate, I can recommend the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, NS-20.

Ft. Laramie Entrance

It’s located about 2 hours north of Cheyenne, is in a beautiful location, is quite interesting with several restored buildings, has some very helpful rangers and reenactors. And if they aren’t occupied, you can operate out of a tepee. There has been a fort there since 1834, and according to the rangers, every pioneer who traveled west stopped there, so if you set up in the shaded picnic area (or in the tepee) you’re bound to be on the spot where hundreds of covered wagons passed 150 years ago. There aren’t any places to camp on the site, and the nearest motel is about 25 miles away, but it would be worth spending an entire day there. With four trails + a National Historic Site + Wyoming, anyone who sets up there is sure to make lots of contacts, and every one of them will be happy when the log is uploaded.  I only had a brief time yesterday to activate the site, and only got 18 contacts on 20M CW, and wish I could have stayed several hours longer.

Ft. Laramie NHS

The best part is that admission is free!

Crystal Radio

  • Posted on September 7, 2014 at 4:39 pm

My first radio

My dad bought me a Knight Kit crystal radio for my tenth birthday. I assembled it myself, without help, in a weekend. Probably the most tedious part of the job was winding the huge coil on what looked like a thick toilet paper roll. I then had to lacquer it, and waiting for the lacquer to dry was the worst part.  Like all crystal radios, this one operated without batteries and had a minimum of parts.

Luckily, we lived in Chicago at the time, and there were several very strong (50,000 watt) AM radio stations with nearby transmitters, so it worked really well.  The reception quality was good, with none of the annoying hum that came from a standard AC operated radio.  Furthermore, there were no telltale pilot lights to alert my sister or parents that I was listening to “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” or “Dragnet” or  “Philip Marlowe” or “Sherlock Holmes” or any other great old time radio detectives well past my bedtime.

 

Ham Radio – FLDIGI, the KX3 and Linux

  • Posted on March 19, 2013 at 7:29 am

I love Linux, not only because it makes sense, but because the programs available for ham radio are in many cases superior to the Windows equivalents.

CQRLOG is one of them, and fldigi is another one that works well with my small laptop and Elecraft KX3. It took me a while to get them both working right, and here’s a couple of tips so that others may not have to reinvent the wheel. I’m running Ubuntu 12.04 on a small laptop.

In the fldigi preferences menu, under rig control, click on “Hamlib” and click the small box that says “Use Hamlib.” Select the K3/KX3 from the drop down box, and the device “/dev/ttyUSB0”, 4800 baud and two stopbits. Leave the other defaults. If you click on “initialize” and see your transmit frequency in the main box, then celebrate and ignore the rest of this post.

When you set up the CQRLOG TRX Control parameters, enter your rig name under “Radio one, desc:,” use Rig ID model 229 (which is the one for the K3, but it works), click the “run rigctld when program starts” box, and specify only the serial speed of 4800 and 2 stop bits. Leave the rest default.

But it probably won’t work, because when you plug the serial port adapter into your Linux machine, the computer may recognize it but will prevent you from accessing it because you don’t have permission to do so. That’s because you don’t belong to the proper group. Part of Linux security. There’s a command you can enter every time you boot up, but that’s a pain and easy to forget.

Here’s a step by step guide to making it work permanently.

1. Plug in your USB to serial port adapter and get your rig running

2. Open a terminal window in Linux by pressing CTL-ALT-T. You’ll get a prompt which consists of your username, the computer you are running on and a dollar sign. Mine is “steve@steve-Latitude-D420:~$” From this prompt, enter the following commands. Case is important.

3. Discover what the USB adapter is called by entering:

ls /sys/class/tty

You’ll get a list of perhaps 50 various devices; the last one is your adapter, and should be ttyUSB0 or ttyUSB1. If you don’t see it, you are in trouble and may have to install the proper drivers. I didn’t have that issue, but if you do, remember that Google Is Your Friend.

4. Find out which user groups are authorized to access the adapter by entering:

ls -l /dev/ttyUSB0 (or ttyUSB1 if that’s where your device ended up)

The output will show you what permissions have been granted, and to which user groups. Mine shows that members of two groups can access ttyUSB0: root and dialout. You don’t want to become a member of the “root” group because that would compromise security.
5. Find out which groups you belong to by entering:

groups

You’ll probably see a long list of groups, but “dialout” isn’t one of them.
6. Join the dialout usergroup by entering:

sudo usermod -a -G dialout yourusername

7. Log out and log back in, or reboot.
No doubt, there are easier ways to do some of these steps, but this worked for me. Good luck.

73’s
Steve, K0GUZ

Cortez

  • Posted on October 4, 2012 at 10:49 am


View Larger Map
My quest d’jour is the Iron Butt Association’s special ride for those who aren’t up to ride 1000 miles in a day: for those of us whose butts aren’t exactly iron clad, they offer  a National Parks Tour.  I rode with Don, W0DET, to Dove Creek, Colorado.  It was his first excursion on his new (to him) Honda Shadow 1100, and I think he had a great time.  The fall colors were at their prime:

Entrance to Mesa VerdeAnasazi Heritage CenterP9280018P9280020P9280021P9280023
P9280028P9280030P9280031P9280032P9280034Hovenweep National Monument
Remind you of Cars and Cars II?P9290041P9290042FriendsYou can get anything you want ...Welcome to Utah, again
Wilson Arch just south of Moab, UtahSome of the beautiful jewelry availabe from a Native American at the rest sop.Arches National Park

Cortez, a set on Flickr.

 

Note that in order to document your National Parks Tour, you need to take a picture of your motorcycle in front of the park or monument.  Otherwise, you might be accused of cheating and gathering validation stamps in your car!  That’s why you see several pictures of mine.  For those who are interested, there are (of course) websites for the National Park stamp collectors, and those of us who are collecting them by motorcycle.

We stayed at the home of Don’s friends Norm and Carla.  He has installed a ham radio shack there with a huge directional beam antenna.   It’s located on their dryland farm not far from Dove Creek which is wonderfully isolated and quite beautiful.  From the radio location, you can see a majestic panorama of mountains in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.  And since the location is far from town, the stars and the full moon were  painfully bright, the coyotes’ cries piercing, mournful and a little scary, and the level of radio interference incredibly low.  Don set up his station for radio teletype, and his first contact was somebody in Croatia!  But the best part for me was spending time with the three friends.  They’ve known each other for years, and it took abut five minutes for me to feel at home.  Thanks for your wonderful food and warm hospitality!

On our trip back through Moab, we drove through Dove Creek, where the principal crop is dried pinto and Anasazi beans from the dryland farms.  We then pointed our handlebars west to to Utah, stopping  at Wilson Arch, where a Navajo girl sold me [spoiler alert] two lovely necklaces.

It was a wonderful trip, and I snagged six new stamps for my tour:  Anasazi Heritge Center, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.  I now have ten of the 50 required parks, but only in two of the required 25 states.  Planning my next trip could be problematic, since there are very few  national parks and monuments in the midwest.

Reviving Droid

  • Posted on September 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm

One of my favorite hobbies is reviving old computers and electronic devices.  Most of them have been built to last a long time, but technology passes them by long before they wear out.  A good example is my old Motorola Droid, the original Android device.  Our Verizon contract ran out, and both of our Droids have been replaced by an HTC Incredible (Android) for me and an iPhone 4S (Georgia).  Faster, prettier, snazzier. Continue reading Reviving Droid…

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