Sunday, December 21, 2014

My QRP, JT65A Saturday Effort and Snow!

Crater Lake Snow
Prior to moving to Oregon, I did a bit or research on weather. I still very much enjoy winter (my mother once told me, the older I get, the more I will dislike winter) and after 9½ years living in the Interior Alaska, I really never minded the bitter cold temperatures that I experienced. Even for the year or so we lived in central MA, we still saw cold winter temperatures with the coldest being about -19°F. I think the most snow I've ever experienced in my lifetime (till now) was the big Blizzard of 1978 in Ohio. When I began reading the average seasonal snow fall totals for Crater Lake National Park, I knew I was in for an entirely new experience. My wife was never a fan of the darkness during the winter months in Alaska, and certainly not the bitter cold -40°F to -50°F temperatures. So, this was a great compromise location to live. I could still enjoy winter, the days are much longer and the temperatures are much warmer. Marital harmony at last? Only time will tell. I do enjoy the much slower pace here over the east coast.  

JT65A on 20 Meters
Getting back in the shack saddle, I decided to fire up some JT65A on Saturday. My shack computer is packed away with the rest of our stuff in some storage building here in Oregon. I brought along our little Dell Inspiron Desktop computer which I loaded some ham radio programs onto. It suffers from the usual small computer configuration by only having one identifiable USB-serial port. This becomes a bit of a problem when you are trying to set up multiple programs to run at the same time and still want full rig control. I'm not really worried about it, as this won't be my main shack computer. I'm only putting software on this computer to get me on the air until we get settled and our stuff arrives. My Icom 703+ communicates fine, so sending and receiving JT65A signals work, I'm just not able to feed frequency data to the JT65-HF software when I'm operating. 

If you've read my previous blog, you will see my second story open concept shack layout. It includes internal Buddipole antenna, my Icom 703+ set up on the kitchen table (I do have an understanding licensed but non-HF operating wife) along with many other odds and ends. I'm manually logging QSO's at the moment but just started to load some logging software onto the computer. I still need to update my LOTW data to include this new location but I have time. It's time to get on the air and play a bit. Been a long several weeks. 

I tuned up the rig for 5 watts of output power and after setting up the JT65-HF software, I was CQ'n. I managed a handful of contacts and a couple answered but never came back. It was a successful first run of this mode here and I'm ready to move on to doing some PSK31 next.

More than just a rig's power setting...
One of the things with good weak signal software is some don't realize how much they can wipe out the band when running hot! There is more to running this mode than simply a power setting. When trying to copy weak signals (such as myself using an indoor antenna, as many are weak anyhow, depending on band conditions) it does not take much for me to lose a QSO if one of those hot running stations are nearby. And to top it off, the line you see just under -500 is my computer monitor. My widescreen is very nice but I'm unable to change the displays refresh rate in Hertz, so it's stuck at 60. Being able to change this setting could help eliminate this interference but again, this is not my shack computer so I need to deal with what I have. The screen also broadcasts numerous birdies across most of my bands. Sacrifices we sometimes have to make.

Heard and Being Heard
It's great to be able to see where you are being heard where you are hearing and how strong. The PSK Reporter website is a fantastic digital visual reference tool for any digital operator. Left is a screen shot of my Saturday operation (query ran today, Sunday). With the technology we have available today, it can sure help any operator understand propagation, adjust their rig settings and see the big picture. Obviously this would not be possible without the website owner and those who click their software checkbox to feed the data to the website. One of my other favorite digital reporting sites is HamSpots. HamSpots also allows for live operator keyboard interaction with the chat feature. 

My digital days are just getting started again and I hope to get on a few other modes as I get the software loaded onto this computer. My all time favorite is RTTY and I miss operating that mode, especially in contests. Hopefully as we get settled, I can put up a few exterior HF antennas and get back into contesting once again. With the holidays fast approaching, I'll have a few more days off to play radio. I'm hoping the bands cooperate and who knows, maybe I can bounce some weak signal JT65 off of Santa's ionized trail this week.  


  1. Hi Phil, great to see your making progress. JT65(HF) is great, JT9 is even better. You should try WSJT-X some time. Did some digimode as well this morning on 30m. With some background music in the shack it's very relax work compared to SSB contesting ;-) I use Hamspots as well, best DX cluster for JT mode. 73, Bas

  2. Yes, thanks for the reminder on JT9, Bas! I need to snag that and give it a run.