• [FOAR] The power supply connector dance contest... (6/21)

    From FOAR via rec.radio.info Admin@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jul 18 13:48:30 2022
    [continued from previous message]

    antennas might receive a signal from unexpected directions.

    Using one of the mapping tools, wspr.live, I extracted all the sightings of
    my callsign and all the reports that I'd made from my receiver. It shows
    that my newest transmitter has now been heard by 11 stations across three continents.

    Those numbers are just the beginning. I wanted to see on the map where
    these stations were, so, during the week I built a proof of concept world
    map that I used to visually show the four character Maidenhead grid squares that my station was heard in. I also had a look to see which stations I'd
    heard over the years and where they were. In all, 771 different stations
    are in my log, either as a receiver or a transmitter.

    N4WQH heard me on 40m, 18.832 km away when I was using 5 Watts. My station
    has heard, or has been heard across 331 different grid squares. There's
    reports across some remote parts of Australia, Japan, India, South Africa, Europe, the United States, several across the Pacific and even a few in Antarctica.

    I wondered how many of the world's grid squares have actually been
    activated and which station was heard the furthest and how much power was
    used. Those numbers will have to wait for another day. I initially started using wspr.live which has a neat way of allowing you to embed an SQL query
    as part of the URL to download the output.

    I was getting some interesting results, so I thought, rather than hammer
    this lovely resource with my questions, I should download the raw data
    instead. So I did. Well, I am. Still. It's big.

    As of today, there's 166 files, taking up 60 GB of compressed data, with
    over 3.5 billion reports.

    The first spot in that data goes to N8FQ who heard WB3ANQ on Monday, the
    17th of March, 2008 across 911 km on the 30m band transmitting with 28 dBm,
    or about 630 mW, reporting a signal to noise ratio of 1 dB.

    Using preliminary data to get started I mapped all the activated squares,
    each shown as a red box and saw that my entire map was red. At that point I figured that either I've got a bug in my code, or something else is going

    To give some context before I share what I found, a Maidenhead locator
    consists of a combination of letters and numbers. For four letter grid
    squares, there's a grand total of 32.400 different combinations, running
    from AA00 to RR99. They're 2 degrees wide and 1 degree high and their width depends on where on the planet they are. At the equator it's about 222 km
    wide and 111 km tall, at the North and South pole, it's 0 km wide. If you travel between two squares, you might have to move a meter, or the entire
    width of a grid square.

    Among the report, I found stations who had activated more than one square. That's fair enough, you can move your station and start making noise where
    ever you like. I found stations with activations across more than a
    thousand different squares. Before I start pointing the finger, I will
    mention that if you attach a WSPR beacon to an aircraft, or a balloon, you
    can legitimately activate plenty of squares.

    When you set-up a WSPR transmitter, you're required to manually enter the locator and mistakes happen. There's plenty of records with invalid
    Maidenhead locators, typically shown instead is a callsign. Then there are stations that pick desirable locators. This manual entry is also true for
    the power level and even the callsign, so I'm not outing these stations
    here, since it's entirely possible that the callsign shown doesn't actually relate to the transmitter or the licensed amateur.

    What does all this mean?

    It means that the information in the WSPR database cannot be trusted. I
    suspect it also means that the data used to lodge FT8 contacts across the planet can probably also not be trusted. It means that any propagation data you're deriving is likely contaminated by misreporting, deliberately or not.

    As a community, if we want to use this for actual measurements, we'll have
    to figure out how to make this a trusted resource, because the information
    that WSPR can bring to propagation is in my opinion extremely valuable.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on how we might fix it.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211212.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Amateur Radio and the art of getting started ...

    Posted: 04 Dec 2021 08:00 AM PST http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211205.foundations-of-amateur-radio.txt

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    One of the regular topics of conversation in amateur radio, especially for those new to the community, is where to start? The sheer volume of
    available options is often overwhelming. If you've never encountered the complexity associated with this amazing hobby the experience can be disheartening and even demoralising.

    In my early years I was results driven. Getting on air, making noise,
    logging a contact, adding a country, winning a contest, rinse and repeat,
    get better, do more. There have been numerous occasions when I came home
    from one of my adventures disappointed, sometimes bitterly so.

    That happened for quite some time, until one day I realised that the
    journey in and of itself is the reward.

    That might sound disingenuous, so let me illustrate.

    This week I set-up an automatic beacon in my shack that can be heard by stations around the planet, letting me know just how far my signal can
    travel at any particular moment, using my own station antenna and local propagation. As projects go, it continues to be an adventure.

    As you might recall, I like low power operation, truth be told, I love low power. The smaller, the better. Less is more and all that. I recently
    completed the first leg of a journey to set-up a permanent beacon. For
    years I'd been dabbling around the edges. On the weekend, whilst I was in
    my shack, I'd regularly set-up my computer and radio, set it to WSPR beacon
    and see what stations heard me. I couldn't turn my radio below 5 Watts, so that's what I used. Before you start, yes, I could turn down the volume,
    but that involves math and I wanted a result, now.

    It filled a gap using WSPR, Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, like that.
    For a while, I improved on things by having a receiver set-up that
    monitored the bands all day every day and recently I turned it back on,
    with limited success, more on that shortly.

    What I really wanted was to see where my signal was going, not what I could hear. I received a few emails suggesting that a ZachTek WSPR Desktop transmitter, built and sold by Harry, SM7PNV, would be just the ticket.
    It's a little metal box with USB and SMA connectors. One SMA for the
    supplied GPS antenna, used for location and time, the other for a transmit antenna. USB provides serial for configuration and power if it's operating
    in stand-alone mode. Yes, you can operate it without needing a computer and
    if you want it does band-hopping. After configuring it with things like
    your callsign and bands, you can plug-in the GPS, your antenna and power it
    via USB and it will run as an automatic 200 milliwatt WSPR beacon.

    That device in turn prompted a journey to discover a more appropriate
    antenna, since my current station antenna uses an automatic tuner that
    won't get triggered by this tiny transmitter. That caused an exploration in
    how and where to mount any new antenna, with a side-trip into finding a specific anti-seize compound locally. To pick the mounting hardware, I had
    to get into wind loading, how strong my satellite dish mount might be, how
    to install and tune a multi-band antenna. The list just keeps growing and
    that voyage continues.

    I'm tracking the requirements with a project specific check-list, just to
    make sure that I don't miss any steps and have a place to document new discoveries when they invariably hit me in the face. So-far, so-good.

    The WSPR monitor receiver is currently connected to a generic telescopic dipole, mounted indoors, which in the past gave me a much better result
    than my station vertical, so I should be able to keep both running.

    Next on the list is to construct a live propagation map for my station,
    then a way to switch modes on that map, so I can tell if it's worth calling
    CQ without going blue in the face. I'm also working on a WSPR transmitter
    for 2m and 70cm, because they are under served in my neck of the woods.

    The takeaway from all this is that whilst there are many steps, and truth
    be told, that list is growing as I learn, each step is tiny and doable. The only thing that separates me from someone who doesn't know where to start,
    is this.

    I started. You can too. Anywhere. Doesn't matter. Pick anything that
    tickles your fancy. Start digging. It's a hobby, not a profession. What
    ever floats your boat, what ever makes you excited, what ever you're
    interested in, pick it and do something, anything.

    That's how you get anywhere in Amateur Radio, and Open Source, and life for that matter, just start.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211205.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    One Timezone To Rule Them All

    Posted: 27 Nov 2021 08:00 AM PST http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211128.foundations-of-amateur-radio.txt

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Right now it's 10:45.

    That piece of information is unhelpful without any context. I could just as easily have told you that it's 2:45 and it would be just as accurate,
    helpful and meaningless. The point being that without context, you don't
    know if I'm an insomniac, drinking morning tea, recovering from a late
    lunch or putting on my PJs.

    If I'm talking to people in the same room, supplying the time happens
    within the context of that room, but if the world is our oyster, our room
    is a little larger and dawn for one person is dusk for another, at the same time.

    Before we could communicate at the speed of light and travel faster than a bullet, time was a relative thing related to the location of the Sun and considered mainly by mariners and astronomers. Even with the advent of increasingly accurate clocks, for most people, noon was when the Sun was at
    its highest point and the local clock was set to that.

    When our world got smaller, because communication and travel got faster,
    people started noticing that noon in one place wasn't the same as noon in another place. It became a real problem when people travelled hundreds of kilometres by train in a day. Imagine coming up with a train time-table
    that takes into account each local version of noon.

    In an attempt to deal with this, railroad managers in the United States established 100 railroad time zones. This malarkey continued until the 18th
    of November 1883 when four standard time zones were established for the continental United States.

    Of course, being human and all, that was a local solution. Great Britain
    had already established its own standards for time for England, Scotland
    and Wales.

    In October 1884, the International Meridian Conference, held in Washington
    DC, adopted a proposal that designated the Prime Meridian for longitude and timekeeping should be the one that passes through the centre of the transit instrument at the Greenwich Observatory in the United Kingdom and
    established Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT as the world's time standard.

    Why Greenwich? At the time the United Kingdom had more ships and shipping
    using Greenwich as their reference than the rest of the world put together
    and the observatory at Greenwich had produced the highest quality data for
    a long time. As an aside, on a French map before 1911, 0 degrees was
    centred over Paris. There are other wrinkles, like the fact that Earth
    isn't round and as a result the Greenwich Prime Meridian is not quite in
    the right spot because measurements didn't take into account local
    variations in gravity.

    In 1972, Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC replaced GMT as the standard
    for time in the world. It now references the International Reference
    Meridian, currently about a 102.5m east of the original Prime Meridian
    passing through Greenwich. It's on the move with reference to land because tectonic plates shift and where it is today is not where it's going to be tomorrow, so don't go looking for a marker to indicate the IRM.

    Meanwhile in the rest of the world people needed to come to terms with how
    to standardise on what to call time zones. The USA establishing four time
    zones was just for one country. Depending on who's counting, there's over
    200 countries and each has its own set of time zones. Which each might
    include daylight saving, or not. For some, like VK6, daylight saving was
    voted on several times. Trials were had and time changes during summer were implemented, then reversed, then reversed again, and again, in total, VK6
    did this dance six times and we currently don't observe daylight saving, neither does VK4 or VK8.

    So, not only does 10:45 require location context, it also requires that you know if there's daylight saving happening at that time in that location,
    which to add insult to injury, doesn't actually happen on the same date
    each year. It gets better if you consider time in another location. Do they have daylight saving, is it on at the time, do we have daylight saving at
    that time, how many hours are we apart, when is this actual event and what
    if we're coordinating efforts between people in multiple locations? Did I mention that summer in Europe is in July and in Australia it's in January?

    In case you're wondering, tracking all this is a massive job currently
    under the purview of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The person coordinating this, whilst wrangling the politics of naming things,
    including dealing with warring countries who take umbrage at having their
    time zone named after "the enemy" is computer scientist Paul Eggert, the project lead of the time zone database.

    War aside, time zones are political. For example, Dublin Time was stamped
    out by the British as punishment for the Easter Rising.

    If that wasn't exciting enough, to provide local context, we use
    abbreviations to indicate which location we're talking about. In VK6 that abbreviation is WST, simple enough, Western Standard Time. What if your abbreviation was CST? Is that Central Standard Time in North America, China Standard Time, Cuba Standard Time, or even Australian Central Standard
    Time. If your local time zone is IST, you could be referring to Indian
    Standard Time, Israel Standard time, Irish Standard Time or even Irish
    Summer Time.

    As radio amateurs we hold global contests and we advertise our online club meetings and events. Often, we refer to times and dates that might be understood by an audience of one, but utterly confusing to the rest of the world.

    So, what do you do with this?

    Simple, use UTC. My timezone, called WST, or AWST, is UTC+8. F-troop, a
    weekly net for new and returning amateurs runs every Saturday morning at midnight UTC, that's 0:00 UTC. No confusion, no daylight saving, everyone
    can figure out if it's worth being awake for and I must applaud the
    amateurs from G-land and PA with their contributions in the very, very
    early hours of their morning.

    So, next time you make some noise about a contest, or any amateur activity
    that goes beyond the people in your suburb, specify the time in UTC. Who
    knows, perhaps one day, even the likes of SpaceX, Apple and Google will
    start using UTC to announce their events ...

    As Goldie Hawn put it: "Well, in my time zone that's all the time I have,
    but maybe in your time zone I haven't finished yet. So stay tuned!"

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211128.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    The Rebirth of Homebrew

    Posted: 20 Nov 2021 08:00 AM PST http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211121.foundations-of-amateur-radio.txt

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    On the 12th of December 1961, before I was born, before my parents met, the first amateur radio satellite was launched by Project OSCAR. It was a 10
    kilo box, launched as the first private non-government spacecraft. OSCAR 1
    was the first piggyback satellite, launched as a secondary payload taking
    the space of a ballast weight and managed to be heard by over 570 amateurs across 28 countries during the 22 days it was in orbit. It was launched
    just over four years after Sputnik 1 and was built entirely by amateurs for radio amateurs.

    In the sixty years since we've come a long way. Today high school students
    are building and launching CubeSats and several groups have built
    satellites for less than a $1,000. OSCAR 76, the so-called "$50SAT" cost
    $250 in parts. It operated in orbit for 20 months. Fees for launching a
    10cm cubed satellite are around $60,000 and reducing by the year.

    If that sounds like a lot of money for the amateur community, consider that
    the budget for operating VK0EK, the DXpedition to Heard Island in 2016 was $550,000. Operation lasted 21 days.

    I'm mentioning all this in the context of homebrew. Not the alcoholic
    version of homebrew, the radio amateur version, where you build stuff for
    your personal enjoyment and education.

    For some amateurs that itch is scratched by designing and building a valve based power amplifier, for others it means building a wooden Morse key. For
    the members of OSCAR it's satellites. For me the itch has always been

    Sitting in my bedroom in the early 1980's, eyeballs glued to the black and white TV that was connected to my very own Commodore VIC-20 was how I got properly bitten by that bug, after having been introduced to the Apple II
    at my high school.

    I'm a curios person. Have always been. In my work I generally go after the
    new and novel and then discover six months down the track that my clients benefit from my weird sideways excursion into something or other.

    Right now my latest diversion is the FPGA, a Field Programmable Gate Array. Started watching a new series by Digi-Key about how to use them and the experience is exhilarating.

    One way to simply describe an FPGA is to think of it as a way to create a virtual circuit board that can be reprogrammed in the field. You don't have
    to go out and design a chip for a specific purpose and deal with errors, upgrades and supply chain issues, instead you use a virtual circuit and reprogram as needed. If you're not sure how powerful this is, you can
    program an FPGA to behave like a Motorola 65C02 microprocessor, or as a
    RISC CPU, or well over 200 other open source processor designs, including
    the 64-bit UltraSPARC T1 microprocessor.

    I'm mentioning this because while I have a vintage HP606A valve based
    signal generator that I'm working on restoring to fully working. Homebrew
    for me involves all that the world has to offer. I don't get excited about solder and my hands and eyes are really not steady enough to manage small circuit designs, but tapping keys on a keyboard, that's something I've been doing for a long time.

    Another thing I like about this whole upgraded view of homebrew is that we
    as radio amateurs are already familiar with building blocks. We likely
    don't design a power supply from scratch, or an amplifier, or the VFO
    circuit. Why improve something that has stood the test of time? In my
    virtual world, I too can use those building blocks. In FPGA land I can
    select any number of implementations of a Fourier Transform and test them
    all to see which one suits my purpose best.

    In case you're wondering. My Pluto SDR is looking great as a 2m and 70cm beacon, transmitting on both bands simultaneously. It too has an FPGA on
    board and I'm not afraid to get my keyboard dirty trying to tease out how
    to best make use of that.

    What homebrew adventures have you been up to?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211121.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Defeating the Pitfalls of Predicting HF Propagation

    Posted: 13 Nov 2021 08:00 AM PST http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211114.foundations-of-amateur-radio.txt

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    As you might know, I like to transmit with as little power as possible,
    known as QRP operation. My own station runs at 5 Watts, since on HF, that's
    as low as my radio will go. I could go lower by turning down the microphone gain, which interestingly is how some radios actually operate, but for now,
    5 Watts seems to be a good starting point and truth be told, even though
    I've been here for a while, I feel like I'm learning something new every

    One of the largest challenges associated with using low power on HF is propagation on the HF bands which is more fluid than ever. There's plenty
    of variables. For example, in addition to the day-night cycle, there's
    Earth's magnetic field, the impact from coronal mass ejections as well as
    the solar cycle. As that cycle waxes and wanes, or in my case, wanes and
    waxes, propagation trends are affected on a longer term basis.

    There's all manner of tools to explore this. The Australian Space Weather Service is one of many such bodies that create ionospheric prediction maps showing frequencies and their propagation through the ionosphere. Then
    there's the derivative ones that use this data to declare if a band is open
    or closed, spread widely across the globe with little in the way of
    context, like time, or location.

    There are tools like VOACAP which attempt to predict the point-to-point
    path loss and transceiver coverage dependent on antennas, solar weather and time and date. They also attempt to arrive at a so-called MUF, the Maximum Usable Frequency, defined as the highest frequency at which ionospheric communication is possible for 50% of the days in a month. The LUF, the
    Lowest Usable Frequency is defined as the frequency at which communication
    is possible 90% of the days of the month.

    All these tools have one thing in common. They're predictions and
    forecasts. They reflect an attempt at quantifying reality. There is a place
    for this, but my often repeated encouragement of getting on air to make
    some noise is advice that covers the gap between prediction and reality.

    I've long been a fan of using Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, or WSPR as
    a tool to measure actual propagation. What I like most about it is that it
    can be used on your own station, using your own antenna, at any time.

    It occurred to me the other day that there must be a relationship between a WSPR signal and a voice signal. Not a mathematical one, but one that makes
    the difference between establishing a voice contact with another station
    and calling CQ until you're blue in the face.

    With that in mind I took a leap and purchased a ZachTek Desktop WSPR transmitter, capable of operating on all the HF bands that my license
    permits. It was shipped from Sweden this week and it is expected to take
    more than a month to get to me, likely most of that travelling between
    Sydney and Perth, but when it does, I'll be able to set up my own in-house
    200 milliwatt beacon that will show me just how far my signal goes on the
    bands that I pick. As an aside, I'm still looking for a similar solution
    for 2m and 70cm since there are all manner of interesting propagation
    phenomena associated with those bands as well.

    I'm still digging into how I can best gather the reception data to
    visualise it and I'm working on a strategy that can send me an alert when a particular band is open from my station at such a level that I can look to operating a particular mode, like FT8, or SSB, or anything that I might

    The data is public, thanks to the various WSPR reporting systems around, so others in my grid square, likely beyond that, will also be able to benefit
    from my beacon. I'm considering generating a propagation map from my own station and publish that, but it's too early to say what's involved in
    making that happen.

    Right now I've dived into the rabbit-hole associated with finding a
    suitable antenna. My current station vertical requires a tuner and I don't think that finding a way to tune my antenna every time the beacon changes
    band is a good solution.

    I suspect that I'll also need to come up with a way to have two
    transmitters share the same antenna, but I'll cross that bridge when I need

    Once the beacon arrives, it's my intention to start with 10m as my beacon
    band using my current antenna, since 10m is on the verge of being useful
    for my QRP adventures and I must confess, I'm looking forward to making a
    voice contact with the other side of the planet with my station for the
    first time in a long time.

    What kinds of things can you think of that would benefit from a solution
    like this?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211114.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    What have you been up to in Amateur Radio lately ... Gary VK2OVA

    Posted: 06 Nov 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Recently I exchanged emails with fellow amateur Gary VK2OVA. This was his
    most recent response.

    Hello Onno,

    What have you been up to in amateur radio lately, you ask hahahahahahaha.

    I hope this gives you a good chuckle.

    I decided to construct and erect a full wave 80 meter sky loop. Simple
    antenna, and I have lots of space to do so with an old tennis court on the block surrounded by existing poles and wire mesh.

    The preparation for me was the key to having an easy path to a successful outcome. First step was to measure out the existing poles for the best fit, measured, then stood back and looked, then measured again, yes all is good, this will work. Made up the ropes and pulleys, rechecked the length and
    height, yep all good, put the ropes and pulleys in place, ready to attach
    the insulators. I'm going for four corners with an overall measure of 23
    meters long by 17 meters wide. Using a corner feed point.

    Made up a feed point cockatoo deterrent, 90 mil storm water pipe about 15 inches long, split end to end, then zip tied into itself as it wraps around
    the insulator and feed point. Cockatoos are in abundance here so I had to
    come up with something to keep them away from the feed point as that seems
    to be their favourite chew spot.

    Purchased a 100 meter long roll of green and yellow earth wire, thinking to myself, easy as, just cut a measured length off the end and have the
    correct length left on the reel ready to roll out. Oh but wait, a couple of hams talking on air had a similar situation and it worked out that the roll
    was shorter than quoted on the label. Best practice here is to unroll it
    and measure it myself, simple task.

    Now I cannot find my 30 meter tape measure, so I put the task on hold till
    it turns up. Two weeks later it is no where to be seen, so now I have
    decided to go with the 8 meter tape measure. After thinking about how to
    best measure 8 meters at a time I came up with a marvellous plan, I'll put
    a couple pegs in the ground at 8 meters apart and simply loop the wire back
    and forth 11 times. After all, this is 88 meters in total and I can simply
    trim the length to my chosen frequency of 3.620 MHz. I'm feeling very good right about now as I have saved myself a lot of walking and bending.

    Now, the first error pops its little head. After I've cut the wire to
    length and attempt to lay it out on the ground inside the poles -
    designated antenna holders - the copper wire reminds me it has a memory.
    That memory is very adamant, I'm a circle of loops. So yes I now have a
    birds nest of yellow and green. Have you ever noticed when something like
    this has a mind of its own, it is, apparently, right. Took at least an hour
    to unravel it, then several tent pegs, to get this wire to obey me. So I
    won that battle.

    Because I had measured the wire myself I knew it to be accurate, which
    proved how wrong I was back when I'd completed the original measure, post
    to post for potential mast poles. So I reset my ropes and pulleys to the
    new poles and hoisted the whole lot up in the air, then ran inside to view
    the antenna analyser. Now something is wrong, I cannot get a meter dip
    anywhere on HF. Oh dear, I've got a break or bad connection.

    So into trouble shooting mode goes whats left of my brain. Track and
    retrace. As much as I did I could not identify what was wrong. Only one
    thing for it I will go back to the beginning and start over.

    Dropped the wire on the ground, pegged it down so it could not get away
    again. Still could not find my 30 meter tape measure, so out comes the 8
    meter tape. But wait, is that a 6 or an 8 on there. Lets settle this, I'll
    put on my reading glasses just to be sure. Yep it is a 6 meter tape
    measure, not 8 so therefor I have only got a 66 meter length of wire, oh
    gosh! Back to square one, move all the pulleys re-measure everything. To correct the problem I had to add on some wire and solder the 2 pieces
    together. With my new level of cautious approach I managed to get the
    length perfect at 3.625 MHz.

    I still cannot find my 30 meter tape, nor can I find my 8 meter tape, but
    the good news is I still have a 6 meter tape measure, actually out of six
    tape measures that I had it's the only one I can find.

    I've decided I should probably wear my glasses when reading small print,
    from now on.

    I've been making wire antennas for years and never had an issue. Having
    just moved here a couple of years ago I'm in a position where size does not impact my antenna choices, hence the ambitious project which took up way to much time and effort.

    And, if this is suitable for sharing please do so.


    Gary VK2OVA

    The only thing remaining is to ask you a question.

    What have you been up to in Amateur Radio lately?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20211107.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    The Ripple Effects of making change ...

    Posted: 30 Oct 2021 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    During the week a new piece of software was born. It's not going to solve
    world hunger or address man-made climate change, but it will help some contesters who want to get on air and make noise without actually making
    noise. From my vk6flab github page you can get yourself a copy of a tiny
    little bash script with the catchy name of ssbdaemon and use it to launch
    your very own remote-controlled voice-keyer.

    After making the announcement I received several emails from excited
    contesters who wanted to thank me for my efforts and I have to tell you,
    making something that others find useful is very rewarding.

    My announcement also sparked some discussion around using voice-keyers including some who consider that this isn't a useful addition to the hobby.

    More on that in a moment.

    After the code was written, I had to actually, you know, use it. So I
    hooked up my radio, launched ssbdaemon and fired up my current contest
    logger of choice, TLF, and attempted to make noise. Unfortunately I wasn't
    so lucky as to make it all work on the first try. TLF needs to be in CW
    mode for ssbdaemon to work and someone, somewhere at some point, decided
    that when you change band, the mode needs to be set, so despite me setting
    my radio to either Lower or Upper Side Band, TLF would helpfully change it
    to CW, which actively prevented me from making noise.

    Since TLF is Open Source, I was able to download its source-code and after
    some trial and error, including discussion with the TLF developer
    community, I added my own little flavour to my copy of TLF to make it
    always use sideband. My fix isn't useful long-term, but right now it will
    make it possible for me to operate my voice-keyer. An alternative would
    have been to turn off rig control.

    [continued in next message]

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