Testing MFJ Cobweb antenna & new MX-P50M RF power amplifier (see eBay) with my
Flex-1500 SDR. It's in the same shape & style, just slightly smaller. The two match nicely, esthetically speaking. Sometimes 5
watts just isn't enough (especially with FT8) so having a "boot" helps during the solar cycle doldrums & it isn't going to get
any better till well after 2020. The amp is convection cooled & 100% duty cycle modes gets it very hot
(over 50 C @ 50% power) but that's normal without an external cooling fan for such a small aluminum housing/heat sink to
dissipate heat on its own. There isn't much technical information about it online & no documentation comes with, but
it's fairly easy to figure out how to use. Included are a fused power cable plus unterminated PTT wires with the connectors needed
to hookup either an FT-817 (8-pin mini-DIN) or KX3 (2.5 mm TRS plug). Had to use a male DB9 to connect to the Flex's "FlexWire"
port (PTT out & ground, pins 3 & 5).
Worked a 93-year young Amateur on FT8. Antenna restrictions make digital modes
only real option for him to active & stay on the air. You need a spry mind to keep up with FT8 QSOs because it's like a continuous contest
or "sprint" because of the fast two-way QSOs & trying to keep up with properly logging contacts because the eQSL card request
rates are crazy high for the new mode.
16 October 2017
Added the last of year 2016 revised & reissued releases of my past
columns (ATD024, 025 and 026) plus support files to the All Things Digital section.
13 October 2017
Added new HamAlert web
widgets to top of this page. Found out about this great & free service via an FT8 contact looking up their QRZ listing.
HamAlert supports many different messaging ways to receive your own or other station DX spots in real-time.
08 October 2017
adventures continue! Worked Iceland station & UN World Bank Group ARC in Washington, DC (bankers gotta have fun, too!). Using
the mode to test various antenna designs due to its fast turn around rate. I can see how signals vary, in real-time, across the
world in FT8 monitor mode & use PSKReporter to show my station's results collected by its automatic logbook. Twenty metres
is just crazy full of DX & U.S. signals, but Canuck stations are rare enough that I get quite a few "double strikes" when
calling "CQ" & FT8 is "smart" enough to sort things out for you on the fly. My eQSL request rate is nearly 50% of all
my contacts so proper logkeeping (electronic/paper) is a must. The much older JT modes faded away (literally overnight)
from HF use because of FT8!
24 September 2017
Got to work K1JT via FT8 on 20 m today! Saw his CQ & got him on the first
try. Not too often you get to hook up with a Nobel Laureate & the "father" of WSPR, JT modes & "co-father" of FT8. My
station has streamed 8193 spots to PSKReporter from 68 different countries including Easter Island, Galapagos Islands & the
17 September 2017
Spent part of Sunday afternoon
using the newest, fastest growing & hottest Amateur Radio
digital mode FT8 with my FT-857 & old XP laptop. In just a few hours, worked 25 U.S. stations & 1 Italian & spotted
252 others (total 278) from over 9 different countries. For some reason, there was a "pipeline" to the U.S. southwest where
my 25 watt signal was peaking between +5 to +7 dB (SNR) with my homemade multiband vertical. The PSKReporter site supports
the new mode (plus others) & collects data from stations worldwide. I could graphically display FT8 data automatically
streamed to the site from my station & others & downloaded a custom logbook it created for me. It's a fast &
furious & fun mode profiled in the October & November issues of QST. There are some few cool features provided by
the WSJT-X software to go with the of data modes it supports.
06 September 2017
Reycled an old WRT-54G router left over from aBBHN mesh project & reflashed it with awesome DD-WRT Linux firmware & reprogrammed it as a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi repeater
& access point (AP). Needed to get a signal from my basement radio shack to the far backyard for a new Bloomsky 5-in-1
Wi-Fi weather station. This method was used because current consumer Wi-Fi "plug-in wall socket" repeaters can't be reflashed or connected
to hidden networks & I didn't want to make my network visible to the public, but you can with a DD-WRT reflashed
router. You can also remove & replace the WRT-54's two stock antennas with high gain 2.4 GHz verticals or use high gain
beams to extend the WiFi range. The DD-WRT website was a bit confusing to me, but a Google search found the information
for the WRT series and explained things in simple, small steps for non-networking/server people like myself (still took me three tries
to get it right).