What I learned in Amateur Radio last week: always re-evaluate your assumptions

Amateur Radio is a hobby that keeps giving, there’s always something new to learn. In the past week I learned some interesting things:

  • don’t take assumptions for granted, question everything: I assumed I had been running my HF radio on 13.8v on my power supply, because that’s what it’s rated at. It has a power out knob on the front, and I’d dialed back the power to 12v a long time back because I plugged in a cable in to the front outputs to power an antenna analyzer. This was a long time back, maybe even a year or so ago. I’d assumed the knob that’s next to front outputs controlled the output just for those front outputs on the front panel, but turns out it controls the outputs for the main high amp outputs on the back running my HF radio too. I only found out by accident because I has plugged the front output into something else this week and wanted to dial back the voltage and my HF radio but out. Huh, that was surprising by know I know I’ve been running my HF radio on less than 13.8v for over a year.
  • I’ve had S9 noise on all backs lower than 20m for as long as I’ve had my HF radio setup, so I few years now. I’d always assumed it was from something in the neighborhood. I normally work 20m or 15m so didn’t think too much of it, and didn’t spend any time to trying and track down the noise source. We’ve had a security camera system that records to hdd for a number of years but recently replaced it with Ring cameras instead. I never bothered to turn off the hdd recording box until last week as it was on a shelf under my desk. All of a sudden, my background noise on 40m dropped from S9 to S1. Huh, well that was easy, why didn’t I try that sooner?

Configuring WSJT-X to log to N3FJP for ARRL Field Day (part 1)

My amateur radio club (RCARCS) uses N3FJP logger for Field Day (we run N3FJP on one laptop and the log from each station over WiFi). This year I want to have a go at setting up a digital mode station to log automatically to N3FJP from WSJT-X to run some FT8, and also from fldigi to work PSK and RTTY. First up, let’s look at getting WSJT-X working.

WSJT-X doesn’t log directly to N3FJP (it does to N1NM though), but it does indirectly through the intermediate helper app JT-Alert. The setup we’re going to do then is:

WSJT-X -> JT-Alert -> N3FJP Field Day logger.

Starting with N3FJP, the first step is to enable the Server API from Settings / Application Programming Interface:

The next step after installing JT-Alert is to select ACLog (N3FJP’s main logging app) in the settings. The options give you a setting to connect to a locally running ACLog, and while this works for a local N3FJP’s ACLog app, it doesn’t for N3FJP’s Field Day logger. This part is not obvious, but to configure JT-Alert to log to the Field Day logger even if on the same PC you configure the remote connection settings and then also point it to the .mdb log file of the locally running N3FJP:

Here you also select the log type is ‘Field Day’. This approach for the config is in the Help docs for JT-Alert here:

Next, configuring network options in WSJT to allow JT-Alert to connect. Without making any other changes, if you start JT-Alert and then start WSJT you’ll see these two dialogs which tell you what settings you need to change in WSJT:

In WSJT settings on the reporting tab, select all 3 checkboxes in the UDP section, and replace the default 127.0.0.1 with your current IP address, e.g.

To use FT8 for Field Day, WSJT has a setting to customize the exchange to include the required class and ARRL section:

To test out the config so far, start the apps in this order: N3FJP, JT-Alert, WSJT. To test logging a QSO, enter a test call in the DX Call field and press the Log QSO button:

… note here when running Field Day mode you should enter the correct exchange sent and exchange received so the QSO is logged correctly in N3FJP.

The log is automatically sent across to N3FJP via JT-Alert:

I noticed if you don’t manually enter the exchange sent and received then it will populate just the callsign field with the sent and received still blank. If you complete both as you log from WSJT then the log entry is saved into N3FJP automatically.

Note: in JTAlert v2.13.6 I noticed the above steps work fine on Windows 10 if you are logged in as an Admin user. If you log in as a regular user, JTAlert will not copy logs across to N3FJP, unless you start JTAlert with ‘Run as Administrator’. Also, it will pop up the warning message saying that it failed to check if the log was successfully written, even though it is written to N3FJP successfully. There is a timing setting in the JTAlert Performance settings to increase the length of time before the N3FJP is checked for a successful log, but it doesn’t appear to make any difference for this issue.

Next up, I’ll look at getting fldigi setup to also log direct to N3FJP.

Slides from RCARCS 7/3/18 meeting: Intro to FT8 Digital Mode

I presented an overview of the incredibly popular FT8 digital mode at the River City ARCS club meeting on 7/3/18.

Here’s a copy of my slides:

Instead of disassembling my HF station and taking it into the meeting, I tried something different and demo’d using the mode (to receive) using WebSDR, and to transmit using a remote station provided by www.remotehamradio.com . We operated the W1/Chaplain, CT station on the East coast, and worked 3 stations in Europe –┬áHA1RB, DL2LDE and DG6YID during the meeting. From this East coast station the 40m section where FT8 is operated on 7.074Mhz was completely packed from edge to edge on the waterfall!