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Going SOTA /P with WSJT-X


#1

This has been on the back burner over winter, but I’m now wanting to progress the project.

The set-up is:

FT-817 + Windows 10 tablet (Acer Iconia Tab W1-810 32GB 8") + ZLP MiniProSC interface.

This time I remembered the USB-to-micro USB adaptor cable, and took all the kit up The Cloud G/SP-015 with me, on the evening of Saturday 19th May 2018.

A couple of hours earlier, I passed some time while that really boring and disappointing thing was on telly (the Cup Final) by requesting my NoV for the ‘R’ insertion into my prefix. Well that took the grand total of two minutes, so I still had to endure most of the match.

I was QRV on G/SP-015 summit with the 817 and groundplane antenna just before 9pm local. 20m CW brought in 13 QSOs, which included five into North America. I couldn’t hear the US SOTA activations in progress even though some of the chaser stations from the other side of the Pond were very strong.

Aside from four QSOs on 2m FM, I mainly focused my attentions on the WSJT-X thing. Running on the Acer Windows 10 tablet, it was clearly receiving and decoding the JT65 signals with ease, though I’m not convinced this was via the cables. I think this may have been through the tablet’s microphone. Maybe I need to disable that?

When I tried to test the CAT or PTT, I was getting error messages. Can anyone see what is wrong with my settings? I tried a few other combinations / configurations too, but nothing that made anything work. I’ll probably have another fiddle with this set-up tomorrow (Sunday) morning.


#2

Mulling a few things over in my head last night and this morning, and I think I worked it out. It is all now working!

Lots of JT65 and FT8 activations on the way from me!


#3

Good to hear you got it sorted, and looks interesting Tom!

A local ham had a Digimaster Pro sitting doing nothing, so a deal was done, and I’m now sourcing a windows tablet to run some software for it and possibly perform cat control duties for the 817…

Only ever worked psk31 back when I was last on air, so looking forward to trying all the new digital mode goodness :grin:

Bob


#4

Portable datamodes are a bit like Marmite Bob - you either really enjoy them - or you really don’t! I found - actually to my surprise - that I do - and the weak signal modes like JT and FT8 really challenge your thinking about radio, and open up all manner of new possibilities.

Sunday 20th May 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Beautiful hot sunny morning on the hill. I only went 3/4 of the way up, to the quiet spot above the cliffs I sometimes use. Well within the AZ of course, and well out of the way of the expected masses - although it seemed unusually quiet, and indeed mine was the first car at the Red Lane parking area.

My set up was FT-817 + ZLP MiniProSC & cables + Windows 10 tablet running WSJT-X v1.8. I corrected what I’d worked out were my setting mistakes from the previous night, and hey presto - it all worked! It then took me a little time to get used to the JT65 operating routines, which were different on decent software like WSJT-X compared to the very rudimentary JT65android app I had been using!

But, ultimately, three successful QSOs. So brilliant! FT-8 coming soon!


#5

I enjoy the challenge of qrp portable, so should enjoy data modes too - hope to catch you via data from a summit soon :grin:

Bob


#6

I may jump into the “Lion’s Den” of FT-8 from Gun later - early evening time.

I must also look at decent software to run on the Windows 10 tablet for PSK and RTTY - probably fldgi or whatever it’s called.


#7

Yep, that’s the one I’ve seen the most mentioned while researching on google, so I’ll be starting there too.

Picked up a tablet - Linx 8 with Windows 10 - it’s just updating, so hope to be able to start setting it all up for a test soon…

Bob


#8

Sunday 20th May 2018 - Gun G/SP-013

Getting WSJT-X working on FT8 was rather more tricky than having it processing JT65. It was fortunate that Chris 2E0VWT decided to join me for the activation, as he is an avid FT8 operator. It was further fortunate that Mark 2E0YCL spotted and recognised Chris’s van at the parking spot and decided to wander up to the summit to say hello. Mark is also very knowledgable about FT8, and computer/device settings.

The main issue was that of time syncing, and getting my Windows 10 Acer tablet to be accurate. We tried all manner of things, but the tablet remained 2 seconds fast - fine for JT65, but no good for FT8. The solution in the end was to download the Meinberg program and install it on the tablet, plus of course getting it all configured correctly. I was lucky to have these two 2E0’s in attendance. Chris was able to use his phone as a WiFi hotspot via which my tablet could connect to the internet, while Mark steadily unpicked and interpreted the configuration procedures.

By the time we had it all working, the tablet was nearly out of charge! I just about squeezed in a single 20m FT8 QSO with a Greek station, at which point Chris and Mark descended back to their vehicles by moonlight! I remained on summit and went to 20m CW, working a handful of stations including one from the USA and two Brazilians.

Overall, a promising day. I’d successfully operated from SOTA summits using WSJT-X on my new set-up, with QSOs completed in both JT65 and FT8. One potential problem did emerge though. The Windows 10 tablet has a micro USB socket that is used both for power/recharging, and for data in and out. So when I have it connected up and operating with the ZLP MiniProSC and FT-817, I have no means of connecting a power supply to the tablet. Can anyone think of a way around this?

The best I can come up with (if without power for many hours) is to operated for (say) three hours using WSJT-X, then put the tablet on charge from the LifePO4 battery via the SOTAbeams Phonepole unit, while I operate on phone or CW.


#9

This sounds like it has a USB OTG port, in which case you will need an Accessory Charging Adapter. It will look like a powered USB hub, most likely with a captive OTG cable to connect to the tablet, a number of USB sockets for your peripherals, and a socket for power in. A standard USB powered hub won’t do because it needs to be able to negotiate the protocol to put the tablet into the mode in which it is master for data but slave for power. But this is definitely a valid mode if the tablet implements the OTG specification correctly, so it ought to be possible.

The snag may be finding an adapter which works with your tablet. It doesn’t seem to be an exact science. You can find recommendations online but they tend to lead to items on eBay that are no longer available. Good luck!

Martyn M1MAJ


#10

The distinct advantage of the Linx10 tablet I have is that it has 2x USB sockets for normal use and a micro USB for charging. It may act as an OTG port as well and be usable for data as well but I have never tried.

Good luck on finding an ACA (auxiliary charging adapter). I spent a long time with one of our clients working with them getting their phone chip working with our USB PHY IP so they could get ACA functionality. In the end they and the car makers decided it was a bit complex and rather than have the car talk to the phone via USB whilst charging, they’d all use Bluetooth for car/phone comms and let the customer provide their own car charger.

I’m sure they exist and can be bought. I’ve been working full time on USB design for 5 years and have only ever seen “concept” drawings and designs for an ACA. I know our USB PHY IP supports it! You can probably fake your out of a normal USB 2 hub and a chopped up OTG cable.

The alternative is to use Bluetooth or Wifi from the tablet to interface with something to do the CAT/PTT. A PiZeroW is an obvious choice, it has all the radio hardware and software and has loads of IO pins to drive the PTT and CAT lines. Nice beginners Linux project for you.


#11

Can’t find an ACA anywhere, and building my own cables and Linux projects is “not really my field of expertise”. I think I’m at the “accept i’m only doing a couple of hours on WSJT” stage atm.


#12

I have been using a little Acer Aspire One netbook for portable digital. It runs windows 7 starter and does just fine with the digital programs like fldigi. I got it CHEAP on ebay. I got an additional large (9 cell I think) battery for it so it will go hours on a charge. I also replaced the hard drive with an SSD. I would not call it super fast with the SSD, but it is definitely nice for the task and even peppy at times. The whole rig is a little heavier than a tablet, but I like the form factor and it is way cheaper than even a modest tablet, especially if you already have the SSD to replace the HD.

For lightweight portable and SOTA, I use and old android phone with PSK Droid. Of course, that does not give me FT8 or the nicety, so I use both depending on how far I have to lug it.

The question I have about FT8 and SOTA remains how to identify that I am doing SOTA during the transmission. I have read the long threads on FT8 here and there is no consensus in my mind. So I was wondering Tom (or others) what does your FT8 exchange look like? Are you putting the summit ID in the free line at the end?


#13

You must bear in mind that I have only ever done one FT8 QSO…:wink:

That one just had the standard 73 at the end. Earlier that day on JT65 I did experiment with changing my final line of “MR1EYP 73” to “SP015 73”. I guess I’ll develop some clear thinking on this eventually, but it’s far too early in my experience for that yet.

With these sorts of modes, it will certainly be the case that any SOTA chasers working you will already have the information that you are “/P” - even though it is nigh on impossible to include that in JT65 or FT8 - and know your SOTA reference. As for everyone else, the non-SOTA chasers - well I guess it doesn’t matter!

The protocols don’t quite fit how we do things in SOTA, but it is what it is, so I just participate with a little deviation and compromise from my usual MO.


#14

That’s a good point. My engineer brain keeps telling me there HAS to be a/the “right” way of doing FT8 with all proper identification and such. However, the reality is that anyone who truly cares about SOTA (chasing) will likely pick up your spot and have that information. Maybe I just need to quit trying to figure it out and not worry about it and just do it the standard way…However that is not in my nature. Hahaha :smiley:


#15

I strongly suspect your “nature” chimes with the instincts of most or all of us. I looked at all many of ways round the issues so i could carry on identifying as “M1EYP/P” and give the SOTA reference, before adopting a more relaxed and holistic overview!


#16

When I qualified a summit on FT8 last year I told the chasers on SSB that I was going to FT8. They then formed an orderly queue and gave me FT8 contacts. Just did the normal FT8 exchange, they knew I was on a summit as they had already logged me.


#17

I’m intending to try an FT8 SOTA activation around lunchtime tomorrow (Tuesday). I think I’ve cracked the time syncing / setting on my Windows 10 tablet - which seems to have drifted 5-10 seconds even after just a few hours of non-use - and which is not at all user-friendly for setting time, either manually or automatically! I’ve tested this process with my phone acting as a WiFi hotspot while using its mobile data connection - and I think it’s all good to go.

It could all go horribly wrong of course, so fingers crossed it doesn’t.


#18

Interesting. I time synched my laptop at home. drove ¬3 hours to the summit and activated on FT8. Laptop hadnt drifted that stopped the FT8 working. 5-10 seconds over a few hours seems a lot to me. Surley any sort of clock could do better than that?


#19

Hi Tom, you haven’t posted an alert as far as I can see - which band(s) - if I’m here in the shack and it’s HF, I’ll try for a contact.

73 Ed.


#20

Sounds like an issue with Sota Watch to me :slight_smile: