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Going SOTA /P with WSJT-X


#41

It was a good E’s opening with signals across CW and SSB. I did manage to copy you intermittently and therefore I am now the top Data SWL in England (3rd Worldwide) :wink:

FT8 is a good trade off mode between weak signals and fast transmission times (saving battery power when portable) , although I still prefer the now little used JT9.

Ian
G7ADF


#42

Give me a call next time Ian, if only to speed my QSO rate up a bit - it needs it!


#43

I would have called yesterday, but your signal was up and down with me. Sometimes -03db and next slot -17db and then nothing for 5 or 10 mins, rinse and repeat. If I’m in the shack, I’ll certainly keep a lcd screen out for you.


#44

Lots of activity across UK and Europe on 6m FT8 right now. Rather good fun this!


#45

Having another go around 1200z today. Anyone want to try a 6m FT8 S2S?


#46

Cant give you an S2S (portable ops on 6m is not allowed in Germany) but I’ll give a listen from the home station.

73 Ed.


#47

Be nearer 1300z now.


#48

Wednesday 11th July 2018 - The CloudG/SP-015

A little 20m FT8 activation in the blazing hot morning sunshine. Thankfully I was just about early enough for the shadows of the topographic to be long enough to enable me to read the screen of my tablet running WSJT-X.

12 QSOs made across EU and even into UA9. Some tasty DX showing - A4, VR2 etc - but I was on a bit of a time limit so couldn’t really invest in chasing them hard.

SP9AMH - yes you were received, with a good signal. A UR station called just before you so I worked him first. When I went to call you, you didn’t answer.


#49

Having a little wander out later for a 20m FT8 SOTA activation. Hopefully get across the Pond to NA.


#50

Tuesday 17th July 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

I had a couple of hours free between dropping off and picking up Liam at the bowling alley. That is a third of the way from the home QTH to Cloudside already, so that would be sufficient to get an hour of activating done.

As I was driving along the Macc-to-Leek road, it dawned on me that I hadn’t recharged the Windows 10 tablet since the last outing - doh! I pulled over into a layby and plugged in the micro USB phone charger lead in my car, to at least give it a ten minute boost.

As it turned out, it just about lasted through the hour of use. I was hoping to get across the Pond on 20m FT8, but I don’t think conditions were too brilliant. Occasionally I saw a W or a VE or a PY appear on the display, but really not very many at all. When I went to a newly spotted CW QRG for a USA SOTA activation in progress, I couldn’t hear a thing.

Overall, a worthwhile outing though. 12 contacts, all 20m FT8, all Europe.


#51

Friday 20th July 2018 - Gun G/SP-013

The plan was thus:

  1. Take Liam’s memory stick to Canalside Radio to drop in a couple more of his “Late Night Liam” shows (102.8MHz or online, every Monday evening from 10.30pm local).
  2. Activate The Cloud G/SP-015
  3. Work from home (bit of bass practice, and checking tracks and arrangements for the following day’s gig).

After 1., I couldn’t resist popping into the adjacent Waterside Cafe (Bollington) and having another crack at their sublime prawn risotto. While I was there, I took the opportunity of reading this week’s Macclesfield Express. Well, it’s better than buying a copy now the price has gone up to over a pound!

The route from Bollington back to Macc took me down the Silk Road - which is the A523 - which made me think “Why don’t I do Gun as well while I’m at it?” So now the plan was to do 20m FT8 on Gun and maybe 2m FM handheld-style on Cloud.

As I parked at Gun, I checked my phone and G3CWI warned me about poor wx heading my way. Looking north, I can see a bank of rain on the Cheshire Plain, advancing very slowly. In contrast, my plans changed very quickly. I walked up Gun just with the handheld and logbook & pencil. It was still warm, but getting very windy.

Anyway, I made four QSOs, two each on 2m FM and 2m C4FM. The same two stations worked on both modes actually, so it wouldn’t have been a qualification if there were any points on offer. I was back at the car just as the first drops of rain began to hit the windscreen.

So back home, keep meaning to get on with some work, and intentions to go out on 20m FT8 on The Cloud tonight, looking for NA and SA DX.


#52

I found the use of the free little program TIME FUDGE by W9MDB very helpful when I was out last on FT8. I set the computer clock using it and WWV. It was VERY handy! https://www.qrz.com/lookup#3


#53

Hi Lance
The link seems to go to the qrz general search for callsigns etc. no software options as far as i could see. Can you clarify? Thanks. Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


#54

SRI…just go to the W9MDB QRZ.com page and software item #3 is a download for Time Fudge:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/utl1mqzwizrs1kn/TimeFudgeSetup.exe?dl=1

Very useful with FT8! Even using my GPS unit to set the computer clock, I can see if the DT on received stations is starting to get up around 2 seconds and I can correct with a couple clicks :wink: GL and VY 73, Lance


#55

Friday 20th July 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

I went out around 9.30pm local, not really knowing if 20m would be “open”, notwithstanding the fact that “open” can mean different things for different modes! As I reached the parking spot, I got absorbed with the 20-20 cricket commentary of Lancashire v Yorkshire, so waited there until the conclusion of the game, which Lancashire won by a single run.

All the time I was mindful that the later I left it, the more chance that I would be getting closer to the band closing. I ascended in the last dregs of daylight, not needing to turn on the headtorch, though I did at the summit for setting up.

The 20m GP is compact, lightweight, but very quick and easy to deploy. Any worries about the band closing were soon vanquished; the band activity window remained full of stations all evening. My QSO rate was slow; I wasn’t attracting much interest with my CQ calls, although a few did come back to me. I spent most time trying to go back to DX station calls. There was plenty of good stuff on - Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Dominican Republic, even Australia, China and Hong Kong! I didn’t get any of these into my log, but it was an encouraging first experience of 20m FT8 in the evening.

I made a total of eleven QSOs, six Europe and five USA. The main frustration of the activation was the complete absence of wind - not even a slight breeze. This meant that there was plenty of insect activity to contend with, particularly lots of moths that liked my headtorch.

Saturday 21st July 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

One US station was worked on 20m FT8. I then decided to try on CW. However when I tuned across the CW frequencies, it was as though the band was completely dead. There was still a lot of activity on FT8 though!

I packed away the main stuff and went for the 2m FM handheld. It was 2am local time, but the Pete 2E0LKC and Anne 2E0LMD were there to work me.


#56


#57

Thanks for this thread - very interesting.

I am a casual SOTA activator/chaser and quite an avid digi-mode user at the home QTH. To date, all SOTA activity has been phone/CW. However, I have been meaning to put together a set up for SOTA QRP/P WSJT-X for a while now. Have the connectors for my FT-817, USB serial dongle and a small Windows notebook. Just been too busy to put it all together. This thread gives me some motivation.

On the up side, I like the thought of having a better chance at getting an activation when band condx are poor. On the downside, carrying any additional equipment is unwelcome weight :-).
I just like the idea of trying different modes for SOTA and QRP/P.


#58

Friday 3rd August 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Finding a suitable place to set up was more tricky than usual. The summit was busy with walkers, so the main central areas were not appropriate, but all the favoured “cliff-edge” spots were uncomfortably near to large clouds of flying ants. There were several such dense clouds, along along the edge of the summit plateau. I had to set up in the heather on the other side of the path; not ideal, but no other option. As it turned out, I might as well have done the antisocial thing and set up at the trig point/topograph!

As is becoming predictable, it was the 20m GP antenna, and FT8 via WSJT-X on the Windows 10 tablet, ZLP MiniProSC interface and FT-817. No DX about, and not really anyone replying to CQ calls, so I decided to “shoot goldfish” and see how many different DXCCs I could get.

Well, I was up to the dizzy heights of 8 (DL, F, G, GW, HB, LA, OE, YU) when a jogger decided to run directly through the heather, ploughing straight into one of my radials and bringing the whole lot down. So much for keeping out of the way!

Anyway, I was just about starting to reassemble the antenna when I suddenly couldn’t be bothered, and decided to go and to an activation of Gun G/SP-013 instead.

Friday 3rd August 2018 - Gun G/SP-013

You could tell we’d had a dry spell. The path all the way to the summit, which is normally one third damp, one third boggy and one third waterlogged - was absolutely bone dry in its entirity. Of perhaps more concern was the view from the summit, from where it was clear to see that the level of Tittesworth Reservoir, just the other side of Merebrook, was very low.

I set up in Mickey YYY’s spot by the hawthorn tree, and the magic worked. Well, ten QSOs on 20m FT8 from around Europe was actually pretty similar to The Cloud G/SP-015 earlier on. But while I was calling CQ, I was called by two different stations in Oman - A41ZZ and A41KB - so that was a nice surprise. By this time, the DX was appearing on the screen, and I tried to respond to CQ calls from Hong Kong, Canada, Mauritius and Brazil, but without success. As usual though, time had beaten me just when it was looking interesting to see what I could eke out by hanging round for a few hours. Another time.


#59

Saturday 4th August 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Rather frustratingly, I had a gig booked on North Pier, Blackpool for Saturday 4th August 2018, but it got cancelled with just 24 hours notice. Even more frustratingly, I’d been offered a wedding band gig three days earlier, which I had to turn down.

Well, I firmly believe the trick is to turn any negatives into positives - so this surely meant an opening for a Saturday night DX-hunting activation! I was set up and QRV on The Cloud G/SP-015 by 2020z, and soon working a steady stream of stations on 20m FT8. I split about 50:50 between calling and chasing, with the vast majority of QSOs coming from Western Europe. The highlight was when I called CQ and was answered, and worked, by PY2BEK - Brazil. It was nice also to work John DK9JC, a SOTA chaser, to give him his debut digimode SOTA chase.

The Western EU theme (DL, EA, F, G, GI, GM, HB, LX, ON, PA, RA, UR) continued until just after midnight BST, when I finally “crossed the Pond” again with FT8 QSOs with KC9WPS (Wisconsin) and KP4JFR (Puerto Rico). Not long after this, my Windows 10 Acer tablet ran out of charge, so that was the end of datamode ops for the activation.

Before venturing out, I found to my surprise that my WSJT-X 1.8 on my tablet was actually NOT the latest version. Checking this was prompted by the comments of Ron VK3AFW. I updated Windows on the tablet, then upgraded the WSJT-X software. Sure enough, I now found that I could identify as M1EYP/P, and still be picked up by the autosequencing. In that autosequenced QSO, everything would revert to M1EYP, but the big positive difference was that a station calling me would cause the QSO sequence to be initiated.

The only downside was now that furnishing my call with the /P counted as my extra “word” - so no grid locator (IO83). Maybe v2.0 will address this? Or maybe not - it doesn’t really matter - though I did see someone send a comment on air the other day “NOGRID NOQSO”. Hmm…

A lad and his girlfriend wandered up to the summit, using only her mobile phone screen for light. He was very friendly and genuinely interested in what was going on. He was fascinated by the radio stuff, but even more take by the sound of scores of FT8 data signals coming out of my FT-817 speaker. He explained he was into sound production and experimental music. He said he “loved” that noise and asked if he could make an audio recording of it on his phone! I gave him my business card and asked him to send me a copy of anything he did with it!

With FT8 now out-of-action, I deployed the Mini Palm Paddle for CW. The North American QSO Party was in full swing, though only a handful of signals were strong. I worked W1TO, and SOTA chaser W2SE to round off the activation. Total QSOs: 35 (33 x 20m FT8, 2 x 20m CW).

Saturday 5th August 2018 - The Cloud G/SP-015

Things started well with two NA CW QSOs inside a minute at 0003z - W2SE (New Jersey) and NI5M (Texas). The next one didn’t come until 0022z - S51FM, and then I was struggling to work anything. I was extremely tired, so I packed up.

I had an urge to make a fourth contact, for no reason whatsoever. I called CQ on the 2m FM handheld, and worked Dave G7RYN over in Winsford. On the calling channel, several other stations answered the initial call, including SOTA chaser Pete 2E0LKC, but I never found them again. Total QSOs: 4 (3 x 20m CW, 1 x 2m FM).


#60

BTW, just looking back through this thread and the time-sync issue. Well, I have finally worked out how to manually set the seconds on the tablet clock - so I simply do this by watching the 60kHz clock at the start of every activation. No need for time sync apps, Internet connections etc!

I find if I can get it to within 0.5 seconds, all is fine. Even in the space of an activation it can drift to 2 seconds out, at which point the RX/TX on FT8 is not effective. So I sometimes need to resync the tablet clock.

Overall, working satisfactorily, and I’m generally pleased with the FT8 SOTA activating project.