I notice with great interest some recent FT8 SOTA activity in the Far East from BX3ACE, BD3SO, JG1HGQ and JH4BYZ. It would be great to attempt a DX S2S in FT8 mode. Can we set up a possible sked / event?
We could possibly use the SOTALINK back channel (C4FM Fusion / DMR) to support the attempt.
We have changes to FT8 software that make SOTA exchanges more viable (if I have read things correctly).
We have new associations which are somewhat exotic (from a European viewpoint) where FT8 is being used.
Those two things make me think that an FT8 challenge is becoming increasingly viable.
Such a challenge is always easy for activators because activators can work any QSO whether it’s a SOTA chaser or just some QSO. It’s harder for chasers because only activators count for them not any QSO. So what would be needed is something in the challenge that makes it worthwhile for chasers to try find activators and I don’t know what that is.
Before the 12m challenge, chasers didn’t look for activators on 12m. This was because hardly any activations included 12m. At the time, conditions were on the up and there was no real reason for 12m to be ignored in the way it was being - it just was. The 12m Challenge massively increased interest and focus, lots of SOTA activations suddenly included 12m and the chasers were keen to work them.
I’d expect a similar effect from an FT8 challenge. Like 12m was, FT8 is massively underrepresented in SOTA compared to the proportion of AR activity that is on FT8. In fact, many times moreso. So like 12m, there is a big gap there that a Challenge would help populate - and lots of activators and chasers would have a lot of fun.
Personally, I’d widen the remit to Datamodes - generally. This would make the Challenge more inclusive (and would allow the DB to continue to lump all DATA contacts together), and give those more “competitive” participants the motivation to expand their repertoire to PSK31, JT65, RTTY etc to boost their Challenge score. If using the sensible scoring algorithm that was employed in the 10m/6m Challenge, this would be a way of attracting more unique callsigns, as often the different datamodes have different cohorts of amateurs playing on them.
But yeah, the sudden boost of datamode SOTA activations itself, would prove to be the carrot for the chasers to get involved. (As indeed happened with 12m, and, a long time ago, the sort of thing that caused many of us to decided to learn CW, even though it was no longer a requirement to get access to HF).
I would recommend any FT8 event or challenge be planned after the release of the full version of WSJTx v 2.00 - which is scheduled for TODAY (US Time). In so doing we can avoid defining the template and then having to change it should something have changed in the final release version.
I would suggest that in such situations, the one-to-one not the one-to-many mode be used as confusion is likely to arise. I would also suggest that the SOTA contact NOT take place on the “standard” FT8 frequencies which are now suffering from the modes popularity and hence to get through more and more FT8 stations are using more and more power, which for a “weak signal mode” seems very counter productive.
I’m thinking of June 2019 as a start Ed. There’s a lot of software changes ongoing and there’s no chance we’ll add more software requirements till this work is up and running without needing constant nursing
I mentioned FT8 because it’s flavour of the month, but yes all datamodes.
Thanks for the comment. I was hoping there would be some input on “how, what, where and when etc.” from yourself Ed as I know you’ve kept a watching brief on developments. It’s all early days at present. There has to be sufficient interest from chasers and activators up front to justify the effort needed to support the challenge. And… because I’m not really a chaser, I’d like to be sure anything designed does not become activator only.
FWIW, my datamode activations have attracted many existing SOTA chasers. For instance, SP9AMH and IK2LEY are two of several currently highly active chasers who often call into my SOTA datamode activations.
Over 2300 datamode QSOs have been logged in the database, from 550 SOTA chasers. 98 have done so in 2018, recording 211 chaser QSOs. But of course, this would scale up significantly were there to be a datamode Challenge.
I’d say the evidence base is there that it would be viable and of interest, though of course the Challenge itself, by design, would stimulate a lot more interest and participation.
When we did the 12m Challenge (which was great), it allowed any mode so long as the band was 12m. I’d mirror that, by saying any band throughout the spectrum, provided that it was a datamode. (Yes, only modes that would go into the DB as ‘DATA’, so excludes those that go in as ‘DV’).
I would suggest the usual DB filters are there - so the Challenge table could be viewed for just one’s own association, one particular band, everything/global etc. My proposed scoring would be as per the 10m-6m Challenge, which was:
Number of unique QSO partners x number of unique summit refs*
*activated from (activators)
This keeps it nice and simple, and tacitly encourages participants to activate from as many different summits as possible (good for promoting activity in the SOTA Programme) - also to try a range of different datamodes (in order to increase the number of different people worked - which also is good for wider promotion of SOTA). Of course, another way to work more people is to involve a variety of bands used - so no need for rewards or multipliers for doing so.
These ideas are similarly applied to both chasers and activators.
Feel free to set one up. Of course there would be more FT8 chasers if there were more activators activating in FT8. And there would be more activators activating in FT8 if there was a SOTA Datamode Challenge. The end would justify the means!
Most of my SOTA life has been spent as a ‘very casual’ activator (around 4-5 summits a year), but recently I have started actively chasing.
I have FT8 permanently set up in the shack and would very happily chase activators using FT8.
As you know from other threads which I have posted on, I have a very high noise floor here and my current antenna setup is far from optimum. FT8 has a habit of breaking through the noise when SSB cannot, even with less than optimum antennas and has allowed me to contact stations which I wouldn’t have had a hope in hell on SSB.
To that end, I personally would be absolutely delighted if more activators popped up on FT8 as it would make it possible for me to get some of the summits that I don’t seem to be able to get.
Looking at it from an activators perspective, I think the biggest problem is the computer needed to make it work. I believe that PSK can be run from a tablet or phone these days, but I don’t think that anyone has brought out an app for FT8 yet? I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!!!
To that end, I personally wouldn’t fancy carrying my (slightly fragile) laptop or my tablet computer up a very rugged hill in the pouring rain, as I suspect that it would probably get destroyed.
I know some people have done it. I’ve seen Tom (M1EYP) pop up on FT8 a couple of times before. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch him (he was too close for the skip on 20m & to far for his ground wave to reach).
Would be very interesting to see the results. I suspect that quite a few activators & chasers us FT8 for activities outside of SOTA.
It wouldn’t be any fun if I couldn’t sit in my nice warm, dry shack hearing activators telling me about all their antics and things that have gone wrong whilst I’m laughing very loudly and thinking to myself “I did exactly the same thing a couple of years ago on (insert summit reference here)”!!!
Obviously I’m being a little facetious.
My point was that I would love it if more activators used FT8, and I would definitely chase them using FT8 it the chance arose.
I would probably use it on my own activations if I had a suitable computer (a ruggedised tablet or similar) that wasn’t too heavy to carry, could fit in my bag, and would survive being thrown around in the wet mud on a summit.
I’m sure that someone will probably come out with an app for the iPad or android tablet sooner or later.
Failing that, I need to find a small, lightweight, ruggedised Windows 10 tablet that will take a bit of abuse.
I’m sure that there’s something suitable out there.
I was wondering if anyone has come out with a ruggedised Raspberry Pi computer with a nice bright screen that could be used as a digital terminal. Although I have a (non-ruggedised) Windows tablet with FT8 and other data modes already installed on it ready for just such an exercise, a smaller, lighter, cheaper Raspberry Pi based solution would be less of a worry.
Just going to see if I can download the GA version of WSJTx-2.0 yet and see if there have been any changes over RC5.