Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

My 1st SOTA chase using webSDR


#1

Dear all,
Less than half an hour ago I’ve made my 1st SOTA chase ever receiving with a webSDR.
The noise floor when receiving with my endfed wire in the balcony of the appartment has increased so much lately that I’m no longer able to hear weak signals at all.
It’s raining very much now and for some reason (internet or power shortage, I guess) I can’t switch ON my remote station, so I decided to try to listen for American activators on some of the webSDR’s available.
Then I saw on SOTAwatch that Rich @N4EX was spotted on 14.063 in that very moment.
Since he was activating from a W4 summit on 20m, I mentally estimated the skip distance and thought that a webSDR in Utah, might well be copying him.
So there I went. I selected Northern Utah WebSDR - Server #2, introduced the desired frequency 14.063 and bang! there he was perfectly copied.
Then I switched ON my IC-706 MKII in the appartment set to 50 Watts into my 14m long endfed wire in the balcony and gave Rich a call.
I tried once but some other american station was picked up. IIRC, it happened the same a second time, but on the next one, I called and Rich asked IF?
Then I came back with my full callsign and Rich perfectly copied me.
We exchanged reports, we completed our QSO. Rich thanked me for the DX and I felt very happy for this 1st DX QSO receiving through WebSDR.
Activator happy, chaser happy, DX in our logs and the SOTA ball keeps running.
Did I commit a sin?
At the moment, I don’t think so.
What do you, SOTA people think?
Thanks for your feedback.
73,

Guru


#2

Wow. Tough question, my friend…
In contests, there is max distance between your TX and a websdr RX that you can legally use. Maybe some guides along those lines could be established for SOTA, too…


#3

As long as the summit stations do not use an web SDR near Pamplona to copy your signal, too, Guru… :wink:

Ahoi
Pom


#4

Guru,
It raises a lot of questions around the definition of a chaser station.

As the rules permit operating physically anywhere in the world, and allowing the logged contacts to be valid chaser contacts, it should follow that operating a radio that is anywhere in the world, whether the operator is physically at the radio or not, should be permitted.

But how would it cater for using a remote receiver in Utah one day, to log contacts with WG0AT, then switching to one in the UK to log M1EYP or 2E0YYY, then one in southern Australia to make a contact with VK2IO.

But switching between widely separated locations within a short period is different from physically travelling to different locations, so it gives an operator who does that a definite advantage over those who cannot or won’t subscribe to the various remote systems. However, SOTA is not a contest, so is there anything essentially invalid about doing that? Perhaps it does suggest qualifying any awards earned?

I think in the case of activators there is no doubt that the transmitter and receiver must be on the actual summit, and I suppose the definitions should be expanded to state that the operator has to be there too.

Ah the mental exercise, so good this time of day.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


#5

Some people feel very strongly about the use of remote stations. I have less of a problem with their use than others will have.

All I would suggest for now is anyone using a public access remote station to chase as well as their own shack station should record the fact in their log. i.e.put the name or call of the remote station in the comment. Should SOTA ever change the rules so remote chases count differently for awards, you’ll be able to know which would qualify for “my station” only awards and “remote station” awards.


#6

I couldn’t do it with my usual SOTA logging program (i.e. SAISIE SOTA) but I managed to do it by manual entry of this single record.
In Notes, I wrote RX WebSDR UT @ DN31vo, which gives exact information of its location.


However, being this info written as Notes under a free format text, any further automatic treatment of these records in the database strikes me as a not easy task and making it manually after a big number of chases made using SDR over a long period of time sounds even more difficult to me.

73,

Guru


#7

You did not do anything that is forbidden in the General Rules, so you did not commit a sin.

In fact the MT has recently debated the use of web SDRs, trying to decide if we need to devise rules to govern the use of them. We looked at the rules of other award schemes, for DXCC the essential rule is that the web SDR has to be in the same DXCC entity as the operator using it, whilst for IOTA the web SDR has to be within 100 km (62 miles) of the operator. No decision has been made regarding a SOTA rule as at present there seems to be few people that need to use a web SDR, but the MT is monitoring the situation and a rule will be announced when we deem it necessary.


#8

Because I don’t have a base station, I often use my local club’s remote station to chase (noting ‘remote’ and its location in the sota db). I might do the web SDR thing in the future to listen to SOTA activations in Europe and elsewhere, and do some chasing, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable using those contacts for the ‘other continent’ portion of an award.
Peter KD0YOB


#9

Hi Peter,
The use of a remote station for Rx & Tx from the same location is perfectly valid (IMHO) and you are doing the right thing in indicating that as your location.
The question is when Tx and Rx are split - as when a WebSDR (which is usually Rx only) and your own, at home located Tx is used. This, I think is what this thread’s discussion is around.

73 Ed.


#10

I would like to put my own personal view. I am mainly a chaser, and I live in an area where electronic smog is prevalent, in fact on 80m, 60m and 40m the noise level is normally S8 on the meter. I can just about continue to chase in these conditions but can only work the very strongest activations and only with some assistance from DSP. If the noise gets any stronger I will be faced with a stark choice between giving up chasing or using a web SDR to receive. It is as simple as that, if things continue to deteriorate then either I go QRT or I receive with a web SDR. I am not alone in this, I know many other chasers are affected, some have already given up, and I can foresee a time in the not too distant future when urban hams will no longer even own a receiver, our receiving will only be possible if we use a remote receiver or move out to the country - a stratagem that many of us cannot afford. Purists might not find web SDRs acceptable, but I suspect that such purists live in quieter locations and would soon change their tune if faced with the urban reality that I and many others face.

We cannot uninvent web SDRs, some of us cannot operate without them, so we need to accept them and define how they are to be used.


#11

Hi all,
I very much welcome your feedback and particularly that coming from the SOTA MT, as I wrote my post deliberedly to open this discussion and see whether it is possible to come out one day with some ruling to recognise and define the way we can or can’t use the numerous Web SDRs.

I had never done this before and I’ve found it’s something challenging and fun that I recommend you to try. It’s not as easy as some might believe it is. Finding a Web SDR which delivers what you need in a given moment is not an easy task. In the last few minutes I’ve been switching between one in Utah, one in Pennsylvania and a third one in Washington DC and I haven’t managed to get copy of neither N0TA, nor WS0TA, nor K5DEZ. I only managed to copy Rich @N4EX/P again today through the same WebSDR in Utah and after some time waiting for the American pile up to drie-up, I finally managed to make my 50 Watts from my endfed in the balcony copied and we logged a new DX QSO today. In my exchange, I informed Rich today that his report was via SDR UT, which no doubt knocked him a bit out given the longer than expected time he took to come back for the final over. It was exciting to hear my own morse being received by the SDR in Utah while I was sending my exchange to Rich N4EX/P.

This morning I’ve also been playing a bit with SDRs in Europe and after switching between one in the UK, one in The Netherlands and one more in the North of Germany while stalking for several activator I was seeing spotted on SOTAWATCH at that time, mainly on 40 and 30m, I didn’t manage to copy any activator.

Once you manage to find a web SDR able to copy the signal from the activator you want to chase, it comes the second and less difficult thing, you have to make your call and get your signals copied by the activator, which will be more or less difficult depending on the antenna, power, location, etc of the chaser TX own station, as well as, of course, the propagation conditions.

As you can see, making QSOs in this type of crossed way (i.e. RX via Web SDR and TX with your own station) is not an easy thing to achieve. But, at the moment I’ve found that trying it is a lot of fun.

73,

Guru


#12

I live in a noisy environment for HF and I understand that sadly it’s becoming increasingly difficult. My opinion, and I expect it to be frowned upon is that I wouldn’t dream of using anything internet related to make a QSO and then log it as a valid chase. And I know I’m not the only one to think this way though whether others decide to speak up remains to be seen. Why not include Echolink too? Its wrong.

Activator is king and it’s each to their own but I am reluctant to use HF for future activations to avoid this happening.

73 Chris M0RSF


#13

Hi Chris,
Thank you for your feedback. It’s good that arguments for either position are displayed and discussed here.
Regarding the use of internet to make a QSO, don’t you think that we all use it and make QSOs thanks to mainly Alerts and Spots on SOTAwatch?
Why the use of internet is valid regarding the spots and it’s not regarding the reception of a signal that your antenna can surely receive but your receiver can’t because it’s buried under tons of urban noise?
I say that your antenna can surely receive such signal assuming that upon your call to the activator, your signal put out by that very same antenna will be copied by the activator.
I know it’s not the same situation if the activator works QRP 5 W and you call him with 1 KW. Perhaps this is something to think about too and output powers in the same order of magnitude used by both stations making a QSO would be fairer.
73,

Guru


#14

Question: If SOTA chasers are allowed to use remote web sdr RX’s in order to avoid urban electronic smog, would SOTA activators be allowed to use such remote RX’s as well, in order to avoid just a bit differently smelling but equally annoying electronic smog on the hills with massive antenna installations?


#15

Whilst the General Rules do not specifically forbid this at present, it would be the Activator’s responsibility to establish that the web SDR conforms to rule 3.7.1.6, and is operated from batteries or solar cells and not from a permanently installed power source or fossil fuel generator.


#16

As you may have seen from the wording of my previous post, I am sitting on the fence a little on this matter. It is interesting to me however that the majority of responses posted here appear to be pro this solution where a similar discussion on this reflector a few months ago was generally against the use of WebSDRs in making SOTA chases especially when the WebSDR was not local to the station (i.e. away from the local noise but no longer in the same geographical region).
It is interesting to see opinions changing.
I think we need to point out however that a WebSDR may be used in addition to and not as a replacement for, a receiver located in the same location as the transmitter. Otherwise stations using only a remote receiver could easily cause QRM to other stations on the frequency who are not audible at the WebSDR’s location.
Given that a certain level of computing power is included in many new transcievers, I wonder if we are about to see a rig with a websdr receiver client built-in to supplement the local receiver. This could be particularly useful to contesters I expect but also, as has been raised here, for stations in a location with a high EMI noise level.
It’s all part of technology advancement and while use of remote receivers may be banned by some contest organisers, I see the SOTA award scheme as a scheme where you are challenging yourself, and there is room for some participants to rule out, or rule in, this newish technological capability, in their own interpretation of what should be allowed and what not in SOTA chasing.

I personally think the use of a remote receiver by an activator is less justifyable than by a chasers as while there are situations where other radio equipment on a summit may cause interference to the SOTA station, in general the radio environment on a summit is quieter and as an activator you can move your location (even to a different summit) if the noise is too bad which is something that a fixed station chaser cannot easily do. Again however in SOTA, it’s a personal decision in this case by the activator whether he or she thinks the use of a WebSDR from a summit is “OK”.

73 Ed.


#17

Opinions changing? Audio is transferred from point A to point B via an internet cable and is considered fine for a valid chase. There is little difference to using IRLP, Echolonk, D-Star, DMR, Fusion etc so why not go the whole hog and include these as well? For the record none of these interest me. May as well allow VHF/UHF repeaters as well.

If a Chaser is so desperate for points and has a clear conscience logging QSO’s via an internet cable then it’s their choice. Those that do it right only use Simplex and are at the mercy of something called Propagation.

73 Chris M0RSF


#18

As I said, from looking at this and the earler thread - yes. Expressed opinions do appear to be changing. Of course it could be also that people that commented on the other thread haven’t commented here as yet.

It is clear what your opinion is and I respect that - I’m still not decided but also as I said - I believe this is a choice for the SOTA participant themselves as I don’t see SOTA as a contest between operators, rather a personal challenge.

What is considered “right” can only be defined by the general rules and at the moment, this point is (I feel) left up to the individual to decide - as you rightly say.

Best 73 Ed.


#19

Oh come on, Chris, just think of it as a receiver with a long speaker lead!:wink:

More seriously, we are NOT talking about beating propagation, we are talking about combatting impossibly high noise levels, so tell me this, if you were afflicted with S9 noise would you use a web SDR or would you give up?


#20

Brian,
If we go back to the original post from Guru your point about beating QRM/noise rather than propagation is questionable. He deliberately chose Utah because of his estimate that its location would be favourable.

Returning to the QRM/noise issue:- I suffer from much noise and had very great difficulty in copying Allan, GM4VPX this week. I know his voice and style very well and persisted in situations where I would normally expect to give up. These days most of my activations are aimed at uniques (for me) mostly low scoring and increasingly not very exciting countryside OR familiar summits with low QRM and an opportunity for some s2s chasing. I take this approach rather than using a webSDR but do not expect to be able to keep this up indefinitely. When infirmity intervenes I might have to bite the bullet and choose ONE - and that would be located in G (though being located in Herefordshire I would feel justified in using one in GW). I would see that choice as giving me no consistent propagation benefit.

As It happens I suspect most of my chaser points come from 2m FM contacts with the SW, MW and WB hills; chaser uniques rely on HF or travel.

So, responding to Guru’s original point - yes, a sin because he chose a webSDR on the acivator’s side of the ocean.
73,
Rod