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S+nn notation in Alerts notes

OK, I’m stumped! I see every now and again alerts on SOTAWatch where the notes contain strings like “S+4”, “S+6”, “S+7”, “S+96”, and I simply have not the faintest idea what these are supposed to represent :anguished: .

Could some kind soul here please explain to this crotchety old fool :older_man: (and anybody else here who might be wondering the same thing…) what these mean?

TIA, Rob


Aaahhh - I had to trawl the page for the relevant part:

The standard spotting window begins 1 hour before your alert’s ETA and ends 3 hours after it. You can override these start and end times by including a S+n and/or S-n code in the comment for your Sotawatch alert, where n is the number of hours the spotting windows extends from your alert’s ETA. For example, S+12 causes the spotting window to extend to 12 hours after your alert’s ETA, and S-6 would cause the spotting window to begin 6 hours before it.

I thought it might be something like that, but couldn’t imagine anybody using such a thing, unless it be for some kind of automated system.

OK, Andy, thanks for the heads-up!

I see the RBNGate system will only spot SOTA CW activators (naturally!). I just had one of my brain-waves :boom: and wondered whether the system might be extendable to SSB activists - or at least those having radios with the facility (or some kind of smart-phone app) to send a short CW message like “CQ SOTA CQ SOTA DM1CM SSB DM1CM SSB” so the voice-only guys get spotted as well? Just a thought. Probably stupid.

The CW skimmers dont cover the SSB parts of the bands. New idea required.

Tune down, send CW message with SSB calling freq, tune back. Or use split frequencies. New idea supplied - still stupid, but perhaps not quite egregiously so as before :smile:

The skimmers only pass a callsign, not a message. More work needed.

Learning CW is the way to go!

[quote=“G3CWI, post:7, topic:11247”]
The skimmers only pass a callsign, not a message
[/quote]so, they pass no frequency information?

[quote=“G3CWI, post:7, topic:11247”]
More work needed.
[/quote]…like learn CW? forget it! Aaahh - you edited before I could send. Learning CW is something that those who have learned it say is certainly possible. But only because they’ve managed it. There are those who have said it’s impossible but, after they’ve tried really hard, actually manage it. And then THEY say it’s possible.

Then there are those, like myself, who have trouble figuring out in which order the various normal characters “G”, “3”, “C”, “W”, “I” are to be arranged in the string “G3CWI”, when it’s heard as “Gee three see double-you eye”. Couple this with the short-term memory problem of no longer (after two seconds!) being able to remember which characters were spoken out, and one is really having problems.

Then again for such as myself, “5” and “S” (and even “F”, since that’s the first character of “five”) are not only interchangeable, but also often indistinguishable; similarly with “9” and “P”, “4” and “A”, etc. For such a one, the very idea of trying to figure out what “.-- … .- - -… — . … - … … … – . .- -. …–…” might mean is just laughable.

So, I’ll give up on my idea, which proved to be just as stupid as I had expected…

It’s an idea that has been suggested before Rob. No-one has come up with a workable way to use the CW Skimmers in that way. I am not completely certain of the legitimacy of calling CQ on a mode that you cannot read and without actually wanting a reply. You could end up rather unpopular.

That being said you could encode your SSB frequency by your choice of CW frequency, e.g.

14.0250 = SSB 14.250
!4.0325 = SSB 14.325 etc.

…I am not actually suggesting you do this however.

PS the RBN is confusing enough as it is for some SOTA folk. Imagine the chaos you would cause!

I was thinking along the same lines as your example…

Hi Rob,
I’m presuming you are looking for a way to spot from a summit where there is no cell phone coverage (no Internet or SMS connectivity)? i.e. using RF - Then rather than using RBNGateways, how about using APRS gateways - I’m pretty sure there is an APRS to SOTAWatch link of some kind. Of course you would need an APRS equipped rig and antenna for the APRS band.


Hi Ed,
No, just wondering if such a thing were possible in the way I had described. Not knowing anything about the RBNGate or skimmers, I was basically “thinking out loud” about the possibilities.

Not much chance of me activating anything with my back playing up - I’m in the MRT “tube” on Thursday to see what’s what…


Sorry to hear about the back Rob. Not sure if it would help you but Bowen Therapy, which started in Melbourne Australia and is now available around the world, avoided my wife having to have a risky operation on her back. To quote the doctor after her MRI / Cat Scans “you’ll be back begging me to operate in three months” - That’s now 4 years ago.

With all things medical YMMV but if you can delay an operation on your back by having a few massage therapies every six months or so … It all depends what’s wrong of course, so the MRT is the first step.

Disclaimer: I am not medically qualified, but as only a few people have even heard of Bowen Therapy, I personally recommend people with back issues to at least look into it as an alternative therapy…

73 Ed.

P.S. back on the skimmer usage idea - something like the RBNGate network should be possible for stations running FreeDV as it has a data channel as well as the narrow bandwith (1.5KHz) digital audio, but I don’t see any way that this information can be easily decoded from a standard SSB signal.

Or just learn some Morse?

One of things people ignore is that the skimmers don’t just any bit of software to decode the CW in their passbands, but they use Alex VE3NEA’s really rather special decoder. That software is leaps and bounds better than most decoders.

1 Like

Hi Andy,
Yes I realise the decode function must be quite advanced, which I why I said I can’t see any way this would be possible with a normal SSB phone signal. Sending a transmission in Morse to alert the existance of a Phone transmission makes no sense to me - especailly if it has to be made on a different frequency.

That’s why the inclusion of a data channel in FreeDV or indeed the fact that other digital data modes could send the required information, means for those modes, another skimmer/RBN network could be set up in the future.

Some people can’t or won’t learn Morse Code ever. Some chose to use it and well done to those but others have the right to chose a phone (or digital data mode) and we should respect those decisions. We’re all different. I’m one of the “too lazy to be bothered to learn CW” group. TLTBBTLCW.
May be one day …

73 Ed.

No, they pass quite a lot of information, for example the frequency.

Also, having read DM1CM’s messages it’s pretty obvious that he does have a real problem with learning CW, so just telling him to do it is both rude and not helpful.

Colin G8TMV

1 Like

No it’s not rude, it’s explaining the effort needed to solve a problem and get to same the place as where CW users are now is going to be much, much, much, much greater than getting to 8wpm, call cq, having a qso and asking a QSY to be spotted by your QSO partner. If you can’t see that then you need to take the blinkers off and smell the coffee (to mix my metaphors.)

[quote=“G8TMV, post:16, topic:11247”]
having read DM1CM’s messages it’s pretty obvious that he does have a real problem with learning CW
[/quote]Nice to know at least one took the trouble to read my comments - thank you, Colin!

You should see me in SSB contests (which I really enjoy, btw, despite the obstacles) - it’s sheer hell to figure out in my mind how the different letters of a callsign are ordered; then comes the problem of trying to type in what i can remember of the callsign, with fingers heading for completely the wrong keys: although here I’m already familiar with which “wrong” key might represent the “right” character. I have to ad-lib and pretend I didn’t quite get the callsign, etc. I’m sure many others have similar problems.

As to remembering callsigns and names - my mind stores them in a place which I rarely am able to access. I have friends in our local club whose callsigns I still can’t remember after ten years of trying! Ho hum, it’s a rum old life…


I’m afraid that in this particular case Andy, I would favour the remarks made by Colin G8TMV - inclusive and sympathetic - rather than your own - brash and insensitive.

I find occasionally some of your own remarks on this forum to be rather closer to the bone than I feel are appropriate on a public forum, especially considering your own special status as a MT member, and hence Forum moderator. I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this way, but that most on this forum would just wince at such remarks and move on, preferring to “let sleeping dogs lie”.

An incident occurred on this forum just a couple of months ago where another MT member made remarks which I considered so inflammatory and downright offensive - to me personally - that I was tempted to cut ALL association with SOTA. I still haven’t properly recovered from that “event”, and I’m afraid to say that my present association with the scheme is at such an all-time low that I could, at the drop of a hat, pull the plug at any time.

Please try to understand Andy, that we are less interested in your undoubted technical prowess:

[quote=“MM0FMF, post:14, topic:11247”]
One of things people ignore is that the skimmers don’t just any bit of software to decode the CW in their passbands, but they use Alex VE3NEA’s really rather special decoder
[/quote]- an interesting but irrelevant factoid - and that we’re talking about the very real problems PEOPLE can have in trying to handle issues with communicating effectively. Are we to understand from your response that you couldn’t care less about the problems such people are facing, but nonetheless wish to use any opportunity to make it known how much you know about the technical frameworks underpinning something like a skimmer system? If so, what does this say about you?


Let’s not start flaming here chaps. It’s an interesting discussion worthy of further thought.

Is there a way to somehow use the functionality of the RBNgate to spot SSB (or other mode) activity?

Relevant comments and questions are:

  1. CW strings can be pre-programmed.
  2. What are the frequency limits on each band on which CW skimmers are listening?
  3. The RBNgate responds to skimmers picking up “CQ SOTA”. Now, if it could also learn to recognise, say, “CQ SOTB”, could this be a way of informing of the suggested “frequency coding”?

Most bands could work on a +100kHz system, but and exception would need to be built in for 12m (eventually).