Monthly Archives: October 2020

Is FT8 really better than No Radio at All?

First a disclaimer – as I type this post my station is running a single instance of WSJX FT8 on the other monitor. I’ve made 6 QSOs on 160m and 3 QSOs on 80m for the day so far. Missed some opportunities as I was reading which cost me the possible pounce-for-QSO opportunities while focused elsewhere.

Is FT8 really better than No Radio at All?

Had a long phone call with a ham who is setting up a new station with his brand new Flex-6400 yesterday, where we touched on the types of QSOs. Neither of us are focused on CW and while I have done a significant amount of digital HF my buddy has not. He has been voice all the way, though on the UHF/VHF end he has an interest in digitized voice.

For this post’s purposes I’ll discuss HF.

The modes of HF operation range from Transactional-QSO to Conversational-QSO as the main axis of differentiation.

Digital as a technique divides into Transactional-QSO to Conversational-QSO in the same way as Voice (Phone) or CW.
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Non-Radio – The Citroen DSuper5 Returns

1973 Citroen DSuper5 European Model

Virus lockdowns, personnel issues at the interior & body shop, and that I wasn’t pushing very hard made a couple weeks of work into a 7-1/2 month project. Didn’t make much sense to push when every possible car show was canceled.

A lot got done:

  • New (foam type) steering wheel (these are one piece wheel and upper column, and not very easy to replace)
  • Replacement leather interior
  • New mirrors (they are not adjusted right in the pictures)
  • New radio antenna
  • The Euro lights were knocked down & cleaned
  • Media blasted & powder coated the rims
  • New tires (modern current date coded Coker Michelin XAS, the correct ones)
  • All new hoses & belts
  • Radiator flushed & redone

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Clicking through the Bands on FT8

Since my return to the radio waves after quarantining and recovering, I’ve mostly worked FT8 using a Flex-6700 barefoot with a ZeroTen Flagpole Vertical.

The bands have been nice to me, as most days I start FT8 on 160m, move to 80m and 40m as the propagation changes, catching a nice stay on 30m.

Following up I will usually get some 20m FT8 contacts and 17m ones, with on some of the days a few 15m FT8 contacts.

A couple days I found activity making 12m FT8 contacts.

Both 10m and 6m have been hard, though short openings may offer a chance to increase the number of bands worked in day.

Typically 7 or 8 bands seems to be the max I would predict, with some days less and I haven’t picked off 9 or 10 bands in single day since my return to the air.

Because I am running FT8 while working, I am not all that aggressive chasing every QSO opportunity. Often I end up with WSJT running decoding received transmissions, but otherwise idled as I am busy working.

But volume has been nice, with about 50 QSOs made on a typical day. If I have a lot of teleconferences/webinars, or really have my head down in a work project you can halve that, or sometimes maybe only a handful of QSOs at all. Of course some days get closer or even exceed that 100 QSO daily mark.



Back on the Air after being Down

Back on the Air after being down as I had a stint out being unwell and doing quarantine.  My personal virus sickness experience is that I had no interest in even paging through my accumulated “Electric Radio,” “CQ Magazine,” “NCJ,” and “QTH” copies, much less actually going on the air.

A power outage put my main station off-line somewhere during my quarantine period.  As I wasn’t going to break quarantine to go out to the workshop for such a small issue, it stayed off-line until my days were up.

Eventually I will be able to fully recover the station after an outage with the relays and wiring that is almost complete.  

During the quarantine high winds tipped over and stripped the tower bulkhead wiring work shelter I had erected the beginning of the month.  Family picked up the pieces and I think I can make it work well enough to complete the project.  Doubtful if I can repair it enough to be collapsed for storage though.  



More on the FlexRadio/4o3a Tuner Genius XL

Recently 4o3a SkySat released a series of photographs of initial production Tuner Genius XL units by social media.

In their comments first production was reserved for Hams on “the list,” which likely reflects those who bought a PowerGenius XL/Tuner Genius XL combo.

I’ve not figured out if the photographed version is the SO2R model or the conventional tuner version.

Early production TGXL units

Cover off

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Golden Goose in Software Defined Radio


So many hams want to kill the Golden Goose in Software Defined Radio, that it isn’t funny.

First let’s start with a bit of history. The ham radio SDR community was largely a small cluster of informal teams with hardware and software developments, both open source and proprietary.

Then things changed.  One manufacturer, FlexRadio Systems, got a good toehold on production grade radios with the Flex-5000/3000/1500 series. That success was in part led by FRS sponsoring much of the software development, largely to the mostly open source PowerSDR package.

When other groups introduced their own PowerSDR-ready radios, they initially built off of open sourced projects and unarguably from FRS financed software developments.

Stop to think about this – a SDR (Software Defined Radio) is Mainly Software and the hardware exists only to provide a platform for the SDR Software to run.
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