Category Archives: FT8

A bit of Island (WI-001L) Operations

Been out operating FT8 from our Washington Island (Wisconsin) QTH. Antenna is a DX Engineering Hexbeam at 6 ft (yes just six feet).

“Armstrong rotator” to manually point the antenna the way I’d like it, Flex-6700 running barefoot, controlled by the little HP EliteDesk computer with the latest SmartSDR 3.2.39 software release.

I am cleaning the basement radio room, so FT8 is kind of nice as I only have to poke at the keyboard here and there. That lets me get some cleaning done at the same time as doing QSOs.

During 2020 we were seldom at our Island QTH – most just visited to do chores and left once the chores were complete.

This year we are hoping for a bit more “island time” in the mix. Having a son doing his remote grad school work from our main QTH makes leaving that QTH behind easier. If something needs rebooting he is all over it for us.

Station upgrades are in the works, with some serious antenna improvements a priority.

73

Steve
K9ZW

FT8SP FT8 & FT4 Polish Award Program

Much like a US State QSO party, the FT8SP FT8 & FT4 Polish Award Program is about making QSOs to Poland’s Provinces.

Today’s Poland has 16 provinces, which is a number that differs when my Prussian ancestors came stateside from Poland in the early 1800’s. The number of provinces has greatly varied from a historic low similar to the present 16 to 49 provinces up to 1998.

Poland’s Provinces (Current)

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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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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.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Hard getting more than 7 bands in an FT8 Session

Propagation has been different the last few days, and each day I have been able to work more bands than usual.

Typically I am getting QSOs on 160, 80, 40, 30, and 20 meters. The last three I’ve made FT8 QSOs on 17 meters, and today made a handful of SA QSOs on 15 meters which gives me a high band per session count of seven.

Using WSJT-X/SmartSDR for Windows via SmartLink (mostly) to my home Flex-6700 #1 using ZeroFive flagpole vertical antenna. For some QSOs on the shorter bands today I used WSJT-X/SmartSDR for Windows via LAN to my Flex-6600 to a Cushcraft vertical but found no difference in what bands I could see activity on.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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You have to have something to drink while running FT8

Running FT8 requires time and timing.  You need enough time to manage the flow as software QSOs unfold and you have to have great timing for your machine to keep your transmissions and decoding synced with other stations.

And then you get thirsty!

I know some operators quaff coffee and some chug beer, at the risk of becoming too excitable or bordering on a stupor.

But I’m in the fourth year of a healthier diet that excludes caffeine and alcohol.  The alcohol abstinence was a challenge after many decades brewing my own beer, hard cider, mead and wine, as I lost the makers-side which had become a bit of a hobby.

So what could I make and drink?

Kombucha is my choice.  Fermented tea where the process also consumes the majority of the caffeine and later in the process consumes most of the alcohol.

Here is a picture from this weekend – the dark are Elderberry flavored and the amber are ginger flavored.

A bottled batch of K9ZW Kombucha

A bottled batch of K9ZW Kombucha

So when you see me on FT8 you can figure the human element is fired with Kombucha rather than coffee or beer!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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