PE4KH Amateur radio - Koos van den Hout

Most recent QSO's for PE4KH

Callsign Band Mode Locator RST(R) RST(S)
9A6DJM20MJT65JN65-03-01
PB2RVS2MFMJO21RR5856
OK2BOX20MJT65JN99-11-09
F4FZR20MJT65JN25-05-03
F8KFQ20MJT65JN03-07-03
SP5SR20MPSK63KO02ML599599
G3ZCH20MPSK31IO83UN599599
DJ2BH20MPSK31JO32XG599599
IV3JER20MPSK31JN66LB599599
DK4NW20MPSK31JN59LL599599
DL/ON4IPA20MPSK63JO54MK599599
OZ/EA2ECV20MPSK31JO65GS599599
UT4U20MRTTY599599
S57YK20MRTTYJN65UM599599
UX0SX20MRTTYKN28IW599599

I passed my novice radio amateur exam in March 2013 and I registered the callsign PD4KH (pappa delta four kilo hotel!). I passed my full radio amateur exam in March 2016 and I registered the callsign PE4KH (pappa echo four kilo hotel!).
PE4KH on qrz.com
PE4KH on hamqth.com

I am usually located around maidenhead locator: JO22NC

The 'hamradio' items from my homepage

2017-04-06 Results from a powerfailure
Earlier today there was a local powerfailure. I noticed it while being connected remotely to my server at home, it stopped responding and stayed off-line for a while. I checked the website of the electricity distribution network and it showed a local powerfailure.

Initially my reaction was a bit of interest in how low the radio noise levels would be when I could try the radio at home. By the time I got home power was back on so I never found out.

Some systems at home had to be started by hand, but eventually everything was up and running again, with new kernels booted. Everything came up fine including PPPoE to the outside world.

Later in the evening I noticed the old weatherstation in the shed which measures the temperature and humidity inside the shed seemed inoperational. Checking that weatherstation eventually led to a diagnoses that the 12 volt powersupply for that weatherstation had failed. It was only delivering 7.2 volt. To disconnect that weatherstation for diagnosis I completely shut down the shed computer ritchie. After that it did not come up again. Power came up and the harddisk started spinning but nothing happened after that.

So I also took that computer in for diagnosis. Connected to a keyboard and monitor everything came up fine. Disconnected from the monitor nothing came up.

Slowly it dawned on me that this might be related to an issue which I had read on the PC Engines Alix.1d page :
BIOS update

* beta various updates (release MFGPT timers)
* beta fix VGA DDC issue (boot hang)
Which seemed to be the problem which suddenly started acting up for me which it never did before. But the BIOS clock was also reset so I guess the whole setup was erased and I just did not notice because the default settings were good enough to boot anyway and ntpd sets the clock soon after boot. A simple solution would be a BIOS upgrade.

But preparing a CF card to boot freedos seemed a long way to flash the bios so I tried it via the Heavy Duty Boot pxeboot environment which booted FreeDOS nicely on the alix.1c but it rebooted as soon as I started SB.COM. I guess sb.com searches for bios images on C:\ and the FreeDOS floppy image is A:\

In the end I searched for a workaround and found mention in PC hangs up when no monitor attached - Ubuntu bug #243257 of a wire between pins 12 and 7 in the VGA connector. A piece of wire was bent and inserted into the vga connector and now the weatherstation computer ritchie boots up again.

Next plan is to do the BIOS upgrade via flashrom: In searching for information about the Alix 1.c bios upgrade I'd like to do I came across mention of flashrom.

2017-04-03 I participated in the EA RTTY contest 2017
This weekend after the antenna installation was done I had some time to participate in the EA RTTY contest 2017. I only participated on Sunday afternoon on the 20 meter band so I entered in the SO20 DX category.

The end result was 35 QSO's (contacts). Less than the results I had in the EA RTTY contest in 2016 but I had less time and energy available.

2017-04-02 Antenna for 2m/70cm up on the dormer roof
Antenna mounted on dormer roof
Antenna for 2m/70cm, Diamond X-30N, mounted on roof of dormer
Parts for mounting the Diamond X-30N which I bought in October on the roof were collected in the months since October and it was finally clear enough weather for a fellow radio amateur with lots more climbing experience and the right gear to climb on top of our dormer and install it.

There are rubber granulate pads on the roof to avoid damage, a metal frame sold as a mount for satellite dishes to which the antenna is mounted, 4 concrete tiles in the mount to weigh it down on the roof. The coax enters the house alongside a chimney.

After the work on the roof it was good to drink a beer to celebrate and afterwards I routed the cable further to my shack.

The first fast test was calling CQ on a local 2 meter frequency and someone from my radio club answered immediately.

The second big test was participating in a radio roundtable held on Sunday evening. This went fine, net control at a distance of somewhat over 30 kilometers gave me a 55 report (audio readability 5 and signal level 5). So the antenna is clearly doing what it is supposed to do. It's also nice to see the base noise level on the 2 meter band is near zero.

2017-03-29 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 3 : metal cases
I was looking for a metal case to put the low(ish) noise amplifier in and maybe the RTL-SDR. The RTL-SDR should also be shielded from the amplifier and from the computer as both RTL-SDR and computer cause their own signals.

The first cheap source of metal cases I could think of was old cigar boxes. Altoid tins are not available here. So I asked someone who I know who smokes cigars who had a number of old metal cigar boxes. Next step, finding the way to get the right holes in the boxes for the SMA and BNC connectors, and for the USB connection to the computer. Ideal would be to lend / find a punch for those holes.

2017-03-27 Upgrading WSJT-X after hearing two words
Recently it seems radio noise levels on the HF bands have gone up again so I spend more time trying to make contacts in JT65 mode since that mode is more robust against noise than PSK31.

To do this I use the WSJT-X software under Ubuntu Linux. WSJT-X is written by Joe Taylor KJ1T. The Ubuntu hams packages had WSJT-X 1.1 and I frequently ran across the problem that it crashes when the Internet connection to pskreporter is impossible when sending spots. In my setup the Internet connection drops regularly when I'm active with JT65 or PSK31 so that was an annoyance. Logged as Ubuntu bug #1673040: wsjtx crashes when internet connection is interrupted.

But this weekend I was listening to Linux in the Ham Shack Episode #184 and in the presenters talking about re-installing a Linux system for amateur radio I heard two words: wsjtx ppa. As soon as possible I looked it up and found WSJTX General Availability Release PPA, followed the installation instructions and upgraded to WSJT-X 1.7.

The main improvement is that it decodes better so I may make further contacts. Sofar it hasn't crashed on an interrupted Internet connection.

I see one problem: it doesn't like talking to my radio via rigctld, giving an error. When I stop rigctld as started by Cqrlog and let WSJT-X control the radio directly via hamlib things work fine. And suddenly Cqrlog sees the QSO in progress and logs it when done.

2017-03-26 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 2 : Installing Gqrx SDR software and the first tests
With the hardware available it's now time to test the first part of the software setup: whether I can have running software defined radio.

To (re)install Gqrx I followed the instructions at Install Gqrx SDR on Ubuntu Linux. The first 'sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove' steps removed a lot of software and the latter 'sudo apt-get install' steps added newer (or maybe the same) versions. But I was glad to do a full reinstall, I have had weird problems with gqrx versions before. The laptop on which I am doing this has had an install of gqrx before, but was upgraded from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS in the mean time, so a clean reinstall seemed a good idea.

I plugged in the RTL-SDR stick and checked whether no drivers were installed, which was indeed still correct. The kernel messages:
[156490.915435] usb 2-2: new high-speed USB device number 7 using xhci_hcd
[156491.111136] usb 2-2: New USB device found, idVendor=0bda, idProduct=2838
[156491.111141] usb 2-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[156491.111143] usb 2-2: Product: RTL2838UHIDIR
[156491.111145] usb 2-2: Manufacturer: Realtek
[156491.111147] usb 2-2: SerialNumber: 00000001
To make sure the drivers aren't loaded, I have a /etc/modprobe.d/local-blacklist.conf with:
blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu
blacklist rtl2830
blacklist rtl2832
blacklist lirc_dev
To test it with the 'minimal' setup I started with just the RTL-SDR and a simple antenna, and Gqrx. Enabled remote control in Gqrx and added a radio 'gqrx-sdr' in Gpredict with host 'localhost' and port '7356' (default for gqrx remote control) and Radio type 'RX only', PTT status 'none'.

Gqrx controlled by gpredict
Gqrx controlled by Gpredict, tracking a satellite
Now I can select this radio as '1. Device' in the 'Gpredict Radio Control' window, and select 'Engage' when the right satellite, transponder and 'Track' are selected, after which Gqrx nicely follows the frequency Gpredict has calculated.

No signal yet as I am testing this indoors with the small default antenna that came with the RTL-SDR stick. That will not pick up weak signals!

2017-03-26 Going full-duplex with amateur satellites, part 1: introduction and I bought the hardware
I still want to get active on amateur satellites again, but the main reason is that the amount of work per contact is a lot more than for example in a digimode contest. But I still want to make those 'special' contacts, especially when the amount of local radio noise on HF is bothering me.

One of the most important improvements in making contacts on amateur satellites is working 'full duplex', meaning receiving signals while transmitting. The expensive way to reach that goal is buying a second amateur radio capable of receiving in FM and SSB modes in the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur bands and having computer aided tuning so gpredict can control the receiving frequency.

The less expensive way to reach that goal is using software defined radio. The good news is that Gqrx SDR can be controlled by other software which as the page shows is intended for remote control by Gpredict. All I needed now was reception hardware. Since the first RTL-SDR device I bought is always in use for receiving ADS-B signals from airplanes I decided to buy another cheap one to get me started. So it was on the shopping list for a recent visit to a hamfest.

At the hamfest I found a RTL-SDR stick with mcx connector and an mcx to bnc cable. But the same guy also sold cheap low(ish) noise amplifiers with SMA connectors and a 9V battery connector for power. So at one of the booths selling cable assemblies I found an mcx to male sma cable and a female sma to bnc cable, and a male to male sma cable.

The plan is to put this all together in some metal case to shield the lna from the outside world. Maybe also shield the amplifier from the RTL-SDR stick so it won't pick up any extra noise.

Should this work it would be possible to think of an upgrade with better SDR hardware and/or a pre-amplifier at the antenna side.
RTL-SDR stick and BNC cable - KvdHout on FlickrRTL-SDR stick and BNC cable
LNA and extra cables - KvdHout on FlickrLNA and extra cables

2017-03-05 Back from a short holiday where I was active with amateur radio
We stayed in a holiday park in Germany for 6 days and I decided to bring radio, tuner and the 6-40m antenna. So I was DL/PE4KH for a week and operated PSK modes a few times.

In total I made 11 contacts. The 'radio environment' was about as noisy as I am used to at home so no improvement there. Disconnecting the power supply for the television and the cable modem in the bungalow helped a bit in reducing the radio noise.

The interesting part was on Thursday evening when I only heard noise on the 40 meter band and decided to give 80 meter a try. It was active with PSK signals, including from callsigns I recognize as regulars on 20 and 40 meter PSK. My best guess is that 40 meters was unavailable for others too! The interesting part was that the antenna tuner was able to tune the LW-10 antenna for 80 meter. I do guess a lot of power was lost in the tuner as I only was able to make contacts with stations that came in very strong for me.

For the next time:

2017-02-24 Seeing the same amateur stations in contests
As I process the eqsl confirmations that come in after the Russian Worldwide PSK contest 2017 I start to notice some callsigns are showing up regularly in (digimode) contests. My highest number of confirmed contacts via eqsl which are related to contesting come from YO9AGN, S58X, S51AF, RA3GZ, HG3FMZ, EA3HKA, 9A4FS.

But the number one callsign I have confirmed via eqsl is not a contest station but the Veron club station PI4AA where I try to call in to the net almost every month.

2017-02-20 I participated in the Russian Worldwide PSK contest 2017
This weekend I had time to use the radio and after trying to get some more contacts on the 30 meter band Friday evening I decided to participate in the ongoing digimode contest in the weekend. This was the weekend of the Russian Worldwide PSK contest 2017 (https TLS certificate is broken at the moment).

I had fun doing it, had 124 contacts in the contest. I now have two new countries in the log: Kuwait and Suriname. And Kuwait already confirmed via Logbook of The World. I just uploaded the log (with the last contact rejected as it was too late):
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      52     0    320    28
20      71     0    223    33
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
======================================
Total  123     0    543    61
Claimed score is 33123 points
Comparing it to my results in the Russian WW PSK contest 2015 I did a lot better. At that time I still had limited access to the 40 meter band which limited my options for PSK traffic.

Items before 2017-02-20
This page is created by Koos van den Hout, contact information at the end of my homepage.
Other webprojects: Weatherstation Utrecht Overvecht, Weather maps, Camp Wireless, wireless Internet access at campsites The Virtual Bookcase book reviews, webcam.idefix.net
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