PE4KH Amateur radio - Koos van den Hout

Most recent QSO's for PE4KH

Callsign Band Mode Locator RST(R) RST(S)
HB9OK40MFT8JN45+00-09
F1USE40MFT8JN08-04+00
OZ4MK40MFT8JO55-17+04
DL8FCK40MFT8JO40+10+04
3A2MW40MFT8JN33-05-11
G4RWI40MFT8IO91-03-09
LX1TI40MFT8JN29-22-10
IK2YRA40MFT8JN35-09-09
G6YEK40MFT8IO81-15-17
DK4RL40MFT8JO61+08+10
M0OBL40MFT8IO92-05-02
IZ1TMR40MFT8JN35+00+02
EA1QA40MFT8IN71-20+02
OZ6JON40MFT8JO45-05+04
LA8VRA40MFT8JP42-16-05

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

2017-04-22 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 6 : First succes in reception
Today I had time for a reception test and when I started collecting the amateur satellite reception gear I saw two upcoming passes, one of the AO-73 Funcube and one of the AO-85 Fox-1a satellite.

The AO-73 Funcube is an 'inverting transponder' which converts an LSB uplink to an USB downlink with space for multiple contacts at the same time. By default gpredict selects the center frequency where I heard PA3HDG calling CQ but hearing no answer. Sorry, I did not have the rest of the setup to transmit that answer.

The AO-85 Fox-1a is like an FM repeater in space so it should be easier to receive it. But I heard nothing, which was most likely due to the satellite being in a part of the sky where the hedge is in the way. due to the fact my data about that satellite wasn't updated: it's not in the default sets. Updating from a trusted source of extra kepler data TLE | Amateur radio PE0SAT showed a shift in pass times of more than 60 minutes.

Anyway, first success in reception. Next steps: recording the received audio with audacity and adding the transmitter to the mix to be able to make actual contacts. At least the concept I imagined with the rtl-sdr stick as receiver so I can work full-duplex works.

2017-04-14 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 5 : first test of the amplifier with RTL-SDR
For a first test I looked for the first reasonable pass of an amateur satellite and tried to recieve the morse beacon of HO-68. I have received signals from HO-68 before, but this pass I heard nothing.

I tried a stable regular local source on the 70cm band : the PI2NOS repeater and noticed after a while the frequency display in Gqrx was showing 430.100 MHz where the (GPS stablized) frequency is 430.125 MHz, so the RTL-SDR I use is somewhat off frequency. Maybe in a next test things work better.

2017-04-14 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 4 : amplifier built into the case
Today I had some time to work on the metal case for the amplifier I bought for receiving amateur satellites. I've never been good at metalwork but I think I did ok. First I made sure the place I wanted to put the holes was chosen correctly, taking the size of connectors into account. Especially with metalwork it's "measure twice, cut once". Next I drilled holes with a drill for metalwork (HSS) and used a file for metalwork to make the holes bigger. I visited the local electronics shop to get a small switch for switching the battery power on and off and added a hole for the switch. In the end the amplifier and the cables are mounted inside the case and there is a bnc connector for the Arrow antenna on one side and an SMA connector for the cable to the RTL-SDR stick on the other side.

Battery added for amplifier in metal case - KvdHout on FlickrBattery added for amplifier in metal case

2017-04-12 Trying the mini-whip as reception antenna
Recently I talked to a fellow radio amateur about my HF reception woes at home and he suggested trying the mini-whip antenna I built a few years ago as reception antenna, using an automatic switch to switch between the transmission and reception antenna.

For the first test I used the mini-whip antenna with the HF downconvertor and an RTL-SDR stick that I bought to receive amateur satellites to check the signal on the computer. The further I move away from the house the better signal I get (less noise, more signals sounding like the amateur radio signals I want). I do notice that when I turn the gain on the RTL-SDR up (or set it to automatic gain) that there is a repeating 'ticking' signal which sounds just like the ticking interference from my own PLC tests.

This could mean that a nearby neighbour has a PLC network without the notches for amateur radio. Or this is just an artefact of the high gain.

2017-04-10 Amateur radio callsign lookup on Android without needing Internet access
Earlier I had the Android application Ham Radio Prefixes - Android Apps on Google Play installed, but it needs some server on the Internet to look up callsigns and determine the country it is assigned to. Sometimes I need to do a lookup off-line, and I noticed fldigi and CQRLOG do that fine when the country data file is installed. So it can be done, I just have to find software that does this right.

On ICQ Podcast Episode 234 - Portable Power Distribution and I heard mention of Pocket Prefix for Android which can be found at Pocket Prefix - Android Apps on Google Play and which works off-line. This was even mentioned on the podcast as one of the advantages. It even gives extra information when available, the given example is that prefix SV is for Greece but SV9 is specific to Crete. Or EA9 is specific to the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla which are located in Morroco (and therefore count as a contact with the African continent).

It's a nice application, thanks to Derek Turner G4SWY!

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.

Items before 2017-03-27
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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