Sunday, February 27, 2011


A couple of days ago I was complaining about the Japanese wall of RF and today it's just the opposite. I flipped on the radio after brewing my Latte and there was DU1IST extremely loud on 40 M

I tried to hit the screen capture at the peak of his signal strength but after about 5 tries I settled. He was peaking a true S9 (-73 dBm) on my meter and my noise was down around -118 dBm this morning, meaning he was a 45 dB out of my noise!! Wow! Most state side KW stations are in this strength category. He was working people on freq as opposed to split. I gave him 2 calls and he was in the log. Here is a shot of the path:

9200 miles. This was not a terminator shot like with the XU station the other day. We are both still in darkness. His signal was so good I didn't even bother with diversity mode. I just saw XU7ACY spotted on 80M so I'm going to set up on 80 and wait for the gray line again and we will see


Friday, February 25, 2011

DX frustration

What's wrong with this picture? This morning I have a late start at my surgery center, but I'm a creature of habit. I rolled out of bed made my Latte and arrived at the operating position here at W9OY at the usual time. Generally I have to leave for work before the gray line hits, but today I was able to catch the gray line.

I checked Spot collector (my DX cluster program), double clicked XU7ACY and in 1 second I was listening to XU7ACY on 40M. I hit F4 on my keyboard and BINGO I was in diversity mode. I hit F1 and my RX2 diversity antenna automatically tuned itself to 40M thanks to the Macro, look Ma no hands. I set the yellow dot on the big green bulls eye for best signal to noise. My line noise was gone this morning. The noise gods had smiled and relented. My noise level was down around -120dBm, no noise blankers needed. The XU was 8 or 10 dB out of the noise, weak but Q5. The AGC-T was set so the AGC was not taking down the XU's signal. The amp was fired up, idling, waiting for the command to turn 2500W of raw AC into 1500W of pure RF delight and fling it into the ionosphere. Ready to crack that XU7 with a bolt right between the ears. I'm poised, my new N3ZN paddle ready to rock and roll between my finger tips. The new supercharged CW engine in PSDR is tuned to a gnat hair of perfection. The terminator is flying over my head and he is peaking!! he is peaking!! Just as I'm about to bag him, I listen one last instant to the pileup


He's running JA's


Thursday, February 24, 2011

One down One to go

This is a picture taken in my back yard 27 miles down range, speed 2900 mph. It was 2 seconds from being canceled.



I know, I know, its supposed to be macrame but this is all about making my radio reflect ME and my operating habits.

Hot off the presses (many thanks to Bob K5KDN and Steve K5FR) I was delivered a new psdr.exe and a new DDUTIL with a couple of new CAT commands exposed and developed in each. I can now turn on and turn off 2 different versions of Diversity with a push of a single button.

The above set up is how I normally run diversity. Here is the sequence to go from a normal one receiver console to dual diversity split operation

Turn on RX2
Sync VFO
Turn on split
Set TX vfo freq to the correct freq and band (done either with a red cross hairs or by the mouse in the TX vfo window)
Call up the Diversity form (green bullseye)
Enable diversity
Make sure my antennas are set to RX1=ant 2, RX2=ant1, and TX=ant 2.
Make sure that the filters are set to the same bandwidth
Make sure Noise blankers are turned on or off according to the noise situation (some times I got it sometimes I don't)
Make sure the preamp in both RX's are the same (diversity works best with antennas that have similar outputs. My antennas are similiar, but I could also use the preamp to balance 2 antennas of dissimilar outputs like a small loop and a big vertical.)

If by then the DX is still on the band, proceed to try and make a contact.

Today I just hit F4 on my keyboard and fine tune the exact TX freq I want to transmit on and go.

To go back to a one receiver setup requires:

Click off the green bullseye
click off split
click off VFO sync
click off RX2

Today I just hit F5 on the keyboard and voila'

I also have a macro that turns on diversity without the split function activated (F3) I choose this when the DX is on the same freq as my transmit freq.

Here are the sequences that I include in the macro field of DDUTIL to do this magic

(note DDUTIL has to be the window in focus for the macros to work from the keyboard. You can also make them work by pushing the button in the macro tab in ddutil with the mouse or by clicking the correct button in the mini-window)
(note the semicolon at the end of the command if you don't add the semicolon the command won't be processed)

ZZRS1; turns on RX2 ZZRS0; turns off RX2
ZZSP1; turns on split ZZSP0; turns off split
ZZDF1; turns on the diversity green bullseye ZZDF0; turns it off
ZZDE1; enables diversity ZZDE0; disables diversity (this allows you to make a macro that turns diversity off and on without loosing the bullseye or the position you have tuned on the bullseye)
ZZSY1; turns on VFO sync ZZSY0; turns it off
DDDV1; syncs mode and filter bandwidth DDDV0; removes this (this is a command internal to DDUTIL instead of a PSDR CAT command)
ZZOA 0,1,2,3,4 sets various antennas on RX1 eg ZZOA2; sets RX1 to ant 2
ZZOB 0,1,5,6 various ants to RX2 0=n/c 1=ant 1 5= RX2, 6=rx1tap ZZOB1; means RX2= ant 1
ZZOC 1,2,3 sets the transmitter output antenna ZZOC2; is ant2 on transamit
DDVA; is a DDUTIL macro that sets the contents of VFOa into the TX VFO
DDVB; sets VFOb into the TX VFO register

So here are the final macros I now use

this one does not split the TX vfo

this one does split the TX vfo and loads VFOA into TX VFO

This one shuts things down but leaves the antennas connected in diversity mode

One thing to watch is to have filters of the same bandwidth in the same grid positions in both receivers. RX2 has only 7 filter positions beside the variables and the radio needs both filters to be in the same topology Look at the picture for the 12hz filter in each receiver and this will make sense.

This is a shot of my DDUTIL macro tab containing the above sequences. It is extremely easy to make these macros work and do extensive changes to the radio. For example I could have added a command to turn on amp relay #2 to the macro to energize my linear amp that resides in the antenna 2 line and turn off the amp relay on ant 1 to make sure I don't blow out the 200W remote tuner in the antenna 1 line, or I could add a macro command that would set the power to the amp on antenna 2, if I was using an amp that requires less than full output drive. You can also set up VHF UHF macros etc. etc. I haven't seen the macro that brews the Latte yet but I know its there somewhere.

This version of PSDR I am using is not yet released but I presume these commands will be in the next version of PSDR and DDUTIL for general consumption

It works great. There are some issues with command sequencing that you have to play with, but this sequence works for Macro-ME

I wanted to give a second shot at some kind of macro tutorial, and I think this is complicated enough to show the power of macros yet easy enough to follow.

In addition Bob K5KDN brought out some commands that turn on and off the noise blankers and preamp in RX2 so you can have one touch NB or one touch preamp off and on. The preamp issue actually does enter into the diversity arena since diversity works best with antennas that have similar outputs. So if you have a dipole and a crummy loop you can turn off the preamp to the RX connected to the dipole and turn on the preamp to the RX connected to the crummy loop and try to balance things.

The PSDR cat command dictionary is here but this was last revised on Feb 8 2011 so a couple commands are missing but is to be updated soon

The DDUTIL internal macro command page is here

This radio is WAY too much fun

Stay "tuned" for even more new developments!!!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I've been playing with the new 2.0.19RC1 PSDR release candidate from Flex. On the CW front it is fantastic, and if you have any interest in CW I hope you download it and give it a whirl. On its surface it looks like any other version of PSDR but underneath the hood, the CW code was completely ripped out of the radio, and at each stage from the keyjack to RF out it was optimized. Some aspects were moved into firmware. I don't know the exact details, but whatever they did I like!! I normally use and external keyer which is inputed into the radio over a serial port in the computer, but in the original version I tested (2.0.18) this mode of input was broken so I was forced to use the internal keyer. The keying of the internal keyer was fabulous. I was able to take the TR turnaround to less than 5 ms

There have been several knocks to PSDR over the years as a CW radio. If you used the internal keyer there was variability of timing on some of the elements, there were pops and clicks, and there were first dits being cut off, and above all there were complaints of lag. When I first bought a SDR-1000 it was almost unusable as a CW radio for DXing because of the lag. All of that has been eliminated in this version. In addition the radio can do QSK up to about 39 wpm. At 40 wpm it automatically switches to semi-breakin. I ran the radio down to 5ms TR turnaround. The relays are rated to 4ms.

Here is an audio recording of some of what 2.0.19 sounds like. When I set the TR turn around to 5 ms if you listen closely to the background you can hear the relay switching with each character transmitted. This relay sound is NOT part of the audio or RF, but is due to my recording technique which uses a microphone. The set up is a pair of headphones placed on top of an Elecraft K-1 which I use as an external off the air receiver. The K-1 has no antenna. I set the K-1 so the agc was not hard limiting by running 4 watts. You can hear receiver noise in the background. I set PSDR to worse case lag, 48khz audio bandwidth with 512 buffers. CW in DSP was set to 4096 on CW RX and 512 on CW TX. With these settings the filters are at their sharpest but if there is lag to be heard it is also at its worst.

I run first the external keyer (K1EL winkey USB) into PSDR via a usb to serial port converter. I use RTS and as a buffer I use a 2n3904 PNP transistor. The transistor is driven through a several hundred ohm resistor on the base. I have found this to be the cheapest and most effective way to get a CW signal into the radio over the years. I normally work semi-breakin with the TR turnaround set to 60ms. This is how the radio is set up during the first part of the test. Next I switch to the internal keyer, and its behavior is virtually identical to my K1EL keyer. I play the sidetone from the radio then add the received signal from the K1. The K1 is the higher pitched tone. Next is the internal keyer at 60ms TR turnaound. Next I set the radio to 5 ms turnaround and go back and forth between external and internal keyers increasing the speed on each keyer My K1EL is set for a top speed of 45 wpm the internal keyer can go to 60 wpm

2.0.19 audio

I also created an example of how the radio sounds when transmitting on top of a station to simulate QSK. For this demonstration no animals were killed and QRM was caused. I merely set the radio to zero watts output and transmitted over another station on 40M I sent random characters over the other station and my sidetone is slightly louder and slightly lower in pitch than the CW station. If you listen closely to the background you can hear the relay but this is not part of the audio just my recording technique.

2.0.19qsk demo

The release candidate is downloadable on the Flex website down the page to the left.

So there ya go!! Hope you have some fun with the new CW aspect of the radio. I certainly am having a blast..


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Macro Heaven

I always wanted some kind of minor programming language to go along with PSDR. I lobbied Flex but to no avail. Steve K5FR had a Macro interface in DDUTIL that went on steroids when we started working on SO2R. The CAT command set was expanded dramatically and the boys at Flex. who were committed to the SO2R project added new commands as our needs grew.

Today there is a very robust CAT command set, and a command parser available in DDUTIL. You can find the CAT command set here Recently I was talking to Steve and he said a user was interested in automatically turning on diversity one touch. Since I do a lot with diversity he wanted my input before he wrote the macro. I had never really considered that. To turn on diversity you have to hit a bunch of switches

Here is a shot of the radio in standard mode

To turn on diversity at my QTH you need to hit the VFO sync button up by the VFO's, Turn on RX 2, set the modes in both RX's to equal, set the filters in both RX's equal, and set up the antennas to the correct RX1, RX2, TX choices. In addition I usually turn on split and set the TX VFO to the correct freq. I generally use Diversity for DX split operation.

My RX 2 antenna is generally my 43 ft end fed vertical wire out in the front yard. The antenna has a MFJ 929 auto tuner at the base, and as I band change I have to retune this antenna usually with just a few watts. To do that, I have to set the transmit antenna to ant 1, set the XIT up the band usually about 1500hz so I don't transmit on the DX hit tune, let the tuner do its thing, then turn off tune, reset the transmit antenna back to ant 2 (my multiband vertical) and turn off XIT I routinely forget to turn off XIT so when I try and move around the pile up I am 1500hz higher than I think I am. Frustrating to say the least. It is a lot to setup for diversity operation at my QTH given the way I have things configured. Enter bright idea, why not automate these steps as much as possible. I have added macro's that do the 43 ft vertical tune, then undo all I have to do for that. Steve K5FR created a macro for DDUTIL that turns on Diversity. Note position M4 in the table below

M4 is connected to F4 on the keyboard or on the buttons on the screen. If I hit this button the radio configures itself from above to what is seen below, all with the press of one button:

But wait a minute the antennas are not right, but that is easy to change, after all this is software:

I merely add some macro code that causes the antennas to be correctly configured Here is the result, one button Diversity

This is one of the versions of how I like my diversity set up.

I generally use Diversity for weak signal DXing on 160, 80, and 40, so I wanted to work split. So I set up a macro called Diversity1 to do that for me.

I made 2 more macros so I can tune the 43 foot antenna M1 sets the transmit antenna to ant 1, sets the tune power to 12w, sets the XIT to +1500hz, turns off split, turns on XIT and turns on tune.

M2 turns off tune sets the transmit antenna to ant 2, sets the XIT to 0hz, and and turns off XIT and sets split. Now all I have to do is insert the TX freq and do a ctl-alt-R to bring up the diversity screen

We hope in a future version of PSDR to have CAT commands to bring up the diversity control screen and turn it on so there would be true one touch diversity. With the addition of these 4 macros what was once a bit of a chore is a snap, and no more forgetting XIT!

This is a long winded way to demonstrate the power of the macro language in DDUTIL. If you are interested in digital there are macros that can automate your digital station coming up exactly as you like it. There are macros that change VAC from RX1 to RX2. All kinds of complex customized criteria can be encoded to put the radio into a specific state, and then you can use a macro to back you out to a "normal" state, so like me you don't forget to turn off the friggin XIT!!

Check out the CAT command dictionay to get some idea of the possibilities. The latest CATS including diversity commands are in V 2.0.18 of PSDR and the latest version of DDUTIL. I'm not sure of how widely available this version is, but I know a final release is just around the corner and I'm sure all of that will be included in that upcoming version.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

TJ9PF on 80

Quick shot of the pileup on 80

This guy was remarkably hard to work. I can usually knock off a station like this in 2 or 3 calls. I think he might not be hearing all that well because the rate was slow. He was all over the pileup one minute at the top the next at the bottom and you never quite knew which way he was going to go. Tailending was absolutely worthless. Eventually I just placed myself in a quiet spot of the pandadapter about 1.5 khz about where he was last sited and hoped. My hope was answered, so now I have them on 30, 40, and 80. I hope to get my 160 antenna back up maybe tomorrow so with any luck I will snag them on that band too. He is very loud and has been building throughout the evening

Here is a shot of the path

about 6200 miles from my QTH. Presently he is well over S9 on the F5K. I'm using diversity with the 66ft vertical in once RX and the 43 ft vertical tuned for 80M at the base into the other RX

Here is the latest shot of the pileup on skimmer

I love this stuff!!


Orlando Hamcation 2011

Flex 1500 on a BIG display

Hit the hamfest today. Got a bit of a late start which was my intention. The early hours on Saturday are always hectic and I wanted leisure today. I live out in the sticks on the east coast Florida about a mile inland from the ocean and about ten miles north of the Kennedy space center. Orlando is about 30 miles to the west. The hamfest is at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, which is a BIG complex. The hamfest occupies 3 large buildings and a couple smaller buildings one of which is used for forums. There is an outside flee market that goes on for miles and plenty of parking for campers out in the flee area. Orlando is the biggest hamfest I have been to next to Dayton. Everybody comes, all the major distributors and tons of minor distributors and parts and junk dealers from all over the east coast descend on the hamcation every year. Orlando is a great destination and part of the reason I chose to live where I live is because of the airport. You can get here from anywhere, AND that means you can get to anywhere from here. I've gotten cranky enough about travel in my old age, and the demise of our air transpation system, that if you can't fly direct I pretty much don't go. My point is if you ever decide to try a hamfest out of your local area, first there is Dayton but next there is Orlando.

I took a few shots of some of the vendors and some of their wares to share. There are enough vendors to fill ten blog posts so I will share a few. I did make it to Tony N3ZN's booth and I did pick up a new paddle:

Tony and I collaborated on the very first version of this paddle a few years ago. It was called the SL1 and I have serial number 1. This was the original design:

The paddle is smooth as silk but it was built on a smaller lighter base and I always wanted something heftier. Tony originally thought I was a bit daft at wanting a single lever paddle built like this, but the customer is always right so he built it for me anyway. Little did he know I was about to hook him. He now uses the single lever of our design as his own choice in paddles, and it has caught on to be a big seller for him. All I know is the speed demons I know all use single lever paddles. Iambics are too prone to mistakes and unnatural at QRQ. I know I am a happy owner. I was going to get the bronze version but wound up with the brass version because he was having a hamfest special on the price and I could take it home with me. Color me ecstatic and Serial Number one is going in the box as a collectors' item

Here is a shot of several of Tony's paddles on the table:

And a picture of the maestro himself:

He and his wife are good people.

I saw Scott W4PA and his new venture

He had about 100 lbs of chromium out on his table.:

I knew Scott from his days at Ten Tec.

I stopped by the Alpha booth and was treated to tables full of horsepower and a light show:

And the guts of their 6M amp. Moon bounce anyone?

I took a couple shots of the competition's displays at the hamfest

W4MPE calls these a "TANK RADIO"

K3 and it's dinky little panadapter

Here is the K3 it's dinky little panadapter and it's dinky little amplifier. It puts out 500W availability around April

This one puts out 600W and will completely band follow any Flex radio and is available today

And this one puts out 1300-1500 W and will completely band follow any Flex radio (this is the amp I just used to work TJ9PF on 80M, while writing this blog entry)

I stopped by and said HI to my friend Rich W2VU editor of CQ

I look forward every year to seeing him at the fest

I finally made it over to the Flex booth They have a pretty massive display, one of the larger displays at the show. Who might I meet?

Greg W5GJ He is standing next to the F3000 display! Nothing dinky about this sucker! It was good to see Greg and the boys and get filled in on the travails for the year.

Here is a pile of bricks:

Steve from down east microwave stopped by the booth and said almost all of the users of his transverters are using Flex 1500's as IF strips. At the show these were flying off the shelf.

Here is a cool shot of the F3K with the Oscope running Note the CW waveform

Greg is smart and he knows how to sell radios

The booth was busy so I wasn't able to get a shot of the Flex 5000 side of the booth. The boys had 3 of these monitors scattered across the tables, one for each radio. The monitors are quite a show stopper. I like to hang around the booth and talk to other hams. Since I have considerable experience with diversity people with questions about how that works often get shuttled to me, and its a great joy just to fellowship with brother hams. I don't have anything to do with the sales, so I don't have a dog in the hunt. It's just good fun.

Overall I talked to the vendors and the good news is ham radio is starting to revive from the recession. Orders are coming in, not flowing in but good and steady. From what the guys say the show was busier this year than last, so all of that bodes well.

I didn't hit the flee market this year, I guess I'm just getting old and when you've seen one TS 830 in a dingy pile of CB microphones, you've seen them all. I need to be throwing stuff out not buying new.

Hamfests make you hungry, and while there are the requisite number of greasy spoon vans on site, all with very good hamfest fair, I chose to wait for lunch. On my way out of town I stopped by my favorite hot dog stand:

If you ever wondered where Heaven is, here is the place. This place serves the best damn Chicago Dog south of Chicago!! Pure bliss. If you come to Orlando and stop by the AES store, Heaven is about a mile or two east of AES on Colonial Avenue.

It was a good day. If you get the chance Orlando Hamcation is a good one. If your just here by chance stop by the AES store and then get ya a dog!!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Cameroon, West Kiribati and bears OH MY

TJ9PF 160 pileup

A lot of DX has been happening around here. I've been off the bands starting a new business, and finally found some time to get back to ham radio. I know I've missed A LOT. Tonight I worked the Cameroon DX pedition on 40 and 30. The 40M pileup was totally out of control with cops and tuner uppers etc, and the DX was flying all over about 5khz of pileup looking for contacts. If I didn't have my trusty Flex I'm not sure I would have known where to transmit.

The above shot is of the 160M pileup. I'm listening to the Cameroon station on my 43ft wire vertical with 3 radials in the front yard and he is Q5, but the pileups are very unruly. This OP is probably the same OP from 40M. If you look at the distributions of 599's you can see he is flying all over the pileup. Fortunately the 160 crowd is much more well behaved as far as cops and kooks go. Unfortunately my 160 antenna is on the ground at the moment so my chances of working him are virtually zero on this antenna, but I hope to rectify that this weekend as the Orlando Hamcation is in progress. I need some dacron rope to get things back on the skyhooks. I have been using an inv-L but I am going to modify to a vertical T configuration this time. I have made contacts all over Europe using this 43 ft antenna and 100W on 160, but no way am I going to crack this pileup.

I will stop by the Flex booth and say HI to the guys and see what happening. It's always a great time seeing them. If there is any news I will bring it back here. I'm also in the market for one of these

I have serial #1 of the ZN-SL1 series, but I want something with a heavier base and this sucker is heavy. I love the action of this key. I have a couple of Begalli keys and a Kent and a N2DAN Mercury and a few others and this key bar none is the best. If you are ever in the market for a single lever paddle this is the one to get. I have tried all the others on the market and this one wins hands down. Beyond that I will pick up a few nicks and nacks for the antenna project and hopefully eyeballs some old friends.

Hope you are all working your fill of the DX because it is thick right now!