Sunday, March 6, 2011

Skimmer Dope Continued CY0 Sable Island

Sable Island seen from the Space Shuttle

Sable Island is a little island off the coast of Canada and belongs to the province of Nova Scotia. First discovered in the mid 1500's it has been home to shipwreck survivors and convicts. Today the permanent population is 5. It is known for its feral horses

Presently there is a DX pedition up on Sable. I happened across the cluster spots last night. There were three stations on three bands simultaneously 80, 40, 30. I was playing around writing some macro's for WinWarbler, the digital client in the DX Lab suite In order to use WW with PSDR I have to completely reconfigure the virtual audio cable arrangement from the way it normally is set up for CW skimmer.

I wrote a macro called WWon which sets the correct VAC pair, shuts off the raw I/Q feed in setup, sets the mode to DIGIU sets the filter to 3700hz and I'm ready to go. To go back to my regular configuration I have WWoff which returns me to the correct VAC pair for CWskimmer, turns on the raw I/Q feed and puts me back in CW. So I can go from one to the other in a single button click.

The 3 CY0's came up on the cluster almost simultaneously Here is a shot of the path

Only 1500 miles at 41 degrees. The signals were strong but the pileup was actually moderately large. Larger than I would have anticipated. I decided to see how fast I could work all three stations as a test of my new Skimmer setup. So I clicked WWoff since I was still in the DIGI mode and clicked the 80M CY0 station in SpotCollector and immediately I was on freq. I determined he was listening up about 2, turned on the amp (solid state, no tune, instant on, auto band switching) and gave him a call and he was in the log.

Next I clicked the 40M station in SpotCollector and was immediately on freq for the 40M station. The software automatically set my amp to 40M and then chose my 40M antenna, so I was ready to rock and roll! This pileup was more formidable. The DX op had scattered the pileup out so it covered about 10khz. Since the phone contest was going on 40M wasn't all that busy but there were several clusters of stations calling every 1.5 khz up the band so where do I go? I listened for the pattern. He was on 7023 and he seemed to be alternating between 7025.5 and 7030 plus or minus a little. I clicked on Skimmer and that set my transmitter to 7025.5 and commenced to calling. In the next minute he was in the log.

I next clicked on the 30M station and once again my amp and antenna clicked to 30. I turned off the amp to keep it legal and set about trying to figure out the pattern. The pileup is harder to figure out on 30 since I can't see all the players on Skimmer. I listened to the CY0 and in his CQ he was sending UP 2 so I decided to take him at his word and clicked Skimmer up 2 No luck. He was strong so I knew I would likely also be strong in his receiver. His freq was something like 10.1077 which was a bit odd so instead of transmitting on 1.0097 I tried 10.1095 and he came right back. Total time 11 minutes to break 3 pileups

I clicked WWon and was immediately back to playing around with WW and PSK31 decoding all the brag tapes

Here is a practical example of the power of the external freq entry system in PSDR and DDUTIL. Sometime people say this level of automation takes all the fun out of it, but for me it puts the fun into it. The radio station in some respects has become an extension of my will. In the old days I had to spend my attention fiddling with it to make it do what I wanted now it simply does what I want. I still had to fiddle with it. I still had to set up all the macros, and I still had to do all the control design and systems design. I still had to build the hardware to make it all play, but that is the reason it is fun because in doing all that it now responds to me exactly the way I want, and because of that I can break 3 DX pileups on three bands in 11 minutes and I find that quite satisfying, since being able to do that is the fruit of my labor. The labor of designing my radio station to be an extension of my will.

It is a very different experience than with a "normal" radio where you become an extension of and bounded by that radios design constraints. In this system since its basically software, the design constraints are soft. The boundaries are soft. You can do something this month that would have been entirely impossible last month because things are soft. If you need some function exposed in PSDR, Flex has been very willing to help you out and expose that function. If you need something massaged to make it work like the diversity stuff or Skimmer stuff K5FR has been very amenable to help make that happen in DDUTIL. It has been an amazing ride.

It is there for you also because the pieces to make it happen have all been modularized and made readily accessible and readily configurable. Except for a custom modification I did to my antenna switch controller the other things needed to make this thing go has been designed using off the shelf components, and done in as cheaply a way as possible. Life is good!