PD4KH Amateur radio - Koos van den Hout

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

I am usually located around maidenhead locator: JO22NC

I like receiving and sending QSL cards. Paper cards via the QSL bureau and digital QSL cards via eQSL.cc, gallery of eQSL cards received by PD4KH.

For now this page contains just the 'hamradio' items from my homepage.

Articles

Amateur Satellites
D-Star digitale amateur radio (Nederlands)

2014-10-17 (#)
This evening I tried working amateur satellites again. There was a nice ISS pass at 18:19 UTC and this time it was very easy to aim the antenna since the ISS was still illuminated by the sun so it was a bright spot in the sky. But no astronaut responded to my CQ call, not even when I remarked "I can see you!".

I also looked up some more satellites that are one-way and this included the HO-68 amateur satellite. It transmits a CW (morse code) beacon and I tried to receive and decode it. Receiving works, but I can't decode morse by ear and fldigi tries but it doesn't look like valid HO-68 telemetry format as documented in the HO-68 page above.

Update 2014-10-22: I asked PA5ABW, a very experienced CW operator to listen to the recorded audio and he helped decode the transmission above into:
BJ1SA XW XW AAA TTT AUE ETT TTT TTT TTT TTT TTT TTT TTT TTT XW XW
And noted the groups of three letters can also be 'shortened digits' and decode to:
BJ1SA XW XW 111 000 121 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 XW XW
which as a telemetry report decodes to:
 CH1 PA Output RF Switch status: 111 PA2 works (beacon only)
 CH2 Transponder working status: 000 Beacon only
 CH3 Transponder temperature:    121 = +21 degrees
 CH4 Beacon RF Output Power:     100 = 100 mW
 CH5 and further: 000

2014-10-09 (#)
Still in the archives: another SO-50 pass recorded at 26 September 2014. Again good operating procedures, maybe some sort of locator contest was going on, since I heard several exchanges with in one go callsigns and locators. Callsigns heard: SV2KGA, S54LD, CT2GOY, S52LD, 9A3ST, SQ8RK, IW3RGK. And yes my definition of 'heard' includes listening to the announcements in the recording over and over, I did not understand them all when it happened.

2014-09-25 (#)
This week I seem to have a thing for completely missing or being unable to make use of good propagation conditions on the 10 meter band. I do use the WebSDR at Utwente to check the band. Yesterday I noticed some activity, including a Lebanese radio amateur who was very popular. Lebanon does not have a lot of active radio amateurs and other radio amateurs want to have contacts with as much countries as possible, including 'rare' ones.

I also heard some unlicensed transmitting music. With the 10 meter amateur band being in frequencies above the '27 MHz CB' band there is some 'export-only' equipment that can do both and unlicensed use of the 10 meter amateur band happens quite regularly.

Maybe I want to upgrade the HF antenna experiment to also work on the 20 meter amateur band. Working long distance (DX) is usually a lot easier on 20 meter, especially at night. There is a nice video about making contacts on 20 meter at night: The Fun Of Ham Radio DX - Making Friends Around The Globe - RadioHamGuy on Youtube.

2014-09-17 (#)
This evening I tried some amateur radio contacts in the 10 meter band in PSK31 mode. And I got lucky, there were openings to North America, which was a new country for me and new distances!

Amateur radio psk31 mode in fldigi
Amateur radio psk31 mode in fldigi
I made psk31 contacts with KR4UA at a distance of 7069 kilometer, PA3FJE at a distance of 17 kilometer and W1AW/4 in North Carolina in the USA at a distance of 5731 kilometer. W1AW is the callsign of the US Amateur Radio Relay League which is currently 'on tour' of the US to celebrate the 100 years of the ARRL.

Update 2014-09-20: Some more 10 meter PSK31 contacts on 18 September and 20 September, including IK3WHZ and IU3BSY in Italy and RA9FHM in Asiatic Russia at a distance of 3244 kilometer. And a very enthusiast S52UF in Slovenia. This contact with Slovenia was also spotted by shortwave listener NL 13562.

And KR4UA reported not having me in the logs so that contact and distance is unconfirmed.

2014-09-14 (#)
Vandaag heb ik weer vanaf thuis de jaarlijkse landelijke ballonvossenjacht gevolgd. Hierbij wordt een peilbaken wat radio signalen uitzend aan een helium ballon opgelaten wat uiteindelijk ergens weer neerkomt, mensen kunnen dat signaal volgen en er zijn prijzen en eeuwige roem voor de eersten die aankomen bij de plek waar het geheel neerkomt.

De ballonvossenjacht is een van de bijzondere jaarlijkse evenementen voor radioamateurs. Dit jaar werd dit evenement voor de 36e keer georganiseerd, en voor mij was het de tweede keer dat ik het geheel gevolgd heb.

Volgens mij is het in die 36 keer gegroeid tot een evenement wat multimediaal te noemen is. In ieder geval komen er allerlei aspecten van de radioamateur hobby aan te pas, zoals: Maar het evenement is eigenlijk multimediaal te noemen tegenwoordig, ook via andere wegen is het mee te beleven: Mijn complimenten aan alle mensen 'achter' het evenement wat er vast meer zijn dan op het eerste gezicht lijkt. Er was een goed strakke regie zodat via alle communicatiemiddelen tegelijk hetzelfde status bericht over de voortgang de deur uit ging. Al met al een geslaagd evenement, ook voor mij als thuis meeluisteraar!

Update 2014-09-15: Direct na afloop is de GPS data ballonvossenjacht 2014 gepubliceerd. Daar heeft Remco PA4TW een mooie google maps visualisatie ballonvossenjacht 2014 van gemaakt. En met die .gpx file en GPS Visualizer kon ik weer een hoogteprofiel ballonvossenjacht 2014 maken (afstand versus hoogte). Het profiel 'tijd versus hoogte' was een stuk minder spannend: de ballon stijgt lineair op en in de daling is de invloed van de parachute zichtbaar.

Beelden bij deze post zijn uit de PI6ATV livestream en komen van Ballonvossenjacht 2014 - PA4TW met toestemming.

2014-09-06 (#)
I had a chance Thursday to listen to a pass of the AO-7 satellite. Passes of this satellite take longer than those of the SO-50 satellite. The AO-7 satellite has an inverting transponder for SSB operation so I have to search for downlink signals. I heard some: mostly CW (morse code) but even some weak SSB. To weak to make out callsigns (for me) so this will need practising too, just like I had to learn to hear callsigns on SO-50 in FM mode.

2014-08-29 (#)
This evening I had a bit more luck with the 10 meter band dipole I made earlier. In the log this evening: 3 PSK31 QSOs with SQ2OIC in Poland and OM1AKD in the Slovak Republic and eQSL card from EA3HCE EA3HCE in Spain.

For me the first PSK31 QSOs and the first HF contacts.

PSK31 is a data mode, so I type stuff on the keyboard. The big advantage is I can do this all remote, controlling the PC and the radio from the couch in the living room.

2014-08-28 (#)
Tuesday evening I was at the Veron region A08 club meeting and I watched as someone else played with the radio for a while. We noticed some interesting activity on the HF bands: people making DX contacts from as far as Costa Rica mixed with people clearly having a very local contact. People working distant stations (DX) usually just want to exchange callsigns and a signal report and maybe some niceties and get on to the next contact, people having a very local contact can chat on for a while talking about the weather, their car, the upcoming visit to the dentist and other items, usually called 'ragchew'. It's very funny to hear the different styles mixed.

2014-08-25 (#)
I created the simplest possible antenna for use in the 10 meter HF bands: a dipole from recycled utp wire using some turns of coax as 'ugly balun'. I used this Wire antenna calculator to calculate the needed lengths. The choice for the 10 meter band was for a purely practical reason: this is the length I can put up under our roof easily. So I am trying PSK31 on the 10 meter band, around 28.120 MHz.

The first results the past evenings was a constant S6/S7 noise level, which leaves little space for other signals. And absolutely no response to my CQ calls.

But conditions can change, and this evening I am hearing some PSK31 traffic, and IZ3ZOW managed to copy my callsign in Italy but we couldn't make it a whole QSO. I also tried various setting for the noise reduction in the FT-857 radio to see whether that has a positive or negative influence on PSK31. I am seeing other traffic, so the 10 meter band must be opening a bit. I spotted OM0AST calling CQ from the Slovak Republic but he could not hear my signals.

Update: For me that opening didn't last longer than about 20 minutes.

2014-08-21 (#)
In a few documents about the FM transponder on the SO-50 I noticed the use of the term PL tone where I expected the term CTCSS, for example in Operating SO-50 by Howard Long, G6LVB. I started wondering about the origins of PL tone and read the explanation on Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System - en.wikipedia.org:
CTCSS is often called PL tone (for Private Line, a trademark of Motorola)

In amateur radio, the terms PL tone, PL and simply tone are still used somewhat commonly.
I'll keep calling it CTCSS.

2014-08-17 (#)
Some more work on the digimode interface for the FT-857 radio: setting it up on a real circuit board, to be built into a plastic casing. This time I heard a strange ticking sound when recording audio from PI3UTR but again it seems this clicking sound is a local problem normally filtered out from the audio path of the radio. When I picked up PI3UTR on the Wouxun KG-UVD1P radio I heard the same ticking noise. New respect for the audio filtering in the FT-857, but things like this make me question the digimode interface every time I'm testing it.
Radio data interface
Radio data interface, The interface in its case
The digimode interface is now finished, but now I need to test it with real radio signals. I don't have HF capabilities yet, and I did find PSK31 frequencies for 2m (144.610 MHz) and 70cm (432.610 MHz) but nobody answered a PSK31 CQ on those bands.

Update 2013-08-18: The whole setup together in a somewhat blurry smartphone picture:
Radio working
Radio working, PC with fldigi controlling the FT-857 radio sending psk31
And fldigi doesn't mind when I control this remote over the network.

2014-08-16 (#)
Friday evening I had time to work on the 'digimode' interface for the FT-857 radio. I set up a breadboard with the audio transformers and started making cables from the transformers to the USB audio interface. Then I added the cable to the radio on the other side. All of the earlier mentioned interfaces had resistors to regulate the signal level so I started with 12K resistors between the radio and the transformer in the radio to computer audio path. This gave me a weak signal when recording the result with audacity on the computer so I switched to a 6k8 resistor which improved audio but it still wasn't great. So the resistor was replaced by a simple wire which gave me good audio when recording from the PA00NEWS transmission on the PI3UTR repeater. I did notice some low hum while recording, but I realized that was just the CTCSS tone on the repeater output. Normally this tone is filtered out when hearing the audio through the speaker of a radio.
Testing radio data interface, by Koos van den Hout on flickr
Testing radio data interface, The data interface for the new radio on breadboard for testing
Testing radio data interface with USB audio interface
Testing radio data interface with USB audio interface, The data interface for the new radio linked to the USB audio interface

2014-08-14 (#)
I listened to a satellite pass today of the AO-7 satellite. This is the first time I tried listening to a single side band (SSB) satellite transponder. AO-7 pass over JO22nc 2014-08-14 This adds a whole new set of problems to 'trying to hear callsigns and other information in the noise' : the very nature of single side band (there is no carrier for the receiver to lock to, it just works from the frequency the operator sets) combined with doppler shift makes it hard for me to hear anything. And there is a 100 kHz wide passband on the transponder in which multiple QSOs can be active in different fitting modes. I did hear some morse (which I can't decode) and something which sounded like a conversation but I could not make out callsigns or anything. Better luck next time, I will keep trying!

2014-08-14 (#)
The cable and parts for a 'digimode' interface for the new FT-857 radio are on their way. Such an interface will allow me to get audio from the radio directly into a computer and audio from the computer directly into the radio. This will allow digital radio modes such as PSK31, RTTY or AFSK. These modes allow bits (text, or databits) to be exchanged over radio. The simplest interface like FT-817 AFSK cable couples these directly but based on the advice of fellow radio amateurs I will use audio transformers to decouple the computer and radio and keep stray radio signals out of my computer and any interference from the computer out of my radio and I decided to use a cheap USB audio interface. What I will build is based on Digital VOX sound card interface but without the 'VOX' part and iPhone / Baofeng interface (schema) and El Cheapo AFSK (e.g. RTTY) USB interface (for FT-8×7) - remco.org.

Update: Parts have arrived, time to build something on a development board first.

2014-08-10 (#)
Good catch this morning on a southwest - northeast pass of SO-50: I managed to have a QSO with R1AO who operates from St. Petersburg in Russia! A distance of 1778 kilometers. This was the first QSO on satellite with the new FT-857 radio.

Update: eQSL card from R1AO Thanks to eQSL.cc I already have the QSO confirmed.

2014-08-03 (#)
And a non-catch: I tried receiving the AO-73 Funcube-1 amateur satellite but no go. I thought it would be in eclipse mode after 23:00 localtime which would mean the inverting transponder would be available. I noticed gpredict was reacting weird to the AO-73 Funcube-1 transponder file I found earlier so I checked again and found a better source, installed it 3 minutes before the pass.

2014-08-03 (#)
New catch: I heard the UO-11 amateur satellite this evening. It transmits telemetry as an AFSK signal (bits as audio within an FM signal, more info at Frequency-shift keying - Wikipedia English), although very weak. When I have a working audio interface on the FT-857 I'll try to record some telemetry signals and decode the data.

2014-08-03 (#)
Another SO-50 amateur satellite pass early this afternoon so I had the FT-857 radio set up with the laptop. I added two ferrite cores to the CAT cable and locked them in place with tie-wraps. The cable kept working even when I transmitted a few times during the pass. Getting the radio tuned to the satellite downlink once and then having the software doing the rest of the doppler correction is quite nice.

But, no luck in making a QSO on the satellite. I heard at least M0SAT loud and clear and responded to his CQ but no contact.

2014-08-02 (#)
Yesterday evening I tried to make some contacts during an SO-50 amateur satellite pass and twice the CT-62 USB interface to the radio crashed, with messages like:
Aug  1 20:33:15 machiavelli kernel: [48075.216289] hub 6-0:1.0: port 2 disabled by hub (EMI?), re-enabling...
Aug  1 20:34:45 machiavelli kernel: [48165.984146] hub 6-0:1.0: port 2 disabled by hub (EMI?), re-enabling...
I had to unplug and replug the cable every time to get /dev/ttyUSB0 available to rigctld again.

A few hours later the proverbial light above my head went on: EMI means electromagnetic interference, maybe transmitting quite close to the laptop is the problem.

So this evening I created the same setup and tried transmitting so I could attack the problem and see if some ferrite cores would help. The problem decided to not return, even with the CAT cable and the antenna cable laying parallel. I'm still going to use at least one ferrite core to try to keep the USB interface from crashing.

2014-08-01 (#)
I brought the Wouxun KG-UVD1P radio today on my bicycle and listened to the PI3UTR repeater on both parts of the cycling commute. In the afternoon I heard KM6DU active via echolink on the repeater and answered his call, giving a nice QSO. It was 99% Internet and 1% amateur radio, but it was nice to be able to do this thanks to echolink.

KM6DU reported my sound was a interrupted a lot, so I stopped my bicycle and raised my radio from belt level (about 1 meter above the ground on my recumbent bicycle) to holding it up (somewhat more than 2 meters above ground) which changed the signal from lots of interruptions to clearly understandable. It's amazing what a bit of antenna height can do!

2014-07-27 (#)
This evening I tried another pass of the SO-50 amateur radio satellite. It wasn't as high as the afternoon pass, only 66⁰ maximum elevation. The experiences from the afternoon pass learned me to search around a bit for the downlink signal. I did not hear a lot of activity, it almost sounded to me like the transponder wasn't "armed" with the 74.4 Hz ctcss tone. This tone activates the transponder for 10 minutes, but to actually use the transponder you need to use a 67.0 Hz ctcss tone. Switching tones on the fly isn't easy when the FT-857 is controlled by gpredict, so I'll either have to control that via the computer assisted tuning (CAT) interface and rigctld or temporary switch to manual and use the memory in the FT-857 which has the different ctcss tone.

Browsing the rigtctl(1) manpage suggests a script which can set ctcss tones is quite doable.

Update: Indeed, it can be done. Hamlib can't read the current ctcss tone, but it can set it on this radio. Model 2 in rigctl is the connection to a running rigctld on localhost.
koos@machiavelli:~$ rigctl -m 2 -h
Usage: rigctl [OPTION]... [COMMAND]...
Send COMMANDs to a connected radio transceiver or receiver.
..
Commands (some may not be available for this rig):
..
C: set_ctcss_tone  (CTCSS Tone)        c: get_ctcss_tone  ()
D: set_dcs_code    (DCS Code)          d: get_dcs_code    ()
?: set_ctcss_sql   (CTCSS Sql)         ?: get_ctcss_sql   ()
?: set_dcs_sql     (DCS Sql)           ?: get_dcs_sql     ()
and it works:
koos@machiavelli:~$ rigctl -m 2 C 744
koos@machiavelli:~$ rigctl -m 2 C 670
koos@machiavelli:~$ 
And the ctcss frequency on the radio indeed changes with what I set. And I can do this while gpredict is tuning the radio.

2014-07-27 (#)
I soldered the cable for a stereo headphone on the mono phone output on the FT-857 this morning and went to listen for the SO-50 pass with tuning done by gpredict.

And I missed half of the satellite pass because gpredict has the 'preprogrammed' frequency and the satellite downlink frequency seems to be drifting away from this frequency, far enough to fall out of the FM receiver passband. I kept hearing nothing so I switched back to manual frequency control with the doppler-shifted frequencies preprogrammed in the radio and I found it again, somewhat shifted. I switched back to letting gpredict control the frequency but used the tuning dial on the radio to find the right spot, after which gpredict kept track of what I did. I still find this an awesome feature in gpredict, the two-way tracking of frequencies.

It was as busy as could be expected on an FM satellite on a Sunday afternoon pass with nice weather, so I could not find a 'hole' in which to call CQ or answer some call I heard. The headphones do help with hearing the audio from the radio, so a good thing I made that cable.

2014-07-26 (#)
I also managed to get CHIRP working with the Yaesu FT-857 radio. I had to RTFM: CHIRP does not use the normal CAT commands, it uses the clone mode of the radio.

2014-07-26 (#)
First thing to try with the new Yaesu FT-857 amateur radio: get it working with gpredict for amateur satellites. What gpredict can do is control the radio via rigctld, part of Hamlib to set downlink (receive) and uplink (transmit) frequencies automatically to the doppler-shift correct frequency. I bought a CT-62 USB cable for this which is the cable for the Computer Aided Tuning (CAT) interface on this range of radios with a FTDI based serial interface on the side of the computer. I added a new radio in gpredict with:

So I installed libhamlib-utils and tried to get rigctld working. At first it gave errors on communicating:
$ rigctld -m 122 -r /dev/ttyUSB0  -v -v
Opened rig model 122, 'FT-857'
ft857: error reading ack
ft857: error reading ack
And I found out the default baudrate of rigctld is 38400 bps and the FT-857 was set to 4800 bps. I tested first with 4800 bps and later changed the rate on the radio to 38400 bps and tested again. Now running:
$ rigctld -m 122 -r /dev/ttyUSB0 --set-conf=serial_speed=38400  -v -v
Opened rig model 122, 'FT-857'
The radio needs to be in 'split' mode so VFOa and VFOb can be set sepately and receiving is on the VFOa frequency and transmitting on VFOb.

Gpredict radio control set up for the FT-857 The good part, especially for SSB satellite work is that gpredict will follow frequency adjustments on the transciever and will track from the adjusted frequency. With the 'lock' function enabled (L button) this will also make the uplink frequency follow downlink changes. Change the (receiving) frequency on the transciever and the transmitting frequency will be updated accordingly. This should make SSB satellite work with one simplex transciever easier.

Sofar in tests without actual satellite communication things seem to work. Next is a test with SO-50 in FM mode, probably on the high pass I see coming Sunday afternoon. A test with an SSB satellite (first trying to receive) will probably be possible later this week with the Funcube-1 (AO-73). I found a gpredict trsp file for FUNCUBE from G0HWW which has a low and a high swapped and confuses gpredict. The one at Funcube AO-73 transponder file for gpredict has this correct.
[FUNCUBE BPSK Telem]
DOWN_LOW=145935000

[FUNCUBE U/V]
UP_LOW=435130000
UP_HIGH=435150000
DOWN_LOW=145950000
DOWN_HIGH=145970000
INVERT=true

2014-07-25 (#)
For a while I have been considering my wishes for a more elaborate amateur radio. What I want to do with it is continue and expand the use of amateur satellites, and try to get into PSK31 on HF, starting on the 20m band. So a list of must haves and should haves arose: all-mode, portable, computer assisted tuning, HF support, 2 meter and 70 centimeter and an increas of power from 5W.

Adding it all up and looking for a reasonable price I ended up considering the Yaesu FT-857(D). It's in the middle between the FT-817 (too low power, still 5 watts) and the FT-897 (too heavy: 3.9 kilograms). And a reasonable pricetag, were other amateur radio brands have nothing comparable or at a much higher pricetag. I went looking for a second-hand one and when we got back from holiday a nice one (FT-857 with DSP and installed filter, and a remote control+DTMF hand microphone) showed up from Communicatie Centrum Venhorst - Hilversum and I bought it. Picked it up this week, and I am learning using it. I listened to SO-50 this evening using this radio with a lot of wires on the table in the backyard.
Radio setup
Radio setup - FT-857, PC power supply for 12V, laptop, Arrow antenna: ready for amateur satellites
It was clear I also need headphones to listen to amateur satellites on this radio so I'll get the parts to connect a headphone soon. Cables for computer assisted tuning and interfacing to a computer sound card are already ordered.

This radio also allows me to access SSB satellites, so I'll have to learn how to do that.

The good news about the SO-50 pass: there were QSOs going on, the person just calling CQ and never listening to the answers was missing.

2014-07-24 (#)
Yesterday evening I gave it another try to make a contact via the SO-50 satellite. It was hard since someone was trying very hard to work the satellite with 95% transmitting and at most 5% not transmitting which did not leave much room for an answer. I heard that person loud and clear with a repeated and somewhat bored "CQ satellite" and testing noises like whistling, but I never heard a callsign! Pass for SO-50 over my home location JO22NC

Trying to answer that person didn't work (clearly he had a reception problem somehow) so I just started calling CQ on my own when he left a gap. Someone answered but I had a hard time understanding the callsign, I think it started with a D (German callsign) and I am sure it ended with BBE (Bravo Bravo Echo). Looking up the callsign options on QRZ showed me the most likely candidate is DG0BBE so I e-mailed him to confirm.

During our holiday in Denmark I also tried to work a few SO-50 passes. Being on a campsite with a wide open view in all surrounding directions should make things easier for lower passes which I skip at home. I tried a pass with a 55⁰ elevation and one with a 62⁰ degree elevation and I heard the satellite loud and clear. The downside was someone was whistling and calling 'o la', probably the same person as I heard here at home. And another downside is that with lower passes the distance is a lot higher and therefore my 5 watts on VHF don't make it across the FM receiver on the satellite.

I also had a look at possible LituanicaSAT-1 passes but in Denmark those all stayed low to the Southern horizon.

Update 2014-07-25: DG0BBE mailed me back, I was right I heard him, but he made a very valid point the QSO was not valid: in a QSO at least call signs and a signal report need to be exchanged. In amateur satellite work a locator is also good to have.

Items before 2014-07-24
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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