Ham Radio Deluxe & WSJT-X for FT-8

As we talked about earlier this year about operating FT-8 using Ham Radio Deluxe, WSJT-X and JT-Alert. I mentioned keeping all those in sync has been a pain and there have been a bunch of changes with JT-Alert and the FT-8 standards. Well, here is a way to only use two of them…

 

Haven’t tried this yet, but anxious to do so….   Will post my results here.

 

From the Ham Radio Deluxe e-mail…..

Video Demo of WSJT-X Connected Directly to Logbook

Greetings folks!

As mentioned in the 6.4.0.886 release notice sent recently, we have improved the ability to integrate WSJT-X with Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook.

 

Prior to this release, the use of JTAlert was required. Many customers enjoyed this method and tens of thousands of (FT8, JT65, JT9, etc) QSOs have been made with this method. We will still continue to support this method and the efforts of the JTAlert developer to continue and improve JTAlert.

 

With this release, Ham Radio Deluxe users can connect WSJT-X directly to Logbook and QSOs made in WSJT-X are automatically added into Logbook. This feature is called “QSO Forwarding” in Logbook. WSJT-X refers to it as “Reporting”.

 

We had many requests from our clients to provide this feature and I’m very pleased with how it works.

 

I have created a 7 minute video that demonstrations how to configure WSJT-X and Ham Radio Deluxe 6.4.0.886 to do this. The first two minutes of the video demonstrates the setup. In the remaining five minutes, I make a few FT8 QSOs and you can see them going immediately into Logbook.

 

The video is on our YouTube channel here

Attack of the $100 DMR Hotspots!

The Chinese have now successfully copied the DV Mega digital radio board (also called the MMDVM) that had been the key to many of the $200-300 hotspots many hams have been using to get on DMR. I put mine together last year by buying a DV Mega 70cm board and mating it with a Raspberry Pi 3. It’s worked like a champ, but I spent about $200 for the two boards, then added a $100 case and power supply that has allowed it to run on the cylindrical 18650 Lithium cells. All together, I spent about $330.

Now you can buy a tiny hotspot that does everything mine does (except the batteries), and now including a neat little color display, for $105 on Amazon or eBay. I decided to buy the one on Amazon and check it out. Here is a link to the one I now have:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BTS738L/

It comes with a 3 foot USB to USB mini cable that is used to power it up.  The only thing you have to do to get it started is to copy a small file that has your Wi-Fi network name and password to the micro SD memory card that comes with the hotspot.  This allows you to reboot it and then edit the details in a web page that hooks it up to the right BrandMeister server and has you name, DMR ID, and a few other things.  You should order a micro SD-to-USB adapter if your laptop doesn’t already have an SD slot.  That’s only another $8 or so.

The software that runs on this hotspot is called Pi-Star, and is a collaborative effort between a guy in Shenzhen, China, and a U.S. ham, so you likely won’t encounter much of that inscrutable Chinglish verbiage that often plagues Chinese radio buyers.

I’m very impressed with both the Pi-Star software/firmware, and the tiny size of this neat little unit.  Running on the standard USB 5 volts, you can grab it and plug it into your computer, your phone charger, or maybe even a USB port in your late-model car.  It takes about 2 minutes to boot up (watch the display for a clue), then you’re good to go…maybe.  Did I forget to mention that you must carry around a Wi-Fi to cellular phone modem?  You can enter the names of several Wi-Fi networks, and the Pi-Star software will switch to whatever it finds.  Many people don’t realize that they have free or low-cost ($25/mo) Wi-Fi cellular modems in their smartphones.  This little guy will work with any of them, as long as it’s using the 2.4 GHz band.  Sorry no 5 Gig.

Anyway, you can’t beat the price, and I can tell you that mine works as well as my $300+ unit.

 

 

SBCARA Ham Cram September 22 @ 8 AM

SBCARA will be sponsoring a Ham Cram event on September 22 @ 8AM at the Morgan Hill Police Department training room (right side dbl doors when facing the front of the building).

Study sessions begins at 8AM and runs through 1 PM. Exams are from 1 PM – 4 PM.

Fee: Class and Test: $25. Test only: $14.

Registration required:  testing@scbcares.org

Bring a photo ID, SSN, or FRN, and cash for fees. If you are testing for an upgrade, please bring a copy of your current license grant.  I would recommend registering for your FCC FRN and bringing that. Just follow the instructions on the link provided.

This session is sponsored by Morgan Hill EOS, San Benito County Amateur Radio Association, and W5YI-VEC.

  • So, what is a ham cram? – A ham cram is where you go and study the test material for either the Technician or General Amateur Radio exam and then immediately take the exam following the study period. It is a fairly effective way for you to get your tech or general license in one day. Youth down to about 12 years old have also been very successful using this method.
  • But I don’t learn anything this way. I just learn to take the test! – That is true to an extent. I have always said the test is not really the test. Getting on the air is the test. Many people find the equipment intimidating or overwhelming. Some people take their test, pass, and yet never get on the air! We have great local clubs and groups that can help you with radio selection, programming, and getting you on the air. Just ask!

Custom Plates

Get your own custom call sign plate in California? Really? No way. It has to be a total nightmare, right? You probably have to stand in endless lines at the DMV, only to be told you have the wrong form. And it probably costs way to much anyway.

Nope. Wrong on all accounts.

It is really quite easy, in spite of the horrific manner in which the DMV provides the information on their web site, all you really need to do is:

  • Check out the fees here ($20 for amateur radio plates).
  • Fill out online, or download and complete the form here.
  • Be sure to check “ORIGINAL” at the top of the form. Complete section 1. In section 2 you only check the box for Amateur Radio License, fill in your call sign, skip all the signature sections in section 2, and jump to section 5. Sign, date, and add your phone number and you are good to go.
  • Mail the form, a copy of your amateur license, and a check for the $20 to:  DMV, SPU – MS D238, P.O. Box 932345, Sacramento, CA 94232-3450.
  • Wait about 4-5 weeks for your plates to arrive.

It is really that easy. And the plates do not have annual renewal fees like other custom plates. If you have questions you can call the DMV at 916-657-8035

 

2018 Field Day

It is that time of year again! Operators from MHARS, GVARC, and SBCARA will once again invade Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy, CA and operate (probably) 4A on the weekend of June 23-24. Stop by and check out what a larger amateur radio operation looks like. We will have multiple towers, dipoles, hexbeams, and yagi antennas as we operate 15, 20, and 40 meters on SSB, CW, and digital modes.

ARRL Request to Contact Your US Senators Supporting S 1534 – the Amateur Radio Parity Act

Got this from the ARRL:

I am writing to you today because we are at a crossroad in our efforts to obtain passage of The Amateur Radio Parity Act.

Our legislative efforts scored a major victory in our campaign when The Amateur Radio Parity Act, S. 1534 now moves to the Senate, where we need every Senator to approve the bill. This is the companion Bill to H.R. 555, which passed in the House of Representatives in January.

You are one of over 730,000 licensed Amateur Radio Operators living in the United States. Many of you already live in deed-restricted communities, and that number grows daily.

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL HAMS TO GET INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS!

• If you want to have effective outdoor antennas but are not currently allowed to do so by your Home Owner’s Association, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

• If you already have outdoor antennas, but want to support your fellow hams, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

• If you want to preserve your ability to install effective outdoor antennas on property that you own, SEND THESE EMAILS TODAY!!

We need you to reach out to your Senators TODAY! Right away.

Help us in the effort. Please go to this linked website and follow the prompts:

https://arrl.rallycongress.net/ctas/urge-us-senate-to-support-amateur-radio-parity-act

2017 Field Day Sign Ups and Information

2017 Field Day is here! Join us on June 24-25 in Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy with members from GVARC, SBCARA, and the “We are not a club” club from Morgan Hill for 27 hours of Field Day. We will be operating 4A, with GOTA (Get On The Air).

If you would like to volunteer, please use the Field Day 2017 link and fill in the information for the shifts you would like to operate.

So… if you are new to amateur radio, or would like to find out more about it, stop by. Check out the map for the location in Christmas Hill Park…

 

Looking for Amateur Radio Operators to help with the Sea Otter Classic

The 27th Sea Otter Classic will be held on April 20-23, 2017. Help from amateur radio operators has been a vital resource for communication in the Fort Ord National Monument back country and the Gran Fondo (“Great Endurance”) Carmel Valley Route.

The Sea Otter Classic attracts over 9,000 athletes and over 70,000 spectators and is now universally regarded as the world’s premiere cycling festival. The areas where we assist have little or no cellular or repeater coverage. It is an excellent opportunity for demonstration and practice of emergency communications and help build readiness for a real disaster.
Continue reading “Looking for Amateur Radio Operators to help with the Sea Otter Classic”

AB 1785/CVC-23123.5 – “Distracted Driver Law” Update

As some of you are aware, last year, AB 1785/CVC-23123.5 was passed which is a fairly broad ban of using any communications devices while driving. In years past, ham radio was specifically listed as an activity that was permitted. But in this latest version there is no such provision which puts radio use for S&R, event support, ARES deployments, and other uses of ham radio in jeopardy. There is a change.org petition to get clarification and to re-word the law to be less ambiguous, and to take the contributions of ham operators and other services into consideration. If you have not signed the petition, you should.

Check out Ham Radio Now’s episode 311 on the matter…

 

Items covered in our 1/4/17 Tech Net

In this week’s first-of-the-month Tech Net, we covered quite a wide range of Q’s and A’s, as well as some new and old laws on the books.

The first of those laws is the new California restriction on distracted driving and cell phone use that does not exempt holding an amateur radio mike or walkie talkie in your hand.  Nobody knows yet how this is going to play out, or if any hams are going to end up being pulled over.  Here is the paragraph taken from State Assembly Bill AB-1785 that defines what a “restricted device” is:

(f) For the purposes of this section, “electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.

I guess we would be caught under the “specialized mobile radio device”, but the wording, and even the definitions they provided, are so vague that I could probably be pulled over for talking into a corn dog.  And yes, they did exempt anyone operating as an emergency services person.

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Along this the above new law is a requirement that the restricted device be mounted to the dashboard.  One of our members reminded us of another law that is in effect that does not allow you to mount anything in the center of the dash, or on the low-center part of the windshield.  You must mount your GPS, phone, or whatever in either the right or left corner of the dash only.  The idea being that anything mounted in the center will obstruct your vision.

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Sugru is a neat, new product that just might find a use around your home or garage.  See it here:  http://www.sugru.com  It is a flexible, heat- and cold-resistant, grippy and moldable polymer that can do some pretty cool things.  After you mold it to the shape that you want, it remains flexible.  Easiest thing to do is to have a look on their website at the pictures and also videos that show some good ideas.  Aaron, W6TDR, brought it up and mentioned that he’s used it.  I have several sample kits of it, but I haven’t actually used it yet.  I also got a fun kit from them that includes some button magnets.  Oh boy!

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We talked briefly about using silicone grease (not silicon!) in RF connectors to displace water and to keep corrosion off of connector pins.  I am also reminded that I used a small tube of silicone grease on several rubber o-rings that I recently installed inside of my new water softener.  Avoid using silicone grease in very high-power RF, since you’ll get carbon tracking and flash-over, but for amateur power levels, that’s probably not a concern.  It is apparently OK to wipe silicone grease on the mating surfaces of RF connectors, and they will be protected from corrosion and presumably will wipe away from the points at which direct metal-to-metal contact needs to be made.  Remember that we are talking about SILICONE the polymer, not SILICON the soft metal that bursts into flames when exposed to a little moisture.  People constantly confuse the two in everyday speech.  Even those that should know better.  If you are ever having trouble remembering which is which, please refer to the “Rule of Two Valleys”:

1. SF Bay Area and Tech Capitol of the World:  Silicon Valley

2. Hollywood, full of “enhanced” actresses:  Silicone Valley

You’re welcome.

See here for further info:

https://www.w8ji.com/dielectric_grease_vs_conductive_grease.htm

http://lists.contesting.com/_towertalk/1998-09/msg00477.html

Dow Corning High-Vacuum Silicone grease comes highly recommended by some 2-way radio pros.  I have my own tube of it that will probably last me a lifetime.  Here is an Amazon link to it:  http://amzn.to/2hZEHAw

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A question was asked about whether DStar is becoming more or less popular, especially when DMR seems to be coming on strong.

My take (my opinion only, of course) is that DStar is declining in popularity, but truly DMR is experiencing explosive growth right now.  Some comparisons:

Even though DStar and DMR use the same analog-to-digital codecs, DMR’s has FEC (forward error correction) built into it, and there is much less “R2-D2” voice garbling than DStar when signal strengths get low.  In fact, because of FEC, DMR seems to get about 10-15% better range than even analog FM can do.  The only downside is that you’ll have to get your ear used to hearing band-limited, digitized audio.  This is the case for either DMR or DStar, BTW.

DStar is supported by one ham manufacturer, Icom, and has never caught on with any others.

DMR is a world-wide standard driven by the need to serve the professional 2-way radio crowd, so even though it didn’t hit the market until 2007, all sorts of radios and infrastructure are available for it now, driving down costs to $100 or so for an entry-level radio.  With DStar, I’ve always been annoyed by the “DStar tax” I would have to pay if I bought an Icom radio.

The best part of DMR for me is the wonderful volunteers that have set up several world-wide networks and charged exactly zero for the rest of us to join in.  There are tons of hams to talk to at any hour of the day.

The only downside to both DStar and DMR is that they have a bit of a learning curve as a barrier to getting started.  You can’t just buy a radio and put it on the air 10 minutes later.  That’s where a knowledgeable ham friend who has been down that road already can be invaluable in getting you started.  Now, that said, let me offer some quick steps to help you at least get to the front door of the house:

  1.  Go to http://www.dmr-marc.net/ and click on “Register ID” in the upper right-hand corner.  You will be registering for a user ID, not a repeater.  On the bottom of the next page, click “User registration” and follow the prompts where they will validate you, making sure you have an active amateur radio call.  Within a day or two, you will get an email from them with your new 7-digit DMR ID number.  You will later program this into your DMR radio.  Note that you can also go back to this website later to see what you or your friends’ DMR ID’s are, or to find the name of the person whose only info that came up was his DMR ID. Here is a direct link to the database search page:  https://www.dmr-marc.net/cgi-bin/trbo-database/
  2. Buy a DMR radio.  Most of us locally have started with the TYT MD-380, and it’s just over $100.  If you have a TYT, you’re much more likely to find help with any questions you might have.  Most of us bought them on Amazon, such as this link:  http://amzn.to/2j199am
  3. Install the MD-380 programming software on your PC (available here as a download after you sign up for their very good newsletter).
  4. Get one of us to email you a codeplug that you can program into your radio, and then you’re good to go!  We can also explain what a codeplug is, and how you can change it to suit your own needs.