Sunday, 23 February 2014

6m Net - February 17, 2014

Just 5 of us this time, with Mike VE3FGU in the North and Chris VE3NRT at the South end for a longest path of 27km. Rob VE3RQB joined us for the first time having cobbled together a Bazooka running from inside his shack, and was copied at 5x1 by Chris VE3NRT but well over S9 by Mike. John VA3JI and Brian VE3IBW were all clearly audible which allowed for some casual conversation before signing off at 8:25.

After the net Chris and Brian had their first successful QSO with digital voice using FreeDV.

Chris, VE3NRT

Thursday, 20 February 2014


A short note to update you on the D-STAR / D-RATS tests conducted last night by Brad VE3HII and me. We chatted for approximately an hour using a combination of Simplex on 145.670 and the DStar repeater VE3YRK @ 147.180.

Brad and I were easily able to connect on simplex from his location in Richmond Hill to mine in Uxbridge and spent most of the time on that frequency.

We conducted several tests including chat - file transfers and broadcast messages and had great results.

Specifically, the broadcast message feature where we demonstrated the ability to transmit a message – that would be received by all on frequency – that was several paragraphs in length and contained a great deal of text and information. A larger three paragraph message was sent in 12 seconds.

Not only that BUT we did this on simplex AND on the repeater AND while transmitting voice at the same time. The D-STAR radios that the club have are of course easily and seamlessly able to toggle back and forth between voice and data with ease.

This broadcast feature in combination with voice is of course a great tool and easily established ad hoc network in the event of an EmComm – EMO situation…. When all the smartphones are dead…

In order to “exercise the muscle” as they say and have more folks try and get comfortable with this – Brad and I are going to meet on 145.670 and/or 147.180 each Monday night @ 8:30 pm – Following the 6M net for those that do both. Perhaps using the D-STAR broadcast to post the 6M results.

If you are interested in joining in – I would highly recommend this for EmComm members – Brad and I will meet you there. We have lots of other things that we would like to test try and get comfortable with such as linking through other repeaters like LSR.

BR and 73

Steve – Ve3eZ

Monday, 17 February 2014

6m Net - February 10, 2014

We had good participation in the net this week with Mike VE3FGU, Brian VE3IBW, Brad VE3HII, John VA3JI, Chris VE3NRT, and Bob VE3WY. Signal strengths were good except that Bob seemed weaker than usual with 5x3 and 5x5 signal reports. Chris at net control had his amplifier working well again up to about 250W output.

The longest two-way path of the day was Bob to Brad at about 50km, and everyone could hear everyone.

The most encouraging report was from John VA3WPN, between Bradford and Woodstock, who reported signals loud and clear at his location. Unfortunately they had faded by the time he was in a position to transmit but at 150km this path is 3 times our previous record.

Hopefully we'll be hearing from John in a future net and seeing some more surprises before too long.

After the net, VE3IBW and VE3NRT did some further experiments with FreeDV and managed to get two way transmission but only one-way audio, but at least there was progress.

Next net is on Monday, February 17th at 8:00pm local on 50.175 USB (Feb 18, 0100Z). All are welcome.

Chris VE3NRT

Friday, 14 February 2014

February General Meeting - Minutes

Meeting held at the Sharon Temperance Hall. Called to order at 19:30. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT
  1. Introductions completed. 32 members and 3 guests in attendance
  2. Minutes Jan 7th general meeting; motion by Rob VE3RQB to approve the minutes, seconded by Brian VE3IBW. Motion carried.
  3. President’s advisory committee – Chris VE3NRT is looking for volunteers for the president’s advisory committee. If interested please contact Chris.
  4. Field Day 2014 - Steve VE3UT reported that the band captains are in place. Steve requested that the board place a priority on the tower trailer repairs. Chris reported that the board has set up a committee to work the issue. Barry VA3LLT is leading the committee. Steve indicated he is still looking into alternate public locations, such as the Ballantrae fire hall, and in Oak Ridges near the lake. Any other suggestions are welcome.
  5. Treasurer’s report – John VA3JI reported that there were no transactions for the month of January. The balance at the end of January remains as it was at the end of December [balance available to members upon request].
  6. 6 Meter Net - Chris VE3NRT reported that there has been good participation. The net has been running for 5 weeks and details can be found on the Splatter Blog
  7. Splatter Blog – Chris VE3NRT did a demo of the splatter blog
  8. Emcomm Report - Richard VE3NSD reported on the Jan 30th RAC meeting held in Mississauga that he and Russell VA3WTR attended. New ARES programs can be expected. Russell has been named RAC EOC (emergency operations coordinator). Terry VE3ODM reported on the site readiness project kicked off by Emcomm. Phase 1 to consist of 4 sites, 3 ground sites plus the trailer. Emcomm has a designated member for each site who has committed to do an initial site survey, followed by regular inspections and basic maintenance. The designated member will be responsible for managing the interface between YRARC and the regional or municipal site contacts. Emcomm is looking for addition people to step forward to fulfill various roles in emergency communications. Next Emcomm meeting will be held next Thursday Feb 13, at 7pm.
  9. Doug VE3VS reported that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the ARRL and to celebrate there is a Centennial QSO Party underway in which W1AW will be operating portable in each state and most territories. Each week 2 states come on the air. This week it is Hawaii and Georgia, all bands, all modes.
  • Break at 22:10
  • Special guest Keith Goobie VA3YC to present the LSR system
  • Meeting adjourned at 21:00

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Thorleif (Tom) Bygnes VE3JPN - SK

Passed away peacefully at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket on Thursday February 6, 2014 in his 98th year. Loving husband of 69 years to Evelyn (nee Bowes). Beloved father of Dennis (Christina) and Karen. Proud grampa of Erika (Timothy) and Lindsay. Great grampa to Thora. Survived by his sisters Gunvor and Ruth of Norway. Tom was a decorated seaman and radio officer with the Norwegian Merchant Navy during WWII. Afterwards he made his home in Canada and established a custom home building business in Newmarket. For the last 40 years he was an avid amateur radio operator. A memorial service will be held at the Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home, 157 Main Street S., Newmarket on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2 p.m. On-line condolences may be made at

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The FT5ZM DXpedition

This DXpedition to Amsterdam Island has been showing up frequently in the spotting networks a lot lately. A lot of spotters have one complaint or other, about the FT5ZM operators or callers' bad behaviour of one type or another. So far, I haven't heard them well enough to try to call in the pileup - if I hear them at all.

When I saw an RTTY spot I though I might have a chance. I flipped over to the frequency but couldn't hear or decode anything, but I knew exactly when they were transmitting because they were operating split frequencies, and so the pileup would all transmit across a very wide spread of frequencies in synch with each other. Here's what it looked like.

The panadapter software isn't synched with the radio so while it appears to be on 10m it was actually on 20, but it was something to see this 40kHz-wide pandemonium break out every time FT5ZM called QRZ.

Monday, 10 February 2014

6 Metre Net - Feb 3, 2014

Conditions seemed to be better than usual with better signal strengths reported by most stations. Matt VA3MGN was a bit stronger but still difficult to hear. Bruce VE3BV and Mike VE3FGU in Keswick came in strongly, and John VA3JI joined us for the first time using his 17 metre antenna on the 3rd harmonic as well as Brad VE3HII. Brian VE3IBW backed off his power this week to 10W to reduce RFI problems in his QTH.

VE3IBW and Chris VE3NRT decided to do some (only partially successful) testing with FreeDV afterwards and we contacted by Mark VE3CT while setting up, using a dipole in his kitchen.

Most stations were heard by Rob VA3RQB in Bradford. Longest path was again about 50km. VE3NRT also thanks VE3FGU for the LoTW confirmation.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Notes from the Shack - February 2014

I was going to write about some complex logging software topics this month, which I'm sure everyone was looking forward to, but the arrival of a little device based on an Realtek RTL2832u chip changed my mind. I purchased the device from NooElec in the US for $17.95, plus $4 shipping (although I will confess to buying a bunch of accessories as well, more on that in another post), and it arrived at my office less than two weeks later. I have since seen similar units for less than $15 with free shipping to Canada. It looks like a large USB memory stick but has an antenna port on the side and comes with a small vertical antenna and a remote control.

The chip was designed for consumer use in Asia for receiving digital TV broadcasts on a computer supporting both demodulation and the USB interface. It is useless for that application in North America as we use different standards, but the same device works great as a simple Software Defined Radio receiver for approximately 25-1750 MHz.

Setup had a few tricks. I found the information I needed on the web which included using a non-standard USB device driver. The trick for that is to disconnect the computer from the Internet during installation so that the standard driver isn't automatically installed. If the standard driver is installed accidentally then it can be removed using the Windows control panel.

Just before I left work on January 29th, I downloaded everything I needed and on the train ride home everything was installed and working, including my long time favourite SDR program, HDSDR. On the way home I tuned in some mobile radio (couldn't tell who it was) and Pearson approach control. The next morning I was listening to local FM stations (the FM bandwidth is variable from 192KHz to 0), VE3YRC repeater and 2m, a local 6m repeater, and the Toronto Island Airport control tower. Not bad from the aisle seat of the GO train using a 4" long antenna and my shoulder as a ground plane.

If your transceiver has an IF output and upconverts to a high frequency IF (i.e. more than 25MHz) you can use the device plus software as a low cost panadapter. If, like mine, your transceiver has a lower IF frequency then there are inexpensive upconverting devices based on an open source hardware design available that will bring the IF frequency into an appropriate frequency range, as well as designs available for DIY on the web. The Ham-It-Up and the like can of course also serve as a standalone MF/HF receiver.

HDSDR went into a bit of frenzy when I accidentally tuned it out of the range of the RTL2832u (0 Hz, actually). I sent a report to the program's author, Mario, in Germany and within an hour or two he replied suggesting I install a different DLL to control the local oscillator frequency which fixed the problem. Other than that, there are no serious problems with the program or the device.

Steve VA3SRV has also been using something similar with the SDR# program. I noticed on the NooElec web site that a download package for SDR# and all the required drivers is available as a single ZIP file, which should make installation even easier.

From Steve's experience and observations of my own I wonder how many images I'm seeing. For $17.95 you're not getting a professional grade communications receiver and poor image rejection is a known "feature" of the device. A broadcast FM station was showing up quite strongly in the 10 metre band, for instance, and I see all kinds of signals in the 2m metre band, although those might explain why I see frequent desensing on my HF rig as they are very strong. In fact, this gadget may help me get to the bottom of the various RFI problems I see on HF.

This screen shot shows CHFI coming in a bit weakly.

HDSDR will display between 100Khz and 3MHz of spectrum centered around the frequency you choose. The entire 10m band can be viewed at once, for instance, or most of the 6 or 2 metre bands. It handles AM (including single sideband phase-locked to the AM carrier), FM, SSB and CW demodulation. With a virtual audio cable (or by feeding the demodulated audio output into another computer) it will drive all the various digital mode programs around, like MMTTY, FLDIGI, DM780 and FreeDV.

If you're looking for a way to tune in the 6 metre net, this little device will do just fine, attached to a suitable antenna for your QTH. It will also work with the 1.25m, 70cm, 33cm and 23cm bands, plus a whole lot more. If you want an way to try out SDR software without having to make a big investment it is also for you. Pretty good value for the cost of a couple of pints.

Chris VE3NRT

Sunday, 2 February 2014

6 Metre Net - January 27th, 2014

Last Monday's net had record participation, with Brad VE3HII, Brian VE3IBW, Bruce VE3BV, Bob VE3WY, Charlie VE3SYK, Matt VA3MGN, Mike VE3FGU, and Chris VE3NRT. Once again it was clear than antenna height and directivity are a distinct advantage. Net control VE3NRT was able to easily copy all participants except VA3MGN, who was about 3x3 at both ends. Distance, cross-polarization and obstructions were factors working against solid copy. VE3NRT also had amplifier trouble so ran barefoot but is happy to report that the amplifier has spontaneously started working again and so should be operational for the net on February 3rd.

The net closed at 8:25 after all signal reports and check-ins were complete, but VE3WY and VE3BV continued on at 50.130 MHz to do further checking on Bruce's antenna, which was showing high SWR perhaps due to the effects of weather on the coax.

The longest path was 52km between Matt and Bob although Matt reported Bob's signal was audible but not readable. A slightly shorter path between Bob and Brad was 100% copy. Steve VE3SHA reported hearing Brad and few others but not well enough for a QSO, while Steve VA3SRV reported hearing Mike, Chris and somewhat curiously briefly copied Matt.

On Monday (February 3rd) night at 8pm we'll try once again on 50.175 USB, with VE3NRT and VE3IBW (and anyone else who wants to try) making a FreeDV contact immediately afterward.

Any suggestions for trying other modes are welcome. The purpose of the net is experimental so let's experiment!

Chris VE3NRT

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Minutes: YRARC Board Meeting Jan 21/14

Meeting held January 21, 2014 in Room 101 at the Magna Centre, Newmarket.

Meeting called to order at 1910 by Chris VE3NRT. Other directors present were Publius VE3XS, Geoff VA3GS, Steve VE3EZ, Rob VE3RQB, Richard VE3NSD, Barry VE3LLT, Eric VE3OIC, and John VA3JI.
  1. Moved by VA3JI, seconded by VE3OIC that the agenda be adopted. Motion carried.
  2. Moved by VE3LLT, seconded by VA3GS that the minutes of the December meeting of the BoD be adopted. Motion carried.
  3. VE3NRT reported on the SPLATTER blog. At present he was moderating all comments but planned to provide access to special posters.
  4. VE3NRT reported on the club’s 6 metre net on Monday evenings. The net commences at 2000 on 50.175 MHz; mode is SSB. The objective of the net was to increase interest in 6 metre activity, and would not function as a true net with a net controller.
  5. Field Day was the next topic of discussion. Band captains had been established. Possible locations were discussed. VE3UT would be invited to a future BoD meeting to discuss Field Day.
  6. Storage of club materiel was discussed. VE3NSD would report back at the next BoD meeting about the possibility of using the Bales Road site.
  7. There was a discussion of the new club tower and the need for a new trailer for it.
    • Moved by VA3GS, seconded by VE3OIC that VA3LLT would chair a committee to explore all options. Motion carried.
  8. VE3OIC and VA3GS reported on the process of updating the club’s by-laws. A draft version would be circulated to the BoD in the near future.
  9. The rest of the meeting involved status updates:
    • Membership: VE3EZ reported that there are 1500 Amateur Radio operators in York Region according to the IC database.. It was suggested the club send out a QSL card to each operator with an invitation to participate in Field Day 2014. VE3NRT will forward some photoshop files with pictures of the trailer to VE3EZ for incorporation into the QSL card.
    • VE3EZ reported on the club’s repeaters.
      • A repeater site contract with was in progress with respect to the repeater site provided by Doug Peckover for VE3YRK.
      • The repeater equipment stored in VE3BV’s garage was being evaluated. Some repeaters would be cannibalized to produce a store of spare parts. Those left intact could be offered to other radio clubs.
      • If the problems with the IRLP set-up at the residence of VA3JI could not be resolved another possible site would be atop York Central Hospital where the VE3YRC repeater is located.
      • VE3EZ had secured the instruction manual for the analogue repeater controllers.
    • The BoD meeting space had been confirmed for 2014
    • The EmComm meeting space had been confirmed for 2014. The contract would be brought to the next meeting by Richard VE3NSD.
    • The club insurance is renewed annually. A copy of the policy would be brought to next meeting by John VA3JI and a motion made to approve the payment of the premium.
  10. At 2110 VA3JI moved that meeting adjourn. Seconded by VE3EZ. Motion carried.
Geoffrey Smith VA3GS
Secretary Pro Tem

Links of the month - January 2014

  1. The ACLU on the impact of sensor technologies on privacy. [Steve VA3SRV]
  2. Chirp - free software for programming radios. [Steve VA3SRV]
  3. Contextual Electronics - On-line hands-on electronics education. [Steve VA3SRV]
  4. Video: SDR HT. [Patrick VE3WST]
  5. Inexpensive 4 band mobile radios. [Russell VE3TWR]
  6. New ICOM Touch Screen D-STAR Radio. [Steve VA3SRV]