Win10UpdateHell

I have three HF radios in my shack. My 1990’s Yaesu FT-1000MP gets little use these days but remains one of my favorite all time radios. My venerable Elecraft K3 has travelled the world with me and has been to Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, Myanmar and many other exotic places. This K3 has made somewhere over half a million contacts. While I have never been crazy about the K3’s menu and ergonomics, it is a very solid and reliable performer. On CW, there is no better radio in my opinion than the Elecraft K3 (or K3S)

My newest radio is the Flex 6500 with Smart SDRv2.2.8 and the Maestro. I like the Flex 6500 very much. The SmartSDR is dazzling to display on a large LED display. The learning curve for the Flex technology is quite steep. I have often wished that Fred Cady who writes “How to” books on the Elecraft gear would do the same for the Flex gear. My Maestro does not get much use as I prefer the larger display of SmartSDR. I look forward to that time when I can use my Maestro in conjunction with SmartSDR at the same time.

As great as SmartSDR is, it must rely on a Windows PC. As great as the Flex hardware is (and it is really great) the weak link in the system is the Windows PC. Currently, I am in what I call “Windows Hell” as the last three Windows10 updates have seriously modified my sound card configurations and I have spent considerable time and effort trying to restore them. If it were not for my “Flex Elmer” Ria-N2RJ and the Flex user community, I would have dumped my Flex gear. None of this frustration is Flex Radio’s fault. It is just that it relies on Windows and Microsoft has made Windows an unreliable product/platform.

I’ve had minor frustrations with the Maestro. Because I don’t use it often, it seems that nearly every time I turn it on, it too needs an update of some sort. I end up using my K3 as I await my Maestro to complete its 15-20 minute update and restart.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I clearly prefer radios that are not dependent on any sort of computer as the computer and Windows is the weak link and source of difficulty.

If I were to buy a new Flex, I would consider the stand-alone models that can operate independently of a computer or Maestro. I would also use a PC that is insulated from the Internet and the rest of the world and run SmartSDR on that. That way, I could turn off updates and have a more robust and reliable PC/SmartSDR experience. I regret using SmartSDR on my main PC that is connected to the Internet and is used in many different ways outside of Radio and Logging.

So as things stand, my PC’s sound card settings are seriously hosed and I am spending a lot of time trying to restore them so that I can use and enjoy SmartSDR. In the meantime, I am using and enjoying my trusty K3. Lets hope that Microsoft stops screwing around with Windows 10 so that we can enjoy other activities besides fixing our computers.

What do you think?

 

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Fun with FT8!

Posted: June 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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FT8 has been a really fun new mode for me. One of the many aspects that I enjoy about FT8 is that it seems to work really well with very little propagation or otherwise poor conditions.

This past week, there has been a “pipeline” of propagation to India just about an hour after our sunrise, on 20 meters. I would not expect this in late June. This morning, I had a lot of fun as both AP2MQ and JT1BV were calling CQ via FT8.

FT8 is the “great equalizer”. It seems to level the playing field where big or small stations can all participate and make the contacts. Some naysayers will scoff and say that the computer does all the work but I don’t agree with that. You need to “chase” the difficult/hard to work stations on FT8 just as you would with CW/SSB. You need to understand and follow the propagation. You need to have your station configured perfectly to complete the contact. You need to understand “split operation” in FT8 and how to listen off frequency from the DX. If you fail in any one of these areas, you won’t make the contact.

And FT8 is not immune to the other problems that plague SSB/CW. There are many out of turn callers who continue to call the DX even though he is replying to you. As it was this morning, I was not able to complete my QSO with AP2MQ even though he replied to me 7-8 times with a signal report as others moved onto his frequency to call him. There are continuous callers who just seem to call a station over and over even as he is replying to and working others. And what seems more unique to FT8 callers is when you are calling a rare DX station and then 4-5 guys start calling you on the frequency you are telling the rare DX station that you are listening on.

Even with these issues, FT8 is still a very fun and productive mode.

What do you think?

Trump

In the weeks and months building up to yesterdays historic Summit between US President Donald Trump and DPRK Marshal Kim Jong Un, I was asked many times by interested amateurs if a DXpedition from the DPRK might be able to happen?

Based on what I saw on the news coverage of yesterdays Summit, I would have to say that “anything is possible” and it seems that the possibility is more likely today than it was yesterday.

That said, there are many obstacles that must be overcome. We know from our previous efforts to activate the DPRK (nine combined visits to the DPRK) that the cost of permission is quite steep. These costs are enmeshed into hotel and internal travel costs but never the less they are significant and more than a self funded team could carry on their own.

We know that absolute secrecy is required from the DPRK authorities and as hard as we tried, we know that one of our P5DX team members “spilled the beans” to his friends.

Most formidable is the current Trump Travel Ban which prohibits Americans from visiting the DPRK currently. With the travel ban in place Americans are unable to take advantage of this newfound goodwill or make any travel to the DPRK. If that travel ban is lifted the possibilities for a P5 activation involving Americans increases significantly.

So with these considerations in mind, we can “watch and wait” and see if the travel ban is lifted or if any other group is able to make inroads into the DPRK.

What do you think?

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While I at the Dayton Hamvention, I purchased the new Geochron Digital 4K UHD “shack accessory”

DX Engineering sells the new Georchron for $399. I have owned a Geochron Standard mechanical wall clock since 2011 and I have enjoyed it on my wall in my shack above my radios and displays.

The prices on new Geochron standard editions have increased mightily to $1,895 currently. I paid no where close to that for mine in 2011.

Well, I am enjoying my new Geochron 4K so much that I will sell my Geochron Standard edition (listed on QRZ.com for $850)

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The new Geochron 4K comes with everything you need (not shown is the included HDMI cable) to couple it to a display (computer monitor or TV) It really displays well on a 4K LED television. Setup is very easy and only takes a moment. The Geochron 4K has built in WiFI so it can time synch over the internet if you enable that feature. There are easy menus that let you select various types of displays depending on your desires. I like the “Ham Radio” display. You can also chose Aircraft display and it overlays a map of all of the current flights onto the Geochron display.

My Geochron is connected to a 43″ Samsung 4K LED television as seen above. 

This is a terrific and affordable “shack accessory”. DXers can benefit from seeing the “terminator” in real time and it help you know where you are likely to have grey line propagation.

Plus, it just looks way cool!

What do you think?

baker2-1000.300

I am very excited as the next major DXpedition starts later this month from Baker Island as KH1/KH7Z. Baker is the 5th most wanted DXCC entity as it has not been activated since 2002.

They have assembled a world-class team of operators and this should be a really good show! I have been following their preparations. Their Elecraft gear ought to perform very well for them.

Co-Leader, Kevin-K6TD with some of the gear ready to be shipped to Fiji. 

I really hope that propagation cooperates with this activation as their operation falls in late June/early July. I will be looking for them on all bands and modes but particularly on 160 meters which can be really challenging at this time of the year.

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Elecraft gear, configured, tested and ready to be packed. 

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Co-Leader, Tom-N4XP sets up each of the four tents to ensure they are ready. 

This is a very important activation as the US Fish & Wildlife Service will probably not allow another activation for many years to come.

You can learn more about the KH1/KH7Z DXpedition from their website at:

http://baker2018.net/index.html

Let’s hope for smooth flights, calm seas and decent propagation as KH1/KH7Z is about to get underway very soon!

What do you think?

Over the years, I have made many slide shows and short videos of our many adventures.

Here is a list of the slide shows and videos with links to view them:

VP8SGI-a stop in South Georgia video, January 2016:

VP8STI DXpedition video, January, 2016:

VP8SGI DXpedition video, January, 2016:

 

 

XZ1J Myanmar 2013 DXpedition Video:

XZ1J Myanmar 2013 DXpedition slide show:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5953829147251220210

Slide show highlights of YI9PSE, ST0R, ET3AA, 3D2R and 7O6T DXpeditions:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5777379463526680865/5777379467556497858

DPRK 2015 visit slide show:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5902493407686628466

The Children of the DPRK, slide show:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5902146383019463170

7O6T DXpedition Video from Socotra, Yemen, May 2012:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5853180365680490018?authkey=CMSl8MbDq-bf5gE

7O6T DXpedition slide show, May 2012:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5782840998150986849/5782841002991939186

Mount Athos visit, November 2012:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5812530651479061682

3D2C Conway Reef DXpedition Slide Show, Oct 2012:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5797179974171898145

ET3AA activation and Youth Mentorship Project, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 2012:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5778874980098583313/5778874986778003250

3D2R Rotuma Island DXpedition Slide Show, September 2011:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5777690131924357537/5777690139231022946

ST0R DXpedition, South Sudan, July, 2011 Slide Show:
https://plus.google.com/photos/photo/102825300285044861896/5779198328108236818

April 2010, YI9PSE DXpedition from Erbil, IRAQ Slide Show:
https://plus.google.com/photos/102825300285044861896/album/5779592028443442513/5779592034015908882

What do you think?

Paul N6PSE

 

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I am just back from the Dayton (Xenia) Hamvention 2018. What a great event! The new location is superb. It is 1000% better than the old location at the Hara Arena. The Green County Fairgrounds are paved and there are covered walkways between the buildings. We had scattered thunderstorms each day and mud was only a very minor issue.

You can click on any photo to enlarge it for better viewing.

The flea market area was improved with crushed asphalt placed on the walkways of each row. Here are some photos of the vendor area followed by the flea market.

As is typical at Dayton in May, we had thunderstorms roll through for brief periods each day. Rain was not a problem however. DX Engineering, ICOM, Flex Radio and Elecraft had large displays and there seemed to be huge interest in their products.

Kenwood had a large display of very few radios. One new product was the Kenwood TS-890.

New Products at Dayton: 

Yaesu has a new FT DX-101D. Not much information was available about features or cost. Kenwood has a new TS-890S. Palstar has a new/updated HF-Auto high power tuner. Dishtronix/Alpha is taking orders for their 4040 Tuner. The massive 80-6 meter Loop antenna by I3VHF was quite impressive!

SDR recievers and transceivers are all the rage. The new SDR Play RSP Duo and the SunSDR2 Pro are quite impressive! The SDR Play RSP Duo sells for $279 at HRO.

Around Hamvention:

W5KUB.com was doing his show live from Hamvention. ICOM, Flex Radio and Elecraft had very large displays. ICOM gave away a significant number of prizes this year!

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DXpeditioners (L-R) David-WD5COV, Adrian-KO8SCA and Lee-VK3GK discussing some exciting projects. Adrian has recently burst onto the DXpedition scene and he is a good, enthusiastic operator and we are delighted to welcome Adrian into the DXpeditioners fraternity.

There were great food options at this year’s Hamvention. I enjoyed an Italian Sausage with onions and peppers. It was great! The BBQ vendors were doing a brisk business. The flea market paths were well prepared with crushed asphalt.

This Toyota Prius would take the prize for the most antennas and radios!

Many kids were having fun kit building and learning to solder in the Youth Area. It is great that the Hamvention organizers include Youth in their planning. This is the future!

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Also in the Youth Area was a battle of the Robots area. Young people were operating these robots and showing what they could do. Very impressive!

Flex really put a lot of effort into their massive display and everyone was available to answer questions. It was also great to see the continued presence of the “Wire Man” at Hamvention. Dave-WD5COV and Jerry-WB9Z congratulate Val-NV9L on being selected as Hamvention’s Amateur of the Year!  More old gear in the flea market.

Flea Market Weird Stuff:

It’s always fun to spot “weird stuff” in the flea market. Here we have an aircraft flight control simulator, the bathroom sink, a chocolate fountain. Grenade launchers, a blasting detonator and a military hand crank power generator.

Adrian-KO8SCA gave a great talk on his Somaliland operation with LA7GIA. DX Forum MC, Jay-K4ZLE makes the presentation of the Intrepid Spirit Award to Juris-YL2GM.

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L-R, Myself-N6PSE, Dave-WD5COV and Zorro-JH1AJT, former E30FB teammates enjoy a moment together.

I was happy to meet Bryant-KG5HVO and Marty-KC1CWF at the Contest Dinner.

Bryant had just taken a CW test and copied 48 words per minute!  Just amazing!

SWODXA DX DINNER:

Juris-YL2GM receives SWODXA’s DXpedition of the Year Award for his 3C0L/3C1L activations. Gary-K4MQG gives a rousing talk on past Humanitarian efforts.

Krazzy-K1LZ and Kimo-KH7U are inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame.

Dayton Contest Dinner:

 

At the Saturday night Contest Dinner, Andy-N2NT and Tom-N1MM are inducted into the CQ Contest Hall of Fame. Chris-DL1MGB gave us a talk on WRTC 2018.

All in all, it was a great Hamvention weekend even with the scattered thunderstorms. The great folks at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) really do a great job organizing this event. The SWODXA DX Dinner and the Contest Dinners were also very enjoyable. What a great weekend in Dayton/Xenia.

What do you think?