Careless WSPR

Can you hear “Careless Whisper” without getting sucked into an earworm induced one-man hum-saxophone party? Naw, me neither…

It’s been a while since I have updated this page and I wanted to take a few moments to thank all of you who have been following.

Today we are going to be talking about a beacon mode known as WSPR, from K1JT, the author of JT65. WSPR works by sending a two minute (in WSPR-2 mode) long tone which slowly sends out a station’s call sign, TX power in dBm, and Maidenhead Grid Square. WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, and as the name suggests protocol is for determining where the band is open to. WSPR does not require the band to be wide open, and in fact it seems to show the band open when it really is slammed shut. Due to the way it’s designed, the protocol does not need a perfect reception on the other side, thus making it suitable as a weak signal mode. While I believe WSPR is designed to be used with low power it seems many are using roughly 100 watts at times.

I thought it would be a decent way to test to my 80 meter antennas. Currently I have  a North-South-broad 80 meter inverted-vee, an East-West-broad 80/40 fan-inverted-vee, and of course my 80 meter loop antenna. I set them up in an equal head to head to head.

The test was as follows:

  • RX for 10 mins (5 cycles)
  • TX for 2 mins (1 cycles)
  • 10 watts TPO as measured at the rig.
  • Repeated twice in a row A,B,C,A,B,C style so as to reduce the effects of band changes.

On the first test I was ‘spotted’ in Arizona and California on my North/South inverted-vee. I received stations in Texas, Oregon, and California. This did not really impress me as I can often hear guys in California on 80 at night. I blame my ridiculous noise floor for my failure to receive more stations. I will have a separate video and blog entry detailing my noise struggles.

Next, it was time to put the newest antenna to the test. I loaded up the East/West 80/40 inv-vee and it was stellar by comparison. The match on this antenna is poorer in the low band where WSPR operates, but has far superior free space around it. This antenna did not hear much better, same issue as before, but I did get a station from Nevada, somewhere in New England, and one in the Denver area. The second round on this antenna netted me more stations, but getting into W1 territory on 10 watts on 80 meters really had me on psyched up.

While still on a high from this very positive result I opted to test out the loop to see what kind of pattern it offered. After 15 minutes I had no new stations, and it seemed to mirror the N/S vee perfectly. A longer test may be required, but I had other plans for my evening. I hope to leave the radio on this antenna one night in the near future. It is worth mentioning that the night that I did this there was substantial aurora visible in my area and the scope showed no other stations on the band.

Now, this is where things got fun. 80 was a relatively soggy band last evening, so I played around on 40 meters. A few TX’s netted me Australia, Barbados, and the East Coast! This was a blast! That night I would leave the radio on while I slept and it would transmit about once an hour, but would spend most of the night receiving. When I woke up I nearly coated everything in coffee when I spotted Thailand had not only heard me, but I had heard them! I was shocked! THRILLLLED! You can see the live map at any time here.

Click for larger version.

Hawaii, Thailand, and the East Coast on 40 meter WSPR.

My next plan is to do the same on 20 meters. I have two antennas, a 20 meter monoband vertical that I made a few years back. Originally, this antenna was for 10 meters, however when I planted it here in Quesnel the radials doubled in length, quadrupled in number, and grew to 1/4 lambda on 20. This antenna is not ideal, but it loads up perfectly and might be suitable for this test. My second antenna on 20 is actually my 80 meter loop which loads up nicely on 20.

Overall this may be my new favorite digital mode. I did have some challanges with getting the software running, but once I got those worked out I was able to get it working with the IC7600 without any additional hardware required. I found that I was getting better results with WSPR-X as it was better suited to the audio issues with the IC7600′s Texas Instruments PCM2901 and Windows 7. Yet another reason to move to Win 10? Maybe, maybe not…

For now, thanks again for reading and I wish you a brilliant holiday season and all the best for the New Year.


RTL SDR, Ham It UP!, and more

A quick video I put together at BCIT of me messing with my new “Ham It UP!” upconverter for HF signals.


The BCIT ARC is back on BCWARN with a new 5.8ghz data link. This new radio replaces the previous VINE radio which operated at 2.4ghz.

BCWARN is a network of EOC (Emergency Operations Centers) and radio clubs which support emergency communications. The BCWARN network is based on high-elevation sites which act as hub-nodes for the network. These nodes are often multi-homed with other sites, forming a partial-mesh or ring topology. The current network map shows a ring between UBC (main internet gateway and server host), SFU (busiest RF site), and Mount Seymour (Highest elevation location), as well as a ring between SFU, UBC, and a high rise in Burnaby known as “The Boot”. These multiple rings allow for sites to fail without sever impact to other sites in the network.

BCIT is a single homed site as SFU is the only site which BCIT can see reliably. A path to Mount Seymour is not possible due to tree cover, even though the mountain is prominent to the north.

Check out the installation photos, and a time-lapse below:

A special thanks goes out to Jeremy (VA7NSA) and Ian (VE7HHS) who did the tower work. Ground support was provided by Duncan (VE7NEO) and Patrick (VE7SDI) while I “supervised” the stationary camera.

Cheers, VE7WNK

My 6 Meter / 50Mhz Antenna build

I watched a YouTube video by Randy, K7AGE, where he talked about building a 6 meter dipole. This super simple antenna is so easy that I would have to find an excuse to NOT make it. Randy’s video (and many others on the net) made me want to try it out and I wanted to play on “the magic” band. After a few minutes of thinking I jumped in with two feet and started looking for 6 meter yagi antenna designs. I stumbled onto the YU7EF EF0604s antenna.

This antenna is a simple 4 element beam that is relatively compact, the longest element is just over 9ft and the boom is only 8ft! I started off wanting to make this antenna portable, however after drawing up the design I visited my favorite metal retailer for some aluminum tubing and discovered that they did not carry the sizes that I needed to make the elements telescopic. I ended up settling on single lengths of 3/4inch aluminum tubing with 1/16th inch walls for the elements. The boom is an 8ft piece of 1inch square aluminum tubing. The elements are held to the beam using hydraulic hose clamps. The boom is mounted to a pole using a pair of pipe/exhaust clamps which are bolted to a 4inch square plate of 1/8th inch think aluminum.

I posted the pictures from the build and testing phase via Google+

Click here do download the PDF sketch of the visio drawing I did:

Click for PDF

Visio mapping of the antenna. Click to download the PDF

The beam as dusk

ARRL June VHF Contest

Last weekend, a few hams from the lower mainland took a trip to Promontory Hills near Merritt BC. See it on a Google map.

We operated single-band on 6 Meters from inside of a local telecommunications companies microwave site compound. Conditions were poor the first day, however the band opened up Sunday morning as we were packing up. We did not operate after 11AM as we started ripping everything down so that we could be out of the site before the sun set.

In this video you will see me operating the last few minutes of the end of the contest.

Here is VE7HHS working the pile up while VE7STK marks the grid squares.

As mentioned, conditions were poor for the most part, and we really did not really have a rate going until Sunday. Weather was interesting up at altitude, and it even snowed on us (on and off) for a few hours on Friday night, however none of it really stuck. Sunday, as is always the case, was our nicest weather day, and we had nice temperatures the whole time.

Our unchecked/ray log file is available here.

Photos will be uploaded soon. My next post will probably be able the 2012 Field Day event in Coquitlam or the construction of my FM Radio wide-band aluminum dipole.

Operators: VE7HHS, VE7FET(plus first harmonic Scott), VE7NEO, VE7STK, VA7NSA, VE7TL, VA7LNX, and VE7WNK.