985 Workbench Net - 2024-05-13

My Week in Radio

  • I purchased some power cables that split out the 12V line out of USB-C, so I can power my radio from a USB-C power brick/jump-starter battery.
  • Marie and I relaunched my EFRW even higher into the the tree in the front yard. I used the slingshot out the second-story window, while Marie watched that the street and sidewalk were clear.
  • I did the RTTY test and FT4 sprint last Thursday.
  • I saw some better propagation on FT8 before the weekend’s solar storm: Ukraine, Northern Ireland, and Greenland at the arctic circle.
  • While the bands were dead over the weekend, I built a couple new, lighter antennas for POTA. I cut and tuned some 20m-long EFHW wires and tuned them with NanoVNA. I used recycled plastic gum boxes as enclosures and winders for the un-uns and wires. I also 3d-printed a winder that holds the transformer and heavier speaker wire. I’ll test the antennas when bands are obviously better. I’ve not really used an EFHW much, so I’m curious to see how it performs compared to EFRW.
  • I saw some recovery today in the band today: Panama, Canary Islands, and the Cayman Islands.
  • Ron, WA3VEE, sent photos from the Antique Radio Meet in Kutztown.

My Question for the Night

What are the effects of solar cycle and solar activity on propagation? We’re in a high point of the solar cycle, so 10m is good, but too much and it blacks out propagation?


  • Vic, KC3TYX, made a VARA-C contact.
  • Jim, KC3RFG, found an OCF dipole to be quieter than end-fed.
  • Jim, AF3Z, has trouble with his Ten-Tec radio sometimes not transmitting.
  • Jeff, W3JAM, wondered if anyone was making 6m contacts over solar storm.
  • Mike, W3MFB, noted that 17m sometimes is a pipeline right into Florida in afternoon/evening.
  • Tim, W3QP, is headed on SOTA campout.
  • Jack, K3YVQ, Is it OK to use GMRS on a radio that does ham freqs and more?
    • Mike, W3MFB: technically, the radio should be locked to gmrs frequencies.
    • on the air, no one would know, though.
    • Ron, WA3VEE: FCC approves radios for particular services.
    • GMRS radios are “type-acceptance”, and the right power limits.
    • Some other radios might be hard to limit to the right power.
  • John, KC3WWC: What’s the solar storm do to propagation? Some activity is OK, but too much is bad?
    • Chuck, NA3CW:
      • RF is produced by accelerating (“wiggling”) electrons.
      • Ionosphere doesn’t “bounce” signals, but instead “receives” and “retransmits”.
      • We have loose electrons in the upper atmosphere, good for retransmit.
      • Solar storm ionizes the atmosphere at different levels with varying intensity.
      • Our RF hits ions in lower part of the atmosphere and gets slowed, absorbed (D layer).
      • LF is affected the most, since it moves the electrons further.
      • Solar minimum offers less ionization at any level.
      • D layer, E Layer, F1 layer, F2 layer.
      • Better shortwave propagation at night.
      • Lots more is understood now about the ionosphere.
      • Frequencies are coordinated in SW to adapt to seasonal changes.
      • Electrons free in thicker air recombine more easily, so don’t pass RF.
      • Winter: great distances, because air is thinner.
    • Tim, W3QP: noise also comes up during storm and masks signal.
    • This video from Coastal Waves and Wires explains the effect a bit.

985 Workbench - 2024-05-06

My Week in Radio

  • Backyard antenna
    • build
      • cleaned up the backyard
      • threw wires high in the tree near the top of the hill
      • took my time
        • routing
        • tied and supported solidly,
        • no stress on connectors
      • first floor window to high on the hill
      • the hill is to the east
    • testing, discussion last week
      • made some contacts on 30m
      • switching
      • FT8 on 15m and pskreporter
      • counted decodes in wsjtx
      • new antenna had fewer decodes on average
      • compared the map - missing europe, since it followed the hill and not enough of the antenna is above the ridge
      • old antenna is mostly flat, but is 2nd floor and above
    • scheme to get more of the wire higher
  • Reading the manual for fldigi
    • better prepared for contesting and logging
    • less fixing logs
  • Observing some very boring HF propagation
    • if it weren’t for the propagation reports, I’d think I broke something.
    • leaves also came in on my antenna tree


  • Tim, W3QP, talked about sota.
  • Ron, WA3VEE, is helping a new operator shop for equipment.
  • Ron’s going to the antique radio show to sell.
  • Leon, AA3LH, is practicing CW.
  • Jeff, W3JAM, why do we conventionally use LSB and USB?
  • Bill, KC3OOK, does internet time sync work through hotspots?
  • John, KC3WWC, What are better interfaces to SOTA?

985 Workbench - 2024-04-29

My Week in Ham Radio

  • Built and deployed a 1/4 wave ground plane with radials
    • wire soldered to an UHF chassis plug
    • fed from the bottom
    • hung in a tree by cord
  • York Hamfest and 2 parks out that way
    • Codorus
    • Sam Lewis
    • EFRW
    • Mostly ft8
    • 40m hot at 5:30pm
    • 2 phone contacts in Canadian parks for park-to-park QSO
    • Took some time to experiment a little
    • Fishing pole mast with 3D-printed fork on the end to catch the wire
    • Stop pulling on coax…loosened ends
  • SPDX RTTY contest (Poland)
    • 2 contacts
    • ended at noon UTC on sunday, so ran out of time
  • AubsUK firmware for Quansheng
    • 10 scanlists
    • automatic scan on power-up, feature request
  • Picked up a new podcast: Ham Radio Workbench
  • Simplex Net: heard 16 of the 38 people

My Questions

  • with nicer weather and time to experiment with antennas, how would you recommend iterating and experimenting? I have:
    • the QRP transceiver
    • digital modes & pskreporter
    • nanovna
    • some modeling software I could learn
    • the latest ARRL Antenna Book


  • Dipoles, sloped or flat?
    • Flat leaves nulls toward the ends
    • Sloped fills it in to be a bit more omnidirectional
    • An antenna close to the ground is going to be NVIS
    • Vertical is omnidirectional
  • Ron’s seeing infinite SWR on the “screwdriver” antenna.
    • Others have had problems as well.
  • Mike wonders about viability of using 6m FM in his area
  • My Question: How should I evaluate and structure my experiments with antennas?
    • Conditions change constantly
    • Learn to read solar data
    • Take notes on conditions and try to test in similar conditions
    • Vic’s experiments:
      • endfeds
      • hamsticks
      • radials
      • aluminum screen or faraday cloth for ground plane
    • WSPRnet and pskreporter help gauge how you’re getting out
    • See what you can hear
    • Qualify callsign for different tests, so I can tell them apart in pskreporter: kc3wwc/a, kc3wwc/b, etc
  • Ken wonders about TNC for packet radio on HF/VHF
    • Glenn, N3MEL would be the person to contact
  • We heard lots of interference and doubling in the beginning of the net
    • This was likely another manifestation of intermod
    • Tropospheric ducting happens more in morning in the summer

985 Workbench - 2024-04-22

My Week in Radio

  • I met some 985ers on Friday morning at the tailgate and breakfast.
  • I heard a bit of the ARISS mission talking to students last week
  • I have APRS working
    • UV-K5 running egzumer
      • VOX mode
      • Sensitive
    • Pixel 6 Pro
      • Volumes way up, nearly 100%
    • BTech audio cable
    • APRSDroid
      • AFSK mode
    • Saw decodes on the phone
    • Saw myself show up on https://aprs.fi map
  • Evolve 3 laptop is working with Linux completely:
    • network
    • sound
    • used it for a pota activation
  • Time to also slim down the go box for POTA as it’s gotten heavy.
  • 2m dipole in the tree working well for a couple weeks, so it’s time to change.
    • next: try building a ground-plane quarter-wave with radials
    • it’ll feed better from the bottom
  • Trying other firmware on the Quansheng radios
    • mixes of features I want and don’t want
  • W3FIS, Paul Ross, sent me a small box of some radio gadgets to explore
  • I’ve been seeing people recommend using a CW decoder
    • maybe try the decoder in my radio
    • get some practice keying, instead of waiting
  • York Hamfest is on Saturday

985 Workbench Net - 2024-04-15

17 people attended the net.

My Week in Radio

  • POTA: Ridley Creek, east of West Chester
    • 21.56m efrw
    • embarrassing tangle of string, 30 minutes
    • got New Zealand!
  • POTA: Presque Isle State Park, Erie PA
    • eclipse
    • 21.56 efrw
    • operated next to my brother, kc3wry from the same picnic table
    • I worked 10m and he worked 40m
    • our data logs will be used my HAMSCI people, University of Scranton
  • Caught Pitcairn Island DXpedition, VP6G, on 5w FT8 10m.
    • operating shifted, and was super quiet
    • my first OC
  • Operating HT at 5W
    • dipole high in a tree
    • too sensitive for this cheap HT
    • FM bandstop filter to clean up the reception, especially for 985
    • TX though it without any fire!
  • Modified the database in my hf radio to mark the bandplan on the waterfall
  • started a website for all my notes since october

985 Breakfast on Friday

  • Lots of coax, antennas, analyzers, etc for sale.

Halyard on dipole install

  • AF3Z, Jim
  • Having a full halyard loop of rope to the pulley (like a flagpole) allows you to pull it up or down, whatever is needed.
  • Avoids having a pulley up the tree with no rope because an end gets away.

Dipole in the Attic

  • KCYYIT, Dave
  • Built the fan dipole for 6m and 10m in the attic.
  • Tuned it with nanovna
  • Not too tricky or ambitious: only the 2 bands.

Mud Mosey

  • Event at great marsh institute
  • Course marshals used gmrs ch 17.
  • 10 ham operators to help coordinate operations.
  • Used simplex freq 147.12MHz
  • Tom was net control


  • KC3YVQ, Jack
  • Does APRS kerchunk N3FYI?
    • We don’t think so. It should transmit and receive on standard 144.390MHz

985 Workbench Net - 2024-03-25

I failed to check-in do to RF issues, but my summary is still good.

My Week in Amateur Radio

  • Antenna movement
    • Trying my dipole antennas in new places
      • hanging dipole in back yard
      • still getting debilitating interference over 985
      • 21 and k3ir coming in pretty good
    • Restrung the EFRW antenna for HF
      • a little higher, straighter in the tree
    • It’s great fun to throw wires and strings in trees
  • Overload on UV-K5 with better antennas
    • UV-K5 & UV-K6 for comparison - not broken
    • Balance antenna location good enough but not too good
    • Going to try a bandstop filter, but not sure about transmitting through it
    • Love the firmware options on Quansheng radios, but do I need a better radio?
    • It kills me that I’m so marginal for accessing my favorite repeaters.
  • Modifying params database on xiegu x6100
    • Now shows me accurate bands and privileges, so i won’t accidentally wander beyond my privileges.
    • Modified the source code and rebuilt the database from my source
  • I picked up an Evolve 3 laptop that runs on 12v
    • Getting linux installed on it
  • Still learning CW
    • 20wpm
    • It’s so difficult to stay focused copying at 20wpm even for 1 minute

VHF Reception

Reception Problems

During 985 net on Monday night, which is VHF on my UV-K5 running egzumer 0.22.0, I’d get periodic static in reception. It got bad enough to completely cut-out. I was using my simple wire dipole hanging in the tree outside.

K3IR had been frustratingly quiet as well, so I checked the antenna with the NanoVNA as it hung outside. There were no fluctuations in SWR, so it’s not connections or proximity.

I tried the Explorer QRZ-1 HT, and it sounded great on the same antenna on the same net. Is my UV-K5 broken?

To test a bit further, I ordered a new UV-K6 to compare. I also downgraded to egzumer 0.21.0 for further testing.

The next day, Tuesday morning, K3IR was sounding better, but I was getting the same periodic noises. The outside antenna doesn’t completely cut out, but shows terrible doubling/overload as if from FM station.

Inside, the magmount antenna on the 3d printer is better. Is the dipole outside too sensitive and bringing in more signal than the frontend of the UV-K5 can handle?

985 Workbench Net - 2024-03-18

This Week in Ham Radio

  • I keep tweaking the outside 2m dipole
    • I got it a little higher
    • It tests different day to night
    • Signal is good then gone every so many seconds
    • Checked it for loose connections in the wind. It seems fine.
  • I’ve been learning to configure fldigi more
  • BARTG RTTY contest over the weekend
    • I finally successfully ran the frequency for a bit calling cq and getting responses
    • I stuck to the 5W QRP class
  • I’m scanning more frequencies for satellite repeaters
  • Weather is nicer, so I got out on my bicycle. It’s time to activate some parks (on the bike?). The Tram mirror mount for vertical antenna might clamp nicely to the bag rack.
w3gms  985  workbench  net  rtty  pota 

985 Workbench Net - 2024-03-04

This Week in Ham Radio

  • I pulled my j-pole wire into a tree by string for tonight, so it’s outside the house.
  • Started testing a longer 71-foot (21.65m) EFRW after months of using the shorter 41-foot EFRW.
    • seems mostly the same, so far.
  • ARRL Internationl DX SSB Contest
    • First time using SSB on HF
      • Usually digital modes
      • Not a rag-chewer: here to discuss tech
    • 41-ft random wire
    • 10 watts
    • 42 valid contacts in 37 DXCCs
      • Did hit Russia, but then realized I had tuned too low for my privileges
      • Hit lots of other parts of Europe and South America
    • I was Surprised how well SSB worked
    • I might want a vanity url:
      • Shorter: less room for error
      • People don’t seem to expect “WW”
      • People misheard 2 -> 3
      • Might be easier to type
    • It was nice to chase, since I could pause, relisten until I got the call, etc.

Question about Tuning SSB

During the DX contest, people were tuned all over, not just on full khz. A woman with a higher voice confounded me for a moment as I tried to get her to sound right. I was tuning by 100hz, so some were boomy low, a bit high-pitched, and some were just right. Tuning people a little higher made them easier to read, but that probably makes me lower for them. I tried to keep them as low as I could understand. RIT/XIT might have been useful for longer conversations.

What’s the best practice tuning SSB to hear clearly and tx as clearly as possible?