A Digital Weekend

I’m not much of a contester or DX chaser, so I decided to I decided to avoid the CQWW CW contest this weekend. It’s been awhile since I’ve done any digital mode stuff, so I thought I’d focus on that for a change.

We had some pretty good weather (for Pennsylvania in late November, that is) on Saturday, so I headed out to a local park to operate for a while. I set up my AlexLoop and KX3 in a little picnic pavilion. I also brought along my old Acer Aspire One netbook, which I converted to Ubuntu Linux a few years back. It only took a few minutes to get set up and get the loop tuned.

I started out on PSK-31. Although the band seemed a little flakey, I worked stations in Florida and Arkansas. I moved up the band a bit to see if there was any Olivia activity. I saw one station with a QSO in progress. I tuned up from him and called CQ for a while. No dice. I went back to the PSK-31 area and worked another Florida station. Towards the end of our QSO, my netbook gave me a “low battery” alert, so I quickly wrapped up and shut down for the day. (Note to self: It’s time to replace the battery in the netbook.)

Operating digital modes from a local park.

Operating digital modes from a local park.

Back at home, I checked into the paNBEMS Net on 80 meters on Sunday morning. This is a state-wide digital net that makes use of the NBEMS suite of software (i.e., fldigi, flmsg and flamp). Here in Chester County, Pennsylvania, our local ARES-RACES group makes heavy use of NBEMS for emergency communications, so this net is always good practice. Even though I was running just 5 watts to my rainspout antenna, I was easily heard by the Net Control Station in northeastern Pennsylvania. Despite my S7-S8 noise levels on 80 meters, I was able to copy all the message traffic passed. The paNBEMS Net convenes every Sunday morning at 0800 Eastern time on 3585KHz (1500Hz on the waterfall). Message traffic is sent using MFSK-32 but various modes are used for check-ins. Today the net used Thor-22. So, make sure your RxID is on.

Message traffic sent on the paNBEMS Net. K3EUI relayed the message original transmitted by AJ3DI.

Message traffic sent on the paNBEMS Net. K3EUI relayed the message originally transmitted by AJ3DI.

Following the paNBEMS Net, I fired up WSJT-X and tried the FT8 mode for the first time. I made my first-ever FT8 contact with VA3VF on 40 meters plus several others. Like the “JT” modes, I find the technology fascinating, however, I still tend to prefer more keyboard-to-keyboard interaction. That being said, I’ll still probably use it from time to time.

Finally, I did a little SWL’ing Sunday afternoon. I tuned into the
Shortwave Radiogram digital broadcast via WRMI in Miami, Florida. I had seen announcements for these broadcasts on some of the ham radio mailing lists I subscribed to but never tuned in until today. They broadcast news articles and images at various times during the weekend. The broadcast I monitored at 2030 UTC was on 11.580MHz using the MFSK-32 mode. Over about 30 minutes, I had near-perfect copy on the text and good quality on the 4 images transmitted.

One of the images captured during the Shortwave Radiogram broadcast on WRMI in Florida. The broadcast was on 11580 KHZ, not 7070KHz, as indicated in fldigi.

One of the images captured during the Shortwave Radiogram broadcast on WRMI in Florida. The broadcast was on 11580 KHZ, not 7070 KHz, as indicated in fldigi.

It was a nice change of pace to spend some time on the digital modes this weekend but I still like CW the best.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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