Friday, December 22, 2023

Olivia experiments

There seems to be increasing interest in Olivia. It's a keyboard chat digital mode built in to Fldigi that gets through when signal to noise is poor. 

The Olivia Digital Mode website gives some useful information including suggested calling frequencies and sub-modes. Because Olivia can be decoded well in to the noise you can't always see the calling station on the waterfall so knowing where to listen is important.

You might notice that I've changed the waterfall scale in Fldigi to show actual frequencies rather than audio frequencies - I find this helps. Most of the time I use 8/250 and Stephen, VK2BLQ, and I have had several contacts between my QTH in Victoria and his home in Chatswood.

Over Xmas there is a "QSO Party" which I plan to participate in.


Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Talking Tech on ABC Radio

This week I was a guest on the national ABC radio program Nightlife with Philip Clark. My tech topics are:

  • EU investigating Twitter under the Digital Services Act which could lead to a fine that is up to six percent of global turnover
  • Apple moving to protect iPhone owners who have their phone and PIN stolen.
  • Vodafone turned off their 3G network last week. Telstra and Optus will follow in 2024. What impact will this have?
  • A child's toy has been launched that uses generative AI to converse with the kid. Is this a good idea?
  • Generative AI is being used to call voters as part of a political campaign. Every call is unique and tailored to the interests of the voter.

This week I used a Sennheiser USB microphone and called in over Zoom. 

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Join an Amateur Radio club to build a real social network

It's now two years since I moved to country Victoria. One of the first things I did was find the local amateur radio club. For me it's the Macedon Ranges Amateur Radio Club.

During this relatively short time I feel like I've made some significant new friends and I have no feeling of isolation which I imagine might affect people who've made a move like this.

We had our annual Xmas meeting this week with an amusing quiz and some finger food. I wrangled the group to stand up for a photo.

There's some very interesting people in the group and I very much enjoy the weekly club nets, coffee mornings, and meetings. I'm looking forward to the picnic in January.

My thanks to those that created the club and do the work to make it all run so smoothly.

If you are feeling a bit isolated, I heartily recommend becoming a part of your local amateur radio club.

Friday, December 08, 2023

WSPRnet down with database error

Users of my WSPR Watch app have been reporting problems over the last day. It looks like is down with a database error. "PDOException: SQLSTATE[HY000] [1040] Too many connections in lock_may_be_available (line 167 of /data/var/www/drupal-7.98/includes/"

Unfortunately, my error handling code is looking for a connection error but is failing to pick this up and fails silently as if there's no new data.

WSPRnet handles a huge amount of traffic and I hope they're able to fix this soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Talking tech on ABC Radio

Another chat with Philip Clark last night on ABC Radio across Australia. If you like, you can listen here.

I've purchased a new microphone, a Sennheiser Profile USB. Frequency response is mostly flat but it has a nice peak in the high frequency which I think makes it sound clear.

Knobs on the front make it easy to set mic gain, headphone level and the mix between return audio and local foldback. There is a quiet to operate mute button.

The era of USB-C is giving me an excuse to upgrade many things.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Five acres and antenna bliss

After a life in dense suburban settings where HF reception is poor, I am enjoying the benefits of five acres in the bush. 

The radio shack is in a shed somewhat distant from the main house (which does generate a bit of HF noise). 

Happily there is a convenient dead tree next to the shed that I use to support my antennas. Other trees hold the ends of dipoles up.

Getting lines up over these branches has been done in several ways, including a long squid pole skilfully wielded by Dallas, VK3EB, but the current method is a (rather beaten up) drone.

I tie a line around the drone, fly it up over the branch or tree top and then hit the motor kill switch. The drone falls, pulling the line as it goes.

This is very reliable and so far hasn't damaged the drone too much. It's a repeatable method but only one of my drones can be commanded to kill the motor without complaining.

There's a port on the wall of the shed where I have SO-239 through connectors. I have experienced quite a bit of frustration when an antenna stops working. I check the coax, the patch cord inside the shed, the balun and in the end the problems have been the through connectors.

The left connector, from China, is very unreliable. The centre pin disconnects. The middle one seems better and the right hand one is the best.

They don't fail without some trauma and in my case my coax has been attacked by birds or, more dramatically, by a kangaroo getting tangled up and ripping the coax from the connectors. To avoid this somewhat, I've run coax through some PVC pipe.

The current configuration is separate dipoles for each of 80m, 40m, 20m and 10m with a switch on the wall.

Also there is a vertical wire going to the top of the tree and a ground stake. This is used for general reception on SDRs. With a little extra length or inductive load it would also tune up on 40m.

I'm happy with the configuration here and am considering a horizontal loop as an interesting comparison.