Wednesday 24 December 2008

A Season's Greeting To All Good Readers

I would like to thank all readers of my blog for making it a success. A season of giving and renewal is upon us and I hope that each and every one of you finds the time and energy to help those less fortunate. If you know someone who’s spending time alone during this holiday season call them or have them in for a meal or invite them out for a coffee and donut.

I also hope that you all find some amateur related goodies under your trees in the morning.

See you all on the air, Christmas Day, for a few hours.

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.
- John Lennon

Saturday 20 December 2008

3B8GT, Mauritius

Ham radio has been slow here at VE3MPG. I do get on most mornings just to listen around and I work PSK 99.99% of the time. It’s just a lot easier than trying to decipher SSB sigs with my less than perfect ear.

mauritius_map1 I was on this morning just before lunch and heard VE3JW, the amateur station over at the Museum of Science and Technology about 24 Kms to the north of me. Darin, VE3OIJ was just signing with a station, 3B8GT. Had to look that one up; and quickly, after Darin’s final, I got a call in to that DX station. He responded with a 599 and he was strong here too with some QSB. 3B8GT is the island of Mauritius about 900 kilometres to the east of Madagascar and east of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. A good catch indeed with all of 20 watts reaching my Cushcraft R6000 vertical. I’m not really sure how much signal reaches the antenna as I’m feeding it with 100 feet of RG59 el cheapo coax. That’s 75 ohm coax, but my FT-950 swr meter tells me there’s no reflected power. Let’s say that less than 20 watts gets radiated. The Museum uses a beam but I was hearing the Mauritius station Q5 here.3b8gt

The op on Mauritius is Alexey 3B8GT with a very modest station according to his listing – 50 watts to a 3 element yagi. Conditions seemed to be perfect this morning but looking at the solar terrestrial data indicated the solar flux at 69, A-index at 2 and the K-index at 0. Not so good propagation it says. Nevertheless the actual working conditions seemed excellent at the time. Local temperature was –17C, crisp and sunny. When I signed with Alexey I hung around a bit to see who might work him but he called CQ for a good ten minutes and no takers. My strategy is to look for weak traces on the waterfall and try to work those stations – usually they turn out to be some good DX. Last spring I worked Reunion Island late in the evening on 20 meters using this strategy – it took me a week to snag him due to pile ups he was generating. That contact was using a 20 meter hamstick and 20 watts.

Another PSK31 tip:
Use the center of your waterfall. Testing will show that your transmit (TX) and receive (RX) will be strongest there. Don’t blindly use 1000Hz tone or strictly follow the VFO ‘set it and forget it' concept. You can easily lose 20% or more of your power on each edge of your pass band. Pass band centering of the signal will give the best results of both RX and TX.

CIA World Fact Book on Mauritius

Sunday 7 December 2008

A Good Cold Snap

Winter has arrived in the Capital, Ottawa. Power is out this afternoon to about 17,000 people on the outskirts of greater Ottawa. There's been some terrible winds in excess of 50Km/hr and gusting higher out here near Metcalfe about 19 miles south of Parliament Hill. Temperatures have been dropping all day and stand at -12C at 3pm. Expected low temperatures overnight will hover around the -20C mark and that's not including the wind chill. Affected areas include: Orléans, Alexandria, Alfred, Clarence, Cumberland, Hawkesbury, North and South Plantagenet, Osgoode, Rockland, Russell, South Gower, and Winchester.

I've been listening to the Emergency Measures group repeater VA3MV, 146.985- (100.0Hz tone) but there's not much going on. Power in FN25fe has been on all day with no hiccups so far and the band conditions have been very very good on 20 meters. Last night 40 meters was extremely quiet; so quiet that I kicked in the preamp on the FT-950 so I could hear band noise. Signals really jumped out of the noise floor with very deep qsb on all the sigs.

My R6000 is surviving the windy onslaught largely due to the guying I installed when it went up a few weeks ago. I can see a very slight side to side movement of a couple of inches which isn't too bad. The PAR end fed dipoles of course are rugged enough for even Arctic use, which today's weather approximates very well.

Friday 28 November 2008

Unconventional Antennas from NASA Labs

Yes, I know I'm writing a lot about NASA, the Jet Propulsion Labs, and space stuff in general. This interests me a lot, anything to do with space travel and its related technology. I still remember watching the historic moon land in 1969 on our first Zenith colour TV. You've probably noticed too that I like working with different antenna technologies.

I ran across a NASA article that describes their antenna design software. It's nothing like what's available to the ham community. Their software takes ten hours to design new antennas for their satellites and spacecraft. You can imagine the criteria as to size, weight, and performance required for operation in deep space.

Here's what their computer clusters have managed to design - very unconventional - it looks like a bent paper clip but their computers have determined this is the best performing hardware for their satellites.

NASA describes their software, that runs on a network of personal computers as "evolutionary". The above photo shows an antenna that can fit into a one-inch space (2.5 by 2.5 centimeters) in front of 'borg' of computers.

"The AI software examined millions of potential antenna designs before settling on a final one," said project lead Jason Lohn, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley. "Through a process patterned after Darwin's 'survival of the fittest,' the strongest designs survive and the less capable do not."

The software started with random antenna designs and through the evolutionary process, refined them. The computer system took about 10 hours to complete the initial antenna design process. "We told the computer program what performance the antenna should have, and the computer simulated evolution, keeping the best antenna designs that approached what we asked for. Eventually, it zeroed in on something that met the desired specifications for the mission," Lohn said.

When I visited the JPL in Pasadena California in April of this year I discovered a group of hams working there and they had a JPL ham club and repeater. Bets that some hams had a hand in this software. Now if they could only release the software to us lowly hams who use wire antennas and minimalist stealth antennas. I need something this small on 160 meters.


JPL Amateur Radio Club

(Photos courtesy of NASA Ames)

Monday 24 November 2008

NASA Tests First Deep-Space Internet

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (11/18/08)

Some exciting new communication technologies are sure to emerge from these new protocols - they may even trickle down to amateur digital modes.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers have successfully tested the first deep space communications network based on the Internet, using the Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to transmit dozens of images to and from a spacecraft more than 20 million miles from Earth. NASA and Google's Vint Cerf jointly developed the DTN protocol, which replaces the Internet's TCP/IP protocol for managing data transmissions. "This is the first step in creating a totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary Internet," says NASA's Adrian Hooke. An interplanetary Internet needs to be strong enough to withstand delays, disruptions, and lost connections that space can cause. For example, errors can happen when a spacecraft slips behind a planet, or when solar storms or long communication delays occur. Even traveling at the speed of light, communications sent between Mars and Earth take between three-and-a-half minutes to 20 minutes. Unlike TCP/IP, DTN does not assume there will be a constant end-to-end connection. DTN is designed so that if a destination path cannot be found, the data packets are not discarded but are kept in a network node until it can safely communicate with another node. In October, engineers started a month-long series of demonstrations, with data being transmitted using NASA's Deep Space Network twice a week.

Researchers say the interplanetary Internet could allow for new types of complex space missions that involve multiple landed, mobile, and orbiting spacecraft, as well as ensure reliable communications for astronauts on the surface of the moon.

NASA Tests First Deep-Space Internet

(photos were taken at the NASA JPL in Pasadena California, during my visit there in April 2008)

30 Meter Weekend

30 meters was very busy this weekend but I didn't get to operate very much due to a GTD (getting things done) list. The little time I did have to operate worked out quite well. I tried my hand at Olivia mode. I had just finished reading in the December08 QST about this magic mode and made a nice contact to W9NWR down in Wisconsin. Copy was excellent and it's expected of this mode. Though Chuck's signal was full copy with Digital Master 780 he wasn't moving the S meter. Olivia presented perfect copy with no effort on my part. I had the pre-amps off in the FT-950 and about -6dB of attenuation - just enough to lower the band noise. I like Olivia but it is a really slow mode of communications. I can see using it under extreme band conditions where noise is bad or the signals are not visible in the waterfall. At least I could keep the buffer full with my typing.

The next morning I snagged some good DX just before heading out for a Sunday filled with activities. ES0IC, Meeme, on the island of Kassari (IOTA-EU034) in Estonia on PSK31. He was 599 copy on my PAR EF-30 end fed dipole. A really nice contact and great DX to boot. I noticed many DX stations operating Sunday morning. Sunday night was good too and the band stayed open well past 10:30pm local time. A strong Puerto Rican station, WP3UX, was calling CQ for at least a couple of hours. On Saturday night the band closed just after sunset.

If you haven't tried 30 meters give it a go. It's a great DX band, only digital and CW modes are permitted (no contests!), and if you hit it right there's a lot of great DX to be had. All contacts on the weekend were completed using 20 watts output and using my FT-950. The 950 dsp filtering options are great for digital work.

To keep tabs on 30 meter DX activity I was using a new DX cluster called DXAnywhere programmed by a young British chap, Peter, M3PHP. Peter says, "The system also includes a full blown social networking system where users can setup profiles of themselves and their amateur radio background and become friends with other users! We're also keen on keeping the system fresh so on a monthly basis we're going to be adding new applications into the mix."

Friday 21 November 2008

30 Meter Digital Group 1 Year Anniversary Weekend

For all of you digital mode enthusiasts this is the perfect weekend for testing those 30 meter antennas and setting the bandswitch to 30 meter position.

The 30 Meter Digital Group is celebrating their one year anniversary this weekend. The activity starts this weekend November 22nd and 23rd.

10.140 USB +/- 1000 PSK

(10.132 – 10.145 – HELL, OLIVIA, MFSK, RTTY, WSPR, PropNet, Etc)

10.140 +2000 – 30MDG Members Dedicated Hours from 1900z to 2200z - 30MDG members look for other members to ragchew with further up the waterfall.

Let's celebrate our 30MDG 1st year anniversary and have some fun on the 30 Meter Band! The 30 Meter Digital Group would like to invite our 1,350 plus members along with any and all digital operators for a casual digital weekend on the 30 Meter Band.

Those that are 30MDG members this would be a good time to mark your calendar and meet up with other 30MDG Members for a ragchew or meet a DX member. You do NOT have to be a 30MDG member nor join the 30MDG to participate; just get on the 30m band and have some digital fun!

Our 30 Meter Digital Group promotes:

- Awareness of the unique 30 Meter Band (note: we are SECONDARY USERS
of this band and must give way to Primary users so please use good operating procedures)

- Proper digital mode operation and procedures

- Experimenting with different digital modes, power, antennas, etc.

- Low power operation and only using the least amount of power needed for the contact at hand (note: 75% of digital mode operators use between 20-40w on the band…also note for U.S.A. operators the 30m band is a great place because we must use <200w so we are all on the same playing field on the 30 meter band…oh yes, no voice for U.S.A. ops so it is really an all digital band)

- Casual operating on the 30 Meter Band from ragchews to DX but we do NOT promote Contesting….30 Meters is a WARC band and one place we all can enjoy away from contesting.

- Increase 30 Meter digital mode use on this under used unique band that has the best of both 20 Meter and 40 Meter propagation because it sits between them (again note we are SECONDARY USERS)

Here at VE3MPG I use the PAR EF-30 End Fed Dipole on 30 meters. I'll report after the weekend on conditions and activities.

Yahoo 30 Meter PSK Group

30 Meter Digital Group

30 Meter Antennas

Arnie Coro CO2KK talks about 30 meters

Wednesday 19 November 2008

VE3MPG, Cyborg and Bionic Ham

Cyborg is a fictional character, a superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Ooops wrong definition; here we go again - Cyborg: A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (i.e., an organism that has both artificial and natural systems). The term was coined in 1960 when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. That's close enough, though I haven't been to outer space yet but it could happen. And, I'm not a superhero or even a superham.

In the fall of 2006 I received a cochlear implant, my bionic implant.

In the mid 1980s I was losing my hearing at a rapid pace due to a genetic fault. Many in my family were hard of hearing and the older family members, my father and my grandmother were left with little hearing. By 1990 I was wearing two intra canal digital aids but speech and going to the movies and TV were extremely difficult to hear. By 1993 I was profoundly deaf and could barely use a phone and had a closed captioning device on my TV set. I was wearing very powerful behind the ear aids at that time and by the year 2000 I was really struggling. I had my first appointment at the Audiology Unit at Ottawa's Civic Hospital but didn't qualify for an implant at that time. Apparently I wasn't deaf enough yet. Criteria has since changed making it much easier to qualify for a cochlear implant.

Deaf or hard of hearing persons learn to cope with their disability and I learned to lip read very well. Of course lip reading only worked if the other person was facing me. I carried on pretty well in this way for a few years. In 2005 while at home my burglar alarm tripped and two squad cars showed up - I live out in the country but it didn't take long for the police to respond. I signed to them that I was deaf and they wondered if I could hear the alarm and I shook my head 'no'. Well that was the turning point for me - I could no longer use a telephone but did rely on the very early Blackberries for text and email messaging - another way of coping.

So I got with the program again at the Civic hospital after an audiologist at the Canadian Hearing Society recommended it since hearing aids couldn't do anything more for me.

Curtail my ham activities it did. In 1993 I got so discouraged I sold my HF gear, a beautiful Kenwood TS-520SE as I couldn't hear SSB anymore. CW was fine even up to my last few days before the implant. With the little residual hearing I had left I was still able to hear that CW tone. I hadn't done 2 meters from the car for years but still had a radio installed just in case. I remember the day I just couldn't struggle anymore not hearing the guys on the repeater. I really missed that.

Pictured above is the implant receiver, the Advanced Bionics HiRes 90k the most advanced DSP based processor available. The gold plated titanium part is the enclosure for the electronics. The clear part with gold wires running along the perimeter is the implant antenna with a small magnet in the center. The long sensor array tip is wound inside the cochlea of the inner ear. There are 16 sensors on the tip and most of them end up touching ever so slightly some of the nerves inside the damaged cochlea. A small channel is routed out from the surface of the skull just above and behind the ear to seat the processor and antenna. A hole is then drilled through the mastoid bone behind the ear to carefully insert and position the sensor array in the cochlea. Some extremely small metal guide tools are used by the surgeon to carefully insert the array without doing any damage to the fragile cochlea.

This photo shows a channel routed from the skull - where the receiver will reside. You can see the sutures that will hold the receiver in place and the electrode lead channel. The skin and scalp are then replaced and sutured back. I arrived at the Civic Hospital in the morning and was prepped for surgery. After 5.5 hours in the OR I was wheeled into recovery, then ICU and was released at 6a.m. the next morning. Five weeks later my implant was activated.

Did deafness affect my ham radio hobby? Yes it did. Did I give up? No!

Helen Keller said that if she had to choose between being deaf and being blind, she'd be blind, because while blindness cut her off from things, deafness cut her off from people.

My hearing today is based on the skills of the engineers, programmers and researchers at Advanced Bionics in California. Sound is coded in bits and bytes and transformed into something recognizable to my brain. My implant has 16 electrodes, but the virtual-channels software will make my hardware act like there are actually 121. Manipulating the flow of electricity to target neurons between each electrode creates the illusion of seven new electrodes between each actual pair, similar to the way an audio engineer can make a sound appear to emanate from between two speakers. It takes at least 100 channels to create good music perception.

The photo above is me, five weeks after surgery and the day of my 'activation'. This is the external processor with a small T-mic in the ear where the sound is picked up. The gray headpiece is held on with a small magnet where the internal receiver, antenna and magnet are located. A battery located on the external processor powers the internal electronics through the skin. A diagnostic light on the external processor stops blinking when a data link is established with the internal processor. I'm being programmed via that cable to an XP computer running Advanced Bionics' mapping software. Three new strategies can be programmed to the external processor - I have one for loud environments, very quiet environments and one for regular sound environments. The T-mic detaches and I can plug my Ipod directly to my implant for listening to music (mono only!) or podcasts which I download to the Ipod Touch.

I am slowly making more voice contacts on SSB and FM but still have a lot of difficulty with bad audio on the phone bands. Some operators have excellent audio while many have overprocessed and overdriven audio. I find this especially on the local HF nets where good net etiquette is not followed. The net controls either speak too fast or you get the 'yellers' with their mic gain turned up too high. It will just take time and the patience of the hams at the other end of the mic. Today most of my HF activity centers on the digital modes and I enjoy that immensly.

If any of you have questions about this article please post them in the comments section or email me directly via the listing for my call.

Sunday 16 November 2008

17 Meters and K4CMC

17 meters has been open for most of the morning to Europe and now the southern U.S. states are rolling in. QSB is heavy but signals are 20+ S9 most of the time. I worked Bruce Davis, K4CMC. He used to work at NASA during the Apollo moon missions. Small world after posting the article about the recovered moon photos yesterday.

Here's a picture of Bruce in the Apollo 11 cockpit at Kennedy Space Center in July of
1969 about one week prior to the first lunar landing mission.

Bruce says, "After getting out of the USAF I worked as an Instrumentation Technician and then as a Senior Apollo Spacecraft Electronic Technician at Kennedy Space Center from 1965-1970 as a Spacecraft Operator (SCO) in cockpit of Apollo Spacecraft during ground testing on many of the Apollo missions,including Apollo 11 and Apollo 13."

This is the coolness factor of amateur radio. You really never know who you are going to meet on the air. I always make it a habit to check for profiles of the hams I meet on the bands.

Saturday 15 November 2008

New Pictures of the Moon Discovered

A woman saves the 1960s photo archives of the moon's surface

This article really is about ham radio - well more specifically how collecting and hoarding our treasures can really pay off. The absolutely cool technical stuff going on here is historical, especially with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing taking place next year on July 20th 2009.

A retired NASA employee, Nancy Evans, kept many things in her garage. But as time passed, NASA forgot. In fact, it would have thrown the machines out, if not for Nancy Evans, who had worked the project. She stored the machines in her garage for more than 20 years, and when NASA wanted to recycle the moon tapes, she took those, too.

"I had spent most of my working life saving data, and salvaging data, seeing that it got put safely in the planetary data system. I wasn't about to let this huge data set be thrown away," said Nancy Evans, a former NASA/JPL researcher.

In the late 1960s, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to photograph the surface of the moon and gain a better understanding of the lunar environment in advance of the Apollo program. Data were recorded on large magnetic tapes and transferred to photographic film for scientific analysis. When these images were first retrieved from lunar orbit, only a portion of their true resolution was available because of the limited technology available.

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, located at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is taking analog data from original recorders used to store on tape and 1,500 of the original tapes, converting the data into digital form, and reconstructing the images. The restored image released Thursday confirms data from the original tapes can be retrieved from the newly-restored tape drives from the 1960s when combined with software from 2008.

"I'm glad that we could offer our services to the project team and play a part in the recovery of such an historic image of the moon," said Ames Director S. Pete Worden.

Future images will be made publicly available when they are fully processed and calibrated. The intent of this project is to facilitate, wherever possible, the broadest dissemination and public use of these images.

"It's a tremendous feeling to restore a 40-year-old image and know it can be useful to future explorers," said Gregory Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute at Ames. "Now that we've demonstrated the capability to retrieve images, our goal is to complete the tape drives' restoration and move toward retrieving all of the images on the remaining tapes," he added.

Another, image of the lunar surface now shows details as small as one meter, which they can compare with future mapping missions.

"This is going to show us how the moon is changing. We fully expecting to see some new craters," said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director of Lunar Sciences.

A classic case of pulling treasure from what might have been in the trash and all because Nancy Evans was a bit of a packrat.

As the images are processed, they will be submitted to the Planetary Data System, which NASA's Space Science Mission Directorate in Washington sponsors in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The images also will be calibrated with standard mapping coordinates from the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Research Program in Flagstaff, Ariz.

NASA will launch the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009 to map the moon's surface. The restoration of the Lunar Orbiter images to high quality images will provide the scientific community with a baseline to measure and understand changes that have occurred on the moon since the 1960s. These data could help mission planners assess the long-term risk to lunar inhabitants from small meteor impacts and establish longitude and latitude lines for lunar mapping.

"This effort was made possible by the vision and dedication of Apollo-era NASA employees, independent researchers, and a true veteran team of engineers and young students," said Dennis Wingo, the program lead for the project.

"We liken it to archeology. Techno-archeology," said Dennis Wingo, an imaging expert.

NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Innovative Partnerships Program Office in Washington provided initial funding for the project. Engineering and logistics for the project team were provided by Wingo of SkyCorp, Inc., Huntsville, Ala., with donated services by Keith Cowing from SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., Reston, Va., under the auspices of Alliance of Commercial Enterprises and Education for Space, and the NASA Lunar Science Institute.

To view the image and for more information about the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, visit:


For more information about NASA's exploration program, visit:

Download video about the LOIRP project.

Thanks to NASA Ames, JPL in Pasedena and ABC News (KG0-TV, San Fransisco)

Thursday 13 November 2008

40 meter DX via RTTY

Worked OX3DB in Igaliko Greenland on 40 meters RTTY this afternoon at 2030Z. That's a good hour before dusk here south of Ottawa. Conditions are very good around that time. Jan, OX3DB, gave me a 599 signal report. I was transmitting on the PAR EF-40 end fed dipole with 20 watts.

Here's a bit about Igaliko, from the Greenland tourism bureau -

Igaliko is a settlement in the ancient see of Gardar. From the slopes above it, people enjoy the most beautiful and peaceful panorama of the country. The name Igaliko means “The Abandoned Fireplace”. The Norwegian Anders Olsen started farming at Gardar in 1780 and dedicated the place to St. Nicolas, the protector of seafaring people. A ruin of a cross church, 27x16 m, built of sandstone in the 12th century remains there. The ruins of the bishopric cover an extended area, among them the ruins of a 130 m² celebration hall, a tithe-hut, where the tithes were kept, and a cow shed for 100 heads of cattle.

The most remote abode of the pope’s representatives was at Gardar. Exploration voyages to Markland (Labrador and Newfoundland) and voyages for walrus hunting started from there and Brattahlid. Under the choir of the church, skulls of walruses were excavated. Probably people hoped to improve the walrus hunting by burying them near the graves of the chieftains. Gardar was the main centre of education and administration in Greenland.

And a bit more info on Gardar from Wikipedia -

Gardar was the 'capital' of the Norse settlements in Greenland and seat of the bishop of Greenland. Presently the settlement of Igaliku is situated on the same location.

Many ruins of the Norse settlements can still be seen in Igaliku today. The main ruin is of the Gardar Cathedral, a cross-shaped church built of sandstone in the 12th century. The maximum length is 27 m, the width 16 m. Besides the cathedral ruins of the stables (with place for 60 cows) and other buildings can still be seen. Its population in 2005 was 60.
It's interesting to check for information about the DX station one works. Sometimes it's a great lesson in geography and history as is the case here with OX3DB.

The last time I worked Greenland was in the very early 80s using the RS satellites and CW using 10 meters up and 144Mhz downlink using a Sinclair ZX-81 for tracking. Printouts were on thermal paper and the tracking program was loaded from a cassette tape player and the Keplerian elements input manually. I believe the Keps in those days were published via the local packet working group bbs.

Amateur Radio Exam Generator

The website of the Canadian regulator, Industry Canada, provides a free download of software to generate Amateur Radio exams. This service is provided as a learning aid for prospective amateurs and as an administrative tool for accredited examiners.The software can be downloaded from "Software to Generate Amateur Examinations".

This software package can produce a unique examination for either a basic or advanced amateur certificate according to the random selection criteria outlined in RIC-3. It will also generate a worksheet, and it has an additional feature that allows self-testing on a home computer.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Awh Master Commander: Software Control For The YAESU FT 2000 or FT 950

N.B.: September 28, 2015 – From Rick IW1AWH -Due to several reason (personal problems and lack of interest about this utility from the ham community), I'm planning to phase out Master Commander soon. I'll release as an unsupported alpha release the latest build of mc 008 and then the development will be closed.
Many thanks to everyone. Rick.

N.B.: April 26, 2013. This is NOT my software readers! I did not write this and only reviewed it here and as far as I know it is no longer supported or being developed. See the above note for Rick’s information. If you have questions please don’t leave a comment here as I can not possibly respond as I’m not the author or developer.
AWH Master Commander is control software for the Yaesu FT-2000 and the FT-950. What makes this suite of software different from Ham Radio Deluxe and other software for rig control is that each module shows a graphical representation of specific controls of each radio.

Here's an example of the connect screen for the FT-950.

This next control screen is the most impressive - a panoramic display in real time.

This next control component is the transmit equalizer and processor control screen.

Here's the 10 meter FM control module - with tone access control

And finally the SWR control and testing module - be careful of this one as it will sweep the entire band to map the SWR of your antenna. It will also check a band segment or single frequency.

This cutting edge software developed by Rick (Riccardo) Bertoli IW1AWH is in its current beta stage but I can tell you once you try it you'll be hooked. Awh Commander is turning out to be a very comprehensive piece of software to extend the controls of the FT-950 or the FT-2000 to your home computer or laptop. All that's needed is a serial cable connected from your laptop or shack computer to the FT-950 or the FT-2000.

I highly recommend the software and I'm looking forward to what Rick will be doing to further enhance Awh Commander. Rick gives SDR a whole new meaning with this fantastic piece of software.

You can download the beta version from Rick's blog here or go to the site of W4LGH in the U.S.

Cycle 24 Sunspot 1008

A new sunspot (1008) emerged this week signaling more Cycle 24 activity. The bands have been very good even up to 17 meters. PSK stations populate 18.100 and some good DX is to be had.

Above: New-cycle sunspot group 1007 emerges on Halloween and marches across the face of the sun over a four-day period in early November 2008. Credit: the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

On Nov. 3rd and again on Nov. 4th, double-oh seven unleashed a series of B-class solar flares. Although B-flares are considered minor, the explosions made themselves felt on Earth. X-rays bathed the dayside of our planet and sent waves of ionization rippling through the atmosphere over Europe. Hams monitoring VLF radio beacons noticed strange "fades" and "surges" caused by the sudden ionospheric disturbances.

Good news for the upcoming winter season and should give us some decent conditions for working lots of DX.

I notice that an hour prior to sunset on 40 meters the Europeans start to roll in very nicely. Good signal strengths and many psk stations on. I work psk stations exclusively here and I'll write a future blog posting on that very soon. Well after dark 20 meters is still open with south American stations populating the band.

Coming up on November 22nd and 23rd is the "30 Meter Digital Group 1 Year Anniversary Weekend."

10.140  USB +/- 1000 PSK
(10.132 – 10.145 – HELL, OLIVIA, MFSK, RTTY, WSPR, PropNet, Etc)
10.140 +2000 – 30MDG Members Dedicated Hours from 1900z to 2200z
(30MDG members look for other members to ragchew with further up the waterfall)
Check into the 30 Meter Feld Hell Net:
30 Meter Net 0000 Z Monday 10.138. Feld Hell Net Control is W8LEW Lew.

Not sure what 30 Meters has to offer? Then go here:

30 Meter Digital Group

Tuesday 4 November 2008

FT-950 Back On The Air

It's been a few months since I've fired up the FT-950. Got it dusted off and moved back to the shack. The last time it was used was at the MARG Field Day at the Long Island Marina in Kars. It's hard to forget how great the receiver is in the 950.

Late this afternoon I worked TK5IH in Corsica and ZP8AE in Paraguay, on PSK, with 589 and 599 reports using 20 watts to the Cushcraft R6000. Earlier in the day using the 'old' FT-100, I worked Maria, SA2YLM on 20 meters. 17 meters opened just after lunch for a short time and managed to snag a few Europeans with great 5NN reports.

The nice 'width' feature of the FT-950 allows me to narrow down the passband and get rid of high powered stations close to the DX that I want to work. The HRD* waterfall below shows the passband with many signals.

The HRD* waterfall below shows no signals, on either side of the received psk track. This eliminates desensing of the receiver by narrowing the passband so strong signals on either side of the track being decoded dissapear. The FT-950 can also notch out a signal on either side of the decoded signal.

I use Ham Radio Deluxe as control software and Digital Master 780 for digital modes. I find it is one of the most intuitive ham software suites. It keeps track of my logs and can be used for just about any digital mode now current on the amateur bands. There's an excellent satellite tracking module included. Simon Brown, HB9DRV, is continually adding features and tweaking the software. The Ham Radio Deluxe forums are a repository of information pertaining to any subject about digital modes and how to connect Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, and just about any transceiver to sound card interfaces and to your shack computer. HRD works with Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Some PSK tips:
In PSK modes use UPPER CASE characters sparingly. Lower case text in PSK31 varicode transmits fewer bits of data. You'll increase transmit speed and improve the likelihood of proper decoding on the other end by using lower case text as much as possible. (For example, the difference between a lowercase “e” (11) and an uppercase “E” (1110111) is three times more bits.)

*Ham Radio Deluxe

Monday 3 November 2008

The R6000 Rocks!

Finally got the antenna connected late this afternoon and got on 20 meters, PSK. Worked Florida and Cuba with about 15 watts to the antenna. 599+ reports so I could lower the power a bit more. I’m a bit hesitant to do this as I’m feeding it will el cheapo RG58 coax; about 110 feet of it so the attenuation is about 3.5db. Have to get some connectors on the good RG213 stuff that I have still coiled, new, in the basement.   spots2

Conditions seem to be very good as most signals are way over S9. There’s been some very recent sunspot activity. My favourite site for checking solar activity belongs to Kevin, VE3EN, down in Cornwall Ontario. There’s been a good bit of traffic in the forums these last few days. Check it out.


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Sunday 2 November 2008

R6000 Up and Running

20081102-IMG_1989 Spent a few hours yesterday getting the 20 foot R6000 set up – it worked right away and tuned very nicely on all of the band portions that I use. I used guy ropes to steady this vertical. In previous years at this location the winds are brutal and the R6000 used to sway precipitously. I am positive this had much to do with weakening the joints and accelerated wear and tear. It’s so windy in these parts that one farm a few lines down from us uses wind turbines and some solar panels for their only power source. Testing the antenna with my MFJ-259 analyzer shows it’s right on the frequencies that I measured for in the instructions.20081102-IMG_1994

The above photo shows the fibreglass repair to the main insulator – this was all shredded and weather beaten. Three coats of black bumper paint were applied for protection. The control box was also sprayed with 3 coats of bumper paint and the seams sealed with Silicone II.20081102-IMG_1990

The antenna is mounted on a solid metal fence post knocked into the ground about 5 feet and a round steel post was knocked in beside it about 4 feet down and wire wrapped together for stability and strength. The R6000 then slips on to the round fence post about 4 feet above ground. Not the best installation but it’s easy for one person to service and maintain at this height. I’ve worked lots of DX this way.






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Saturday 25 October 2008

Cushcraft R6000 Repaired and Refurbished

R6000 My R6000 is several years old now. I took it down 2 years ago intending to repair and refurbish it in a few weeks. Typical of my many projects lying around the garage this one always seemed to take longer than usual. If any of you are familiar with the R6000 it is quite a tall antenna. I've had it lying across a portable workbench and plastic lawn chairs for support. Last winter I took the traps inside and spent a couple of weeks cleaning adding new stainless hardware and sealing the traps. The original hardware nuts inside had become corroded due to moisture so they were all replaced. Everything was double checked and then new caps installed and then sealed with Silicone II to waterproof them.

The most complicated part of the project was the repair to the main insulator base. Originally an unprotected tube of fibreglass, UV had deteriorated it so the polyester surface had evaporated and left bare fibreglass fibres that absorbed dirt and moisture.isolatorf2_r

Show here as an example is the R5 fibreglass insulator in the same sorry state mine had become after 6 years exposure to Ottawa weather conditions.

I purchased a fibreglass repair kit at Canadian Tire where you mix resin and hardener and paint the resulting mixture on the old surface. You have about eight minutes to work the mixture before it hardens. I did this in two stages, sanding between the coats and re-opening the bolt holes with a cordless drill. After the final coating of resin, sanding and making sure the bolts fit through the holes I spray painted the repair with bumper paint, flat black, with 2 or 3 coats. Bumper type paint is very tough and now provides a UV blocking layer to prevent any further deterioration.

repairedHere's what the repair looks like. Again this is a Cushcraft R5 photo the repair looks very similar to my Cushcraft R6000. The R6000 is still sold retail in Canada for about $450CDN. I purchased my copy second hand and used it for a season out here till the brutal winds loosened everything up. Every piece of hardware was replaced with stainless steel. In a refurbishment like this a Dremel tool in invaluable for cutting new stainless steel hardware down to size and removing corrosion and polishing. The R6000 is a great performer and have worked Antarctica using 20 watts on PSK. The R6000 uses a set of elevated ground radials and there's no need for installing a ground radial system. The antenna instructions require the antenna to be at least 10 feet off the ground. I have mine sitting about 4.5 feet above ground but may elevate that when I erect the antenna this coming week. I'll post actual close-up pictures when I get it mounted in place. I also intend to add three guying ropes to stabilize the antenna during high winds.

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Thursday 23 October 2008

Radio News August 1929

From my collection

Radio News August 1929-2

Radio News July 1929

Radio News July 1929

PC, Call Home, now! (could it be true?)


We all use computers and you're reading this blog on one. I ran across an interesting article on's website. It's been widely circulated since published a few days ago. Here's the article by Robert Eringer.

And Now The Manchurian Microchip

The geniuses at Homeland Security who brought you hare-brained procedures at airports (which inconvenience travelers without snagging terrorists) have decreed that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This means The Investigator -- at the risk of compromising national insecurities -- would be remiss not to make you aware of the hottest topic in U.S. counterintelligence circles: rogue microchips. This threat emanates from China (PRC) -- and it is hugely significant.

The myth: Chinese intelligence services have concealed a microchip in every computer everywhere, programmed to "call home" if and when activated.

The reality: It may actually be true.

All computers on the market today -- be they Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Apple or especially IBM -- are assembled with components manufactured inside the PRC. Each component produced by the Chinese, according to a reliable source within the intelligence community, is secretly equipped with a hidden microchip that can be activated any time by China's military intelligence services, the PLA.

"It is there, deep inside your computer, if they decide to call it up," the security chief of a multinational corporation told The Investigator. "It is capable of providing Chinese intelligence with everything stored on your system -- on everyone's system -- from e-mail to documents. I call it Call Home Technology. It doesn't mean to say they're sucking data from everyone's computer today, it means the Chinese think ahead -- and they now have the potential to do it when it suits their purposes."

Discussed theoretically in high-tech security circles as "Trojan Horse on a Chip" or "The Manchurian Chip," Call Home Technology came to light after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a security program in December 2007 called Trust in Integrated Circuits. DARPA awarded almost $25 million in contracts to six companies and university research labs to test foreign-made microchips for hardware Trojans, back doors and kill switches -- techie-speak for bugs and gremlins -- with a view toward microchip verification.

Raytheon, a defense contractor, was granted almost half of these funds for hardware and software testing.

Its findings, which are classified, have apparently sent shockwaves through the counterintelligence community.

You can read the rest of the article here at Cryptome's archives.

Here's a little about the author Robert Eringer too.

Counterfeit Chips Raise Big Hacking, Terror Threats, Experts Say

Monday 20 October 2008

PAR 30M End Fed Dipole - First DX



ft-100These little gems, the PAR EndFedz, continue to amaze me. With 25 watts out on 30 meters, an FT-100 and Ham Radio Deluxe software I was able to work, GI4SIZ in Ireland 599, 9A0COAST on the island of Brac off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia with a 599, EA8KV, 599, in the Canary Islands and EB5DZC on the east coast of Spain 599. They were all perfect copy though with some qsb late this afternoon (20:00Z). The old FT-100 has a great receiver so I keep the RF gain cranked slightly to reduce band noise. I'm located about 20Kms south of Ottawa on a quiet country road so signals really pop out of the noise floor. Most evenings at this time of year the noise sits at S0. Even at this solar minimum some really good DX can be worked with efficient antennas. These little antennas work extremely well - highly recommended for portable or permanent installations.

Willis Island Expedition Update

The Willis Islands Group, Mid Isl. Thursday, October, 16thJosh_039_vk9dwx_1_sm

This is the seventh day of operation. We had two days with heavy gusty winds. The long enduring rainfall for more than a day gave us some relief. It was refreshing to have a sweet-water shower from the sky and temperature dropped to 28 degrees C. Today the sun is back again and we are experiencing 39 degrees in the operator tents, with linears running.

Our receiving situation on the lowbands is heavily influenced by static noise, which usually comes up to 20-30 db over S9, a real challenge for our operators. We obviously built the 30m 4 square too close to the water, because two Verticals were nearly washed into the sea by the heavy surf. We managed to fix the guy-ropes and pegs again and could keep the antenna into operation. For the same reason, we also moved the 40m 4-square a few meters away from the beach. We also put up a 6m-antenna, but there is no activity at all so far.

Today we crossed the line of 40.000 Qs. Stations are pouring in in great numbers still. Unfortunately especially the W-path is interfered and jammed heavily on 160m. but we will do our very best to get as many of you as possible in the log. We also have set up a fifth station and now are able to operate from all five positions at the same time, to cater the needs of all of you even better.

Tomorrow, we are expecting the "Rum Runner", who will bring us more supplies, out friend Dale, VK4DMC, Bernd (DK2JW; our "tourist") and the new rookie Rhy, ZS6DXB. Unfortunately Josh, W4WJF will be leaving with the "Rum Runner" in the next day, but this also means that Rhy will be joining our effort. Josh says he has loved working you all on the bands and has greatly enjoyed his experiences so far. He came in mainly as a SSB operator but has made quite a few CW contacts with you on-the-air. Even though he said some operators complained of his slow speed, his proficiency has improved so far. He is lucky since he doesn't have to help break down the antennas and the camp AND can go home and put VK9DWX in his log! He thinks the idea of inviting rookies along on DXpeditions is a great idea. In the US, he said many DXers were inspired by this idea and he hopes to give a few presentations about his trip in order to motivate others to sponsor a rookie on their next DXpedition.

We are expecting a great weekend and another exciting week full of pile-ups on the Island.

We will enjoy to work you in CW, SSB and RTTY on all bands!

73 de the VK9DWX-Team

P.S.: Just a few minutes ago the Rum Runner arrived at Willis Island. Around noon we will start to transfer the persons and the ordered supplies.

Courtesy of the Willis Island DXPedition web site.

Sunday 19 October 2008

PAR End Fedz Antennas = Great DX


The PAR EndFedz have been great performers at VE3MPG. My first use was at the Manotick Amateur Radio Group’s Field Day in June. I used the EF-40 meter version of the PAR with outstanding results. We threw it up in a tree, tacked the bottom feed point to a stake and 20080807-IMG_1318the SWR measured flat across the band. We constantly got reports on 40 that "you're the loudest signal on the band here!" In fact this were the comments we got from many of the stations we worked - they included signal reports included with the exchange to let us know how strong we were. My psk station, an FT-950 ran 35 watts all weekend powered by a Honda 2000i generator.

Have just installed my EF-30 PAR EndFed and it tunes up great first time up. The far end is up a white ash tree - 25 feet up and then the feed end is tethered to my support mast.

Make sure that you know your test equipment prior to installing any antenna. My MFJ antenna analyzer was causing all sorts of problems - I was blaming it on the PAR antenna until I ran into the same problem with the 30 meter end fed. Turns out the MFJ-259 had a half dozen cold solder joints and loose ground screws.


T20081002-IMG_1759he various pictures here show details on my masting - it was constructed from 1" x 1" pressure treated scrap lumber that sat unused in my woodshed for years, glued with exterior grade glue, then screwed together with galvanized screws. Notice that the upper sections are cut at 45 degrees so water or snow doesn't accumulate. Two coats of porch paint then spray painted with Rustoleum silver paint. All the screw countersinks and seams were filled with good quality caulking prior to painting. The mast assembly was then permanently affixed to a large wooden planter. Closed eyehooks complete the mast assembly to support coax and rope attached to the PAR match box. This method takes the weight off the matchbox and prevents the wire from sagging too much.

Tonight I get to try out the 30 meter PAR end fed - stay tuned.


Thursday 2 October 2008

Interview with Dale Parfitt, PAR Electronics

DaleParfitt_w4op.967603067 I conducted an email interview this afternoon with Dale Parfitt of PAR Electronics, the maker of the wondrous PAR EndFedz end fed dipoles. Dale's company also manufactures filters, mostly for the commercial market and military.

I own three of the PAR EndFedz, the EF-20, EF-30 and the EF-40 versions. In my next post I’ll show how easy these are to install and the post will include photos and close-ups of the antennas.

Here’s the interview.

Dale, how did you get started?

I received a BSEE from Syracuse U in '71 and an MSEE in 73. After a short stint with Sperry Flight Systems in Phoenix AZ, I went to work for Avanti R&D in their antenna lab. One of my patents is for the original On-Glass antenna. It came out of a need for me to operate 2M from my Corvette. The patent describes an end fed half wave antenna where the radiator and matching means are separated by a dielectric (glass in this case). That patent is now owned by The Allen Group. It was a strong patent, and imitators were forced to use inferior concepts that gave the ON-Glass antennas a poor reputation. It is unfortunate, because our original design (still marketed by Antenna Specialists) is NOT a compromise antenna and delivers superior performance. This basic design forms the basis for the EndFedz series. I enjoy hiking (actually running) the mountains of NC. I often take a rig with me and operate on stops. I needed an easy to deploy antenna.

Tell me a bit about your amateur radio background.

I became interested in amateur radio when I was 11 or so. Adult Ed in Elmira NY offered ham classes taught by W2HQY (SK) and W2ZBD (SK). The rub was that you had to be 18 years old to attend. So, my Mom who was at that time completing here BS in Nursing from Syracuse signed up and "baby sat" me. This was in 1963 or so. I was assigned a novice call WV2YPY. Back then, the novice was good for 1 year and non-renewable sink or swim. I loved CW and so the upgrade to WA2YPY came easily 6 months later. I was very active on HF DX and later VHF weak signal. During my college years I was totally inactive outside of an occasional stint at the SU club station.

Many years later my passion to VHF/UHF returned and I still operate a KW on 80-->6M [PRO III + SPE Expert solid state amp]. But my first love is 1296MHz EME where I am a medium sized station with a 14' dish and 400W homebrew solid state at the dish.

What is the market for the PAR antennas, and filters?

Our core business remains commercial. PAR filters are everywhere from flying in space to airports to FM broadcast stations to NASA's lightning detection system:

The market appears bottomless. Design is done with Eagleware's Genesys software - makes me look smart. Over the years I have become a decent machinist and have added digital capabilities to our mills and lathe.

Our Omniangle antennas virtually own the RFID industry because of their near-perfect omni pattern and zero feedline radiation. The EndFedz are used by our military and amateurs around the world.

How are your antennas used worldwide?

I have no clue as to how the military uses them - I don't even ask. The vast majority of EndFedz are in amateur use.

We do have piles of filters in Asia minor used in a system that measures snow pack data and transmits the collected via random meteor scatter. The filter criteria are very stringent and obviously, the filters must endure a very harsh environment.

Other filters are in use by militaries around the world for spectrum shaping.

Many years back, the FCC contacted us to design a version of our patented 2M IM filter to relieve the problem of pagers interfering with commercial boats on the Mississippi. Today, there may not be a commercial boat on that river that does not have a pair of our filters on board.

Where is PAR Electronics headed?

Hard to say. I have a lot of other interests that have been put on hold while PAR demands 80+ hour weeks. A number of very novel antennas have never seen the light of production simply because we cannot handle the order levels they would create. At some point, I'll turn the reigns over to a younger fellow.

How many people does PAR Electronics employ?

Very few. I am a perfectionist who does not play well with others. So, while I do bring people in to do some of the mundane milling and lathe work, 90% of the work is done by me from 9AM to 2AM 6 days/week. I am the ultimate micromanager (not a good thing) and instead of critiquing others' work- I just do it myself.

Are you surprised by the success of your company?

Most of the time, I don't see the forest for the trees. But when I look at the bottom line- yes, it is surprising. I believe a very large part of our success is treating our clients like family. We regularly stay late to make sure someone has a certain product for vacation etc. Anyone can do this if they are willing to go the extra mile for their clients. This is getting harder and harder as our commercial segment takes up more and more of the time we traditionally devoted to amateur radio - but we remain committed to the amateur segment.

Any other interesting facts about PAR or yourself.

My shop, in addition to the lab and machine shop has a beautiful Olhausen billiards table for stress relief. I have very little interest in modern gear (aside what is needed for EME) and a passion for restoration of the tube gear of days gone by. I love to build and make the end product look as though it came off a production line:
Dale's Receiver Pg150_small DDS HF general coverage RX.

My version of a solid state Drake 2B with added bells and whistles.
Dale's Drake2B_homebrew_small

So there you have it. A great interview with Dale Parfitt creator of the PAR EndFedz series of end fed dipoles.

And some reviews of the PAR EndFedz on Eham.