Wednesday 24 October 2012

Band Conditions and DX

My apologies for not posting of late. Just too much going on but I do manage to get down to the shack late in the evenings. This has always been my favourite time to hunt DX. I’m a casual DXer and I don’t do contests. My work schedule allows for late nights and early morning operating times. I follow, and operate digital and JT65-HF exclusively. I keep power levels below 20 watts and 99% of the time keep it at 10 watts out using my FT-950. I’ve done this even during the lowest parts of the 11 year sun cycle and still managed to work lots of rare and obscure stations. Often when the band seemed dead, out pops a rare South Pacific station and I snag them on the first call.

IMG_1580Just yesterday I worked Tanzania, 5H3NP, Noel, at 0400Z on 20m psk31 running all of 15 watts. Noel had a good clear signal and he told me he’s on every night at the same time. I did hear him the previous evening but he was working Europeans and Russian stations in a pile up.



d2qrA couple of days ago, on 10 meters Serg, D2QR was on from Angola; again a nice strong signal and worked him on his first CQ call. The call looked familiar and checked my log and sure enough I had worked Serg in 2004 on 20 meters.

Earlier at 0445Z I worked Metin in Istanbul Turkey on 20m psk31. I noticed that I worked the Turkish and Tanzanian just after their sunrise times. I monitor this by reception reports displayed by PSKReporter maps and can watch the grey line creep along the countries that I’ve just worked. It’s a great DXer’s tool. It’s integrated into the current version of Digital Master 780.

Conditions have been really very good lately and urge you to get on the bands and work some of the rarer low power stations currently easy pickings during the late night hours on 20 meters and daytime DX on the busy 10 meter band.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Draconid Meteor Shower And Incoming CME

This just arrived from

DRACONID METEOR WATCH: Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, source of the annual Draconid meteor shower.  Last year, Europeans witnessed a faint but furious outburst of 600 meteors per hour when the shower peaked.  No such display is expected this year, but the Draconids are notoriously unpredictable.  Northern-hemisphere sky watchers should be alert for slow-moving meteors emerging from the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon (not far from the North Star) on Sunday night, Oct 7th, through Monday morning Oct. 8th. Check for more information and updates.

INCOMING CME:  A coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading for Earth.  The incoming cloud is expected to deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetosphere on October 8th, possibly sparking auroras at high latitudes.

EARTH-DIRECTED CME: Magnetic fields near sunspot AR1582 slowly erupted on Oct 5th sparking a B7-class solar flare and hurling a CME toward Earth. The Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO) captured this image of the expanding cloud:

Friday 5 October 2012

Fall and Puppy Linux In The Shack

© Bob Baillargeon Siberian Crab Apples-9870

Fall is a busy time out in the country where I live. It’s a time of getting gardens and lawn ready for winter. Other chores at the VE3MPG qth is getting the snow implements ready for the winter snow storms – getting the cutting deck off of the Kubota diesel and attaching the plow or blower onto the front, changing the oil and filter, attaching chains and 50lb weights to the back wheels for traction in the deepest snow. Some of our firewood has been delivered – nice hard maple and it’s all stacked nicely in our woodshed. I keep a good supply in the enclosed back porch and once every few weeks it’s replenished from the main supply in the woodshed. There are two airtight wood stoves here – one on the main floor and a large one in the basement. It keeps us cozy all winter, along with our geothermal heat pump.

© Bob Baillargeon Siberian Crab Apples-9852Other fall duties are using up or freezing fresh vegetables from our organic garden. It’s jelly time too and as you can see from the picture above it is a very nice batch this year. I have a Siberian crab apple tree and this year it was packed with fruit so there will be enough jelly till next year. We try to consume foods grown with a few kilometres of our home – organic honey, organic pork, beef and chicken from the neighbouring farms.

At this time of year there’s often a lull too, where I find a few hours to try new software in the shack. I had an old 2004 vintage HP Pentium 4 computer sitting around. A few months ago I was reading about a very efficient Linux distro called Puppy Linux. This distro loads into memory, either from a CD or a thumb drive. On this antiquated HP machine software starts instantaneously because it all runs in fast memory instead of from a hard drive. Puppy runs much faster than Ubuntu or Windows on the same hardware. One of the Puppy distros that I discovered is a customized version by the group.

Their Puppy DXpedition Disk includes many Linux amateur radio programs. Included are three logging programs, Fldigi for digital and PSKmail, satellite tracking, APRS software and many others.DxpeditionDisk

There’s an excellent set of instructions included there on one of the links.

There’s also Puppy Linux Server CD available on the site – it sets up a psk mail server running in ram and is a little larger distro than the DXpedition Disk distro. It includes everything for setting up a PSK mail server and a few other enhancements of interest to the Linux knowledgeable amateur.


This is the distro that I use in the shack – I installed it to a small hard disk and the system boots in about 10 seconds and runs from ram. I have 2 gigabytes of ram installed but it will run in a lot less. I’ll eventually have my FT-100 connected and running using psk mail on 30 meters. That’s a future blog posting coming up later this year. Puppy Linux is very easy to use and it will automatically recognize most hardware in your PC. It even included drivers for my old Realtek wireless card and configured itself to connect to my wireless internet network – easy peasy! I’ve been playing with variations of Unix/Linux since the early 1990s and this is one of the easiest flavours of Linux to learn on and play with. If you burn a CD/DVD of Puppy leave the disk open instead of finalizing the disk after burning the software image. That way you can add/configure new software and updates to your Puppy CD or thumb drive.

I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this blog posting. For you photography enthusiasts the photos at the top of the jelly and crab apples were taken with a Canon 10D SLR in RAW format and post processed in Adobe Lightroom. They were all shot with available light at 100iso at 6.3 megapixels.

Here are a couple of links of interest for today:

dwbannerDistro Watch – the ultimate repository of Linux distributions



Ontario High Points for SOTA hams in Ontario