If you use WSJT-X for FT8/WSPR/JTx etc, you should upgrade to V2.0.0 as soon as possible

WSJT-X version 2.0.0 has been released and everyone who uses this software for any data modes should update as soon as possible.  This new version is NOT compatible with previous versions so everyone is encouraged to upgrade to 2.0.0 as soon as possible.

New features in WSJT-X 2.0.0

  • Compound and nonstandard callsigns are automatically recognized and handled using new FT8 and MSK144 message formats.
  • The new FT8 protocol provides optimized message formats for North American VHF contests, European VHF contests, ARRL Field Day, and ARRL RTTY Roundup.  Similarly, the new MSK144 protocol provides optimized message formats for North American VHF and European VHF contests.  Full support is provided for “/R” and “/P” calls in the relevant contests.
  • The new protocols provide nearly equal (or better) sensitivity compared to the old ones, and lower false decode rates.
  • New logging features are provided for contesting and for “Fox” (DXpedition) mode.  Logging is optionally integrated with N1MM Logger+ and WriteLog.
  • Color highlighting of decoded messages provides worked-before status for callsigns, grid locators, DXCC entities, continents, CQ Zones, and ITU zones on a “by band” and “by mode” basis, and for stations that have uploaded their logs to Logbook of the World (LoTW) within a specified time interval.
  • The WSPR decoder now achieves decodes down to S/N = -31 dB.  For the particular benefit of LF/MF users, an option “No own call decodes” has been added.
  • The UDP messages sent to companion programs have been expanded and improved.

For the full release notes, see here.

Upgrading from earlier versions is seamless and there is no need to uninstall your previous version or move any files around.  You can download the installation packages for Windows, Mac and Linux here.

I’ve been using the release candidate versions of WSJT-X for some months and have been following the progress via the developers support list.  A lot of work has gone into this version and it really is important that everyone upgrades as soon as possible. If you’re not sure what version you are using then look at the top bar of the main activity (not the waterfall) where the version number is shown.  It will most likely be v1.9.1 but could quite well be v1.8 if you simply installed it a long time ago and haven’t upgraded.

Of special interest to me is the fact that it’s now possible to operate contests using FT8 and the inaugural FTU-Round Up contest was a couple of weekends ago. I spent a few hours operating in the contest and really quite enjoyed it.  It’s very different from other types of contesting but was very satisfying. You can see a full analysis of my entry with graphs, maps and statistics by clicking here.

The bottom line is that you really need to upgrade WSJT-X as soon as possible to maintain forward compatibility.  If you don’t upgrade then you will notice you are decoding and working fewer and fewer people.

Posted in Amateur radio, Data, FT8, JT65, JT9, WSPR | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

CQ World Wide DX CW 2018

This last weekend was the CQ World Wide DX CW Contest and I decided at short notice that I’d spend some time operating.  I was planning on being out for most of the day on Saturday but had nothing arranged for Sunday which would give me a few hours.

I actually managed half an hour or so on Saturday morning before going out and then another hour in the evening when we got home before tea and then after watching Strictly (yes, I know) as well as a good few hours on Sunday.

I’m not a big CW operator so this isn’t a serious entry.  I have worked well over 200 DXCC entities using Morse code but I’ve always treated it as just another data mode.  I use software to transmit and have a couple of software decoders running.  They’re far from perfect though so the mark one earball does get used regularly.  By operating purely in search and pounce mode, it’s relatively straightforward as I have time to make sure I’ve successfully read what’s been transmitted.

My technique was simple, start at the bottom of each band and tune through, working everything I can hear.  I wasn’t chasing multipliers in any form, either DXCC entities or CQ zones and that’s very obvious when I look at my totals.  I worked just 14 zones but did manage to work 56 entities and made a total of 323 QSOs with one duplicate.  My average rate over the time I spent operating was 34 QSOs/hour which I appreciate is poor compared to many others.  It’s good enough for me though.

As to be expected at this point in the solar cycle, the majority of my Qs were to European stations but perhaps surprisingly, the single country where I worked the most people was the USA with 61 contacts. This is largely down to 20m on Sunday afternoon where I seemed to tune the band and just work one after another.

I was also very pleased to work two new countries on 40m – US Virgin Islands and Bonaire which take my total on 40m up to 98 worked.  I will get DXCC on that band and then that’ll just leave me 80m before I can claim 5BDXCC.  I suspect that’s a good few years away though.

Most of my QSOs were on 20m which is hardly surprising considering the times of day I was operating and the fact that my aerial for 20m is significantly better than for the lower bands and I can run more power on the HF bands than the LF ones because my smartuner is rated at relatively low power for CW.

This was the first CW contest where I’ve used my special contest callsign for any more than a few minutes and I have to say that I’m impressed as to how well it seems to cut through pileups.  There were a few times I was calling along with a whole bunch of other stations and a quick blast of the callsign really did seem to get through quickly.  I didn’t struggle to work anyone at all.

It was a fun contest.  I won’t win anything but it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a dull weekend in November.  My full log and analysis can be seen on my Contest Results page.

Posted in Amateur radio, Contesting, CW, HF | Tagged | Leave a comment

Accurate time keeping on an Apple Mac running macOS Mojave

When running data modes such as the very popular FT8, it’s important to keep your computer clock accurate because if it’s more than a couple of seconds out then you won’t be able to decode anyone, they won’t be able to decode you and you won’t make any QSOs.  There are a number of utilities for Windows to keep the clock accurate and it’s fairly essential you use one of them.

Last year I wrote a piece about keeping your clock accurate in macOS which worked perfectly well in High Sierra but no longer works using macOS Mojave because the command I recommended has been removed from the operating system.

I’ve done some investigation and have found another command which works just as well.  I should note that macOS Mojave seems to do a really good job of keeping the clock accurate by itself and when I ran this new command, my clock was accurate to within 0.1 seconds.

The first thing to do is to test the command to make sure it works properly.  I’ve done this on two systems now and each time I had run an additional two commands just to get it running.

On your Mac, open a terminal window and type the following:

sntp -sS pool.ntp.org

You’ll almost certainly be prompted for your password – This is the main administrator account password for your Mac computer, enter it and press return.

There’s a very good chance you’ll get the following error message

If you do, you need to type the two following commands

sudo touch /var/db/ntp-kod
sudo chmod 666 /var/db/ntp-kod

Once you’ve entered those two commands, try again. If all is well, you’ll see something like this:

Now you need to schedule this so that it runs automatically.  The following instructions are pretty much identical to those posted in my original blog entry.

macOS has a built in task scheduler called cron and it’s relatively straightforward to add an entry to cron.

By default, macOS uses a very powerful text editor to edit system files but that can be a little daunting at first.  If you’re happy to use that then that’s fine, go ahead but I’m going to give you some instructions now on how to change your default system editor to nano.

In your terminal window, type the following:
nano .bash_profile

You will get an empty window just like this:

Copy (cmd-c) the following three lines of text and paste (cmd-v) them into the window:

# Set Default Editor (change ‘Nano’ to the editor of your choice)
# ————————————————————
export EDITOR=/usr/bin/nano

The window will look like this:

Press control-x, press y and then press enter to save the file.

Now either restart your Mac or simply log out and then back in.  If you don’t do this then it won’t use the editor we’ve just configured.

When you’ve logged back in, open a terminal window again and type:
sudo crontab -e

Enter your password as before.

Unless you’ve already added something into cron previously, this file will be empty.  You may have followed my instructions on cleaning a useless cache and if so, there will be a line there already.

It doesn’t matter whether the file is empty or not.
Using your cursor keys. scroll to the bottom and add a new line:
*/60 * * * * sntp -sS pool.ntp.org

This line is adding a task to automatically run the command we discussed above every sixty minutes. You could change the 60 to be any number you want and it will run at those intervals.  For more information about how to configure cron, please see here.

Press control-x, press y and then press enter to save the file. If you get the following prompt, click the OK button.

You’re done.  Your Mac will now keep very accurate time with no further intervention.

Posted in Amateur radio, Apple Mac, FT8, JT65, WSPR | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SCC RTTY Championship 2018 – The results

In 2017 I entered and won the 15m section of the SCC RTTY Championship and although I wasn’t available for the full 24 hours of the contest this year, I did make a token entry by operating for around four hours on the Sunday morning.

The problem was that on the Sunday, conditions had absolutely plummeted.  There were zero sunspots and both the A and the K indexes were quite high.

I persevered and called CQ for most of the time I was operating, interspersed with the occasional tune around the band to see what I could hear.  I heard nobody else on 15m and not one station replied to my CQ calls.

Because of the time I’d spent operating, I decided to put my entry in anyway.  To clarify, this was an entry with zero QSOs, zero points and zero multipliers!  Not surprisingly, I was last in the section and you can tell from the other entrants that conditions were significantly better on the Saturday.

There’s always a nice “Final Comments” section for the SCC contest and my zero point entry got a mention.  They said “Keith G6NHU operated 15m few hours as M7P and not a single QSO was logged 🙂 We really liked his SOAPBOX – take a look under Soapbox link.

My certificate has to be the best certificate in the history of contesting with zero QSOs, zero multipliers and zero points but still #1 England.

SCC RTTY 2018 15m results

SCC RTTY 2018 15m results

Posted in Amateur radio, Contesting, HF, RTTY | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Statistics for the third quarter of 2018

A gorgeously lovely summer means I spent less time on the wireless for these three months, making just over 600 QSOs and working only 80 DXCC entities.

My data / phone / CW ratio is still about the same as earlier in the year and I’ve picked up three new entities on 160m and two on 80m.  I’m a very long way away from DXCC on those bands so it’s nothing really to write home about.

I’d normally expect a high number of QSOs during the last weekend of September due to the CQ RTTY contest but unfortunately I was away for most of the weekend.  I did still manage a token entry though but nowhere near the size I’d normally like.

Unsurprisingly considering the summer doldrums and the point of the solar cycle, the majority of my QSOs have been to Europe and largely on 20m.

Breakdown of continents worked during Q3 2018

Posted in Amateur radio, Data, HF | Leave a comment

What constitutes “real radio”?

This is a question that’s being asked a lot these days.

For me, the answer is fairly simple.

If it involves RF leaving my station on a frequency which requires me to have an amateur radio licence to transmit on, then it’s “real radio”.  That is, it’s “Amateur radio”.

That includes, HF, VHF, UHF, etc and any appropriate mode on those bands.  Therefore FT8 is real radio, chatting via a repeater on 70cms is real radio, DMR and D-Star are real radio (although I’m far happier using them to talk to locals when they’re unlinked from their internet backbone). Simplex natters on 2m are real radio as is working the DX on HF bands using SSB, CW, RTTY or any other data mode.

Anything which doesn’t include RF leaving my shack on a frequency range listed in my Lifetime radio licence as issued to by my Ofcom is quite simply not amateur radio.  The laughably named “Network radio” is not amateur radio and how it can claim to be is beyond me.   Neither is CQ100 (QsoNet) or HamSphere and what makes them worse is you have to pay a subscription service to use something which isn’t actually amateur radio.

All licensed radio amateurs have passed an examination, whether it be the old written exam, the C&G multiple choice or the newer exams and this demonstrates an interest and understanding in radio.  I think it’s quite insulting and demeaning to the hobby to communicate using cellular or internet technology and call it amateur radio.

Posted in Amateur radio, Not amateur radio, Rant | Leave a comment

Visiting GB6NT at Walton-on-the-Naze

A few days ago was the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend and a group of locals under the umbrella of Colchester Radio Amateurs operated a special event station using the callsign GB6NT from the Naze Tower at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.

This location is very close to me and I visited on both Saturday and Sunday.  On the Saturday I drove to Walton-on-the-Naze and parked in the town from where I walked up the hill to the site.  On Sunday I walked there and back from home, stopping in Frinton on the way for an ice cream.

The setup was very impressive, a large tent with three HF stations and one VHF station.  The group had been able to use the Naze Tower as a skyhook and had a doublet for 80m hanging from it.  The doublet was fed with 450 ohm open feeder via a smartuner so it could be used on different bands.

Also set up was a 65ft Antenna Solutions pneumatic mast with an MFJ 1775 rotatable dipole and a MQ-24SR hybrid quad on top and a 60ft Versatower with a couple of nine element 144MHz beams.  Neither of these two masts were extended to their maximum height.

The aerials at GB6NT in 2018

The aerials at GB6NT in 2018

View of GB6NT from the top of the Naze Tower

View of GB6NT from the top of the Naze Tower

Conditions weren’t bad for the weekend with some good DX worked.  The public interest was high and amateur radio was demonstrated to a lot of passers by.  The prominent location of being right next to the Tower helped with that and awareness was also raised by Anglia ITV being on site on Friday evening to present the weather and to interview Garry, M0MGP.

International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend is a popular event and there were hundreds of lighthouses and lightships active around the world.  The Naze Tower was only registered with the ILLW a couple of years ago so many people were keen to add GB6NT to their logbook.

I was persuaded to operate for a while so I spent some time running the FT8 station and made quite a few QSOs.  It was a fun few hours spend in pleasant company.  I even had time to treat myself to a baked potato from the cafe in the base of the Naze Tower.

For a treat I had a baked potato

For a treat I had a baked potato

Posted in Amateur radio, Data, FT8, HF, VHF | Leave a comment