Anita, AB1QB and I did a segment on HamNation last evening (Wednesday, November 27th, 2019). We spoke about the work that The Nashua Area Radio Society is doing to bring new Hams into the Amateur Radio Service and to provide skills development for all Hams. You can view our interview on HamNation below.
Ham Nation Episode 430 Featuring The Nashua Area Radio Society
Jamey, AC1DC Presenting in the ARRL Forum at Dayton 2019
The ARRL gave the Nashua Area Radio Society a Forum at the Dayton Hamvention(R)this past year to talk about how we approached Growing and Modernizing our club. The ARRL has produced a video of our Dayton Forum presentation. You can view the Video along with a copy of the presentation via the link which follows…
The Nashua Area Radio Society has grown from about 35 members to over 225 members in less than 4 years. The presentation contains ideas and programs that have worked for the Nashua Area Radio Society’s (NARS) as part of our efforts to modernize and grow our club.
We have been sharing this presentation via the Internet with other Amateur Radio Clubs. All that is required is an Internet connection capable of streaming video and an associated computer with a projector and speakers. We would like to invite our readers who might want us to do a similar presentation at one of your club meetings to reach out to us via an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nashua Area Radio Society produces similar how-to training materials on almost a monthly basis and we make these materials available to our Members an Internet Subscribers (folks that live too far from our location to be regular members) for a small cost which supports our new Ham development programs and covers the production and storage costs associated with the video material. Here’s a list of the training topics that we’ve produced to date:
2019 Tech Nights
Fox Hunting: Radio Direction Finding for Beginners including a Tape Measure Yagi Build by Jamey Finchum, AC1DC
Surface Mount Technology by Hamilton Stewart, K1HMS
RF Design with Smith Charts, Building a First HF Station, and Begining with CW – Hamilton Stewart, K1HMS; Anthony Rizzolo, KC1DXL; and Jerry Doty, K1OKD
All About Field Day 2019 by our Field Day Planning Team
It’s to easy to track our HAB! All you need is a web browser and Internet access follow our HAB to the edge of space and back. Check out the article (link above) for more information about our HAB and how to track it.
We have been working on project to scale our open house activities to provide an opportunity to learn about Amatuer Radio and to showcase some of the modern, “hi-tech” aspects of the Amatuer Radio Service. This project was debuted at the NETT event at NEAR-Fest. We used our Portable Satellite Station, Remote Operating Gateway, and our Mobile HF Stations as part of this activity. There might be some ideas here that you can use to create an exciting operating activity at you local club or Ham Fest.
Is 20 meters open to the location of the latest DXPedition on the bands? When is 6 meters open for Sporadic E? Looking for a weak signal 2 meter contact with a specific grid square? There are websites you can visit that give you a prediction of whether the band you are on is open to a given destination.
N0NBH Propagation Widget
The simplest HF propagation prediction is the widget that is seen on many Amateur Radio Websites – QRZ.com,DXSummit.fi, and more. This gives you a rough idea of what bands are open day and night. Data is based on the Sunspot Number, A and K indices and other indices. But this doesn’t take into account many factors like your location, the DX location, the characteristics of your station and the DX station. Just because 15m says Poordoesn’t mean you won’t hear anything on the band.
VOACAP – HF Propagation Prediction
VOACAP Point to Point Prediction
VOACAP, is the Voice of America Coverage Analysis Program, and provides detailed information about the HF propagation. You can choose transmitter and receiver locations from many cities around the world. It also provides choices of Antennas, Power, Mode, and more for each end of the contact. You can look at several different views of propagation. If you spend some time delving into the details of propagation visit this site.
VOACAP Prediction from DXSummit.fi
For a faster view of whether you will be able to contact a specific DX Station that is currently on the air, the DXSummit.fi spotting website has incorporated propagation predictions on their website. If you find a DX station spotted there that you contact, just right click on the DX callsign and select VOACAP from the drop-down. You just need to choose whether you are a Basic (100 watts and a Wire) or a Super station (Amplifier and Directional Antenna). You can also look at views of Short Path or Long Path. It will give you a good view of when you need to be on which band to contact the DX station.
6 Meters – The Magic Band
DXMaps – 6 meter openings
The best website that I have found for 6 meters is DXMaps.com . It provides a map view of the world or you can select a continent. Based on spotting network data, it shows 6 meter contacts and color codes them by Sporadic-E, Multihop ES, Meteor Scatter, etc… even Aurora. You can also get a view of 10 meters, 2 meters or 70 cm. If you sign up for a free account, you can subscribe to real time notifications when there is an opening near you.
2 Meter Propagation
VHF Propagation Map
Looking for a tropo opening for a weak signal 2 meter contact? Visit the website http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us/ to see a VHF Propagation map. This shows tropo openings as color coded clouds – with brighter colors for the longer openings. This is based on APRS data.
These are the websites that I like to visit to understand the propagation forecast for the day. If your favorite site is not on the list, add a comment so that we and the rest of our readers can check it out.
We flew our High-Altitude Balloon for the second time this past weekend. Our second High-Altitude Balloon Flight (HAB-2) was part of a STEM learning project that we did with STEM club students at Bishop-Guertin High School in Nashua, NH. The students did all of the flight prep and launched HAB-2 at approximately 11 am ET from a school in Winchester, NH. Parents, teachers and local students joined us for the launch as did several members of our HAB team.
Our students prepared, launched, and tracked HAB-2 this past weekend. Their HAB made it to almost 118,000 ft! You can read more about the launch and the flight on the Nashua Area Radio Society’s website via the link above.
The Nashua Area Radio Society is planning to launch another High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) this coming Saturday, October 28th at 15:00z (11 am Eastern Time) from Winchester, NH USA. Our Balloon will carry a 2m APRS transmitter operating on 144.390 MHz and will be using the call sign N1FD-11. You can also track our HAB via the Internet using aprsi.fi. We expect our HAB’s flight to last about 2 1/2 hours and reach an altitude of over 105,000 ft. The balloon will also be carrying two video cameras to capture near-space video during the flight.
The installation of the latest version of WSJT-X software to add current JT9, JT65, FT8, MSK144, and WSPR digital modes to our Remote Operating setup
These steps are now complete and we have some good results to share.
SmartSDR V2 Remote Connection
The first part of the upgrade was to update to SmartSDR V2. This upgrade enables much improved SmartSDR operation over the Internet. Our previous approach, which used a tunneled VPN connection combined with the previous versions of SmartSDR did not always perform well when used with low-bandwidth or high latency Internet connections. SmartSDR does much better in this area.
SmartSDR CAT Remote
Both the SmartSDR CAT and the SmartSDR DAX application have been updated to allow software on a PC being used to operate the FlexRadio SDRs over the Internet to gain access to CAT and sound interfaces associated with the radio.
FlexRadio Maestro Console
We also added a Maestro Console to enhance the usability of the SDR radio portion of our Remote Operating Gateway. The Maestro is very easy to use and extends the available controls and display space which was limited when using just a laptop PC. The Maestro supports direct microphone connections for phone operation and also works with connected CW paddles for operation in CW mode. I have been using a single level paddle along with our Maestro as speeds of 22 WPM with full QSK. Sending CW at these speeds with the Maestro works well.
The Maestro has built-in WiFi and Ethernet connections and full support for SmartSDR V2’s connections over the Internet. The Maestro can operate from AC power or from an internal battery pack. I have a couple of spare rechargeable batteries for our Maestro to support longer operating sessions on battery.
With the addition of the SmartSDR and the updated TeamViewer/VPN setup, we can operate our station remotely over the Internet. We have tested our setup using a Wireless Hotspot modem and Verizon’s LTE service. The combination of our PC running the DXLab Logging Suite and the Maestro work great in this configuration.
We have found the need to initialize the networking configuration in a specific order to get everything running correctly. The steps that we use are as follows:
Connect the laptop PC to the Internet
Bring up the TeamViewer VPN connection
Run SmartSDR on the laptop PC and login to SmartSDR Remote
Bring up the DXLab’s Suite including Commander (currently, DXLab’s Commander has some issues connecting when the FlexRadio protocol is used. We have found that the KENWOOD protocol works fine.)
Bring up the remote control application for the Elecraft amplifier and access our RigRunner power controller and microBit Webswitch units to turn on accessories as needed
Initiate a second TeamViewer Remote Control connection and use it to run the microHAM remote antenna controller in a single window
Shutdown SmartSDR on the laptop PC and bring up the connection to the radio via the Maestro.
There is obviously still some room for simplification in this initialization procedure. I expect that some simplification will come as all of the software involved becomes more mature and is further adapted for remote operation.
Once initialized properly, its simple to use the PC and Maestro combination to work SSB Phone or CW contacts. The DXLab Logging Suite will follow the radio, track modes, handle split operation, and allow control of our antenna rotators via DXView. We can click on spots in DXLab’s SpotCollector to automatically set the FlexRadio SDR’s mode, frequency, and split configuration. The Maestro and DXLab will stay in sync during tuning, mode changes, and other radio operations.
Remote Digital Operation using WSJT-X and FT8
The final part of this project was to add the latest Version of the WSJT-X software to our Remote Operating client laptop PC to enable FT8 operation on the HF bands and MSK144 for Meteor Scatter work on 6m.
These enhancements to our Remote Operating Gateway have helped both Anita and me to operate more. I have our Maestro either in my home office or on a table in our kitchen where we can listen to the bands and work DX when the opportunities come up. Remote Operating, even its just from another room at your QTH, is great fun!