My first FreeDV QSO

FreeDV Digital Voice QSO in ProgressFreeDV is a fully open digital voice protocol; unlike DMR, D-STAR and the rest, there are no patents tying it down. It uses very little bandwidth for voice. I just had my first QSO (thanks K5WH in Texas!) using this mode. While it does make voices sound a little robotic, there’s no static, no hiss, nothing unwanted. That’s what always put me off HF voice: trying to work out who is saying what through all the noise. FreeDV fixes that.

It’s quite a new protocol, so you don’t hear it much on the air yet. I hope to be making some more noise with it soon.

Did it just get a little more nerdy in here?

VA3PID-eQSL-eWAS-PSK-20131014Aw yiss! After more than two years of trying, I finally got a confirmed contact in North Dakota last night. That means I’ve now worked all of the US states using the PSK digital mode. Yay me!

I’d contacted 47/50 within a few months of getting my licence, including Maine. Utah I spoke to in November 2011, South Dakota in January 2012; but the last one, North Dakota, I didn’t pick up until last night. I was just about to turn off the radio for the night when I have 40m a try, and there was Bill (ND0B) calling from Cathay, ND. Sometimes you find what you’re looking for without even trying. Happy Thanksgiving!

K3NG Arduino Keyer

I’m pretty amazed that the above image is even vaguely readable. It’s Hellschreiber, generated by Anthony K3NG Good’s Arduino CW Keyer. What you’re seeing, though, is Hellschreiber from the keyer’s sidetone generator being fed through a piezo glued to a paper cup (and not just any paper cup) being picked up by Fldigi on my laptop’s microphone. This isn’t what you’d call a quality signal path, and it’s a tribute to the mode’s robustness that it can be made out at all.

Anthony has packed an absurd amount into this keyer. There isn’t enough memory on a stock 32K Arduino for all the features to be enabled. I’m planning to use it as a CW keyer alongside Fldigi as the decoder. Despite all the features that can be built in, I’d just be using it as a serial to Morse converter, with perhaps a couple of memory keys for calling CQ and the like.

I do have a slight problem with it while it’s breadboarded, though. The wiring’s so sensitive that the control circuit triggers if I put my hand near it, let alone touch the command button. I’ll have to do something about that. I can’t breadboard for toffee.

Slightly Soggy Field Day

Scarborough Amateur Radio Club set up in Heber Down yesterday for Field Day. We could have had better weather.

GOTA table
Joy works PSK31 on 15m
Calling CQ on 40m
Chris sets up
The Chrismobile!
Field at Heber Downs
Field at Heber Downs

All the bands were humming last night. Unfortunately, all the field day stations only wanted to talk to other field day stations, so I got precisely 1 contact all night. Even got a promising signal from Azerbaijan wiped out by an FDer over-eager for ARRL brownie points.

a ham i am!

I just got my amateur radio license. If you’re unlucky enough to be on the 2m and 70cm bands around Toronto, you may just find me as VA3PID. The 3 is, of course, silent …

I guess that (so far unsuccessfully) futzing around with the small digital transceivers with Arduino made me look up some radio things, then I read this article on MetaFilter. It made me realize that unless new hams get on the air, the hobby will die, and the radio spectrum will be reallocated.

Passing the test wasn’t that hard, but did take a bit of dedicated reading. No morse code is required for the Basic Amateur Radio Operator Certificate, and if you get more than 80% in the multiple choice test, you can use the HF frequencies below 30 MHz. Since the pass mark is 70%, I thought it worth the extra effort.

I slightly overbought on the study materials. I got:

While it’s possible to download the question bank from Industry Canada, or use the quaint Windows-based examiner program, I thought I’d work from a book. Both will likely do pretty well, but neither is perfect:

  • Both books need to work on their proof-reading.
  • Mathematical symbols, superscripts and subscripts are easy to typeset these days. Don’t miss them out.
  • They need to be fully metric, as trying to remember weird factors to convert fractions of a wavelength to feet is annoying. I’m a mid-career engineer, and I’ve never had to use anything but metric.

I passed the exam on Tuesday night, and had my callsign listed by Friday. I have a cheap but adequate Wouxun dual band HT. This should be fun.

Quaint, huh? Industry Canada's Windows-only examiner software