A New Tool for SOTA

SOTALogs.com is a potentially time-saving tool for anyone who enjoys Summits on the Air. According to the site’s creator Brian Jester KB8UIP/VE3SPG, SOTALOGS is “a super simple 1-page bootstrap site to help create error-free CSV SOTA logs” ready to upload to the SOTA database.  “There are 3 ways to submit SOTA logs: the activator web form, the chaser/s2s web form or via CSV/TSV file.  Some might hand craft their own CSV in Excel, but I’m not fan of that, so I made tiny site to help make things easier.”

Thanks to Brian for his work. (Originally linked on the SoCal SOTA Groups.io.)

Help Keep the TELCO Repeater on the Air

Dear SPARC members and friends,
The South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club is holding a fundraiser from now until September 15 for maintenance and repair of the TELCO repeater. The TELCO repeater is a valuable amateur radio resource that serves the greater San Gabriel Valley and beyond. We are regular users of the repeater and benefit from its continued availability. The SPARC board has pledged to match the first $100 donated by club members. Please consider a small donation as an investment in our radio community. Please use this PayPal link or click the button below to make a contribution before September 15.

Support the TELCO Repeater

Thank you,

Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM
President, South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club

Photo of Bill Westphal WB6YPF with the TELCO Repeater antenna courtesy of Pasadena Radio Club

February 2020 Meeting: Adventures in FT8

At our February 2020 meeting, Frank O’Donnell, K6FOD presented “Adventures in FT8,” an introduction to the popular digital mode. Frank received his technician and general ham licenses two years ago, and within nine months earned the ARRL’s DXCC award for verifying contacts with 100 countries — all on FT8.

In 2019, he received the Southern California DX Club’s Clipperton Award for newcomer of the year. He has verified 143 countries, has earned Worked All States certificates on two bands, and he is completing a third, also using FT8. Currently, he is experimenting with digital modes on the new 630-meter band below the AM broadcast band.

A selection of QSL cards Frank has received.

The following are links that Frank discussed during his presentation.

WSJT-X Homepage
In order to use FT8, you must install WSJT-X on a computer and set up your radio to be controlled by the computer. WSJT-X was written by Joe Taylor, K1JT. It runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux (including on a Raspberry Pi).

An active user community that discusses WSJT-X.

Frank explains all the fields in WSJT-X.

Maidenhead Grid Square Locator Map
You’ll need to know your grid square when setting up WSTJ-X.

Time.is and Meinberg NTP Software Downloads
These are tools to make sure your computer’s internal clock is accurate. If your clock is off by more than one second, you will not be able to decode incoming FT8 signals correctly.

The Daily DX Newsletter and ARRL DX Bulletin
Two useful emails covering propagation conditions.

PSK Info: Digimode Automatic Propagation Reporter
A map of beacons and signal reports in near real-time. Useful for seeing who can receive your FT8 signal.

eQSL and Club Log
Two sites for confirming your contacts.

Our next meeting will take place Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 pm in the South Pasadena Fire Department EOC at 817 Mound Ave. Our guest will be ARRL Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF, speaking about the 220 MHz band.

Frank K6FOD will return in April to demonstrate FT8 with a portable station. Hope to see you there. 

New Operating Event: Harvey Houses on the Air

Ginger Eldridge, KC5MTI contacted us to promote an operating event, the third annual Harvey Houses on the Air. The event will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm PDT on Saturday, September 14. Hams will operate from the sites of historic hotels and “eating houses” founded by entrepreneur Fred Harvey beginning in the late nineteenth century. Locally, Union Station in downtown Los Angeles once had a Harvey House. Just under a year ago, the Harvey House space was reopened as the Imperial Western Beer Company and Streamliner Bar.

Full information on how to participate is listed on the event’s QSL.net page.

Ginger writes, “We hope you set up your mobile unit and practice your field day skills and have some fun. … Let us know you’re participating so we can try to chat with you on the air.”

Note that this event takes place during the ARRL VHF Contest.

Pictures from the Summit of San Gabriel Peak

On Sunday, August 11, SPARC members Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM and Jeff Liter, W2JCL hiked San Gabriel peak and performed a SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation. Together they logged seventeen QSOs on 146.52 MHz and 446.00 MHz. Jeff also conducted a mesh chat with Oliver, K6OLI over the AREDN mesh.

Rick KI6ZKM operates a “tape measure” beam on FM. A mesh go-kit operated by Jeff W2JCL is in the foreground.
Rick makes a contact on his beam. Antennas of Mt. Wilson are visible in the background.

If you’d like to know more about SOTA, check out this talk by Scott, WA9STI from our November 2018 meeting. Then use the following links to join in on the fun.

Main SOTA site: www.sota.org.uk
SOTA logging: www.sotadata.org.uk
SOTA Watch (alerts and spots): www.sotawatch.org
SOTA Mapping Project: www.sotamaps.org
SOTlas (SOTA altas): www.sotl.as

Watch the Skies in 2019

Space X launch in December 2017

Residents of Southern California witnessed some spectacular space launches over the past year. If you’d like to receive advance notice about the next rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, sign up for Launch Alert.  The service is a free e-mail newsletter covering launches, SoCal astronomy, and space news. The list moderators claim that many of the events they post about are visible across the southwest. Launch Alert is just one of dozens of ham (or ham-adjacent) lists maintained by the free amateur radio community site QSL.net.


Photo via the official Space X Flickr feed.

Get to Know the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network

One of the fastest-growing areas of ham radio is mesh networking. You can think of it as homebrew WiFi — using the amateur radio spectrum to create a WiFi network without relying on the normal Internet infrastructure of phone and cable companies. Several SPARC members are active in a regional effort to build a robust mesh network that can transmit data when the Internet isn’t available during an emergency. (It also comes in handy out in the Nevada desert.)

If you’d like to know more about mesh and what it can do, two of our resident experts recommend this episode of Ham Radio Now. It features an interview with members of the AREDN group (Amateur Radio Emergency Network), the organization that maintains the mesh software of the same name. Take a look, then stop by one of our monthly meetings to talk about building your own mesh go kit.

Fun with CW

At our past two monthly meetings, lucky SPARC members have gone home with a speical door prize: the Pixie 40m CW transceiver. The Pixie is a low-cost way to send and receive CW on the 40-meter band. “CW” and “Morse code” are often used interchangeably, but technically CW refers to the method of transmitting a radio signal (“continuous wave”), and Morse code is the series of audio tones being sent over that signal (the famous “dits” and “dahs” or dots and dashes).

CW is an effective way to communicate over long distances with low power, but today’s hams can spend years in the hobby and never use it. Since 1991 it’s been possible to earn an amateur radio license without passing a Morse code proficiency test. The FCC dropped Morse code requirements from all license classes in 2006. Having those Pixie transceivers around has spurred some club discussions about CW both in person and during our on-air nets.

On a recent net, Tim WA0PTC explained the procedure known as “zero beating.” Essentially, it is the process of making sure the sender and receiver of CW signals are both on the same frequency. The ARRL’s Doctor Is In podcast has an entire  episode on zero beating.

If you’d like to learn Morse code and give CW a try, Mike Dinelli sells a book called The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy, which some refer to as “the bible of Morse code.” There is both a free version and an updated edition available for purchse.

Communicating via Morse code may seem like a relic in the age of smartphones, but certain engineers at Google disagree. The company’s Gboard keyboard for mobile devices (available for both Android and iOS) has recently added a Morse code option. And in order to make learning Morse easier, they’ve released a game called Morse Typing Trainer. Google claims the game can teach you Morse code in under an hour. The addition of Morse to Gboard is an attempt to improve the accessibility of devices like phones and tablets.

To supplement the Typing Trainer game, Google released a poster with the game’s mnemonic images. Click on the version at the bottom of this post to download a printable PDF.

Updated 11/18/21: Here’s a page from texting company Emissary.ai with context and history sent to us by Corrine Jackson.

Updated 09/20/18: In the September edition of the Pasadena Radio Club Bulletin, Paul Gordon N6LL lists a few other CW resources.