Playing with new data modes

This weekend (1 & 2 August) saw FPARC holding a Special Event Station activation weekend, activating GB1PF at Fort Purbrook.

In the true spirit of membership I stuck my nose around the marquee flap on Saturday lunchtime to find the usual suspects enjoying a BBQ and real ale rather than chasing DX!

That said the bands were dead so what else do you do on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon?

A chunk of the afternoon was spent trying to get a very dodgy looking antenna working and getting to see first hand the advantages of being able to afford an MFJ Antenna Analyser. Unfortunately, it didn’t resolve the issue with the antenna but all learning is good learning in my book.

Here’s a rather nifty panoramic shot taken from the the trig point within Fort Purbrook, showing the home of FPARC in all it’s glory, along with some of the antenna arrays being worked this weekend.

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http://trigpointing.uk/trig/3235

On a nice day what a place to be playing radio! I really need to sort a portable rig to catch some of the action sooner rather than later!

Needless to say, the lack of activity on the bands extended into my available time on Saturday which is disappointing. I’ve pulled a couple of late nighters in the past, when things start waking up as the D layer diminishes and the F layer kicks in and have been rewarded by plenty of QSO’s but at the same time been equally frustrated by seeing all sorts of exotic call signs from south of the equator flash by unable to hear my meagre 1W response to their CQ calls.

I’m at that dichotomy point where I can either invest a sizeable chunk of money in a linear amplifier and then wrestle with getting it to work with my SoftRock or put the same wedge towards a rig that will give me the portability I crave along with a greater power output as standard.

For once common sense is prevailing and I’ll stick with what I’ve got and look to the future, so I need a solution to increase my number of contacts that will count towards recognised awards and personal challenges I’ve set with as little financial expenditure as possible!

With my recent mast install I can try playing with the orientation of the antenna to see if that will give me anything I’m not already hearing. There’s always a massive temptation to try building a yagi and mount that but again zero expenditure is the objective here!

I have got a degree of “code envy” as I listen to the number of contacts being hammered out on the bands in CW. My attempts to learn morse would make a snail look like Usain Bolt in comparison, but like learning any new language, these things take time and a lot of dedication. As such I’ve got a limited number of options.

Since getting my rig running exactly how I want it, I have had a good play with the various modes supported by Fldigi with a reasonable degree of success. So I was a little surprised on Sunday morning to find partial decodes of messages which the modem was attempting to translate despite a reasonably clear signal. The message fragment included the characters “new sim”. Odd? Break out Google and guess what, SIM_PSK31/63 was what Fldigi was trying to decode.

After a quick read of the site http://www.on4nb.be/sim31.htm I was installing the software and ready to give it a go.

http://www.on4nb.be/sim_description_en.htm provides a full description of the mode

I’ll come back to configuration details in a minute but on spinning up the application I was gob smacked at the amount of traffic that was buzzing around out there and a lot originating from countries that for some reason are being elusive to other digi-mode contacts!

Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth if another mode bags me a few more QSO’S then all the better.

The setup for the SIM_PSK31 application is relatively straight forward but it’s worth a read of the manual before diving in. The existing setup I was using between HDSDR and Fldigi using the VB audio cable connections was supported directly in the drop down menus and the Rig-Cat works fine if the TS-50s option is selected. With a few sub settings completed, all that was needed was to hit the start button and see what happened.

Screenshot 2015-08-02 11.08.06

I need to sit and have a really good play with the application to fine tune a few bits but it appears to work, so forwards and onwards!

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