Saturday, March 30, 2019

Part 5 modes for ham radio and the condo life

Good afternoon everyone the weather up this way is raining, the MFJ loop is on the balcony and there is nothing to be had on 20 and 40m CW it seems everyone is participating in the CQ World wide WPX SSB contest this weekend. So why am I not jumping into the fray you ask.......well this is the topic for part 5 of  ham radio and the condo life. In this post I am going to look at the radio modes I found work best for me. In a condo it's very obvious your neighbors are very close and now a days each home is FULL of electronic gizmos! In condo living it's accepted practice to respect your fellow neighbors by keeping the TV and music to an acceptable level as well as any noise overall. For the ham it should also be an expectation to be RF mindful as well. One of  the ways I found to be a good RF neighbor is to in my case to make sure I  "mind my mode".
Years ago when I was in a townhouse and decided to spend more time with my radio hobby. It just so happens the upcoming weekend was the Canada day SSB contest. I had a nice Yaesu FT 1000 MP radio and I was all set to dive right in. My antenna was out on my car a far distance way with coax running out to it. The first day of the contest ended and I was having a blast until my fellow neighbor asked me "did you hear "CQ contest CQ contest" from my speakers! I said no (which was the true I didn't) but knowing full well what was going on the Canada day contest came to an end and the thinking cap went on.
I could go and see them and explain it could be the poor electronics they have that is picking up my signal............not a good idea I thought as this can just open a HUGE can of worms! The plan I came up with to keep me on the air was to become a QRP (low power) operator. I very much looked forward to this and as I looked into things I also came to the understanding that you get more bang for your watt with CW than you do with SSB. My first but not only mode for ham radio in a condo is CW. Now there may be readers who are thinking "nice idea but I am morseless" funny thing so was I. Some time ago did have a basic understand but far from proficient. I set out to learn CW and it did take time and remember I did say earlier I really liked contesting so the goal was to get my CW up to contest speed in around 25-35 WPM.
Years ago I was introduced to the digital modes but found it very frustrating to get the PC to play nice with the radio and digital program. It would seem all was working fine until I turned the the rig and the PC on and for some reason something else was wrong. I found it took more time to hunt the issue down than I was operating digital.  So for some time I just stuck with CW and put the digital modes off to the side.
The next radio for me was the Elecraft K3 and the Elecraft reflector was booming with posts about getting your K3 up and running on the digital modes. Back then the popular modes were PSK31 and WSPR. I did still have some issues with the PC and rig talking to each other and did get frustrated at times. At present my condo modes are CW and FT8 and at the present time FT8 is very popular. While writing this post I had FT8 running in the background and was able to make 12 contacts. Having said that I do find CW more interactive but today with the SSB contest going on CW contacts were far and few to be had. The rig I have now is the Icom 7610 and it is a breeze to get working with digital.
Do give me your feedback with modes you are using in your condo. The next topic for ham radio and the condo life is dealing with close neighbors and most likely being in a city or built up urban areas is electronics causing you grief with there noise.


N3HKN said...

Cant' hear em you can't work em. Using that adage I mused over an S-9 noise level offered by my neighbors, End-fed to the back yard - no good. Attic 40/20m dipole same. Time to sell/move. But that was not an option. After the usual research there was but one possible option - amplified loop for reception. The PSK Reporter=FT8 showed I was being heard in North America and Europe. Easier to sell the equipment and seek other leisure outlets. $350 for an amplified loop, including switch box, was the next best bet. The few reports at the time showed considerable promise.

I bought the W6LVP amplified loop, attached a painters pole to the deck railing, mounted the loop, ran 25ft of cheap RG-58 to the 3rd floor "shack" and never looked back. the receive noise level dropped to zero to S-1 except during storms.The switch box has a manual switch to receive on the attic dipole or the loop. The results are dramatic.S-9 to S-1 BUT the S-meter showed an S-6 drop as well. Simple research rationalizes that with common Signal to Noise ratio arguments. Yep, they were lower S-meter readings BUT I could hear stations clearly that were in the noise on the dipole. That switch box's switch allowed me to compare the loop to the dipole and I was afraid I would break it.

So, take a serious look at I would avoid the MFJ product on the grounds of common sense but it probably works as well since the little amplifier is a very common design.

Dick N3HKN

VE9KK said...

Good morning Dick very nice to hear from you and thanks very much for the comment, I will be adding this info to part 6 of my series regarding overcoming the noise issue. Excellent idea using a receive loop and yes the W6LVP is an excellent price and solved the issue you were having and got you on the air.
Thanks very much for the time and effort you put into your comment.