Category Archive: Digital Modes

Why I hate FT8

Operators who jump in on top of a QSO you’ve already started with SOMEONE ELSE should be shot.

That’s happened twice to me today on 20M.  I mean, you CQ, they come back with their grid, you shoot them a report, and BANG some other operator with a more powerful signal jumps in with a grid like they didn’t even know you were talking to the other guy — which is BS or why would I be sending him a signal report?

I’m going back to JT modes and maybe some Olivia.

[Edited for language.  Apologies if you read the original.  I was rather put out.]

Taking the zoom out of ZUMspot

So I see that the ZUMspot folks have hit another speed bump on their road to general availability. Apparently the two-man crew that was the design and build team for ZUMspot have split up. HRO say they are still repping them (but aren’t taking any orders at this time).

(Click to embiggenate.  Link to page is https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-015994.)

I’ve seen this problem time and time again in industry. Just one more tweak…just one more added feature…we promise we’ll release Real Soon Now.

That was an approach that worked (to some extent) back in the old days. With the Chinese ignoring IP rights, and beating legitimate technology owners to the marketplace with their own copycat versions of the legitimate product sold through eBay and other dodgy suppliers, you have to be quick on your feet to make money on a product today before someone steals your idea.

For all the mouth noises being made in recent weeks (thank you, Donald Trump, even though I suspect this will end up being a nothingburger) by the Chinese government about protection of foreigners’ IP rights, it boggles the mind that anyone would entrust production of anything to the Chinese.  It may be cheap and fast, but you always run the risk of someone saying, “Gee whiz, this is a great product, let’s ramp up production and sell some ourselves at half the price.”  And the Chinese government folks, whom you would think would normally be smacking them down for doing that, just sit, twiddling their thumbs, and grinning at the West taking another one on the chin.

Maybe NXDN support could have waited for the next version…

Maybe some American company could find a way to produce this sort of thing without it costing an arm and a leg, too.  Some industrial production is slowly coming back from China as American companies are discovering that the Chinese are discovering that the Chinese people want raises and more compensation for their labor, and the things they make can be made here just as cheaply (and maybe more cheaply) than in China today.  Also because of the threat of tariffs, but I think tariffs work better in the abstract than in the concrete; it’s clear that the mere threat of tariffs has already caused the Chinese to back down in some areas, while still blustering and tossing around tariff threats of their own about others.  And that’s politics, into which I’m not going to delve any deeper on this blog.

For what it’s worth, Connect Systems is in the same position with their CS7000 handheld, although I don’t think anybody is actually cloning it like they are the ZUMspot. I was on the waiting list for a long time and finally cancelled my pre-order and bought the Tytera MD-380, when it became clear that the 7000 was going to remain vaporware for the foreseeable future.  That was at least two years ago, and the 7000 is still vaporware.

I think the ZUMspot is a great little product.  It’s just too bad the Chinese duplicated it, called it the JUMBOspot, and stole their market because (in my opinion) they spent too much time dawdling over that “one more feature”.

Fix for an old irritation

For a long time I had a problem where system sounds would key up my rig if the SignaLink was turned on and connected.  To prevent it, I’d pretty much disabled all system sounds on the machine.  (Hate most Windows system sounds anyway.  First thing I always do on a new install is disable the startup/shutdown and login/logoff sounds.)

Anyway, I finally got fed up with the problem and solved it the other night.

There are two soundcards in the machine — the regular, default soundcard for system sounds, music, what have you — and the “USB Audio Codec” for the Signalink. Digging around with Google I found a page (unfortunately didn’t bookmark it at the time) that said to check to see if your default soundcard had Exclusive Mode enabled.  Which apparently it does by default; I know I never turned that on, but sure enough, it was turned on.

To turn it off, right-click the speaker icon in the system tray, choose “Playback Devices”, double-click whichever device is your regular sound card. (In my case it’s “Realtek High Definition Audio” for the shack machine, “IDT High Definition Audio Codec” for my laptop. Your mileage will likely vary.)

Under the “Advanced” tab, look for the Exclusive Mode box. If “Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device” is ticked, then untick it and click “OK”.  (If the second box is also ticked, no worries, it will untick when you untick the first one.)

Voila, your rig will no longer key up when you make a mistake and your computer lets you know about it in song.

Note that you should NOT change the Exclusive Mode for the codec that’s in use for your digital mode sound card. I think I tried that, and the software wouldn’t key up the rig till I turned it back on.

The one thing that has caused me the most grief with digital modes over the last four and a half years is the incomplete documentation for ham-created software that assumes you must already know this stuff.

FWIW, I know what a pain it is to write documentation; it’s my job at work, and I’ve written, maintained, and updated hundreds of pages of it for the last 23 years.  As we say, the job’s not finished until the paperwork is complete.

FT8 on 6m

Must have been a big opening last night.  I’m really not set up here to do 6m SSB, but I managed to make three 6m FT8 contacts not long after sunset, using nothing but my vertically-polarized ground plane that’s up only about 18 feet.  While one contact was just up the road in Noblesville, the other two were in Texas (881 miles) and Florida (630 miles).  Both were with 20W and an SWR of ~2.0 — after all, the ground plane is really cut for FM up around 53MHz, not digital down at 50.313.

Imagine what I could do with a yagi or a moxon up about 30 feet.  Oh, and a rotator.  A rotator would be nice.

Notes on SignaLink with FT-450D

I finally got tired of the odd behavior I’ve been seeing with the SignaLink paired with the Yaesu FT-450D, where the silly thing would either not raise PTT or would flick it on and off rapidly if the power level was set too low.  So I hauled out the SignaLink documentation and went reading.

Way down on page 11, in the Troubleshooting section, is this little gem:

Some radios such as the IC-746PRO, IC-7000 and FT-450D have a very sensitive Data Port and require different settings to allow smooth control of the RF power level.

Gee!  Do you think? 🙂

So I ran through the instructions for mitigating that.  I think things are better, but I have the radio set to 50 watts rather than 100 watts now.  On the other hand, I’m trying to keep my digital wattage below 30, and then only when someone is really down in the mud.

I suspect the same settings will be useful with the FT-857D I carry in the field.