Author Archives: va7aqd

Fun with APRS – SMSGTE

Having recently acquired a Kenwood TM-D710G I’ve been working more with APRS than I ever had (even though I do have a couple of handheld radios, a Mobilinkd TNC, and played around a bit with Xastir in the past). One item that I recently discovered that I wasn’t aware of previously is SMSGTE, an APRS – SMS gateway. While this service has technically existed since 2014, who knew one could push a few buttons on their mic in a cellular dead area and get an SMS out to someone (and vice versa)!

As I work through the features of this rig I am looking more forward to seeing some of the features in action as I travel down the road, and the practical applications for public service are pretty awesome.

It’s 2018, time for a minor update

Since my last post here, it’s been quite a time personally, and I feel like I’m beginning to come out of a bit of a fog.

I realised in the past few weeks that it had been close to 18 months since I’d made a radio contact on HF, outside of the occasional 2M net I’d been able to attend (and I’ve done a good job of not being available at our local 2M net time for numerous weeks at this point).  In fact, as of Christmas time, my rig hadn’t been hooked back up since 2017’s Field Day, so with a bunch of time off over the holidays, it was time to clean up my desk and get the rig going again.

Along with getting the rig going again came the discovery of FT8 (as I was updating software and have been an avid WSJT-X user for several years for JT65 and a bit of JT9).  This has likely been the most active month for me since getting on HF as far as the number of QSOs goes – though I’d have to run some stats to see for sure, as there could have been a contest or two in some month that may have had a higher overall count.  However, I’m running about 250 Q’s this month operating FT8 fairly casually, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly an FT8-only Worked All States qualification will come along.  It’s really quite an amazing mode if you’re looking to cover lots of ground – states, grid squares, and possibly DXCC.

I’m hoping to have a much more active year on the air than I’ve had in the past few.

Here’s hoping to hear you!



RAC Winter Contest 2014 Audio

Hi all,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I figured I’d post when I had something interesting to share.

The RAC winter contest was yesterday and today and I grabbed the audio coming from the K3 for parts of it.  If anyone is interested in hearing what things sounded like from my neck of the woods (Kamloops, BC) with the couple of antennas I used, these are for you!



RAC Winter Contest Audio File 1
RAC Winter Contest Audio File 2


So I think I’ve mustered up enough information to plan out a local net for Kamloops area HAMs for some digital mode ‘tinkering’ (hence my previous post and was glad to have a few comments on social networks).

The plan for the net now is as follows, barring any adjustments that might need to come up from anyone involved:

The net will be on Tuesday nights at 8:30pm local time, or after the local KARC 2M net, whichever is later, on 28.675Mhz (+- 5KC’s, where/when necessary).

The net will start on phone to do a quick preamble and roll call for phone check-in’s and to determine who is interested/ready to transmit during the net.

For the net, I recommend using FLDigi (available at, as well as FLMsg and FLAmp for future nets.  I would say that it’s likely in future nets to require some other software in order to work other digital modes that FlDigi doesn’t support, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with FLDigi itself.

When setting up FLDigi for the net, we will begin with the MFSK-32 mode, centered at 1500Hz.  Other FLDigi settings that are recommended & helpful:

  • In Settings -> ID Tab -> RsID sub-tab, check “Disable freq change”
  • Turn RxID on (Top Right corner of main window)
  • Turn TxID on

Please set your output power to 10W or less.  I believe this should be sufficient for most of us, and many digital modes really need to not be over-driven.

Aside from your rig hook-ups to a computer to run the digital modes, this should be about all that’s required to get going.

I plan on using one other piece of software for the Net called “NetLogger”, available at, to manage check-ins.  If you’d like to know who’s checked-in to the net at any time, you can run the software as well (sorry that this software is only for Windows) – click the “Nets Online” button and you will hopefully see the “Kamloops Digital Mode Tinkerers” listing, which you can then click and Monitor.

Please comment or email me if you have interest in this!



Where to operate mixed-mode?

I had some thoughts lately about wanting to get more local hams involved in digital modes, and I thought the best way of doing so might be to have a local “digital mode tinkerers” type of net.  On HF. However, what I’d really like to be able to do for such a net is to work mixed-mode, including phone.

Unfortunately this seems like a use case scenario that hasn’t been utilized much or thought about in much detail with the band planners.  OR (as I’m certainly not trying to knock the people involved in putting together the band plans), perhaps it is presumed to be done in certain regions but not really spelled out as part of the band plan.

For example, I believe SSTV is known to be generally operated as a mixed-mode.  Unfortunately the band plan says, for example in 10M, 28.670-28.690 CW, Phone, SSTV, FAX.  When it’s spelled out like that, it seems to suggest that one should not use any other narrow or wide band digital mode, the only modes that should be used are specifically listed – even if the intention is to subtly say ‘expect a mix of modes in this range of frequencies’.

So perhaps a more experienced ham could make a suggestion here based on the following… If I wanted to hold a local mixed-mode net for the use of promoting digital modes and educating others, and this would be an evening net when 10M is closed, would 28.670-28.690 be a good area to hold the net, or would it be a bad idea as it could be viewed as not in the spirit of the band plan?

As mentioned before, I have the utmost respect for the people planning out the bands.  I also do believe in good operating practices and upholding the gentlemen’s agreement.  What should one do then when the band plan doesn’t appear to make allowances for this kind of operation, even though I believe it would neatly fit in to reasonable operating practice and certainly not create interference with anyone?

CQ WW SSB Contest

I decided I’d casually work the CQ WW sideband contest this weekend figuring that I’d get in a few fewer hours than I did.  With some cold bugs running around, and not feeling spectacular myself, much of the weekend was taking it easier than usual for the family, and I wound up being able to play radio when other things weren’t going on.  Lucky for me!

Band conditions seemed pretty reasonable this weekend and 10m is where I wound up with most of my Q’s.  Working 40 was the biggest challenge for me – there just seemed to be too many stations close to my relatively high noise level too jammed together.

However, working casually I got just over 200 contacts, with what seems to me to be a fairly interesting list of countries.

More than anything, it’s fun and challenging, and makes me dream putting up a tower and beam.

Let’s start off with a new rig

Hi there,

Where to start when writing a new blog?  Well, I’m a couple of years in to having my ham privileges, and since I find it to be a fascinating hobby, I figured I’d do a little blogging from time to time.

Recently I’d been saving up for a new HF rig.  I had been using the Kenwood TS-450S, which is a pretty good little rig, but I’d begun reading about more modern rigs and wound up heading down the path of an Elecraft K3, which can be ordered as a non-solder kit.

The pictures below are from the assembly process – I forgot/stopped taking pictures through a large part of the building, including the front panel, but I’ll say that it was definitely an entertaining project and it was great that my 7 year old son Quentin was interested and helped out in a few stages as well.

Since the build was completed, I’ve very casually operated in a couple of contests, and the rig performs extremely well.  I’m finding it a pleasure to work with and have been making great use of the DSP for filtering, noise blocking and noise reduction – it’s been educational learning how best to make use of them.

In upcoming posts I expect to talk a little more about what goes on in my usual (or unusual) operating, and anything interesting relating to the hobby I trip across.