Category Archives: Digital Modes

I Posted This Using 40 Meters!

Wow! Would you believe I’m posting this by email using WINMORE and Winlink 2000? That’s right, the words you’re reading were transmitted over HF.

My laptop is hooked up to my Kenwood TS-440S with a DigiMaster Pro+, and as soon as I finish this email I’m going to send it over 40 meters. RMS Express will send it off to a Radio Mail Server (RMS) station, which will then send it over the Internet.

For all you CW lovers, I’m still with you. This technology doesn’t hold a candle to the feel of a key in my hand! But it is tremendously valuable for ARES work, no doubt about it. If you lose cell phone, long distance service and Internet in your area during a disaster (as happened just a few days ago up on the North Shore of Lake Superior during the catastrophic flooding in Duluth), this is the only way to get an email out — and email is perhaps the single best way to convey detailed information to the outside in a situation like that. The software is free, and it’s easy to use. What a great way to cover that “extra mile!”

That’s all I have time for right now because I have a bunch of things waiting for me that are more important than ham radio. But I wanted to take a few minutes to give this a whirl since I just got my WL2K account last night before hitting the sack. Have you used Winlink 2000 to some good purpose, perhaps in an emergency? If so, please share your story.

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Olivia — the Magic Mode

I have to give credit to Gary L. Robinson, WB8ROL, for the title of this post. I met him on the air tonight using Olivia 500/16, and pretty soon I was reading his article about this mode . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Olivia 500/16. Image obtained from http://www.oliviamode.com.

My introduction to Olivia took place yesterday afternoon at a meeting in a little coffee-shop in Marshall between the MN ARES® ASEC, Section 5 DEC, Lyon Co. EC, and myself (at which I accepted the position of Yellow Medicine Co. EC, but that’s another story). They explained that FLDIGI is the software they are training people on, that every Thursday evening at 8:00 P.M. there is a MN ARES® digital net on 80 meters, and that they are using Olivia 500/16 for this net.

Well, my power of recall being what it is, I’d forgotten all about it till I heard the clock chime 8:00 while I was doing the dishes (after dining on my wife’s fabulous slow-cooked chicken). “Honey,” I asked, “would you mind if I left the rest of the dishes to you? I’d like to go check out a net on the radio.” I sure am blessed with a sweet wife — she took over without batting an eye while I dashed downstairs and started hooking up my laptop to the interface while firing up FLDIGI.

Sure enough, there was the net. I “listened” (How do you say it? Read?) for nearly an hour, and finally checked in right as the net was closing.

Well, tonight before going to bed I decided to try it again. This time I went up to 20 meters where I had a nice ragchew with Gary, WB8ROL (my first “real” QSO). We hit it off right away — his career path took him from law enforcement to programming just like mine did, we both have bad backs, and we both like cats and penny-whistles — but what really got my attention was his website: www.oliviamode.com. This fellow is a veritable evangelist for this mode! If you haven’t read his QST article about Olivia, click here and enjoy “Ghost QSOs — Olivia Returns from the Noise.”

I can attest to what Gary writes about in that article. As the band began to fade, his signal dropped until I couldn’t hear it at all. All I could hear was static; I assumed I’d lost him. Not only couldn’t I hear him, I couldn’t see anything on the waterfall display. But incredibly, letter after letter appeared on the screen as Gary typed his last message!

Olivia really is “the Magic Mode!”

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First Digital-Mode QSO!

Tonight I made my first digital-mode contact! Using PSK-31, I worked special event station VE3FRST (“UN International Year of Forests”) on 40 meters. Michael, VE3NOO, kindly emailed me this screenshot of the moment:

A few things had me fumbling around, but over the next few contacts I started to get the hang of it. After VE3FRST I went on to work another station in Ontario, one in Alabama, and one in France with PSK-31 before retreating to my key and working Costa Rica with CW.

I highly recommend the DigiMaster PRO PLUS! It comes with a USB soundcard and was very easy to hook up and get going with Ham Radio Deluxe/Digital Master 780. It performs both as a CAT interface and as a data interface, and works great.

I learned the hard way that not all CAT cables are worth buying. Buy cheap, and you’ll buy twice like I did. My first one was a cheap cable from “affordableradio” on ebay. It uses the Prolific chipset for the serial-to-USB interface. Stay away from Prolific! The only thing prolific about it was the prolific number of spontaneous disconnections and “Blue Screen of Death” crashes. I tried everything — every driver I could get my hands on, I/O buffer adjustments, etc. but it was junk. I couldn’t bring myself to sell it to another ham, so I returned it. No refund yet, but here’s hoping.

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