Monday, January 17, 2011

Digital QRP - Check!

I have been on a quest since the purchase of my used Icom IC-703Plus and my recent purchase of a Dell Mini 10", to get it working on the digital modes. I not only enjoy CW QRP when we are out camping but I wanted to go the next step and start doing some PSK31, JT65A, know, the main modes good for weak signal. I also want to give Feld Hell a run QRP, too. I had a spare Rigblaster Plus which I keep on the shelf in case one of my other two fail. In doing a bit of research, I stumbled across an all inclusive interface cable which would give me rig control and get me talking with HRD, MMTTY, N1MM, and JT65-HF. It was while doing a search on eBay where I eventually purchased the needed cable. I then went to the sellers website where I found the support documentation I needed to get things plug into the right places. You can learn more about the cable I purchased at; 

It took me longer to download HRD (Ham Radio Deluxe) than it did to get my radio transmitting PSK-31 with my Mini Dell. Like a kid in a candy store who can't wait, I called CQ on PSK31 and K7MSC came right back to me! My first digital QRP portable station QSO! I chatted with Mitch for a few minutes, or at least until a station moved in on top of us and ended our QSO. Mitch gave me the information that I was looking for in regards to my signal, S/N and IMD along with a signal report. I was pretty darn happy!  It was time to move onto JT65!

I fired up JT65-HF and I noticed that the software was not fitting my screen properly. I was missing the bottom half of the program. When I attempted to push or move it up, my Dell Mini refused to let that happen. I could move it to either side and down, just not up. I checked the JT65-HF reflector for similar posts and found a conversation involving Allan, ZS1LS. I saw Allan was also using a Dell Mini so I sent off a quick e-mail asking how I could resolve my problem. Allan explained that there was a separate .exe with a smaller GUI.

Sure enough, when I went looking, there was that magic sg-jt65-hf.exe file! Once I changed out shortcuts to the proper .exe file, I was in business! Well, almost...

I found JT65A signals on 20 meters but I was not decoding anything. It's extremely important and almost a criminal act if your PC clock is off by a few seconds. Well, I was not decoding because my Dell Mini was off by more than 5 seconds, ouch! I downloaded and installed Dimension 4 v5.0. I run on most all of my computers Atomic Clock Sync but it did not sync often enough.  The Dell Mini clock is horrible at keeping accurate time so it needs a nudge almost every minute or two. After I got my clock back in sync, magically callsigns and reports started to appear on my computer screen. I was in business!  Or so I thought...

I had HRD running along with my logbook and when I went to set up my JT65-HF software, I had it grab the QRG (Frequency) from HRD. These programs are easily married and live wonderfully together! When I went to send my first transmission, nothing! I tried to configure it for different serial ports but nada!  So, in troubleshooting the problem, I closed out HRD and the logbook and when I went to transmit using JT65-HF (using Com3) it worked like a charm! So, it's obvious that I need to resolve a conflict There are four USB ports on the computer so I may have maxed out my com ports on this little computer. Won't know until I dive in a bit deeper. I need to check with the group (or with Allan again) to see if anyone else is using a similar setup and having success. But for now, I can transmit on the modes I was looking for and I just need to add and tweak some macros! I tried all available (or unavailable) com ports in the JT65-HF software with no luck!

In conclusion, the interface cable will be much easier to tote along than an interface such as my Rigblaster Plus. The Dell Mini can give me an easy 8 hours of operation between charges and it's very small. A perfect fit for a backpack and my QRP equipment! I now just need to wait for the return of the midnight sun so we can go camping and I can spend some time on the Denali Highway, enjoying some quiet radio time. But, with the Polar Bear club activities, I hope to be out this winter yet. 27 below zero yesterday, a high today of 3 above, the weather is worse than the propagation around here at times not knowing what it wants to do! I'll keep ya posted. Oh, FSK RTTY is also something I want to get configured. If it were summer, these troubleshooting projects would be on the shelf!

72 de KL8DX/QRP


  1. Hi Phil, I also got a small laptop (Acer) with a terrible clock. It needs a constant connection with internet in order to sync the clock for JT65A. I wonder how you solve that problem when you're out in the field. Hope you can sort out your problem with JT65-HF anyway. 73, Bas

  2. Bas,

    Yes, that will be the challenge but I'm hoping to tap my GPS unit possibly? I'm still researching alternatives but looking at things like;

    Listening to WWV of course and manually setting the time is also an option but could be a pain. So, I'm hoping there is software available or hardware that will help me keep that accurate time necessary for JT65.

    Thanks for commenting! 73!

  3. Phil, Look for Paul/J79AVO and myself (Steve/J79AT aka wG0AT) on JT65 from Dominica next week! We'll beam some warm WX your way! Ha.

    Meanwhile we'll be having some rum in the sun with a little fum ...err you get the drift! No Rooster & Peanut are staying home watchin' the barn. I promised to bring 'em some GoatRum for their efforts! RastaGoat

  4. Steve, awesome!!! I will be looking for ya. I normally have a pretty good path to that part of the world. Safe travels and enjoy that sunshine!! 73 my friend!