Alternative to Hit-and-Run JT Modes Like FT8

Discussion in 'Working Different Modes' started by NW7US, Nov 22, 2017.

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  1. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    For those of you who have dived into the crowded but fun pool of FT8 operation or one of the other Joe Taylor modes (such as JT65 or JT9) and are excited now about digital modes, here's something you might enjoy, too. Unlike those modes that allow you to make quick work of getting DX stations into your logbook simply by exchanging callsigns, a signal report, and a grid square, there are other modes that offer keyboard-to-keyboard conversational QSO opportunities. There are amateur radio operators who enjoy and covet the conversational digital modes. Seeking more than just wallpaper, these operators take joy in meeting new people and learning about their culture, their view of the hobby, and more. Some even develop long-lasting friendships because of the conversations they have via keyboard-to-keyboard digital modes.

    One such mode is known as Olivia and this mode offers keyboard-to-keyboard chatting for when you want to relax, and maybe make a friend. Ham radio is the oldest electronic social networking infrastructure.

    In 2005, SP9VRC, Pawel Jalocha, released to the world a mode that he developed starting in 2003 to overcome difficult radio signal propagation conditions on the shortwave (high-frequency, or HF) bands. By difficult, we are talking significant phase distortions and low signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) plus multipath propagation effects. The Olivia-modulated radio signals are decoded even when it is ten to fourteen dB below the noise floor. That means that Olivia is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is slightly over three times that of the digital signal!

    Olivia decodes well under other conditions that are a complex mix of atmospheric noise, signal fading (QSB), interference (QRM), polar flutter caused by a radio signal traversing a polar path. Olivia is even capable when the signal is affected by auroral conditions (including the Sporadic-E Auroral Mode, where signals are refracted off of the highly-energized E-region in which the Aurora is active).

    Currently, the only other digital modes that match or exceed Olivia in their sensitivity are some of the modes designed by Joe Taylor as implemented in the WSJT programs, including FT8, JT65A, and JT65-HF--each of which are certainly limited in usage and definitely not able to provide true conversation capabilities. Olivia is useful for emergency communications, unlike JT65A or the newly popular FT8.

    Here is a demonstration of a two-way transmission using the Olivia digital mode on shortwave. I am in QSO (conversation) with KA5TPJ. There are two other Olivia QSOs just below our frequency. Just above us is a lot of FT8 activity. Below the two other Olivia QSOs are PSK31 QSOs. The band is active. Olivia is not dead!

    The [B}standard Olivia formats[/B] (shown as the number of tones/bandwidth in Hz) are 8/250, 8/500, 16/500, 8/1000, 16/1000, and 32/1000. Some even use 16/2000 for series emergency communication. The most commonly-used formats are 16/500, 8/500, and 8/250. However, the 32/1000 and 16/1000 are popular in some areas of the world and on certain bands.

    This can cause some confusion and problems with so many formats and so many other digital modes. After getting used to the sound and look of Olivia in the waterfall, though, it becomes easier to identify the format when you encounter it. To aid in your detection of what mode is being used, there is a feature of many digital-mode software implementation suites: the RSID. The video, below, is a demonstration on how to set the Reed-Solomon Identification (RSID) feature in Ham Radio Deluxe's Digital Master 780 module (HRD DM780).

    I encourage ALL operators in any digital mode such as Olivia, set the RSID feature on as shown in this example. In Fldigi, the RSID is the TXID and RXID (I believe).

    Please make sure you are using the RSID (Reed Solomon Identification - RSID or TXID, RXID) option in your software. RSID transmits a short burst at the start of your transmission which identifies the mode you are using. When it does that, those amateur radio operators also using RSID while listening will be alerted by their software that you are transmitting in the specific mode (Olivia, hopefully), the settings (like 8/250), and where on the waterfall your transmission is located. This might be a popup window and/or text on the receive text panel. When the operator clicks on that, the software moves the waterfall cursor right on top of the signal and changes the mode in the software. This will help you make more contacts!

    + NOTE 1: MixW doesn't have RSID features. Request it!

    + NOTE 2: A problem exists in the current paid version of HRD's DM780: the DM780 RSID popup box to click does not work. HRD support is aware of the problem. You can still use the textual version that you can select in the settings so that it appears in the receive text areas. If you click the RSID link that comes across the text area, DM780 will tune to the reported signal, and change to the correct settings.

    + NOTE 3: some websites publish frequencies that are right on top of weak-signal FT8, JT65 and JT9 segments. Even if that is a matter of contention, follow the regulations and be kind: DO NOT QRM weak-signal QSOs! AGAIN: make sure that your signal does not cross into other sub-bands where weak-signal modes are active. For instance, do not have any part of your signal at x.074 or higher, as this is the sub-band for FT8, JT65A, and JT9.

    Quick Reference: we in the active Olivia group suggest 8/250 as the starting settings when calling CQ on the USB dial frequency of 14.072 MHz with an offset of 700 Hz, on 20m--that translates to a CENTER frequency of 14.0729 MHz. On 40m, 7.072 MHz on the dial with an offset of 700 Hz (and again 8/250) which translates to a center frequency of 7.0729 MHz.

    An example of the calling frequency on 20 meters with a center frequency of 14.0729 MHz, 8 tones, and a bandwidth of 250 Hz:


    Also, do not quickly switch to other modes without calling CQ for at least a five-minute window. It is really horrid when people call CQ and change settings, modes, bandwidths, tones, every time they call CQ during the same session!

    There are several key resources that we in the Olivia community are developing, to make it easier for you to enter into the great world of Olivia. One is an active support e-mail group to which you can subscribe at -- a group containing topical areas of interest which can be filtered so that you are not flooded by email containing topics of which you are not interested. It has a files section, as well, in which we will add helpful how-to instructions and so on.

    Another resource is our Facebook group, at -- also with a files area containing help files. This group is a great resource for getting help from like-minded Olivia digital mode enthusiasts.

    Some more eavesdropping on an Olivia QSO:

    And, two more:

    One last note: Olivia is NOT a weak-signal mode. There are no points won by barely making a contact. In the USA FCC regulations, you are directed to use only the power necessary to make the QSO. Typically, with poor propagation, using Olivia with an output power of 100w is the minimum to establish a reliable circuit. You just cannot go beyond your rig's duty cycle (don't burn out the finals in your radio!). You also must be sure that you do not overdrive the audio chain into your radio. Be sure that you do not have RF coming back into your audio chain. Yes, 100 watts is acceptable. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. After all, think about RTTY.

    Welcome to Olivia! See you on the waterfall.

    73 de NW7US
    N2SUB likes this.
  2. KA2CZU

    KA2CZU XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Is DM780 the most common software package by Olivia operators? Is it available for free?
  3. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I kind of prefer FT-8. I t has it's place in the digital world.

    As does Olivia, Hellschriber, RTTY or CW. Or any other "digital" mode.
  4. K3UJ

    K3UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    FLDIGI supports Olivia and is free.
  5. KA2CZU

    KA2CZU XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I listened around using FLDIGI and didn't hear/"see" anything... but right now I'm *only* on 20.
    Once I get my 80/40 antenna up (over the winter, believe it or not... at least I hope) perhaps it'll be different.

    Was wondering about DM780, if that's the "standard" or if one is thought to be "easier" than the other
    specifically does FLDIGI support RSID mentioned?
  6. K3UJ

    K3UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    FLDIGI does support RSID, but I have an issue getting mine to identify received signals. I have been told I an transmitting them.
    I have no knowledge of DM780, can't help there.

    Really have not seen much Olivia on 20. Had my first contact a few weeks ago. Look for K4SOL, he's been active using 8/500.
  7. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You may download the last FREE version of Ham Radio Deluxe (legally) from the following link:

    In it, of course, is the DM780 program. It works very well for me, though I have since upgraded to the latest paid version. In my blog post, I make mention of a bug in the current version. That bug is NOT in the FREE version, so you should have no issues once you have it up and running.

    There are many variables in getting a digital radio setup to work well for any person's station. Each link in the audio and RF chain must be adjusted properly. It is beyond the scope of my blog entry or this posting to cover every conceivable setup. I am working on videos that break each segment of such a station setup into short instructional videos. It is a work of love that I am doing in spare time (of which I have little). I hope to get them out little by little.

    - Tomas
  8. NW7US

    NW7US Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi, Gary.

    Indeed, FT8 (and the other amazing JT modes including JT65A and JT9) has a place in the toybox of amateur radio. Amateur radio is big enough for everyone to pursue happiness, technically speaking. I hope to add a few new countries to my log file using FT8.

    I love all digital modes. I even love the traditional digital mode that requires no computer, Morse code as modulated by CW. For that matter, I just love everything amateur radio because I love connecting with my fellow amateur, but also because I love to learn technology and techniques. This hobby fascinates me.

    Olivia has a sweet spot in my heart because it does have the ability to maintain a good circuit under some difficult conditions. It is not magic, though, so there are situations like deep QSB that cause lost characters or even words. But, those QSB moments would cause any digital mode to falter.

    I hope to get you into my log with Olivia, or perhaps another mode.

  9. N9RMA

    N9RMA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Tomas; I saw your article on eHam also but there was no way to start the vids like you have on this site N9RMA
  10. N9RMA

    N9RMA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Tomas Me bad. It wasn;t on eHam . But some other site I was at. been on a bunch of them today. don't remember which one. Sorry bout that N9RMA

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