Experience comes from doing ...

Discussion in 'Videos and Podcasts' started by VK6FLAB, Apr 7, 2018.

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  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Experience comes from doing ...

    During the week a friend reminded me that the process of determining what's happening within a shack comes with experience. In my day job my whole skill-set can be summed up with one word: "debugging", in all its many and varied guises, fixing code, hardware, business processes, skill-sets, what ever it may be.

    The process is pretty much, figure out what's going wrong, find out what shouldn't be happening and attempt to join the mismatch together with anything from gaffer-tape to good old fashioned hard yakka.

    Back on topic, the question my friend asked was about their WSPR receiver which had stopped making spots. If you're not familiar, WSPR, Weak Signal Propagation Reporter is a way of listening at specific times on specific frequencies for a signal and when received and decoded, publishing the spotted signal on a website.

    Their first thought was the antenna, that's where the signal comes from, so if that's not working, the rest fails. Pretty good first guess at figuring out what might be wrong.

    There is an adage somewhere, not sure of the exact wording, but it goes a little like this: if you don't know where to start, start somewhere, anywhere, and go on from there.

    Based on that the question became: How can I simply test my antenna and should I buy an SWR meter?

    If you're not familiar with how WSPR actually works, it's a radio receiver connected to a computer running software that decodes the signal and reports it across the Internet to a website that logs reports from around the globe.

    That sentence hides a level of complexity that boggles the mind if you start digging, but I'll give you a hint, it's not needed in this case.

    In my own experience with WSPR, my computer would crash regularly and get slower and slower. It turns out that I'd configured it to store a copy of each signal, as an audio file, so the computer drive was chock-a-block full of audio files. End result was crashing.

    I've also had issues with the WSPR site being unavailable and in Australia we're currently in the middle of rolling out our brand new not so shiny National Broadband Network which in turn causes Internet outages all over the place.

    While the antenna was a great place to start eliminating issues, there were several other candidates that could also cause issues, none of which required much in the way of effort to eliminate. As a bonus the antenna was also used for a weekly net and a quick scan with a spectrum analyser revealed that it was working just fine.

    A day later I got a follow-up email, turns out that the station they were listening for, an automatic WSPR beacon nearby had changed frequencies and that meant that it wasn't being received. One plus One equals Three.

    So, the lesson in all this is that two minds are better than one and that you can both be wrong at the same time.

    One thing I really love about amateur radio is that the problem domain is huge. You can think of amateur radio as two stations talking to each other, or you can imagine a place where there is so much variability that exploration in and of itself is the activity.

    Now that I've moved, I should fire up my WSPR receiver and see what gives. Which reminds me, what WSPR spots have you seen and if you're allowed to transmit WSPR with your license, how far have you been heard?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/ and scroll to the bottom for the latest episode. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB, or you can read the book, look for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh

    If you'd like to participate in discussion about the podcast or about amateur radio, you can visit the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/foundations.itmaze

    Feel free to get in touch directly via email: onno@itmaze.com.au, or follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/)

    If you'd like to join the weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6.net, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.
    KC8VWM likes this.

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