Using GridTracker with WSJT-X and N3FJP Amateur Contact Log

Under Construction

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A handy Morse Code chart

This is a handy chart that you can print out and keep on hand for practicing Morse Code.

The best way to use it is by using the voice code method.

Instead of thinking of Morse Code as dots and dashes, it is best to think of it as the sounds you hear on the radio, which is dits and dahs.

The way that you use this chart is to start in the middle as shown, and then move out, either right or left.

If you start on the left, the first dah is “T”, Dah Dah is “M”, Dah Dah Dah is “O”.

If you go down a branch Dah Dit is “N”, Dah Dit Dit is “D”, Dah Dit Dit Dit is “B”.

It is the same on the left side, except that the Dit is emphasised.

So Dit is “E”, Dit Dit is “I”, Dit Dit Dit is “S”, and Dit Dit Dit Dit is “H”.

If you go down a branch Dit Dah is “A”, Dit Dah Dah is “W”, and Dit Dah Dah Dah is “J”.

Morse code letters will have between one to four characters.

The key thing to remember is that “A” is not Dit Dah. Dit Dah is “A”.

The sound signifies the letter, the letter does not signify the sound.

If you learn to respond to the sound by automatically writing down the letter you will be able to master Morse Code.

If you try to associate the letter with the sound you will add an unneeded interpretation step into the process which will prevent you from sending and copying code fast and accurately.

The best way to practice the code is to use this chart where you go through the combination of letters by saying the Dits and Dahs of the code.

Do not fall into the trap of saying to yourself “A” equals Dit Dah.


Dit Dah is “A” and so on.

The next step is to say the code every time you see words.

Billboards, License Plates, Headlines, labels on Jars. Turn them into Morse Code practice.

Have the chart with you in order to check if you need to.

Then Practice, Practice, Practice.

Do this before you start to listen to Morse Code on the radio. That is an entirely different learning environment.


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Creating a coverage map for a 2 Meter and 70 cm base or mobile station using Radio Mobile Online found at

Coverage Area for VE3FMQ Base Station transmitting on 2 meters with an vertical antenna at 3 meters and using a Yaesu FT-897D running at 50 watts. The green area is set to making a contact at least 70% of the time. The yellow area is less than 70% of the time.
Coverage Area for VE3FMQ Base Station transmitting on 70 cm with an vertical antenna at 3 meters and using a Yaesu FT-897D running at 20 watts. The green area is set to making a contact at least 70% of the time. The yellow area is less than 70% of the time.

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Suggested Windows Software for Digital Radio Operation and Logging.

If you wish to make the most of today’s digital software packages that support a variety of digital modes, I would suggest starting with this bundle.

The reason that I am suggesting that you use them is that they work together very smoothly and allow you to control your radio as well as log contacts, look up ham station info automatically, and send eQSL cards.

To be able to look up ham information on line you will need to join There are different subscription plans available. Likewise if you wish to send eQSL cards you will need to join You can do so for free, though you can purchase subscription plans there as well.

Amateur Radio Station VE3FMQ showing Digital software in operation. Radio used for HF/VHF/UHF digital modes is a Yaesu FT-897D. Other radios are a Kenwood TM-331A 220 MHz transceiver and a QYT KT-980 VHF/UHF Transceiver.

N3FJP Amateur Contact Log (also called ACLog)

The total package costs about US$50 but not only do you get an easy to use logging program, it also comes with templates for contesting that allow you to upload properly formatted contest results directly to the sponsoring organization.

(You can purchase the logging program alone for a reduced price, but buying the individual templates one by one can become expensive.)

You can also connect the software directly to so that information about a ham station (name, address, country etc) is automatically filled into the log.

You can also set up multiple log files for logging bands, modes, or special functions like NETS.

The program also provides a number of functions such as statistical analysis of your log data, as well as being able to edit or filter information very easily.

The program connects easily to the following digital mode software packages so that information about a QSO can be automatically logged once the QSO is finished.

The program also allows you to send your log information to either the EQSL site, or ARRL’s LoTW database.


This is an excellent digital program, and is the one that allows you to send and receive morse code. It also does pactor for ARES messaging. It is free. This program automatically sends logging data to Amateur Contact Log when the QSO is over.


WSJT-X and WSJT-Z support FT8/FT4/WSPR modes are the most popular digital modes today. They allow you to make long distant contacts using low power (25 watts.) This program also automatically sends logging information to the Amateur Contact Log.
An additional benefit of WSJT-Z is that you can put it into automated mode. It will automatically find stations to have a QSO with, do the QSO, and then log the QSO. A good way to see how it works. 


This is an application that works with Amateur Contact Log and WSJT-Z. It scans the log book and the stations that are being displayed in WSJT-Z. It looks for new stations or stations from a particular state, country, region etc. It will also tell you if you have worked the station before. 


This is a variant on FT8. Instead of short sentences as used in FT8 you can send messages. The advantage is that it works well with low power and poor band conditions. It works with Amateur Contact Logs.


This program is used with Amateur Contact Log to upload logging in formation to the ARRL Logbook of The World (LoTW.) You use this service to earn awards such as Worked All States, Worked All Continents, etc. You need to register (free) to get a password to log into the service.


If you want to use FLDigi to send morse code you will need an interface. FLDigi supports a product called WinKeyer that plugs into a USB port. So when you type characters on your keyboard they will be sent to the radio as the appropriate dots and dashes.

PSK Reporter

This program is part of a larger project where information from WSJT-Z and JS8Call is collected as it happens and then displayed as graphic information on a map. QSOs between stations are shown as connected lines. Providing this in formation is voluntary.


In order for digital modes such as FT8/FT4/WSPR and JS8Call to work properly your computer needs to be synchronized to an atomic clock. There are several ways to do this but this free software package is seen as being the most accurate. One of the reasons for this is that you can use an inexpensive GPS dongle that plugs into your computer where you have your digital software and that is used to calculate the minute (but critical) time difference between your computer and the atomic clock.

The GPS dongle is:

HiLetgo VK172 G-Mouse USB GPS/GLONASS USB GPS Receiver for Windows 10/8/7/VISTA/XP

You can order it from Amazon

In my next article I will outline the workflow that you can do using the above software in order to use it effectively.

I will outline all of the procedures needed, from the correct order of starting the software to using it to make QSOs, then how to collect the information into the logging program.

From there the logged information can be used to send eQSLs or even print out mailing labels for sending paper QSL cards.

I will also discuss how to use these programs for contesting and gaining awards.


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Antennas for Appartments or Condominiums

I will write up a summary of ideas suggested in the Ragchew Ramble/Tower Talk net for Friday October 23 2020 when the net has finished.

Here are some resources to check out before that time.

A good summary over-view of the issues involved.

Here is a good overview of antenna strategies that did not work so that you don’t have to discover them yourself.

While using a mobile whip antenna for HF work may appear to be a solution, they are very inefficient with the best being only 12%. The solution may be making a loop antenna. There are two types, voltage and magnetic. This is an article on making a voltage antenna.

Here is an example of an apartment station with a loop antenna suspended on the ceiling.

Another popular solution is the magnetic loop. These antennas are relatively small in size and have an efficiency that is superior to whip antennas at 40 to 60%. The main issue is the need to tune the antenna every time you change frequency with a tunning capacitor attached to the loop. They also generate very high RF voltages so you need to be careful using them. However, they are becoming the solution of choice for hams with limited alternatives.

Here is a demonstration video that shows the steps used to construct a transmitting loop antenna (warning, there are recieving loop antenna designs available on the Internnet and they are unsuitable for transmitting, and can damage your transmitter if used. Only use loop antennas specifically intended for transmitting.)

Here is an instruction for making a magnetic loop antena for 80 and 40 meters.


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Understanding the Amateur Radio QSL card. Part I layout and design.

The Amateur Radio QSL card dates from the early days of radio when confirmation of the reception of a radio station’s broadcast, be it amateur, commerical or broadcast, became popular.

Origially the confirmation was either written out, or typed out as a formal letter, but as the volumn of requests increased the format was changed to s postcard with basic information provided.

The current size and format of the amateur radio QSL card is attributed to C.D.Hoffman 8UX of Akron Ohio, who in 1919 created a double sided card with his call sign on one side, and with call sign of the received station, frequency, date, time, etc. on the other.

This format was later standardized by the International Amateur Radio Union in terms with a size of 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches (90mm x 140mm) being adopted and remaining the standard used today.

Minimum information provided on the card should be as follows;

The call sign of the sending station

The call sign of the receiving station

Date and time of the QSO

Frequency and mode of transmission

The RS(T) that was sent and recieved

and any additional information or comments.

The front of the card normally presents the call sign of the station sending the QSL card in large, block letters, and there may be an optional background picture or illustration.

Here is an example of the front of a QSL card

Here is what the back looks like

And some have all of the information on the back, with the front used for addresses only.

There are many ways that you can create a QSL card. If you have access to graphic software programs (many of which are free such as for Windows) you can create your own.

Some people print out QSL cards on their injet printer, or have them printed at a print shop.

There are also on-line QSL card creation sites where you can design your own QSL card from existing templates or from scratch, and then have them printed and delivered to your QTH.

This is one of many that you can choose from, and the example given here is not an endorsement, just a starting point.


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Can you turn a tree into an antenna?

Apparently you can, and if you follow this link you will find a group of ham/experimenters doing just that in front of an audience.

Operating as mobile amateur radio station PA7RB (Netherlands), they were able to make contacts through out Europe on 20 meters getting good signal reports.

The system uses a coil that is placed around the trunk of a tree and then tuned using a standard antenna tuner.

The Dutch group are not the only ones who have experimented with this type of antenna.

Here is an article from the July 14 1919 edition of Scientific America on the George O. Squier Tree Antenna, named after its inventor, who was at that time a General in the US Army in the signal corps.

Before WWI there had been experiments using trees as grounds, particularly in dry areas where conventional grounds would not work well. Due to the fact that tree roots went deep into the ground where moisture was found they provided a working alternative.

Squier undertook to see if a tree could be used as an antenna as well, which would be strategically important where putting up a wire antenna being impractical. He employed the use of trees during WWI with enough success that the practice was carried over after the war.

The Scientific American article reports that the use of trees as antennas had proven to be successful, particularly with modern equipment using tube amplifiers. It was demonstrated that it was possible to receive and send radio telegraph transmissions using this method.

It was also noted that the wire connected to the tree was not acting as the antenna because it was too short for the wavelength being used.

Here is an experiment undertaken by Ralph W5JVG for a tree antenna designed to work on the 600 meter band, showing all the steps involved in building the coil and antenna tuner. The article also has a number of links to historical and contemporary articles on the antenna, including the original patent granted to George Squier.


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Welcome to the “Ragchew Ramble” NET on VE3TWR

A new VHF NET is open to all licensed amateur radio operators who can check into the VE3TWR repeater on 145.410 -.600 offset tone 103.5 which is held at 1500 hrs (3 pm) every Tuesday and Friday.

The NET is intended to provide an informal place where people can discuss a wide variety of technical and procedural topics.

(Please note that controversial topics are not allowed following the usual prohibitions agreed upon by amateur radio operators.)

Hams who participate in the NET are encouraged to use this blog space in order to leave suggestions and make comments. A new page on this blog has been specifically set up for that purpose


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An Overview of WSPR and its use

I have been enjoying using an interesting low power mode called WSPR lately. WSPR stands for “Weak Signal Propagation Reporter” and it can be used in several ways.

The software was developed by Joe Taylor, K1JT, who is a Princeton University professor who has won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1993 for discovering a new type of pulsar, which opened up ways of studying gravitational waves.

Because of Taylor’s work in Astro-physics, and his interest in ham radio, he has been personally involved in amateur radio moon bounce projects. His contribution has been the development of extremely powerful moon bounce communication programs for the amateur community, which he provides for free.

From his moon bounce software, Taylor has recently developed a group of software packages that are intended for use in amateur bands, particularly HF (though VLF, LF and VHF/UHF/SHF applications also can be used.)

You can find his free software and documentation at his website

K1JT has also developed the very popular FT-8 and JT-65 weak signal modes from his moon bounce work, and the software that supports those, and other weak signal modes (check out his very popular WSJT-X software on the same site – I will cover those modes in my next posting here.)

First, let me outline how the program works. It is a free software program that works with any SSB transceiver, a  computer (Windows or Linux or Mac OS 10.0), a computer software program that synchronizes your computer clock to an atomic clock (easy to find and almost always free – needed for accurate time synchronization with other stations), and a computer/transceiver sound card/CAT interface.

As the name implies, high power is not needed. 5 Watts or less (and we are talking really less, as in micro-watts is desirable), and a connection to the Internet.

The reason for the Internet connection lays in what makes it a unique piece of software and operating mode. It is not used for communicating in the conventional sense, but you do communicate and connect with other hams.

This information is collected and collated at When you run the software, and transmit, your information (call, frequency, location, power) is sent to the wsprnet site.

When one or more stations with the WSPR software receives your signal, with its information, that information is sent off to wsprnet as well. That information is further collated into three forms.

A map showing the location  all of the active stations around the world and whom they are connected to. (See the feature map at the top of the page for a portion of the image from that map.)

A list of all of the stations who have been using the wspr program and the band/frequency they are on.

WSPR Activity

Portion of the data base available showing wspr stations, the band that they are operating on, the frequency they are transmitting on, and their call signs

An historical summary of all of the stations you have connected to, which you can organize by various categories.

Wspr Sept 24 2017 20 m

Historic data of contacts for one or more stations, based on search criteria. In this case, it is one hour of transmitting using my transciever on 20 meters using 5 watts to a vertical antenna.  15 stations recieved the signal and reported it to, where the information is stored in thea database. The satistics show; date, time, my call, frequency, the signal to noise rating of my signal when recieved by the other station, the amount of shift in my frequency when recieved, the amount of drift in my frequency when recieved, my location (using Maidenhead grid coordinates), call sign of the station who recieved my signal, their location (using Maidenheat grid coordinates), distance of recieving station form my own in km, az – azmuth heading from my station to the recieving station. 

From this information you can measure a number of things:

  • The general propagation characteristics for a given band at a different times, from within an hour to over a period of time.
  •    The efficiency of your antenna set up on different bands vs. different conditions.
  •    The potential for other stations to hear you based on your current antenna configuration (eg is your antenna configuration favoring a particular direction [especially if you have a wire antenna rather than a beam], or are there directions that are ‘blocked’ due to structures, such has hills.)

The software can be used on any ham band, and there are now a set of unique frequencies that have been voluntarily accepted in the ham community (as the bandwidth used is very narrow.*

[* The modulation method used in WSPR uses 4FSK (frequency shift keying.) This is a binary mode, but rather than just using 2 bits (0 and 1) it uses 4 bits (00 01 10 11) as a result, 4FSK can carry double the data of 2FSK. In addition to FSK’s ability to carry data digitally, it is also very resistant to noise. Today, 4FSK is used in data modes such as PSK, as well as audio modes, such DMR.]

Set up and operation of the software is very simple. After running the software once to install it, all you need to do is put in your call sign, your location as a Maidenhead coordination number (either four or six digits) and the settings for your CAT and sound card settings.

(You should also have the atomic clock synchronization software running as well. As mentioned, it is very important for the time on your computer and those of other hams who are using the same program, to be as closely synced as possible.This is due to the way that the software sends and receives the data, as well as decodes it. Accurate data decoding is very dependent on accurate timing.)

Once that has been done, all you need to do is connect the software to your transceiver by the modem deice that you use (e.g. SoundBlaster) and set the transceiver to USB mode (used for all bands), select the proper WSPR frequency for the band you are using, and have the power at 5 watts or less.

WSPR program

The WSPR software dashboard – showing the main features

Then you just sit back and let the software do all the work. Setting the TX % will determine how often you transmit (25% is about the best. 100% means you are transmitting with only very brief gaps and no monitoring time.)

After you have transmitted a couple of times, you can go to and view your statistics (they are generated in real time.) You will also see a listing of the stations you connected to and their information on the dashboard of the wspr software (see the photo with call outs with an explanation of the information that you are seeing.)

The operation of WSPR focused completely on sending out information and receiving information, and transferring that information to the website. There is no provision for altering the information or having any kind of a QSO with it.

You could, if you wanted to, QSL to a station who has connected to you, if you feel so inclined, but at this point I do not know what the agreed upon practice is. Again, the primary purpose of the software is to measure propagation under low power conditions and to allow people to measure the performance of their equipment using low power.

However, as an adjunct of QRP, I can see some applications. For example, the new LF ham band, which has not been explored as much as it should, is restricted to one watt input power. Using WSPR to research propagation with different antenna systems is a potentially useful application of the software and mode (the software and collects data from contacts on that band.)

Do try out this mode if you are set up for digital operation as it is free and is very interesting to see the results on different bands. It is something that can be set up and left to its own as there is no need to monitor it.

The only thing that is missing in the software design is an ability to set up a schedule or a sequence of frequencies, in order to test propagation over time and band. Other than that, I have no issues.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me.


Joe Cooper​


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A good Ham Radio Contest Resouce

The WA7BNM contest calendar provides excellent information on current and upcoming contests on all bands and in all modes.

There is more than just a listing of when a contest occurs.

Links are provided to the sponsoring site where you can obtain the rules and operating instructions on a particular event.

Likewise instructions are provided on where to upload contest results, as well as the time frame you must do it in.

WA7BNM Contest Calendar: 8-Day Calendar


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VBand Morse Code simulator and practice over the Internet

Ham Radio Solutions

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Interpreting Solar Data for ham band propagation

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Building a “Tape Measure” satillite antenna.

Parts List:

Length of 3/4 inch PVC pipe

11 3/4 inch PVC cross pieces

2 3/4 PCV caps

22 1 1/4 inch adjustable clamps

1 10 oz tube of PCV pipe glue

1 PCV pipe cutter

1 3ft coax pl259 jumper cable

1 12 ft pl259 cable with connectors1

PL259 to SNA adapter

1 Antenna MIX TW-16A duplexer

1 tape measure (get if from a dollar store.)

Instructions: (Under Construction.)

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