Trying Out FT8 and Winlink

The new digital mode of FT8 is terrific.  I’ve experimented and made QSOs with a number of the digital modes over the years – SSTV, JT65, JT9, PSK31…. But I think Joe Taylor, K1JT has developed a great new platform.   

If you are familiar with JT65, then the FT8 will feel very similar.   The WSJTX client software looks and feels very much like others I have used (I was not using the WSJTX software previously.) There’s a scrolling waterfall feature and a second window with all of the QSO data.   I’ve been able to work quite a number of DX stations when the bands sounded otherwise “dead”…and picked up a couple new states as I work on 5BWAS.  (If only 10 meters would come alive at some point!)  It took a little noodling around to get the software to activate the PTT, etc of my Yaesu FTDX3000 – but some of that is probably because I’m still learning the radio. CAT ports, PTT ports, audio codecs, etc can get a little confusing.  (I’ve got different setups for a couple of different modes due to logging, pan adapters, etc).  Regardless, a lot of fun – you should try it if you like new modes. 

And along that same line….I’ve also got the PC talking to my 3000 to interact with the Winlink network.  This also took just a little bit of configuration experimentation, but I’ve got it working just fine.    I’m using a client called RMS Express.  After I understood how the various parts of the software worked, it was much easier to get it set up.   It reminds me of the “old days” when your PC used a dial up modem to retrieve email or cruise the ‘net.   During the Winlink process of sending/receiving email, the radio will drop out of XMIT mode and go into RECEIVE for short period of time….I assume this is part of the confirmation process that the data is being received properly on both ends.   Anyhow, I’ve gotten it to work…I check the email account a couple times a week.   I’m not sure I’ll ever really need it for field use, but that’s okay – fun to experiment with it. 

I’m not going to provide download links for the client software.  You can Google it and come up with what works best for your ham shack. 

And all my operating hasn’t been on digital.  Although it’s been several months since I really worked a contest, I spent a little time working the ARRL Sweepstakes CW contest.  Knocked out about 200 QSOs…and by the end of the thing I had my code speed back up to where it really should be.   Seems like I don’t find enough time to operate anymore and my code speed slowing tails off…but a little operating is a great refresher.  By the way, I don’t use any computer or radio assisted “decoding” software.  Nothing wrong with that if it gets you on the air, but my decoding is all “gray-matter”.  Did NOT get a sweep this year – far from it.  I think I still needed 12 – 15 sections.   Conditions were definitely not in my favor.   Didn’t even hear anybody in those sections.  

My on-line logbook that I  kept on this page is no longer available.  Unfortunately, the author of the widget did not continue to update his software to maintain security guidelines…so I had to pull it down.  Perhaps he’ll update and some point in the future.  I do provide a link (top right hand side of the home page) to my most current QSOs…which updates very frequently if I am at the operating desk.  And I upload to eQSL, LOTW and Club Log…so you can always log check that way.   

(Thanks to QRZNOW.COM for the image associated with this post.)

73 and CU in the log!