Sunday, April 9, 2023

The QDX + QCX-Mini at K-3036

Easter weekend gave us a little bit of time to hang out with out family, but the weather was not very cooperative. Saturday proved to be the best weather-wise, we we headed out late to the nearest state park, Martin Creek Lake. When we arrived, my wife and the kids began rigging up fishing poles, while I started throwing lines up in the trees.

With the help of my daughter's boyfriend's pitching arm, we managed to get the end of my 20m EFHW about 25 feet up in a pine tree. I wasn't sure if it would be good enough for 5w, but a few minutes on the air proved my worry was misplaced.

I broke out my 20-Meter QCX-mini, hooked everything up and called CW POTA. Instantly, KD3D came back to me. This being my first true CW activation, I stumbled quite a bit over the callsigns. I blame it on a mixture of nerves and a lingering lack of confidence in my CW skills. But as they say, 'experience is the best teacher!' (At least I'm sayin' it.) 

Soon I had stations calling on top of each other! Wow! Within about 15 minutes I had managed to pick out 12 stations and I was pumped! The sun was about to set and I knew I wanted to try my QDX as well, so I packed the QCX-Mini and

opened up my "DataBox." Everything I need but the antenna is mounted in the DataBox, so I turned it on and swapped out the coax to my antenna.

I loaded WSJT-X and saw several stations on the waterfall, but there were no decodes. I quickly realized my timing was off by at least 5 seconds. I didn't have a GPS to sync to, so I turned on my phone's hotspot and connected the RaspberryPi to it.  After a couple of minutes, the timing corrected itself and callsigns filled my screen. I have a couple of simple USB GPS units so I'm going to try and build one into the box so I can sync in the field next time WITHOUT the internet. 

Finally ready to go, I called CQ POTA and waited. Suddenly, three red lines popped up--my signal was definitely getting out! I worked a total of nine stations in about 15 minutes, as the light quickly faded around my picnic table. The rest of the family began to return and I decided it was time to pack it up. Total count: 22 POTA QSOs!

UPDATE: Spent some time tonight (4-9-23) installing gpsd on the RPi. I found an old Microsoft GPS with a USB cord that I simply plug into the RPi. (They don't sell them anymore. You can find them occasionally on Ebay, but here's an even better USB GPS for cheap on Amazon.) Then, once the GPS acquires a fix, I use a python script to read the time and update the clock. Then I can unplug the GPS unit to save battery power. It's probably not micro-second accurate, but it should be close enough to allow me to decode FT8 stations when I don't have the internet to sync my clock.