HF Digital Modes
Posted by N6DTE on November 18 2017 10:27:25
With the advent of FT8, more and more people are becoming interested in trying their hands at using the WSJT-X application and shooting 25 watts around the globe. The software is generally easy to use, but some may still find it challenging. If you've toyed with JT65, then you can do FT8. It's almost exactly the same, but it moves a LOT faster. It only takes a minute and a half to complete a QSO, where JT65 took 3-4 minutes, which seems fast until you're doing it, there is a long waiting period when you are responding to a call for CQ. If I've captured your attention, click the link below to read more on this topic.
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With that said, FT8 isn't without it's caveats; Sometimes the software won't do what you want it to, sometimes it will just plain stop working. In this article I intend to address some work-arounds for when things go haywire.

The two main issues I have with the software are this: Out of the blue, the software will stop reading your audio source, and just stops doing anything. I haven't found a solution for this yet other than closing the software and reopening it. The second issue that is really grating is that if you are trying to respond to a CQ, and the station you were planning to have a QSO with answers another station, when the 'Halt TX' is too near the end of the RX cycle, the software doesn't recognize the button press and just goes to TX mode anyways!

Suffice it to say, this is incredibly inconvenient and can lead to poor etiquette, which most of us strive not to do. I was at a loss of what to do, other than closing the software and opening it again, like the solution for the first problem- Again, not so convenient, and takes a fair amount of time when TX/RX cycles are so short, missing even a second leads to no decodes.

So you may ask, what's the solution? Well, I decided it's time the problem was made public, as I've had this exact same problem with the WSJT-X software and JT65. The answer is this: Walt (G3NYY,) responded in a very long email thread his solution: "I have found that if the "Halt" button is unresponsive, I need to click on the "Enable" button and then immediately click on "Halt" again. This causes the transmission to stop immediately." --- This fixes the problem without closing the software and you can do it real quick if you notice that your first click to halt the transmission has failed. So, with those two problems and their fixes in mind, I highly recommend you give digital modes a go. They can be extremely rewarding, even if you have a compromise antenna or a low-power or even QRP rig. I'm not too well versed on other brands of radios, but my Yaesu 857D was quite easy to build a homebrew cable for, and it works great. Some notable DX I've worked with it are Australia, Alaska, many stations in Canada, North Cook Islands, Asiatic Russia, Indonesia, and some I'm sure I'm forgetting. These were all on JT65, using the lowest power possible. Mostly all 10-25 watts.

Thanks for sticking through this with me, I plan on writing some more articles regarding the homebrew cable building, and some VHF/UHF digital modes, specifically dStar and DMR.

73, and have a great holiday season.
N6DTE