Hints & Tips for getting started on FreeDV

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The AREG FreeDV QSO Party is getting closer and now would be a great time for you to start setting up their radios so that you can join in on the weekend of September 12th and 13th! More information about the QSO party is available here (click).

The following are some resources you may be interested in to help get your FreeDV station up and running on the air.

What does FreeDV Sound Like?

Firstly, what does a FreeDV Contact sound like in comparison to SSB? Here is an excellent demonstration of this by N4DVR.

How to setup a FreeDV Station?

You can start operating on FreeDV by downloading a program for your computer, and then connecting it to your HF radio via your sound card. The software is an open source program available from the following links:

Next, you need to get your FreeDV software installed on your PC and configured. The following video tutorial is great for explaining how to set up the software.

Once you have the software configured it is time to connect it to a transmitter! The next video is from a presentation made by David VK5DGR at the AREG club meeting where some of the factors to consider when driving a HF radio with FreeDV were discussed.

In summary:

  • Less Power is usually better
  • Do not run any compression on transmit
  • Back the transmitter power off such that the ALC function is barely being activated
  • Do not run any receive filtering

The main reason for these tips is that distortion of the signal leads to bit errors. While you may get more transmit power, the signal quality being transmitted will be degraded to the point where even under very good HF path conditions decoding the signal will be very difficult indeed.

Where to go for more support?

If you want more information about FreeDV please visit the www.freedv.org website or log onto Internet Relay Chat (IRC) on irc.freenode.net. (http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=freedv) and connect to the #freedv channel.

 

FreeDV QSO Party Weekend – September 12/13th

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f-layer2The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group would like to invite all amateurs interested in HF digital voice communications to join us on the weekend of September 12th and 13th in a FreeDV Codec2 digital HF voice QSO Party! AREG in conjunction with David VK5DGR, one of the co-creators of FreeDV, will be activating a FreeDV HF station across the weekend under the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) special event call-sign VK100ANZAC. The aim is to encourage as many amateurs as possible to “come and try” this new digital HF mode, joining us and as many other FreeDV operators as possible in making contacts via digital HF voice around Australia and across the world.

Bands and Times?

Various bands will be used, with the primary call channels being 14236kHz +/-QRM and 7175kHz. The VK100ANZAC net control station will be listening and intermittently calling on FreeDV on the following bands:

  • Saturday evening September 12th from 1130UTC (9pm Australian Central Standard Time (ACST)) beaming short path North America on 20m (west coast).
  • Sunday morning September 13th from 2130-2330UTC (7am-9am ACST) on 20m beaming long path North America (east coast)
  • Sunday morning from 2230-0130UTC (8-11am ACST) will see local VK contacts targeted on 40m
  • 0430-0730 UTC (2-5pm ACST) will focus signals towards Europe Long Path as well as VK on 20m.
  • 0530-0830 UTC (3-6pm ACST) will see 40m targeting VK/ZL again
  • During the middle of the day on Sunday we may activate on 15m as well targeting Asia/Japan/Northern VK. Keep watching the AREG blog for details.

What is FreeDV?tiki-download_file

So, what is FreeDV you might ask? It is a new digital voice mode developed by an international group of amateurs, led by David Rowe VK5DGR. David was recently awarded the Ron Wilkinson Achievement Award for his work on Codec2 and FreeDV by the WIA. FreeDV operates at very low bitrates and narrow bandwidths using an open source digital voice compression algorithm (Codec2) developed by David. As such, it is ideal for use on HF. What’s more, being completely open source, it can be reproduced and adapted/extended by anyone who is prepared to follow the open source philosophy, unlike some other systems which have proprietary elements that limit experimentation.

Why is AREG Sponsoring this?

Why may you ask are we doing this? Like all new modes in their early days, like the early SSB developments in the 1960’s, finding like minded stations to make contact with can prove a little difficult. The aim behind this global event is to gather multiple FreeDV stations on air so that beginners in the mode can find others to make contact with, as well as providing support and help via SSB for those struggling to get the new technology to work. It is the perfect opportunity for you to dust off your radio-PC interfaces or finally wire-up your SM1000 digital voice adaptor and give this unique mode a try!

How do you get involved?

sm1000_enc_smHow do you get involved? There are several ways to get on the air with FreeDV. The most common is to download and install the FreeDV GUI application on your PC, and use a PC to HF radio interface, and a USB headset. More recently the stand alone SM1000 digital voice adaptor has become available which eliminates the need for a PC. Details of how to set up your station to run FreeDV can be found from the FreeDV project’s website http://freedv.org/ .

Technical support during the event will be available via Internet Relay Chat (IRC) via the #freedv channel on irc.freenode.net. (http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=freedv )

The VK100ANZAC Link

The idea behind operating the FreeDV QSO party net vk100anzaccontrol station using the special event callsign VK100ANZAC was to provide a little extra incentive for amateurs to come and try this new HF digital mode. It will certainly provide a unique QSO opportunity! The weekend in question is also one of significance for the ANZAC story as it commemorates the 26th Infantry Battalion’s arrival at Gallipoli and their subsequent deployment to Taylor’s Hollow on September 12, 1915. Part of the event will commemorate those who served and the sacrifice they made.

Conclusion

We look forward to making contact with you over the weekend! If you want more information, keep watching the AREG website for regular updates and blogs of the weekend’s events as well as for information on operating FreeDV at www.areg.org.au.

All contacts made will be recorded in ClubLog. Qrz.com will also be updated with the latest QSO information. We will also QSL any cards received either via the Bureau or via EQSL. SWLs will be eligible for a special card if they can confirm a full two way QSO.

Plans are also being worked on for a test and tune event the weekend beforehand. Keep watching the AREG website for details. See you on the air!

VK5ARG ILLW Activity 2015

On Saturday 15th Members of AREG participated in the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend event. AREG reserved the Marion Rocks Lighthouse – AU-0118 to operate as VK5ARG, while Peter VK5KX went over to Edithburgh on Yorke Peninsula and activated Troubridge Hill lighthouse.

Marino RocksDSC_6285

Bob, VK5FO and Ray, VK5RR arrived onsite at around 1pm in the cold and light rain. They took a walk from the carpark up to the Lighthouse in the Marino Conservation Park looking for a suitable place to set up the station.

DSC_6293A 5 minute walk up the hill to the Lighthouse – which is in a fenced enclosure in the middle of the conservation park, a bit of a walk around to admire the view to the West across the Gulf and to the North along the coast towards Adelaide, they could see that the rain was clearing. There was a suitable spot to set up a portable station about 50M from the lighthouse overlooking the Gulf.

Back at the Carpark, Gary, VK5FGRY had arrived and everyone made their way back up and set up the station. The station for this operation was a KX3 and an inverted V on 40M and also a 1/4Wave vertical on 20M

As we were setting up the weather cleared and we were lucky enough to have even better views towards the city and across the Gulf.

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Peter VK5KX at Troubridge Hill (Yorke Peninsula)

Once set up, we started looking over the bands and came across another Club Member – Peter, VK5KX who was at Troubridge Hill Lighthouse – AU-0105 and made the first contact for the day at 0455UTC

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Peter VK5KX operating from Troubridge Hill near Edithburgh

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Peter VK5KX Station

Even though the bands were busy with the RD contest it was fairly steady going – conditions were only average.  The staion mainly worked 40M and tried 20m for a little while at around the time we would expect and EU activity – but only worked a single station on 20M.

Across the afternoon we had a relaxed time and worked a total of 18 stations with the mix of 2 RD contest stations, 7 other ILLW stations and 9 chasers.The team worked the following Lighthouses: AU-0105, AU-0029, AU-0017, AU-0107, AU-0110, AU-0079 and AU-0007 before packing up around 5pm local time.

All up a fun day was had by everyone involved. It was a great opportunity to undertake some portable operation from some unique landmarks! Congratulations to all involved who braved the wintry weather!

Photo Gallery

Gallery Photos courtesy Gary Hamilton VK5FGRY

AREG General Business Meeting: August 21st + Guest Speakers !

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters group will be held on Friday 21st August. The venue as always will be the Reedbeds Community Hall, 19 Fitch Rd, Fulham SA 5024.

This month there will be two guest speakers giving short presentations interrupted by a short business meeting.  Doors open 7:45pm, first talk starts at 8pm sharp !

Everything 6m!

The first speaker will be Ben VK5BB P1020591who will give a 10 minute  talk on the Amateur 6m band and what it has to offer in the summer time months.  With summertime on the horizon (finally) it’s a good time to dust off the low band VHF 6m gear and get it ready for the upcoming summer months !!!

This will be followed by a short general business meeting.

FreeDV – getting it working!

The second  short technical presentation will be by David VK5DGR on the practical aspects of  alignment, use and getting a FreeDV signal to air.  With the AREG FreeDV QSO Party (click) just around the corner, now is perhaps a good time to get that SM1000 or PC Interface at the ready !   As is typical with all of David’s talks it certainly should be a good time to sit back and watch or hear Digital HF Voice first hand.

This of course will bearegmap interspersed with coffee, cake and opportunities for technical chats around the kitchen bench.  Should be a good night to get out of the house and come and play radio.

Look forward to seeing you there

73, Matthew VK5ZM

International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend 15/16th August

illw-net

This annual amateur radio event was started in Scotland by John Forsyth, GM4OOU, and the late Mike Dalrymple (GM4SUC), both members of Ayr Amateur Radio Group (AARG). Through the years the event has grown probably far beyond what John and Mike envisaged for it all those years ago. The fact that some 85 countries have been represented in this event since inception clearly shows that it is well on its way to becoming a premier event on the ham radio calendar.

The basic objective of the event is to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, and at the same time to promote amateur radio  and to foster International goodwill.The Lighthouse weekend is fairly relaxed and usually has a decent turn-out of chasers and participants. It is genuinely a good fun day out!

VK5ARG at Marino Rocks Lighthouse

Image courtesy http://www.weekendnotes.com/marino-conservation-park/

Bob VK5FO is organising a station to activate VK5ARG from Marino Rocks Lighthouse. The plan is to meet at the Carpark at the end of Nimboya Rd, Marino, at around Midday on Saturday 15th. From there, we will set up in the park up towards the lighthouse, in the Marino Rocks Conservation Park – which also qualifies for the SANPCPA.

The station will consist of a 40M inverted V and a FX-4A QRP tranceiver for the VK contacts and a pair of phased Verticals on 20M beaming long path Europe using an Elecraft KX3.

The plan is to operate the station until dark on the Saturday before finding somewhere local to eat before driving home. Please let Bob VK5FO know if you are planning on coming out to operate the AREG station. Note if you do want to come, you dont need to bring anything except a chair.

Note: The ILLW event does does co-incide with the RD Contest.  While VK5ARG will not be participating in the RD contest, we will give out numbers to those who are :).

 

VK5RSB 23cm is back !

repeater tower clipartThe VK5RSB 23cm repeater is now back online.

After a couple of hectic weeks Colin VK5ACE has made the necessary repairs to the 23cm repeater and put it back on the hill.

If any users observe the repeater doing something odd please contact us on the email addresses (here).

Many thanks to Colin for all the hard work getting this service back on the air again.

73, Matthew VK5ZM

VI5MCP – On The Air – Saturday 18th Activity

11738029_10153032284891188_7409133067033900305_nThe special event station VI5MCP has been very active today with a large contingent of operators from the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group braving the cold but clear conditions to operate portable from the top of Morialta Conservation Park.

The station consisted of an inverted-vee on 40m and a portable hex beam for the higher bands. Operators included Bob VK5FO, Ray VK5RR, Ben VK5BB, Andy VK5AKH, Theo VK5MTM, Matt VK5ZM, Mark VK5QI, Lionel VK5UP, Kym VK5FJ, Dennis VK5FDEN and Peter VK5KX. Gary VK5FGRY was also on hand to record the events as well a number of other members.

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Multiple HF bands have been activated today including 40m and 20m. Details of the contacts will be put into the logs online shortly. Keep watching here for updates. In total so far we have logged 150 contacts and 28 DXCC countries, and with another week to go for this special event call, there is still time for you to make contact with VI5MCP!

The activation will continue tomorrow (Sunday 19th) with plans for the station to be active at the conclusion of the WIA broadcast.  Plans are afoot to operate on 2m tomorrow as well to give some local VHF operators the chance to put this special event callsign in the log.

Picture Gallery – Saturday July 18th 2015

AREG AGM – New Executive 2015

AGM

The AREG held it’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Friday the 17th of July. This was followed by a talk from Chris VK5CP about RTTY Contesting and a general members meeting.

As a result of the AGM there is a new executive and committee, with a few familiar faces.

This year Scott VK5TST moves into the position of club Secretary, with Mark stepping down back to the committee. We thank Mark for this hard work over the past three years in this role.   Grant VK5GR has stepped up from the committee to take on the role of club treasurer, welcome Grant to the exec team.  Ben VK5BB and Andy VK5AKH will carry on as committee members.   We’d also like to welcome Josh VK5JO who has volunteered to join the committee team.  I was more than happy to continue on as president.

So the AREG executive team for 2015/2016 can be found here (click)

Thanks again for your support and we look forward to planning a new technical talk and activities program for our members pleasure.

73, Matt VK5ZM