Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is anyone listening?

I'm a visually oriented person, so that's one reason I gravitate toward digital modes like PSK -- you can "see" your signal on screen. But the real question is not whether I can see my signal, but whether anyone else can. That’s why I was thrilled to learn about PSK Reporter, a free web-based service that, according to its creator Philip Gladstone, displays PSK31 reception reports in near real time. As a point in fact, PSK Reporter tracks many other modes, like RTTY, MFSK, Throb, and even CW.

PSK Reporter displays reception data on top of a base map provided by Google Earth. Pull-down menus let you select various parameters, like monitoring by specific band or digital mode. Several software packages, such as the excellent Digital Master 780 (part of the Ham Radio Deluxe suite of applications), have the PSK Reporter client integrated into the basic package. DM 780 and other applications that support the client silently monitor the frequency and fire the data off via internet to PSK Reporter. Every five minutes Reporter updates its map showing stations received, the distance from the transmitting station, and other sundry data.

But PSK Reporter provides more information than who can hear your signal. It also provides a good picture of band openings to specific geographic areas. For example, if I see reception reports clustered on the west coast on 20 meters then I know I’m likely to get more contacts in that region using that band.

So now when I call 'CQ' and get no response I can eliminate a host of issues – bad cable connections, low power output, poor modulation levels – and simply check whether the band conditions are conducive to a QSO. If not, I can switch to another band and try again.
- 73- Steve KB3IHX

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