In order to start off 2020, we wanted to take a look back to 2019. We’ve been pretty diligent in writing blog posts about our milestones and achievements every Wednesday throughout the year, so luckily we can summarize the year by exploiting these.
It turns out that roughly 3/4 of our posts can be sorted in three broad categories, which also reflect our major achievements this year. The broader storylines are a bit hard to discern at a post-to-post basis, so this is a nice opportunity to put most of the posts in a larger context.
1 Vassfjellet beacons
We manage beacons on 70 cm to 6 m bands on top of Vassfjellet. Maintenance, the making of new beacons and supporting equipment and other stuff that is nice to install on a mountain usually generate quite a few posts during the year.
1.1 New beacon at the 6 m band
We’ve had beacons at the 70 cm, 2 m and 4 m bands for some time now, and LA3WUA thought it was time for a 6 m beacon.
LA2SIX (License pending) beacon, and plans for the coming year 2019-01-09
LA2SIX was announced at the start of the year along, with hints of an overarching beacon plan.
How we built LA2SIX 2019-03-13
The beacon was built on top of a beacon platform previously developed by LA3JPA.
LA1K 5-Pole Diplexer board 2019-04-24
A diplexer board was made from scratch in order to enable LA2SIX to function on the same antenna as LA2VHF/4.
The annual “spring trip to Vassfjellet leads to discovery of broken beacon” blogpost 2019-05-22
Heavy amounts of snow turned the LA2SIX installation trip into a inspection trip since we had to leave car and beacon behind. Unfortunately, it turned out that LA2VHF/4 had suffered some damage during the winter, so we had to take it down. A non-working beacon is by itself bad news, but it also meant that LA2SIX would be blocked by the lack of a working LA2VHF/4 antenna.
LA2VHF/4, LA2SHF and the WiFi link restored at Vassfjellet 2019-06-26
We fixed LA2VHF/4 again. We also reinstalled LA2SHF, which had been down since last year, and even re-enabled the WiFi link. What we actually were supposed to do, installing LA2SIX, had to wait due to firmware issues, however.
LA2SIX QRV, LA2SHF QRT 2019-07-03
LA2SIX was finally installed, and has been running since.
1.2 LA2SHF permanently QRT
During the fall 2018, we got some complaints about sidebands in the LA2SHF beacons. LA2SHF was therefore taken down in order to investigate these further on the lab bench. Unfortunately, the fact that LA2SHF existed in this band was complainable by itself, so it had to be permanently taken down in the end.
Spurious adventures with ADF4351 2019-08-07
We discovered that the sidebands were transmitting the LA2VHF/4 morse sequence. We found that this was due to some unlucky harmonics in the synthesizer that coincided with the LA2VHF/4 beacon. We fixed it by installing a filter on the reference port.
SV1AFN 10 MHz band-pass filter review 2019-05-08
LA2VHF/4, LA2SHF and the WiFi link restored at Vassfjellet 2019-06-26 (also listed earlier)
Full of hope, we reinstalled LA2SHF at Vassfjellet.
LA2SIX QRV, LA2SHF QRT 2019-07-03 (also listed earlier)
… and had to take it down again, since it interfered with a primary radio user in a band where us ham radio operators only have secondary status. LA2SHF is therefore to be considered permanently QRT.
1.3 Wireless link and noise shenanigans
We’ve previously had a wireless link between Samfundet and Vassfjellet, enabling internet access at our cabin.
LA2VHF/4, LA2SHF and the WiFi link restored at Vassfjellet 2019-06-26 (also listed earlier)
This had been down for a long time, until it was restored during the spring.
Vassfjellet remote access: part 1 – the link 2019-10-23
The reason for the downtime was some water proofing issues that were solved by moving the radio in-doors. This post outlined some of the technical details behind the setup.
Vassfjellet remote access: part 2 – IoT-stuff and more woes 2019-12-11
This post outlined the various services that are enabled by the wifi link, and some of the issues we get at sites with large radio noise issues.
Wideband immunity issues at an RF-crowded site 2019-08-21
And talking about radio noise issues – we got some complaints about our beacons interfering with other equipment. We show that such behavior is not a fault with our beacons, but is to be expected at such sites.
We finally got the opportunity to participate in the SatNOGS ground station network.
Installing an SPX-02 rotor on the LA1NGS SatNOGS station 2019-01-23
We helped LA1NGS installing a new rotor at their SatNOGS site, which meant that we got to scavenge their old, broken rotor. The plan was to use this to build our own SatNOGS station.
Development of a SatNOGS station: building the antenna 2019-06-19
The antenna was based on pilfered parts from our other setups.
Development of a SatNOGS station: A “transceiver friendly” SatNOGS setup 2019-07-10
The rotor turned out to not be as broken as first feared, and was easily fixed. The rest of the hardware setup is outlined in this post, which includes the SDRs and a setup we’ve installed in order to enable us to use the SatNOGS antenna on our IC9100 rig.
LA1K joins the SatNOGS ground station network 2019-04-10
We could then join the SatNOGS network, which was nice.
Preparing for OPS-SAT: Restoring the LA1K SatNOGS station 2019-12-18
What was not so nice was the fact that the station got some downtime during the fall, and that the LNA stopped working. The OPS-SAT launch gave us the necessary impetus to discover and fix these problems.
Receiving OPS-SAT at LA1K – a Christmas (mis)adventure 2019-12-25
We then had some fun with OPS-SAT reception. We look forward to see how the station will perform during 2020. Hopefully, LA3WUA will also remember to waterproof the LNA connections properly.
We’ve had a lot of fun with our parabolic dish during the last two years, but the time had come to actually use it for something useful – to bounce signals off the moon.
Ready to bounce signals off the moon on 23 cm 2019-02-06
After some challenges in our original plans with the dish, we decided to cultivate it for 23 cm EME and obtained and installed a 23 cm septum feed.
Two great milestones: First 23 cm EME QSO and 100 blogposts! 2019-02-13
We then got our first 23 cm EME QSO after having uncovered and fixed some problems.
A warm welcome to the moon 2019-02-27
We then got even more QSOs.
First entry in the VK3UM Memorial EME Contest 2019-04-17
And then some more, this time in a contest.
Exploring why WSJT-X didn’t want to decode – an illustrated guide to printf-debugging 2019-03-27
Vaguely related, we also found out that our USB hub that connects IC9100 to the shack computer should be connected to a USB 3.0-port, and not a USB 2.0-port. The road to this conclusion was not straight, and we had a lot of fun writing this blog post.
We only had a single post on this this year, but we’ll mention it since it was a major achievement.
Getting ready for E̶s̶’̶H̶a̶i̶l̶2̶ QO-100: Part 2 – How we did it 2019-02-20
We participated in the Es’Hail hype this year, and a built a setup that enabled us to make a couple of QSOs (until we teared down the setup again, since our main interest was to obtain these QSOs).
6 Far-reaching posts
In addition to putting posts in a larger context, it is also interesting to take a look at which posts which did well and generated views or social media activity.
6.1 Top views
- Getting ready for E̶s̶’̶H̶a̶i̶l̶2̶ QO-100: Part 2 – How we did it 2019-02-20
4 774 views
This post was mentioned as an example of an Es’Hail reception setup in a Hackaday post, which probably explains the high number of views. Our setup was rather elaborate, however, since we had the equipment available to do it elaborately. There exists simpler solutions!
- Getting ready for the first Geostationary amateur satellite, Es’Hail 2: Part One 2018-12-12
1 858 views
Number two was published last year, but we didn’t get many views on this one until around the Es’Hail hype during the spring.
- A web app for controlling rotors 2019-05-01
This post hit a weird resonance frequency. It didn’t perform very well on social media, but it got linked on other ham radio pages like darc.de and southgatearc.org. We got to see a summary of the blog post in both French, German, Spanish and Finnish.
- White-label EMC-filter from the hardware store 2019-08-28
The same resonance frequency was apparently hit with this post, as it experienced the same kind of re-linking and the same order of magnitude in the views.
6.2 Social media
We post on Facebook and Twitter every time we publish a new blog post. The activity on Facebook is a bit weird due to their business model, and it is therefore more interesting to look at our performance on Twitter.
Our best Twitter post is where we announced our participation in the SatNOGS ground station network. The merits of this post is probably mostly thanks to SatNOG‘s retweeting. It also contains a person and an antenna, which we will come back to.
Second best is LA3WUA’s post about a low-cost PA he has been designing. The final “product” here will probably be of interest for more than us.
Third best is a post about beacons. We think this one went well due to the dramatic photo. We also have a theory that social media posts with antennas and people in the same photo perform the best, which also fits well with our best Twitter entry and the baseline performances of the every-day tweet. We like to think that including a photo with multiple antennas and multiple persons might exceed Twitter’s traffic limits, so this is something we probably should not test.
7 Other posts
There are 25 more posts, which we won’t list explicitly since they don’t fit in with a broader context, and dealt mostly with various contests we’ve participated in, equipment maintenance and various software development efforts.
In total, we got quite a bit more visitors this year as compared to 2018, which we are quite happy about.
Thanks to our readers! While we can’t guarantee that we will be able to keep up the regular post rates achieved so far, we’ll at least try to keep writing about what’s happening at LA1K and about cool technical stuff we like to invest our time in. Although our main philosophy is that we write this for ourselves in order to keep track over it, this sometimes coincides with what some other people might like to read about.