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Introduction

A huge amount of information and facilities for amateur radio are now available on the internet. Not just where to buy your next piece of equipment, but web receivers to listen to live signals, real time data on solar activity and propagation, and programs you can download for logging, data modes, signal analysis and circuit design. There is no way that this article can cover all the available resources, but I just hope to show you some interesting examples. The links to the sites listed here were checked in mid December 2015, and the programs listed work under Windows 7 (at least).


Receivers

A number of web receivers are now available on the web, allowing the user to tune the band from a remote location. This can serve to give you a feel for a band before committing to buy a rig, and it can also act as a remote monitor of your transmission. Try typing websdr into Google.

Here's a UK one for HF:-   http://hackgreensdr.org:8901/

Here's one in Farnham, Surrey covering LF, VHF/UHF and 10GHz:-   http://websdr.suws.org.uk/

and one in the Netherlands:     http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/

For Software Defined Radio (SDR) programs that run on your pc and need I/Q input from your receiver or dongle, there is HDSDR and SDR#.

HDSDR is a freeware SDR program for Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10. Typical applications are Amateur Radio, Radio Astronomy, and Spectrum analysis.

SDR# was much used in conjunction with the RTL type dongle RTL2832U. A number of changes have been made to the software and the changes can be reviewed here:-

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/tag/sdrsharp/


Real-time data

Possibly the most useful sites are those providing near real-time information on QSOs being made now. The one I use is the dxmaps site which covers LF, HF, VHF and microwaves. The site provides output as a list or a map, updated every few minutes, and there is a database with a flexible query function for looking at past contacts. To see a map of European QSOs on 50MHz, try this:-

http://www.dxmaps.com/spots/map.php?Lan=E&Frec=50&ML=M&Map=EU&DXC=S&HF=N&GL=N

The ON4KST site is a major help for long distance paths on the more difficult bands such as 160m and VHF/UHF/Microwaves. The site provides a cluster list and map on the same page as a chat facility. This allows you to converse with others to establish contact or to exchange other relevant information. You will have to register to use the site. See

http://www.on4kst.com/chat/start.php

The other important area of real-time data is that relating to propagation conditions. This site summarises current solar data and indices plus geomagnetic predictions:-

http://dx.qsl.net/propagation/

For those interested in auroral effects (both good and bad), online magnetometers offer an instant picture of disturbances. For UK amateurs there is GM4PMK's observatory on the Isle of Mull:-

http://www.marsport.org.uk/observatory/index.php

and for the wider European situation, try the Kiruna magnetometer in Sweden:-

http://www.irf.se//Observatory/?link[Magnetometers]=On-line_sp_access

Propagation through the troposhere will be of interest to those interested in longer range contacts on VHF, UHF and microwaves. Although not real time, these two sites - Hepburn and F5LEN - specialise in predicting ducting events which can enhance such paths:-

http://www.dxinfocentre.com/tropo_nwe.html

http://tropo.f5len.org/forecasts-for-europe/

and finally for this category the Met Office provides the well known weather “now-casting” site:-

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/observation/map/gcn57f71q#?zoom=9&lat=51.21&lon=-2.64&map=Rainfall&fcTime=1450063800


General information

Who/where is that station:-

http://www.qrz.com/

VHF and microwave beacons in list form or as a map :-

http://www.beaconspot.eu/beacons.php

50MHz beacons:-

http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/por/50.htm

Repeaters:-

http://www.ukrepeater.net/index.html


Operating – data modes

Many programs are available for data modes, so I will just pick two. I first found IZ8BLY's programs for MFSK, MT63 and Hellschreiber back in 2002, and they are still maintained here:-

http://antoninoporcino.xoom.it/

Hellschreiber is an interesting mode and well worth trying. For weak signal paths (eg to New Zealand) I found Hellschreiber worked reasonably but that MFSK was the best mode for that path.

Fldigi is a program for most of the digital modes used by radio amateurs today: CW, PSK, MFSK, RTTY, Hell, DominoEX, Olivia, and Throb are all supported. See

http://www.w1hkj.com/


Operating – weak signal data modes

WSJT, MAP65, WSPR, and WSJT-X are open-source programs designed for weak-signal digital communication by amateur radio. WSJT ("Weak Signal Communication, by K1JT") offers specific digital protocols optimized for EME (moonbounce), meteor scatter, and ionospheric scatter, at VHF/UHF, as well as for HF skywave propagation. The program can decode fraction-of-a-second signals reflected from ionized meteor trails and steady signals 10 dB below the audible threshold.

All these programs can be found at

http://www.physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/index.html


Operating - maps

Two sites to show you a map for a given Maidenhead locator:-

http://no.nonsense.ee/qth/map.html

http://qthlocator.free.fr/index.php

and a site for locator conversion tools:-

http://www.sk6aw.net/menu/locator/?lang=en

The Tiny Locator program from ON6MU is a free download and tells you the distance and direction to a given Maidenhead locator.

http://users.belgacom.net/hamradio/tinylocator.htm

A World atlas with dxcc territories, grid squares, zones, grey lines, local time etc is included in DX Atlas. Free trial for 30 days, then $29.95 – here:

http://www.dxatlas.com/


Operating - Logging

There are many options here, see for example the list at

http://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Software/Logging/

Logger32 has been developed to be a highly user configurable general purpose Amateur Radio logbook with computer control support for many radios and antenna rotators. It is not a contesting log, although it could be used for such.

http://www.logger32.net/


Operating - Contest logging

For logging during RSGB VHF contests, the easy solution is Minos which includes the latest rule changes and a calendar for the current year's contests. It can be downloaded here:-

http://minos.sourceforge.net/

SD by EI5DI is a logging program for HF contests and costs 20 Euro to register. There is also a version for VHF called SDV which is a free download.

http://www.ei5di.com/

N1MM provides a huge amount of functionality (maybe too much?) for contest logging:-

http://n1mm.hamdocs.com/tiki-index.php


QSL through the web

Instead of spending money on printing and posting QSL cards, you can register with eQSL and send and receive cards to your desktop.

There are several tiers of membership depending on the facilities required, eg using a pre-designed card or one you design yourself. See

http://www.eqsl.cc/qslcard/index.cfm


Specialist groups for 6m and 4m

The UK Six Metre Group -

http://www.uksmg.org/landing.php

and the Four Metres website:-

http://www.70mhz.org/


CW training

The cw training programs I use are from F8EHO and G4FON:-

http://www.f8eho.net/?q=content/downloads

http://www.g4fon.net/CW%20Trainer.htm

The best way to use them (I'm told) is to set the speed to rather more than you can cope with, so you only copy a couple of letters per word, and concentrate on it for no more than 10 minutes per day. Repeat the next day until your speed improves.


Signal processing and analysis

Audacity is a free sound editing and recording program which has won awards and exceeded 80million downloads. You can convert files between .wav and .mp3 for example, and process the audio by all kinds of effects such as fading in or out, changing speed or tempo, adding echo etc. See:-

http://audacityteam.org/

For spectral analysis of audio signals, Spectrumlab from DL4YHF is a very versatile program with several features aimed at amateurs. The latest version 2.90 may not work under Vista, but I have a version (v2.76b1) which works ok in W7. Try it out at

http://www.qsl.net/dl4yhf/spectra1.html

Spectran is a program to do real time or deferred spectral analysis / waterfall display, in addition to real time audio filtering (band pass, denoising, band reject and CW peaking) of audio signals, using the PC sound card to digitize the input analog signal, or taking as input a WAV file. Its characteristics are well suited to dig weak signals buried into noise, thanks to a selectable bin size down to 21 millihertz.

http://www.weaksignals.com/

Oscilloscope on your desktop – some of you have seen this in action, it's quite effective for audio frequencies. I use Soundcard Scope which has a dual beam scope facility to display the left and right hand channels of a stereo input, or to display it as an X-Y plot. It includes a useful signal generator (100Hz to 10kHz).

https://www.zeitnitz.eu/scope_en

There is also Zelscope:-

http://www.zelscope.com/index.html


Antenna design

MMANA-GAL is an antenna-analyzing tool based on the moment method, which was introduced in MININEC. The user specifies the geometry of the antenna and the frequency, and the program simulates the antenna, providing plots of directivity in both azimuth and elevation together with gain, impedance, and SWR.

http://hamsoft.ca/pages/mmana-gal.php


Circuit analysis and design

Elsie is an electrical filter design and analysis program. It simulates filter types including Butterworth, Chebyshev, Bessel, Gaussian, and Cauer. Depending on the type selected, the user can specify the desired centre frequency, bandwidth, impedance, passband ripple, and stopband depth.

The program is very versatile, allowing the user to select common component values, displaying the results in graphical form under user control, and editing the schematic as required. The free student edition is quite adequate for most purposes.

http://tonnesoftware.com/elsie.html

Tonne software provide several useful programs – see

http://tonnesoftware.com/

I like Meter basic for the design and print of professional quality meter scales; and JJSmith which replaces the classic paper Smith chart and helps with impedance matching.

For more advanced circuit analysis and design there is QUCS – Quite Universal Circuit Simulator.

Qucs is an integrated circuit simulator which means you are able to setup a circuit with a graphical user interface (GUI) and simulate the large-signal, small-signal and noise behaviour of the circuit.

http://qucs.sourceforge.net/

Sonnet is a tool for microwave circuit design – see

http://www.sonnetsoftware.com/products/lite/

For schematic design and PCB layout I investigated a number of programs. I found some that were very capable but far too expensive for one-off developments. I also found some that required other operating systems such as Unix, or imposed unacceptable limits on board size. One program that did meet my requirements was the one from Expresspcb. It has both a schematic capture program ExpressSCH and a PCB design program ExpressPCB. These programs are free – the company is using them as a way of attracting customers to its board manufacturing business. This is a useful feature if you want high quality and quantity production later. I found the programs to work well, with good user documentation.

http://www.expresspcb.com/


Conclusion

There's lots to discover on the web and the self-training and education continues! I hope you enjoy some of the facilities and resources listed.