I headed out this afternoon (with my patient wife in-tow) to a quiet parking lot on Davidson Rd to give the antennas another shot in another part of town. After stringing up the G5RV lite, I managed to tune the SWR down on 20m and dialed in 14.070 with success. The Ft-857D was pulling far-off signals out of the air nicely. I connected my little netbook to the radio via the auxiliary sound output and fired up Fldigi. After some levels adjustments, etc, I was decoding PSK-31 traffic. There was still a lot of noise in general, though I suspect that is a result of using a dipole and not a more directional antenna system.
After lots of fiddling and so forth, I managed to make a PSK-31 contact in a very low-tech, red-neck kind of way: I simply held the microphone a few inches away from the netbook speakers, held the PTT and clicked “transmit”. I admit it is far from elegant, however, it did net me a very brief QSO with SM6UQL in Sweden, representing a contact of approximately 5700km. Going forward, I think I will make an isolating sound-card interface cable since my likely choices of radio lie between the FT-857D and the FT-897D. I am still not sure which radio best represents what I am looking for, though I am getting used to the ergonomics of the FT-857D and its menu-driven system.
After some more playing, the bands appeared to be suffering from QRN. I switched over to JT65 and “listened” for a while. The signals did appear to fade in and out quite badly, but despite adverse conditions, I made contact with G8BKE on 14.076 at 1836UTC.
Things are looking up for me! I hope to have another chance to try out the radio setup again soon – this hands-on opportunity is something I really should try to take full advantage of (thanks Bob!). Perhaps I’ll have another couple of quality time with the air-waves soon.