mAT-705 Judged Too Soon?

The post I made about the mAT-705 antenna tuner was a bit rough on the unit in retrospect. I regretted the purchase because the mAT-705+ came out shortly thereafter and answered my issue of having to pull the thing apart in a rather perilous manner to replace the battery by adding in a USB-C rechargeable battery. But what they took away with this design is perhaps the most important piece of my personal puzzle.

They removed the power switch.

Sure, I’ve seen complaints online that people forget to turn it off and then the battery runs out and you have to change it in the field, which again, is perilous. But that power switch is its own kind of superpower. To quote from their product site:

When the frequency does not change, the user can directly turn off the power without affecting the use. In order to save power to the greatest extent, the tuner directly uses switching control power. Does not consume any power when shutting down.

http://www.mat-tuner.com/mAT-705.php

That means that the other day when I was messing around in the yard, that I was right. Once things are tuned, I can turn off the power and, well, it’s good! For digital field operations, this is pretty sweet as anything that reduces power consumption is by it’s very nature a good thing. It’s a little puzzling that they pulled the switch from the design when adding the rechargeable battery, but then again, there’s only so much real estate in that tiny box and the size is part of the attraction. I don’t have the plus model, but I think I might have deeper buyer’s remorse with that one. And this little revelation after reading a post over on OH8STN has me thinking that I might be happy with where I am. After all, the performance of the tuner is great and the size and weight are selling points for me.

This tuner is the essence of ham radio. It’s a compromise. It tunes perfectly and quickly. It works really well with the IC-705. But the compromises are all over the place and are obvious after a little time in the backyard, I think.

More updates as I get more time in the field soon.

Thoughts on FT8 Hate

As a newbie to the world of ham radio, some things have been pretty obvious to me that might be missed by those who are steeped in its traditions. One of those is the love/hate relationship between computers and ham radio operators. I think most who are even mildly interested in keeping a log appreciate the flexibility of many logging programs. A significant number of them integrate with radios out of the box and capture pertinent details for logging. I personally love that my computer grabs a contact and pushes it to LotW without my intervention.

But in my experience, when the talk turns away from the computer as an administrative assistant and toward the digital modes, the tenor changes. For emergency communication? Sure! Great idea! But for a QSO? Well, you get a few side glances. And then FT8 comes up and the hate is suddenly on display.

My stated goal was to avoid using computers with radio. I wanted to have a hobby that didn’t touch computers because I work with them all day. Staring at screens kinda sucks. And I love tweaking knobs and listening carefully (why yes, I did work on synthesizers for my degree! Why do you ask?). I didn’t want another reason to stare at the glow. That was before I understood, through practical experience, the cycles of our solar entity and the flat out bummer of being at the bottom of a solar cycle.

Yeah. It was hard to get out. I was in a noisy city with power lines everywhere and on the middle of a hill in an urban area and…things were not optimal for making contacts over voice. An attic dipole can only do so much at the elevation available to me and that was the state of things. I certainly made the most of VHF/UHF, but I didn’t do much at all with HF.

And then I met FT8.

WSJT-X is a simple enough application, but it is not without subtlety. And what I learned by simply watching for a long time was a great lesson in propagation. Then I did my first CQ. I was received at about -17dB and someone heard me out in WI. It was amazing. I was being heard in Europe and South America! All the way out to Alaska! It was really, really exciting to be able to hit these other stations who might very well have been wrestling with the same kinds of constraints and issues that I faced.

Simply put, it was a lot of fun! And I was on the air! On HF!

Imagine my surprise when I came across an opinion in QST saying that FT8 was going to kill ham radio. What? Another killer of ham radio? Imagine that! And then a cartoon with the figure saying, “Alexa, make me a contact on FT8.” I know that it’s supposed to be silly or even a little funny, but in truth, it felt like someone was trying to take the fun out of my experience.

Of course seasoned operators knew about solar cycles and had plenty of fun back in the day when contacts were easy to come by in any mode. So maybe poking at fun at the new kid was just an easy laugh. But for those of us who got licensed during this time, well, it was a little less funny. I mean, we have FT8 and not much other hope of reaching Asia from Ohio or Pennsylvania. Sure, in 2021 things are looking up. But in 2018? Not so much.

I was contemplating this aloud on mastodon.radio not long ago and someone mentioned another thought about digital modes: no one hears your voice. Let’s set aside CW for a moment simply because a new ham is going to need some time to get into that and for some it might not be an option (but please do remind me that new hams aren’t real because we’re all “NO CODE HAMZ”). But digital modes only take a computer, which most hams have, and a rig. And no one hears your voice. I didn’t quite get why that mattered. And that’s why it matters.

I’m a big guy. People hear my voice and they assume I’m male, white, and probably a host of other things. And they’re likely right. I’ve met a few women who are hams and I don’t know if it’s just me, but always being referred to as “YL” or “XYL” might not be endearing. And being very direct, I’m not sure that I’ve known more than 10 or so hams of color here in the states. It might be that it’s more than mic fright keeping someone away from keying up. I have heard some pretty dreadful stuff on random afternoons ‘roud about 20m on phone.

Those are big assumptions, again, coming from a big, white dude. But I have to allow for that possibility, right? And in those cases, a digital mode takes us to the same place as the internet. Remember: on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog! I would link to the cartoon, but that’s more key clicks than I’m into today.

Under analysis, the hate for FT8 falls apart. Using this mode, an operator can make contact with stations all over the world even in horrible conditions. An operator can also learn a great deal about propagation as patterns emerge over days or weeks. It lends itself quickly to the adoption of things like JS8Call for more free-form QSOs and even other digital modes where communication is more than signal report. Most importantly, someone can have fun with radio and that’s what it’s about, right? It’s a hobby with many facets. Enjoy the ones you do, and avoid the ones you don’t. But there’s no reason to take shots at something that someone else enjoys simply because it’s not for you.

IC-705 WLAN with WSJT-X

With the usual tip of the cap to OH8STN I dug in on the v1.24 firmware of the IC-705 to rid my field setup of yet another cable. I think I’m about as close to field nirvana as I’m going to get. So what did I do and what did I learn?

First off, I have to say that I totally gave up on some things. Being in Ham Radio as a hobbiest with limited time means that I had to re-examine the three legged stool principle. What’s that? Well, there are three legs: Time, Money, and Scope. In this case, my scope is QRP operation on primarily digital modes at the park or while I’m camping. My time is, as I’ve mentioned in the past, very valuable to me and is a fixed amount. I do keep a close eye on my hobby budget and I’m not made of money. That said, if I wanted to keep pushing for a Raspberry Pi based solution, I was going to need a lot more time for fiddling with computers and that leads to less time for operating because I don’t have blocks of time for both. So I followed the lead of the mighty OH8STN and got a Surface Go 2. I will say that the world of Ham Radio operators has embraced the Raspberry Pi and GNU/Linux, but at the end of the day, most of the software that works with minimal time investment lives on Windows. Maybe someday…when I have a bit more time?

So what were the ingredients?

  • IC-705 patched to v1.24 firmware
  • Microsoft Surface Go 2
  • ICOM RS-BA1 Version 2 at the latest version
  • WSJT-X

That’s it. Now, what did I do?

First, I turned on the WLAN feature of the IC-705 and set it to Access Point Mode. This broadcasts an SSID of my choice and has a password requirement for joining that network. I spent a lot of time playing with this feature alone as I was hopeful that I could use the IC-705 as an access point for more than one device. After all, it’s just handing out an address and maybe acting as a low-functioning router given that there is no internet capability in this mode. But sadly, only one device can be attached to the IC-705 at a time based on my experiments. This constraint is not anywhere I could find in the documentation and it might be so simple that it’s not worth noting. But I had some ideas…and they’ll have to wait.

With the Access Point mode engaged, I set up the Connections menu to have MOD as WLAN. This means that audio as well as rig control commands will come and go over Wi-Fi. Easy enough.

IC-705 Menu for setting MOD to WLAN

Then we go over to the computer. I connected the computer to the SSID of the IC-705 under the usual Wi-Fi networking panel. I don’t think that the docs for setting up the connection software are particularly cumbersome. Once the software is installed, the connection utililty is launched and the user is left to fill in the blanks on the device that is the server and in that respect it’s not any more difficult than attaching any other device to a basestation. If you leave all of the defaults alone, the connection should Just Work.

When setting up the connection utility, there is the option of selecting a name for the virtual COM port. I chose COM1 because that’s what the software picked for me and I’m not attached to these kinds of things. With that done, one can launch WSJT-X and set the rig to IC-705, the port to COM1 (or whatever you chose), and then set the audio to the ICOM Virtual Audio port. Not really a huge difference here when compared to setting it up for use over a USB connection, though you do need to change the COM port and the audio port depending on your connection.

BUT!

There’s always a “But”…

Deep in the undocumented bowels of the connection utility, there is a button. Actually, it’s right up front and, in my opinion, poorly defined. It says [MOD]. Push that button. In the resulting dialog box, there is an area called [MOD Select]. It defaults to “Mic – Default Device” when what I really needed was “V Audio – ICOM_VAUDIO-1”. Special thanks to SM0TGU on the IC-705 groups.io list for pointing me in the right direction.

Before I was gifted with this configuration information, I was running WSJT-X and receiving just fine but unable to send audio. That is to say, the rig went to TX but had no sound to send. In fact, the whole reason for this post was to highlight this for later when I inevitably have to rebuild my setup from scratch. Now, with that option selected, everything was a GO!

ICOM Remote Utility Dialog for MOD Select

I made a contact not minutes later with W1LEM on 40m using my attic dipole. Not bad!

WSJT-X QSO with W1LEM

This is all great, but isn’t it just chasing a weird little feature for digital modes?

No. This removes the USB cable from the equasion and with it a lot of potential noise. My Surface isn’t awful, but I’ve used laptops that seemed to be purpose built for throwing off RF and noise. It’s also a neater solution. At this point, the only cables I will have in play will be auxillary power to the IC-705 from my battery box, the ATU, and the ATU control cable. All of those things can sit in a pile (for the most part) or in/on my pack while I use any number of digital modes or even a bluetooth headset for phone contacts from almost anywhere at my operating point or campsite. It’s amazing.

I have another post I’m working up on my antenna setup (a wire in a tree vs. the MP1 Super Antenna). I will also be keeping a better log of work in the field (even if that’s just my backyard) with the IC-705 and this setup.

I hope this is helpful! 73!

mAT-705 – Accessory Detour

The mAT-705 next to the IC-705 (on a tripod)

Antenna tuners are a thing to have, right? If you’re going to use a less than adequate antenna or just a random piece of wire, a tuner is going to come in handy. At home, I have an attic dipole that’s strung from one side of the attic to the other. I usually use my LDG tuner for that with my IC-7100. I have the LDG Z-11 Pro II and it’s awesome. It’s got a battery clip inside that eats a pile of AAs, it runs off of rig power, and it’s not too cumbersome, but I was really looking for a more portable option. The mAT-705, made specifically for use with the IC-705, looked like a pretty good idea. These are my initial impressions of that piece of gear.

Pros. The box is small and rugged. It fits in an admin pouch on my backpack or can be dropped into any number of waterproof boxes that I have for use when I’m outdoors. It’s got BNC connectors and a single 1/8″ TRS cable to connect it to the IC-705. It tunes up FAST and works really, really well in my testing so far. That’s using both my attic dipole and the MP1 Super Antenna. It’s definitely the right size and it hits all the right notes when it comes to being a solid tuner.

Cons. Well, the bummer is in changing the battery. I honestly hope that I never have to do this in the field. It takes a 9v battery that is in a most unfortunate position. Take a look:

The guts of the mAT-705 tuner.

To replace the battery, that entire assembly has to come out. In the manual, it mentions removing the rear 4 screws and pulling it out. That’s great if it works. But the battery fits in very tightly. That means taking off the front panel to push a bit to get it out. It doesn’t feel good to do this. It’s not a simple sliding motion. On the one hand, it’s great that it doesn’t slide around in the case, but it does make changing the battery feel treacherous. I’ll also add that for someone who regularly breaks things because he forgets that not everything responds well to torque, I have to really think it through.

Another downer with this is that the panel one is supposed to tug on is attached only by the BNC solder joints. Again, not instilling confidence.

Solder joints connecting the panel to the PCB.

If it turns out that the battery lasts for a long time, this won’t be something that I sweat very often. But if I find myself doing this more than once a year, I might figure out a way to power it externally because snapping that PCB would be a bummer.

There are Pros and Cons. What are the things that just sap the joy out of opening a piece of gear? I don’t know what to call them, but I’ll list the two that hit me.

One of them is a dead battery. Yeah, the battery was dead out of the box. This is how I discovered the pain of opening the case so soon upon receiving it. The other killjoy was finding that the enclosed allen wrench didn’t work. It was slightly too small to turn the screws. That was frustrating. Almost frustrating enough to return it, if I’m completely honest.

What’s the net? It’s a solid tuner. I have confidence that it will be great for my particular purposes. Knowing what I know now, would I suggest it to another new IC-705 owner? Maybe.

My particular requirements are tied to my lifestyle. I’m a dad and husband living through a rather singular pandemic who doesn’t have a ton of time for his hobbies. When I do get a chance to get out and play with my radio, I have to be ready to go. It feels like emergency readiness, but it’s more relaxation readiness. If I have to pull any component out of my desktop chain to get out the door, that comes out of the minutes that I’m not on the air or heading to the field. So I feel like the mAT-705 is going to be very helpful on that front. It’s small, light, and can live in my backpack waiting patiently for me to get out the door.

I will continue to update my thoughts on this piece of gear as I get out more in the coming months. I want to give it a fair shake.

IC-705 – Part 3: GPS

Your IC-705 will NOT look like this when you’re getting GPS data.

I’m slowly stepping my way through all that the IC-705 has to offer. I still consider myself quite a new ham, so there are features that I know little about that I’m starting to have a lot of fun with. But for a moment, I’m going to indulge something that I’m really getting geared up for this winter: field operation.

In my part of the world, it gets quite cold in the winter. I’m not one to shy away from that and I do indeed love hiking and camping all winter long. Especially if it’s quiet and there is some degree of solitude. In these Strange Times, it’s sometimes nice to take a minute and step outside where we can enjoy the absence of certain things. But there’s no reason I can’t take my radio along, right? And there really shouldn’t be any reason that, given my recent acquisition, I shouldn’t take my radio hobby along for the hike.

There are a lot of operators out there who are far better at field operation than I. OH8STN is definitely one of them and I follow his work closely. The sentiment we share is that in 2020 a radio should do everything with one wire – if there has to be a cable at all. There’s no reason that a single USB cable shouldn’t carry with it all the power of the radio. And with the IC-705, it does.

I wrote before about syncing a laptop’s time using my Kenwood TH-D74 so that the clock is as accurate as it can be for modes like FT8. That still works and it can be done over bluetooth. But I’m not using the TH-D74 for FT8 and I’m already plugged into the IC-705 which has a GPS, so why not leverage that?

This whole entry is more of a way for me to remember what I did to get to the point where it worked and less about trying to teach anyone anything. There are many links to places that taught me what I know. But here are the high points.

The IC-705 really only needs one bit of configuration.

SET > Connectors > USB (B) Function -> GPS Out -> ON

Thanks to Ryan on the IC-705 groups.io list for reminding me of that. See also Painful Radio UI/UX.

With the GPS turned on and that setting in play, the unit will push data out via the USB as soon as it has acquired a lock. A trick? In my experience, it will come out as the port that does NOT do rig control. Every operating system does this differently and you can’t necessarily predict which device will show up where (even when you tell the OS to honor your setup) so it’s good to know that there’s a difference and not get frustrated and stare at a screen for an hour like someone I know.

Hmm…

Now on the computer side, it’s a question of finding some software that will listen to a GPS and go from there. I used GPS2Time on Windows and gpsd on my Raspberry Pi. You can get all the instruction you need from VK4ADC’s site for GPS2Time and THIS is a great tutorial on getting things going with the Raspberry Pi. Though I will caution you to double check the device that is configured for chrony. That tutorial names a device and you just need to confirm that the one you need is the one you configure. Or again, you’ll be staring at a screen like our friend.

So far, everything seems to be working exactly as I would like. It also gets me down to a single connection to the computer. In 2020 that is definitely as it should be.

More Bags

OK, OK, OK… My wife tells me that I have a “Bag Problem.” I like to think of it as having the right tool for the job. That said, I’ve been playing around with a million different configurations of my existing collection to find a good solution to the problem of how to carry the IC-705.

After looking at a ton of pictures of other portable operators’ load-outs, I saw that there was an item that kept showing up. It was a cylinder that was used by some for camera lenses and others for electronics. As it turns out, it’s a “Tactical Water Bottle Holder.”

Yeah. A “Tactical” water bottle holder. And it can hold a bottle of wine, too!

The point is, when I saw it, I knew that it was perfect for the IC-705. I ordered it up and it fit perfectly. There is enough padding to it to protect the radio. It also has enough room for the mic and some other cables. On the front of the bag, there’s a pouch that could hold an antenna tuner like the MAT-705 or a notebook or more cables. Also, it attaches to the side of my sling pack nicely using the molle system on the sling. It’s really a great solution!

One more time… Tactical Water Bottle Holder.

The IC-705 side by side with the bag.
The IC-705 in the bag with the hand mic.

I will definitely share more if I make changes to this. But for now, I’m going to let this solution of the water bottle bag with my Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger.

Sling and Water Bottle Bag

Carrying Things Around

I love bags. I really do. I have different shapes and sizes for a number of applications. I skew toward Kelty for backpacks for camping because they seem to fit me well. I have a Maxpedition sling that I like for grab and go applications. I also have some no-name bags that I take kayaking or when I just need something slightly larger than a pouch but smaller than a sling for something like my phone, first aid kit, flashlight, and knife. I’ve struggled to find a good way to carry my HT in the field. It’s easy enough to clip it on when it’s on, but for transit, I’d like it to have some kind of minimal protection from bouncing against other things or being dropped by a kid.

After looking at what I could do with my IC-705, I stumbled on lens bags for cameras. I picked up a four pack that has four very different sizes. One of them was small enough for me to stuff my Zumspot in for transfer to the field for JOTA. It felt good to have just a bit of insurance there. I have another, larger lens bag that does hold the IC-705. That keeps the screen safe at least and allows me to toss it into the backpack with the Super Antenna without sweating too much. As a bonus, one of them was the perfect size to hold my TH-D74 with it’s hand mic.

TH-D74 and hand mic outside of the lens case.
TH-D74 and hand mic wrapped up.

These bags aren’t perfect. They aren’t going to act like a hard case. They aren’t waterproof. They aren’t crushproof – or even crush-resistant. But again, they keep things from scratching or taking too much abuse as they bump together in the pack. So for a controlled event like JOTA where all I needed to do was get from home to camp to the site for the station, it was great. If I had to really pack the Jeep with other people’s stuff or dogs I don’t think I’d be as happy with the solution.

I’m still really looking at how to take my IC-705 into the field. I’ve seen camera systems that would be great, but I feel like that’s taking things over the top. I do have a soft spot for packs that let me hang things off of them and have many compartments, so who can tell? I’ll come back to this as I kick up my field operations.

Radio UI/UX Thoughts

I’m taking a lot of notes on the IC-705 as I get acquainted with it. I did this when I got my TH-D74 and it served me well. I keep a little notebook around or throw bits and pieces into my notetaking software with tags so that I can find it later. What is emerging for me is an interesting pattern: I write down the menu paths to the functions that I use most.

Let me say that again: I write down the menu paths to the functions that I use most.

Why do I do that? Well, we can say that I don’t remember things very well or that I’m somehow coming up short in really learning the interface. But that’s not entirely true, is it? The truth is that ham radio interfaces are hostile toward their end user. This isn’t a surprise to anyone, I’m sure, but for a device that at one time had a brutally simple, physical interface (knobs, switches, wires, etc.) it has taken a turn toward obscure and opaque methods of applying even the simplest of settings.

Examples? There are a bundle of them. I have to remember that I can only be on the A band selector on my TH-D74 if I want to use D-STAR. Where is that indicated? In the manual. Sort of. Where is the Squelch setting on my IC-705? Press the knob, then touch the screen, then adjust via the knob, then dismiss with the knob. What about the output power setting? Function hard button to 2 soft button to MAX TX PWR setting and back out via function hard button.

I can’t even talk about my “disposable” Baofeng HT or my DMR HT or my mobile rig in the Jeep.

We will also set aside for another day the fact that all of the rig programming software that I’ve used (those provided by manufacturers as well as free or paid solutions) reek of the sample code one would find in a “Learn Visual C++ in 24 Hours” book back in 1998 and do very little to improve the experience of programming a radio. Hooking up a grid to a CSV file is not a user interface. More on that in another post…

In writing this up I was thinking about my IC-7100 and why I don’t have as much trouble going from HF SSB Phone to DV to HF Digital to VHF/UHF. The simple truth is that my brain adjusted to the dysfunction of that interface far better than it did to any other. And that’s the sad truth of it: I like ICOM’s UI/UX best because they are broken in a way that I can cope with more easily.

I don’t like to use smartphones or mobile operating systems as a model for how a user should interface with a device, but they are proof that one can make it easy enough for a wide variety of people with differing skill levels to execute fairly complex tasks repeatedly and with little friction. So maybe it’s not all bad and I’m sure there’s something to learn there.

Let’s think about a radio like the IC-705. It has hard buttons, a touch screen, and several knobs that can also be pressed. With so many elements available, why does it take so long to get to the functions that I’m using the most? Perhaps we could steal something from smartphones and allow people to set the top level of soft buttons on the touch screen. That would mean that if I’m in the field and need to drill into something quickly, I could simply assign it to the top level and have it right there. Everyone is going to use this radio a little diffently, so why not give the UI the ability to be personalized?

This feels more critical for mobile radios than for desktops if only because an HT has limited physical real estate and overloading buttons and combining them with modifiers quickly loses a user. Doubly so as they will likely be using it while walking or standing somewhere and maybe even trying to use it one-handed. A rig like the IC-705 suffers for the same reason, though I doubt anyone is trying to fiddle with it while walking.

If I had comments turned on and anyone actually read this blog, I might get some noise about how I sound like an appliance operator and I should roll up my sleeves and use my head and a bunch of other non-productive rhetoric. I will say that I expect that with my uBitx or my Phaser kits. Or even my homebrew experiments. But when I slap down the plastic and take home a box and open it, I don’t think that it’s too much to ask to have a little more polish in the product than what I get when I solder something together myself.

I want to be clear: So far, I love my IC-705. It’s checking off all of the boxes that I hoped it would. And my TH-D74 is always at hand (ha!). But this is 2020. There is a wealth of information and plenty of solid practice around UI/UX. It is a real shame that it’s not leveraged in complex devices like these when it would truly remove some friction from operating them and improve the amount of fun one can have.

Be Prepared

IC-705 with homebrew battery box

“Be Prepared” is the Scout Motto. It’s not the slogan. The slogan is, “Do A Good Turn Daily.” The difference is important. Both are important, but it’s hard to do a good turn if you aren’t prepared.

I’ve done the Jamboree On The Air with my kids for the last 2 years. We never really planned anything with a larger group because of my rig and the hassle factor of my shack at the old QTH. But with the addition of my new toy to my collection and my wife taking over my daughter’s Webelos Den and a very old friend of mine being the Cub Master, it seems that my time to shine has come. I’m going to toss the IC-705 and my homebrew battery box into the Jeep and get some kids on the air.

In talking with my buddy, the problems that they have had in the past included JOTA coinciding with a contest or simply being unable to get hold of anyone. There could be nothing worse than teaching a kid about radio and then not having anyone to talk to, so that risk needs to be pulled from the equasion.

Last night, I jumped on the air from my kitchen. Why the kitchen? So I’d know that I had everything I needed and didn’t have something propping me up that wouldn’t be in the field. In the even that I can’t get anyone on HF or for some reason can’t hit a repeater, I will have my Zumspot with me tethered to my iPhone. What does that do? It opens up the world of D-STAR.

We had a lot of fun with JOTA and D-STAR last year. My daughter talked to Scouts in New Mexico, Columbia, and Costa Rica. We’ve talked to Scouts all over the states and in Canada as well. The best part is that REF033A is dedicated to JOTA. So you can make a contact and slide over to another reflector to talk. It’s clear signal and you’re almost guaranteed a contact.

The test from the kitchen to my dad worked well. We’ll have him out at the PCARS club site on the day of the Jamboree to man the HF station (maybe we’ll get him on 40m!) or the repeater. And if that fails, off to D-STAR we go.

And we will be cautious. Masks for all Scouts per the guidelines. Gloves to operate the mic and a good alcohol swabbing between users just to be extra sure. Being outdoors is the key! Gotta keep that air flowing. Hopefully, we’ll have some fun, learn a few things, and make some new friends on the air.

IC-705 – Part 2: FT8

The adventures with the IC-705 continue!

This week, I installed the most recent release candidate for FT8. It contains a listing for the IC-705 so it doesn’t have to be spoofed. The application ran fine for me on my Windows 10 laptop. The radio did exactly what it should do and I got my first contact on 40m while set to 5 watts and running through my attic dipole antenna.

First FT8 contact with the IC-705. Thanks K9JLX!

No complications. No fiddling. It just worked. And yes, that is a pleasant surprise!

I also got the latest release candidate for FT8 running on my little (newly) Linux WinBook. There was a bit more fiddling to figure out what the IC-705 comes up as in the audio settings. Remember, kids: arecord -l will list all recording interfaces and you can fake it from there. Kind of. In any case, I didn’t make any contacts, but I heard stations and I was heard over on https://pskreporter.info which means I’m getting out! I’m hoping that this combination makes an excellent field setup for FT8. I plan to test that assertion this weekend.

I’m not quite a week in, so I’m trying to save my impressions until I’ve gotten through enough of my use cases for the rig. I will say that it’s a challenge having this unit before many have had any experience with it and posted about it. The manual lacks actual sample configurations for some things and that makes it difficult to validate issues that I’m experiencing (especially with fancy things like D-Star). There’s a great mailing list over on groups.io for the IC-705, but again, the posts only go back so far and there’s not a lot of practical operating advice just yet.

To recap, I now have the following use cases checked off:

  • Connect to D-Star HotSpot
  • Complete a contact via RF repeater
  • FT8 contact on HF

So what’s next?

  • Get out in the field with the Super Antenna MP1C and try to make a contact
  • Prepare for JOTA so that the Scouts can get on the air via UHF/VHF repeater, HF, or D-Star

That’s a lot of “experimenting” (read: playing) to do.