FT8 and other digital modes with ICOM 718

I have built a DIY interface for my ICOM 718 HF radio to send and receive audio signals to a laptop computer and control the PTT keying, for use with various digital modes such as FT8. I used a USB sound card for the audio interface, and a USB-to-serial port adapter for PPT keying. The audio output of ICOM 718 (from speaker out or Pin 12 in the accessories port) connects to the microphone in of the sound card (pink port, microphone port). The audio output of the sound card (green port, headphones port) connects to Pin 11 of the ICOM 718’s accessories port. The USB-to-serial port is then configured in the settings tab of the software WSJT-X to send pulses to the the serial port’s RTS pin, which then controls a BC547 transistor to key the PTT (Pin 3 in ICOM 718’s accessories port) when transmitting a signal.

The circuit board of the USB sound card and the USB-to-serial adapter are then removed from their housing and soldered directly on to a USB hub. This configuration allows both modules to work with just one USB port of the laptop. I then put everything inside the metal casing of the radio, in a section protected from radio interference. To operate in digital modes, I only need to connect one USB cable from the radio.

During my initial tests, I was able to contact a station in Brazil (South America), from the Philippines, at 21.074 MHz (15 meters), using a 40-meter band center-fed dipole wire antenna resonant to the 15-meter band.

To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


DUCWNET conducts Philippine Morse Code Net

DUCWNET aims to keep the CW (Continuous Wave) spirit alive by conducting daily nets and training aspiring operators to communicate using Morse Code. It is an amateur radio activity supported by the Philippine Amateur Radio Association (PARA) and Morse Code enthusiasts based in the Philippines.

DUCWNET has the following objectives:
1. Set a CW common ground in DU land
2. Encourage beginners to practice and exercise CW
3. Make the local amateur radio community become aware
that CW is not dead in the Philippines
4. Train younger CW operators to be successors
in training future CW operators

Operators of varying levels of Morse Code proficiency are welcome to join the DUCWNET, from beginners at 5WPM to seasoned CW operators who could communicate at speeds above 15WPM. The usual Morse Code net speed is about 15WPM but adjusts to the word speed of the station checking in. Below is a sample exchange during a typical DUCWNET:

QRL?  QRL? V V V VVV (Is this frequency in use? Testing, testing)
CQ CQ CQ DE PARA DUCWNET (Calling any station, this is the PARA DUCWNET Morse Code net)
ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN THE PARA DUCWNET (Invites all stations to join the net)
THIS IS DU1AU UR NCS NW, MY NAME IS ANTHONY, (Identifies the current net control station)
ES QTH IS BACOOR. (Identifies the net control station’s location)
QNI QRU QRZ? PSE K (Please check in, any traffic, who is calling)

Any station requesting to check in may simply reply with their call sign.

DW3QEA or QNI DE DW3QEA (Checking in, this is DW3QEA)

For stations checking in for the first time, please also indicate the station’s name and location in the transmission.

DW3QEA ARMAN QTH NUEVA ECIJA K (DW3QEA Arman, location is Nueva Ecija, end of message)

The net control station (NCS) replies with an acknowledgement, and reports back with details about the NCS’s location, such as weather information:

DW3QEA DE DU1AU NCS = (DW3QEA this is DU1AU, net control station)
VY GE OM ARMAN, TKS FER UR CALL. (Very good evening old man Arman, thanks for your call)
UR RST IS 599 5NN, (Your signal is very good at 599, 5NN)
MY WX HR IS CLOUDY. (My weather here is cloudy)
WID TEMP AT 29C. (With temperature at 29 C)
SO HW CPY? ES QRU? AR (Did you copy my message? Any traffic?)
DW3QEA DE DU1AU NCS KN (DW3QEA this is DU1AU net control station, go ahead)

The station called now transmits and checks in.

DU1AU NCS DE DW3QEA = (DU1AU net control station, this is DW3QEA)
VY GE OM ANTHONY, (Very good evening old man Anthony)
TKS FER ACK MY CALL. (Thanks for acknowledging my call)
TU FER MY RST 599 RPRT. (Thank you for the very good 599 signal report)
UR RST IS ALSO 599 5NN.  (Your signal is also very good at 599, 5NN)
CPI UR WX IS CLOUDY WID TEMP AT 29C. (I copy your weather is cloudy at 29 C)
MY WX IS CLEAR AT TEMP 25C. (My weather is clear at 25 C)
PSE CPI MY QNI QRU. (Please copy my check in to the net, no traffic)
KEEP SAFE AND TAKE CARE ALWAYS, (Keep safe and take care always)
HPE TO CUAGN TMW. (Hope to see you again tomorrow)
73 77 AR (Best regards and long live CW!)
DU1AU NCS DE DW3QEA TU EE (DU1AU net control station this is DW3QEA, thank you)

The net control station acknowledges and replies:

DW3QEA DE DU1AU NCS = (DW3QEA this is DU1AU, net control station)
CPI UR WX IS CLEAR AT 25C. (I copy your weather is clear at 25 C)
QSL UR QNI QRU. (Acknowledging your check in, with no traffic)
KEEP SAFE ES TAKE CARE ALWAYS, (Keep safe and take care always)
HPE TO CUAGN TMW. (Hope to see you again tomorrow)
73 ES 77 AR (Best regards and long live CW!)
DW3QEA DE DU1AU NCS(DW3QEA this is DU1AU net control station)
SK GN TU E E (End of transmission, good night, thank you)

If you are a Morse Code and CW enthusiast or a new ham looking to learn or improve in sending and decoding Morse Code, then checking in to the DUCWNET Philippine Morse Code net may just be the perfect amateur radio activity for you! The DUCWNET conducts daily Morse Code net at 7.102 MHz (HF, CW mode) Monday to Saturday, 4 pm to 5 pm, and at 145 MHz (VHF, FM mode using an oscillator for CW tones) Monday to Saturday, 7:30 pm to 8 pm. Operators who are able to check in to the DUCWNET at least 10 times a year qualifies for a certificate from the PARA DU NET.

Special thanks to the following stations who regularly check in and support the DUCWNET (as of 14 January 2022).

4E1AGW William4H1NZJ LeeDU1FV RamonDU3AT JamesDV3CEP Emerson
4F1BGF Rey4I1AGJ EdselDU1JR JojiDU3GKT JerryDV3SA Fred
4F1BYN Max4I1AWM MichaelDU1KIB JunDU3MR RestyDV3VAA Don
4F1LDR Nards4I1BNC BongDU1LMC LouieDU3RI RodyDV4MDR Mark
4F1OPX Ben4I1DWE ArmiDU1MUS ReyDU3TW TimDV6XCY Joe
4F2AJ Lito4I1EAY DennisDU1NA NickyDU4RER RoyDV9/VE7HQT Sherwin
4F2KWT Gil4I1EBC, DV1J JoeyDU1NC ChitoDU5AOK(/9) NathanDW1TDW Nigel
4F3BZ Boyet4I1LCF DonDU1SVZ RonDU7DVE ChuckDW2ASW Abu
4F3CS Clym4I1MVI RobertDU1TC MarsDU7FCC, DU7X NicholasDW2JHS Renz
4F3FJU Jojin4I1MYV GhieDU1TDG ConradDU7LVH JoeDW3QEA Arman
4F3FSK Jhun4I1RAC AngeloDU1VBY RicheDU7SJF DanDX9EVM Jhun
4F3KT EddyDU1APO AllenDU1VGX RuelDU9CA JhunDY3GTE Garrie
4F5TAG JunDU1AU AnthonyDU1WBX EdDU9JJY TazDY3JAD Jason
4F8RS/DU1 RoelDU1AZ/4DIZ GeraldDU1XX MikeDV1ODC, DZ1R RichardN7ET/DU7 Dale
4G1DIF IanDU1DA DennisDU1YSM LarryDV1XNZ JoelVA7CD/DU7 Daniel
4G1EFB FhordDU1EV, DU1A EddieDU1ZDR, DZ1A JohnDV1YAI, DZ1Z NickyYB7XO Ricky
4G1MDZ JojoDU1EQ EdsaDU2FIS PaulDV2JB Jharwin 
4G1RMC RichardDU1FLA EstoyDU2US FilDV2KBE Jerry 


The DUCWNET started in May 2020, initiated by net control stations (NCS) DU1JR, DU3GKT, 4F3CS, 4F1BYN, DU1VGX, 4E1AGW with help from other NCS 4H1NZJ, DU2FIS, DU7LVH, DW3QEA, and DU1AU.

CW, our way of life, 73, 77! DUCWNET

To download a PDF version of this article, click here.
To view all posts about amateur radio, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines


DIY Rotator with 4-element Yagi

I’ve recently finished building a DIY rotator with 4-element dipole Yagi antenna tuned at 145 MHz VHF.

DIY Rotator by DU1AU

The rotator consists of a worm drive in which a worm from an old copier machine meshes with a wheel from an old drill. The shaft is a stainless steel rod that is held in place by two pillow block bearings. The whole assembly is housed in a waterproof metal ammo box. It has an oil ring gasket to seal the hole at the bottom where the shaft goes through. The screws used to mount the pillow blocks are stainless steel to resist corrosion, with rubber gaskets to prevent water entry. The rotator uses a 12V geared DC motor to drive the worm gear. With the current load, it consumes only 200 mA when slewing. The rotator was tested to carry a VHf Yagi with up to 7 elements. It takes 10 seconds to slew the antenna from north to south.

DIY 4-element Yagi mounted on a DIY rotator

In the next iteration of this project, I will increase the separation between the antenna and the metal box enclosure to minimize the effect to the radiation pattern of the antenna.

RX preamp and TX amplifier installed in the rotator’s weatherproof box

I’ve also installed a Tokyo Hy-Power HL-726D 50-watt TX amplifier and 12-14 dB gain RX preamp, which helps in receiving weak signals (when placed near the antenna) and allows my radio to operate at a lower power level since only 5-25W is needed to drive the amplifier. During initial tests (no RX preamp and TX amplifier used), the antenna worked with excellent transmit and receive signals as reported (and video recorded) by DW3QEA, a net control station in Nueva Ecija, over 120 km distance from my location in Bacoor.

Elevation motor added recently to the rotator for satellite tracking

To watch a video about this homebrewed rotator, click here.

Related links:
DIY Satellite Tracker | SARCNET
DIY Satellite Tracker | SATNOGS

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Canon 700D and 1200D Modification

I have modified two DSLR cameras for my colleagues, for astrophotography use. It involves the removal of the stock UV-IR filter, making the camera more sensitive to H-alpha wavelengths, as Canon’s standard (stock) filter blocks this part of the spectrum.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Related link:
View posts on camera modification projects

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

NOAA 19 Satellite | October 2021


NOAA 19 satellite image of tropical storm Maring (Kompasu) received with an inexpensive amateur radio equipment on October 11, 2021 with an AirSpy Mini SDR on GQRX SDR app and a DIY satellite antenna. The signal was recorded in WAV sound format and then decoded (converted to image) with the NOAA-APT decoder. NOAA satellites (15, 18, and 19) transmit weather images in APT (Automatic Picture Transmission) format at 137 MHz which may be received using just a VHF antenna, a software-defined radio (SDR), and an APT decoder.

NOAA 19 satellite image of tropical storm Maring (Kompasu) received with an inexpensive amateur radio equipment

Related link: Tracking Typhoons with NOAA Satellites

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Orion Nebula M42 | October 2021

Orion Nebula M42 imaged with an ASI 533 cooled astronomy camera, a ZWO dual-band filter, and a 210 mm focal length f/4 Tamron lens, for a total of 19 minutes exposure. Tracked and guided using an ASI 174 guide camera and DIY tracker. This image was stacked and processed in SIRIL.

Orion Nebula M42

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Andromeda Galaxy M31 | September 2021

Andromeda Galaxy M31 imaged in September 2021 with a Celestron Travel Scope 70, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 25 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Andromeda Galaxy M31

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Pleiades M45 | September 2021

Pleiades M45 imaged in September 2021 with a Celestron Travel Scope 70 , UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 10 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Pleiades M45

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Eastern Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Triangulum Galaxy M33 | September 2021

Triangulum Galaxy M33 imaged in September 2021 with a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera at 565 mm focal length (using a 0.63x DIY focal reducer, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 10 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Triangulum Galaxy M33

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Eastern Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Lagoon Nebula M8 | September 2021

Lagoon Nebula M8 imaged in September 2021 with a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera at 565 mm focal length (using a 0.63x DIY focal reducer, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 20 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Lagoon Nebula M8 in Sagittarius

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Eastern Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Trifid Nebula M20 | September 2021

Trifid Nebula M20 imaged in September 2021 with a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera at 565 mm focal length (using a 0.63x DIY focal reducer, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 30 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Trifid Nebula M20 in Sagittarius

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Eastern Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Sun | September 2021

Sun imaged with a 4 inch f/5.65 refractor, a Baader ND 5.0 solar filter, UV-IR cut filter, and an ASI 533 camera.

Active regions AR2871 (lower center), AR2872 (center left), and AR 2873 (upper right) are visible in this image.

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Moon | September 2021

After having recently modified my telescope by installing a DIY 0.63x focal reducer, which involves cutting the optical tube assembly and reattaching the focuser, I took a test shot with the moon to determine if the optical elements are properly aligned (collimated) and whether or not the reducer lens introduces color (chromatic) aberration. The image appears sharp, and I did not notice any chromatic aberration (no chromatic aberration reduction applied on this image, not even RGB alignment). To further check proper collimation, I will need to perform a star test soon.

Moon | September 2021

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Horsehead Nebula| September 2021

The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) imaged in September 2021 with a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, ZWO duo nebula filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera at 565 mm focal length (using a 0.63x DIY focal reducer, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 20 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

The Horsehead Nebula in Orion

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Eastern Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Helix Nebula | September 2021

Helix Nebula imaged in September 2021 with a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED, ZWO duo nebula filter, and an ASI 533 astronomy camera at 565 mm focal length (using a 0.63x DIY focal reducer, guided with a DIY off-axis guider (OAG) and an ASI 174MM guide camera. A total of 38 minutes exposure stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

Helix Nebula

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Eastern Veil Nebula | September 2021

First light image of a DIY off-axis guider OAG fitted to a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED using an ASI 174MM as a guide camera, imaging at 565 mm focal length (0.63x DIY focal reducer). This image was taken in September 2021 with an ASI 533 cooled astronomy camera and a ZWO duo nebula filter, for a total of 2.4 hours. Stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

The Eastern Veil Nebula (Caldwell 33), a supernova remnant in Cygnus

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Western Veil Nebula

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Transit of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto| August 2021

When you look at Jupiter through a telescope, you usually see four moons lined up with the planet. From time to time, a moon may pass in front of Jupiter’s disc in an event called a transit. A transit is a rare event since it occurs only when at least one moon lines up with Earth and Jupiter. On August 15, 2021, however, three of Jupiter’s four largest moons—Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto—passed in front of Jupiter, a very rare event which I have observed and captured using a small telescope.

Three of Jupiter’s four largest moons passed in front of Jupiter on August 15, 2021 (Legend: 1-Europa, 2-Europa’s shadow, 3-Ganymede, 4-Ganymede’s shadow, 5-Callisto, 6-Io). Image taken with a 4 inch f/9 refractor and an ASI533 camera, Philippines.

Related link: View all posts about transit
For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Clavius Crater | August 2021

Clavius crater imaged with a Sky-Watcher 4 in f/9 refractor, 25 mm eyepiece, and an ASI 533 camera. Registering and stacking done in SIRIL.

Clavius crater imaged with a 4-inch telescope and an astronomy camera

For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

DIY Projector Lens Telescope

Projectors have lenses that may be used to build low-magnification telescopes. I happen to have found an old 70 mm diameter LCD projector lens with focal length of 105-210 mm which I paired up with an eyepiece to build a DIY telescope.

This projector lens, while not designed to be used as a telescope lens, may still provide good views. I measured the proper focus distance and used a DIY adapter to attach a 2-in diagonal mirror and a 40 mm lens to it. This combination produced a 2.6 by 70 to 5.25 by 70 finder scope (wide field of view with ability to zoom). Focusing is done by sliding the eyepiece in and out of the diagonal’s eyepiece holder. I then made an improvised reticle (cross hair) to finally complete the setup. I will be using this DIY projector lens telescope in star-hopping to deep-sky targets and scanning large areas of the sky.

To view posts on DIY projects and astronomical equipment, click here.

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines

Western Veil Nebula | September 2021

First light image of a DIY 0.63x focal reducer fitted to a Sky-Watcher Equinox 100ED. This image was taken in September 2021 with an ASI 533 cooled astronomy camera and a ZWO duo nebula filter, for a total of 14 minutes, tracked and unguided. Stacked and processed in SIRIL without calibration frames.

The Western Veil Nebula in Cygnus, a supernova remnant


For a complete list of astrophoto images, click here.

Related link: Veil Nebula (wide-field)

Night Sky in Focus | Astronomy and Amateur Radio
© Anthony Urbano | Manila, Philippines