CEJ, QRSS, and Life Recontemplation

Yes, I did it. I’m probably the first (and let’s hope the last) human to ever write CEJ (the abbreviation for the cemento-enamel junction, a dentistry term) immediately before the letters QRSS (extremely slow speed Morse code transmissions, a radio frequency term). Anyhow, thanks in part to the temporary cessation of the tortuously monotonous dental school I’m enrolled in, I have had some time to put into random obscure hobbies. For example, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with QRSS, an obscure sub-niche of amateur radio (ham radio).

I only have a couple of minutes to write, so I’ll be concise. In brief, QRSS uses extremely simple radio transmitters at extremely low power to send an extremely slow Morse code message over an extremely large distance to extremely sensitive receivers which are extremely dependent on computers to decode. While you might be able to send a voice message across the ocean with ~100 watts of power, there are guys sending messages with 100 milliwatts (one tenth of a watt! you can get more than that from a couple AA batteries!). The theory is that if you send the signals slow enough, and average the audio data (fast Fourier transformation) over a long enough time, weak signals below the noise threshold will stand out enough to be copied visually.

Without going into more detail than that, this is the kind of stuff I’ve been copying the last couple days. The image is a slow time-averaged waterfall-type FFT display of 10.140mhz from a Mosley-pro 67 yagi mounted ~180 ft in the air connected to a Kenwood TS-940S transceiver sending data to a PC through a SignaLink USB sound card. Red ticks represent 10 seconds. Therefore the frame above is ~10 minutes of audio. The trace on the image is from two different transmitters. The upper trace is from VA3STL‘s QRSS quarter-watt transmitter from Canada described here and pictured below. The lower trace is from WA5DJJ‘s QRSS quarter-watt transmitter in New Hampshire, described and pictured here. Notice my call sign (KJ4LDF) at the bottom of the page!

^^^ That’s the ACTUAL transmitter I’m hearing from Canada!!!

I don’t know why I’m drawn to QRSS. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a hobby which only a handful of people have ever participated in. It uses computers and software, but unlike SDRs (software-defined radios) they don’t require complicated equipment, and a QRSS transmitter or receiver can be built from a few bucks’ worth of parts.

HELPFUL FOR ANYONE WHO USES ARGO!!! 10_01_01_00009There’s a popular QRSS “grabber” software for Windows called Argo. It dumps out screenshots of itself every few minutes, but doesn’t assemble them together!!!!! It’s so annoying. I therefore took it upon myself to write a script to assemble several (or thousands) of Argo screen dumps together as a single image. It’s a script for ImageJ. To use it, first install MBF’s ImageJ. Open ImageJ, drag and drop a DIRECTORY of screenshots / captures into the program to open them as a stack, make a new macro, copy/paste the following code into it, and hit CTRL+R to run it, and poof! The output is a gorgeous panoramic shot like below.long

And here’s the script to automate the process…

makeRectangle(13, 94, 560, 320);
frames = nSlices();
newImage("long", "RGB White", (frames-1)*560, 320, 1);
for (i=0; i<frames; i++) {
	run("Select All");
	makeRectangle(i*560, 0, 560, 320);
//run("Enhance Contrast", "saturated=0.5");

As far as life recontemplation goes, I’m discovering that it’s not the attainment of a goal that gives me pleasure; it’s the pursuit of the goal. Perhaps that’s why I peruse hobbies (goals?) which are notoriously difficult, and further challenge myself by doing things in weird, quirky ways. For example, I’d love to get into radio, BUT I HAVE NO MONEY!. Yeah, an all-band 100-watt HF/VHF/UHF rig would be nice, but I don’t have hundreds of dollars to fork over. Worse yet, in the technical sense, I do, I’m just trying to be responsible and saving it for emergencies / tuition and waiting until I’m a dentist (a.k.a. have a job) before I spend money on things that make me happy. Anyway, without complaining I built a non-elegant but surprisingly functional base-loaded vertical HF antenna for my apartment balcony (don’t worry neighbors, it’s taken inside after every use). It’s mainly for receive, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be used for QRP transmitting! Here it is on my balcony…

As you can see, it’s ghetto. Yes, that’s an antenna made from copper pipe, wire, and toilet paper rolls. I’ve wound the wire around the base and created various tap points so it serves as a variable inductor depending on where I gator-clip the radio. Not pictured are 33′ radials running inside my apartment serving as adequate grounding for 40m operation. The antenna feeds into a Pixie II direct conversion receiver / QRP transmitter which dumps its output to a laptop computer. Note that I did *NOT* use this setup to receive my beautiful QRSS signals. With that being said, I have copied PSK-31 transmissions from Canada with this setup. It works way better than a long / random wire antenna because it dramatically reduces noise. Here’s a closeup of the tap points on the inductor base…

That’s it for today folks! Back to my crazy projects. Take care!

UPDATE: VA3STL mentioned me on his site! Woo hoo!