Quick Guide to Opera
By
Andrew O'Brien
 K3UK
op guide
              coverop cover 2
Updated January 17 2012
TABLE Of CONTENTS

What Can I Do With Opera?

How to get and install  it

Setting it up
Receiving Opera
Transmitting Opera
The Sked/Chat Features (coming soon)
VOACAP and Propagation Predictions (coming soon)
FAQs



I am no expert on this mode  but here is my quick guide. It is intended to serve as a temporary help file until the software developers add their own.  Please note that as the software is developed, some of the screenshots in this guide may appear different than the ones on your computer screen. Version 1.1.2 contains some significant changes to the modes you can use.  Opera 1 has been added .  This is all part of experiments to find the best use for Opera.   I will update the screenshots as I get time.

You should first be aware that this is NOT a QSO mode.   You transmit and others report reception of your signal via the Internet link within the software,  or via PSK Reporter.  The software is intended to be an application supporting weak signal experiments.  When using , please avoid QRM to other weak signal modes. There are reports that a "QSO" version of OPERA is planned in the future. The software is created by Jose EA5HVK and Gordon G0NDB.


What Can I Do With Opera?

Several things.    It is mostly something that will tell you what your radio is likely to receive and in what areas of the world you are likely to be heard.  For example:  You get home from work and wonder "how are the bands tonight ? You fire up Opera , leave it running  a few minutes while fixing a drink then look at your screen.  Example:


23:19  10135 KX1H Op2 -7 dB 910 km @ 223
23:18  10135 K1CF Op2 -23 dB 644 km @ 080
23:13  10135 F1ABL Op2 -17 dB 6515 km @ 057

This tells me that at the time I am composing this section of the guide, my antenna is picking up moderate signals (-17 dB) from F1ABL in France,  a strong signal from KX1H, and a fair signal from K1CF.  So, my antenna is hearing eastern USA and Northern Europe.  the band is open. 

Maybe  those three stations have super antennas and I am lucky to hear them.  Opera has a built in feature where it  uses  Internet reporting of your signal . The reports of stations hearing you signal will  provide you with assistance for any  DXing,  or rag chews you may wish to carry out.  It is a great way to test new antennas, compared between antennas, and compared signal reports as you vary transmitted power. transmit a few watts in to your antenna and two minutes later you get signal reports displayed in the software.  While typing this paragraph, I did just that.  I transmitted 5 watts into an Inverted V on 30M and the software reported the following.

23:22 10135 K3UK de KA1GMN Op8 1884 km -19 dB in 10W Euless TX U
23:2210135 K3UK de KX1H Op2 910 km -19 dB in lebanon tn
23:22 10135 K3UK de W6SZ Op2 3429 km -23 dB in Alta Loma CA US
23:22 10135 K3UK de N7VVX Op2 2686 km -25 dB in Centerville, UT
23:22 10135 K3UK de WD4KPD Op2 796 km +2 dB in Washington, NC.
23:2210135 K3UK de KT4KB Op2 1009 km -4 dB in Cordova SC USA

It tells me that my puny five watts was heard quite strongly in North and South Carolina,   I had a "fair" signal in to Tennessee and  Texas, and a weak signal in to California and Utah.  Since I was only using 5 watts, it tells me that  I could easily work most of the USA with a few extra watts.  Of course, the usefulness of the software depends on the existence of other stations running the software and automatically reporting what they heard.  It is similar to the "reverse beacon" feature at the JT65-HF web site or CW reports at the Reverse Beacon Network.  For this feature to be utilized you need an internet connection. 



How to get and install  it
 
1.  Download latest version of the software from http://groups.yahoo.com/group/O_P_E_R_A_/links   .  This is an application under early development,  updates can be frequent. You will need to join the Yahoo group to get the links for current releases.

2.  Unpack the downloaded file and place it in a folder.  Remember the folder so you know where to find it in the future.  The install package does not appear to have any  shortcuts installed.

3. Find the folder you placed it in and boot the install file.

4.  After install, find the "OPERA BEARING"  exe (or "application" file)  and boot it.  This is a file that has a thumbnail icon of an American personality, Groucho Marks.  Some hams may be familiar with him. I think a picture of Pavarotti might have been better  :>)

5.  If everything installed OK, you will see the software

oppera pic 1

Note the CONFIGURE option highlighted in  red in the upper left had corner.  Click on this and begin set-up by choosing  "OPERATOR"  .  Enter in your callsign and location..

Next click CONFIGURE and this time choose RIG

op pic 3

You will note that you have several options to select the type of rig .  I have a Kenwood.  Opera has a very useful feature that automatically detects your comm ports if you choose the CAT option.  Go ahead an try this.

op pic 4

If you want to use a simple PTT circuit rather than CAT, select a comm port that your PC and radio normally use for digital operations.  What you are selecting is a port that will activate a PTT line .  If you use the  COM method you will not get frequency read-out, but that is OK.

Uncheck the box that says  " lock on start up"   if you what to avoid locking your VFOs. Also place a check or "tick"  in the CW Keyer box .  This will allow the rig to switch back and forth between transmit and receive during a sending sequence.  The alternative is the rig being in continuous transmit state during the lengthy transmissions that some Opera modes make.  You can select DTR , RTS,  or both depending on what your rig requires.  If in doubt,  try all three .

Next, configure the Alerts that the software provides.  Click on Configure and select ALARMS/SOUNDS.  Here is what I chose.

op pic 5

Now pick the language you want to use.

op pic 6

Note the flag for "English" is a British flag rather than an English flag.  So  if you speak Manx, Scots Gaelic, or Cornish variants, you will not get your language by clicking on the Union Jack. I assume the Union Jack is there because us North Americans might not recognize the flag of St George.

You now need to click CONFIGURE and select SOUNDCARD.  If you have only one sound card in your computer, it should be the only illustrated when you click on the drop-down arrows for DEVICE IN and and DEVICE OUT.  If you have more than one sound device connected to you computer, select the one you normally use for digital mode operations.  If your rig is ON, you should now see a waterfall with some signs of signals or white noise in it.  If you do not see anything, make sure the switch for the waterfall is in the ON position
op waterfall switch


That is pretty much it for set-up.  The rest can be left alone.

Now to use the software. Study the information in this picture below, I added several things for illustration

op pic 7

I hope it is pretty self explanatory.  Received signals arrive in your  left-hand window, announcements of QRV status  are in the two channels above.  Internet reception reports arrive on the right.  Any reception reports of your signal will appear in red on the right.

Reception
OK, now the only  tricky part.  I do not have any real knowledge of what is supposed to happen... but here is what I have guessed so far.  The software is mainly used in Europe and used on Long Wave or Medium Wave at very low power.  That explains why  two announcement channels in the software are labeled 500 and 136.  500 and 136 Khz. .  Anyone operating a beacon on those bands automatically triggers the software to send an announcement to anyone else using the software, in real time, via the Internet.  A very useful feature.  Saves using DX Clusters or Sked Pages. .  For more on Long Wave DXing, see http://www.lwca.org/ .

It seems that on HF the most used  frequency at the moment is between 10135.0 and 10135.2 in the 30 Meter band.  Check the reflectors for announcements of other bands as people begin to use it.  1836  on 160M is also used,  28075 has been used the past few days and 3575 .. All in USB.  For the latest agreed upon frequencies,  click on FREQUENCIES  on the upper left part of your screen . Quicker Opera variants are now being used on 17M and above.  Park on a frequency and you will eventually hear a CW-like signal , almost like someone briefly tuning up and re-tuning up. Place the RX switch that is just under MODE and above the waterfall, to the RX 2-8 position if on HF. .   Opera 2 transmits for 2 minutes and appears to "beep" every 1 second  or so. Opera 4  appears to have roughly 4 second bursts. To be more precise the symbol rates are
Opera  1: 0.256 s
Opera  2: 0.512 s
Opera  4: 1.024 s
Opera  8: 2.048 s
Opera 15: 4.096 s
Opera 31: 8.192 s


Opera 8 and Opera 32 appear if you select 136 Khz as the operating frequency. Opera 4 and Opera 16  appear as transmit options if you select 500 Khz. Opera 2 and Opera 4 appear as transmit options if you select 1836 ,  3575 , or 10135.  . Opera 1or Opera 2 is available if you choose any mode band above 20M. .    If you want to try these on other frequencies, you will have to "fool" the software by selecting them , then move you software settings out of CAT control and just choose COM or VOX options in the set-up area. That way, the software thinks you are on 136, 500, 1837, or 10135,  but the rig is where you tell to be .

 An Opera 2  signal will look like this

oppicrxsig

In between the two vertical red lines in the waterfall is an Opera 2 signal being received. Newer versions now show three red vertical lines over a 600 Hz wide area.  Nothing shows up in your reception area until the entire 2 minutes sequence has been received.  If you hear/see a signal that sounds like Opera but it is outside the vertical red lines, you can tune it in by adjusting your radio dial up or down.  Please note that the waterfall is not immediately responsive, if you adjust your dial a few Hz, it takes a second or two for your waterfall to show the shifted signal.  At least this is what happens on my slow computer.

Opera 8  appears a little different in the  waterfall.  The length of the digital signal is longer and you will see the longer signal in the waterfall

op 8 signal

The software is capable of receiving multiple stations at the  same time,  here is an example of opera 2 :

11:49 10135  K3UK de OZ1PMX Op2 6194 km -18 dB in Thorsager
11:49 10135  K3UK de KJ4ERJ Op2 1611 km +13 dB in EL97qx 10.135US

The  reports below show K3UK being received in the USA and Denmark at same time.  Obviously reception reports of  -18 dB  and +13 dB   show a big difference in the signal received at the two locations.

op pic9




TRANSMIT

To transmit all you need to do is switch to the desired mode, most seem to pick Opera 2.  See the picture below for illustration on how to do this .

op pic 10

To transmit, press the big TX Button.  If you need to stop your transmission before the usual length of the transmission cycle, press the ESC key and pick yes when given an option.  If you plan on using the beacon feature, please be aware of  the rules in your country about beacons that are unattended.  I beacon only when I am in my shack.  If you transmit manually (by clicking on the TX button) it may be better to start the transmission on the top of the minute.  When someone receives your signal it is reported on the right-hand side of your screen.  The authors are aware of occasional glitches in the Internet reporting of signal reports.  Sometimes you will receive a signal correctly but notice that it does not always get reported via Internet. This seems more of an issue if you are using a frequency different than the four standard frequencies.  If you need to STOP the transmit at anytime , press the ESCAPE KEY .  If you do not have a working Mouse, the F12 function key will toggle PTT.

op pic 11

There is a beacon feature within this software that is very useful.  To set the beacon you need to turn the beacon on,  look just above the waterfall to the right. To adjust the beacon , simply slider the slider.  Please note that this software does not have a required time for you to begin the transmit period.  Other Modes like WSPR, JT65A, and FSK441 require you to start transmitting exactly at the top of the minute.  With Opera I have tried to start my beacons at the top of the minute but others do not.  The software seems to decode regardless of beacon start times. Like popular modes such as JT65A, you might want to vary where you set you transmitter.  Some of us early Opera users thought it might be  possible to start your transmission on exactly the same frequency as someone else, at exactly the same time.  So we made adjustments, for example, instead of 10135.00, we tried 10135.2   However, there have been suggestions that the software automatically adjusts the transmission place in the waterfall ,randomly.  More testing to be done before confirming this. You want to make sure your signal will appear within the red lines of the other stations you hope to have copy you.  So, don't get too far out of the desired frequency range. For HF  and medium wave Opera, the overall bandwidth that the software will decode is 1300 to 1900 Hz in the waterfall.  For long wave Opera on 136 Khz, the decode range is 1300 to 1600 Hz in the waterfall.


op pic slider and
      beacon


That is all I have figured out at the moment.  Please email me via k3ukandy@gmail.com if you spot any stupid stuff.
If you want to "chat" live with knowledgeable Opera operators, you can use the Chat feature within the software by clicking on SKED .
op pic 8

 A Few Frequently Asked Questions.

> - Why are there multiple user profiles, and how does one switch between
> them?

Example ... you have a contest or field day station and change operators ...
or you have one setting for your home qth and another one for the weekend
qth ... or ....

To change? Just click on user profile 2 and to the same settings as you have
done in user profile 1 (profile1 is the default)
(answer via Siegfried Jackstien)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

>
> I left my system up and running all night, and saw a spot in the RH window
> this morning in RED by K1CY, though it showed me on 500khz when I was on
> 1837 khz. I suspect that's just a defauly of the posting software? Anyway,

your software was set to 500kc so you were spotted to be on 500kc :-)

rf qrg are not implemented yet .. work-around is to set the rf qrg in the
qth text like "Bremen 10.136" or similar
you are still spotted on 500kc but others see your real qrg in the spot
(answer via Siegfried Jackstien)


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