Oliva Mode is a little different than PSK, RTTY, and many other digital modes. Below are tips on how to maximize your use of this mode. Feel free to email me at if you have some tips that you don't see on the page.
1. Disable your software squelch or turn it down as low as you can
Generally turn your squelch setting in your software off or set it as low as it will go. You will see some "garbage" letters get printed out if there is NO Olivia signal present but it doesn't harm anything. When an Olivia signal is there it will start decoding it and print out the text without garbage at that time. It doesn't do much good to use a digital mode like Olivia that can decode signals -14 db below the noise lever IF you squelch it AT the noise level! It would be like getting a pair of high power binoculars and using them only in a 10x10 room with no windows.
2. Be Patient!
When you call CQ on this mode be patient and wait at least 45-60 seconds before you put out another call. When the other person who hears your CQ clicks on the waterfall it may take 4-20 seconds or even longer before they might actually start decoding your signal. That varies a lot depending on the software they are using AND value they have their Sync Integration Period set to.
The Sync Integration Period setting determines how "deep" the Olivia decoding algorythm searches in the noise to get the signal. A higher settings takes longer BUT usually decodes with more accuracy - at least to a point. However, a higher setting (since it does more work and takes longer) will increase the delay factor. So, when you finish your CQ and your transmitter switches to receive - the station listening to you (depending on his Sync Integration Periods setting) MAY NOT finish decoding your CQ for another 4-20 seconds. The same applies during a QSO when you pass it back to the other guy for his turn -- be patient if he doesn't come back right away because his software may still be decoding your signal long after you stopped transmitting.
It DOES NOT PAY to be impatient on this mode and send SHORT CQ's or NOT wait at least 45-60 seconds between CQ's. Generally a a 2x2 CQ sent at least 2 or 3 times is going to work much better for you than a short one. Below is the normal CQ I use though on real fast Olivia formats (like 500/4) I will do a 3x3 and send it 3 times.
CQ CQ de WB8ROL WB8ROL
CQ CQ de WB8ROL WB8ROL
CQ CQ de WB8ROL WB8ROL pse K
3. Don't set your Sync Integration Period setting TOO high
If you set your Sync Integration Period too high it MAY take minutes before your software will start decoding a signal AND there is no or little benefit to doing that past a certain point. I usually set mine so that the delay factor is abut 15-20 seconds. I can time this delay factor by sending a very short test and then when it is done and the software switches back to receive - time the number of seconds before you see random garbage start appearing on the screen (assuming you have your SQUELCH OFF). For the standard Olivia modes like 2000/64, 1000/32, 500/16, 250/8, and 125/4 that usually means my Sync Integration Period is set between 3-5 most of the time. If I use the faster formats I set it higher often between 6-10. As long as my delay factor is approx 15-20 seconds. Any higher than that and I don't see any real improvement in the quality of the decoding. But play with your own settings and see what does best for you. If you leave it always on one setting, though, and use standard and non standard formats of Olivia you are short changing yourself.
4. Generally keep your Search (Tune Margin) setting to about 8
The setting of 8 is usually good for most situations and this setting is usually not all that critical. However, under a few band conditions it might (or might not) help to temporarily adjust this. If you find other Olivia signals very very close to you - almost adjacent or even overlapping it might help to reduce this setting to 4 or even 2. This setting determines how far, either side of your center frequency, Olivia will search for a signal to decode. If you reduce this when another Olivia signal is close or overlapping it may keep it from locking onto the other signal instead of yours. Also .... if you are trying to decode an extremely weak signal and can't even tell exactly WHERE to click on the waterfall because the trace is too faint or non existent then it might help to increase this setting to 16 or 32 temporarily. Then it would perhaps decode the signal even if you were OFF his center frequency by a large margin.
5. If the slow speed of Olivia bothers you some ...
If you find yourself wanting things to go a little faster then start using more (ham) common abbreviations like "hw" for how and "ur" for your. Don't waste time sending words like "the" and "and" all the time. An example : The weather here is nice and sunny today and the high will get to 85 degrees --- instead send : Wx nice + sunny - high 85 deg -- No need to spell out everything and use superfluous words like the, and, many others. And why use words like HERE and TODAY in the above context when the other station already knows you are telling the weather for YOUR QTH for TODAY. You aren't writing a novel, an article, or in a spelling bee. Also after you establish the QSO don't send BOTH calls all the time at the beginning and end of every transmission. After the QSO is in progress come back to the station like this : .. de WB8ROL -- instead of : W9ZZZ de WB8ROL -- and when you sent it back to the other guy send : BTU - de WB8ROL KN -- That will help speed things up too. You don't need to send the other stations call sign continually to fulfill your legal obligation to indentify your own station.
6. Don't be afraid to switch to a NON standard Olivia format if conditions warrant it.
If signals are real strong and you prefer to be sending and receiving at a faster speed - don't be afraid to ask the other station if they would like to speed things up and switch to another Olivia format - even a non-standard one. If you, for instance, were talking to me on 500/16 Olivia format and we both had very strong signals and not much QRM, QRN, etc. then ask me if I would like to go to 500/8 format or even 500/4 format. 500/16 format is approximately 20wpm while 500/8 is close to 30wpm and 500/4 close to 40wpm. If you do end up switching to the faster modes you may also want to increase your Sync Integration Period setting substantially too - to maintain the best quality decoding. If not, you might get more errors in the decoded text. And if the band conditions become worse - go back to the original format AND remember to reset your Sync Integration Period setting or the delay in decoding will be way too long! Also, if the band starts getting real crowded and say, for example, you were on 500/16 mode - you might suggest to the other station to switch to 250/4 mode (increase Sync Integration Period setting too) to save space and be a "good neighbor" to all the other operators nearby. 250/4 is the SAME speed as 500/16 and nearly as sensitive with the correct settings.