Sunday, February 22, 2015

70MHz cumulative - and more SSTV from the ISS

Randomly, I was browsing through Facebook this morning and I noticed Paul G4RRA say that he was about to drive up to the site for the RSGB 70MHz cumulatives.

Although I only have the vertical available for 70MHz, I wondered what if anything I would be able to hear. Of course, having the Noble NR4SC readily available means that there is no fiddling around connecting up transverters. Which, on a sleepy Sunday morning might have been enough to to deter activity!

I didn't have many expectations of working very far afield, with 10W to a vertical and the first few contacts were pretty local. However, I was very pleased to find G4TSW from Devon calling CQ on the key and we were able to complete a nice contact (although I had one of those moments of not being able to send my locator properly! The keyer on the NR4SC's timing is just a little different to the others I have here and it takes a moment to adjust my sending to suit). What was particularly nice was that the operator at G4TSW was Paul, G4RRA!

Another nice contact was with Dave G4ASR in Herefordshire - this time on phone. The first time we'd worked on 70MHz in quite a while, I think.

So, enjoyable to find the 70MHz cumulative event - I must try and look out for them again. I remember years ago, Chris G8TFI and I won the series from Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire.

More SSTV had been planned for the weekend from the International Space Station. Yesterday's activity had to be cancelled, owing to the need for a spacewalk. The amateur radio transmitters are turned off whilst such activity takes place - and you can't argue with that!

Once again, the vertical, FT8900 and MMSTV came up with some nice pictures. The high elevation passes are good, although I found a few bands of noise on the pictures as the spacecraft travelled through the null of the antenna. Some of the low angle passes worked surprisingly well, with good copy down to less that 1 degree.

The SSTV activity from the ISS generates a huge amount of interest. I noticed some of the RTL-SDR groups on Facebook having a lot of fun decoding the pictures. Good publicity for the hobby!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Raspberry Pi2 up and running; DUMP1090, Piaware, GPredict as well as browsing the web

The Raspberry Pi2 was delivered very quickly - thank you CPC! However, owing to a bit of silliness on my part I didn't get it running until today. I'd assumed - always a dangerous thing - that the Pi2 used an SD card for its storage, like the Pi. Oh no it doesn't! It uses a micro SD card. I didn't discover this until I went to plug the SD card in!

Ah well. A quick Amazon order later and a micro SD card and an adapter was on the way. Those arrived here this morning, so I quickly prepared the micro SD card.

I had a bit of fun getting decent video on my rather old monitor in the shack and was starting to think I wasn't going to find something better than VGA! However, a setting of hdmi_group=2 and hdmi_mode=16 gave me a reasonable compromise between getting a decent amount on the screen and being able to read it without green and yellow flashing in the background.!

The first bit of software I installed was the Gpredict satellite prediction program. It's nice to have the map running in the shack. That went well and only seemed to be taking a very small percentage of CPU.

Then I installed RTLSDR and tested it, without any problems. I installed DUMP1090 - the ADS-B decoder as well as the Piaware software which uploads the ADS-B spots to Flightaware. Those programs run quite happily at the same time as Gpredict and use around 7% of CPU.

I fired up the Epiphany web browser and went to Twitter - again, the CPU was quite happy.

This looks very useful. I think I'd better order it a case!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Raspberry Pi 2 ordered

I was excited to see the Raspberry Pi 2 announced today

One is on the way. It will be interesting to see how it works out - particularly for some of the more heavy duty apps I have tried in the past such as FLDigi.

A new version of the OS compiled for the new processor is required and can be downloaded here

More news when it arrives!

A little DSTAR activity

I'd not been on DSTAR for a while. Mostly because the Raspberry Pi that
I generally use for the gateway has been busy on ADS-B duty. Last weekend, I remembered
I could easily fire up Win-DV on the PC and use the DVAP with that.

A couple of nice QSOs this morning with that setup; John LA2QAA and Des G0RBD. Time to reinstate the Sunday morning DSTAR sessions as I do the chores around the house and garden.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Receiving SSTV from the International Space Station

You might remember that before Christmas, I missed the opportunity to try receiving some SSTV pictures from the ISS. Although I missed it, I took the chance to get the SSTV program working with the FT-8900.

At the end of last week, I learned that there would be some more SSTV activity from the space station, so was keen to try it out.

It worked really well. Some images were better than others and others were better than I expected them to be. A real surprise was a surprisingly good decode from a pass when the ISS was a modest 1 degree over the horizon.

The best images were from high elevation passes though. As ever the gear was simple, V2000 vertical, FT-8900 and MMSSTV on the PC.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

First garden portable activity of the year on SO-50

Yesterday, it was a cold but dry day and I thought it would be fun to go out in the garden and see what I could hear and work on SO-50. I quickly put a bit of charge into the UV-5R portable and assembled the Elk yagi.

The first pass I tried was off to the east and although I could hear plenty, I didn't manage a QSO. The next pass after that was pretty much overhead and I was a lot more successful, working 2E1EBX also using handheld gear, over on the Norfolk coast and then Yuri, UT1FG/MM in IO90 on his way up to Hull.

Really enjoyable and not too cold.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bouncing a signal through the NO-44 satellite

One of my favourite tweeters on radio matters is Patrick WD9EWK Patrick is a keen member of AMSAT and the wider amateur satellite community. Just recently, Patrick has been experimenting sending APRS packets through the old NO-44 satellite.

NO-44 or PCSAT is one of those satellites that is in its', er, twilight years. The battery failed some time ago and now the satellite operates when the solar panels can supply it enough power to make it go. It was and is, an APRS digipeater in space. Recently, Patrick has shown making keyboard to keyboard APRS QSOs through NO-44 as well as simply digipeating his own signals. Patrick had used his Kenwood APRS enabled handheld and his handheld Arrow antenna.

I thought I should try! I noticed a pass this morning where NO-44 was in sun all the way up over the South Atlantic before passing directly overhead us here in the UK, so got the 'usual' ISS packet setup going, using the V-2000 vertical and wondered if I would hear anything.

All was quiet until I calculated the satellite was almost directly overhead and I send a packet, with the unproto path set to PCSAT via W3ADO-1 To my surprise, I heard a weak packet. Too weak for me to decode, but as I discovered later, thanks to Paul N8HM, the ON7EQ-1 gateway heard it and retransmitted it and plotted me on the map you'll see below

You can see the map and the stations heard through PCSAT at 

I think the next trick will be to try and receive it for myself, which may require the use of the Elk yagi.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

What I've been playing with over Christmas and New Year (anyone want a nice FT1000MP?)

With my return to work on the horizon on Monday, I've been thinking about what a nice holiday I've had. Although I've had to do a bit of work here and there, it's not been too onerous which has been welcome.

I've not done anything exceptionally different this holiday, but it's been nice varied activity. There have been a couple of sessions when I bounced my 144MHz packet signals through the digipeater on the International Space Station. That's always satisfying and nice to do - particularly with a very simple aerial.

I missed the ISS' SSTV operations but all of that made me think about operating SSTV a little and it's been fun to play with and I've had 2 or 3 nice 'QSOs' or picture exchanges with many other pictures being seen.

Fun to play with for something different!

It has been nice having the TS940 on the bench to tune around with. I find it is a lovely rig to tune the bands with. I wondered whether I would feel the same if I put the FT1000MP on the bench and tried using that in the same way. It just didn't feel quite as nice, despite the two receivers and the internal ATU and being a generally lovely rig. So I have made the decision to let the FT1000MP move on. It is in nice condition and works well and I am sure someone will have fun with it (if you're interested - drop me a mail tim at g4vxe dot com). So despite the TS940s foibles, I think it will stay here and we'll try and keep it going.

On HF, I've not made any exceptional contacts, but it's been fun to work the 1A0C expedition on a few bands. I'd worked 1A0 on 50MHz before but strangely not on HF. Otherwise, it's just been looking across the higher bands as they've been open.

I've upgraded the station logging program, uLog from M0PZT who has a new release out.

I noticed a new product from SOTABeams, the BOXA-MWEXTREME which is a fun little box (an attenuator really) which, in conjunction with your low power HF rig, allows you to run very small amounts of power indeed, allowing an HF rig running between 1 to 5W to drop the power down as low as 50mW. It's RF switched, so the receive path is not attenuated in the same way (though on HF you probably could on some of the bands!). I thought that would be fun to try, so I've pre-ordered. Not sure whether my long cable run to the HF6V will be conductive to that, but we will have a go.

Happy New Year for 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A taste of remote operation with Justin G4TSH

It was great to have Justin G4TSH join us for Christmas again this year. In between the the obligatory and very enjoyable Christmassy activities, it was fun to look at Justin's remote operating capability.

He brought with him what is essentially a remote front panel for the Elecraft K3, a Microset box and a laptop. The Microset box and the laptop were connected to our WiFi. Once this had been established, we were able to use the remote station in the south-west of the UK.

On the laptop we could control the rotator, but pretty much everything else could be controlled from the front panel of the K3.

It worked really well! Most of the time we were looking around on 10m and we both worked some nice South American stations (including CX1JJ and HC2IMP) using the big C31 yagi. There was no perceptible lag owing to network latency and to all intents and purposes.

Magical! It was really good to try this and to be able to use a nice big yagi on HF again. Thanks Justin!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas: SSTV, ISS Packet, SatPC32 and other stuff

No posts for the last little while! Like most people, I guess, the run up to Christmas has been busy. But since finishing work on Friday, in between visiting and other Christmassy things, I have been playing radio in the downtime.

One day last week, I had a nice QSO on the way to the station with Paul G0HWC. We talked about digital SSTV and in particular, Easypal. I told Paul that I had never managed to get it going on my PC and he kindly gave me some ideas (wipe it out completely, clean the registry and then reinstall). Did that and unfortunately it still crashes on load and there are no clues. What a shame! It probably doesn't like something on this old laptop.

Thinking about SSTV did encourage me to get MMSSTV (analog SSTV) going again and I put it on 28.680 one afternoon and received some nice pictures from TA1BM in particular and VA2PGQ and some others. I then wondered if I could get it going on 145MHz through the FT-8900. I rigged up the interface and fired up MMSSTV and actually it worked well! I haven't made any QSOs on there so far, but I did use my phone and a Baofeng handheld to check the signal and it seemed to be working fine.

Having got the interface hooked up to the FT8900 reminded me that last Christmas I had a lot of fun bouncing packet signals through the digipeater on the ISS and I hadn't tried it for a while. With an ISS pass imminent, I loaded up the UZ7HO soundmodem software, made sure it was decoding packets and transmitting them and then the UISS software. After a few moments, I started to hear some weak packets from the digipeater on the Space Station , so as they got stronger (just using the vertical antenna) I hit transmit and was pleased to see the spacestation repeat my packet.

Talking of satellites, I've made the odd late evening QSO through AO-73 over the last month on CW. I'd been keen to look at the SatPC32 software What it does which I didn't have before was the capability to work out doppler shifts for up and downlink frequencies. When you have a weak signals on the satellite it is good to have an idea of where to listen. It just took a few moments to work out how to make it do what I wanted. AO-7 was due over, coincidentally, as I finished working it out, so I dropped my 432MHz signal where it said, listened on 145MHz where it said and there I was. Weak but unmistakably me. So that's exciting and perhaps another satellite to try when it's close to the horizon. I also tried the software out on a pass of FO-29 and was pleased to work DL0SX.

There's been a few CW QSOs on HF too, using the TS-940 which seems to have settled down nicely. A61Q was a nice one on 24MHz CW just now. I even found myself calling V5/DL3DXX in a pileup - and then stopped myself!

Merry Christmas to you and your families. Thank you for reading the blog!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

An unexpected antenna problem

Last Friday, I was working from home. I generally have one of the radios on in the background and of late, it has been the revived TS-940S, generally on 10m or 40m.

Thursday evening had been very windy, so when 10m seemed very quiet indeed, I wasn't too surprised, I thought the coax had fallen off at the feed or something. I popped out and checked - it looked ok, but I tightened it all up and tried again. Still nothing!

I replaced the barrel coax connector between the antenna and the feedline, No luck!

Then I put a dummy load at the end of the coax - hmm. SWR 1:1.5 or so in the shack, but no receive noise. I quickly connected the FT-817 to the base of the antenna. Lots of signals!

A coax problem then! That could be interesting as the coax was buried in undergrowth around the perimeter of the garden. I gently started to trace the coax from the antenna back towards the termination point. Rather tellingly, just a few moments later the cause became obvious. The coax had been gnawed through.


A hasty bit of splicing and we're back in business!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

TS940 back on the bench

After its' trip to James M1APC, the TS940 arrived back here on Thursday. I had a slight fright when it arrived back, when it needed a reset on switch on. And indeed, each time you switch on, you have to hold the A=B and power it on, which resets the microprocessor.

It didn't do that when it left James, so I can only assume that it got shaken up somewhere. Anyway, it's simple enough to do that, so no problem. Other than that it is working really well!

I checked the transmitter output and that looks good - even on AM! I was listening to various US stations on 29MHz AM this afternoon and although signals were fading up and down, it sounded very nice. It also sounds good on SSB and I've been listening a little on 7MHz where signals were good.

I haven't tried it on CW. I don't seem to have a working external morse keyer. I was hoping to use my old Morse Machine MM-3, but that seems to have stopped working in the years since I used it last and despite a quick poke and a prod, I couldn't persuade it into life. I'll find a small external keyer somewhere soon, I'm sure. I hope so, as the receive seems quite good on CW. I was listening to W1AW/5 on 21MHz this evening when I didn't really expect the band to be open. Copy seemed a bit better on the 940 than on my IC740 which is currently making my HF CW contacts.

But it's great to have the TS940 back and it does have a very nice feel to it. Thanks James for all your help in getting it going.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Resurrecting the TS-940 with the help of James M1APC

Having enjoyed using the IC-740 over the last few weeks and making some fun HF QSOs, there was another of my old HF rigs that I wanted to get going again. My old TS-940, bought second-hand from Jan G0IVZ, perhaps 20 or more years ago, maybe more had been sat up in the loft since we moved to Oxfordshire 10 years ago. I'd got it down some months ago and had been disappointed to find that only half a display lit up and it wasn't well at all.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a post from my friend Matt 2E0MDJ on Facebook saying that he was having a repair done by James M1APC. James is based in Cornwall and is well worth following on Facebook (search for 'The Shack') and he posts pictures of many of the rigs that he has in for repair - which is fascinating to see.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I emailled James to see if he would be willing to look at my TS-940. The answer was yes, so last week, I shipped the rig down to James to have a look at. I was delighted to see, on Facebook, last night a picture of my TS-940 lights bright and working again! James also sent me a video of the rig running on 10m - it sounds great.

James has the rig on soak test but tells me that he hopes to have the rig back with me very shortly. I'm really looking forward to it!

My plan is to have it on the bench, alongside the IC-740 and the FT-847, for a little CW, SSB and AM on the HF bands. Assuming it works well, and I am sure it will, that will probably free up the FT1000MP to go elsewhere.

If you want to find James M1APC on the web - he has a site here with some contact details.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

How had I missed this? The FT-8900 does AM on 28MHz!

How long have I had my FT-8900? Four, five years, maybe? Of course I knew it received AM on air band and have used it on there from time to time, but it never occurred to me that it would work on 29MHz.

This afternoon, I noticed a tweet from Richard GW1JFV saying that he'd worked K1GUP on 29MHz AM and went on to say that he used his FT8900. I happened to be in the shack at the time and had the instruction manual to hand.

Menu item #45 was quickly found AM on | off - which allowed me to toggle AM on to 29MHz.

I fired it up and it sounds ok. Not brilliant on the monitor receiver - perhaps a little harsh, but it's AM nevertheless.

Another option for using AM on 29MHz. Thanks Richard!

Update: Oh dear - this turns out to be wrong! The 8900 is receive only on AM. After an interesting conversation with Chris G3VEH, I checked this. Although the 8900 transmits when AM is selected, if you listen, it's actually FM. When Richard made his QSO, his QSO partner must have slope detected his FM!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Exciting news for 70MHz FM enthusiasts: Wouxun and TYT mobile offerings on the way

Interesting news that I've picked up over the last couple of days is that both Wouxun and TYT will be offering a version of their quadbander mobiles which will include 70MHz.

In the case of the Wouxun KG-UV950PL you lose 28MHz, which makes good sense to me, giving you 50/70/144/432MHz. Although 28MHz is a great mobile band, - FM only is maybe a bit restricted. Martin Lynch & Sons' website carries a link to the new rig, which is not yet available - but hopefully not far off. There's talk of 50W output on 70MHz.

I have it on good authority that the TYT TH-9800 will also be available in a configuration which includes 68-88MHz. In the case of the TH-9800, this is at the expense of the 50MHz band - so you would have 28/70/144/432MHz. The TYT version will hopefully be in the UK from mid-December.

All of this sounds good for 70MHz FM activity - particularly being packaged with other bands - whereas PMR boxes used for the band tend to be big and don't do anything else for you (albeit they are the right price!)

I wonder if we'll see triband 70/144/432MHz mobile antennas available?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Remembering Julian Moss G4ILO

It was with much sadness that I read of Julian's death last Friday on Twitter and then on his blog

Like many others who have tweeted or blogged about Julian's passing, I found his blog an inspiration and there was always something of interest for me.

On the air, I think I first worked Julian on 2m CW back in the 1980s when he was still 'down south'. I remember it well, as G3ILO was local to me and working G4ILO made me smile. We didn't have many on air QSOs in recent years, although we emailled and commented on each other's blogs quite regularly.

A memorable communication from Julian was an APRS message he sent me, bounced off the ISS. We also had a nice Echolink QSO one evening, when I was on the train and he was in his shack. We never worked on DSTAR, a mode that it fair to say, did not appeal to Julian at all, and he was quite happy to say so!

Happy memories of a very interesting man who I shall miss. Sympathies to Olga for her loss.

Julian's last blog post reminds us to hold our loved ones close...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Noble Radio NR4SC 70MHz rig: weak signals

I was very conscious, having been playing with the rig that I really hadn't put it on any sort of decent antenna. Well, I still haven't, but at least it was something horizontally polarised!

A few weeks ago I ordered a Moonraker 70MHz HB9CV. I wanted to have an antenna that I could use for some meteor scatter and I was also very interested to see what I could hear over tropo paths with a simple antenna.

Today I had the chance to put the antenna together, which didn't take more than about 30 minutes. I mounted it on a spare pole in the garden, held up by a stepladder, so the HB9CV was probably no more than about 8 feet above the ground.

Of course, the first signal that I listened to was the GB3RAL beacon, just a few miles away from me. I was pleased to see that the signal strength varied substantially as I rotated the antenna - anything from about S8 to S1, so the pattern of the antenna was reasonable, despite the low mounting height.

Next I listened for the GB3BUX beacon. I heard nothing and a quick look at the Beaconspot database suggests that it may be off air. Then, I pointed the antenna to the south west to listen for GB3MCB in Cornwall. Very pleasingly, I was able to hear it, just out of the noise, peaking up every few minutes. This may have been tropo or it may have been aircraft scatter. Either way, I continue with my assertion that the NR4SC has a nice quiet receiver. I've not, yet, tried this path with the Spectrum transverter. Interestingly, I have not heard GB3MCB on 144MHz very often. I've always assumed that is because of Faringdon Folly - a hill to my south west a mere 4 or 5 miles away. So it's interesting that the path works ok on 70MHz, even with a low antenna.

I also listened for the GB3ANG beacon near Dundee in Scotland. I cannot be certain whether I heard it - certainly nothing concrete, but I've a feeling I heard a fragment at one point. More extensive listening would reveal, something I am sure.

This was a very pleasing test and one of the benefits of having the compact NR4SC was that it was easy to bring down to the lounge, with a PSU and connect up to the coax coming in through the patio doors! The NR4SC is very compact and would make the basis of a nice portable station. Just need a matching 150W PA now!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

New version of DSD+ released

With more digital radio appearing on the bands - I noticed the GB7BS (Bristol DMR) repeater coming on stream last weekend, you might want to think about ways of listening to the activity before you decide whether to take the plunge and invest in digital kit.

Over at the RTL-SDR blog, I noticed a post announcing a new version of the DSD+ software which will decode D-STAR, DMR etc. The package runs on Windows and you'll need an RTL-SDR, Funcube Dongle or some other SDR receiver

See the post here

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Noble Radio NR4SC update: strong signals

I had a few minutes to play in the RSGB 70MHz activity contest this evening. Although I was still only using the vertical antenna which is not ideal for such activity it proved a useful session.

Neil G4BRK my nearest 70MHz neighbour was on and going well. His signal was well over S9 and it is a compliment to his signal and to the NR4SC's receiver than he was gone within about 4khz either side, which I was quite happy with. M1PRO, a little further off were also rattling the s-meter and easy to lose a few khz either side.

Most distant signal heard was from Keith G4ODA in IO92/Spalding.

A 70MHz HB9CV antenna arrived today, so I'll put that together at the weekend and see what can be done.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back to basics with the IC740

For the last few weeks, the IC-740 which was sitting quietly under the bench had been niggling at me. I had no HF rig on the operating bench, other than the FT-847 which gets used on VHF mostly. I'd taken the FT1000MP off the bench a while ago and didn't feel that excited about using it. In fact, I'd thought about selling it - though haven't really thought that through yet.

But the IC-740. There was an appeal to getting it out and going again. It was my HF rig when I first got on the air back in 1983. I knew it worked ok as I'd had a handful of contacts on it a few months back. Chasing DX, no, that wasn't really wanted to do. Perhaps some CW - just run of the mill stuff - there have been times when I've found working around the UK on 7MHz CW good fun. Maybe something like that?

Finding a few minutes this afternoon, I hooked it up - plugged an aerial and a paddle in. It puts out the 85W or so that it always did. Tuned around 28MHz and quickly made a few QSOs across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America (not great conditions, but good). I listened to my old pal G3TXF doling out the QSOs as ZD9XF. Although it would be lovely to work Nigel, I don't really feel the need to play pileups.

So maybe you'll even hear me and the old IC740 (31 years old) around 7030 playing low power. Who knows! It's nice to be reunited with my old friend!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

First impressions of the Noble Radio NR4SC 70MHz CW/SSB rig

After my post mentioning the release of the new Noble 70MHz rig, I very quickly had an email from Rob PE9PE. Rob and I operated together on the FSDXA trip to the Comoros, D68C. Rob is involved with Noble Radio in Europe and offered me the chance to take a look at one of the first NR4SC radios. Of course, I said yes!
The rig arrived yesterday and of course, I wasted no time in unpacking it.

The first impression is of a solidly built radio. It's quite chunky. When I posted a picture on Twitter, someone used the U word! But, I think the U word we should use is Utilitarian. It's functional and reminds me of some of the Tentec styling.

Powering it up - I love the clear, big display of the frequency readout. Initially, I found the volume control a bit noisy. I mentioned this to Rob PE9PE and he said that some of the rigs did this, but a few quick rotations of the volume control would cure it. Sure enough it did. I hooked the rig up to my 70MHz vertical, which is what I normally use for working Es and the occasional tropo contact. Not ideal, but enough to make some contacts.

First tests were to listen to the GB3RAL 70MHz beacon. It was the same sort of signal strength that I expect with the Spectrum Transverter and HF rig, but interestingly, I felt the receiver was a lot quieter, which was nice.

The rig has a built in Iambic keyer for CW. I wanted to try that out as it seemed as if CW would probably be my best chance of making some contacts! The keyer socket on the rig is for a 3.5mm jack rather than a 1/4 inch jack - slightly pesty as all my other rigs have the larger size and I couldn't immediately find an adapter. However, the Palm Paddle which I use with my FT-817 had the right size connector, so I decided to use that and plugged in and changed the mode to CW.

I discovered that the keyer jack is expected to have the dash on the tip, rather than the usual dot! Simple enough to resolve - I turned the paddle upside down and all then falls into place. The keyer is quite nice to use although I made the occasional mistake - which is just a question of getting used to the dot/dash memory.

The rig can also be supplied with a fist microphone and Rob had kindly included one of these with the package. Listening to the transmitted audio and the CW on a monitor receiver was fine and on a quick listen I didn't hear anything I didn't like the sound of.

Early this evening, Pete 2E0SQL kindly tried listening for me, although we didn't manage a QSO - probably owing to our cross-polarised antennas. However, I did hear John M0UKD calling CQ on 70.200 from Hornchurch in Essex and was very pleased to be able to have a quick QSO with him. John was running 25W to a vertical compared to my 10W, so I was pleased to work him.

Tomorrow afternoon brings the Practical Wireless 70MHz contest, so I hope to make a few more contacts then.

In the meantime, the first impressions are positive. A rig which is simple to use, has a nice quiet receiver - and here's the real plus - a rig with which you can monitor 70MHz without tying up an HF rig - no transverter needed.

I'm looking forward to playing some more, hopefully with some better antennas too and will post my further thoughts.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A new 70MHz mono-band radio from Noble Radio

Rob, PE9PE got in touch to let me know about the new 70MHz mono-band rig from Noble Radio

The rig produces 10W out - you can see a full list of the specs here

The rig is priced at EU499 in the Netherlands, including 21% Dutch VAT.

I've asked Rob if there are plans to distribute the rig in the UK and what the price will be. I'll update this post accordingly when I find out. The PDF also mentions a 50MHz variant, but I'm guessing that the 70MHz will be of immediately more interest.

Updated: Rob PE9PE replied to say that the rig is available direct from the Netherlands and comes with a 2 year warranty.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR and PiAware - feeding ADS-B spots to the Flightaware network

Earlier in the week, the nice people from Flightaware got in touch and mentioned they had some software called PiAware. This software runs on a Raspberry Pi which has an RTL-SDR dongle and antenna attached and the Dump1090 software running.

Flightaware say:

If you are running an inexpensive Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver with dump1090 then you can install the PiAware Package from FlightAware to freely view nearby flight traffic and transmit this data to FlightAware’s tracking network.  Most aircraft within Europe by 2017 and USA by 2020 will be required to have ADS-B transmitters onboard.

FlightAware’s user-hosted worldwide ADS-B receiver network tracks about 90,000 unique aircraft per day and feeds this live data into the FlightAware website in combination with other public/private flight tracking data sources.  FlightAware has over 500 user-hosted ADS-B sites online across 60 countries, with top contributors tracking over 10,000 aircraft per day.  To see how ADS-B data is put to use, check out the FlightAware Live Map.

The PiAware installation process takes only a few minutes.  If you don't have PlanePlotter, you can download it and then send FlightAware your installation's serial number and we'll buy you a license.  FlightAware will also give users a free Enterprise Account ($90/month value) in return for installing PiAware.
So, if you don't have a copy of PlanePlotter and would like one - this is a nice bonus for setting up and sending your data into Flightaware. I had a copy of PlanePlotter anyway, but this looked like a fun challenge to get working.

The instructions from Flightaware are good and comprehensive and can be found here

It was a while since I had run Dump1090 on my Pi, so I had to do a bit of work to get things in a state where PiAware would work.

- After some issues, I decided to ensure that Raspbian was updated: sudo apt-get upgrade (this takes a while!)

- I then refreshed rtl-sdr

git clone git://
cd rtl-sdr
mkdir build
cd build
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

- Having read around a little, I decided to install a Flightaware specific version of Dump1090. It appears that this shouldn't be necessary and you can use a 'regular' version of Dump1090, but I decided that my chances were improved of getting it working if I did this!

cd ~ 
git clone git://
cd dump1090
sudo apt-get install pkg-config

Having compiled this - assuming you have installed RTL-SDR and have your RTLSDR stick, with an antenna (the little antenna which comes with the stick should work fine), plugged into the Pi - or a connected USB hub, it's time to see if you can receive any ADS-B transmissions

Navigate to your dump1090 directory (dump1090_mr in my case)

cd dump1090_mr
./dump1090 -- interactive

If everything is working, you should start to see some data coming through from the aircraft in your area.

Having got this going, you can install the PiAware software. Goto this page and you can start from step 2. I had some issues (mostly my fault!) with PiAware versions prior to 1.7-1 - but that is working fine.

Before you start PiAware up (in Step 4), stop your Dump1090 if it's still running and restart it as follows:

./dump1090 --quiet --net

I used the quiet parameter to keep resource usage to a minimum. The net parameter ensures that Dump1090 makes the data available to other applications (PiAware in our case).

Start up another LX Terminal window and type

sudo piaware start

Hopefully, you will shortly see a message saying that PiAware has started. You can get a good idea of what is going on by checking the Piaware log file

tail -f /tmp/piaware.out

With any luck, you will see a bunch of messages including 'Connected to Flightware - logging in and so on).

You should then see a message every 5 minutes detailing the number of messages that Flightaware has received from your receiver. If you run into problems, there is a helpful forum thread here

After all this, my Pi is feeding date into the Flightaware network successfully!

It's intriguing to note, running the Pi/RTLSDR combo at the same time as PlanePlotter and the LZ2RR microADSB receiver (on similar antennas). In the same time interval, the microADSB receiver has seen 488 aircraft and the RTLSDR has heard 329. So, the RTL_SDR is not quite as sensitive, but it's not bad at all! It may be worth trying different versions of Dump1090 and see if this can be improved.

Great fun to try - thanks in particular to Max at Flightaware for letting me know about PiAware.

Finally, if you want to see the map that your spots feed into - it's here

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Practical Wireless SOTA VHF weekend 23-25 August 2014

Just a quick reminder that next weekend is the August Bank Holiday weekend and Practical Wireless are encouraging VHF/UHF operators to operate from Summits on the Air on the VHF bands. It's not a contest, more an excuse to get out and enjoy some portable radio in some great scenery!

Richard G3CWI at SOTABeams has very kindly sponsored some prizes.

I'm planning to be out during the weekend on one or more of our local summits (there aren't many in Oxfordshire!) and will be listening out for other SOTA activity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reflections on the passing of VO-52

Unfortunately, our concerns were well-founded. Yesterday, on the AMSAT bulletin board, the official news of VO-52's passing was announced.

The loss of VO-52 leaves quite a gap. What I enjoyed about it particularly, was that it was the one of the linear transponders that could be used with very simple antennas. My V2000 vertical worked very well for a variety of contacts. I just wish I had started using it earlier.

VO-52 had a great downlink signal and was always in transponder mode (AO-73 is great, but I rarely hear it in transponder mode, or if I do, it's usually brief, as it switches over to telemetry). So, hopefully the new generation of satellites which will be coming on stream soon - some already in orbit doing other things, waiting to be activated into their amateur radio roles - others waiting to be launched.

A good time to remember to support AMSAT (a VO-52 lookalike would work very well, thank you...)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

VO-52 satellite missing in action

It's been a busy couple of weeks here, all good, but busy. Last weekend, a visit to the shack coincided with a pass of VO-52 according to GPREDICT. I listened and listened and didn't hear a thing. Being somewhat new to satellites, I always assume that if I don't hear anything, it's my fault (it usually is!). I checked the TLEs I was using in GPREDICT and all was ok. I checked the 145Mhz receiver - all ok. Very odd.

I didn't have a chance to think about it again until yesterday afternoon when I was in the shack working on a review of the Wouxun UV-8D for Practical Wireless and I noticed that VO-52 was due again. Once again, I heard nothing. Again I checked my receiver and the TLEs. I was now starting to think that perhaps it wasn't me.

On Twitter, I asked my satellite friends if there was any news about VO-52 that I had missed. Ricardo EA4GMZ kindly replied saying that it had been out of order for some days and included two useful links, one satellite status page and secondly to the threads on the AMSAT message board, where if you page down, you will find some messages relating to VO-52.

VO-52 had very quickly become one of my favourite satellites once I got going with it earlier in the year. I hope we shall hear from it again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

VC1T copied in the UK on 144MHz

I'm indebted to Roger, G3XBM for pointing me at the news that the VC1T expedition was heard in the UK on 144MHz by G4SWX, but unfortunately no 2 way QSO was made, despite trying for 4 hours to make a two way contact. It is also reported that a station in Ireland heard portions of the VC1T transmission.

See the news from the ARRL site

See a screenshot from G4SWX at G4CQM's site

UKube-1 satellite heard on first pass....

The UKube-1 satellite was launched this evening with the first pass due over the UK at 2014 local time.

Coincidentally, supper had finished around 2013 local time, so I sped upstairs and switched on the FT-847 with the V2000 vertical connected. The UKube-1 CW beacon on 145.840 plus minus doppler was the first target. It doesn't transmit continuously, but I was pleased to hear it around 2018 local up on 846. Shortly after that, I heard the telemetry on 145.915 coming through at very good strength.

Congrats to the UK team responsible for the satellite!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A day of variety: Legal AM/SSB CB, patchy 50MHz Es and fun on VO-52

Some would say it was 30 years too late, but here in the UK, today was the day that AM and SSB CB was made legal on the CEPT 'mid' band, with an output power of 4W AM and 12W SSB. Good news as far as I am concerned and it will give me the opportunity to make contact with various friends who are active on CB and not amateur radio.

Not much about in the way of Es today, although I did manage a late afternoon QSO with HA8IB on 50MHz. Pretty quiet apart from that.

Late in the afternoon, I caught a couple of VO-52 satellite passes. The first was a very low angle one, around 2 degrees over Russia. I had a nice snappy CW QSO with Imre HA1SE. I was pleased to find I could work a pass at that distance and elevation, as I'd love to try working UA9CS and potentially even UA0SUN.

The second pass was a bit higher and I had a sketchy exchange - I'm not going to call it a QSO with 4X1AJ, but we heard each other before some noise kicked in here and that was that. As we're both reasonably regularly active, I'm hopeful of making a QSO before long.

Monday, June 23, 2014

VC1T plans Transatlantic 144MHz attempt

Over the years, there have been plenty of attempts to bridge the Atlantic on 144MHz, via tropo or meteor scatter. Up to now, it hasn't been done. There's no doubt at all in my mind that it's possible - it's just a question of try, try and try again.

A North America group, operating as VC1T plan to try from July 5th to 12th this year. They plan to use good power to a 43 element yagi (yes, 43 elements) and concentrate on FSK441 and JT65b modes.

You can read more about their plans here

Will this be the year it's done? Wouldn't it be great if the answer was yes!


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