Friday, August 31, 2007

Solar radio update

I had my first eQSL today from one of the solar powered contacts I've been making recently. It was from Bud, AA3B who I worked on 20m.

I've customised my eQSL to show that I was using a Solar powered rig, which I hope people will find interesting.

By the way, if you haven't looked at eQSL yet, I really recommend it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

August Bank Holiday at G4VXE

We've had a busy, but great weekend. Have a look at the Fiddlesticks site to see the allotment, bee and processing work we've done this weekend.

There's still been time for some radio activity though. During the Romanian DX contest over the weekend, I made some more solar powered contacts, including AA3B and 4L8A - some nice DX on low power. I'm up to 23 countries on Solar Power now. The picture shows the close, personal interest that Bitzy, one of our cats, takes in getting the batteries charged!

I took some time to clean up the Butternut's joints over the weekend and it's a lot quieter now. The base of the butternut is right by the chickens' enclosure and there was a lot of interest (and comment) in what I was doing.

With the high pressure falling away slightly this evening, I wondered if VHF/UHF conditions would be improved. Sure I enough, I swung the 2m beam to the south and worked Jean, F6APE on IN97 on 2m. Not much more activity when I listened, but hopefully we'll see some more DX in the next day or two.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

DXpedition to St Brandon, 3B7C

The Five Star DX Association will be QRV from St Brandon in the Indian Ocean from 7th to 24th September. The callsign will 3B7C.

If you haven't tried to work an expedition before, this is one to have a go at. They should be really workable, even if you've only a small set up.

I know many of the operators personally, having operated with them from the Comoros (D68C) and Rodrigues (3B9C) and know that they will put on a really great show.

Take a look at the expedition website which will tell you all you need to know about working them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two more continents worked on Solar Power...

Twenty metres was in good shape last night and I got the IC706 running on the solar charged batteries again. As well as working a couple of European stations, EA8AGF/P (Canaries = Africa) and CX7CO (Uraguay = South America) were nice ones. I just need to work North America and Oceania for Worked All Continents on solar power!

I turned the power up to about 60w to break the pileup for CX7CO.

I'm starting to think it might be fun to try and work the forthcoming FSDXA trip to St Brandon (3B7C) on solar power.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh that's clever..

Looks like there's a new feature on Google Maps allowing you to embed a map in a web page. So, if it works, there should be a map of UK 2m and 70cms repeaters here

View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More power from the sun

Heartened by the weekend's experiments using solar power and the FT817, I thought it would be fun to try running a little more RF power. I hooked the Icom IC706 up to the batteries last night. I set the power to around 30 watts.

Propagation was reasonable on 20, 30 and 40m. I made a good few QSOs including a Ukrainian lighthouse station on 20m and two friends; Willy, LY2PX and Anders, SM3/EA8CN on 30m. It was fun explaining that I had a solar powered rig. No-one complained it was dark!

The hour's operating cost was around 0.3v, most of which had been replaced by the solar panel by the time I checked the battery voltage at 07.00 this morning.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Solar powered contacts

For a little while now, I've been keen on the idea of getting a small scale solar power project going here. Seeing some of the projects on BBC2s 'It's Not Easy Being Green' made me realise that it wasn't too hard to generate at least a small amount of power - and then of course, we got to talk to Dick Strawbridge himself about all this stuff. That as they say, is another story!

Anyway, if you were listening to GB3WH on Friday morning - you may have gathered that Paul, 2E0BHA kindly presented me with a couple of fire alarm batteries (handed over at a lay-by near the A34!). I picked up a solar charger at Maplin - and set the batteries charging (actually, Paul had already charged them nicely - thanks!).

On Saturday afternoon, I hooked up the FT817 to the batteries - connected the Butternut and tuned around the bands. The Russian RDA contest was in full swing, so I decided to try and make some contacts. Though some people moan about contests taking over the bands, they're brilliant for testing equipment - you know people will work you if they can hear you. On 20m, RL3A from Moscow was the first in the solar powered log to be followed by another 15 or so stations, mostly from the Moscow area. UA9CLB was further east and is probably the best solar powered DX yet! I did hear UA0BA, but couldn't raise him with the 3w. Great fun. A quick visit to 40m resulted in a QSO with LA1S/LH on a lighthouse.

The battery voltage was hardly dented by the operating session - an hour's operating 'cost' about .15v - which was quickly replenished by the solar charger - despite cloudy skies.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll try using the FT857 or IC706 and run a little more power - that would be even more effective. And the other idea is to get an inverter and then try running the FT1000MP from that.

Great fun. Thanks, Paul !

Friday, August 17, 2007

M8C - Cray Valley in the Press

Justin, G4TSH sent me a nice link to an article about the Cray Valley Radio Society operation from the Scillies during the IOTA contest in July. Nice publicity. Well done!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Logging software

We were chatting on the repeater this morning about some of the good free logging software there is around. Here are one or two recommendations to get you started

Winlog32 by Colin, G0CUZ

DXLab by AA6YQ (I haven't used this one personally, but Rich, W3ZJ swears by it)

Ham Radio Deluxe

Prefix Map for Google Earth

Dave, G3RXP asked last week if there was a amateur radio prefix overlay for Google Earth. There didn't seem to be, so I've created one here. Remember, you need Google Earth on your machine to use this!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Portable on the Isle of Wight

This year, we decided to go for our holiday on the Isle of Wight. Neither Julie or I had been there before. As it turned out, the weather was just perfect and couldn't have been better if we'd travelled to the Med.

I took the trusty FT817 and a couple of whip antennas. Our holiday apartment was located just to the south of Shanklin on the South East coast and had an awesome takeoff over the Channel anywhere between North and South, through East.

The majority of contacts made were on 50MHz CW, where I used the FT817 at around 3w. I worked into a good number of European countries, which delighted me on the handheld setup.

On 2m, it was fascinating to listen to various activity all around the coastal towns in South East England. A number of weak FM types were called, but not worked. I guess they don't listen for anyone weaker than S9 !! Interestingly, one of my local repeaters at home, GB3RD near Reading was a steady S5 and I could raise it quite easily. I had a very easy QSO with Tim, G4DBL near Newbury on SSB and heard stations much further north.

The picture shows a typical evening's operating, though I should hasten to add that it's pure coincidence that there are two bottles of wine on the table...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Solar Powered Radio

A beautiful sunny morning today and somehow the conversation on the repeater turned to powering your radio from the sun. Paul, 2E0BHA fascinated me by saying that he and a colleague had got a solar panel and charged a battery up which would power an FT817 'forever'. I mentioned that I was interested in float charging some batteries and running an inverter to obtain 240v.

Interestingly, Paul had done this too, with a small inverter and had produced enough 240v for soldering tasks in the back of the van etc.

This is interesting to me, both from the point of view of playing radio, but also in the light of recent issues with flooding and power, we're conscious of wanting some backup to keep the freezers on at home, in case of power cuts. This might be an option. A smallish solar panel with the possible addition of a wind turbine ought to keep this going pretty much 365 days a year.

Chris, G7JGE also mentioned that he'd been reading some very encouraging reports on the increased efficiency of PV cells - so that's worth keeping an eye on too.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

2m looks good

Two metres sounded lively this morning, with a little co-channel interference on GB3WH. Jack, MW0AUH from Pontypool checked in with a good signal, so things are definitely above average.


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