Saturday, October 27, 2007

My all electronic DXCC certificate


We got back from a day by the sea yesterday to discover that a delivery had arrived from the ARRL. It was my DXCC certificate, which I think I mentioned I'd decided to apply for, having found that I had qualified solely through the use of Logbook of the World, without using any QSL cards at all. No doubt I could really ramp the totals up if I did....but I suppose the trick is to work them again and get an electronic confirmation!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Remember to vote in the RSGB Board elections

RADCOM appeared this week and with it came the voting papers for the upcoming board election.

Like many I suppose, I have the odd gripe with the RSGB, but bluntly there's no alternative. We need a strong national society to represent us as amateurs and to represent us in the way we want. That last phrase is a very deliberate one.

About 5 years ago, I knew most of the members of the RSGB board and they were active radio amateurs (albeit in different fields) and I knew, without question, that they'd do their best for amateur radio and we'd be thinking along broadly similar lines with regard to the future of the hobby.

Looking at the composition of the board now, there are only a couple of members that I know as 'active' or enthusiastic exponents of the hobby. That's not a criticism of the other members. But in my view, many that 'represent' us are administrative radio amateurs. They're good people, they're well meaning. But how do they see the future of the hobby? Do they see the bigger picture?

But if you're reading this site, you're probably active in DXing or contesting - regularly active on the bands in some way or another - perhaps keeping skeds or trying new things like solar powered radio. You know what makes radio tick. You know why radio is magical. When you cast your vote in the Board election, as I hope you will, ask yourself, does the person I vote for know what makes amateur radio tick, does he/she know how it's magical and does he/she know why it's important?

We get what we deserve in the board. Let's make sure we get the best we can.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Low solar battery voltage on the VHF station


I noticed last night that I only seemed to be getting about 35w output on 432MHz SSB, rather than the full 50w. This morning I put the meter on the battery powering the VHF station and found it was down to 11.67v - rather low.

Initially, I thought the panel supplying the battery had developed a fault, but that turned out to be a metering issue. I've swapped the pair of batteries out and replaced them with the set I use occasionally for HF operation which is supplying about 12.45v at the moment.

Today, I've been trying to charge the set up again and have succeeded in getting about another .1v into them. I suspect I'm going to have to invest in a Lead Acid battery charger and every now and again give them a full recycle.

Picture was snapped the other morning following one of our discussions about digital cameras - this taken on the Nokia N95.

Friday, October 19, 2007

High pressure

The barometic pressure is higher than I remember seeing since we installed the Fiddlesticks weather station back in April. It hit 1033 or so here earlier today.

VHF conditions have been a bit above average, though we wouldn't expect to see anything very good until the pressure drops away a little. GB3PO was heard on 145.650 here over the last couple of days. And this evening I worked, Laurie F6HPP/P (a callsign I have worked off and on for many years) was coming through on 2m SSB from JN19 near Paris.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Making a wind turbine from a dynohub


Intrigued by the QSO with John, G0ORA last night - I did a quick search for Dynohub and Wind Generator and found some interesting info - as well as some alternatives to the hub itself.

Click here to see the story.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An interesting two metre session...


Just had an interesting half hour on the radio. First of all, I worked Klaus, DL8BDU in JO43. I was a bit weak with him, but he was running 750w to a big antenna. Fortunately he heard my pipsqueak 50w/5ele signal - thanks! Not much else coming through, though I heard PA5WT on CW - but he didn't seem to hear me.

Decided to call CQ on 144.050 and I was called by G0ORA, John in Stoke on Trent. I swung the beam up to the north and we had a super rattle on the key. But what was particularly fun was that John was also using a solar powered station. He has a big 40w solar panel and a battery bank. He also mentioned having made some wind generators from old Sturmey Archer Dynohubs. This sounds interesting! I have written to him for details.

Came downstairs and told Julie that I'd worked another solar powered station and she suggests we start a club called SPOC (Solar Powered Operators Club)!! The picture's nothing to do with radio, but I took it today - it's very seasonal.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A solar powered entry to the Bill Windle QSO Party

The First Class Operators' Club organise a 'Bill Windle QSO Party' twice a year. The idea is to encourage operators to use Morse, and to some extent, I think, to showcase the club. Bill Windle, G8VG was a real influencial character in the club some years ago, and the QSO party has been named in his honour. Though there are a lot of very nice people in FOC, there's a sense that the club has perhaps lost its' way somewhat, which is a shame. Perhaps that's for another day.

Anyway, I thought I'd get on and make a few QSOs in the event. I decided rather than use the FT1000MP main station, I'd use the solar powered setup, so I ran the IC706 powered from the solar charged batteries. By and large, I ran about 50 to 60 watts, but upped the power to 80 watts if someone seemed to be having problems hearing me. I only had to do that a couple of times.

In a relaxed hour or so of operating, I made around 30 QSOs, mostly on 20m, many with US stations. The best DX, which I think turns out to be the best Solar Powered DX yet, was W7QC in Washington state. There were several others at good distance in the W5 (Texas/Oklahoma) area that I worked, as well as the 'usual' East coasters - which are nice DX on solar power anyway.

I was pleased to find 15m open as well and worked Puck, W4PM in Virginia which was nice. Also heard, though not worked on 15 was Brian, 9J2BO from Zambia, coming through with a good signal.

2m Tropo

There's been some 2m tropo for the last couple of days. You couldn't say it was massive - but there's been a hint of good conditions. On Friday evening, I was listening to GB3WH coming home from the station and MD1DDD/P from the Isle of Man called in with a big signal.

The GB3VHF and F5XAM weren't much different to normal today, but HB9HB from Switzerland, was coming in this afternoon - up to around 539 in fading. I did hear HB9QQ/P on CW, working Dave, G4RGK, but I didn't get my act together to work him.

I had a partial with Jean-Marc, F5JNX down in JN37, but we couldn't complete.

Listened around on 432MHz, but there wasn't anything coming through here.

I got the impression I was somehow just on the edge of propagation. Interesting to tune around though. Will keep an eye later this evening and perhaps tomorrow morning, just in case.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And life on HF as well!

The RSGB's 21/28MHz contest took place today. In low sunspot years, this isn't a particularly captivating contest, but I thought I'd pop on and make a few QSOs to support those who were having a serious go, and hand out the OX multiplier a bit.

A few stations were coming through on 15m, ZC4LI being the pick of the bunch, but a good number of Ukranians were coming in with UA6 being the furthest east heard. To my surprise, I made one QSO on 10m, 9A3VM, so there was some marginal Es around. A few minutes later, DR0X built to a huge signal on 15m, and I thought there might be a bit more Es on 10m, but no luck. The only other station heard on 10m was the Newbury Club, down the road, operating as G5XV/P.

A good VHF weekend

Though conditions haven't been startling this weekend on VHF, there's been some interest.

It was the 432MHz to light contest this weekend. When I first got to check seventy cms on Saturday, I wondered if I'd got the dates wrong as I didn't hear anything. Finally, I heard one station, PA6NL, who I can pretty much always hear. Worked him ok, though signals weren't the best strength. After a while beams obviously turned and I worked a few more Gs. G0XDI said he was hearing some stations in JN37/38 - I thought not much chance for me!

But, I kept tuning around and eventually heard F/OK4W/P (an interesting call) from JN38. Better still, his signal came up to S8 and I snuck in a QSO. That was it for the DX. I listened on Sunday morning, but there was nothing at any distance.

VHF conditions were still reasonable this morning (Sunday) as I heard GB3PO identify on 145.650 as I was driving back into the village after feeding the bees.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

What repeater am I close to? Check your SatNav!

I suppose if you're a regular traveller in particular areas, then you know what repeaters are close by. If not, it's sometimes a bit of a lottery about what you hear when you're scanning around.

We were chatting in the week about the possibility of setting up repeaters as POIs (Points of Interest) on SatNav Units. I guessed that since I had all the data that I'd used to create the maps for Google Earth, it wouldn't be too difficult to do something.

And so I have. If you're got a TomTom unit (I expect they all use different formats!) you should be able to install this file as an overlay and set it up. It shows all the UK repeaters on 10m, 6m, 2m and 70cms.

Works just fine on my TomTom ONE.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

ePFX300 award


I haven't generally bothered applying for awards, largely because I can never be bothered to collect QSLs and sent them through the post etc etc.

But with the advent of eQSL and ARRL's Logbook of the World, a lot less paper is required!

I noticed recently that I'd qualified for eQSL's ePFX300 award, which you earn by working over 300 prefixes (G3, G4, 2E0, M3) etc. Prefix awards are quite fun as you don't necessarily have to work lots of DX to qualify.

I also applied for ARRL's DXCC award (CW) based entirely on LOTW records. Though I've plenty more than 100 countries on CW confirmed, I thought it would be fun to do it entirely based on electronic confirmations.

Bob, GU4YOX has his own radio show!


Well known DXer, dxpeditioner and all-round nice guy, Bob, GU4YOX has his own radio show. No, a real radio show on Guernsey's Island FM station! Chatting to Bob last night, he was telling me all about it.

He'll be absolutely great and it will be fun to listen to the show live on the web. I think the first show is on air on 20th October between 12 and 2pm.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

10MHz PSK and PropNet

Courtesy of ARRL News, this looks interesting....perhaps something new to try this weekend?

Mark the "Play on PropNET" Weekend on Your Calendar
Play on PropNET is a two-day, worldwide event designed to promote PSK31 and propagation study on the 30 meter band. This event, scheduled for 0000 UTC October 6 -2359 October 7, will be on 10.1395 MHz. Simply download PropNetPSK, a free PropNET software program, configure it for your station and activate for the weekend.

PropNetPSK software will place the PSK stream at +1500 Hz (10.1410 MHz true). In normal operation, the software will cause your station to automatically ID at regular intervals (several times per hour) throughout the weekend. If your licensing authority requires that an operator be present whenever transmitting, switch to "Lurker" mode when you are away. This will allow your station to monitor and report anything that is heard, even if it isn't transmitting

PropNET uses the Internet as a reporting tool. Participants who are connected to the Internet (even using intermittent dial-up connections) will have their reports sent to a mapping system that will graphically display everything that is "caught" (a PropNET term for received). Transmitting stations will have their call signs shown on the map. Receive-only stations (Lurkers) will display using their 6-cipher grid-locator rather than call sign. Don't worry if you don't have an Internet connection at your station, as others will hear your transmission and report it to the Internet.

As an added benefit, all stations that report activity will have their activity added to an animated GIF file at the end of each UTC day. All worldwide activity will be captured to that animation and will be able to be played back at a later time.

All amateur and SWL stations worldwide are encouraged to participate for this first event of its kind. Thanks to the 30 Meter Digital Group for suggesting this activity and to the PropNET community of experimenters for supporting it. -- Ev Tupis, W2EV

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