Friday, November 30, 2007

500khz experiment spans the Atlantic

Interesting to see this report - a good reminder that I really should get some RX capability on the band.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Mobile Aerial

I'm trying out a new triband (6m,2m,70cms) antenna on the car. The benefit about this one is that it fits under the barrier at the station - no twanging! It's a bit shorter than the Larsen 6m antenna which I've been using on 6m and 2m for the last 12 months or so, but the gain seems similar on 2m at least. It will be nice to have 70cms available again, though activity on the very local 70cms repeaters (GB3OX, GB3DI and GB3WO) is very low. GB3TD at Swindon is much better used, but my 5w doesn't quite get that far from the Didcot end of the commute.

A new feature on Google Maps/Mobile

Reading through some of the GIS activity today, I noticed that there was a new version of Google Maps for Mobile out. It has a very clever feature called 'My Location', where even phones that don't have a GPS in them will have a stab at telling you where you are!

This works by the application detecting which phone cell your mobile is talking to and basing the location on that.

The country isn't completely mapped yet, in terms of locations to cells yet, so you may find that even if the phone is detecting a cell, someone may not have visited the cell, who has a GPS enabled phone - and therefore completed the lat/lon to cell mapping.

Anyway, grab yourself a copy of the latest Google Maps Mobile from and try it out. Works fine on the Nokia N-95 and I understand on other Nokia Symbian based phones.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Today's little project

The DX Magazine, edited by Carl Smith, N4AA have, for many years run the 'Most Wanted DX Survey'. About three years ago, Roger, G3SXW asked me if I would help with the IT side of the survey. Today, I've been doing just that for the 2007 survey.

Respondents enter the countries that they most need on each mode into a website. We then download the results and 'mangle' the figures into a database.

We take account of the number of respondents from each continent which allows us to weight the figures according to the population of DXers in each area,

We run the queries, including, where appropriate, the weighting factors which produce the tables which are then published in DX Magazine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another nice eQSL received for the solar station

I was just looking through my eQSL inbox and there's a nice card from Puck, W4PM for a QSO back in October using my solar powered HF station.

Funnily enough, Puck lives on the outskirts of the city where the company I work for has its' US head office - so I'm hopeful we shall meet up one day!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

CQWW CW - targets achieved!

I reflected in a recent Radcom contest column, I think, about some of the difference between DXers and Contesters. And as I was cleaning the chickens out this morning, I was thinking that I'm really far more interested in DXing than contesting as such. It's just that contests provide such a great environment for the working person to work DX. Particularly in big events like CQWW, where there are lots of interesting stations active.

So it is, I suppose, as a DXer, that I can be happy making just over 100 contacts over a couple of hours in the contest this weekend. But they were interesting contacts, which I was pleased to make.

My targets for the weekend had been

- To work the VooDudes, 3X5A on at least one band
- To work something interesting during the 80m sunrise session

This is how it worked out

- Saturday sunrise on 80m worked out well. Worked a bunch of Ws, of course. I didn't feel that conditions were terribly good, but I was pleased to work the usual suspects such as N3RS, K4ZW, K1TTT etc. I was delighted to work John, VE3EJ operating as VC3J. I was over-the-moon to work J3A and PJ2T from the Carribean. Though less far away, CT3NT, CN3A and ZB2X were all nice finds on 80. The 80m DXCC score definitely profitted from that session.

- 3X5A was first heard on 20m on Saturday afternoon towards the end of the opening here. Though I called for some time, it really didn't get me anywhere!

- Since 80m went well on Saturday and we'd been out for dinner with friends, I didn't get up for sunrise on Sunday!

- Big surprise on Sunday morning was checking 10m and finding one signal, V51AS - who came straight back. Haven't worked Namibia for ages, and it's always special to do so, having been there. Disappointingly, that was it for 10m for me, but it was good to hear something outside Oxfordshire and Berkshire!

- 3X5A was found on 15m at 1125z with a good signal, though not as loud as the 6W from Senegal who was just up the band at the time. But I was delighted that after about 5 minutes of calling, Roger, G3SXW heard me and I was in the log. I'm pretty sure that 3X was a new one for me. Thanks, Roger!

With just over 100 contacts in the log, that felt enough - but was thoroughly enjoyed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

CQWW CW contest this weekend

Just a quick reminder that it's the biggest international CW contest of the year this coming weekend; CQ WW CW. There will be lots of activity from all over the globe. No matter what conditions are like, it's always possible to make some great contacts. I'll especially be looking for the Voodudes, who, this year, will be operating from Guinea (3X).

The only question at G4VXE is whether to use the solar powered rig, or the FT1000!

Friday is supposed to be a sunny day, so good for charging the batteries!

3B7C QSL card arrived today

As most readers of this blog will know, I'm not greatly into QSL cards. But I was very pleased to receive my QSL card from 3B7C today.

Thanks to Neville, G3NUG and the team for great QSL service and for the outstanding expedition!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Call yourself a DXer?

Julie found this geographical quiz and thought I might be good at it (can't think why..)

Anyway - I tried it once and made 395,000 and Level 10. Let me know if you do better!

Take the test

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The changing face of HF DXing, or why I've left CDXC....

Last night, I received a 'final reminder' for my subscription from Nigel, G3TXF who's the Treasurer of the Chiltern DX Club (CDXC). Somehow, I felt that I really didn't want to renew this year.

Why? It's not that I'm not interested in radio anymore - you read this blog - you KNOW that's true. It's not even that I'm not interested in DXing on HF. But I find that the focus of my interest has changed. CDXC is very focussed on HF DX operations and funding and contributing to DXpeditions.

Chasing DXpeditions is not, to me, as pleasurable as it was. Trying to work 3B7C on 40m CW just recently was a perfect example. Signals were S9 from them - marvellous! But on top of their tranmit frequency there was a constant barrage of obscenities. I was glad it was on CW, as I wouldn't have wanted Julie or the boys to hear what was going on. And it's not just Europeans. Earlier in the year, I was listening to the Americans doing it on 80m on an expedition frequency. Just maddening.

If you ran into people behaving like that on the street, you'd turn away. Twenty years ago, football was the preserve of hooligans who poisoned the game. DXing is in danger of being the same. It took over ten years for football to ostracise the hooligan element and attract normal people and families again.

So, that's what I'm doing. I'm saying I don't want to play in that corner of the town for now. Sure, if I hear a DX station calling and it's not madness, I'll reply and hope to make a QSO, particularly if it's friends like 3B7C or Roger and Nigel. But the moment there's stupidity - I'm off elsewhere - being more selective. I've got plenty of other things to do which don't involve people being stupid to each other.

I'd rather work someone on the solar power gear - regardless of where they are!

Monday, November 12, 2007

TR on a MSDOS Virtual PC

Justin, G4TSH tried running up Virtual PC last night and reports that he created an MSDOS machine, which would happily run the TR contest logging software.

The problem was that the CW generated was stuttery, as Windows (presumably on the host machine) got in the way. Presumably software using WinKey like devices would not be affected in this way.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nice VHF location on the Ridgeway

Russell went on an overnight trip with the school to the Court Hill Centre. We took him down there and collected him. You climb up quickly out of Wantage and when you get to the top of the hill, there's a great view.

In my experience, 'great view' generally equates to 'great radio location' as well. I switched on the FT817 and tuned around quickly and there were plenty of repeaters coming through including plenty that I don't normally hear on my trips around Longworth.

It was a surprise to hear GB3CG (Cheltenham/Gloucester) crawling over the Cotswolds and other signals from further North. Despite being on the north face of the hill, some signals were coming in from the South as well.

View Larger Map

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Virtual PCs - a new approach to PCs at home

This might get a bit ugly...but let's see....

Roger, GW5NF mentioned to me earlier in the week that he was thinking of getting a new PC and what did I think about Vista. Well, I'm sure it's an excellent operating system, but a lot of people seem to have been having problems getting amateur radio software to work under it. Doubtless that will all be resolved in the fullness of time, but in the short term it does mean that if you buy a new PC, you may struggle to run some of your software on it.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conference and one of the 'take-homes' was a DVD containing a 'Virtual PC' of a complete computer with some software installed on it. Intrigued by the concept, I started to research Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.

It's a free product and you can find it and read about it on the Microsoft website here

What does it mean? Well, if you have a Vista machine, for example, - you can install Virtual PC on it (a very straighforward install). Having done that, you can create a series of Virtual PCs on your PC! In other words, you can create an 'image' of a PC running XP (assuming you have a set of XP CDs), or MSDOS, or Linux or whatever...

So, in our case in point, even though you've got Vista, you can set your amateur radio software to run under XP. And you only need to run XP up when you need to use your radio software. The rest of the time, you can leave it powered down and use Vista for your main operations.

Clever eh?

Well, it gets better! The hard disk for your 'Virtual PC' is held as a single file (the size depends, obviously, on how big you make the hard disk!). You can probably keep the size down as individual Virtual Machines might only need to allow for a Windows install, plus logging software plus space for your logs. And, the 'hardware' configuration of each Virtual PC is identical - so you can move a hard disk file from one 'virtual pc' to another without concerns that the hardware config is not going to work. So, I can set up a virtual machine up here - back up the 'hard disk' onto a CD/DVD and move it to my friend's machine and I'm immediately going to have exactly the config I want.

And this is all free! I need to stress that you do need licences and CDs for the software you install on a Virtual PC in the same way that you do on a 'real PC'.

This looks very useful and powerful. I've successfully run up several different Virtual PCs on my machine; MSDOS 6.22, Windows ME and Red Hat Linux - all worked just fine.

If you're still with me, well done and thank you. I think we're going to find this incredibly useful.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Solar Battery recycle

I mentioned the other week that the one set of batteries had got hammered and the voltage had dropped to 11.7v. Justin, G4TSH came over this weekend and kindly brought his lead-acid battery charger with him. Though it's quite a small one, we used it to top the batteries up to around 12.8v.

From there, I hope the solar charging will be capable of keeping the batteries charged up to a suitable level - as long as I don't hammer them too much! It probably makes sense to swap the batteries over - as the set supplying the VHF/UHF station get more use than the occasional HF operation.

It will also be interesting to see how the batteries fare over the darker months.

Marconi Memorial CW contest

The 144MHz Marconi Memorial CW contest is always one of my favourites. In fact, it was the first contest that we ever won. John, G4UAZ; Chris, G8TFI and I entered the 6 hour section from Leckhampton Hill near Cheltenham, many moons ago and did ok!

Since moving to Longworth and having the aerials up, I've been particularly interested to see what comes through during the contest period. This year was no exception and conditions seemed better than average.

To start with, things didn't seem that promising, I had some problems to work F6DWG/P, but I think he was just busy and once we got our beams towards each other, it was an easy QSO. F6HJO/P was coming in for much of the contest period from JN27 which was a nice contact. Best DX was a scratchy QSO with DK6AS over in JN59 - a long way! F5CT/P in JN36 was a nice one too - I worked the same locator last year in the same contest.

All this with the solar powered VHF station; 50w and 5elements.

DX Sherlock - a little more

I'm glad to have found DX Sherlock, it's rather clever. I've only played a little radio this weekend, but there's been some good tropo around which made the Marconi Memorial CW on 2m, good fun, but Sunday afternoon I thought I'd have a quick look on 432MHz.

Tuning around, I found F5DQK in JN18 calling CQ on the key, so I was pleased to work him for a new square on 432, as it turned out. But the fun thing is that a few moments later, I looked at DX Sherlock for 432MHz and there was the path between me and F5DQK marked on the map. Impressive! F5DQK had entered the spot and DX Sherlock had interpreted it and marked up the QSO.

Friday, November 02, 2007

DX Sherlock

I hadn't heard about this website until Richard, G4ERP mentioned it on the way home this evening. It looks like it takes VHF/UHF spots and puts them on a map.

Try it here

KH2D's tips for CW Contesting

Earlier in the week, I noticed the DXZone had included an item on tips for CW Contesting. I think they thought it would help people! Have a look for yourself and wonder how it is that some people just don't get ironic...

KH2D's tips for CW Contesting


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