Monday, December 31, 2007

G0MTN's New Year Message

Lee, G0MTN is a friend who I have a lot of time for. Every year for the last few, he's published an 'End of Year Message'. This year, I asked him if he'd mind if I published it on my blog. He very kindly agreed. I think you'll agree, it makes interesting reading.

Hi all,

It's almost New Year, which means it must be time for my not quite annual
posting summarising what I've done and not done during the last 12 months.
There will be no mentions of QSL bureaux, or tirades that contest software
'x' is better than contest software 'y' during the rest of this ramble.
First off, the numbers... (QSOs made using my own call / contests entered
under any call.)

2003 15,761 QSO / 73 contests
2004 21,026 QSO / 86 contests
2005 19,131 QSO / 121 contests
2006 18,696 QSO / 100 contests
2007 23,305 QSO / 121 contests
2008 Must slow down.....

2007 represents the most QSOs I've made (using my own call) all time during
a calendar year, and ironically at the very bottom of the sunspot cycle.
All time QSOs now number 158,000 (LoTW return rate: 16%) Activity roughly
evenly split between CW, SSB and RTTY. A handful of PSK QSOs (mostly during
the 80m CCs) and similar on VHF FM (ragchews) JA's worked this year -
literally just a couple. 10m QSOs - thank goodness for E's. Antennas -
still not above 30 feet.

This year, there were 13 events with over 500 QSO made. Only 1 (CQWW CW)
above 2,000 QSO. 47 events had over 100 QSO made. My operating style is
now well settled to "coming on to make some QSOs and boost activity for
everyone else." The difference between my casual and serious participation
seems to entirely depend on how much time I allow myself to operate.

In order of QSOs... CQ WW CW, WW SSB, WPX CW, RDXC, and CQ WW RTTY were the
top 5. At the other end of the scale, I couldn't even count ARRL 10m this
year, as I never managed to work anyone. From Europe, I found a solitary PA
station in the Stew Perry 'warm up', and tackling the 432 MHz trophy with a
colinear during appalling conditions was probably not that sensible.

My 'problem' is that I seem to have more fun overall with the casual
operating - the "returns" from doing a full 24/36/48 hour event don't seem
to justify the "outlay." I would prefer to operate 2 contests part-time
over different weekends than 1 'full time' contest, maybe travelling
somewhere or putting up extra antennas, which themselves take more time. A
few years ago I would clock up 200 miles just for one AFS contest, if we
include trips for setting up and then taking down antennas.

This worry seemed to hit home at the HF convention, when looking at the
array of RSGB trophies before they were awarded. It was not that I'd not won
any of them, but I wasn't competing for any either - for one reason or
another they were out of reach.. (n.b. I was very pleased to receive a CDXC
award for CQWW at the convention.) I've given up worrying too much about
the 80m CC SSB sessions - it would be nice to be able to run, but I'm not
going to camp out for up to an hour before the start to increase my chances.

Even with a lethargic operating temperament, some results received this year
have been pleasing, even if any '1st place G' is largely due to the usual
suspects not being active, or joining multi-op stations. Maybe operating
during the sunspot minima years, where lower rates and high QRM are the
norm, is the key for anyone wanting to get a long awaited podium position in
a DX contest? I note that UK participation in any non-RSGB event, apart
from the big CQ or ARRL events remains often sparse compared with the rest
of Europe. Is the RSGB programme so diverse it's fulfilling all needs (or
taking up everyone's free time) ?

Station changes :- None. Well, none that are significant anyway. More self
amalgamating + insulation tape applied to a balun SO239 connection with
sporadic water ingress. Some guys added to my windom support. New string
added to end of 160m inv-L (wow!). More ferrite rings wrapped around my
Microham router after it tortured me through the August RoPoCo. A 50 MHz
HB9CV stealthily fitted in the loft. Everything inside the shack works
reasonably well, and I've not got the nerve to try anything more ambitious
outside. Several thousand new QSL cards have arrived, all pre-printed with
"Thanks QSL." I will reply to all cards received, except when it's obvious
I've already confirmed a band/mode combination several times before and I've
received a blindly sent card.

Offsite operating: Unusually, no NFD this year. I helped out at SSB Field
Day with some friends. No VHF NFD either, due to the poor weather. I was
invited to the G0KPW site to help with the 80m SSB operating for GB7HQ. A
small QRP activity in the SP DX contest in SP.

With the Contest Committee I helped to get the Sprint experiment on the air.
Hopefully with a tweak of the rules, and much more forward notice, the main
complaint about a lack of activity will be resolved for the 2008 events. I
also spoke at the HF Convention, and looking forward to Contest University
appearing next year. Correspondence, suggestions and information received
for my CDXC contest column - not much at all.

I've experienced quite a few separate instances of deliberate jamming on SSB
and RTTY this year, which are thoroughly depressing. To the best of my
knowledge I'd not upset anyone's ongoing QSOs. (Although a friend told me
during CQ WW CW I was causing him grief, whilst I was blissfully unaware -
an example of where different filter bandwidths and output powers could give
the impression I'd purposefully stomped over someone.) I remember more
instances of what I perceive as deliberate jamming (probably by
anti-contesters), compared with accidental or coincidental use of the same
frequency (by contesters) Add to that, the accusations of contest abuse and
QRM sent to RSGB / ARRL etc., deliberate antagonism on contesting forums,
the vandalism of information websites like Wikipedia, and it starts to get
pretty disheartening. Some compromise in bandplanning may well be called
for, and contest sponsors need to get tougher for rule infringements.
Initially it seemed that complaints raised about contest operation are being
taken at face value, but I look forward to some balanced discussion of the
evidence presented in 2008. (At least the "full contest results in RadCom"
furore had an amicable conclusion, in the end.) I don't quite know what to
make of the recent CQ-Contest cheating debacle either. Even I've spotted
some dubious irregularities between what is posted on 3830 and what is later
submitted to the contest sponsor.

But to try to end on a high note, hopefully with some sunspots finally
returning there will be more activity (at least relative to emails sent!)
from the UK contesting community in 2008. Contesting - it's better to do it
than talk about it :-)

Happy New Year. Oh, and don't forget to reply to this email - was 2007 a
contesting annus horribilis or annus mirabilis for you ?



G4VXE's Review of the Year

It's customary, it seems, to do some sort of review of the year at this stage!

Well, I think it's been a good one.

Looking at the 'radio' resolutions, there's mixed success, but I can tell you for those that haven't been achieved a very rational explanation as to why! (You can tell it's time to discuss bonus targets at work, can't you!)


Activity - I've called CQ on one band or another every day that I've been able. And I've answered every CQ I've heard, even if it's been a short contact!

Less Successful

WSJT - nope - didn't get around to that. Nor 160m. Neither has Russell got his foundation licence. I think he will, in good time, the dates for the courses didn't work this year. He's still interested which is the main thing.

To counter the less successful points there are some new things which I was very pleased with:

Solar powering the station - this proved to be a simple but immensely satisfying experiment. It works well and proves a great talking point on the air.

The VHF/UHF station at home has worked really well and I've made some contacts that I'm delighted with. Truly the best VHF station that I've ever had. All down to location, I think - as I haven't got all the fancy kit going that I've had in the past!

Some nice portable activity from the Isle of Wight during our summer holiday, using handheld kit on 6m CW. Simple and very effective.

80mThe vertical seems to be working out really well and even with just 100w, I can work much of the DX I hear. There were one or two getaways this year, which I suspect the addition of an amplifier would have avoided. But it's not the end of the world!


I had a well publicised spat with the editor of Radcom. We're on much better terms now.

The anti-contest lobby appears to have had some success with 'he who shouts loudest' type politics. They seem to have influenced the RSGB board who have made some 'interesting' statements. Thank goodness for some even-handed support from Colin, G3PSM the current president and Don, G3XTT. But they're going to have a tough job. Irritating in the extreme. I've almost resigned from the RSGB at least three times this year. But that's just pique. There's no choice, we must support our national society.

Behaviour around dxpeditions is just horrid. Listening to the chaos around 3B7C on 40m CW one evening was just disgusting. Hard to know what to do about that, but it needs to stop.

In general

Amateur radio is still the best hobby I know. Some of the politics just makes me cringe. But do you know, people say the same things about railway modelling and beekeeping (hard to believe, I know, but the parallels are striking!). I think it's just best to get on, be active and enjoy radio.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Another solar powered station

I was pleased to work Tony, M0TPX from Bristol this evening. Tony is a keen low power portable operator on both HF and VHF. It was good to hear that he had powered his FT817 from a battery charged with a solar panel. He said something about needing more panels!

I did notice that Maplin had a special offer on the small panels - so that could be useful if you're contemplating a solar project.

More on GB3FX Coverage

I drove to Cheltenham a couple of times today - once to pick up Mum and Dad and then to drop them back. I drove up to the A40 and to Cheltenham that way and came back along the A417/A419 and A420 via Swindon.

Though I made all my QSOs on GB3WH, I had GB3FX ticking away on the other receiver and tried accessing it from various locations. It was a super signal from the Cotswolds around Brize Norton and Burford. It could still be heard on the hills above Cheltenham, but of course was quickly lost on the descent of the escarpment.

Coming out of the valley onto Birdlip on the return journey, the signal quickly peaked up, though I found I couldn't access it at the 20w power level - whereas it had been easily accessible from the A40 route.

No sign of anyone on the repeater, though!

Friday, December 28, 2007

2E0BHA's eQSL - some local interest

Paul, 2E0BHA mentioned to me that he'd been working on an eQSL design recently. I checked my inbox this morning and was delighted to find this nice card from him.

We're only a few miles apart and we see the VC10s operating in and out of Brize Norton from home here in Longworth.

GB3FX 6m repeater

I've been listening to the GB3FX repeater on 6m. It's located near Farnham in Surrey and seems to have a reasonable signal from these parts. I couldn't seem to get into it, and then I discovered that I hadn't saved the CTCSS tone in the memory. Having done that, I can blip the repeater up with 10 watts sat on the drive.

Driving up to Oxford this afternoon, the repeater seemed to have a good signal, at least before I dived down into the Botley Road - so it will be interesting to try and use it. In theory, there ought to be reasonable coverage, but I'm not sure how activity will be.

Christmas VHF Cumulatives

I had a few moments this afternoon to make a few contacts during the RSGB Christmas VHF Cumulative contest. The best DX was on 2m, where I worked F2YT from JO10. No great distance, but a nice contact nevertheless. Bob, G4BAH operating G0KPW was a great signal from JO02 (Suffolk).

I was also pleased to make a couple of contacts on both 50MHz and 432MHz. I was surprised about 50MHz as the noise is pretty bad, so signals have to be good to overcome that. It was also interesting to note that the transmitter was happy to generate 100w on six - from the solar system.

The solar system is still running fine, though the batteries need a top up around every two to three weeks, depending on how much sun we've had.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's funny - the contacts that surprise you

It occurs to me that I've just entered my 25th year of being G4VXE - a scary thought. After all that time, radio still comes up with surprises on a pretty regular basis.

This morning I worked Tim, G0WBR/P on 2m SSB - he was operating from St Boniface Down, Isle of Wight. We had a nice QSO and he scooted off to try and work some more people. Having little luck on SSB, I heard him say that he'd QSY to 145.500 FM, so I thought I'd go up there and listen for him. Sure enough he was S7 or so! We had a quick QSO before he went off to work one of the locals. Though it's a good path, I was pretty impressed to make that QSO on FM.

Perhaps I shall monitor S20 (145.5) more often when I'm out mobile.

Santa's delivery

Santa was very good to me this year, courtesy of my lovely wife, Julie. On Christmas morning, I found a lovely parcel waiting for me, a brand new Yaesu FT8900 Quad Band mobile. This is a really super bit of kit. It operates on 10m, 6m, 2m and 70cms FM.

I've had a little play and it's installed in the car now and the inaugural QSO was made with Richard, G4MUF who pronounced that it sounded like me! I've programmed up the usual repeater frequencies on 2m and 70cms but also added the 6m repeater at Farnham, Surrey which I can hear as I'm driving around, though I haven't yet got into it.

It's exciting to be able to monitor more than one band at a time - and I think the 10m FM option will be fun, particularly in the summer, though of course, the 10m antenna is too big to fit under the barrier at the station!

What a lucky chap I am.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tropo time again?

A quick look at the weather forecast shows the current high pressure dropping quite sharply on Thursday, so maybe we'll see some VHF/UHF tropo then. It'll be interesting to see...

3X5A confirmed by LOTW

I looked in my LOTW account this lunchtime and was very pleased to see that a confirmation had arrived from the Voodudes, operating 3X5A from Guinea during CQWW CW this year. A nice new one towards the all electronic DXCC total! Thanks guys!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The world's biggest QSL collection

Photo courtesy of G3TXF

As you know, I'm not a great QSL collector, but I quite understand that it IS amateur radio for some people. I've mentioned Nigel, G3TXF here before. Nigel is one of the best practioners of QSLing in the world, I think.

I didn't realise until today that Nigel has recently completed the construction of a building in his garden to house his QSL collection. He estimates that he currently has around 300,000 QSLs in his collection.

Intrigued by that, I asked Nigel what the largest QSL collection in the world was. He replied that the biggest collection was owned by Iris and Lloyd Colvin of the YASME Foundation who visited over 100 DXCC countries and operated. The Colvins amassed a collection of over 1,000,000 cards which has now been transferred to the OeVSV QSL Archive in Vienna.

Nigel says that he's working on beating the total! Somehow, knowing Nigel, I wouldn't bet against it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sure enough....

The weather forecast was right. The atmospheric pressure has dropped about 3 millibars today. GB3VHF on 2m is up by around 3 or 4 s-points. F5XAM is a little louder than average, but no great enhancement yet. I'm guessing the lift is confined to relatively local paths at the moment. GB3PO from Ipswich was starting to break the squelch on the drive home from the station this evening.

Looking further into the weekend, the pressure is fairly stable until at least Monday, so I'm guessing that VHF conditions through the weekend will continue to be better than average without being spectacular.

Actually, this evening, I'm listening out for 2m meteor scatter on 144.2 SSB. All quiet so far, but it's early yet.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tropo on the way?

The atmospheric pressure is high at the moment, around 1040mb. It looks set to fall away slightly, perhaps Friday or Saturday, so we may be set for some VHF tropo contacts. No sign of anything with me yet, though I noticed on the FM list that a listener in West Sussex was reporting a Band II station from Germany yesterday.

Yesterday evening, I thought I would see if I could hear any meteor reflections from either the DB0FAI beacon in Germany or EA1VHF in North West Spain. Nothing heard! It's the Geminids meteor shower currently - but so far - it doesn't seem too good - which ties in with the observations of Richard, G4MUF in Wootton Bassett.

The picture was taken yesterday in Hyde Park, London.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

F5DQK's antenna system

I mentioned a nice QSO with F5DQK on 432MHz CW a few weeks ago. I was pleased to get an eQSL from him this morning which has a nice picture of his antennas. Lots of bands there!

GB3JB repeater powered by wind...

There's a certain amount of poetic justice, isn't there, in a repeater powered by wind! Seriously though, I'd heard that GB3JB in South Wiltshire had come on, but I didn't hear it until last Monday when I drove down the M5 to help Mum and Dad move. I did a quick search today and found an interesting blog by the repeater keepers.

Friday, December 07, 2007

G4VXE is QRT from Cornwall

For the last 20 years or so, I've operated occasionally from my parents' house in Cornwall. This week, Mum and Dad moved house from Cornwall to Cheltenham - so I've operated from there for the last time - at least from Mum and Dad's place in Mylor Bridge.

When I thought about it, I'd made some interesting contacts from Mylor and the area over the years. Here are some of the memorable contacts:

- Working WB2DND on 160m for my very first transatlantic contact on top band
- Working KL7 on 10MHz at sunrise
- Finding a regular path to New Zealand at Christmas time, on 20m, with John, ZL1AH
- Completing a 'CW' contact on 2m with Colin, G0CUZ, using a handheld IC202, standing on a stone wall, whistling the CW...
- Using the FT817 and an indoor wire - making lots of contacts all around the UK on 5MHz.
- Hearing and working lots of F2 DX on 50MHz in the late 80s and early 90s - Cornwall's a great location on six.

Though it's a non-radio thing - the Total Eclipse of the Sun was pretty special too.

Happy memories! I shall miss Cornwall, but it's great that Mum and Dad are now only an hour's travel away from our home in Oxfordshire.


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