Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's always nice, I think...


....when someone says to you, 'you're my first contact on x metres, y mode'or whatever. It's a special thing and you feel privileged to have been part of that other amateur's experience. It's always first contacts that you remember, one way or another.

It was fun, this evening, to work Brian, 2E0BMH on 70cms. We'd first met when Brian was doing his Foundation licence course at Newbury. He got his M3 call and then late last year, he got his 2E0 call. We chatted last night on 2m via GB3WH and I asked if he could hear the local 70cms repeaters.

He had his rig which covered 70cms - so it was just a question of finding an aerial! A log periodic, printed on circuit board, designed by WA5VJB was pressed into service and pointed west from Oxford towards Witney.

This evening it was a pleasure to work Brian via the GB3WO 70cms repeater. He said it was his first 70cms QSO and that I'd enthused him to try another band and he was going to see if he could get an antenna outside and explore the band a little more.

Brian couldn't have said anything nicer!

[Picture - nothing to do with the post - other than the fact that I like it! Cinnamon Teal taken at Slimbridge last weekend]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

500khz distance record

Interesting news on 500khz from the ARRL Letter

On January 17, Neil Schwanitz, V73NS/WD8CRT, on Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands, received a signal from experimental station WD2XSH/20. This experimental station, operated by Rudy Severns N6LF, is located in Cottage Grove, Oregon -- 4737 miles away from the island in the Kwajalein atoll. The 13 words-per-minute CW transmission was copyable by ear and also appeared in the Spectran capture. During this same week, the Belgian BIPT (the equivalent of the FCC) granted Belgian amateurs with full licenses access to 501-504 kHz with up to 5 W ERP; this is the first general amateur allocation at 500 kHz. The ARRL 500 kHz experimental license, WD2XSH, was issued in September 2006 and has 20 active stations. Fritz Raab, W1FR, of Vermont, serves as experimental project manager for The 500 KC Experimental Group for Amateur Radio http://www.500kc.com/. Additional information can be found at the experiment's Web site and also in the July/August 2007 issue of QEX http://www.arrl.org/qex/2007/07/raab.pdf.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Real time QSO Map - almost

A nice feature in development over at the eQSL website. Have a look at the 'real time' QSO map. Actually, it's somewhat less than real-time, but it still makes interesting reading.

Take a look here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sad News: Alan, GW3LDH

If like me, you got on 50MHz as soon as you could, you'll remember Alan, GW3LDH. Alan and his wife, Maureen were instrumental in the early days of the UK Six Metre Group.

Chris, GM3WOJ pointed out the following sad story on the BBC News site

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Paul Rinaldo's Rule of Amateur Radio Progress

This makes great reading

I think it's easy to get focussed on negative things, in radio, as in life. Positive energy is a valuable asset. Rather than telling people why something's wrong, focus on how to make it better. Sometimes that's harder. But it's worthwhile and people will think more of you for making the approach.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

DL3KWF - 50 years on the air!

Hardy, DL3KWF is a fellow Advisory Board member at eQSL.cc Last night, tuning around 80 CW, I heard DM50KWF and wondered.

Gave him a quick call and it turned out to be Hardy, using a special call to celebrate being on the air for 50 years.

Happy Golden Jubilee, Hardy!

Laci, W1PL - Silent Key

I was sorry to hear that Laci, W1PL died this week. He was 96 years old. I'd had the pleasure of meeting him at some of the FOC club events in the USA a few years ago. A real gent and a wonderful character.

Joe, K2VUI wrote a lovely appreciation of Laci's life on the FOC reflector. I particularly enjoyed the following paragraph:

"Several years ago, hoping to solve some of his antenna problems, Laci ordered a SteppIR yagi. He was a little disconcerted when they told him that the antennas were on backlog and that he would have to go on a long waiting list. He told them (and this was confirmed to me by the people at SteppIR) that he was 91 years old so he hoped the waiting list wouldn't be too long. That took them aback and they told him that they were instituting a new rule then and there: Anyone 90 years or older would go to the top of the wait list. Sure enough, a few weeks later his new SteppIR arrived; I don't know who put it up for him, but it did work and he was once again back on the air, as active as his hearing and eyesight and propagation would permit.

Laci was a true gentleman in an era when there are very few true gentlemen still around."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quiet morning on VHF - but 80m saves the day!


This morning, I popped up to Oxford to get some ink cartridges for the printer, which had run out (as usual, when there was something urgent to print). Now, I have the FT8900 in the car, it's very easy to cover several bands and repeaters. Disappointingly, considering that it was 10.45am on a Sunday morning, there were no contacts to be had on:

GB3FX (50Mhz) - Farnham
GB3WH (145MHz) - Swindon
GB3DI (433MHz) - Didcot
GB3WO (433MHz) - Witney

Ah well, maybe next time. In fairness, GB3WH is pretty active, but the other repeaters seem very sparsely used. There are certain 433MHz boxes in this area that I don't think I've ever heard a QSO on. Perhaps I listen at the wrong times. (Subtext - if you can hear these repeaters - USE them!. Or operate simplex. But don't just sit there.)

Had a quick listen on 80 CW this evening. Conditions didn't seem that great, but I was pleased to work Ben, CT3AS. A few weak and watery JAs coming through (just) at their sunrise but that was about it. Earlier in the week, I think it was Wednesday, there was a reasonable amount of DX around on 80 CW. I heard a VK6 coming through at good strength - he was working someone else as well as some stronger JAs. Closer to home, but not that common, particularly on 80, was ZB2FK who I was pleased to work, especially as I've operated from there in the late 1980s.

(Picture shows one of our local pubs, by the river, taken yesterday. The river doesn't normally come into the garden)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rainfall and 10MHz

No - I've not made a connection between the amount of precipitation and 10MHz propagation. But I had noticed that there was an EMC issue between 10MHz (and some other bands) and the amount of rain recorded on the Fiddlesticks Weather Station.

The rain gauge and Butternut vertical are only a few metres apart so it seemed that a little bit of RF was getting into the sensor on a few bands.

I just popped a ferrite ring onto the lead from the rain gauge to the sensor in the hope that it would remove the RF. It seems to have worked.

But if you notice some oddities in the rainfall figures, it might well be me on HF!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Z35M aims for the record books


Courtesy of RSGB News:

"Macedonian amateur Z35M has claimed the largest number of QSOs as a single operator in the 21st century.

He has submitted a proposal to Guinness World Records to add a new category of "Largest number of contacts for 5 years in a row". He claims 140,000 QSOs in the period 2001 to 2005.

His all time total since 1984 is a massive 320,000 contacts. His best year was 2001, when he made 43,300 QSOs, a European single year record. "

Certainly he's a very familiar call and features in my log a few times on many bands!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Satellite mobile - partial success!

Well, the train was on time. I even got around the supermarket in good time, loaded the car and installed the aerial and radio by the time the pass was due to start. Because I really was mobile, I set the VFOs to the centre frequencies of the pass, rather than worrying about doppler shift.

Around 8 or 9 minutes into the pass, I started to hear signals from the AO-51 satellite. Signals built to a genuine S7 or 8 - with fading caused by the tumbling of the satellite as it travels through space. EA5ALH was heard with a good signal working Italian and other stations.

Because I didn't have the option to adjust the VFO on either transmit or receive, I was hearing the satellite for 3 or 4 minutes at a maximum, but it makes me think that a QSO will certainly be possible with a little preparation.

No excuse for missing any VHF contests either!

Having taken a look at Mark's handiwork on the HF Contests calendar, I wondered if I could create a similar file for RSGB VHF Contests too. I think I've succeeded.

Pete, G4CLA of the RSGB's Contests Committee had created a Google Calendar and also a file that can be imported into Outlook. So I used that as a basis and then found a utility which could convert the file into a VCS file.

Armed with the VCS file, I've imported it successfully into my N95 and all looks well. If you want to give it a go, the VHF file can be found here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No excuse for forgetting about the next contest!

Courtesy of Mark, G4MEM comes a vCalendar file which you can upload to your mobile phone. This will enter all the dates of the 2008 RSGB HF contests, so you have no excuse for forgetting about the next event!

You can download the file here

Mark's tested it on a Nokia N73 and I've tested it on my N95, so there's a high level of confidence it should work for you!

Thanks, Mark!

Satellite Mobile!

Inspired by Richard, 9W2CBL's blog and his comments about AO-51, I thought I'd see if I could possibly hear and maybe even work through the AO-51 satellite from the car.

On the train this evening, I googled the AO-51 up and downlink frequencies and appropriate details and when I got to the car I programmed up a couple of memories in the FT8900.

So, I'm all set! All I need to do now is to keep listening and hopefully, one of my journeys will coincide with a pass of AO-51. I shall take a look at the prediction software and see if there are any likely passes of the satellite.

You can see where AO-51 is here

Tomorrow evening at around 1840z looks a good pass here - if the train is on time! You can find predictions for your location here

Wintertime Sporadic E to Band II

I was interested to read on the FM mailing list that I subscribe to that a broadcast listener in the UK had yesterday had a short sporadic E opening to Spain on 87.6MHz.

Wintertime Es isn't so unusual from December to March, but it is more unusual for the MUF to get that high.

I wonder if anyone worked anything on 50MHz yesterday, then.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Up Two - by G3SXW

Whilst we're on the subject of inspirational books on the subject of DXing, you can't go wrong with 'Up Two' written by Roger Western, G3SXW! If you need a little inspiration to start chasing DX, either for the first time, or after a break, you should take a look at this.

I wrote a review, back in 2004, for eHam.Net

For me, the greatest thing about this book is the sheer enthusiasm that Roger has for DXing, Contesting and Amateur Radio in general. And you know what? It's infectious - once you've finished reading the book you'll want to get straight to the rig and chase down some DX!

Roger has some well-made observations on the way of life in the far-off places to which he has travelled, which are worthy of plenty of thought.

The book is not so specialist that it would put off newcomers or a more general audience and is written in an accessible and entertaining style.

Having had the pleasure of knowing and working with Roger personally, reading the book is second only to an evening in his company, telling radio stories and enjoying a beer!

This is a must-read for anyone who loves DX


Oh. The RSGB Shop doesn't seem to stock that either. Idiom Press do, though.

The Complete DXer

A blog by IZ8FTW about the book 'The Complete DXer' by Bob Locher, W9KNI reminded me how good that book is. I had it for Christmas, probably 20 years ago. As a fledgling DXer it taught me a great deal about listening (and transmitting) and the techniques to snag those rare DX stations. Perhaps the best thing about the book, though, is the enthusiasm for DXing that radiates from the pages.

I've had the pleasure of meeting the author, Bob on a number of occasions and he was kind enough to sign my copy - so my edition is a very prized possession.

Apparently the RSGB bookshop doesn't stock it (shame) but you can see more details here

Monday, January 14, 2008

More amateur radio blogs

In the course of looking for something (as you do), I just found a link to 'Planet Ham' which is an aggregator for various amateur radio blogs. You can find it here

I've e-mailed the owner to see if they might carry a feed from this blog. We'll see!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

CW AFS


I enjoyed a bash on 80 metres CW this afternoon in the Affiliated Societies Contest. The vertical isn't usually terribly good for inter-G contacts, something with higher angle radiation is normally better. But actually, it seemed to work quite well today.

I stuck to search and pounce, but managed to keep up a good rate of 50/60 an hour for the first hour. After the first hour, I needed a break - boredom set in. Alleviated that by making Julie a cup of tea, feeding the chickens and then came back to the radio.

Conditions had changed a little and the people who were weaker in the first hour had got stronger, so I was able to work some more. Got to 100 and decided that was enough!

But good fun - lots of nice contacts with old friends. Biggest signals were Ray (G4FON) in Oxford and John (G3VKW) who's just over the A420 in Charney Bassett. A big surprise was working Allan (GM4ZUK) who I've not worked on 80 for many a year!

I always think that AFS is a nice way of saying Happy New Year to the 'usual suspects'.

There's the SSB event next Saturday - not sure if I'll be on for that - 100 contacts on SSB would be a very major challenge from here!

(Photo taken on my walk to Hinton yesterday - a nice view of Longworth church and the manor pond)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Don't forget! It's CW AFS this Sunday

This Sunday, between 1400 and 1759 it's one of the biggest domestic HF contests of the year; RSGB's Affiliated Societies Contest. If you're a member of a club, you should try and get a team together. Either way, try and get on 80m CW tomorrow afternoon and make as many contacts as you have time for.

The exchange is a simple format: RST and Serial Number. See the full rules here

I'll certainly try and get on for a few minutes at least.

A first 50MHz FM mobile contact

I popped up to the bees to check that they were alright just before lunch and I had GB3FX running in the car. I tried a call through it and for the first time I had a reply and a QSO!

John, G3VHH/M was close to the M4 at Reading and we had a nice QSO. It seems that GB3FX is active in the mornings with a commuter net, but closer to 8am. John reported that GB3AM, the Amersham 6m repeater sees heavier activity earlier in the mornings. Sadly though, I don't think I can hear GB3AM from this part of the world.

Nice to make the inaugural QSO on 6m with the new rig though.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Digimodes on your PDA


This looks an interesting program if you fancy doing some digimodes on a portable trip and you have a PDA.

Picture taken at Kimmeridge, Dorset last weekend

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Updated UK repeater lists for Google Earth

I had cause to look at my program to write out KML for Google Earth this morning, so thought I might as well create some updated versions of the UK repeater maps for Google Earth.

The 2m and 70cms map is here

The 6m map is here

Ideally, you should use Google Earth to view the files, but if you don't have Google Earth, try this.

Go to http://maps.google.com

In the Search Maps field enter the URL of the map you want to look at, eg http://longworthtim.googlepages.com/ukrepeaters6m.kml

Press Search Maps

You should then see the repeater map on your screen

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A little New Year tropo


Checking the GB3VHF beacon this morning showed that the signal was up around 3 or 4 s-points. F5XAM near Calais was up by the same sort of level. I called CQ a couple of times, but nothing doing - probably everyone was recovering from New Year celebrations.

I listened again this afternoon after we got back from a walk down to the Thames and though the beacons had dropped back in strength, Pierre, F6FLB from Calais was coming in at S8-9. We had a pleasant quick QSO. It was fun to hear that as it was a misty day he couldn't see the White Cliffs of Dover.

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