Monday, March 31, 2008

YK9G - forthcoming operation from Syria


You don't hear Syria on the bands that much, or at least, I don't. So it's a pleasure to see that from 9th to 15th April a group of UK operators; G3SXW, G3TXF, G4BWP, G5LP and GM3YTS will be operating as YK9G from Damascus.

Check out their website at http://www.yk9g.com

This is sure to be a good one - all these guys are really top CW operators. Oh, did I say, this is an all CW expedition...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More on Kite Aerials

Thanks to Phil, G0BVD for pointing me in the direction of the Worcester Amateur Radio Association site for some information about kite aerials. Some interesting pictures and ideas here

I seem to remember some people talking about using Helikites during 160m contests over the last couple of years.

It's possible the powerlines near our house are a reason not to experiment too heavily from here...

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What's the opposite of a contest calendar?

Regular readers of this blog and perhaps the Radcom column may remember that Mark, G4MEM and I collaborated on producing some contest calendars for mobile phones.

Yesterday, I received a delightful e-mail from Tom, G3HGE;

"Many thanks for your invaluable item on Contest Calendars On Your Mobile Or
The Web . This has got to be the best thing since sliced bread and beats CW
SKIMMER hands down .

At a touch , one can see the exact time to switch off , lock the shack door
.and do something useful while the number crunchers enjoy themselves . I had
a look at THOSE DAMNED CONTESTERS HAVE RUINED HAM RADIO , Oh dear !! .

It used to be such a nice uncomplicated HOBBY ."

It just shows that whatever you produce ends up being used in a different way! Enjoy your non-contests!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

D-Star

Interesting chat this morning about the options for using D-Star repeaters. Andy, G0BEQ from the Ridgeway Repeater Group was on and we were musing that it was a technology worth keeping an eye on at least.

I wondered how many D-Star repeaters were active in the UK. I pulled a list off the UKRepeater website and mapped it.


View Larger Map

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Antenna ideas


An interesting discussion going on this evening on GB3WH about various antenna experiments. Jon, 2E0DBD and his friends over at Team Thunderbox had built a 40m quad over the weekend and had some fun with it. Take a look here

Photo courtesy of Team Thunderbox

Some years ago, we had a full size 40m quad over at GW8GT. It was a magical antenna, but trying to keep it in the air at the top of a Welsh mountain was something in the region of a full time job. But as we were reminiscing the other day, it did allow you to work JAs on 40m through out the day.

And there was talk of kite antennas, something I've always fancied a go at but never quite got around to doing. Something for the summer,perhaps?

A useful site

In the correspondence with Mike,G0MJW about the GB3RAL beacons he mentioned his website which has plenty of useful material, including a Microwave Propagation Tutorial as well as RF Equations

Thanks, Mike!

Friday, March 21, 2008

GB3RAL 40MHz Beacon update

I checked with Mike, G0MJW. The 40MHz beacon IS on the air, but it's running very low power currently, as one of the modamps has failed. A replacement is being requested, so hopefully we'll see it at good strength before long.

GB3RAL VHF beacons

I was interested to read the article in this month's Radcom by Mike, G0MJW about the VHF beacon cluster at Harwell. Somehow, I had missed these going on the air. Quite a spectacular omission, when you consider they are less than 15 miles away!

The 50, 60 and 70MHz beacons (50.050, 60.050 and 70.050Mhz) are all clearly audible here (on the 50/70Mhz vertical). But, I can't hear the beacon on 40.050MHz. I'm not sure if it's me or whether it's off air. I'm going to e-mail Mike and see.

It will be very interesting to see how widely these beacons can be heard during the summer DX season as well as any tropo loggings.

Do have a listen and see if you can hear them. If you hear the 40MHz beacon, please let me know!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Frank Watts, G5BM


Reading the Silent Keys listing in Radcom is something I always start with a vague feeling of dread. Having been licenced 25 years now, I've seen many friends pass through the column. It was with particular sadness, I read that Frank Watts, G5BM had passed away in February.

When I was a young G6, Frank lived out on a hill near Newent in Gloucestershire. From there, he seemed to work all manner of DX. And he was a master of the art known as Morse. To his great credit, he was willing to share this art with newcomers to the hobby like me. Every night on 2m FM, Frank would send slow morse code to a group. I couldn't begin to count how many of these went on to achieve a Class A licence and get onto HF - it must be hundreds. Though a number of people helped me learn Morse, Frank was one who made a real difference.

It was a source of pleasure to me and I think, to him, that as the years went on, I worked Frank on CW from various parts of the world; I remember QSOs from the Bahamas, the Comoros amongst others. I always took a moment to thank him for making the QSO possible.

I remember working him from Canada one day on 24MHz CW - he was working a group of locals in the Gloucester area and I just dropped into say hello. After we signed, I heard him tell some of the locals that he 'helped Tim learn Morse'.

Indeed you did, Frank. Thank you, old friend. Bless you.

Life in the Comoros


To those of us who were lucky enough to go on the D68C expedition to the Comoros, it was a truly wonderful experience; exciting and humbling in many ways.

Julie pointed out this story this week. I hope peace can reign over these wonderful islands.

Ten Metres FM - something new to try?

I like ten metres! And I like ten metres FM. There's a simplicity to it as well as a real magic; that a band that can be dead quiet one minute can be filled with 'hi-fi' quality signals from Europe or further afield, the next!

I was first introduced to 10m FM back in the early 1980s, before I had my Class A licence and was only on VHF. Mark, G4MEM (who reads this, I know!) bought a bunch of converted CB radios; DNT M40FMs, as I recall, and made them available to members of our local club, the Cheltenham Amateur Radio Association. We all had so much fun with those radios, both with local QSOs and more distant ones. I remember just as soon as I changed from G6TTU to being G4VXE, being thrilled to be able to transmit on the rig as opposed to just listening.

It was surprising how far the ground-wave would go, even with 4w from a barefoot rig to a mobile antenna on a car. We worked over as far as Wales from the Gloucestershire area and well up to the north. You just needed a well-sited mobile up on a hill somewhere.

And of course, in the summer, the Sporadic E comes up and makes all sorts of contacts possible. Back in the mid 80s, there was a G station with a F0 call who operated a lot of 10m FM from his yacht in the Med - he could be worked most days during the summer.

Wind the clock forward to 2001 and the D68C operation, where I was one of the operators on the Comoros. We made thousands of contacts on 10m FM - some to Europe, many to Japan and China. Indeed, one of my abiding memories of the 3B9C expedition from Rodrigues is going on 10m FM and working masses of stations from China and Taiwan. Because the equipment is simple and cheap, there's no cost barrier to getting on the air - and there's a fantastic level of activity from that area.

A couple of summers ago, I had the FT-817 in the car and the 10m antenna on the car and was delighted to make some good contacts with the barefoot rig - just 5w. Almost back to the converted CB days!

Now, I'm lucky enough to have the FT8900 with 50w available in the car. Over the next few months, I'm going to make sure that I'm on 10m FM as often as I can. I'm keen to work far afield, of course, but I'm just as interested to make contacts over a few miles or tens of miles too. So, when I can, I'll put the 10m whip on the car and give it a go. And from home, the FT1000MP/Butternut works well on 10m as well!

What do you need to have a go, as I hope you will?

- A ten metre antenna - perhaps an old CB vertical or mobile - whatever you have.

- A set capable of 10m FM - Most newer sets will do this. Don't worry if you've only a few watts - it will easily suffice.

- A little knowledge; The calling frequency for 10m FM is 29.600MHz. Channels are spaced at 10khz, so you'll generally find people on 29.620, 29.630 and so on. But 29.600 is the place to start. You'll find some repeaters too, when the band opens up. Repeater offsets are generally 100Khz LF of the output, so if you hear a repeater on 29.620 (there's several in Europe), the input will be on 29.520. When the band opens up - the repeaters can be bedlam. Go simplex!

That should be enough to get you started.

I hope you'll have a go! Don't just listen on 29.600Mhz, do call CQ - 10m has a habit of surprising people by being open when you don't expect it! Sometimes it's open, sometimes it's closed. That's the magic of radio propagation.

See you on ten?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Minos Contest Logger goes Open Source

Mike, G0GJV writes "I've finally biten the bullet and open sourced my Minos VHF contest logging program.

So far I've registered the project at the Berlios repository, and 
uploaded the source to their SVN server.

Look at

http://developer.berlios.de/projects/minos/

some way down the page is the link to the SVN repository.

It probably won't compile out of the box, and I haven't yet written up 
HOW to compile it , but what is there is a snapshot of my local 
repository, and I intend to use the public repository going forwards.

A plea for help - in addition to "real" development I want/need the 
Berlios web site sorting out, an installer, some graphics (icons in 
particular to start with), documentation, a help file, etc, etc!

So if anyone has the willingness and the skills to help - please say!

Your first step will be to register as a developer on the Berlios
("New 
user via SSL" on the page referenced above."

I haven't looked at a new version of MINOS for around 12 months, but last time I did, I found it was an excellent and innovative VHF contest logger, so well worthy of a look! You can find it here

Friday, March 14, 2008

A short video tour of the aerials at G4VXE

It's hardly a massive antenna farm here, but it does alright and I wanted to show what I use. Perhaps too, it might be encouraging to let you see what can be done with a fairly simple setup.

Oh, and you get to meet the chickens too! video

Bit of a grey day today, so maybe I'll reshoot this on a sunnier day.

Nice one Gerry!


I spotted this on Larry, W2LJ's blog today! When I read the preacher's name, I enjoyed it all the more; Gerry, GI0RTN is a great op - with a great sense of humour!

It's odd to relate, though, some people really do think SSB is evil! Mode bigots!

Just get on the air and be active!

Hmmm. So what's this www.churchsigngenerator.com site then. I see possibilities..

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Digital Planet: More on IRLP

This week's BBC Digital Planet program carried an interview with James Cameron, an Australian Amateur about how he used IRLP to make contacts worldwide using hand-held VHF equipment. A nice interview and I liked the way he answered the question about, 'couldn't you do all this through regular voice-over-ip'.

James also had interesting experience to share regarding wireless networking of the XO ('One Laptop per Child') project.

Details of Digital Planet here

70MHz from Guinea-Bissau

From Leo, SV2DCD's excellent blog comes news of a new 70MHz beacon from Guinea-Bissau (J5)

Great news for the 4m band operators.
Tony CT1FFU reports :
"After some delay the J5FOUR beacon is finaly runnig from today 10-3-2008.It is a Storno rig with 20W carrier on a 4 element yagi especialy designed by YU7EF for this project.
The yagi is beaming 20º, QTF to cover all Europe.
On the next Es season we will tnx reports from all. There is no station QRV in guiné-bissau, but this beacon will be a good tool for propagation estudies. Tnx to CT1BTP for the beacon TXr, CT1FJO for the Keyr, YU7EF for Antenna and J5JUA for beacon assembly and keapings. as soon as J5JUA return to CT, J5FOUR pictures will pe publish on this site"

Info about J5FOUR beacon :
CALL:J5FOUR/B
QRG:70.010 CW
LOCATOR:IK21EV
CONTACT:J5JUA
POWER:20W
ANTENNA:DIPOLE

Sunday, March 09, 2008

My quietest (BERU) Commonwealth contest in a while...

Made one QSO this year! We were invited to a wedding over near Aylesbury yesterday and we had a super time - congratulations Claire and Alex - so I thought I'd have a quick look and make some QSOs this morning.

Unfortunately, I'd not taken account of conditions, which seemed to collapse around 0600z!

I did make 1 QSO; P3J on 14MHz.

Better luck next year!

Preparing for the storm...

We're expecting a storm coming in off the Atlantic in the next few hours, with wind speeds of 30-35 mph forecast in this area. Hardly hurricane force, but nevertheless, significant. I've dropped the Butternut vertical down to the ground to save it whipping around in the storm. I've turned the VHF beams into the wind, so all being well, that should be safe and secure.

Though not amateur radio related, we're wondering how our borrowed polytunnel at the allotment is going to fare!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

G3TXF to operate from Turks & Caicos this weekend



Nigel, G3TXF writes of his forthcoming activity during the Commonwealth Contest this coming weekend.

"G3TXF will be operating as VQ5XF from Turks & Caicos (VP5) during the
Commonwealth Contest this coming weekend (9 - 10 March)..

I look forward to working many UK Contesters during BERU. Yes, the VQ5
prefix is certainly going to confuse everybody all right!


Please remember that there are several Commonwealth stations out and about
specially for BERU this weekend, so your CW QSOs in this, the most venerable
of all contests, will be welcomed by all. "

Amateur Radio (IRLP) gets a mention on BBC's Digital Planet

BBC World Service's 'Digital Planet' programme, available on both internet and as a podcast contained a short item on IRLP during a discussion of VOIP systems. A nice little piece of publicity, generated by a listener sending some details of the system in by e-mail.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ISS Tracking on Google Earth


Talking to Ian, G4WUH yesterday, he mentioned he's had some nice QSOs with the astronauts on the International Space Station in the past, including one on 70cms simplex. How cool is that?

If you want do make a QSO, then take a look at this post on the brilliantly named 'Orbiting Frog' blog. It will show where the ISS is at any particular time and whether it's in range.

The Advanced Tracker KML will allow you to track any other satellite, so you could use it to track AO-51 or anything else.

Nice work!

Monday, March 03, 2008

29MHz FM mobile

A few weeks ago, I blogged that I had a 10m FM mobile contact with Paul, 2E0BHA over in Carterton. Signals weren't great and Paul didn't seem to be hearing me that well, so I wasn't too sure whether all was well with my mobile installation on 10 FM.

This weekend we had the pleasure of Justin, G4TSH staying with us. I had Justin man the FT1000 whilst I drove over to the next village, so that we could see how the mobile coverage worked out.

I needn't have worried - signals seemed good. Justin did report some rapid fading on my signal at one stage. I suspect that was aircraft multipath with signals being reflected from an aircraft flying in or out of RAF Brize Norton. Or it could just have been flutter caused by trees and buildings.

Anyway, I'm confident that 10m FM is working well from the car - so hopefully I'll be notching up some more QSOs on the band from the car during the Es season.

RSGB 144/432MHz Contest

We had a busy and enjoyable weekend. My FT847 is still away for repair, though due back shortly, so the RSGB's 144/432MHz contest was only a single band (144MHz) low power (10w) affair for me.

I had a tune around on Sunday morning and was pleased to work a couple of stations down in the southwest (IO80) as well as a handful of more local stations.

It's interesting to observe that these 24 hours seem much less well supported than the weekday evening activity contests.

Czech Republic on 70MHz

Haven't seen this reported anywhere else yet, but Leo, SV2DCD reports a QSO with OK1DO on 70MHz.

Leo reports "The licensing conditions are: 70,2-70,3 MHz, 10 W ERP and the temporary licenses are valid until 2008-12-31".

Interesting and should be easy enough to work from the UK.

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