Monday, May 26, 2008

More on VHF

I was pleased to work YL2GP(KO27) and LY2X(KO14) on the 25th around 1100z. Interestingly at the same time, I noticed some wideband FM broadcast centred on 70.068 - sounded Eastern European in origin. If you know where this came from, I'd be interested to know.

Some nice contacts with Poland shortly after. Polish operators are great on the key - SP9EVP(JO90), SQ9IDE(JN99) and SP2QCW(JO93). I heard UR5WD calling CQ DX shortly after. Always a dangerous thing to do that - what's DX on six to one person may not be to another - so I didn't call him on this occasion!

Today the 26th, there's been a very high noise level here - probably something to do with all the rain we've had in the last 24 hours and the overhead power lines. So, though I've had a quick listen, I've not made any 6m QSOs today. Did hear EA6SA on SSB and a couple of EA7s on CW this morning. Driving back from Gloucester this afternoon, I had a listen on 29MHz FM. The Stockholm repeater was coming through quite nicely on 29.62MHz FM - despite me only having the VHF (ie not 10m whip) on the car.

Reading the reflector mail it sounds like there was some nice DX to work on 28MHz CW over the weekend. Stewart, GM4AFF reports working HC8N (Galapagos) in the evening. Impressive!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Magic of Amateur Radio - be inspired!

Something that I don't think we always do very well is communicate just what the magic of amateur radio is. Bob Locher, W9KNI is his excellent book, 'The Complete DXer' conveys that magic.

Jeff, KE9V just made a really nice posting on his blog called 'HF Magic Carpet Ride' which conveys some of that magic. Have a read and see if it doesn't tempt you to switch on the rig and have a tune around!

Be inspired here!

My first VHF Es QSOs of the season

Yesterday, 24th May was a good Es day. I didn't have too much time to spend, but just before lunch, I found 50MHz CW going well and made some nice QSOs: EA5FQ(IM98), YT7AW(KN13), 9A4WW(JN75), IV3W??(JN65) and 9A2ZH(JN73).

The other thing that was interesting was I quickly checked 70MHz around 1130 and heard 9A6R at great strength on 70.2 SSB. He was calling someone I couldn't hear. As I was moving my car around, I noticed a DO7 station on 29.6MHz FM. I only had the 6/2/70 antenna on, so I'm guessing he was loud.

This morning, I was pleased to find IG9/I2ADN(JM65) on 50MHz SSB.

Interesting contacts. Gear was the FT847 (50 - 100w) - solar powered - and the 70Mhz vertical which, you may remember from last year, works tolerably well on 50MHz as long as there's been some rain.

With the option to run 100w on 50MHz, I'll have to keep an eye on the battery voltage to make sure that the solar panel is able to charge it quick enough. Checked the voltage this morning and it seemed fine, which is good - particularly as we haven't had the most sun in the last 24 hours.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Web-based SDR now covers 20m

Thanks to David Barber, via the UK-Contest reflector for news that the already superb Web-based SDR receiver from the University of Twente has been updated to cover 20m.

The 20m receiver is centred around 14.111. Ideal for the digital modes, of course - don't forget that you can run your favourite digimodes program to decode what you hear. And, it's also ideal for listening to the NCDXF beacons on 14.100

Listen to the receivers here

More sage words from Bob, WB4APR

Thanks to Stan, WA1LOU I happened across the following sage words from Bob Bruninga, WB4APR. Like other things that I've noted from Bob in the past, you can read this about amateur radio directly or life more generally. Up to you.

"At the ARRL Technical Challenge Forum at Dayton, the ARRL
technology leaders were lamenting that HAM radio needs something
for youth to get excited about. Something like: "Look at how
kids have taken text-messaging as the be-all-end-all excitement
of communications! We need something like that in ham radio!
Why aren't we developing things like this?"

To which I jumped up from the audience and could not contain
myself and exclaimed! "We have! We have had local/global text
messaging and text email from a handheld since 1998 in APRS! It
is exactly what kids are doing today, but we have been doing it
for 10 years! But you know what? All the old fuds in ham radio
say 'How crude. We need a keyboard. No one is ever going to
communicate by punching buttons on the front of an HT'!"

SO still, only 1% of ham radio is even aware of this routine global
connectivity from a handheld that we have had for 10 years.
As pogo said, "we have met the enemy and the enemy is us."
Everyone keeps waiting for the "perfect dream" solution and then
they dream of all the things they could do. But you know what?
The perfect dream solution is always in the future. The few
instances in ham radio that really excell in actual needed
practical communications are those that ALWAYS take what they
have and just do the MOST with it, NOW!"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New version of DX Summit

Just picked up some details to say that a new version of DX Summit has been launched.

DX Summit is the web interface to the DX Cluster system.

See the new website here

It's an easier URL to remember!

Morse in the Guardian?

David, G3XLW alerted me, via Twitter, to discussion that somewhere, there's a French station which transmits French poetry in Morse. I didn't know that! If you know which station it is and where it is, please get in touch. Enquiring minds need to know!

But in the process of trying to find the information, I happened on an article published in 'The Guardian' newspaper yesterday on the use of Morse Code worldwide. RSGB's Carlos Eavis is quoted.

See the Guardian article here

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2m SSB Net in the North of England

Last evening, I was doing some work on the computer when I heard Ian, 2E0BOE/P calling CQ on 144.300.

I replied to him and was pleased to find that he was portable on Winter Hill, near Bolton in IO83. Considering I was beaming east when I first heard him, he was a great signal. Also operating with him was Tony, M3VOG/P.

Ian and Tony told me that there's a 2m SSB net in the North West of England every Thursday evening between 2030 and 2300 local time on 144.325 and they welcome any callers.

If you're around on a Thursday evening - point the beam up to the North West and see if you can hear them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Live VHF Propagation updates

With the Es season (hopefully) approaching fast, I was interested to see that G7IZU had set up a fascinating propagation monitoring page. This looks useful.

See the page here

D-STAR update from Dayton

An interesting update on D-STAR following Dayton here

Jeff, KE9V commented that it felt that this year was the year that D-STAR came of age. It will be interesting to see if that is reflected in activity here in the UK. Certainly it does seem very interesting and no doubt the amateur radio dealers will be holding their breath to see if the interest turns into sales.

I was interested to read that an interface had been developed, which could be plugged into any rig with an 9600 baud packet port that would convert it into a D-STAR radio. Now this seems like the way to go! Not sure if these are commercially available - or whether anyone has plans to make them so, but it feels like this would inject a huge boost to D-STAR activity - as presumably the investment to become active would be significantly reduced.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My first twitter instigated QSO

I sent a 'tweet' (using Twitter) to KE9V this afternoon saying that I would be on GB3WO this evening around 1730z and if he could connect to it via Echolink, then perhaps we could have a chat. Well, he couldn't make it, but Ian, G4PDS saw the message and I was delighted to work Ian, from Seaton in Devon via the Witney 70cms repeater. Thank you, Ian - for a really enjoyable QSO.

So, if anyone else reading this has Echolink (and it's not difficult to setup), do try connecting to GB3WO around 1730z - it would be really great to have a QSO with you!

Shock/horror! Human ears beats CW Skimmer in pileup competition

Who'd have thought it? An experienced CW operator can beat the CW Skimmer hands-down

During the KCDXC Pileup competition at Dayton, the CW Skimmer program entered for the first time. Although it obtained a very creditable 31 calls copied correctly, the leading operator, W9WI scored 52! So, the top operators don't really need to feel too threatened just yet.

Perhaps that's the point. Maybe having a CW Skimmer around will improve the 'average' entrant's score, just as a memory keyer would. But it's not going to be the difference between winning or not. That's still going to come down to the operator who's making the strategic decisions for the station - as well as having an ear that, for now, is more adaptive to CW decoding than the best decoding algorithms that we have come up with so far.

Doubtless, the Skimmer technology will evolve and improve. But it should push and encourage all the operators to become better.

That's a good thing, isn't it?

And you can see the KCDXC Pileup results here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

144MHz Contest this weekend

If you're in the UK, or within 2m range of us this weekend, there's the RSGB 144MHz contest going on. It started at 1400z and runs until 1400z on Sunday, though you may hear some of the Backpackers (low power stations) for an hour after the main contest closes.

I had a quick listen around this evening and though conditions weren't great, there were some interesting contacts to be had. I was particularly pleased to work GM0AYR/P (IO75) - I don't work Scotland on 2m that often. For some reason it seemed hard work with a couple of stations, just conditions, I'm sure.

Do get on and work who you can - the entrants will appreciate it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wish you were at Dayton?

Well, we can't teleport you there, but courtesy of ARRL and Katie, W1KRB here's a video shot Friday morning walking around the convention. Can you see anyone you know?

Here's a picture of the eQSL stand; Rich, W3ZJ on the left and Dave, N5UP on the right.

M6 calls now available to Foundation Licencees

Pete, M3PHP alerted me a couple of days to this story and a press release has just appeared on the OFCOM website:

"Ofcom is pleased to announce that the M6 + 3 Letters series of call signs has now been made available for issue to applicants for the Amateur Foundation licence. The M3 + 3 Letter series of call signs will still be available to applicants for the Amateur Foundation licence until the M3 + 3 Letter series is exhausted."

So, dear Foundation licencee, you can choose whether you become an M3 or an M6.

Perhaps there will be more choice available to Full licence holders before long? Would I change my call? Maybe...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

50MHz noise

Though I haven't actually managed to catch a 6m opening yet this season, I'm feeling a little more confident now. Over the last few weeks, I've noticed that the noise level on 50Mhz has been S9 plus. Hard to work anything through that!

I spent a little time turning off devices in the shack this evening and discovered that if I turn off the PC speakers AND the monitor, then I can reduce the noise level to around S5. Not ideal, but I reckon I can work some CW through that.

Fingers crossed

4U1UN activity 17/18 May 2008

Via the Daily DX comes news that Roger, G3SXW will be active from 4U1UN in New York this weekend, 17/18th May. Operating with Roger will be Johnny, LA5IIA. They will concentrate on the low bands.


Crete, SV9 now active on 70MHz

Leo, SV2DCD reports that George, SV9GPV is active from Crete on 70MHz - see Leo's post here.

Exciting news and an interesting new country for 70MHz enthusiasts. I wonder if SV5 is active as well. And I wonder if we will ever see SV2/A (Mount Athos) on 70MHz. There's a challenge!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's Dayton time

The Dayton Hamvention is probably the best-known amateur show/meeting/convention in the world. It first ran in 1952 and has gained in prominence ever since. This year it's running from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th May.

Someone once said that every ham who can, should probably go to Dayton once in their life and I think that's true. I went many years ago - sadly I was struck by food poisoning - not acquired at the convention, I hasten to add! But aside from that it was a really great experience and I met a lot of people that I'd worked on the bands for years.

You do see every aspect of ham life there and there are some you wish that maybe you hadn't seen! I remember being in the restroom (as we'd call it there) doing what was necessary and a guy came and stood beside me and did the same. His handie-talkie went off and his friend called him. Without a moment's hesitation, he replied! Do you know, I think I'd have left that QSO until I was out of there!

More positively, this year the ARRL are going to be blogging from the event and I'm hoping that we'll get various news reports over the duration of the Hamvention and find out what's been going on. eQSL are going to have a booth/stand there and I know that Dave Morris, N5UP and several of the support team are looking forward to meeting eQSL members at the booth.

Band I Es yesterday

From the FM mailing list again, come reports that yesterday there was some Band I TV from Eastern Europe, so in all probability 50MHz was open. It wasn't when I listened quickly, but I might well have missed the opening.

Looking forward to catching an opening soon.

Anyone want a nearly new wind generator?

Someone mentioned to me yesterday that they had a nearly-new Rutland-913 (24v) wind generator for sale (here in the UK).

I don't know much about its provenance, but if you're interested, I can put you in touch. Price would be around half the list price, I believe, so well worth a look if you're interested in investigating wind power a little.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ham Radio users of Twitter

More coverage regarding the use of Twitter by amateurs over the weekend.

Bob, K0NR covers it here

Jeff, KE9V covers it here

First Band 2 (88-108MHz) Es opening of the year

Via the FM mailing list, comes news from listener Mike Fallon, based in Sussex, England that he recorded his first Band 2 opening of the season on 11th May between 15.20 and 15.30 UTC. Mike received several stations from Spain between 88 and 93MHz.

This bodes well for amateur activity - hopefully we'll see plenty of openings on 50 and 70MHz soon - maybe 144MHz as well.

See Mike's log here

Thursday, May 08, 2008

View the Ionosphere in Google Earth

Peter, G0UAP alerted me yesterday to this new facility to view the ionosphere in Google Earth. Peter mentioned that he'd had some problems with it.

The trick seems to be to make sure that you've got Google Earth safely installed on your machine (version 4.3 has been recently released and has some neat features). Use this page to download the KML files to your desktop and then do File/Open from Google Earth.

Peter wondered why the files wouldn't open directly from the webpage. I think it's because the server they're hosted on isn't set to render KML files directly, Peter (though I could be mistaken!)

Nice find, Peter - thanks for the tip!

SV2DCD reports first 4m Es QSOs of the season

Leo, SV2DCD reports the first 70MHz Es QSOs of the season on 5th May around 1200. He worked LX and G in-band and two PAs crossband.

See Leo's post here

Music to our ears (Katie Paterson and EME)

I've sometimes heard Morse enthusiasts say that 'Morse is music to their ears'. I suspect if you played them any other sort of music with a rapid rhythmic beat, they'd be the first to complain about it, but that's another story.

This week's BBC Digital Planet programme contained a fascinating story about an artist, Katie Paterson, who'd taken Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and arranged for the notes to be transmitted by radio back to earth, using Morse code sent by amateur moonbounce (EME) operators.

On reception, the piece is different to what was sent, because of path losses, libration fading and all the reasons familiar to EME operators. Katie transcribed the received signals and turned it back into music.

The amateur behind this was Peter Blair, G3LTF. who Katie described in glowing terms.

Wonderful publicity for amateur radio in a totally different sphere to normal.

See Katie's website for her description of the project. She also has a very moving project where you can actually hear the sound of a glacier melting.

The Oxford Mail ran a nice story about how school children have been fascinated by the concept of bouncing their messages off the moon.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Looking for DB0FAI and HB9HB using Easygram

Since GB3VHF was a couple of S-points above average this morning, I thought it would be just the sort of morning to have a look for some distant beacons using the DSP Software I mentioned a few weeks ago (Easygram).

First of all, I looked for HB9HB which you may remember I was able to detect quite easily. For some reason, it was less obvious this morning. There were some traces, which I am pretty sure were the beacon, but it wasn't as clear as the other day.

I remembered that there's a high power beacon DB0FAI in JN58 and I wondered if I'd be able to detect that. The answer seems to be yes - a very promising trace across the screen, so definitely one to keep an eye on. DB0FAI is on 144.490 if you want to try something similar.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

28MHz alert

For the guys around here who're looking forward to the 10m openings this summer, a quick alert. I noticed a posting on the FOC reflector (which I didn't read fully..) that there was 10m propagation yesterday. Not sure if it was in these parts, but sounds like it will pay to be checking the band on a regular basis.

432MHz and up Contest: This weekend

The first weekend in May and October contain the two UHF/SHF contests, featuring bands from 432MHz up to, well, pretty much light (248GHz). Though I've only got the lowest band, 432MHz here, I wanted to take a look.

One of the guys I've been 'Twittering' with, Peter, G4MJS was off to the Isle of Man (GD) for the contest and I realised that I'd not worked GD on 432MHz since moving here around 5 years ago. So I wanted to do that and also see who else was around.

Normally, I have to confess I keep the beam towards Continental Europe, but with GD in mind, I kept the beam on the UK a little more. It was nice to work some people on the band that I'd not caught in ages M0BRA/P was a big signal from IO8o and G1KHX from IO81 was new on the band from here. From further north, G3CKR/P (IO93) and G4DEZ (JO03) were loud. Took me a while to find GD0EMG, but I was pleased to complete the contact last night - thanks guys! Around the same time I worked PA6NL (JO21) who'd been up and down in fading for most of the day.

Listening this morning, I haven't heard anyone new yet.

Gear: FT847/50w- all solar powered and 10ele yagi @ 10m

Friday, May 02, 2008

Some 70MHz activity updates

Leo, SV2DCD's blog alerted me to the renewal of the Italian 70MHz permits for the summer. I checked for some more details at the 70MHz website and found several items of interest (note to self, must check that site more often!). Lots of good reason to get going on 70Mhz for the summer.

All info following, courtesy of

Italy from I0JX

The authorization for a second 70 MHz ham-radio experimental campaign in Italy has been granted on April 30th 2008. Its validity lasts until December 31st 2008. The technical parameters and the operational conditions are the same as for the year-2007 experimental cycle. The I0JX/B beacon operating from Rome on 70,088 MHz has been re-activated.

Germany from G6GVI and OZ2M

DL3YEE and DI2PM will be active from 1st May to 30th August, 2008.

69,950 MHz, max bandwidth 2,7 kHz and max 10 W EIRP.

Czech Republic by OZ2M

Radio amateurs in the Czech Republic are now permitted to transmit on 70 MHz. The licensing conditions are: 70,2-70,3 MHz, 10 W ERP and up to 20 temporary licenses are valid until 2008-12-31.
Stations are already active.

Do you want to ban CW Skimmer from contests?

Well, it seems that some people do. They've put together a petition at iPetitions to call for a ban of the technology from contests.

It seems to me that it's misguided to suggest a complete ban. You can't sweep it under the carpet, otherwise you will drive the use of the technology completely underground.

Surely, the answer is to ensure that anyone who uses CW Skimmer is in an 'Assisted' or suitable category. It is clear that it would be inappropriate to mix 'unassisted' entries with CW Skimmer entries, but it's not the end of the world and it's not the end of CW Contesting. A good CW operator will always be better than a machine!

If you disagree, you know where the petition is!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Any radio twits on here?

No, no - not you!

Seriously, I don't mean 'twits' - I mean Twitter users! I've been aware of Twitter for a while but haven't really tried it out, but finally got around to playing with it today and I have to say I quite like it.

Twitter is probably easier to try than to explain, but the long and short is that it allows you to share what you're doing with friends. You can see some more at Twitter's website

If you're already a Twitter user - search for me (timkirby_g4vxe) I'll be pleased to swap some 'tweets' with you.


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