Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friedrichshafen update #1

Our intrepid reporter has reached Friedrichshafen.

His update reads

"No free wifi found, but after six beers and a carafe of wine, who cares!"

So, the legendary hospitality is going well then! Hopefully when our reporter is able (should that be capable) of finding some WiFi, we'll have some pictures to share.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Friedrichshafen Hamfest this weekend


Perhaps the biggest Hamfest in Europe takes place this weekend in Friedrichshafen in Germany. This is a really excellent meeting, perhaps the equivalent of Dayton from a European point of view. There are lots of traders, lots of interesting people to meet as well as lots of food and lots of great German beer!

If you read the blog and you're going to the meeting, do send any pictures or reports that you have - it would be great to hear what's going on!

PSK Reception Maps


Pete, M3PHP drew my attention today to the rather excellent PSK reception maps that are available. The information is gathered from Ham Radio Deluxe users who have enabled the Digital Master 780 feature and enabled data on received PSK31 stations received to be uploaded onto the internet.

Check out the reception maps here

Monday, June 23, 2008

Well worth a read: ......from KC8QVO

Sometimes I read things and they somehow catch the same spirit of amateur radio that fascinates me. This blog from Steve, KC8QVO is worth a look. It's an interesting insight into VHF operation in North America and there are some nice photos too.

KC8QVO's trip to EN91

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Four metre news

A quick precis of a couple of news items from the 70MHz website

First of all, Denmark have expanded their band allocations:

  • 69,9875 - 70,0000
  • 70,2375 - 70,2875, new distinct segment
  • 70,4875 - 70,5125
That segment at the bottom of the band is looking interesting. I noticed that the Germans had a segment around there too. I wonder what the chances of us getting something similar will be. Will drop someone an e-mail and let you know what response I get.

Second, the Portugeuse 70Mhz beacon is back on the air. New frequency is 70.166

Better to have a bad aerial than no aerial at all...

I was talking to Paul, GW1PKM the other morning on the way to the station. He was telling me about his super new QTH on a mountainside in Wales and the different antennas he was planning. We talked about 50/70MHz and he mentioned a dual-band design that, actually, I haven't seen advertised for a while. My initial response was a little cautionary as it had a reputation for being someone of a 'rotatable dummy load'.

But surely, having some antenna is better than none at all! Of course! Much better to put an antenna up and make a few contacts as you surely will, than wait for the perfect antenna (which of course, will never come!).

I was reminded of this this morning, trying to work MD6V on 50MHz on my 'compromise' 50/70Mhz vertical. Sure, on this occasion, it didn't work. But 8/10 of the stations I hear I can work with the compromise aerial and at least I'm on the band and generating some activity. It would be great to have a dedicated beam, but that's going to take a bit more organising.

So the message here is: even if you can only get a simple antenna up - do it! At least you'll be on the air.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

D-Star TV and cats!


John, GM7HHB has written an application that allows images to be sent over the data stream of D-STAR. John says that the application is currently in Alpha testing, but that it's workable. John describes it as SSTV for D-STAR.

You can see some more details here

You can see some examples of the sorts of thing that D-STAR TV can do on the Screenshot page here The cats are called Chocolate, Milk and Sugar!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MSN talks about amateur radio

Introductory article about amateur radio on MSN today.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Low Power 28MHz beacon chain in Italy

The DXZone got my attention to an interesting blog which mentions a low power beacon chain from Italy. Have a look here.

Might need to read up about QRSS techniques.

If you need to translate the page, there's a useful Google translator page, which should help.

The Early morning VHF tune around

There's something nice about going into the shack first thing and having a tune around the bands with the sun streaming through the window. I'd do the same on the HF rig, but it's not in the same place!

This morning 50MHz was quiet, but the GB3VHF beacon on 2m was a few S-points above normal and F5XAM round about average. So there was a sense that there was some more localised tropo this morning.

The CQ100 Experience

After all the discussion last week about CQ100, I thought that it would perhaps be interesting to try it, in order to hopefully, have a more informed view!

Signup was simple and I was easily able to download and install the CQ100 transceiver (client program) on my Vista laptop. I wasn't able to use it, though, until I'd uploaded an image of my licence for verification. The purpose of this is to ensure that only licenced amateurs use the system. It took around 24 hours for the verification process to complete.

Yesterday evening, I tried logging in to the transceiver and it accepted my password, showing that the licence verification had completed. The 'transceiver' defaulted to 14.200 and I could hear an American station calling CQ there. 14.200 has been designated as an SSB calling frequency, and I think, 14.058 as a CW calling frequency. Using the 'spectrum scope' it's easy to see where there is activity. I decided that I would try a CW contact, for something different.

I tuned to 14.025 and called CQ at around 25wpm. To my surprise, SM6DPT called me. It was nice to chat to Sture from Gothenburg. It turned out that he'd not been active for a number of years, having moved to a city flat and not had the option to do anything other than use an indoor antenna. Sture said he'd found CQ100 a week or two ago and was enjoying reinvigorating his CW skills ( I should add that he was no slouch on the key at all, so he has nothing to worry about!).

It felt bizarre not to have to exchange reports. After all, everyone is 599. And then there was no need to talk about what transceiver and antenna we were using. What else is there to talk about? Lots, of course. We chatted for about 20 minutes on the key.

So, an enjoyable experience, and I took it as a positive that someone who had not been on the air for some years had had their interest rekindled by CQ100. I did try to emphasize on-air activity as that's vital for the future of our hobby. As Dave, G4BUO points out rightly, if 'the powers that be' decide we don't need our HF spectrum because we're all using the internet, then we'll only have ourselves to blame. Perhaps CQ100 might be a good place to practise CW - and the fact that Morse is being used on the system (which seems slightly bizarre to me) is good for the future of the mode, of course.

Will I extend my use of CQ100 beyond the trial period? I'm not sure, but I'm glad I tried the system which worked well and certainly had some 'novelty' value. I can see why those who struggle to put up antennas would find CQ100 fun to use.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

CQ-100: What's all the fuss about?


Just recently, CQ-100 has been causing a stir in various quarters.


So, what is CQ-100 and why has it got people hot under the collar?


CQ100 is a 'virtual transceiver' using a 'virtual ionosphere'. It looks like a transceiver, which runs on your PC and allows you to 'tune' and change bands. You can use the 'transceiver' to speak or send morse.
I've used a lot of quotes there. CQ-100 is essentially a virtual reality radio. It looks like a radio - and to use it, you need to be a licenced amateur, but that's where it stops. CQ-100 is a nice front end to a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) system.
Some hackles were raised when an article on CQ100 appeared in the RSGB's magazine, 'Radcom'. It's not real radio they said ( it isn't) - why are you giving it column space? A more valid objection that I saw suggested that potentially it took traffic away from the amateur bands - which is clearly a bad thing in terms of band occupancy and therefore the justification for us being given valuable spectrum.
Over on the First Class CW Operators Club reflector, tempers are rising as some members discuss using it! The phrase 'off-air computer games' has been mentioned! Strong stuff.
Interesting! It all comes back to how we use amateur radio. As I explain our hobby to 'outsiders', I say that very often we are not interested in what we say to each other, but how we say it. In other words, the media is the message. The fascination of tuning a radio, to me, is not knowing who I will hear. Will I hear some DX - or will the band be closed? Why is the band behaving as it is? That's one of the fascinating aspects of the hobby to me.
If I want to chat to someone at length, it's doubtful, these days, whether I would do so on short-wave. There are just so many other ways to do it. Skype, telephone, E-mail, Twitter - the list goes on. That doesn't mean I don't want to use HF - it just changes the way I use it.
CQ-100 has nothing to do with radio, except the people that use it. If it connects people that could not otherwise talk, then surely that's a good thing. If people can practice their morse with each other, then surely's that's a good thing too. If it enables people in nursing homes to keep in touch with amateur radio, then again, how can that be bad?
CQ-100 won't replace radio for the people who are really interested in how it all works. Those people will retain their fascination with the fact that signals can bounce around the globe without any infrastructure - that's the magic of real radio.
Regard CQ100 as you'd regard Skype for radio amateurs - and you won't go far wrong. Have fun with CQ100 if you will, but do tune the real bands and be active. That's what really counts.

Monday, June 09, 2008

NFD Weekend

We had a busy and exciting weekend doing lots of things on the allotment and with the bees, but I managed to make a few QSOs during NFD which was fun.

I looked on 28MHz and worked my neighbours - the Oxford Club G5LO/P and the Newbury Club, G5XV/P. I did want to try and work the Flying Pigs, G0IVZ/P down in West Sussex. I heard them briefly on 28MHz, but despite a couple of calls, couldn't raise them. In fairness, they were weak with me and I suspect any hint of noise at their end would have rendered me in audible! Further afield, I worked ER3R/P from Moldavia - perhaps my best DX on 28MHz for a while.

When we got back from dinner at the pub with our friends Steve and Lynne, I had a little look on 3.5MHz and worked some more stations including GW0AAA/P.

Purely by coincidence, there are some nice picture of the GW0AAA/P Field Day operation here.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Interested in VHF Contesting?

If you're based in the UK then you might consider answering the RSGB Contest Committee's questionnaire.

Pete, G4CLA explains:

"The Contest Committee are reviewing the rules for the 2009 VHF/UHF
activity contests.
We are keen to hear your views, whether or not you currently take part
in these contests and would like to encourage you to take a few
minutes to participate in our on-line survey.

The survey can be found here http://www.vhfcc.org/cgi-bin/survey.pl?for=ukac."

RSGB's HF National Field Day this weekend

This weekend, 7th/8th June sees one of the biggest CW events in the RSGB's contest calendar. It's HF National Field Day weekend. This is where clubs and contest groups take rigs, aerials and all the rest and operate from tents and caravans around the country.

The contest isn't a DX one as such and the emphasis is on working other portable stations around Europe and beyond. There are bonus for working stations on 10m and 160m.

The contest runs from 1500z on Saturday to 1500z on Sunday.

If you're taking part, good luck. If you're not and you have a moment to tune the HF bands and work some UK and European portables - do - the contestants will certainly appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A quick plug for my amateur radio Google Maps


Seeing that Nige, G7CNF had created an excellent map of the 70MHz beacons which can be viewed in Google Earth, I thought I'd just bump my own series of maps!

Hopefully you'll find some of the maps here of interest.

There's a prefix map, together with beacon maps, SOTA references and some repeaters.

I'd love to do some repeater maps of the USA, but I haven't yet seen any data which has got all the repeaters and a location in them. If you've got some data - let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Any contest operators near Stockport?


I just had a nice e-mail from Jim, G3VOU. He's a member of the contest arm of the Stockport Radio Society who sometimes use the callsign G5O. They did in WPX - which was rather windy in their part of the UK. Jim kindly sent a picture of the aerial system after the wind.

Jim also mentioned that their group is looking for contest operators to join them. So if you're interested, drop me a note and I'll put you in touch

Portable in Wales (GW), with a twist


Last weekend we camped near Carmarthen to participate in a skill-sharing weekend. Julie did some shooting, I did some scything, the boys made sausages - Russell even plucked a chicken. There may even have been the odd bit of music and the occasional drink. All fine stuff. I thought that as we'd be away, I'd throw the little FT-817 and a small aerial in.

It turned out that Jack, the son of the farmer of the farm that we were staying at had recently joined the local radio club and was fascinated by amateur radio. We spent a very pleasant evening outside, just tuning around 20m and listening to what was coming through. Others joined us and there was considerable interest in the fact that we were hearing signals from as far away as Brazil and the USA on such a small antenna (it was an ATX-Walkabout).

Despite the nay-sayers, there was interest in Morse too and I had to do 'translations' for people and explain what was being said.

I hope it was a positive demonstration of amateur radio and I'm hopeful that Jack will take his interest in the hobby further - we've arranged to keep in touch.

SEANET contest this weekend


From Steve Telenius-Lowe, 9M6DXX comes a reminder that the SEANET contest is this weekend. It's also CW Field Day weekend. More on that later in the week. Firstly, the SEANET details from Steve.

"Hi!

Don't forget that this year's SEANET Contest takes place this coming
weekend - on 7 / 8 June 2008. The rules have been rewritten and
simplified in an attempt to encourage greater
participation. In particular, any computer contest logging program can
now be used to log the SEANET contest.

Please see the new rules at www.seanet.cc (go to "SEANET 2008" then,
at the bottom of the page, "Contest Rules").

We would welcome your participation and entry, even if it is only a
few QSOs. Please also remind your friends of the contest, pass on the
details to them, and ask them to put in an entry.

The results will be announced and prizes given out at the SEANET
Convention, to be held in Sabah, East Malaysia, in November. Full
details of the convention can also be found on the SEANET website at
www.seanet.cc

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

73 and see you on the air this weekend!
Steve Telenius-Lowe, 9M6DXX
teleniuslowe@gmail.net"

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