Thursday, July 31, 2008

Digital HFtransmissions

This story on the ARRL website looks worthy of investigation.

By the look of it, WinDRM and similar programs allow you to digitise your speech and transmit it in a normal 3khz SSB bandwidth. The article says that interference is largely eliminated and it is somewhat like listening to an FM signal in terms of quality.

Something to try when the bands are quiet, perhaps!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Steve Telenius Lowe, 9M6DXX wins June QST Cover Plaque Award

Congratulations to Steve, 9M6DXX on winning the ARRL June QST Cover Plaque for his article about the 3B7C St Brandon expedition. It was voted the best article, by a poll of readers, in the June issue.

Well done, Steve and well done to the team at FSDXA for their hard work in all aspects of the expedition.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

As simple as it gets portable....

A busy and enjoyable weekend here meant that it was 23 hours into the RSGB IOTA's contest before I thought about taking some time to make a few contacts. Since it was such a lovely day, I thought it would be nicest to be outside.

Knowing that I had a gel cell charged to around 11 volts, I thought that would be enough for a few low power contacts using the FT817. I quickly gathered up the 817, the ATX Walkabout antenna (works well on 28/50MHz) and the battery and decamped to the portable QTH (the arbour on the top lawn!).

On 10m CW, I quickly worked CQ2I from Portugal as well as a couple of French stations, a German, a Croatian and a Hungarian. I thought it would be worth while checking 50MHz and sure enough DK1MAX was coming through with a nice signal on CW - I was pleased to have a quick QSO with him - and had an 'almost' contact with EA6SX - but he couldn't get quite enough from me (he was quite weak at the time).

I shot a little video of the portable rig with HG3W coming through on 10m CW, just after I worked him.

If you haven't tried some low power, simple operating, I recommend it to you! video

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reflections on the RSGB 80m Club Championships

Last night, I had the opportunity for a beer or two and a chat with Dave, G4BUO and Justin, G4TSH. Some years ago, the three of us, over a Chinese meal in Windsor, concocted the seed of an idea that became the RSGB's 80m Club Championship series. We ran the ideas past Lee, G0MTN who put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the idea. The series has gone from strength to strength and involved more people in RSGB HF Contesting than we've ever seen before.

In some regards, the series has become so competitive that it's harder for newcomers to do well. Some people have reported that to hold a frequency for the event, they need to be on half an hour in advance to 'warm up' the frequency. Not ideal for beginners. Short of making the contest less popular, I don't know what to do about that.

One of the original ideas for the contests was that they should try and involve as many people from clubs as possible. This, for example, was why we included Datamodes, knowing that would appeal to some people who wouldn't necesarily get involved in 'traditional' contesting. But is the series doing that?

Maybe not. How could clubs increase involvement of their members in the series?

Guest operating, which is big in the international contests, doesn't happen so often domestically. Perhaps you're getting tired of operating in all the Club Championship events? Why not consider turning your shack over to a promising newcomer to your club and helping them through their first contest or two?

I wonder whether we should be doing more to 'reward' the highest placed Intermediate and Foundation licencees. Perhaps there should be 1000 points on offer in each event for the leading Intermediate and Foundation licencee - wouldn't that offer an incentive for the clubs to get members of different types on the air?

Just musings - and have no official standing! What do you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Wordle Based on this blog!

This is rather fun - over at Wordle - you can generate a graphic containing some of the words that are contained in an article, a webpage, or in this case a blog....

Wasn't quite sure how to save the image - I ended up saving and cropping an image off the screen.

A little VHF Tropo to enjoy

If you live in the UK, you probably noticed that the barometric pressure dropped pretty suddenly over the last 24 hours or so. Yesterday morning saw many parts of the UK wake up to mist and fog.

When the pressure drops like that, its always worth checking the VHF and UHF bands for some tropo. I've only listened on the 2m/70cms FM bands, but there's certainly been a little more co-channel around, indicating some better than average conditions.

RSGB IOTA Contest this weekend

RSGB's flagship international HF Contest takes place this weekend, July 26/27th from 1200-1200z.
The emphasis is on working 'island' stations and there's usually a huge amount of activity from all sorts of islands that you've never heard of from all around the world. You can read about the IOTA programme at the IOTA site.
The rules for the IOTA contest can be found here as well as the IOTA contest section, containing all sorts of useful writeups, results and pictures here

If you've not looked into the IOTA programme before, this is a great opportunity to do so!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SOTA names G3WGV as President

I only just caught up with the news that Summits on The Air (SOTA) has named John Linford, G3WGV as its President.

John came up with the original idea for SOTA and is its founder. Read about SOTA here

Congratulations, John!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

European CB - now on the 70cms band

The Southgate Amateur Radio Club ran a story today claiming that unlicenced operators would have access to parts of the 70cms band. You can read the story here. In essence, this means that in the same way that anyone can pick up a PMR446 radio, there is now a second allocation available to anyone, which uses channels within the amateur 70cms band.

The specification is called LPD433 and you can see which channels are available in this chart on Wikipedia. You may recognise many of these channels the same as the Amateur 70cms Simplex and Repeater Frequencies. So, next time you try to listen to a distant repeater or station on 70cms FM - you may find that station obliterated by the kids next door or a group out for a walk. And they have every right to be there.

I immediately contacted a 'friendly insider' at RSGB. He was able to confirm that the story was true.

So, you may be asking yourself, how this came about? I'm certainly asking that question. It is apparent that somewhere in Radio Regulation land, someone is not aware of the difference between Amateur Radio and completely unlicenced radio.

I understand from a completely reputable source that this has nothing to do with OFCOM and that the specification was forced upon us despite strong opposition from OFCOM.

Since this is a European specification, I can only assume that this may be used Europe-wide.

Is this just a singular mistake or the start of complete deregulation of amateur radio? Either way - I feel cheated right now and I'll bet you do too. Make a fuss - I urge you. Do it positively - but this is important.

GB3WH antenna change

Last week, Chris, G7JGE and I had some problems using GB3WH on our commuting journeys. We're both well to the east of the main part of the coverage area and were really struggling to have a QSO.

Yesterday, I spoke to Rob, G4XUT who's on the committee of the Ridgeway Repeater Group and he said that a problem had been found on the antenna/feeder. Fortunately, another antenna and feeder were available, so last Friday, GB3WH swapped from an end fed antenna to a folded dipole, slightly lower down the mast.

Coverage has changed slightly - interestingly, Mike, G0UWU noted that the repeater is now stronger in the Gloucester area.

Friday, July 11, 2008

IARU HF Contest this weekend: Work GB7HQ

Embarrassing I've not mentioned it before this week, but it's been a busy one.

It's the IARU HF contest this weekend which has been become dominated by the battle between the Headquarters stations from the various radio societies around the world. RSGB from the UK is represented by GB 7HQ

Different bands and modes will be run from different stations around the UK. So, your challenge, should you accept it, is to work GB7HQ on all bands and all modes. You could, I suppose, work some other HQ stations too!!

Lots of awards and QSLs to be gained by working GB7HQ.

A good evening on 70MHz

Got home and had a look on 6m. 50.110 was busy with a European pileup working KP4EIT. Feeling smug, as I'd worked NP4A last weekend, I tuned on! Lots of Europeans at good strength on 6m. Hmmm, I wondered. I wonder if 70MHz is open.

Now, bear in mind that the FT847 which is the 70MHz transceiver here is deaf as the proverbial post on the band. Tuned over to 70.200 and heard IZ5EME calling CQ. Gave him a call or two, but without any luck. Up the band slightly was I3VWK working Dave, G4ASR. Both those guys had good pileups going.

I kept the VFO moving and found OK1MAC calling CQ up the band a little. Dropped a call in on CW and was delighted to get a report from him. OK1MAC is a good venerable call! I'm sure I first worked him on the Squarebashers VHF expeditions in the mid 1980s. Kept moving the VFO and heard OK2POI calling CQ - he came back too! Fantastic!

Tuned back down the band and by this time the Italians had mostly faded out, 9A2ZH was calling CQ - but try as I might I couldn't get a response from him on either CW or SSB. No matter, I've worked him on 4m before. Just down the band was S57A, who to my surprise came back to an SSB call (the others were worked on the key).

Exciting to make some new countries on 70MHz. Nothing exceptional in the overall scheme of things, but lots of fun.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Amateur Radio and Democracy (or not)

I've often felt that you can tell a lot about countries by the way they manage amateur radio and communication in general.

Look at this story

SM/G3SXW, OH0/G3SXW, OJ0/G3SXW, OJ0A this weekend

News from Roger, G3SXW about his activity this weekend! Olof, G0CKV's location can be tracked via APRS here

Hello Friends
Just to keep you posted about this weekend's trip.
SM: Olof G0CKV will pick me up at Stockholm airport on Thursday about 1030 UK time. We will drive about one hour to the ferry port. I might be able to make a few QSOs as SM/G3SXW/M from Olof's mobile, perhaps on 14023. That will be a laugh!
OH0: The ferry will take us to Aland Island, and I hope to QRV as OH0/G3SXW some time Thursday late afternoon or evening.
OJ0: then Friday morning five of us take the boat across to Market Reef and spend the rest of Friday setting up. We will sign OJ0A in IARU contest (Saturday until Sunday lunchtimes) but there might be a chance to also QRV as OJ0/G3SXW either Saturday morning or Sunday pm. We take the boat back to OH0 on Monday morning. If the sea is too rough to land, a possibility even in summer, we will set up and do the contest from OH0 instead.
Hope to C U from somewhere. Good luck in the contest this weekend.

Monday, July 07, 2008

VHF NFD - without getting wet

It's probably fair to say that the weather dominated the event for the clubs and groups out in the field. Those of us who, for one reason or another, were not able to get out portable, probably had a lucky escape.

I noticed Dave, G3YMC of the Bracknell club refer to the event as VHF Field Day (Aquatics) and the Newquay group, G4ADV/P were not able to be active owing to the very severe weather that they encountered at their site.

Because we had a lot to try and do this weekend, I had to regretfully turn down a very welcome invitation to operate with the Windmill CG, G0FBB/P. I did try to get on and make a few contacts through the weekend though.

On 50MHz, the bands were initially quiet - though of course I struggle to hear the weaker signals on the band, owing to the S5-6 noise level here. First stations worked were M0XXT/P and G5XV/P - both comparatively local and indeed, I worked them both on 6m, 2m and 70cms. Sunday morning saw a little more distant portable activity and I was able to work T99C/P, YT1W, S56A and S52LW.

On 2m, there was nothing really distant, but I was pleased to work MM0CPS/P from IO84 and OQ4U from JO20. Honour was saved by working G0FBB/P on both 2m and 70cms.

Best DX as usual, on 432MHz was PA6NL over in JO21 as well as a nice crop of G portables.

In total, I made around 35 QSOs across the various bands, which was done in fairly short order. I was sorry to miss 70MHz, but wasn't around at the correct time.

A particular pleasure was to have a number of people say that they enjoyed the Radcom column or this blog - kind words which are warmly appreciated.

Congratulations to everyone who braved the elements and I look forward to reading the results in due course.

F5NZY's solar station

I had a nice e-mail from my friend, Steph, F5NZY who lives in Paris.

Like me, Steph's been interested in using solar power to power his station. He has a splendidly large solar panel which charges a lead-acid battery! Most of the time, he uses the battery to power an FT817. I'm trying to persuade him to run a bit more power!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One of those magical contacts! NP4A on 50MHz

I've blogged before about contacts that stop you short, even after 20 odd years of doing this stuff. I had one of those today.

I popped up here in the early afternoon to have a look at something and noticed a 'tweet' from Pete, M3PHP that he'd worked a Spanish station on 50MHz. As it was Field Day weekend, I thought I'd have a quick spin across the band and see if there was something that I could work quickly.

A couple of stations on CW - EA1BSH who I polished off pretty quickly and someone I'd worked earlier in the day. Tuned up to SSB - where I often don't hear much because of the noise level. Hmmm. There's something sounding Spanish, perhaps on 50.155. What! It's NP4A from Puerto Rico. He MUST be loud, as he's audible on my little antenna.

I sat and listened for a little while and shot the video I've attached. I was quite happy to sit and listen. But just after I stopped filming, signals came up and he didn't seem to be working anyone, so I dropped my call in and a few seconds later, he was in the log.

I listened some more and discovered why he was such a fine signal. He has a 17ele yagi on 50MHz. Fantastic! I wonder how many Europeans he worked this afternoon and over what sort of geographical area. I heard him working Germans, but there were Lithuanians calling as well.

Pedro - thank you! I can't imagine how you heard my solar powered 50 watts to a 70MHz vertical, but you did - and I'm delighted!

Friday, July 04, 2008

VHF Field Day this weekend

It's the European VHF Field Day this weekend. If you're active on 50, 70, 144, 432 and 1296MHz - then it's a great weekend to either take some gear out on the hills with your local group, or even a simple station on your own and make some contacts.

If you're at home, then have a tune around and see who you can hear. There should be plenty of portables around.

The contest starts at 15.00 UK local time and runs for 24 hours.

I'll try and get on and see what's around in our part of the world.

Picture courtesy of G4TSH shows setup at the Windmill CG site

433MHz for a change this morning

I set out a little earlier than normal for the station today and GB3WH was quiet. For a change, I concentrated on 433MHz and was listening on 433.075, the frequency of the Swindon repeater, GB3TD.

As I was leaving the village, on the little ridge, I heard GB3NH, the Northampton 70cms box pop up at good strength and ID itself. Around the same time, I had poor to partial copy of GB3HS (Humberside) on 145.650 for the second time this week. Conditions were obviously a little above normal.

Had a nice QSO with Andy, G0BEQ on GB3TD discussing some D-STAR possibilities.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Getting your gear to the summit - with two goats!

There's been some controversy in these parts about the amount of gear that some people are using in the Backpackers contests. The idea is that it should be possible for the gear to be carried, by hand, to the summit.

With that in mind, the following blog post from Steve, N0TU made me smile. During the recent ARRL Field Day, his equipment was carried to the summit by his two goats; Rooster and Peanut.

Look and enjoy

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More from Friedrichshafen

Our 'roving reporter', Justin, G4TSH is back safely from his trip to the Ham Radio event in Friedrichshafen, Germany. He kindly took some pictures which he's agreed I can share with you. Here's one of the exhibition halls.

More pictures to follow soon, I hope

Some tropo this morning

As I was driving out the village this morning, I heard a weak ID on 145.650. I was pleased to identify it as GB3HS, the Humberside repeater, which is over 150 miles away from me. I don't hear that more than two or three times a year, so was interested.

The barometric pressure had fallen about 4mb overnight from 1021 to 1017 - which had no doubt cause the enhancement. There was a little mist around - another sure sign of tropo.

Just before going to bed last night, the F5XAM beacon near Calais was 2 to 3 s-points up on usual on 144.424. I got the impression it was one of those 'big enhancement over fairly short distance' type openings.


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