Friday, October 31, 2008

GB3CB repeater now has ports on 29 and 70MHz

The Birmingham 70cms repeater, GB3CB now has ports on 29 and 70MHz. The idea has been to enhance local activity on the two bands.

The 29MHz port is on 29.530 and the 70MHz port is on 70.3625.

Rather than utilise a repeater shift, it looks like all you need to do is to transmit and receive on the port frequencies above.

I occasionally hear GB3CB from home on 433MHz, so it will be fun to see if I can hear anything on 29.530 when I'm driving around.

And Ireland have access to 5MHz

From the IRTS comes news that Irish amateurs have the opportunity to apply for permits to operate on 5MHz.

The release says:

""We hope by now that all of those who applied have received the necessary permission. The permission varies the terms and conditions of the licences concerned so as to include three 3 kHz channels with centre frequencies of 5280, 5400 and 5405 kHz.

"The practice is to use Upper Sideband for voice transmissions on these channels. As these are centre channel frequencies and the actual dial readout on upper sideband is 5278.5, 5398.5 and 5403,5 kHz respectively i.e. 1.5 kHz on the low frequency side of the centre of the channel. The maximum power allowed is 200 watts. CW stations are encouraged to use the bottom 300 Hz of the channels as this permits the use of the channel for SSB at the same time.

"It should be noted that military cadet stations in the UK which use special non amateur call signs are allowed to participate in the 5 MHz experiment in the UK. EI stations with 5 MHz permissions can not communicate with these stations and may only communicate with other licensed experimenter or amateur stations."

Spain now on 70MHz

From various sources, including Leo, SV2DCD and the Southgate Amateur Radio Society site, comes news that Spanish amateurs now have access to 70MHz.

Access has been granted to 70.150 and 70.200 with a maximum power of 10w ERP until 25th April, 2009. Let's hope that the experiment will be continued beyond then to allow contacts to take place during next year's Sporadic E season.

See the translated article here (also information about enhanced allocations on 160m for Spanish stations).

Who's active from Spain? Any QSOs made so far? It would be great to know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The biggest contest in the world?

CQ WW Phone, as it is properly known is probably the biggest ham radio in the world. For 48 hours, the 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10m bands are full of activity. This coming weekend, it's your chance to take part in the 2008 event!

Even if you're a non-contester, you might tune around the bands and make some contacts. The exchange is simple; a signal report (generally 59) and then your CQ Zone number. The UK, for example, is in zone 14. You can see which zone you're in here

If you haven't the biggest signal in the world, then be patient and you might want to wait until Sunday, when the hubbub will have died down a little.

Do you want to hear what your signal sounds like at K5ZD? Work them whilst you listen here

Whatever you do, have fun!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On listening to the ISS and Contest feedback

Perhaps most interesting this weekend was taking the time to have a listen to the International Space Station (ISS) on 2m. Alerted to the activity by Paul, M3JFM and Pete, M3PHP on Twitter, I had a listen on the set in the car to a couple of passes on 145.800 FM.

The passes I listened to were good overhead affairs with good strong signals. Sadly, they were SSTV transmissions, rather than voice transmissions. As you can imagine, I didn't have SSTV receive capability in the car (though it's a thought!), but Paul and Pete did a great job of recording the tones and decoding them to some pictures which you can see over at Paul's Flickr site - the picture here is courtesy of M3JFM and M3PHP.

If like me, you'd rather listen to some audio - take a listen to the audio file that Paul and Pete recorded of the QSO between the ISS and Bugbrooke Primary School near Warwick. - it's great.

Well done Paul and Pete - thanks for your enthusiasm on the project - it inspired me to take a listen where I normally wouldn't have done!

Contest feedback. I asked in the latest Radcom column for people's ideas on the sorts of contests they'd like to see in the calendar. Well, the first reply, and I should have guessed it, came from a non-contester, who actually wrote quite positively, but wanted contests shortened.

I replied positively and politely, I hope. But here where I can be me, I have to shout "Why FFS! None of you anti-contesters actually use the bands when there isn't a contest on. You just don't want to hear contesting on the bands'.

Over on Twitter, KA3DRR made the same point today, wondering if weekend activity IS contesting. Pretty much, I reckon. If there isn't a contest on a band at the weekend, you'll hear sparse activity. Unless there's a DXpedition or a contest on, I guarantee you this, the band won't be full of happy rag-chewers, really it won't.

I wondered whether this is like the drivers who, just want a clear road to themselves and don't want anyone else on the road, whether they want to drive that day or not. I know not every person opposed to radio contesting thinks this way, but I can see a whole tranche who do. I call them the 'Dog in the Manger' brigade. DIM for short? Acronym, of course, no reflection on mental acuity.

Finally, yet not entirely unrelated to the contest feedback thoughts, it was FOC's Bill Windle QSO Party on CW yesterday. I got on to make a few QSOs late on Saturday evening and was pleased to work MU0FAL and G4BJM on 3.5MHz as well as W1WEF on 7MHz. Nice contacts. Everyone else seemed to be playing Worked All Germany (WAG).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Silent Key, Paolo, I2UIY

Via Royce, M0RHI and the EU Sprint site comes the sad news that Paolo, I2UIY passed away in recent days.

If you've been active in Worldwide or European contests, you will almost certainly have worked Paolo, a skilful operator with a huge signal and enthusiasm to match.

Paolo was one of the organisers of the EU Sprint contests. Look for a full obituary on the EU Sprint site in due course.

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Echolink mobile

Since the GB3WO repeater is Echolink enabled, for a while, I've been thinking about how I can utilise some of the neat features of Echolink when I'm mobile. In other words, the DTMF activated commands, such as being able to link to particular stations or repeaters.

The DTMF microphone for the FT8900 seems expensive - just under £100 when I last looked, though I'm sure there are cheaper imports available. Earlier in the week, I ran into a cheaper alternative! A DTMF tone dialer on eBay for less than a fiver!

Result! The dialer arrived yesterday and I tried it out through GB3WO, connecting to the ZL2ARG repeater in Nelson, New Zealand. There, I was able to have a super QSO with Brian, ZL3BSO.

So, hopefully, I'm going to keep the tone dialer in the car and when the opportunity presents itself, I can connect through Echolink to various repeaters round the world. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Solar Powered Radio: G4VXE gets a brief mention on BBC's Digital Planet

I was thrilled to get a quick mention on BBC's Digital Planet program this week, in the 'e-mails' section. The presenter, Gareth Mitchell had been talking on Twitter about Solar Powered WiFi. I dropped him a very quick message to say that I'd been powering my amateur radio station from solar power for over a year. He was kind enough to express interest and asked if he could use the details on the programme, which of course, I was delighted for him to do.

We haven't mentioned the solar experiment here, for a while. But all through the summer, all the VHF and UHF contacts that I have made from home have been on the solar powered rig. That includes some long distance contacts on 50MHz, including Puerto Rico as well as all around Europe.

Though I can readily power one of the shortwave (HF) rigs from the solar charged batteries, I've tended not to do that - just owing to where the HF rig is physically located! But a few nights of experimentation with the HF rig running a maximum of 50 watts resulted in contacts spread over Europe, Asia, Africa as well as North and South America. I'm sure if I was on at the right time, we could make it with Oceania too. I should really have a bit more of play with the HF / Solar setup.

One of the reasons that I started playing with solar power and radio was that I thought it was a fun way of proving what was possible with simple solar gear. There's also a rather nice, smug sense of self-sufficiency from using power that you've generated yourself. I also wanted to see if it was possible to use a solar powered station in the UK. Clearly in sunnier climes there should be no problem at all - but in the UK?

The answer has been unquestionably yes! Despite using a small solar panel, I've managed to keep the batteries topped up to cope with medium radio usage. With a larger panel, I could no doubt operate for longer and run higher power! In the winter months, the batteries DO run down noticeably quicker and I supplement them with a mains charge about once a month.

If you have a VHF or even HF rig that runs low to medium power, or another 12v project, why not think about running it from solar power? I'm sure you'll be glad you did.

Friday, October 03, 2008

50MHz FM

Had the best 50MHz FM QSO so far, this morning. Paul, 2E0BHA was only a few miles in front of me on the way to work, so we had a QSO on 51.510 at great strength. Even when we were around 15 miles apart, signals were great and I last heard Paul, as I was in the car park at Didcot as he was south of the M4 interchange on the A34 - over some quite hilly terrain.

Again, if you're in range, do come and join us.

RSGB 21/28MHz Contest this weekend

If you're not a UHF type, then there's an HF contest that you might want to take a look at on Sunday, from 0700-1900. It's the RSGB 21/28MHz event, and it's your opportunity to work lots of UK stations, if you're based outside the UK.

It's CW and SSB and UK stations will give an exchange of report and serial number plus a district code which will be something like OX = Oxford or RG = Reading. If you have the opportunity to come on and work some UK stations, that will be great.

If you're based in the UK, you can work anyone you can hear!

Let's hope conditions are co-operative.

October UHF/SHF Contest this weekend

This weekend it's the October UHF/SHF contest from 1400z on Saturday to Sunday. It's an all bands affair from 432MHz to 248GHz.

Activity from the UK is never huge, but I hear that EI9E/P will be on from IO62. If you don't always turn the beam west, you should this weekend!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ethics and Operating Procedures for Radio Amateurs

What is good operating? It's hard to define, but you know when you hear it. And you know when you hear bad operating, whether it be on the local repeater on in the midst of a DX pileup. Some times, the bad operating is completely unintentioned and perhaps the result of insufficient training. I'm sure we all have things that make our skin crawl when we hear them on the air!

Like any hobby, amateur radio has people within in it that, for reasons best known for themselves, do their best to spoil it for other people. Lots of time has been spent trying to work out why. Frankly, I doubt that we will ever understand what goes on in the minds of some people (and I am talking in a wider sense than amateur radio here).

Commendably, IARU has devoted some time to publishing a 'Good Amateur's Guide', in the shape of a document entitled, 'Ethics and Operating Procedures for Radio Amateurs'. authored by two well-known and respected amateurs, John, ON4UN and Mark, ON4WW.

It is well worth a read and is actually more an operating guide than an attempt to admonish anti-social operating. It is wide-ranging and covers HF DX operating as well as VHF simplex and repeater operation. It could usefully form part of the syllabus of amateur licences worldwide, though there seems little likelihood that would happen.

As such, I commend it to you, whether you are new to the bands or an old hand. The authors invite assistance to translate the guide into other languages - do consider helping if you can.

See the guide here


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