Sunday, March 29, 2009

My first steps in D-Star

If you've been reading this for a little while, you can't help but notice that I've been interesting in how the D-Star system has been developing. A Hambrief podcast recently, where Chris, N7ICE demonstrated D-Star in action was the final straw! I wanted to try it out for myself.

One of the issues that caused me to stop and think was the fact that there's no local activity here - or at least, there aren't any D-Star repeaters within easy range of Longworth - or indeed on my regular commute. I didn't want to use one of the D-Star dongles, as I wanted to try D-Star through RF.

I decided that I'd be best off getting one of the Icom IC-E92D handhelds. For one thing, it is a lot cheaper than the mobile radios - and I don't really want to replace my FT-8900 which I use in the car - it's just such a great rig. For another thing, since there's more D-Star activity in London, I thought I could take the rig into London and maybe make some contacts during lunchtime. I'd been wanting to try it for a while, but the time was right recently to make a purchase!

So the rig arrived in mid week. First impression was of a very nice unit - solidly built, well featured both for analogue and digital modes. I quickly got the rig going on the local 145/433 analogue repeaters and made a couple of contacts. On GB3WO, which is Echolink enabled, I enjjoyed using the DTMF keypad to set up links - something I've not been able to do.

Yesterday, Julie had an OU tutorial in Reading for the morning. I decided to take the rig in to Reading, hoping that I might be able to spend a little time setting up D-Star. I also hoped that I might be able to hear the Amersham D-Star repeater, GB7AU. So, there I was, sat on a bench by the Kennet and Avon Canal with the handheld and the instruction book.

Actually, setting up the rig for D-Star isn't difficult. I quickly got the MY callsign set up as G4VXE. What wasn't immediately obvious to me was what to set the R1 and R2 parameters to and there were a couple of false starts, trying to call people through GB7AU whilst I didn't have things setup properly. But, I was quickly hearing people through the repeater from all over the UK as well as Denmark - since GB7AU was connected to the REF005 reflector.

Reading a few more pages, I discovered that I could get obtain the parameters I needed by listening to other stations and found the magic parameters to make things work was to set UR to CQCQCQCQ R1 to GB7AU B and R2 to GB7AU G

I also found that it is possible and apparently, general practice to place your name after a / in the MYC parameter, hence when I work someone - my callsign will display as G4VXE/Tim on their screen, which is clever. It also seems to be possible to have another text message scroll on their screen, so I've added my e-mail address in there which seemed like it might be useful.

Did I work anyone? Yes! My first contact on D-Star was with Ellis, GM4JLZ in Aberdeen, followed by Mike, G1ZRN and Rob, M0ZPU.

Great fun and the biggest learning experience I've had in ham radio for a while! Thanks, guys!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Have you worked EP2IA recently? Don't QSL!

I had an e-mail from my friend, Roger, G3SXW just now. He asked me to pass on the following information. Clearly, if it turns out that the recent EP2IA activity is legit, then we'll let you know, but it doesn't look hopeful. Here's what Roger has to say;

"A station signing EP2IA has been QRV this week on 40 mtrs CW, asking for QSL via qrz.com. This was my call in the 1970's but I know nothing about the current operation. If the call-sign had been re-issued I would expect him to give a valid QSL route. But qrz.com points at G3SXW so I must conclude that this is a pirate operation.

Please help me to spread the word: PIRATE! I will receive many QSLs that will be returned to sender (extra work for me) and very disappointing for many DXers who think that they have worked a new country. There are some very selfish people in this world. "

Greetings - 73 de Roger/G3SXW.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A truly impressive mobile installation

I was catching up with N7ICE's Hambrief podcast this morning on the train and enjoyed it as ever. This week, edition 20 covers a trip to the Scottsdale Hamfest.

It's well worth a look for two segments in particular, some more AO-51 operation by Pat, WD9EWK (I hope I've got that right) and a 'tour' of a really impressive mobile installation, nicknamed 'The Pigeon Shredder' owned by AC7E (I think!).

Anyway, take a look!

A few minutes in the Commonwealth Contest

This last weekend was the RSGB's Commonwealth Contest. Though we had a busy weekend with one thing and another (all good), I found a few minutes to get on and enjoy the event. The nice thing about the Commonwealth Contest is that because it's not a high volume event, you can treat it as a DXers contest and still make a reasonable number of contacts by going at the right time.

Or, in my case, just making some interesting contacts by picking the best times. I took a few moments on Saturday afternoon to look on HF, but conditions were pretty horrid. I worked ZC4VJ on 15m and a number of VEs, including my friend VE3EJ on 20m.

We went out for dinner on Saturday evening, which meant that looking on 80m at sunrise on Sunday morning was 'off'! However, I was up in time to take a look on 40m and was delighted that I did, finding VE3EJ again as well as more distantly, several stations from Australia and New Zealand. VK7GK was a huge signal in particular.

Though it's not everyone's cup of tea - I think it's a wonderful contest!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VHF/UHF at the RSGB's HF Convention

Reg, G8VHI kindly sent me details of a VHF/UHF stream at the RSGB's HF Convention to be held in October. Here's the press release.



RSGB Convention – Wyboston 9th–11th October 2009. This years event, at the Wyboston Lakes Conference centre in Bedfordshire, will for the first time, see the inclusion of a full stream of VHF lectures and presentations This new stream will run alongside the usual streams of HF, DX, Technical and Beginners lectures.



Here’s a great opportunity to meet the people involved at the leading edge of the use of the spectrum, in the usual lecture environment but more importantly in a social environment. As in previous years the Convention will be hosting the full range of UK licence exams. A detailed programme will be available in due course. So remember - RSGB Convention – Wyboston 9-11th October – see you there.


You will note that the RSGB Convention now encompasses VHF and above; Reg (G8VHI) and Neil (G3RIR) have been asked to run the new stream which will have the theme of
VHF/UHF/SHF DXing and Contesting through technical excellence and development but not forgetting the beginners to these bands.


We already have a number of excellent lectures planned but we would like to receive suggestions of which topics and lecturers you would like incorporated. Also, perhaps, some of you may wish to offer to give a talk within the theme.


Please feel free to distribute this e-mail to any one you think may be interested including any relevant reflectors.Neil, G3RIR g3rir 'at' yahoo 'dot' com and Reg, G8VHI regwoolley 'at' aol 'dot' com will be pleased to hear from you

Six Metre Mobile - More results to report



Over the last couple of weeks, I've been making most of my mobile activity on 6m FM, since finding that David, G4HZA is commuting around the same time as me in the morning and is to be found on the Farnham Repeater, GB3FX.

GB3FX has really super coverage and with the odd patchy bit, is a solid signal on my journey from Longworth down to Didcot railways station.

As well as working G4HZA, there have also been QSOs with G8ZLL and M0UHF, who was also worked simplex. So there really are some QSOs to be made on 50MHz FM if you look.

On Monday, I drove down to Southampton and found that GB3FX was a good signal for the vast majority of the journey, until just before Winchester.

If you're in range of GB3FX - I hope to hear you - and I'll be looking on 51.510MHz simplex as well.

Coverage Map courtesy of the Farnham VHF Group

Why so quiet?

Gosh, it's been ages since I updated the blog! Nothing's wrong, but it just seems to have been a busy period, so haven't had the opportunity to sneak down here at lunchtime and write some items. There's been the Sports Radio Supplement to complete for Radcom, a couple of presentations to write as well as regular work!

The folder on my phone with 'ideas' for posts has been steadily growing! So, I'm taking advantage of a few minutes spare today and getting some posts written.

Wainwrights on the Air


I was pleased to receive an interesting e-mail from Julian, G4ILO who sends details of a new award for 'Wainwrights on the Air' (WOTA). Here's what Julian has to say.


As editor of the Sport Radio column in RadCom I thought you might like to be the first to know of a new adventure radio scheme I am launching on 21st March called Wainwrights On The Air (WOTA.)


As you may be able to work out from the name, it's a bit like Summits On The Air, but using the 214 Lake District fells described by A Wainwright in his famous hand-drawn guidebooks. As someone who lives close to the Lake District I was initially interested in SOTA as an incentive to get out on the hills with a radio, but was disappointed to find that only about a quarter of the Wainwright fells actually count for SOTA points. What's more, many of those are the tougher ones to reach, which are beyond the capabilities of many of us. A keen activator would soon have to drive long distances to find new summits to activate.


In online discussions it became clear to me that there was a lot of interest in more regionalised schemes that included more easier summits, and that didn't involve activators in driving hundreds of miles to reach them. It also became clear that the existing SOTA organization was unlikely to be interested in running regional schemes.


I was therefore persuaded to do it myself. In fact, it appears that WOTA will just be the first of a number of "adventure radio" activities being developed by various people. You can see the WOTA website at http://www.wota.org.uk The site is not completely finished, but it is pretty close. Anything else you might be interested to know about it will hopefully become clear if you go there. I hope that you will be able to give it a mention in a future RadCom.
(Map courtesy of http://www.guideus.co.uk)

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