Friday, October 30, 2009

Keeping a broader sense of perspective

There are so many specialist interest groups in radio which focus on just one aspect of the hobby, be it CW, 50MHz, QRP, repeaters - you name it, you'll find one. In many ways this is marvellous and you feel that there's going to be a real depth of knowledge when you join these organisations and indeed there usually is.

Sometimes, though, I find the inward-facing nature of these organisations frustrating. Take for example, a CW club, which I won't name, that I currently belong to. With Morse changing (decreasing) in importance in the amateur radio world you'd think that the club would be focussed on how to get new amateurs using Morse and encouraging existing amateurs to keep using Morse - and to use it better. You would, wouldn't you? Instead, a lengthy discussion on their internet reflector this week has centred on 'The Meaning of 'R' (on CW)'. Next year, they're planning something exciting. No, not awards and encouragement for people who are interested in Morse, but, a new Constitution. Yes, I know.

Now, perhaps I'm being a bit unfair to this organisation by singling their issues out. I've been a member of other radio 'special interest groups' and this inward view is not uncommon.

Even National Radio Societies seem to have problems concentrating on the bigger picture of activity and maintaining interest, rather than a short-term view of getting people into the hobby.

Please - do enjoy your specialisms within the hobby, but remember that your part of the hobby is part of the wider one too. Think about how it can play it's part in making our hobby of Amateur Radio a vibrant one for the future and then act on it.

Look outward and not inward. Look the wrong way and you won't see the future looming..

Listening on 28MHz during CQWW SSB

Last weekend saw the biggest phone contest of the year on HF; CQWW Phone. My enthusiasm for taking part in contests is probably at an all time low - particularly phone contests! But that doesn't mean, dear reader, that I am anti-contest. Not at all. Right now I just don't feel the need to get involved in them actively.

I did want to listen on 28MHz during the contest and see what propagation and activity was like. The best DX I heard was ZS9X from South Africa who was coming through well and working a huge number of Europeans. On the Sunday, many European stations were heard - some of which would have done well to check the audio from their computers - high quality is not a word I would have used! Some stations from the nearer parts of Asia were coming through too. So all in all, pretty interesting.

Those people with decent beams for 28MHz had contacts into Australia and the Far East. It just shows what a bit of activity can do!

Maybe, just maybe, I'll make a few contacts next month in CQWW CW.

More on WSPR

It's a little while since I mentioned WSPR on this site. Chatting to Andy, G0BEQ on the way to work this morning, we were talking about WSPR.

In case you're new to WSPR, it's a very low power mode, commonly used on HF which allows some great propagation analysis to be done.

The software is free and has been created by Joe Taylor, K1JT. It's well worth a go! If you do, G4VXE's top tip is to make sure that the clock on your computer is accurate. If it's not, you won't have much luck decoding signals!

Have a look at the WSPR propagation map here

GB7OK D-STAR repeater gets its internet gateway

Good to see, via the Southgate ARC that the GB7OK D-STAR repeater that I use when I'm in London is now connected to the D-STAR network via the internet. I'll bring in the E92 handheld next week and see what I can do - should be fun!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Four members of the C6APR team killed in plane crash

The contesting community was shocked to learn of the deaths of Pete, W2GJ; Ed, K3IXD; Dallas, W3PP and Randy K4QO in a plane crash in South Carolina on 21st October. The team was en-route to Crooked Island in the Bahamas for this weekend's CQWW Phone contest where they planned to operate as C6APR.

These are all familiar calls to anyone who's spent any time around HF Contesting over the last few years.

More on the story at the ARRL's site

Thoughts of course, go to the families and friends of the team.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The return of 28MHz propagation?

Chatting to Des, G0RBD last week, he told me that he'd been hearing a few stations on 28MHz in recent days - mostly North/South propagation in the early evenings - for example from South America.

I listened a little at the weekend and heard nothing, but it's almost certainly going to be worth checking 10m in the late afternoon and early evenings. Try around 28.500 on SSB and the bottom 50khz or so on CW for signals. Check the beacon band (most beacons are between 28.200 and 28.300) too, in case the band's open and no-one's operating, which is always a risk on bands like 10 metres.

You can find a comprehensive list of 28MHz beacons, as well as all HF beacons at G3USF's beacon page

Sometimes, too, it's worth tuning down below 28MHz to see if any SSB CB operators are active, as they sometimes spot the band openings before hams!

I had a listen this evening and although 28MHz was quiet, on 27MHz I heard a station from Corsica, some French stations and some weak Italians. So the propagation is there. Hard to say whether the lack of stations on 28MHz was a function of the MUF, or lack of activity.

SWL-R - A shot in the arm for Short Wave Listening?

My first experience of amateur radio was as as short-wave listener, both on the broadcast and amateur bands. That was reasonably typical at the time and it provided a good grounding in both knowledge of shortwave (HF) propagation and, on the amateur bands, operating procedures.

Since then, less people come into Amateur Radio through the shortwave listening route. As an attempt to provide a little stimulus to shortwave listening, Clifford, W2CRW has created a website; SWL-Registry

Anyone in the world can, based on where they live, obtain an SWL-R 'callsign' and, if they wish, obtain a certificate. This might well be fun for younger entrants to the hobby and show a little recognition.

If it helps get more people listening on shortwave, it's a good thing in my book!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Congratulations to Pete, M3PHP

Pete, M3PHP who lives near me had the opportunity to take his UK Intermediate examination this weekend at the RSGB's HF Convention. Pete had been studying hard for several weeks and he announced yesterday afternoon on Twitter that he'd been successful.

Well done, Pete! Hopefully we'll be hearing Pete with a new 2E0 callsign before long...

Ontario Mobile operators must go handsfree...

From the ARRL Letter:

The Ministry of Transportation in Ontario, Canada announced on September 30 that Bill 118 concerning distracted driving will take effect on October 26, 2009. According to Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Vice President for Public Relations Peter West, VE3HG, the new law makes it illegal for drivers to talk, text, type, dial or e-mail using handheld cell phones and other handheld communications and entertainment devices. Following a three-month period that begins October 26 where the focus will be on educating drivers, police will start issuing tickets on February 1, 2010. "All two-way radios in all vehicles -- with the exception of emergency responding vehicles -- must be hands-free in three years' time," he posted on the RAC's blog. "This news comes from the official government staffer who has been in communications with Radio Amateurs of Canada over the last year. At the end of the three-year exemption, all commercial, CB and Amateur Radio equipment used in moving vehicles by the vehicle operator must be hands-free in operation."


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