Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finally! WSPRing at G4VXE



It's been on my mind for a little while that I'd like to try out the WSPR software here. For one reason or another, I haven't got around to it, but today, I decided to give it a go.

I downloaded the WSJT 2.0 software and spent a little time getting it interfaced to the FT1000MP. Receive worked pretty much straightaway, but for some reason it took me a while to get the transmit side sorted - the interface I was using didn't seem to behave quite as I thought it might! I managed to use a slightly different method which worked.

My first transmit period on 10MHz, just as the band seemed to close was heard by NB3N. I then moved over onto 7MHz at 7040khz. I set the program to transmit 9% of possible transmit periods and waited for the first transmit slot on 7MHz.

The nice thing about WSPR is that as soon as the transmit period ends, you can head over to WSPRNET.ORG and see who heard you! To my enormous surprise, a number of stations heard my first transmission including VK7FGMH in Tasmania at a distance of 17,482kms. Not bad for 1 watt output!

I've left the system on for most of the evening and was pleased to see my signals reported in Tasmania for around an hour or so. Other reports came in from the Azores, Europe and the East Coast of the USA.

The only downside to all of this is that even on low power, the transmissions seem to interfere with the rain gauge for the weather station!

I shall WSPR again!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bargain DTMF Microphone for the FT8900

The Yaesu FT8900 that I have in the car is a really excellent transceiver and one which I enjoy using everyday (it was a very special Christmas present from Julie a couple of years ago). One of the accessories that I had been considering for a long time was a DTMF microphone for it.

Although I don't need DTMF tones very often, it's useful to be able to setup Echolink connections on GB3TD and other Echolink nodes. I'd tried an external keypad, but although it works well, it's not that practical for mobile use.

The Yaesu MH-48 looked pretty expensive when I looked at it, expensive enough to put me off, anyway! Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing around the Ham Radio section of E-Bay and I noticed a seller in Hong Kong offering to ship the microphone to the UK for around £13. Well, that's my sort of price! I wasn't sure how well it would work, guessing that it might possibly be an 'imitation' microphone, but I was prepared to chance it.

Yesterday, the microphone arrived. This morning, on my commute I was able to try it out for the first time. Audio reports were fine. After I changed the Mic menu setting on the FT8900 to MH-48, I was able to transmit DTMF tones. Note that if you don't change the MIC setting (as I didn't at first!) you won't be able to transmit either DTMF or use the function buttons! Thanks to Des, G0RBD for pointing me in the right direction on that!

So, hopefully this is going to add a little spice to some of the mobile operating and I can use the Echolink facility on GB3TD, which seems to be much underused!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Proud to be included in a Rooster and Peanut video...

What a thrill to find myself included in the latest Rooster and Peanut video!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Which band/modes have you been active on this year?

This morning as I was heading to work, I thought it would be interesting to think about the different bands and modes that I've been active on this year. I think the list below is accurate(ish)



Most of the activity has been on VHF and UHF but with a few HF CW contacts thrown in, mostly in contests at weekends. No Digimodes activity this year, that I can remember! Must look at getting the computer and interface hooked up next year perhaps, as I do like RTTY, PSK and all the other modes. And I might sneak WSPR in towards the end of this year, if I get some time over the Christmas holidays.

A new band/mode combination for me this year was 50MHz FM, mostly using the GB3FX repeater in Farnham in the mornings, but with occasional simplex contacts as well as some tests through the new Bristol 50MHz repeater, GB3ZY.

VHF/UHF D-STAR provided a new interest too and it seems that activity levels are increasing, so I'm looking forward to expanding the numbers of contacts on those band/modes too.

I'm sure many of you will have beaten 20 band/mode combinations that I've been active on. Let me know!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Giving the gift of Amateur Radio this Christmas

With Christmas coming up, perhaps you're wondering what to buy for people. Have you thought about giving the gift of amateur (ham) radio? After all, if you're here, you probably know that it is a varied hobby, capable of sustaining interest over many years.

What do I mean about giving the gift of amateur radio? Well, relax, I don't mean that you need to buy someone an expensive transceiver...though of course, if you want to.... Actually, what I'm thinking more of is getting someone interested in the 'magic of radio'.

The 'magic of radio' is different to every radio amateur. For me, it's about how a weak signal will get from place to place at some times and not at others. For others it's about putting together a handful of components and making something out of them. It's a personal thing which we develop over the years.

But how can you get someone started? Possibly quite simply! This year, I'm buying some young friends of mine some little 446MHz handhelds. Now being young lads, they'll probably use the handhelds to play cops and robbers, or perhaps make unseasonably rude noises at each other. But maybe, just maybe, they might wonder how far apart they can stand and still talk to each other - will it work from their house to the hill? And that's when the magic starts - the wonder of how it all works.

Or maybe you might like to buy an introductory book on amateur radio from say, the RSGB or ARRL - in the hope that they might be intrigued enough to find out more.

Sometimes, you can give a lovely present, just by introducing someone to a resource like a blog. Maybe think about introducing a youngster to a blog/podcast like Paul, KC9QYB's 'Teen Radio Journey' - which is all about how Paul, who's 14, got into amateur radio, got his license and started making contacts (I was delighted to chat to him the other day). Another internet resource which you might consider 'giving' is Chris, N7ICE's excellent video podcast Hambrief.TV. Chris' podcast is wide-ranging and inspirational - particularly to the younger ham. And I couldn't end without one of my favourite blogs/podcasts, 'The Adventures of Peanut and Rooster (and Steve WG0AT)' - completely inspirational about getting out in the open air and making simple contacts on HF.

So, I hope this gives you some ideas of some gifts you can give this holiday season...

RSGB Board Elections: Results are out

I was pleased to see that the results of the RSGB Board election are out. http://www.rsgb.org/news/article.php?id=0008

I'm familiar with the majority of candidates and was particularly pleased to see John, G3WKL, Don, G3BJ and Iain, G0RDI elected to the board. Between them they bring a great deal of experience in a broad spectrum (if you'll excuse the pun) of amateur radio. I hope they will also be able to bring some vision to the the society, a vision of the RSGB is to move forward, rather than standing still.

I wish them luck.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

GB3MCB 10GHz beacon now active - and memories of Cyril, G3VVB

Via the Southgate Amateur Radio Society site comes news that a new 10GHz beacon is on the air from St Austell in Cornwall, in the far south west of the UK.

"GB3MCB transmits on 10368.9800 MHz and beams ENE with 3dB point from just east of N through E to almost SE from IARU locator IO70OJ."

Thinking about Cornish microwave activity, reminded me of Cyril, G3VVB who used to live in Gorran Haven in Cornwall. I had the pleasure of visiting him, probably nearly 20 years ago. Cyril was a great engineer and made lots of great microwave kit - as well as mock Bencher paddles! Sadly, Cyril died some years ago, but it's good to remember happy times with him.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A few problems with iBCNU 1.6

If you've been reading this blog for a few weeks, you'll know that I've been enjoying the iBCNU application for the iPhone by AB3Y. I upgraded from 1.5 to the latest version 1.6 today and have unfortunately, experienced some problems.

On loading version 1.6 I tried to start iBCNU but the program immediately crashed. I deleted the app from the iPhone and started again from scratch. The application worked fine, but when I closed it and then restarted, unfortunately, it failed to start and crashed (it seems to be when the application tries to acquire the location).

Looking at the iBCNU Feedback page a number of people seem to be having the same problem, though Joe, KA8WJH has more success than me by deleting the application and reinstalling.

Either way, I'm quite sure that David, AB3Y will sort the problem out. In the meantime, if you are contemplating upgrading from version 1.5 to 1.6 of iBCNU, it may be worth your while checking on the Feedback page above to see what the application status is.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Simplex D-STAR contact from Oxfordshire to Swindon

A few weeks ago, Rob, G4XUT who lives near Swindon mentioned to me that he'd bought an Icom E-91 handheld capable of D-STAR. Since then, we've been talking about trying to have a simplex contact from our home stations.

This Wednesday evening, we finally got around to it! As I don't have a vertical collinear for 2m, we decided to use horizontal beams. We only live about 15 miles apart, so we first of all made contact on FM where signals were strong as you'd expect over the distance.

We then switched over to Digital Voice (DV) mode. Initially, Rob's signal to me was a bit 'Donald Duck' - there was obviously some data loss, but I tweaked the beam around to him and was able to get solid voice copy from him at a low power level. It wasn't until Rob turned the power up to 5w that I got the data (callsign/name message) appearing on the display of my E92 handheld.

Setting up the radios for a simplex contact couldn't have been simpler. The 'YourCall' was set to CQCQCQ, Repeater 1 and 2 were not set and 'MyCall' was set to our own calls.

After our QSO, Rob was able to try out the connection to the MB6AM Simplex node which worked well.

Our intention is to be active again on D-STAR simplex again next Wednesday evening, probably around 2100z. If you're within 60-70 miles of Oxford or Swindon and have D-STAR and a horizontal beam and would like to try a simplex contact, e-mail me at tim at g4vxe dot com and we'll set something up. If you'd like to join Rob and I next Wednesday on 144MHz D-STAR, e-mail me and we'll try and make contact - should be fun!

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