Friday, February 26, 2010

A couple of nice QSOs on D-STAR today


I've been working from home today, so I've been able to leave the DV Dongle running with the D-STAR software whilst I've been busy. I've listened to a lot of nice contacts as well as having a couple myself. At lunchtime, I was rather surprised to hear AB2ST/KH2 calling on REF001C from Guam. I gave Kawa a quick call and had a chat. I learned that they are on an expedition to Guam and will be there for another 3 days. I could hear the 15m SSB and 30m CW stations in the background. Neat! Since we were both using DV dongles I don't class it as a 'real radio' contact, but it was nice to chat anyway.

A bit of later, I worked Steve WG0AT from Denver - that's Steve from the Goathiker videos of course. Nice to chat to Steve for the first time on air. Hopefully we'll do it on HF CW before too long.

Relocating GB3VHF - the story from G0FDZ

If you've listened on 144.429 over the last few days, you will have heard that GB3VHF is silent. Here's the story from Chris, G0FDZ the GB3VHF beaconkeeper;

After fifty years of near continuous operation, GB3VHF has now closed permanently from the site at Wrotham.

However, the ‘phoenix will rise from the ashes’, as the beacon will be relocated in the next few months to a new site that is only 4kms ENE of Wrotham.

The beacon will be relocated to Fairseat in Kent (JO01EH) and will employ an antenna system ( 3 element yagis ) that will be identical to what was used at Wrotham, with the beam directions (288 & 348 degrees) exactly the same and the antennas of a similar height above ground level. This will mean that coverage will be nominally the same as that enjoyed in the past from the old site.

By using LDF550 coaxial cable for the feeder, the existing ERP can be maintained. With the new site at Fairseat being of a similar height to Wrotham and with a good take off, I am hoping that you will notice little change in signal strength.

Currently suitable steelwork to mount the commercial grade yagi antennas onto the tower is being manufactured by the rigging team. This essential steelwork has to be used, as the antennas and support structure must survive all weathers for many years. Once this steelwork is ready then the antennas and feeder will be installed at the first opportunity.

Obviously rigging will also be highly dependent on suitable weather and the work availability of the riggers. So the process may take some time so please be patient.

As you can imagine, the relocation of the beacon has come at a price, and rigging and other costs are high. I have been fortunate in that a number of items required have been kindly donated or supplied at a greatly reduced price by friends and colleagues, including the brand new Jaybeam 7049145 commercial grade yagis, and the Andrews LDF550 feeder and fittings.

The Ofcom licence for the beacon at the new site has already been obtained, so once the antennas at Fairseat are rigged, the beacon will appear on the air just a few days later.

The relocated beacon will be independently run and maintained, and will receive no regular funding from any organisation. If you would like to make a financial donation towards relocation and ongoing costs then I would be extremely grateful.

Donations can be made by PayPal to my e-mail address chris at g0fdz dot com, and all donations will be acknowledged. Please mark your PayPal donation as “GB3VHF donation”.

To those of you, who have already made a donation, please accept my grateful thanks and appreciation of your support.

I still have much work to do on the project, but rest assured I am working to commission the beacon at the new site as soon as practically possible.

I will give you further news on developments at the earliest opportunity.

Many thanks for your support and good DX

Chris Whitmarsh G0FDZ

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Radcom VHF/UHF Column: A guest opportunity!

I was exceited yesterday to have an e-mail from Elaine, G4LFM the RSGB's RadCom editor inviting me to take a guest slot for Radcom's 'VHF/UHF' column, following the death of Norman, G3FPK.

I'll be writing the May issue, so will be writing the column towards the end of March and early April. I'll be pleased to incorporate any of your VHF/UHF news. I've got some ideas! It's exciting as the Radcom VHF/UHF column is one that I have always been very interested in and writing it will be a great thrill.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Remembering my Dad: Michael Richard Kirby 1931 - 2010


You'll have to excuse a non-directly related amateur radio post today, but I think you'll understand why it's important to me and I hope you'll find it interesting too.

My father died on the 11th February, 2010. He'd been ill since just before Christmas. A father is important to every child, but since this is an amateur radio blog, I'll tell you that it was Dad that introduced me to shortwave. On a Hacker Helmsman radio, we listened to a 160 metre AM net (must have been in the early 1970s) which was probably the first amateur signal I ever heard. Dad encouraged me to get my amateur radio licence and was always very supportive and interested in the hobby (we had fun discussing D-STAR towards the end of his life when he was ill in bed). When I was away on expeditions, he'd listen on my old Sony ICF2001D receiver and heard me from the Comoros (D68C) and the Caymans (ZF1VX) as well as other, closer locations.

When Dad was fading, we had the opportunity to talk about what he would like said at his funeral. That sounds grim. It wasn't really. Hugely sad at times and funny at others. Anyway, I made some notes (on my iPhone, naturally) and worked them up, with a few additions from Mum, into a piece which Father Stephen used at Dad's funeral. Here they are:

"Michael Richard Kirby was born on the 8th June, 1931. He weighed just over 4 pounds and his grandfather asked ‘will IT live’! His father, Stephen was a dental mechanic and his mother, Doris, a milliner. He grew up in north west London but moved to Bishops Cleeve at a young age. He remembered playing on the Grange, where the Zurich offices now stand. Spending the war in Bishops Cleeve he recalled seeing a Messerschmidt fighter strafing the area around Smiths Industries.

He served in the Army for his National Service and was a Bombardier in the 65th Regiment HAA, Royal Artillery as well as a brief spell in the iCorps.

As a young man, he was keenly interested in cycling and was a member of the Severn Valley CRC. They were interesting times for cycling, but Mike was proud of having been involved in the arrangements for the first Tour of the Cotswolds when cycle road racing was in its infancy.

He started work as a Printers Devil but moved to work at R.E&C Marshall where he finished as a director. When RE&C Marshall ceased to trade, the company was reborn as Marshall Metalworkers, where he was responsible for the company winning two Civic Awards for architectural metalwork, which he was very proud of.

He met Pam at Percy Braisby’s pottery. They used to go to Charlie Fry’s junk yard and buy ‘something nasty for sixpence’! Pam and Mick married in 1958. They had two children; Tim, born in 1963 and Louise born in 1966. They settled down in Cheltenham where the children grew up happily and attended local schools. Mike experienced some heart problems resulting in a triple heart bypass when he was 56. The bypass was successful, but Mike and Pam decided that he should retire from Marshall Metalworkers and that they would move to Cornwall. Mike and Pam spent 20 years in Mylor Bridge, Cornwall where they led a happy and fulfilling life. They were active in the local St Mylor Church and Mike frequently helped with fund raising by making beautiful wooden items for sale. They enjoyed walking and exploring together and Mike was a keen (bad, his words!) birdwatcher and took a delight in nature generally.

His interests were wide ranging; he loved making things, photography and antiques. He enjoyed music; Jazz and Classical – particularly Bach and Mozart. They moved back to Cheltenham at the end of 2007 and had enjoyed being closer to Louise and Tim and their families as well as exploring the town and surroundings once again.

His health started to deteriorate in December last year. He spent some time in Cheltenham General Hospital before returning home on New Year’s Eve to be nursed lovingly by Pam as well as Dr Ropner and the team of nurses from Berkeley Place Surgery who could not have done more to make his last weeks as easy as possible.

He leaves a wife, 2 children, 1 grandchild and 4 step grandchildren."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remembering Jack Greenwood, G3TUN


Yesterday, Lori, one of my Twitter friends sent me a lovely picture of her Dad's radio shack. I asked her if she could tell me a little more.

Jack Greenwood was G3TUN. The photo was taken in the late 1960s in their home in Aldershot. Sadly, Jack died in 1998. Enjoy the picture - there's some great equipment on show.

Do you remember working Jack, G3TUN? Do you have one of his QSL cards? Lori is hoping to find one of his QSLs, so if you have the opportunity to scan one, let me know!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The DVAP Dongle hits the streets

Listening to the D-STAR reflectors today and specifically some of the news from the Orlando Hamfest, it's interesting to learn that the first few DVAP Dongles have been produced.

It sounds as if 100 units have been produced.

So what's a DVAP Dongle? It's a unit which plugs into your computer and uses functionality similar to the DV Dongle to connect to the D-STAR network across the Internet. The AP (Access Point) bit is because the device also has a 10mW transmitter built in. You set the Access Point to a particular frequency and then you can use your D-STAR handheld around the house or the near vicinity of the access point.

It sounds like the DVAP Dongle may be a little time to reach Europe, but I'm assured that it will!

Having heard a few on the air, they sound good. It'll be interesting to see how they work out.

Installation instructions for the DVAP Dongle here:

There's a new Yahoo group for discussions on the DVAP Dongle too

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Echolink on the iPhone


Just a few weeks ago, having played with the iBCNU application for APRS, I was thinking that Echolink would be a great application for the iPhone. I did a quick search and there wasn't anything there.

Chatting to Jerry, KD0BIK on Twitter this evening, he mentioned that an Echolink application for the iPhone had been released last Friday!

I downloaded it this evening (it's free!) and was delighted to find that I could connect to the GB3TD repeater along in Swindon - where I was able to surprise Rob, G4XUT with how I was connecting to the repeater.

So, I'm hoping that this will allow some QSO possibilities from the phone where I can't make an RF connection.

Monday, February 01, 2010

RSGB's VHF Columnist Norman Fitch, G3FPK - silent key

I've just heard the sad news that Norman Fitch, G3FPK, the RSGB's VHF/UHF columnist has died. Norman took over the VHF column in 1989 from Ken Willis, G8VR.

I first met Norman on the RSGB's VHF Committee in the 1980s. Norman was a real gentleman and always came along to committee meetings immaculately dressed in a suit (I'm sorry to tell you that I didn't...). It was nice to meet him, because prior to taking on the Radcom column, he'd written the VHF column for Short Wave Magazine, which I'd grown up with - and as soon as I got my G6 licence in the early 1980s, started writing to Norman, so it felt like we'd known each other for years.

Norman's Short Wave Magazine column gave really excellent VHF coverage at the time and it seemed a natural step for him to take over Radcom's VHF/UHF slot. For 21 years, he covered the evolving VHF/UHF DX scene and always managed to keep content fresh - I know how much creativity that involves.

RSGB's item on Norman can be found here

Thanks for all your work, old friend. I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye.

GB7ML D-STAR node on air from Tring and MB6AM changes frequency

The Amersham Wireless Repeater Group (http://www.77hz.com) have another D-STAR node on the air, from their site at Tring. GB7ML came on air last Saturday, 30th January at 1000z.

I happened to be wandering through the shack and noticed some calls showing up on GB7ML through the http://www.dstarusers.org site. I connected to REF013B with the DV Dongle and was pleased to work Iain, G0RDI who was in the process of commissioning the repeater.

I've not yet heard GB7ML (439.4625MHz output) but I'm hopeful that it should be audible from around our part of West Oxfordshire - the co-sited MB6AM is regularly audible.

And on the subject of MB6AM, it's now changed frequency to 145.2875.

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