Monday, May 31, 2010

Good to catch a 70MHz opening this morning



Great to catch a 70MHz opening this morning. The first contact was with IZ8DWF in JM78, right at the southern extremity of Italy, which was easily my best ever DX on 70MHz.

The video shows 9A2SB in JN95 coming through at good strength. He's working Des, G0RBD.

Friday, May 28, 2010

WebSDR for 50 and 144MHz

One of the consistently popular posts on the blog here has been the one about the Software Defined Radio (SDR) accessible through the web. Thanks to Ian, G4PDS, I have details of another one, which can tune three bands; the 50 and 144MHz beacon bands as well as 7MHz.

The receiver is located in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and you can access it at http://lindsey.esrac.ele.tue.nl/

Could be very interesting to keep an eye on what 50 and 144MHz sound like in the Netherlands.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Listening on 70MHz - Wideband FM



An interesting evening! I've worked a few Scandinavians on 50MHz and I can hear some huge pileups for some KP4s from the Caribbean (I can hear them too). Thought I'd have a tune around on 70MHz and see if there were any OHs or LAs around. No luck, but some interesting sounding wideband FM.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More 50MHz ES from the car this evening

Driving back from the station this evening, 50MHz was open to Scandinavia and the Baltic area. There was lots of TV buzz and not a huge number of stations on SSB, at least. On CW (which I don't operate mobile!), I could hear ES0NW and a station from the Ukraine coming through. On SSB, I worked SM4DHF, had a near miss with an SP7 station and could hear some OHs as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My 1st 50MHz ES of the season from the car

No opportunity to try and work out whether the 50MHz FM set was working properly or not this evening! 50MHz was lively around Europe as I drove home and I managed several SSB contacts from the mobile including 9A2PT, S52DD, E76C and some others!

One of the perils of mobile operating is that you don't write the callsigns down!

Is 50MHz tropo poor - or is it my front end?

Driving over the Cotswolds to see Mum in Cheltenham, I normally set one VFO of the FT8900 to GB3ZY (50MHz on Dundry Hill) and the second to GB3UK (430MHz on Cleeve Hill). GB3ZY, as I've written before is generally a good signal as soon as I get onto the Witney bypass.

Not so yesterday and I didn't start to hear it until I got to Cheltenham. And today, GB3FX the Farnham repeater was weaker than usual on the commute.

I've done comparisons with the IC706 and the other 50MHz antenna and though there wasn't a huge difference, I've a suspicion I've lost a bit of front-end gain on the FT8900. I'll keep an eye on it over the next day or two, in case it's conditions, but I may need to pop the rig off for a quick service...

Well done OFCOM: 5MHz NOV arrived quickly

I mentioned last week that I'd applied for a 5MHz NoV. I was delighted to receive it, pretty much by return of post last Friday. We had a busy weekend, but I had a listen quickly on Sunday morning and could hear some activity going on. I tuned my Butternut vertical up which seems to work ok.

I'm keen to try the FT817 and some portable gear out, so I charged up one of the Lead Acid batteries I have. If I get a moment one evening or next weekend, I'll try tuning up the MP1 portable antenna on 5MHz and see if that might be viable. If not, I'm sure a wire something can be constructed!

Thanks again OFCOM for turning around the NoV nice and quickly.

Monday, May 17, 2010

UK 5MHz experiment extended until 2015

The current 5MHz experiment, whereby Notice of Variations (NoVs) have been issued to allow UK full licence holders to operate on certain nominated frequencies in the 5MHz band has been extended. The experiment was due to end on 30th June 2010, but it has now been extended for another 5 years.

You can read the OFCOM announcement here

I was one of the original 5MHz NoV holders but let it lapse when I became somewhat disillusioned with an attempt to run the experiment and operation on the band in quasi-military style. Whilst I'm all for decent operating standards, what was being suggested seemed somewhat ridiculous in the context of amateur operation.

Time's moved on and I thought it would be interesting to operate on the band again, so I've applied for an NoV. I'll let you know when it arrives and we'll get on with some experiments with low power.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Details of the Icom IC-9100: HF, VHF multimode with D-STAR

In my post about Dayton earlier, I mentioned the IC-9100. A few more details have come to light today. As well as being a 1.8 to 440MHz (with 1296Mhz as an option) transceiver, it transpires it has D-STAR too.

You can use D-STAR on 28, 50, 144, 432 and 1296MHz.

There's some details of the transceiver here

Listening to the activity from Dayton

Over the last couple of evenings it's been fun to listen to the D-STAR activity from Dayton. REF030B is being used by many at the world-famous Hamvention in Dayton. I don't think I've ever heard such a busy D-STAR reflector. Interesting actually, there was a lot of R2-D2 going on. I couldn't make up my mind whether some people had a poor signal into the repeater, or whether it was some effect of more than one station transmitting at a time.

Quite often a 'double' on D-STAR results in both stations falling into a 'black hole' - so I'm guessing it was a poor RF path...

Anyway, it'll be fun to hear the gossip over the next couple of days. The new IC-9100 (top band to 23cms) transceiver was being discussed last night. Sounds like it's in a plastic box and can't actually be 'tried' - so I assume it's a pre-production mockup.

A sniff of 50MHz propagation

So far, the IC706 in the car hasn't resulted in any mobile 50MHz ES QSOs this year. Last night though, there was a sniff of propagation. As I drove into Sainsbury's carpark in Didcot, the rig scanning the beacon band caught SR3FHB fading up and down from JO91CQ - though I couldn't hear any stations active.

By the time I came out of the shop, the beacon had gone and despite a number of CQs on 50.150 - all was quiet.

Encouraging though and I'm sure I'll make a G4VXE/M 50MHz Es QSO soon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ridgeway Repeater Group AGM last night

It was good to go to the AGM of the Ridgeway Repeater Group in Swindon last night and meet all the people that I speak to frequently, but have never met until yesterday; Rob, G4XUT, Andy, G0BEQ, Mike, G0UWU and Rick, G7FCT - and others who I speak to less frequently too - a really nice evening.

I was delighted that the D-STAR demo went well. The DVAP attached to the laptop worked - connecting to the internet using my 3G modem (with a 3G connection rather than the weak GPRS I'd had at home). I connected to REF001C and was really pleased when George, KD4RUU responded. It's always a worry with demonstrations that you'll get it all working and there's no-one to talk to. Thanks, George!

Somehow, I ended up being asked to join the committee of the group, which I was delighted to accept. It'll be fun to see what we can get up to!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Caught my first 50MHz ES of the season

It's always nice to catch your first Es opening of the season - someone else always seems to be having a better time of it than you and I'd seen comments about people working 50MHz Es for a couple of weeks!

I was having a tune around this afternoon and heard a loud station, with an English accent but which seemed to be fading up and down a bit. I listened a bit longer and it turned out to be John, EA7/G1WUU in IM87. He was busy for a few minutes, but I managed a quick QSO which was nice. He was working a number of F and DL stations which made me think that I wasn't quite in the 'sweet spot' for the opening.

I heard some other stations around too; EA5KA was on CW from IM99 and there seemed to be some activity from France on SSB as well, though the signals were weak here.

I listened on 70MHz too, but nothing heard here today.

Connecting the DVAP to the network with GPRS

Tomorrow evening, it's the AGM of the Ridgeway Repeater Group in Swindon. I thought it would be good to try and give a bit of a demo of D-STAR in action, with the hope that it might stimulate a little more local interest.

I thought the best way to do it would be to use the DVAP hooked up to the laptop. What I wasn't sure about is what internet access would be available to me at the AGM venue. I've got a 3G modem for the laptop which is pretty handy. I've been meaning to try hooking up the DVAP to the D-STAR network using the 3G modem for a while.

I've heard a few of the guys in the USA using a DVAP and a 3G modem as a mobile repeater, but haven't tried it myself. One guy I heard had even got his DVAP working with his laptop tethered to his Blackberry with a data connection of around 768k. So it seemed an experiment worth trying. I gave it a go this morning.

I disconnected the laptop from the house WiFi and connected up the 3G modem. Of course there's no 3G signal out here, only a rather weak GPRS signal! Once the laptop had connected to the GPRS network I could see I had internet connectivity.

I fired up the DVAP Tool software and was delighted to find that it connected to the network. Somewhat slower than usual, of course, but that was to be expected. I found that I could connect to the various reflectors; REF001C and REF005A were the ones I tested successfully. For some reason, I couldn't connect to individual gateways (repeaters). I suspect that the slow connection was responsible and that the DVAP Tool software hadn't succeeded in downloading a complete list of gateways from the network.

So, anyway - an interesting first experiment and I'll definitely try and take the gear along tomorrow night. If you hear us, please give us a call - it would be great to show the guys at the meeting some of the benefits of D-STAR.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

WE9XFT - 3KW ERP 70MHz beacon beaming at the UK

Really interesting news item on the Southgate ARC blog today;

'On Monday May 3, at 12:00 UT, an amateur radio 70 MHz beacon WE9XFT in Bedford, Virginia became operational and it may be receivable in the British Isles and Europe.

In January Brian Justin WA1ZMS filed an application with the FCC for special temporary authority to operate an amateur radio propagation beacon on 70.005 MHz from Bedford, Virginia for domestic as well as trans-Atlantic reception.

The beacon is now operational on a non-amateur experimental license since there isn't a 70 MHz Amateur band in the United States. It is operating 24 hours a day and the experimental license runs until September 1.

WE9XFT is running 3kW ERP on 70.005 MHz beaming towards the British Isles and Europe.

Reception reports should be sent to Brian Justin WA1ZMS email: wa1zmsatt.net'

This should be REALLY interesting. We know that there's a transatlantic path on 70MHz available from time to time over the summer months via, presumably, multi-hop Es, because Nige, G7CNF has worked VE9DX cross-band in previous years. What will be interesting, with the beacon being active 24 hours a day, is just how often it can be heard. With a 3kw ERP signal, that's going to improve the chances of it being heard too.

It'll also be interesting to see where it's heard first. My guess is that the path from Virginia to Portugal or the Azores is probably the first one that will see an opening - but it's really hard to predict - and I'm a fool for trying really!

Whatever, this is great news - thanks to Brian, WA1ZMS for another tremendous project.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The DVAP in action - video

I noticed that the blog posts about the DVAP had created a fair amount of interest, so I hope you'll like this little video I've put together of the DVAP in action.

To recap, the DVAP is a USB connected device that incorporates a very low power 2m D-STAR transceiver allowing you to connect to the D-STAR network using your handheld from around the house.

In the video, you can see the DVAP itself, the DVAP Tool software that runs on the PC and how to link repeaters and reflectors from your D-STAR radio. Usual caveat that the camera work isn't great - holding the camera in one hand and operating the HT in another makes life a little interesting!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Want to try 70Mhz FM? How about a handheld?

I'm probably the last person to know, but when I was chatting to Walt, G3NYY this afternoon on 432MHz, he was telling me that he'd been QRV on 70MHz using a Wouxun KG-699E, available from China.

There's an interesting range of dual band handhelds - which looks to make it very easy to get on 144/432MHz at very reasonable prices, but the 70MHz handheld looked useful too.

You can see the details here

Reading the spec, I do wonder what the 'stun' and 'kill' alarms are!

If you don't want to use a converted PMR set for 70MHz FM and want to carry your rig around, this could be a great solution.

Listening to PA6NL on 432MHz in the IARU contest

It's always fun to shoot a little video showing how signals sound here. Here's PA6NL during the IARU 432MHz and up contest today. You'll hear him working another Dutch station, call CQ and then work Colin, G3TA who's 30 miles or so from me (off the back of my beam!).

Gear here is FT847 and a little 10el yagi at around 10m.

video

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