Wednesday, September 29, 2010

FT8900R returned to service

I was pleased to get my Yaesu FT8900 back from its service visit yesterday. You might remember that I'd had my suspicion that the 50MHz receiver had gone very deaf over the summer. It was odd, because the receiver was still working, but it seemed well down on gain.

It was well worth sending it away, because the receiver is now much more sensitive and it was good to be able to listen through the GB3FX, Farnham 50MHz repeater on the way to the station this morning.

Looking forward to getting back on 50MHz FM again! GB3FX works well around home and GB3ZY in Bristol works well when I travel towards the west. I noticed today, looking at the repeater maps for 50MHz, that GB3VI in the Birmingham area might be useable. I shall have to listen!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

GB7ML/GB7AU update - nodes off air

I hadn't been on D-STAR for a few days, but popped on for a quick chat this morning. I was particularly sorry to hear that GB7ML from Tring, as well as GB7AU are now QRT. I'm not entirely sure what has happened, although someone mentioned 'politics', but the current expectation is that the nodes will not return.

What a shame - GB7ML in particular had such fabulous coverage.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Take your hand-held to work day: 1st October

The South African national radio society, SARL have come up with what I think is a really inspired idea! They are promoting 'Take your Handheld to Work Day' on 1st October. They are asking amateurs across South Africa to take their handhelds to work on the 1st October and demonstrate amateur radio to their friends and colleagues during tea and lunch breaks.

In support of that, I'm planning to make sure that I try and connect to some South African repeaters during the day using Echolink and see if I can make a contact or two. It would be great if others did the same in support of this superb idea.

And of course, handhelds don't just have to be VHF/UHF. Perhaps FT817s and some simple low power morse activity could feature to show the HF side of the hobby too.

You can read more about the SARL initiative here

Well done SARL. I wonder if some other societies will follow suit - I hope so!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A message from space. Well not strictly FROM space



I came back from a nice walk through the countryside, having picked a lovely amount of blackberries, damsons and sloes and popped into the shack. Earlier today, I'd started up my APRSIS client (APRSIS32 by Lynn, KJ4ERJ) and left it running.

I noticed there was a message waiting from Julian, G4ILO-6. I opened it up and to my surprise, it said 'Hi via ISS'. Julian had launched a packet on 2m, it had been digipeated by the International Space Station and then come back to earth where it had been received by other iGates on the APRS network and found its way to me.

Thanks Julian for a really interesting message!

If you want to read about how this works and see the stations that have been heard by the International Space Station have a look here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Improving your morse - random thoughts

It's a long time since I worried about 'improving my morse'. It's not that it's superb or anything, but it's more than adequate for what I want to do with it. There's not much that I hear on the air that I can't copy - although I have a sneaking feeling that speeds in the international CW contests are creeping higher, and I have to listen to some calls a bit closer than I used to!

But I was having an interesting chat with Ian, G4WUH this morning - prompted by a comment of mine that the mobile rig I'm trialling in the car this week, the Yaesu FT1900E has a built in Morse trainer. Haven't tried it yet, but can see it would be good to have running whilst you were in the car.

It was interesting talking to Ian this morning about improving morse speed. Ian's background is a professional radio officer who was trained to use morse. Ian said that one of the ways to improve your speed and competency is to listen to as much morse as you can - for example, have the rig running whilst your watching TV or reading. It's almost as if the subconscious brain starts to process it and it becomes a 'background process'.

This will help you if you want to be able to send/receive morse at the same time as doing something else. I CAN send morse and talk at the same time, but it's not easy AND I'm inclined to forget what I said...!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Welcome to readers of AmateurRadio.com

I was really pleased last night to hear from Matt Thomas, W1MST who is the Editor at AmateurRadio.com. Matt was kind enough to say that he'd been reading this blog for a while and that he would like to syndicate the posts onto his site.

Naturally, I'm delighted - thank you Matt for your kindness and confidence and I hope that readers will find my posts of interest.

Funnily enough, yesterday, I produced a word cloud based on the last six months of my posts on this site, which gives you an idea of where the emphasis lies at the moment. That's not to say, of course, that it won't veer off to somethng very different - as it tends to follow whatever I'm interested in amateur radio wise at the time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Internet killed the radio star

Reading through the Southgate ARC blog this morning, I came across this interesting post from Geoff Emery, VK4ZPP.

It was funny, because this very morning, JackFM were playing the Buggles track, 'Video killed the Radio star' from 1979 (we hear the playback and it seems so long ago). And I was thinking, we probably really did think that video WOULD kill radio. But here I am, 31 years later (gulp), listening to more broadcast radio than I have in years - and seeing a really vibrant and varied radio scene (though as an industry it's fair to say that it has its' own challenges). And of course, "internet broadcasting" has become part of radio, as we would have called it in 1979.

So it'll be interesting to see whether the predictions of doom for amateur radio ring true. My guess and earnest wish is that as a hobby, it will evolve. It may(will) not evolve to everyone's satisfaction and how many times have we heard the phrase "but it's not amateur radio" muttered?

The truth is that the hobby MUST evolve to survive. It cannot survive as it was, for all sorts of reasons. That doesn't invalidate the pleasure that people gain from taking part in the facets of amateur radio that have existed "for ever" - not at all.

Geoff's choice of title made me think about about the parallels with the music broadcasting world. The need and desire to broadcast will not go away - only the methods will change. And so, I suspect will it be with amateur radio - the underlying principles will remain, but the methods will evolve.

And the other thing is that moaning and complaining about it won't stop "progress" either. Just get on with enjoying what you do - engaging with other people and showing them what a great hobby this is; past, present and future.

I'm Tim Kirby, G4VXE and that's what I think, how about you?

Tuesday night on VHF/UHF

Driving home last night, I was talking to Andy, G0UWS (who incidentally is now on Twitter) who was telling me and Richard, G4ERP that he was planning to be out on the 144MHZ UK Activity Contest that evening.

After we'd eaten and I'd attended to the dishwasher, I popped upstairs and had a quick listen to 144MHz SSB. Sure enough I managed to work Andy who was a great signal, along with a number of local stations. Conditions didn't seem that great. I came back to the rig a little later on, around 21z when the GB3VHF beacon seemed a lot louder than it had been earlier.

I was able to work a few more people in the East and South East - it's always good to work into the Suffolk/Norfolk area as well as some of the Cray Valley guys like M0RCV and G0VJG/P to the south-east of London.

Richard, GD8EXI was an intriguing signal. I could barely hear him beaming direct path, but his signal peaked up to the south-east! I didn't bother to call him, but I strongly suspect I would have been able to work him.

Around that time, I noticed that the PI7CIS beacon was coming through nicely on 2m, so I went over to 70cms to listen for it there. Sure enough it was somewhat above average, though not startling. I tried a couple of CW CQ calls on 432.200 beaming towards the Netherlands, but no luck on this occasion.

All in all, an interesting evening. And thanks to Andy, G0UWS, for without the 'prompt' during our earlier FM QSO, I might not have checked the bands.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

On why not all mag mounts are created equal...

I use a magnetic mount to attach my relatively small VHF/UHF antennas onto the car for my daily activity on the commute to and from the station. I tend to need a new magmount every 12-15 months as repeated opening and closing of the hatchback eventually takes its toll on the coax!

The last but one magmount I had worked really well for the usual period on all the VHF/UHF bands I use from the car. It finally gave up and I replaced it, with one from the same retailer, with ostensibly the same spec. It certainly worked, but particularly on 70cms, the performance was considerably worse. Not catastrophically worse, more like 'conditions aren't very good today' worse - so I just put up with it.

I had the opportunity this morning to try a different magmount - a slightly more expensive model (the original one I was using retail at around £16 and the newer one at about £25). On 433MHz the difference was enormous! GB3TD which had become unusable at the far end of my commute near Didcot, was just fine! I don't think it was just conditions. but it will be interesting to see how the new mount affects the other bands.

So now I'm wondering what was 'wrong' with the old magmount. It's not as if it really didn't work, but perhaps it was just very lossy. Either way, I'm glad I tried the different mount. Your mileage may vary, but you may be well advised to spend slightly more on your next magmount!

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