Thursday, February 24, 2011

And now it's off again....MB7FM off air

The Tring 'parrot' repeater has been quite handy for testing the MyDel-5189 70MHz rig that I'm currently reviewing. Tried to call it up on Tuesday evening without any success, so I wondered if the aerial had fallen off, but I was still able to work some local stations at the usual signal strength.

I checked with Selim, 2E0CKF in London to see if he was hearing MB7FM and he wasn't either. So looks like there's a problem.

Hopefully MB7FM will be back again before long - it's a nice aid to 70MHz FM activity in the South-East. In the meantime, it's always good to make simplex QSOs, in any case.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

K0BAM reaches 1000 QSO milestone through FM satellites

I noticed a tweet from Jim, K0BAM in Colorado at the weekend, saying that he'd made over 1000 QSOs through the FM satellites. I asked him if he could send me some more information which I will use in the Practical Wireless column. Jim also shared with me this video, which I think you'll enjoy too.

It's something a bit different, but completely fascinating and using equipment that many of us already have - though that Arrow dual band antenna looks useful!

Congratulations, Jim!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Catching up on the week (Harwell rally, hands-free and 70MHz FM)

What no blog posts this week? It's been a busy week with one thing and another and I don't seem to have got around to it.

Last Sunday I enjoyed going to the Didcot rally. It was well attended - better, I think, than for some years. As far as I was concerned it was a mostly social event and it was good to see a number of friends face to face and have a quick chat. I didn't spend too much money, but grabbed a 70MHz quarterwave mobile antenna for the car from the Garex stand and an audio lead to help Julie with her presentation about 'Earthwatch, Cheetah's and Me (her!)' which she did for the local WI this week.

Coming back from the rally, I felt my foot go! Just an attack of tendonitis, but it's been painful through the week and I've been avoiding walking which is unlike me!

What else has been happening? I noticed a conversation on Twitter about Digi-interfaces and noted that someone recommended Alan, M0AQC as being a good source of reasonably priced interfaces. His web page has the details. I also noticed that Alan makes hands-free kits. I'd hoped to see one at the Didcot rally but didn't. I was conscious that if you are operating mobile these days, a hands-free kit is considered essential. I checked with Alan that one of his would work with the FT8900R - he said yes - so one has arrived and been installed.

The unit is a clip on microphone which could go on the sunvisor, although I just clipped it onto my collar to get a better audio level and a switch box with LED which I've attached to the dashboard. Reports so far have been good. The only downside is that I've lost the ability to scan or change power levels from the program keys on the microphone. No big deal, it's something I can manage in different ways.

I've got a MyDel-5189 70MHz FM mobile rig in to review for Practical Wireless magazine. I've got it set up in the shack and it's been working well. I'll save the details for the review, BUT - something I immediately enjoyed was the ability to scan various channels on 70MHz. That was something that I'd never done with my Philips FM1000 converted rig.

I wondered if it was possible and after a quick look at the manual for the PA4DEN conversion I was able to store frequencies and scan them. Result!

Proud to be in a '40 top blogs about ham radio' list

I was a little surprised when I was looking for something just now, to find this blog listed in Satellite Dish's '40 top blogs about ham radio'

Just a bit of fun - and it was nice to discover some new and interesting radio blogs by going through the list - equally, there are a couple of my favourite radio blogs which aren't on the list, so I think I'd better suggest a recount!

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Hepburn tropo site was right!

In my last post, I said that the Hepburn tropo site was pointing towards good VHF/UHF conditions from the south-west of the UK towards Spain by last weekend. When I got on to 432MHz SSB, late yesterday morning, I heard one or two people talking about good conditions to the south. I had a quick chat with Mike, G8CUL operating at the Harwell club as G3PIA and he mentioned that there had been a Spanish contest earlier on and that some contacts had been made. Unfortunately by the time I got on, if conditions were still there, there was no activity.

I enjoyed making a few contacts in the 432MHz AFS contest over reasonable distances; G4ZTR and G1OGY/P both in Essex, G4ODA in Lincolnshire and G0HFX/P in Devon being some of the more distant ones. Good to work Pete, 2E0SQL trying out his new system too. Before heading over the Cotswolds to see Mum, I had a couple of quick 70MHz QSOs; G8FAK near Milton Keynes and G3NPI at Buckingham.

I'd pretty much given up/forgotten about the tropo when we came back in the evening until I saw a post from Ken, G0PPM on Facebook saying that he was hearing a French station on 145MHz FM. Thought it was worth a listen, so I popped upstairs to see if I could hear anything.

The Swiss beacon, HB9HB was coming through nicely, but CQ calls in that direction on both 144 and 432MHz didn't result in any QSOs. However, just as I was about to give up, I heard a weakish call on 144.300 - I could tell it was a French station and the signals came up a little as I turned my beam to the south and I was able to get the callsign as F1MOZ. That triggered something in the memory banks - and a quick Google confirmed that he was located in IN93. Signals weren't great on my little 5element, but I was delighted (and faintly surprised) when he came back and gave me a report!

Driving to work this morning, I was still hearing some tropo and there was a French repeater coming through on 145.650. I listened for a while and it turned out to be F5ZNN, located to the east of Paris.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A fun few hours on VHF

I know some of my "HF only" friends have a slight disregard for VHF and particularly for FM. That's fine - it's up to each of us how we choose to enjoy our hobby. But I defy anyone who's enthralled by the 'magic of radio' not to be excited by the following circumstances...

On Monday evening, I was driving home from the station and as usual, had the FT8900 scanning on one of the VFOs. It very quickly became apparent there was some VHF tropo ducting around. 145.750 seemed particularly lively. I could hear the F5ZBH repeater in North-Eastern France very strongly and then to the west, I could hear the GB3BC repeater in South Wales. It made fascinating listening!

When I got home and found a few moments to look at the Hepburn tropo website and found that we were on the edge of a tropo duct, stretching up from western France, along the English Channel across the Netherlands and into northern Germany. I found I couldn't hear anything along the duct, although I did work F8BRK (IN99) quickly. He was working Dutch, German and even some Polish stations along the duct.

Later on in the evening, I noticed the Swiss beacon, HB9HB coming through steadily on 144MHz. Despite a number of CQ calls in that direction on both 144 and 432MHz, I didn't work anything, but having said that, I have noticed before that hearing HB9HB is not necessarily an indicator of working F and HB9 stations, as the beacon is so high, it may be that the ducting is going over the heads of the stations that might be available to work.

Next morning, I checked HB9HB before going to work, but it had faded. I had the rig on scan in the car as I drove to the station, looking for any tropo. To my surprise, I heard a loud FM signal with an Italian accent come up. It proved to me on 145.800MHz which meant only one thing - the International Space Station. For around 5 or 6 minutes, I was fascinated to listen to IR0ISS, one of the astronauts aboard the ISS answering questions from schoolchildren at a school near Lyon in France (of course, I could only hear one side of the conversation!).

Truly a varied and magical few hours on VHF! Oh, and by the way, by the look of the Hepburn tropo forecast maps, there could be some propagation from the southern/south-western UK towards Spain and the Canaries this coming weekend! Let's see!


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