Monday, March 28, 2011

What the RSGB needs now...a personal view

I normally try to steer this blog away from ham radio politics. In my opinion, too much time is spent on politicing rather than advancing the hobby. And in a way, I suppose, that's what this blog post is about.

The RSGB website today carries a statement that the General Manager, Peter Kirby (who, incidentally is no relation of mine...) has 'left the Society's employment after the discovery of financial irregularities on his part'.

More than that, I do not know.

Peter had a difficult job to do, one which I would not wish to attempt. But it seems to me that with Peter's departure, there is the opportunity for the RSGB to be run by someone who has a vision of amateur radio in the 21st century.

It would be good to see the society taking a lead with inspiring people to take part in amateur radio. There is much new and good in the hobby and many new ways (blogging, social media just to pluck a couple out of the air...) to inspire and engage people. Under Peter's stewardship, it seemed to me that the society was stuck in a 1970s (maybe) time warp - of headmasterly toned communication with similar 1970 styled communication methods being employed.

The RSGB needs, desperately, to freshen their image! I know many people, deeply involved with the RSGB that read this blog - people that can communicate their passion. These people are just the one's who should be writing the society's blogs, tweets, Facebook updates - as well as the GB2RS audio and video podcasts/YouTube videos.

My wife Julie just popped in to ask what I was blogging about. I told her. As she put it - financial irregularities in the UK's National Radio Society? It hardly paints a positive view of the hobby, does it.

Along with my hopes for a more visionary approach to the hobby, it is good to see that Don Beattie, G3BJ has assumed (for the time being) the role of RSGB's General Manager. A safer pair of managerial hands I cannot imagine, belonging to a REAL radio amateur.

Today represents a REAL opportunity for the RSGB.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Commonwealth contest - and my QRPP contest QSO...

As readers of this blog will know, I've been letting HF and particularly HF contesting take a bit of a back seat recently. No particular reason, but it's just one of those ebbs and flows in my interests in the hobby - it's happened before and I'm sure it will happen again.

Last weekend was the RSGB's Commonwealth Contest, often known as BERU. This contest is quite an individual one and one that you either love or hate. Anyway, that's by-the-by, I love it and many of my Canadian friends, especially John, VE3EJ take part in it, so I always like to support their activity.

I found a few minutes on Saturday evening to make some QSOs, mostly on 7MHz, where I worked John VE3EJ as well as a handful of others including 8P9AA, VY2SS, VE3JM, VO1TA and ZC4LI. I half intended to look at sunrise the next morning, but didn't get around to it.

And then my QRPP contact. QRPP is very low power - generally considered to be less than one watt. On Tuesday evening, I'd heard someone mention that it was one of the 80m CW Cumulative Contests. I tuned around quickly to see who was on and the very loudest signal was John, G3VPW who is about 3 miles from here in a village to the south of us. John was about 40db over 9! I turned the rig down to as little power as I could manage, around 100mw. Although it took me a few calls, I worked John - probably my lowest ever powered contact on HF!

70MHz update: And MB7FM back on air

Last evening was a momentous one for me on 70MHz! I popped into the shack after I'd got in from work and switched the rigs on, including the 70MHz FM rig. Andy, G6REG/M called CQ on 70.450MHz and I answered him.

Andy was about 12 miles away on the edge of Oxford and we had a great QSO as he drove down the A420 towards me. Then it struck me! By the time he got to the roundaboout just to the south of me, he was about a couple of miles away from me.

Quickly, I got the Wouxun 70MHz handheld out and called him! He heard me, despite the handheld being in the shack. We did a couple of overs on the handheld as Andy headed west, out to a distance of 2 or 3 miles. Signals were still S9. So that was great! I knew the Wouxun worked well, especially with the Garex Flexwhip, but I hadn't actually had a contact with it. Thanks Andy! Hopefully now that the weather is improving, I will be able to make some QSOs with the Wouxun from various high spots.

And the other thing that came out of last evening's 70MHz activity was that the Tring 'parrot', MB7FM is back on air. It vanished a few weeks ago as you may remember but it's great to hear it back in service.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

March 144/432MHz contest and a special mention to IS0BSR

Last weekend was busy, but I managed a few minutes on Sunday morning to listen to 144/432MHz and make a few QSOs during the contest. I had forgotten that it was a European co-ordinated contest, so there was plenty of activity from all over EU and conditions were quite good.

My best QSOs were F5OOM/P in JN38 and DF5GZ/P in JN47 on 144MHz. F1ISM was the best DX on 432MHz from JN09. But around 0800z, I was tuning up and down the band and I heard a great meteor burst from IS0BSR - I called him but sadly the burst wasn't long enough!

However, this evening, I e-mailled Marco, IS0BSR to let him know that I heard him and he sent me a link to this great video of his contest activity from the weekend! Fascinating to see the station that allowed me to hear his 144MHz signals all the way from Sardinia!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

VHF/UHF Tropo

With the high pressure over the last couple of days, conditions have been good on VHF/UHF. The only chance I've had to operate has been whilst I've been mobile, but there have still been interesting things to hear.

Listening on 145.650 last night as I was driving home, I could hear ON0WV weakly but clearly. This morning, the Bedford repeater, GB3BF was easily audible in Oxfordshire on 145.7875. I gather that there was good activity on SSB last night on 144MHz with DK1CO (JO63) and a number of Dutch stations being worked.

Albrecht AE2990AFS - 24/28MHz portable

Thanks to Julian, G4ILO for drawing my attention to the Albrecht AE2990AFS portable rig on his blog.

As Julian describes, the rig is actually a multimode, multistandard CB rig, but it can be very readily converted for amateur bands use.

With solar activity starting to improve, it seems, 24 and 28MHz should become much more interesting and full of possibilities. Of course, low power and simple antennas will not always get through, but as conditions improve, so will your chances.

I was part of the team that operated from the Comoros islands as D68C back in 2001 and for many of the operators, one of the memorable QSOs that we had was with a portable station in California who was using a handheld 28MHz radio at a bus stop! And one solar cycle before that, I remember listening to mobile stations driving around Tokyo, Japan whilst I was using converted CB rig with a 28MHz vertical in the loft.

As I've already got an FT817 it would be hard to justify spending money on the Albrecht, but it certainly looks like a lot of fun and I can imagine them becoming popular.

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