Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter weekend activities

On Friday afternoon, I drove over to Broadway Tower Country Park to meet with Dave G4FRE (WW2R) who is in the country for a few days. It was great to see Dave and chat about all sorts of different radio from LF to Microwaves. Dave's an inspiring guy and I always come away with some project in mind! Recently Dave's been playing some QRSS using his N4FRE call which has proven quite interesting.

Dave also has been trying out one of the Down East Microwave transverters for 70MHz which look interesting (as do the ones for the other bands) and he mentioned that he'd heard an ON station on 70MHz from his Malvern QTH. We talked about EME on bands from 144MHz to 2.3GHz. A very pleasant afternoon sitting in the sun on the hillside, eating ice-cream!

It was interesting listening on the handheld and from the car from Broadway - it's a good location and I heard lots of stations and repeaters I wouldn't normally here from home. The new GB3GT 50MHz repeater on Clee Hill was S7 from the mobile and I listened to some interesting QSOs on the GB3TF 433MHz repeater.

For my birthday, amongst other things, Julie gave me a handlebar bag for my bike. Conveniently, an FT817 and paddle fits in easy, as well as the trusty IC-E92D handheld. This morning I cycled up to Windmill Hill, a couple of miles from here which has an excellent take off in most directions although isn't actually very much higher than home.

Most of my listening was on 28MHz using the FT817 and ATX-Walkabout antenna

The band wasn't wide open, but I heard XU7ACY from Cambodia, an Indian station as well as some Europeans on CW with 5B4AIX on SSB. Didn't work anyone but it was most enjoyable. Before leaving the hill, I worked Rob, G4XUT on the GB3TD 433MHz repeater.

This afternoon I was excited to work my first Sporadic E QSOs of the season on 50MHz, with QSOs with EA7HG and EA7/G1WUU both in IM87. Also tried some CQs on 70.200MHz, but no luck so far.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

N1IC's 50 states in 50 days D-STAR challenge

I always like reading about the challenges that people set themselves in Ham Radio. Challenges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Keith, G6NHU's QSO365 project has rightly attracted a lot of attention.

Here's a fun one, too, that I read about yesterday. Nick, N1IC has set himself the challenge of making contact with each of the 50 states of the USA using D-STAR, in 50days.

You can read about Nick's progress here

I'm certainly going to look out for Nick on D-STAR. I won't be able to help him with a new state, but it'll be nice to say hello.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mapping the grid squares you've worked on VHF/UHF

I was playing around in the RSGB's 432MHz activity contest last night (enjoyable but no-one terribly distant worked) when I saw a tweet go by, from AI4RI, I think, asking if anyone knew any tools for mapping the grid squares that they've worked at VHF.

I use the Winlog32 logging program, written by Colin, G0CUZ which has some grid mapping capability built in - although it does not overlay the squares onto a map.

Another tweet from AI4RI quickly appeared saying that he'd found the WorkedGrids software from VE2ZAZ. I'd seen it mentioned before but not tried it.

The software installed quickly and I was able to point it at an ADIF file that Winlog32 had created. If you have a logging program that keeps the log in plain text, ADIF or Cabrillo then you can use WorkedGrids to scan the file automatically and plot your grids on a map. Winlog32 keeps the log in an Access database so I had to create an ADIF export and point WorkedGrids at that.

WorkedGrids setup allows you to select which bands you are interested in, I chose 50,70,144 and 432MHz, but you could just as easily select other bands. Having done that, a basic but effective map was displayed, showing the grid squares I'd worked on each band.

I seem to remember that DX Atlas by Afreet Software - as used by the FSDXA's 3B9C expedition some years ago has a similar capability.

UK amateurs have the opportunity to use special callsigns to celebrate the Royal Wedding

UK radio amateurs have the opportunity to apply for a special callsign to mark the occasion of the forthcoming royal wedding.

It's all quite simple. G4VXE would become GR4VXE, GW5NF would become GR5NF, MM3JFM would become MR3JFM and so on. In order to do this, you need to apply, through the RSGB to OFCOM for a Notice of Variation (NoV). The only information you need to provide is your callsign and a contact e-mail address.

The special callsigns can be used between 29th April and 9th May 2011.

You can read about how to apply and the conditions of the variation here

I've applied, so it will be a bit of fun to use GR4VXE for a few days. Who knows, I may even fire up the HF transceiver...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

India to Oman on 145Mhz FM

I love reading about VHF openings and operation in other parts of the world.

I just found this fascinating post by OM Satheesh, VU2WSM regarding an opening from Oman to India on 145MHz.

Monday, April 11, 2011

T32C dxpedition raffle

Earlier on in the year, I mentioned the T32C expedition to be mounted later on in the year by my old friends at the FSDXA.

Perhaps you might like to consider supporting the expedition and having a chance of winning a prize? The way to do this is to enter the raffle for a Yaesu FT-950.

You can read about the raffle here and the expedition in general here

Friday, April 08, 2011

70MHz FM update

You'll recall that I've mentioned a few times the mysterious 'hum' that appeared on my 70MHz transmissions. Several times this seemed to be down to poor SWR because of a frozen aerial, another time a poor power connection, a further time a cat had knocked the negative supply to the rig from the PSU. Then it happened again last week and I couldn't really decide what the cause was.

Since I had recently acquired a converted Ascom SE550 rig for 70MHz I decided to use that instead. Got it all connected up and it seemed to work ok. I was very pleased of Andy, G0BEQ's manual which helped me set up the memories, configure the squelch, dispose of the roger beep (!) and generally tweak the rig as I wanted it.

However, Julie complained (quite rightly!) that the audio from the rig was particularly loud, even at minimum setting. Loud squelch bursts were clearly audible downstairs away from the shack! To get over this, I have done a rather crude (but effective) modification of putting a 100k pot in the speaker lead and using that to trim the audio level.

The converted SE550 seems to be working alright. There was a little tropo around on 70MHz yesterday and I was surprised that distant stations were being heard through the Tring Parrot, MB7FM - stations from as far afield as Clacton on Sea and Portsmouth. Sadly, I couldn't hear them direct, although there was just a hint of G3VXM from Portsmouth.

DX Code of Conduct update and the New DXers handbook

Good to hear from Randy, W6SJ and the DX Code of Conduct committee who are doing their best to improve operating standards on the DX bands in particular.

For DXers new and old, there's the New DXers Handbook written by K7UA

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Time to start thinking about 50MHz again

Over the winter, I confess my 50MHz mobile activity has been confined to a few QSOs here and there through the different 50MHz repeaters that I can hear (GB3FX, GB3ZY and now GB3GT). The mobile rig scans 51.510, the FM calling channel, but nothing has been heard on there for some months, at least when I've been around!

However, as we move into April, thoughts turn to the Es season which will shortly, we hope be starting up, perhaps towards the end of the month in earnest, building towards a peak during June.

For the last few evenings, as I've been driving home, I've been calling CQ on 51.510 in the hope of raising someone. It will be intriguing to see what mobile coverage is like, compared to 70MHz or 144MHz. And I can't wait to hear distant stations coming through again! One year, I remember an EA4 mobile station was very active.

If anyone within 50-70 miles of me reads this and is around in the early evenings 17:15 to 17:45z or so, please have a listen! Ken, G0PPM near Stroud in Gloucestershire is trying out 50MHz mobile too - so listen out for him.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Congratulations SV2DCD and ZS6WAB: 70MHz first

Just catching up with the week's VHF news. Really good to see this video of the first ever 70MHz TEP QSO between Greece and South Africa.

They start out on WSJT but stick with the video and you'll hear them work on SSB.

Congratulations to you both!

And I wish I could get my FT847 to work *that* well on 70MHz. I've seen the receive board advertised on eBay. Interesting that Leo, SV2DCD's 847 will run about 70W output!


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