Monday, June 27, 2011

The G4VXE blog is five years old

I've just noticed that my first posting to this blog was on the 24 June 2006 - making the blog five years old.

What I have enjoyed about it is that I can write about anything that interests me in Amateur Radio be it a passing interest-du-jour or something more long standing.

It always fascinates me which posts get the most visits. The ones about setting up D-STAR have been popular - which I was pleased about. I was less pleased that a rare comment on RSGB politics was the best read post of all time on the blog! Why was I less pleased? Because this blog has always been about getting on and trying 'stuff' in Amateur Radio out - not paperwork and politics! So I guess if someone wants to write a blog on Amateur Radio politics, you'll get great readership. But I won't be writing it!

Thank you for reading the blog - if you've been reading since 2006 then my commiserations - but thank you!

How to get a coax cable through a cavity wall (or improper use of knitting equipment)

For a while I'd been wanting to reroute the coax from the Butternut HF6V to the shack. Where was it going before, I hear you ask? Well, the lounge actually... it's a long story.

Got around to the job yesterday and put a new coax run in up the garden, secured it to the fence and neatly tacked it up along the side of the house. When we put the V2000 vertical up on the house the other day, we drilled another hole into the shack to take this coax.

However, I had a very frustrating half hour or so trying to get the coax through the hole (which it turned out was not quite straight) - the coax kept missing the hole at the other side of the cavity and curling around.

Julie seeing my exasperation suggested I had lunch whilst I worked out a plan. Over a prawn mayo sandwich I noticed a number 8 knitting needle sitting on her desk....

Once replete, I marched outside with the knitting needle, a knife and some insulation tape. I stripped back the outer of the coax and the screen, leaving the inner of the coax to the same length as the knitting needle. I then taped the end of the coax as tightly as possible to the sharp end of the knitting needle. And poked!

The needle and coax went through the hole first time. From the inside, I undid the insulation tape from the tip and pulled the coax through as far as it would go. Then I went outside and gently retracted the knitting needle (I really didn't want the coax to follow it!).

Back inside and I was then able to pull the coax through into the shack fully! And hastily, I rinsed the knitting needle to ensure it was once again fit for knitting!

So, I can now play HF should I wish. Currently the Butternut vertical is connected to the Anytone AT-5555. More on that in a separate post.

If you don't have a knitting needle handy, a straightened metal coathanger may serve the same purpose.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New version of WinDV v1.1.3 available

It was a nice surprise to have an e-mail last week from Fred, PA4YBR explaining that a new version of the WinDV DSTAR software is available for download.

I grabbed a copy and have been playing with it in conjunction with my DVAP Dongle. Like the previous version, v1.1.3 works well and has some useful new features. If you've got GPS on your rig, you can pass that into the network and have your location shown on and there's also an interface to ircDDB which I have to admit, I've not explored yet.

I like the fact that WinDV allows you to set up connects from the software, rather than fiddling around setting callsigns on the (in my case) IC-E92. There's more debugging information than in the current DVAP Tool as well.

WinDV works with DVAPs and Hotspots too. I definitely recommend you check it out - you can download it here

Friday, June 17, 2011

Awards from eQSL

I happened to logon to my eQSL account the other day - I'd recently configured my logging program, Winlog32 to automatically upload QSO records as I make them. I hadn't logged into eQSL for quite a while, but I noticed that I'd qualified for eDX100 (100 countries confirmed on eQSL) and ePFX300 (Over 300 prefixes confirmed on eQSL).

It was fun getting the certificates back - I'm not at all into the whole awards / QSL part of radio at all - but since all I had to do was press 'Apply for award' then that's ok!

Funny wording on the certs though.....

28MHz musings

I've been quite tempted by one of the Anytone AT5555 10m transceivers. Quite clearly its heritage is a CB radio, but there's an appeal in the simplicity of it. A few watts of SSB on 28MHz can go a long way as we know by now, and FM can be fun at times. Partly I'd thought about having one for the car - as long as I could find a 10m mobile antenna that will fit under the barrier at the station! Reading around on the web, reviews are fairly favourable. Still haven't quite convinced myself to push 'buy' on the website! Anyone reading this that's tried one?

Either way - the musings have convinced me to reroute the coax from the Butternut vertical to the shack (it was previously routed to the lounge...) so that I can listen on 28MHz a bit more on one of the rigs I've got around. If I get a chance this weekend I'll work on that.

Pick me up an HT on the way home!

It's a rainy lunchtime in London and I just popped over to the City branch of Maplin to pick up a few connectors for something I want to do at the weekend. Whilst I was in there I had a look around.

To my surprise, under the communication section was a 144MHz handheld for about £90. It's badged Moonraker, but I'm guessing it is one of the many radios finding their way to our market from China. Doubtless the quality isn't going to be quite as good as one as one that you'd pay two or three times the price for, but at that price it would be worth trying.

What excites me about seeing equipment available so readily and as cheaply is that it has the potential to tempt people to take their first steps in amateur radio - or even to return to the hobby.

I've worked quite a number of people who had dropped out of the hobby over the years, but had seen the budget priced transceivers and been tempted to pick one up and try it out.

If you've got a ham licence, but no transceiver - why not give one a go! Amateur radio is much more than an HT - but every journey has to start somewhere!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A success for my new FM monitoring capability...

I posted a few weeks ago that I'd got a V2000 antenna up for 50/144/432MHz. When I've not been using it on 50MHz, I have had an FM mobile rig scanning about 35 channels. Some of those channels have repeaters close by and others are generally quiet, but liven up if there is a hint of improved propagation.

The variation in propagation on a daily basis is fascinating, particularly in the morning and evenings.

Last Sunday was a particularly interesting day though. I was working in the shack off and on and left the rig monitoring 145.500 and tried to answer when anyone came up. There were a couple of local QSOs and a couple of not so local ones. I was pleased to work Roger, G4OCO/M near Ely in Cambridgeshire which seemed a decent distance from me. It seemed that conditions were perhaps slightly improved to the east and north east.

Later on in the afternoon I worked ON8DM on 144MHz SSB. Just afterwards I noticed a signal on 145.675, weaker than GB3RD that I normally hear on that channel but stronger than the other signals I normally hear there. I wondered what it was and stopped the scan to listen. Over the next few minutes a conversation started up in a language I didn't immediately recognise. In fact, I suspected it was perhaps an ON repeater, as I'd just worked Belgium on SSB. Signals came up a bit more and then I heard the repeater send a CW ID - LA9MR! LA9MR is located in southern Norway in JO38 around 920km from Longworth.

There was absolutely no hint that the band was open in that direction - no beacons on SSB - I listened! It must have been a very localised opening. The signals from LA9MR were audible for about 45 minutes before fading back into the noise.

Really fascinating!

Simplex D-STAR

Things have been busy here so not much chance to update the blog, but just a few moments now, so....

It's good to hear that some people are having a go at using D-STAR for simplex contacts rather than just repeater/network based work. Des, G0RBD in Chippenham has just got started on the mode and has been making some interesting simplex QSOs.

What I hadn't realised was that 144.6125 appears to be being used for simplex contacts on 144MHz. So if you're out and about mobile or portable with D-STAR kit, it could well be worth a call on there!


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