Sunday, September 25, 2011

When did 28 MHz get good?

I noticed a few tweets this afternoon about 28MHz being good. It wasn't until just now that I listened on the little Anytone rig. Sure enough there was some SSB coming through and some good signals on CW too. Now, so far I haven't connected up a keyed to the Anytone. Somehow it didn't seem right to hear conditions like that and not try to make a QSO or two. I quickly diverted the coax from the Anytone to the HF port on the FT847, my VHF rig which has a built in keyer. Despite being after 1930z there was still plenty coming in. Some quite big pileups as I suspect a lot of people, like me, wanted to get on and make some contacts. KG9N was first in the log. YV8AD next and then the band started to fade. But one last spin up the band and there was NE0X finishing off a QSO. Very happy to work Ron for the best DX of the day. Good to hear 28MHz in such great shape.

The Practical Wireless 70MHz contest

I almost forgot! But I popped upstairs to have a quick listen just after lunch and decided to call CQ on 70MHz FM. I was pleased to be called and then a little surprised when a serial number was sent! I worked about 3 stations on FM and then decided to QSY onto the SSB end. As you know by now, the FT847 with the poor receiver and a vertical antenna is not an ideal tropo system. I was pleased to work G5RS/P in JO00 for a new square. One entrant who I suspect will feature in the leading stations made rather hard work of things by gabbling a report and locator and not sending a serial number! It took ages to get it out of them - long enough to make a quick QSO with a local in the meantime! Back on FM later, it was interesting to listen to Walt G3NYY/P operating from Broadway Tower. He was a great signal and it was good to be able to hear stations such as 2E0UAC in Coventry and even something from a station further north in Tamworth. Not bad for FM. I could also hear some fragments of a GW portable near Merthyr but sadly not enough for a QSO. A good afternoon on 70 MHz though.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My new club talk: 'My World of VHF'

A few months ago, my friends at the Oxford and Harwell clubs both asked if I could come and give a talk to them. It's something that I enjoy doing - it's always good to meet people and if in some small way that I can encourage them to try something new or take a deeper interest in the hobby, then I'm delighted. What could I talk about though?

I decided to base the talk around the VHF/UHF column that I write for Practical Wireless in which I aim to cover as many aspects of VHF/UHF as I can and perhaps encourage people to look at their VHF/UHF radios in a different way.

I presented the talk for the first time at the Oxford club on Tuesday evening and I think it went ok! If as a presenter you enjoy it, it's generally a fair sign! It's always interesting to hear different perspectives from people.

- A first reaction from one attendee, 'VHF? Is there anyone on it these days?'. It was fun explaining that yes, there really is!

- Another interesting suggestion was that the introduction of CTCSS on VHF/UHF repeaters had led to a decline in activity. I explained that although to use many repeaters you need to send a CTCSS tone, you don't have to have CTCSS Decode on. So, if another repeater comes up on your frequency, you can still hear it. That's certainly how I set my rigs up, although it sounded like not all rigs allowed this. I'd be surprised if CTCSS' introduction had singularly led to a decline, but I've been surprised before....

- A very interesting discussion and heartfelt plea from an attendee about the RSGB's VHF/UHF awards and how poorly supported they are. Obtaining QSL cards, on 432MHz in particular, apparently, had proven very difficult. But the member in question said that details of the RSGB's VHF/UHF awards had not featured prominently in Radcom for many moons - did the society still have a commitment to them?

An interesting and enjoyable evening - thank you, ODARS! And I'm looking forward to visiting Harwell in a couple of weeks - and I'll try and tweak the talk a bit by then!

Revised 50MHz bandplan for Region 1

Via an article on the Southgate ARC site, I noticed that the UK Six Metre Group had published a commentary on the new bandplan for 50MHz as agreed at the IARU Region 1 conference held in August 2011 in Sun City, South Africa.

The main new feature of the bandplan is that the majority of beacons will move from the lower portion of the band to the segment between 50.400 and 50.500, although synchronised beacons will share a segment from 50.000 to 50.030. Also, the new CW segment sees a 'Future International Calling' frequency at 50.050 and an Intercontinental Calling frequency at 50.090.

EME has a segment from 50.310 to 50.320 and MS from 50.320 to 50.380

A WSPR frequency is established at 50.401 plus or minus 500Hz with a beacon exclusive band from there to 50.500.

Digital Voice gets a mention in the top section of the band for the first time.

The new bandplan is set to take effect from 1st January 2012, although beacons have until the end of 2014 to move. See the bandplan here

Saturday, September 17, 2011

T32C expedition - dxpeditioning never runs smoothly

The FSDXA who are putting on the forthcoming T32C expedition plan things enormously well. Even when you plan and plan again, things go wrong. And so it is that their container with 6 tonnes of equipment is stuck in Tarawa (T30) and not where it should be. A boat has broken down, but despite promises, it has proved impossible to get the container to T32. The container has all the equipment required for the station so this is a significant setback. However, Yaesu have sprung to the rescue by lending 10 FT450s which can be hand carried. Lightweight linears, masts, aerials and computer equipment all need to be carried by the expedition operators. Knowing the group as I do, I am confident they will make a success of this. Read the full story at

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

MMVARI - a skimmer for RTTY

I enjoyed a drink and a meal with Justin, G4TSH on Monday evening. One of the things we talked about was some software called MMVARI. This software to decode RTTY has the ability to decode a number of streams. Ideal if you're running a pileup from a DXpedition. Or, for those of us at home, to have a display of RTTY activity across a portion of the band.

You can see it in action from CE0Y/I2DMI in this video

From some quick googling around it looks like the software can be integrated into the N1MM contest logging software for RTTY contesting. I know one DXpedition group who are planning to use it too...

Haven't downloaded this and tried it out myself, but it definitely looks of interest.


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