Friday, December 30, 2011

70Mhz and 500khz allocations for the Netherlands

I just saw a tweet from OY3JE containing a link to the IARU Region 1 website noting that the Netherlands will have allocations at 70MHz and 500khz from January 1st 2012.

Personally, I'm particularly pleased with the opportunities at 70MHz, though I suspect I will be lucky to work into the Netherlands with my current 70MHz setup.

See the Region 1 article here

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My amateur radio highlights of the year


Lee, G0MTN used to publish his excellent 'Review of the Year' on the UK-Contest reflector. Hopefully he still does, I'm long gone from that reflector (and all others!). It's a fun thing to do and I have been thinking over the last few days about my Amateur Radio Highlights of the Year.

1. JT65
If you've seen my posts recently you'll see that I have been very active on JT65 on HF using the W6CQZ JT65-HF software. It's excellent for working DX with low power. And actually I get just as much satisfaction from working a station using something like a loft dipole, knowing that on any other mode, I would struggle to make the contact. It's a very relaxing mode too, also ideal for those late night contacts without keeping other occupants of the house awake.

Having seen how effective JT65 is on HF, I really want to try it on VHF. But that's something for 2012.

2. The 50/144/432MHz collinear
The aerial was installed in April and it has given me a new perspective on 144 and 433MHz in particular. There have been plenty of surprises about how much variation there is on a day-to-day basis in terms of propagation. There have been some exceptional contacts and loggings too; a repeater from Norway completely out of the blue on 144MHz as well as more recently a 144MHz FM contact to the South of France.

On 50MHz during this year's Es season, the antenna worked out well with many contacts being made.

3. 28MHz
During the summer the new Anytone AT5555 proved great fun with low power with the Es propagation. And earlier in the year, my bike ride portable operations with the FT817 and a simple antenna were always interesting.

In the autumn it was a real surprise and pleasure to find the band so good for worldwide DX again.

4. Practical Wireless
Being part of the team and writing for PW is great fun and I've enjoyed every column and review in different ways. It's been great to engage with the contributors and find out what interests them. Thanks to Rob, Tex and the team in Poole for making it such a great experience.

5. Memorable contacts
Hard to single them out as there's always something interesting in each contact. But a few contacts of different types spring to mind quickly:

The contacts that come out of apparently nowhere! Being fascinated by radio propagation, it's magical to me how signals can come up out of noise and then fade back down again (hopefully having been worked in between); 9H1BT on 50Mhz late one May evening, EA1FDI on 144MHz in August, HB10K on 144MHz on a September evening, F4FGB worked on 144MHz FM via a repeater in the South of France and F5ICN on 144MHz SSB from the South of France more recently. Earlier this week, working Rene DL6NAA on 144 and 432MHz was really pleasing.

JT65 has been quite a mind shift for me. Working W7YES from the west coast with just a few watts on 28MHz as well as KP4ED on 3.5MHz JT65 on a noisy winter's evening were QSOs that I know I would have struggled to make on other modes.

Of course it was good to work some real DX; my friends at T32C on the other side of the world did a wonderful job and it was great to work them with no hassle on 10 and 24MHz CW. In September, I realised that 28MHz was back in business when I worked NE0X with a huge signal on CW early one evening.

It's no longer all about DX for me though. Working Larry G4OXY on 70MHz FM via the Tring parrot was great. We used to work on 50MHz when Larry was in Portishead and I was in Cheltenham back in the mid 1980s, so there was much to catch up on! Likewise with Mattias DH3NAN who I worked recently on 144MHz SSB - we remembered QSOs from the SquareBashers 1985 expedition to IN79 square GB2XJ.

I always enjoy radio contacts with my Twitter friends, so it was really good to chat with Jerry KD0BIK from Denver on D-STAR. Rob M0VFC persuaded me onto 18MHz SSB for the first time in many a year when the Camb-Hams were operating from St Pierre et Miquelon - that was a fun QSO.

D-STAR provides the ability to make some nice QSOs across the world or closer to home and I particularly enjoyed a lovely QSO one August morning with Rod G3TXA on the Isle of Wight and another QSO with old friend Gordon G8PNN in Northumberland.

All in all, an enjoyable year on the radio. Always something new and interesting to try and fascinating people to talk to. 2012 will mark the start of my 30th year on the air. Short compared to some - but a hobby has to be good to keep you keen after 30 years, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Boxing Day holiday tropo

I remember a couple of years ago, VHF/UHF tropo conditions were good around Boxing Day. Well, although today wasn't Boxing Day, it was our Boxing Day Bank holiday.

This morning as I was dealing with some e-mails, I had the VHF FM rig running on 145.500 and heard a selection of stations from G6XOR up in Derby to others in the Midlands. Sadly, I wasn't able to respond at the time. However, I did later work John M6CTI near Heathrow, who was running 5W.

After Julie and I had come back from a walk this afternoon and the Christmas Cumulatives had ended, I checked the bands anyway. The GB3VHF beacon was loud and PI7CIS and ON0VHF on 144MHz above average. Oddly, PI7CIS on 432MHz was inaudible with me. I was just about to close when I heard DL6NAA from JO50 call 2E0NEY on 144MHz.

Happily, Rene, DL6NAA called CQ and after a couple of calls I was able to work him with good signals. He runs 750W to a good antenna system so I was not sure he would hear my little station. I listened for a while and heard him move to 432MHz. I was pleased to find I could hear him there too. Something of a pileup developed so I decided to drop my call in on CW, which seemed to work and I was delighted to work him.

Check out the DL0AR website to see pictures of the antenna system that DL6NAA uses. You'll see why he's so loud. Thanks for the contacts Rene!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why has my DVAP started to get disconnected from the reflectors? (Win-DV users)

Last weekend I thought it was about time that I made some D-STAR contacts again. Out here in the wilderness, I use my DVAP to connect to the network. As I have noted on the blog before, I often use the Win-DV software from http://www.dutch-star.eu
That software allows me to do a bit more than the DVAP-Tool software from AA4RC - just in terms of being able to set up connections on the PC rather than having to do it on the E-92.

Anyway, last weekend I started up the Win-DV software connected it to REF001C and went downstairs with my handheld. I hadn't heard anything after a while so I did a quick check and found that I had been disconnected. No big deal, I'd probably done something silly!

Connected it and checked again. I'd been disconnected. Probably something to do with 1C so tried another reflector. Same again!

Hmmm. Now my mind was starting to wonder. I closed down Win-DV and started up DVAP-Tool. Guess what? It connected and stayed there!

I didn't have anytime to investigate at the time, but this evening I checked out the Dutch*star site. It seems that a decision was taken by 'DPLUS Network managers' not to allow DVAPs or DV-Dongles to connect to the network unless they sent the hardware serial number. DVAP-Tool was doing that and Win-DV was not, hence anyone using Win-DV would get disconnected.

Why was this done? This blog has never been about radio politics and we're not going to start now. You can form your own opinion I am sure.

However, the good news is that the latest release of Win-DV allows you to select the 'HARDWARE' option to send your DVAP serial number to the network.

I tested it this evening and it's working fine. You can read more detail on the Dutch*Star site.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More on JT65A

Since getting the JT65-HF program working with my equipment, I've been having a great time with the mode. It really is amazing what you can work. It's a very relaxing mode and you can easily be working someone on JT65 on HF and having a local QSO on VHF, which is quite fun.

Over the last few weeks, I've had JT65A contacts on 3.5, 7, 14 and 28MHz. The most satisfying bands have been 3.5 and 28MHz. On a number of occasions, I've hooked the receiver up to the computer in the morning and left the JT65 program running all day, to see what I can hear. Because I've configured the program to upload what it hears to the reverse beacon network and the PSK Reporter website, it's easy to keep track of what propagation is like, from my desk or from the train! I shall have to work out some remote control so that I can make some QSOs at lunchtime.

The image above shows a 'typical to good' day on 28MHz JT65. Generally the first signals are heard around 0700z and the last ones around 1730z - plus or minus.

In the evenings I have been trying out 3.5MHz JT65 and have been surprised by the results. Some of the notable contacts have been UN9LEI and KP4ED with lots of contacts in between! Hoping to work VK6 at some point, as that would be a nice one in the evening.

Great mode! I'm so glad I tried it. Can't wait to get the K1JT modes working with my FT847 for VHF/UHF!

Tis the season....for 70MHz FM!

Not much from me during the last few weeks. A busy time at work, with three new websites going live in the space of two weeks - so most brain cycles going towards that during the lunchtimes that I normally use for a bit of blogging!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been turning the 70MHz FM rig on a bit more often. I realise that 70MHz FM is a winter band/mode for me. During the summer, the antenna is usually connected up to the CW/SSB rig in case of a bit of Sporadic E. With the chances of that significantly lower now, I've been enjoying some more local contacts.

Good to work Geoff, G3NPI near Buckingham last weekend and to hear how active the band is on FM now. Clearly the combination of PMR kit and imports from the Chinese market has been a popular one. Keen to work a few people using the new Wouxun Dual Band handhelds when it's warm enough to go out portable again.

This morning I had a nice QSO with Ted G3XUX/P near Winchester. I worked Ted through the MB7FM parrot, but we were also able to exchange signals directly, which is nice over the 40-45 mile or so path between us. Listening to MB7FM whilst I was doing a few jobs showed several other stations active, so if you have 70MHz FM, it's well worth switching the gear on and making some calls as you can.

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