Monday, 17 October 2016


Desktop above
Laptop below - the 3D graphics was actually better on the laptop. I'm obviously not a hardcore gamer!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Apple Care

This weekend, I've been busy sorting out family iPhones, as two new ones arrived, and the others were handed down to other family members, needing them all resetting and restoring from backups.
After nearly 5 years of having a "normal size" iPhone (4 through to the 5S), my wife now has an iPhone 6S Plus, and wonders how she ever managed with a smaller screen. The Plus sized iPhone looks even bigger than my Galaxy Note 4, because of the extra space below the screen needed to fit a circular Home button.
Me, I'm sticking with Android for now, even though Apple have had 2 models of big screen iPhones. I've nothing really against the iPhone or iOS, and I would say that it's a good choice for a lot of people (it Just Works), but there are a few negatives..
1) No Wi-Fi scanning apps. You can't see anything like
 and this is a definite NO for me. This is the number one reason I won't have a phone with iOS. I know jailbroken phones can run this kind of thing but why get an iOS device in the first place if Android phones can do it with no mods? To most people this wouldn't make any difference but as somebody who is interested in radio stuff, not being able to get detailed information about radio frequency signals such as channel number is no good. 
2)Limited file management options. It's not easy to work with files on an iOS device that have been created somewhere else unless they arrive through some cloud service. Moving photos off to a PC/Mac to free up space is easy but putting them back on isn't simply the reverse of that process. 

I do have one iOS device of my own, which is an iPod Touch (6th generation 16GB), that is normally in airplane mode and used for playing music when I'm out of the house. It sometimes goes online though, if I want to put my phone on charge when at home I'll use it as a standby "phone". I've used iPods for music for over 10 years (started with an iPod Mini 4GB in green), before there was iOS or iPhones. I found that it was actually better not to have a music player that was just a dumb removable drive, as with a large music collection, things like play counts, ratings and smart playlists mattered. There isn't a popular non-Apple standard for managing this kind of data, I can't plug a USB drive of mp3s into my car audio system and have it write to a file with the time that each one was played or whether I skipped it, then have my smart TV play only the ones I'd not played in the last 7 days. 
Maybe in a few years the patents will expire for everything an iPod does and somebody will have a go at it, but by that time it will all be done through streaming music apps.

Old Versions

Yesterday I was faced with a tough decision, one which could have had serious consequences. Should I delete some old Firefox installers from nearly 10 years ago (version 2.0), from my collection of downloads that had been building up (a few thousand different applications, mostly freeware stuff which I might have used once and uninstalled in 2008). I keep these on a 32GB USB drive so I can quickly go to another machine and install something
Would I ever need to install a new browser when I had no internet connection to download one? Yes, I work with some PCs which have no internet connection but still need a browser to configure switches, routers etc. (and IE is an older version than we need) but outside of work, probably never.
There is always which has more old software than you would ever need, including stuff which wouldn't even work if you installed it as the servers (Windows Live Messenger etc.) don't exist any more.
I like to think I could have the files ready to sort out a PC running anything back to about Windows 98, if anybody I knew had a problem with it but I can't even think of anybody using XP now outside of a business.

There is still plenty of software for Windows which was released over 10 years ago that is still usable (including in Windows 10), and what might been seen as bloatware with pointless features back then is now pretty lightweight compared to the latest version and does just what you need it to do (MS Office 2003, Adobe Reader apart from the security issues).

Here are two of the oldest downloaded applications I still have (both files dated 20th September 1999). Both installed and running in Windows 10.

Real Producer G2
Remember Real Audio? The very low bitrate codec which could be used to stream over a dial up internet connection? The one where you were locked into using Real's own software to do anything?
At the time I hadn't started collecting or ripping my CD music in mp3 format. Real Producer was handy for recording radio shows off air as it could record directly to disk at 20kbit/s (only 10MB per hour) at listenable (better than AM radio, about 10KHz mono audio bandwidth). I think my PC at the time with its 187MHz CPU would be struggling to encode mp3 in real time so Real Audio was pretty good in that way.
Article about Real Producer G2 from 1999
I didn't find a download link for this (even at but there is still a Mac version (for Classic Mac OS) at Tucows.

The File Splitter
At the time, this was a very useful application. If it wasn't for this, I wouldn't have Real Producer as I had to split the download to fit it onto floppy disks to get off the PC in the library at uni. This was before CD writers were standard, and 9 days before I bought my first CD writer for £200.
The application is still available to download (last version 1.31, released in 2005)
Yes, I deleted it (still there in Crashplan though, and on a DVD) but I replaced it with version 1.0 instead!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Weekend on 145.500

Here is a log of daytime activity heard at my house on 145.500 (somewhere around 9am - 3pm) this weekend. I recorded it while I wasn't at the radio and had a listen through the recordings tonight. I think I have all the callsigns right.

Saturday 8th October 2016:
Listen to the recording
M6ANX (Barrow) calling "anybody about please"
2E0LBI (Barrow) replied to M6ANX
M3RDZ called M6VGU
G0MRL called G0KNK
2E0LBI (mobile) called 2E0EVD and G0GSJ
M0TEB/M (Barrow) replied to 2E0LBI
GW4TJC/P called CQ from SOTA NW-039 Foel Goch
2E0LBI/P called CQ
M6ANX replied to 2E0LBI/P
MI0RRE replied to someone
MI0HBO called another MI0 station
M6ANX called 2E0SLK
2E0LBI called M6DHV
MI0GDO called MI0TLG/M
M6ANX called G4RQJ

That's quite a few stations from Northern Ireland, there might have been a bit of a lift on VHF today

Sunday 9th October 2016:
Listen to the recording
2E0LBI/P called 2E0EVD
M3RDZ called M6VGU (Burnley)
G0HIO/P called CQ SOTA - no location given on the air but from the Sotawatch website spots, it was probably Tarn Crag LD-026.
M6UXH/P calling CQ WOTA from LDW014 Blencathra (also SOTA LD008). Was there a dog barking in the background? Not very many replies to her CQ calls. Signal got better towards the end.
2E0MIX (Whitehaven) called M6UXH/P
2E0EVD called M0TEB
G8INU had a word with 2E0RZG before they went to 433.525 (Lytham St Annes area)
G6POI (Burton In Kendal) called G0??? and spoke to G0KSS and G3VVT (Kendal and Burton, neither of whom I could hear)
G0UAA (Burnley) called G0OCK
M6DHV (Barrow) called 2E0SLK

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Shack Pics

Some pictures of radios, just so I can post something on my blog

Radios above:
Puxing PX777 (VHF)
Retevis RT-3 (Tytera MD-380)
Wouxun KG-699E VHF Lo-Band
Uniden Bearcat UBC3500XLT
Puxing PX-2 (UHF)
Puxing PX777 (UHF)
iPod Classic 160GB
Alinco DJ-G7E (2m,70cm,23cm)
RF Explorer 240-960MHz

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

WSPR Stats

After looking at how many people are using DMR, I thought I'd look into how many people were using one of my favourite modes - WSPR. As almost every reception report is logged and displayed online, this is quite easy.
I got the data from KB9AMG's site which shows "2 way" reception reports. These are where both stations have logged reception of each other and uploaded this to the WSPR spots database, rather than actually having a 2 way QSO. This is a pretty reliable way of counting all stations who were active, removing any false decodes.
I combined the data from the months of May, June and July 2016.

In 3 months, in England, 493 stations were active on WSPR.
Breakdown by callsign type:
2E0 = 45
2E1 = 3
G0 = 56
G1 = 21
G2 = 1
G3 = 50
G4 = 91
G6 = 20
G7 = 32
G8 = 29
M0 = 103
M1 = 12
M3 = 10
M5 = 4
M6 = 16

Compared to the figures for DMR (see the last blog post), there is much less interest from Foundation and Intermediate licence holders. As with DMR, the M0 callsigns are the most common (21%, compared to 16% of DMR), but G4s are not far behind at 18%, which is much higher than their 10% share of DMR registrations.

Worldwide, there were a total of 3990 stations active in the 3 months on WSPR. Most of these were only active in one of the 3 months
Breakdown by months active:
3 = 871 (22%)
2 = 935
1 = 2184

Where are all the G0s? Shouldn't there be at least as many as G4s (G0 callsign range was almost fully issued) and M0s (still not fully issued)?

Monday, 8 August 2016

DMR Stats

Had a look at how many people are registered on the DMR MARC database, from the UK. This gives a rough idea of how many people have ever transmitted on a DMR radio in the amateur bands. There's nothing stopping you setting the radio ID to anything you want, especially on simplex, but I think most people would register.

Total DMR IDs:
19th May 2016 = 3641
8th August 2016 = 4035
That's an increase of about 10% in the last 71 days (or 6 new IDs per day). It's still only around 5% of the total UK amateur licences. But 4000 is a very large number if you compare it with say the number of people entering a VHF contest or logging Summits On The Air contacts in the database.
It will be interesting to see how the total increases over time, 

Breakdown by callsign type (England only)
Total England = 3353
2E0 = 496
2E1 = 38
G0 = 306
G1 = 185
G2 = 7
G3 = 92
G4 = 331
G5 = 4
G6 = 182
G7 = 225
G8 = 185
M0 = 533
M1 = 124
M3 = 163
M5 = 12
M6 = 470

That may or may not be a reflection of how many of each callsign type are active on the air in general, as newly licenced amateurs could be more attracted to modern tech gadgets rather than traditional equipment.