Saturday, 21 February 2015

Superfast Broadband

The Belkin that put out all that QRM on 145MHz has finally gone
Replaced by this "monstrosity" (as my XYL calls it - BT fixed the boxes to the wall).
The Technicolor TG582N (lower box) is actually an ADSL modem router but one of the ethernet sockets can be used as a WAN connection. It has new firmware on it, with Plusnet FTTC branding.

As the BT modem has to be next to the master socket, I bought a WiFi bridge to connect my wired network to the internet. Before I had the Belkin modem router next to my PC, and a small wired network (D-Link NAS, PC, gigabit switch) plugged into that.

The Edimax CV-7428NS bridge sat on top of my D-Link DNS-320 NAS. It doesn't come with a power supply, just a USB cable, so I've powered it from the front USB port on the NAS.
The bridge has 5 ethernet ports but they are only 100 meg so aren't good enough for a direct connection between PC and NAS. That's what the Zyxel switch is for.

Downloading an Ubuntu iso file, with the WiFi bridge. This was at 8:30am on Sunday. A 1GB file took around 3 minutes to download. The download speed is advertised at 40Mbps but the line is probably able to do a lot faster as you could choose either 40 or 80 (for an extra cost).





FT-7900

Got a brand new Yaesu FT-7900 this week, so I'm back to using a dual band radio at home, replacing the old FT-1500 single bander.

It's quite like my FT-8900 which I use in the car but a few differences:
1)The wide/narrow deviation setting only changes the deviation, not the receive filter.
2)The memory skip and bank settings are unique to each Hyper Memory (the memories themselves are common), so you can select a different set of memories to scan using the HM buttons.
3)The receiver covers 108 - 520MHz with no gaps. Even though sensitivity won't be as good outside the amateur bands, it doesn't drop off as suddenly as the FT-8900.
4)The S-meter is very sensitive on VHF, up to around S5. I get S4 of noise on 145MHz!
Because there is only a single receiver, there is a lot more room to put the controls, so the channel selector and buttons are twice the size of the other Yaesu mobiles.
I've tried uploading the memories to my PC using CHIRP and it works OK, except any airband frequencies are missed, CHIRP just says 'ERROR' for those channels.
I'd been deciding between the FT-7900 and one of the Wouxun quad band mobiles, but in the end I went for the Yaesu. With my FT-8900, I've never really used the 10m and 6m bands as I only have a dual bander on the car and when I used it at home it was with a 6m/2m/70cm antenna only. I can't even remember having a QSO on 6m or 10m with it in the last 10 years. The FT-8900 only receives 28-30MHz too, no transmit or receive on CB channels.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Belkin Router

I use a Belkin F5D8636 N Wireless Modem Router for my internet at home.
This is what 144-146MHz is like with it on (antenna on the chimney, Belkin upstairs)

And this is what it is like with it switched off
The strongest of the carriers is at 144.710, reading 7 out of 10 signals bars on my FT-1500. There is one on 145.500 at 4 bars.
I think it's time to get something new for internet access, and if you see any of these for sale, avoid them. They don't handle large numbers of connections well either, default BitTorrent client settings bring all other traffic to a standstill.

Yesterday, for the first time ever in one of my PCs, I had a hard disk fail. Switched on, Windows error message
but Windows wasn't even booting from or installed on that drive. There was a spinning and then clicking sound repeating itself, so I was sure it wasn't just a missing file.
Anything important had been backed up automatically using CrashPlan, so it wasn't too bad.
The failed drive was a 1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11, with a date of 2009. It wasn't new when I got it, it had been in USB case but had stopped working. It was a short circuit across the 12v supply, which was caused by the surge protection diode. After I cut that off the board, it worked OK for the last 2 years.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Gummer's How

Activation of Gummer's How G/LD-050 yesterday. The pole just about stayed in the ground, giving mixed polarisation. Got 5 QSOs and then the hail started.

I had a look at my SOTA log data to see exactly how many different stations I'd worked while out on the hills (over the last 12 years). I was most interested in how many UK stations I'd got so I removed all but those starting with 2, G or M. Then took any /A, /P or /M off the end of the callsigns. I left the regional locator in (GW, MM etc.).
This gave a total of 4098 contacts, and 1062 unique callsigns. Most of those were on VHF/UHF FM, and about half of the QSOs were from LD region summits (533 callsigns from LD summits).
Just under half of those callsigns began with G, so these had probably not been replaced by a newer one for the same person (unless they got a Class A licence between 2002 and 2003). The other half of the stations may have had more than one callsign for the same person (M6, 2E0 then M0 etc.) so the total number of people rather than callsigns will probably be <1000 .="" p="">658 of the 1062 callsigns appeared in my log only once in 12 years, I'd guess many of these were from the more distant summits I've only activated once, where they were beyond the VHF range of the local hills.
51 callsigns (5%) were responsible for 50% of the contacts.
The top 5 in descending order were:
G4BLH
G6LKB
G4RQJ
2E0NHM
GW0DSP
(G1OHH, G1KLZ and G1CCL had taken 3-5th place more recently over the last 1000 QSOs).
 If someone regularly listens to VHF/UHF FM AND answers CQ calls, they will probably be in my activator log at least once, so this gives some idea of how many active stations there are on these bands. This is only part of the UK, I don't know much about the south or east of England. There will also be people who avoid any SOTA activity or never use their radio during daylight hours but I can't imagine they would answering many other CQ calls either.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Finsthwaite Heights

Activation of WOTA summit LDO-104 Finsthwaite Heights today.
This is one I'd heard of but never looked at where the summit really was, apart from knowing it was somewhere near Finsthwaite village. It's just north of Finsthwaite village, and to the south west of High Dam, and as only the very top is above the trees, it's probably not a hill you would notice from anywhere. Any paths to the top look like they have been made by animals but even though it's off the proper footpath, I never had to climb over any fences or walls.
I just took the handheld radio up there and made 2 QSOs, with M6CVD on Walney and G4PF near Preston on 145MHz.
Is it just me or have people stopped listening to 145.500 at weekends? Not long ago there were quite a few people around the Morecambe Bay and north Lancashire area who were chasing SOTA/WOTA summits regularly and would be able to work such lowly hills as Finsthwaite Heights. It could be that people are switching off because of the few local activations being posted online (it's not the best weather for going out anywhere at the moment so wouldn't expect loads of activity).
Other people have also commented on the drop in 145MHz activity in this area, maybe with the improved HF conditions in the last few months they are busy elsewhere.

The summit of Finsthwaite Heights

 View north of some trees. Lots of trees.

 Helvellyn with a little snow

Langdale Pikes, with Grizedale Forest in front and the Coniston High Man radio/TV masts


Saturday, 29 November 2014

WSPR 4.0

I've installed a new version of WSPR (4.0 r4171) and it's more stable than 2.21 on Windows 8. The old version would run for about 8 hours before stopping with the scary sounding Fatal Python error. This one has had no problems so far.
It can be downloaded from here
I've tried WSPR-X a bit but it doesn't have band hopping and that's something I use a lot.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

WSPR Presentation

Here is a presentation on WSPR which I gave a few months ago:
PowerPoint
PDF