Monday, 28 December 2009

Icom display


The Icom IC-7000 has a composite video output on a 3.5mm jack socket. I put this through a composite to VGA converter and connected to my 24" monitor.


My Mac Mini (G4 1.25 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 40 GB HDD) downstairs which is connected to the TV by HDMI. Behind it is a PC (Athlon 64 3200, 1 GB RAM, 300 GB HDD) which is also connected to the TV by VGA.

Wouxun

Is there something funny going on with WSPR in Vista? Last night I was getting stations receiving me on 40 metres but I only received one. This morning I changed back to XP and there seemed to be a more equal balance between transmit and receive. Maybe the clock was drifting, I did synchronise it again before I started WSPR up in XP.
I know I get a lot of noise here but it wasn't that bad other days when I was using XP.
There were some lines showing on the waterfall display which looked like valid WSPR signals (2 minutes long) but no messages were being decoded.

I got a USB programming cable with my Wouxun dualbandheld but I can't get it to work (only tried it in Vista though). It'll work with my 4 metre Wouxun (selected COM4 in the programming software) but not with the dual bander's software. But I tried another serial cable (a real one, with DB-9 connector on) into a PCI serial card and that worked.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Philips FM1000


Here is the 4 metre radio at home, a Philips FM1000 ex-PMR. It has 23 channels, from 70.2 to 70.4875 MHz in 12.5 KHz steps. This is connected to a dipole in the loft.

The Sharp EL-6890 databank, which I've been using for logging while out portable, is starting to lose parts of its LCD display. This might have something to do with being used out in the rain yesterday. I like this one because it starts up instantly, has a display which can be readable in sunlight (and has a backlight) and has a full qwerty keyboard with numbers. It's as easy to use as switching on, typing something and pressing enter to save the record. There is a serial port on the side using a 2.5mm jack socket but the supplied software doesn't let you do anything with the data except make a backup copy which isn't readable on the PC. There are other applications available which let you view the data, such as EL-Link and XLink but I've just typed the contacts into other software by hand.
The data cable works as a programming cable for the Icom IC-E91 handheld though.
I've had this for nearly 9 years and used it on hundreds of SOTA activations. This sort of databank is becoming obsolete because of mobile phones which all have some kind of address book and often a notepad. But the problem with phone keypads is that even with a QWERTY one like on my Nokia E63, it's hard work typing something in like a callsign because the numbers are on letter keys, so it takes a lot of shifting between letters and numbers.
I used XLink to export the contents of my EL-6890 to a .CSV file.

Lambrigg Fell

Yesterday (Boxing Day) I went to Lambrigg Fell (SOTA G/LD-046) with the family, including my brother Alex G7RNX. After the recent snow, we thought this would be a hill which wouldn't be too hard to get to. Parked by the Sedbergh Road in the entrance to the wind turbines and walked through snow which was knee deep. It was also raining while we were walking up.
We carried quite a lot of gear up there (well we did have 2 parents to carry stuff!) - I had my Yaesu FT-817 and Alinco DJ-G7 handheld, with a Watson W2000 2m/6m/70cm colinear. Alex had built a bi-quad antenna for 23cm out of biscuit tin lid and some wire, which I could use with my handheld.


Alex had the 4m rig, his Wouxun handheld with a Pye A200 amplifier (about 30 watts out for 5 watts in), and a Sirio 4m half wave vertical.

The first attempt at 4 metres didn't go very well, only 2 stations replied to Alex's CQ calls, even after being spotted on Sotawatch by myself. 2 metres FM was better, with 9 QSOs by myself. The problem with 4 metres seemed to be with the coax, so we swapped my coax over to the 4 metre antenna and another 3 QSOs were made by Alex on 4 metres.
On 6 metres, I made one QSO with G1CCL in Morecambe and on 23cm I worked MW1FGQ in Flintshire, who was using a similar antenna indoors. This was my best 23cm DX so far.
I'd already activated this summit in 2009 so got no points, but it was a new one for Alex.

Me at Lambrigg Fell summit

Me (in the hat) and Alex G7RNX at Lambrigg windfarm.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wouxun KG699-E

Downloaded and tried the programming software for my 4 metre Wouxun KG699-E. At first I couldn't get it to connect to the radio (I'm using a serial cable which worked with my Puxings and dual band Wouxun). I found that to get it to connect for the first time, you select the serial port while the radio is switched off and then switch it on. Otherwise there is an error message saying something like the serial port can't be opened.
The software for the dual bander seems to be like this too, I had trouble getting that to work at first.
My PC motherboard has no serial ports fitted (there is a COM1 internally but no connector, I've disabled this), so I've installed a PCI dual serial port card. For some reason, in Vista, the port numbers are the opposite way round to in XP (COM1 on the right in XP). I've got a USB to serial adaptor and some other devices which have one of those in them (antenna analyser, Icom control cable) but they usually change port numbers every time they are plugged in because Windows won't re-use a serial port number.
At the moment I'm using XP on my main PC but I've also got Vista on the other hard disk. I was using Vista as my main OS up until October but then I put Windows 7 on instead to try. When the 30 days was up on Windows 7 I started using XP again instead of putting Vista back on straight away. Even though I've got Vista on again (restored a Ghost image of the Vista partition) I haven't bothered using it much since then.
There's probably less reason now to stop using XP because now it's on most netbook type PCs, it has to be supported and new software released for it. Software needs to run on a 1.6 GHz Atom processor, XP and 1GB of RAM. And if it runs on that, it'll also run on a 6 year old desktop PC.

80m WSPR

It's snowed again here, overnight. Which means it will be worse everywhere else as Barrow doesn't really get snow.
I've been doing quite a lot of WSPR on 80 metres over the last few days and I've found that I'm transmitting a lot better than I'm receiving. It's very noisy here on the lower HF bands so the "weak signals" here aren't weak signals at all. 10 MHz seems to be the best band at the moment during the day for WSPR.
Last night I left WSPR on 80m receive only, using the A99 vertical antenna. With this, I received exactly the same one German station which I was getting on the wire.
My Wouxun 4 metre handheld has arrived this morning. Not heard anything on it yet except the packet on 70.3375 MHz. I think all the fire brigade users have gone off 70-71 MHz now and there isn't much on low band PMR.
I've also got a Wouxun dualbandheld and 2 Puxing PX-777s (VHF and UHF).

Some 18 MHz PSK31 received:
RW4LN
UT5CO
UX0SX
SV1EEX
UT0IV

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Arnside Knott

Went up Arnside Knott (SOTA G/LD-058) today. I'd planned to try Ingleborough but was a bit late setting off and wasn't sure about the roads so just went to Arnside. Parked on the promenade and walked up the hill from there. I only had my Alinco handheld with me, which would have been OK for somewhere like Ingleborough but only got me 2 QSOs from Arnside Knott, to Morecambe and Settle. It didn't really matter because I'd already activated the summit this year.
There was snow all over the hill and the views of the snow covered Lake District hills were really good.
My WSPR signals are getting to the USA, on 30m to Florida (both ways) and I was even received on 80m last night in Vermont. I seem to be transmitting better than I receive on 80m, probably because of the high noise level here.
The receive IF filter on the Alinco DJ-G7 is too wide for 12.5 KHz channel steps. Often it will stop scanning on the adjacent channel because of this. The squelch is also too slow at opening and too quick at closing.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

6m Contest

Tonight I had a go at the 6m activity contest. I'd been planning to operate from a spot near Ulverston which is 200m ASL (IO84KE, SD253792), but the narrow roads to there were too slippery to drive up, so I had to turn round and find somewhere else.
I set up at SD235748 (IO84JD), just outside of Dalton, which was only about 80m ASL but it was somewhere I could park.
I used the 6m half wave I'd used on Kinder Scout, fixed horizontally to a 12 ft aluminium pole. That was directional to the south, which is where the wind was blowing it, I wanted it a bit more south east than that. In the car I had the IC-7000, auto tuner and an 18Ah SLA battery. I kept the power at 50 watts.
I made 2 QSOs in the contest, twice as many as last month, and my claimed score is 122 points. The best distance was 72km to G1SWH in IO83QO. I could hear some other stations but not very well.

WSPR

Tried another digital mode this morning, WSPR. It's a very low bandwidth (slow) data mode which takes 2 minutes to transmit your callsign and location. Like PSK31, it transmits an SSB signal modulated with an audio tone of 1.5 KHz. Stations who receive your message will upload it to an internet database automatically so you just have to visit WSPRnet to look up your recent DX.
I'm trying the 30m band right now, a band which I've never used before as it's not normally an SSB band. The "carrier" frequency (rig's display) is 10.1387 MHz USB. On the first transmission, I was received by 9 stations, with my 10 watts into the wire.
My transmissions on 10 MHz were getting between 900 and 1800 KM, from France to Finland.
I can check for 2 way contacts by comparing my receive log with the database.
Now to go and finish my Family Guy DVD while my computer does all the work :)

Broadband HF antennas

There are a few HF antennas for sale which claim to work from something like "1 - 60 MHz with no tuner". Most are verticals but there are some which are just the matching section from one of the verticals, with a bit of wire attached instead.
Comet CHA-250
Diamond BB6W
Q-Tek Penetrator

I've never had one of these so couldn't really say how well they worked but if they were cheaper (£50 instead of the usual £200) I'd probably get one just to see what they were like. I paid £60 for the A99 vertical which is fibreglass (only meant to cover one band but it's really like a quad-bander). My experience of any antennas made of aluminium tube is that they will bend or break completely unless it's something small like a VHF/UHF yagi.
These verticals look too much like "silver rod" CB aerials to make me want to pay £200 for them. Maybe if they were made of fibreglass then they would be more attractive.
VK5ZD took the Comet CHA-250 vertical apart
and G8JNJ copied one. He also has another design for a broadband HF vertical.

Snow

I was going to have a walk up Ingleborough today but it doesn't sound a very good idea now so I think I'll stay at home after reading the road reports. The A65 is meant to be blocked at Crooklands. I also wanted to get out somewhere later to do the 6 metres activity contest.
Received last night on 3.580 PSK:
G0MPI (Farnborough)
G0NBD (Wallasey)
M6KAH (Sheringham)
2E0WDS (Wellingborough)
CT4KG (Portugal)
and others.
This was on the A99 vertical, but even though nothing was over S1, the noise is also lower.
Listening to some locals (Kendal, Morecambe) on 3.662 MHz right now (9:30am Tuesday). That's a regular thing, 3.662 around 9am.

I've no antenna at home for 6 metres so last night I tried 3 of my others to see which was best (or least worse). I connected each of them up to the IC-7000 through it's tuner and tuned up around 50 MHz. Then checked the signal of a nearby baby monitor on 49.840 MHz (could hear nothing in the 6m band). These were the signals:
20m end fed half wave = S3-4
4m dipole in loft = S5-6
A99 vertical = S6-7
Then I tried the signal from a hospital paging transmitter on 49.450 MHz:
20m half wave = S3-4
A99 vertical = S6-7
4m dipole in loft = S9
This might be a better test because the hospital is further away and using a proper vertical antenna on the roof.
All antennas would tune up OK with the AT-7000 auto tuner. Some time I'll get a 6 metre dipole in the loft. There is quite a lot of noise being picked up by the loft dipole, probably from the computer which is in the room below it.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

160m PSK

Received on 1.838 MHz PSK31 tonight:
SG7XR
OK1KM
M0MGF
DL2KUF
ON7GB
2W0RUH
G3WZK
RA1TCJ
LA2VRA
F5PEZ
OZ7IT
PA3HDG

Some photos of the Xmas lights at home:

Website

I use the domain name m1avv.net for my amateur radio website. At the moment there isn't much there except a link to this blog. I've made a simple page using Google Sites because anything new just goes in this blog. I do have web hosting for other files if I need it but text and pictures can be stored at Blogger (Google).
I've also made a Facebook page for M1AVV, and have a Twitter account.

Antenna plots

Took some readings on my HF antennas this morning. Here they are.
Solarcon A99 CB vertical. Left at its 27 MHz settings. Works OK with a tuner from 18 - 30 MHz. Don't know why there is a 2nd resonant frequency around 20 MHz but they all seem to be like that. A normal half wave would have the SWR go high below 25 MHz.


14 MHz half wave made using 10 metres of wire sloping down from the same pole the A99 is on, to the back yard. This is matched to coax with a 16:1 transformer. I use this one for below 18 MHz. It works a bit on 3.5 and 7 MHz too, with a tuner.

80m PSK

It's been snowing a bit here so don't think I'll be going too far today.
Some stations received on 3.580 MHz PSK last night/this morning:
2E0EMF (Nottingham)
GM0NBM (Cumbernauld)
M0JEK (St Albans)
G4DZE (Banbury)
EW7AD
and lots more around Europe
and some 40m PSK received this morning:
LX1CW
DJ4JI
SP3QFV
I2CZQ
PA3BPZ

From yesterday afternoon, some PSK received on 18.100 MHz:
PJ2MI (Netherlands Antillies)
VE2EH (Canada)
CX4AAJ (Uraguay)
N3WT
VE3OIJ

Saturday, 19 December 2009

WinWarbler

Left WinWarbler logging on 14.070 MHz PSK31 over the last day and a bit. The most interesting finds were:
G7NBE (Leicestershire)
KP4RY
ZB2GG (Gibraltar)
VK3CVF
VR2XLN (Hong Kong)
GM4ZET (Perth)
9J2AH (Zambia)
EK6YL (Armenia)
1B1AB (Northern Cyprus)
That was using my 14 MHz end fed half wave.

On 18.100 MHz PSK31 this afternoon using the Solarcon A99 antenna I heard:
N2LD
US6EQ
UT2MA
YU1ZM

On my Icom IC-7000, the "data" out on the 6 pin socket doesn't go through the squelch circuit, so it's not much use for feeding to an external amplifier and speakers unless you have an external circuit switched by the "squelch" line. It's OK for any digital modes though. I've got something called a Philips Music Mute somewhere, which is supposed to cut off all the speakers in a car when the car phone is active. That would be good for connecting to the squelch output of a radio. Also, on FM with the receive IF filter setting at 2 or 3 (narrower filters), noise is distorted from the data output (when there is no signal, the background noise sounds like it is clipping digitally inside the receiver). This distortion isn't there on the signal coming out of the headphone socket, and it's only there on FM. Could this affect the sensitivity on weak packet signals? I'm trying it at filter setting 1 receiving APRS and it doesn't seem to be any worse than before, but the deviation will be at a higher level on transmit now I've widened the receive filter.

Friday, 18 December 2009

4 metre qsos

thursday's qsos, both on 70.425
G7RNX dalton, who helped with the new antenna
G1CCL morecambe
also hearing some packet on 70.3375

Thursday, 17 December 2009

4 metres

I've now got a better antenna at home for the 70Mhz band. I've got a
vertical Half wave in the loft, with a Philips FM1000 ex-pmr mobile. The half wave is a centre-fed coaxial dipole as described by G4CJZ. We found that the measurements given were slightly too long, but trimming the ends of the antenna only brought the SWR down from about 1.5 to 1.3:1. The inner matching section might need shortening too but for now, it seems OK.
The picture doesn't show very much (it was dark so couldn't tell what I was pointing the camera at), what you can see is the lower half of the dipole.
Here are some SWR and impedance plots for the 4m antenna:

These graphs were recorded using my RigExpert AA-500

I've installed WinWarbler 4.5 for PSK31, and I like that best because it can automatically list all the stations received, across the whole audio bandwidth. So I can just leave it going and when I come back to the PC, I've got a receiving log filled in. Callsigns it hears only once are deleted after a certain time as they are probably errors, and it detects who is calling who (only the callsign after 'de' is logged).
Here are a few on 20 metres this Friday morning:
2E0GHQ (Southport)
9A6ZT
OM7OM
SV7CUD
ZB3R (Gibraltar)

G6DDQ-9

Received G6DDQ-9 on 2m APRS at 09:58 today. The position was on the A56 near Baxenden. Also received G7HEJ, GX0RYQ and MB7UBN.
Some 80m PSK31 around 6:45pm:
HA7LW
DB1BA
ON4BT
IZ3ENH
DO1DXX

And 40m:
RA3GZ

I'm using Digipan for PSK31.

morning psk

Received on 80m psk before i set off to work:
ok1nh
Do7bjj
Dd8hb
F1fpm
Dk8cx

Emailed that in from my phone.
It's good being able to search for your own callsign and see it on other people's online logs.
I hope you've all gone and downloaded Killing In The Name to make sure we don't have any X Factor people at number one next week. The mp3 download is only 29p at Amazon. Heard Rage Against The Machine on Radio 5 Live this morning and they played Killing In The Name live with the naughty bits left in, until someone decided that it wasn't a good idea to have that on at 9am.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

PSK31

Some 7 MHz PSK31 received tonight:
UY2UQ
UN7ID
EW6DM
SQ5OBS
IK5FKB

And some 3.5 MHz PSK31 received:
2E0WDS
GI0HWO
MM3YFT
G0HVQ
ES3RM

APRS logs

I've had a look at my APRS station info page and it shows that I'm being received by MB7UWC at Warrington. MB7UWC never shows up in my stations list so either I'm just not receiving them or it's being repeated somewhere (doubtful as no other stations logged my beacon message at the same time). Also not all my beacon messages are being received by MB7UWC (only one last night), so it could depend on 2 metre propagation over the 59 mile path.
A station which I do receive at home on APRS is GX0RYQ, but they have never received my beacons. The path from me to GX0RYQ is about 120km.
Some information on APRS from G6GVI - reading this got me interested in using APRS.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

See Morris Hill

Went up See Morris Hill yesterday (Monday). Took the Yaesu FT8900 up there and 18Ah battery. Parked at NX916776 and walked up the road to the summit. There is a tarmac road all the way up. The top of this hill has a radio mast on it (West FM transmits on 97.0 (coverage map) from here, the site is also known as Riddings Hill), surrounded by a high fence, so there is nowhere with a 360 degree take off. I set up on the side facing Dumfries, with the antenna pole stuck in a fence.
Mast on Riddings Hill:

West FM's antenna:

Even after putting a Sotawatch alert on earlier, and spotting myself when I was on the air, I made only one QSO on 2 metres, with GM4JR/M who was in Dumfries. This was probably the worst response to any SOTA activation I've done, seeing as I'd used the internet and higher power. It was a Monday dinner time though, and last time I'd activated that hill (with 4 or more QSOs) it was a Sunday afternoon. After one contact in half an hour, I gave up as it had started raining. At least I got someone from See Morris Hill.
View from See Morris Hill towards Dumfries:

After that I went into Dumfries and did some shopping before going home for tea.
I've been having some problems with AGW/UI-View in Windows Vista. It works OK with the sound card input (an external USB interface, Edirol UA25) but won't play anything through the sound card output. I could try the onboard sound but my rig interface lead has 1/4 inch jack plugs on it for use with the UA25. Everything works OK in XP.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Criffel


Went up Criffel today (SOTA GM/SS-130). Parked near New Abbey (at NX970634) where there is a free car park along a lane (not tarmac all the way along) from the main road, and it took about an hour to walk up, getting to the summit around 2pm like I said I would.
No funny business with 24 MHz etc. today, used 2 metres from the FT-817 into Watson W50 antenna. The trig point had the hole through the middle, not filled with concrete like a lot of them are, which is just perfect for setting antennas up.

Made QSOs as far as Glasgow, Northern Ireland and Barrow, a summit to summit with GM4GUF on Tinto (SS-064) and my first ever 23cm contact with GM4WHA/M at Annan, a distance of 24 Km. We were both using the same radio, the Alinco DJ-G7, with the original rubber ducks (for 2m/70cm I've replaced the original with a Nagoya NA-771 which almost a full quarter wavelength at 2m). Signal was about S3 each way. That was also my first QSO using the new handheld. I wasn't really expecting any 23cm contacts (I wasn't 100% sure about using only 5 watts on 2 metres either, there never seems to be that much activity from Scottish hills, but that turned out OK).

The views from the top were really good, I could see all the way down the west Cumbria coast to Black Combe and the Isle Of Man. If you want a Scottish summit with a good chance of working a lot of non-Scottish stations, Criffel is probably one of the best.
I'm typing this on a Samsung N130 netbook which I'm borrowing at the moment. My own laptop could almost be called a netbook, having an 11.1" screen, but it has a dual core processor and 1366*768 so would be more of a proper laptop in performance. This Samsung doesn't seem slow though. But then it's running Windows XP, which can run on just about any PC made in the last 10 years.
Tomorrow I think I'll have a go at one of the nearby smaller hills. I've got an 18ah battery with me and can use my FT8900 that I've got in the car, to give 50 watts on 2m. Later I'll go and have a look for something to eat, something that isn't from the Little Chef next door. The food is OK but £7.25 for breakfast? I don't think so.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

APRS

I'm now operating APRS on 144.800 MHz. Using UI-View V2.39 and AGWPE sound card packet engine. My Icom IC-7000 rig is being controlled via the PC's COM port (PTT controlled by RTS signal).

2009-December-12 11:56 12 stations
----------------------------------
Callsign Type Latitude Longitude Miles Bearing Last Heard
-------- ---- -------- --------- ----- ------- ----------
-MB7UXB* Tcp/ip 53.28.08N 002.54.36W 47.3 164 Dec 12 11:54
-G7HEJ WX Station 53.49.81N 003.02.47W 21.7 160 Dec 12 11:54
+G1EUH Digi 53.36.12N 002.50.53W 39.4 156 Dec 12 11:50
M1VIP-9* Truck 53.21.26N 002.32.85W 60.1 152 Dec 12 11:49
G4HYG-9* Van 53.32.75N 002.25.91W 51.6 141 Dec 12 11:47
+M1AVV Home 54.07.50N 003.13.50W 0.0 0 Dec 12 11:45
+G1EUH-5 WX Station 53.36.12N 002.50.53W 39.4 156 Dec 12 11:44
-MB7UBN Tcp/ip 53.32.76N 002.25.91W 51.6 141 Dec 12 11:38
-G6YRK* Home 53.26.31N 001.58.33W 70.0 132 Dec 12 11:38
-G6GVI* Home 53.34.66N 002.26.84W 49.5 140 Dec 12 11:37
+MB7UNI* Digi 53.00.75N 002.10.80W 88.2 150 Dec 12 11:24
+GX0RYQ School 53.22.16N 002.01.36W 71.9 136 Dec 12 11:15

Key: '+' = UI-View user '*' = heard via a digipeater

Just checked my SOTA scores and my chaser total for this year is higher than what I got in 2007 or 2008 (but not as high as what I got in 2004 - 2006). There's still over 2 weeks to go as well.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

DJ-G7 settings

Just been reading the manual for my new Alinco DJ-G7 and it confused me. It says that to get into set mode, you have to press Function and then press down on one of the dials on top of the radio. This doesn't work on mine, I had to press Function and then Moni (button on the side) to get to the top level of the set menu. Pressing Function and the dial just got me to a display settings part of the menu system.
Now to start putting some memories in.

QSL via the bureau (or not)

I got a load of QSLs sent to me yesterday from the QSL bureau. Some of these were from contacts over 4 years ago. I got my last batch of cards 3 years ago. I'm not that bothered about getting QSL cards and up until a few weeks ago I never had any of my own to send. Even my EQSL account has a lot of cards waiting for me to look at, as I found out the other day when I got an email telling me.
One of the reasons was that until about a year ago I wasn't an RSGB member so couldn't send QSL cards via their bureau, and I wasn't going to buy a stamp for every QSO I made. Now I can actually send a lot of cards at once so I might have a go at replying to all these cards. And even the one I received directly in February 2008 and still haven't got round to replying to (sorry, if you can remember who you are!).
Which made me think about logbooks - what do you use? I've never got into the habit of using a proper amateur radio logbook program. I do keep a log on the computer but it's a basic MS Access table and often I've written the QSOs down on paper before I enter them into that. I write most of my contacts in a paper Moleskine notebook (the Mac of paper notebooks, expensive and has a bit of a cult following. But they are good), and sometimes first record them on scraps of paper, notepads, a mobile phone's notepad or other temporary storage. To me, a proper logging program seems more useful to someone who sits down in front of the radio for a long time and makes a lot of QSOs. If you're like me and might make a single QSO then do something else (I've never recorded more than about 200 QSOs in a month and on an average day I won't be making more than 5), it's not worth starting the computer up unless it's already running (and mine isn't on all the time). Then there are all the mobile and portable contacts where it's not possible to log to a computer in real time.
For portable operations I sometimes transfer from electronic (phone/databank) > paper (Moleskine) > electronic (Access/online databases). The Moleskine isn't organised like a normal logbook, the QSO details are mixed in with a lot of other stuff I feel like writing down, like received stations, things to do etc. If I went totally electronic for recording contacts, I'd probably have some kind of system where I had free text like in a notebook but contacts could be tagged as such and searched. Might as well stick it all in a blog then!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

70cm contest

Made 6 QSOs last night in the 70cm activity contest. The furthest was to IO93AD (probably Merryton Low near Leek). Also got M1EYP/P on The Cloud so that was a SOTA chaser point.
I'm in IO84JC and IO84 is quite a rare square, compared to IO83 where most of my contacts were with. I'm almost in IO84JD, a few more doors up the street from me is another square. I also used to live in IO84JD when I was in Dalton.

http://www.bizarrerecords.com/ - some rather strange albums. Never heard any of them, but I do have this one by Peter Wyngarde

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Alinco

Got my Alinco DJ-G7 today. Not had much of a chance to test it but I did connect it up to my base station antenna to see whether it would cope with the strong signals. It wasn't that bad on 2 metres, but on 70cm the attenuator had to be on to hear anything at all. The biggest signals here are Airwave on 392 MHz and the data on 440 MHz, both from Barrow town centre. Paging isn't a problem any more, I'm nowhere near any paging transmitters so 2 metres isn't as bad as it used to be when using a handheld on an outdoor antenna.
I need to go up a hill where there will be some 23cm activity. Next week's trip to Scotland might not be the best one to try 23cm but I'll have the handheld with me when I go up Criffel anyway, mainly just to listen to stuff.

Kinder Scout

Walked up Kinder Scout (SOTA SP-001) yesterday. I'd stayed at Ashton-Under-Lyne the night before so didn't have very far to go after getting breakfast at Asda. Parked near Hayfield.
I'd advertised this on Sotawatch as a 6 metre FM activation, so set up my 6 metre half wave at the top (another fishing pole construction) taped to an aluminum pole. Luckily there was some mud at the top to push the pole into. Made 4 QSOs on 6m FM, the furthest was to G0TQN/M at the Clent Hills near Halesowen, who was using an 18 MHz mobile antenna. He also tried the real 6m mobile antenna and there was no great difference. 3 * 18 = 54 so it would be like a 3/4 wavelength at 51 MHz.
If it wasn't for the Sotawatch website there would probably have been 0 QSOs on 6 metres, and it wasn't easy getting my phone to work on the summit, too many cell sites within range, but I managed to get a minute of Orange reception (I'm with 3 but it fails over to Orange if there is no 3G signal) which was enough to post a spot. Maybe they could reserve some cellular frequencies for use near to hilly areas so that there was always one cell that was well above the background noise. For Kinder Scout it would be Birch Vale mast, for the Lake District probably Coniston High Man and some others around the edge of the hills.

It's the 70cm activity contest tonight. I've been taking part in these for the last year and usually coming somewhere close to last. This doesn't really surprise me as I've been using a dual band colinear from home. But I do seem to be higher up the results table than on 2 metres so maybe more people are having a go with basic antennas on 70cm. I think there should be a section in VHF/UHF contests for vertically polarised stations (single vertical antenna, <100 watts etc.).

Sunday, 6 December 2009

23cm

Had a look on the Ofcom website and the mast at Waterfoot (SD845209) is used by United Utilities, in the 139 MHz band.
Staying at Ashton-Under-Lyne tonight so after getting a pizza, went for a drive around. Parked at the top of Dukinfield and had a listen to the radio. Worked G0BWC/A on 70cm, in Bolton. After talking about 23cm activity in the north west, I decided that my mission for 2010 would be to work someone on 23cm (just hearing someone would be a start, I've had receivers for that band for 15 years and never heard a single thing, probably because I've never had a decent antenna for it). People are using it from hill tops in this area.
Now I've ordered myself an Alinco DJ-G7E triplebandheld (2m/70cm/23cm) which will do about 1 watt on 23cm. That's a lot for a 23cm handheld, one of the old Standard ones put out 35mw! There's not much point in buying another dualbandheld because unless you get a D-Star one, there's nothing there which hasn't been done before. Even the Icom IC-E92 is just the E91 (which I've already got) with a D-Star module fitted, it has no other features. That's another thing to try next year, D-Star. Will Digital Voice take over from analogue FM voice? Things don't change that quickly.
See you on 23cm!

Hailstorm Hill

SOTA activation of Hailstorm Hill SP-009 today. I'd put on Sotawatch that I was going to be up there at 12:00 on 12 metres but I slept in so got to the summit about 2pm. Used the 24 MHz half wave which I'd used on Easington Fell in October.
This is made from about 4.5m of wire taped to a 5m fishing pole, fed through a "long wire balun" which I'd bought at a rally. On its own, that is resonant at about 33 MHz, with the "balun" transforming the high impedance of the half wave down to 50 ohms.
To pull the resonant frequency down without changing the length of the wire, I connected another length of wire (about 1 metre long) to the feed end of the 4.5m wire, and coiled that round the base of the fishing pole, so it goes round the "balun" and some of the coax. For 29 MHz, about 50cm of wire is needed instead. I could have used a normal coil at the feed point but this got the SWR down low enough and the antenna seems to work OK.

I made 3 QSOs on 24 MHz, to G0VOF in Blackburn, G0RXA in Stockport and G0SLR in Warrington. 12 metres isn't the most popular band in the world, which is one reason I've started using it, so 3 QSOs isn't too bad. I would have preferred 4 though, to make it a 'proper' 12 metre activation. After the 12 metre contacts dried up, I went on 18 MHz, as the SWR wasn't too bad on there (I'll try anything on the FT817 if the SWR meter shows 3 bars or less, about 3:1 - it was 3 bars on 18 MHz today, it was on 7 MHz too!).
I was hearing stations from the USA at S9 on 18 MHz, as well as some of the UK stations working them. I spoke to G0VOF again on this band, with not quite as good a signal as on 12 metres, but both our antennas were designed for higher frequencies. There were no other QSOs on 18 MHz. On both 18 and 24 MHz, there was some noise, above the level that you would normally get on a hill top. This was probably from the wind turbines, of which one was about 50 metres from me.

To get the 4th QSO I gave up with HF and tried 2 metres using my new Wouxun dualbandheld. There wasn't exactly a pile-up on there either, with M0LMP/P replying from somewhere near Pendle Hill. Today was the first day I'd used the Wouxun on transmit. It has a 2 tone 'roger bleep' which can be turned off. People say there is no need to use a bleep on FM and it might seem a bit "CB-ish" to some but there have been times when someone has been unsure if I've stopped transmitting on FM because I've not said my callsign, back to you etc. at the end of a transmission so maybe there is a use for a roger bleep because if the signal is good and the other person has their squelch up, it's possible they may miss the end of transmission. With CTCSS or digital voice, this is even more of a problem.

I walked up Hailstorm Hill from the north side, unlike last time I did it when I parked on the road between Edenfield and Rochdale. This time I parked in the village of Boarsgreave, which is about a mile up the hill from Waterfoot in Rossendale. I parked at the point where the road becomes a track, opposite an old factory (SD841206). From there the track continues up onto the moor, near a couple of mobile phone masts and another mast which has Airwave and a load of VHF Hi-Band sized folded dipoles.

On the way there I got stuck in traffic on the A56 between the M65 and Haslingden. There was about a mile long tailback from a roundabout. Why was there a tailback? Because they had just put some cones and a roadworks sign in the nearside lane just before the roundabout. Because people were pulling out into the other lane and others were letting them change lanes, the traffic almost completely stopped. There was no roadworks, it hadn't started. The roadworks was going to be after the roundabout anyway. It looked like there has already been a crash because of this, with 2 cars at the side of the road, and an ambulance with them. Is it worth smashing 2 cars to put up a roadworks sign?