Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New Laptop

Bought a new laptop yesterday (well it was the 'January' sales) - an Acer Aspire 4820T.
With a 14" screen, its just a bit more portable than the average laptop, without losing any of the features like a DVD drive. My last laptop had an 11" screen (and still had a DVD drive) and I think the medium sized models are best (11 - 14" screens), being someone who uses their laptop mostly away from home.
Netbooks look nice and easy to carry around but there are many times when I need to burn a CD or DVD away from home, or even just watch a DVD.
I've had an Acer laptop before, a Travelmate 4101 which I had from May 2005 - March 2008.

Also today I got 2 new handheld antennas (Nagoya NA-701 and NA-702) which are SMA-M fitting 2m/70cms. These are about 21 and 28cm long, somewhere between the standard antenna supplied with the handheld and the largest 'Super Gainer' whips. The 40cm long whips are a bit big to use when carrying a radio inside my coat or bag.
The biggest improvement is away from the amateur bands, increasing the length slightly has given a much wider bandwidth because a smaller loading coil is used. I recently got a Watson WSMA-7000 (18cm long) and that was no better than any of the original handheld antennas.
The shorter of the 2 new antennas (NA-701) seems slightly better on UHF.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Puxing PX-2R

I recently ordered a Puxing PX-2R handheld and it arrived today.
This covers 400 - 470 MHz, with 2 watts RF power.
The battery is a 3.7v mobile phone type and charging is through a Nokia type 2mm power connector at 5 volts, so it will charge from a USB port (cable supplied) or Nokia phone charger.
It has a female SMA antenna connector (unlike other Chinese handhelds).
The manual has no information about how to store frequencies into the 128 memories or connect to a PC for programming, but there is programming software available on the Puxing website and the 2.5mm speaker/mic socket must be used for the PC connection. There is no mention of 6.25KHz steps either, the menu allows only 12.5 or 25 KHz channel steps, but if you type in a 6.25 KHz offset frequency (e.g. 446006) then it tunes in 12.5 KHz steps from that frequency (446.00625, 446.01875 etc.)
As usual for this type of radio, the S-meter is useless, taking about 2 seconds to respond to any change in signal and showing either full or nothing.
For £28 including postage this is worth the money though.
Forum discussion on this handheld
Instructions on storing memories

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Old Stuff

Some old radios of mine:
Fidelity CB3000 homebase. 40 UK channels. I don't think I've ever talked to anyone on this, probably got it off someone giving up and left it in a cupboard for the last few years.


AOR AR1500 scanner. 0.5 - 1300 MHz AM/FM/SSB, 1000 memories.
I used to have one of these from 1994 - 1996 (first scanner I owned) but bought another 2nd hand in 2007 just to remember what it was like. It doesn't have a lot of the features you would get on a more modern receiver but at the time it was one of the best. This one is probably in better condition than my old one before I lost it but my old one was an AR1500EX, whatever that meant. I've got the case for this, just took it off to take the picture.


Realistic PRO-50 scanner. 20 memories. 68 - 88, 137 - 174 and 406-512 MHz FM only.
I bought this in November 1996 after my AR1500 was stolen. It was the cheapest scanner at the time and cost about £50. It was an 'American style' scanner, with only 5 KHz steps on VHF. It was enough to last me until January 1998 when I got a 2m/70cm ADI handheld. It looks a mess because it's not grey plastic, it's black plastic painted grey and the paint started coming off soon after I bought it.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Nokia NetMonitor

I've got an old Nokia 3310 phone which I've had for nearly 8 years. I don't use it as my main mobile any more (not since December 2004), but after I got a new phone I unlocked it and enabled the Network Monitor functions. The unlocking was through a serial port cable which goes to a special connector underneath the battery.

The Network Monitor screens show lots of data about the phone's battery, software and radio transceiver. The best ones are tests 3,4,5,11 and 17. The current channel number and Cell ID are shown, as well as the channel and signal strength of nearby cells. Signal strengths are in dBm, how can a cheap mobile phone display signal strengths in 1dB steps but on the amateur bands we still have to have meters in S-units which may or may not be about 6dB per unit except when we're using FM?

Other phones often have some kind of Network Monitor screen (there's an Android app which can show the Cell ID but not the channel number, at least on my HTC Hero). On my Sony Ericcson K750 I could get Cell ID and channel numbers on a built in test screen.

The most interesting test of all is number 17, BTS Test. This locks the phone to a single radio channel, so it can't look for the nearest base station. The channel number is selected by storing it as a phone number at address book position 33 on the SIM card.
You can go up a hill and get a base station far away (over 50km), as long as there is nothing local on that channel. At home in an upstairs room I can get the Vodafone base station at Lancaster (the same site as the GB3LD repeater), which is on channel 77 (950.4 MHz).

The base stations are identified by the country code, network number, LAC and CID. LAC is the region of the country where the station is. This helps give a rough idea of where an unknown base station might be if there are none nearby.
For Vodafone, the LAC in this local area is 170.
The CID is the Cell ID. It could be used more than once in the UK, but with a different LAC. Different networks have different CID numbering systems. O2 has the most meaningful.
For O2, the CID is usually a 5 digit number.
The first digit is the sector (the direction of the base station antenna, where there are usually 3 different antennas on separate frequencies, spaced at 120 degrees round the mast). The sector number is 1, 2 or 3.
If the CID is less than 5 digits for an O2 site, an omnidirectional antenna is being used or only a single panel. This might be because it's an old site which has been around from the analogue days or it only has to cover a small area like inside a tunnel.
Sector numbers usually go clockwise starting with 1 as the most northerly pointing antenna. So a CID of 15432 would be base station 5432, beaming north. 30439 would be base station 439, probably beaming towards the south-west. If this was simply CID 439, it would probably be an old site with a single omnidirectional antenna.
If the last 4 digits are 0001 to 01499 then there's a good chance the site had been used for the analogue cellular system, but not always, some newer sites use numbers in that range.

Some older Vodafone cells use a similar numbering system but with the sector number at the end. If the last digit is zero then it is omnidirectional. Newer sites don't follow this system and the numbers mean nothing.
Example:
The Lancaster Langthwaite site I get at home has a CID of 1643. This is an old site, which was in use for analogue phones. On the Sitefinder website, this is shows as being site number 164. I'm roughly west of Lancaster, so sector number 3 will be mostly directed towards Barrow.
At the railway station in Barrow there is a Vodafone site with 2 omnidirectional antennas. This is site 3753 on Sitefinder and the CID is 37530.

Channel numbers on the 900 MHz band (O2, Vodafone) are 0.2 MHz offsets from 935 MHz. So channel 75 is 950 MHz.
O2 normally use 37 - 59 and 101 - 124.
Vodafone normally use 65 - 99
On the UK networks, only the odd channel numbers are widely used, except for channels 123 and 124 (for some reason channel 123 is missed out and 124 used instead).

At 1800 MHz, T-Mobile are using the channel 575 - 715 range and Orange in the 750 - 870 range, but that might change now it's the same company.

Some local sites:
O2
Morecambe Bay
CID 10439, channel 109 (North)
CID 20439, channel 101 (towards Ulverston)
CID 30439, channel 57 (towards Barrow)

Lancaster TV mast
CID 10210, channel 53
CID 20210, channel 55
CID 30210, channel 124

Vodafone
Morecambe Bay
CID 2930, channel 91
omnidirectional

Langthwaite
CID 1643, channel 77
2 other sectors unknown channel numbers

Dalton TV mast
CID 8334, channel 65 (Dalton town centre)
CID 8335, channel 93 (south-west)
CID 8336, channel 97 (north)

All except Dalton TV mast used to be analogue sites.
Old analogue control data channels:
Morecambe Bay Vodafone = 935.8375 (omni)
Morecambe Bay Cellnet = 943.5125 (omni)
Langthwaite Vodafone = 935.6875 (sector 1), 935.8625 (sector 2), 936.0375 (sector 3)
Lancaster TV mast Vodafone = 935.7375 (omni)
Lancaster TV mast Cellnet = 943.0875 (omni)

2m Activity Contest

I had a go at the 2m UK Activity Contest on Tuesday night. I'm not quite last in the claimed scores. Best DX was 129km. This was from home using 50w SSB to a vertical.
If only someone else in IO84 was on, then I would have more than doubled my points because all 6 QSOs were in IO83.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The 13s

Old Man Of Coniston G/LD-013 - 21st October
Used FT-817 into mobile antenna taped to a broom handle. Rained on the way up.

Also used the 70 MHz Wouxun handheld to work G4RQJ and G7RNX.
The FT-817's voltage was dropping from 11.1 to 8.9 on transmit. The LiPo battery wasn't flat (after putting about 1Ah into it afterwards it was fully charged) so there must have been some high resistance joint in line, could be the power connector because there isn't much contact area between the socket and the board where I re-soldered it.

Gun G/SP-013 - 24th October
Used Icom IC-E91 handheld and the battery kept going flat, even though it hadn't been used on transmit since I charged it a few days ago. Maybe it was the cold? The battery meter was reading full but when going back to receive, the radio would switch itself off (never halfway through a transmission). In low power, this never happened. I've had this happen before. I know the battery will discharge after a couple of weeks of non-use but not this quickly.

Summit to Summit with G/WB-007 Heath Mynd

APRS tracker now on a sticky mat instead of a taped up mess

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

4m handheld experiment

I'd got my new Garex 70 MHz flexi whip for the handheld but it still didn't seem that good compared to a handheld on a higher frequency. So I tried a few different lengths of wire and other cables as a counterpoise.
A data cable plugged into the speaker/mic sockets on the side made an improvement in my transmitted signal, this cable was around 90cm or just under 1/4 wavelength on 70 MHz. Other cables such as plugging the speaker mic in made little improvement, so the length was quite important.
In the end I went for 90cm of insulated wire, with a few cm bare wrapped round the SMA connector. This wire was left to hang down behind the radio.
I then tried using the original Wouxun rubber duck with the wire counterpoise and the result was better than the Garex whip + no counterpoise. I'm guessing about 6dB improvement from the longer whip and 10dB difference from the wire counterpoise. It meant the difference between signal or noise to G7RNX who is about 5Km away, while I was stood indoors.
On a different handheld such as an ex-PMR one where there will be a bigger area of metal (battery pack, metalwork on the case) there might not be as much of an improvement but it would definitely help.

The lift conditions are still there on VHF/UHF and have been for over 2 days. Today I left my APRS station receiving on 144.800 all day and there were packets being received from France and Belgium, as well as some in the south west of Ireland.

Last night I fixed the power socket on my FT-817, the centre pin of the socket had been pushed back inside (this might have been because of a damaged plug) and this had broken the solder connection with the circuit board. I put the centre pin back in place and soldered it. The rest of the socket was OK.

Monday, 11 October 2010

2m WSPR

Last night, conditions on VHF/UHF were really good. I was hearing stations from the Midlands and south east England. I tried 2m WSPR, even though there weren't many stations active on there.
Here are the reports from last night, I received and got a report from DL1DBC in JO31, 762Km away. That was me using 10 watts to a vertical.

Monday, 4 October 2010

PSK Reporter


40m (7.035 MHz USB) PSK31 reception tonight using Digital Master 780. List of countries:

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Mynydd Y Cwm

Mynydd Y Cwm (GW/NW-076)
All the equipment worked properly this time but I only made 3 contacts in 45 minutes. This was at 11am on a Tuesday. The hill isn't in a bad place, it was just quiet this morning.
Got G4ZRP, GW0WTT and MW0IDX/M on 2m FM.

Breakfast from some cafe in Colwyn Bay

Halkyn WSPR

18 MHz WSPR from the car at Halkyn Mountain. Used the laptop line out into FT-817 mic socket (VOX and some resistors to drop the level). Set the PC clock before going out as there wasn't a decent mobile internet connection up there.

The antenna was Watson Multi Ranger 200.
From near there I got into the APRS gateway MB7UL-10 at Keighley (same site as GB3TP), as well as MB7UXB (Liverpool), MB7UCW (Crewe), MB7UBN (Bolton) and MB7UWC (Warrington). Going further west along the A55, the APRS activity dies off.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Failure

Things didn't go as planned today - after I thought I'd got the FT-817's power cable sorted (it was working last night when I tried it in the car), it stopped working again on the summit of Tal Y Fan (GW/NW-040). I'd carried the Watson W50, poles and 9 element 70cm yagi up there, and now that the FT-817 wasn't working, they were useless. If only I'd not left the SO-239 to SMA connector in the car...
Well I managed to do the activation with my 2m/70cm and 4m handhelds. The 4m handheld is definitely better with its new Garex flexi whip. Probably not as efficient as a 2m handheld though.
When I got back to the car I tried the 817 with a different power cable and it still didn't work, the plug wouldn't even stay in. Time to change the FT-817's power socket I think.
Next stop was the Great Orme where I set up about 5pm. Not having a working FT-817, I tried running the FT8900 from the car on my 11.1v 4Ah LiPo battery. The mobile rig worked with no problems, I kept the power at 10 watts but even with 35 watts on 70cm nothing bad happened. I might start using a 50 watt mobile rig out portable with 2 of these batteries (one for standby). As long as you don't spend lots of time calling CQ with no reply, you only need about 5 minutes of transmit time to make the minimum 4 QSOs for a SOTA activation. You might not need the full 50 watts for each contact either, only a couple of difficult ones. It's a light way to get 10dB more transmit gain as something like an FT1500 doesn't weigh much more than a handheld and will fit in a large pocket.
I set up the 9 element 70cm yagi and W50 at the Great Orme summit (western end of the car park). This was the first time I'd tried the yagi. I called CQ a bit and put a spot on Sotawatch for myself. There were no replies. Monday teatime isn't a good time. I plugged in the W50 and had a tune around. GB3MP at S1? Something wrong there. No I hadn't plugged the 70cm antenna back in by mistake. I took the coax plug out so the braid was disconnected, MP was now up to S5. The coax had been damaged inside, when I moved it about the signal was changing and actually went up to S9 for a second before going back to S1.
... so even had the FT-817 worked or I'd brought the SMA adaptor up Tal Y Fan, I would still have carried the antennas up there for nothing as they wouldn't have worked.
The 70cm yagi was working properly at Great Orme because it was on its own 2m long N - N cable (both antenna and rig have N connectors). With the FT-817 I'd have used the 5m long RG58 cable I used with the W50.
As it was only a 20 second walk back to the car, I went back and got a 2m long PL259 - BNC cable which could go from the W50 to a BNC-N adaptor on the FT8900. This cable and adaptor is part of my mobile antenna system, so I wouldn't normally have carried it up a hill.
The cable was a bit short but I just taped the FT8900 to the fence to get it above the ground. I had the remote head on a cable so it didn't matter where the main bit was.
I couldn't tell any difference between the yagi and the W50 on 70cm, even in the proper direction. Maybe the extra height (it would have about 80cm more average height above ground than the yagi) made up for the difference in gain. I'll have to check the SWR of the yagi when I get home. Both antennas were on similar lengths of RG58 coax and the yagi had only N connectors in the signal path.
On 145 MHz I managed to get the 4 QSOs I needed before I'd had enough and went to get some tea.

Tomorrow I plan to activate NW-076. What could possibly go wrong?

I'll get some pictures from today on another time, but here are a few from yesterday:

Sandpiper 23cm yagi on summit of Foel Fennli


Moel Famau from Foel Fennli


Moel Y Parc TV mast, taken from Halkyn Mountain.


Beef curry, boiled rice, chicken & sweetcorn soup. From somewhere in Mold. For 20% less than Barrow prices. It's like £5.60 in Barrow for an average meal and £4.40 round there. I went to this place in Ellesmere Port and it was also in the £4.40 region.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

FT-817 power plug

I found out what the problem was with the 4/1.7mm power plug I was using with my FT-817. The barrel of the plug (-ve) was not making contact with the solder terminal. I'd bought 3 of these plugs and the other 2 checked out OK with a meter. You can't see that the 2 parts aren't touching. I put a bit of solder between them.

CT17 interface

I bought a Icom CT17 CI-V interface cable from G4ZLP for my Icom IC-7000. This is a 9-pin serial port to 3.5mm jack plug cable. At first it would not work in Ham Radio Deluxe but it needs the DTR and RTS flow control/interface power boxes checking when connecting to the radio.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Monday, 20 September 2010

70 MHz Flexiwhip

I've ordered a 'tuned flexiwhip for 70MHz' from Garex for use with my Wouxun handheld. The Wouxun's own rubber duck gets nowhere but switching to a 50cm long (50% of a full 1/4 wave instead of 20%) antenna should make some improvement. It will help when I want to operate on 70 MHz portable but can't bring an antenna for every band.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

WSPR this week

Furthest 10


Nearest 10

Pendle Boulsworth Rombalds Cracoe

Pendle Hill from Boulsworth Hill - 12th September



War memorial at the top of Cracoe Fell - 13th September. I stood next to this on the East side to shelter from the rain. So if you were to the west, that may be why you never heard me



Had to make do with only handhelds for this trip, the FT-817's power plug suddenly stopped fitting properly (it had worked OK before) and I hadn't brought any SMA to PL-259 adaptors. I thought the 817's power socket had been damaged or just worn out but that night I tried the 9 volt PSU which came with my Eken M003 Android tablet (also using a 4/1.7mm connector) and it worked OK.

I made a QSO on 144.6125 MHz D-Star from Boulsworth Hill with G0DFO who wasn't very far away. I was a good signal except it was a windy day up there and there was a lot of wind noise in my microphone. Which reminded me of the limits of voice communication over radio.
1)Everything we needed to know could have been transmitted in the data which is automatically sent with each transmission
2)No matter how noise free and spectrum efficient digital voice is, it's still only as good as your microphone and loudspeaker
3)Somebody still has to be there to talk to you

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Nagoya UT-108

Don't buy a Nagoya UT-108 dual band mini magmount antenna. They're available on Ebay from a few places. There are a few other in their range of mini magmount antennas, which are smaller or have different connectors.
On my car roof, it was a lot worse on 70cms than the proper mobile antenna (Watson W-770 copy) which was mounted quite close to the ground on the tailgate. Probably the RG-174 coax being so lossy but it didn't seem to be resonant on any amateur band at all. Even when the car body was in the way, the W-770 was much better.
The mini magmount was OK around 165 MHz, compared to other antennas, but none of the others were meant to work on that frequency anyway.
Other mini magmount antennas are probably the same, but the last one I had (I think it was from Moonraker) fell apart soon after I bought it. Other stuff from Nagoya looks like it's a direct copy of the Diamond/Watson antennas.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Cash Machine


Is this Windows 98 on a cash machine? This was at Barrow Asda.

Monday, 16 August 2010

WSPR Report

7.04011
VK6BN
OF88ac
14696
10.1402
W4AEJ
EM60sm
6885
10.14021
W3HH
EL89vb
6736
10.14023
KC0BMF
EN31be
6461
10.1402
AK4T
EM74vb
6451
10.14021
N8NM
EN82hp
5727
10.14021
AJ4FA
FM17tq
5669
10.14021
W3CSW
FM19kd
5605
10.14021
K1JT
FN20qi
5356
21.09611
4X1RF
KM72ls
3814

My furthest WSPR reports this week

Thursday, 12 August 2010

PSK Reporter

I installed the latest version of Ham Radio Deluxe (Version 5) and tried PSK Reporter.
There was a problem with my USB CI-V cable to the IC-7000, Windows 7 doesn't like it and as soon as I tried to change frequency using Ham Radio Deluxe, there was a Blue Screen Of Death. It seems that this happens sometimes when using USB adaptors which are based on the Prolific chip, the other sort which have FTDI chips in aren't as bad.
Digital Master 780 still works without a CI-V connection to the rig, it just doesn't know what frequency it's on.
After leaving Digital Master on for a while on 14.070, receiving PSK31 signals, I had 100 received stations and 25 countries. I put a few CQ calls out myself and some stations received me (I saw them through the PSK Reporter site, as well as having one Russian station actually reply to me over the air).

I like these 'automatic' modes, they might not be proper contacts but you still need to be able to transmit some kind of a radio signal for anybody to be able to receive you so I think it's still proper radio. You don't need loads of power just to be louder than the person you're trying to shout over the top of to work that DX station.

Friday, 6 August 2010

WSPR top 10s

This week's furthest reports:
Freq
Call
Grid Km
14.09707

9V1AL
OJ11vh 10985
14.09712
VU2LID
MJ88lm 8601
10.14021
W3HH
EL89vb 6736
14.09714
N0UR
EN33iu 6216
14.09711
AI4WV
FM05 6010
14.0971
WA4OSS
FM05rt 5952
18.10615
AB4SF
FM17el 5764
14.09711
NB3N
FM19ki 5589
14.09708
WA3DNM
FM29fw 5445
14.09711
K1JT
FN20qi 5356

This week's nearest reports:
Freq
Call Grid Km
28.12615
MW0GRJ IO83kf 97
14.09714
G0MJS IO93br 97
14.09713
G4YTM IO93gl 134
14.09711
G6LUG IO93sr 185
14.09707
G0IMX IO92ao 186
14.09709
GI6ISW IO64sl 215
14.09713
GW6PXW IO81gq 269
14.09712
GW0UHO IO81hq 269
14.09713
GW3TYI IO81ao 283
28.12611
G4IKZ JO02af 301

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Yarlside



Yarlside (SOTA G/NP-019) which I activated today. Even though it's over 600m, it's one of the worse hills to get out from because it's behind other higher North Pennine hills in the direction that most people are.
Used the FT-817 into a mobile antenna (half wave) on 2m FM and SSB.

The view south with Baugh Fell NP-012 in front, Aye Gill Pike NP-023 in the middle distance and Great Coum NP-011 in the background. I walked up from the main road at Cautley. There is an Orange phone mast at Cautley but once at the top, there is also 3G mobile coverage from 3. Not many hills of that height have decent phone coverage at the top, but this one might be better just because it's screened from anywhere else so no co-channel interference from other cells.

A better 70cms

Now that the data on 440.4125 has gone off in Barrow, I've got a better 70cm band. It used to be strong enough to cause problems on my Icom IC-7000 at home with it appearing at various frequencies in the top half of the amateur band. This was a problem when I was trying to hear D-Star signals which are in the 438 - 440 MHz area.
There are strong local signals in the 453 and 456 MHz bands but these don't cause any problems as they are only on-site business radio users so using a bit less power.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Multi Ranger 200



Watson Multi Ranger 200 on the car. I've not tried this at over 30mph but probably won't be driving very far with a HF mobile antenna on.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Boot Mount

I've just put a Watson boot mount on my car but I've had to put it in about the worst possible place because the car just doesn't have any edges which you can clamp something to. The top of the tailgate has an edge but when the boot opens it goes down underneath the roof so if I put something on there it would get stuck.
In the end I tried it on the left side of the tailgate, just below the back windscreen (just below the lights in this picture - that's not my car, I'll put a photo on soon!). This is about halfway between the floor and the roof but with my Watson W7900, I've still got quite a bit of antenna above the roof level. The radiation pattern is going to be weird but I can get a decent SWR with it there. Not had much chance of comparing it with anything yet, I've only been driving round town.
Being lower down, I should be able to put a HF mobile antenna on without it falling off or hitting stuff. I checked the SWR with the MultiRanger 200 and it was OK on 10MHz and upwards, but lower bands were no good, probably because it's fixed to the tailgate and not straight onto the car body.
Coax is 5D-FB which is 7.6mm so won't go through gaps in doors etc. so the boot mount has a bit of thin white coax crimped onto the end of it to stick through the gap.
I've got a Nagoya UT-108 mini magmount antenna coming too, so that'll be something to compare it against.

Why are laptop DVD drives so slow at reading discs? I'm trying to make an ISO image of a DVD and it's taking forever, doing about 2.5X.

Is the data network on 440/453MHz being closed down? Half of the base stations seem to have gone off round here, a few went off maybe about a year ago but recently more have gone including the one in Barrow on 440.4125 and Hameldon Hill on 453.3375. They were good 'beacons' for checking antennas and UHF propagation.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Arnside Knott

Went up Arnside Knott (SOTA G/LD-058) this afternoon. I took the half wave for 50MHz and also the Sharmans mobile antenna for 2m/70cm but after changing my coax, forgot I needed the SO239 coupler to connect it up, so ended up with nothing but the handheld except on 6m.
Made 2 QSOs on 51MHz FM with G1CCL and G1KLZ. 6m isn't really enough to qualify a summit unless it's further south (like Kinder Scout).
This was another of the G1-only activations - every station I worked had a G1 callsign:
G1OPV/P on NP-016 Dodd Fell Hill (145 MHz)
G1CCL, Morecambe (51 MHz)
G1KLZ, Ingleton (51 MHz)
G1LAT, Wennington (145 MHz)
G1OHH, Lancaster (145 MHz)

I could hear a repeater faintly on 50.800. And the Diversity FM link on 48.525 was S9, even though I was vertically polarised. Some baby monitors at S9 too.

Did some more tests on how efficient my mobile set up was, and the results weren't good. My magmount (Sirio ML-145) was giving about 7dB loss from plug to socket (it has 3.5m of RG58 coax on it) at 435 MHz. I remember measuring it 6 years ago and it was something like 3dB on 70cm so the coax must be going bad. Disconnected the coax and put a plug on the loose end. The loss of this piece was about 3dB which isn't right for 3.5m of RG58.
Yes the cable had gone bad. There was no sign of water in it or breaks in the insulation but it was getting lossy at UHF.
I'd got this magmount nearly 10 years ago at the CB shop in Lymm services while going away on holiday (to Ironbridge). At the time it made a big difference going from a 3/8 type magmount to one with a proper connector on, signals on 70cm were a lot better. I'd started to suspect that 70cm mobile wasn't what it used to be though, but not got round to actually measuring the losses.

I've got the bigger Sirio SO239 magmount which I bought in 2006, which I'll test sometime.

SWR graph of the coax (open circuit at the far end) that I removed from the Sirio magmount (3.5m of RG58). This should be a flat line near the top of the graph:


SWR graph of the magmount with no antenna plugged in (and sat on the carpet at home):

5m of RG58, straight off an old reel, with a PL259 on each end:


On 144MHz the cables look nowhere near as bad as this, it's usually a straight line around 5:1.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Coax update

Made a 5 metre pl259 cable this morning from some old rg58 which i'd
had for years - i got given 2 x 100m reels. on 70cm, I was getting 6
watts out for 9 watts in so the loss was under 2db or 0.4db per metre.
That's better than the 0.6db for that rg8-mini.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

RG8-Mini

RG8-Mini (or RG-8X) is the 50 ohm coax size which is somewhere between RG58 and RG213, 7mm diameter. You might use it where you need flexible coax but where RG58 isn't good enough. But is it really any better than RG58?
It seems to be sold more as a high power HF cable than for use where low loss matters, and I first saw it being used on CB. There were red and grey versions of this cable.
A few years ago I made up a cable of black RG8-Mini, about 11 metres long with PL259 plugs on and sometimes used it for portable operation. I thought it would probably be better than RG58 so wasn't too worried about the loss. But this week when I was on Muncaster Fell I had a listen around 433 MHz and didn't hear very much. I could hear more on my handheld's own antenna than on the 2m/70cm mobile whip that I had set up on a pole.
When I got home I measured the loss of this 11m of RG8-Mini on 2m and 70cm. With a very short piece of RG58 I was measuring 9 watts on 70cm. Replacing that with my coax cable reduced that to 2 watts! That's about 6.5dB loss or 0.6dB per metre. RG58 is supposed to be better than that on 70cm. At 144 MHz, the loss was about 2dB which is more like RG58 should be.
The official figures for RG-8X are better than this but it doesn't seem as much of a standard as RG58 or RG213. I think I bought mine at a rally and I had some on a 2m/70cm dual bander at home before I put decent coax on it so that might have been the same piece of cable.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

70 MHz WSPR

There's some activity on 70 MHz WSPR now, on 70.0286 MHz. I can receive G0MJI from Liverpool, using my Icom IC-7000 and the dual band 2m/70cm colinear on my chimney. On the proper 70 MHz dipole in the loft, there is no improvement in S/N because there is more noise indoors. I've nothing to transmit on 70 MHz SSB though.
Alex G7RNX in Dalton was also on 70 MHz WSPR on Sunday and could be received by G0MJI and G3ZOD (Stockport).

Made a PC to radio interface for an FT-847 before finding out it wouldn't work properly because...
On the Yaesu FT-847 there are separate connectors on the back for FM and SSB data modes. The 6-pin mini DIN socket can only be used to transmit on FM (there seems to be receive audio on SSB through it though). On SSB, transmit and receive audio are through a 3-pole minijack socket. The tip of this jack is for transmit audio and PTT (ground through a resistor to transmit).
The 6-pin socket can be used for the PTT on both FM and SSB.
Connecting a cable directly between the headphone socket on a PC and the FT-847's SSB data socket made the radio stay on transmit. There needs to be a capacitor to block any DC current path which might key it up.
It seems a bit of a strange thing to have 2 data sockets but when the FT-847 was designed, people weren't using a PC sound card for data modes so would have had a standalone packet TNC.

Monday, 28 June 2010

White Hill

Made my first D-Star simplex QSO yesterday, on 144.6125 from the summit of White Hill (SOTA G/SP-006). From there I made 3 D-Star contacts, so not quite enough to qualify the summit digitally but maybe next time. I was using the Icom IC-E91 handheld with UT-121 D-Star board, and a Watson dual band whip antenna.
D-Star QSOs were with:
G3LWK Harold, Banks (near Southport)
G0BMH Ian, Oswaldtwistle
2E0VEK Kevin, Nelson

On the Icom handheld, the digital voice was still OK when there were no s-meter bars showing.
I only have a handheld with D-Star so it's not much good on an outdoor antenna at home but another time I'll have a go from a hill top with some external antenna to try and get 4 digital QSOs.
I also made some 70cm FM contacts from White Hill using the same radio and was trying my Sandpiper 19 element 23cm yagi (with no success, the only thing I could hear was the Stoke repeater on 1297.075 which transmits constantly).

Sunday, 13 June 2010

1980s Design

Not long ago I saw a new CB radio (or should I say single band 28 MHz mobile as they can't be sold as CBs in the UK) for sale, the Superstar Force One
This looks about the same as CB rigs did in 1981 except it has a small LCD screen and USB/SD connectors for external memory (to play music and show photos on the small screen, which is also a large s-meter).
For £300, you'd expect it to have SSB but no, it only has AM and FM so apart from being an expensive digital photo frame, is pretty useless in this country.
They've just kept adding stuff to the old Cobra 148 (there is still a Cobra 148 being made but it's not exactly the same as the original) without making it much better, first the Superstar 3900, then a frequency display with LEDs, next this. There's nothing wrong with the idea of memory card slots in a radio or even one which can play mp3s but does it really have to look like it was made in 1977?

Calf Top

Today I walked up Calf Top (SOTA G/NP-022). I'd been meaning to go somewhere else but it started raining this morning so I went there instead. Walked from the Barbondale road (SD665840 at the boundary of the unfenced road) , up the very steep side of the hill. The rain got worse as I climbed up and at the top the rain was heavy with visibility of about 20 metres.
What I was going to use was my new Sharman's NR-770H mobile antenna taped to a fishing pole. This would have worked because it's a half wave on 2 metres. But I never put it up because the weather was so bad. Instead I just used the Alinco handheld (which is OK in the rain) with it's own rubber duck. With that I made 5 QSOs in about 5 minutes, including G1OPV/P on Ingleborough.
All 5 QSOs were with stations who had G1 callsigns. There was G1OPV and then the 4 local G1s who are quite likely to answer any CQ SOTA call on 145.500. These are:
G1OHH Sue
G1LAT Stephany
G1CCL Dave
G1KLZ Doug

Some Wprime 32M test results for various PCs:
Acer Aspire 3004WLMi laptop (Sempron 3100) = 104 seconds (XP)
Home built AMD Athlon 2400+ desktop = 93 seconds (XP)
Compaq CQ61 laptop (Celeron 900 2.2 GHz) = 83 seconds (Windows 7 64 bit)
The Compaq is the one that 3 supply with their mobile broadband package.
My own AMD Athlon X2 2.6 GHz desktop = 27.7 seconds (Windows 7 32 bit)
My own AMD Phenom 9550 2.2 GHz desktop = 18 seconds (Windows 7 32 bit)
All these are more powerful than one of the netbooks using the single core Atom CPU (about 140 seconds).
The Acer laptop is quite old (the Sempron 3100 was released in July 2005) but if it wasn't for its 448MB of RAM, wouldn't be that bad. The AMD 2400+ machine is from 2003 and could also do with more than its 512MB RAM.
The Compaq might have been a few seconds faster if an internet browser hadn't been left open while doing the test but it's not really that fast (a dual core processor would have cost how much more?).

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ofcom Tech Parameters

For a while, Ofcom (and before that the Radio Authority), have published a spreadsheet of technical parameters for all UK commercial radio and community radio stations. Now they've added all the BBC transmitters so it's a complete list of UK radio broadcast transmitters (AM/FM/DAB).

Stations which have come on air recently in the north west:
Rossendale Radio (Haslingden) 104.7 - Don't look at their website, all it does is show a fake 'virus scan' page!
Manx Radio (Ramsey) 89.5
Point FM (Rhyl) 103.1
Moorlands Radio (Biddulph) 103.7
Alive Radio (Dumfries) 107.3
Peace FM (Hulme) 90.1
North Manchester FM (Moston) 106.6
KCC Live (Knowsley) 99.8
Bolton FM 96.5
Drystone Radio (Sutton In Craven) 106.9

It looks like BBC Radio Cumbria are now using an antenna at the top of Kendal mast on 95.2, instead of the one much lower down which is used for the BBC national stations. The height and radiation pattern are the same as The Bay and Lakeland Radio so probably the same antenna (slanted yagi pointing towards Kendal).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

LS120

I recently added another item to my collection of probably useless computer hardware - a LS120 SuperDisk drive, complete with some brand new (well they might have been sat in a box for the last 10 years) unopened 120MB floppy disks.
I installed it in my main PC using its ATA interface and it shows up as drive A: in Windows 7. Write speed is about 250KB/s, I think this is slower than a Zip drive but faster than 1.44MB floppies.
I've also got a USB Zip drive so if someone discovers a load of Zip or LS120 disks then I might be able to help them. It also reads/writes normal 3.5" floppy disks so I replaced the floppy drive with it.

Monday, 24 May 2010

6 metres

There were good 50 MHz conditions today, I worked 9A2PT (JN75JD) and E76C (JN84MX) on SSB using 50 watts to the loft antenna. These were the first long distance contacts I've made from this house on 6 metres. When I tried WSPR though I wasn't spotted by anyone but only 10 stations were listed as being active, and most of them couldn't receive each other.
28 MHz is also good at the moment, probably the best it's been for a long time.

Yesterday G7RNX and myself activated Seat Sandal (SOTA G/LD-022). Alex was on 70 MHz and I used 144 and 1297 MHz. Didn't hear any other SOTA activity in the Lake District but G1JTD and M3XJV were activating Wainwright summits just across the valley from us near Grasmere.
I tried putting a call out on 144.6125 using my Icom IC-E91 handheld (through the amp and dipole) using D-Star but got no replies, even after putting a spot on Sotawatch. Is there any simplex D-Star activity on 2 metres?
I had a look at the SOTA database and in the activator roll of honour, DV or D-Star isn't an option in the mode field. It would be either Data or Other. Out of all activators in England, since SOTA began, 7 have used Data and 9 have used Other.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

EI2MLP

Got to EI2MLP at Mount Leinster (IO62OO) on 2m APRS from home tonight. That's nearly 180 miles so 2m conditions must be good.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Billinge Hill

Activated Billinge Hill (SOTA G/SP-017) today. I was just stopping on the way south so I didn't stay long, using the Alinco handheld with its own antenna.
Billinge Hill has a few radio masts on it so there is a problem with strong signals overloading but I managed a few contacts on 145 MHz and also 2 on 23cm (G7IEI in Westhoughton and MW1FGQ in Holywell). There is a stone building at the summit with a metal door which is some help in screening from the masts if you stand right next to it on the south side. I've been up there with an FT-817 before and that was OK.

Wythenshawe FM's link from studio to transmitter is on 52.750 MHz wide FM.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Seatallan


On Sunday (9th May) I activated Seatallan (SOTA G/LD-025)
Made 30 QSOs from the summit, on 144 MHz SSB and FM. Used my FT-817 into the 30 watt amp which I'd bought at Blackpool rally. This was powered by its own 4Ah 11.1v battery so was putting out around 25 watts when driven with 5 watts from the 817.
The antenna was a slanted dipole like I used on Harter Fell last month. It had been over 5 years since I'd last been to Seatallan.
The relay in the amp doesn't have enough of a delay before it switches back to receive, but it still worked OK, I can't have sounded that bad. The furthest contacts were to G0TRB (Tamowrth), G0NES (Birmingham) and MM0RWJ (Motherwell), all using SSB.
After using the amp for about an hour, I put it on charge and it took 1000mAh to charge it back to full. I've got a Imax B6 charger which shows the amount of charge put into batteries.
The FT-817 and 4Ah battery all fit into a plastic food box.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Horizon Graph


Graph showing the elevation angle to the horizon from my roof. The flat part of the line is where there is a view out to sea. There is a 180 degree view out to sea from 140 to 320 degrees. The steepest angle is to the top of Black Combe around 335 degrees.
Between 340 and 40 degrees is the hill right behind me, with the horizon about 2km away at the top of Hawcoat.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

2 Easy North Pennines

Lovely Seat (SOTA G/NP-030) and Great Knoutberry Hill (SOTA G/NP-015) today.
Both take about 30 minutes to walk up, and less going down, and are worth 4 points.
Left home about 1pm and parked at the top of Buttertubs pass. Today I used a 1/4 wave ground plane for 145 MHz, made from 4 telescopic antennas and a BNC socket. This was taped to the fishing pole. All contacts were made on 145 MHz FM today.
From Lovely Seat (at about 3:30pm) I got 2 summit-summit QSOs, G4ZOI on LD-049 Kirkby Moor and G1JTD on NP-010 Pen Y Ghent.
As well as the usual chasers G6LKB and G1CCL, I worked M3ZSV in Thirsk.

1/4 wave ground plane antenna at Lovely Seat


Great Knoutberry Hill from Lovely Seat


From Great Knoutberry (at about 5pm) I got:
G4OWG
G1KLZ
G7SKR
2E0HRD
G6LKB
G1OHH

Summit of Great Knoutberry Hill


Lovely Seat from Great Knoutberry


Old car parked where I walked from


Got a total of 4 chaser summits today because I also worked G0HIK on Whitbarrow Scar (LD-056) and G1OPV on Pendle Hill (SP-005) this morning, both on 145 MHz FM.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

6m Contest



Tonight I had a go at the 50 MHz activity contest. Drove to my favourite spot in IO84KE and set up a horizontal dipole about 3 metres above the ground, facing south east. Using 5 watts SSB from my FT-817 I made 11 QSOs. The furthest was G0LGS/P who I think was in the Cleeve Hill area near Cheltenham (IO81).
All the other stations were in IO83.


It seemed like most people were using horizontal polarisation so it helped using the dipole rather than my usual half wave vertical.
Diversity FM's link on 48.525 MHz (narrow-ish FM) was S8 at my contest site, and there were some quite strong signals (>S5) off various baby monitors (where can't you receive at least one baby monitor signal?). Some other 48 and 52 MHz broadcast links could be heard but very weak. An odd thing I heard was on 50.370 MHz with what sounded like morse in FM, about S2 with some fading.
The Buxton beacon on 50.000 was S0 in CW/SSB and S2 on the FM meter.
Morecambe Bay mast from the contest site


On Sunday I went up Harter Fell (SOTA G/LD-028). For this activation I'd decided I was going to try mostly 144 MHz SSB QSOs so I made a dipole which could easily be set up to be slanted polarisation. This was to give both vertical and horizontally polarised stations a chance to hear me. Often people are limited to either one or the other. It did work OK and I made around 20 QSOs on 2m SSB, with only a couple of people on FM. For those horizontal signals I had to move the dipole around a bit because it was directional but for vertical ones it didn't really matter.
From Harter Fell I got a summit - summit QSO with G4MD and G4OIG who were both on Dent (G/LD-045). This is a chaser unique for me, and a summit which isn't activated a lot. Probably because it's out of the way for anyone who is a visitor to the Lakes.

On 28 MHz WSPR tonight I was received by G0MLC in IO83VJ (Stockport) at -25dB SNR.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

HF Vertical

I'd bought some ferrite rings at the rally last Sunday so decided to have a go at making a transformer for use with a HF vertical antenna.
Wound 9 turns on the ring with a tap at 3 turns for the coax. The wire goes to the other end of the coil. Connected about 7 metres of wire, taped to a 7 metre fishing pole. This had a low SWR at about 28 MHz, and also around 7 MHz (why 7 MHz?).
Went to Kirkby Moor (SOTA G/LD-049) this afternoon and tried it out. On 28 MHz I talked to G6MZX (Thornton In Craven), G6LKB (Ulverston) and G4TUZ (Lancaster). G4BLH and G1KLZ couldn't hear me so it might not have been working very well, I'd expected them to be stronger on that band.

Worked G6LKB and G6CRV (Heysham) on 18 MHz, both were strong signals.
Transmitted some WSPR using the recording stored on my phone, on 7 and 18 and 50 MHz. There was only one report on 7 MHz but on 18 MHz there were a few from the USA. On 50 MHz, I got -28 and -24dB reports from G3ZOD in Stockport, which was about the same as I get from home. As Kirkby Moor is a much better site, the antenna was probably not working that well on 50 MHz either.
Made another 2 QSOs on 145 MHz with other summits (Gummers Howe and Lambrigg Fell) before packing up.

On the way home I parked above Marton and did a test to compare my new vertical with the Watson Multi Ranger 200 on the car. Sent some WSPR on 18 MHz (using the fishing pole) and the reports weren't much different to what other UK stations were getting into the USA.
On 7 MHz I transmitted once from the Watson and then from the fishing pole, 4 minutes later. 2 stations received me both times and there was only 1dB or less difference between the two. A 1.2 metre long mobile antenna isn't going to be very efficient compared to a full size dipole but it was good to know that the home made vertical (which shouldn't work on 7 MHz anyway) worked about as well.
To check the 28 MHz performance against the Watson, I listened to someone in the Liverpool area on 27.800 MHz (CB channel UK21). With the Watson they were S4 but with the fishing pole they were 0.64 wavelengths at 28 MHz).

Another time I'll have to compare my transformer with the red 'long wire balun' and the same length of wire.