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:
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


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.