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

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Homeplug Noise on 27.245

A video I made of noise from the Netgear homeplugs. A single adaptor waiting for a connection.

The amateur bands are supposed to have some more filtering with these but it won't be perfect.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Plug 'n Talk

A pair of Homeplug power line networking adaptors arrived in the post today (no, they're not for use here!) and it reminded me of how far we've come with power line communications in the last few years - who would have imagined that we would have 500 megabit networking down mains cable (or over any other sort of cable)?
I tested the Homeplug (200 megabit) adaptors copying a large file, from one side of the house to the other and the real throughput was more like 35 megabit (around 4MB/s). This is still about twice as fast as WiFi (even using type-N speeds) over the same path though.  Good enough for what they will be used for (extending an ADSL internet connection to a garage).

Back in about 1992, I was playing around with a pair of Radio Shack/Realistic/Tandy Plug 'n Talk intercoms. They used 230KHz FM to transmit down mains wiring. That was in the Long Wave broadcast band, and even though they used FM (narrow deviation), they could still be received on 225 and 234 KHz AM broadcast channels (by slope detection, being a few kHz off the centre frequency).

I don't have them any more but here's a picture of what the box would have looked like. Model number 43-207

They had a locking PTT button, so could be used as a baby monitor and one of the ones I used had been modified to have a line in jack socket. This made it a really lo-fi version of today's iPod FM transmitters, I could broadcast to Long Wave radio receivers in the house. The signal actually extended beyond the house, either along power cables or direct radiation. It could get up to around 250 metres depending on where the power cables were coming from, also holding a portable radio by telephone poles improved the signal greatly.
At that time there were also some intercoms that used lower frequencies of around 80 - 140KHz (a 4 channel model with 20KHz spacing?) but these would have been no use for my microbroadcasting activities, being below the Long Wave band.



Eurosonic Ultimate



Bought this Eurosonic Ultimate 80 channel CB handheld in 2000, I think it was cheap as Barrow Tandy was closing down.
The short antenna had a TNC connector but the plug was glued tight as if they didn't want anybody to use it with an external antenna!
There was also no external power connector, the battery pack (8 AA cells) had a charging circuit built in and a power jack. I've connected this directly to the battery contacts so it can be used with external 12V DC, as I don't think I'll be using it on the battery very often.




More power on 28MHz

I've been using JT65 on 28MHz quite a bit recently, with 5 watts from my FT-817. I thought I'd try using a bit more power, remembering I had a Euro CB EA-150 amplifier that I'd not used for a long time.
With 0.5 watts input (the lowest power setting on the 817), it was already putting out around 35 watts at 28MHz, which was quite enough for a weak signal mode and transmitting continuously. I think it will do about 100 watts, which means that at a normal CB type drive level (4 -12 watts) it wouldn't be a very clean SSB signal.
The transmitted signal is OK, I'm getting received by some stations on 28.076.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Eurosonic ES200LCD

Eurosonic ES200LCD CB handheld (video).

I bought one of these in 1995 at Tandy in Kendal and remember going a walk up Whitbarrow Scar on the way home.
Like most CB handhelds of the 80s and 90s, it used no fewer than 10 AA cells, before we could get 5 watts from a 7.4v Li-Ion battery.
One thing about this radio was the extremely low S-meter, I measured the bar graph segments as:
S1 = 6uV
S3 = 15uV
S5 = 50uV
S9 = 150uV
S9+ = 1mV
This was actually quite useful as not everyone was 9+
There was also an ES200 with a LED display and no signal meter.

Monday, 13 October 2014

10 Metres JT65

28MHz is getting better now, and I've been trying JT65 on 28.076 for the last few days. My antenna at home isn't very good for this band but even with 5 watts I've been getting quite a few reports via PSK Reporter.
Compared to WSPR, JT65 seems to have a lot more activity on the higher HF bands, especially on 21MHz. Also, with WSPR I was getting out further than I was receiving, which I put down to background noise at my house. But on JT65, I'm receiving stations from the Far East of Asia and West Coast USA. Maybe it's the extremely low power being used on WSPR by a lot of stations or JT65 being more popular.
If I put a CQ call out on JT65, I can get 10 stations spotting me via PSK Reporter, but not one single reply to the CQ call. If there hadn't been a network of stations automatically spotting then I could have called CQ, got no reply and given up.
If someone does reply to my CQ call, the QSO is often never completed because conditions have changed over the 5 minutes it takes to finish a JT65 exchange of reports and RRR.
I don't really mind if nobody does reply to the CQ call and often I'm not even at the radio so it's a bit fiddly clicking stuff through TeamViewer on my phone to reply to people. 
Is it worth sticking with the traditional idea of a 'QSO' for certain data modes, or would it be better to try for the most transmit or receive reports your station allows (maybe the lower of the two if it was for some contest or award).




Saturday, 23 August 2014

Nagoya NA701

Arrived today. This isn't exactly the same as the last one I had - performs a lot worse on 160 - 170 MHz but not bad on the amateur bands. Also more flexible. They are probably all fakes but the packaging looks quite fancy on this one.

The real Nagoya NA-701 doesn't look quite like this. This is a copy of a Watson WSMA801.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Burney

WOTA LDO-075
Using Alinco DJ-G7 and Nagoya NA771 antenna.

10m

TimestampCallMHzSNRDriftGridPwrReporterRGridkmaz
 2014-07-19 10:00  M1AVV  28.126165  -6  0  IO84ic  5  LB9YE  JP54  1402  29 
 2014-07-19 10:00  M1AVV  28.126148  -27  0  IO84ic  5  OZ7IT  JO65df  1008  77 
 2014-07-18 14:40  M1AVV  28.126160  +4  0  IO84ic  5  DB0ZDF  JN49cx  909  116 
 2014-07-18 14:40  M1AVV  28.126148  -18  0  IO84ic  5  DL4MFC  JN58qb  1221  117 
 2014-07-18 14:40  M1AVV  28.126154  -8  0  IO84ic  5  DK6UG  JN49cm  939  118 
 2014-07-18 14:40  M1AVV  28.126151  0  0  IO84ic  5  DF2LV  JO44rs  827  80 
 2014-07-18 14:40  M1AVV  28.126160  -2  0  IO84ic  5  DK0SC  JN59mf  1124  113 
 2014-07-18 11:40  M1AVV  28.126152  -15  1  IO84ic  5  LA3JJ  JO59bh  1000  49 
 2014-07-17 18:24  M1AVV  28.126137  -19  0  IO84ic  5  G4HZW  IO83uh  110  143 
 2014-07-13 09:58  M1AVV  28.126194  -18  0  IO84ic  5  F1AYO  JN33bd  1399  147 
 2014-07-13 09:58  M1AVV  28.126146  -21  0  IO84ic  5  HB9TPL  JN36sc  1176  135 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Alinco software (2)

Tried changing some things to try and get Alinco programming software to break.

Prolific serial driver 3.2.0.0 works best. This is confirmed on the web on quite a few sites, for other cables and sofrware.
An earlier (V2.0 from 2005) also worked.
Driver V3.3 appeared to be OK in Device Manager but gave a Port Error.
Driver V3.4 installed but Device Manager said it could not start.
I had 3 different versions of the programming software installed, but only 2 worked. Both of these were from 2010, the oldest (2009) version gave an error message when trying to read (not Port Error), this could have been a mismatch of firmware or different regional model.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

More Alinco DJ-G7 programming

After over 4 years, I've still not quite figured out the PC programming of my Alinco DJ-G7 handheld.
Usually the software refuses to do anything except display a "port error" message. But I'm not sure whether this is a 100% hardware fault as the error message is different when the radio is switched off.

At the moment I've got it working well enough to do a complete read. Here are some things I've worked out:
The baud rate of the COM port does NOT need changing to 57600.
My cable has 2.8V on the ring of the 2.5mm jack plug (it's not an original Alinco cable).
The cable can be connected before the radio is turned on.
Then the radio can be turned on before starting the software.
My programming software is V1.3.3 (the splash screen says 1.4).
I'm using the 32-bit version of Windows 8.
USB to serial driver is Prolific V3.2.0.0 (date 31/07/2007). Windows 8 tries to install a newer driver.
If the software says it is no longer responding when reading all memories (after about 23%), leave it to carry on, it takes a long time but will complete (after a Port Error!).
I'm not sure whether it works at all with 64-bit versions of Windows, I tried recently with Windows 8 64-bit and I couldn't get it to work at all.

Now to try and break it.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Shack Pic

Quick photo of the radios at home, not the best pic as it was taken in a dark room, using the phone camera.
FT-817 doing WSPR, using a very basic audio cable (3.5mm jack plug cable and Cat 5 cables cut up and twisted together with a 100K resistor in the middle). The receive audio comes out of the 6-pin Mini DIN connector.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Legal SSB CB soon

From the 27th June AM and SSB will be legal on the 40 EU/USA CB channels (26.965 to 27.405).

Friday, 23 May 2014

Wire

Moved the end of my wire antenna today and shortened it a bit, still resonant at 8MHz. Untied it from old washing line post and moved to a fence post as the old post has metal bar in it (old post in photo).
Expected a bigger shift in frequency, maybe something else nearby affecting it.
Might be about 2db better on 20m locally now.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Grounding Tuner

Wire antenna with no tuner or ground connection (analyser connected to nothing but the coax).
There are 3 resonant frequencies, the antenna is probably behaving like an end fed half wave.

Same wire antenna with the tuner in bypass mode and the case of the tuner connected to metal heating pipe. Tuner also connected to its 13.8V PSU.

Totally different, there are still some dips in the SWR at around 8 and 16MHz.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

50MHz

Tried some 50MHz WSPR today and got 2 way reports with OZ7IT in Denmark. That was with the GP15 vertical. Couldn't hear anything else on the band.

A new SOTA chaser unique for me, and on 70cm! Cairnsmore Of Fleet in South West Scotland (GM/SS-065). That's the first new chaser summit for nearly 2 years.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dummy Load

7MHz WSPR using a dummy load.
I was having problems with transmitting on 7MHz, the Flex1500 would crash and keep transmitting a low power carrier, even after the PC lost contact with the radio. I think it could be RF getting back into it so I'm trying it into a dummy load.
I'm picking up a few stations on the dummy load (or through the power cable etc.)
After running into the dummy load for a while I received some more stations but no reports on transmit! A wire between the earth terminal of my tuner and the copper central heating pipe seems to have stopped the RF getting back into the FT1500 on 7MHz. It has stopped the PC mouse from going crazy when transmitting on 3.5MHz.


Monday, 12 May 2014

FT1500M

My Yaesu FT1500M (single band 2 metre mobile) which has sat in a drawer for rather a long time. Used it a few times for SOTA activations as after only paying £20 for it, I wouldn't be too bothered if it broke.
The 'aftermarket' power cable came with it and I never got round to picking off the 50 layers of tape joining it together.

There seem to be some screws missing from the case and the RJ11 connector for the microphone has got stuck in after the springy bit snapped off.

Not quite as sensitive as the Icom IC-2800 above 160MHz. 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

XXX Rated Microphone

Does your £250 Heil microphone do this?

The perfect addition to your shack when your regular 80 metre net is starting to get a bit dull.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Swissonic MDR2

Here's my Swissonic MDR2 set up for recording some vinyl to .wav files.
Useful for recording DJ sets, will record for at least 6 hours on 2 AA NiMh cells.
Pretty basic (no naming of files, no timestamps) but more handy than a PC.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Yupiteru

Nearly 15 years after buying my Yupiteru MVT-7100 scanner, I've still got it and it works. Even in 1999 it was an old design, having come out in 1993.
I got my first scanner in 1994, an AOR 1500 EX, the Yupiteru was around then but just a bit too expensive, I'd been saving long enough and wanted something then.
The 7100 is still OK, connectors are starting to get a bit worn and it loses its memories from time to time but it's useful as a reference receiver because I've had it for so long I can compare other radios with it.
Missing features that are standard now, like CTCSS and PC programming.
Alongside are my newer scanner and triplebandheld.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

GB3CR tonight

GB3CR on 433.150. Usually no s-points at all.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easington Fell

Walked up to Easington Fell on Wednesday. Only 3 QSOs on 4m and 70cm.

6pm on a Wednesday isn't a good time for a SOTA activation, even from a hill near lots of people, and with an alert on the website.

Not one reply on 145.500. The photo shows the short antenna on the Wouxun 4m rig but I was using the Garex flexi whip.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Extended 2m band

With the news about possibly extending the 2m band up to 147MHz I had an idea about wide split repeaters with the output on a frequency outside the amateur band.
Wide split 2m repeaters would be a good thing, even if the output frequency was outside the amateur band (needs to be cleared anyway). There must be some space on 140, 143, 149 or 152 MHz now to allow a >4MHz split. Could also be done on 4m with 80-81.5 MHz old fire frequencies.

Monday, 7 April 2014

GB3GD

Very bad signal from GB3GD - the 70cm repeater also on Snaefell is full scale and there is nothing in the way.

The 145.625 signal is about the same as I get GB3MP on 145.750, but I'm in a bad location for MP, with a hill in the way. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

WSPR on Mac

Running the Mac version of WSPR on a Mac Mini with OSX 10.6.8 Snow Leopard. Couldn't get the serial port working so had to use VOX on the FT-817. WSPR had a list of serial ports to use but none were the port name of my USB-serial adaptor.
The display looks a bit strange as it's 1024*768 on a widescreen monitor, I used the VGA input to the monitor and the Mac wouldn't do any widescreen resolutions. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Blogs

Here are a couple of amateur radio blogs from around here.
Norman 2E0FAS
Lawrie M3UHQ
Dave 2D0YLX

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Fire Up 99

The Fire Up 99 is a replacement top section for the Antron 99 CB antenna. I was using one on mine. The normal top section is a straight length of wire inside fibreglass but the Fire Up has a coil at the top, to lengthen the wire whilst keeping the resonant frequency at 27MHz.
The A99 is a half wave normally, so to work with the existing matching circuit, the length would have to be extended to around a full wavelength. Whether it makes any difference to 27MHz performance is debatable, I've not seen a decent review of one where anybody has measured a difference before and after adding it. When I put mine up, I was replacing a broken A99 and had no known signals to compare it with.
The A99 is just a half wavelength wire inside a tube, and without adding to the length, can't see there being a way of improving it on 27MHz without doing something like changing the matching circuit (there are losses in there, which would have an even bigger effect at lower frequencies - see this article).
At lower frequencies the top loading might help reduce these losses, so it could be an improvement for those wanting to use it on other bands like 14 and 18MHz.

I tried the Fire Up 99 on the car using a magmount which is far to small to drive anywhere with it. Not that it would be any use as an antenna on its own, as you can see from the SWR plots.
It seems to be a 3/4 wavelength at 34MHz and a 5/4 wavelength at 55MHz. Compared to a mobile CB antenna received signals are much worse at 28MHz.



Saturday, 25 January 2014

GB5LBC

Today I made my first HF voice contact for over a year (and the first voice QSO of 2014). 99% of the time the HF radio gets used to transmit and receive WSPR, with a little bit of other data modes. For that, the 5 watts from my Flex1500 is good enough (hardly anybody uses over 5 watts on WSPR), on SSB it's not that good compared to the usual 100 watts most people run.
But I had my microphone plugged in for a change (it's the one off my FT-817, the wiring is the same) and called GB5LBC (Roa Island lifeboat station) on 7.180 MHz, who was only 7.3Km away from me. That worked OK and it was the furthest this Flex1500 has ever got on SSB since I bought it.



Baofeng

Some Baofeng BF888S UHF handhelds I've been programming.

TV signal

TV signal from the antenna on the chimney, from Winter Hill.

Broken A99

This is the base of the middle section. The wire inside had not snapped.

10m Vertical

Last Sunday I took the Antron 99 down from the house after it had snapped in December. I didn't have anything very good to replace it with quickly so I put a 28MHz mobile antenna on a bracket in its place. It doesn't really work as there aren't any radials (the metal pole its on might help a bit) and the SWR is around 3:1 on everything above 18MHz.
I did a few checks on performance by transmitting from the car on 28MHz and remotely viewing the Flex1500's signal readings on my phone using TeamViewer. I'd taken some readings last year on the Antron 99 and the new antenna worked out as around 9dB worse over a 1km path. That was without any tuner in line at home, it probably wouldn't have made much difference to the signal anyway.
I'm using it on 20,17,15,12 and 10m bands with a tuner and on receive for all other bands. At lower frequencies I think it it works better on receive than the wire as it is further away from the phone wire.
I've been using the 160m band quite a bit in the last few months (using WSPR), as I found my wire antenna will tune up on there since I extended it in the summer. The noise level at home is such that I still transmit better than I receive, even on a wire which is far too short. I wonder if the phone wiring re-radiates the signal.