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.

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.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

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.

Sunday 13 December 2009


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.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

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


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?