31 Aug 2009

136kHz WSPR on an active antenna

Just tried a PA0RDT designed active antenna (but just used an MPF102 and 2N3904 instead as these devices were to hand) with 1m of wire, later just a small piece of copper laminate (see picture), indoors taped to the window and have just spotted M0BMU running 200mW ERP on 137.45kHz WSPR. Amazing that this can work so well. The antenna looks useful for VLF through to low HF. See also
http://carconline.blogspot.com/2009/05/pa0rdt-active-antenna.html and http://carconline.blogspot.com/2009/05/pa0rdt-active-antenna-continued.html

29 Aug 2009

SM6BHZ on 500kHz WSPR

Just received my first WSPR signal on 500kHz - from SM6BHZ running 1W erp. Signal first appeared at 1916z and was decoded 6 minutes later. This is a screen shot of his signals. Several other stations are also copying Gus if you look on the WSPR database and maps tonight. Later in the evening he was so strong he could have been copied with just 2mW ERP.

I also copied another 500kHz WSPR signal, this time from G4WGT who was -23dB S/N with 500mW ERP from IO83 at 248kms. The map shows stations active on TX or listening and shows I've received SM6BHZ and G4WGT. Very clever database this!

Later still copied M0BMU and G4WGT again on 500kHz WSPR.

136kHz Listening

Just heard quite a good signal (RST569) from G3XIZ on 136.5kHz CW. He had just worked G3KEV before 8am but I could not copy G3KEV (Mal). I made a recording which is on my website - quality not good as it was made with my Dell Axim pocket PC held next to the loudspeaker.

27 Aug 2009

Sunspot "Maunder Minimum" continues

It goes on and on and on and on - still not a sunspot in sight and if anything the solar flux is dribbling downwards. See http://www.solen.info/solar/ from where the attached image is extracted (slightly edited). When, if ever in my lifetime, is the sun going to get moving again?

26 Aug 2009

SSB DX on 500kHz

Just heard SM6BHZ beaconing with 1W erp on 505.5kHz both on CW and on SSB. On CW RST559 and on SSB RS53. This is the first time I have ever heard an SSB transmission on the 500kHz band. SSB is not allowed in the UK NoV as the band is too narrow. Distance is 916kms. I've even got a QSL card already from Gus via the internet. Link is http://www.sm6bhz.com

10m PSK31 QSOs

Having found 10m open tonight as a result of some WSPR reports from the Faroe Islands, Italy and Portugal, I went onto 10m PSK31 and had a couple of QSOs with YL3GBF and S56EPX when running about 3W QRP. Solid contacts, but I don't really like PSK31 - the QSOs seem so "artificial" and PC generated. I do try to type as I go though to put some variety into the contact.

DM780 is an excellent package for this mode and many other digital modes.

RoomCap HF antenna?

Has anyone had any experience of this very compact HF antenna? the designer makes claims of performance well beyond those obtainable with the Microvert, EH and other small antennas.

To get build instructions costs money and, as a born skeptic when it comes to "something for nothing" antennas, I'd like to hear from anyone who has made one and how well it worked.

This is the link http://home.datacomm.ch/hb9abx/ant--abx-e.htm

24 Aug 2009

30m WSPR logs

Today, out of interest, I made a list of the countries and distances covered just on 10MHz (30m) WSPR in the last few weeks of intermittent operation. So far I've had hundreds of reports from 22 countries in 4 continents with the best DX being 9616kms with 5W. Even 7147kms was covered with just 100mW! Even better distances have been reached on 40m. I've had reports on bands from 160m to 6m. It is truly an amazing mode!

Clearly, with WSPR, openings are being captured which otherwise would have been missed. This is especially true on the higher HF bands, which I intend to concentrate my efforts on next - bands like 10m.

Update - two more reports tonight - VE1 and 9H1.

23 Aug 2009

Antennas at G3XBM

The current antenna farm at the G3XBM QTH is shown in the picture. The 10m antenna is a wire halo. 6m, 2m and 70cms vertical is handled with a V2000 triband colinear. There is also a horizontal 2m halo just below the V2000. Finally, there is an end-fed wire about 15m long running down the garden from just beneath the V2000 antenna to a post at the far end of the back garden. All pretty modest stuff really. Certainly not a beam in sight!

Click on the image to get a better view.

T61AA on 17m

T61AA has been a consistent, if weak, signal here all morning on 17m WSPR. His trace was last spotted at 1052z but too weak even for WSPR to decode. Although I've been beaconing all morning on 17m I've not been copied yet, although T61AA says he has an S9 noise level in Afghanistan. He is located 5564kms away.

22 Aug 2009

Sporadic-E ....is it getting better year on year?

Since the 1960s I've enjoyed hearing and working DX via sporadic-E openings in the summer months. For me, it all started with DXTV reception on Band 1, much to the annoyance of my parents when I retuned the TV trying to find weak Italian and Spanish TV stations.

But have sporadic-E openings changed and become far more intense in recent years? Looking at the reports of summer 6m DX now and you will see DX as far as S.America, The Congo, Japan and Texas to name but a few. Now is this because there are more stations, DX clusters and the like or is the E layer now doing things it wasn't doing (at least not as often) 40 years or more ago? Indeed, are these super so-called multi-hop Es openings really sporadic-E as we understand it? Or is the E layer now more intensely ionised more often?

Incidentally, with WSPR I seem to find 10m open to Europe almost all the time, day and night.


Never tried SSTV before so I used Digital Master 780 (comes with Ham Radio Deluxe) to receive on 20m today. Several pictures came through including this one from JN1VNW, the first I decoded.

19 Aug 2009

2013 for sunspot cycle 24 peak?

A new sunspot prediction from Australia is showing we haven't reached the minimum yet and the new peak won't now be until 2013! If correct we have to get used to conditions remaining poor on 10m F2 for some time yet. See http://www.ips.gov.au/Solar/1/6

17 Aug 2009

Afghanistan on 10m

Overnight I left my 10m WSPR station running 10% TX at 5W. During the night I was spotted a few times by a couple of Europeans. My best reception was of T61AA in Afghanistan from just after 0600z. Unfortunately he was unable to copy my 5W on 10m.

This is the WSPR chat log showing that T61AA was genuine. He has been trying EME and 6m at other times today.

16 Aug 2009

Getting back to homebrew QRP

For the last 10 days I have been "distracted" (by my discovery of WSPR) from my main interest - building simple homebrew QRP gear. In the next few days I hope to have rectified this lapse and got busy in the back of the garage making something new. Not sure what yet but I feel the urge to build again.....

50MHz aircraft scatter

Interesting piece on G3ZJO's blog about 50MHz aircraft scatter using WSPR signals. He has a nice waterfall display showing the strange things that happen to a WSPR signal when aircraft are moving.

WSPR versus CW - what's the improvement?

As WSPR is so effective I asked Joe, K1JT, what the difference is between WSPR and "ear-and-brain" CW. This is his very helpful reply:
"For an answer to your question about relative sensitivities of CW, WSPR, and some of the other modes implemented in WSJT, let me suggest going to the "References" link on the WSJT web site, http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/refs.html ,
and select reference #11. Table 3 on page 9 gives the information you asked about. The difference given there is about 11 dB, in favor of WSPR over ear-and-brain CW. For most operators, the difference is more like 15 dB."

15 Aug 2009

OK1IAK's tiny WSPR beacon TX

Vojtech OK1IAK has created a tiny WSPR beacon TX based on the KD1JV Altoids tin ATS-3b transceiver kit. He uses the ATS3bv-1.5 firmware. For those not familiar with this creation, it is a tiny 6 band CW/digital transceiver kit fitting into an Altoids tin. See OK1IAK's alternate firmware for WSPR with this rig.

14 Aug 2009

Heard in VK on 40m QRP again

At 1834z, 30 mins earlier than last night, VK8CH reported my 5W WSPR signal at SNR -27dB, which is 1dB lower than last night. A few hours later, VK8CH copied my 2W (33dBm) 40m WSPR signal at SNR of -24, -27 and -28dB over a period of some 20 minutes. PY2GN has heard me twice tonight already on 30m WSPR, again using 5W. W1XP was copying my 1W 30m WSPR signal at a SNR of-17dB.

All this on 15m of end-fed wire strung from the gutter to the washing line post at the bottom of the garden!

13 Aug 2009

40m QRP WSPR signal copied by VK8CH

This evening, VK8CH (Australia) copied both my 10W, then 5W QRP 40m WSPR signals. DX was 13800kms - not bad for a small, 15m long, end-fed wire strung down the garden only 6m at the highest end and 2.5m high at the far end!

What constitutes a QSO?

Having been experimenting with WSPR beaconing, and having a LOT of fun too, I started to ask what constitutes a QSO?

For example, this evening on 160m I both sent and received callsigns, locator grids, frequencies, power, date, time and reports with G8IHT and G4BOO using WSPR. You KNOW the other station has received it from the on-line WSPR database. This was in WSPR MEPT (beaconing) mode and not using WSPR QSO mode, which I've yet to try.

Now, is this a QSO formally? My feeling is no, yet all details were exchanged and received by both parties. Certainly as much detail as would be exchanged in an EME or MS QSO using modes like JT6M, although no RRRs were sent.

Views please?

12 Aug 2009

6m WSPR testing overnight (Aug 12/13)

Overnight I'll be repeating my WSPR mode MS/Es testing, this time with transmissions on 50MHz running 5W for 20% of the time from around 2100z to 0800z. If you have WSPR software, please set your RX to 50.2930 USB and let it run through the night to see what propagation exists.

UPDATE: Not a single report received or obtained for anyone else on 6m overnight. Then 4 hours later I realised I been plugged into the 10m halo :-(

10m WSPR QRP DX - Perseids MS?

I ran WSPR with 5W out (20%) on 10m overnight and was heard twice by F4VNS in JN36hc (see report screen). Although I did not decode anyone on 10m overnight, this may be because there were few stations active on 10m WSPR. The few whispy traces seen suggest doppler shifting (possible MS)?

Anyone know when the Perseids peaked in Europe? I wonder if between 0230 and 0430z?

11 Aug 2009

JT6m Perseids MS

Just turned on the FT817 and JT6M mode and copied HB9AGE within the first few seconds on a strong meteor burst. There will be plenty more tonight. The picture shows the capture of HB9AGE's CQ call here a few minutes ago. Also heard M0RJV, G4BAO (local) and PA5JS, all on JT6m.

10/6m WSPR

During the next 24 hours I intend to try WSPR mode beaconing on both 10m and 6m to see if I get any success during the peak of the Perseids meteor shower. I've no idea how this mode will work with MS and a basic QRP system with small antennas. Should you get a chance, do set your WSPR system to listen on 10m and 6m and log any reports to the WSPRnet logging site. Set your RX to 28.1246 MHz USB or 50.2930 MHz USB to receive WSPR signals.

Although probably not by MS propagation, my 10m WSPR signal was copied by S51CN tonight at 5w, 1W and then 50mW. At my lowest power setting the SNR was -22dB, suggesting that even 10mW would have been copied, but I've now run out of attenuators so can't get any lower tonight!

Bojan, S51CN kindly sent me a screenshot of my signals in Slovenia (see left).

10 Aug 2009

Joule Thief circuit

This month's Practical Wireless makes reference to something called the Joule Thief circuit which allows a very nearly exhausted single cell battery to run a white LED. The article is in G3RJV's regular column. The nifty circuit only needs 4 parts. For a video describing how to build this, see this YouTube item. Another useful resource is http://www.emanator.demon.co.uk/bigclive/joule.htm from which this image was taken.

6m JT6M reception

A year or two back, during the winter months, I listened to European 6m DX via random meteor showers using the digital mode JT6M, listening on 50.230MHz. Even though I only have a V2000 triband vertical, I heard several countries then with the best DX being EA, I and HA listening for about 30 minutes in the evening. This week there is a meteor shower due around Aug 12th (Perseids?) so I will give it another go to see what can be heard with my basic setup and antenna.
At the moment I don't think it is worth trying to TX as the most I can run is 10W.

8 Aug 2009

WSPR Success

DH5RAE (990kms away) logged my 5W into just the 10m band halo TXing WSPR on 30m a few minutes ago. So, the system is now fully working, despite the appalling antenna for 30m. Then in the next timeslot I was received by OH2BMH (1759kms away). WSPR is going to be one heck of a lot of fun on bands like 10m and 6m with QRP when the bands open up.

LATER: In three sessions of "30m WSPR beaconing" I've now been received in 5 European countries at distances between 594 and 1759kms. The image on the left is of my WSPR log.

More WSPRing

Well, thanks to some help from others I've figured out how to TX a WSPR signal.

For use with a SignaLink USB interface and VOXing TX you need 0, 2, 4 as the settings for PTT, RX and TX and you need to restart the WSPR program for the changes to take effect (this was my problem).

7 Aug 2009


My best WSPR report tonight was of DL6NL who was running just 50mW on 7MHz. I could receive him OK at 733kms when using my 10m band halo antenna.


Today I made my first foray into WSPR mode (Weak Signal Propagation Reporting).

I've managed to decode WSPR signals on 30m and 40m OK, but every time I tried to TX with the program it bombs out and wants to send Microsoft an error message. I'm using a SignaLink USB interface (working fine on PSK31) and have set the WSPR PTT option to "0", which should allow VOX operation on TX via the SignaLink USB interface rather than via a COM port. Anyone know why this fails to work and crashes the program?

WSPR is a mode which allows specially encoded very weak signals to be decoded and then the resulting report uploaded to a central database. So, for example, you TX with a QRP mW signal on 10MHz and someone receives the WSPR message. Using the software, a report appears on the internet, so you know how far the signal reached.

See http://www.g4ilo.com/wspr.html for a good introduction to WSPR. Spots (uploaded by the program or manually to the internet) can be seen at http://wsprnet.org/meptspots.php

5 Aug 2009

6m CW

Last night I heard TF2JB weakly calling CQ on 6m CW on an otherwise empty band, but I did not work him. This afternoon at 5pm I called CQ on 6m CW having heard the SK3SIX beacon pop up out of the noise and was answered by SM2GCQ. So, even with 5W, a CQ can get a QSO on 6m in an almost empty band. Spor-E is still around folks, if less frequent than a month or so ago.

3 Aug 2009

LY3LP's blogsite

This is a very interesting blogsite with lots to interest QRPers. I like the tunnel diode TX and the 6m projects. Some of the wind turbine blades are unusual. See http://sa555.blogspot.com/

2 Aug 2009

1860 voice recordings

I missed this news from March 2008 about the earliest recordings of the human voice made in France in the late 1850s and early 1860s. American researchers pieced together a 10sec audio clip of a French folk song which they believe is the oldest recognisable recording of the human voice. A young woman sings from the 18th century folk song Au Clair de la Lune. It was made in 1860 by Edouard Scott de Martinville on a device he called a phonautograph. Listen to the sound clip here:

Edison's recording of himself reciting 'Mary had a little lamb' were many years LATER than these very early recordings. Totally fascinating!

1 Aug 2009

Pye PF1 and PF8 handhelds

I've justed added a couple of pages to my website on two Pye Telecom PMR products I had involvement with in my early days in the development labs there.

See Pye Telecom PF1 Handhelds and Pye Telecom PF8 Handheld

For far more information on Pye Telecom see the website http://www.pyetelecomhistory.org/

Incidentally there is a drive to set up a permanent museum of radio history in the Cambridge area in which Pye Telecom products would be featured. £30k is needed to get this project off the ground. See the Pye Telecom History pages for more information on this project.