30 Jun 2014

6m - more Es tonight

EB3EPR (1248km) has just spotted me on 6m WSPR at 1904z.  Still no sign of super-DX here. I am still hoping to copy,or be copied, transatlantic on 6m.

4X1RF (3519km) has just spotted my 1W ERP again on 6m at 1916z. Best DX for over a month.

UPDATE 2120z:   Will leave WSPR running overnight in the hope of super DX by multi-hop Es (probably a faint hope!).  Earlier this evening v2.12  decided to close (Win 8.1 updates?) so will reset clock etc before going to bed. Best DX recently is G0LRD (25km)! Incidentally, it looks like G4IKZ (who is in Hardwick, Cambs) is more like 22km (not 18km) from me: using longer grid locators puts us further apart.

6m - transatlantic WSPR

KC1AWS tells me he was spotted in Morocco on 6m at 1700z at 5607km. I have asked Gary (in the USA) to keep looking for Gs on 6m. Gary was surprised to be copied so far away. Gary just uses a horizontally polarised PAR antenna with no gain (it's a bit like a halo). Well done Gary!

I have just QSYed back to 6m from 10m WSPR   :-) .

Just exchanged 6m spots with CN8LI (2113km) and also with G4NRG at 58km (GDX of sorts).

UPDATE 1900z:  No CN8LI spots here since 1756z.

10m WSPR - Es and F2

Since lunchtime, there has been Es spots on 10m from Italy, France and Spain. All were spots of me, none of others. I am a bit surprised and wonder if it is WSPR-X was not uploading my spots of others? Looking at the WSPR screen there were a couple of signals that should have decoded and uploaded.   I have now reverting to the standard WSPR software v2.12.

10m is easier than 6m for WSPR with Es is easier to find. Best Es DX today is 1336k.

UPDATE 1630z: Interestingly, within minutes of running the V2.12 software again, I decoded CX2ABP (11127km) running 5W by F2. He was -25dB S/N.This is a decent distance in line with solar predictions for today. At this strength, my 2W would be in the noise at his end. It may have just been co-incidental but it looks like V2.12 uploads everything whereas WSPR-X V0.3  r3058 maybe a little hit and miss? EA5CYA  has also just been decoded OK. Odd no decodes all afternoon with WSPR-X but instant results reverting to V2.12. Maybe it is a Wn 8.1 issue? I'll be sticking with V2.12.

UPDATE 1725z:    Yet more Es -  EA4GDE now being spotted with 200mW.  Since returning to V2.12 all spots have been of others.

First 10m WSPR spots today

Just been spotted by "local"  M0MVB on 10m WSPR at 30km at 1116z at -24dB S/N and 1128z at -23dB S/N.  At least WSPR-X is working.

No Es seen here yet, but it is early days still.

7 spots of M0MVB by 1240z, but still no Es or F2 on 10m here.

Blog errors

I am not sure if this is as a result of my brain bleed or just poor typing skills but I am finding errors in my blog entries after posting. Usually I spot them and correct them within a few minutes, but you may spot uncorrected mistakes if you read the blog entries soon after publication. The most common error is putting "o" where a "p" should be. These are adjacent on the keyboard.

Please accept my apologies if you spot mistakes, but please tell me so I can make corrections.

Hans Summers kit: Ultimate 3 beacon

Today I unpacked this kit which I've had a couple of months. I have been waiting until I feel a bit better (less wobbly and clumsy) but now feel well enough to start the build.
Ultimate 3 beacon kit - received from Japan
I'll build the TX low pass filter for 10m first as this looks "do-able". The other parts may have to wait a few weeks. I want the kit building but want to do it when I am fit enough. The big issue will be boxing it. My brain bleed makes drilling cases a nightmare for me.

I was surprised to find no enclosed instructions. Guess one is meant to look on the net. Only unpacked the LPF module so far.  Being very careful.

WSPR-X v0.3 r3058

Today I downloaded the latest WSPR software onto the new Win 8.1 PC. At first I could not understand why it refused to TX. Doh! Then I remembered to input VOX, the callsign, grid and audio interface details! All now seems to be working but no Es spots  yet.
WSPR-X running WSPR2 on Win 8.1 PC
An advantage of the later software is the waterfall is in real time (it moves DURING the 2 minute time slot so activity is instantly visible rather than having to wait 2 minutes to see. It also supports the slower, but even more sensitive, 15 minute version WSPR-15 as long as the TX stability is good enough. I tried this on LF before but my LO drift was too poor (old PC and old QTH).
Bottom FT817ND on 10m WSPR-2
I shall stick with this latest version today to see how it performs. I expect the RX sensitivity is unchanged unless it uses improved algorithms for decoding.

6m (now 10m) WSPR

I started out today on 6m - 2 spots from local G4IKZ (18km)  - but now QSYed down to 10m in the hope of Es and maybe some F2 propagation. Sunspot count today is 112 (good) and 20-30MHz propagation forecast is "good" so decent DX prospects on 10m today N-S. I see FR1GZ has already been seen in Holland. As luck would have it, no spots yet either sent or received on 10m WSPR as of 0930z! To be fair, it is still very early.

29 Jun 2014

UKAC contests

Next Tuesday is the next 2m UK activity contest.  The following Tuesday, July 8th, it is the next 70cm activity contest. I missed the last session as we had visitors. These Tuesday evening sessions are well supported and well worth coming on for if only to work a few squares and to give others some points. Even my modest power and just one session has given me a respectable place in the overall scoring.

In the last sessions I used 5W pep to either a 3el on 2m or 5el on 70cms. Even with this very modest station (FT817ND) DX out to around 200km seems to be workable, more with a lift. I am lucky to live on top of an East Anglian "hill". The take-off must be pretty good and I am blessed (for now) with a quiet noise floor on all bands.

Non radio day

Today we went on a day return by train to London to be with our son Tim, his wife Jo and our grandchildren Lucien and Amandine. Tim met us and took us back to Kings Cross. Booking in advance and with Senior Rail Cards if works out cheaper than driving. At present I cannot drive because of my brain bleed last year.  It was good to spend time in their home again after so long.
With the grandchildren in London today
Totally by accident, we sat next to Nick G4IKZ on the train back from London. I'd not seen Nick since work days over 6 years ago. Many years ago we worked together in several Cambridge companies. Nick is one of the brightest minds I've had the privilege to know. There are few better RF engineers. We compared notes on 6m WSPR of course. He confirmed his 6m antenna is a horizontal Moxon.

Being late back, I decided not to turn the rigs on tonight.

28 Jun 2014

6m - no Es today?

I was late getting on to 6m today, not turning the rig on until around 0940z. At around 1300z everything was disconnected because of nearby storms until mid-afternoon.  Apparently I missed some early Es to HB9. Here I have not seen any sign of Es all day on 6m.

All I have seen here are locals and GDX on 6m. There is still time for some Es, but I would be surprised to see any.

UPDATE 2042z:  Still no 6m Es here today. Going QRT within the hour.

UPDATE 2054z:  G8EPA (61km) has been regularly spotted here this evening at up to -15dB S/N on WSPR. When Doppler is " against" him (-3Hz), he has been as low as -27dB S/N. There is definite evidence of planes on his signal (up to 4 traces in single 2 min slots) but at this range I expect to be able to copy by pure tropo in the absence of planes. 

UPDATE 2105z:  Now QRT on all bands and antennas disconnected.

SSB and AM on CB legal from June 27th in UK

The excellent Southgate News page reports that SSB and AM is now legal on UK CB from June 27th 2014.

I have only briefly operated on CB many years ago and was very disappointed.  I suppose 12W pep of SSB will greatly increase the DX potential on CB. AM is also legal.

We need to watch out for more reports of TVI and hi-fi breakthrough as FM, especially at 4W legal limit, is rarely a problem whereas SSB and AM make such issues more probable. Of course,  some CBers like to use (illegal) add-on amplifiers making matters worse.

I don't think this move will encourage me onto CB any time soon, but it may result in lower cost 10m rigs.

UPDATE 2015z:  Nevada are now selling the President Lincoln 2  (3rd improved version of this model) covering 10m only (as sold - but expandable illegally to cover CB bands) with a £10 discount.

6m - after the storms

I reconnected the V2000 vertical antenna and rigs just before 1500z today as the storms have passed through and gone for now.

No Es seen yet but G8EPA (61km) is my most distant WSPR spotter in this session. Doppler/drift was low at -1Hz so this is probably direct tropo and not (necessarily) involving planes but I cannot be sure. In the other direction I can check his traces on my WSPR software. With WSPRnet I can see Doppler (or drift) on  my signal but cannot tell if the software at the far end is trying to cope with multiple traces as commonly seen with airplanes.

G0OQK (98km) has been spotted a couple of times this late afternoon at around -21dB S/N.

Solar decline

There is little doubt now that we have passed the solar peak and we are now on the way to the minimum. This is still years away mind you. This graph (located at http://www.solen.info/solar/images/solar.png) illustrates this well. As I said before, it is too early to say just how poor HF conditions will get.
http://www.solen.info/solar/images/solar.png

6m - G0OQK (98km) Saturday WSPR

G0OQK (98km) was on 6m TX again this morning. This is the first transmission I copied from Nick, with clear evidence of aircraft Doppler (see at least 2 traces).
6m - G0OQK with aircraft Doppler - June 28th 20014

In the shack

This is a photo of me in the shack just before lunch today. Since lunch, I have had to disconnect everything because of an approaching lightning storm. At the last count (flashes to thunder) it was about 2km away but I think the storm is now moving away.
G3XBM in the shack today
For storm maps see http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en . The storm seems to have moved off: I can still hear thunder (to the east) but no nearby lightning. We have heavy rain, which will do the garden good.

Just a moment ago there was a flash and thunder almost overhead.  This showed up on the lightning map. Storms still rolling around. I shall not reconnect the antennas and radio gear for a while yet.

27 Jun 2014

Maplin sold

That font of all knowledge :-)   Steve G1KQH has just informed me that Maplin has changed hands for £85M. Although not a frequent customer, I do use their shop in the Beehive Centre, Cambridge.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10930541/Electronics-retailer-Maplin-sold-for-85m.html

Not sure what it will mean for the business. One of the two stores in Cambridge is always busy, the other less so. Maybe less profitable shops will close?  A bit like Jessops?

Not sure if they still sell them,but I used to buy their small aluminium boxes for QRP projects.

Storms stop play, again

As of mid-afternoon I have gone QRT on all bands, disconnected antennas and turned off all rigs because of the threat of storms. These are also forecast tomorrow. It is a pity, but I believe a wise precaution.

There will be plenty of opportunities to chase Es and GDX on 6m and 10m.

On 2m I was again beacon hunting: there is one heading that allows me to hear (by ear) the GB3VHF, ON0VHF and PI7CIS beacons. I need to look again for the Cornish 2m beacon. Last time I searched I could not find it even on MS pings and I was wondering it was off the air?  This search will have to wait until the threat of storms has passed.

For lightning maps: http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en . This shows storms steadily crossing this region.

UPDATE 1910z:   It looks like the storms have bypassed our area today.

UPDATE 2030z:  Another storm moving this way.  May be here during the night?  Will leave things disconnected.

A contigious 60m band?

OFCOM is consulting on the agenda items for the World Radio Conference WRC2015 which takes place November 2015. See http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/wrc15/ .

The proposal is to support moves to allocate 5250-5450kHz to the Amateur Service on a secondary basis. This would replace the messy channels currently available. I recommend you write to OFCOM to support this move, which would give us a new ham band at 60m - ideal as the current sunspot cycle declines.

If allocated, it could be a few years before available.

Cashback on Yaesu products

It doesn't surprise me but G1KQH has told me that Moonraker (and others?) is offering the FT817ND for just £459.95 after a Yaesu cashback deal. I paid £499 from MLS for cash a few months ago.

Based on the favourable change in exchange rate much lower prices should be expected soon. And, of course, the replacement for the FT817ND is nowhere to be seen.

BTW, I recommend you don't buy patch leads from Moonraker - the ones I bought were useless at both ends with intermittent joints. I guess they just buy these in, but it would be good if they actually checked some as well! All I am saying is Moonraker (and others?) should periodically do quality checks on products they sell. There really is no excuse in the 21st century for selling poor quality goods. I did complain to Moonraker who offered me money back or exchange. Exchange for the same quality?  No thanks.  Andrew G6ALB kindly replaced the coax connectors at both ends  - a decent solution. I guess buying a rig from them is low risk. Patch leads? Definitely dodgy unless you know the supplier checks stock for quality.

6m - G0OQK and aircraft

G0OQK (98km) is coming in here regularly today on 6m WSPR. Looking at his traces on my WSPR screen, there is clear evidence of airplane involvement:  most 2 minute transmissions appear with 2 or 3 Doppler shifted lines, suggesting planes along/crossing the path between us.

What I cannot be 100% certain of is if the path would "work" without airplanes As all successful decodes seem to be when there is evidence of planes, I think the path is only possible when there are planes, but honestly I am still unsure.

The last decode at 1124z had drift (probably Doppler) of 3Hz, which is a lot. Sometimes the drift/Doppler was 0Hz. So far this morning Nick G0OQK has been seen 9 times. The other Nick G4IKZ (18km) has seen me countless times, but he is very local.

Interestingly, G4IKZ had 0Hz Doppler/drift on all his spots overnight of G0OQK. The distance is 83km with crossed polarisation (I think).  Perhaps this is evidence of pure tropo? At night few/no planes etc..

10m, then 6m, WSPR

Overnight, I remained on 10m but the only spots were by Es were from Norway, France, Spain and Germany plus G4KPX( local). No Es "super DX" here sadly!

At around 0904z I moved back up to 6m WSPR. with 1W ERP.  G0OQK (98km) was spotted 3 times (so far)  with moderate drift or Doppler , G4IKZ (18km) was spotting me at good strength and OH7AI (2000km) spotting me by Es at 0928z at -21dB S/N for the best DX so far today.

Sunspot count is 72 and 20-30MHz propagation "normal" so I'd expect F2 DX N-S today on 10m.

26 Jun 2014

G0OQK - 6m WSPR GDX via planes

G0OQK (98km) has just spotted me on 6m WSPR with a large 4Hz Doppler, suggesting reflection/scatter from aircraft somewhere along the path. I am surprised that the software decoded with this much Doppler. My signal was not strong at  -28dB S/N.

I hope G0OQK comes on TX again soon as I'd like to see his trace on my software to see if he can be decoded by pure tropo. It seems to me that planes have to be around for the path to "work" and even then the Doppler has to be low enough, ideally much lower than 4Hz. There was a successful decode of G0OQK on 6m a few days ago with 0Hz Doppler but I think that was an aircraft crossing our path and not pure tropo. I'd like to think the path between us can be worked without the help of planes.

UPDATE 1750z:   Apart from a single spot of me by G0OQK, all recent 6m WSPR spots have been by local G4IKZ (18km).  I may go back to 10m.

UPDATE 1840z:  Returned to 10m but it is very quiet with no Es, no GDX and no locals being copied on WSPR. Earlier JT65 attempts on 10m (called CQ) were no good. I had success with JT9-1 on 20m.

UPDATE 2112z:  10m "woke up" briefly here at 2012z with an Es opening to OE3ODW.  Just a couple of 2 minute WSPR slots and he was gone.

As G0LRD has pointed out, drift on 6m (and higher) is as likely to be TX drift as aircraft reflection. Looking for multiple lines in any 2 minute slot is the only sure way to know if there was Doppler, and this only works with several planes with differing Doppler shifts. What we can never know is if a single line, drifting maybe, is TX drift on a direct (tropo) path or aircraft reflection.

JT9 QSO

As my vocal chords are still not right, I am trying to limit myself to digital (keyboard) modes like WSPR, JT65 and JT9. This afternoon I worked SV1BHF on JT9 on 20m when using 5W.  No great DX but I see from PSK reporter I was copied in the USA as well.  CQs by me on 10m and 6m in JT65 went unanswered. I have now gone back to 6m WSPR.

We had our 3rd Virgin Media broadband outage this afternoon.  I reported it (someone already had) and it was quickly fixed (under 3 hrs) but it is annoying when it happens. Still, the  broadband is fast now with claimed speeds up to 50MB. Even over wi-fi it was almost 30MB, so can't complain.

Chinese X108 QRP transceiver can now be ordered

G1KQH has told me that the 9-band multmode transceiver, the X108 from China, can now be ordered on-line.

http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=346&category_id=65

Personally, I'd prefer the FT817 but, even with shipping to the UK, taxes and duty , the price is attractive, even if the product looks rather ugly (to me). It still looks "back shed" design to me. Personally I'd rather wait until the Chinese are really there with their designs. Others may disagree, but the industrial design of this product certainly lets it down.

Also, this is a kit, but with very little soldering.

10m - very early F2 propagation

FR1GZ (9724km) was being spotted on 10m WSPR as early as 0614z, which is very early. I have already seen him 3 times with the last one (so far) at 0738z.  He has not spotted me yet, although I am running less power (2W rather than 5W).

G8JNJ/A (184km) has been seen a couple of times (0018z and 0828z) for good 10m GDX with low Doppler.  
G7EOB   (76km) was also spotted with -2Hz Doppler (planes?) at 0518z, again 10m.

Sunspot count today is 52 and 20-30MHz conditions described as "normal".

UPDATE 1055z:  No more F2 DX since breakfast time, just Spanish and Italian stations on 10m Es and  G8JNJ/A at 1014z (184km with 1Hz Doppler).

25 Jun 2014

10m WSPR and Es

When 10m is in good Es shape it is really easy to work all around Europe and further sometimes. With WSPR (some 12-14dB better than CW) it is even easier. At the moment I QSYed to 10m WSPR for a change from 6m where I was copying and being copied by the same stations.

1000 visits a day

This blog seems to receive an average of around 1000 visits a day. Sometimes it is less if I've not had much to say. I thank you all for your continued interest.

It has not been easy of late because of my stroke and the fact that (presently) I am doing far less building than in the past because of my poor health. I hope to be back to near normal health again soon (later this year?) with a similar level of experimentation as in earlier years. Right now, I'm still too wobbly to solder and climb ladders. People have been very kind. My voice is still poor so digital modes are best e.g WSPR, JT65 and  JT9.

For now, I write about what I can still do and the things that interest me. I hope you stick with me until the sun shines fully in my life again. At the moment it seems to be hiding in the clouds.

10m WSPR results so far today

These are the unique reports sent and received on 10m WSPR today. In most cases there were multiple reports each way and this list shows these just once. In all, a widespread Es opening on 10m plus some useful distances on GDX signals.
10m WSPR unique reports today
Currently HB9JOI (835km) is coming in here on 10m WSPR at a colossal +12dB S/N signal with 2W, stronger than the locals! Such is Es when the skip is just right.

UPDATE 1840z: IK1WVQ is coming through at -2dB S/N which is also big.

UPDATE 1845z:  Best 10m DX here today is still a spot from EA1KV (1304km). This is far less than on 6m.

SAQ - historic 17.2kHz CW transmission this Sunday.

A reminder that the historic alternator TX on 17.2kHz VLF will be sending a message this Sunday twice. They usually QSL via the amateur QSL bureaus. See http://alexander.n.se/in-english/saq-transmission/ for more details of this and other transmissions.

Some years ago I copied the transmission, QSLed and am the proud owner of one of their QSL cards. It is not hard to copy in Europe unless you have local noise problems. A small tuned loop is all the antenna needed. There are even a software receiver available free on the net capable of receiving the transmissions with a suitable antenna connected to the PC. The SM6LKM software receiver is excellent and covers 0-22kHz. It makes a very useful VLF receiver. I describe it on my YouTube Channel G3XBM.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDxRhQYg7lQ.



QSYed down to 10m WSPR

In view of the quiet conditions on 6m, I have moved down to 10m WSPR instead just after 1330z. EA1KV (1304km) has spotted me 4 times already at good strength by Es. I am really hoping for some F2-layer DX but conditions don't look too favourable today.

EA1KV was spotted by me at 1414z at -3dB  S/N. Very strongly. I also spotted him at 1422z.  No other Es stations yet seen on 10m. No locals or GDX either.
UPDATE 1512z:   EA5CYA recently spotted by me. 10m is open to Spain at least. PA0O also spotted at 440km. Wondering if this is Es? Very short skip if it is. Doesn't look like tropo or aircraft.

UPDATE 1535z:  V53ARC is being spotted at good strength by DK6UG, so there is F2 propagation N-S on 10m today. I wonder if I'll see him here later?

UPDATE 1609z: EA1KV, DJ3LE (100mW) and PA0O all being spotted. This looks like a widespread EU Es opening on 10m. Still no sign of V53ARC here (yet) from Namibia.

UPDATE 1642z:  Just spotted (and been spotted by) M0MVB (30km) for my first "local" on 10m. With 3Hz Doppler on his signal, it is pretty likely planes were involved. Interestingly, there was zero Doppler on my signal with him.

6m Es - path to CN8LI again open

My first Es copy by CN8LI (2113km) today on WSPR was at 1124z this morning when he gave me a strong -12dB S/N report. I suspect we'll exchange lots more spots later by Es.

Sunspot count today is a modest 37 and 20-30MHz propagation forecast to be "fair" only. There may be some F2  propagation on 10m later, but probably not today.

Most 6m spots so far are from local G4IKZ (18km) and a few from G0OQK (98km - last spot 0846z 0dB Doppler). Still not certain if G0OQK is copyable by tropo without the presence of planes. I suspect not, but would be happier if I could receive G0OQK by tropo alone.

At the times of writing, there are only 31 station active on 6m WSPR in the entire world. There are even fewer on 10m (29). These are very low indeed in my view.

UPDATE 1320z:   No more reports from CN8LI since 1124z.

More lightning maps

In an earlier blog post comment, a reader pointed out that on the latest version of these maps there is more detail: the maps show where the lightning flashes are being detected, so giving an idea of intensity.  See http://www.blitzortung.org/Webpages/index.php?lang=en. These maps really tell you a lot. It shows no thunder or lightning at present in the UK. Over the Alps it is still intense and now in Russia as well.

G0LRD tells me this data is also available on the maps I linked to if "stations" are selected.

24 Jun 2014

6m - overnight

Just resync'd the internet clock and will leave WSPR running on 6m overnight looking for very long distance, multi-hop Es (ever hopeful), GDX and near continentals by tropo or aircraft reflections. Just got to hope the software does not stop working on my Win 8.1 machine in the middle of the night!

There is some debate about tropo versus aircraft reflection on 6m. David G0LRD is of the view that most of my 6m WSPR GDX is tropo, whereas I feel it is because of aircraft reflection, but only when the Doppler is low enough. Sometimes you have to wait hours and hours for  this.

I'd much prefer it if these relatively long (for me) GDX paths were pure tropo, but feel the evidence points to aircraft reflections. The debate and evidence gathering continues, HI.

G0OQK by pure tropo?

The most recent transmission from Nick G0OQK (98km) was at 1854z. Unlike earlier transmissions this was received as a single straight line on the WSPR software screen with not even a hint of aircraft reflections. I wonder if this was pure tropo?  His signal strength was -20dB S/N.

The alternative explanation is this was just a single plane flying in such a direction that there was no Doppler on the signal. I think this means a plane exactly crossing the path between us. I need to dig out that software G3WKW mentioned to see when planes are optimally placed. A reminder it was http://www.airscout.eu.

6m - CN8LI copied on WSPR

At 1646z I copied CN8LI (2113km) on 6m WSPR for the first time today at a strong -9dB S/N. I think we are seeing the teatime peak in Es. He was also copied again at 1754z at a strong -9dB S/N. No other Es seen today (yet). He copied me again strongly at 1806z.

UPDATE 1844z:   CN8LI has (so far) been seen 5 times this evening. He was a remarkably strong +4dB S/N at 1826z.  Just like a real local!  So far, he has spotted me 6 times already today. The "pipe" to Morocco is in place again today!

UPDATE 1945z:  CN8LI has copied me loads of times today so far:
CN8LI's 6m WSPR spots of my 1W ERP so far so far today
UPDATE 2242z:  My last 6m spot of CN8LI seems to have been at 2008z.

Sunspots slowly falling?

Today's sunspot count is 65 with "normal" 20-30MHz conditions. It looks to me as if the solar activity is now on the slide downwards. This does not mean an end to good conditions. This autumn 15, 12 and 10m should still be in very good shape and it will be a few years before we really see the changes.

There are all sorts of predictions about the next few cycles. The consensus is the next few cycles will be ones with low solar activity. It is still too soon to say if we are really entering another Maunder minimum. Don't worry: this is a chance to explore HF in different times. There is unlikely to be any (much) East-West F-layer propagation on 12,10 and 6m but North-South propagation will be possible some of the time and openings on Es can be surprisingly distant in all directions at the optimum times of the year.

And there are always VHF, UHF, microwaves and nanowaves to explore!

Let us see the coming years as a challenge. We may never see really good conditions again in our lifetimes but there will still be interesting propagation and DX to be worked and heard.

6m WSPR - G0OQK spotted (with Doppler) and CN8LI

For the first time G0OQK (98km) has been on TX so this was my chance to see if reception here was pure tropo or aircraft assisted.

Well, looking at his last traces here I can see 2 or 3 traces in each 2 minute burst suggesting reflection from planes. This is far cleaner than I've seen some stations. I guess it says something about the flight paths.  WSPR seems to  decode the transmission with little Doppler, but there is little doubt that Nick's 2W to a V2000 is helped by aircraft reflection. Of course, being in the Chilterns I wonder if it is reflections from gliders?

This suggests almost all (or all?) 6m GDX signals copied here are aided by aircraft reflection and few/none are traditional tropo. For more local stations most signals are tropo but even over 25km paths people frequently see Doppler from aircraft on my traces. I guess it depends whether the direct path, or aircraft reflected path, dominates? For locals, the direct (tropo) path usually dominates.

UPDATE 1510z:  No 6m Es here so far today and just a couple of spots received  of G0OQK (98km).  I noticed more traces of Nick than proper decodes, either Doppler wrong or MS pings too short.

UPDATE 1516z:  My WSPR software decided to close on its own this afternoon (Win 8.1 issue with updates) so I have resync'd the internet clock and restarted the WSPR software. It is now working OK as G4IKZ is spotting me at 1506z. Seeing 50Hz sidebands on the very strong reports from this Nick. Not sure if it is his issue or mine. Not really worried as it only appears, sometimes, on strong signals.

UPDATE 1532z:  I spoke too soon as CN8LI (2113km) spotted me at 1516z just after I spotted G4FFC (45km). There is Es about today.

6m WSPR return

After the nearby storms had passed, I reconnected rig, PC and antenna at 0900z this morning.  G4IKZ (18km) is back looking - I wonder if he closed down for the storms too? - and he is spotting me well.  G0OQK (98km) is also looking and giving me similar (low Doppler) reports as on earlier days. As yet, no Es seen here today.

23 Jun 2014

Alpine storms and Es

I cannot remember the supposed link between Es and thunderstorms (something to do with sprites going upwards from thunder clouds?) but with plenty of thunderstorms in the Alps, I wonder how Es will be tomorrow? Maybe conditions to southern Europe will be good on 6m Es?

Although I probably could safely reconnect antennas this evening now the storms have passed, I think it will be better to wait until the morning.

Knowing my luck, the 6m band will open transatlantic tonight and I shall miss it all! That would not be the end of the world.

Confusing American call areas?

At one time you knew where in the USA a station was located by its call area. No longer.  A W6 can be in New York and a W1 in California. In my view this is a very backward move.  Although it has been the case for a few years, it is now beginning to become a major problem.

Is this an FCC issue? They do seem to be so behind. 472-479kHz is still not allocated in the USA whereas we've had access to the band for 1.5 yrs now here in Europe. I don't think they yet have the 136kHz band even!

As an occasional user of the USA customs service, I wonder if the FCC uses similar people? The USA customs officers seem to be a "rum lot" with absolutely zero sense of humour. Where do they find these people? 

Lightning maps

If you missed G0LRD's comment in an earlier post you may want this link that shows lightning activity:

http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en

There are storms in Eastern England and very many over the Alps. Interestingly  the CN8 to OZ path has been open on 6m Es today. Some believe there is a correlation between Es and thunderstorms.

UPDATE 1720z: At the moment, the storms have ended but the lightning map shows a further storm is due to come through. At present it is over the Peterborough area and moving SE. I think it is best to NOT reconnect the antennas today.

UPDATE 1751z: The storm over Peterborough seems to be moving in an easterly direction and may miss our village with luck, although I can now hear distant thunder to the north.

UPDATE 1812z:  The storm is definitely tracking east over the Bedford Levels in the Fens, towards Littleport, so should miss us.  Even so, I'll stay off air tonight.

UPDATE 2016z:  According to the lightning map, all thunder storms have now died out in the UK. I'll reconnect antennas in the morning.

6m - local storms stop play

Currently we have thunderstorms around so I have disconnected ALL antennas, turned off the rigs and turned off the WSPR software and the PC.

This morning there was no Es seen here on 6m, just GDX. G0OKQ was a consistent reporter 98km away in the Chiltern Hills.  Local G4IKZ (18km) was not on.

If the storm passes over, and goes, I'll reconnect 6m WSPR  At the moment (1352z) the storm is about 3km away judging by the time difference between lightning and thunder claps. I hate this sort of weather.

Sunspot count is 95 and the forecast for 20-30MHz is "good" so F-layer propagation on 10m should be promising. Conditions are "disturbed".

22 Jun 2014

6m - G0OQK consistent signal reports

Nick G0OQK is 98km away in the Chilterns (IO91pp) and he has spotted my 1W ERP 6m signal countless times today. Doppler is very low so I am wondering if this is tropo (generally) NOT involving aircraft? In the next few days Nick will be on TX so I can check here for a lack of multiple traces on the WSPR screen. If there are lots of traces on his signal it will suggest aircraft reflections.  If (usually) just a weakish single trace it will suggest tropo.

UPDATE 2250z:  No more Es reports from CN8LI since 1918z.  Unless things suddenly change, I think the Es here has ended for the day.

6m - CN8LI has spotted me 11 times today so far!

CN8LI (2113km) has been spotting me on 6m WSPR again today, this morning and this evening. His reports tonight seem to be getting stronger too. so I think there will be further reports before we're done today. It is now 1905z. I have been spotting him too, but only once so far today.
CN8LI's spots of my 1W ERP on 6m today so far
6m is an amazing band. There is good local coverage, interesting GDX mainly via aircraft scatter or reflection and then amazing DX by Es. I have still to catch super DX by Es. Of course, in a few months most of the Es openings will be ended although the band does have some Es at all times of the year. With dedicated WSPRers active we might find out how common "out of season" 6m Es really is.

UPDATE 1930z: more spots from CN8LI at 1900z and 1918z.

6m - no Es here this afternoon

Just locals and GDX here this afternoon, with no sign of Es since before lunch on 6m. I shall stick with 6m in case things change later. Much GDX is via aircraft reflection.

With regard to 10m, sunspot count is 75 and 20-30MHz conditions are "normal" so F2 DX on 10m should be likely. Es is more likely on 10m (than 6m) too but that is not related to sunspot activity, at least not directly.

ISS - not

It turns out my recent message purporting to have been sent for the International Space Station (ISS) was not from there at all, but from a tent in Wales! Not quite sure why people get a kick from this? It all seems a bit silly to me. Previously this person's account was sending out dodgy links and I informed him of this.  Be warned - all may not be what it seems.

6m - CN8LI again and more local DX

The path to CN8LI (2113km) is there again today, but not as strongly as yesterday. So far a single spot in each direction mid-morning. You will recall I use 1W ERP  with a vertical V2000 antenna with about 0dBD gain on 6m. My coax is CB RG58, so quite lossy.

There is quite a bit of inter-G/GDX and aircraft scatter activity with G4FGJ (44km), G4IKZ (18km), G0OQK (98km), G4BRK (134km), G0LRD (25km), G4FFC (45km), G3WKW (134km), G8JNJ/A (184km), as well as ON0VA (280km) with the latter with 3Hz Doppler so almost certainly aircraft reflection.

6m is an interesting band!

6m - WSPR very early Es?

As early as 0402z DB0ZDF (608km at -20dB S/N) was spotting my 1W ERP 6m signal by Es today. Apart from this single report, just the usual GDX stations (out to 184km) no doubt helped by aircraft reflections. I am assuming DB0ZDF was Es; it is possible at this range it could have been tropo or aircraft reflection too.

21 Jun 2014

6m overnight tonight

As 6m has been open for Es most of the day, I'll reset the clock and leave the software to run overnight and hope the WSPR program does not crash in the wee hours.

The chances of really long distance multi-hop Es must be slim, but there is an outside chance.

UPDATE 2225z:  G0OQK (98km) is still spotting me regularly by aircraft reflection or pure tropo.

6m Es this evening

IK1WVQ (1084km) has just been spotted at a strong -6dB S/N at 1710z. This is the first Es today after the many reports ed with exchang CN8LI this morning.

I wonder if there will be other Es openings this evening? IK1WVQ  was running 20W (high for WSPR) and drift (I assume Doppler?) was a massive 3Hz. Of course, it could be the TX drifting as it goes from RX to 20W.

UPDATE 1745z: CN8LI is spotting me again and IK1WVQ is now +3dB S/N, Why does he run 20W when 1-2W would be quite enough?

UPDATE 2205z: The last spot of me by CN8LI (2113km) was at 2018z with -23dB S/N, so relatively weak. This was his 18th spot of me today. Spots started at 0912z today when I switched to 6m. The path may well have been open even earlier. Propagation has been there between us most of the day - quite remarkable!
WSPR spots from CN8LI today - 1W ERP my end

WSPR non-reciprosity? More

As an experiment, I have reduced my TX so that the FT817 ALC is now barely moving. This is a bit lower than the usual setting. TX power as indicated on the FT817's meter is unchanged.

I'll monitor to see if reciprocity. is affected. I suspect not. The ALC was set at a lower setting at 1038z.

40m WSPR overnight

As you will recall, my antenna on 40m is very low and not that efficient: it is just a 10/20/40m Par end-fed with an average height above ground of 4-5m at most. Last night I was on 2W. I hate to think how low the ERP would have been on 40m!

Overnight 17 unique stations spotted me with best DX AE2EA (5654km). Even with a low and inefficient 40m antenna, WSPR still works well!
40m unique spots of my 2W WSPR last night

6m - local, GDX and Es all in one transmission

The 0912 1W ERP 6m WSPR transmission today resulted in G4IKZ (18km), G0OQK (98km) and CN8LI (2113km) spotting me all in one transmission, A very good start on 6m after QSYing up from 40m overnight where the best report was from an AE2 on the east coast USA.

So far CN8LI has been seen twice and he has seen me three times. A promising start on 6m Es today,especially as it is very early still.

Sunspot count today is "only" 75 with 20-30MHz conditions described as "normal" so a reasonable chance of F2-layer DX on 10m.

UPDATE 0958z:  G0LRD (25km) and G4FFC (45km) both spotting me too.

UPDATE 1025z: CN8LI seems to have a "pipe" to me: he is spotting me multiple times now remarkably strongly. Is this really Es?  I know Es signals can be very strong and consistent but when propagation is there it is so good. It  behaves almost more like a duct than a pure reflection.

20 Jun 2014

WSPR non-reciprosity?

Sometimes my software give some stations on WSPR quite decent reports as the signal decodes well. In these situations I am surprised not to be decoded myself as, even allowing for power difference, I should still be well above -30dB S/N. The reasons could be many:
  • The other station is just on TX only
  • The other station has a very high noise floor
  • The other station has a deaf RX.
Apart from these, I cannot think why I should not be copied.

6m GDX - there if stations are active

Today there have been a good number of G stations active on 6m WSPR allowing a really good opportunity to explore GDX paths out to 134km. It seems that if stations are active out  to close to 200km (and probably further) then even a few watts of WSPR (polarisation probably unimportant?) will be decoded at the far end of the path eventually, depending on aircraft reflections and favorable Doppler.

This probably means JT65 or JT9 ranges on 6m probably extend to around 200km at least if the stations know the most favourable alignment of aircraft. The same probably applies on 10m, 4m and 2m ,as well as 70cms and microwave bands.

What I'm not (yet) clear about is the normal tropo range without aircraft reflections. For true tropo, polarisation is more likely to be important: one does not want to throw away valuable dBs with cross-polarisation losses. I don't think this matters where signals are randomly scattered off aircraft bodies.

Lightning damage risk

I am always nervous about lightning strikes.

The excellent Southgate News today told the (true) story of a local CBer who had his vertical and CB rig destroyed by lightning. See http://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/latest-news/
huntingdon_cb_radio_user_almost_electrocuted_after_lightning_
bolt_strikes_aerial_1_3648368
http://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/latest-news/
huntingdon_cb_radio_user_almost_electrocuted_after_lightning_
bolt_strikes_aerial_1_3648368


I usually disconnect antennas when there is lightning about but I am still nervous.  One of my friends (not a radio ham and with no big antennas in the air) who lived in a normal estate home had his home struck years ago and it took out lots of his household wiring. The chances of a direct hit are rare, but I am always bothered and never quite sure what the best advice is.

Email from space?

Just had an email with this at the end:

"Sent from the ISS ...-.-"

I am assuming this came from the International Space Station (ISS).

If correct, this is a first for me.

6m Es today here on WSPR

This is being written at 1740z and so far today just one 6m Es opening, which was to IW1PAK (1092km) around 1100z today. Spots were exchanged in both directions. No other 6m Es see today at all, but things could change later.

Sunspot count is 108 but 20-30MHz propagation is only "fair".  I have not been checking 10m for F2 DX but there would have been a reasonable chance today.

UPDATE 1940z: No further Es seen today, as yet. At this time there are 40 stations active on 6m WSPR including some in the eastern USA. I am always hopeful! This is the highest number so far this DX season.

6m Doppler

On 6m it is amazing how much Doppler there is on longer distance GDX stations. The screenshot shows just how much Doppler there is on G4BRK's signal today.  There were something like 6 aircraft involved at times with WSPR managing to decode when the Doppler is low. On more local signals (e.g. G4FGJ) there is much less (or nil) Doppler. Clearly aircraft reflection plays an important part in long GDX paths. I have no idea where these planes are located.

19 Jun 2014

6m - yet more GDX this evening

Even if Es is not around for me on 6m WSPR, then GDX certainly is.

Just a few moments ago G4BRK  (134km) was spotting me at -18dB S/N with low Doppler (1Hz). I seem to regularly get GDX stations in the log, most usually as a result ( I think) of favorable aircraft alignment. If the planes are moving along the path between me and the other station then Doppler is normally too bad and no decodes occur. If the plane crosses the path then Doppler is usually low and there is a better chance of WSPR decoding. Clearly, modes that are sensitive and more Doppler tolerant would mean such long GDX paths would be workable - JT65 or JT9-1 maybe?

There are software packages used by microwave guys that show aircraft movements in relation to paths between stations, allowing one to work out when planes en route would be most favorably aligned to allow a path to be worked.  My memory fails me on the package name, but it was mentioned in a blog post earlier this year by G3WKW.    UPDATE 1925z Friday:   Bob has kindly reminded me of the software (see comment below too) http://www.airscout.eu Airscout.

134km (83.5 miles) is a very decent distance on 6m inter-G with QRP. I wonder if a horizontal halo would be better or worse? If signals are being scattered off aircraft, then polarisation is less important. A halo would probably have less gain than my V2000 vertical 2dbD omni for halo(?) and 0dBD omni for V2000(?). I guess it will also depend on the other station's polarisation. For pure tropo, I suspect a halo would be better to other stations equipped with horizontal beams, but few GDX paths seem to be pure tropo on 6m.

Just now G8DOR (103km) and G8JNJ/A (184km) were spotting me on 6m WSPR.

Concentrating on one or two bands?

With limited space for antennas, it seems sensible to concentrate efforts on just a couple of bands only. As my favorite band is 10m, I am tempted to erect a more efficient antenna for this band and maybe put up the 6m V2000 only during the Es season. My problems are (a) a lack of mobility because of my stroke and (b) choice of compact, efficient antennas. At present I can cover 40, 20, 10, 6, 2 and 70cms, plus 630m rather inefficiently with my earth electrode antenna. Perhaps, whilst my health is not too good, I am better sticking with what I've got? I know that on 10m my antenna could be better but the Par end-fed covers 3 bands (10, 20 and 40m) and my 2W QRP has reached VK on WSPR on all these bands and doesn't do a bad job.The Par is is almost impossible to see in the air.

Back on 6m WSPR

After a couple unsuccessful attempts on 20m and 40m JT65, I have returned to WSPR on 6m again this afternoon. So far just locals and GDX (DX within G land) and no signs (yet) of any Es. At least one east coast USA station is now monitoring 6m WSPR (Gary KC1AWS). Hopefully there will be more.

Stations copying my 1W ERP today so far on 6m are G4IKZ (18km), G4FFC (45km) and G0OQK (98km). I am still hopeful of 6m Es.

40m WSPR - a total change

Just for a change I QSYed firstly to 20m for a few WSPR spots and then on down to 40m for the morning. Spots (both of me and others) are easy at the 2W level. No great DX seen, just EU stations. The antenna is the Par 10/20/40m end fed which is also used for 10m and 20m. It has an average height of around 4-5m above ground, so probably quite a high angle on 40m. I have been copied in VK on 40m with this set-up though and with just 1W RF.
40m unique WSPR spots this morning

18 Jun 2014

6m GDX tonight

No Es here on 6m WSPR since I QSYed to 6m around 1500z. There has been some GDX again, G8JNJ/A (184km) was spotting me at -24dB S/N at 2128z.  Doppler was low suggesting tropo without aircraft reflections, or aircraft crossing the path at right angles (so little/no Doppler).

Again I am bitterly disappointed with the lack if USA/Canadian east coast stations on WSPR.  As of 2145z there were still ZERO stations active on WSPR from that area. Come on lads! Give we Europeans a chance of being spotted over there!

Unless there is some interest from the east coast USA/Canada on WSPR very soon it will be time to abandon 6m WSPR this season. I have been spotted all over Europe, in N.Africa and in Israel (3519km) with just 1W ERP in the last few months.  I was hoping for the USA or Canada on WSPR this season. If there are zero stations at the other side there is no point in continuing.

6m - active WSPR stations : why so few?

This shows the total number of stations active in the whole world on 6m WSPR - just 35. As you can see, there is zero activity in the eastern seaboard states of the USA or Canada apart from W4.

Please, please give this very sensitive mode a try. It is about 12-14dB better than CW so very modest antennas and low power are fine.  Even just on RX would be a start. Nearly half in the world on 6m WSPR is just receiving. There are transatlantic openings being missed.
Just 35 stations worldwide active on 6m WSPR at 1915z

Back on 6m - missing out on DX with WSPR?

Since around 1500z I QSYed back to 6m from 10m. 6m activity levels from DX stations are still disappointingly low: only last evening PE4BAS was working WP4 (Caribbean) with just an FT817ND (QRP) and V2000 vertical using JT65 digital mode.  See http://pe4bas.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/magic-on-magic-band.html .

At the moment WSPR is not the best mode to get DX, which is a great pity, as it is probably the mode that works best with very weak signals.

Since 1500z only G4IKZ (18km) and G0OQK (98km) spotting me on 6m WSPR. No sign of any Es.

UPDATE 1855z:  a short while ago G6AVK was spotting me at -26dB S/N at 78km. Still no Es here.

UPDATE 1900z:   Sunspot count is 87 and 20-30MHz propagation forecast now only "fair". It was "normal" earlier in the day, so conditions for HF F2-layer propagation have deteriorated.

New Chinese multi-mode HF rig - Xiegu X108

Steve, G1KQH has sent this link about a new Chinese multi-mode transceiver.  See http://www.brickolore.com/ . Prices start at 2800 Yuan apparently. It is called the Xiegu X108. There is a video and some pictures of the rig.

To my mind, this still looks like  a "back shed" radio, rather than a mature, well engineered and  thoroughly well tested radio. I may be wrong. I am still waiting to see when the Chinese launch a proper Yaesu or Icom competitor. These will come but I've not seen one yet. Maybe in the next 12 months?

10m WSPRing again

In view of the poor level of DX activity on 6m WSPR, I have started today on 10m. Near immediate success with 3 spots of OE6PWD (1230km) around 0900z. This is clearly Es. Looking at my spots, I think I caught the tail end of an Es opening (reports are getting worse over time).

Sunspot count today is 87 and 20-30MHz conditions are "normal", so we may see some long distance F2-layer propagation on 10m. May try 6m later, if some DX stations (esp. USA and Canada) are active. Otherwise I'll stay on 10m.

FR1GZ (9724km) was spotted at 0922z for the first signs of F2 propagation. The band is clearly open N-S for real DX.

UPDATE 1411z:  FR1GZ has spotted me a couple of times and he has been a consistent F2-layer signal all day with around 13 spots in the log today.  OH6GKW (1839km) is now being spotted on Es.

17 Jun 2014

6m - all quiet here at 2015z

It is now 2015z and 6m WSPR has only been good for locals and GDX  here today.

I hear 6m was open to South and Central America earlier (but this was NOT the case on WSPR - no stations active!) and there have been transatlantic openings on SSB/CW. In the past (summer 2007) I have worked the USA on 6m real QRP CW, but I'd really like to spot, or be spotted by, USA or Canadians on 6m WSPR this season. As mentioned before, power is unlikely to be the issue. The main issue will be active WSPR stations in the USA and Canada.

Super DX on 6m WSPR - a lost cause?

Yet again, there are ZERO stations active on 6m WSPR in the north eastern USA and eastern Canada. There have been decent 6m transatlantic openings on 6m today but without participating WSPR stations WSPR is a dead loss!! I shall give 6m WSPR a few more days before I give it up in disgust.

6m WSPR should be the ideal mode to seek out such openings but only if stations bother to use the mode. Please, please give it a try if you are on the east coast of the USA and Canada.

Set to 50.293MHz USB dial.

Ten-Tec Argonaut VI

See http://www.tentec.com/argonaut-vi-qrp-1-10-watt-transceiver/

Despite missing some key bands, all reports are this is a very good QRP radio from Ten-Tec. However at $995 in the USA (similar in £ in the UK with import duty and VAT tax) it is simply too expensive to ever consider.

All I can say is are Ten-Tec in financial trouble? The true market price  here in the UK must be less than £700, so they are about £300 adrift in my estimation.

Even in the USA $995 for a rig with no 60m, no 12m and no 6m is way over the top. Just compare with the FT817ND for example. Even the Elecraft KX3 is much better value,  in my view.

Views?

6m GDX today

G8JNJ/A  (184km) and G0OQK (98km) were both spotting my 6m 1W ERP this morning and I have just spotted G4HBA (189km) on 6m WSPR.  G4HBA's spots (several now) are with a fair bit of Doppler, so I am sure aircraft reflection is involved over this longish GDX path. G4HBA is using 10W.

No Es seen here on 6m so far today, but it is early still with Es peaks around lunch and teatimes usual.

UPDATE 1225z:  No 6m Es here this lunchtime, at least not yet.

UPDATE 1246z:   Still no Es today here on 6m. All seems very quiet with just GDX (9 spots of G4HBA so far today).

UPDATE 1945z:   Still no 6m Es here today. Unless things change later this evening, I think that is it for the day - just GDX.

Apparently there have been good transatlantic openings on 6m today. But where are the USA/Canadian WSPRers?

UPDATE 2130z:  Still no 6m Es here today.  Will reset the internet sync'ed PC clock but not really expecting Es now, but on the "magic band" it is possible.

Back to 6m WSPR

10m is becoming too easy: there was Es from early hours today, so I have decided to move back up to 6m again today. There will be no F2, just GDX and (hopefully) some Es propagation. As yet, just G4IKZ (18km) is spotting me at the usual strong level (+10dB S/N). Not sure if it is -1 to -2Hz Doppler (aircraft reflection) on my signal or just warm-up drift.

Early still: anything is possible on the "magic band".

16 Jun 2014

10m Es - more and more

It is now 2015z and on 10m the Es keeps on coming. This is a good, solid and widespread Es opening.
Recent 10m WSPR spots this evening
UPDATE 2110z:   10m Es still going strong a few minutes ago.

UPDATE 2145z:    Es seemed to have stopped (here) at about 2100z. Oh no it didn't! IK1WVQ  was spotted at 2134z and 2142z..  HB9JOI spotted me at 2138z.  The Es is still going strong.

UPDATE 2220z:   Although Es has been good on 10m all day and F2 was good to FR1GZ earlier, there has been no F2 to South America on 10m WSPR at least not yet. This was surprising. EB3EPR  is still spotting me at 2218z.

UPDATE 2232z: Bed time, but 10m WSPR still running overnight, unless the PC does an update and closes the software again!

DK6UG, DC3RJ and EA1KV by Es on 10m WSPR

As teatime continues, yet more Es 10m propagation is evident.

DC3RJ (817km) is the latest who spotted me at 1754z. Earlier EB3EPR (1248km) spotted me twice. Now EA1KV (1304km) and DK6UG are spotting me at 1806z.

Some weeks ago I was questioning the propagation to a GM reporter on 6m, but realise now the distance is comparable with parts of Germany, so an easy Es single hop.

UPDATE 1840Z:    HB3YHB (793km) was spotted at 1838z on 10m WSPR.

More 10m GDX, Es and F2

During the afternoon G4FFC (45km) and M0BOB (74km) were both copied on 10m WSPR. These are both outside local range and I would class these as GDX (just). Both show some Doppler so may be helped by aircraft reflection.

On F2 FR1GZ (9724km, Reunion Is) was being copied until 1512z, so good F2 propagation. I wonder if we'll see South Americans later?

Es disappeared (here) at 1404z but may return this teatime.

UPDATE 1740z:  EB3EPR (1248km) spotted me at 1736z and 1746z so Es is back (it is teatime!).

10m F2

FR1GZ (9734km, on Reunion Is, south Indian Ocean) is still coming through here on 10m WSPR at -27dB S/N at 1444z  and again at 1504z at -25dB S/N.  F2 propagation N-S is still there when HF conditions are good.

Sunspot count today is "only" 80 - a year from now this will sound amazingly high - although 20-30MHz conditions are forecast to be "good".

F2 on 6m is very rare except at high sunspot peaks and in latitudes nearer the equator. TEP involving F2 over the equator is more common, but it requires stations to be in the right places to work.  On 6m the paths from CN8 to FR1 were open by TEP this spring. Also 4X to FR1  and VK to JA.

On 10m TEP should be more frequent. Sometimes F2 links with Es further from the equator, allowing TEP to be extended to stations in higher latitudes.

WSPR software had stopped working

LB9YE on www;qrz.com
For about an hour my WSPR software was not working on 10m. It happened sometime between 1130z and 1230z. All is now fixed: the internet clock was resync'ed and the WSPR software closed and restarted.  I have no idea what I missed in that hour.   Pretty sure this is a Windows 8.1 issue as it never happened with the old XP PC before it died. It is not a big deal - one has just to keep an eye on things, which one should always be doing. Biggest issue is if this happens overnight. It has not yet.

UPDATE 1254z:  On 10m  LB9YE (1533km) is still being spotted (many times), as he was before the software crashed. Now also SI9AM (1503km at 1252z) - looks like a good Es opening to Scandinavia. LB9YE seems to be a very consistent signal today and last evening on 10m.\

UPDATE 1340z:  SI9AM still being spotted. 10m open to Scandinavia still.

G4DAY on 10m WSPR - GDX

G4DAY (142km) was again spotted at 1104z. It seems this sort of range is possible on 10m GDX. Doppler was a very large (4Hz) suggesting aircraft reflection or even back scatter?

G4DAY is using 10W and that may help. He was -24dB S/N with me, suggesting my signal (2W) would be buried in the noise at his end. WSPR usually decodes down to about -30dB S/N.

10m Es, F2 and GDX

On 10m G4DAY (142km) was copied twice in the early morning and again at 0940z.

Es has been plentiful this morning.   Looking at the WSPR screen earlier there was lots of MS about with several traces of intermittent (non decoding) signals on 10m WSPR, presumably UK or EU signals reflecting off meteor trails. Es so far includes DL6UG, DL6NL, EB3EPR, EA5CYA,  LB9YE and HB9JOI.

Also spotted FR1GZ (9724km) by F2 propagation at 1038z, 1122z and again at 1128z.

10m is a far more productive band than 6m. Interestingly, G4DAY (10W) was being spotted by Es several times in the night suggesting Es propagation was there but not good enough to allow my 2W to be decoded. For some Es and GDX it seems 10W helps.

15 Jun 2014

Back to 10m (from 6m)

In the last few minutes I have moved back to 10m WSPR from 6m. On 6m I was still getting GDX spots but no Es. On 10m there is still Es about and already I have been spotted by SA6BSS (1059km) and am spotting LB9YE (1533km), decent DX across Europe.

I have reset the clock on internet time and will leave 10m running through the night. We'll see how early the first 10m Es and F2 start appearing, as long as the PC does not crash!

Sunspot count was 159 today (pretty good) with 20-30MHz propagation "normal". Let us hope tomorrow will be similar and we get some F2 propagation on 10m.

In praise of the FT817(ND) and QRP

FT817ND QRP transceiver
I have owned an FT817 practically since it was first released in the UK back in 2000. The FT817ND was bought this spring as a second QRP rig along with a Z817 auto-ATU.  The transceivers are mostly used at home. They are ideal for digital modes.

In my view, the FT817ND is the very best rig available. My FT817ND was just under 500 pounds for cash, brand new with 2 yrs warranty. The nearest rig (about 5 times larger!) was the FT7 10W radio which did not cover WARC bands, much of 10m , 6m, 2m or 70cm.

The FT817ND could be further improved in several ways but if 5W (or less) is all you need, then this is an excellent radio. The KX3 is no doubt a better radio but is far more expensive (here in the UK) and is less suited for home use in my view. For the price of one fully loaded KX3 you can buy two FT817ND's in the UK.

If you have never owned an FT817ND you don't know what you've been missing.

As a plug for QRP, going from 100W to 5W is about 2-3 S-points. So if 100W would have been 59 you'd still be 56 at least with 5W. What's all the fuss about high power? I have worked THE WORLD on SSB with just  2.5W to simple wire antennas (no beams!).

My FT817's have been used on VLF,  LF and MF with home-brew transverters and on all HF and VHF bands working some impressive DX.

There is a myth that QRP is "hard". Let me tell you that is rubbish. Sometimes power helps, but that is rare. Mostly QRP is just plain good fun - making the hobby all new again. The most I use these days is 5W, and more often far less. QRP is great fun.

Go for it!

6m Es teatime - CN8LI (Morocco) right on time!

1642z and CN8LI (2113km) has just spotted my 1W ERP again on 6m WSPR via Es. This is the teatime peak in Es - right on cue.

UPDATE 1736:  CN8LI has spotted me 5 times (so far) this teatime at up to -14dB S/N. That makes 7 times so far today. When the propagation is there, signals are often strong.  Doppler was -2Hz on his strongest report - moving Es clouds?  G8JNJ/A was spotting me (184km) at 1724z.

UPDATE 1940z:  CN8LI has been gone now since 1708z.  I think the Es has gone and just GDX currently. G0OQK is a new GDX spotter (I think) at 98km at 1846z. There have been so many GDX reports that I am forgetting which stations are new ones.

What is GDX?

This was a question I was asked earlier today. Someone thought it was an exotic digital mode. It is not.

GDX means "best DX in the UK" , nothing more.

If you live in the UK it is probably a phrase you know. If you live outside the UK then it may be a phrase you've maybe never heard of before or were too embarrassed to ask.

In the same way ODX means "best overall DX".

UPDATE 1545z:  Just 6m locals and GDX this afternoon. No Es here since CN8LI lunchtime.  May be more teatime?

Spotted by CN8LI (2113km) twice on 6m WSPR

CN8LI (2113km, Morocco) spotted my 1W ERP twice around 1200z today on 6m. This is the first real DX (Es presumably) today.

G4HBA (189km) is the best GDX so far today. He was spotted at -27dB S/N at 1138z when running 10W with 2Hz Doppler, so maybe some aircraft reflection?
Recent 6m WSPR spots today

6m GDX

After a brief outing on 10m (I and LA spots) I have QSYed up to 6m for the day and have so far been rewarded with locals and GDX out to 78km. Again I am still puzzled why I seem to give others much better reports than they give me. My noise floor is low but I am still puzzled. It is as if my TX is putting out about 10dB (at least) less than it says. Odd.
6m WSPR spots to 1010z today

The joy of Windows or is it Dell?

Last night my new Win 8.1 Dell PC decided it needed to install updates. I chose to  switch off until restarting this morning. It said "Loading Windows updates. Do not switch off your computer". Being a good boy, I obeyed and waited as it got to 81% complete ...... and waited, and waited, had breakfast, went for a walk, had more breakfast and still it said 81%, please wait. In all it had now been 1 hr 40 minutes!

At this point I was about to ring up that nice Dell man in India when I decided to turn off the PC and try again. THIS time it sailed through 81% and reached 100% complete in no time. PC works fine! What the heck was going on?

14 Jun 2014

Concentrate on 6m and 10m?

10m is my favorite band of all: there is the possibility of local QSOs on 10FM out to 30-40km (at least) even with very modest (CB level) powers to a 1/2 wave vertical. It is good for GDX with suitably equipped stations out to many hundreds of kilometres. F2 and Es propagation allow really long distances.

6m is the "magic band". It seems to be good for locals and GDX seems to work out pretty well too out to several hundred kilometres, as for 10m. Although F2 is rare except close to good sunspot maxima, Es is there every spring and summer and at other times too, but more rarely. More stations active (e.g. on WSPR - a great DX mode) would indicate more openings, I suspect.

Actually one could do a lot worse than concentrate on WSPR on these 2 bands only. That is what I may do in future. In effect I  am already doing this, but I could better optimise the antennas - maybe a 1/2 wave vertical on 10m and a halo on 6m? My antennas may be compromised but in my present state of health (stroke) they will have to do.

UPDATE 1820z:   All afternoon on 6m it has been just locals G4IKZ, G4KPX and G0LRD only here with no signs of GDX or Es at this QTH. Things on the "magic band" can change quite quickly, so I shall be staying on 6m for the rest of the day. We'll see.

UPDATE 1830z:  Looking back through the WSPR logs I see G3IGU (172km) near Doncaster was being spotted here at 1254z with only very slight Doppler or warm-up drift (-1Hz).  This may have been tropo or a favorable aircraft again. So there was some GDX around.  I have seen a surprising number of GDX stations now on 6m at decent distances. Theseare all "accidental" spots - no skeds, I just happened to see these stations.

As I write this I see G6AVK (78km) is spotting my 1W ERP at -27dB S/N at 1830z , yet more GDX.

UPDATE 2030z:   Just the locals reporting me. No Es or GDX currently.

UPDATE 2155z:   Still just the locals.  Soon be time to pull the big switch to off.

Back to 6m

After a fun day on 10m, I've now gone back to 6m and my 1W ERP was immediately spotted on WSPR by locals G0LRD and G4IKZ. On the lookout for more distant 6m stations now by any mode.

UPDATE 1120: G4KPX (14km) is spotting me well on 6m and the first 6m GDX today G4HBA (189km) using 10W from IO93fn square (near Barnsley, Yorkshire) is being spotted here at -25dB S/N with 3Hz Doppler, suggesting aircraft involvement.

10m Es and early morning MS?

LB9YE and I have been exchanging WSPR spots since 0458z this morning. In both directions there is considerable Doppler. On another signal (not currently decoding) there are clear signs of meteor reflections as the signals are strong but in short bursts. I wonder if MS was playing a part in LB9YE's decodes?

Earier in the night PB0AIC (288km) was decoded STRONGLY at -8dB S/N . At this range I assumes this was early morning tropo or again possibly MS? At the very same time 0404z, G8VDQ (93km) , was decoded strongly at -12dB S/N.

Otherwise all quiet on the Es front.

I do wonder sometimes about Es (SPORADIC E-layer) reflections. Many signals do come into this category with fleeting, often quite localised, strong openings, but many others are anything but sporadic. Are these really Es as we know it or some other propagation?

13 Jun 2014

Even more 10m GDX and Es

At 1936z G8VDQ (93km) in IO91um was spotted here at -26dB S/N.  When there are GDX stations they seem to be copied. G8VDQ's signal had -3Hz Doppler, suggesting aircraft reflection was involved.

UPDATE 1950z:  Es is still in evidence with DK6UG spotting me 4 times (so far) now at around -22/-23dB S/N.

UPDATE 2120z:  Es again; this time  IK1WVQ (1084km)  spotted at -20dB S/N.

10m Es - all quiet for a few hours

There has been no Es here since 1714z. I shall leave 10m WSPR running as it is quite possible there will be Es later, but the last hour has been very quiet on 10m.

At 1816z just spotted G0LRD who is a semi-local at a strong -13dB S/N. A few minutes later he spotted me at -23dB S/N. This may be conditions or that my antenna could be improved or is (unintentionally) directional.

UPDATE 1906z:  Still no more Es here this evening since 1714z. Intrigued why G0LRD is so much better here than me with him. Don't imagine Dave has a very bad noise issue on 10m at his QTH so it is probably the antenna inefficiency here. I'd like to try a different antenna for 10m but this means antenna work which is very hard currently. The present antenna covers 10, 20 and 40m which is very useful and it does seem to get most of the F2 and Es stations OK. My 2W WSPR has been copied in Australia this year on 10, 20 and 40m.

UPDATE 1926z:    Es still around on 10m. DK6UG (633km) spotting me at -22dB S/N at 1922z which is similar to the report he gave G0LRD. We are both running around 2W.

10m GDX

Just noticed that I spotted G4HZW (209km) at -22dB S/N this morning on 10m WSPR. This is a good GDX distance but it does not surprise me. Later this afternoon  G8JNJ/A (184km) was spotted at -24dB S/N.

During evening time 10m contests organised by the RSGB during sunspot minima I could regularly work stations up and down the country when I was using 10W SSB and CW and just dipoles at my end.

209km with 2W WSPR sounds very do-able. Oh for more GDX stations on 10m, and 6m!

UPDATE 1520z:  OZ7IT spotting me on Es at a STRONG -11dB S/N. Even if little GDX is around there are Es openings to be enjoyed at this time of the year.

10m WSPR - a good move

CX2ABP (11127km) and FR1GZ (9724km) have both been spotted here today on 10m WSPR, so there was/is N-S F2-layer propagation on 10m, as expected.  So far only EA1KV (1304km) has spotted my 2W 10m signal, but it is early days.

I will stick on 10m at least this afternoon but may go back to 6m later chasing transatlantic Es DX.

It is possible that this 10m N-S DX propagation is a mix of F2-layer and Es. EA1KV is spotting me consistently via Es and it could be only F2-layer from further south where the F2 MUF will be higher?

UPDATE 1530z:  More Es about now on 10m. Spots from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. As I recall from previous Es seasons, openings to Scandinavia seem to become more frequent later in the Es season. Is this to do with thunderstorm activity or some more obscure Es connection? PA0O (440km) is also being spotted by me. This could be short skip Es, or even tropo. I notice G4IKZ regularly spots him by tropo on 6m.
10m unique WSPR spots so far today (now 1545z)

Sunspots

The sunspot count today is 196 (high) but with blackouts possible. 20-30MHz forecast is "normal".

Today could be quite productive on 10m for N-S F2 propagation so I may QSY to 10m (from 6m) shortly. On 6m still just local G4IKZ spotting me so far (to 1018z).

"WSPR has stopped working" message

I think this is a Windows 8.1 issue? It happened around 0700z this morning and has been fixed by resetting internet time and reopening the WSPR software. I wonder if it is linked to Windows doing an update?

Anyway, all is now fine and only about 1hr missed on 6m. So far just the usual STRONG reports from G4IKZ (18km) on 6m. I may QSY to a different band later for a change.
G4IKZ 6m spots of my 1W ERP so far this morning (13.6.14)
WSPRing on 6m needs patience: there are long periods of relative silence punctuated by a little DX activity, usually Es but occasionally GDX.  Most days in the last few weeks I have just let the software run to see what turns up. It has been rewarding. 

I just wish more east coast USA/Canadians would come on 6m WSPR.  If there are any stateside multi-hop 6m Es openings WSPR is the ideal mode to find them. You can then do other things at the same time.

12 Jun 2014

6m GDX

There is clearly Es around on 6m WSPR this evening, but there is also some GDX.  G8JNJ/A (184km) spotted my 1W ERP WSPR signal at 1910z at -25dB S/N and again at 2028z and 2046z.

CN8LI was last spotting me (still) at 1920z. at -18dB S/N presumably on Es.

UPDATE 2150z:   No GDX or Es now.  I am leaving 6m WSPR on overnight - ever hopeful!

East Coast USA 6m WSPR stations - where are you?

One of these spring/summer days, 6m is going to open across the Atlantic again by Es, but unless there are active 6m WSPR stations along the east coast of the USA any openings will probably be missed on WSPR. This would be a great shame as WSPR is some 12-14dB better than CW, so WSPR would be a great mode to winkle out fleeting openings. Even modest antennas and low power should do.

So, if you have WSPR and live along the east coast of the USA and Canada PLEASE come on 50.293MHz USB dial.  You may be part of some historic firsts.

I don't believe 6m WSPR has crossed the Atlantic yet, but I'm sure I'll be told if wrong. I worked a station on CW in the USA with QRP CW in summer 2007 with around 1W ERP and the V2000 vertical. WSPR should be 12-14dB easier.

Return to 6m

Just after midday local time I returned to 6m having switched off last night. So far, only G4IKZ (18km) is spotting me on WSPR and at excellent strength (+10/+11 dB S/N despite cross-polarisaton). No Es (yet) and no GDX (yet) but there is a lot of time today still to come.

UPDATE 1542z:  Just spots all afternoon from G4IKZ and no-one else so far.

UPDATE 1800z:   CN8LI (2113km) and I have exchanged WSPR spots 7 times since 1604z, many at great strength again. Es I assume although this propagation is almost predictable! No EAs active on WSPR so if multi-hop Es I shall never know.

Again there is a distinct lack of east coast USA stations, so any E-W multi-hop Es events across the Atlantic will go unnoticed on 6m WSPR today. A crying shame. East coast USA WSPR stations - where are you? We need YOU on and active!

UPDATE 1808z:  First Es in the other direction today - OH5MD (1757km) has spotted my 1W ERP at 1800z.

11 Jun 2014

6m GDX

I have now closed down on 6m for the night, but not before spotting G8JNJ/A (184km) at -25dB S/N at 2032z. A little  earlier he spotted me. Otherwise the band is quiet apart from local G4IKZ (18km).

Around teatime I had a couple of Es spots from German stations on 6m.

6m odd conditions

Apart from CN8LI (2113km) and G4IKZ (18km) no-one else is spotting me or being spotted by me. If these are Es conditions (to CN8LI) I am surprised that more stations are not copyable. No GDX stations being copied either.

The last spot of CN8LI seems to have been at 1544z (no spots since then) and since then I've only seen local G4IKZ.
6m spots by CN8LI today (to 1536z)

6m - CN8LI lots of times today

6m has been good with lots of spots both ways of CN8LI (2113km) during the day. So far, he has spotted me ten times (see below)  and I have spotted him 5 times by 1435z. The common wisdom is this is Es but he is the ONLY DX spot so far and this is long distance for single hop. There is no sign of stations half way if this is double hop Es. Could it be F2-layer 1 hop? He has spotted me twice since (by 1525z).
Spots of my 1W ERP 6m WSPR signal by CN8LI (2113km)

Red legged partridges

Red legged partridges in the back garden
Slowly but surely the bird count at our new QTH is creeping up, although we see fewer small birds than at the old QTH on the village edge. This is a bit puzzling as we have plenty of trees, orchards and shrubs around and we put nuts out in the feeders. We do have a pair of red legged partridges that come in the garden most days. They seem to live in the close.

All my antennas (40m-70cm) are at one end of the garden and don't spoil the garden view at all.

Brother here - 70cm contest missed. Now on 6m.

Back garden
For the last few days I have had my brother and his wife staying here from Devon, so last night I missed out on the 70cm UKAC contest. Today I am back on 6m. Sunspot count is 149 with "good" 20-30MHz propagation with a danger of blackouts. My brother and his wife have gone home today.

Brother trimming our front hedge
G4IKZ (18km) is back on 6m so I can tell that my 6m WSPR is getting out even without Es yet. Note the false (?) decodes +/-50Hz when I am very strong. Not sure whose end this is, but it is not operationally an issue.
Nick's 6m spots of my 1W ERP WSPR signal so far today.

10 Jun 2014

First 1.5hrs on 6m today

6m so far on WSPR
Just semi-locals on 6m today so far.  Maybe there will be Es about later? My locals G4IKZ and G4KPX don't appear to be on 6m today.

UPDATE  1746z:  Just the semi-locals still all afternoon, with no sign of 6m Es here today, well not yet! Will 61km be my best DX today?

UPDATE  1754z:   Just a few minutes later on 6m WSPR and OZ7IT (853km) in JO65df square was booming in at -8dB S/N by Es.

UPDATE 2105z:   No further Es seen here this evening on 6m.

10m WSPR yesterday

10m unique WSPR spots yesterday
Quite a productive day on 10m yesterday with both Es and F-layer DX about. Best DX spot of my 2W was from FR1GZ on Reunion Is. and my best spot was of CX2ABP (11127km) in Montevideo, S.America who uses 5W.

This morning I have returned to 6m but G4IKZ, my faithful local reporter is not on!