31 Jan 2018


At the moment I am monitoring 136kHz WSPR RX and OPERA RX. As yet, nothing copied.

UPDATE 2006z: G3XIZ copied on 136kHz WSPR.


From Southgate News I see that back issues of Backscatter (the microwave newsletter) are available free online as pdfs.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2018/january/backscatter-available-as-free-pdf.htm#.WnHmYUx2vIU


I am really trying hard to contain my excitement following the earth shattering news from OFCOM today. If you have a weak heart, maybe you should not read it.

OFCOM today published the details of when forms to be used by applicants who wish to bid for 2.3 and 3.4GHz spectrum need to be returned and the deposits.

Now, get back on your chair and get a strong cup of tea. Gosh, this is so exciting! Contain yourselves, please.

See https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/110487/application-date-deposit-notice.pdf

LF disappointment

Yesterday evening and overnight I was on 136kHz WSPR RX with a preamp in circuit. Only 2 stations were spotted - G3XIZ (46km) and G8HUH (250km) and, if I am honest, the preamp made little difference, whereas I was hoping for much more.

With G3XIZ there may have been a slight improvement but with G8HUH he was no better. I am not quite sure what this is telling me. I think it means external noise is the limiting factor at this QTH. Unless I take further steps to reduce the external noise I am unlikely to spot many more stations. There was one station on OPERA (G3XDV?) who was quite strong, but I did not have any OPERA software running. I shall try again tonight. If possible, I'll run both WSPR and OPERA software at the same time.

10m FT8 RX

Well, I have been on since breakfast and have spotted 4 stations in 4 EU countries. Best DX was CT1LT (1436km). Not bad so far today.

UPDATE 1425z:  G4CJC (74km) spotted.

UPDATE 1538z:  ZS6BUN (9130km) spotted. Real DX.

UPDATE 1932z: No further spots today. I was expecting to spot South Americans. Soon be time to QSY to LF.

Sunspots - Tuesday January 31st 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number is 15. A=5 and K=0.

30 Jan 2018

Random Kindness - NOT amateur radio

In the news we tend to hear about bad things, but rarely good things.

Well, in my experience there are far more kind people than bad ones. Since my stroke over 4 years ago I cannot remember all the kind things people have done for me.  Only today I received something in the post totally free that a kind person had sent me.

It was heartening to hear of other acts of kindness by total strangers on the BBC Breakfast TV programme.

Always remember this: we tend to hear about bad things, but rarely good.

136kHz WSPR RX

Thanks to the great kindness of an individual who shall remain nameless, I am looking on 136kHz WSPR with better sensitivity. This amateur did not want me to pay, but gave it in the true spirit of amateur radio. There are some very kind people out there. In my experience, the true spirit of our hobby is alive and well - thank you.

At some point in the future I hope I can be as generous to someone as many people have been to me in recent years. A great many people have shown me kindness and I am so grateful for their help in so many ways.

False alarm? - NOT amateur radio

We had a police car outside our house for an hour (we thought they just wanted a nice, quiet spot to eat lunch) and then the bomb disposal guys came. Normally it is very quiet. I suspect they had a new exhibit at the museum and wanted to be doubly sure it is safe. All gone now and back to normal.

OFCOM - clearing 700MHz

Today OFCOM showed more about its plans to reallocate 700MHz spectrum.

See https://www.ofcom.org.uk/spectrum/information/transmitter-frequency?utm_source=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=700MHz_clearance

10m FT8 RX

Will today be a repeat of yesterday? Having been on since breakfast my only spot is of G0OYQ (177km) in the Hull area. This is probably aircraft reflection or it could be tropo. If it turns out like yesterday, this could be it! However, I am always hopeful and you never know.

UPDATE 1205z: Well, I was right to be optimistic! DK2BL (990km) in Bavaria has been spotted.

UPDATE 1412z: No further spots.

UPDATE 1835z: SQ4OJD (1357km) spotted strongly.

Sunrise - NOT amateur radio

After the rain yesterday, we had a glorious sunrise today. This was the sunrise earlier in our close. It is still sunny.

Sunspots - Tuesday January 30th 2018

Solar flux is 68 today (low). Sunspot number is still zero. A=4 and K=2.


Last night I did not go on 630m WSPR RX. The rigs and PC were rested overnight. Since breakfast, I have been on 10m FT8 RX.


This is a view of my operating position. Nearby, but not shown, is the bench where I do any building.

29 Jan 2018

630m WSPR RX

Although I am currently monitoring 630m WSPR RX, I am not sure about monitoring overnight. I may continue (shack PC on batteries) until bedtime. So far the best DX is EA5DOM (1525km). In all, 5 uniques spotted this evening so far.

Grumpy old man - NOT amateur radio

OK, I have definitely qualified for grumpy old man status!

Over lunch I glanced through one of the many gifts on sale in the brochures we get sent in the post. I noticed a "New England Chair" that was £450!! It was probably made in a sweatshop in China for £5. Now, some may pay this (perhaps a footballer on £400k a week?), but count me out!

Now, I have nothing against small businesses (or large) making fair profits, but this is ridiculous in my view. Some suckers may be persuaded to part with their money, but not me.

365project - NOT amateur radio

Some time ago I think I mentioned that I do the 365project (do not confuse with MS Word as it has nothing whatsoever to do with this).
Basically this is free unless you want privacy and more albums, when it costs $19.99 a year. The idea is to submit a picture every day so you have a sort of visual diary.
Some submit very arty photos, but I tend to use very ordinary images. It is interesting to look back, say, 3 years.

See http://365project.org/g3xbm/365

The next solar maximum

"A monthly smoothed maximum number of 62 is derived for Solar Cycle 25. This would probably be around 2025. This is almost down to Dalton Mimimum values."

Basically, not great! We had better get used to it.

See https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/12/21/solar-cycle-25-amplitude-prediction/

630m overnight

Last night I returned to 630m WSPR RX. In all, 12 uniques were spotted, all EU. Overall, not a brilliant night.

Wallflowers - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we went for a short walk around part of our village. In one garden, there were some wallflowers in flower.  This is the first I have seen.  At the right temperature, these smell wonderfully.

Our own, in the sun by our front door, have still to flower: they are some weeks off yet.

Sunspots - Monday January 29th 2018

Solar flux is 67and the sunspot number zero. A=4 and K=1.

This is the lowest solar flux I have seen for many years. We are likely to hit even lower numbers in the years ahead around the sunspot minimum.

It is some time since I checked the forecasts for cycle 25 peak. The last time I looked I think the "experts" were expecting a similar peak to the last one.

10m FT8 RX since breakfast

As I normally do, I have been on 10m FT8 RX since breakfast. So far just G4CJC (74km) spotted, probably by aircraft reflection.

UPDATE 1655z: No further spots. What a bad day! Unless things suddenly change (it has been known - says the eternal optimist!) it is probably the worst day on 10m for a very long time. I shall stay on until about 1800z, then switch to 630m WSPR RX, which always brings results.

28 Jan 2018

QSYed to 630m WSPR RX

At 1724z I QSYed to MF from 10m. I am again running the shack PC from batteries with a preamp and earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Late this evening I shall have to take a break so the shack PC batteries can be charged for the overnight period.

UPDATE 1744z: First spot was DL3NDR (814km) shortly followed by G0MRF (139km) and DH5RAE (995km). Whilst it is good to spot these stations, it would be great to spot some new stations. 

UPDATE 2142z: About 30 minutes ago I went QRT to charge the shack PC battery.  Up to this point I had spotted 9 uniques. This is typical. I shall go on again later.

UK Pound up - NOT amateur radio

Although I am at a loss to understand why, the UK Pound is up against almost all major currencies. Against the US Dollar and the Euro, yes, but the rest too?

RSPB Birdwatch 2018 - NOT amateur radio

Every January, I take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch organised by the RSPB here in the UK. You watch the birds in your garden for any 1 hour and note the maximum number of each sort seen in the hour.

This year there were no blackbirds, no tits, no collared doves. In fact there was a real shortage of small birds. I may just have been unlucky or maybe it was the fact that we have had more frosts which have killed off smaller birds? Anyway this year I saw 2 robins, 2 starlings, 3 jackdaws and 4 black headed gulls and nothing else.

10m FT8 RX - all quiet?

For about 20 minutes I have been on 10m FT8 RX. As yet, no spots. It is on 1055z, so things could change.

UPDATE 1254z: 4 stations in 3 EU countries spotted so far. Most of these were quite recent. Es?

UPDATE 1655z: G4AWP (19km) spotted. Real DX today! No further spots since G4AWP.

Grandchildren - NOT amateur radio

Last night we had one of our sons and his children staying. They have now gone home. This is them outside "our" windmill.

Sunspots - Sunday January 28th 2018

Solar flux is 69 and the sunspot number zero. A=6 and K=0.

Not on 630m WSPR RX overnight

Overnight I did not go on 630m WSPR.  Instead, I remained on the band during yesterday afternoon and evening. One reason was we had grandchildren staying, so access to my shack was limited. I am now on 10m FT8 RX.

27 Jan 2018


There is little doubt that FT8 digital mode has taken the world by storm. Bandwidth is much less than JT65 and QSOs are faster although I think it needs stronger (weak) signals to work. One thing it does is concentrate operations in a small part of the band, so fleeting openings are more likely to be noticed.

As many know, I keep a watchful eye on 10m FT8 RX. Although openings are now much rarer than at the peak of the sunspot cycle, they do occur. Rarely does a day pass when 10m does not open to somewhere overseas. In the last few weeks it has opened to South America. Even the very briefest openings get noticed. At one time a quick CQ on SSB would have led to 10m being given up as a "dead" band.

Try FT8 on a higher band: you may be surprised.

WSJT-X, which is the software needed, is totally free.

See https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html.

Cheese rolling - NOT amateur radio

This saddens me. A cheese rolling contest has been cancelled this year. They hope to do it in 2019. We English like doing odd things and it would be sad if this tradition died out.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-42788965 .

Fake speed camera - NOT amateur radio

All I can say is well done that lady.

I certainly hope it makes some drivers slow down. The next thing we'll hear is this is causing a health and safety hazard and has to be removed.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-berkshire-42775070/berkshire-mum-fakes-road-camera-to-tackle-speeding-cars

Amateur files - useful link

My friend Steve G1KQH has sent me an interesting link. These are amateur radio related files in pdf format.

See http://www.n5dux.com/ham/files/pdf/ .

Giddiness - NOT amateur radio

This morning, in the drizzle, we did a short walk at Wicken Fen. I find walking along the board walk there very hard nowadays. Perhaps it is the water on either side, but I always feel giddy there since my 2013 stroke. I find having to concentrate so hard exhausts me these days. Pathetic. Today, it was wet too, which made it even harder. On the positive side, there were few people!

Daytime 630m WSPR RX

For a change, I am on 630m WSPR RX in the daytime. A couple of spots with best DX PA3ABK/2 (306km).

UPDATE 1308z: G0MRF (139km) is always a good signal with me, but his daytime S/N is much worse than in the middle of the night. I presume this is due to my local noise level being higher rather than propagation.
UPDATE 1420z: 3 different stations in 3 countries spotted so far. Best DX spotted F5WK (364km).

UPDATE  1615z: LA3EQ (769km) is currently the best 630m WSPR spots today.

UPDATE 1745z: 5 uniques in the last hour with best DX DH5RAE (995km).

UPDATE 2245z:  My last spot was at about 2116z, so the PC lasted over 9 hours on its internal battery - impressive!

Last night on 630m WSPR RX

Again, an average night here with 15 uniques copied. As far as I know, these were all stations spotted before and all EU stations. G3XIZ was actually very very strong (+9dB S/N). What is shown here is a second spotting probably as a result of my system handling strong signals!

Sunspots - Saturday January 27th 2018

Quiet and not much happening. Solar flux is 69 and the sunspot number zero still. A=8 and K=2.

26 Jan 2018

630m WSPR RX

Just before 1900z, I decided to go onto 630m WSPR RX with the earth-electrode "antenna" that has been successfully used on previous nights with the preamp and shack PC on battery power. Already 3 spots in the very first period.

MLS discounts

MLS is again doing its "something for the weekend" discounts. If you were thinking of buying any of these, you might save a bit.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/

Hygge detox, no thanks! - NOT amateur radio

OK, I am getting old and grumpy, but I do not need my newspaper (free and only chosen as it is big enough for bones to be recycled in it when folded) to tell me to spend £849 on a machine to restore ionic balance.

Go for a walk, open some windows, get a life.

Daffodils - NOT amateur radio

In better years, we have had daffodils from late November until May. This year, they were late with this clump appearing just a few weeks ago. Soon we'll have daffs everywhere.
Right now, snowdrops are appearing everywhere - a sign that spring will soon be with us and (hopefully) some better weather.

Ukraine - NOT amateur radio

Either the people in the Ukraine have suddenly taken a great interest in the content of this blog (mainly amateur radio) or I am being targeted by hackers or bots. Yet again, visit numbers are through the roof. I find it hard to think that the numbers I normally see in a whole day have already popped in.

Now on 10m FT8 RX

Following my usual pattern, I am currently monitoring 10m FT8 RX. As yet, no spots.

UPDATE 1330z: F5RD (681km) is the best DX spotted so far.

UPDATE 1452z: Now PG0DX (409km) spotted strongly. Aircraft?

UPDATE 1547z: 5 stations in 3 countries so far today on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1757z: Now 7 stations in 4 countries with best DX SQ4OJD (1357km) on 10m FT8 RX today.

Last night on 472kHz WSPR RX

Overnight I was on 472kHz WSPR RX using the earth-electrode "antenna", a preamp and the shack PC on battery power. In all, 15 unique stations spotted. Not bad, but not the best.

Are we becoming more stupid? - NOT amateur radio

Having just finished reading Bill Bryson's excellent book called, "The Road to Little Dribbling" (a laugh on every page!), I was struck by something he said.

Are we getting more stupid?

If you look around, you could be forgiven for thinking this. On TV quiz shows I am amazed how poor most UK people are on UK geography: no-one seems to know where anywhere is in our connected world! Allegedly, many USA citizens do not know where California or Texas is.  Allegedly Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country. England? Where is that? Iraq? Iran? Afghanistan?

Bryson may have a point. Perhaps we are slowly being poisoned by something in our foods or atmosphere that is adversely impacting our brains. Perhaps we really are dimmer than our forefathers. Certainly we seem to be thicker and need things dumbing down. Are we also more selfish?

It would not totally surprise me if we found out in years to come that something, currently unknown, is slowly doing us harm. The most worrisome thing is we may be too stupid to even realise!

Sunspots - Friday January 26th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number still zero. A=10 and K=2.

Mag-mount 136kHz E-field probe picture

This is a photo of the E-field probe used some years ago to receive my very low ERP 136kHz QRSS3 signal on the far side of Cambridge (20km?).  It was mounted in the middle of the car roof.  As you see, the whip was very small!

UPDATE 1550z: Well, I found the EFP in a drawer, but the coil and cap in the drain had been removed years ago. If I want to resurrect this, I shall have to rebuild this part. A nice small project over the spring or summer.

25 Jan 2018

QSYed to 630m WSPR RX

At about 1915z I QSYed to MF. Using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground, a preamp into the FT817, the shack PC on batteries, I have the best chances. Already many countries have been spotted.

UPDATE 2212z: After a break so the shack PC batteries could be fully charged before the overnight period, everything is now ON for the overnight run on 630m WSPR RX. Noise floor is as low as I can get it with this setup.

Yet more excuses to NOT do real work?

Today’s statement sets out our decision to make further statutory instruments related to the spectrum award, following publication on Wednesday 24 January of the regulations that will apply for the award process.
The two statutory instruments are: the Limitation Order, which limits the number of licences to be awarded for the two spectrum bands; and the Register Amendment Regulations, which allow Ofcom to publish certain information regarding the licences awarded under the auction regulations.
The two statutory instruments will come into force on 1 February 2018."

Life is such fun at OFCOM. Do they ever do anything that does not involve money?

Hackers back? - NOT amateur radio

In the last hour or so blog visits have more than doubled.

Now, a naïve person might say this corresponds with the East Coast USA waking up and these people really enjoy the blog. Sadly, I think this explanation is incorrect and I suspect people/machines with very different intentions are peeking around again. I expect numbers will return to normal again in a few days.

Maybe the thought police have detected the word "Trump"?

Trump-May meeting in Davos - NOT amateur radio

So the UK wants a trade deal with the USA after it leaves the EU and Mrs May (UK PM) is to meet President Trump, aka the genius.

Now, neither is exactly my image of a good, charismatic leader. Sadly I cannot think of any, anywhere. Where are the men and women who are truly interested in the common good?  Please may someone really good step forward as the world badly needs you.

My personal views, which others may totally disagree with. In free countries you are entitled to hold vastly differing views. Basically, the lack of real leaders is troublesome.  Trump, Putin, May? - let history judge.

Cynical me? Surely not.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42819405 .



Banovallum School, Mareham Road Entrance LN9 6DA. Entry £2. All on one level and all indoors, with all the usual attractions including bacon butties. Free car parking on site. Traders contact 01507 527835 for details. Tony, G3ZPU on01507 527 835 or email tony.nightingale@yahoo.co.uk.

A list of rallies can be found at http://rsgb.org/main/news/rallies/

10m FT8 RX

Although I have been on this band and mode for about 15 minutes, no spots yet, although I am not surprised. Unless we see some winter Es, it is unlikely I'll spot anything until later this afternoon. Even that is hopeful!

UPDATE 1125z: Well surprise! F5RD (681km) has been spotted. Winter Es or aircraft?

UPDATE 1305z:  No further 10m FT8 spots thus far today.

UPDATE 1634z: Just a couple of G stations spotted, presumably off aircraft.

Sunspots - Thursday January 25th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number is still zero. A=8 and K=3.

Success on 630m WSPR RX with earth-electrode "antenna"

Last night I was on 630m WSPR RX using my earth-electrode "antenna" with a preamp and the shack PC on battery power. It was my best night yet with 23 unique stations spotted. This haul included 4 different Spanish stations and 2 different Norwegians.

24 Jan 2018


Just thinking about what OFCOM will write about next nearly brings on an orgasm. Gosh, this is so exciting!! And thinking about what their next thing will be? Working there must unquestionably be truly wonderful.


630m WSPR RX tonight

About 15 months ago (although it may be longer!) an anonymous friend just sent me a 472kHz preamp. This was very kind and I never did find out who sent this. To whoever the kind mystery person was, thank you again. This was a kind act and it was generous hearted of you.

Tonight I have returned to 472kHz WSPR using this pre-amp with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Sensitivity should be fine, so it is a good test of this "antenna" on this band.

The shack PC is on battery power so the noise floor should be pretty low.

UPDATE 2135z: Since just before 2100z the shack PC has been on mains power with its internal battery on charge. So, until I go back to battery power, the noise floor will be poorer. Before bedtime I shall return to battery power to give me best chances overnight.

UPDATE 2200z: Back with shack PC on battery power, so this should last most of the overnight period woth a low noise floor. Looking at G3KEV and G0MRF the noise from the SMPSU for the shack PC made a huge difference (much worse) to my S/N reports. Now noise floor much lower again.

10m FT8 RX

Since 1330z I have been on 10m FT8 RX. No spots as yet.

We are some months way from the main Es season, sunspot numbers are low and openings brief. Nonetheless 10m FT8 does open and it is worth keeping an eye out.

I have been amazed how far away stations are copied on 10m FT8. People desert the 10m band assuming it is dead, when many days it is open, albeit briefly, to somewhere far away. My strong recommendation is monitor 10m FT8 and be prepared to be surprised. On many days it has opened to some DX location.

UPDATE 1715z: Today has been the exception! No spots today so far. I'll stay on 10m FT8 for a while longer, ever hopeful.

Mobile phones and young women - NOT amateur radio

About a year ago I posted something similar.

Every Wednesday I go to my University of the Third Age lecture on Samuel Pepys in Cambridge. If I have time I buy a coffee on the way. It usually gives me 15-20 minutes of "people watching" in central Cambridge. Last winter and this I have observed the same thing. This is not a scientific experiment, more of an observation.

Young, single women seem to use smart phones more than men. Most smart phone users are alone. To a casual observer it looks like these young women are using the phone to say, "keep away from me", "I am not available" or similar.

It is quite possible that I am entirely wrong and these young girls are using valuable time between lectures to catch up with social media. I am making no judgements, just relaying what I see.

Sunspots - Wednesday January 24th 2018

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number zero. A=4 and K=1.

Fuel prices - NOT amateur radio

Have you noticed that UK fuel prices are creeping up? The UK £ to US $ is getting better and better, but the wholesale price of crude is rising faster. At the moment diesel is up to £1.29 a litre, but it seems to go up every week.

Results of 630m WSPR RX experiment with earth-electrode "antenna" in ground.

A couple of Gs came on. G3XIZ (46km) was 2-3dB better S/N on the earth-electrodes than on the compromise vertical. He is end-on to the "loop" in the ground. G6AVK was not copied at all. He is orthogonal to the "loop" in the ground. I was quite surprised not to spot him at all though.

Conclusions? The earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground is quite effective at 136kHz, but more directional.

23 Jan 2018

136kHz WSPR RX using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

At about 1915z I started up on 136kHz WSPR RX using my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. The nearby (in frequency) commercial station is stronger on this than on my compromise vertical. It will be interesting to compare results.

OFCOM rubbish?

OFCOM is consulting on diversity and inclusion. Whilst this important, I think this government QUANGO is struggling to find its way. This is my personal view, which others may not share.

Time and time again I see OFCOM doing the less important things, whilst not doing the important stuff.  Bring back the GPO and people who really understand RF. We seem to have a bunch of clueless people unable to be pragmatic and make any decisions. This is based on direct, personal experience. Unless things have changed dramatically for the better, they have not done much to "win me over".

Impressed? Me? NO.

10m FT8 RX

Since about 1335z I have been on 10m FT8 RX. This much later than usual. As yet, no spots.

UPDATE 1804z: No spots all day here on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 1918z: PY2DMZ (9686km) was spotted. Life on 10m yet!

136kHz WSPR RX

Even with my unbelievably poor system, I managed to spot 4 unique stations on 136kHz WSPR RX in the last day. WSPR is a wonderful mode.

Next season I really must try a miniwhip on 136kHz and 472kHz RX.

Many years ago I received 136kHz QRSS3 (sent from home) on a miniwhip mag-mounted on my car. Despite the very low ERP, it was clearly copied the far side of Cambridge (20km?) and I stopped. Much further would have been possible.  I am pretty sure this was using my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground as the TX antenna. As far as I am aware, I used this E-field probe on RX on the car roof. This fed the deaf (at 137kHz) FT817.

Sunspots - Tuesday January 23rd 2018

Solar flux is 70 today. The sunspot number is zero. A=12 and K=2.

22 Jan 2018

10m FT8

In the later part of the morning I went on 10m FT8 RX. Nothing was spotted, so I QSYed to LF WSPR RX. Guess what? Nothing spotted here either!

136kHz WSPR RX - trying again

I have optimised my settings and may have gained a few dB. My RX is currently monitoring 136kHz WSPR with the shack PC on internal batteries so the noise floor is pretty low. As someone said in a comment to an earlier post, I'd definitely be better with a miniwhip on RX. Maybe for next season?

UPDATE 1337z: No spots.
UPDATE 1432z: G3XIZ spotted! Not strongly, showing how poor my system is on 136kHz.

UPDATE 1445z: Now G4GIR spotted too.

UPDATE 1600z: Soon be time to charge the shack PC. I'll leave things running, but my noise floor is likely to rise. Back on battery power later.
UPDATE 1815z: G8HUH (250km) is now my best DX on 136kHz WSPR. Spotted at 1742z.

UK Pound exchange rate with US Dollar - NOT amateur radio

At the moment the UK Pound is worth $1.39 which is the best for a year. Some experts were predicting £1 would be worth $1. Not so.

UPDATE 1555z: Currently $1.3959 to the UK Pound.

UPDATE 1950z: There is a chance the UK Pound will break through the $1.40 barrier. Against the Japanese Yen it has gained a lot at 1.55 Yen to the UK Pound. Not too long ago it was worth 1.36 Yen

Ghosts of monks - NOT amateur radio

Very many centuries ago this was the route taken by monks on their way to Ely Cathedral. It is The Causeway in Burwell, Cambs, UK. Today it is a tree-lined road with its fair share of cars. It would be wonderful to step back over those years and see those monks centuries ago.

136kHz WSPR RX last night

As an experiment, I tried 136kHz WSPR RX last night with my useless antenna and deaf (at LF) FT817. Well, it was a dismal failure with not a single spot!

I was not really expecting to spot anyone, but hoping nonetheless. There were very few this side of the Atlantic on TX and it was extremely unlikely I would copy any USA stations.

So, I tried and failed.

Sunspots - Monday January 22nd 2018

Solar flux is 68 and the sunspot number zero. A=10 and K=2.

21 Jan 2018

136kHz WSPR RX

Even though my FT817 is deaf on this band and my antenna far from ideal, I was considering taking a peek at this band. Sadly, it looks like there are very few active TX stations in Europe. I know WSPRnet does not show unreported stations, but I think my chances of spotting anyone are slim. We'll see.

If I do go on, it will be the first time at this QTH and my first 136kHz outing for almost 5 years.

UPDATE 1718z: Well I am monitoring 136kHz WSPR RX. If I spot anyone it will be a miracle!

UPDATE 1852z: Nothing spotted.

Laid low - NOT amateur radio

For the last couple of days I have been suffering from a head cold. At the best of times I am usually giddy and exhausted, but at the moment I feel really unwell: a walk to the local shop this morning really did me in. A few days and I should be better.

I think this is a cold rather than flu. Plenty of lemon and honey!

Building site - NOT amateur radio

One of our local village pubs has been empty for years. Like many spaces in our village, it is going to be used for new houses. We moved here in 1975 when the village had 3 schools and about 4000 people. Now it has 1 school and a population of way over 6000. Signs of the times. Building work started last week.

10m FT8 RX

Although I have been on 10m FT8 RX since breakfast, nothing at all copied so far. I shall continue until this evening. 10m does throw up surprises!

UPDATE 1256z: Just 2E0XXO (121km) spotted so far on 10m FT8 today.

UPDATE 1610z: F5IGF (547km) spotted.

UPDATE 1820z: no further spots,.The spots I got may have been aircraft reflections? I also see I spotted an OZ calling GD, but this did not get uploaded to PSK Reporter Maps. Now on 136kHz WSPR RX.

Best night ever on 630m WSPR RX

Despite my unbelievably poor 472kHz setup, last night I spotted 18 unique stations on the band including 2 USA stations. WA4SZE (6802km) is the furthermost I have ever spotted on the band.  Running the shack PC off batteries makes a huge difference.

Sunspots - Sunday January 21st 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number zero. A=8 and K=2.

20 Jan 2018

630m WSPR RX

At about 1946z, I went QRT on all bands and moved to 630m WSPR RX. Within minutes a couple of stations spotted with DH5RAE (995km) as best DX. This was on the shack PC on its internal batteries. For a while now I have been charging the batteries so I can run the shack PC overnight on its battery, so the noise floor is lower.

UPDATE 2055z: Now back with shack PC on battery power, which should last most of the night.

Blog visits, not hackers - NOT amateur radio

Already, visits to this blog are higher than all day yesterday. As far as I can tell, these are genuine visits and not bots or hackers. If you are a visitor, I hope you find something of interest either here or on one of the sites linked from my main website at www.g3xbm.co.uk .

Government in the USA - NOT amateur radio

OK, I am no political expert, but it is amazing to the world at large that a US government that controls both the US Senate and the White House is unable to get a budget agreed. Each side is blaming the other, but it is a sorry mess. Many Federal Services will be forced to shut down. It is not clear how long this will last.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42759934 .

Fame again? - NOT amateur radio

My photo of the angry sky over our windmill was used on BBC Look East last night. My last one on the BBC was November 2015.

10m WSPR TX and 6m MSK144 RX

For a change, I am on 10m WSPR TX (500mW, 100%, frequency randomised) with my beacon and RX MSK144 on 50.280MHz. As yet, no spots. Mind you, I have only just started!

UPDATE 1044z: SM7FJE (905km) near Malmo spotted on 6m MSK144.

UPDATE 1116z: G4MOI (67km) spotted on 6m MSK144. No spots of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon.

UPDATE 1300z: LA3EQ (767km) copied strongly a few moments ago on 6m MSK144.

UPDATE 1436z:  SM5EPO (JP80, NW of Uppsala) spotted about 30 minutes ago calling a GD0 on 6m MSK144 but this was not uploaded to PSK Reporter Maps for some reason. Maybe I lost internet connectivity?

UPDATE 1605z: No posts at all on 10m WSPR TX and nothing new on 50.280MHz MSK144.

UPDATE 2106z: Tomorrow, I shall probably try 10m FT8 RX.

Sunspots - Saturday January 20th 2018

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number 11.  A=8 and K=3.

630m WSPR overnight and this morning

Overnight, 14 unique stations spotted, but all Europeans.

Windows 10 decided it needed a big update this morning, so I am still on 630m WSPR RX at the moment to check things still work. At the moment the PSU is connected so G0MRF (139km) has a lower S/N than usual.

The PC still synchronises to internet time and WSJT-X v1.8 still seems to work.

19 Jan 2018

QSYed to 630m WSPR

At about 1950z, I QSYed to 630m WSPR RX. A couple of stations immediately copied with several more shortly afterwards.

UPDATE 2044z: Already 6 unique stations spotted with best DX EA5DOM (1525km).
UPDATE 2214z: 10 uniques so far tonight. For a little while I have gone QRT to let my shack PC batteries charge. Later, I'll run the shack PCs from batteries again, so I have a lower noise floor.

"Our" windmill - NOT amateur radio

We live right next door to this 200 year old restored windmill. There was an angry sky earlier this afternoon as the photo shows. We can tell which way the wind is blowing just by looking at the sails each breakfast time! Most days the sails point in a new direction. We rarely hear any noise.

Antarctic WSPR beacon operational

According to Southgate News the German WSPR beacon in Antarctica is now operational, but antenna optimisation is ongoing. Call is DPØGVN. 

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2018/january/dp0gvn-wspr-beacon-in-antarctia-is-operational.htm#.WmHKrEx2vIU .

10m FT8 RX

Since breakfast, I have been on 10m FT8 RX. Quite a decent start really with 5 stations spotted in 3 EU countries already.

UPDATE 1302z: Now 18 stations in 3 EU countries. Winter Es?
UPDATE 1600z: Now 20 stations in 3 EU countries. Best DX is currently SP8DK (1548km) who was spotted this morning.

UPDATE 1917z:  Now 23 stations in 6 EU countries.

630m WSPR RX last night

With 14 unique stations spotted, it was a reasonable night. No USA stations but a couple of Spanish stations, with one quite far south.

Sunspots - Friday January 19th 2018

Solar flux is 71 and the sunspot number 12. A=2 and K=3.

18 Jan 2018

RSGB, bandplans and AM

What is it about the RSGB and AM?

Yet again, AM is reduced to a 2m footnote with a stupid, childish and inane remark about watching bandwidth! OK, it is some time since I used AM seriously, but the RSGB really needs to wake up. AM bandwidth is less than many FM transmissions and very low cost AM gear is available from the PMR industry.

I am rapidly going off the RSGB. The image of a bunch of grey haired fuddy duddies who are brain dead is being heavily re-enforced. I am sure this is not the image they want us to see.

As a member of the RSGB for 54 years, it is possibly my last. Although I want to support my national society, I find it hard if they are incompetent.

New MGM (digital) RSGB contests

According to the latest RadCom, the RSGB's VHF contest calendar now includes a couple of contests aimed at digital operators.

See RadCom Feb 2018 p70/71

Rad Com spelling mistake

My February 2018 RSGB "RadCom" arrived in the post today. Right on the front cover was a spelling mistake! Receiver it should have been! Reciever it was for all to see without unwrapping.

How can they make such a basic mistake? What about spell checking?  Honestly, it made my blood boil. I wrote to the editor there and then. Such a basic mistake is totally unacceptable in 2018. My excuse for errors is my addled brain. What is your excuse RSGB?

10m FT8 RX

10m FT8 RX has been my "band of choice" today. I have been on since breakfast. So far, 8 unique stations in 4 EU countries spotted.

UPDATE 1522z: Currently 13 unique stations in 6 countries spotted today on 10m FT8. Es?

UPDATE 1616z: Now ZS6BUN (9130km) spotted on 10m FT8 as well as lots of Europeans. Is this Es plus F2?

UPDATE 1832z:  With 3 Africans and 3 South Americans and lots of Europeans spotted on 10m FT8, today is the best day on 10m FT8 this year.

UPDATE 1904z: It gets better and better! Now 5 South Americans including VP8NO (12773km) today on 10m FT8.

Packaging - NOT amateur radio

Well, I am appalled by the amount of wasteful packaging these days. Much of it cannot be recycled either. One UK food supermarket has vowed to go plastic free within 5 years. In my view they all should do this. It is a no-brainer. The big supermarkets have the power to force their suppliers - use it!

630m WSPR RX overnight

I was on 630m WSPR RX again last night. Overall, 10 unique stations were spotted with the best being EA7HPM (1726km).

Sunspots - Thursday January 18th 2018

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number 12. A=3 and K=1.

17 Jan 2018

630m WSPR RX

A few moments ago I QSYed to 472kHz WSPR RX with the shack PC on battery power. This should last until breakfast. So far, 3 uniques spotted in a few minutes.

40m WSPR

For this evening I am on 40m WSPR with 2W, but my antenna is very low on 40m.

UPDATE 2028z: So far a few European spots, but none of me on TX. Best RX DX is OM1AI (1251km).

UPDATE 2314z: Time to QSY to 472kHz WSPR RX for the night.

New dual band 4m/2m yagi

Thanks again to Southgate News come details of a new dual band InnovAntennas yagi covering 2m and 4m. At over £200 with shipping this is not cheap, but if these are your favourite bands it may be what you need. I have no doubts that it will be well made.

Time you add a rotator and low loss coax, it is too much for me I am afraid, although this is your decision, not mine. You alone have to decide how to spend your disposable income.  To you it may be a good investment.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2018/january/innovantennas-releases-4-2m-dualbander.htm#.Wl9vEEx2vIU

The first geology map - NOT amateur radio

A few days ago I just finished reading a book about William Smith who was a geologist at the start of the 19th century and the creator of the world's first geology map. In his early life he was largely passed over.

OFCOM and £££

OFCOM has given more details of the auction later this year of microwave spectrum destined for 5G. It seems all they are interested in is making money. Bring back the GPO and people who really cared.

See http://ofcom.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/i/85A1D55D45106DCA2540EF23F30FEDED/59D1BD3EA2F08127C67FD2F38AC4859C

10m FT8 RX

My shack PC continued on battery power until breakfast using 630m WSPR RX, but I am now on 10m FT8 RX. No spots as yet.

UPDATE 1452z: Just a couple of Dutch stations spotted so far today on 10m FT8 RX. Aircraft reflections?

UPDATE 1910z: No further spots all day, so time to QSY - 40m WSPR for the evening?

Carillion - NOT amateur radio

If you are outside of the UK you may not have heard of Carillion. This is a very large construction (and other) company that has just gone in to liquidation with debts, allegedly, of around £1.5B. They use a lot of subcontractors and are involved in a lot of contracts for public works.

They have been in trouble, apparently, for a long time. What seems incredible is that the UK government continued to give them work when they were clearly in trouble. Their payment terms were, allegedly, changed from 30 days to 120 days. So a subcontractor would get paid nearly 4 months after doing work. Personally I think this immoral.

Now they are in deep trouble, lots of people could lose their jobs.

Bribes - NOT amateur radio

I have been watching a TV programme that reveals the bribes paid to a certain Middle East country. It make you wonder how many other nations need bribes to "oil the wheels" of business. Personally, I find this totally wrong.

Sunspots - Wednesday January 17th 2018

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number 13.  A=4 and K=0.

630m WSPR RX overnight

Last night, I spotted 11 uniques on 630m WSPR RX. Nothing from the USA.

16 Jan 2018

QSY to 630m WSPR RX

At about 1940z I left 10m FT8 to move to 630m WSPR RX. So far, just G0MRF and PA0SLT (456km) spotted.

California shackled children - NOT amateur radio

As I write this we do not know the true facts. From what little we do know, it appears the kids in this large family were found emaciated and in some cases shackled to their beds. No doubt the full facts will emerge in the next few days.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42698562 .

QRP Club Newsletter

Oleg has made this available to all QRPers who are members and friends of the QRP Club.

See http://club72.su/
See also https://groups.io/g/72

Amaryllis growing - NOT amateur radio

If I remember right, I mentioned an amaryllis that did not seem to be growing. Well, it is!

There is a small shoot that has grown overnight. If things go as expected this will be several centimetres by next week.

10m FT8

Since about 0930z, I have been on 10m FT8, mostly RX. I did call a Polish station calling CQ unsuccessfully. At the moment, SQ4OJD (1357km) is the only spot.

UPDATE 1310z:  So far today, just 2 spots with IK4DCT (1181km) in northern Italy copied late this morning.

UPDATE 1918z:  In the end 5 stations spotted on 10m FT8. The others were from Croatia and Italy

630m WSPR RX last night

On 630m WSPR RX it was an average night. In all, 13 uniques were spotted, but all within Europe.

The great outdoors

At the moment here in the UK it has been very dull and wet. Today is bright, but cold and windy.  However, in a few months things will improve and it will be time to venture again into the great outdoors. Some great handheld DX can be worked with just a whip antenna and a few watts of SSB or FM.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/pedestrian .

No 472kHz TX - the mystery deepens

Last evening I tried the same antenna as used at 472kHz using the FT817 via the Z-817 ATU, but on a different band. No antenna current was detected. I'll check that power is coming from the FT817.

UPDATE 0950z: Well there is definitely power from the FT817. Checked with a power meter and power was OK. So, it is either leads or the PA device in the transverter probably.

FT8 operating guide

Thanks again to Southgate News, I see an amateur has written a "Noddy's guide" to this digital mode that has taken the world by storm. It certainly has helped to show bands are often useable when people thought they were "dead". I have found this mode particularly useful on 10m.

See http://www.g4ifb.com/FT8_Hinson_tips_for_HF_DXers.pdf

Russia flexing muscles? - NOT amateur radio

Well, I guess this happens quite a lot. No doubt we don't hear about UK and USA jets nearing Russian airspace!  Remember the U2 spy plane? No doubt the USA, China and Russia have plenty of high resolution spy satellites that we hear nothing about.

Like in any war or cold war, don't believe all you read as it is likely to be rather one-sided. During the Vietnam War we all believed the USA was whiter than white. History tells us otherwise. It is often a good idea to check news from several sources, preferably from sources other than just western media.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-42697065/uk-jets-intercept-russian-bombers-near-uk-airspace

Sunspots - Tuesday January 16th 2018

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number zero. A=10 and K=2.

15 Jan 2018

UK Pound against US Dollar - NOT amateur radio

About 18 months ago "experts" were talking about the UK Pound being worth about 1 US Dollar. At the moment the UK Pound buys about $1.38.

Moral? Don't always believe the "experts"! They guess too.

UK Pound against the Euro? I was wrong last year!

Summits on the air (SOTA)

This is an activity that has taken off in recent years. Keen operators hike up a mountain and "activate" it. Points can be gained by working (or hearing) these activations. It combines hiking and amateur radio. My days of hiking up mountains is probably over (not that we have many mountains in East Anglia!) but others do it. Great fun.

See http://www.sota.org.uk/

Popular? - NOT amateur radio

Either I have suddenly become very popular or the bots are back! I suspect the latter. My blog visits shot up just after the USA woke up. Should this blog suddenly disappear or start producing rubbish (more than usual!) you will know why.

Good news - NOT amateur radio

President Trump has allegedly told the world he is not a racist.  So his alleged remarks about shithole African nations is obviously false news then.  That's good to know. We are so lucky having a genius leading the western world.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42685356

6m MSK144 RX

As of 1018z, I am monitoring 50.280MHz MSK144 RX. As yet, no spots.

UPDATE 1306z: 2 spots so far on 6m, with best DX GI4OWA (583km) very strong at +7dB S/N. This could have been random MS or aircraft reflection.

630m WSPR RX overnight

15 uniques spotted last night with one spot of N1BUG (4940km). Another new one for me was EA7HPM (1726km).

Sunspots - Monday January 15th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number zero. A=14 and K=2.

Will it or won't it? - NOT amateur radio

At the moment we have 3 amaryllis plants. One is way out with plenty of flowers, one is growing well and this one.

It is hard to tell if this one is coming out. There appear to be some shoots but another week and it will be clearer.

14 Jan 2018

BREXIT: a 2nd referendum? - NOT amateur radio

OK, I may be wrong (I often am!) but I think the people of the UK want to be able to trade freely within the EU, but at the same time want to say who lives and works here. The UK people are precious about the UK parliament having the last word on laws. We also hate waste and profligatism (is that a word?) in the EU.

If a second referendum vote was ever to take place and the questions carefully worded, it would not surprise me if we voted to stay in.

As I have said many times before, there is a lot wrong with the EU and a lot right. Personally, I think the UK people would like a reformed EU. Arguably, the EU has kept peace in Europe (mainly) for half a century, but it needs to evolve or it will fall apart.

How simple?

Many have wondered just how little do you need to communicate on HF?  Well, running really simple rigs is a compromise often with the receiver being the weakest link. For ideas, try my main website. Use these ideas as a starting point. Half the fun is experimenting to see what works.  Specifically:


Hawaiian false alarm - NOT amateur radio

So the people of Hawaii got a (false) message saying "take cover, incoming missile". For several minutes they all expected to die. In the end it turned out that the message was sent by mistake and all was well. It makes you wonder what you would do.

I like the suggestion that everyone in Hawaii should have a drink of their choice at the expense of the Hawaiian government!

More seriously, some will have had strokes, seizures or heart attacks as a result of this (false) message. This was no joke and whoever sent the message deserves the sack.

Antarctic WSPR beacon

Thanks to Southgate News comes a link about a multi-band WSPR beacon and RX in Antarctica. Although my own 500mW 10m WSPR has already been copied in Antarctica some years ago, this will be very useful.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2018/january/wspr-beacon-on-the-way-to-the-antarctic.htm#.Wlteykx2vIU

Snowdrops - NOT amateur radio

These were at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge a few days ago. Another month and there will be snowdrops everywhere!

Back to normal - NOT amateur radio

It looks like the hackers and bots have gone away for another few weeks as blog visits were back to normal yesterday. I think there is little of interest here, unless you are a geek!

10m FT8

After a few minutes on TX, I am now on 10m FT8 RX. No spots as yet.

UPDATE 1042z: Best DX spotted so far on 10m FT8 is OZ1LXJ (805km).

UPDATE 1355z: Just one more G station spotted on 10m FT8 today so far. Very quiet.

UPDATE 1603z: Just one more G and PG0DX (411km) spotted. These could be aircraft reflections.

UPDATE 2000z: No further spots today.

Sunspots - Sunday January 14th 2018

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number remains at zero. A=7 and K=4.

Transatlantic on 472kHz

Last night, with the shack PC on battery power I copied 20 uniques, which is a record with my unbelievably bad antenna and ground. Honestly, you would be hard pushed to make you antenna any worse! The FT817 is also starting to get deaf at 472kHz (630m).
So, I was very pleased to spot N1BUG (4940km) twice last night in the early hours. This is the first time I have spotted any North Americans here at this QTH on WSPR on MF. Believe me, if I can spot across the Atlantic with my setup so can you!

13 Jan 2018

New EbNaut decoder for VLF amateur DX

Paul Nicholson, a very good UK VLF SWL, has created some new software:

"Updated EbNaut decoder for Windows, now at version 0.8


This version does 16K23A which is a useful polynomial
for short messages combined with a large CRC.

The Linux program is up to version 0.9 now.


The only significant change is the use of DSW re-balancing
of the list decoder stack.  This may reduce decode time
a little when using very large list lengths.  It is most
useful when measuring the distance spectrum of a polynomial
where a degenerate tree often develops.
Paul Nicholson"

Back to 630m WSPR RX

At about 2130z I returned to 630m WSPR RX with the shack PC on internal battery power so the noise floor is lower. Already 5 unique stations spotted including ON7ZO (355km) who I am sure is new.
UPDATE 2210z: Now 10 unique stations including another new one for me EA3AER (1142km).