30 Apr 2018

UK Pound against the Euro - NOT amateur radio

In recent weeks the UK Pound has been weak against the Euro. It has not been helped by BREXIT uncertainty and poor GDP figures. Once the BREXIT deal becomes clearer, I expect the UK Pound to strengthen against the Euro. It is entirely possible I am totally wrong. After all, I was last year!

Mills on the air weekend

May 12/13th will see activations from several mills around the UK.

We live right next door to a windmill, so I may get on sometime over the weekend. Years ago, I got a QSL from a group that activated our local windmill here in Burwell.

I know the Cambridge Club is on from a mill in nearby Willingham.

See http://www.mills-on-the-air.net/

Irish VHF spectrum - big allocations

From John's blog comes news of huge chunks of VHF spectrum being made available to EI amateurs. In my view, this is very enlightened.
I guess it would be too much to expect OFCOM to do similar, even with a very low ERP limit and stations operating on a "strictly no interference to primary users" basis. Of course, this would involve OFCOM staff thinking, so no, no, no.  Silly me for even suggesting this! Personally even 100mW at 40MHz would do me. With FT8 or WSPR we could do some serious radio science.

See https://ei7gl.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/irish-radio-amateurs-gain-access-to.html

Sunspots - Monday April 30th 2018

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number has returned to zero. A=4 and K=3.

Tan House - NOT amateur radio

This is probably one of the largest and loveliest homes in our village. Many years ago it was the home of Sir Francis Pym who was British Foreign Secretary. The house has big grounds. I have no idea who lives there now.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Pym

6m FT8

For the last few days I have concentrated on 10m. 10m has opened to South America on several recent evenings on 10m FT8. Already there are signs of Es with quite a few stations from France, Spain and Italy.

Today, I am looking on 6m FT8. After a few early CQ calls at 2.5W (no spots), I am now 6m FT8 RX only. So far, nothing!

UPDATE 1647z: Currently 13 different stations spotted in 3 countries on 6m FT8 RX with best DX SM3LBN (1361km).

UPDATE 1725z: Now 14 stations in 4 countries spotted on 6m FT8 RX with best DX IK6CWQ (1512km).
UPDATE 2102z: 16 stations in 5 countries spotted today on 6m FT8 RX. Soon be time to go QRT.

29 Apr 2018

"Our" windmill - NOT amateur radio

This is "our" windmill next door. Our garden is just visible in the bottom left of the photo. The windmill is about 200 years old.

Should she go? - NOT amateur radio

Amber Rudd, the UK Home Secretary, is under fire for her ignorance of targets for getting rid of illegal immigrants. As Home Secretary she should have known. She was sent a memo and has no excuse! Either she lied or does not read what she is sent.  Mind you, the Prime Minister of the UK is not exactly faultless either.

Personally I think Amber Rudd should fall on her sword and leave her post. One of the downsides of high office is you have to take responsibility.

If Theresa May goes as PM I have no idea who would replace her as we lack decent leaders in all parties. Sadly, can you think of even one charismatic leader in the western world? I can't.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43925749

Smart Meters - NOT amateur radio

Several years ago my energy provider contacted me to arrange a smart meter fitting. We agreed a date and a time. We emptied cupboards to ease access. We waited and waited, but no-one came!

It seems the supplier only communicates with others in its own company by computer and they failed in this instance. You could say they, "couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery" as my old dad would have said. I certainly get very fed up with communicating with computers! All their letters seem to be generated by a computer and, one day, it will be very hard to find a real human being to speak with.

Ever since then, I have told them to go away when I get emails offering me fittings.  Now, I have little doubt that, used intelligently, these could save money, but I shall wait.

My bank is similar - a while back it took 3 different people 33 minutes to explain something that should have been made clear in a letter I had already received. 2 of these calls were with an Indian call centre. Now I have no problems with India - indeed these people tried very hard - but I do object to being a faceless number. Years ago I could walk in to my local branch and speak with the manager who actually knew me and cared! I'd better stop as I sound like a grumpy old man!!

So, I read with interest some links copied to me by Steve G1KQH which are below.

10m FT8 again

Yet again, I am on 10m FT8.

Just before breakfast I was on TX with 2.5W (no spots) and since I have been RX only, so far spotting no-one.

Yesterday and the day before 10m FT8 allowed me to spot loads of South American stations. The Es season is nearing, so soon there will be lots of EU stations.

UPDATE 0919z: Now a couple of stations spotted with best DX on 10m FT8 RX F5RRS (818km).

UPDATE 1118z: Europeans from Italy and Spain now spotted on 10m FT8. 7 stations in 4 countries.  Best DX on 10m FT8 RX is currently EA4DAU (1375km).

UPDATE 1735z: Now 20 different Europeans spotted today on 10m FT8 in 5 countries. Best DX is EA7DT (1781km). Some of these spots (time and distance) look like Es.

UPDATE 2120z: PU5SVE (9900km) spotted on 10m FT8 this evening. That's 3 evenings in a row with 10m FT8 DX spotted. In all, 25 different stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX in 7 countries. Soon be time to go QRT. Went QRT at 2140z.

New Abba recordings - NOT amateur radio

So Abba has recorded some new material. They are a "feel good" group that did much in the 1980s. I hope these new recordings are a great success.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43925749

Miracle antennas and similar

It is a good few years since I last used my Miracle Antenna.

If you are after a simple antenna for HF you may be interested. Certainly, if used with a counterpoise, these are capable of useful (but not great) performance, especially on the higher HF bands.

Like all such antennas, they are compromises. In my experience you must use a good earth or counterpoise, otherwise they will be well down on every reasonable HF antenna. On the higher HF bands they can be quite useful, especially in the Es season when signals can be strong. They are simple to adjust, but they can never be miracles! They work (at best) like a small whip.

In my limited experience loops work better, but loops are narrow band and require frequent retuning if moving far in frequency.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/mwhip


It is a number of years since I last used VHF AM. At one time nearly all VHF activity was AM. These days most activity is FM with DX being mainly SSB, with FT8 coming up fast. Ex private mobile radio (PMR) AM kit is often very inexpensive.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/2am

Sainsbury's and Asda merger? - NOT amateur radio

There is no doubt that all over the world, the retail market is changing. More and more of us are buying goods online as it is so convenient and fast: you no longer have to take the car to town and often prices are better.

As an example my wife bought 3 lens caps for her camera. These came with free airmail from Hong Kong at prices way below UK retail prices in town. A few years ago I bought a kit radio transceiver from China. Even with free airmail it was cheaper than just one part in the UK. I built it and it worked first time. It is no wonder stores like Maplin in the UK are suffering.

The big supermarkets are suffering and looking to make economies and yet still trying to get us to come into their stores. This is happening all over the world.

I have no idea how this will end, but the big supermarkets have to adapt or go out of business. It is a very difficult environment and lots of well known brands will die. In 20 years our high streets will be quite different. We live in a time of rapid and great change.

Now we hear Sainsbury's and Asda are in merger talks. These are large UK food stores. A merger is likely followed by store closures and rationalisation.

In our own local town (Newmarket) Waitrose is already struggling and will suffer more when a new Aldi store opens. Although my wife enjoys visiting food stores, I'd be happy to buy on line and I am typical.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43933517

Amateur VLF DX from Italy

A test signal on VLF from Italy has been copied in the UK, Germany and the Czech Republic. Some years ago the refrain was, "you won't get over the garden wall". Oh yeh?

This was from Paul Nicholson (Todmorden, UK) a few days ago:

"A very nice signal this morning,,121,724,224,1
Bearing 126.9, great circle is 127.8.

Paul Nicholson"

Sunspots - Sunday April 29th 2018

Solar flux is 69 and the sunspot number 11. A=4 and K=1.

28 Apr 2018

10m FT8 today

10m FT8 is off to a good start today with 3 different stations spotted in 3 countries with best DX on RX being EA1AKS (1037km).

Last night, 10m FT8 opened to South America again. At times 10m really surprises. Solar conditions are not good, but still we get N-S openings. I noticed that stations in the Canary Is were working Caribbean and Mexico on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 1442z:  Currently 9 different stations spotted in 4 countries, all in Europe so far today.

UPDATE 1805z: Now 12 different stations in 4 countries.

UPDATE 2113z: Time to go QRT. 10 South Americans spotted today on 10m FT8. Best DX spotted was LU8HGI (11258km) in Corduba, Argentina at -23dB S/N.

Network Radios

As HF conditions dive, some are turning to "network radios" instead. As an example, MLS sells the Inrico T320 which works over 3G ,4G or wi-fi networks through systems like Echolink. Essentially this uses the internet as the bearer, often with radio at the ends. The Inrico T320 is actually a handheld with charger. Some repeaters allow internet linking so you could talk through a network radio to mobiles on a distant repeater on the other side of the world.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/amateur-radio-handheld-radio-internet-radio/inrico/inrico-t320-network-radio-transceiver-pd-8674.php

Predictions for the next sunspot maximum

Forecasting the next solar peak is hard, but some have tried. Most experts don't expect much, but two have said they expect cycle 25 to be similar to cycle 24. In reality, we do not know! One thing we do know - unless I am very lucky, the next "peak" is the last I am likely to experience. Even the peak of cycle 25 is not certain for me!

See https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/02/09/forecast-for-solar-cycle-25/
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle_25
See http://solarcyclescience.com/forecasts.html

Sunspots - Saturday April 28th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number 11. A=6 and K=2.

27 Apr 2018



Norbreck Castle Exhibition Centre, Blackpool FY2 9AA. There is car parking available and a talk-in station will be on the air. Doors open 10.15am for disabled visitors and 10.30 for the general public. As well as trade stands there will be a Bring & Buy and special interest groups. An RSGB book stall will be attending. Dave, M0OBW on 01270 761 608 or by email to dwilson@btinternet.com (www.narsa.org.uk).

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

RS-918 and mcHF SDR transceivers

This rig is a Chinese rip-off of the mcHF rig that was designed by a UK amateur, M0NKA. Kits for the mcHF are available, but the RS-918 is available ready built. It has been getting good reviews on eham (last time I looked 4.8/5 on eham). Sadly, the UK amateur did not register the design, so has no come-back. Having said that, I suspect the Chinese would have ripped it off anyway!

See http://www.m0nka.co.uk/ for the original design.
See  https://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/13489 for the review of the Chinese clone.

Mental health links - NOT amateur radio

These were given to me by a person called Molly Anderson. You may find them helpful. As you can see these are on my main website.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/mental

Tragic year - NOT amateur radio

This last 6 months have been filled with tragedy. In all, we are aware of 5 deaths, 3 with young people who died well before their due dates. The 5th today was my wife's cousin and childhood best friend. It has been a very hard time.

Yet again it re-enforces how fragile life can sometimes be.  All we can do is support those who have lost loved ones and milk life while we still have it. We go along assuming some things last for ever. Then something happens and you realise change is always happening.

It just reminds me how cruel life can be sometimes.

Sunspots - Friday April 27th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number is 14.  A=4 and K=0.

10m FT8 RX

Today, I have returned to 10m FT8 RX.

The last few days on 6m FT8 have been an indication of things to come during the Es season. 6m FT8 activity is increasing.

As Es also has a big impact on 10m, expect to see lots of Europeans in the logs in the coming months, as well as real DX from time to time.

UPDATE 0817z: So far, just 2E1RDX (139km) spotted on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1058z: Now M6GAN (111km) spotted on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1215z:  Just 4 Gs spotted so far today on 10m FT8. Aircraft or tropo?

UPDATE 1318z: Just spotted PD1DL (322km). Strength suggests aircraft reflection. Now 5 different stations in 2 countries on 10m FT8 today so far.

UPDATE 1530z: CT1GVN (1801km) spotted. Now 7 different stations in 3 countries on 10m FT8 RX today.

President Trump to visit the UK in July - NOT amateur radio

Each to his own, but I find it hard to warm to this man. I expect his visit in July will stir up riots and protests. I hope he is ready for what will greet him. It won't be a quiet visit.

He comes across badly over here in the UK and he has made few friends, although he got a lot of votes in the USA from a populous that expected much. Even Monsieur Macron of France said some pretty harsh words in Congress.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43913414

A quote from the BBC website:
Reacting to the announcement of his July visit, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said: "When Donald Trump arrives on these shores, we and thousands of our supporters will very definitely be making our voices heard."

Magnetic loops

Although narrowband, these antennas can be remarkably effective. They are ideal for modes that do not require rapid retuning such as WSPR, PSK31 or FT8. It is some time since I tried one.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/magloop

Tree rings - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we visited Brandon Country Park, Suffolk. This felled tree looks about 30 years old judging by the rings.

26 Apr 2018

Felled beauty - NOT amateur radio

Today we visited Brandon Country Park, Suffolk on the edge of Thetford Forest. This tree was on the ground. Either it had been felled or it had blown down over the winter. We liked the textures and colours.

6m FT8

Before breakfast, I went on TX (2.5W) calling CQ on 6m FT8. Sadly, no-one received me, but it was very early!

Since then I have been on 6m FT8 RX only using the omnidirectional V2000 vertical antenna. So far, just a couple of Gs spotted on 6m.

UPDATE 1712z: 16 different stations in 2 countries so far spotted on 6m FT8 today. Best DX is PE0TS (445km).

UPDATE 2120z: Now QRT. In the end, 19 different stations in 2 countries spotted today on 6m FT8 RX.

Flatlands - NOT amateur radio

Here in East Anglia, UK we have few real hills, but some great skies. At the moment we have rapeseed plants in flower which are bright yellow. I like this photo which contrasts the chalk with the rapeseed.

Our local windmill sails turning - NOT amateur radio

We live next door to a fully restored windmill. The windmill is about 200 years old. Its sails turn usually on Thursdays and Sundays when the museum is open. The video shows the mill with the sails turning.

See http://www.burwellmuseum.org.uk

Yaesu - in trouble?

For many years (well as you ask since 1979 - nearly 40 years!) I have been a great Yaesu fan and I have been the delighted owner of many of their fine transceivers in that time. Now I am very worried.
  • Firstly they "missed the boat" by not replacing the FT817 before the last sunspot peak. In my book this was an unforgivable error. The market was ready, yet they were stupid not to see and capitalise on this.
  • Secondly they had to play catch-up when ICOM introduced the IC7300. The FT991A is clearly an attempt to match the IC7300. They were caught off guard, followers rather than leaders. No doubt some poor innocent was made to fall on his/her sword.
  • Thirdly, the FT891 looks market priced to catch buyers. It is relatively low cost for a 100W mobile/base unit.
  • Fourthly, the FT818 is definitely a development done on the (very) cheap with few features expected in a replacement for the FT817. If they were serious they would have added a speech processor, an auto ATU and a Lithium Polymer battery for starters. No, this looks a development with very little outlay indeed. Lost come to mind. Sad, pathetic would be truer.
As a real Yaesu man, I could be forgiven for thinking they are in deep trouble. Everything points to a struggling company. I am disturbed enough to think of avoiding them. My bet is on ICOM surviving and Yaesu going to the wall. Hopefully, I am very wrong. Over the next few years we shall find out.

Once the Chinese really get in this market, the Japanese face a real wake-up call and no Japanese company in the amateur market will be safe. The Chinese have started. Give them a few years. Soon, we may look back on these days as the golden age.

Sunspots - Thursday April 26th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number 17. A=4and K=2.

25 Apr 2018

6m - the magic band

Some people call this "the magic band". It can be nothing but white noise then, out of the blue, pops some rare DX. 6m is like "the curate's egg"  i.e. good in parts. There is little doubt in my mind that FT8 is going to change things for ever. This summer, in the Es season, it should be very interesting.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/6m_op

Lunch out - NOT amateur radio

We ate a 3 course lunch today at Cote Brasserie in Cambridge. £13.50 each, and they add the gratuity to the bill (much better than tipping in my view). If the service was poor you can remove this gratuity. Service and food were very good. We will go there again.

Dead bodies - NOT amateur radio

On two occasions I have seen dead bodies.

The first time was when I was an engineering student at university. I was "smuggled in" to the room in the medical school where they dissected corpses. I wore my white lab coat. This was the first time I had ever seen a dead human body. Reaction? The corpses looked like meat. It was hard to believe these were once real people with emotions, happiness, sadness, good times and bad times.

The other time was in 1987 when my dad died. I saw his body in the mortuary. He was cold and lifeless. My overriding memory was that the essential "him" was no longer there. It was like a chrysalis shell. Now, those who have a faith will say he lives on in another form. I just do not know. I wish this was true.

Death remains a mystery to us. It is a taboo subject.

6m FT8 RX on 50.313MHz

Today, I have moved to 6m FT8. The last time I tried this band, activity was way down on 2m FT8. Already, in just a few minutes, 4 Gs have been spotted plus an ON. Things look promising as if there are now more stations active. As the Es season progresses, I expect a lot more will get on 6m FT8.

UPDATE 1346z: 9 unique UK stations spotted so far on 6m FT8 today.

UPDATE 1444z: So far today 17 different UK stations spotted on 6m FT8. Best DX spotted is M0AIA (204km).

UPDATE 1600z:  Es? EA1AF (1263km) spotted on 6m FT8 earlier. As the Es season develops, I expect we'll see lots of 6m FT8 from Europe and further.

UPDATE 1958z:  Soon be time to go QRT.  In the end 23 uniques in 3 countries spotted with the V2000 vertical omni antenna on 6m FT8 RX today.   Activity on 6m FT8 is rising, probably the promise of Es.

Sunspots - Wednesday April 25th 2018

Solar flux is 72 today and the sunspot number 19. A=5 and K=2.

24 Apr 2018

Dandelions - NOT amateur radio

These yellow flowers, common in UK grass in the spring and summer, are often classed as weeds, but they are actually quite beautiful.

E-field probe RX antennas

It is a common misconception that big antennas are needed for MF, LF and VLF reception. This not true!! Some very small antennas work very well indeed. One of these is the E-field probe (EFP) which makes an excellent antenna on receive. Years ago, I made one and was very impressed. Siting is important with placement as far from houses as possible recommended. EFP antennas are available from several sources, although you can make your own.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/efp

Coincidences - NOT amateur radio

Years ago, I was at university with people who since became famous. I was idly looking on Wikipedia at one of these - Mark Hedley - when who should be on BBC Radio 4 "World at One" but Sir Mark Hedley! Talk about coincidences!  I also knew Robin Field-Smith who became Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and an MBE. When I first came to Cambridge I slept on his floor, little knowing how famous he would become later.

Flowers - NOT amateur radio

The collage shows some of the spring flowers seen recently on walks. Although it is dull today, one feels spring has finally arrived after a long, wet, winter.

2m FT8

After a brief period on TX before breakfast in which my best DX was being spotted (again) by G4RRA (334km) in Devon, which is good (for me) with 2.5W and my big-wheel omnidirectional antenna. Since then I have been RX only on 2m FT8 with 13 unique stations in 6 countries with best RX DX being DK3MZ (472km).

UPDATE 1016z: Now 20 uniques in 6 countries spotted on 2m FT8 so far today.

UPDATE 1238z: Now 28 uniques in 6 countries.

UPDATE 1459z:  Now 42 uniques in 8 countries. Best RX DX DL3DQL (897km).

UPDATE 2016z:   With 55 uniques in the log, it will soon be time to go QRT on 2m FT8 RX. I eventually went QRT at 2040z.

Pye Telecom PF1

My very first job at Pye Telecom was to convert a PF1 RX to 12.5kHz channel spacing. Looking back, this was a test by Mike Gotch (later G0IMG, now SK) to find out what I could do. Mike was an assistant chief engineer back then. When he left he was a keen 6m man.

The PF1 was a UHF transceiver pair that was adopted by the UK police in the 1960s. It had a separate TX and RX unit. The TX was quite low power and had a pop-up antenna. The RX had a plate antenna.

Later, I worked on several Pye Telecom/Philips/Simoco/Sepura portables and pagers. I worked on several intrinsically safe units. Overall, it was a fun career. These days radio is still my main hobby and I am not involved professionally.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/pf1

Sunspots - Tuesday April 24th 2018

Solar flux is again 74 and the sunspot number 20. A=5 and K=1. So, much the same as yesterday.

23 Apr 2018

Mud - NOT amateur radio

On our walk this morning bluebell hunting we were surprised by the quantity of mud on the paths after a week of hot weather. The photo shows me struggling! I was totally ill prepared with suede shoes and no stick.

2m FT8

2m FT8 in the first few minutes today
As I was getting nowhere on 10m FT8 today, I have QSYed to 2m FT8 instead.

A brief TX period saw my 2.5W to an omnidirectional big-wheel copied by several stations with best DX on TX being F6DBI (501km).

At the moment I am on 2m FT8 RX only with 10 unique stations spotted in 5 countries in just a few minutes.

UPDATE 1817z: Now 28 uniques in 6 countries on 2m FT8 in just a few hours.

UPDATE 2110z: Now 33 uniques in 8 countries today on 2m FT8. And I have only been on since teatime!

UPDATE 2140z: Now QRT on all bands

60m (5MHz) band

More and more countries are allowing their radio amateurs access to the 15kHz wide 60m WRC allocation. Apparently China is granting access from July 1st. This is a small band and hopefully later there might be a wider slot.

As the sunspot activity drops, this band could be quite useful. That is if noise levels allow!

First swallow seen - NOT amateur radio

Much later than last year, I saw my first swallow (migrant bird) here. Numbers seem to be down as by this date they are usually quite common.

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/swallow

10m FT8 RX

After lunch, I went on 10m FT8 RX. As yet, no spots.

UPDATE 1630z: Still no spots today here on 10m FT8 RX.

Bluebell hunting - NOT amateur radio

This morning we drove to Waresley Woods (about 28 miles west of here) to see the bluebells. As the video shows, there were plenty. The paths were surprisingly muddy though. The video has no sound.

Last night on 472kHz WSPR RX

This may be my last outing on 472kHz WSPR RX this season. Last night just 4 unique stations were copied, suggesting most have now gone QRT on the band until the autumn. I may join them!

Sunspots - Monday April 23rd 2018

Solar flux is 74 today and the sunspot number 20. A=5 and K=1.

22 Apr 2018

Rain stopped play?

This is a familiar phrase heard by cricketers in the UK.

Well, in my case not rain (yet) but thunder. For the first time this year my radio kit has been switched off and everything unplugged. At the moment, I think we will (just) miss the worst, but it is quite close. I shall consult the maps!

See https://www.lightningmaps.org/?lang=en

UPDATE 1548z: At the moment, the storms seem to be passing south of us.

UPDATE 1604z: As the storm seems to have passed, I have reconnected rigs and antennas.

UPDATE 1800z: No further DX spots on 10m FT8 RX, but things will be running for a few hours yet, so still a chance of South Americans. This, of course, assumes the storms don't return. F1ABL (963km) spotted very recently.

40 not out - NOT amateur radio

Remarkably our younger son is 40 today. It seems just a blink since I was that age!

We do not know what the future will bring us, but we wish him good health and happiness.

Just think  - in just 10 more years he can go on Saga holidays. Saga is a UK holiday company doing holidays for the over 50s. 😄

Lyrid Meteor Shower

Space Weather reports we are in the middle of the Lyrid meteor shower. Compared with some showers, this is not that big. A solar storm is passing.

10m FT8 RX

Yesterday was remarkable with 11 South Americans spotted on 10m FT8. After a brief period calling CQ earlier, I reverted to 10m FT8 RX. As yet, no spots (at 0822z) here on 10m today.

UPDATE 0838z: G7BXU (124km) spotted. Aircraft?

UPDATED 1454z: Lots of Southern Europeans spotted earlier on 10m FT8 RX. Could this be Es? Also South Africa and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean spotted on 10m FT8 RX this afternoon.

Rally reminder

One of our "local" rallies is today. Sadly, I am not going, but this is a reminder for those able to go.


Foxton Village Hall, Hardman Road, Foxton, Cambridge, Cambs CB22 6RN. There is free car parking at the venue, Doors open at 9.30am with traders gaining access from 7.30am. Entry is £2. There will be a talk in station on the air. There will be traders, a Bring & Buy and an RSGB book stall. Catering will be available on site. Contact Lawrence M0LCM on 07941 972 724, or email rally2018@cambridgerepeaters.net www.cambridgerepeaters.net.

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

Sunspots - Sunday April 222nd 2018

Solar flux is 75 (quite high for this part of the solar cycle) and the sunspot number 34 (remarkably high for where we are in the solar cycle). A=12 and K=2.

21 Apr 2018

Summer migrant birds - NOT amateur radio

Well, just one house martin seen here so far. No swallows, no sand martins. I have heard lots of chiffchaffs. Several reports of cuckoos locally, but not seen or heard one. So far, a disappointing spring on the bird front. Swifts usually arrive here in early May, although I suspect these will be later arriving, in any number, this year. Screaming swifts are a major part of a UK summer. In June, swifts are one of the most common birds seen here.

SAQ (17.2kHz VLF CW) on air May 1st 2018

Apparently, the historic alternator CW VLF station SAQ Grimeton, Sweden, is being fired up on May 1st. This is the first time since 2016. I have a QSL card from them, which came many years ago.

See http://alexander.n.se/?lang=en

Ephemeral Spring - NOT amateur radio

Spring is ephemeral. At the moment, we have fresh green leaves and blossom. Sadly, in a few weeks this will all be gone.

10m FT8 RX

Yet again I am monitoring 10m FT8 RX. Yesterday was good with lots of real DX and already today Germany and Holland have been spotted.

UPDATE 1125z: Currently 6 unique stations in 4 countries, all in Europe, on 10m FT8 RX so far today. Best DX spotted today is OE3KLU (1233km).

UPDATE 1625z: Now 11 stations in 4 countries spotted on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 2020z: Unbelievable! No less than 11 South Americans spotted on 10m FT8 RX this evening. In addition, a couple of stations in the Canary Is. Is this TEP or F2 layer or Es layer linking with TEP further south?

Sunspots - Saturday April 21st 2018

Solar flux is 73 and the sunspot number 14. A=47 and K=3.

UK rally


Foxton Village Hall, Hardman Road, Foxton, Cambridge, Cambs CB22 6RN. There is free car parking at the venue, Doors open at 9.30am with traders gaining access from 7.30am. Entry is £2. There will be a talk in station on the air. There will be traders, a Bring & Buy and an RSGB book stall. Catering will be available on site. Contact Lawrence M0LCM on 07941 972 724, or email rally2018@cambridgerepeaters.net www.cambridgerepeaters.net.

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

20 Apr 2018

A bit out of touch?

Only today I found out that the GB3PY UHF repeater is moving (or has moved?) to new frequencies to avoid interference. This was announced last December, and only now have I found out! It must be ages since I last had a QSO via a repeater as you can tell.

See http://www.cambridgerepeaters.net/2017/12/gb3py-frequency-change/

Optical kit

One of my Facebook memories today is of testing my 481THz optical kit in the garden of the old QTH. In those days I was fit and well. These days, field work has proved impossible although I still hope to restart one day. The photo is here as a reminder (to me!).  And, no, I was not looking at that attractive girl up the street!

All the optical kit was homemade and easy to assemble and test in the back of the garage with very basic test gear. Even the software used was free. Over the horizon testing with optical kit was challenging and great fun. Results amazed me.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/optical

10m antenna for the Es season

As we are about to enter the Es (sporadic-E) season in the northern hemisphere, quite a few people will be looking for a quick, simple, effective and low cost antenna for 10m. May I introduce the Homebase-10 antenna?

By scaling the size, it will also work on 6m and 4m too. At the old QTH it was used for many years. You'll be hard pressed to find something as simple as effective. It appeared in Practical Wireless some years ago.

This has been on this blog before, but many will not have seen it I guess.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/homebase

Still no swallows - NOT amateur radio

By now, I have usually seen a swallow back from South Africa. They started arriving in Devon in March, but as yet, I have still not seen one! Numbers are dropping, but this is now very late.

10m FT8

After a very brief TX period, (no reports) I am again monitoring 10m FT8 RX, more in hope than expectation. But, if you do TX, I shall be there, HI.

UPDATE 0634z: Well there's a surprise! DB6LL (651km) in the Hamburg area has already been spotted on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 0816z: No further spots so far today.

UPDATE 1634z: 10m FT8  spots from Indonesia, Middle East, Africa and South America. A good 10m FT8 day without a doubt. Sunspot number? Zero!

Where I was born and brought up - NOT amateur radio

Until I went to university, I lived in the South Hams of Devon. This picture was taken 8 years ago, but it probably hasn't changed much in 1000 years. We know my ancestors owned a piece of land near here in 1428. I can trace the family tree right back to  about 1550 with no breaks. Our family has probably been hereabouts for thousands of years.  BTW, Thurlestone (this place) means "rock with a hole" so Thurlestone Rock has been there a long time!

Sunspots - Friday April 20th 2018

Solar flux is 70 today. Sunspot number remains zero. A=5 and K=1.

19 Apr 2018

New Software

I just downloaded WSJT-X V1.9 rc3 and it seems to work fine with stations spotted from all over Europe on 40m FT8 RX in the last 15 minutes.

Kings - NOT amateur radio

As we are "local" we get cards which give us free entry into the Cambridge colleges. People come right across the world to see sights we take for granted. One photo shows Kings College Chapel and another the Wren Library and some punts.

International Marconi Day


To register your official Marconi site station please email crac.imd@gmail.com or visit www.gb4imd.co.uk.

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

Where we ate yesterday - NOT amateur radio

As mentioned before we visited Harleston and Diss yesterday. We ate lunch in Harleston in an antiques centre surrounded by old books and ephemera.

WSJT-X V1.9 rc3

A look at the Princeton site shows there is a WSJT-X V1.9 rc3 available. I need to check more often!

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

rc3 means "release candidate 3", so further changes are still possible before it is "officially" released.

40m FT8 RX

Overnight, I remained on 7.074MHz FT8 RX.

North and South America, Caribbean, Asia , Africa and loads of Europeans spotted. Overall, quite amazing.

Even North America spotted in the last few hours.

In the next few hours I shall probably go QRT and download the latest version of WSJT-X.

Sunspots - Thursday April 19th 2018

Solar flux has risen to 71, although the sunspot number is still zero. A=6 and K=1.

18 Apr 2018

Diss - NOT amateur radio

Today we visited Harleston and Diss.

In our view Harleston was a dump, but Diss was a charming old town on the edge of a mere. People in Diss that we came into contact with were helpful and kind.

Suddenly, the sun was out and it was hot: the best day this year so far.

40m FT8 RX

As a complete change, I am on 40m FT8 RX this evening. There are lots of stations being received. Best DX spotted so far is A45XR (5794km). Considering my antenna (very low) I am amazed.
UPDATE 2012z: Best DX spotted on 40m FT8 RX is XV3GMI (9739km) in Vietnam.

UPDATE 2035z: Now PY6HD (8101km) spotted on 40m FT8 RX this evening.

Spring? - NOT amateur radio

It has seemed a never ending, dull winter with no spring. Yesterday was different: warm sunshine and the first real day that felt like spring. The next few days are promising too. The collage shows nearby Anglesey Abbey bursting out with fresh green leaves.

Super VHF/UHF/SHF DX via noctilucent clouds?

In the next few months noctilucent clouds are often seen. There is a possibility that these are responsible for the very long 6m paths that regularly open from western Europe to Japan in the early summer. These openings are as regular as clockwork in the early summer, and then they just stop. It is a very long way on 6m and the conventional wisdom that this is multi-hop Es to me seems very unlikely. Last June, several Japanese stations were spotted on 6m JT65, even on my omnidirectional vertical.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/noctilucent

Digital mode frequencies (Region 1)

If you are like me, you will be unsure of the commonly used frequencies in Region 1 for various digital modes. I found this link helpful as a reminder.

See http://www.qsl.net/sv1grb/psk31.htm

Sunspots - Wednesday April 18th 2018

Solar flux is 68 today and the sunspot number 0.  A=4 and K=2.

17 Apr 2018

2m UKAC Results

The results are out for the 2m UKAC activity contests organised by the RSGB. In the low power section I am 66th out of 132 places. Considering I only use 5W to an omnidirectional antenna and usually stay on for around 30 minutes, I am quite happy.

Beetle - NOT amateur radio

This very iridescent beetle was seen earlier today at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, UK. It is probably a very common sort.

10m FT8 RX

After a very brief period on TX, I am again on 10m FT8 RX. Not unexpectedly, no spots. At least I try!

UPDATE 1042z: No 10m FT8 spots here today so far.

UPDATE 1134z: G7BXU (124km) near or in Reading spotted. This could be tropo or aircraft reflection (Heathrow stack?). Nothing else so far today.

UPDATE 1156z: Now G4YBI (83km) to the east of London spotted. This is already 100% better than yesterday.

UPDATE 1629z: No further spots here today on 10m FT8 RX. Not exactly promising, but I'll monitor until about 0830z "just in case" there is some real DX. Then I'll try a different band for a while.

UPDATE 2024z: No further 10m FT8 spots today, so time to go QRT.

End of season on 472kHz?

Last night I was on 472kHz WSPR RX. Only 3 different stations were received, whereas earlier in the year I copied 12-15 different stations in the same sort of period and with the same gear and antenna. My conclusion is the "season" is ending and there are now fewer stations active. I guess many will return later in the year.

2m FT8 RX - not today

As you will have seen from earlier posts, 2m FT8 has been a true revelation. The 15 second TX periods mean even very short openings are now seen. As a result, unheard of DX (at least for me!) is being copied even with my omnidirectional antenna. When I do go on TX (maybe for 3 minutes a day) I am regularly copied over 300km despite only using 2.5W QRP.

6m - magic band

In the Es season, this is a great band allowing a long way to be worked with QRP and simple antennas. This summer, it is likely to be even better with FT8. Although FT8 activity on 6m is currently well down on 2m, I suspect this will soon change once we see some E-layer DX.

Last spring and summer, quite a lot of real DX (outside Europe) was copied on 6m JT65. This year, I shall probably concentrate on FT8 to see what can be spotted.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/6m_op

Ant (of Ant and Dec) - NOT amateur radio

Allegedly, Ant (a UK TV star) has been fined £86k and banned from driving for being over the drink-drive alcohol limit. He is very sorry for his actions. Sadly, his reputation has been badly dented.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43786771

The Liner-2

This was the very first 2m SSB rig available in Europe and it revolutionised 2m.

I first got mine second-hand in the mid-1970s and was amazed how far one could work on 10W of SSB, especially as before I'd only used a few watts of FM or AM. Stations that I could never imagine hearing, let alone working, suddenly were within my grasp, even with just a dipole or HB9CV antenna. This was the experience of many in those exciting early days of SSB in Europe when activity was around 145.41MHz.

The Liner-2 had plenty of faults! It was basically a modified 10m rig and produced lots of spurii, especially if the power was pushed up. Many used it with a 9 element Tonna antenna and a 30W linear. Having said all that, I was able to work some amazing DX with a simple, indoor antenna and the Liner-2 barefoot.

There was also a 70cm version produced by Belcom, although I never owned one or even saw one.

In its day, it was a trailblazer. We have come a very long way since then.

Sunspots - Tuesday April 17th 2018

Solar flux is 69 today. The sunspot number is zero. A=3 and K=1.

16 Apr 2018

472kHz WSPR RX

After a very disappointing day on 10m (28MHz) FT8 in which just a single G was spotted, I have now moved to MF RX. The shack PC is on battery power which should be good until early morning with a nice quiet noise floor.

As yet, no spots, even after 20 minutes. I am beginning to think some of the regulars have gone QRT until the autumn.

UPDATE 2102z: Just a single spot of PA3ABK (306km) so far this evening. At least the gear is working!

UPDATE 2124z: Now DK2DB (685km) spotted.