12 Aug 2020

70cm activity contest last night

As you may recall, I entered the RSGB organised activity contest on 70cm last night. As I have no suitable antenna, I use my 2m big-wheel omni and stay on for less than an hour because of my  poor voice. In all, 6 stations were worked , all SSB, as the map shows.

Eat out to help out - NOT amateur radio

During August you can get up to £10 per person off meals and soft drinks at some participating pubs and restaurants on certain days.

We ate out this lunchtime and had fine meals (hallumi starter and swordfish main) including wine and sparkling water for £22!!

Oscar 100 (geosynchronous)

As usual, I took my periodic peek at the narrowband transponder. When I did this it was 1053z. This is midweek and about mid day in Europe. Only 2-3 QSOs were active, confirming to me that it is not busy. The most I have ever seen is about 8 QSOs.  If it was busy, it could hold many more.

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

10m FT8

Using 4W to the indoor loop, I am currently on 10m FT8. It is now 0830z. So far today, 10 stations have already spotted me.

UPDATE 0920z:   23 stations have spotted me so far this morning and 19 stations in 3 continents spotted on 10m FT8. An outside antenna I think should be better? I guess 6dB (maybe more) could make quite a difference on weaker signals that might not be in audible on the indoor loop. For Es, the loop is probably is good enough most of the time but on marginal F2 or TEP I guess this loss could matter.

UPDATE 1500z:  Since returning from our meal out 39 stations have spotted me already. 11 stations spotted here so far this afternoon.

WSJT-X V2.2.2

Well over a month late, I have upgraded to V2.2.2.   I did try upgrading some weeks ago , but it said I was missing a dll, so I stuck with the older version. Today it installed fine. Not sure if this was Windows  is or WSJT-X. Anyway it is now installed and working fine.

10m antenna?

As many know, the outside antenna that I used on 10m packed up so I have been using my indoor loop successfully for the last few months.

In the next few months I hope to re-elect an antenna for 10m. In the past this would have been trivial, but sadly not anymore. A couple of people have kindly offered me help, but with Covid-19 I am reluctant to ask them. My thoughts are what could be erected with the least effort. I guess this either a wire dipole or inverted vee. My own Homebase-10 would be good, but the trouble would be making it now.

Thunderstorms? - NOT amateur radio

The last few days have been very hot and humid. It has been almost unbearable. Later, we may have thunderstorms.

See https://www.lightningmaps.org/?lang=en#m=oss;t=3;s=0;o=0;b=;ts=0;y=44.621;x=8.4747;z=4;d=2;dl=2;dc=0;

UPDATE 1548z:  Although the nearest thunderstorms are about 100km away, i think there are distant rumbles.

Sunspots - Wednesday August 12th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 12. A=3 and K=0.

11 Aug 2020

70cm activity contest

Tonight is the RSGB organised 70cm activity contest (UKAC). This starts at 1900z.

UPDATE 2205z: In the end I managed 45 minutes with the 10W and 2m big-wheel omni antenna. 6 contacts. My best DX has still not been worked out although it is probably G4CLA (105km).

PSKreporter and 8m + 5m

Today I learned that PSKreporter now supports 8m and 5m. 8m is just beginning to become active in some countries.

Old bank - NOT amateur radio

The only bank in our village closed 2.5 years ago. Today it looks like it is being gutted. I have no idea what is going on.

Autumn already? - NOT amateur radio

At the weekend we went to Cavenham Heath. Quite a few of the ferns were looking autumnal already.

Sunspots - Tuesday August 11th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 12. A=3 and K=1.

10 Aug 2020

Rear garden in August - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows our rear garden in August.

We get most colour in Spring and about now. Our grass is suffering in the heat. They used to say, "don't water the grass as it will recover".

Until recently, I followed this advice. Then in 2018 a third of my front lawn just died and never recovered. Since then, I have watering particularly dry patches for almost an hour most dry nights. Hopefully my lawns will recover in the autumn when the dew returns.

More damselflies - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday, I showed a photo of two damselflies. Today, here are two mating. This was again at Cavenham Heath yesterday.

Amateur VLF

There is a myth that VLF antennas are big. For RX they can be very very small!! So, for RX only, amateur VLF is remarkably accessible.

For TX high power and big antennas certainly help.   DK7FC has had some excellent results with long distances using earth probe antennas. These don't require very huge loading coils.

VLF amateur work requires dedication, although VLF earth-mode can give good results with quite simple kit. This is certainly one of the frontiers ripe for experiments.

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

Stone curlews - NOT amateur radio

Stone curlews (see the poor photo) are rare in the UK. Cavenham Heath where we walked yesterday is one of the best places to see them. Most migrate in October. We saw 12 yesterday.

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

10m FT8

It is now 0811z. A few moments ago my 4W to the indoor 10m loop was turned on in the hope of some Es. 2 Es spots on RX but no spots of me yet.

UPDATE 0917z:  Now 9 Es spots of me already and 16 spots on 10m FT8 RX. Promising.

UPDATE 1235z:  23 spots of my 4W 10m FT8 to the indoor loop.

UPDATE 1807z:  24 stations spotted me today. On 10m FT8 RX the best DX spotted was PU5BOY (9961km). In all, 67 stations were spotted today.

Yesterday evening on 10m FT8

Yesterday evening I swapped from 6m FT8 to 10m FT8 with about 4W to the tiny indoor loop antenna. Quite a few Es spots of me and many southern European stations spotted on RX as well as a QSO via Es

IC-705 on the ICOM Japan website

The ICOM Japan website has more on the IC-705. Under "Optional Accessories" it mentions an antenna tuner at a later date (see yesterday's post).

See https://www.icomjapan.com/lineup/products/IC-705_eur/

Sunspots - Monday August 10th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 13. A=3 and K=1.

9 Aug 2020

IC-705 auto ATU?

According to the IC-705 Facebook page, ICOM is working on an auto-ATU to match the IC-705. They hope to release it this year. This is a stand alone external unit covering 1.8 to 50MHz.

Inter S51 QSO on 8m

Apparently the first QSO between stations in Slovenia has taken place on 8m. I hope we can all join in on 8m in the near future.

Cavenham Heath - NOT amateur radio

Cavenham Heath is about 15 miles from here. It is a national nature reserve and a great place to see rare stone curlews. We saw 12 but they were about 400m away. The heather will be at its best in about 2 weeks. There were damselflies (see photo) everywhere.

Rye - NOT amateur radio

In 2012 we went to Rye in Sussex. It's a delightful place with old houses and cobbled streets. We were fitter then!

10m WSPR

Since just before lunch I have been on 10m WSPR TX with the 500mW TX beacon. As yet (1342z) no spots so far.

6m FT8

Just before lunch my 10W and V2000 sending and receiving 6m FT8 were turned on. It is now 1326z. So far, 2 stations have spotted me today and I have spotted 6.

UPDATE 1500z:  7 stations have spotted me and I have spotted 14.

Reach Village - NOT amateur radio

Reach, shown in the photo, is a sleepy village some 9 miles from Cambridge. We like walking around here. In Roman times it was an important port. It is at the northern end of a defensive earthwork.

Sunspots - Sunday August 9th 2020

Solar flux is 75 and the SSN 11. A=5 and K=0.

8 Aug 2020

My antennas

For 6m, 2m and 70cm vertical I use a "white stick" vertical omni called the V2000. I have probably has this for at least 15 years! It is fed with low cost, CB, 50 ohm coax. On 70cm I could gain several dB if I replaced this with half decent coax. On 2m and 70cm SSB and FT8 I normally use the 2m big-wheel omni.

On the photo, the V2000 is on the left. The big-wheel is above my head and slightly right.

Not shown are the 10m loop (in the shack) and the earth-electrode "antenna" which gives me very good results on 630m WSPR. Norway is reached most nights despite the 10mW ERP on 630m.

Different PC

Since just before lunch I swapped the shack pc to a different one. It seems to be working fine on 10m FT8.

Perseids meteor shower

Many people like to make VHF contacts in meteor showers. Modes like FT4 and FT8 should be particularly effective I think. Signals are often strong, but short lived.

I see Southgate News has a link about this.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/august/perseid-meteor-alert.htm#.Xy570jfYq00

New blog editing interface - TOTALLY CRAP!!!! - NOT amateur radio

In the end I had to revert to the old interface to edit this blog as the new interface is unusable!

Like Bas yesterday, I have sent them my feedback. If you have a blogger.com blog please send them your feedback too. The more people the better.

The old interface is fine, whereas the new is painfully slow.

Our walk earlier - NOT amateur radio

The photo collage shows our walk earlier when it was still cool at about 0630z. This is one of our favourite walks.

Zebra? - NOT amateur radio

Earlier, we saw this horse in a field on our walk. It had a coat on with zebra stripes.   I think the owner must like zebras!

10m FT8

At about 0845z my 10m FT8 gear was turned on. As usual I was running about 4W to the tiny indoor loop antenna. So far, 10 stations spotted and 8 stations spotting me.

Stations that had received
me to 1145z on 10m FT8
UPDATE 1147z:  Already today I have been spotted by 28 stations despite the 4W and the indoor loop. On 10m FT8 RX 38stations have been received so  LWfar today. I am amazed how strongly some people are receiving me despite the low power and indoor loop.

UPDATE 1702z:  Amazingly, 67 stations have so far spotted my 4W 10m FT8 to the loop antenna. On 10m FT8 RX the best DX so far today is LW2DAF (11213km) in Argentina.

UPDATE 1950z:  Now QRT. 233 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX and 75 stations spotted me on 10m FT8 TX today.

Sunspots - Saturday August 8th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 14.  A=4 and K=2.

7 Aug 2020

Sumac tree - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows next door's sumac tree against a blue sky.  Today was very hot.

Shack photo

The photo shows me in the shack earlier.  It has been very hot today.

"If it ain't broke don't fix it" - NOT amateur radio

For years I have used an interface for this blog that seemed to work fine. Now Google has changed this and I find it is far slower. I also found out that sometime in the next year I have to change all my websites to their new format. Now I am sure there are some upsides, but the overall impression is they make things worse, not better. 

A few years ago they stopped supporting Picassa, so it is now far more involved to post people photos. One step forwards and two steps backwards!! 

It is like clothes - made to a price, so thinner material, poorer quality. We bought a coat recently to replace one that was many years old. You guessed - fewer pockets and thinner material. 

We thought about buying a new bag from the National Trust. You guessed - fewer pockets and poorer material.


Hot - NOT amateur radio

Hot! We usually do a walk most days but decided not to today as it is too hot. Instead we are reading books in the shade in the garden. 

10m FT8

 Since mid-morning, I have been on 10m FT8 with about 4W and the indoor loop.  It is now 1230z. Up to now, 23 stations, all in Europe, have spotted me. On RX 67 stations have been spotted here. Best DX on RX is 5T5PA (3791km).

UPDATE 2049z: In the last half day, 104 stations were spotted on RX and 39 stations spotted my 4W and indoor loop. Now QRT.

Swifts - NOT amateur radio

Although I have been in the garden all morning not seen a single swift has been seen. Most have now gone. They don't stay long.

UPDATE 2042z:   We spent much of the day in the garden. Not a single swift was spotted all day.

Sunspots - Friday August 7th 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 14.  A=5 and K=2.

6 Aug 2020

10m FT8

At about 1417z I swapped from 10m WSPR (500mW) to 10m FT8 (4W) using the indoor loop in the shack.  No spots yet.

UPDATE 1830z:  6 spots of me so far, all in Europe. Probably Es. Just 3 spots on RX.

Open! - NOT amateur radio

Our local museum has now opened one day a week. It should have opened at Easter. So good to see it in action again.


This is a band I have never transmitted on. Many years ago I borrowed a RX converter and had a play one evening with an indoor home-made 4 el antenna. Quite a few people have played around on the band with the SG labs 2W transverter that comes with a PCB HB9CV antenna.

Some erect serious stations with big antennas and linears with far more power. These people can access scatter modes and get ranges that some would consider amazing for a microwave band.

I guess the trouble is that we cannot do everything as time and money are limited.  There is so much I would like to try!

See http://www.sg-lab.com/TR1300/tr1300.html

Pye - NOT amateur radio

For a long time in the last century, Pye was a very big name in the electronics world. Pye made a diverse range of products. Now there is a website and permanent exhibition to celebrate this.

See https://www.pye-story.org/

UK economy - NOT amateur radio

In the last few hours the Bank of England has produced revised predictions for the UK economy. Although the fall-out from Covid-19 will have grave consequences for the whole of the world, the predictions of the UK are not quite as dire as they once were. Yes, the dip into recession will be bad and the recovery slower, but things could have been much graver. It says something when a dip of 9.5% in economic activity is considered good news!

10m WSPR

As it is there, I have turned on the 10m W5OLF 500mW WSPR beacon using my indoor loop. No spots of me yet today (it is now 0805z).

If 10m WSPR remains quiet, I may try 10m FT8 later.

6m FT8

A few moments ago (it is now 0802z) the 6m FT8 gear was turned on (10W to V2000 vertical omni antenna). So far, nothing yet spotted on RX and no spots of me on TX. Although the main Es season is over, there could well be some Es at some time in the day. The main trouble is many just assume it is all over and desert the band!

UPDATE 0819z: Just a single spot of me so far by G4IFX (146km). On 6m FT8 RX nothing.

UPDATE 0923z:  3 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX. With 1 Italian spotted the looks like there is some Es around.

Pig statues - NOT amateur radio

"Each to their own", they say. Well, I was surprised to see 2 pig statues in a local garden yesterday. Well I guess it is a change from pixies and garden gnomes!

Projects for the autumn/winter

For several years I have had an E-field probe that needs erecting in a nearby tree.  This should be a good RX antenna on 137, 472 and 1800kHz. It might also be effective on higher bands too. The antenna is very small.

I also want to erect either a wire dipole or inverted V for 10m, which is my favourite band and which should be better next year.

My problem is ladders. Since my stroke in 2013 I feel very wobbly on ladders! I have not ventured into my floored loft since 2013! I have a box of amateur gear up there waiting to be explored, HI. I have forgotten what it is in it.

I shall try to do these projects before the end of 2020.

Sunspots - Thursday August 6th 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 13. A=5 and K=1.

5 Aug 2020

2m FT8 (10W to the big-wheel omni antenna)

Just before going QRT on all bands I decided to try 2m FT8.

One CQ was answered by local G4NBS (22km) and I was spotted by 17 stations in 3 countries the best being EI2FG (565km).

On 2m FT8 RX the best spotted here was PE3T (361km) of the 11 stations in 3 countries.

Optical communications

Optical RX
Until my stroke in 2013, one of my joys was building and testing optical communications gear. Although I had a successful line-of site speech contact, my "thing" was weak signal communication over the horizon.

Even without any visible signals in the sky I was able to detect my beacon from home on 481THz (red optical) way over the horizon, even though it was firing through double glazing. Had I been able to carry on, there were so many things I wanted to try including higher powerLEDs, further distances and a better tripod.

Sadly, these days I am too wobbly to do this portable work. As all the gear can be built and tested in the "back of a garage" with simple test gear, this could appeal to those interested in serious, but low cost, experimentation. Over the horizon optical work could do with attention.

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

Solar Cycle 25

It would appear we have now passed solar minimum and the long climb has started. This was reported on the Space Weather site recently. This is encouraging, although it could be some years before we see a real improvement. The good news is the up-slope is faster than the down-slope.

Freed slaves - NOT amateur radio

Until I saw this photo I did not know the back story. As a child, I was brought up in Salcombe, Devon. Most people were white, but there was one black-skinned person, who was well respected in the town as a monumental mason. I remember him well.

What I did not know was that his family had settled in the area in the 1800s as freed slaves.  I wonder how many people today, perhaps unknowingly, owe their wealth to slavery centuries earlier?

Until recently I did not know that when slavery was abolished in the UK, slave owners received compensation for their losses! This debt has only recently been paid off. There must be some very rich people today who owe their wealth to this.

Personally I find slavery abhorrent.

6m FT8

At 0744z, the 6m FT8 gear was turned on. Again using 10W and the V2000 vertical omni antenna. Just a single spot from of me from G4IFX (146km) so far.

UPDATE  0850z:  Just a little early Es today with a spot of me from Lithuania. In all 5 spots. On 6m FT8 RX just 2 spots so far.

10m WSPR

At 0744z, I turned on my 500mW 10m WSPR TX beacon. As usual, it is using the tiny loop in the shack.

UPDATE 1238z:  3 stations have spotted me today.

UPDATE 1930z: QRT now and no other stations spotting me today on 10m WSPR.

Sunspots - Wednesday August 5th 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 12.  A=8 and K=2. Looks like the more active side of the sun is rotating out of view.

4 Aug 2020

2m activity contest tonight

The next leg of the 2m UKAC acitivy contest starts tonight at 1900z for 2.5 hours. I usually use 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna and stay on for about an hour as my voice is poor.

Unlike many contests, this is good humoured. Although I usually submit a log and enter the contest, there is no compulsion to do so. Many just come on as there is plenty of 2m SSB activity.

UPDATE 2050z:  In all, 9 stations worked tonight. I stayed on one hour.

OFCOM news

OFCOM has updated its Communications Monthly with the latest information. See the OFCOM website.

New normal - NOT amateur radio

We just walked at Anglesey Abbey owned by the National Trust. There were plenty of people having picnics. The photo shows the mobile café serving coffee and snacks as the main café is closed.

10m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna

The main Es season is ending. I am on 10m FT8 with 4W and the indoor loop antenna. So far, several European stations have spotted me as well as one meant to be in the Far East. As most of his spots are European, I am suspicious of this one. If true, great.

UPDATE 1355z:  So far today, 1 QSO and 24 spots of my 4W to the indoor loop.

UPDATE 1710z:  Best DX on RX is VP8LP (12773km). On TX 29 stations have spotted my 4W with the indoor. 1 QSO.

UPDATE 2114z:  67 stations spotted on RX (including two in South America and one in the Falklands) and 30 stations spotted me on TX. Now QRT.

6m FT8

Since 0715z I have been on 6m FT8 with 10W and the V2000 vertical omni. So far, no spots. I have decided to go on 10m FT8 with 4W and the indoor loop instead.

10m WSPR TX (500mW to the indoor loop)

It is now 0815z. For about 50 minutes, I have been on 10m WSPR. So far no spots.

VHF NFD results

The results of the RSGB organised VHF NFD have been published and I see that I was 38th in the AL (low power) section. I even downloaded a certificate! I only really came on to give a few points.

Sunspots - Tuesday August 4th 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 23.  A=16 and K=4.

3 Aug 2020

House Martins - NOT amateur radio

A year ago we were in Brittany and saw these nests above the bakers shop.

Article in RadCom

The photo shows the August edition of RadCom which has an article of mine on QRP.

See https://rsgb.org/

OFCOM consultation

More news about the upcoming auction of UK spectrum for 5G. See the OFCOM website for more information.

10m WSPR beacon (500mW to indoor loop)

Since about 0530z, I have been running my little 10m WSPR beacon. Apart from a couple of early spots by local Richard G4KPX (14km), no spots. There is certainly no early Es evident here today on 10m.

UPDATE 0923z: No Es here yet today.

UPDATE 1822z:  Just G4KPX spots today and no Es here.

6m FT8

Just before breakfast, my 6m FT8 kit was turned on. As usual, I am running 10W to the V2000 vertical omni antenna.

So far, just a G and GW copied on 6m FT8 RX and not a single spot on TX. I re-did a time re-sync just in case the internet had gone off and I had lost timing. It can happen. Very quiet so far today. Just now I restarted the PC too and did another time re-sync.

UPDATE 0920z:   Just UK spots today so far on 6m FT8 TX.

UPDATE 1823z:  8 spots of me today. Some late evidence of Es in the last hour or so.

8m tests

John EI7GL has news on his blog of 8m tests using FT8 with stations in Europe.

See https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2020/08/ft8-experiment-on-40-mhz-1st-to-15th.html

Where we used to live - NOT amateur radio

We moved to our present home seven years ago. Recently I came across this aerial photo which shows where our old house was built when it was still a field.

Behind us was Spring Close meadow which has the remains of a Roman villa as well as the remains of Burwell Castle from the time of King Stephen about 1000 years ago.

Sunspots - Monday August 3rd 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 22.  A=9 and K=4.

2 Aug 2020

Windmills - NOT amateur radio

We live next door to the only remaining windmill in our village. At one time there were four.

More accurately, some of these were windpumps, not windmills, as they were used to pump water and not grind corn. The photo shows two of these that have now gone.

Sunspot minimum

My favourite site for solar data has changed the wording giving the months when sunspot minimum occurred.  Previously it was hedging bets using works like "probable". 2 dates are given as the date depends on how the averaging is done.

The climb begins....

See https://www.solen.info/solar/images/cycles23_24.png for a graph showing how the transition to the start of the next cycle is expected pan out.

See also https://www.solen.info/solar/ for more general information.

Isleham walk - NOT amateur radio

This morning we did a nice walk around the village of Isleham. The photo shows a cut cornfield.


About 10 minutes ago I turned on the little W5OLF 10m WSPR TX beacon which runs 500mW to the indoor loop. It is now 1100z. Just a single spot by local G4KPX (14km) so far.

UPDATE 1320z: 4 spots of me so far today.

UPDATE 2050z: In all, I was spotted by 18 stations. Now QRT.

6m FT8

At about 1045z, I turned on my usual 6m FT8 gear (10W and the V2000 vertical). It is now 1056z. So far, 4 stations have spotted me and 2 Hungarians spotted on RX.

UPDATE 1325z:  15 spots of my 6m FT8 today so far.

UPDATE 2100z:  In all, I was spotted by 30 stations today across Europe. Now QRT.

Facebook memory - PW

7 years ago there was a review of mine in Practical Wireless. It was quite a surprise to see my bald head and garden on the cover!  Since then PW has changed owners.

See https://www.warnersgroup.co.uk/hobbies-crafts/practical-wireless/

Wicken windmill

The photo shows the windmill in Wicken village. We went for a walk around the village recently.

Sunspots - Sunday August 2nd 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 22.  A=3 and K=1.

1 Aug 2020

Busier Oscar 100

Just a few moments ago I took a peak at the narrowband section of Oscar 100, the geosynchronous satellite. Last time I looked it was exceptionally quiet. Today, at a weekend, there were 7 QSOs going on which is typical of the last year.

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Patio rose - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows one of the roses on our patio earlier. My wife took the shot.

10m WSPR TX (500mW to the indoor loop)

The 10m WSPR beacon was turned on at about 0843z. So far, nobody has spotted me.

UPDATE 1149z: 4 stations have spotted me so far today as the table shows.

UPDATE 2007z:  5 stations spotted me today. Now QRT.

6m FT8 (10W and the V2000 vertical omni)

At about 0842z, I turned on the usual 6m FT8 gear. So far, at 0846z, just one G has spotted me.

UPDATE 0900z: Just 2 spots by Gs of me, with no signs yet of any Es. 1 G spotted on RX. No QSOs.

UPDATE 2007z :  QRT.

Short-term Aims? - NOT amateur radio

Perhaps this is a natural feature of old age? I seem to have aims that are more short-term these days. Perhaps I am more aware of the finality of life than I was and every day is a gift to be enjoyed. Life is never perfect or easy, but there is so much to be thankful for.

International Short Wave League (ISWL)

For two periods I was an ISWL member. When I first joined in the 1960s it was a thriving club. I rejoined many years later but then must have had far fewer members. These days it must be struggling unless it has had an influx of new members, that I doubt. In its day it served a real purpose.

Sunspots - Saturday August 1st 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 23.  A=4 and K=0. Past the minimum?