Earlier today there were transmissions from the historic 17.2kHz CW VLF alternator TX in Sweden. Several people tested their VLF receive capability.
24 Oct 2020
For about 15 minutes (it is now 1918z) I have been on 472kHz WSPR RX using the FT817ND and the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. No spots yet.
UPDATE 1940z: 5 different stations spotted so far this evening. Furthermost was LA8AV (1012km). Next was SM6BGP (994km).
The sharper, and more efficient, indoor loop in very hard to tune on 10m. My eyesight is not as good and I find it harder to get it spot on tune than I did. At the moment I am using the loop with thinner wire which is less efficient, but easier to peak. In the past, I cut coax cable to tune. Maybe I should consider than again. Once the length is established in does not need to be adjusted as long as I stick with FT8.
Just one station in the Canary Is spotted so far today on the poorer loop on 10m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 1610z: The plug was intermittent on the sharper link. Now fixed. Just a single spot of my 2.5W TX from G0VQH (13km). On 10m FT8 RX 77 spots with best DX spotted PU5BOY (9961km).
Recently I replaced my electric lawnmower. The battery does not last as long. Our kettle switch is temperamental after 7 years. My wife was going to replace her National Trust bag, but the new one has fewer pockets. My underpants are now thinner. My wife's coat has fewer pockets and is thinner.
Get the picture? We seem to make goods poorer so we are encouraged to throw the old ones away and buy new instead. This is a model of existence that cannot continue.
23 Oct 2020
At the moment, I think the IRF510 PA in my transverter has been damaged. Before I change this, which is no easy task for me these days, I shall connect everything up and check it is not something else! It would be daft to change the PA only to find the problem is still there!
Assuming it is the PA, that is a job for later today. I have taken a photo so that I know what was there and don't forget to connect something. Years ago this would have been trivial for me.
UPDATE 1021z: PA changed and still no antenna current! Oscillator running OK, so something else must be wrong. Further investigation needed when I am less exhausted. I guess the first thing to try is running the transverter into a dummy load to check there is output on 472kHz. Another thing I can try is using the FT817ND with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 160m. This measured some antenna current on the antenna current meter. If this is zero, it gives me some clues. It was so much easier when my brain was not foggy and I had a clear head. The best way I can describe it is like trying to fault-find after drinking 8 pints of beer.
UPDATE 1130z: No antenna current on 160m suggesting something else is amiss.
This may be an artifact of getting older, or a strange after-effect of my 2013 stroke, but I seem wiser. Often I seem to be able to "read" situations better. Now, this could just be how I see things! Quite often I say to myself phrases like, "you shouldn't have said that" or "you should not have done that". Quite often my hunches turn out to be right.
At about 0805z, I turned on the 10m FT8 QRP gear. At the moment (0845z) I am RX only. I understand that VK6 was worked from the UK on 10m FT8 yesterday. I am still just using 2.5W to the poorer indoor loop.
UPDATE 0901z: Nothing spotted so far today.
UPDATE 1133z: Swapped to the better 10m indoor loop. 27 stations so far spotted today on 10m FT8 RX.
22 Oct 2020
The BATC convention this Saturday October 24th will be online and on Zoom. What follows is as I received it and may be hard to read on some screens.
BATC CONVENTION FOR AMATEUR TV 2020 (CAT 20). BATC CAT 20 will go ahead as an online and on-air event. The interactive parts of the meeting will use Zoom, and all lectures will be streamed on the BATC Streamer with the opportunity for questions. More details at https://forum.batc.org.uk/view
A list of rallies can be found at http://rsgb.org/main/news/rall
Once again I am on 10m FT8 with the FT817ND and the poorer indoor loop. It is currently 0910z and I am RX only. No spots yet.
UPDATE 1012z: Just spots of 9A6R (1542km) and G0PQO (50km).
UPDATE 1050z: Now on TX at 2.5W. No spots of me yet. 4 stations spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1425z: 1 person spotted me on 10m QRP FT8 TX and I have spotted 11 so far, all in Europe. Now gone back to RX only.
UPDATE 2050z: 10 S.American stations spotted. QRT.
21 Oct 2020
On October 24th there will be a transmission from the historic SAQ in Sweden. Quite a few test their VLF systems with this. I have a QSL card from them from a transmission several years ago. It is on my shack wall.
At the moment I am on the poorer indoor loop, which is the one used on 20m, 17m and 15m. It sits on the shack windowsill. I reckon it is about 6dB inferior to the dedicated 10m loop made with copper thin bore pipe. Although I think my chances are low, I have left the kit running on 10m FT8 RX "just in case". It would be good to spot something!
UPDATE 0840z: Not surprisingly, nothing spotted.
UPDATE 0855z: Amazingly, EI9JF (488km) spotted.
UPDATE 0821z: Now G0PQO (50km) and G0FWX (160km) also spotted. No real DX yet, but I am pleasantly surprised to spot these stations already on 10m FT8.
UPDATE 1358z: 18 stations have spotted me today on 10m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 2035z: 5 people spotted my 2.5W 10m FT8 to the poorer indoor loop antenna and I have spotted stations in the USA and South America as well as all over Europe.
Quite often I hear people tell me they have no space for LF or MF antennas. Rubbish!
For many years I have used my earth electrode "antenna" on VLF, LF and MF. It won't be as good as a big antenna, but it works remarkably well. Even my wife does not know it is there! Neither do the neighbours.
On 472kHz WSPR I get copied in Norway most nights with less than 10mW ERP with mine.
Overnight, I left my 630m WSPR kit running. Many more spots from the stations copied in the evening although no-one new. My conclusion is the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground appears fine. Next job is mending that PA in the transverter. Stations logged in Norway, Poland, Italy and Spain plus many other European nations.
20 Oct 2020
There may be 2 issues with my 472kHz (630m) QRPP setup.
As mentioned in the last post, I suspect the IRF510 PA device is damaged. My transverter gives 12W into a 50 ohm load, but the measured ERP is less than 10mW. Despite this, I was able to get to Norway most nights last winter.
There may also be a break in my earth-electrode "antenna".
As a first step, I am on 472kHz WSPR RX overnight. If this works, it probably means the earth-electrode "antenna" is intact. If this is the case, I may be able get on TX again just by mending the PA device. If this fails, I shall replace both the IRF510 and the wire in the garden.
UPDATE 1830z: With F and DL already spotted, initial results are encouraging.
UPDATE 2130z: I think the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground is fine, judging by results this evening. I shall leave the RX on overnight, although I have spotted far more than I expected.
It is now 0750z. About 10 minutes ago, the 2m FT8 gear was turned on. Already 4 stations have spotted me today.
19 Oct 2020
At 0822z, my 2m FT8 was turned on. Once again I am using 2.5W to the big-wheel omni antenna. 1 station in Germany spotted on RX and at 0950z, my signal had been spotted by 10 stations in 3 countries with the furthermost being G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall. No QSOs yet.
UPDATE 1250z: 12 stations have spotted me today.
|Stations spotting |
me to 1550z
18 Oct 2020
Things seem to have suddenly changed.
|Stations spotting my 2.5W 2m FT8 in first 20 minutes|
Since about 0850z, I have been on 2m FT8. Already spotted by a 5 stations of which one gave me an incredible +4dB S/N. This was G8TIC (170km). I suspect this was aircraft reflection. Best DX spot was by DF0MU (475km). The photo shows the stations spotting me in the first 20 minutes.
|Stations spotting my 2.5W to the big-wheel |
on 2m FT8 today so far to 1440z
UPDATE 1440z: 23 stations in 4 countries have spotted me so far today and I have spotted 19 stations and I have had 1 QSO. Who needs high power, towers and big beams? Certainly not me! Just an FT817ND and a simple big-wheel seem enough.
|Stations spotted on 2m FT8 RX today|
RSGB RadCom had an article on Senhaix dual band portables recently. I think these are Chinese. If the article said this I missed it.
At the price stated, these look quite good value. They are not the cheapest, but I hope the quality control is better. My main worry with Chinese manufactured amateur products is still quality control and guarantees.
As long as the products work, fine. What happens if they fail? My experience with Chinese manufacturers is mixed. Some seem able to answer questions, whereas others cannot understand!
I am sure that the Chinese products will get better and that the Japanese manufacturers will get a real fright. This could happen within the next couple of years.
It would not surprise me if some Japanese companies survive by designing in Japan, but making in China or some other low cost country. It is possible that China goes like Japan did years ago and labour costs make it no longer a low cost country.
The manuals often give you a clue: Chinese English can be pathetic! Ask yourself, if the manual is that poor how do you think they will fix your radio? Would they be interested? Some would say they are so cheap just buy a few and throw away any that fail. I much prefer not to do this.
17 Oct 2020
New Zealand has led the way in fighting Covid-19. Essentially it has been largely free of the pandemic that has crippled much if the world.
They have just had a general election and Jacinda Ardern's (the NZ PM) Labour Party is in line for a massive majority. We may differ over political policies, but we have to agree she did a good job in the fight against Covid-19.
A few moments ago I turned on 20m FT8 QRP using 2.5W to the tiny indoor loop. It is 0840z.
Yet again, I had a problem with decoding signals and the waterfall being smeary. After turning WSJT-X and the SignaLink interface off and on, it is now decoding. I am running Windows 10.
No spots of me yet and 4 stations spotted so far today.
UPDATE 1258z: So far today, 3 stations have spotted my QRP 20m FT8 signal. On RX 84 stations have been spotted in 3 continents.
UPDATE 1412z: 5 stations have spotted me so far and I have spotted 108 stations in 4 continents.
UPDATE 1710z: 5 stations have spotted me today on 20m FT8 QRP and I have spotted 157.
Southgate News reports that the RSGB Convention talks are available online.
16 Oct 2020
If you turn on the news on the UK TV or radio, you will almost certainly hear something about Covid-19. It is almost like BREXIT is not happening.
Behind the scenes, both sides actually want a deal, despite this actually not looking like this. Those in the EU are holding out for the best deal.
In the very end we can expect some face-saving deal that will be appear good for both sides. A no deal outcome would not be good for either the UK or EU nations.
Since about 0820z I have been on 2m FT8. So far (it is now 0830z) 8 stations have already spotted me with the furthermost being G4RRA (333km). 2 stations spotted on RX. No QSOs.
UPDATE 1927z: After a period on 20m FT8, I have returned to 2m FT8 with QRP. So far, 5 stations have spotted me - all Gs. Nothing spotted yet this evening on 2m FT8. 18 stations in 4 countries have spotted me so far today. The furthermost was GD3YEO (384km).
15 Oct 2020
At about 1840z, I tried a few CQ calls on 2m FT8. Not a single station was spotted in the first 15 minutes, which is very unusual. My own QRP signal was spotted by 4 stations with the furthermost being G8TIC (170km). At the moment I am RX only.
UPDATE 1900z: Going back on TX.
UPDATE 1910z: 5 spots of me and 2 spots on RX. No QSOs. G0LRD is copying a few more stations than me, possibly as his antenna is further above ground than mine. He is 26km from me on the other side of Cambridge. See http://184.108.40.206:8080/cap/
I have just heard about another cancelled rally. Let us hope next year is better! This time next year we should have a vaccine and things should feel more normal. This year has been odd for most.
The Hornsea Amateur Radio Rally was due to be held Oct 18th in Driffield, but this is now cancelled.
My XYL was looking in our loft for some pictures and came across my mobile logbook that I had not seen for over 7 years. I have never managed to get in our loft since my 2013 stroke.
In the logbook is my Fredbox QSO across the Channel with 10mW and a halfwave whip on 2m AM in 1976. This was one of my all-time best ever QSOs. See logbook page photo below.
Years later the Fredbox was revived and used for some local QSOs again.
In a few minutes I hope to turn on 6m FT8. It is now 0647z. If I spot anyone or anyone spots me, I shall be pleased and amazed.
However, they do call it the "magic band" as from time to time strange things happen.
The most probable outcome is white noise, followed by the odd G spot (from dedicated people who like punishment) and possibly the odd European by aircraft or Es.
UPDATE 0723z: 6m FT8 now turned on. No spots given or received.
UPDATE 1025z: Just a spot from G0PQO (50km). No spots on RX and no QSOs.
UPDATE 1806z: Now QRT. With no spots at all on RX and just 1 spot of me on TX, today has been a poor day.
14 Oct 2020
At the moment I am again on 2m FT8 QRP. It is now 0907z. 6 stations have spotted me with G4RRA (333km) in Devon the furthermost,and I have spotted 2 stations so far.
UPDATE 1423z: 11 stations have already copied me (no QSOs yet) with the furthermost being EI2FG (565km). Also copied multiple times in Northern Ireland. 17 stations in 5 countries spotted here.
UPDATE 1530z: After a period on RX only, I am back on 2m FT8 TX. 4 stations have spotted me in the last 10 minutes including G4RRA (333km) in Devon again. On RX 22 stations spotted today.
13 Oct 2020
At one time Windows came with a free package (Moviemaker?) that allowed quite a lot of video editing. I do not think this is available free any more. What do people recommend?
Like many, I want to send videos and video clips by email, so the main requirement is to make the videos smaller, possibly also adding titles and shortening.
The package needs to be free and easy to use on Windows 10.
A year from now we will look back on 2020 as a bad year. We have all been put out of sorts by the Covid-19 pandemic and solar activity has been poor.
At last there are hints of better days ahead. This time next year the Covid-19 situation should be better and sunspot numbers should be climbing. We are in for a rough period, but thing will be better. Hang on in there and stay positive as the "sunlit slopes" await us!
These are getting very close now.
President Trump has been out on the campaign trail just 2 weeks after being hospitalised with Covid-19. I have no idea what the election out come will be. The people of the USA will elect the president they want to lead them.
It is now 0756z. For about 10 minutes I have been on 2m FT8 using 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna. Already 4 Gs (best in Devon) have spotted me and I have spotted 1 F.
UPDATE 0850z: Best DX on 2m FT8 RX is DL6YBF (471km).
|Spots of me at 1000z|
12 Oct 2020
At 8pm UK time on Mondays we hold the East Cambs net on 144.575MHz FM. This usually lasts about 30 minutes although some stay on to chat longer. At least one person cannot make Monday nights, so a change of nights is being considered.
One possibility is to combine this with the Wednesday night net held by the Cambridge club (CDARC). All in the area are most welcome.
At about 1406z, I QSYed to 2m FT8. So far just 2 spots of me by G4MSA (222km) and G0LRD (26km). The photo shows my signal on G0LRD's grabber.
UPDATE 1455z: GI6ATZ (479km) has spotted me. One RX just 1 spot.
UPDATE 1612z: 3 stations spotted today on 2m FT8 RX with best DX F0EYI (465km) in Brittany.
UPDATE 2005z: QRT.
Most of my FT8 QSOs are with 2.5W and very simple antennas. Although I own an FT-991A, I was considering trading this in for an IC-705. This ICOM radio runs 5W off the battery and up to 10W with an external PSU. This would be more than adequate for me. Most of my FT8 QSOs are with 2.5W and the FT-817ND.
Most of the time I use resonant antennas, so the internal auto-ATU on the FT-991A is not essential. Some worry about the extra loss in ATUs, but this usually just a fraction of an S-point. The IC-705 was going to cover 4m but no longer does on TX. It does not have an internal auto-ATU and is very expensive. Maybe later, when the price drops and the initial bugs are resolved.
In 2017 I bought a Windows PC. I have just waited and waited as it booted up, installed updates and did its thing. Meanwhile my Chromebook booted up within seconds.
Now, I am aware that the windows machine probably has lots of bloatware and will need a defrag. My question is why? I am totally delighted with my Chromebook. Compared with the Windows machine it is so much better. Comparing the Chromebook and the Windows 10 machine it is "chalk and cheese": the Windows PC is so slow!
If you are thinking about getting a new PC think about a Chromebook.
Perhaps I am just a sucker for punishment, but I decided to try 6m FT8 again today. The gear - FT817ND and the V2000 vertical with cheap CB coax - was turned on at 0811z.
UPDATE 1108z: Just 3 spots of me so far and 1 spot of others here today on 6m FT8. All are Gs.
UPDATE 1402z: Nothing further on TX so far today. No Es here. Just a couple of G stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX.
11 Oct 2020
Some call 6m "The Magic Band". This is for good reasons as at times almost every sort of propagation is possible.
Sometimes it behaves as a good HF band, but most of the time it behaves as a VHF band. With sporadic-E (Es) one can work all of Europe from the UK with simple antennas and low power on SSB.
FT8 has transformed operation on 6m. Most DX is worked on FT8 these days. Often all you hear is white noise. Serious 6m operators run full power and big beams on big towers. There is no doubt these will help, but surprising fun can be had with simple gear.
Even in years of very low sunspots some remarkable DX has been worked. Some of this may be due to multi-hop Es, but I think some other form of E layer propagation is involved for some of these contacts.
10 Oct 2020
|Stations spotting my |
2.5W 2m FT8 to the
big-wheel omni today
FT8 works with signals that are weaker than SSB and CW and I wonder if we are able to make use of some other scatter mode? Either that or there are so many planes in the air that the time of day doesn't matter. Somehow the latter doesn't seem likely as at the beginning of lockdown I could still get as many distant spots and QSOs on QRP 2m FT8.
It would be interesting to hear the views of others.
At about 1015z, my 2m FT8 kit was turned on. So far, 2 stations are spotting me, with best DX a spot by F5APQ (180km). On RX just G3PFM (237km) so far and no QSOs.
David G0LRD, on the far side of Cambridge, has a screen grab showing what he copies on 2m FT8. This is quite useful to me as I can check all is OK. Dave kindly erected my 2m antenna some years ago.
UPDATE 1215z: Already spotted by 7 stations with best DX spot being by GI6ATZ (479km). On RX 11 stations spotted so far. Just 1 QSO.
We were probably in the South Hams thousands of years ago. At some point I shall try to get further back in time.
9 Oct 2020
Since 0816z I have again been on 2m FT8. Already spotted by 3 stations in 2 countries (at 0824z) with best DX F5APQ (180km) near Calais, France. Nothing yet on RX and no QSOs.
UPDATE 1240z: 7 stations have spotted me and on RX 13 stations in 4 countries spotted with the best being DF6IW (612km).
It shows me last week in Norwich cathedral wearing a Covid-19 mask.
I shall be glad when all this is over and we return to something more normal.
Usually, I am not a great fan of organised petitions, but I have just signed one and you may want to follow.
Some things are certain:
- Most countries across the planet are going to go into recession as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- This is a great opportunity to hit the "reset" button and build a fairer, more sustainable, cleaner, world.
- The people of the world need to be fed.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK has a petition running to make clear to the government just how we feel. In the past we have largely thought about how we can exploit the resources of our planet. In the future we will almost certainly be better off if we work with nature and not against it. Like many, I am not a green activist, but can see the path we are on cannot be sustained.
Think about signing it.
8 Oct 2020
I have never heard of this and have no idea how it affects VHF radio propagation. The more common meteor showers lead to enhanced pings and some real DX being worked on the VHF bands, especially with weak signal modes.
It peaked last night, but should still be good tonight. Often MS signals are strong, but short lived. Certain modes are optimised for this sort of signal. Even with very simple antennas I have copied some excellent DX via meteor trails on 2m.
Some years ago I tried my hand at crystal set DXing on HF. Results surprised me. I was even able to envelope detect some SSB amateur signals on 80m.
Broadcast stations from their originating countries (many use relays) were copied including Australia and India. The only power is that from the TX with no batteries or other source of energy at the RX.
Yesterday, we did a nice walk in the autumn sunshine at Anglesey Abbey. We mainly went there to see one particular tree that is changing colour. At the moment it is a lovely red.
On the way we saw a family (actually 2 families) with young children under school age. We were asked if we wanted 4 noisy kids! We said, "done that, got the tee shirt". We also said enjoy them as they grow up quickly.
Each generation has its own issues, but life goes in a cycle.
7 Oct 2020
There is a worldwide race on to find vaccines that overcome Covid-19. In most countries of the world this disease is causing widespread issues and an effective and safe vaccine is urgently needed. Most expect a vaccine to be widely available my mid 2021. It is possible there may be limited vaccine availability late this year.
Although I have no intention of getting involved with the USA presidential election in a few weeks time, I feel obliged to point out a couple of things. In the last few years I have spoken with many people about US politics. The following observations have been made:
- How come the best you can find is old men to lead you? Trump is 74 and Biden 77 I believe. Is there no-one younger who can do the job?
- Everyone, and I mean everyone, I have spoken with thinks Trump is thick and cannot understand how he was chosen as the US president. In the rest of the world he is the butt of many jokes.
Since 0825z I have been on 2m FT8. Nothing yet spotted on RX , but 3 G spots of me so far. No QSOs yet.
UPDATE 0920z: 4 G spots of me so far and nothing spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1022z: Still just 4 spots of me this morning. The grabber at G0LRD (26km) is useful as it gives me an indication of my signal cleanliness and 2m FT8 activity. See http://220.127.116.11:8080/cap/ .
|Stations spotting |
me on TX