18 Jun 2021

How far down is my loop?

As you may know, I have no external antenna for 10m at present. Instead I use the 50cm loop on the shack windowsill. 

It is extremely hard to measure the difference in performance of, say, a dipole and my loop. Even over quite small distances signal levels can vary greatly. There are many factors: location, time, directivity, polarisation, radiation angle etc. 

The best I could do is compare signal levels at similar times in the best and worst directions of the loop with that received by others locally. The best I can work out is that the loop is up to 6dB down. There are quite wide errors bars on this.

Overall, the loop is performing better than I expected.

If there is F2 DX from the USA or South America later, I shall try again. With lower angle signals the differences might be greater.

G0LRD (26km from me) copies far more, although if he can copy signals that are 6dB weaker, I would expect this to make a considerable difference on FT8.

It will be interesting to see my results later with an external antenna. The impression I get is that the small loop is not too bad on Es signals from Europe, but it performs less well with low angle DX signals.

UPDATE 1915z: Well there's a surprise!  CX2CC (11128km) was coming through just now. I was getting him 5dB S/N better than G0LRD (26km). This may just be the momentary polarisation being optimum. Still it proves the loop cannot be too bad.

UPDATE 2101z:  At the moment I am confused: many times G0LRD is copying better than me and he certainly is spotting far more stations than me. Nonetheless the loop is not at all bad considering its small size and being indoors!

10m FT8 RX in the last day

In the last 24 hours, 587 stations have been spotted using just the indoor 50cm diameter loop (see map). 

These include North and South America.

10m FT8 RX with the indoor 50cm loop (Friday)

At 1325z, I turned on my 10m FT8 RX with lots of Es evident. I see Spanish stations are calling the USA. So far, at 1328z, 25 stations already spotted.

UPDATE 1430z:  So far today, 103 stations have been spotted on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1648z: 242 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX with the furthermost  XT2AW (4478km).

UPDATE 1815z:  294 stations spotted so far.

UPDATE 2106z:  362 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 2132z: 379 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX. Have to go QRT shortly.

Amateur? radio

MLS has been appointed as the dealer of the Hilberling transceiver which retails for just under £12k. Yes, you read correctly - twelve thousand pounds!! 

I am sure it would be very good and some will buy it. At that price it should be superb. Add a linear, tower, rotator and beam and you won't see much, if any, change from £20k. To me this is not amateur radio. 

OK, each to their own, but I prefer to spend my money more modestly.  Even for a professional radio, this is stupid money in my view, but we are all different. 

If you want to spend this on a hobby - go ahead. Just remember you can communicate just as well across the planet with amateur radio spending a tiny fraction of this and you can video chat for free across the world with a low cost tablet or PC.

Wicken - NOT amateur radio


A few days ago we went for a walk around the village of Wicken, where this windmill is.


There have been radio amateurs for over 100 years.

Like many things today, I can understand why somethings are done - to protect people - yet often the unintended consequences make things worse, not better. 

Take for example the EU rules on data protection. Now most web pages have a pop-up about cookies. Most people either just say "yes" without reading or use a pop-up blocker so the message never appears. Most find these very annoying! The intention was good, but in reality by not reading the small print we could be accepting all sorts of rubbish!

It is a bit like the recent licence changes to protect the general public from harmful EMF. Yes, of course, this is admirable, but how have we managed for over 100 years?

I am not sure what the answer is. What is missing is common sense. 

Before agreeing to any changes, think of the unintended consequences. If overall things could be more harmful, think again. We seem to be moving ever more in a more stupid direction.

Pound versus Euro

We left the EU completely some months ago. The EU is far from perfect, but I voted in 2016 to remain "in".  Overall we voted by a small margin to leave.

Despite the difficulties of trading with the EU, the UK Pound seems to have appreciated against the Euro. 

Personally, I would have preferred a softer BREXIT especially as the vote was close. I suspect the EU misses the contributions to its budget from the UK. 

We will have to find our own way in the future. Only time will tell if we were right or wrong.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cx250jmk4e7t/pound-sterling-gbp 

Nuclear fusion - NOT amateur radio

For almost my entire life, the gold at the end of the rainbow was nuclear fusion (not fission) with its promise of almost endless low cost energy with no pollution. At every point we seem to have hit hurdles and I cannot see it being reality in my lifetime. I hope in the end the technical issues can be overcome.

Things may have moved a step closer with a new research facility at Oxford funded by Jeoff Bazos. This is reported by the BBC to cost £400M.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57512229 .


For "one-off" projects, MeSquares can be a good solution. The photo shows my 10FT8R RX using MeSquares.

These are simply snapped out and glued down to plain copper clad board. The copper clad board makes an excellent RF ground plane and the MeSquares excellent islands. 

If glued down carefully (unlike mine!), a very neat layout is possible.

See www.qrpme.com .

Sunspots - Friday June 18th 2021

Solar flux is 75 and the SSN 12.  A=7 and K=2. 

17 Jun 2021


We escaped the storms last night. It rained, but that was all. We missed again last night the storms are creeping up from France and thunderstorms and heavy rain are forecast for tomorrow.

See https://www.lightningmaps.org/#m=oss;t=3;s=0;o=0;b=0.00;ts=0;z=6;y=50.6182;x=0.3762;d=2;dl=2;dc=0;

Konik ponies - NOT amateur radio


These are used to keep the wild grass down at Wicken Fen.

2m activity contest (June) published

Every month, if I am free, I go on the UKAC activity contests organised by the RSGB.  Although I submit entries running 10W SSB to a 2m omni antenna I have no chance of ever winning! 

I only enter the 2m and 70cm legs. Mostly I go on for fun and the activity. Without trying at all hard I see I am still about third down the table in the low power section. Activity levels on SSB are very good. I think these sessions are primarily for clubs, although I just go on as me. There is no compulsion to submit a score.

See https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?Contest=144MHz%20UKAC&Date=&year=2021 .

WebSDR in the Netherlands

Tjeerd PA3GNZ has a webSDR online. It is interesting to listen to.


10m FT8 RX on the tiny loop in the shack

For a change I am on 10m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and the tiny indoor loop (50cm diameter) antenna. 

Plenty of Europeans being spotted by Es.  After just a few minutes, 51 stations spotted with the furthermost being 5T5PA (3791km) in Mauritania, West Africa.

UPDATE 1246z:   150 stations spotted.

UPDATE 1515z:   281 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 1815z:  465 stations spotted so far in 4 continents.

UPDATE 1913z:  524 stations spotted so far today.

UPDATE 2146z:  682 stations spotted today. Furthermost is PP5JD (10072km). I now have to go QRT and disconnect everything.

12 year old grandson's art page updated - NOT amateur radio

We have a very talented young artist in the family. No, he does not take after granddad!  I have just updated his page on my G3XBM website to include his YouTube tutorial.

See https://sites.google.com/view/g3xbm4/home/non-amateur-radio/grandsons-art  for a direct link to this page.

10FT8R in RadCom (August)

All being well, my simple, low cost, RX for 10m FT8 should appear in RSGB RadCom in August. This is not certain.

My thanks go to Jay W5OLF for kindly doing the schematics. Jay is developing the circuit further. I hope it brings him success.

Exhaustion or laziness? - NOT amateur radio

It may be old age or an artefact of my stroke in 2013. 

These days I seem to be exhausted after doing very little. People who do not know me probably think I am just lazy, whereas at times I am totally exhausted. A particular time is after breakfast (like now) when I really really need a quiet time.

At one time I was a very active person whereas these days I absolutely need breaks.

Wicken Fen - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we went for a walk around Wicken. 

Sunspots - Thursday June 17th 2021

Solar flux is 76 and the SSN 11. A=14 and K=2.

16 Jun 2021

Storm risks

Maybe I am paranoid over the risk from nearby storms. Everything has been disconnected (PC, PSU, rigs, antennas) to avoid the risk of nearby voltage surges and strikes. If I miss something, does it matter? No.

See https://sites.google.com/view/g3xbm4/home/other-amateur-radio/lightning-maps .

2m Es DX

Just before I disconnected everything because of the storm risk there was an Es opening on 2m FT8 with LZ2PI (2107km) in Bulgaria spotted on RX using the omni antenna.  At -12dB S/N this station was strong.

2m FT8 QRP

Mid afternoon I went on 2m FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the big-wheel omni.  12 stations spotted me on TX with the furthermost G4KUX (302km) and I spotted 15 stations on RX with the furthermost  DC0KK (589km). I have since gone QRT because of the storm risk. 

Sunspots - June 16th 2021

Solar flux is 76 and the SSN 11. A=17 and K=4.

15 Jun 2021

Par EF-10/20/40

Last year, this developed a fault. 

I strung an end-fed wire using the Par transformer out of the shack window. The VSWR looked low, so I assume this Par transformer is fine. At some point I shall re-erect this tri-band antenna, but with new coax. Either there was moisture in the coax or the plug had failed.

In the past I have been spotted all over the planet with this antenna and 500mW WSPR on 10m. It is good for 35W, although my absolute maximum is 10W and often much lower. With WSPR and FT8 it is far lower.

6m FT8 RX (Tuesday)

It is now 0759z. A few minutes ago I turned on 6m FT8 RX using the FT817ND and the V2000 vertical omni. So far just G4IFX calling CQ DX, no doubt hoping for the Far East. 

Just now I realised I was looking at the 12 hour view on PSKreporter maps. I am now looking just at today. So far just 2 Gs spotted (0807z).

UPDATE 1112z: 18 stations spotted. No Es evident here.

UPDATE 1237z: 26 stations spotted including the furthermost HI3T (7001km) in the Caribbean. With no Es evident here, I am more convinced than ever that some of these long distance paths are not Es, but some other E layer propagation. I am sure with a better antenna, higher up, I would copy far more, especially as the V2000 being faulty.

Inland beauty - NOT amateur radio

Many years ago we drove from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway in western Canada. Even though it was June, there was plenty of snow still and the scenery was perhaps the best ever seen inland. 

6m FT8 RX yesterday (Monday)

Although fewer stations were spotted, there was DX from the Caribbean copied on the FT817ND and the V2000 omni antenna. In all, 293 stations spotted. Better equipped stations were working plenty across the Atlantic. 

12 year old grandson's art - NOT amateur radio

This still life painting was done by our 12 year old grandson. He is very talented. 

Sunspots - Tuesday June 15th 2021

 Solar flux is 77 and the SSN 11. A=4 and K=2.

14 Jun 2021

Granddaughter - NOT amateur radio


At least one of these photos has been on before. It shows one of grandchildren this weekend. 

They all like coming to Burwell.

6m FT8 RX (Monday)

Since breakfast I have again been on 6m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and the V2000 vertical omni. It is now 1042z and so far 129 stations spotted.

UPDATE 1414z:  238 stations spotted on RX including 2 in the Caribbean.

UPDATE 1530z:  252 spots on RX so far today on 6m FT8.

Sunspots - Monday June 14th 2021

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 22. A=7 and K=1.

13 Jun 2021

DX soundbites

You may like to hear what some DX stations sounded like. These recordings were made last year. There is a link on my main website.

See https://sites.google.com/view/g3xbm4/home/hf-mf-and-lf/dx-soundbites-2020 .

Photo time - NOT amateur radio

One of our grandsons earlier today.

Picnic time - NOT amateur radio

We have had warm, sunny weather for some days. Yesterday my son had a picnic with his daughter to enjoy it. 

Last night they slept outside under the stars.

Online orders - NOT amateur radio

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, a lot of us have turned to orders online. We have ordered stuff from various suppliers and all have done well delivering the correct packages to the door within a few days. No car journeys, no heavy lifting, convenient. 

When things return to more normal, I can see lots of people staying with online orders for speed, choice and convenience. The high street suppliers that will survive have to either offer something unique or change their business model. 

This had already started before the pandemic, but the last 12-15 months have speeded up the change process. I still enjoy browsing and having a coffee whilst my wife spends our money, but things will be different. 

One thing is certain: high streets will be very different. I suspect the changes will take some time. In the end I can see more city centre flats and fewer, different, shops.

Windose??? - NOT amateur radio

Just now (well actually 20 minutes ago!) I turned on my Windows 10 PC as this has all my RSGB activity contest details stored. I am still waiting for Windows updates to install. In this time, I could have cut the grass, had breakfast, washed the car, etc...

18 months ago I bought a Chromebook and this must be 20 times faster. I am totally pleased with my choice.

I thought the Windows 10 PC needed a defrag, but apparently this already happens automatically every week! The PC has gathered bloatware it does not need, I suppose. It is about 4 years old.

Anyone have recommendations what to do please?

BTW, after 30 minutes of my life - zzzzzz - I am still waiting for this heap of junk to start! It now tells me it is "cleaning up". More waiting..... zzzz.

BTW, I use Avast anti-virus.

PW 2m QRP contest today (Sunday)

Later, I hope to be on 2m SSB briefly to give away a few points in the PW QRP contest. I entered last year and will do so again, although with no chance! It is on 0900-1600z. I know G2XV will be active for the Cambridge Club (CDARC)

See http://www.pwcontest.org.uk/ .

UPDATE 1533z: as we had a family BBQ I only worked G2XV.

6m FT8 RX (Sunday)

Monitoring 6m FT8 again with the FT817ND and the V2000 omni vertical antenna. Most are UK so far this morning with just a couple of EU stations by Es. 

UPDATE 1530z: 99 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX (see map).

UPDATE 1805z:  183 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX so far today.

UPDATE 1929z:  252 stations spotted today.