30 Apr 2009

Sunspots are GO!!

At the end of April we seem to be seeing green shoots of recovery not only in the economy, but also in the sunspot count: today the sunspot number reached 15, a number not seen in some while.This was just a few days after another spot was present, albeit very briefly. Can we hope that this signals the real end of the minimum with better HF days ahead? Let's see what things are like in another 28 days .....and keep fingers and toes crossed.

28 Apr 2009


For most of April I've been putting out CQs on 10m CW/SSB/FM and checking the DX cluster for signs of sporadic-E propagation into Europe. So far, all is very quiet. It is still early in the season, but usually there've been some openings by now. May, June and July are the best months in the northern hemisphere.

At times, sporadic-E signals can be very strong indeed. I recall some Icelandic stations on 6m SSB 2 years ago who were truly S9+50dB suggesting that, on a clear frequency, they would have been workable with microwatts!

There is a nice tutorial on sporadic-E at this link.

As of April 29th, still no spor-E yet detected this season here.

27 Apr 2009

Quaker News

The QRP community has a lot in common with Quakers (Society of Friends) , especially their ethos of living simply and fairly. If you have never done so, do check them out. They have been instrumental in much good work around the world, but this is usually done quietly behind the scenes e.g. they did a lot of work on reconciling the groups in Northern Ireland helping to work for peace there. The latest copy of Quaker News is available on-line. It has some interesting articles e.g. on the upcoming Copenhagen climate change conference later this year and on the need for urgent and fair action worldwide.

Morse's birthday

Today is the anniversary of Samuel Morse's birthday. To mark it, Google has its usual banner in Morse rather than letters - a nice touch to remind the world about CW.

26 Apr 2009

Simple 500kHz TX design by GW3UEP

A very neat and simple MF TX called the E-QTX has appeared on the Google UK500khz group website. This design looks so straightforward that even I should be able to make it in the back of the garage. It comes from GW3UEP (via G3XIZ) and is aimed at encouraging more NoV holders to come on the band. It produces 8-10W with a 12V supply and more than double this from a higher supply voltage.

See http://groups.google.com/group/uk500khz/web/gw3uep-cw-tx.

24 Apr 2009

Simple SDR links

Already some replies on the quest for ultra-simple SDR transceiver ideas - thank you. For example see the LY1GP site http://www.qrz.lt/ly1gp/SDR/index.html

Simon Brown HB9DRV mentions work on the SoftRock which is simple and not too expensive. 1W 30m/20m/17m with a new console being written starting July 1st.

23 Apr 2009

Simplest possible SDR transceiver?

A challenge - what is the simplest possible SDR transceiver that can be built that would allow credible results on HF QRP? Does anyone know of any links to such ideas? Is there an "SDR equivalent" to the Pixie or similar ultra-simple QRP rigs, possibly supporting all modes but using just a handful of parts?

Software Defined Radio (SDR) kits

Received this today about SDR kits from Australia:

Hi Roger -
Here is a piece of information that may be of interest to your blog readers / website visitors: our little SDR KIT project is gaining momentum - we've been in business for less than one month yet we now have builders in 14 countries. See http://www.genesisradio.com.au/G40/ . We also have 2 new models coming out very soon: 20m and 30m duobander and single 80m SDR transceiver.
Thanks for reading.
Best 73
Nick VK1AA

22 Apr 2009

Anyone built the Gnat-1 micro-transceiver?

Has anyone reading this blog built the neat little GNAT-1 transceiver featured in SPRAT 138 (Spring 2009) by Chris Trask N7ZWY? This looks a very elegant design making good use of the small number of parts needed. I must have a go. Unlike the FETer and similar micro-transceivers it doesn't need complex switching and it produces a decent RF output.

Chris tells me he hasn't actually air-tested the circuit (surprisingly), so I'd like to hear how people get on. It is important to keep the key leads short Chris advises.

Hurrah - a sunspot!!!

Solar flux reaching the giddy heights of 71.0 and today there is 1 sunspot on the visible side of the sun. Things may be looking up after an absence of spots for 2 months.....

Next day it had gone :-(

21 Apr 2009

10m activity (of sorts)

Just checked 10m for signs of sporadic-E but only heard a UK station M0CHK who appeared to be testing his rig audio with another unidentified station. Signal was weak with me.

19 Apr 2009

20m AM

IK6BGJ was a good signal this afternoon on 20m AM on 14.251MHz. Although he called CQ AM many times he did not work anyone and was unable to hear my QRP reply when running 4W AM. Pity - it is a very long time since I've worked anyone on AM on 20m. 1967 to be precise!

15 Apr 2009

70ms QRP FM simplex

QSOs this afternoon with G4BFS/M and M3VDO/M on 433.5 FM - local mobile stations running QRP at all ends. No great DX (best about 20kms), but nice to work some stations on the band mid afternoon.

14 Apr 2009

70cms lift conditions today

Conditions on 70cms were good this morning: at breakfast time (around 0700z) several more distant repeaters were coming in at good strength here in East Cambridgeshire. Amongst them was the Leicester repeater GB3LE which was fully quieting here and easily accessible with about 2W ERP. I called and said I was listening on 433.5 for simplex QSOs, but there was no-one about. 70cms has frequent localised openings which appear for a few hours then disappear, It is a great pity there is not more simplex FM on 70cms as it is good fun working DX with QRP using this mode with simple colinear antennas or even handhelds.

11 Apr 2009

HF broadcast band reception

With the broadcasters supposedly moving out of the 7.1-7.2 MHz slot from earlier this month I thought I'd check who was still there last night. Firstly Radio Ethiopia on 7.11 was a strong signal as was Voice of Broad Masses of Eritrea on 7.175MHz, both around 1915z last night. Also heard on 7.570MHz was Radio Thailand. I guess this is in the new 41m band allocation?

At much the same time a listen on 15.120MHz brought in Radio Nigeria at good strength at 1930z with their news commentary in English.

All this BC listening made me quite nostalgic for those heady days in the 1960s when the joys of Radio Sofia, Radio Prague International, Radio Moscow and others graced the airwaves with their propaganda. Although I never cared for the propaganda I did like the interval signals which thrilled me when receiving them on a crystal set under the bed clothes late at night. Hear these again at http://www.intervalsignals.net/ .

A useful guide to English language BC schedules and frequencies can be found at http://www.primetimeshortwave.com/ .

The VERY quiet Sun

Have you noticed how long we've been now without any sunspots? The graph at http://www.solen.info/solar/ suggests it's been almost 7 weeks now. A few months ago we were expecting the start of cycle 24 and some hopeful signs were emerging. Then things turned down again and it is doubtful we've started to enter cycle 24, although the slightly increased solar flux levels may be a hint. We can only wait and see.

At least the higher HF bands plus 6 and 4m will be livened up by sporadic-E shortly. If we were entering a long Maunder minimum (I doubt it) then the summer spor-E "sport" could be the best DX opportunities we'd get on 10 and 6m.

5 Apr 2009

Ham radio and a school football team reunion

Last night, I attended a reunion of my junior school football team of 1959. Amazingly, of the team of 11, everyone attended apart from one person who sadly died last year. Among those attending the reunion was someone I have not seen in over 40 years who, it turns out, has been working in VK-land in mobile radio. Paul has the calls VK2ZPB and more recently M0GJL. As you can imagine, we talked as much about ham radio as the football matches back in 1959.