31 Jul 2011

10m tropo

Weak signal modes never cease to amaze me. This evening I've been exchanging 5W WSPR reports with G4CUI 173km away near Sheffield on 10m by what I presume is tropo. Running WSPR for hours on end certainly shows unexpected paths popping up from time to time. Even 5W is enough with this mode, and I assume modes like JT65.

If properly exploited by using weak signal modes like JT65 and WSPR 10m could be a great inter-G band even with QRP and small antennas. I wonder who will be the first G station to Work All Britain on 10m JT65 with QRP?

30 Jul 2011

Very accurate QTH locator data

Today I found that my very accurate full QTH locator is JO02DG85VD by looking at http://no.nonsense.ee/qthmap/?qth, zooming in and reading out the 10 digit alphanumeric code. You may want to try and find yours too if you want to know distances from another station very accurately.

28 Jul 2011

IC7000 versus FT450D?

As a keen QRPer I'm usually quite happy with 5W (sometimes 10W) but I'm considering upgrading my IC703 to a newer radio as it is now many years since I've done so.  My main (non-LF/VLF) interest remains 10m and 6m although I quite fancy doing more on 2m and 70cm SSB. With HF conditions unlikely to be great in the coming years (even with cycle 24 peaking soon) maybe a little more power would be useful at times. Also, improved filtering and DSP functionality could be helpful as the HF bands get noisier.

The favourites on my shortlist are either an FT450D or an IC7000 as www.eham.net reviews give both radios good scores and these are feature-rich small radios.  The IC7000 is quite a bit more expensive but adds 2m and 70cms.  I'm wondering if readers can make any recommendations please based on personal experience? The other option is to wait another 6-9 months until the Elecraft KX3 appears.

Finally, in the UK, what is the best deal on these radios? I want a supplier who is likely to be around in 3 years time, a long warranty and the best price!

Goats, rabbits and pigs

Amateur radio activity has been on hold this week as our younger grandson has been here to stay. Today we went to Wimpole Home Farm and he enjoyed making friends with the goats, rabbits and pigs. Here he is trying to get friendly with some very tame goats.

25 Jul 2011

Braintree LF/VLF talk next week

Next Monday, August 1st, I've been invited to share my interest in LF/VLF with members of the Braintree Radio Club in Essex. The talk starts around 8pm and will cover my (dead simple) approach to MF, LF and VLF as well as giving some insight into the recent work in Europe by VLF enthusiasts with both earth-mode and radiated DXing. I'm looking forward to this.

24 Jul 2011

40th Wedding Anniversary

40th Wedding Anniversary Guests
This weekend my wife Lis and I have been celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary with our friends and family. It seems only yesterday we were married! Time flies so make the most of every moment. This group photo shows everyone who attended our afternoon party.

20 Jul 2011

G4ILO's brain tumour

Several readers of my blog also read Julian G4ILO's interesting blog. You may, or may not, be aware that Julian has recently been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour known as Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade 4 and he is just about to start treatment to slow down its progress. A complete cure is unlikely but modern treatments can certainly help to slow the tumour growth. I'm sure you all join me in wishing Julian every success in beating this. Julian and his wife Olga have a new blog tracking his treatment progress called One Foot In the Grave which I commend to you.

17 Jul 2011

6km DX by VLF earth-mode today

8.7605kHz earth-mode reception at 6km across the fens
My personal DX record for VLF earth-mode (through ground conduction/induction) at 8.7605kHz has been pushed up to 6km today using a long carrier transmission with periodic ID breaks and Spectrum Laboratory software with bandwidth of 11mHz on receive. Transmit power was 5W from a TDA2003 transmitter.

See https://sites.google.com/site/sub9khz/earthmode/vlf-xbm-blog

15 Jul 2011

More VLF earth-mode tests

8.76kHz QRSS3 signal at 3.8km
Recently the water company repaired some pipes right outside our property in the road. I was informed the pipes are/were NOT metallic.

Today, just as a check, I tried 8.760kHz earth-mode running my usual 5W into 20m spaced earth electrodes just to see if the repair work made any difference to signal levels some kilometres away.

At my favourite roadside test site 3.8km from home I set up my RX and tried 2 different loops on the ground (a) my 30t 80cm square loop and (b) a large single turn loop.  Using QRSS3 the signal was copied on both antennas at the usual strength. This makes me think any "utilities assistance" is NOT purely from metal water pipes in the road.

My next planned test is to see how well an earth-mode signal propagates along one of the many fenland water channels using one TX electrode actually in the water and one on dry land. For RX I'll either use another earth electrode pair (one in and one out of the water) or a loop or E-field probe. The next couple of weeks are pretty busy with family matters, so this fenland river test may not take place until sometime in August.

14 Jul 2011

Best deals in UK for phones, TV and broadband?

Just wondering what people think is the best deal currently available for TV, phones and broadband? Currently I have TV from Sky, phone calls from Sky (£25 - broadband and free anytime package with line still with BT at around £13) and 10M broadband from Virgin Media at £18. BT have offered me "up to 20M" broadband and free anytime phones for just £9.70 a month, plus £10/month line rental. This seems a very good deal. Whatever, I surely must be able to save by getting everything from one supplier.

What package do YOU have and how much should I expect to pay to get TV, decent broadband and free anytime phone (with line rental)?

6m/10m tropo with WSPR

On a few occasions recently I've had some spots at surprising distances within the UK by what I am sure is tropo on 6m and 10m WSPR. Just a few moments ago I got a -27dB S/N report from G0MGX in IO93ga at 145km with my 5W to the vertical on 6m. It is for this sort of surprise result that I find WSPR so good: when one least expects a report you get one.

13 Jul 2011

UK/European SSB on Citizen's band

I understand that a recent CEPT (ECC) decision means that 27MHz SSB CB will be permitted in the UK and Europe from October. See http://www.erodocdb.dk/Docs/doc98/official/pdf/ECCDEC1103.PDF

12 Jul 2011

Never mind the FT818, bring on the KX3!

Someone has reminded me that Elecraft pre-launched their new "trail-friendly" all mode QRP rig at the Dayton Convention recently. This will be a VERY sophisticated and well equipped small portable transceiver covering 160-6m with some truly astounding features. See http://www.elecraft.com/KX3/kx3.htm . Don't expect to see it much before Christmas 2011 or later.

11 Jul 2011

FT818 All band portable

Some months back I posted a Photoshop created picture of a possible successor to the FT817, which I termed the FT818. This was NOT a real product but quite a bit of reaction was created, including a few people contacting Yaesu placing advanced orders!!

Such an FT817 successor has still to appear and I'm wondering if this is now likely at all, especially with the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It may be worth keeping an eye on the Japanese Yaesu site as new products sometimes appear first in Japan. Despite the less than brilliant HF conditions I still live in hope for a new HF/VHF/UHF handportable from this manufacturer before the Chinese do one instead, at a much lower price.

Near miss in Iceland

Late last week we crossed a 120m long bridge on the main Route 1 road in southern Iceland 3 times travelling to and from the small village of Vik. 24 hours later this bridge was completely destroyed when the dangerous Katla volcano had a minor eruption under the Myrdalsjoekull glacier sending melted ice and water rushing down to the sea with great force. We were so close to being on that bridge. See http://http.ruv.straumar.is/static.ruv.is/vefur/Katla_fyrir_net.wmv .

When Katla explodes seriously (it is overdue and has been stirring recently) it is likely to cause massive devastation in South Iceland and the fallout may well affect the world's weather for years (a bit like a nuclear winter) as was the case in past large eruptions. Be afraid, be very afraid...

7 Jul 2011

Sunspots on the slide

Every day that passes I am more convinced than ever that the peak of cycle 24 has already passed and we are now on the downwards slope. If correct, this is one of the weakest cycles ever. It is still possible this is just a blip, but I think not.

3 Jul 2011


Currently on holiday in Iceland enjoying some spectacular scenery on the journey around the island by car. No radio gear - just enjoying the landscape, birds and people.