31 Oct 2011

500kHz WSPR

Yesterday I fired up the 500kHz WSPR kit (2mW ERP from the loop antenna) for the first time in several months and was pleased with the reports and level of activity. Several people joined in the fun and some new stations are now monitoring and reporting on the band. I want to get my 137kHz WSPR kit sorted this week with around 25W RF and maybe 0.5mW ERP if I am lucky.

29 Oct 2011

Sunspots update

As the days go by this autumn, the sunspot numbers continue to climb progressively and I am beginning to think we may be in for a decent cycle 24 peak after all. Certainly HF conditions have been excellent recently with MUFs up to 40MHz at times.  28MHz has been as good as I ever remember it in the last few weeks.

Have there been any recent revisions of the sunspot predictions for the next 12-24 months? If so, I would expect these to be upwards.

CQWW: update on 10m operation

After a few hours of intermittent QRP operation I've plenty of QSOs in the log, many when using just 500mW pep into my halo antenna. Stations have been worked with QRP in 5 continents on 28MHz SSB already. The band is almost filled with stations in a way that I've not heard since the last sunspot peak. If you want to work some QRP SSB DX on the HF bands, especially on 10m, then this weekend is your opportunity.

28 Oct 2011

CQWW SSB Contest this weekend

This weekend it is the BIG contest of the year - the CQ Worldwide DX contest (SSB) which runs all of Saturday and Sunday. Unless the sun plays nasty tricks, all the HF bands will be absolutely humming with SSB activity and for 48 hours the bandplans will be thrown into chaos as SSB stations spread out to find space.  I am not a great contest fan, but I do enjoy this one and, almost without fail, manage to work loads of US states on the higher HF bands despite running 5W pep or less. This year on 28MHz there is a good chance of working some USA stations with 100mW pep or less, especially later in the contest.  Last year I was unable to take part as we were away. This year I have told my wife that I am not available for anything else.

27 Oct 2011

IC703, K1 and MFJ Cub (15m) possible sale

The above QRP rigs, all of which are in good condition, are part of my station but very underused compared with the FT817 and my homemade gear. So, I am thinking about selling these and at a fair price. The 5W K1 has the 40,30,20 and 15m band module as well as the auto-ATU internally. The IC703 covers 160-6m at up to 10W. The Cub is 1W on 15m.

My question is what IS a fair market price to charge for each? Please note these are NOT yet for sale and I am only trying to judge what sort of price to charge if I do decide to do so.

XBM10-2 Micro-transceiver boxed

This afternoon I rebuilt the XBM10-2 28MHz micro-transceiver onto a small piece of copper laminate and put the whole transceiver in a small diecast box. The transceiver still chirps far too much, but it is in a state where more DX contacts will be possible and I can't see an easy way of reducing the chirp without making it more complex. Maybe I should call it the Chirpy-10?  I'm particularly pleased that the TX-RX offset is just perfect for operation on 28.060MHz CW.

I have just realised that by replacing the earpiece with my PC soundcard I can use several SDR packages to allow me to look either side of the QRP calling frequency. This rather defeats the simplicity though!

25 Oct 2011

Getting the shack back

Tomorrow evening my house grows about 200% in size. Actually my 2 delightful young grandchildren and their mums and dads go home meaning I can restore the shack to its main use! At the moment it is a bedroom for the two grandchildren, so amateur operation is impossible. One thing on the agenda is the CQWW SSB contest at the weekend. This is one of the contests I enjoy as it is a good way to work lots of US states and Canadian provinces, even with 5W QRP. Another task is to further optimise the XBM10-2 tiny transceiver, put it in a tiny case and work some more countries with it.

20 Oct 2011

2 countries worked with the 28MHz XBM10-2

Well, off to a good start today with a couple of QSOs with the 2 transistor XBM10-2 60mW 10m CW transceiver. Much to my surprise I got 439 from IT9QAU/QRP at 1547z today.  Distance was 1414km.

Then 599 (with chirp) from M0DRK, who is in the same village as me. So 2 DXCC countries worked already.  On receive, the oscillator will not always start in the latest circuit version in which I've reduced the component count by a further 2 parts (just 11 parts plus crystal and earpiece now).  Still, a very promising start for something so ultra-simple.

UPDATE 1850z 20.11.10: To get the oscillator to always start on RX, to get TX spot-on 28.060 with the right offset for RX I had to revert to the earlier design and put 2 parts back. The revised schematic is shown here. This IS such fun.

19 Oct 2011

2 transistor transceiver for 28MHz CW

This afternoon I built what is probably just about the simplest CW transceiver possible for use on 10m. Based on my XBM80-2 design for 80m, this is essentially the same circuit redone for a 28.060MHz fundamental crystal.

Depending on how much chirp one is prepared to accept (there is quite a bit) the power output is around 50-70mW, which is enough to cross the Atlantic on a good day. With less output the chirp should be reduced. The receiver audio output into the high impedance crystal earpiece is low, but I can hear down to around 2uV (-100dBm) in a quiet room. The circuit is a colpitts oscillator used as a TX oscillator with the key down and as a direct conversion receiver with a single stage oscillator-mixer and separate audio gain stage with the key up.

The rig is full break-in going from RX to TX when the key is pressed. It works as I have already heard Ws on the band today. Broadcast breakthrough does not seem to be an issue. I hope to have a few local QSOs soon, but really believe it will get much further.  It could do with tidying up and boxing and it really needs a small low pass filter for serious use.

18 Oct 2011

More WSPR database issues today

28MHz WSPR this afternoon - loads of signals
Sadly this afternoon the internet WSPR database crashed again, just at a time when 10m propagation was excellent and some decent reports were coming in from the USA and elsewhere with my 50mW to the halo. All afternoon I was getting an endless string of DX stations coming through on WSPR all running 5W or much less but I have been unable to upload these to the database or get my own reports from it. I noticed G4KPX about 15km away from me was testing on 10m WSPR with 5mW and I am sure he would have been getting plenty of DX reports in today's conditions. Let's hope the database is back soon so I can upload spots manually and see what reports I was getting in the last few hours.

17 Oct 2011

My other blog: Miscellaneous Musings

There are times when I want to speak my mind or share thoughts on matters unrelated to amateur radio. Rather than post these here in future, except in exceptional circumstances, I've started a new blog called Miscellaneous Musings which will cover all manner of subjects. Feel free to follow me there too and make comments.


16 Oct 2011

10m AM DX QSO today

Today I had a nice solid AM QSO across the Atlantic to K2WF in Long Island on 29.010MHz when I was running just 4W to the halo antenna. My report was 55 and I gave Alan 57. He was running 25W carrier. This is my first 10m DX AM QSO in about 10 years and very welcome too.

Nostaglia - listen again to famous shortwave interval signals

If, like me, your first experience of short-wave radio was listening to DX broadcast stations back in the 1950s or 1960s on a simple home built radio you may want to take a nostalgic listen to the recordings of a large number of the interval signals from those far-off days. Even now, those evocative tunes send a shiver of excitement down my spine.  Some browsers may not like the link which is to my public Dropbox folder, but I assure you it is safe.

Superb HF conditions - sunspot count is high

Yet again, 28MHz is buzzing with signals right across the whole band with stations simultaneously coming through from the Far East and the USA. The sunspot number today is 166 which is very high. If the sunspot count and flux levels remain at this level or increase further in the next 12 months I think it is highly likely the peak will be a pretty good one, despite many predicting this would be a weak peak.

What I am hoping for now are some 6m transatlantic openings this winter. I well recall previous good peaks when 50-50.2MHz was filled with Ws and VE stations booming in at 59 on just a small wire dipole.

The Voice of the Common Man/Woman

This picture appeared on my Facebook pages today. It shows someone on one of the marches across the world protesting at bankers and the mess they have caused.  I think it is excellent and speaks volumes about the concerns of good, decent and ordinary people. Stupid bankers have gambled away OUR pensions and OUR livelihoods for the sake of THEIR short-term gain. Power to the people!!

15 Oct 2011

29MHz AM Signals

For the first time in several years I am hearing 10m AM signals coming through from across the Atlantic between 29 - 29.1MHz. Good signals from N1GKX and KA1CU amongst several others including UA and G. For me, 10m AM is like a time warp, reminding me of how the HF bands used to sound in my youth back in the early 1960s. Yet to work any DX AM this season.

12 Oct 2011

Wonder why the economy is in a mess?

"Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent."

This is a quote from a recent article in Vanity Fair.

A similar situation exists here in the UK. In my view this is a situation which cannot be sustained and we need to wake up and do something about it.

6 Oct 2011

A VHF/UHF DX mode waiting to be discovered?

There is some indication that the long Europe to Japan path on 50MHz in the summer months is due to Polar Mesospheric Summer Echoes, or PMSE for short. Echoes of 224MHz radar in Norway suggest strong reflections, so I wonder why more radio amateurs are not trying for 2m DX using these mesospheric clouds?

See http://www.eiscat.se/raw/pmse.html. It is very likely these clouds and noctilucent clouds are the same phenomenon.

More success on 28.060MHz QRP

In the last few days I've been putting out more CQ calls on the 10m CW QRP frequency. This tactic is working as I've managed several decent QRP-QRP QSOs across the Atlantic including 8P6BX,  W3PO,  K1YAN and N0UR. HF conditions are certainly very good of late and 10m is back to its old ways when a few watts are all that is needed.

Steve Jobs - RIP

Today is a sad day for the electronics and computing world with the death of Steve Jobs of Apple. Not too many years ago Apple looked like simply fading into obscurity. Then Jobs came back and turned it all around. All my family have Apple products - PCs, iPads and, in my case an iPod Touch 4g. All work perfectly and are a credit to an innovative and creative company led by people with inspiration and vision. We need a few more people like this in the UK rather than giving credit to idiots in the banking and "investment" world who simply gamble our pensions and reap huge bonuses as a result.

RIP Steve.

5 Oct 2011

Crossing the Atlantic again with Sputnik TX

My CQ call today on 21.060MHz (using G6ALB's 400mW Sputnik valve TX) resulted in a reply from Jim W1PID who was 549 initially but he faded out before I copied my report.

2 Oct 2011

Sputnik valve TXs on air this week

All being well, for a few days starting October 4th I shall be on 21.060kHz using G6ALB's "Sputnik" valve TX which puts out 400mW. Several other stations around the world will be running similar rigs and with luck we will manage a few Sputnik-Sputnik QSOs. DL2BQD will certainly be on and also, with luck, some transatlantic propagation will be possible.