31 Jan 2014

The last 24 hours on 472kHz RX

Not having a suitable TX antenna for 472kHz I have been WSPRing (RX only) on the MF band using my untuned Par 10/20/40 end-fed antenna. In all, 10 unique stations were spotted including F  and DL.
472kHz unique RX WSPR spots over the last 24 hours with untuned Par antenna

A new 5MHz band?

At WRC-2015 one of the possible discussion points is new 5MHz ham band to replace the messy channels allocated in some countries. Although I have held a 5MHz NoV for some time I have still to transmit at 5MHz.

One of the downsides of WRC-2015 is the possibility of losing access to the 10GHz band.

All these decisions are a long way off but your national society may get a chance to comment on proposals. Take the opportunity to add your voice if these decisions matter to you.

30 Jan 2014

472kHz WSPR RX

Rather than go on VHF, I decided to take a look at 472kHz WSPR after a break of over 4 months because of my illness. I have no MF antennas currently so just received on my untuned Par 10/20/40m end-fed antenna. The usual suspects (!) are still about and RX reports (I think) little different to those with the earth electrode antenna.
472kHz band WSPR RX this evening to 2130z

20m WSPR success

I am about to turn off my 20m 2W WSPR  but results have been good, as an example 11 spots from a single transmission at 1802z with the majority of reports being transatlantic.

Crystal sets

It is some time since I built a crystal set, but these are great fun and very easy to build.  Remember you are using the TX station for all power. There are no DC supplies in a crystal set.

Most designs are still for Medium Wave reception, but I had most fun with short wave designs based around T50-2 (red) or T50-6 (yellow) toroids which allow small hi-Q coils to be wound. Larger T68 or larger diameters are also suitable.

There are PLENTY of resources on the internet (just Google "crystal set" ) but a typical one is:
http://www.mds975.co.uk/Content/crystalsets2.html .  Never assume crystal sets are useless: I have copied stations (not via relays) directly from all over the world including All India Radio, Radio Australia and Cuba.  The short wave design  used just a handful of parts. Signal levels will be in 500uV to 2mV region. A good crystal set design can detect down to about 400uV or less, but a lot will depend on your earpiece(s) and your ears. One has to ride QSB as some distant stations appear to be co-channel with less distant stations.

It would be fun to build a multi-band (LW, MW, SW and  VHF) design some day. There are even designs for Band II FM using slope detection. They should work well on VHF aircraft band which is still AM with local airports and planes. I have never seen an aircraft-band design. You can always add a small audio amp, but this rather defeats the purpose of a crystal set.

See also my own website about crystal sets :https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/crystalset .

73kHz band in the USA

In recent days and nights European LF enthusiasts have been looking, with some success, for the transatlantic transmissions in the 73kHz band from W4DEX and others who have been granted special permits  QRSS60 transmissions have been copied well in Germany by Marcus Vester DF6NM and others. See http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/26404526/df6nm_74kHz.jpg

With the right kit (and stability) almost anything appears to be possible.

WSPRnet database was down

This morning, the WSPRnet on-line database has been out of action, so it is not possible to see who is receiving transmissions. This is a handicap of WSPR: when the database works it is a great asset and help, but when down for any reason, the whole fun of WSPR disappears. At best, WSPR is really a QRP BEACONING system, not really a 2-way communications system. JT65-HF and JT9-1 are ideal for QRP 2-way communications on HF.

 As of 1500z, the database was still struggling - but there occasionally.

29 Jan 2014

Health Update

I have now been out of hospital for almost a month following my stroke, so thought I'd better update you on progress.

Well the good news is my walking is coming along quite well. Although I still need a stick, the Zimmer frame is now almost unused.  My wife and I do a 10 minute walk around the Close daily.  A couple of weeks ago I managed a 1 mile walk at Anglesey Abbey (NT). My main issue when  walking is giddiness. This is I believe improving. Another issue is feeling sick inside at certain times of the day. I sleep (usually) very well and for a long time at night. Getting around the home, even a stick is more for psychological support. I can get around OK apart from feeling giddy.

The BAD news is Community Stroke Support. I was told 1-2 week visits would be the norm, but I was, this week, told the waiting list is 13 weeks and I was 13th on the list! The CST refuse to leave messages on the phone and had I not chased them up, I would  never have known my status! This part of my post hospital recovery is PATHETIC.

My experience is NHS clinical care is usually excellent but simple communications around the NHS is appalling. If this was the private sector and MY company several people would be SACKED without delay. Really, communications in the NHS is APPALLINGLY bad generally. This is my experience, my wife's and my daughter-in-law's. It HAS to improve. The sad thing is so little needs to change to make it good and save money and give patients and families a better experience.

I have written to the DVLA but don't yet know how long they will withdraw my driving licence, but I assume for 12 months. I now have a blue disabled badge which allows easier parking when my wife drives us to the shops and National Trust properties.

Swallow is slowly improving. I eat a Weetabix and banana at breakfast and pureed food lunch and tea. I am also on an 8 hour liquid feed.

Overall, I am making progress steadily on all fronts, still doing my exercises more despite the NHS than thanks to the NHS. My own doctor and local surgery have been excellent. At the current rate I can expect to be back to near normal health in the late summer.

Today, Thursday, I wrote  an email of complant to the local NHS ,copied  my MP, James Paice MP. I am pleased to report the NHS listened and I got some positive action this afternoon (speech and language lady coming to my home this coming Monday).  It should not be necessary to do this to be heard. What if I was 85 and suffering from dementia?

Excellent amateur VLF reception

OK2BVG has been having very good results on 8.270kHz picking up Uwe DJ8WX. Note timescales of the plot are in many hours. The wideband noise blocks are nighttime when reception is more challenging.
OK2BVG's reception of DJ8WX on 8.270kHz

Bye 6m, hello 20m

After over a day on 6m with just G8EPA and G4IRZ in the log on 6m, I have QSYed to 20m WSPR. I have not tried 20m for a few weeks. Already transatlantic spots are in the log and best DX spot of me is at 8307km in DM09 square (KI7CI) so far with 2W.  Not sure what happens on 20m in the evenings, but plenty of transatlantic traffic still at 2112z, which is hours later than on 10m. Overnight and Thursday were handicapped by WSPRnet being down , or very flaky.


PA1ASB has been active recently on VLF and on his site he has a grabber showing what signals he has/is copying around 8.270kHz  which is the new favoured spot. This is below 8.3kHz and so falls in the unallocated part of the spectrum as 8.970kHz is now within the  spectrum reserved for sferics research.  Most amateur VLF TX stations are now operating around 8.270kHz. Here in the UK I believe it is legal for ANYONE to TX below 8.300kHz  as long as no harmful interference is caused to allocated services above 8.300kHz. This is my view, not a legal statement. I have asked OFCOM to clarify.

Also of note on these pages are the .SDR configuration files for Spectrum Lab software. It is ESSENTIAL to use Spectrun Lab or very similar software to detect anything at any range. See http://www.qsl.net/pa1sdb/index.htm . I suggest that, if you want to build a VLF amateur RX, to base your configuration files on those given on these pages.

My own experience is that 420uHz or less bandwidth is essential to see any trace of amateur VLF signals integrated over many hours. 42uHz is better. In both cases you have to lock to a VLF MSK signal, Russian Alpha beacons or GPS for excellent stability. This is all sorted out with the .SDR file automatically. You may be surprised  how stable a RX you can make very simply.

28 Jan 2014

Our windmill in action

As you may recall, last summer we moved to a bungalow right next to Burwell's 200 year old windmill, which is being fully restored thanks to a National Lottery grant. The video shows the 4 (new) sails being tested earlier today as seen from our lounge window. It is very impressive.

Right next door is the local museum (excellent) which is open Thursday and Sunday afternoons from Easter until late October and WELL worth a visit.

The windmill appears to wobble because Google removed the video's shakiness -in reality it is very stable.

6m - no good today

After a full day on 6m WSPR not a single entry in the log.Even the spots by G4IKZ,were last evening!  Even othersmdid not seem to be doing very well either.

Meanwhile, 10m was in good shape yet again with lots of transatlantic stations copied and worked by G4NUA, a friend in Cambridge.

I'll keep 6m WSPRing for another day, and hope for better solar conditions tomorrow.

73kHz UK access?

According to my interpretation of the latest UK frequency allocation table, one can use the old 73kHz band without a license as long as the output is less than 72dBuA/m at 10m under inductive devices rules. Perhaps someone can tell me if I am wrong. A very low ERP is not a handicap as amateur antennas tend to be VERY inefficient.

See http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/spectrum/spectrum-information/UKFAT_2013.pdf

6m F2 DX

Unless it was a band error, yesterday early morning G4IKZ 18km west of me was spotted on 6m WSPR in Australia over 17000km away by rare 6m F2 propagation. Nick uses about 6dB more power than me and a Moxon beam whereas I use a V2000 vertocal with near unity gain on 6m. I am currently on 6m and living in hope! Solar activity does NOT look promising though.

27 Jan 2014

FT817ND - the perfect QRP radio?

For some time I wondered why Yaesu had not replaced the FT817ND with a more recent model. Then, of course, the penny dropped. This radio, although not perfect, is a good buy at around £500 in the UK.   Basically this is still a very good little radio. Expect a further price drop with the latest £:yen exchange rates.

All it needs are better batteries, auto-ATU and a speech processor, all which can be easily added to the FT817. The KX3 is twice the price of the FT817 and this does NOT include 2m and 70cms all mode. No, for me it will be a second FT817, this time the ND version plus another auto-ATU.

At some point a newer version may appear, but the current version regularly scores well in the eHam reviews (4.8/5) because those who own the radios know just how good they are. Of all the radios I have ever owned and used, the FT817 is the very best, without doubt. Someone called it the "Swiss army knife" of radios.

See the Yaesu brochure at : http://www.yaesu.com/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=618&FileCatID=154&FileName=FT%2D817.pdf&FileContentType=application%2Fpdf


If you get a chance, look at the WSPR spots for Richard G4KPX. Unless he has made recent changes Richard uses QRP with indoor loop antennas and achieves excellent results on every band he uses. For example, his 0.5W 10m log includes a couple of VKs and a good array of stateside stations.  Even on 472kHz he achieves good results.

Back on 10m

After a night looking on 160m RX I came back to 10m TX/;\RX WSPR at 1000z this morning. After a quiet start I am (again) being spotted by 4X1RF and am seeing a station in S.Africa ZS4A (9357km) and Japan JG1KGS (9512km). The band is in good shape yet again. In the afternoon, the band was (again) wide open to the USA and Canada.

UPDATE 1904z:  For me here, the 10m band was STILL open transatlantic at 1904z, VERY late indeed and way after dark..

26 Jan 2014

Top Band WSPR

For a change this evening I've been looking on 160m WSPR with my totally untuned Par 10/20/40m antenna and my FT817.  It is quite amazing what this far from optimised set-up can pick up (see below):
Unique 160m RX WSPR reports since yesterday afternoon
I am unable to TX on 160m, so this is just what I have been able to spot. Best DX was OH6HRX at 1814km.

JT65-HF QSOs on 10m

Today (in between doing the RSPB annual bird count) I had some digital QSOs on 10m with Europe and N. America. The mode works with weak signals but it takes several minutes to complete a QSO. I also tried JT9-1 but there was no activity when I was on. WSPR is easier but does not really support 2-way QSOs whereas JT65-HF and JT9-1 both do.
JT65-HF QSO today

10m - Australia and USA early morning!

Just checked my WSPR spots with 2W on 10m so far this morning (to 1045z) and delighted to see I was received by VK3OER at 16743km and several spots from KD0VWO at 7408km. I have never been spotted in the USA so early in the day! Perhaps this is long path? I see I have spotted JA and VK stations too.
2W 10m WSPR 26.1.14 morning to1045z

25 Jan 2014

10m WSPR still running this evening

Even though the last Stateside DX finished around 1724z, I have left my 2W 10m WSPR kit still running in the hope of catching some 10m GDX this evening, So far nothing heard or seen on the screen.

Heathkit HW8 QRP HF CW Transceiver

Looking back on all the rigs I have owned over the years, the Heathkit HW8 must be up there near the top of the list. I bought mine secondhand ready built in totally unmodified state. It stayed in its original state all the time I owned it. It was eventually sold back to its original owner when I bought a Yaesu FT7 I believe.
I could go on the air most days and be sure to work something including plenty of DX on 15m. There are lots of mods on the net but as it is it performs pretty well.  It gets a good score in the reviews on http://www.eham.net . The power out was around 2-3W and the RX a decent direct conversion design. Style-wise it was typical Heathkit - very neat on the desktop. I used mine with the Heathkit PSU.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/hw8 .

These days, the HW8 is hard to find and not cheap, for good reasons.  I liked the looks and performance of mine and regret selling it. I actually preferred it to the 4-band superhet based Elecraft K1 CW rig. If you own no other radios, you can do a lot worse than the HW8. It just works well.  A couple of watts of CW is quite enough to work DX on 20 or 15m as well as loads of UK and EU stations on the lower bands.

JT9-1 QSO on 10m

This evening at 1650z I had a first QSO, in a long time, on 10m JT9-1 digital weak signal mode with 2W RF following my CQ call on 28.078MHz USB dial.  The 2-way QSO was with N8HTG at 5937km.

My calls were also received by several other USA stations such as WO4R, KQ8M and WC0Y according to the PSKreporter website.

JT9-1 is about 2dB less sensitive than WSPR, but it allows 2-way contacts to be made. Using WSJTX software the QSO was straightforward.

Incidentally, K9AN was still copying my 2W 10m WSPR at 1724z which is late in the evening.

10m WSPR Success

Yet again 10m is wide open and USA spots are "ten a penny" this afternoon at 2W. The band has been in good shape now for many weeks. In a moment I am going to swap to JT9-1 to get some 2-way contacts in the log. My speech is still too poor (because of my recent stroke) for SSB, FM or AM.

4X1RF's RX system?

This station in Israel seems to copy my WSPR beaconing on ANY band and at ANY power down to 5mW. I have no idea what he uses on RX but he must be situated in a nice and quiet radio environment to hear so well. Now I EXPECT to be copied in Israel and think my gear is faulty if I am not!

Auto-ATUs for FT817ND

Until it started to misbehave recently, I have used the Elecraft T1 auto ATU with my 12yr old FT817 with good results. Its main use has been to resonate end-fed wire antennas on HF bands.  I always struggled on 160 and 6m.

Does anyone know how the LDG  Z817 auto-ATU compares? It is larger  than the T1 but less expensive.

What would  YOU recommend? I intend to get a new FT1817ND (as a second radio) and auto-ATU, then to fix the old ATU.

Second peak for cycle 24?

It looks more and more likely that cycle 24 is going to have a second peak with a greater magnitude than that of the first peak of Feb 2012. Today the sunspot count is 150. It will take several months before the smoothed sunspot number is known, but the indicators are good.

Recent excellent conditions on 10m are further evidence of good times. Since home from hospital (Jan 3rd) 10m has been open to N.America every afternoon that I have listened.

As the slope down to the minimum is more gradual than the ascent to the peak(s), we can expect decent HF conditions for a few years to come.

The new peak is not great and we may we be heading to a Maunder Minimum with very little sunspot activity for perhaps 40-50 years. Enjoy these HF conditions while you can  because we may not see them again in our lifetimes.

See http://www.solen.info/solar/ .

UPDATE 1300z:  My first report from the USA (running 2W WSPR) was as early as 1244z, indicating a VERY early 10m stateside opening today at my very low power level.. Conditions remain excellent on 10m.  7088km, not bad.

24 Jan 2014

JT65B - limited 2m success this evening

This evening, I managed to successfully copy G3WKW in Hampshire on JT65B digital weak signal mode on 2m, although Bob only copied a few pings from me, so no QSO. We will be trying JT9-1 soon. One of the issues is lack of experience with the JT65B software package. Bob was running up 40W to a beam whereas I was just using 2W to the halo. The power difference mattered. I think with patience and more time we could have completed a 2-way QSO.

This experiment makes me think that I need more VHF power if I am to take the 2m band seriously. Somewhere around 50W to a small beam is probably what is needed to regularly work decent ranges with weak signal modes in flat conditions.  Working 2m with 2W and a halo is fun but this is a case where more power would be more fun.


In an attempt to brush up on my JT65 message techniques, I shall try a few QSOs today with JT65-HF (basically JT65A). I've used this mode before successfully. Then it will be back to 2m and JT65B to see if I can make that work.

JT65 is a very weak signal mode for 2-way communications, unlike WSPR which is essentially a 1-way  beaconing mode but WSPR will work with even weaker signal levels.

UPDATE 1645z: Plenty of EU and USA stations heard on JT65-HF around 28.076MHz,  but none raised for a QSO.  Moved to 28.078MHz for JT9-1 but band was dropping out.  Will try on HF again tomorrow AM.

23 Jan 2014

JT65B on 2m

This evening I had an unsuccessful JT65B sked on 2m with G4DCV in Aldershot. I was using WSJT 9.7 software. Although I could hear his JT65B tones well (and his CW) I could not once decode his callsign in JT65B despite Paul using 200W. Later I checked with GB3VHF and was easily able to copy callsign and QTH locator in JT65B mode. I shall have to try this mode again until  I succeed. I have used JT65-HF successfully on several occasions. Paul could receive me despite me using just 2W to a halo at around 135km.Several times the WSJT 9.7  reported a runtime error and closed the program.

If anyone has any ideas why I did not decode Paul's transmissions please let me know.

22 Jan 2014

6m GDX

Late evening yesterday and today I have returned to WSPR with 2W to the V2000 vertical on 50.293MHz WSPR. G4IKZ 18km west of me is monitoring with a Moxon antenna and despite polarisation differences gets a strong signal from me. G8EPA (61km) is about -22dB S/N with me. No other stations copied so far. Stations in Holland and Germany are too far for tropo and I have not seen any evidence (yet anyway) of wintertime Es on 6m. I keep hoping to copy some GDX from further afield.

UPDATE WED EVENING:  Having been on 6m ALL DAY LONG and only heard G8EPA  (61km)  I have QSYed back to 10m WSPR and intend to be on with 2W overnight and all tomorrow.

21 Jan 2014

UK 2m beacon back in service

GB3VHF, which was off air because of a PSU issue went back on the air again on Monday Jan 20th. Up here in Cambridgeshire it is a moderate signal on my halo and very useful as a 2m propagation indicator. At its original Wrotham site it was once much stronger (S9 +). The beacon also TXs in JT65B allowing reception at great range.

See http://www.gb3vhf.co.uk/ .

Elecraft T1 ATU gone intermittent

After 8 years of good service (kit bought 2005), my Elecraft T1 auto ATU seems to be playing up and it does not want to match SWRs of around 2:1 on 40m and on other bands. I have had this issue (not tuning) before, so will have to take it apart to see what is amiss. I am going to buy another one (or a Z817 from LDG) anyway. Means I cannot pull  my slightly off-tune Par 10/20/40 antenna in on 40m. Antenna is cut too long and because of my poor health/stroke I cannot climb a ladder to adjust it.. When the ATU works it is very good indeed. Battery lasts 12 months or more and the ATU is very small - pack of playing cards in size. Ideal for the FT817 and good for up to 20W.

10m 100mW WSPR

Today I WSPRed on 10m with 100mW RF, which is a little below the output of the unmodified Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon kit. Plenty of European and near east spots (best 4X1RF 3519km) received this morning, and transatlantic propagation after lunch. First transatlantic 100mW report at 1312z was from VE3SWS 5532km away to the north of the Great Lakes and the next from KZ8C 6290k away at 1334z and ND6M at  6914km.  Best DX report with 100mW was WA5NGP at 7878km. 100mW is obviously enough to lift me above the noise floor for several stations both sides of the Atlantic, unlike with 5mW. Reports from 4 continents today with 100mW.
10m 100mW spots received today
My last transatlantic  reception was VE3SWS at 1812z (way after dark), but the last report of my 100mW signal was at 1522z. Sunspot number 131-136 today.

20 Jan 2014

Magic (well nearly) on 40m

This evening on 40m I returned to 2W out WSPR to my low Par 10/20/40 antenna. Initially the reports were from G4IKZ who is 18km west of me and they were not brilliant.  I was about to go QRT when my very next reports were from Western Australia (VK6XT) at 14719km and Tasmania, Australia (VK7BO) at 17244km.

Such is the MAGIC of HF propagation. With my low antennas I think 2W is a sensible WSPR RF power level. I have already proved that as low as 5mW gets some reports even with my antenna, but 2W is the level I really need to check propagation. It may well be much lower power if your 40m antenna is half decent.

Overnight there were plenty of stateside reports too. 40m is a good " all round the clock" WSPR band.

QRPp WSPR and small antennas

One thing the last few days of 5mW WSPR beaconing has taught me is others must be using better antennas than me.

At 5mW I am really struggling, whereas, for some, DX reports still flow in at this very low power level. All my antennas are low and compromised which is why 1-2W is a more sensible level for me. I suspect my ERP is lower than other QRPp stations when I use 5mW RF. Nonetheless, it was an experiment well worth doing.

In the end, 4X1RF at 3519km was my only report with 5mW on 10m.  I had no luck with transatlantic reports despite myself copying plenty of US and Canadian stations yet again,even with a 20dB attenuator in circuit.

From tomorrow I propose to run 100mW RF on 10m being much the same as the unmodified Ultimate 3 kit, although I intend to run 1-2W on my final version.

UPDATE 1700z:  10m closed transatlantic at 1700z.

19 Jan 2014

10m 5mW WSPR so far

After beaconing at 5mW WSPR on 10m all afternoon, I have received not a single spot so far.

20dB attenuator directly on 500mW output of FT817 (note chokes on ground side)
I have copied many stateside stations today and yesterday. On Monday morning my 5mW 10m beacon as spotted by 4X1RF at 3519km, a new 5mW DX record for me. RX reports suggest reception in N.America of the 5mW beacon might  be possible, but no luck as yet.
10m WSPR spots, 5mW TX and RX via 20dB pad

40m 5mW Summary

After leaving the 5mW 40m WSPR beacon running for 24 hours, this is the summary.

In all I received 7 spots in that period with the best DX being a single report from Italy and a couple of reports from Denmark.

In all, quite an interesting exercise with very low power.  Clearly  my signal was sitting in the noise most of the time, being just over the noise floor on a few rare occasions for very small number of stations. I am convinced that 2W RF is a better level to aim for in any dedicated WSPR beacon. Even with a 20dB pad in series with the FT817 output, I was still copying stations from near and far including VK6XT on 40m. On TX it was much harder to be copied.
 40m 5mW WSPR spots received
Still, with my modest, low, 40m antenna 1183km is not bad with just 5mW. See later post about 10m results.

18 Jan 2014

BitX 20m and 17m single band SSB kits

If you are looking for a basic 10W pep rig for 20m (or 17m) you can do a lot worse than build a BitX kit from Hendricks QRP kits.The basic "no nonsense" design came from India but these kits are well documented and on a neat PCB. See http://www.qrpkits.com/bitx20a.html  . The full kit is $180 in the USA.

Image is at http://www.qrpkits.com/images/tn_bitx20acase1.jpg

Hendricks do a number of other (mainly CW)  kits of interest.

Moonbounce or EME

This is a part of our hobby I have never done and am unlikely to do. Moonbouncers are a special breed with excellent equipment carefully optimised, low noise preamps and usually lots of power and a big steeraable antenna capable of tracking the moon in the sky. I am full of admiration for those who take the time and effort to overcome the immense technical challenges. With new digital modes EME is a little easier and some people with single horizontal yagis and more modest power are able to work larger stations off the moon. For me, it is all a step too far though. I shall stick to VLF, LF, MF, lightbeams, QRP and WSPR.

5mW on 40m WSPR

With considerable difficulty (because of my stroke) I made a 20dB attenuator to reduce my 500mW down to just 5mW. This attenuator is right at the FT817's output coax connector. It also reduces the RX signal by 20dB too of course. Let's see what happens!

Normally such a small project would take just minutes but I found the whole job hard work taking at least twice as long. In the same way, PC work takes me longer as I am forever correcting  typos.

My 5mW has been spotted locally once and in Denmark 853km away on 2 occasions and once in Holland. Results are in line with expectations so far. Sunspot count still good at 95. The last report of my 5mW signal was at 1744z. It must just be popping out of the noise with a few stations, rarely. I'll leave running overnight to see what happens.

On RX I see I spotted VK6XT, even with a 20dB pad in the antenna line.
RX reports (mine) with 20dB pad in line on 40m

40m 5mW WSPR spots this afternoon

Best Amateur Radio and SWL apps

The excellent Southgate ARS News page had a link http://wp.me/pn3uc-2cL to the best apps for smart phones (iOS and Android). If you have such a device some of these apps are worth considering.

500mW on 40m WSPR

Following on from the 500mW 10m WSPR tests yesterday and the 2W 40m WSPR tests overnight,  I am now going down to 500mW WSPR on 40m to see what spots I get. Initial results are encouraging with plenty of western European spots at 500mW to the (inadequate) antenna.
40m 500mW WSPR spots this morning

Optical Comms in Vancouver Canada

This morning I received an email from Steve, VE7SL, reporting on his experiments with VE7CA over a 2-way distance of 54km using red LEDs.  They are doing really well and Steve is writing an article for a Canadian journal. They seem to have been encouraged by my own modest efforts,which I hope to restart before too long. At present my poor fitness and temporary inability to drive because of the stroke are real handicaps.

Image of optical path spanned from VE7SL

17 Jan 2014

40m WSPR this evening

As 10m has closed here, I've moved my WSPRing to 40m at 2W RF.  The band sounds quite quiet here, but I have been spotted in Israel (4X1RF) at 3519km as well as in plenty of European countries. I am also spotting plenty of others on the band even though my low Par antenna cannot perform brilliantly on the band. A few weeks ago my 1W out on 40m was spotted in Australia with the same Par antenna.

Morning update: Overnight some Stateside DX was in evidence.
40m unique WSPR spots (36) with 2W since last evening

Ten-Tec Argonaut VI 1-10W QRP HF transceiver

In my recent QRP rig comparison I omitted the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI.


By all accounts and reviews this is a CLASSY little HF radio, with very good performance figures in a neat and simple desktop design. People have compared its performance to the Elecraft K2,although it is considerably smaller. Size wise it is little larger than the FT817ND. The major drawbacks in the UK are price(see below) and the lack of 60m, 12m and 6m coverage. (No 2m or 70cm coverage too). If these are not important considerations and you want a small desktop QRP radio then the Argonaut VI may be worth considering.

See http://www.tentec.com/argonaut-vi-qrp-1-10-watt-transceiver/
and http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/10849 

In  the UK Waters and Stanton supply this rig, but the current price is £999.95, which is very expensive compared with its competitors, even though a very nice transceiver.

500mW tests on 10m

In preparation for building the Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon for 10m, today I was using 500mW RF on transmit. Reports from LZ and IT9 this morning looked promising. I suspect my current 10m antenna (the Par 10/20/40) may not be that brilliant or is directional.  A vertical may be a better choice.

Currently it seems MUCH harder getting spots with 500mW than with 1 or 2W RF. Probably the signal is being buried under others?

In the afternoon the band opened to the USA and Canada with reports from the usual suspects, but less often than with higher powers. The band closed transatlantic today here at around 1640z.
500mW 10m WSPR spots received today

16 Jan 2014

Wintertime Es on 10m?

In amongst the DX calls today I notice callsigns from 4 European countries. I assume the propagation was F layer or F layer backscatter, but it could be wintertime Es which peaks in the northern hemisphere around Dec and Jan. Signal levels suggest Es may be more likely. All the more reason to use WSPR to seek out fleeting Es openings that might otherwise go unnoticed at any time of the year.

X1M 5 band QRP rig for £250?

See http://www.radioworld.co.uk/catalog/x1m_5-band_qrp_transceiver_kit_platinum_edition-p-11014.html?gclid=CMW2oamQg7wCFWcUwwodgyAAjQ  at £329.

This small Chinese transceiver is available for £329 from Radio World (and probably others).

To me, it still looks cheap and nasty, basically an immature product. The time will come (and quite soon) when Chinese QRP rigs will mature and steal the business from the "big boys" from Japan. The Yaesu FT817ND and the Elecraft KX3 will soon be under BIG price pressure.

The best price is reported to be £250 - a LOT less than its competitors.

Ultimate 3 beacon - GPS module

The GPS module for the Hans Summers WSPR beacon to provide QTH locator and very accurate timing is now back in stock so I have ordered one. It needs a 3.2V regulated supply.

Reduced 10m power from 2W to 1W on WSPR

The Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon kit (on order) gives about 130mW out from a 5V PA supply on 10m. Using a 12V PA and more FETs in parallel should lift this to >1W out, so today I have been using 1W out to see what spots I get. Actually, so far, results are much the same as with 2W.
1W 10m  unique WSPR spots today
UPDATE 1244z:  10m band just opened to the USA. Absolutely no problems getting stateside spots at 1W rather than 2W.  Tomorrow I shall use 500mW. Stateside spots ended for me at 1716z.

15 Jan 2014

10m - wide open again

Yet again my favorite band is wide open to Israel, S.America and to North America. Conditions on the band have been excellent for weeks.

UPDATE 1730z:  Band still open transatlantic, 1 hour after dark here, but sounds dead at 1800z.

Bandplan annoyances

Do people who write band plans never actually operate? This morning I saw the latest RSGB band plans in Feb 2014 RadCom and almost tore up the magazine.

For example, and yet again, 10m AM which to my certain knowledge has occupied 29.0-29.1MHz  for YEARS and YEARS and YEARS is not even mentioned and 144.55MHz,which has been the 2m AM centre of activity for many years is mentioned begrudgingly just in a footnote as if AM  was disgusting! Yet we have a FAX calling frequency! Why is the RSGB so blatantly anti-AM?

Frankly I am appalled. Idiots.

14 Jan 2014

10m transatlantic - yet again

10m is again wide open across the Atlantic again this afternoon. In fact, since coming out of  hospital on Jan 3rd it has been wide open more or less every afternoon that I have checked. Sunspot count remains good.

1710z:  10m band was still wide open across the Atlantic, then someone turned the lights off here!

Australian QRP reports on 3 bands

Today VK6XT copied my 2W WSPR signal on 10m at 14719km. This now means my QRP WSPR has been copied in Australia on 10, 20 and 40 m these last few weeks. HF conditions are clearly in good shape of late.

VK on 10m this morning

10m is again in great shape with a couple of VK spots in with the other stations this morning. The following are the unique stations spotted on 10m WSPR. In most cases,stations were actually spotted multiple times.
10m unique WSPR spots this morning

13 Jan 2014

10m still good transatlantic

Although I did not get on the band until mid afternoon.the band is again wide open with plenty of USA and Canadian stations coming through plus a CX station from S.America.  Sunspot count is still well over 100 which helps.

Update 1815z: 10m is still wide open almost 2 hours after sundown here is Cambridgeshire.  Conditions are good. Now at 18.35z the spots have stopped so I suspect that is it  for this evening.

More on the Ultimate 3 kit

Hans Summers G0UPL has answered my questions so I am going to buy a kit for 10m WSPR use. As it stands the 10m output is 131mW from a 5V PA supply, but this can  easily be increased. I think 2W is a more useful level. At well under 40 UK pounds including GPS this is good value.

Update 1600z:  the 10m WSPR beacon was ordered today but not the GPS unit which is out of stock. This kit will be a test of my current abilities (building wise) following the stroke.

12 Jan 2014

Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon with GPS timing

Image is at http://www.hanssummers.com/images/stories/ultimate3/1/2.jpg
Hans Summers has a new beacon  kit that allows full "stand alone" (no PC needed) WSPR beaconing. It is available for just  £17.50 with a low pass filter for any particular band plus £14 for the high sensitivity GPS module and patch antenna. I believe power out is around 150mW but this can be increased. As I understand it, it means, for example, a 10m WSPR TX beacon that does NOT need a PC can be made for under £40 even building a separate PA and putting it into a nice box. The unit also does other modes like QRSS and HELL.

See G0UPL's website at http://www.hanssummers.com/ultimate3.html .

I shall have to build one to free up the FT817.

10m GDX and DX

After last evening when even 20m was dead as a dodo,10m WSPR was lively this morning both for GDX and DX. I suspect the GDX (184 and 121km) may have been back scatter although the Doppler (3Hz) suggests possible aircraft scatter. All the more surprising not to get G3WKW the other evening (134km). The DX exchange was with a DL station in the Canary Is (West Africa). This could be F layer or  winter Es.  Sunspot count 134. Later 4X1RF spotted me at just over 3500km. The first USA station (an N2) was seen at 1322z today (7088km). 10m looks in good shape today. It was still open (for me here) to the USA/Canada at 1728z. At the moment (1900) the WSPRnet database is down, so I cannot check if 10m is open to the USA for others.

10m WSPR until around 1300z today.

11 Jan 2014

Mizuho transceivers

Although, I  think, Mizuho transceivers are no longer being made, these were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Most common were the single band SSB/CW handhelds for most HF and VHF bands. I still have a 200mW pep 2m rig. Battery life was poor but otherwise they were excellent radios. Mine (MX-2, 2m SSB/CW) was used with HF transverters mainly and DX over 9000 miles was worked on 10m. On 2m it worked some impressive DX handheld in 2m contests.

See http://www.mizuhoradio.com/mx.html

FT450D 100W radio

This Yaesu 100W radio is now £669 with the Yaesu £42 rebate whereas it was over £800.  I suspect even lower is possible for cash by negotiation with the dealer.

There are a couple of technical issues with this rig that bother me: the VFO shaft encoder failures and TX hum. Both issues are meant to be fixed now but I wonder if they are good, proper fixes? 100W is more than I need but it can run at  much lower power and does include 50MHz and has an excellent RX.

Continued 10m WSPR tests

Today, I continued my 10m WSPR tests at 2W out: plenty of spots both given and received. This afternoon the power will be dropped to 500mW to see how many N.American spots I get still. The sunspot number is still good.

UPDATE 1244z: switched to 500mW out.  Still getting spots from Israel  and Canada  even at 500mW level.This is not surprising: as long as the QRP signal gives better than -30dB S/N it should still decode. The advantage of running 2W rather than 500mW is one is far less likely to be buried under a bigger signal,which can be an issue when HF bands are busy. Why some WSPR stations run 20,or even 100W out amazes and horrifies me. WSPR is a QRP mode, ideally suited to 5W or less.
10m WSPR TX at 500mW this afternoon

Conditions do not seem to be as good as of late with fewer 10m US stations copyable here.

UPDATE 1442:  switched back to 2W out. Plenty of VE and W reports coming through now again.

10m seemed to die out transatlantic about 2 hours earlier than last night (16.30z).

DSTAR question

Does anyone know if it is possible to access DSTAR networks using a Windows XP PC just using freely downloadable software? I am a DSTAR novice, as you can tell. It might be useful.

Failed 10m GDX test

Our evening time 134km 10m GDX WSPR test with G3WKW failed last night with no signals copied. This morning there was plenty of DX about (S.Africa etc) but I guess the GDX path on 10m was too far for 2W QRP.

10 Jan 2014

In praise of the FT817

My FT817 (not ND version) has been owned from new way back when these radios were new "on the block" at the beginning of the millennium when the price was still £799. In all that time it has performed faultlessly, mainly at the 2.5W or less settings.

Mine has worked the world on SSB (even handheld) and I get WSPR reports worldwide at 1W, even on 40m with a small wire antenna. I  intend to buy a new FT817ND soon so I can WSPR and work other modes at the same time. I can honestly say my FT817 does all I want and with 5W maximum output, which is more than enough power to work DX without upsetting the neighbours.

The best UK price currently seems to be around £513 but I hope to pay <£500 cash. At the current Yen-Pound exchange rate more like £450 is a reasonable price, unless the dealers want to be greedy. I hope the price includes the NiMH battery pack , charger etc. At best, the UK price fell to below £350.

The newer ND version covers 5MHz and all of 7MHz and has more rugged PAs.

Health update

Following my brain bleed I am getting better. Since being home my walking has improved and my swallow is improving too. I have still to hear from the DVLA (driving licence people) but am expecting to be prevented from driving for 12 months. I have applied for a "blue badge" for disabled parking rights. Today I surprised myself by walking quite a distance with a stick at Angelsey Abbey. I still feel punch drunk most the time and need people near me to support me.

Slowly but surely   ...a step at a time.

Thank goodness for amateur radio and all the very good friends I didn't realise I had.

New Solar Peak?

The most recent high solar activity looks likely to mean a new second sunspot peak for cycle 24.  See http://www.solen.info/solar/ .


This page was showing the peak as 66.9 (smoothed sunspot number) in Feb 2012 but expect to see this revised to a much later date! I find this site very useful.

6m GDX?

I get G8EPA consistently at 61km on 6m WSPR at up to -15dB S/N. This rather suggests that >100km should be possible inter-G on QRP 6m WSPR with a little patience. Anyone out there willing to give it a try?

10m 134km GDX tests this evening

This evening G3WKW and I are trying to span 134km on 28MHz WSPR. I run 2W to a vertical and Bob runs a little more.  Despite Doppler and rig drift problems we managed the path (just) on 144MHz this week.  28MHz may be much weaker but with far less Doppler and rig drift. We shall see. With WSPR about 12-14dB better than CW we have the best chance.

UPDATE 2200z: Nothing at all seen since 1816 (USA) and 1824z (Es).  Will keep looking but not hopeful. No GDX seen at all.

9 Jan 2014

Chinese QRP transceivers

In my recent analysis of good value QRP radios I ignored the recent Chinese entries into the market. As far as I can see, these are still immature products, but they are getting better by the day. For example, see http://www.wouxun.us/item.php?item_id=302 . I judge this by how prepared would I be to buy a Chinese radio. The answer is not yet.

10m still brilliant

As 6m WSPR was only giving me inter-G signals today, I switched to 10m. The band is still wide open to North America and has been whenever I have checked in recent afternoons. Not one report  is from less than 5000km with 2W. Sunspot count is 178 which helps to explain the good conditions of late.  The good times will not last: make the most of them as it may be a long wait.

At 1716z the 10m band was still wide open to the USA, in total darkness here.Then the band just died for me here in East Cambridgeshire. And then, a full hour later KB9AMG (6300km away) and W8AC spot me at -22dB S/N. And it has been dark here since 1630z! At the moment it looks as if the band finally died cross-pond at around 1830z -very late for 10m.

Micro-40 DSB build

http://aa7ee.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/the-vk3ye-micro-40-dsb-transceiver/ has a beautiful description of the building of this little transceiver using Me-squares. There is  a complete walk-through of AA7EE's build - truly beautiful workmanship.

6m and 2m inter-G WSPR

Although inter-G DX is possible on 2m WSPR (witness the tests between G3XBM and G3WKW over a 134km path on 2m recently with 2W and a halo) the equipment drift and Doppler shift makes WSPR a marginal mode on 2m. Things on 6m are better and longish paths are possible.See the 6m WSPR results today so far below:

So far, only inter-G paths seem to be open on 6m today. The high drift figures are almost certainly due to aircraft Doppler.

8 Jan 2014

Best value new QRP transenceivers

At  the moment the running order, ignoring wSDR designs, is:
  • Elecraft KX3  - best RX, expensive with all options in the UK. n ternal auto-ATU option
  • Ten-Tec Argonaut VI - excellent RX and ideal base station but no  5,24 or 50MHz coverage.Expensive.
  • Yaesu FT817ND - excellent base/portable unit up to 432MHz,but RX not as good as KX3 or Argonaut VI. 13-14 year old design.
  • Icom IC703 - excellent base transceiver,but no longer available new. Internal auto-ATU.
Overall, the FT817ND represents best value for money all things considered, in my view. It may be an old design but I can buy 2 FT817ND with plenty of change for the price of the KX3. And I get a better design for home station digital (WSPR) use with botj 144 + 432MHz bands. Even adding a Z817 or T1 auto-ATU to the price of the FT817ND units there is still change when compared with the fully loaded KX3.

Reviews on www.eham.net are similar for all radios listed.

10m still wide open

My first 10m WSPR transmission with 2W to a small antenna after lunch was copied in the  middle of the USA, in Canada, Israel and South Africa. Sunspot count today is 196. Conditions appear to be very good  still.


John Mullin sent me this link which may amuse you.It describes a wrist wearable scope and frequency counter for $150.


7 Jan 2014

First 2m WSPR results

This evening I got my first WSPR spot on 2m from G3WKW at 134km the other side of London in North East Hampshire. It was hard work with the unmodified FT817 because of frequency error,  drift, Doppler etc. Bob was visible with me but no decodes of his signal.

We should manage a 2-way QSO in due course with a more suitable mode. I was using 2W to a halo antenna. Bob was using 5W and a small beam.

The  next night I managed to decode Bob's signal (once only) although he was visible on most transmissions  but not decoding because of the Doppler shift.

NB post updated as I had G3WKW in the wrong county!

10m - often open

Although we are currently enjoying decent F2 long distance propagation on 10m, we must not forget that the 10m band is FREQUENTLY open by Es (sporadic-E) propagation.

The best months in the northern hemisphere are between late April and early September but the propagation can occur at any time of the year. This is very much a case where WSPR will be useful to winkle out brief periods of Es propagation. Sometimes multi-hop Es allows real DX to be workable.

Often Es signals can be very strong, but sometimes openings can be very, well, sporadic open briefly to one place with signals inaudible just tens of miles away.   In many ways Es is a more fascinating mode than F layer and one of the reasons 10m is my favorite band of all. Don't also forget inter-G propagation. In RSGB contests a few years ago it was possible to work out to around 100 miles with 10W SSB to dipole antennas. Imagine what the inter-G range will be with WSPR.

Beach 40 - a 40m DSB rig

Andrew,G6ALB, has introduced me to this simple DSB project. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siSgeljr4HE and similar links for pictures and build instructions. See also http://www.spencerweb.net/Ian_and_Julie/Hobbies/Amateur_Radio/Beach_40/beach_40.html .


The schematic above does not show the simple PA,

K1SEA - amazing 10m signals

In the middle of my 10m WSPR reports of other stations I noted K1SEA (5234km) whose 5W was peaking an amazing +8dB  S/N. At this level, 2-way SSB QSOs should be well possible at 5W or less.

10m WSPR - excellent results

As my building skills are still poor because of my stroke, I have been sticking mainly to WSPR mode, today on 10m. Results on 10m have been excellent copying stations from S.Africa, USA, Finland, Israel and central Asia,with my own 2W getting reports from all over the place including  Israel, Canada  and the USA. A sunspot count of 245 no doubt helps! It will be fascinating to  see what 10m spots are possible when the sun is very quiet again. 4X1RF manages to spot me most days when I am on. For me, 10m DX propagation closed at around 1640z.

Unique WSPR reports on 10m (2W) up to 3pm

6 Jan 2014

10m QRP homebuilt

With my posts about low cost ways of getting on to the 10m band don't forget homebrew. On my www.g3xbm.co.uk main pages there are details of several simple 10m rigs including the incomplete DSB transceiver for the band that I MUST complete  when my health  (and soldering ability) returns. Look for 10m Simple Sideband. My plan was either a VXO controlled rig or a mixer-VFO rig covering 28.4-28.55MHz where most sideband activity is.  It could also switch to the CW and beacon bands. At the moment my "build" projects are on hold because of my poor health.

£150 10m radios

There are several varieties of 10m radios available for just under £150, brand ne

w, nowadays. One example is the Alpha 10 Max and this (CB oriented) video is a walk-through of the radio. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFK20rmQayg . See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw7Qjrk01Vc . If you are only interested in 10m (28/29MHz) this sort of radio may be a low cost way of getting on the band although they are basically CB radios.

 Image on G0IYA's blog.

Many years ago I used a Lincoln President multi-mode 10m 10-20W radio and I was able to work the world using it. One of the best QSOs with it was a solid QSO from the car whilst actually  driving around the outskirts of Cambridge one evening with an SSB station in India. The antenna was just a base loaded whip on a  mag mount. It was a very good little radio. Sorry I sold it really. For a video of the Lincoln President see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDUyLwFc2Pc .

There is a newer,smaller, version of the President Lincoln will be available for around £249 from mid-January. See eBay for details of suppliers.

6m WSPR at a quiet time

Path G3XBM-G4IKZ 6m

After a brief outing on 40m I have QSYed to 6m WSPR in the hope of getting a few European spots by wintertime Es or even some tropo. In  the last few hours my 2W has only reached G4IKZ who is 18km west of me. Signal reports are (expectedly) consistent within +/-2dB but I'm not sure if Nick is using a vertical antenna (like my V2000) or a horizontal beam. This evening I spotted G8EPA at 61km. Judging by how poor my report was compared with G4IKZ, I think we must be cross-polarised.

5 Jan 2014

40m WSPR - instant success to Australia

Keeping at 1W from the FT817 into the Par end-fed I got instantly spotted in Australia at over 17200km this early evening. WSPR really is amazing. Reports from VK now both on 40m and 20m with the low wire antenna. Lots of other spots followed. More spots from VK7BO followed. Nearest station was G4IKZ just 18km away.

First 40m WSPR results with 1W to my Par end-fed

20m WSPR - too easy

Late this afternoon I have been on 20m WSPR with 1W RF to my compact Par end-fed antenna. Best received signal was from the USA west coast but all the reports of my signals, so far, have been from this side of the pond.

Really 20m is too easy on WSPR at this level of QRP power. I should  be running 50mW or less.

20m 1W reports late this afternoon

3 Jan 2014

Home at last

This morning, Jan 3rd, I was discharged from hospital after 3.5 months due to to a bleed on the brain.I am far from well  still and have lots of work (exercises)  to do to to regain  my health,  which I hope to do in the coming months. I know it will be a hard slog.

My 2W 10m WSPR session over New Year was very successful with plenty of USA spots in the log. I hope to get back in the shack again soon.