31 Mar 2014

Netgear Wi-fi Extender

Netgear Wifi Extender
We had intermittent internet coverage in our main bedroom so I invested in a Netgear wi-fi range extender this week from Amazon.co.uk.  Price was just under £28. The unit simply plugs into a free 13A socket with no ugly wires.

The extender takes the off-air packets and regenerates them so the remote signal is considerably improved. It does NOT use the mains wiring to send the signal over. First impressions are good, with a strong signal now in the bedroom. Setting up the extender was simplicity itself.  We'll see how it works over the next few weeks.

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B009C9FQNQ/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 .

I may invest in another for the radio shack where coverage is not that brilliant. I need to watch switch-mode PSU noise though. This is unimportant in the bedroom but might be an issue with weak signals. At least I can try the bedroom unit in the shack first before buying another.

30 Mar 2014

10m AM Operation

Ignore what recently published 10m band plans may say - 10m AM is alive and well just above 29MHz with most 10m AM between 29 and 29.1MHz.

Many recent band plans talk of 2700Hz wide SSB in the 29 to 29.1MHz slot. This is rubbish written  by people who don't have a clue! Just take a listen between 29 and 29.1MHz next time the band is open and make up your own minds.

Write to your band plan scribes and ask them to actually USE 10m next time before putting pen to paper. I have written to the RSGB to express my displeasure with their latest 10m attempt:  they blame the IARU.  I see on the RSGB website they have made a half-hearted attempt to clarify 10m AM use - a very poor attempt in my view.

28 to 29MHz is plenty of room for narrow-band modes, even when there is a major contest or the band is wide open. There is space above 29MHz for AM, FM and satellites. 29 to 29.1MHz has lots of AM often with beautifully modulated signals: it is a pleasant change.

In a few years time the whole of 10m will be largely quiet again and we amateurs need to use it for local comms, Es, and the occasional N-S DX or risk losing it to CBers and taxis.

There are plenty of 10m projects on my main website.

No amateur radio

At the moment I am unable to do any amateur radio operation in my shack for the next few days.

Firstly, my shack  has been taken over to house my 2 year old granddaughter in her cot.

Secondly, the XP shack PC seems to have terminally died. It has served me well for very many years, but now is the time to replace it. The new PC is apparently ready and is in the process of being delivered.

My little granddaughter goes back home on Wednesday and my new PC is likely to arrive shortly afterwards. I will need to load WSPR and other software and check all is well with the new machine. As a 64 bit Win 8.1 machine, some software may prove incompatible.

PCs playing up

Both my PCs are playing up today.

Firstly, the Dell Inspiron 630m, XP OS, is getting very tired and refuses to boot up today.  Several keys are broken and sadly XP will shortly no longer be a supported OS.

Secondly my little Asus,Netbook with Win 7 Home OS, not used for several months, is taking forever to start, even on mains power. It may have to be returned. When new it was fine for portable, in-field, use with Spectran software, as long as ready-boost was used.

Now finally it is time to invest in a new PC for home use , so I am buying an i5 Inspiron 15R touch screen 1GB hard-drive, laptop, with 3 yrs hardware and software support. It should serve me well. We'll see.

29 Mar 2014

New UHF beacon GB3UHF

I am looking forward to this new GPS frequency locked 432.430MHz beacon GB3UHF near Wrotham Kent (IO91) becoming active. It is to be co-sited with GB3VHF. It is at an interesting distance and should be copyable on my 2m halo, even though I shall be slightly off the main beam. Approved by OFCOM, it is now awaiting a site sharing agreement that could take some while. It is NOT yet on-air as far as I know. There is a real shortage of UHF beacons in the UK. GB3BSL (Bristol 432.934MHz)  is off air I believe.

The new beacon's frequency will be 432.430MHz to a pair of 3 el J-Beam yagis beaming roughly towards the Midlands (288 and 348 degrees headings). Being 3 el beams, the aim is quite broad.

See http://www.gb3vhf.co.uk/GB3UHFdetails.html

Back on 474.2kHz WSPR

Today I have returned to MF WSPRing., The antenna is currently my very short Marconi which consists of a very short vertical wire (1.5 to 2m?) with about 15m of wire run horizontally along the top of fence and trellis. This is a shorter (horizontal) distance than an earlier version that did not work well, probably because of foliage losses. The whole antenna uses the mains earth.

Matching is via a 110mm diameter loading coil and a 3C90 toroid to step up from 50ohms to several hundred ohms resistive.
So far PA3ABK/2 is a good consistently strong daytime signal at -10dB S/N with 0.5W ERP. There are very few G stations active, so no reports of my own signal yet.

UPDATE 2005z:  Only 2 stations copied (PA and DF) and just 3 reports from a single station PA3ABK/2.   Very disappointing so far. There is a lack of G stations active on WSPR this evening so far.

28 Mar 2014

10m TEP?

PY2RN is putting in a COLOSSAL +9dB S/N signal on 10m WSPR at 1854z with 5W and I just wonder if this is perhaps TEP assisted? Chordal hop across the equator could account for the very low attenuation. Just a thought.

UPDATE 2206z:  WA6JRW in DM14he in California (8664km) was reporting my 2W WSPR at 2024z. The band is still open transatlantic here at this QTH at 2152z. W8QYT (5W 5807km) was a good +4dB S/N here at 2144z and he was spotting my 2W at -5dB S/N at 2138z.   I am still getting transatlantic spots at 2W as late as (at least) 2200z (4 transatlantic spots from the 2W 2200z TX burst).

One thing I have noticed  is signals on long 10m DX paths are often strongest just before the band dies out. This is often the most productive time with QRP power levels.

I stopped monitoring on the WSPR.net database at 2208z.

QSY to 10m

After a few days on 40m, I have QSYed back to 2W on 10m WSPR. 4X1RF is already spotting me  but no signals at any real distance are yet being copied apart from EX1UN  in central Asia.  Sunspot count is pretty good, so I expect some decent DX during the day. No JAs yet copied, which is a little odd.

UPDATE 1052z:  Just seen PY2RN in my log at 1038z at 9950km running 5W and I've just been spotted at 1050z by JH3APN at 9419 km.

UPDATE 1138z:  1118z saw my first stateside report, from WA3QJU at 5695km. At 1138z CX2ABP was copied at 11127km.

UPDATE 1610z: Very pleased to see my old work colleague G3WKW in the 10m WSPR log. 134km GDX path and copied 7 times between 1610z and 1806z.

27 Mar 2014

Chinese SDR transceiver

Just seen this on a Russian site: http://www.cqdx.ru/ham/qro-qrp/chinese-sdr-based-hf-one-mkii-qrp-transceiver. Looks like an interesting rig.

See also http://yo9irf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/hf-one-mkii-cheap-mobile-transceiver.html


Ten-tec Argonaut VI

Although outside my price range at £995 in the UK, the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI gets rave reviews from its fans. On www.eham.net it usually scores very well apart from those who hate the lack of 60m and 12m coverage.  I cannot see me ever buying one but if you want a QRP rig (10W) mainly for home use, this could be for you, if you can afford one. RX performance is certainly very good.

40m WSPR - using 500mW

Since last evening I QSYed from 6m down to 40m using just 500mW to my low Par 10/20/40m end-fed antenna. I am pleased to report that my signal was copied by K9AN at a distance of 6505km during the late evening. I copied a PY (Brazil) at -10dB S/N (9550km) but he was running a ridiculous (for WSPR) power of 50W.   5W would easily have been copied.  Perhaps he is new to WSPR does not realise just how effective WSPR is yet?

Some of the reports below show 2W before I reduced power to 500mW, but best DX reprts were at the 500mW level I am pleased to say.

40m unique WSPR spots - last 24hrs

26 Mar 2014

6m WSPR summary

After several days on 6m this is the total summary of WSPR reports (none of me!). All attempts to reach TEP "ends" failed, on this occasion, as there was no Es about. I did see some weak MS bursts of very short duration but these are not suitable for WSPR. The drift on G3XGS's signal suggests aircraft Doppler too. Now I shall turn my attention to another band. No 6m TEP I am afraid.  
6m WSPR spots
CN8LI seems to have been in the right place with plenty of TEP WSPR spots exchanged with FR1GZ at 8981km.

25 Mar 2014

One more day on 6m

For the last few days I have been patiently trying to find some TEP-Es on 6m WSPR, to no avail. Although 6m TEP (trans-equatorial propagation) is being reported in Israel, Italy, the Balearics and Morocco, here in the UK all remains quiet. I have only spotted a couple of G stations at around 70km - absolutely nothing else!

Although I shall try again tomorrow, that will probably be my last day. A pity as I was quite hoping we might get an Es opening to link up to some TEP, but it looks unlikely now that I shall be in luck.

Later this week I may return to VLF earth-mode if I can optimise my TX earth-electrode match at 8.97kHz and re set-up my RX loop. My wife will have to drive me to my usual test sites as I am not allowed to drive yet.

24 Mar 2014

6m Trans-equatorial propagation (TEP) - update

Again today, Israel, Morocco and Italy have been enjoying TEP propagation deep into the Southern Hemisphere on 6m. In vain, I've been on 6m too hoping that some early Es might link me into the 6m TEP propagation areas. Up to now I have had no luck at all, copying just G6AVK and G3XGS only on 6m WSPR at around 70km.

Here is another TEP article: http://www.qsl.net/vk2kfj/tep.html . This states that TEP can occur up to at least 432MHz.  I'd settle for a little at 50MHz!

23 Mar 2014

146-147MHz: an extended 2m amateur band in the UK?

It looks highly likely that amateurs in the UK will get access to this additional slice of the 2m band later this summer. When it comes I shall no doubt use it, but feel spectrum elsewhere would have been much more useful for self-training in radio science.

Silly boy! I forgot - we only use ready-made black boxes on 2m and very few amateurs have the least idea how they work. Self training is a nonsense these days.  Oh and of course the revised UK 2m band plan will still have no space for AM people trying to self-train. Sorry, but I fail to see how another 1MHz at 2m will really benefit any real radio amateurs, just even more space for black box operators?

I know I should be grateful for another whole 1MHz to use, but I really cannot get excited about this at all when the current 2m band is vastly under-used. Even in contests there is still plenty of space for all.

Personally I'd like easy access below 8.3kHz, access again around 73kHz and a new 100kHz slot around 40MHz. Sadly all unlikely. WRC-2015 may grant us a contiguous international 60m band and that could be useful.

UPDATE 24.3.14 1845z: looks like the allocation may be temporary and only available by NOV. See http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/vhf-143-169mhz/summary

6m Trans-equatorial propagation (TEP)

4X1DA and 4X1RF have been copying FR1GZ (over 6200km) away on Reunion Is, Indian Ocean, on and off today on 6m. Signals can be very strong. CN8LI has done even better at over 8000km 2-way. Here in the UK we are normally too far north to catch these TEP openings so we need some Es as well to link up with such openings. I keep trying in vain on WSPR. Best so far is 78km, hardly in the same league!


HF forecasts are pretty good with stable conditions and a high sunspot count. Of course Es (needed to reach the TEP propagation areas) is not that predicatable.

See http://www.amateur-radio-wiki.net/index.php?title=Trans-Equatorial_Propagation


When unwell, you almost forget what "being normal" is.  Last night,  I was given a lift to my wife's Brahms concert and most people were totally unaware of my current disabilities.  I am gradually on the mend,  but my biggest issue is wobbliness on walking or doing any activity.  Most people are totally unaware of this. I hope my brain rewires so this goes with time. 

It means normal radio tasks , especially building, are all but impossible for me still.  Using WSPR is one thing I can still do, but actually TALKING on the radio is still hard work.
Brahms' German Requiem - Cambridge
March 22nd 2014

Our good old friends Peter and Chris Branson, came to stay over the weekend and it was them who gave me the lift to the concert. Peter kindly cut our hedges and front lawn and did a pile of weeding (without being asked) - such GOOD kind and generous friends. It was Peter who helped with some VLF tests a few years ago. There is a photo of him on my main Sub-9kHz website https://sites.google.com/site/sub9khz/earthmode .

See  https://sites.google.com/site/cambschoral/  for details of the Cambridgeshire Choral Society (CCS) including how to join and details of other concerts you might enjoy.

My wife is 7th in on the LHS . She is a short lady, 2nd row back, with short greyish hair - now I shall be in trouble!

6m update

No TEP sadly but I did spot G6AVK at 78km on 6m last evening at -25dB S/N. This is a strange distance on 6m.  The -2 drift is almost certainly aircraft scatter, quite a common issue with inter-G paths on both 6m and 2m. It often makes decent signals not decode-able.

I do have a 0.5ppm TCXO fitted (it belongs to G3WKW) to the FT817 which helps minimise drift especially at VHF.  I plan to stay on 6m for more tries with TEP/Es today.

22 Mar 2014

6m TEP

I notice from WSPRnet that there is some TEP (trans-equatorial) propagation in Africa on 6m. I have now switched to 6m (2W) to see if there is any chance of this reaching the UK.  It is a long shot I know,  but worth a try. On 6m I only have a V2000 vertical with little 6m gain. I assume Es and TEP will twist polarisation.

Longer low Marconi - not too good on 474.2kHz

Overnight with my 5mW ERP on 474.2kHz reached 3 Dutch stations, 1 Belgian and one English. This is a low number so I conclude the longer low Marconi is NOT a good antenna configuration for 474.2kHz.

21 Mar 2014

Back on 474.2kHz

I changed my slightly longer baseline earth-electrode antenna into a longer, low height Marconi with the horizontal top going even further around the fence/trellis. I am currently evaluating it. Although copying a couple of Germans OK, my impression is it is not very good and the shorter Marconi was better (less loss?).  I shall leave it on overnight before judging results. There is a distinct lack of active G stations this evening, which doesn't help. G6AVK came on for about 30 minutes but his reports were worse than when testing a few weeks ago.

10m - harder work today (March 21st)

Although paths are open, it seems much more difficult on 10m this morning compared with recent days. Sunspot count is still 137 but solar conditions are more disturbed and these are noticeable. Even at 2W (quite QRO on WSPR!), spots are less easy to get.

UPDATE 1110z:   LZ1OI  is coming through at up to +8dB S/N on WSPR with 5W and this is a COLOSSAL signal.

UPDATE 1245z:  First transatlantic 10m RX spot was VE2PEP at 1240z at 5037km.

UPDATE 1500z: Conditions may a bit better than this morning. Quite a few transatlantic spots now but less easy than on recent days.

UPDATE 1536z:  HS0ZKM  in Bangkok being spotted - 9485km.

UPDATE 1555z: 17 spots from just one 10m 2W WSPR transmission is not bad with 11 transatlantic spots.

Some of the 10m WSPR spots on RX this afternoon - plenty of DX

20 Mar 2014

WSPRing on other bands

Today I ventured onto 60m, 40m and 20m WSPR for a change. A few spots out to 448km on 5MHz and plenty of EU spots on both 40m and 20m.

I returned to 10m to see what was doing.  At this time of day 10m is THE place to find stateside DX in abundance. Conditions like this unfortunately cannot last.

I have now decided to take a look on 136kHz with the earth-electrode antenna and the VERY deaf  FT817ND.  I might JUST be able to copy DK7FC and possibly G8HUH but I do need to make a preamp.

UPDATE 2025z: absolutely nothing copied on 136kHz WSPR. I need a preamp!

Last day on 10m?

It is probable that today will be my last day on 10m for a while as I am no longer gaining data by being active on the band. 500mW, even with my compromise antenna, is enough to be spotted all over the world. I may try MF again, 60m or even 6m for some TEP, although there is sadly very little activity on 6m in this part of the world.

Last night, my last spot with 500mW on 10m was K9AN  at 6505km at 2114z, along with others. I spotted other transatlantic 10m signals until 2134z.

This morning, my 10m 500mW WSPR is reaching LZ1OI and 4X1RF only - conditions seem less good than recent days. I wonder how soon transatlantics will appear today? Sunspot count is 137 and conditions stable - looks quite promising.

I notice that  EX1UN (5423km) was being decoded here as early as 0628z today. PA4PS (436km), in JO33 square, is being regularly copied, I presume by tropo or backscatter. My first USA report today (10m 500mW) was AI4RY at 1228z at  6931km.

19 Mar 2014

10m - overwhelmed by results

Just 500mW on 10m WSPR seems to get spectacular results with the band in its current excellent shape. As conditions go downhill as we slide down from the peak more power will help, for certain.

34 unique reports at 500mW in the last 24hrs alone:
10m 500mW WSPR - 34 unique spots in last 24hrs

Good start on 10m this morning

Already, at around 0700z my 10m 500mW WSPR is being spotted in Reunion Is (Indian Ocean) by FR5ZX and in Israel by 4X1RF. I was spotting Japan at 0842z and there is plenty of good DX around such as TJ3 and EX1. Sunspot count is 125 and we can expect stable conditions according to the solar forecast. 10m should open to the USA and Canada from around 1130z to about 2145z. Yesterday turned out better than I expected. 10m is such an excellent and interesting HF band.

Some of my reports from the USA have been VERY strong indeed, even when running 500mW RF.  In some cases just a few mW would have been enough to get spotted transatlantic.

18 Mar 2014

10m with125mW (Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon)

As you may recall, I am building an Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon for 10m as soon as I feel up to the task. Currently I am too clumsy building because of my stroke. The reports yesterday and today with 500mW on 10m suggest the majority of spots would still be achieved with 6dB less power, QRM permitting.

Just maybe I'll try the beacon initially at its 125mW design level.  I was intending to run about 2W pep finally.

My last 500mW TX burst on 10m (at 1634z)  just now got no less than 11 different spots, with all but one (IT9) being received from the USA.  And conditions today are not as good as yesterday!

UPDATE 2300z: The last spot of my 500mW 10m WSPR signal was at 2136z tonight. My last spot (of others) was at 215oz (KE5XV). Best spot of my 500mW signal was from CX2ABP at 11127km

10m Conditions - not quite as good?

Although a little early to be sure, the impression I'm getting is that 10m conditions are not as good as they were yesterday. It will be interesting to see how long the band opens transatlantic this afternoon/evening.  Running 500mW I will be missing some spots, but this is my impression so far today.

Typically, early afternoon WSPR transmissions here get 3-7 spots (reports)  per transmission despite running just 500mW out. Of these, about 75-85% are transatlantic reports.  Conditions today are actually NOT as good as yesterday either.
Received 10m 500mW WSPR reports today to 1444z

10m Antenna Effectiveness

Comparing my 10m signals with those of others, I suspect my antenna may be up to 10dB down on optimised systems, i.e my 2W is equivalent to 200mW from the better equipped stations. When better (stroke) I may try changing the 10m antenna for something better. A vertical 1/2 wave would be less directional on WSPR TX but might be noisier on RX.

Intriguing inter-G propagation on 10m

This morning I am copying G4SPE at 195km on 10m WSPR. This sort of inter-G distance is not uncommon on the 10m band. I assume this and similar spots are by normal tropo. Years ago the RSGB ran evening 10m contests and decent inter-G QSOs were possible with 10W SSB/CW to dipoles.  Every contest evening I would work down south or up to Yorkshire. I assume most inter-G WSPR spots are tropo but some may be back-scatter. I am sure consistent JT9-1 QSOs (and WSPR spots) would be possible inter-G if there was more activity. Something to try in the quiet years on 10m?

Early morning on 10m WSPR

As I left the 10m WSPR running overnight at 500mW I was able to see how soon the band opened for me this morning. As of 0900z just 3 spots received, all from RV3APM at 2428km in  Russia. No sign (yet) of 4X1 or LZ but it is very early and I am just running 500mW. On RX a station from Cameroon is coming through - TJ3TS .

UPDATE 1045z: EA8/DL9XJ  has spotted my 500mW twice so far.

17 Mar 2014

Stateside on 10m again

My 10m 2W WSPR station is on now and getting plenty of stateside spots. A typical 2 mins TX burst gets 2-4 spots with most of these being from the USA and Canada. The earliest transatlantic spot (of me) was at 1118z, which is very early. These first class conditions cannot last, although I suspect next autumn will be good to the USA still.

UPDATE 1445z: I have now dropped my power to 500mW and am still getting plenty of USA WSPR spots with best DX 8756km to N6RY.  In 90 minutes there were 24 spots in the log when running 500mW out.

UPDATE 1725z: 41 spots of my 500mW 10m WSPR signal and most are transatlantic this afternoon. Plenty of reports still coming through. Suspect the band will be open transatlantic for hours yet.

UPDATE 1848z: 3 spots of my 1846z 10m 500mW transmission with best DX 6384km at a STRONG -8dB S/N.

UPDATE 1910z:  Still wide open to the USA with a report from  KI7CI at 8307km.   It could be a while yet before conditions drop out, or it might suddenly drop off.

UPDATE 1928z:  no less than 7 (yes 7) spots of my 500mW signal in a single transmission and ALL USA reports.

UPDATE 2014z: 3 spots with best DX 7660km. Band STILL wide open, even with 500mW. Even at 2020z still, getting stateside reports.

UPDATE 2040z:  10m still wide open but my last spot was at 2102z.
10m WSPR on RX - still wide open at 2042z

OFCOM and spectrum pricing (again)

Ofcom has today published a statement confirming the framework and cost allocation methodology they will apply when setting cost based spectrum licence fees. The statement also sets out Ofcom’s decision on the cost based fees to be charged to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) multiplex operators. The fees, which they consulted on, apply to Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 DTT multiplex licences awarded by Ofcom.
To give the proposed fee changes legal effect, Ofcom needs to make amendments to the licence Fee Regulations. Ofcom expects to publish these under a Statutory Notice on which it will consult shortly. Subject to that process, new fees regulations are expected to come into force in mid-2014.

Amateur and ship charges are expected to be reviewed next year (2015) with any charges (if made) starting 2017.

Basically, I am AGAINST spectrum charging. If I was in charge I would nationalise broadband and all phones (including mobiles) and REDUCE costs for consumers. Why should share holders benefit when consumers should?

Strapped feeder results (630m), and back on 10m

Overnight I have been on 474.2kHz WSPR using the VHF/HF antennas all strapped together and tuned against mains earth. Impressions are that it performs about as well (or badly?) as the low height dedicated Marconi, perhaps a tad better? Strapping feeders is certainly easy to do.

Since about 0820z I have returned to 10m WSPR using around 2W to the Par end-fed antenna. Reports already exchanged with Japan and Reunion Is. in the Indian Ocean. Conditions still look excellent on 10m with a sunspot count of 139 currently. 10m, even with my antenna and 2W, is too easy right now!

10m - first hour with 2W to Par antenna

16 Mar 2014

474.2kHz - trying strapped feeders

As a last attempt (for now) on 474.2kHz WSPR this evening I have strapped the feeders of the Par 10/20/40, the 2m halo and the V2000 tri-band VHF/UHF vertical all together and am tuning it against mains ground to see how things compare with previous tests. The "theory" is the effective vertical is about 2x higher so, if efficiency was about the same as before, the ERP would be up. In reality, the antenna current is only 10% higher so losses over the "short" Marconi must be much greater.

So far, spots of other stations appear stronger (e.g.G3XIZ -1dB S/N) but I've only managed 2 spots of my own signal, these from PA3ABK/2 in Holland at 306km. These are not brilliant, but similar to the earlier tests. More results overnight tonight.

Tomorrow I may go back to 10m.

13 unique spots of my QRPP 474.2kHz WSPR so far

So far, 13 unique WSPR spots of my signal with the very low Marconi antenna and 5-10mW ERP. Plenty of further spots likely although I want to change the antenna to ground the far end shortly. All my current experiments are with antennas I can string out without having to use a ladder (because of my mobility issues - stroke).

Best DX remains DL4RAJ (990km) although plenty of spots received from DL-SWL (701km) overnight too.

15 Mar 2014

472kHz ERP over-estimates?

Looking at the reports I send and receive, I wonder if several stations are actually using a LOWER ERP than they think? From measurements I am pretty sure my ERP is 5-10mW with 5mW likely to be the closer figure. Some stations claim 0.5 to 1W ERP which is considerably more than me. Some stations ARE using 6-12dB more than me and to much better antennas but, judging by reports, I should be reporting them much stronger than I do. This could be because (1) my noise floor is worse, (2) my RX is not optimally sensitive, or (3) their ERP is lower than they think. In at least some cases (3) is the reason.

Nearest 474.2kHz report

This afternoon I received a MASSIVE +12dB S/N 474.2kHz WSPR report from G4PZW who is located about 1km  (or less) from here. He is in the same QTH square (JO02dg).  I met Rob for the first time last weekend at the Burwell Hobbies and Interests Weekend when he was signing GB1BHW, a special event call.

New seasonal DX record on 474.2kHz last night

Last night I received several spots from DL4RAJ at 990km,which is a record, so far this year, for my QRP WSPR signals on 474.2kHz. I am hopeful of better results yet.

My 10mW EIRP maybe be a bit over-estimated as I forgot to divide the measured voltage by 1.414 to convert to RMS from peak. This means my ERP was closer to 5mW, even lower than I had expected, even though I am still showing 10mW ERP on WSPRnet.. This proves, even more, that high power and fancy big antennas are NOT needed to have fun on 474.2kHz MF.

12 unique WSPR spots in last 24 hrs with QRPP on 474.2kHz

14 Mar 2014

EIRP calculation on 472kHz band

So I plugged my measured figures into the equations to work out ERP on the 472kHz band with the very low height Marconi.  Measured antenna current is 0.64A and effective height about 1.6m.  The formula gives EIRP taking  into account the lack of directivity.

EIPR (472kHz) = I^^2 * Heffective^^2 /100  (source LF Today 3rd edition)
                          = 0.64*0.64*1.6*1.6 / 100 = 10.48mW

ERP is 1.8/2.52 times the above figure, so around 7.5mW.

My estimate of 10mW  ERP is a few dB too high, but not a bad estimate, considering experimental error.

As the ERP is proportional to current and effective height both squared, it is easy to see how ERP can be much improved by increased antenna vertical height, increasing the power, or doing both. The other thing is to reduce system losses.  An antenna/earth that looks like 300 ohms is probably lossy.

13 Mar 2014

Sputnik days

A message from Oleg RV3GM :
Dear Sputnik'ers

Welcome to "Vanguard-1 QRPp Party 2014"
Dates - March 17 to April 7.
This is not a contest but activity days only. Enjoy milliwatting using old type
Ge transistors TX. See details here -

Wish you all the best, 72!
Oleg "Mr. 72" RV3GM / KH6OB
=== In QRP We Trust ===

Very Low Marconi on 472kHz

As from mid-afternoon I am now using a very low height Marconi on 472kHz, tuned against the mains earth (that attaches to a decent ground). The average top horizontal section height is about 1.8m with a horizontal length - a wire along the top of a fence and trellis in an L-shape with a length of around 30m. The whole antenna is just about invisible. The vertical section is just the wire up to the top of the  fence.

The whole antenna resonates with a 108uH inductance in series (wound on 110m diam. former) and this is matched to the 12W RF out transverter with a 42mm diameter 3C90 tapped toroid. The antenna looks like 300-400 ohms and the antenna current is 0.64A measured with my current meter. I have ESTIMATED ERP as around 10mW but am probably in a position to calculate this now.

Performance of the very low Marconi compared with the 15m earth-electrode antenna, is about 6-7dB better over probable ground wave paths. So far, the only skywave signal suggests a less noticeable improvement, I think.

12 Mar 2014

Ofcom and UK Spectrum Sales


My reading of this OFCOM document is that the UK frequency spectrum is seen as a opportunity for revenue generation. Apparently spectrum "resource" is worth £52 billion to the UK economy.   BTW, amateur radio doesn't even get a mention! Radio amateurs do not contribute to this revenue stream and the document  does not seem to recognise the self training of radio amateurs in radio science. Maybe they are right: using a black box  is hardly skillful or educational.

To my way of thinking, spectrum is a NATURAL resource, a bit like the air we breath or the wind in our faces. Call me an old fashioned socialist (actually this is NOT my natural political stance) but I am uncomfortable that MONEY seems the main, actually the only,  motive here.

Give radio amateurs very easy access to "strange" spectrum  (e.g. sub 8.3kHz,  around 73kHz, and around 40MHz) and access to all licence free slots. Actually, radio amateurs have a lot to contribute and self training in radio science would be ENCOURAGED by such moves.

We are more likely to gain 146-147MHz which, frankly,  is a waste: we will gain NOTHING from this except maybe yet more appliance operators using black boxes. 2m is never that busy in my experience. How often are FM channels busy or the SSB slot? Outside contests SSB seems pretty dead on 2m.

We all have a duty to use spectrum wisely, but money is surely not the right way?  I am also ANNOYED that so much power and spectrum is in the hands of the UK military. Just look at the current frequency allocations. This is plain wrong in peacetime.

France on MF

 Some good news from Andy:
From to day, 2014 march 12, by publication in the “Journal Officiel” this morning, all french amators may use for transmitting the 472 – 479 kHz segment.
73 de Andy F6CNI.

11 Mar 2014

472kHz WSPR update

As of this evening I have received (so far) 12 unique WSPR reports of my 5mW ERP 474.2kHz from the 15m earth-electrode antenna. More spots are very likely in the coming days and nights.

10 Mar 2014

472kHz experiments (continued)

As mentioned in an earlier post, for the last few days I have been using the 15m earth-electrode and not the same antenna with the far end as a capacitive connection to ground as used previously.  So far, I have spotted 14 unique stations (best DX DK7FC at 669km) and my own signal has been spotted so far by 10 unique stations (best DX F59706  at 570km) using WSPR.

Overall, my impression is the "proper" earth-electrode antenna is a few dB down, and more directional (?), compared with the similar arrangement but with the capacitive ground connection for the far electrode.

In the coming days I shall extend the baseline and repeat with the capacitive far ground connection. Based on results to date I would expect it to perform quite well, despite what theory might say.

Nevada - they clearly don't want my business!

Having asked again for a good deal on the President Lincoln 2 mono-band transceiver for 10m, this was their second reply:
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your email. I can confirm that the warranty is 12 months from the date of purchase. Unfortunately however, at this time we are not able to reduce the price but wish you well with your purchase.

Helen Wells
Not even discount for a fully upfront cash sale! Clearly this dealer is not interested in my business. A 12 month warranty is also pathetic these days. A 3 yr Square Deal warranty on eBay is only 34 pounds. As a main dealer I was expecting a decent response from Nevada, especially as the similar Anytone rig is over 100 pounds less to buy.

All I can say is others offer a better deal, even without negotiation. Nevada, YOUR loss, sorry.

Had you offered a 2yr warranty and 20 pounds cash discount the sale would have been yours.

President Lincoln 2 - Nevada prices

Today I received a disappointing reply from Nevada:
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your email. We can confirm that we currently have this radio available for immediate despatch with a total cost (including UK Mainland delivery of 265.90.
The warranty period is 12 months from the date of purchase.
If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Helen Wells
Unit 1 & 12 Fitzherbert Spur
Portsmouth PO6 1TT
This is a far worse deal than available from others. I have expressed, to Nevada, my disappointment. At the very least I was expecting a better discount for cash and a much better warranty. I have suggested they reconsider if they want my business. I can wait or go elsewhere.

15m earth-electrode

Well, because of my stroke and bad weather, a few days ago was the first chance I had to go into the garden to inspect the far grounded electrode. To my great surprise I discovered  my wire was not connected to the ground rod at all and was as my son had left it last September - the wire was just connected to  a rolled up piece of coax laying on the ground, in effect a capacitive ground connection: that was why I needed series inductance then! The feed wire is about 1.5m off the ground along a fence. Since the start of the weekend I have been using the far end grounded (as I thought it was originally) to the ground stake. Impedance is still very high (around 200-300 ohms) but I no longer need the series inductance. As for results, it seems perhaps more directional and (maybe) a few dB down on the  previous (unintentional) arrangement. Whether the antenna was working as an NVIS wire is not clear but at the old QTH running the wire back through the grass made little or no difference to performance of the earth-electrode antenna, confirming the " loop in the ground" behaviour at MF/LF.  I may next try extending the poorly grounded wire further along the fence top to compare performance. The maximum run possible is about 30-35m.

9 Mar 2014

Burwell Hobbies and Interests Weekend

This weekend, our local church hosted a very successful Hobbies and Interests Weekend aiming to raise money of the "Building to Serve" fund to pay for improvements to the church interior so it is better suited for more general use by the community.

Had I been fit, I might well have taken some amateur radio gear along as I did some years ago at another occasion in the village. As it happened a church member Rob G4PZW was running a special event station GB1BHW and was working plenty of 10m stateside SSB stations when I arrived mid-afternoon. My walking is still very wobbly and I need support for longer walks. I had not met Rob before, a really nice guy, who lives down the other end of the village.

This coming Tuesday evening the ex-archbishop of Canterbury is speaking at the church and I am being taken along. The ex-archbishop now works in a Cambridge College, St Johns I think.

8 Mar 2014

President Lincoln II prices

Today I emailed Nevada to see what their best cash price is for a delivered President Lincoln II 10m transceiver. I have seen it for £234.95 on eBay, but this is with just  a 12 month warranty. I did not ring Nevada because of my breathlessness due to the stroke after-effects. As yet, they have not responded. Other people have recommended the (less expensive) Anytone series which are available under a range of brand names for around £149.

7 Mar 2014

President Lincoln 2 Transceiver

Some years ago I owned a 10m band (only) President Lincoln multi-mode rig.  Many bought this rig to convert it  to CB use.  As a 10m rig it performed very well with plenty of DX QSOs in the log including a real mobile mobile SSB QSO with a VU (India) stastion one evening when driving in the outskirts of Cambridge (Fulbourn).   Power was a maximum of 20W PEP.

Now there is a new version of this rig available from Nevada and others. The new version, President Lincoln 2, has a maximum SSB power of 31W and includes USB/LSB/AM/FM and CW modes, lots of nice features and a 2 year (maybe 3 year?) warranty.  It is basically a high class, multi-mode CB radio, designed and made in China  and selling for around £250.  The Nevada price is very slightly higher. It is reported to have been 3 years in the design and well made.

I am very tempted to buy the new version if I can negotiate a good deal as 10m remains my very best band. Running it at 10-20W, the rig should be reliable and well capable of decent DX.

6 Mar 2014

Sunspot count over 200, VLF earth-mode, and my stroke

Today I have taken a day off from 10m, but I see the sunspot count is 202 and the transatlantic path is well open with lots of EU stations being spotted in the USA and Canada, and vice versa. There are good spots from Europe to S.America too and the band was open EU to Australia again this morning.

VLF  earth-mode beacon TX
Later today, if my energy levels improve (very low currently because of my stroke after-effects) I want to match my 8.97kHz VLF earth-mode TX  into the earth-electrodes better. At 472kHz they look quite a bit different here compared with at the old QTH (here more like 200-300 ohms with some capacitive reactance whereas at the old QTH it was more like 40-60 ohms resistive. At VLF it might be a lot different, of course. My initial earth-mode VLF results from this new QTH last August/Sept (before my stroke) were disappointing and this may have been due to poor matching?

If I can get more power into the ground I may ask my wife to help me with some drive tests locally to check earth-mode VLF performance. This is where I REALLY miss my health and fitness. I tire SO easily at present, but have been told this should improve given time and more healing.

Guess I have to slow down and let things take their time and not expect instantly to get better. Apparently I was VERY poorly last autumn - my heart stopped at one point and the first 4-6 weeks in hospital are just a blur -  and feel I am almost living a new "second chance" life. Certainly I have never seen a more beautiful springtime.

UPDATE 2045z:  In the end the VLF work will have to be later as I am too tired right now. The simplest way of increasing the output impedance is probably to reduce the PRIMARY turns on the 3C90 output toroid s long as the frequency response is OK. This is currently set for a 4:50 ohm step up. Reducing by a few primary turns may be all that is needed. We'll see tomorrow.

5 Mar 2014

VLF transatlantic

In recent weeks a number of amateur tests have been running from the USA to Europe around 74kHz and at 29.499kHz using several hundred watts to large antennas.  74kHz has been well copied , but the surprise is 29.499kHz with SWL Paul Nicholson and Marcus DF6NM, and others, copying the test signals, for example,  at over 15dB S/N in  424uHz bandwidth.  As far as I know, these 29.499kHz VLF signals are the first amateur VLF ones to span the Atlantic - fantastic results by well equipped stations using suitable RXs and good software.

10m WSPR - first Japanese spot of my signal

Although I have copied 10m WSPR signals from Japan before, this morning I received the first WSPR spot of my 2W signal.  JH1GYE (PM96mi) at 9380km spotted me at 0858z. 10m is clearly in good shape again today.

Also spotting me was R0AU in central Siberia at 5579km. Of course 4X1RF spots me whenever I appear on WSPR for some reason - he must have a very low noise floor and good system there in Israel. Isn't it amazing that G8KNN just 12km west of me gets me at about the same S/N as the station in Japan!

Also worth noting is the high level of European activity. In my log this morning  are OH, SM. OZ, DK, F, HB9, PA, CT1, LZ  and G for starters. This could be Es or more probably F layer including some back-scatter. Come next month the regular summer Es season will bring consistently strong EUs in.

Late morning ZP5BAB copied my 2W WSPR signal at 10333km in Paraguay and at 1848z I was spotted by PY4XX at 9252km.

As before, lots of transatlantic spots both ways again today.

4 Mar 2014

10m - best yet tonight

At 2100z, way after darkness fell here, my 2W 10m WSPR signal was spotted by K3ZV at 5692km. At 2108z this was bettered by KB9AMG  at 6300km. This is the latest spot of my 10m signal yet and the band is STILL open transatlantic!  I  had planned to stop 10m WSPR for now, but conditions remain SO good I feel compelled to continue. The band is closing later and later in the evenings. Transatlantic conditions remain brilliant on 10m.

UPDATE 2130z: The band appears to have closed transatlantic just after 2108z,much later than last night which was late.

Tomorrow I shall try JT9-1 instead.

Simple gear

A reminder of my current station: recently I bought an FT817ND to add to the FT817 I have owned for YEARS. I also bought a Z817 LDG auto-ATU. These are the "workhorses" of my station feeding either the Par 10/20/40m end-fed, the V2000 6m/2m/70cm vertical or the 2m halo. Via the 472kHz transverter they also feed the 15m spaced earth-electrode antenna on 630m MF. The FT817ND and LDG auto-ATU were supplied by Martin Lynch and Sons and they were a pleasure to do business with. I can recommend them for price, speed and good customer relations.

I also own an Elecraft K1 CW transceiver (40, 30, 20, 15m), a Mizuho 200mW pep MX2 2m SSB handheld, tiny Yaesu VX1 and VX2 FM hand portables and an MFJ Cub for 15m CW. These are hardly used, although all have worked some decent DX. My Elecraft T1 ATU is in need of repair as it operates intermittently. The FT817s are used at 500mW to 2.5W maximum and I have been spotted in Australia at 2W or less on 10, 20 and 40m this year. This power is quite enough.

I also have simple beacons for sub-9kHz and 137kHz QRSS3 as well as kit for optical comms to use /P.  I  neither need nor want QRO gear, preferring to work QRP.

To be built is a GPS locked, stand alone (no rigs or PC needed) Ultimate 3 WSPR beacon TX for 10m, but I am waiting until my stroke is somewhat better before starting this as I am still a bit too clumsy and tire very quickly.

The VLF and LF beacons, the 472kHz transverter and various other QRP rigs (e.g. the WISPY, Fredbox and Sixbox) not listed are homebrew and much fun too.

Very early start on 10m

Overnight I left my 2W 10m WSPR running and was surprised to exchange spots with 4X1RF just after 0700z. I was exchanging WSPR spots with FR5ZX very early too and have spotted several Japanese stations such as JE8GSV and JH1GYE (both running 5W) around 0900z. The band looks wide open and very early too. There is plenty of other activity too.

At 1212z a single 10m 2W WSPR transmission resulted 6 spots with  3 N.Americans, 1 S.American (CX2ABP at 11127km) and the rest EUs. 10m is fair humming.

UPDATE 1650z: a couple of stations in S.California (KD6RF and N6RY - the latter 8756km) have just spotted my 2W WSPR signal.

3 Mar 2014

More 10m JT9-1 and WSPR success today

On 10m, UR5LOS responded to my QRP CQ call on JT9-1 this morning and my signal was also being copied in Greece. There were also 10m JT9-1 signals coming through from Brazil and all around Europe.

I then switched to 10m WSPR and already at 1120z my 2W was being spotted in Eastern Canada by VE1MDO at 4651km and at 1144z by WG2Z at 5600km. You can tell we are at sunspot maximum alright. Most days the transatlantic path is wide open in the afternoons.   At 1252  FR5ZX in S.America spotted my 2W WSPR at 9740km and later so did CX2ABP at 11127km.  Later still TI3/AB4AW (Costa Rica, Central America, WJ89au) at 8752km copied my 2W 10m WSPR.

At 1812z I got 9 spots off just one transmission and ALL the reports were from transatlantic stations with DX from 4561km up to 8664km.  Even at 2016z I am getting 5 posts per transmission on 10m and ALL these are transatlantic, several hours after local dark here. I am still spotting a 5W Californian WSPR station KD6RF at 8553km at 2022z.

In all, a good day on 10m.

UPDATE 2110z: The transatlantic path appears, finally, to have closed here at 2042z, which is late.

2 Mar 2014

Ultra-simple 50MHz rigs and a spectrum analyser

Some years ago G6ALB and I did some tests with a QRP handheld 49MHz rig re-crystalled for 50MHz. As I recall we had a QSO over about 3km.

Here is a schematic of a typical 3 transistor QRP AM transceiver for 49MHz that would easily work on 50MHz. Because the RX has a super-regen detector and no isolating  RF amp, QRM could be caused to nearby weak signal band users, so any tests done should consider this. Simply replace the crystal and re-peak the tuned circuits to 50MHz. I have a couple of such rigs and should retune them into the 6m band. This schematic is from the YO3DAC/VA3IUL site at www.qsl.net/va3iul .
49MHz 3 transistor transceiver - suitable for 50MHz conversion
Also on the same site is a neat 0-100MHz spectrum analyser. See http://www.qsl.net/va3iul/SA/spectrum_an.html

CW, PSK31, JT65 and JT9-1 QSOs

As I have more or less fulfilled my aims with WSPR until I get my longer baseline earth-electrode antenna laid out (stroke - so need help),  the aim is now to amass a decent number of digital QSOs using the above modes, thereby saving my poor voice. Already I have worked W4 on JT65 and an  RA4 on  PSK31. The RA9 on JT9-1 should be the first of many QSOs using this narrow band and sensitive mode. It is only a couple of dB worse than WSPR but is a proper 2-way QSO mode. I shall have to try this mode on 160m and 630m.

JT9-1 success

Whatever I did I could NOT get version V1.3 of K1JT's latest software to work on my PC. No decodes, zilch.

Reverting to V1.1 and success was sweet and immediate with a nice 20m JT9-1 QSO with RA9KT at 4309km.  I still don't understand the problem with V1.3, but V1.1 is nearly the same and allows me to have JT9-1 QSOs on any HF/MF band I want.

UPDATE 1840z: In my ignorance I forgot to close the JT9-1 software and as a result my signals were spotted until a few minutes ago on both sides of the Atlantic on PSK Reporter. I have now closed the program and my apologies.

WSJTX help!

I am still struggling with the latest JT9-1 and JT65 combined software (V1.3 from the Princeton University site) and getting absolutely NO decodes, despite good signals in the waterfall. Requests for help have been answered by a few, without success so far.

Again any help will be appreciated. I am using an FT817ND set on USER-U option in menu 26 (works fine with JT65HF and WSPR) , normal SSB filter, have internet  time set every few minutes, a SignaLink USB audio interface and a windows XP laptop.

What am I doing that is so wrong? I can see my JT65 CQs are getting out all over the place on PSK Reporter, but until I can decode stations, I cannot have QSOs.


1 Mar 2014

Help please! JT9-1 and JT65HF

Today I downloaded the latest  V1.3 JT9-1 ( and JT65) software from the Princeton University site. Although I can see my digital CQ calls are being received all over the place (looking at PSK reporter) I get ZERO decodes on the JT-9 screen although I can see plenty of JT9-1 signals at good strength on the waterfall. I cannot work out why no callsigns are decoded at all.

Settings for external audio and PTT VOX are as for WSPR, so interfaces to the SignaLink USB are fine. The FT817 is set to DIG with same settings as for WSPR (USB -U on  PSK settings as for WSPR)  and PSK31 works OK as I am getting QSOs.

Anyone care to suggest what (simple) things I may be doing wrong with JT9-1? It MUST be something VERY basic.

More 160m QRP WSPR with 15m baseline earth-electrodes

Last evening and overnight I left the 160m 2W WSPR system running with the 15m baseline earth-electrode "antenna" to see what happened. The number of UNIQUE station spots of my signal has climbed to 17 in 8 different countries, with the best DX still just over 1000km to Sweden.On RX I have now spotted 11 uniques.
17 unique spots in 8 countries with 2W and 15m earth-electrodes on 160m WSPR
Having more or less completed all the WSPR tests I want to do for now with the present antennas, I shall now concentrate on 2-way modes that don't involve speaking (to save my poor voice) such as CW, PSK31, JT65HF and JT9-1.