31 May 2014

6m - no Es today

With just a few hours to go today it looks very likely this will be the first day in several weeks without any Es on 6m here. Others have been working some DX on CW so it may just be that the openings have been very location sensitive as can be the case with Es.

6m - G8JNJ/A (184km)

This evening at 2034z G8JNJ/A (184km) was copying my 1W ERP vertical signal at -23db S/N with very little Doppler. Is this tropo? Good GDX on 6m. 

Still no Es here on 6m today.

10m with simple antennas

There is little doubt that when 10m is in the doldrums a beam and QRO would probably be helpful. Every bit of power would help.  An HF beam is unlikely to add more than 5-6dB gain (1 S point) so when the band is in good shape this is very little., but when the band is dead QRO and a beam might help winkle out DX.

Tenner QRP 10m CW rig described on my website
But what about right now? In my experience, even a simple omni-directional antenna is fine, coupled with QRP.  You might use a CB vertical or a Cushcraft AR10 vertical (both noisy on RX being vertical?) or the 10m halo on my website.

Even during solar minimums I have worked LUs with 10W SSB to simple indoor antennas. There are very few times when QRO really matters. It may help, but it is much more fun with QRP (rig and antenna). QRP CW can be great fun, especially with simple homemade gear.

No 6m Es today?

Well, it is now 2010z and, so far today, not a single station copied here via Es today on 6m. Today must be a quiet day.

Luckily, GDX has been very good, making up for the lack of Es DX.

In my experience, if there are stations active on the band, either GDX or Es they will be heard, even with my indifferent V2000 vertical omni vertical antenna. As far as I know I am not missing much that is active.  Even my 1W ERP is being widely reported - Israel best so far this year with 8 WSPR reports of my 1W ERP signal.

6m - more GDX today

6m GDX has again been good today. M0EMM (192km), G4TZX (146km), G8ECI (122km),  G3XGS (65km),  G6AVK (78km) and G4VXE (136km) copied today. In all, quite a number of GDX stations either copying my 1W ERP or being copied here over the last few days.  Some of these are helped by aircraft but almost certainly copyable by plain tropo. I wonder if there has been a small lift on 6m tropo or if this is range under normal conditions?

Sunspot count is 56 and 20-30MHz propagation "normal".

30 May 2014

6m GDX and Es on WSPR today

Several examples of 6m GDX today so far: G8JNJ/A (184km) spotted my 1W ERP at -25dB S/N with no Doppler evident at 0850z and G3WKW (134km) was spotted with 4Hz Doppler at 1006z, presumably with the aid of aircraft reflection.  At 1032z G4VXE (136km) spotted me at -23dB S/N without apparent Doppler. So far, no Es noticed here, but it is early yet.

Sunspot count is "only" 55 ( this will be considered marvelous in 1 years' time!) and 20-30MHz propagation "normal", so F-layer DX is questionable on 10m.  Of course, on 6m and 10m Es does not really get impacted by sunspots (I think) so both 10m and 6m could open Europe-wide later, possibly much further by multi-hop Es.

UPDATE 1256z:   6m spots also received from G4BRK (134km) and M0ZRQ (102km) around 1200-1248z. Still no Es yet today here. It has been a significant day for 6m GDX today with 5 different stations in the range 100-184km either spotting my 1W ERP or being spotted by me. Wonderful stuff this WSPR!

UPDATE 1725z:   CN8LI (2113km) just spotted my 1W ERP for first 6m Es here today at 1722z.

UPDATE 1935z:   A spot of CN8LI at 1748z and M0EMM (192km) for the best GDX spot of the day at 1908z. Today has been excellent for GDX. Doppler on M0EMM was 2Hz so probably helped by aircraft reflection.

UPDATE 2100z:   A late Es opening to France  at 2048z. F6HTL(831km) spotted me at -22dB S/N.

6m uniques today on WSPR

29 May 2014

Antennas for 6m Es

One of the amazing things about the Magic Band (6m) is that for Es (sporadic-E) propagation, and I suspect for F-layer, almost any antenna will work. For years I have used just a V2000 VHF triband vertical with excellent results including the USA, Azores, North Africa, Ukraine and Israel worked with low power SSB/CW or spotted on  WSPR.  Polarisation often gets twisted so a beam is NOT needed.Yes, for tropo DXing a horizontal beam might well help but many GDX paths involve aircraft reflection where polarisation is also twisted.

A simple half wave vertical for 6m is at http://users.belgacom.net/hamradio/schemas/on6mu_6meter_verticalantenna.htm .

6m - May 29th

Later starting on 6m WSPR today - first transmission 1044z - although so far just G4IKZ (18km) spotting me at +9dB S/N, but I don't  think I've missed any Es. Es usually peaks lunchtime and teatime.

Sunspot count is lower than of late at 72 with 20-30MHz propagation forecast to be "normal" whatever than means. I suspect that 10m will not be great for F-layer DX today, although with luck both 6m and 10m will be livened with Es propagation. I am also looking for GDX on 6m.

UPDATE 1107z: G4FFC (45km) spotted at -10dB S/N, a very decent consistent signal, when running 2W. There is just the smallest hint of Doppler (aircraft reflection) so I think this signal is pure tropo.

UPDATE 1510z:  CN8LI (2113km) spotted my 1W ERP WSPR signal at 1328z for the first Es opening noted here today. 3 spots from him by 1428z.

UPDATE 2050z:  A couple of 6m WSPR spots of Italians around teatime, otherwise quiet Es, with just local G4IKZ for 3 hours.

28 May 2014

6m Es: good today

WSPRing on 6m got off to a good start with a three spots of SQ9SIM (1325km) around 1012z. G4IKZ is also spotting me well as usual over our 18km local path.

Sunspot count is 96 with "normal" 20-30MHz conditions. I shall probably stick on 6m , looking mainly for Es and GDX, but may go back to 10m if 6m is very very quiet. This week I have been spotted twice in South America (Brazil and Uruguay) on 10m WSPR with 2W.

So far, SQ9SIM has spotted my 6m 1W ERP weakly just once on WSPR at -29dB S/N.

UPDATE 1040z: Very strong spot from DK8NE (755km) just now of my 1W ERP on 6m. Looks like a good day for 6m Es.

UPDATE 1050z: G4ENZ (176km) in IO81vv being spotted quite well on 6m GDX. Doppler (2Hz) suggests aircraft reflection, at least on some transmissions?

UPDATE 1100z: 4X1RF (3519km) spotted my 6m 1W ERP at 1058z at a respectable -22dB S/N. Also, even more spots by German stations. This is a VERY good 6m day!

UPDATE 1230z:  Es from SQ9, DL, F, I and 4X1 so far plus GDX. A good day so far on 6m QRP.

UPDATE 1620z:  All quiet here this afternoon on 6m apart from 20+ spots from G4IKZ.  Still amazed at spots from Israel -  that is SOME distance on 6m, especially with 1W ERP from a small V2000 vertical.

UPDATE 1717z:  At 1648z a surprise +3dB S/N spot from CN8LI (2113km) in Morocco of my 1W ERP 6m WSPR signal.

UPDATE 1945z:   Quite a lot of spots now being exchanged with CN8LI (1830-1918z ish). 6m open in that direction.
6m unique spots today

27 May 2014

QSY to 10m WSPR

In the end I QSYed to 10m WSPR at 1424z and was rewarded immediately by Es WSPR spots from EA6URL in the Balearic Is (1439km). Several spots given and received from the Spanish area in the next 60 minutes. I'll stick on 10m for the rest of the day now to see if more distant stations (outside Europe) appear.

UPDATE 1700z:   So far, only European Es on 10m today. I shall keep looking, but chances of South America or further, are now reducing.

UPDATE 1745z:  Still just EU Es on 10m WSPR. Mainly, but not totally, in direction of Spain.

UPDATE 1830z:  Sometime between 1736z and a few minutes ago my WSPR program just stopped working. I have reset the internet clock and restarted the WSPR software. No idea what I have missed, but my Win 8.1 PC wants to do this from time to time, for no apparent reason. It also lost 10m settings. It is working now and I am still being spotted by EA6URL. Still no real DX.

UPDATE 1915z:    Still just EU Es on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2000z:  It was worth the wait: CX2ABP (11127km) in Montevideo spotted my 2W WSPR at 1946z.  Real DX at last. Signal report was weak at -31dB S/N and I wonder if it was Es (to Spain) + F2 layer for the rest of the path? I wonder if there will be other South Americans later? There seems to be a distinct lack of South American stations on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2145z:   No more Es since 2004z. Going QRT shortly.

UPDATE 2215z:   QRT.

Unique 10m WSPR spots today (to 1840z)

472kHz transverter

It is always very satisfying to see when someone has taken one of my designs and taken it on to the next stage. In the case of M1GEO, he has made a PCB for a design based on my transverter. It looks so much better than my original! Dead bug build style is fine for "one offs" mind you.

See http://www.george-smart.co.uk/wiki/472_kHz_Transverter

It is quite a while since I was last on 472kHz. I really should try loading up  the feeder to my 2m/70cm antenna to see how this performs.

Good start on 6m Es today

IK1WVQ was spotted at 0924z and I was spotted by OE1MSB (1220km)  as early as 0824z on 6m WSPR. This is a promising start on 6m WSPR.

Sunspot count is 110 and 20-30MHz conditions described as "normal".  This is of no relevance to 6m Es propagation (at least not directly), but suggests half decent DX conditions on 10m. I may QSY to 10m later for a change.

UPDATE 1210z:   No more 6m Es here since 0928z. Got to be patient!

UPDATE 1420z:   Still no more 6m Es here, so will probably QSY to 10m shortly. G4IKZ spotting me lots (a local).

26 May 2014

QRP calling frequencies

Although currently I spend most of my time on WSPR or other digital modes (saves my voice - stroke) here is a list of QRP calling frequencies which may be useful.

See http://www.njqrp.org/data/qrp_freqs.html . It shows European frequencies as well as USA ones.

My usual technique with QRP is "listen and pounce". I rarely call CQ on QRP and find this the more successful approach. Often the other station has no idea I am using very low power.

6m Es today

At 1504z OE1MSB was being spotted here on 6m WSPR using 2W RF. So far, this is the first Es I have seen today. Maybe there will be others around teatime?

I am beginning to wonder if 4X1RF, who spotted me recently, was 6m  by F-layer.   He spotted me no less than 7 times that afternoon, but has not spotted me since, even once.

At 1542z and 1602z G4VXE (136km) was spotted by tropo (maybe some aircraft reflection?) - a good GDX distance - when Tim was using 5W. Tim spotted my 1W ERP at 1558z.

UPDATE 1750z: CN8LI (2113km) has just spotted me twice.  Decent Es.

Full QTH locator

QTH locator (10m digit version)
Most times people exchange QTH locators as a 6 letter/number combination but for even greater accuracy, more can be added to give a better fix. My full QTH locator is JO02DG95LK. Note the 95LK on the end of JO02DG.

As an example, on the 25km path to G0LRD the error using 6 digits is around 1km. The actual path (using the full 10 digit locators at each end) is 26.516km. Sometimes the error is such that paths appear longer with 6 digits. It all depends on where in the 6 digit square one sits.

6m quiet so far today (to 1130z)

Just the usual local spots on 6m this morning- G4IKZ, G4KPX and GOLRD copied and no Es as yet. Sunspot count is 133 and 20-30MHz forecast is "normal" today.

President Lincoln II transceiver

The price of this rig for 10m is still too high and stocks at Nevada are nil, so demand must be good. I am still thinking about getting one, but am in no hurry. 10m remains my favourite band of all.  I'll wait until the bugs are ironed out and the price drops a bit. People say it is just a fancy CB rig. Maybe, but the Mk 1 version was a good radio.  I used a Mk1 version for several years and some impressive DX was worked on SSB.

See http://www.president-electronics.com/en/The_CB_Radios/Fiche_produit.php?REF=TXSE041

25 May 2014

G4IKZ (6m) - turning his beam?

Nick G4IKZ (18km) has been spotting me some 24dB weaker on 6m WSPR in the last 30 minutes or so. I suspect he has just rotated his horizontal beam, maybe towards the USA or Caribbean in the hope of seeing some super-DX by multi-hop Es. I am using just a V2000 vertical (omni) and where his beam is normally aiming (Europe?) the cross-polarisation loss is minimal.

40m,20m,10m WSPR, then back on 6m

Just for a brief change I fired up WSPR on these bands and got EU spots on each band around teatime. On 10m PY2RN (9550km) spotted me, so 10m is still opening N-S over the equator.
I have now returned to 6m WSPR and have spotted IK1WVQ (1084km) but only been spotted locally myself this evening.

6m - Sunday

Saturday we went to Canterbury on the train to see my son and family, so no amateur radio yesterday. Was going to listen for G4BAO's test 70cm beacon on my vertical, but John has turned it off I hear.

I have been on 6m WSPR (1W ERP) since just before lunchtime and  DL4MFC (916km) and DK1KW (914km) have spotted me by Es. Also spotting me are the usual locals. Just  been spotted by EA6ZL (1485km) at 1226z at a strong -5dB S/N.

I spotted OE9ICI (857km) at 1230z running QRO fifty watts! Why?? He would have been good copy at 5W or less. WSPR is a WEAK SIGNAL mode and running high power is just daft and a waste. I expect it was one of his first attempts! He will soon learn.

Lots of 6m EU Es evident. 6m seems to be open in most EU directions.

24 May 2014

G4BAO - 70cm new beacon testing

John G4BAO (about 8km) has been testing beacon bits for the new 70cm UK beacon network, at 1mW level so far, to a vertically polarised antenna. Not knowing his polarisation, last evening I copied the 1mW signal on my 5 el horizontal 70cm beam at about 559 by ear. Signal is about the same level as the Kent beacon on 2m here.

I will look for his test beacon (G4JNT design,, GPS disciplined) on my V2000 vertical to avoid cross-polarisation losses, if still on the air. Frequency is/was temporarily 432.440MHz.  The beacon sends FSK and JT65.

It will be excellent when the UK 70cm beacon network is running again. At the moment, the only beacon I can copy frequently is in Holland! GB3BSL (Bristol 70cm beacon) used to be a decent signal here and was a good propagation indicator, sadly now QRT like most of the original 70cm UK beacon network.

23 May 2014

New 5MHz amateur band soon?

Many countries have allocated small sections close to 5MHz for amateur use. In the UK, these sub-bands are available only by NoV.  At the WRC2015 it is possible a contiguous 5MHz band may be allocated worldwide to the amateur community. If this happens, it will be an interesting band but even if it happens it could be some years before it becomes widely available.

Up to now I have only been on 5MHz a couple of times with WSPR with an indifferent antenna with moderate success. I got an NoV over a year ago.

10m antenna

Homebase-10 10m halo antenna
My reports on 10m seem to be a bit down on those received by others. This may be due to the directionality of my end-fed PAR wire antenna that also covers 20m and 40m or just that the Par antenna is down on a better 10m antenna. I am wondering whether to erect a vertical for 10m (noisy on RX?) or my 10m Homebase-10 horizontal halo antenna which was featured some years ago in PW magazine and is described on my website.

The Homebase-10 antenna worked well and is nearly omni-directional. My problem is where should it go? Although quite a low visual impact antenna, it needs a mast to get it up in the air and in the clear. Something else would have to come down to make room and I like the antennas I have up at the moment.

G4IKZ weaker today

Nick, G4IKZ (18km) is weaker this morning, I assume because he has pointed his beam in a slightly different direction. Others copied today are G4KPX (14km) and CN8LI (2113km) yet again.

Sunspot count is down to 70 today but 20-30MHz conditions are "normal".  Maybe 10m will be less good today?  I shall stick with 6m Es searching.on WSPR.

UPDATE 1742z:  All afternoon it has been G4IKZ alone with 20+ spots since lunch.   Apart from CN8LI's spots several times before lunch no Es noticed on 6m today (well not yet).

UPDATE 2125z:  Still no sign of Es this evening.  Will be closing down soon.

22 May 2014


See http://www.rowetel.com/blog/?p=3125 .

This could be a killer app for amateur radio: Digital Voice (DV) without the need for a PC. It consists of a board that goes between the mic and rig and the rig and LS.

DV in the end is a 1.25kHz wide 16QPSK signal able to work with very low S/N ratios and low power transmitters.

CN8LI - 6m

Reports from CN8LI have been coming in consistently all afternoon. I assume the propagation is Es but this very non-sporadic! I suppose it is just conceivably single hop F-layer, but I think Es is more probable. Now if only someone another 1000-2000km further south was on too so multi-hop Es into Africa was a possibility. Later in the Es season, multi-hop Es becomes more likely into S.America, the Caribbean and N.America.

At 1806z CN8LI is still spotting me well (-1dB S/N).

UPDATE 2125z: CN8LI's last 6m spot of me was at 1854z (+6dB S/N) and this appears to be the last today. Just G4IKZ spotting me now, lot of times!

UPDATE 2200z:  finally closed down at  2145z with just G4IKZ spotting me all evening.

Clearing the back of the (old) garage

As I was in hospital Sept-Jan because of my stroke, I was not around when my wife arranged for our old home to be rented out. We left a lot of my stuff locked away at the back of the garage and only cleared this today. Among the "goodies" were 2 QRP power meters, a DC PSU, a small rotator and several antennas. I had wondered where these all were! Now I know.

Very quiet start on 6m this morning - better later

This morning, it was very quiet start on 6m WSPR with just the usual strong spots from G4IKZ (18km).  I am actually very pleased with these reports of my 1W ERP signal as I am pretty sure Nick uses a horizontal beam so we are cross-polarised.
Sunspot count is 100 but 20-30MHz conditions are reported as being "good" so maybe 10m will be in decent shape for DX today. 6m will remain "sporadic" hopefully with some Es propagation later?

UPDATE 0940z:  Still just G4IKZ spots this morning so far.  Not sure if the few dB variation in reports is the noise floor increasing, path variations, or Nick moving the antenna a tad.

UPDATE 1445z: Well, there is 6m Es about.  Firstly OE1MSB (1220km) at 1114z then several spots from CN8LI (2113km) - 14 spots to 1444z - as well as G4FFC (45km) although at 45km hardly GDX. Wouldn't it be great to hook up to some TEP with Es to northern latitudes? Lots of Doppler on my spots from CN8LI - moving Es patches?

UPDATE 1530z:  Had to disconnect antennas because of local storms.

UPDATE 1635z:  Antennas back on around 1625z and CN8LI still spotting me and me him. He has been a remarkably consistent reporter all afternoon long. At teatime signals both ways are VERY strong (like he is down the road!).

UPDATE 1740z:   HB9PLH just spotted me on 6m WSPR. Still plenty of Es around.

21 May 2014

6m Es and GDX

Well 6m "came good" today with Es to  IK1WVQ and CN8LI as well as GDX in the form of G8JNJ/A (184km) G4FFC (45km) and G4BRK (134km).  I get the feeling that daily Es is now more likely until later in the summer. Tonight I shall have to go QRT as we have thunder forecast, so I need to disconnect antennas. Today has been a good day on 6m.

It is interesting to see just how much variation there is on Es signals.  For example, my 1W ERP signal level with CN8LI varied by 27dB over lunchtime. Strongest was 0dB S/N and the weakest -27dB S/N.

G8JNJ/A on 6m WSPR

All very quiet on 6m so far today apart from the usual G4IKZ (18km)  spots. Then at 0914z G8JNJ/A in IO90hx (184km) spots me weakly at -29dB S/N. No Doppler, so aircraft reflection less likely, so presumably tropo?

Sunspot count 126 and 20-30MHz forecast to be "normal" again, so 10m propagation is, again, anyone's guess. Still waiting for first Es openings today on 6m.

20 May 2014

Mark Thomas (Channel 4) Secret Map Of Britain

Maybe, like me, you had not seen this YouTube video before. Mark explores some of the places left off some UK maps to preserve their secrecy. In many cases the information is readily available by other means. Apparently the number of places left off maps runs into thousands (at the time the film was made) and yet many places which you might expect to be hidden are not. Bizarre.

At one time Devonport Docks (Plymouth) were blanked out from 1:25000 scale OS maps. Not sure if this is still so. Looking at the map it was very obvious this was a secret place and no doubt a prime Russian target back in the Cold War.  Blanking out the area drew attention to it - the reverse of the intention. Doh!

I make no judgments, just sharing an interesting YouTube link.  I assume sharing this publicly available YouTube video does not contravene any state secrets. Mark filmed this for Channel 4 TV here in the UK.

Yaesu and that (never coming) FT817 replacement

Yaesu amaze me. They would have a near certain HUGE market for a more up-to-date version of the FT817. We punters have been waiting YEARS and it has still not appeared.

Instead they mess about with VHF/UHF digital radios. They could probably re-use the FT817 mechanics and just update the insides. The FT817 is a good radio, but it is 14 years old and there are many features it could do with. The FT817 and FT817ND must have sold over 500000 worldwide! The window for releasing a new version is rapidly closing as the sunspots fade.

My wishlist (just some features, no particular order)
  • LiIon battery pack
  • Auto ATU
  • Speech processor
  • OLED display
  • DSP noise reduction 
  • 70MHz
  • 1296MHz
None of these should be hard (or expensive) for Yaesu to develop. So just why have they not done this?

6m - Tuesday May 20th - some lunchtime Es

A very uneventful morning so far on 6m WSPR with just the usual strong reports from Nick G4IKZ (18km) on the far side of Cambridge. No Es yet, although it is early in the day. At  the moment, 6m is very slow going with LOTS of WSPRing during the day for (maybe) a fleeting opening. At least with WSPR you can do something else whilst monitoring and TXing.

Maybe the 6m band will open up later?  Sunspot count is 130 and 20-30MHz forecast to be "normal". Again, 10m propagation will be whatever. 6m will remain "sporadic" with lots of white noise. It would be good to hit a period of 6m Es that lasts all day. It is early in the season I guess. On 6m I'd be very lucky to see any real long distance DX.

UPDATE 1435z: Well patiently 6m WSPRing paid off with spots from Morocco by CN8LI (2113km) late lunchtime today (best -5dB S/N at 1404z).  With that report, he would have copied me if my ERP was just a few mW, given a quiet RX environment his end.  This is a problem nowadays: often the RX noise floor can be quite bad, especially in towns and cities with so much RF noise pollution.   CN8LI was also spotting me (more weakly) at teatime (1612z) - see table above. 1W ERP seems plenty for Es.

UPDATE 1930z: No further Es in evidence here since CN8LI at 1612z. Think that is it for today?

19 May 2014

East Cambs 2m Net

Every Monday evening at 8pm UK time there is a net on 144.575MHz (note 144.575MHz , NOT 145.575MHz) FM in East Cambridgeshire. The net started some years ago as an AM net on 144.55MHz but one joiner had no AM, so we went over to FM, vertically polarised.  Usually there are 3-4 people on the net and others are very welcome. Discussions are wide ranging and cover all sorts of amateur radio subjects.  Usually one person has a query and the others try to answer the question. Occasionally we do on-air experiments too. We always finish by 9pm latest and quite often earlier if we run out of topics.

6m WSPR today - very quiet

A full day on 6m WSPR and only G4IKZ (18km) and G6AVK (78km) spotted me. No Es noticed here at all, all day long. Perhaps tomorrow will be better? That is the nature of Es - it is sporadic! It is interesting seeing what GDX possibilities exist. On 6m, 4m and 2m I suspect WSPR is not ideal inter-G because of aircraft Doppler.

ARRL - thank you (in the end)

7 days and 5 emails later my ARRL user name has finally been reset, so I can now access the ARRL site once again with my 1 year paid subscription. Why did it take so long? Goodness only knows. 7 days should have been just a few minutes.

I wanted to say something good about the ARRL but this total fiasco has rather left me speechless and lost for words to adequately say how I feel.  They should have done better - NO excuses.

At least I can again access the ARRL site. As far as I can tell the site was muddled by having had a 90 day free trial membership before becoming a fully paid up member. Why it took 7 days to sort, goodness only knows!

ARRL:  1/10 for effective member support. I'd wanted to say something nice but just cannot,honestly. I just hope others fare better than I did.  Why cannot you reset your user name online? Their online help is flawed if you lose you user name as I did in a PC crash.

In my experience the RSGB does a much better job at supporting its members.

6m update

No 6m Es since yesterday (yet) and just G6AVK new in the log, both ways, last night at 78km. Today lots of good spots again from G4IKZ (18km) but nothing yet from Europe or elsewhere on 6m.  Sunspot count 138 today and 20-30MHz forecast is"normal" so 10m is anyone's guess. Of course on 6m I am mainly looking for Es.

18 May 2014

Lesser Chirpy - a VERY simple 10m transceiver

This design is a couple of years old and evolved from Chirpy. Unlike the original design, chirp on 10m is negligible. This design really works and gives credible results on 10m with just a handful of parts. Sensitivity could be better  with a few more parts, but not this simple!

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

6m homebrew SSB/CW transceiver and the Sixbox

6m is an ideal band for experimenters. Local coverage is very good, Es DX possibilities in spring and summer are good (strong signals out to about 1500km) and the frequency low VHF so less layout critical than 2m.

I am always on the lookout for interesting ideas for 6m QRP rigs and just noticed this one from Japan. This amateur also manages to package his designs so neatly: they look like factory-made products.  See http://www.qsl.net/7n3wvm/xcvr-6m.html for a neat 3W QRP SSB/CW transceiver.

For a really simple AM transceiver design see my Sixbox on my main website. Ideal as a basis for further design for local natters. Very simple concept that works.  On the main website click images and schematic for clearer versions.

See also http://www.pg1n.nl/articles.php?lng=en&pg=145  for a list of 6m designs. His website also has lists of designs for other bands.

6m update

After a very brief Es opening to Italy this afternoon, all is again quiet on 6m WSPR. I have left the kit running but only G4IKZ is spotting me at the moment.

6m is an even more fickle band than 10m and even more challenging because of it. At the moment Es is starting to wake up the band, although stations further south (around the Med.) have been able to work remarkable distances by TEP in recent weeks. Also,  there has been 6m TEP between Japan and Australia.

ARRL website - crap!

Don't lose your user name or ID or you may never get in again!

I was a 90 day guest member, decided to join for one year on a special offer. Lost my user name (PC crashed) so asked ARRL for help getting back in to read QST etc.. 6 days later (6 DAMN days!!!!) and not a single reply from ARRL. What a load of tossers!  They have now had 3 emails.

Next year, it is very unlikely I shall rejoin.  This level of member support is totally pathetic. I am not at all impressed with their "help". If you lose you user name it appears the on-line help does not help at all, but (so far) neither does emailing ARRL!

How can a national society's website be totally inaccessible to paid up members? How come ARRL is so bad at supporting its members?

10m and 6m

Sunspot number 146 and the 20-30MHz forecast is "normal" so it is anyone's guess what 10m will be like today.  I am now monitoring (and TXing) on 6m WSPR but all is very quiet on that band so far with just locals G4IKZ and G4KPX copying me so far, and very well. Things on 6m (and 10m) can rapidly change of course and that is half the fun.

On 6m there is a decent level of  European activity, so if  Es appears I should be spotted. 6m is a nice challenge right now. On 10m I pretty well know who will copy me when the band opens by F2 and 6m QRP is a good new experience on  WSPR.  Spots from 4X1 were a real surprise a few days ago.  6m at the moment is likely to be mainly Es but there is just a chance of some F2 layer propagation.

UPDATE 1535z:   IK1WVQ (1084km) spotted at -8dB S/N at 1528z on 6m WSPR. Some Es about.  A little later he was +9dB. Typical Es.

17 May 2014

South Sands - Salcombe (in danger)

See http://qss2.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/salcombe-south-sands.html.

Not amateur radio, but a concern of mine. Salcombe, Devon is where I originally came from.  It is still dear to my heart as it is a seaside town in grave danger of being ruined by profiteering developers and rich playboys with far too much money and in many cases very little brains. Salcombe is losing its heart and soul. Prices are such that locals are being priced out by second home owners, with many homes empty much of the year.

The development linked above is just one such development. Planners are playing their hands very close to their chests, suggesting they may want to over-develop the site and ruin the sea end of a beautiful valley.

If you have an interest in ensuring the long-term well being of this pleasant seaside town please check the plans next week and use your democratic right to influence the plans.

Salcombe was the home of my mentor and CW instructor Les G4PJ.  I could copy him on 160m 4 miles away on a crystal set.

6m DX?

G4IKZ, G4KPX and G0LRD on 6m today so far. All locals. No Es seen so far today but it could all change very quickly,  so will leave the kit on. It would be nice to see some more EU stations appear by Es. It would be even better to see some North Americans by multi-hop Es but this is more probable later in the season and it depends on some N.American 6m WSPR activity!
Unique 6m spots today - all locals and no DX today.

16 May 2014

GDX on 6m

During the day a few more G stations have been spotted on 6m WSPR as well as the great DX to CN8 and 4X.

As well as lots of spots from G4IPZ I have been spotted by G4KPX, G0LRD (all locals) and earlier this afternoon by G1IDZ in IO82tc at a distance of 183km. G1IDZ is real GDX at a great range. I would expect this station also had a vertical antenna?

Israel on 6m - 3519km with 1W ERP

After earlier success on 6m QRP WSPR (1W ERP) with CN8LI imagine my delight to be spotted seven times this afternoon on 6m by 4X1RF (3519km). If Es, this is multi-hop but there were no reports from nearer in Europe, so it could be single hop F layer? Again, the antenna is the V2000 vertical fed with quite lossy coax. 6m - magic band!
4X1RF 6m WSPR reports - 1W ERP 3519km!
G4IPX was also copying me at just 14km.

Morocco on 6m

Just when about to give up (for now) I see my 1W ERP on 6m WSPR has been spotted in Morocco by CN8LI at a remarkable +2dB S/N at 1252z.. Distance is 2113km. I shall leave the 6m gear running! Propagation will have been Es.  For Es, a V2000 vertical is an effective omni antenna. Mine is fed by a length of  RG58 cable, not exactly low loss too! The FT817 is on the "3 blobs" setting as on 10m which is about 2.5W into the feeder.

CN8LI's 6m spot of me today at 1252z

On 6m again this morning

Conditions (tropo) are up on 2m today with the Kent 2m beacon measuring strongly on the FT817ND's S-meter. Usually, the S-meter does not even move. I don't know if tropo has as great an impact on 6m (I think not) but so far today just the usual good reports from G4IKZ (18km). Later, I hope to catch some sporadic-E (Es) propagation or even some GDX by 6m tropo, or more distant "semi-locals".

G4IKZ's first report was at 0648z when I first turned the rig and PC on today.  Reports vary by about 6dB but this could be G4IKZ rotating his beam rather than propagation. I'd be surprised if propagation varied by 6dB over such a short path. The other explanation is my local noise floor is increasing as the day goes on and more local appliances are activated? Another explanation is aircraft reflections from small planes over Cambridge? Maybe there is more activity today. That could explain the Doppler on my signals too.

Otherwise all very quiet  here so far at 1000z. It is a bit early in the day for Es which usually peaks around lunch and teatime unless the band is really humming.

Currently, I am not monitoring 10m, but the sunspot count is 130 and 20-30MHz propagation forecast to be "good", so HF should be good.

15 May 2014

6m update

I have been on 6m WSPR since lunch time and have received 52 reports from G4IKZ 18km west of here. So far, no GDX copied, no other spots by UK stations and no sign of Es reports. I'll leave the kit running for a short while but will then close until after breakfast tomorrow.  Maybe tomorrow will bring some more interesting reports?

The G4IKZ reports have been very useful -they prove I am getting out OK and on frequency - but it would be good to receive a few more stations and to be spotted a bit further afield.

Quadcopter drones controlled by wi-fi

On my other blog I mentioned the latest small drones produced by Parrot.

The prices don't seem to have fallen as I had expected. See http://www.pixmania.co.uk/high-tech-gadgets/parrot-ar-drone-2-0-elite-edition-sand/21869578-a.html?ectrans=1&ef_id=U2AUYQAABW1F-nsq%3A20140515154655%3As&gclid=CMvR8aajrr4CFckBwwod_CsA5A&merch=1&srcid=11270 as an example. Prices seem to be £230 upwards.

For me, this is still far too expensive to consider, even though being able to "drive" it from an iPad is fun, as are the on-board cameras which look forwards and downwards. It is like being a real pilot. I saw one in use at a BBQ a few years ago and it was great fun. Even that one got lodged in a tree as I recall.

At those sorts of prices, I'd be far too worried about it getting stuck on a roof or in a tree and that would ruin the fun. Also, apart from the very latest lightweight designs, you'd have to be very careful near people, pets and vehicles.

On the Argos website quadcopters are available for around £55, but I've got no idea about the functionality of these.

Lightning and solar activity

Dr Steve Collins of Sheffield University has pointed me to this fascinating link on the BBC website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27406358 .   It shows  how solar activity and lightning are linked, possibly allowing a means of predicting future lightning activity.


As it is the Es season, I have moved up to 6m WSPR, but so far only G4IKZ is spotting me at 18km.  I think Nick uses a 6m horizontal Moxon antenna yet, despite cross polarisation (I am using a V2000 tri-band vertical) he is giving me +4 to +7dB S/N.  I am hopeful of some Es and GDX later. As of 1540z 20 spots from G4IKZ, but nothing else seen. I have spotted no-one, near or far.

With the same antenna and feeder I have worked all over Europe, N Africa and even into the USA with real 6m QRP SSB or CW. With 1W ERP WSPR I should be able to reach all of these areas and more given WSPR activity and good Es conditions.

10m - less good today?

Yesterday 4X1RF had spotted me 14 times by this time whereas today he spotted me just once.It may be that he is concentrating on 6m instead or an indication of less good 10m propagation on 10m?  There is no other real DX around, at least not with me, so I think 10m propagation is poorer than on Wednesday.

Yesterday 4X1RF was spotting CN8LI at a distance of 3860km on 6m - a very good distance, probably multi-hop Es or even F2.

I may QSY to 6m later to pick up any Es around on that band. In previous years I've managed CN8LI on 6m with an ERP of around 1W..

10m long-path to Australia? Not here!

After monitoring 10m WSPR last evening/night for long-path propagation to Australia, I drew a blank. After the 10m band died to the USA mid-evening, only Europeans by Es and GDX copied here. No ZLs and no VKs copied. Others with better antennas may have been luckier. 4X1RF was spotting me at 0658z.

With a sunspot count of 162 and 20-30MHz forecast to be "normal" propagation today is anyone's guess!

14 May 2014

Will 10m open long-path to Australia tonight?

I am carefully checking 10m WSPR this evening to see if the long-path to Australia (over the Pacific) opens, especially seeing how the band has been open to the USA and Canada for hours now.  My WSPR is running overnight, but if the band is to be open long-path I suspect it will be very soon. As I write this it is 2207z.

 UPDATE 2217z:   All quiet on 10m with my last USA spot at 2126z, nearly an hour ago. Being a band of surprises, anything can happen!

Optical article in June RadCom

June's RSGB RadCom carries my article, "Over the Horizon at 481THz" describing my non line-of-sight optical experiments last year. My poor health (stroke) has prevented me doing more with this in 2014. The article was written last year (2013) before my stroke.  Hopefully, a return to good health (by the autumn?) will allow me to continue this fascinating part of our hobby. At the moment I am just too clumsy.

Testing the optical RX
8.5km "over the horizon" NLOS by clear air scattering (in a cloudless night sky) was very straightforward with simple, low-cost optical gear that could be made for next to nothing.  Unlike microwaves, optical kit is very inexpensive and requires only very basic (audio frequency) test gear to set up. Optical alignment is critical and more stable tripods would have helped. 

What amazed me was that nothing was visible or audible at the RX yet the signal decoded and displayed perfectly with Spectran software on the PC.

If you get this magazine, I hope you enjoy the article.  Please let me have any feedback.

Malawi - 7QNL

See http://www.malawihf.org/
A DXpedition to Malawi is planned for late May/early June. Frequencies are shown on the website above. This is a DXpedition combined with a holiday, so don't expect "high intensity" activity. The callsign is very odd - 7QNL. Malawi prefix is usually 7Q7.

CW, RTTY and SSB activity is planned from 80m - 6m.

10m - USA/Canadian DX

During this afternoon on 10m I have been spotted, and spotted myself, by several different stateside stations (3 and 4 call areas in the USA) with best DX 6505km so far.  Interestingly, I have spotted just one South American station PY2RN (9550km) around 1200z and later.  It is interesting to see such an opening to the USA as we approach summer conditions.

There must be a reasonably good chance of long path propagation to the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia later this evening on 10m.

UPDATE 1720z:   Only European stations by Es on 10m in the last few hours.

UPDATE 1725z:     VE3PLE just spotted. First Canadian for a while on 10m.

UPDATE 1935z:    TI3/AB4AW (8752km) spotted twice in Central America (Costa Rica).

UPDATE 1955z:     In among all the DX, G7FYO copied at 162km with -4Hz Doppler, suggesting aircraft reflection.

UPDATE 2010z:    DX from the USA still very much in evidence on 10m. K3NAL spotted at -16dB S/N.

UPDATE 2126z:   K3NAL just spotted (again).

70cm contest results

Stations worked on 70cm from home with 5W/5el
Last evening I took part in the 70cm UKAC contest for the first 90 minutes, by which time my voice was well past it because of my stroke, so I stopped operating.

I was using 5W (FT817ND) to the little (lowish) 5 el yagi on the pole on the back of the bungalow at home (hand rotated). Conditions appeared flat with no lifts apparent.

Best DX was G8XVJ/P in the Peak District at 181km but I missed out on M0GHZ in IO81 square (he got part of my callsign but then lost me!) at 195km.  I was pleased to work M0CES/P in JO03AE (rare square) at 103km.

All QSOs were SSB.  I did hear PA and DL.  In all it was good fun. A pity my voice was so poor.

10m - early start today

Sunspot count is 138 and 20-30MHz conditions are forecast to be "good" today. 4X1RF was spotting me regularly from 0554z this morning (14 times so far to 1114z) and I even spotted OZ7IT as early as 02204z!  It certainly promises to be a good day on 10m. Let us see.

13 May 2014

10m WSPR - no more DX seen (yet!)

Since mid-afternoon 10m seems to have fallen back and the DX (such as it was) has disappeared. 4X1RF and DK6UG have spotted me but no more South Americans, Central Americans or North Americans. Being 10m, everything can change in a few minutes!  If it does, you will find out here - I intend to remain WSPRing on 10m into the early evening, at least and whilst on 70cms.

UPDATE 1900z:  CX2ABP just spotted again, so 10m is still open to South America.

Critical Communications World (was TETRA World Congress) - Singapore May 20-22nd

Next week, 175 speakers will be in Singapore for Critical Communications World.

In my day, this was called the TETRA World Congress and it was a real chance for users to meet manufacturers and for manufacturers to showcase new products coming to market. These days I am rather out of touch and have little idea what is new in TETRA. Things don't seem to have developed dramatically since I stopped work 6 years ago.

70cm UKAC contest this evening

From 1900-2130z (from 8pm UK clock time) the 70cm UKAC contest is running.

Although I am not a great contest person, these are usually good sessions with plenty of activity, mostly SSB. It will be a good opportunity to try the little 5 element beam to see what I can work from home using it. Conditions should be close to "normal" which will be ideal.

So far I have only heard the PI7CIS 70cm beacon - no other stations or beacons. I missed the recent UHF contest at the weekend.  I was struggling with my voice in the 2m session last Tuesday, so may not stay on too long.  Let's hope I manage to work some reasonable distances.

10m quiet today - so far

10m WSPR is very quiet currently, with just 4X1RF (3519km) and 4X1DA (3597km) spotting me so far today. No South Americans  so far, even though the sunspot count is 164 and 20-30MHz propagation is forecast to be "good".  The band may well open up later to the Americas. It would be nice to see the 10m long path to Australia open up later (~20000km) as it did a few days ago. That was a total surprise.

UPDATE 1455z: Just  been spotted by EB3EPR (1248km) on 10pm WSPR. No great DX - another station probably via Es.

UPDATE 1500z: Just spotted WP4JT (6849km) in Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. He claims to be using 10mW and I gave him -12dB S/N report which is remarkable . I suspect this power level is an error and his actual power is much higher. Otherwise I'd expect to see many more stations from that general direction.  At 1536z he spotted my 2W at -6dB S/N.

UPDATE 1520z :  CX2ABP (11127km) was spotted, by me, nearly an hour ago. I missed that one. Classic 10m N-S propagation.

Things are warming up!

12 May 2014

Lack of youngsters in the hobby and the growing RF engineer shortage

See  http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2014/may/where_are_the_under_25s.htm#.U3Ey1rGZiSo
for an interesting piece about the lack of young people in our hobby.

The original article appeared in Essex Ham.

See also http://youtu.be/6UFP158SJbY .

Having given talks to several East Anglian radio clubs I can agree this is a serious issue.  Most in amateur radio in the UK are in the older generation. It is right these people should be enjoying our hobby, but youth and youngsters are essential for its healthy future. We need to find new ways to bring them in and keep them interested.

Years ago, an amateur radio "ticket" was the only passport to a means of talking around the world. Today, with smart phones and the internet, talking world-wide no longer holds the same fascination for young people as it once did. To me, radio is still magic, but this is not the case for most young people.

Also note how many radio magazines there are on shop shelves compared with those about computers. We are in danger of facing a future without RF engineers in the UK. This is even more serious than the lack of youngsters in our hobby. The two are very much linked: if we want future RF engineers we need to grow young, keen, radio amateurs - the future is ours to influence! I never did understand why radio seems to be (mainly) a male interest.  Odd.

mcHF transceiver

Graham G8NWC has brought this QRP transceiver (the mcHF) to my attention.

See http://www.m0nka.co.uk/ .  It is described as a small and inexpensive homebrew HF transceiver.  Features (as listed on Chris M0NKA's website):
  • Standalone and compact embedded transceiver
  • Operates on USB, LSB, AM and CW
  • Large 2.8 inch color LCD
  • Four encoders and 17 buttons for easier operation
  • Fast and fully electronic RX/TX switching
  • Two USB ports – for PC control and external keyboard
  • Two temperature compensated oscillators/clocks makes it ideal for digital modes
  • Four digital filters – 1.8kHz, 2.6kHz, 3.6kHz and 10kHz
  • Built in Iambic Keyer that supports Mode A and Mode B
  • Large 48kHz spectrum display

Ten-Tec and Alpha Amplifiers merge (RF Concepts)

Apparently Alpha Amplifiers and Ten-Tec have merged creating a multi-million-dollar company with products that span QRP transceivers to full-legal-limit amplifiers.

Alpha Amplifiers has been building amplifiers since the early 1970s. Alpha Amplifiers are considered "the finest line of linear amplifiers in the world" (their words). Ten-Tec started in 1968 and mainly design and make transceivers. Both are world famous.

Sounds to me like the merger was needed to keep both companies afloat? Of course I may be totally wrong and both companies may be financially secure.

But, times are hard for manufacturers in the amateur radio world. This will become even more critical when the Chinese start really addressing the amateur market. Up to now, the Chinese have been "playing around in the wings".

QRP rigs

See http://www.vanyi.net/homemade/homebrew-hf-ssb-transceivers/ .

This page has a nice collection of links to a range of (mainly) homebrew QRP transceivers for various bands. Well worth a visit and good browse.

Amateur balloons

This is a branch of amateur radio with a very dedicated following. Amateurs launch small balloons with lightweight payloads which are tracked with telemetry on the 70cm band.  Some fall back to earth quickly, whereas others manage to cover vast distances.  Some payloads include small cameras.

See the Southgate News Page and
http://www.kf4l.org/pigs/qrp_radio_and_balloon_held_hosta.html  and

Recovery is by no means assured so ballooners have to be prepared to lose the lightweight payloads, so they tend to be low in cost as well as light in weight. It has become a sub-set of the hobby with very keen people making some quite amazing payloads. Another group enjoy tracking the ballonns.

Recently, a balloon went all the way from the UK to Japan.

Chinese transceivers - a wake-up call?

The English manual for the  KN-Q10 QRP radio kit from China is now available. See http://www.qsl.net/bd6cr/knq10manual.pdf .

It seems like more and more of these kits/rigs are starting to appear from China at very competitive prices. Most seem (to my eyes) to be immature (amateur looking) designs and it could be a few years yet before we see real competition to the likes of Yaesu and Icom. Up to now these Chinese radios look like "back shed" designs unlike the mature, professional jobs from Japan.

But mature Chinese designs are coming!  Be in no doubt.  When it happens big-time it will be a bombshell to the Japanese manufacturers: expect real price competition, leading to offshore, lower cost, assembly by Yaesu and Icom. Expect to see the FT817 back at £350 (or less) next year or the year after.

[Incidentally, every blog and Facebook entry seems to need at least one correction. I am assuming this is not my keyboard but because of my stroke. I am not a good typist and have to look at the keyboard, more so now than I recall in the past. I keep putting the letter "i" where it should be "u" and missing out the odd letter. I also seem to have lots of "n" letters where they should not be. My apologies if you see errors.]

Back on the air (10m and 2m)

10m WSPR (so far this morning) is just EU stations via Es. My only report, so far, is from SM6WZI  (1007km) who has spotted my 2W several times. I have spotted, several more stations too.

On 2m, GB3NGI (N.Ireland beacon) is currently just above the noise keying away at around 530km by tropo.

UPDATE 0924z:   4X1RF has just spotted me on 10m WSPR. Sunspot count 161 (good) but 20-30MHz conditions described only as "fair".

UPDATE 1105z:  4X1RF has spotted me 8 times so far today. Still no DX from further east though (well not here).

UPDATE 1150z: CX2ABP (11127km)  just spotted. 10m opening to South America.

UPDATE 1450z:  CX2ABP spotted 5 times now. Opening to South America looks reasonable this afternoon. But no South American has spotted me yet today.

UPDATE 1712z:  CX2ABP (5W) has been spotted by me several times today, but I guess my lower power (2W ish) is enough to put my signal in "the crud" of Monte Video as he has not spotted me once yet. Maybe later? Also, no other South Americans seen here.

UPDATE 1815z:  CX2ABP has spotted my 2W for the first time today at 1812z. It was a long time coming! Reports differed by around 3dB which is right for the power difference.

UPDATE 2030z  :  I4ZTO spotted me. Es propagation must be responsible for this strong (-7dB S/N) spot of my 2W at 2018z.

11 May 2014

Non-radio day

For the first time since my stroke last September I ventured out of the county (Newmarket and Bury-St-Edmunds, Suffolk excepted), with my wife, to visit my son and family who live near Canterbury, Kent.

So today was a non-radio day:  no WSPR,  no 2m or 70cm beacon monitoring, no 472kHz. Yesterday the antennas were taking quite a battering from the wind.  I shall be on-air again Monday AM.

With the grandchildren in Kent today
As I cannot drive (currently, as a result of the stroke) we did a day return by train. It was seamless and travel in both directions was fast. We had from 12-4pm with our son and family and about the same time in travel on fast trains, especially in Kent.  It was a lovely day out.

Now we have done it once we may well do it again. Being a Sunday, parking at Cambridge station was easy and cheap. Our son picked us up at Canterbury West station. There were no delays because of engineering works.

Booking in advance, via http://www.thetrainline.com/, and using our Seniour Railcards, the fares were reasonable too.

10 May 2014

10m - closing down

After a distinctly average day (so far at least) I am closing the 10m station down shorty. A brief opening to South America (PY2RN, Brazil) was the only highlight.  Others included 4X1RF and 4X1DA, Europeans on Es and local Gs.

On 2m the GB3NGI Northern Ireland beacon was present before lunch but was inaudible this evening in wet and windy conditions. I think this beacon is marginal: sometimes it is above the noise and other times just below.

What does my stroke feel like - inside?

People who see me say, "you do look well" and similar.  I have then to explain how I feel on the inside.

Outwardly I do look pretty good: I have put back lost weight, got colour back in my cheeks and am looking more and more like my "old" self.  Inside it is (still) a very different story. The best way to describe how I feel is by saying I feel wobbly all the time when walking - like I have had 8 pints of beer -  always giddy and unsteady when on the move. Any physical exertion, like a tiny bit of gardening, leaves me shattered and in need of a sit-down and rest. I also feel near constant, low level, nausea in my stomach and gut.

Overall, I am making progress but this is too slow: I desperately want to be "normal" again . At present, it seems 3 steps forwards and 2 backwards. I should be off the stomach (via peg) liquid feed by June/July and already the amount through the peg is vastly reduced compared with when I first came out of hospital. I think my giddiness and sickness/nausea are slowly improving. I am eating more by mouth.

So, I may look OK but inside I still feel rough at the moment. Normality is a way off yet still, sadly. Thankfully I sleep very well: when I drop off it is (usually) a long and good quality sleep. Sleep is the only time in the day I feel properly OK. The rest of the time is still a struggle.

Amateur radio remains a Godsend. I tend to use WSPR as I don't have to speak and can monitor progress from the lounge if I want. I am also enjoying beacon hunting on 2m and 70cm with the new small beam. Using SSB in the 2m UKAC last Tuesday evening was a struggle, as is speaking on the local Monday 2m FM net. My voice is still poor and I get breathless. I have appreciated visits from friends and the help of Andrew G6ALB with antennas.

The days are long and I miss not driving currently. With hard work, things will get back to normal again. I have no limb paralysis, hearing and sight are fine, my intellect is intact, so really I have a lot to be grateful for compared with many. The fact I have a good prospect of a full recovery keeps me going.

10m- only average today?

So far today it has been the usual reports from 4X1RF, a few Europeans and a local copying me, all on WSPR.  Just now PY2RN has spotted me so may be conditions will open to South America this afternoon and even North America later?

Sunspot count is 123 and the 20-30MHz forecast is "good".  Up to now conditions seem very average. Earlier there was a ZS1 and a VK6 coming through on JT65, although not worked, on 10m.

9 May 2014

10m coming to life - late

After a pretty quiet day on the 10m band,  I have just exchanged strong WSPR reports with PY2RN (Brazil). It looks like the band has suddenly woken up. This is 10m and this sort of thing does happen. Judging by the drift I'd say TEP mode.

UPDATE 2050z:   Only decent DX has been PY2RN.  Several recent spots from GM4WJA (624km) in mid-Scotland, an odd distance really and I am still unsure of the mode as too close (?) for F layer and too regular for Es?

Cornish 2m beacon GB3MCB

I have still to copy this beacon on my FT817ND and 3el from a decent site!  Beam heading is right, so I guess it must be too weak to copy except in lifts. I could copy GB3CTC years ago, weakly but 100% of the time, from a poorer site in this village on a 5el with more lossy coax.  Is GB3MCB much weaker in East Anglia or is it me? I am listening on 144.4690MHz with a 250Hz filter, so very surprised not to have had even a brief ping to ID it by. Is the beacon GPS locked? Is the 2m beacon transmitting even? I am beginning to think it is off-air.

By contrast GB3NGI (further away in N.Ireland) is nearly copyable all the time.

Good start on 10m today - disappointment later

Sunspot count 124 and 20-30MHz conditions supposed to be only "fair" so not expecting great things today.
10m WSPR 9.5.14 early morning
However, HS1EAX (9858km) was spotted on WSPR at 0902z and 4X1RF spotting me at good strength, so things are promising to the east.  Let us see how the remainder of the day develops. This 10m , so conditions can rapidly change.

UPDATE 1647z:   Well,, it looks like HS1EAX was the only excitement here on 10m today, with just 4X1RF, 4X1DA and European stations in evidence otherwise.  So far, disappointment.

UPDATE 1800z: Conditions 20-30MHz now shown as "good". Perhaps things on 10m will get better tonight?

UPDATE 1915z: Very strong signal from PY2RN (9550km) suggesting TEP.

8 May 2014

Small 2m beam or a pair of stacked big wheels?

At the moment I am enjoying 2m and 70cm horizontal using a small yagi with 3 elements on 2m and 5 elements on 70cm. Both sets of elements are on the same boom and fed with a single 17m length of Westflex low-loss coax. Last Tuesday was the first chance to try the beam in a 2m contest. Although I have still to try the beam in a 70cm contest, I am wondering about 2 stacked big-wheels just for 2m.

A pair of big wheels are reported to have a horizontal gain of around 5dBd, which is comparable to the gain of my 3el beam, but without the necessity to rotate the antenna. In a 2m UKAC contest this arrangement may well be better? With the beam I was constantly wanting to adjust the beam direction. On my little halo (and big-wheel) I'd  have no choice.

For now, I shall stick with the dual-band beam, but I would be interested to hear your views on big wheels as gainy 2m horizontal antennas. I could probably mount the big-wheels slightly higher too.

Unlike many, I am not so keen that I want huge beams and high power. My interests are beacon hunting and casual contesting. In the last UKAC 2m contest I ran 5W.

10m today - a washout?

Apart from multiple reports from 4X1RF and a scattering of European reports, today, so far, conditions have been worse today than I can recall in a very long time. This is 10m and things can quickly change but the most probable summary for 10m today is a WASHOUT!

Yesterday was generally better, but far from brilliant.  I think we are being reminded that we are approaching summertime when 10m conditions fall off. N-S conditions may still be reasonable, but E-W openings will be rare.

Bird migration and man-made electronic noise

See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13290.html .

Evidence that bird migration is affected by human EM noise pollution - article in Nature journal.

10m Maritime Mobile and lack of DX

W3PM/M was being spotted here this morning on 10m WSPR. This ship was 1982km out in the Atlantic in HN68lf square. As far as I remember, this is the first 10m maritime mobile WSPR station I have copied.

UPDATE 1400z:   4X1RF (3519km) has just spotted me on a day with no DX worth noting in evidence so far.

UPDATE 1500z:  Still no DX (e.g. South America) here.

UPDATE 1735z:  Conditions are still appalling here on 10m. Just 4X1RF and EU stations by Es.

UPDATE 1905z:  Conditions STILL poor on 10m with just 4X1RF spotting me now.  Little chance of 10m DX today I fear unlike yesterday, that turned out quite well in the end, with long-path open to Tasmania (VK7) at 2208z (around 20000km over the Pacific). Based on last night's surprises, I shall be monitoring 10m way past midnight in case of late openings.
10m WSPR this afternoon/early evening

10m - Australia late at night

VK7AM (17366km) Tasmania, Australia running 5W was spotted on 10m WSPR at 2208 last night and I am wondering if this was long-path over the Pacific? At this time the WSPRnet database often shows stateside stations being spotted in Australia. This was a total surprise as conditions on the band did not seem that brilliant really. It goes to show that 10m really is a band filled with surprises!  Even from hour to hour, conditions change and results can be surprising. I guess it is a reminder never to give up on the 10m band.

This morning so far just Italians copied, sunspot count is a more modest 105 with 20-30MHz propagation forecast to be "poor".

7 May 2014

10m early start

4X1RF was spotting me from 0442z today which is very early indeed. Are we in for a good day? Sunspot count is 137 and 20-30MHz conditions meant to be "good". We'll see.

At the moment (0830z)  4X1RF and 4X1DA are the only stations spotting me. Sometimes their reports are identical whereas at other times they differ by 11dB, I assume because of different antennas and the exact path by which my signal arrives at their stations.  Fascinating.

UPDATE 0840z:  Just been spotted in Norway by LB9YE (1533km) presumably by Es. No "decent" DX yet.

UPDATE 1245z:  Still very quiet on 10m WSPR.   Mainly 4X1RF and a few spots from LB9YE. A very quiet day on 10m.

UPDATE 1515z:   Just one South American spotted me - PU8MET  (7842km). So far today conditions have been dire.

UPDATE 1745z:  10m is an amazing band: just when I was ready to give up on the band WA6JRW (8664km) in DM14he was spotting me at -24dB S/N. A little earlier I spotted K9AN. Maybe there will be others?

UPDATE 2020z:  No more North or South Americans? I think the DX has passed now: 4X, DH and GM only now.

UPDATE 2015z:  Sorry, this is 10m, the band filled with surprises! In the last few minutes W1 call area spotted and being spotted. Probably yet more to come?

UPDATE 2100z:    WSPR spots exchanged 2-way with a couple of stations in the W1 call area. Conditions really are surprising after the lack-luster N-S conditions earlier in the day.

UPDATE 2130z:  Still DX about and those mysterious spots from Scotland again:
Recent 10m WSPR spots

6 May 2014

GM4WJA yet again on 10m WSPR

Yet again GM4WJA (624km) has been spotting me on 10m WSPR. This is an odd distance as it seems far too close for F2 propagation. He must have spotted me nearly 60 times in all now.

There was an absence (here) of DX from South and North America: I was expecting decent conditions on the band but here at least there was nothing like real DX around.

2m UKAC this evening

The 2m UKAC contest was my first opportunity to try 2m under contest conditions with the FT817ND and the 3 el beam (hand rotated). In all I operated for 90 minutes before I had to stop because of my strained voice (stroke). Using my voice was hard work this evening!

Best DX was G4CZP/P in IO90jo (212km) and M0KJR in IO81vh (202km) but I heard (but did not work) GD8EXI on the Isle of Man who was called several times without success at the 5W level. To be honest, turning the beam was a pain and I suspect results would have been (at least) as good on a pair of stacked and phased big wheels (5dBd).  Perhaps it was my technique with the beam that needs to be learned? I wanted to peak the beam whereas I should have kept the beam heading and tried to work what I could hear well?

Conditions did not seem above normal to me. It was raining during the contest here. Compared with the halo (used before), results were definitely better.

Next Tuesday it will be the 70cm UKAC contest - that will be interesting if my voice is any good.

2m GB3MCB - 410km: no luck at all

The mid-Cornwall 2m beacon GB3MCB is 410km away on an all-land path and, as yet, I have still to receive it, even for very brief periods. I keep looking, but without any success so far.  By now I would have expected the odd MS ping or aircraft reflection but, so far, an absolute blank.

Can anyone confirm it is on-air?

UPDATE 1900z: A very weak signal,somewhat low (144.46802MHz CW) may have been a weak ping from this beacon? Too weak to tell and no callsign copied.

10m WSPR - the same faces?

One of the drawbacks of WSPR is that you seem to have the same people on day after day. This is "a good thing" if comparing reports day to day, but it means the reports tend to be from the same sub-set of the amateur community.  There would be more variety on some other modes. For this reason, I shall be trying some other modes in the coming days. The advantage of WSPR is it does not require me to speak (good with my stroke) and it works with very low power.  As I tend to use 2W and very modest (low gain) antennas, this mode usually suits me fine.

UPDATE 1645z:   Openings to South and North America have been noticeable by their absence here so far today. Yesterday, when conditions were supposed to be worse, the openings were quite decent. This afternoon 4X1RF and DK6UG were my main spotters, in fact my only spotters.

10m good today?

With a sunspot count of 131 and a forecast of "good" 20-30MHz conditions, 10m ought to be good today. Already UA6AAK has been spotted many times at 2780km and, as usual, 4X1RF has spotted my 2W. I confidently expect the band to open to South America shortly and to North America later.

If we didn't have visitors this afternoon,  it would be time to try JT65/JT9-1 on 10m for some 2-way QSOs.

UPDATE 1035z:  FR1GZ (9724km) has just been spotted at 0950z and 1030z.

5 May 2014

Surprise, surprise! North America on 10m

K3NAL has been spotted here on 10m WSPR at 1918z, 1948z and 2008z.   At 1936z, 1942z and 2016z WB5WPA (7591km) was spotted.

I was quite surprised to see the band open in this direction. Conditions N-S were just average only so I thought N.America was unlikely. Again, WSPR indicating openings.  WB5WPA and CX2ABP had quite a bit of Doppler at times - equatorial spread-F the mode involved indirectly or directly? Wondering if the N.Americans we coming in via an indirect path?

UPDATE 2050z:  Just been spotted by VE1MDO at 2046z.

South America on 10m WSPR

Another relatively quiet day on 10m but CX2ABP was spotted just now so the band was open (still is?) to South America. Sadly no North Americans yesterday here, despite reasonable sunspot numbers and the band opening well N-S.  I do not expect 10m to open to the USA or Canada today, but this band is full of surprises.

UPDATE 1908z:  CX2ABP still being spotted, seen 9 times so far this evening,  but seen no others from that continent here .

Doppler on WSPR

On shortish distance WSPR , especially on 6m and shorter wavelengths, Doppler shift from aircraft is a real issue: signals arrive directly and reflected off aircraft and sometimes WSPR cannot decode (often quite strong) signals. G0LRD has been analysing my signals and believes these have been frequently reflected off planes around Stansted Airport.

I have also seen large Doppler shifts on some trans-equatorial 10m signals and wonder if this is spread-F , moving F layers either side of the equator? Sometimes it is kit warming up, but I quite often see large Doppler on TEP signals and also signals crossing auroral (polar) paths.

On 6m and 2m, Doppler can make some VHF paths inter-G almost unworkable - strong signals but too much Doppler for the software to cope.

4 May 2014

2008/2009 sunspots

Just looking back and I noticed a graph showing solar activity just 5-6 years ago. When conditions are pretty decent - as at present - it is hard to remember just how dire they were back then.  We thought the minimum would never end - it went on for years and years with hardly any sunspots.  Next time, around 2019/2020, the minimum may last for many years if we are indeed entering a Maunder minimum.  It is possible hardly any sunspots will be present even at the next maximum.  Only time will tell. Whatever happens we have to enjoy our bands in an appropriate way.

Early start on 10m WSPR

Switched on 10m WSPR at 0850z this morning.

There are a few EU stations (Spain and Italy) coming in by sporadic-E (Es)  as well as FR1GZ (9724km) on Reunion Is in the Indian Ocean.

Sunspot count is 121 with 20-30MHz conditions described as "poor".

UPDATE 1130z:  Puzzled why I was spotting lots of stations but no-one was spotting me,  I realised I had my external LS output muted (doh!) so no modulation was being applied to the TX!  When (easily) fixed I was immediately spotted on 10m by 4X1RF at a strong -5dB S/N on WSPR. What with precise frequency, clock and audio, there are a lot of things to set when running WSPR and similar modes.

UPDATE 1228z: No more spots until 4X1RF spotted me again at 1222z. Conditions do seem poor.

Recent 10m WSPR spot
UPDATE 1508z: Mainly Israel and one report from Brazil, so far, on 10m WSPR. 

UPDATE 1915z:  Looks like we were lucky to see South American openings this afternoon and this evening (just been spotted by CX2ABP). A few Es signals in evidence now too. No sign of North Americans (yet) - maybe later?
UPDATE 2130z:  All has gone quiet with 4X1RF last spotting me over 2 hours ago.

First 70cm beacon copied - 70cm PI7CIS

This morning, I managed to copy the 70cm beacon at PI7CIS (by ear) using my 5 ele yagi. On  my FT817ND dial it was at 432.41536MHz, somewhat lower than the supposed frequency (432.416MHz) , as a result of RX drift at my end and thermal drift of the TX. I would guess it is at least 10dB down on the co-sited 2m beacon. Neither signals move the FT817ND's S-meter. As my first 70cm SSB/CW reception I was very pleased. Conditions may be marginally up in that direction, but not by very much.

It looks like this 70cm beacon is just below the noise floor here normally, so a slight lift is needed to detect it.

3 May 2014

ON0VHF 2m beacon 144.418MHz

The 2m beacon ON0VHF seems to be copyable at all times at a distance of just over 350km.  It is located just the far side of Brussels.

Imagine my surprise when I found out it is only running 15W to a single big wheel antenna with a gain of around just 3dBi. At one time I was considering a stacked pair of big wheel antennas here. In theory, properly phased, a pair of big wheels should give omni-directional horizontal gain of around 5dBd, which is similar to a small beam without having to turn it.

GB3ANG (Angus 2m beacon)

Have now turned the beam about 20 degrees further north and looking for GB3ANG. Unlike GB3NGI this one seems a little low in frequency, as if the stability is not as good. I have had 2 brief periods of copy and these may have been off an aircraft or by MS. This beacon is considerably weaker than the one in Northern Ireland and below the noise floor here.  Being just below the noise floor means it will be a useful indicator of conditions to Scotland: if the beacon is audible it will suggest a lift in that direction.

10m - South America

At the moment I am spotting CX2ABP (11127km, 5W)) on 10m WSPR. The band is open(ing) to that part of the world, although there are no signs yet of North Americans. Maybe these stations will appear later?  No other South Americans yet seen.  Just 4X1RF (Israel) and DK6UG (Germany) around closer to home.

On 2m, beacon GB3NGI (530km) is still coming in here just above the noise - callsign and QTH locator can be copied.  I have not listened for other beacons yet.  Quite amazed the Northern Ireland beacon near Ballymena is so consistent here. I don't think conditions on 2m tropo are above average?  Should I expect to copy some beacons at 530km regularly? Seems like this is a good one.  Not sure about GB3ANG (near Dundee) yet - will have to beam further north to see.

Based on these 2m CW beacons, WSPR or JT9 at similar ranges should be possible for stations with even small beams. I did have a quick try on 10m JT9 (supposed to be just 2dB worse than WSPR but fully 2-way) but no stations seen. A 2W CQ brought no replies.

GB3NGI - there again today

A few moments ago I came into the shack to start 10m WSPR (immediately spotted by 4X1RF).

I turned on the other rig to 144.482MHz CW and the GB3NGI N.Ireland beacon (530km) was immediately copied and is still there keying away with callsign, QTH locator and a dash. Maybe this is audible more often than not?  It may be GPS locked as the frequency is very accurate. Here it is spot on 144.482MHz dial.

Someone asked about the noise floor here on 2m. Well, currently I am lucky as on any beam heading man made noise is very low, not lifting the FT817ND's S-meter at all. For reasons I don't understand it is quieter here than at the old QTH which was on the village edge. Maybe the slightly greater distance from other houses is helping? I can hear the odd whistle as I tune through the beacon band. These are very weak though.

Back on 10m, nothing around yet apart from 4X1RF. Conditions 20-30MHz are meant to be "good". Not here as yet!  On 10m WSPR RX only a few wispy traces, none decoded.

Ultimate 3 Beacon

So far today I have not yet been on the radios at all. No 10m WSPR, no 2m/70cm beacon hunting.

Later, if I feel well enough, I may make a start on my Ultimate 3 Beacon Kit.  It would be good to get this running but I have been waiting until I felt a bit better (less giddy). Now is maybe the time? Perhaps I'll start on an easy board today.

2 May 2014

2m - GB3NGI Ballymena beacon

This beacon is about 530km from me yet it appears to be on the edge of copy at all times - wait a few minutes and out of the noise pops the callsign and QTH locator. This appears to be a high powered beacon at an excellent site. Its 4 el beam aims towards England so is just about optimum. This is another useful propagation indicator and at a good distance too.

I am still in the process of finding out which 2m beacons are always there, which are usually below the noise floor and which ones can be expected to be copied in reasonable lifts. At the moment it looks like this:

   GB3VHF (Kent) always there
   ON0VHF (Belgium) always there
   PI7CIS (Holland) always there

   GB3NGI (N.Ireland) just below noise (peaks copied)
   GB3ANG (Angus, Scotland) just below noise (peaks copied)

   GB3MCB (Cornwall) below noise - not yet copied

   Others - still TBA.

As a reminder, I am using a barefoot FT817ND with a 3 el 2m yagi (5m AGL) fed with 17m of low loss coax. My site is on top of our local"hill" (20m ASL) next to the windmill with a decent take-off in nearly every direction.

On 70cms SSB/CW  I have still yet to hear anything -  no beacons or stations yet, but I am still looking. The antenna is a 5 el with the same low-loss Westflex coax feeder.

I shall be active in the next 2m and 70cm UKAC contest sessions (next 2 Tuesday evenings) trying to find out how well the station works.

More 2m beacons

This morning (around 1100z) I positively identified - full calls and QTH locators by ear - GB3ANG (Angus,Scotland) and ON0VHF (144.418MHz, 350km - Belgium).  As yet, I'm not sure if I can copy these in totally flat conditions, or not, but certainly ON0VHF is a very solid signal and is still there now hours later.  It is weaker than the Kent VHF beacon, but not too much. This should be a very useful marginal signal.

Tuning through the beacons there are a lot of very weak carriers that are not beacons, so it is important to listen for callsigns and QTH locators to be sure of the beacon ID.  I am still exploring beacons and beam headings, so it will be some time before I know what can be copied at any time on 2m.  On 70cms I have hardly started looking.

UPDATE 1900z: ON0VHF is still audible, so I think this beacon will be a very good propagation indicator in that direction. Likewise PI7CIS (2m).