31 Mar 2015

Rainbow and churches blog - NOT amateur radio

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Today we visited Wilburton St Peter church located some 10-12 miles north of Cambridge.  Parts of this light and airy church date back to the 13th century.

Today was a showery and blustery day.   On the way home we saw a great rainbow, but it soon disappeared.

10m USA WSPR spots of me today

Well yet again, I was totally wrong:  10m did open to the USA this afternoon and quite early too!   AE7YQ (8533km) was the first to spot my 500mW WSPR at 1534z. Since then,  WB2TQE (7097km) has spotted me a few times too.

UPDATE 1948z:   WB2TQE (7097km) was currently the last USA station to spot me on 1806z. So far today just him and AE7YQ have spotted me in the USA. I suspect there will be no further USA posts today.

472kHz WSPR and VLF earth-mode experiments

So I checked that I am regularly synced to internet time - I am - but 472kHz has been very quiet today since breakfast time. The last spot of me was from G3THQ (88km) at 0608z. Overnight WSPR spots were exchanged (both ways) with F1AFJ (607km) in JN06ht square. I should be getting him much better, suggesting my RX system is somewhat deaf!  His ERP is much greater than mine.  I am still using 5mW ERP and my earth-electrode "antenna".
Unique WSPR spots overnight on 472kHz
My new soldering iron is on its way, so I hope to do some VLF earth-mode field tests soon. First job will be to alter the match to my earth-electrodes on my VLF 5W beacon.  Initially, I may try the existing VLF beacon on a dummy load and receiving it in the lounge to test the RX set-up. This will test my preamp and Spectran settings.  It is so long since I have done any VLF work I have almost forgotten what settings I used!

Sunspots and 10m - Tuesday March 31st 2015

Sunspot number has dropped back to 53 and 10m propagation is still "fair". K index is 2.  Based on the last day or so, I do not expect to be spotted in the USA on 10m today. Of course, being 10m, I could be totally wrong! We'll find out later when the afternoon and evening are over. If 10m does open to the USA, which seems unlikely based on conditions on the band this morning, I doubt my 500mW WSPR would be copied over there much before our teatime, i.e. after 1600z at least, or even later.

10m WSPR - quiet morning

This morning on 10m WSPR has been very quiet with just local G4IKZ (18km) and EA8BVP (2986km) spotting my 500mW WSPR beacon. No "DX" DX as such at all.   Not even spots from Eastern Europe or Israel. Conditions must be changing.

30 Mar 2015

472kHz - lack of WSPR spots?

I was beginning to wonder why I was not getting spots on 472kHz WSPR.   At first, I thought it was just down to too few stations in range, until I noticed a "peer unreachable" message, so I was not synced to internet time, at least recently.   Having changed my internet time server and re-synced, I am now being spotted weakly by G3THQ (88km). The band does seem quiet though with very few UK stations active on 472kHz this evening. Perhaps those stations who are active are using different weak signal modes like OPERA?

The future of HF broadcasters

Deutsche Welle (DW) is closing its last relay station, which is in Kigali, Rwanda. In recent years DW like many shortwave broadcasters, has been facing financial cutbacks. Also there are far fewer broadcasters using shortwaves these days.

As a youngster in the 1960s, I recall shortwaves crowded with AM broadcast stations, many from all over the world transmitting in English, with their distinctive interval signals. There was a magic about shortwave broadcasting back then. Quite a few could be copied with very simple receivers too. There is something quite nostalgic about listening again to those long-gone interval signals from behind the Iron Curtain. I remember getting some excellent freebees from China back in the early 1980s. Of course, it was all to spread the propaganda.  All I really wanted was their QSL card!

These days, users are often reached using the internet. Of course, it begs the question, "who is now filling the empty, vacated channels?"  In the long run amateur radio might gain some allocations, although the noise floor on HF is increasing too. SMPUs, cable TV and numerous other sources are mainly to blame.

See http://www.dw.de/deutsche-welle-closes-kigali-outpost/a-18340960.

Pixie Files

My assembled 40m Pixie
The Pixie is a very simple HF transceiver. Usual power out is in the 200-1000mW region, depending on band and DC power source.  It was first developed some years ago but the basic concept is using a PA transistor as a mixer in a simple direct-conversion receiver. On TX this is used as the TX PA.

Being simple, it has a number of limitations but it certainly works. A major issue can be AM broadcast breakthrough, although my 40m version is perfectly usable. I was very impressed with my little kit that came with all parts including a silk-screened PCB, all sockets and a crystal. It needed low-Z Walkman type headphones, a morse key and battery - that was all. On 40m the sensitivity is pretty good with 0.5uV clearly audible and my RF power out is around 400mW. A lack of both RF and AF RX selectivity is also noticeable.

Kits are available from several sources at prices that are hard to beat. I recently bought a kit for $10 with free airmail from China. It is available for less than half this price I subsequently found out. Unbelievable for a fully functional HF transceiver. Of course, being so simple you may prefer just to build it dead-bug fashion. I bought a kit as I wanted to see how my building skills were.

As a mature design, it has been through several iterations, some improve the basic design, but most do so at the expense of increased complexity. You'd be hard pressed to find a circuit for a complete HF CW transceiver much simpler.

See www.gqrp.com/The_Sprat_Pixie_File.pdf .

10m, 630m and 2200m WSPR

My little WSPR-AXE-CW beacon has been on 10m about 30 minutes. So far just G4IKZ (18km) spotting me but it is very early still. We are now approaching the Es season so there should soon be lots of Europeans on the band.

No new 472kHz stations overnight.

UPDATE 1026z:  Just G4IKZ so far today with zero DX on 10m o far. A disappointing morning so far on 10m WSPR. Of course, things may improve but the absence of even stations on the edge of Europe suggests a USA opening today is less probable.

UPDATE 1032z:   Only G3THQ (88km) spotting me on 472kHz WSPR and this was hours ago. All very quiet. I think there are fewer stations active on this band and mode than before? This certainly seems to be the case in daytime.

UPDATE 1325z:  Only 1 spot from EA8BVP (2986km) on 10m WSPR all day apart from local G4IKZ. So far a totally dismal day on 10m WSPR!

UPDATE 1800z:   Several spots from EA8BVP (2986km) but still no spots at all from the USA. Conditions across the Atlantic seem far worse now than a few months ago.

Maybe I need to try a new band? I fancy trying 136kHz (2200m) WSPR from this QTH as I think my earth electrode will be more efficient (bigger "loop in the ground") as I go lower in frequency. My best 136kHz WSPR DX from the old QTH was 250km. Some locals and semi-locals might copy me on 136kHz WSPR, although activity is very low on this lower band in the UK. I think some skeds would be needed.

Sunspots and 10m - Mon March 30th 2015

Sunspot number has dropped to 73 and 10m is again expected to be "fair". With k=2 I guess we may see some 10m WSPR spots from the USA later.

29 Mar 2015

New soldering iron on order and beating disabilities

Based on recommendations, I ordered a new Antex soldering iron which should arrive later this week. In the meantime I'll try to assemble (find!) my kit for both VLF earth-mode and optical comms field work.  I am still getting very tired, so don't expect too much too soon.

The first tests will be very modest to get me back into "the swing of things".  Unless my health starts to make a big improvement, I fear I may have to live with some of my symptoms for the foreseeable future, if not for ever. This would be such a pity as there is so much I want to do. Compared with some though, I have been lucky. If at all possible, I really want to beat my disabilities. I hate being so useless. I remember my "old self" full of energy.

472kHz WSPR

I have remained active all day on MF, but WSPRnet only shows stations spotted in the last 10 minutes, so if there is no-one else spotting you, you do not get shown as being active. This is a pity, as it does not encourage people to take a look. Instead they may look elsewhere. I don't know why there is this 10 minute rule, but personally I find it unhelpful. It would be better to show all stations active, whether or not they are being reported.

UPDATE 1845z:  G4AYT (114km) has been copying me weakly, but consistently, for some time. He is located on the North Kent coast (JO01mi).

UPDATE 2022z:  M0PPP (182km), in IO93gm square, has been spotted here consistently this evening on my earth-electrode "antenna" and deaf FT817 RX on 472kHz WSPR.

UPDATE 2145z:  PA0RDT (243km) is now spotting me.

10m USA WSPR spots - none yet

It is currently 1512z and, so far, no sign of my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon being spotted in the USA. Based on recent days when openings have, on the whole, been poor, I guess I should give it several more hours to see if the band does open across the North Atlantic to the USA and Canada. Local time is now an hour later as we are now on BST. here in the UK. It will remain light here until around 7.30pm local time.

UPDATE 1706z:  Still no sign of any spots on 10m of my 500mW WSPR beacon by any USA stations. Maybe later?

UPDATE 1902z:  Still no sign at all of any spots from the USA. Unless USA stations start to spot my 10m WSPR soon, I suspect today will be another fruitless day to the states.

UPDATE 1930z:   I think there will be no 10m USA spots of me today.  Still no USA stations spotting me still on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2008z:   EA8BVP (2986km) has spotted my 10m 500mW beacon 99 times today, but no USA spots the whole day. I suspect EA8BVP may have closed down as his last spot of me was at 2002z.

Fell at the first fence!

Well, what a brilliant start! NOT.

My soldering iron has failed and I cannot find the replacement as my wife packed everything when I was in hospital, so I cannot do anything that involves soldering, which is just about everything with field work. So, as I cannot afford a new Weller soldering station, I shall have to invest in a new Maplins sourced soldering iron or soldering station. Just trying to find bits in boxes has just about flattened me too. I am now exhausted.  Bother, and I was so looking forward to this day.

Any recommendations for a decent soldering iron, not Weller?

VLF experiment?

VLF 5W TX beacon (as now)
Although I still feel unwell because of the after-effects of my stroke, I feel in the mood for some field work for the first time in a very long time.

I'll try to optimise the match of my VLF earth-mode QRSS3 beacon to my earth-electrodes as a first step.  This alone will probably exhaust me as it will probably mean re-winding a 3C90 toroid.

I can transmit a crystal derived, stable signal at 8.97kHz. Once done, I'll copy this on another PC in the lounge running Spectran software. If this all works, I'll go to my nearest test site to see what copy is like using a RX loop and preamp.

Sunspots and 10m - Sun March 29th 2015

Sunspot number has dropped back a bit to 82 today and 10m propagation is again expected to be "fair"., which is the same as recent days.

EA8BVP (2986km) has spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon many times already this morning, but nothing reported from elsewhere as yet.

UPDATE 1106z:  I see that TA2AEG (2547km) has also spotted me a few times now as well.

28 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR

No new MF stations spotting me, just the same ones! My best spot this evening is currently from PA3ABK/2 (306km). We'll see if I am spotted by any new reporters overnight or if I spot any new DX. Somehow I doubt this.

I need to switch back from the earth-electrodes to my strapped feeder antenna to compare results. I've been using the earth-electrode "antenna" for several months now.

10m WSPR spots from the USA today

KD6RF (7547km) was the first USA station to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon at 1454z today.

UPDATE 2004z: So far I have been spotted by 5 different USA stations on 10m WSPR and 10 different stations in 4 continents today.

UPDATE 2126z:  The last USA WSPR spot of me was at 1956z by K3GEN (5883km). I suspect this will have been the last USA spot tonight, but I will continue beaconing for a while longer.

UPDATE 2204z:   No further USA spots since K3GEN at 1956z.  I think we can assume the USA opening on 10m has ended.  Will now go QRT on 10m WSPR but will stay on 630m (472kHz) overnight.

Stroke update on energy levels - NOT amateur radio

I am still suffering the after-effects of my Sept 2013 cerebellum brain bleed. My main symptoms remain that I feel permanently slightly drunk (in a slight fog), my speech is still poor as is my swallow of thin liquids, and my energy levels are still very low with the slightest physical or mental activity exhausting me.  I thought the latter might be low B12 levels, but supplements have made no difference. My fine motor skills must be better as I built a 40m Pixie kit recently and this would have been impossible a year ago. I can drive OK, but I have to concentrate hard.  Driving long distances is still not possible.

Overall, progress is being made on my recovery, although it is taking much longer than I was expecting. I guess these days the improvements are very small and harder to notice. At the moment, the exhaustion is the hardest thing to accept as I was a very active person.

UK clocks change tonight

The UK changes over to British Summer Time tonight, so we get a hour less in bed, but it is lighter in the evenings.

I change all clocks in the house except the one in the shack that stays on GMT.  For a few days, I tend to forget and enter my log an hour wrong!  Habit.  I always keep my log in GMT although in the UK it is no longer compulsory to keep a log. I still like to keep a paper log of the more important QSOs

Sunspots and 10m - Sat March 28th 2015

Sunspot number is still good at 109, although 10m propagation is expected to remain "fair". In a years time when the SN will have really fallen, we'll think these are really high numbers!

So far today on 10m, EA8BVP (2986km) has been spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon multiple times as has local G4IKZ (18km). Otherwise very quiet so far.

If there is a USA opening at all on 10m, I suspect it will come late in the day.

UPDATE 1206z:   EA8BVP has spotted me 21 times so far today.

27 Mar 2015

SPAM comments - deleted again

This evening another SPAM comment was removed. As soon as SPAM comments are found (usually very quickly) they will be removed. Don't bother - just play your silly games somewhere else.

East Anglian Churches blog - NOT amateur radio

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/.
This has been updated today to include St Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge. This little church has a famous place in the English Reformation as the place where Robert Barnes gave one of the very first Reformation sermons. Hugh Latimer also preached here. The very same pulpit is still in use to this day.

Our 7 year old grandson's day was made earlier this week when he was shown the bells and rang some of them.

472kHz DX spots

At 0022z F1AFJ (607km) spotted my 5mW ERP WSPR signal. This evening PA0RDT (243km) is the best DX spotter so far.

10m USA WSPR spots

10m conditions appear to be poor to the USA today with just KT5W (6314km) spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon once at 1654z. There may be more spots later.

UPDATE 2225z:   It looks like KT5W was again the last USA station to spot me, at 2126z. It looks like he was the only transatlantic station to spot me all day.

Sunspots and 10m - Friday March 27th 2015

Sunspot number is still high today at 103. 10m propagation is again expected to be "fair" and so far my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon has only been spotted by G4IKZ (18km) and EA8BVP (2986km). Conditions so far on 10m seem "muted", although it is still very early.

26 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR this afternoon

No great DX so far with G4AYT (114km) being the most distant station to spot my 5mW ERP so far. In the other direction, it is a similar story with no great DX as yet. I am always hoping that my little signal will be spotted by some totally new reporters.

USA 10m WSPR spots today

KT5W (6314km) first spotted me at 1338z, quite early nowadays.  As I write this at 1905z there are still plenty of USA stations spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon.

UPDATE 2235z:   KT5W was also the last spot on 10m from the USA at 2118z tonight.

East Anglia churches blog updated - NOT amateur radio

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

This blog has been added to with a note and some photos of Isleham Priory which dates back to 1090AD. I have also updated the entry for Isleham church which we first visited in February.

OFCOM plans for the year ahead

See http://www.ofcom.org.uk/content/about/annual-reports-plans/ann-plans/Annual_Plan_Statement.pdf .

Sorry, but this CRAP shows what OFCOM plans are for the year ahead. In an executive executive summary (mine) I would summarise this as,"continue to be a bureaucratic quango".

It looks like it was written by a young, overpaid, headless chicken. Lots of "informed choice" and similar buzz words. Rubbish in my view. No-one there seems to be able to make decisions based on the use of a brain and common sense.

Give OFCOM some real power and let them make common sense decisions. My recent discussions on VLF/LF experiments are just an example of their total inability to think "out of the box". Sorry, but as an OFCOM "customer" I am left very unimpressed.

Opinionated, me?

Sunspots and 10m - Thurs March 26th 2015

Sunspot number is still decent at 115. 10m propagation is forecast to be " fair" today.

So far this morning plenty of spots from local G4IKZ (18km) and EA8BVP (2986km) has spotted my 10m 500mW beacon 27 times already since 0800z.

UPDATE 1200z:   56 spots from EA8BVP in the Canary Is so far today.  No other DX spots so far today.

UPDATE 1315z:   UR/SWL56 (2283km) has been spotting me since 1250z.  No USA spots so far, but after yesterday I expect these may come much later in the day.  EA8BVP has spotted me 78 times so far today.

25 Mar 2015


Today I have deleted 2 comments as SPAM. An AM transmitter on 6.925MHz is not amateur radio. It is pirate radio and I do not support pirates.

All SPAM detected will be removed. Please do not waste your time or mine posting SPAM to any of my blogs. As soon as I spot them the comments and links will be deleted.

UPDATE 26.3.15 1000z:  Noting G1KQH's comment maybe I need a photo of a tin of SPAM here?

No 10m WSPR spots from the USA today?

Despite the sunspot count being high today at 127 I have received not a single spot from the USA of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today. There is little doubt that conditions are on the change. In past months a sunspot number of 127 would have almost guaranteed USA spots. No longer.

Overall, just a "fair" day on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 1820z:   Guess who spoke too soon?  Starting at 1708z, a few USA stations have been spotting me.  I guess when conditions are marginal the openings are shorter in duration and will start much later. At least the 10m band did open to the USA, just.

UPDATE 2010z:  The opening on 10m to the USA seems to have ended with K4RCG (5995km) being the last to spot me at 1918z.

UPDATE 2115z:   So I was totally wrong again! K9AN (5995km) and others in the USA are still spotting my 500mW WSPR on 10m. This USA 10m opening was late starting, but it is not over yet!

UPDATE 2145z:   KT5W (6314km) was spotting me still at 2132z.  I wonder if this will be the last from the USA today?

UPDATE 2215z:  No further USA spots of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon since 2132z. I think the opening has ended, although I'll leave the beacon running as I have been wrong twice this evening!

Sunspots and 10m propagation - March 25th 2015

Today is "Lady Day" March 25th 2015. I remember, as a child, we moved to a new town and home on Lady Day 1959. I think Lady Day was linked to the old Liturgical Calendar and to legal matters.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Day .

Sunspot number is very good at 127 but 10m propagation is only forecast to be "fair". Already (since 0822z) my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon is being spotted in the Canary Is. by EA/LA3JJ (I think he should be signing EA8/LA3JJ) and by UR/SWL56 and by local G4IKZ.

UPDATE 1155z:   I see I have now been spotted by EA8BVP (2986km).  No other what I'd call "real" DX.

24 Mar 2015

10m USA spots

As mentioned in an earlier post, today has been good to the USA on 10m despite only "fair" predictions.

UPDATE 1942z:   Still  plenty of USA spots of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon coming in on 10m. This opening is still going on.

UPDATE 2022z:   KB9AMG (6300km) still spotting me on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2204z:    KT5W (6314km) was the last USA station to spot me on 10m WSPR at 2104z. At an hour ago, I think this will be the last USA spot today. Since then, just local G4IKZ (18km) spotting me.

Internet time server and 472kHz WSPR

The program atomic.exe seems to be doing a decent job of keeping my PC to time. Currently it re-syncs to internet time every 5 minutes, which is probably far more often than is needed.   I know that my timing drifted out after 12 hours, so once an hour is probably often enough.   I shall have to alter settings and experiment.
472kHz WSPR spots today so far
No great surprises on the 472kHz WSPR band today with stations who have spotted me before, or that I have spotted before, in the log.

Sunspots and 10m propagation - March 24th 2015

Sunspot number has again risen strongly. Today, it stands at 119. 10m propagation is expected to be only "fair".

UPDATE 1334z:   So far, a couple of USA stations have copied my 10m, 500mW WSPR beacon. The first were KT5W (6314km) at 1312z and WB8ELK/01 (6872km) at 1314z. At least 10m has opened to the USA today. I was beginning to think these openings had ended.

UPDATE 1340z:  So far, 5 different USA stations have spotted me on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 1430z:   So far, 9 different USA stations have now spotted my 500mW on 10m WSPR. This opening is much better than I was expecting.

UPDATE 1708z:  15 unique USA stations spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR.  A good 10m opening.

23 Mar 2015

Internet time servers

I noticed that, by default, my PC synced to internet time only once a week, far too long on an old PC. I have downloaded a package (atomic.exe) that allows you to program any chosen interval and hope now the PC clock will be very regularly updated to internet time. This is essential for WSPR. At the moment it is set to sync every 5 minutes, but once every few hours is probably frequent enough.

I used atomic.exe before on my previous PC for many years. It worked well. A virus scan showed no threats. For now I'll stick with this, although (see comments below) there may be better solutions when the internet may be down, but this is very rare. Virgin Media cable seems very reliable and very fast.

Last USA spot today

On this rather lack lustre day on 10m WSPR it looks like W1VR (6965km) was the last to spot me at 1746z this evening. Only a couple of unique USA stations spotted me all afternoon.

472kHz WSPR

Spots received from 10 unique stations in the last 24 hours on 472kHz WSPR with best DX 306km. As far as I can see,these are stations that have spotted me before. I am still using the earth-electrode "antenna".
Unique 472kHz WSPR spots of my 5mW ERP in last 24 hours

Sunspots and 10m - Monday March 23rd 2015

Sunspot number has risen to 88 and 10m propagation is expected to be "fair" today. The band did open to the USA after lunch with a couple of stations in the USA spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon. W1VR (6965km) at 1446z was the first. With just a couple of stations spotting me this hardly a big opening!

22 Mar 2015

China v. Japan

Up to now, the Japanese "big boys" such as Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu have pretty well dominated the amateur radio market, but the Chinese are on the march. Only last month I bought a 30W pep all mode rig for 10m: this was made in China. See also yesterday's post about 40m Pixie kits at ridiculously low prices.

Be in no doubt: within a few years we will see the amateur radio market flooded with quality products made in China with low prices. At this point, the traditional Japanese brands will die out or be made in China. By the next solar minimum in around 4-5 years time the dynamics of the commercial amateur radio market will be very different. The writing is already on the wall.

Up to now most Chinese amateur products have lacked the finesse of Japanese products but this is rapidly changing. We are fast approaching the time when Chinese made amateur products will be every bit as good as Japanese products, but at very much lower prices.

In the end competition is healthy but this is likely to result in the death nell for all manufacturers not in China. We could well see the death of Ten Tec and Elecraft unless they design in the USA and make in China. The volumes of loyal customers who would be willing to pay USA manufacturing prices would be far too low, sadly.

Of course, we have already seen this with most consumer products and white goods. In the end, China will become too expensive and we will look for slave labour rates elsewhere. Sadly we live in a very odd world. This cannot go on for ever, but we are all complicit. At the moment we are exporting most of our manufacture to China.

Life was, in a way, so much easier when things were made to last, they were made in the UK, we saved up to buy things we really needed, when things were altogether less consumption driven.

10m WSPR - no USA again today?

It looks like a today will be another day with absolutely no 10m WSPR spots from the USA.  As previously when the 10m propagation was "poor" I still seem to be copied (using my 500mW WSPR beacon) by active stations who are a single F2 hop away. It seems the E-W path to the USA suffers when propagation is poor.

UPDATE 1944z:  No USA spots all day. Will go QRT on 10m WSPR soon.

Grandchildren and ducks - NOT amateur radio

For some time now we have had  a pair of tame mallard ducks waddling around our close. Today they were curious when we arrived home and came into the drive and front garden. The photo shows our granddaughter looking at them.  When they realised there was no food on offer they wandered away.

Sunspots and 10m - Sunday March 22nd 2015

Sunspot number is 40 today but all HF looks disturbed. 10m propagation is expected to be "poor".

So far this morning, my 500mW WSPR beacon has been spotted by RK3ABW, LZ1OI, EA8/LA3JJ and G4IKZ. Apart from the local, these all look like single hop F2 propagation. No reports from 4X1RF.

21 Mar 2015

40m Pixie kit at INCREDIBLE price

I bought my 40m Pixie kit for $10 and thought this was a bargain.  Then Andy Cutland sent me this link.
Hi Roger, this is the cheapest i've seen yet. What fantastic value !
Check out this item I found on eBay:
End time: 15 Apr 2015 10:33:10
(Sent from eBay Mobile for Android)
At £3.19 with free shipping there is no way you could make this cheaper in my view. Remember this price includes a crystal, PCB and all the board mounted parts.  This looks identical to mine which works very well. This is a refined Pixie and performance has exceeded expectations. Netting is excellent TX to RX and AM breakthrough very modest. My power out is about 400mW and a 1uV signal level very good on RX. A totally usable 40m CW rig for not much more than a cup of coffee.

Even with the after-effects of my cerebellum brain bleed I was able to build the kit without any issues.

Legal local AM broadcasting in the USA

On http://www.amateurradio.com/ there is a link today to the SSTRAN ANT3000 MW AM transmitter kit. This is legal in the USA for broadcasts around the home or with an FCC Part 15 compliant base loaded vertical for greater ranges.

Very many years ago my very first ever TX was an AM transmitter for MW using a crystal earpiece  a microphone. This was one of the circuits in my Heathkit Electronics Workshop which I got for Christmas 1961. It only got around the house. Another circuit was a MW receiver and I recall DXing with it that same holiday.

This kicked off my interest in radio and amateur radio that has remained with me ever since. I am not sure this TX was strictly legal in the UK. Years later I have reached the other side of the planet with less power!

N-S DX on 10m, but again no USA

Despite the lowish sunspot number and a forecast of "poor" 10m conditions I see that FR1GZ (9724km) spotted my 500mW WSPR beacon late lunchtime. 4X1RF (3519km), EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) and G4IKZ (18km) have all been spotting me but, yet again, absolutely no spots from the USA yet again.

It seems we are moving more towards spring/summer conditions with N-S paths still holding up but far less frequent E-W openings on 10m.

Sunspots and 10m propagation - March 21st 2015

Sunspot number has fallen to 27 and 10m propagation is expected to remain "poor". Best 10m DX with the 500mW WSPR beacon this morning is 4X1RF (3519km) but no other DX at all as yet.

20 Mar 2015

FT817 replacement?

I have mentioned this before, but I am truly amazed that Yaesu has not updated the FT817.  OK, I have heard the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" argument but on simple commercial arguments I think they must be stupid. There is a worldwide market (500000?) ready to upgrade yet I think they have now missed the window of opportunity as sunspot numbers are falling.

I wonder if any sharp eyed, sharp eared readers have heard any rumours of an imminent replacement?


Some weeks ago I bought a small 40m Pixie CW transceiver kit via www.alibaba.com for $10. This arrived by air very quickly and I was very impressed with the kit and the excellent service. Apparently you can buy these even cheaper on eBay. I built mine in a few hours and it works well.

A quick search in Alibaba for other amateur radio products shows a wide range of units are available. Of course, I have no idea if VAT or duty is included.   My little 40m Pixie kit just dropped in my mailbox and cost me just over £7 total including shipping. Buying the individual parts would probably have cost me more!

See http://www.alibaba.com/trade/search?fsb=y&IndexArea=product_en&CatId=&SearchText=amateur+radio .

10m WSPR - no USA again, well not so far today

EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) and 4X1RF (3519km) and a few Europeans, but no stateside stations today yet on 10m WSPR spotting my 500mW WSPR beacon. With 10m conditions expected tp be "poor", it would not surprise me if the band does not open to the USA today at all.

UPDATE 1528z:  Still no sign at all of any spots from stations in the USA. 4X1RF has been spotting me several times.

UPDATE 1825z:  No spots from the USA again today. I'll leave the beacon on for a few more hours just in case the band opens, but I fear this is just another bad day on 10m.

UPDATE 2057z:  With just local G4IKZ (18km) spotting me now for ages, it is time to go QRT for today on 10m WSPR. Now QRT on 10m. PC clock reset to internet time on 630m (472kHz): after almost 12 hours it is probably in need of being reset. On 10m the WSPR-AXE-CW beacon from W5OLF seems to need resetting far less often, although I reset this each morning to internet time to be sure. I think it would be accurate enough for weeks without doing this.

UPDATE 2120z:   Looking at WSPRnet, I see many USA WSPR stations being spotted in Australia and New Zealand at around 13000-15000km. Maybe we'll see better conditions tomorrow on 10m?

Will hydrogen be the future fuel?

No-one can really argue that carbon based fuels like petrol, diesel and gas are not good for the environment and a good proportion come from politically sensitive regions like the Middle East. Electric vehicles use expensive batteries and have poor ranges. Possibly efficient hydrogen fuel cells may be the future? Korean car manufacturers think they have now reached the point at which hydrogen fuel celled powered cars are commercially viable. Of course we need the infrastructure such as refueling stations. They claim ranges of 300-400 miles, which are fine. They claim refueling will only take a few minutes.

I remember fuel-cell makers trying to convince me that fuel cells were better than Li-Ion batteries for our TETRA radios. At the time it was hype. Things have moved on quite a lot since then. Of course, the oil industry needs to evolve. They should be heavily investing in technologies for the future.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31926995 .

472kHz WSPR

In the last 2 weeks I have been spotted by 27 unique stations on this band. G3YXM (148km) is, I think, a new reporter earlier today. I shall leave 472kHz running, but don't expect any real DX until this evening. Still, it was good to get a report from G3YXM. I think my 5mW ERP from the earth-electrodes is a good test for stations listening on the band. Generally, if you can copy me at any decent distance, it proves your receive system is probably good enough. I know my RX system is capable of further improvement. On RX my FT817 is a bit deaf on 472kHz and I really should add a decent, high dynamic range preamp. Another 3-4dB sensitivity is possible I think.

Solar eclipse non-event here

As there was quite thick cloud here, the partial solar eclipse was a bit of a non-event here, although it was better elsewhere in the UK. I did a walk at the best time. Although the clouds were dark and it looked like it was about to rain, the sun was not visible here sadly. This was a partial eclipse but at 95-98% in the UK still pretty full. I remember the full eclipse in 1999 as we were on holiday in Gloucestershire and got good views. The next chance is in 2026.

I have no idea of the impact of this on propagation, but I imagine the effect is marginal.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31965456 .

Sunspots and 10m - Friday March 20th 2015

Sunspot number has gone up to 71 today, but 10m conditions are still expected to remain "poor".

My 10m beacon is still stabilising:  it takes about 20 minutes for the PA to warm up and the box to reach equilibrium and only local G4IKZ (18km) is spotting me currently. I re-synced both the 10m beacon and the 472kHz kit to internet time shortly after breakfast.

UPDATE 1116z:  G4IKZ (18km) has been the only station spotting me so far today.

19 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR this evening

G8LCO tipped me off that my PC clock looked out of sync with internet time, so I reset it.  It was last synced before 0700z and it had clearly drifted.  I have just done another sync and will check again at bedtime before leaving things running overnight.

Best DX reception of my 5mW ERP from my earth-electrode "antenna" on 472kHz WSPR this evening is a spot by F1AFJ (607km) at 2014z.  I have been received much further (over 1000km) but not this evening so far.

Cameroon and Canaries - but no USA on 10m today

EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) and TJ3TS (5478km) have both been spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon, the former many times, but, no USA spots so far again today. TJ3TS is Cameroon (Africa).  The band is obviously quite reasonable for  N-S paths, but E-W paths don't seem to be as good. Maybe it will open to the USA later?

As the solar conditions decline on the higher HF bands, this sort of pattern will become more common on 10m. Of course, well into Africa and the Americas is possible via Es propagation on some occasions. Best months are June/July. In June we sometimes get weak openings on 6m from western Europe to Japan. Some theories put this down to noctilucent clouds. I think we really don't know, but this is very consistent.  Signals are usually weak and best times are in the mornings in Europe.

UPDATE 1718z:  Still no USA stations spotting me today. I shall be on 10m for a few more hours, but I think there will be no spots from the USA today.  Since 0916z EA8/LA3JJ has spotted me 115 times.

UPDATE 2040z:  No USA spots at all today again on 10m WSPR, so now going QRT on that band. EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) has spotted me 130 times since breakfast time.

472kHz WSPR

Just the "usual suspects" being spotted and spotting my 5mW ERP this morning and overnight. Best spot of me in the last 12 hours was from PA3ABK/2 (306km) before breakfast time today. I hope being active will encourage others to come on to this wonderful band.

Sunspots and 10m - Thursday March 19th 2015

Sunspot number has dropped back to 44 today. 10m propagation is again expected to be "poor".

UPDATE 0833z:  So far just G4IKZ (18km) and G4CUI (172km) spotting  me on 10m WSPR .

UPDATE 1003z:    EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) has spotted me several times now.

18 Mar 2015

Return to 472kHz WSPR

After an abortive couple of days (and overnight) on 6m WSPR I have abandoned 6m WSPR as a right off and returned to 472kHz WSPR this evening.

Within the first few minutes I have been spotted by 5 unique stations despite running only 5mW ERP from my earth-electrode "antenna". Certainly, 630m (472kHz) is far more productive than 6m at this time of year. No great DX, as yet, this evening, but at least there is activity!
Initial 472kHz WSPR results this evening

Another total blank on 6m WSPR

After another whole day on 6m WSPR not a single spot was given or received. This is the last time I try until the Es season. Really, I am wasting effort on 6m.

No 10m USA spots again today

Although several spots were received by EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) and 4X1RF (3519km) on 10m WSPR today of my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon, not a single spot was received again from the USA.

Conditions have been disturbed but they are also on the change. I shall continue to WSPR beacon on 10m in the weeks and months ahead.

The finest church in England? - NOT amateur radio

Alec Clifton-Taylor once called Walpole St Peter the finest church in England. Today, for the 4th time, we visited it and I have updated our East Anglia Churches blog accordingly. It is a real gem.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Sunspots and 10m - Wed March 18th 2015

Sunspot number is 60 today but conditions remain disturbed with 10m propagation expected to remain "poor".

So far this morning on 10m WSPR, apart from local G4IKZ (18km), I see my 500mW WSPR beacon has been spotted by 4X1RF (3819km) at 0722z and by EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) several times. It is now 1045z.

17 Mar 2015

Auroras and WSPR?

I have never (before) now used WSPR on 10m and 6m during an auroral opening.  Certainly on 2m the Doppler is likely to make it impossible, I would think.  On 10m ,and maybe 6m, I think the mode might have some promise.

I have decided to leave both my 10m and 6m WSPR systems running overnight just in case.

Anyone know what happens to WSPR in a typical auroral opening?

UPDATE 2128z:  Well 10m and 6m WSPR are dead currently, with just local G4IKZ (18km) spotting me on 10m. No-one at all on 6m WSPR.

UPDATE 2140z:  Just checked outside for signs of visible aurora but street lights and poor weather make it impossible. I saw a visible aurora once at the old QTH years ago and once out of a plane window at night when returning from the west coast of the USA near the North Pole.

Severe solar storm

We are currently experiencing the most severe solar storm in very many years with HF very badly disturbed. There are auroras expected far further south than normal. This is a result of a CME event on the Sun interacting with the magnetic field of our planet.

If the weather is clear, check for a visual aurora!

It is also worth keeping eyes and ears alert for auroral propagation on 10m, 6m, 4m and 2m. I have in the past worked stations via aurora using QRP SSB and CW with very simple wire antennas on 10m and 6m. As frequency goes down SSB becomes more possible. What may be a very rough hissy CW note on 2m maybe a fairly decent SSB signal on 10m. The 10m and 6m bands are very worth a try when there is an aurora about.

See http://spaceweather.com/ .

Israeli Elections - NOT amateur radio

So exit polls suggest no clear winners, so no surprises then. Coalition governments are a way of life in Israel and there will no doubt be some tough bargaining in the coming weeks.

All I hope is that whatever coalition is formed that it takes the peace process very seriously. The Middle East has too many conflicts and a good, solid peace deal with Israel's neighbours is way overdue.

I am always amazed that the Israeli's seem to choose conflict and violence to settle old scores. Let peace blossom.  Israel, you know it makes sense.

Yes, I know it takes at least 2 to forge peace, but frankly Israel has not even been trying for as long as I can remember. I was born in 1948.  Peace, as a result of quiet talks, has worked in Northern Ireland (Ulster) and in South Africa. 30 years ago these would been thought impossible. Peace works.

Israel, sit down with your enemies and really negotiate a peace deal that is fair to you and to your historic enemies. Give peace a real chance, please.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel .

Did you realise that about one fifth of the population of Israel is composed of non-Jewish people? Neither did

UPDATE 18 March 2015:  Peace has NO chance as the existing PM is likely to form the next government.

10m and 6m - both hopeless this afternoon?

Since getting lots of WSPR spots from around the borders of Europe this morning, I have only been getting spots from  local G4IKZ (18km) all afternoon.  No signs of USA spots on 10m today.

I have been on 6m most of the day but not a single spot given or received - totally hopeless.

I shall stick around on both 10m and 6m for several more hours yet, ever hopeful.

UPDATE 1950z:   I think today is only the second day since last September when I was spotted by not a single USA station on 10m WSPR.  On the vast majority of days someone over there has spotted my 500mW WSPR beacon, but not today.  I know conditions are badly disturbed today (a visual aurora is forecast down here, which is very rare) and conditions are starting to change. Only EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) has spotted me late this afternoon apart from local G4IKZ.   EA8/LA3JJ is probably single hop F2 although the time of day and distance could possibly suggest Es?  On 6m I have had no success at all on TX or RX. I shall now abandon 6m until the Es season starts.


Not quite sure why I bother as I usually get no spots (TX or RX) but I am again WSPRing on 6m. TX 20% 30dBm ERP vertical and 80% RX on 50.293MHz USB dial setting.

At this time of the year, outside the Es season, the most likely propagation is tropo and aircraft assistance up to about 200km. I am not expecting Es or F2 propagation on 6m.

UPDATE 1654z:   So far, not a single spot given or received all day on 6m. Outside the Es season 6m has proved useless here with 1W ERP from my V2000 vertical.  I shall stick around longer today (ever hopeful!) but I probably won't bother with 6m again for several weeks.

Sunspots and 10m - Tues March 17th 2015

Sunspot number today is 57. 10m propagation is expected to be "poor" according to the forecasts I have just seen.  So far 10m spots have only been received from local G4IKZ (18km), but it is still very early.

UPDATE 0925z:   4X1RF (3519km) has already spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon twice.

UPDATE 1052z:  4X1RF has spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 17 times already today.   So far, my 6m WSPR attempts (TX and RX) have again drawn a total blank so far.

UPDATE 1155z:  Now being spotted in UR, CT, G, LZ, and 4X1.  Nothing outside Europe and near Asia yet today. I think the non-G spots are F2 propagation?

UPDATE 1225z:   4X1RF has spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 45 times so far today.

UPDATE 1700z:  No USA spots received all day, well not so far. Yesterday, 10m did open to the USA  very very late in the afternoon and my 10m 500mW  WSPR beacon was copied only by 3 unique stations. Today, so far, looks dire on 10m to the USA. All HF bands have "poor" predictions so maybe it is a bad day, full stop.

16 Mar 2015

10m USA spots - at last!!

KD6RF (7522km) has just spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon at 1738z. This is very very late indeed for a first USA spot. It will be interesting to see if any other stateside stations copy me today.

UPDATE 1746z:  AA1UI (5256km) is now spotting me too on 10m WSPR. Very late.

UPDATE 1850z:  AA1UI has now spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 4 times this evening, with the latest at 1836z.

UPDATE 1945z:   3 unique USA stations spotting me, with the last at 1922z.  I guess there is still a chance of later USA stations spotting me.

UPDATE 2034z:   No more USA spots now for over an hour, so I think the USA opening has ended. Will go QRT on 10m soon.  

EI0CF (602km) is spotting my 5mW ERP on 472kHz WSPR. I'll stay on MF overnight again.

Changing propagation

If proof were needed that we are now on the way down to the next minimum then take a look at the sunspot number graphs at http://www.solen.info/solar/ .

Although conditions are sliding, do not abandon the higher HF bands like 10m. There is (usually) quite a lot of good DX around still. In the last solar minimum I was still able to work well into southern South America on 10m with QRP SSB.  WSPR should be even more reliable when conditions are edgy.

I really do hope a strong core of WSPR operators stick with 10m as, in many ways, in the poorer times are when WSPR will be most valuable as a tool. I am hoping that when not on traditional modes like SSB or CW people will still WSPR so we can catch fleeting openings, which are probably far more common than people expect on 10m. Remember, the F2  or transequatorial propagation has only to go above 28.126MHz for 120 seconds and someone on WSPR may spot it!

10m - single hop F2 only? Es season coming.

At the moment, it looks like all my 10m reports are from 1-hop F2 propagation e.g. 4X1RF and EA8/LA3JJ. Next month onwards we should see the start of the Es season with plentiful short skip on 10m and 6m into Europe, and occasionally much further. In previous years I have heard (and even rarely worked) some really choice DX with real QRP on 6m. My best 6m DX ever was a W on 6m CW when my ERP was about 1W. This was back in 2007.

This spring and summer I intend to run WSPR on 6m whenever I cannot be on SSB or CW. Last summer, the 6m WSPR activity was low, so I hope this season will be better. JT65 and JT9 are more popular but really need me to be in the shack. With WSPR I can monitor on another PC in a different room, or even when in the garden.

Local 2m FM net

Most Mondays, a group of us in Cambridge and East Cambridgeshire meet for a net on 144.575MHz FM. We started as an AM net on 144.55MHz but had to QSY as one net member had no AM.

Although my voice is still very poor, I try to come on most Mondays but I prefer to listen more than talk. The net is open and we welcome newcomers. Some Mondays there is no-one around, but that is the exception. Usually there are about 3-5 of us on. Note 144.575MHz FM, not 145.575MHz. 8pm local time Mondays.

UPDATE 2035z:  Only 2 of us this evening G3KKD and G3XBM.

EA8/LA3JJ on 10m WSPR and no USA spots?

EA8/LA3JJ (2870km) has been spotting my 500mW 10m beacon nearly all morning. This counts as Africa, so my little WSPR beacon has been copied in 4 continents this morning.

UPDATE 1350z:  No USA spots, as yet, on 10m. It does seem as if the big, long USA 10m openings can no longer be guaranteed. It may open later - we'll see.

UPDATE 1355z:   EA8/LA3JJ has spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon no less than 44 times today so far.

UPDATE 1500z:    Still no sign of spots from the USA today on 10m. If there are going to be any,  they will be very late, although I have the feeling that my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon will not be spotted in the USA today at all.

UPDATE 1615z:   Still no spots at all from the USA but EA8/LA3JJ has spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon 95 times so far today.

UPDATE 1719z:   Still not a single spot from the USA, so it is now most unlikely I'll get any.  EA8/LA3JJ has now spotted me 120 times today! Propagation is fine in his direction.

UPDATE 1752z:   132 spots, so far, today from EA8/LA3JJ and very recently a couple of USA spots. Odd conditions?

UPDATE 2045z:  In the end 167 spots received from EA8/LA3JJ today.

Sunspots and 10m - Monday March 16th 2015

Sunspot number today is 54 and 10m propagation is expected to be "fair". Already I am having my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon spotted on the edges of Europe and near Asia, but conditions don't, as yet, look to be anything other than ordinary - certainly no superb DX on offer.

15 Mar 2015

Scarce 10m USA WSPR spots today

Although the 10m band has opened to the USA again today, the  number of stations spotting me is very small. I think 10m conditions E-W across the Atlantic have been very poor today.

UPDATE 1700z:  It is very noticeable just how few USA stations are spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today. On better days, there is an almost continuous flow of reports all afternoon and evening. The last USA report today was at 1612z.

UPDATE 1948zN1SQ (6251km) was the last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon at 1856z.

UPDATE 2034z:   Now QRT on 10m.

Concert in Cambridge - NOT amateur radio

This is advanced publicity for my wife's concert in Cambridge, UK in April. The West  Road Concert Hall is an excellent venue with superb acoustics, good seating, warmth, comfort and local parking.  If you can make it, it should be a good evening.

Sunspots and 10m propagation Sun Mar 15th 2015

Sunspot number is moderate at 56 but 10m is currently forecast to be "poor".

Despite the poor predictions for 10m, my tiny 500mW WSPR beacon has been widely spotted:  4X1RF, LZ1OI, 5B4AHL, 9H1US, G4IKZ and best DX this morning  3B8CW (9751km) at 1054z. Not a bad list for a morning with "poor" 10m conditions! Surprisingly often, days when 10m is supposed to be "fair" or "poor" I have my little 500mW WSPR beacon copied all over the place. Never ever take 10m for granted.

14 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR DX this evening

I see that both EI0CF (602km) and F59706 (560km) have spotted me this evening on 472kHz. I am still using 5mW ERP and the earth-electrode "antenna".

On 10m I turned off the beacon some while ago as I was only being spotted by G stations.

In the last 2 weeks I have been spotted by 27 unique stations on 472kHz WSPR.

UPDATE 2130z:  EI0CF (602km) has spotted me 4 times this evening so far on 472kHz WSPR.

Sand martins - NOT amateur radio

Spring has (almost) sprung! There have now been several sightings of 20+ sand martins in South Devon. These are among the first of the migrants to return. They are the smallest hirundine.

Sand martins have dark brown upper parts and they winter in Africa.  In recent years sand martin numbers have plummeted and they are now on the RSPB's "amber" list.  There are estimated to be 54,000-174,000 nests in the UK. This sounds a lot, but numbers are dropping because of droughts on their migration routes in some years.

Every year I remember my dad telling when he'd first seen them arrive.

By the month end we should have house martins and swallows back in Devon who will have flown 6000 miles to be here in the UK again. When the swallows return here in East Anglia you know all is still well with the world: they have been making this journey for many thousands , if not millions, of years. Most return to the very same nests they used last summer, if they can. I find the return of the martins, swallows and swifts a real joy. It makes me glad to be alive.

 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_martin .

10m USA WSPR spots today

The first USA station to receive my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon today was KZ8C (6290km) at 1302z.  At -17dB S/N this was a decent report for the power used.  At least 10m has opened across the Atlantic today.  I did think it might not have done so, although it has opened on most days now for many many months. The exceptions seem to have been when conditions were very disturbed. Even with low sunspot number, the 10m band has been OK across the North Atlantic, certainly for QRP WSPR.

UPDATE 1356z:  Quite a few different USA stations now spotting my 500mW 10m beacon. :

UPDATE 1912z:  The 10m opening to the USA is still in full swing.

UPDATE 2020z:  W3GXT (5840km) was the latest USA station to spot me at 2002z. Just local G4IKZ (18km) since then.

472kHz WSPR - the last 24 hours

In the last 24 hours (I stayed on overnight) the best report of my 5mW ERP WSPR signal from my earth-electrode "antenna" was by F59706 (560km) yesterday evening. 9 unique station reports received in the last 24 hours.
Unique spots of my 5mW ERP WSPR on 472kHz in last 24 hours

10m early F2

Despite the "fair" propagation forecast 4X1RF (3519km) was spotting me as early as 0824z this morning on 10m WSPR. It will be interesting to see who else spots my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today.

UPDATE 0845z:   Just after 0830z and 4X1RF has spotted me 4 times already on 10m.

UPDATE 1010z:    So far, 8 spots of my 500mW beacon from 4X1RF (3519km) but no reports from any other DX station so far today on 10m.

UPDATE 1032z:  I see LZ1OI (2153km) and  RK3ABW (2429km) have spotted me a few times now. No 10m DX, as yet, from outside Europe or near Asia.

UPDATE 1354z:  So far today I have been spotted 29 times by 4X1RF.

Sunspots and 10m - Sat March 14th 2015

Today should be interesting on 10m as propagation is expected to be "fair" despite sunspot number being up to 87. I am sure the earlier forecasts were poorer.

13 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR this evening

I shall probably go QRT on 28MHz (10m) in the next 20 minutes as I think the USA 10m opening has now ended for the day.

On 472kHz WSPR my best spot this evening is from PE1RKT (285km) although I have received from further afield. My intention is to stay on 472kHz WSPR overnight, as long as the PC does not decide to install updates at around 0300z as it did this morning when I was on 20m!

40m Pixie now on 7.030MHz

Thanks to Andy Cutland, my 40m Pixie is now on 7.030MHz, the QRP frequency. Although I have not seriously tried for other than local QSOs, I shall do so. When fitter, my intention is to switch between two crystal frequencies to increase my chances of QSOs. As the TX and RX netting is perfect and BC breakthrough quite reasonable, sensitivity not bad,  QSOs at decent ranges are entirely possible.

USA 10m WSPR spots today

The first USA 10m WSPR spot today was from WB8ELK/01 (6872km) at 1342z.

UPDATE 1830z:   The 10m opening to North America is still in full swing.

UPDATE 1930z:  W8QYT (5798km) at the moment is the last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon at 1912z. We'll see if any others spot me later. Somehow I doubt it.

UPDATE 2002z:  As if just to prove me wrong KB9AMG (6300km) has just spotted me at 1930z and again at 1932z!  K1OF (5500km) has now spotted me too as had WG2Z (5600km). This 10m stateside opening ihas not ended yet.

UPDATE 2056z:   K4BYN (6231km) has just spotted me. Opening still going strong.

UPDATE 2100z:  WB8ELK/01 (6872km) has just spotted me. I wonder if the end of the opening is near?

UPDATE 2115z:  Since 2056z all spots have been from G4IKZ (18km). I think the USA opening on 10m WSPR is now over.

UPDATE 2150z:   Just locals on 10m now for nearly an hour. QRT now on 10m WSPR.  A good day though.

500mW 10m WSPR spotted in VK today

The image below is on VK6XT's website and not on this blog. If copyright or any other issues exist it will be immediately removed.
VK6XT (14719km) in Western Australia has spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon twice already this morning.  

4X1RF (3519km) and other "usual suspects" on the fringes of Europe are spotting me too on 10m WSPR.

At the moment, despite predictions of just "fair" 10m conditions, this is shaping up to be a very good day on 10m WSPR.  It surprises me how good 10m often is when the forecasts are "fair".

UPDATE 1630z:  It looks like VK6XT spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 6 times today.This was pretty impressive considering my antenna is nothing special at all.
10m VK WSPR spots of my 500mW today


Overnight, for a change, I decided to give 14MHz WSPR a go, although the PC decided to install updates at 0300z and turned off the computer! At breakfast I restarted everything. Stateside late at night and Europeans now.   Will go back on 10m shortly.

UPDATE 0951z:   Now back on 10m and 630m (472kHz)

Sunspots and 10m - Friday March 13th

Sunspot number has risen a bit to 56. 10m propagation is expected to be "fair" yet again.

UPDATE 0958z:  Only local G4IKZ (18km) spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon on 10m so far.   Best DX on 472kHz (earth-electrode "antenna" and 5mW ERP) is a spot from G8HUH (250km).

12 Mar 2015

RadCom Plus

This morning I received a request to write for RadCom Plus, the on-line RadCom supplement for members only. I shall have to think about this. My health is still not too brilliant but I do enjoy writing, so may try to give this a go. Need to think what to write about first, HI.

USA 10m WSPR spots

10m yet again opened to the USA this afternoon. First USA station to spot my 500mW WSPR was K4RCG (5995km) at 1312z.

UPDATE 1410z:   It was a pretty uneventful morning on 10m WSPR.  The usual stations on the eastern fringe of  Europe spotting me plus a few inter-G stations until the band opened to the USA. At the moment the 10m band does not feel as lively as it did yesterday. Only 2 different USA stations spotting me so far today.

UPDATE 1506z:   10m seems to be lively now with all the usual USA suspects now spotting me again.

UPDATE 1920z:  The 10m opening to the USA ended at 1928z with WG2Z (5600km) being the last to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon. Since that time just locals. Time to go QRT on 10m.

SDR transceivers (more)

Several people have contacted me - thank you for the feedback so far. I have been reminded that the Elecraft KX3 has an SDR architecture and retails from about £850, ready built, in the UK, Of course with all the leads and options it works out considerably more expensive, but it is a very good unit.

Sunspots and 10m - March 12th 2015

Sunspot number is little changed on yesterday. It is 42 today.  10m propagation is expected again to be "fair" whatever this means.

I turned on my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon a few minutes ago. It usually takes about 20 minutes  for the PA to warm and the box stabilise. I see a few Hertz drift in my very first reports then it is stable all day long.

UPDATE 0950z:  My little beacon is still stabilising, so no reports as yet on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 1020z:  Almost as I was writing the above, G4CUI (172km) started to spot me on 10m. The unit has now fully stabilised. Reports are at the -24/-25dB S/N level.  This is probably tropo and aircraft reflections. 172km is quite a distance for regular spots by tropo, but certainly possible. It would be interesting to see the screenshots from G4CUI to see if there are multiple Doppler shifted signals, which would suggest aircraft reflection. An absence of Doppler might suggest pure 10m tropo.

11 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR

At the moment my 472kHz WSPR (5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna") is being copied by the usual suspects with the best DX spot being by being PA0RDT (243km). Although I shall go QRT on 10m shortly I will stay on 472kHz overnight.

SDR transceivers?

Recently I mentioned the 5W SDR transceiver from Italy by Elad which retails for £899 in the UK. This can be used with or without a PC. Clearly with a PC more features are available.

There are several more SDR based transceivers on the market such as the Flex 1500. There are also a few SDR transceiver kits. I wonder if readers have any favourites?

Firefox crippled?

Maybe it is just me and my Win 8.1 PC, but today I am having great problems with my Firefox web browser, which in the past has been both reliable and stable. The program seems to freeze on several bookmarks (notably Facebook) and I have to restart the PC to recover. I just wonder if a recent Windows Update (installed earlier) has upset it?

Anyone else suffering in the last day or so with Firefox?

I hope Microsoft is not trying to act dirty. Not saying they are - but it seems odd that all my problems have just started today. If I were to make a browser change it would be to Google Chrome.
UPDATE 12.3.15 1410z:   I deleted the Facebook bookmark and replaced it.  All seems well with Firefox.

Not amateur radio!

Today my XYL and I visited a couple more churches near Cambridge. I have updated my East Anglian Churches Blog. Sadly we have found more locked churches of late, usually as a result of thefts. All very sad. I am pleased that most churches are not locked.

10m USA WSPR spots today

WB8ELK/01 (6872km) was the first in the USA to spot my 500mW WSPR beacon today at 1328z. Quite a few other USA station are spotting me too. It was a good morning on 10m WSPR:  I was spotted in Western Australia twice.

UPDATE 2040z:   Opening to USA and Canada on 10m WSPR still in full swing.

UPDATE 2104z:   USA stations still spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon.   It is now several hours after dark here. Will this opening never end? I shall stick on 10m until this opening ends. At some point the band will just die out to the USA. The last 2 spots were -16 and -19dB S/N. Often signals are strongest just before the band dies out on a given path.

UPDATE 2125z:    This is amazing. Just a few moments ago my 10m 500mW beacon was still being spotted by WB8ELK/01 (6872km). I am staying on 10m for a while yet.

UPDATE 2215z:   It looks like the opening to the USA ended (for me) with the 2118z spot by WB8ELK/01. Only locals spotting me since then. Considering 10m was only expected to be "fair" it was in good shape with a couple of spots by Australians this morning and a long opening to North America this afternoon and this evening.

Sunspots and 10m - March 11th 2015

Sunspot number has risen slightly to 43 but 10m propagation is forecast to be "fair". Already though my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon has been spotted by VK6YS (14479km) and several on the edges of Europe.

10 Mar 2015

Last 10m USA spots this evening

The last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon was K9AN (6505km) at 2016z. As I said before, I missed the start of the USA opening as I did not start until later today.

Since 2016z only locals G4IKZ (18km) and G3YAC (12km) have been spotting me.

I have now gone QRT on 10m WSPR but I am still active on MF (472kHz).

70cm UKAC tonight

Stations worked this evening with 5W/5el on 70cm SSB
After less than an hour and 9 QSOs I had to stop straining my voice and stop. Some locals, such as G2XV, were missed as they were operating "search and pounce" so I had no idea where to call them! Best DX was only 105km tonight although I heard further. Had I been able to operate longer I might have worked further. It was fun though and I managed to work 4 QTH locator squares. Conditions seemed pretty flat.


These days, we take satellite navigation such as GPS so much for granted. I am told  that the best resolution using satellites for civilian use is now down to 30cms but for military uses the resolution is better still. It seems quite incredible that GPS is nowadays routinely embedded in smart phones and we just assume we can find our position with great accuracy. Such accuracy came about as a result of a military project way back in the Cold War.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System .

70cm UKAC this evening

Last week I mended my 2m/70cm antenna so it rotates again. This evening is the UKAC March 70cm leg. With a 5el and 5W pep it is highly unlikely I'll win even the low power section but I hope to be on long enough to work a few stations before my stoke affected voice tells me to stop.

Sunspots and 10m propagation - March 10th 2015

Sunspot number is lowish again at 29. 10m propagation was forecast to be "fair". When I turned on my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon earlier this afternoon, the band was already open across the N.Atlantic. I had my U3AC course on "Maps in the Digital Age" until after lunch.

UPDATE 1826z:  Still wide open to the USA and Canada.

UPDATE 1940z:  The 10m band is still open across the North Atlantic.

9 Mar 2015


One thing my stroke has taught me is that there are a lot of good and kind people in the world.  I have been so grateful for all the genuine kindness. These good people have expected nothing in return. They have just been so very kind. It has been wonderfully heartening to find out just how kind and generous people are.

I had G6ALB help me with antennas, countless offers of help to build my "Ultimate 3" kit from people all over the world, and today I received a crystal for my 40m Pixie in the post from Andy Cutland in Jersey.

We hear a lot about bad things but rarely the good news. I am giving you this now: in my experience the good and kind people are all over the world.   A million thanks to all of you who have helped me or offered help. It really was/is appreciated.

Elad SDR transceiver

From Italy come the news of the Elad SDR transceiver, which was featured in RSGB's RadCom last month. This is being sold in the UK for £899. It is an SDR 5W transceiver covering from 9kHz to 54MHz.  It can be used with or without a PC.  It has 0dBm output at all frequencies and 5W in the amateur bands. Looks a very nice radio.
This image resides on the Elad website and will be removed immediately if copyright is being infringed or having this link is otherwise an issue.

10m USA WSPR spots today

Despite the low sunspot number, today people in the USA were spotting my 500mW WSPR beacon early. KC2GMM (5562km) was the first today at 1210z. This is one of the earliest yet. Even with a sunspot number of just 23, the 10m band is open to the USA. Promising for future weak peaks.

UPDATE 1415z:   Plenty of USA and Canadian stations currently spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon.

UPDATE 1645z:  10m is still wide open to the USA and Canada.]

UPDATE 2006z:  The transatlantic opening is still going strong but I shall have to go QRT as I need the same antenna for 40m. KC2GMM (5562km) was the last stateside station that copied me, but I suspect I would have been heard by stateside stations later.

Young amateurs?

When I was fit and healthy, I gave quite a few talks to radio clubs in East Anglia. One thing is very apparent: our hobby is mainly an interest of men and older men at that. Of course, there are the odd exceptions. In some clubs membership was good, whereas in others not so good.

What is very clear is that unless young blood is soon attracted and kept, our hobby/interest will die out within 20-30 years. I notice that this was a topic on the Southgate News Page today. I don't think this is just a UK thing, although in the USA I see licence numbers are at an all time high.

Certainly, the pure magic of radio we experienced when my generation was young is no longer a draw: it is possible to Skype video across the globe instantly via the phone in your hand nowadays. In my youth, the only way to communicate around the world really was by amateur radio and for that you needed to pass the RAE.

No, we need to find what fascinates the younger generation and use that as a lure. It is the whole future of our interest that is at stake here. To me, radio is still magic, especially QRP.  However I can see this is not a source of fascination to today's youngsters, to whom texting and mobile internet are second nature.

What would draw in and keep young people fascinated by our hobby today? I think the word "fascinated" is important. As a youngster, radio communications fascinated me and has kept me interested for a lifetime. It is this fascination that is missing today I think.

472kHz and 28MHz WSPR beacons now ON

In the last 30 minutes, both of these have been switched on.  5mW ERP (20% TX, 80 % RX) on 472kHz WSPR and 500mW (100% TX) on 28MHz WSPR.

Best DX on 10m so far is 4X1RF (3519km) and on 630m I have yet to be copied or copy anyone.

UPDATE 1125z:  G3YAC (12km) has now spotted me a couple of times on 472kHz (630m) WSPR, but not too strongly.

UPDATE 1146z:   Apart from locals G4IKZ (18km) and G3YAC (12km) very little so far on 10m WSPR although 4X1RF (3519km) has spotted me 4 times so far this morning. Activity on 10m WSPR is moderate with 60 active stations worldwide when I last checked.

Sunspots and 10m - Mon March 9th 2015

Sunspot number remains low at 23 today.  10m propagation is expected to be "fair".

As yet, I have still to turn on my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon. It is now 1000z. I intend to have it running shortly but it takes about 20 minutes before it fully stabilises.

8 Mar 2015

472kHz records

Last night LA4ANA (1042km) copied my 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" for the second time. OR7T (337km) also copied me for the first time last night when I was using the earth-electrode "antenna".

In the last 2 weeks alone, 29 unique stations in 6 countries have spotted my 5mW ERP when I've been using the earth-electrode "antenna". The overall total is greater.

Unique stations who spotted me in last 2 weeks on 472kHz WSPR

Sunspots and 10m today - Sun March 8th 2015

Today has been a non-radio day.  We went to Canterbury by train to see our son, his wife and our "Kent" grandchildren. If going for the day Sunday travel by train works out as cheap as by car. We have done this several times now since I was ill, I would not want to drive that far.

Sunspot number has fallen further to just 20, the lowest for some time, and 10m propagation was expected to be "fair".

I see from WSPRnet that 10m opened to the USA from G although none of radio gear has been on today.

7 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR this evening

So far, no great TX DX on 472kHz this evening although G3XKR (347km) in North Devon is copying my 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna". It would be good if this evening or overnight I was copied again over 1000km. Last night the PC crashed just after midnight so all DX overnight was missed.

UPDATE 2140z:  PE1RKT (285km) has spotted me a couple of times this evening.

Sunspots and 10m - Sat March 7th 2015

Sunspot number today is 37 and 10m is expected to be "fair". Already the 10m band is well open to the USA and there was some decent stuff coming through on 10m well before lunch.

Over 1000km on 472kHz TX with earth-electrodes

Last night LA4ANA (1047km) copied my 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" on 472kHz WSPR. This is my best DX yet on the non-antenna, nearly 300km further than my best previous TX record.  I was also spotted by DL4YHF (556km) for the first time on the earth-electrode "antenna".   My PC decided to crash some time after midnight last night, so I missed any DX overnight. These spots were during the evening period.

In the last 2 weeks alone I have been spotted by 28 different stations when I've been using 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" on 472kHz WSPR.  Let no-one say 472kHz is out because they cannot fit an antenna! If my signal can span over 1000km with WSPR then you can surely do better. I make no claims for the earth-electrode "antenna" but if you are unable to erect a proper antenna give it a go.

I have still to try it at this QTH on 136kHz but at my old QTH I managed to be spotted at 250km with very low ERP.

10m WSPR - North American spots Sat March 7th 2015

KB4SC (6560km) was the first USA station to spot my 500mW WSPR signal at 1222z (quite early). Quite a few others have been spotting me since.

TJ1TS (5478km) in Yaounde,Cameroon was spotting me very early, at breakfast time1

UPDATE 1848z:  Best USA DX is a spot from AE7YQ (8533km) in DM41kx, which puts him in southern Arizona.''

UPDATE 2012z:    At the moment the Canadians are still copying me. VA3XCD (5496km) is not the last I am sure from North America tonight.

UPDATE 2138z:   N2NOM (5581km) was the last North American to spot me today at 2016z.

6 Mar 2015


My brain is still exhibiting some bizarre effects. I still have problems with drinking thin liquids, speaking, getting tired and feeling drunk when walking, but it is not seeing obvious errors with words on my blogs that is fascinating. My problem, back in Sept 2013, was a cerebellum brain bleed, that was operated on.

For example, in my last post on this blog I wrote "as" instead of "has" but it took a long time to realise this was wrong. It is as if my brain does not process words quite correctly, or at least not quickly. It is not a serious issue and I correct the errors as soon as I do spot them. It happens quite a bit so I think it is real and not just me being paranoid.

I am finding it harder to get absorbed in TV dramas too. It is as if my memory has been affected in some way. My basic intellect is still sharp, but recalling some things can be a problem. Maybe this is just age? I am desperate to get my "old self" back, but know it could be a long road. Knowing now how bad I was I guess I was pretty lucky and I could have ended up a terrible mess.

Richard G3TFX told my XYL to get me into hospital fast in Sept 2013. Looking back, this probably saved my life.

See http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/cerebellum.

472kHz WSPR today

G3WCB (101km) has been spotting me all day. Although he runs a higher ERP than me, I seem to always give him poorer reports. I think this is because my FT817 is a bit deaf on 472kHz. When I feel fitter, I should try to improve my MF RX system as I may be missing a few stations.

Plenty of USA 10m WSPR spots today

KB4SC (6560km) was the first USA station to spot my 500mW WSPR today, at 1316z. Since then, a lot of USA stations have been spotting me. It has been a good day on 10m today, despite the lowish sunspot number and the "fair" forecast.
UPDATE 1836z:  Still lots of spots of my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon by stations in the USA today. I have the feeling that the 10m band will be open to the USA for some while yet?

UPDATE 1926z:   Still wide open to the USA on 10m.

UPDATE 2012z:   At the moment it looks like KC1AWS (5308km) was the last USA station to spot me today at 1928z. Only local G4IKZ (18km) since then. Will soon be going QRT on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2024z:  The opening to the USA is not yet over! K9AN (6505km) and others were just spotting me strongly! I'll stick around a bit longer, HI. Perhaps this is the "last gasp" as the F2 MUF falls?

UPDATE 2050z:  USA stations are still spotting my 500mW WSPR. This is very late now. A total surprise.

UPDATE 2150z:   The last spot from the USA was an hour ago. I think the opening to the USA is now, at last, over. It was a good and long one. Now going QRT on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2230z:  Now QRT on 10m. Have reset my PC to internet time on MF.

10m Lincoln multi-mode rig

My poor health has rather stopped me using my Lincoln President Mk2 rig. It seems to work fine, but I have stuck with my 500mW WSPR beacon as it requires no talking and less effort on my part.

I am pretty sure it will get well used in the coming months though. A few dB extra power will make some difference when using SSB on 10m as the sunspots come "off the boil".

40m Pixie

I must have another go with this rig. As I mentioned before, a 7.030MHz crystal would be more useful than the 7.023MHz crystal it came with. The rig definitely works and the RX nets perfectly to the TX frequency. Sensitivity is better than I expected and BC breakthrough far less of an issue than I had expected. It is certainly a good little kit for the price. I need to check the Reverse Beacon Network in case I get out OK but don't hear any replies to my CQs.

Female models - why don't they smile?

Sorry, this is not amateur radio.....

Why do most female models look so unbelievably miserable? Almost without exception, the "look" seems to be to appear as miserable as possible and never smile.  Surely, if you want dresses to sell then wear a smile at least! I am sure models used to look nice and smile. Back in the 1960s I never recall models being miserable. Perhaps this is how they are told to look in our politically correct times?  Rubbish I say! Not that my XYL is ever likely buy designer dresses, but surely they'd sell more if you thought the models wearing them actually liked them?

Sunspots and 10m - March 6th 2015

Sunspot number has dropped to 33 today and 10m propagation is described as "fair". Despite this, 10m feels quite lively today with plenty of stations on the edge of Europe and Asia spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon.

The best 10m WSPR spot so far today was by RA0WKQ (5702km) in Siberia. Also good DX was/is from TJ3TS (5478km) in Cameroon, Central Africa.   I suspect 10m will open to the USA after lunch as conditions on the 10m band seem to be better than "fair" to me.

UPDATE 1100z:   So far today TJ3TS (Cameroon) has spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon 17 times already. This station is DL8SEQ who is in the capital Yaounde until this summer and operating mainly on digital modes.

5 Mar 2015

472kHz WSPR last night

Unique 472kHz WSPR spots last night
Last evening and overnight 9 unique stations spotted me on 472kHz WSPR with the most distant spot being by F1AFJ (607km). Once again I was using 5mW ERP (possibly less) to the earth-electrode "antenna".

I am amazed just how many stations have now spotted my very low ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" on 472kHz WSPR. Never let it be said, "I've no space for MF antennas". If I can get out with my "antenna" then so can you, and probably much better!