31 Dec 2017

QSYed to 630m WSPR

At about 1945z, I QSYed to 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20%TX) from 10m. My signal will drift for a few minutes until the transverter crystal warms.


Apparently DXLab now has a waterfall when used with the ICOM IC7300.

See http://www.dxlabsuite.com/dxlabwiki/GettingStarted .

Still probing? - NOT amateur radio

With blog visits over 4 times the normal level at this time, I am convinced there is evil intent abroad. This peak again corresponds with high visitor numbers from Romania. I suspect Romanian bots. Now off to check my other blogs!

UPDATE 1544z:  Looked at the other blogs and visits seem normal.

10m FT8 RX

Although I have only been on 10m FT8 RX for a short while, DM1FL (495km) in the Rhine area has been already spotted.

UPDATE 1512z:  No further 10m FT8 RX spots all day here, so, unless things rapidly change, a dismal day!

UPDATE 1530z: Well, well, well thing did change with VO1NE (3931km) being spotted on 10m FT8. He has been widely spotted across Europe and in North America, so he is definitely genuine.

UPDATE 1620z: More Gs and near Europeans now being spotted on 10m FT8. Currently 7 stations, 5 countries, 2 continents today on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1708z: Lots of Eastern Europeans coming through on 10m FT8. I suspect Es again.

UPDATE 1847z: 10m FT8 was still good a little while ago.

630m WSPR overnight

Last night was disappointing with just G spots of my 10mW ERP. On RX too it was unexceptional as well. Shortly it will be time to move to 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1103z: Now QSYed to 10m FT8 RX.

2017 - NOT amateur radio

So, another year draws to a close. Despite the after-effects of my 2013 stroke (giddiness and tiring quickly) I have still managed to do a lot including a 10 day trip to Italy, a week in Corfu (Greece) including a trip to Albania and a week in Devon. Things are much harder, but one has to milk life and accept oneself.

2018? I have no idea what it will bring. Live each day as if the last and "go for it".

Sunspots - Sunday December 31st 2017

Solar flux is 70 and the sunspot number zero. A=3 and K=0.

Painting by our 8 year old grandson - NOT amateur radio

When I was sent this picture drawn by our 8 year old grandson I was very impressed. Even for a boy twice his age it would be good. A year ago he did a picture of the Santa Maria ship in great detail. In my view he is a natural artist with real talent. Note that the perspective is good and the shading.

30 Dec 2017

Christmas - NOT amateur radio

Our younger granddaughter enjoying unwrapping Christmas presents earlier in the week. They went home today. Our house is now quiet!

630m WSPR

As of a few moments ago I QSYed to 630m WSPR. I noticed several more European spots on 10m FT8 RX that did not upload to the internet. Usually it takes a little while for the 630m transverter crystal to settle, so early spots will show some drift.
The initial spots of me show this early drift. After about 15 minutes drift is usually zero.

The Peter Marks Blog

I read on Peter's blog that the Chinese version of the mcHF-QRP ships with FreeDV included. As far as I know this is a first. It is a pity they did not come to an agreement with the designer first. It looks a decent product at a decent price, but.....

See http://blog.marxy.org/2017/04/first-transceiver-with-built-in-freedv.html?utm_source=amateur-radio-weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

UPDATE 1637z: I see this was on Peter's blog in April 2017. Ah well, they say things mature with age!

10m FT8 RX

Last night I remained on 10m FT8 RX. I am still on that band/mode this morning. A few spots this morning so far with best DX is DC4CP (436km) in or near Aachen.

Sunspots - Saturday December 30th 2017

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number zero. A=4 and K=1.

Alibris: yet another "sale" - NOT amateur radio

Alibris, the book seller on line, is having yet another "sale". Hardly a week passes without one. Anyone who buys from them outside a "sale" must be stupid. As a marketing technique they need to see a psychiatrist as few now believe their "sales".

29 Dec 2017

High Power Wireless Power Transmission

According to Southgate News the IARU is taking seriously the threat of RF pollution from this source.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2017/december/iaru-addresses-new-radio-spectrum-pollution-threat.htm#.WkZwNUx2vIU

Bringing back Martian samples to Earth - NOT amateur radio

Apparently there is a race on between the USA and China to bring back Martian soil samples to Earth.

See http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/a14506608/united-states-china-racing-first-sample-from-mars/

Apple: whiter than white? - NOT amateur radio

Apple has admitted slowing down older iPhones saying the reason is aging batteries. As an owner of older iPod Touch devices and my wife has an old wifi-only iPad, this really annoys me. Now, this may be a legitimate move, but many suspect Apple's motives, allegedly. I cannot possibly judge. Based on personal experience I do not like built-in batteries and slowing down older devices. Others may be happy.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42508300 .

Romanian Bots Again? - NOT amateur radio

Blog visits are high again and there are a lot of visits from Romania. Again, I suspect probing bots.

10m FT8

Although I stayed on 10m FT8 RX all night and am still monitoring this morning, nothing yet spotted today.

UPDATE 1136z: GI4ONL (549km) is the best DX so far this morning on 10m FT8 RX. Only UK stations so far spotted.

UPDATE 1640z: At some point my internet connection to the shack was lost. Several near Europeans were spotted, but not uploaded to PSK Reporter Maps. These were probably received by aircraft reflection.

UPDATE 2022z: Much to my surprise 10m FT8 RX was full of stations this evening from all over Europe from the Faroes, to Spain, Italy and Bulgaria. I assume this is mid-winter Es. This now makes 3 days in a row. The opening seems to have ended about an hour ago. In the last 30 minutes just a G station spotted. Some of the signals were very strong, supporting mid-winter Es.

Sunspots - Friday December 29th 2017

Solar flux is 71 and the sunspot number zero. A=5 and K=0.

28 Dec 2017

Bots? - NOT amateur radio

Blog visit numbers are up today and this corresponds with high visit numbers from Romania.  Although I may be wrong, this could be probing by bots looking for vulnerabilities. This is one reason I change passwords regularly. If you are looking for holes, look elsewhere! If you are a genuine visitor from Romania, you are most welcome. Probes of this kind usually take place about once a month.

France - NOT amateur radio

Our "London" grandchildren are in France with mum visiting their French grandparents.

One of the French grandparents made this Michael Jackson outfit, which was an instant hit.

They grow up fast these days!

I think they are there for a week. In the meantime we have the "other" 2 grandchildren and their mum and dad until Saturday.

HF - the forgotten spectrum?

The USA proposals for WRC-19 and WRC-23 have been published. My reading is that many administrations are more interested in the GHz bands than HF.

Perhaps many administrations have given up on HF? Maybe there is too much noise on HF and there is little money to be made from HF. On GHz bands there are plenty of opportunities to sell spectrum.

Broadcasters are abandoning shortwave. This is good news (perhaps) for radio amateurs.

472kHz WSPR

PA0A was copied in Reunion last night. He is always a good signal with me, but Reunion Is a very long way!

Christmas Cards - NOT amateur radio

This year, with the high price now of 2nd class post in the UK, I was expecting far fewer cards in the post.  Numbers are a little down, but we still had quite a few.  Of the ones missing, I expect a few were posted to the wrong address or you can hear the partner saying, "do you know who we forgot this year?". We all forget someone!

Rare snow - NOT amateur radio

Until this winter, we have not seen snow for some years. We have had the odd flurry, but not decent snow that has stayed. Yesterday it snowed (unexpectedly) all morning and there is still snow on the ground this morning.

This is a photo of 2 of our grandchildren in the snow yesterday with their mum.

10m FT8 RX

Yesterday was another good day on 10m FT8, but nothing spotted here today so far on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 1048z: SQ9RHS (1323km) has been spotted strongly.

UPDATE 1644z: No further spots since the Polish station this morning. Disappointing.

UPDATE 2027z: I see that I spotted German and Danish stations today on 10m FT8, but these did not upload to PSK Reporter Maps. I must have lost internet connectivity in the shack.

Sunspots - Thursday December 28th 2017

Solar flux is number 71 today and the sunspot 11. A=7 and K=2.

27 Dec 2017

Growing up fast - NOT amateur radio

Our elder grandson, growing up all too fast.

The picture was taken a few days ago over Christmas.

IC7300 circuit diagrams

MLS have the IC7300 circuit schematics for download. They also have a sale on.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/userfiles/file/IC-7300_Schematic_Diagram.pdf  .

Mince pie factory - NOT amateur radio

We now have our other 2 grandchildren staying. Here they are busy making mince pies in the kitchen with my wife. I can't wait to taste.

UPDATE 1314z: They tasted very good!

UPDATE 1545z: 26 made. All gone! More tomorrow.

10m FT8

It is very quiet here today compared with yesterday when lots of Europeans were spotted on 1om FT8. So far today nothing!

UPDATE 1515z:  5 unique stations in 4 European countries spotted on 10m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 1645z: Now 12 uniques in 7 European countries spotted on 10m FT8 so far today. I suspect Es. FT8 certainly concentrates activity. It seems an ideal mode when conditions on 10m are on the slide. Certainly it is the mode to be spotted. Within, say, 2kHz a huge number of stations can be fitted. It works with relatively weak signals of short duration. 28.074MHz is the USB dial frequency for FT8. WSJT-X V1.8 is the software to us, and it is free.

UPDATE 2058z: LU1ECO (11448km) appeared (F2 I assume) this evening.

See https://www.physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html .

Sunspots - Wednesday December 27th 2017

Solar flux is 72 today and the sunspot number 14. A=11 and K=3.

Upcoming UK Rally


Sparkford Village Hall, Church Road, Sparkford, Somerset BA22 7JN. There is free parking at the venue. Doors open 10am to 3pm and entrance is £3. light refreshments are available. Contact Bob on 01963 440 167 or by email to wjh069@gmail.com.

A list of rallies can be found at http://rsgb.org/main/news/rallies/

26 Dec 2017

70cm UKAC results

I appear to have gone up in the results! On 70cm I use a 2m halo, 5W and lossy coax and because my voice is so bad I usually stay on for only a short time. So 94th out of 170 in the AL section is fine, especially as I was not really trying that hard.

Busy period - NOT amateur radio

When you get older you love to see grandchildren, but you do get very tired. Our 4 are still little and on the go all the time. One lot has just left and the next lot are due very soon. Ho hum...

Somalia DXpedition

Southgate News brings news of a DXpedition to Somalia next month.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2017/december/6o6o-from-somalia.htm#.WkJTfUx2vIU .

10m FT8 RX

Is there Es today? I suspect so as quite a widespread range of Europeans on 10m FT8 RX earlier. Best DX spotted today so far (probably F2) is UD3T (2750km).

UPDATE 1746z: Lots of Europeans on 10m FT8 RX today.

Sunspots - Tuesday December 26th 2017

Solar flux is 75 today and the sunspot number 17.  A=10 and K=3.

25 Dec 2017

Merry Christmas

As this is Christmas Day may I wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and a good 2018. Having just watched Cinderella on TV may I wish everyone "to have courage and be kind". These two things are fine words which we do well to remember, especially when times are hard.

10m FT8 RX

All day, I have been on 10m FT8 RX. As it is Christmas, it is perhaps not surprising that nothing has been spotted at all.

UPDATE 2258z:  IW3AUT (1039km) was spotted earlier this evening. Surprise!

Sunspots - Monday December 25th 2017

Solar flux is 76 today. Sunspot number is 22.  A=12 and K=3.

24 Dec 2017

10m FT8 RX

All day I have been monitoring 10m FT8 RX. Best DX today so far is DM1FL (495km). Apart from this and a couple of Gs, it has been a quiet day.

UPDATE 1620z: 10m FT8 RX has surprised me. VP8LP (12772km) in the Falkland Is has been spotted after a fairly quiet day. He was strong too.

Panto - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we went to the panto (Beauty and the Beast) in Ely with our son and family. It was, as always, very good. The leading "lady" was particularly good. Costumes were very of a high standard. Altogether, good fun. I can definitely recommend this.

Sunspots - Sunday December 24th 2017

Solar flux is 76 and sunspot number is 22.  A=5 and K=2.

23 Dec 2017

KW Days

Southgate News reminds us that KW Days are held in early January. At university in the late 1960s we had a KW2000 and later a KW2000A and linear. Probably my first experiences as a transmitting amateur were with these rigs. Looking back, we had some good times and good QSOs. Remember "phone patches" with USA stations?

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2017/december/kw-days.htm#.Wj4lBUx2tMs

10m FT8 RX

Overnight I remained on 10m FT8 RX rather than moving to 630m WSPR. No spots here during that period. Maybe there will be some later.

UPDATE 1426z: Still no 10m FT8 spots here today.

UPDATE 1652z:  Just 2E0XXO (120km) spotted today.

Ba humbug - NOT amateur radio

Surely I am not alone in finding Christmas stressful? For little ones it is a magic time, but I find the Christmas period hard work. The media portrays it as a time of unremitting joy, but everything seems more poignant at this time. When there is sadness, it seems 100 times worse.

Guess I need to chill and have another drink...

Sunspots - Saturday December 23rd 2017

Solar flux is 76 today and the sunspot number 18. A=2 and K=3.

22 Dec 2017

Market Day - NOT amateur radio

Market Day in Bury St Edmunds is Wednesday and Saturday. Food is fresh and prices are great. We try to use the market whenever we go there. Fresh veg is always good as the photo shows.

MLS winter sale

One of the big UK dealers is holding a winter sale.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/wintersale.php .

Radio Caroline returns - NOT amateur radio

According to Southgate News, Radio Caroline (once a pirate radio station on a ship) is returning to Medium Wave on an old BBC frequency.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2017/december/radio-caroline-returns-to-the-airwaves.htm#.Wj0sIUx2tMs

2m UKAC activity contests

Over the whole year I see I am placed 64th out of 205 in the AL section. This is not bad considering the time on the air (usually short because of my voice), 5W and an omni antenna. On 70cms (results next week?) my setup is even worse!

Cyber attacks - NOT amateur radio

From my own limited experience, I know cyber attacks are a real threat.

According to the BBC the UK Foreign Secretary is to warn Russia that the UK will retaliate if the Russians are guilty of cyber attacks that threaten national security. I am sure most governments have a "dirty tricks" department. Some get caught. It is the nature of 21st century warfare.

See www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42450479 .

630m WSPR last night

This was again disappointing.

I spotted just 6 unique stations with best DX LA8AV (1035km) and I was spotted by just 6 unique (all UK) stations with my best DX using 10mW ERP being G8HUH (250km).

Sunspots - Friday December 22nd 2017

Solar flux is 76 today and the sunspot number 18. A=3 and K=1.

10m FT8 RX

As there is a mini Es peak around now, I have returned to 10m FT8 RX. Within a short while of turning on I spotted OZ1LXJ (805km). Promising.

UPDATE 1600z: Not a bad 10m day so far. Best DX on 10m FT8 RX is EC5AC (1576km). So far, 7 unique stations in 5 countries spotted today on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1715z: Best 10m FT8 RX DX today is EA9CD (1873km) in North Africa. Es? Now 10 uniques in 8 countries spotted today.

UPDATE 1755z: Now the Falkland Is! VP8LP (12772km) spotted, so there is some F2 about on 10m.  Now 15 uniques, 10 countries and 3 continents today on 10m FT8 RX. 10m dead?

UPDATE 2100z: In the end a PY in Brazil too. Altogether, a good day on 10m FT8 RX.

21 Dec 2017

mcHF clone RS-918

The mcHF-QRP rig clone is being sold by XBS Telecom for 585 euros or less. As this is within the EU, no additional VAT needs to be added, I think. This is a nominal 5W SDR HF rig. If my reading is correct, this includes a 2 year warranty.

You may recall that MLS was going to sell this until it found the Chinese "rip off" had not been agreed with the originator.

See https://www.xbstelecom.eu/shop/en/sdr-100-digital/392-recent-rs-918-ssb-hf-qrp-15w.html

UK Pound versus the Euro - NOT amateur radio

OK, I was wrong!

Some time back, I predicted the Euro would lose value against the UK Pound by the end of the year. It looks like I shall be spectacularly wrong. What a surprise!

Perhaps the best advice is to believe the exact opposite of what I think. As said many times, I am no financial expert.

Reflections - NOT amateur radio

Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property about 4 miles from here, has beautiful grounds at any time of the year. A few days ago it looked very "wintery" as the photo shows.

Late afternoon return to 630m WSPR

On 6m MSK144 RX I spotted stations in G, GW and GM today on 50.280MHz, but I have now returned to 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20%) for this evening and overnight.

Spots on 630m WSPR received from M0NKA (154km) and G4ETG (44km), even though the transverter crystal is still settling, so my signal still shows some drift.

UPDATE 1630z: Although my QRPP has been spotted by 3 unique stations, I have spotted none so far.

630m WSPR last night

After a promising start yesterday evening, the overnight period was disappointing with no new stations spotting my 10mW ERP and no new stations spotted here. In all, I was spotted by 10 uniques with best DX Norway again - LA3EQ (769km), and I spotted just 6 uniques. 630m was disappointing.

Sunspots - Thursday December 21st 2017

Solar flux is 73 today. Sunspot number is still zero. A=5 and K=0.

UPDATE 1626z: The sunspot number has climbed to 16.

6m MSK144 RX

Since breakfast, I have been on 6m MSK RX (50.280MHz) hoping to catch either random MS or aircraft reflections. So far, just GW4MBN (347km) spotted this morning.

20 Dec 2017

On 630m WSPR again

As 6m MSK144 RX was not producing lots today, I have returned to 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20%). Overnight my best DX (on TX) was just OR7T (337km).

I am intrigued to see how I get on with just a ferrite rod antenna only. I may try this this evening if I can match it. The coax up to my 2m big-wheel is very non-resonant! You may remember many years ago I had some success on TX WSPR with a ferrite rod only on 30m and 40m.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/ferrite_tx .

UPDATE 1536z: My transmission at 1530z was just the ferrite rod antenna as an E-field antenna on the bench. I am now on the ferrite rod as a RX only antenna..

UPDATE 1850z: Well for once I am happy that the test with just a ferrite rod antenna failed. Not a single spot given or received with just the ferrite rod, but spots both given and received as soon as the "big"antenna (relative term!) was reconnected. Now back on 630m WSPR using the ferrite rod as the ATU to load up the coax to my 2m big-wheel, which is far from ideal!

UPDATE 1925z:  My QRPP 630m WSPR signal has already been copied in Norway and Belgium this evening. Are conditions up?

UPDATE 2012z: Already 9 unique stations spotting my 10mW ERP this evening. Best DX spot is by LA3EQ (769km). Conditions seem promising.

Bury St Edmunds market - NOT amateur radio

We love shopping in this old Suffolk market town, especially the market that has some real bargains. At the moment it has a bit of a Christmas theme!

6m MSK144 RX

All morning, I have been on 6m MSK144 RX (50.280MHz). So far, 6 unique stations in 4 countries, all in the British Isles.

Sunspots - Wednesday December 20th 2017

Solar flux is 71 today. Sunspot number is zero. A=6 and K=1.

19 Dec 2017


Before reading about this via Southgate News today, I had no idea about this high speed pan-European network. It is widespread in Germany. Novice licencees in Germany are to be allowed the bands to access this.

630m WSPR

As usual, I was on 630m WSPR overnight (10mW ERP, 20%). An uneventful night. I copied just 6 uniques with best DX LA8AV (1035km) and I was spotted by just 6 unique stations with just G8HUH (250km) as my best report. Unimpressive!

First snowdrops - NOT amateur radio

As mentioned yesterday, we saw our first snowdrops this winter at nearby Anglesey Abbey yesterday. Another month and there will be carpets of them.

10m FT8 RX

Since breakfast, I have been on 10m FT8 RX.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, no spots yet. I was hoping to see a few Gs maybe. At this time of year there is a small Es peak, although I do not know why.

UPDATE 1326z: DG5HR (721km) spotted.

Sunspots - Tuesday December 19th 2017

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number is still zero.  A=.17 and K=1

18 Dec 2017

Bath repeaters to lose university site

Southgate News reports that the Bath repeaters are being evicted from their university site next month. I do not know if there are plans to re-site them.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2017/december/bath-repeaters-lose-university-site.htm#.Wjgqr0x2vIU .

Amateur TV

There is always something in our hobby that we cannot do. One of these is ATV, which despite being interested, I have never tried. The BATC streams many TV repeaters, so you can take a peak without investing in TV gear.

See http://batc.tv/multi_screen.php .

Daffodils and snowdrops

Most months we visit Anglesey Abbey, which is about 4 miles away. The daffodils, which were out in November 2015, are just coming. Another 2 weeks and these will be out. We saw the first snowdrops out. Things seem much later this winter. Blink and it will be spring though!

Return to 630m WSPR

After a disappointing session on 6m FT8, I have returned to 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20%) for the evening and overnight.

UPDATE 1706z: M0NKA (154km), G4ETG (44km) and G4FGJ (44km) have copied my 10mW ERP.

UPDATE 1756z: Now PA0RDT (243km) has spotted me.

Fuel prices upwards? - NOT amateur radio

Looking at commodity prices, it looks like the wholesale price of oil is moving upwards. At the moment prices are well below prices a few years ago, but the trend seems to be upwards. Expect higher pump prices in 2018.

630m WSPR overnight

My 10mW ERP WSPR reached LA3EQ (769km) again last night, but overall it was disappointing as only 4 stations spotted me and I only spotted 10 uniques.

Sunspots - Monday December 18th 2017

Solar flux is 70 today and the sunspot number zero. A=24 and K=4. Not promising on higher HF.

6m FT8

After a brief try on 6m MSK144, I am now on 6m FT8 RX for the day. As yet, no spots.

UPDATE 1302z:  Just M0HUI (122km) spotted so far today.

UPDATE  1600z: A very quiet day. ON5LGS (264km) is the only other 6m spot today. I assume this is aircraft reflection rather than tropo.

17 Dec 2017

Ultra tiny mobile phones

Years ago I visited someone in prison and the searches on the way in were very thorough. Apparently there is a real issue with drugs and smuggled mobile phones. So, there is a ready market for mobiles phones that cannot be detected when hidden within the body.

Imagine my surprise when I could easily find such phones sold via Amazon! OK, I am sure some users just want a really tiny phone, but these are aimed, allegedly, at the illegal market in phones to be smuggled into prisons. Should these be banned?

See https://www.amazon.co.uk/J8-World-Smallest-Mobile-changer/dp/B00O586YB2/ref=pd_sim_107_4?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=0HQM62NG9CBSKACSHZMN

Back on 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20%)

After a few days and nights Geminids MS hunting on 6m MSK144, I have returned to 630m WSPR. Spots out to 154km so far.

UPDATE 2240z: Just 2 stations have copied my 10mW ERP so far tonight. EA5DOM (1525km) is the best DX copied on RX so far.

Heavy frost - NOT amateur radio

This morning we awoke to a very heavy frost. It was quite late before it became milder.

This photo was taken last week and shows the windmill "next door" on a cold and frosty morning.

Most snow has now gone with just the remnants of snowmen. Already this is a much colder winter than we have seen for several years.


As mentioned yesterday, Es DX can be spectacular at times. I am not a great believer that these really long paths are multi-hop Es. Far more likely are some kind of chordal-hop DX paths.

At this time of year Es is best in the southern hemisphere in places like South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. As well as the usual 1 and 2-hop Es keep a watchful eye out for real DX.

Last season, JT65 was useful on 6m. FT8 is not as good on weak signals, so I am not sure what mode to try next summer here in Europe.  I have had little success on 6m WSPR.

Last summer I copied loads of continents on 6m JT65 with just a simple vertical omni antenna by Es. There was one morning when a whole stack of JAs were copied "over the pole".  No wonder they call this the magic band. At any point in the solar cycle it can surprise us. Often there is just white noise, then something special appears.

Sunspots - Sunday December 17th 2017

Time is really racing!

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number (you guessed!) zero again.  A=4 and K=5. HF conditions look distinctly unpromising today.

6m MSK144

At the moment, I am still monitoring 50.280MHz MSK144 RX. In the last 12 hours 5 unique stations have been received in 3 countries with best DX OZ4VV (772km) in northern Denmark. These could be random MS or aircraft reflections. Either way it just shows that 6m DX can be worked at any time of the year. In the last day 12 uniques in 6 countries.

UPDATE 1515z: 8 uniques in 4 countries on 6m MSK144 in the last 12 hours.

UPDATE 1712z: 9 uniques in 5 countries now in last 12 hours on 6m MSK144.

16 Dec 2017

Amateur radio when driving

My son's brother-in-law was killed by a distracted driver. My view is DO NOT do anything that will distract you when driving. Even fiddling with the car radio is a distraction. Operating amateur radio gear on the move, even hands-free, is a no-no in my view.

In a split second a life can be changed for ever or ended. The knock-on impacts the family, friends and the driver FOR EVER. Amateur radio is just a hobby. Pull over to operate /M. It can wait.

Cycle 25

We are approaching the next solar minimum. Opinions vary on the next peak, but most seem to agree it will not be great. Thank goodness for digital modes which allow us to make the best of poor conditions. Es, which peaks in May, June and July in the northern hemisphere, is often as good or better when F layer propagation is poor.  Es DX can be spectacular.

See http://spaceweather.com/

6m MSK144 RX

As 6m MSK144 RX seemed promising, I have stayed on this band and mode all last night and today. Best DX copied is GM3NKG (474km). I suspect this is now either aircraft reflection or random MS.

Sunspots - Saturday December 16th 2017

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number is zero again. A=5 and K=1.

15 Dec 2017

Android WSPR beacon

To say I am a WSPR fan is an understatement! Nothing compares with the ability to span the globe with QRP, perhaps excepting OPERA. I see there is a WSPR app (Android) which allows a tablet to be hooked up to a rig to form a WSPR beacon. The app costs £1.58.

See https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iu4apc.wsprbeacon

Busy eating curry - NOT amateur radio

They all look miserable, but actually they are a friendly and happy bunch! 

Every month I go for a meal (different pubs in the area) with ex-work colleagues and this time it was a curry night at the pub (buffet) and everyone is tucking in! The curry was great.

ICOM IC7300 - time for a price drop?

Much to my surprise the price has still to fall, although there are "cracks": some are now offering the rig with free gifts.

Personally, I can wait. It is a good rig, but to my mind, the dealers have had a very good time and very good profits. Now is the time to drop the price. Sub £1000 please - soon.

BREXIT next stages - NOT amateur radio

Apparently the EU has agreed to move to the next stage in talks with the UK on its wish to leave. No doubt these talks will be hard, especially as Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister, is leader of a government only propped up by a group of Ulster MPs who don't like gays and abortions allegedly. I am not clear of my facts here.

Personally, I think the EU is fearful of other leavers and is concerned the EU could fall apart. There was much good in this "club", but much wrong too. In the end I hope we all strike a good deal in the best interests of all.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-42368096 .

Desperately tired - NOT amateur radio

It is nearly 4 years since I was discharged from hospital, where I had been for 3.5 months following my stroke. In many ways I am lucky. However 15-20 minutes of physical or mental effort leaves me desperately tired. Others just do not "get it". My tiredness is utterly draining and then I am fine again. My voice is poor too.

Although I am still hopeful of further small improvements, I suspect how I am is how I am going to be. In the meantime, I still enjoy life. We are dealt a card in life and have to make the best of it.

Risks to under-sea cables? - NOT amateur radio

Much of our internet, banking and commercial traffic is carried on undersea cables and fibre. Apparently the military is worried by the vulnerability of such cables to rogue nations intent on disruptive warfare. The internet is a distributed system, so unless lots of lines are cut, it is unlikely to break completely, although traffic could be slowed.

I am not quite sure how you can protect these cables. It needs a nation with submarines to be a real threat.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42362500 .

Remaining on 6m MSK144

OK, it was the Geminids MS shower, but I was surprised by the level of activity on 50.280MHz MSK144. I was half expecting stations to have migrated to FT8. I am not sure if MSK144 works with much lower signal levels, but most MSK144 signals have been strong.

UPDATE 1214z: So far, 6 stations in 3 countries spotted on 6m MSK144 today. No great DX with the best being F4VPC (518km) in Brittany spotted.

Sunspots - Friday December 15th 2017

Solar flux is 72 and the sunspot number remains zero. A=4 and K=1.

14 Dec 2017

Dreamer's Band (sub 9kHz amateur radio)

This is the new frontier. As Paul Nicholson pointed out, it is inexpensive and fun. It is much easier than many think.

"Perhaps the perception is that it is difficult?  Surely not.
Don't believe all those stories you hear about how hard it is
to radiate, or how difficult it is to find a location to
receive from!

Let's see -

- Low cost. You don't need expensive SDRs or test equipment.
  Your PC soundcard is signal generator, spectrum analyser,
  and SDR, all in one.  Transmitter is just an audio amplifier,
  even a low quality one.  The most expensive thing you'll buy
  is a load of wire for a loading coil.

- GPS timing?  £18 quid for a NEO-7 module and you know your
  frequency to the micro Hertz.  Buy two, you'll use them!

- Easy to build.  Just audio frequency signals, nothing critical
  about layout.   VLF is great for the homebrew enthusiast.

- You don't need a huge ERP.  10uW and you're on the air.  Your
  LF antenna will probably do better than you think at VLF.

- UK Notice of Variation?  No problem, a simple application form,
  and if enough apply, maybe the regulators will make that easier.

- Where else can you operate at the cutting edge with such
  simple equipment?

In case you think my location here is specially good, it certainly
isn't.  The mains here at the top of the Calder Valley is very
rough, terrible sidebands.  All the properties around here get
their power by overhead lines at 12kV and one of the two 33kV
lines feeding Todmorden is only a km away.  The nearest 12kV
line is just 120m from the E-field antenna. 140mV RMS of 50Hz
on the E-field probe and a lot of harmonics.  Reception here is
bad!   You can probably do better in the suburbs.

How many times per century does amateur radio find a green field
to explore?  Not just a new band but a whole new frequency range.

Don't miss out on this one!

Paul Nicholson"

ARRL 10m contest

This was last weekend, but guess who forgot? Apparently conditions were not good, so I probably missed very little.

Tree surgeon - NOT amateur radio

This tree surgeon was busy at work in our village this morning. Rather him than me!

I noticed he had a machine to grind up the branches on his lorry. Otherwise there would be a lot of branches to deal with.

In this job a head for heights must help. I'd be useless!

Realtime HF predictions

A reminder that almost realtime HF predictions are available at the convective weather website.

New OFCOM chairman

The government has appointed a new OFCOM chairman.

See http://ofcom.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/i/5192FE1F35CB87692540EF23F30FEDED/59D1BD3EA2F08127C67FD2F38AC4859C

Sunspots - Thursday December 14th 2017

Solar flux is 71 today and the sunspot number zero. A=7 and K=3.

6m MSK144 RX in the Geminids MS shower

Overnight I was on 50.280MHz MSK144 RX for the peak of the Geminids MS shower. I only have a V2000 omni antenna (no beams) on 6m. All over western and northern Europe copied. I assume many of these were MS.

I shall remain on 50.280MHz MSK144 RX for a few hours at least.

UPDATE 1056z: I think the count is now 13 countries spotted on 6m MSK144 in the last day.

UPDATE 1312z: With 31 unique spots in the last day there is plenty of activity in Europe on 50.280MHz MSK144. I think I shall stick with this band and mode for another day.

UPDATE 1800z:  Best DX on 6m MSK144 RX is SM5EPO (1347km).

13 Dec 2017

Geminids meteor shower

This peaks tonight, so I am monitoring 50.280 MSK144 to see what appears overnight.


OFCOM has published it technical analysis about sharing at 700MHz.

See http://ofcom.cmail19.com/t/ViewEmail/i/C7C5470B2352391A2540EF23F30FEDED/59D1BD3EA2F08127C67FD2F38AC4859C

Cambridge Pret A Manger - NOT amateur radio

As I was in Cambridge for my U3A course on Samuel Pepys, I called in to Pret A Manger for a coffee and bread roll. Surprisingly it was less busy than last week. I have always found the staff helpful and polite and prices reasonable.

Sunspots - Wednesday December 13th 2017

Solar flux is 73 today. Sunspot number is 11. A=13 and K=1.

6m FT8 RX

At the moment, I am monitoring 6m FT8 RX. Nothing yet.

UPDATE 1415z: Just ON8DM (237km) spotted.

630m mistake!

When on 630m WSPR I usually check spots on another machine in another room. I noticed spots stopped around 2130z last night. So, I went into the shack to see the connection to the antenna had fallen off! Luckily, it was easily reconnected. Luckily, the transverter PA was not damaged and full power was restored.

12 Dec 2017

70cm UKAC

Well, I probably have the very worst set-up for this contest: 5W SSB, RG58 (lossy) coax and a 2m halo!! Add to that that speaking is very hard and that I was only on for about 10 minutes and you can see why I never win!

QSYed to 630m WSPR

At 1900z, I QSYed to 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20% TX). 10m WSPR was really not very good.

10m WSPR (2W, 20% TX)

For a change, I decided to go on 10m WSPR transceive today. I am using 2W (instead of 0.5W) and looking for others 80% of the time on RX.

UPDATE 1514z:  No WSPR spots given or received on 10m all day so far. Dire.

UPDATE  1824z: Although no-one spotted me, I spotted DL and OM. Best DX was OM1AI (1269km).

Fewer Christmas cards? - NOT amateur radio

In the last few years postage costs have rocketed in the UK. Also, people keep in touch by email and social media far more than in the past. Postcards used to be sent to/by lots of people on holiday, but there are far fewer these days.

It is early days, but I am expecting far fewer Christmas cards this year. Some people have died, some find postage costs too high and some decide to give to charity instead. If it wasn't for my wife, I expect we'd send out far fewer cards!

One thing I have wondered - why not reduce the cost of second class postage stamps in the UK in early December? This would encourage more people to post Christmas cards. Overall, it might help with PO revenue. The PO could sell 2nd class special Christmas stamps at, say, 35p each in the lead-up to Christmas. They could even stipulate these are only to be used on Christmas cards.

630m WSPR overnight

Overnight I was again on 630m WSPR (10mW ERP, 20% TX). In all, I was spotted by 7 unique stations with PA0RDT (243km) my best DX. I spotted 10 uniques.

For a change I am now on 10m WSPR (2W, 20% TX).

Sunspots - Tuesday December 12th 2017

Solar flux is 72 today and the sunspot number 11. A=3 and K=2.

11 Dec 2017

East Cambs net 144.575MHz FM

At 2000z, I went on the 2m FM net in East Cambridgeshire on 144.575MHz. Others are always most welcome to join in. Discussions rarely go on beyond 2030z.

6m FT8

For about 30 minutes, I have been on 6m FT8 RX again. As yet, nothing spotted.

UPDATE 1100z: OK2BRD (1289km) spotted. Not sure of the propagation mode.

UPDATE 1900z: 7 stations in 6 countries today on 6m FT8. Soon be time to QSY to 630m WSPR.

UPDATE 1932z: G4BMM (123km) copied. I suspect this is aircraft reflection from planes in the London, Heathrow stack.

UPDATE 2220z: Best DX today on 6m FT8 RX was IT9CHU (2045km).

Evenings soon getting lighter - NOT amateur radio

Although the days still get shorter until early January, the evenings start to get very slowly lighter again from next weekend here. I think this depends on many factors. It is one hour lighter by the end of January.

Snow - NOT amateur radio

We still have a bit of snow on the ground, but it remains very cold. Already there are signs we are in for a colder winter than we have had for some years. Already we have had many more frosts than last winter and it is still 2 weeks to Christmas.

630m OPERA RX last night

LA3EQ (769km) was the best DX on 630m OPERA RX last night. No transatlantic DX copied here. I have now QSYed to 6m FT8 RX.

Sunspots - Monday December 11th 2017

Solar flux is 72 today and the sunspot number 11.  A=3 and K=3.

10 Dec 2017

uBitx kit

A useful resource for the uBitx kit is http://miscdotgeek.com/


I decided to give 477kHz OPERA RX another go this evening and overnight. Nothing yet spotted. Because the FT817 is used in split mode I need to set up another memory which sets the TX frequency to 477kHz too via the transverter. With my brain as it is, this is less easy than it once was.

UPDATE 2110z: Just G6AVK (78km) spotted so far on 477kHz OPERA this evening. The best place to look for spots seems to be http://spots.microwavers.es/index.php .

UPDATE 2125z: Now G0NDB (259km) has been spotted twice.

HF vertical antenna

Somewhere, I have a Sandpiper vertical made some years ago. I think it is an X80. It is hardly used. It has been up briefly years ago. As I recall, it acted like a Rybacov antenna and was a vertical fed via a un-un so it provided a reasonable match on several HF bands. HF vertical antennas can pick up noise from nearby things more easily than horizontal antennas, but it might allow me access to several bands, so I might be able to WSPR on several bands sequentially. It probably won't be erected until the spring.

Snow - NOT amateur radio

Today we had our first "proper" snow since 2013. Snow is quite rare here these days due to our warming world. Someone explain this to President Trump in words of one syllable. Silly me, this is all a Chinese hoax.

It has been snowing all morning although I suspect it will soon go. It could turn to ice. Nice as it lasted.

6m FT8

For a change, I am on 6m FT8 RX today. Really I am hoping for G stations and any EUs would be a bonus.

UPDATE 1350z: Nothing at all spotted so far on 6m FT8.

UPDATE 1546z: One Belgian station spotted on 6m FT8 - ON8DM (237km). Aircraft?

UPDATE 1815z: Quite a few central and eastern Europeans spotted on 6m FT8.