31 Dec 2019

160m FT8 TX

Earlier this evening I called CQ (10W) FT8 using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Amazingly this was spotted in Finland by OG2A (1693km). Every day the distances amaze me.

Solar forecasts

As you know, I keep an eye on the solar data. According to a piece in Southgate News, the next solar peak is expected around July 2025 and it is expected to be around the same level as the last cycle, so no Maunder minimum as some had been saying.

The next solar minimum is expected around next April. These latter figures contradict the figures I saw for forecasts produced by NOAA/NASA which predicted a later minimum.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/two-solar-cycle-25-sunspots-appear.htm

Lighter evenings - NOT amateur radio

From December 22nd the days start to get a bit longer again here. The mornings get darker until next week, but already the evenings are a little better. By the end of January it is much better. It is funny how we adapt to the changing seasons.

Snowdrops - NOT amateur radio

A few days ago we went for a walk at Anglesey Abbey. Much to our surprise, the snowdrops were only just on the point of coming out. Snowdrops are a January/ February flower really. Usually we see snowdops then daffodils.

160m - getting worse?

Overnight, using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground, fewer stations outside Europe were spotted than on the previous nights on 160m FT8 RX.  Not being a serious topband person, I have no idea if this is always so at the end of December or whether it is just conditions and things will get better again.  Overnight, 4 North Americans and 2 Caribbean stations spotted.  426 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX in total in the last 12 hours (see map).
Stations spotted overnight on 160m FT8 RX

Sunspots - Tuesday December 31st 2019

Solar flux is 71 and the sunspot number 0.  A=2 and K=2.

Will we see an upturn in 2020?

30 Dec 2019

Family gathering - NOT amateur radio

Our son and his family are here for New Year. The photo was taken just before tea today.

160m FT8 TX

Although my recent 160m FT8 (10W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground) CQ resulted in no 2-way QSOs it was spotted by 31 stations. My best DX was I8QJU (1650km). Pretty sure this is my furthermost on 160m so far.

Stolen Repeater

Southgate News, and other sources, reports the theft of a Cambridgeshire repeater. These are the details as they appear on Southgate News. I rarely use repeaters, so I am not even sure of the band or mode! I think it is UHF and DMR enabled.  I wonder if the site has surveillance cameras. At less than £40 for an internet camera, this would be a wise investment.

Let's hope they get it back and the thieves suffer as a result.

"GB7PY has been stolen from Madingley, Cambridge, on 23rd December at approx 2115hrs.
Repeater info -
Motorola SLR5500 UHF
Tanapa : PMUE4392AA
Serial: 478IRW1189
Also stolen Teltonika RUT950 4G router.
IMEI on the Router is 3516220701486502 - which has been network blocked and will therefore not work on any network now.
Any information please pass to Cambridgeshire Police on crime reference number 35/92597/19."

Mahonia (Charity) at Anglesey Abbey - NOT amateur radio

This bush was at nearby Anglesey Abbey on Sunday. I think the common name for it is "Charity".

2m FT8

As many will be aware I had a stroke in 2013 that makes speaking difficult. I still occasionally use 2m FM and SSB on HF, 6m , 2m and 70cm, but it is hard work. Often I have to repeat myself to be understood, which is exhausting.

Instead I use FT8. This is a weak signal mode, that allows basic QSOs.  It works with signals weaker than SSB and CW. It does not allow "chatting" and if this is what you enjoy avoid FT8. If,  like me, you enjoy exploring propagation on bands thought to be "dead" then you may like FT8. It has certainly transformed many bands for me: on 2m, for example, ranges double what I thought great on SSB in a contest are possible with QRP every day! Totally amazing.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/2m-ft8

160m FT8 RX - over the last day

Last night was disappointing with just 10 North Americans spotted. In all, 688 stations on 4 continents spotted in the last day on 160m FT8 RX. Nothing from South America again. Still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground as I have nothing else. No MF antennas available or in the air.
Stations spotted on 160m
FT8 RX in the last day

Sunspots - Monday December 30th 2019

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=2 and K=1.

29 Dec 2019

2m UKAC activity contest results published

In the low power (AL) section I was 75 out of 201 entries. As I rarely stay on for an hour (let alone 2.5 hours!) and only use an omni antenna (big-wheel) I am quite pleased and this is making a silly error with one QTH locator!

Dead rose - NOT amateur radio

This was spotted at Anglesey Abbey earlier today. I like the reflections in the water behind.

Modulated light communications

When I was fit and healthy, I enjoyed experimenting with over-the-horizon optical communications using homemade kit and free software. As I recall my RX was based on one from the website below. Personally, I found optical communications more rewarding than microwaves. All the gear was homemade, including the optics and test gear. It was inexpensive and one was working "at the frontiers". Not forgetting the most important thing - it was fun.

See http://www.modulatedlight.org/optical_comms/optical_index.html

See also my own page at https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/optical

Sacred and profane - NOT amateur radio

We are all a mixture of the sacred and the profane. As I get older, I am more aware of this than ever. All of us probably strive to live "better lives", yet we carry on much as ever. I think the first thing is to accept ourselves: we are far from perfect and always will be.

At the moment, I am aware of about 10 close people who may not see next Christmas. Knowing "sod's law" these will still be with us (hopefully) and it will be someone quite unexpected who will go first! Life has a funny habit of going along much as it always has and then something dramatic happens and all changes.

I think we all have to accept that change happens all of the time: what we think will be for ever ends. We have to make the best of our situation, however plain.

At this time of year the sacred and profane intersect. Like many, I am glad when Christmas and New Year are over and we can make a start on 2020, however mundane. There is something "holy" in the ordinary. We take our days for granted. Perhaps we should not.

160m FT8 - daytime

Just now , just after noon, I called CQ (10W) on 160m FT8 with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. No QSOs resulted, but I was spotted by DK1WB (916km) in the daytime!

UPDATE 1500z: My 10W 160m FT8 CQ was spotted by SM0MEM (1326km). As far as I am aware this is the furthermost I have ever got on 160m .... and the sun is still shining brightly! On 160m FT8 RX 13 stations spotted.
Stations that spotted my 160m 10W
FT8 CQ just before 1500z today
UPDATE 1540z:  A very recent FT8 CQ (10W) on 160m was copied by 8 stations in 5 countries, but no QSOs resulted.

UPDATE 1756z: 210 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX in the last 6 hours.

UPDATE 1900z: 293 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX in the last 6 hours. Best DX spotted is R8CA (3788km).

UPDATE 2207z:  Now 473 stations spotted on 160m, FT8 RX including 1 USA station.


This photo was taken today. It shows the shack. Currently I am trying daytime FT8 on 160m.

Daffodil - NOT amateur radio

On the Winter Walk at nearby Anglesey Abbey is usually a small clump of daffodils. Normally these are the first to appear. A few years ago some were out in November. We were quite surprised that this one (the first) is only now appearing. December 29th is quite late for this clump. Even the snowdrops are only now starting to flower.

160m FT8 overnight

With 27 Stateside stations spotted on 160m FT8 overnight, it was not a bad night. Overall 535 stations on 4 continents spotted on 160m FT8 RX in the last day. Amazingly, a pre-breakfast 160m FT8 CQ (10W) was spotted by 31 stations in 7 countries with the best DX being a spot by DK7KUG (885km) in JO64 square.  Still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground that is invisible to the XYL and neighbours! They don't even know it is there!
160m FT8 RX overnight

Sunspots - Sunday December 29th 2019

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=2 and K=0.

28 Dec 2019

160m FT8

Look at all the stations in 2kHz on
160m FT8 RX. I counted 17!
For a change, I am on 160m FT8 with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. A recent 160m FT8 CQ was copied by 3 stations with best DX PA3CSG (402km).  Power into the earth-electrodes is about 10W, although I expect the ERP is milliwatts.

On 160m FT8 RX within a few minutes I spotted 75 stations with best DX spotted RA6HN (3243km).

UPDATE 1946z:  Now 129 stations spotted tonight on 160m FT8 RX well within an hour.

UPDATE 2240z: UN1L (4097km) is currently the best DX on 160m FT8 RX in Kazakhstan. No stateside DX yet.   237 stations spotted so far on 160m FT8 RX this evening. I think most of these are in Europe.

UPDATE 2250z: WA2TP (5509km) in New York State has just been spotted!

6m FT8

As we sometimes get winter Es, I decided to try 6m FT8 today (50.313MHz). For 6m, I only have the V2000 vertical antenna.

Although nothing so far spotted on 6m FT8 RX, my own 10W signal was copied by G0LGS (171km) quite well. At the moment I am on 6m FT8 RX only.

UPDATE 1255z: 4 stations in 2 countries spotted so far and a couple of stations spotting my 10W FT8 CQ calls.

UPDATE  1603z:  Just caught a winter Es opening to Poland. 3 stations worked with best DX SP3UR (1230km). I was spotted by 8 stations in 4 countries on 6m FT8 RX with 10W and the omni vertical V2000. On 6m FT8 RX 23 stations in 4 countries spotted today.

UPDATE 1646z: Quite amazing!  A string of 6m FT8 QSOs after my CQ calls and widely spotted despite just 10W and the omni antenna. Typical Es with some very strong signals. Best DX on RX is YL2GJX (1613km) in Riga, Latvia. This is a fine city.
Stations spotting my 10W 6m
FT8 in the last few hours
UPDATE 1649z: On 6m FT8 RX 69 stations spotted so far.
Station spotted this afternoon on 6m FT8 RX
6m FT8
UPDATE 1752z:  Now 83 stations spotted today on 6m FT8 RX.

VHF/UHF FT8 activity "contests"

Bas has brought to our attention these sessions which might well appeal to FT8 enthusiasts. Although the first one is on New Year's Day, some may like to take part.

See http://www.ft8activity.eu

Winter sun - NOT amateur radio

On Christmas day we went for a walk around the village. The churchyard looks bare in winter.

Although there were a few snowdrops about to come out, there were no daffodils.

472kHz WSPR overnight

In terms of the number of people spotting me this was the best night ever on 472kHz WSPR TX. In all, 32 stations spotted my 10mW ERP in the last 24 hours including 2 from Norway and 1 from Poland. The fact that so many people were able to spot me is remarkable considering the "antenna" and QRPP.  It is a credit to these stations and the WSPR software.
Stations spotting my 10mW ERP 
472kHz WSPR in the last 24 hours

Sunspots - Saturday December 28th 2019

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0.  A=3 and K =0.

27 Dec 2019

472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

As usual, I have QSYed to 472kHz WSPR TX for the evening and night. Within the last hour 10 stations have spotted me with best DX F6GEX (590km). Once again using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.

2m FT8

Before lunch I QSYed to 2m FT8. I called CQ (2.5W to the big-wheel omni) and was spotted by 4 stations with best being EI2FG (565km).

On 2m FT8 RX 19 stations in 5 countries spotted with best DX spotted being  DK6JU (529km).

By using FT8 I think my range has more than doubled. This is possible at any time.

Stations so far spotted today on 2m FT8 RX
with the FT817ND and big-wheel omni to 1445z
UPDATE 1414z: 26 stations in 5 countries so far spotted on 2m FT8 RX with best DX spotted DF7IW (612km).  On 2m FT8 TX 6 stations have spotted my 2.5W CQs so far.

UPDATE 1416z:  FT8 has totally changed 2m for me!  DX that would once have seemed impossible is there every single day whether conditions are up or not. Even my 2.5W to the big-wheel seems to be quite enough. Amazing is an understatement.

UPDATE 1445z:  So far today, my 2.5W 2m QRP to the big-wheel omni has been spotted by 9 stations in 3 countries on 2m FT8 TX.

UPDATE 1811:  Now 71 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today. Best DX is DL6IAK (669km).

UPDATE 1918z:  Now QRT on 2m FT8 RX. In the end, 77 stations in 7 countries spotted with best DX DL2AKT (761km). QSYed to MF WSPR.


As of December 27th 2019 I have no further updates on this transceiver other than the expected release date in Japan is around April 2020 and the expected price in the UK is similar to the IC-7300.

If the price is sensible, I may buy one, once the bugs are overcome. I cannot see it on sale in the UK before the end of 2020. It would not surprise me if this is 2021. The absence of an internal auto-ATU is a big mistake, I think.

At the moment my best advice is keep checking the ICOM UK website.

472kHz WSPR TX overnight

Overnight was another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX. My 10mW ERP was spotted by 2 stations in Norway plus many others. There appear to be more stations monitoring this season.

UPDATE 1147z: At the moment, I am still on 472kHz WSPR TX, although I may QSY to 144MHz  (2m) FT8 soon.
Stations spotting my 472kHz WSPR
10mW ERP signal overnight

Big-wheel 2m antenna.

Most of my 2m activity is FT8 for which I use my big-wheel horizontal antenna.  This works very well. It has a few dB of horizontal gain and being omni-directional does not need a rotator.

Although this has been mentioned before on this blog, some may be interested.

It is mounted on the side of our bungalow at about roof height. If higher it might be even better.

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

Another LW broadcaster closes

According to Southgate News another LW broadcaster (Europe 1)  is closing.

As a recent purchaser of a small internet radio, I can see more and more people moving to these: my unit is able to receive 40000 stations like locals from right across the planet. There is no interference, no fading - perfect. It is as easy to listen to a station in Sydney or Capetown as the BBC and the quality is as good.

Does this mean a greater chance of access to some of this spectrum for radio amateurs? In the USA people can get access to LW frequencies even without a licence with 1W and antennas shorter than 50 feet. It would be good if OFCOM allowed some limited access to some LW frequencies even if by NoV, with very limited power and with antenna restrictions, on a strictly non-interference basis. I have advocated a more liberal approach to spectrum generally before.   If power is limited and no interference is caused why not? If users are traceable they can be closed down very quickly if there is a problem.

In my view radio amateurs in the UK should be given access to all frequencies on a low ERP basis with an NoV and on a strictly non-interference basis. I guess this is too radical! Imagine the real value to radio science if this was possible. There would be few takers with an NoV, so not hard to police.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/europe-1-on-183-khz-closure-confirmation.htm#.XgS2Q-iTLnE

SPAM emails - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday, I got a couple of spam emails from "friends". I suspect these friends are totally unaware. Usually my Gmail spam filter catches these. I regularly check and delete. If you get any emails from "friends" with odd links just delete them! Do NOT open them, ever.

Some words of advice:
  • Change passwords often.
  • User virus protection - update this often.
  • Use an email service that tries to remove spam links.
Sadly, the internet can be a nasty place these days with all sorts of crooks trying to get viruses and malware on to your PC.

Oscar 100

Periodically I check activity levels on the narrowband transponder of this geosynchronous  satellite. I do this by looking at the webSDR at Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall, UK. In the UK yesterday was a public holiday. At the moment activity seems lower than a few weeks ago. As this is the holiday season throughout the coverage area, I would have expected to see more activity. Perhaps all operators are busy with families.

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Christmas day walk - NOT amateur radio

Christmas day was bright and sunny so we went for a walk in the village. This cat seems to have taken a liking to me! In all, we walked 1.68 miles according to my phone.

Sunspots - Friday December 27th 2019

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 11. A=5 and K=1.

26 Dec 2019

472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

At about 2000z, I QSYed to 472kHz WSPR TX using my usual 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. So far 10 stations have spotted me including LA8AV (1035km) at 2012 (early).

QSYed to 2m FT8

It never fails to amaze me just how far 2m FT8 reaches: in just a few minutes I was spotting stations in the Netherlands and Germany on just the omni antenna!  I seem to get this at any time of day and irrespective of conditions. Occasionally there are signals coming in by aircraft reflections, but I am pretty sure the majority are by "flat band tropo", so they are there at any time even with no lifts.

Already 12 stations in 4 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX with the big-wheel omni antenna.  On 2m FT8 TX with 2.5W to the big-wheel omni I have been spotted by 3 stations with the best DX being G4RRA (333km) in Devon.

UPDATE 1328z:  Now 20 stations in 5 countries spotted so far on 2m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 1515z:   Now 30 stations in 7 countries spotted today on 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1913z:  44 stations in 8 countries spotted so far on 2m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 2000z: QRT on 2m.

New HF antenna

In my quest for a new higher HF antenna, my attention has been drawn to the Solarcon Imax 2000, which was designed as a CB 5/8ths wave vertical, but works well on many of the higher HF bands even without an auto-ATU. It seems to be well made, if tall. Some have painted the fibre glass to better hide it when erected.

As mentioned before, whatever antenna I eventually choose, I shall need help with erection. Although someone some way away has already kindly offered, it would be great to get help from someone more local. A few years ago this would have been trivial for me, but sadly not now. I feel embarrassed to ask for help!

See https://www.eham.net/reviews/view-product?id=1376

Christmas cheer

Some people like to decorate the outside of their homes at Christmas.  By comparison, we must seem very dull!

The photo shows one house in the village ready for Christmas.

Encouraging older people?

It is very clear that the average age of radio amateurs is going up as existing amateurs in the hobby get older. It is also vital that we encourage younger people into the hobby and keep them.

Todd already commented in an earlier post that working DX, which was so exciting for many of us, is less important for many younger people today: the magic to many of us of talking around the world is no longer such a turn-on for many younger people used to talking across the world on video free by Skype and similar.

What the Southgate News piece points out is there are lots of lonely older people who could find companionship through amateur radio. These people should also be encouraged too.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/encouraging-seniors-to-join-ham-radio.htm#.XgSG6-iTLnE

Fifth force? - NOT amateur radio

Southgate News reports that a possible fifth force in nature may have been discovered.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/possible-fifth-force-of-nature-found.htm#.XgSDduiTLnE

472kHz WSPR TX overnight

Another pretty good session on 472kHz WSPR TX with 22 stations spotting my 10mW ERP. Nothing from Norway but reports from Poland.

Iris - NOT amateur radio

When one of our sons came up on Tuesday he brought my wife some lovely iris flowers as shown in the photo.

Sunspots - Thursday December 26th 2019

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 23. A=4 and K=1.

25 Dec 2019

QSYed to 472kHz WSPR (10mW ERP)

After a day on 2m (144MHz) I have QSYed to 472kHz WSPR (10mW from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground). So far, 6 stations spotted me with best DX G4MEM (230km).

UPDATE  2044z: Now 12 unique spots so far with best DX PA3FNY (330km).

Gmail issues - NOT amateur radio

For years I have used Gmail. It has been very good.  A couple of times recently emails or whole folders have disappeared, only to re-appear later. I cannot believe I am alone. Have others had this occur?

Recently a very kind person in Stamford offered to help me with antenna erection. His email was there and I was about to reply. When I looked I could not find it! Recently, a whole folder just disappeared only to be there later. One of my PCs uses Chrome OS, so this is not a Windows issue.


How fast they grow up! - NOT amateur radio

Our younger grandson (see photo) is 11 in February. This photo was taken when he was just 2. You blink and they grow up. I guess in a few years we'll look back and think how young they looked now in 2019!

Christmas Day walk - NOT amateur radio

Although we have had a busy few days, much of today and the next few days are quiet. Then, from Monday, the grandchildren descend and it is busy again! This morning as it was a cold, crisp morning we did a brief village walk. About now, the first snowdrops start to appear. We saw a few about to come out (see photo) but none actually out.

Sunspots still going down?

I just looked at the latest solar numbers predicted for the next few years. These make depressing readings.

They show sunspot numbers still falling until 2022 at least.  I very much hope they are wrong, although looking at the similarities with certain previous cycles on the Solan site they could be correct and we may well have a way down still to go despite the encouraging numbers earlier today.

See https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/predicted-sunspot-number-and-radio-flux

Overall, not encouraging. Elsewhere, I read we may have already passed the solar minimum.

See https://www.solen.info/solar/images/cycles23_24.png

QSYed to 2m FT8

About an hour ago I QSYed to 2m FT8.  Initially I called CQ (2.5W) although nobody spotted me.  On RX 14 stations spotted in 6 countries with the best DX being GM0EWX (716km). Signal strength suggests aircraft reflection.

UPDATE 1841: At the moment, 29 stations in 6 countries spotted. A recent 2m FT8 CQ (2.5W to the big-whee omni) was spotted by 4 stations in 2 countries.

Christmas presents - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows our son opening his Christmas present this morning. He is a professional jazz pianist and is playing in Oxford today. We had Christmas dinner last night and are having bubble and squeak later.

UPDATE 1436z: The bubble and squeak was great. I actually prefer this to Christmas dinner. Although I enjoy meat, I could quite happily live without meat.

Another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Overnight was another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground). 28 stations have spotted me in the last day on the band with quite a few spots from Norway and Poland.
Stations spotting my 10mW ERP
472kHz WSPR TX in the last day

Christmas good wishes - NOT amateur radio

This time of year can be stressful for many: it is the season of goodwill and we are supposed to be happy although for many it can be hard. Emotions seem to be more intense: often good things seem better and sad things sadder. For those preparing Christmas dinners and getting presents for children it can be hard.

Whatever your situation - on your own, totally alone or surrounded by those you love have a good day. I recall one couple from work days who went camping in a tent in Scotland on Christmas Day!

Whatever, all the very best.

Sunspots (at last!) - Wednesday December 25th 2019

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 24.  A=2 and K=0.

24 Dec 2019

It just gets better and better on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Last night was even better than the night before on 472kHz WSPR TX! As I write (0708z) Jan in Norway is still copying me!

Sunspots - Tuesday December 24th 2019

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 0. A=4 and K=0.

23 Dec 2019

Sirio 827 antenna?

Before the Es season next year I am looking for a well made antenna for 10m that will cover other higher HF bands via a tuner. I am told this antenna is well built, unobtrusive and works well.  I do not want beams and it must be unobtrusive.

Does anyone have any experience of this antenna?

These days I mostly use FT8 and WSPR because of my poor voice. My main HF interest is 10m (it always has been) but it could be useful to cover 20, 17, 15 and 12m too.

One of my problems is erection as I cannot do ladder work these days. Installation just outside the shack may involve some ladderwork (not high), fitting of coax and plugs, and a ground stake.

See https://www.nevadaradio.co.uk/product/sirio-827/

SAQ VLF CW (17.2kHz)

On December 24th (Christmas Eve) there is usually a special transmission from this historic alternator transmitter in Sweden. I am pretty sure they are not doing QSL cards this time.

See https://alexander.n.se/the-radio-station-saq-grimeton/saq-transmissions/?lang=en

"Our" windmill - NOT amateur radio

Well, it is not ours, although our elder granddaughter thinks the land around it is part of our garden. When we say, "play in our front garden" she makes a beeline to the windmill! Not many can overlook a lovely windmill whilst eating breakfast!

This is the windmill this morning in bright, winter, sunshine. Next year it is 200 years old. The hedge at the bottom of the photo is in our garden.

Best night this season on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Spotted in Norway 33 times and Poland twice! Still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground and my homebrew transverter.
Stations spotting me on 472kHz
WSPR (10mW ERP) in the last day

Sunspots - Monday December 23rd 2019

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=4 and K=2.

22 Dec 2019

QSY to 472kHz WSPR TX

At about 1950z I went QRT on 2m FT8 and a now on 472kHz WSPR TX with my usual 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Already 3 stations spotting me.

Irish 60MHz (5m) beacon on-air

Apparently the new Irish 60MHz beacon is now active:

"Back in early 2018, the 60 MHz (5-metre) band was allocated to radio amateurs in Ireland (EI) on a secondary non-interference basis. Now we have news that the very first beacon on 60 MHz is operational! The new beacon is operational since the 16th of December 2019 and has the call EI1KNH. It is on 60.013 MHz and runs 25 watts into a vertical folded dipole. This is currently the only 5-metre beacon operational in the world."

See https://ei7gl.blogspot.com/2019/12/new-irish-beacon-on-60-mhz-now-on-air.html

The site is near Dublin.  An 8m (40MHz) beacon should be on the same site in Q1/2020.


Whenever I think of buying something (OK, not often!) I check the reviews on this site.

It is a good idea to ignore the very bad and very good reviews and look to see what most people think. Often very bad reviews are written by someone with a very bad experience. Likewise very good reviews are sometimes written for the wrong reasons. If there are pages of reviews and most of these are good, it is a fairly safe bet that most users are happy.

In the end it comes down to personal tastes though.

See https://www.eham.net/

At home - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we had a party for some of our neighbours. We did this last year too and it was a great success. Here is our next door neighbour showing some of her needlework. She is very good.

2m FT8

OK, it is sheer laziness!

This morning I am again on 2m FT8. As usual, my 2.5W CQ was copied widely with the best being Eire. On 2m FT RX (at 1214z) 27 stations in 7 countries spotted. These sort of ranges are always possible on 2m FT8 RX with the big-wheel omni antenna.

UPDATE 1412z: Now 42 stations in 10 countries spotted today on 2m FT8 RX with the omni antenna. Best DX spotted so far is OK2WO (1165km). RX nis still the FT817ND.

UPDATE 1755z:  Now 65 stations in 19 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX with the omni antenna.

Sunspots - Sunday December 22nd 2019

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=4 and K=0.

21 Dec 2019

Prolonged quiet period on the Sun

We have already exceeded the previous record for the number of days without sunspots and the period continues. The sun has been spotless for what seems like ages. If I recall correctly, the sunspot number briefly touched 11 early last month. Since then nothing!

Rainbow - NOT amateur radio

There was a great rainbow over our close yesterday.  It was very bright. The photo hardly does it justice.

Christmas bikes - NOT amateur radio

Our local bike club decided to meet in our close earlier, all dressed for Christmas. Santa came later - in a car. I am not quite sure about this! The day felt really Christmassy.

2m FT8 again

Most of the daylight hours, I have been on 2m FT8.

On 2m FT8 RX with the big-wheel omni antenna so far,  43 stations in 7 countries spotted. With 2.5W 2m FT8 my CQ was spotted by 6 stations in 2 countries with best DX EI2FG (565km).

UPDATE 1752z: So far today, 51 stations spotted with best DX spotted DL1FDH (634km).

UPDATE 2035z: 68 stations in 8 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX in the last day with the big-wheel omni antenna. QRT.

Sunspots - Saturday December 21st 2019

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=0.

20 Dec 2019

UK opposition leadership - NOT amateur radio

It is now a week since the UK General Election in which the opposition Labour party was heavily defeated.

Although I am not a great political animal, I can see that the Labour party has a difficult time ahead. In my view the party has moved too far to the left, and many people are fearful of this.

They are currently electing a new leader. If they vote in a real left winger, I suspect they will not be in government for years and years.

In my view, a new centralist party is needed. If Labour elects a real left winger, I can see this happening in the next 5 years.

With a big majority the UK Conservative government will push through its BREXIT withdrawal bill. Getting a fair trade deal will be much harder.

QSYed to 2m FT8 (2.5W to big-wheel)

About 10 minutes ago I QSYed to 2m FT8. So far, a couple of spots of me and a couple of spots of others.

UPDATE 1751z:  11 stations in 5 countries spotted so far today.

UPDATE 1904z: A recent 2.5W CQ on 2m FT8 was spotted by 5 stations in 4 countries with best DX being EI2FG (565km). On 2m FT8 RX 20 stations spotted in 5 countries so far.

UPDATE 2205z:  So far 26 stations in 6 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today.

UPDATE 2230z:  QRT.

OFCOM and broadband

OFCOM has some new data about broadband and mobile phone coverage in the UK. See their website.

Another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Last evening and overnight I was again on 472kHz WSPR TX with 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. I was spotted in Norway 23 times.
Spots of me on 472kHz WSPR (10mW ERP)

Double yolker - NOT amateur radio

At breakfast, as usual, I made myself a cooked breakfast.

For only the second time in a great many years I found the egg (supermarket free range) was a double yolker as the photo shows.

Sunspots - Friday December 20th 2019

Solar flux is 70 and the sunspot number 0.  A=13 and K=1.  Still no sunspots. It still looks like we are at, or very close to, the absolute sunspot minimum. Today's date is December 20th 2019. I wonder what the sunspot number will be on December 20th 2020?

More on the IC-705

Southgate News relays some more on the ICOM IC-705 QRP transceiver. The price (in the UK) less VAT is about £1000 according to this news from ICOM. With VAT at the current rate this makes the price similar to the IC-7300. This sounds quite expensive to me. If it was sub £1000 I expect they would sell a lot. At this price I am less sure.

I still think they should include an auto-ATU, especially at this price.  I suspect they are trying to get early adopters to pay the full price. The IC-7300 is still a high price because people are prepared to pay the current price. If people were not prepared the price would fall, probably to less than £1000.

See also Todd's comment on the post yesterday.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/ic-705-qrp-sdr-transceiver-update.htm#.XfvoZeiTLnF

19 Dec 2019


This seems more reliable these days. Has something changed?

Whenever I go on WSPR on any band I look at WSPRnet to see who I am spotting and who is spotting me. The great advantage is this can be done on any PC (even in the lounge whilst watching TV) or even on a phone on a bus. When TXing, I can turn things off within seconds. WSPR is some 10dB better than FT8 with weak signals. With fleeting signals the 15 second overs with FT8 compared with the 2 minutes for WSPR can be an advantage though. With FT8 you can easily have 2-way QSOs, if basic.

See http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/spots

Hidden disabilities....yet again - NOT amateur radio

Sorry to go on and on about this.

All my waking time I feel giddy and exhausted and I've been this way for 6.5 years since my stroke in 2013. My voice is very bad and I often have to repeat myself as I find it hard to be understood. There must be millions of people who are walking around with disabilities that others cannot see.

What I am concerned about is judging people by what you think they are like. How people appear is often not a guide to how they really are. Yes, a few may be faking it, but the vast majority are genuine.

All I am urging, yet again, is do not judge people by what you see. If you are physically disabled and use a wheelchair it is pretty obvious, likewise if you are blind. If you are like me or have a mental illness it is often far from obvious to other people.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/stroke

Ely - NOT amateur radio

Ely is a pleasant town (actually a city) surrounding its cathedral. We went there yesterday and explored some of its quiet back streets. The photo shows one of these with the cathedral's famous octagon in the background.

Average session on 472kHz WSPR TX

Last night there were no spots from Norway of my 10mW ERP 472kHz WSPR from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. This may have been conditions or nobody active who could detect my signal. At the moment, I am still on 472kHz WSPR TX, but may QSY to another band later.
Stations spotting my 10mW ERP
472kHz WSPR overnight
UPDATE 1304z:  There was another explanation: after 12 hours without 472kHz WSPR spots I noticed that Windose had closed the program, probably do an update. This really annoys me. Having re-opened the program, I am, again, getting 472kHz WSPR spots. Darn Windows!

UPDATE 1606z: I see my shack PC is telling me the PC needs to "restart after active hours". Does this mean it will turn off things overnight again? Maybe I should turn it off soon before the evening starts?

UPDATE 1736z: At about 1630z, I restarted the PC. It successfully installed and configured Windows updates, so hopefully it will run WSJT-X overnight without interruption. In the last hour 13 different stations spotted my 10mW ERP with best DX on 472kHz WSPR TX PA3FNY (330km).

UPDATE 2019z: So far today 16 stations have spotted my 10mW ERP with the  best DX being  DL/PA0EHG (493km).


As many will know, this is the first transceiver for many years that I really like. The FT818 was a total disappointment and Yaesu seems to have given up on the QRP market. More and more they come over as "has beens" unable to "read the market".

On the other hand ICOM seem to be always one step ahead. If you were to ask me who will be around in 5 years' time my bets would be on ICOM, whereas I can see Yaesu and Kenwood dropping out of the market.

I suspect ICOM will design in Japan, but find a country with lower manufacturing costs to do the building, much as Apple does. Currently, this is China, but by 2024 it could be somewhere else altogether. Remember when "made in Japan" were the words on the streets? In the end Japan got too expensive.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/ic705

15m CW QRP

This was on before but it is worth repeating.

Many years ago, I needed a simple QRP CW transceiver for 15m. The result was the Pipit, which was built (I think) in 1984. It put out 800mW, but worked plenty of DX with simple, low, wire dipoles.

At one time it was used with a 10/15m trap dipole loaned to me by G3TFX. The design of the Pipit appeared in GQRP SPRAT. A version based on more commonly available toroids would be a good idea. The rig worked really well and for a period was the only rig I used.

These days I suspect there is less CW.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/15m_pipit

Sunspots - Thursday December 19th 2019

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=13 and K=4.

18 Dec 2019

Ely Cathedral - NOT amateur radio

We live just a few miles from Ely Cathedral, also known as "the ship of the fens". It is very old indeed.

The original central tower collapsed centuries ago and it was replaced in medieval times by the octagon, which is the magnificent wooden structure that we see today (see photo).

Hamvention 2020

The 2020 Hamvention has a focus of "The Future of Amateur Radio" according  to Southgate News. The Hamvention is one of the really big events in the amateur radio calendar.   Hamvention 2020 takes place from May 15-17 in Xenia, Ohio, USA. I have never been and am unlikely ever to go. Often new products are first showcased there.  As the years go by, I think more minds will be turned to the future of our hobby.

Another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX

In all, my 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground was spotted by 23 stations including 2 in Norway last evening and overnight. There were fewer spots from Norway than the last time I was on the band. I still do not understand why I am getting so many more spots this season when nothing has changed.
Stations spotting me overnight on
472kHz WSPR (10mW ERP)
UPDATE 1508z: I decided to stick on 472kHz WSPR today.

Sunspots - Wednesday December 18th 2019

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0 still. A=2 and K=2.  In a word - crap.

Red-legged partridge - NOT amateur radio

These handsome birds were introduced into the UK from continental Europe. They can become quite tame. We see them in our garden quite often. Quite often a number are seen together. I think they are after an easy meal!

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/red-legged-partridge/

17 Dec 2019

472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

At about 1850z I QSYed to 472kHz WSPR TX. So far, a couple of G spots.

UPDATE 1917z:  Already I have received 9 unique spots with PA0EBC (433km) as best DX.

UPDATE 2130z: 15 stations so far spotted with best DX SWLJO43 (660km). The map shows the stations that have spotted me so far tonight (to 2140z).
UPDATE 2125z: 19 stations have spotted me this evening. For reasons I do not understand (unless it is simply conditions) I seem to be doing better this winter than last despite making absolutely no changes to my system! I am running the same transverter, the same ERP, the same earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. If anything, with root growth I would have expected worse results.

More Christmas cheer - NOT amateur radio

The crib was the central feature of the candlelit carol service at our local church on Sunday last.

I am not very religious these days, but there is something "outside time" about being in a church dating from Saxon times knowing that simple folk have done much the same of hundreds of years.

Christmas cheer - NOT amateur radio

Apart from Christmas, this can be a dark and gloomy time of year. In January we have the promise of lighter nights ahead, but as we head towards the shortest day things feel bleak. On the way back from the candlelit carol service on Sunday there was one house determined to cheer us up!

OFCOM strategic priorities

OFCOM has published its responses on strategic priorities. See the OFCOM website.

New forecast for solar cycle 25

A panel of NOAA and NASA experts has issued a new forecast for cycle 25.

See https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/news/solar-cycle-25-forecast-update

2m FT8

As usual during the day I am on 2m FT8.  Initially I called CQ (2.5W) and was spotted by 7 stations with best DX EI2FG (565km). On 2m FT8 RX just one G spotted so far. Using the big-wheel omni antenna still.

UPDATE 1049z:  Now 4 stations in 3 countries spotted with best DX spotted DL6YBF (471km).

UPDATE 1343z:  Now 9 stations in 4 countries spotted this morning in 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1806z:  10 stations in 4 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today.

Deep solar minimum

According to Southgate News which carries a piece from Space Weather, this sunspot minimum is officially "deep" with very few spots this year. This minimum could go on until next April! At the moment experts think the next cycle could peak in 2025 with a similar peak to the last one - low, but still a peak.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2019/december/sunspots-break-a-space-age-record.htm#.XfiiKOiTLnE

Strictly Come Dancing - NOT amateur radio

This BBC TV show has become an institution on dark autumn and winter evenings. It has now ended.
According to the internet we are now at the point when evenings get no darker, although it gets darker in the mornings for a few more weeks yet.

It is funny how we just adapt. In the summer we have light evenings until at least 10pm. At the moment it is dark before 4pm! We really see the difference by the end of January. I like the seasons.

160m FT8 overnight

It is something when I can say, "only about 40 odd USA stations spotted on 160m FT8 overnight". Overnight just a couple of Caribbeans and nothing from continental Africa or South America spotted. In all, just 480 stations in 4 continents spotted overnight on 160m FT8 with the best DX being N6VR (8358km) in Arizona, USA. As usual, using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.
Stations spotted overnight on 160m FT8 RX
using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

Electric and hybrid cars - NOT amateur radio

Quite a few of my friends have electric or hybrid cars. At the moment these seem too expensive for me and the range is still sub-optimal. Common electrics cars are the Nissan Leaf. On a typical trip I usually see a couple nowadays. In 10 years' time I expect the majority of cars will be electric. Honda is launching an electric car in early 2020.

See www.honda.co.uk/‎  

Sunspots - Tuesday December 17th 2019

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=1 and K=0.

16 Dec 2019

160m FT8

A brief 160m FT8 CQ (2.5W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground) was spotted by 4 stations in 4 countries with the best DX spot being by DK7LO (650km). On 160m FT8 RX 52 stations so far spotted with best DX UA9MA (4598km) in Omsk. This is within 20 minutes of going on 160m!

UPDATE 2024z: A recent 160m FT8 CQ (2.5W) was widely spotted in Western Europe.  On 160m FT8 RX 111 spots so far. 20 stations within 2kHz!!

UPDATE 2104z:  WU1ITU (4831km) was spotted at 2027z!

UPDATE 2138z:  Now 217 stations spotted this evening on 160m FT8 RX with best DX UA0ZC (8130km). Something tells me this might be a pirate - not sure why.

2m FT8

2m FT8 is where I tend to be during the day. On 2.5W TX to the big-wheel omni antenna 4 stations in 3 countries with best DX being EI2FG (565km).  On 2m FT8 RX 6 stations spotted so far.

UPDATE 1245z:  Now 10 stations in 5 countries spotted today on 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1801z:  Now 31 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX in the last day.

472kHz TX QRPP success

Last night my 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground reached Norway 39 times on 472kHz WSPR.  This is my best session this season. The table shows the spots last night and overnight.