Sunday 3 MARCH : EXETER RADIO & ELECTRONICS RALLY
America Hall, De la Rue Way, Pinhoe, Exeter EX4 8PW. Doors open at 10.30am (10.15am for disabled visitors). Admission £2 (under 16s free). There will be trade stands, Bring & Buy (book in from 10.15am), and catering will be available. Details from Pete, G3ZVI on 07714 198374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overnight and this morning, I am still on 2m FT8 RX with the best DX this morning being DG2BCP (597km) on RX. So far today, 19 stations in 7 countries already spotted on 2m FT8 with the big-wheel omni antenna.
UPDATE 1800z: 47 stations spotted today on 2m with best DX DK1FG (815km).
A brief CQ (2.5W to the big wheel omni) on 2m FT8 got 7 spots with best being by G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall and I have spotted 13 stations already with best DX DL6BF (479km). 2m FT8 really is amazing. Every time I try this I get spotted a long way away and I spot amazing DX. Much of this is tropo and not aircraft.
Although I check the narrowband webSDR from time to time, I have not seen examples of amateur TV through the satellite. There is an HB9 site on the BATC streaming service, but I have not yet seen any pictures. By now, I would have expected to see someone posting videos or even still images. If you know where I can find some amateur TV images, please let me know.
Last night, 472kHz WSPR was disappointing here. Just 6 stations spotted me with best spot one from DL3GAK (823km) and only 8 spots of others by me with best DX spotted here being IW4DXW (1190km). Maybe it is just me, but I get the feeling interest in the band is waning. Perhaps many have changed to a different mode?
At about 1725z, I QSYed to 160m FT8. My CQ (2.5W) was spotted in Belgium, but no QSOs resulted. Since then, I have been RX only. So far, 29 stations spotted with best DX LA9VFA (2460km) on the northern tip of Norway.
UPDATE 1842z: Now 77 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX this evening.
UPDATE 2210z: After a brief session looking on 1.908MHz for JAs, I have returned to 1.84MHz FT8. So far, 160 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX. The first North American this evening was WU1ITU (4831km).
Another photo of where I came from in South Devon. Quite splendid. I have already said in earlier posts that we know for certain we were hereabouts in 1427, so there is every chance my distant ancestors fished and farmed here millennia ago and the iron age fort in the far distance on Bolt Tail was partly manned by my ancestors. And we are just a speck in history. Quite humbling.
Although Oscar 100, the geosynchronous satellite, has been operational for a few weeks now, the narrowband transponder still seems quite quiet. A few moments ago there were just 2 QSOs on SSB, whereas I was expecting the band to be quite full.
As I mentioned yesterday, it may take a few weeks or months before people "trust it". Even so, I was expecting more activity than we are seeing so far. As yet, I have seen activity from Brazil and Qatar, but not India or further east. Most stations are from Europe.
My son's parents-in-law lost their only son in 2017 due to a freak accident involving a driver ploughing though a red light. The driver was texting. There is a chance one of their two young daughters could die from cancer leaving a husband and 2 young children. The family, my son included, is very afraid. So are we.
At times life seems very random and very cruel. All world religions try to make sense of death. Perhaps the flame just goes out and that is it. However, there is so much we do not understand. Perhaps our brains simply cannot ever hope to understand. It is a brave person indeed who says he or she really understands. At the same time it takes some faith to believe in a just and loving God when things seem so cruel.
As death approaches us all, perhaps it is right that we think about it.
As it is now getting dark here, I have QSYed to 472kHz WSPR using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. On the first transmission I was copied by G6AVK (78km) and G8LCO (58km) even though the transverter crystal is still drifting a few Hertz. Normally, it takes about 20 minutes, then the drift is very low.
UPDATE 2225z: Now spots of my 10mW ERP have been received by 4 stations and I have spotted 8 stations so far today on 472kHz WSPR.
A casual check on the webSDR for the geosynchronous Oscar 100 this morning around 1000z showed 5 SSB QSOs and plenty of space. I guess it will take a while for many people to assemble the gear. Some people will have held back fearing that something would go wrong. At some point, I quite fancy having a go. Certainly right now it seems a great resource working well. People using milliwatts are getting access and, of course, the dishes are fixed: once aiming at the satellite that is it.
Well, I think not. Maybe OK if you live on a farm, but certainly my neighbours would object! Southgate News have given details of the new antennas from InnovAntennas. These are billed as "compact". I'd like to know what the non-compact antennas look like! With a tower, the investment must be of the order of £2k before you get a rig. Personally, this is not my style of amateur radio.
We are all different, so if this is OK with your neighbours and how you chose to spend your money, so be it. I make no judgements, but this is not for me.
After a few days with 2 of our young grandchildren, the house is now quiet again. We love having them, but I get tired more easily than I did. The photo shows them with my wife and a neighbour outside earlier in the sunshine.
We have 2 of our 4 grandchildren staying with us. Today we went by guided bus to St. Ives, Cambs. The children really enjoyed it. It was a good day out, helped by the glorious, warm, February weather. I expect they will want to go again!
As old age pensioner it is a free trip for us with our bus passes, although we had to pay for the children. We ate lunch out at the "Oliver Cromwell" pub not far from the river. Food and service were excellent. It had a nice "buzz" and I'd happily eat there again.
Despite spotting no Japanese stations last evening on 1908kHz FT8, it was another great night for North Americans on 160m FT8 RX, perhaps the best yet. So many North Americans were spotted I lost count! Best DX on 160m FT8 RX was KY7M (8369km).
Jeremy Corbyn, UK opposition leader, has said, allegedly, that Ms Begum should return to the UK to face trial. Whereas he may be legally right, I suspect this stance will lose him votes. This I.S. supporting person left the UK aged 15 to go to Syria. In recent interviews she appears to still support this group. Many in the UK feel she is a threat.
Sunday 24 FEBRUARY : RAINHAM RADIO RALLY
The Victory Academy, Magpie Hall Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 5JB. Doors open 10am to 4pm, £2.50 adult entry, free entry for kids. Local and national Traders, BRATS Kitchen, BRATS Interactive Zone for Kids, BRATS Junk, Talk In Station on 145.550MHz using GB4RRR.
Sunday 24 FEBRUARY : RED ROSE RALLY
St Josephs Hall, Chapel Street, Leigh WN7 2PQ. Doors open 11am. Trade, individual and Club stands including an RSGB bookstall as well as a Bring & Buy. Anyone wishing to hire a table should contact Colin on rally@WMRC.co.uk. Catering will be available on site. Details on www.wmrc.co.uk.
A list of rallies can be found at http://rsgb.org/main/news/rallies/
We have had very little snow this winter. Today it seems very mild and already some parts of Scotland reached 16.9 degrees C. For February, this is exceptionally mild. Here in East Anglia it feels spring like. The photo shows "our" windmill with the blue sky behind.
Although I failed (again) to copy any Japanese stations on 1908kHz, it was a good night on 1840kHz FT8 with 49 North Americans and 1 Caribbean station spotted in the 309 spotted last night. Even though I was on 1840kHz FT8 RX for less time than usual, this was my best night so far. Best DX spotted was WB2REM (7018km) in Florida.
Stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX with the earth-electrode
So far, 11 UK MPs have left their political parties to sit as independents in the House of Commons. To me, it looks like UK politics is in trouble with deep fissures in both main parties. By any analysis, the UK Prime Minister is making a mess of BREXIT, the UK leaving the EU.
In my view, a new grouping uniting moderate ex-Conservatives and moderate ex-Labour MPs is needed with a leader who is well respected as a fair and moderate person, forging policies by consensus rather than confrontation. Only time will tell how this will pan out.
As 10m seems to be dire, I shall shortly QSY to 160m. Initially I shall be looking on 1.840MHz FT8 although I may move to 1.908MHz later hunting Japanese stations.
UPDATE 1707z: Now 39 stations in 15 countries spotted so far on 160m FT8 RX today. Best DX is RW4PU (3362km).
UPDATE 1809z: As we are due to have grandchildren shortly for a few days, I have already moved to 1.908MHz FT8 RX in the hope of spotting some Japanese stations this evening. If I remember, I shall return to 1.840MHz FT8 RX before bed time.
UPDATE 2156z: No Japanese on 1.908MHz FT8 here tonight. I think there are fewer Europeans copied this evening around the Japanese "watering hole". Shortly, I shall switch back to 1.84MHz FT8 RX
Back in the late spring, I recall seeing young Barnacle geese in Finland. These birds usually come here in the winter to avoid the cold.
Yesterday, we did a local walk and saw these Greylag geese in a field with some Canada geese. The latter were introduced in the UK (1800s I think) and are well established now. If you see a goose in the UK it is most likely to be a Canada goose. Most farmyard geese originated from Greylags.
So, the evening passed and not a single Japanese station spotted on 1.908MHz FT8. Seeing how every time I go on 160m FT8 I spot North Americans this surprised me, as I expected to see at least one. What surprised me was the high number of Europeans on FT8 in that part of the band.
Later, more in hope than expectation, I shall probably revert to 10m FT8 RX on 28.074MHz.
This evening, I am monitoring 1.908MHz FT8 in the hope of spotting some Japanese stations who do not have full access to the 160m band. According to Bas, the best chances are 2000-2200z. Later in the evening, I'll probably revert to 1.84MHz FT8 in the hope of spotting some North Americans.
UPDATE 2308z: Although quite a few Europeans spotted up on 1.908MHz, sadly no Japanese. It is now light there so I think that is it for tonight.
Apart from the hassle of buying from overseas, XBS telecom seem to have the best prices inclusive of VAT and a 2 year warranty in Europe. As an example, the Yaesu FT991A retails at 1136.70 Euros. Additionally you can get a 100 Euros cash back from Yaesu.
Today at about 1520z I took a listen on the geosynchronous satellite Oscar100. At the moment, activity still seems low, at least on the narrowband transponder, When I listened there were just 2 QSOs going on using USB. There has been some SSTV, but I have heard, so far, just one station on CW. I am not sure what is happening on the TV transponder. I shall have to see if there is anyone doing a TV webSDR.
UPDATE 1538z: Anyone know of a webSDR that relays TV from Oscar100? I haven't found one. So far I have only seen a power density view which shows how active the TV transponder is but not actual TV signals.
From about 2015z, I have been on 160m FT8 RX using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. As usual, there were lots of Europeans spotted, plus a few Asians and Africans, 128 stations in total. WU1ITU (4831km) was the first North American spotted at 2151z.
Stations spotted so far on 160m FT8 RX this evening
So, 7 people have left the UK Labour party. As my politics is fairly centralist, I support them and hope they are soon joined by others from whatever party. I hope they form a new centralist party. Come the next election, I expect another coalition which, I hope, is more on the centre than the extremes of both Conservative and Labour parties.
Just heard PY2GN in Sao Paulocalling CQ. It seems odd to hear South Americans as easily as Europeans. Of course, as long as these stations can see the geosynchronous satellite and run similar gear there is no reason at all why they should not be equally strong.
UPDATE 1206z: Just heard F0JBN JN08 running 100mW.
UPDATE 1547z: Excuse my ignorance, but on the Oscar100 webSDR there are coloured lines above the frequency marks. What are these?
A reminder that a few of us usually meet at 2000z on 144.575MHz FM on Monday evenings. Discussions rarely go on after 2030z. Newcomers are always welcome, even if you cannot stop long. This is one four four point five seven five in the all modes section of the band. Operation is usually stations in the East Cambs area. We use vertical polarisation. Discussions are wide ranging covering technical and non-technical things and the technical stuff is never heavy - usually a participant asking advice. If we can comment usefully, we do!
Although I made no attempt to decode it, someone was sending SSTV through this geosynchronous satellite earlier.
Also, DD0CW was a good signal on CW, which is the first time I have heard any CW via this satellite. I am sure others have used this mode, but not when I was looking.
Again, using the webSDR to check activity. At the moment about 4-6 QSOs ongoing at any one time, so not busy. As yet, my best DX heard via Oscar 100 is an A71 in Qatar. I know others have heard PY. It must be odd to receive DX stations with no QSB and at any time!
UPDATE 2247z: GU6EFB has been calling CQ for ages with no takers. I guess most USB operators have tried and worked those that are active. As far as I am concerned, the vast majority are Europeans and mainly Germans and English stations. I guess there are fewer microwave enthusiasts in Africa and South America. I expect some will start with just the 2.4GHz TX and receive using the webSDR?
As the weather was sunny and mild, we decided to do some gardening.
I trimmed back some choisya, which smells like lemon. After about 20 minutes I was totally exhausted and had to stop. When on my feet I am giddy all of the time, but stretching as well just did it for me. I am pretty sure this is my 2013 stroke after-effects and not just me getting older.
It was nice to be in the garden, but I have to learn to pace myself.
Yes, I know it is only February and we could still get really cold weather and snow. However, it feels like spring and the daffodils on our green are in full bloom. This picture is a few days old and they are even more in bloom today.
Last night (overnight) and last evening, I was active on 472kHz WSPR with 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. I would describe conditions and results as "average" with 7 stations spotting me and I spotted 9 stations. On TX my best DX was a spot by F59706/1 (560km) who copied my 10mW ERP at -23dB S/N.
Earth-electrode "antenna" system - click to enlarge
As blog readers will know, over the years I have had great success on VLF earth-mode, LF and MF with a very simple "antenna" that the neighbours and XYL don't even realise is there. Now, if you have space for a real antenna you may well get better results with a proper antenna and ground system. However, if like me, you don't like big antennas this may be an answer, at least with modes like WSPR, JT9 and FT8. Every situation is different. At the old QTH I did not need a matching transformer at all. At your QTH you may need a different turns number or ratio. At 137kHz, 472kHz and 1.84MHz my theory is this forms a loop in the ground. With VLF utilities assisted earth-mode I think it behaves differently.
3C90 step-up transformer
Basically, the far end connects to a ground rod about 1m long in the soil. This is connected to the shack end via a wire (normal hook-up wire) that runs along the garden fence, not far off the ground. At the shack end I connect to the mains ground (please check that this is safe at your QTH as mains earths vary), although at the old QTH I used a separate ground spike (outside the shack) with the wire from the far ground spike run along the ground. Results were almost identical.
At this QTH I use a 3C90 42mm diameter toroid with 2t on the primary (connected to the rig or transverter) and a 20t secondary (connected to the "antenna"). This was empirically wound to give best match and best ERP. I hope the diagram and photo helps. The video was at the old QTH.
Only time will tell how this geosynchronous satellite (Es'hail2) will work out. At the moment, it seems to be working well with about 6-8 users at one time. As time goes by, I expect more people will get active on it. In the end it could get quite busy.
Will the initial enthusiasm wane? Will people soon tire of this "repeater in the sky"? OK it is 22000 miles up, but once you have worked a few stations, you know you can work just about anybody that is in range across the planet with suitable gear. At the moment it is novel to be able to work real DX with ease on microwave frequencies at any time.
A pretty good period with 403 different stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX in the last 24 hours with 16 North Americans spotted overnight. Best DX was N5TZH (7537km) in Louisiana. Yet again, using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.
Our 9 year old grandson is a great artist. This is his latest. Like many youngsters, he seems addicted to the iPad. There are other examples of his artwork on my main website. He is a good all-rounder and enjoys several sports. Of all our grandchildren, he is probably the most sociable and rounded.
Most of the day I have been monitoring 10m FT8 RX. So far, 5 spots with my best DX F5RD (681km) in central France. Not sure if this was a slight bit of Es or aircraft reflection.
At the moment many users have deserted 10m, although I expect they will be back in the main Es season from April-August. As FT8 seems to show, 10m is actually open (albeit briefly) on many days. It would not surprise me to hear that better equipped stations could work N-S DX paths on many days, although you need activity!
Using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground for a brief CQ just now (2.5W) resulted in just one spot by M0RTP (116km). On 160m FT8 RX so far 4 stations spotted in 4 countries here, although it is still bright and sunny.
UPDATE 2218z:Loads and loads of Europeans spotted on 160m FT8 RX this evening again. VE3OAT (5359km) was the first North American spotted at 2207z.
UPDATE 2326z: Now 5 North Americans spotted on 160m FT8 RX already! At the last count 299 Europeans and Asians spotted already on 160m FT8 RX.
The journeys to and from Canterbury were fast due in part to non-stop trains to and from Cambridge to London and the fast Javelin trains from St Pancras deep into Kent. These are fast, clean and spacious. The staff are always very helpful in Kent. Javelins are a bit like Eurostar eating up the miles. You board the train and reach your destination in no time!
We went to Kent to see our son and family and to see one of our grandsons in his school musical, "Mary Poppins", which was very good.
Sunday 17 FEBRUARY : RADIOACTIVE RALLY
Nantwich Civic Hall, Cheshire, CW5 5DG. The venue has free car parking and the doors open at 10:30am. There will be a Bring & Buy, as well as traders and RSGB book stall. A single raffle ticket is included with the entrance programme with additional tickets available. Catering is provided on site. Contact Stuart Jackson on 07880 732 534.
Although I have some urgent family matters to attend to first, it is my intention to do a new post about my earth-electrode antenna system for LF/MF, which works well for me, but is dead simple. I'll probably do it at the weekend and add photos and diagrams to make things clearer.
This contest is held every month, although I resorted, as usual, to my 2m big-wheel omni last night as my antenna and I use 5W. In all, 4 stations worked with best DX G3MEH in IO91QS.Usually I work G4CLA (105km) , but my voice said, "go QRT".
After oscillating between several new radios, I have decided to purchase none at this time. It seems my trusty FT817ND does all I need, so I will not invest in a new radio at the moment. If I really can't decide and I am content with what I have, why bother?
If this is of no interest please feel free to ignore it and look at another post.
These days (5.5 years after my 2013 stroke) it is hard to tell what is old age and what are the after-effects of the stroke. When on my feet, I feel giddy all the time. I think this is worse than it was. My voice is poor. I find driving stressful. These feel like stroke after-effects.
Life is about making the best of "us" as we are. My main issue is most people assume I am "normal". Indeed I look fine. This is the trouble with hidden disabilities: people simply do not understand.
This is why I use digital modes like WSPR and FT8 a lot: my voice is not needed and I can be "normal". Sadly, my experiments away from home are all but impossible. I get exhausted quite easily with almost any physical or mental activity: after about 25 minutes I am exhausted. By exhausted I really mean exhausted, not just tired. After a rest I am fine again. Thankfully, time on the PC does not wear me out.
Some years ago at the old QTH (2012?) I designed and built this transverter for 4m (70MHz). As I recall I erected a wire dipole for the band just before a contest and worked a few stations on CW.
At the present QTH, I have never been on 4m.
Many years ago (1968?) I recall working ZB2VHF via Es one summer from university with 4W of AM on 70.26MHz. I can't recall the 4m antenna we used, but it was at best a small yagi.
As I recall, this QRP transverter put out 1-2W on the band, but could probably produce a bit more with some optimisation.
These days there are quite a number of countries on the band. This was not the case back in the 1960s when it was mainly a UK allocation and only 70.2-70.4MHz. Maybe I should give the band another go? As I recall it is quite an effective Es band in the Es season, and with a few watts much of the UK can be covered.
Back in the 1800s, village miscreants were put in the village lock-up. I guess this was a follow-up to the stocks, when rotten eggs and tomatoes were thrown. Maybe we should bring back stocks? Sorry, this would violate the miscreants human rights and heath and safety legislation! The photo shows our village lock-up. These days it is a garage.
Several people have asked for more details of the "antenna" I use on 137kHz, 472kHz and 1.84MHz.
The far end is a ground rod (copper I think) about 1m long. The wire back to the shack is about 12m long and runs along the garden fence (about 1.5m off the ground). At the near (shack end) it connects to the mains ground.
At the old QTH I tried a separate ground just outside the shack and running the "return" wire along the ground. Results were much the same. At 137kHz, 472kHz and 1.84MHz I am pretty sure this structure acts as a loop in the ground.
On VLF earth mode, I suspect the "antenna" is not acting as a loop.
--- Sketch and photos to be added on a later post, probably Feb 15th? ---
About 30 minutes ago, I QSYed to 472kHz (630m) WSPR using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground (10mW ERP). Even though the transverter crystal takes about 20 minutes to fully settle, plenty of spots on RX and TX. At the moment (it is still light here) best DX on RX is PA3ABK (306km).