31 Oct 2019

472kHz WSPR TX for the evening and overnight

Having turned on WSJT-X again and resynced the PC to internet time, I am back on 472kHz WSPR TX.

So far, 4 stations have spotted me so far with my 10mW ERP from my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground with best DX being a spot by 2E0ILY (209km).

Electric cars - NOT amateur radio

This has been discussed here before, but I was reminded yesterday by an old friend who is hanging on to his petrol car until he expects to buy an electric car in about 3 years' time. His comment was "electric cars are not there yet". I agree with this. Both the range needs to increase and the price has to fall.

Most days I see maybe 2 electric cars on the roads. I suspect these are early adopters or maybe eco warriors. In 10 years' time I expect we will all be driving these, but as my friend said, "they are not there yet".

I want to buy and use an electric car. Maybe in a few years? In the meantime let us stop subsidising fossil fuels and subsidise renewables instead so we are encouraged to switch.

OFCOM updates

OFCOM is consulting on spectrum trading and sharing. See their website for more details.

Northern Ireland Rally


Limavady Football Club, Rathmore Road, Limavady BT49 0DF. Doors open 11am and admission is £3.

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

Online shopping - NOT amateur radio

Is it any wonder that many of us shop online?

As an example, I recently ordered 10 CR2032 cell batteries online from the comfort of my arm chair. They will be here tomorrow. I got 10, whereas on the High Street I might have got 2 for the same price.

Over time, this will become more and more the norm. In my mind the High Streets are changing: if they adapt they may survive. If they do not adapt many will fail.

A few months ago my wife wanted some new nail scissors. She walked to our local chemists who had none and thought they would be getting no more. She went online, had plenty of choice, and bought them cheaper, within a few seconds!

No, High Street shops are in for a very hard time. Adapt or go under.

Halloween - NOT amateur radio

When younger we hardly celebrated Halloween. Sadly, in recent years, the shops have seen another opportunity to take our money and Halloween has become commercialised.  The new god is profit.

I have little problem with youngsters having fun (my grandchildren love it), but I do object to the commercialisation. I know some object on religious grounds, but to me it is just an excuse for youngsters to dress up and have fun.

10m FT8

On John EI7GL's advice I am giving 10m FT8 a go. An initial 2.5W FT8 CQ  at about 0900z was spotted by no-one and now I am RX only on 10m FT8.

UPDATE 1216z: EA4IL (1370km) spotted on 10m FT8 RX. There is life on 10m!

UPDATE 1413z: 3 stations spotted today on 10m FT8. 2 were Spanish and 1 was a local.  A recent 10m FT8 CQ (2.5W) was spotted by no-one. I can run more power. Perhaps I should? I can increase the power about 8dB.

UPDATE 1640z: A recent 10m FT8 CQ was again spotted by no-one and no further stations have been spotted here today on 10m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1840z: Sometime in the last 2 hours my Windows 10 PC decided to turn off WSJT-X. I really am heartily fed up with Microsoft.

472kHz WSPR overnight

Overnight, my 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 472kHz WSPR was spotted by 14 stations. This time I did not reach Norway, but was spotted by several stations in the Netherlands.

Sunspots - Thursday October 31st 2019

Solar flux is 70 (highest for some time) and the SSN 0. A=9 and K=1.

30 Oct 2019

BREXIT - not amateur radio

With a probable election in the UK on December 12th, it is anyone's guess what will happen regarding BREXIT.

If the Conservatives manage to get a big majority they will probably try to get their current withdrawal agreement passed into law.

If the Labour party gets to form the next government they will probably go for a new, softer, withdrawal agreement and probably push for a people's vote (referendum) to either approve this or remain in the EU.

If the Lib Dems win then BREXIT will be cancelled and we will remain in the EU.

Somehow I cannot see the BREXIT party doing well. They may have some followers, but if they stand against Conservatives they could lose the seat to Lib Dems or Labour.

Like many, I personally favour remaining in the EU or a much softer form of BREXIT. After 3.5 years, like many, I am tired of BREXIT! Years ago we joined a common market. That is what we have always wanted, plain and simple: nothing more and nothing less.

Personally, I doubt if this UK election will make matters clearer.

28MHz (10m) WSPR TX - 500mW

As I have my outdoor 10m antenna erected again, I thought I would connect my W5OLF WSPR beacon. This puts out 500mW and transmits 100% of the time, but changes frequency every 2 minutes.

If anyone copies me I shall be amazed.  The Es season is over and we are at sunspot minimum. Still, it is easy to connect and you never know!

UPDATE 2048z: After a whole day, not a single 10m WSPR spot. Maybe tomorrow I should try FT8 instead on 10m?

Museum Party - NOT amateur radio

At the end of the season, our local museum next door has a party for volunteers. I am on the left.

It is one of the best local museums in the UK. It heavily depends on volunteers. Many people think it is just the windmill, but it goes on and on!

See http://burwellmuseum.org.uk/

Overnight on 472kHz WSPR TX : 20 stations spotted my 10mW ERP!

Overnight I was on 472kHz WSPR transmit using 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. In all, 20 stations spotted me with the best DX spot being by LA8AV (1035km)in Norway overnight. In the last 2 weeks, I have been spotted by 40 stations on 472kHz WSPR TX when running 10mW ERP from my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.
Overnight on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

UK General Election on Dec 12th - NOT amateur radio

So here in the UK we are set for a general election before Christmas.

Although this is largely about BREXIT, I fear the outcome could result in even more of a muddle!

The people in the country, and most parties in government, are largely divided over BREXIT. What my gut tells me is no single party will win an overall majority and the party forming a government will have to consider coalitions, or at very least consider working with the smaller parties. This is not a recipe for strong, decisive government. What might happen is a softer BREXIT.

One thing is certain:  nobody knows what will happen.

SAQ (17.2kHz) VLF - no transmission Oct 24th

If you were listening for the special UN Day CW transmission from the historic alternator VLF 17.2kHz TX SAQ you would have been disappointed as it did not happen. They hit a problem, so the transmission had to be abandoned. I think they are trying to find out what the problem is.

Somewhere I have a QSL card for a transmission about 10 years ago.

Sunspots - Wednesday October 30th 2019

Solar flux is 69 today and the sunspot number still 0. A=8 and K=2.

29 Oct 2019

Oh to be young again! - NOT amateur radio

Whilst going through some old pictures I came across this one of me when about 18. Then I had hair and life was mostly before me. Good old days in autumn 1967.

This was the photo on my Liverpool University Student's Union card. Gosh, I do look a fresh faced country bumpkin!

End fed 10/20/40m antenna re-erected

After being down for all the summer, I have re-erected my 10/20/40m end fed antenna. It broke earlier in the year and I thought some ladder work was needed. I am wobbly on ladders these days. Luckily I could reach the parts that mattered without a ladder and it is now strung to a different tree in the back garden. Getting the wire over the tree was surprisingly hard for me. Years ago this would have been trivial, but not any more.

Although I get a good match on 10m there is a high VSWR on 20m and 40m even with the tuner. At least I am able to WSPR and FT8 again on 10m. Most of the far end (after the 10m choke) is in the tree. To get a decent match on 20m and 40m , I need to choose another end point. It is probably fine on RX on 20m and 40m.

472kHz WSPR TX

Just now I tested the 472kHz WSPR TX. It works, so I should be on TX (10mW ERP) this evening and overnight. It is a pity that I cannot listen between the TX transmissions currently, but at least I can TX and RX WSPR on 472kHz.

Amazingly, a couple of locals received my transmissions just now.

UPDATE 1421z: Now 2E0ILY (209km) copying me too.

UPDATE 2019z: Darn Windows 10 updates! As usual, I am on 472kHz WSPR TX and monitoring on a different PC in the lounge. I was wondering why no-one had spotted me in 3 hours. Closer inspection showed the shack PC had turned off all programs waiting to install a Windows 10 update it cannot do without an external hard drive attached (internal hard drive is too small). Darn Microsoft!! Once I close this message, resynced time and restarted WSJT-X, all is well and reports are flooding in again. I am seriously fed-up with Microsoft. If I try to open a spreadsheet it tries to get me to use Excel, which of course you pay for. Instead I prefer to use free Open Office. How do you close the Excel message? With great difficulty as there is no "X" to close it! Darn Microsoft again. As I said before, I am seriously considering a Chromebook for the next PC for the lounge. These now run Linux, if you want to, as well as giving access to the Google Play Store and loads of Android apps.

UPDATE 2037z: Already spotted by 9 stations this evening on 472kHz WSPR running 10mW ERP with best spot being by LA8AV (1035km) up in Norway. MX0NCA (100km) is a new spotter.

UPDATE 2130z: I shall stay on 472kHz WSPR TX overnight, assuming Microsoft allows me!

2m FT8

At the moment I am on 2m FT8 RX with the big-wheel omni antenna. 
So far today, 21 stations in 6 countries spotted (to 1108z).

Anglesey Abbey tree - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we did a walk at nearby Anglesey Abbey.

Autumn is coming, although many trees are still green. This one looks autumnal (see photo).

CQWW SSB contest - doh!

Last weekend was the CQWW SSB contest. I forgot! Although I do not enter a log, the bands are usually busy, so this is usually a good chance to work a few stations. Of course it helps to remember the contest is on! It is surprising how bands like 10m spring into life proving it is often low activity rather than conditions that is the problem.

In past CQWW SSB contests it is often possible to fill pages in the log with 10m QRP SSB QSOs.

472kHz WSPR

At the moment "split" is not working on my FT817ND. I suspect this is software and will be a fixable issue.

What I had forgotten is I can still TX on 472kHz WSPR and still RX on 472kHz WSPR, but not at the same time. So, tonight, all being well, I shall be on 472kHz WSPR TX for about 25% of the time with the usual 10mW ERP. On another occasion I shall concentrate on 472kHz WSPR RX.

10m QRP

Whilst rummaging through some old photos I came across this one. It dates from the late 1980s I think and shows me (still with some hair!) operating 10m SSB from my parents back garden. The rig would have been my 2m MX2, with my homebrew transverter producing about 1W pep SSB on 10m. The antenna was a mag-mounted base loaded whip on the grass lawn. As I remember, several USA stations were worked. On another occasion I recall copying a 6m Canadian beacon indoors from my parents house with a whip on the FT817.

Sunspots - Tuesday October 29th 2019

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 0. A=11 and K=3.

28 Oct 2019

Primroses - NOT amateur radio

Every autumn we plant primroses in our front garden (see photo).

These provide colour all through the autumn and winter.

Normally they get replaced in the spring with flowers that last until the first frosts. Incidentally, we had our first frost of the autumn last night.

2m FT8

As I am (for now) unable to operate the FT817ND in "split" mode I am again on 2m FT8 (2.5W to the big-wheel omni antenna).

An initial FT8 CQ was spotted by 8 stations in 3 countries with the best again being GI6ATZ (479km). This never seems to fail. If he is active, irrespective of conditions, he spots me! On 2m FT8 RX 4 stations in 3 countries spotted with best DX spotted being DJ9IE (515km).

UPDATE 1710z:  15 stations in 6 countries spotted this afternoon on 2m FT8.

OFCOM and 5G spectrum

Today OFCOM announced that it was freeing up spectrum for 5G at 700MHz and around 3.6GHz.

It still insists on using the term "airwaves", suggesting to me that this quango is being run by a bunch of school kids who actually know very little about RF and spectrum. Perhaps I am being a grumpy old man. For this I apologise.

South Devon - NOT amateur radio

When I was young I lived in South Devon. The photo shows where I lived. We owned some land near here in 1427! Many of my ancestors lived at Hope Cove and we have a direct line back to William of  Hope in the mid 1500s.

Sunspots - Monday October 28th 2019

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 0. A=15 and K=3.

27 Oct 2019

FT817ND issue?

This evening I intended to go on 472kHz WSPR RX and TX, but I noticed the antenna current was zero. On closer examination, I noticed that the "split" function on the FT817ND had disappeared. With my brain fog as a result of my 2013 stroke I attempted to reset the "split" memory function.

I struggled for 30 minutes without success. I am sure I was doing things correctly. Even the micro-processor was reset, following the instructions in the manual. Again, no success.

Maybe leaving it until the morning, just in case I am doing something wrong might help. I am just a bit suspicious that the "split" function just disappeared.

Unless I can get "split" working again I can only RX on 472kHz WSPR. Tonight I am not on any band.

Horse chestnut tree - NOT amateur radio

In our local churchyard are two large horse chestnut trees that were planted (19th century?) to commemorate the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The photo shows our elder grandson standing under it.

Crabapple jelly - NOT amateur radio

We have just one crabapple tree but a friend has already made three jars of crabapple jelly. There are several hundred crabapples left, so I may have a go myself.

Moan time: cookies - NOT amateur radio

In recent months every website I visit asks me to OK cookies. I think this must be some new EU directive.

As with most such things, it is counter-productive. If you read the terms and conditions they can be pages of legal mumbo-jumbo, so most people will just "accept" without reading the terms. In fact this pop-up about accepting cookies becomes a real pain.

Surely I am not alone.

Return to 2m FT8

A short while ago I returned to 2m FT8. Initially I called CQ (2.5W to the big wheel) and now I am RX only. Although my CQ got no QSOs, I received 8 spots with the best again being N. Ireland GI6ATZ (479km). On RX 10 spots in 5 countries.

UPDATE 1708z: So far today on 2m FT8 RX 49 stations in 8 countries spotted. Best DX spotted on 2m FT8 today is DL3TW (655km).

472kHz WSPR overnight

My 10mW ERP was spotted by more stations overnight than ever before. In all, my tiny signal was spotted by 20 receiving stations including Norway, weakly, just once. Quite decent results. The table shows the stations that spotted me in distance order.
On 472kHz WSPR RX, just 10 stations were spotted.

Sunspots - Sunday October 27th 2019

Solar flux is 68 and the SSN 0.  A=18 and K=3.

26 Oct 2019

UK Election and BREXIT - NOT amateur radio

This could be a momentous week in UK politics. Firstly on Monday, only if passed with a two-thirds majority, we could have a General Election on December 12th. On October 31st we are meant to be leaving the EU.

Somehow, I suspect neither will happen.

630m WSPR after a break

As 2m FT8 is a waste of time overnight, I have decided to go on 472kHz (630m) WSPR  overnight tonight. My first 2 minute 10mW ERP transmission was spotted by 4 stations. So far, after about 30 minutes I have spotted 3 stations including 2 Germans.  Will I be spotted in Norway overnight? Sadly there are only two stations on 472kHz WSPR TX this evening. One is the huge signal of G3KEV and the other is mine!

World Cup Rugby - NOT amateur radio

I am not a great rugby fan, but to beat the NZ all-blacks is a big deal, that much I do know. In the end England won 19-7, which is quite a margin, so they now play in the final. At the end of the day it is just a game, but the English team must be very pleased. Wales play tomorrow. It would be good if they won too.

The Pixie and Micro-80 transceivers

Many years ago I wrote about these simple 80m CW transceivers. In recent years 40m versions have been available from China at very low prices. My website is very old now (at least 6 years old in the main).

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

Laser information

In the past, I only tried 481THz (red light) transmissions with LEDs, but Peter Thornton G6NGR kindly sent me a useful link. There is lots of other interesting stuff on that website too.

See http://maxmcarter.com/lasrstuf/concentrator2.html

Daytime 2m FT8

2m FT8 (2.5W to the big-wheel omni antenna) was turned on just before 0900z. A CQ call was spotted by 3 stations with the best being GI6ATZ (479km). On 2m FT8 RX nothing yet spotted.

UPDATE 1148z: On 2m FT8 RX 22 stations in 7 countries spotted so far today.

2m FT8 RX spots here to 1725z
UPDATE 1725z: On 2m FT8 RX 50 stations in 8 countries spotted today so far with best DX being DL3TX (655km).

Night off

Overnight all my radios were off. For several nights I have tried 2m FT8 but most activity starts at breakfast so being on overnight seems pointless. I may try 630m WSPR again tonight.

Sunspots - Saturday October 26th 2019

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 0. A=29 and K=3.

25 Oct 2019

Very old - NOT amateur radio

Snailwell church is one of 2 in Cambridgeshire with round towers. This one was built in 1070 just 4 years after the Norman conquest so is almost 1000 years old.

Getting older - NOT amateur radio

Whilst clearing boxes in the loft we came upon this photo, which is about 35 years old. We have aged! This is my wife with her brothers.

Farm shop lunch - NOT amateur radio

As we have one of our grandsons with us at the moment we went out for lunch at our local farm shop. As might be expected, they had lots of Halloween stuff on sale. Here is our elder grandson with a toy spider on his arm.

Old magazines online

In an email received earlier today an old colleague reminded me of this amazing online resource. It contains pdf versions of many magazines and publications of interest to amateurs. I can highly recommend it. If you are looking for it, it is probably here. Despite its title there are magazines from across the world here.

See https://www.americanradiohistory.com/index.htm

2m FT8

Yet again, laziness meant I remained on 2m FT8 RX overnight. As before, most spots were after breakfast. At the moment (0852z) 13 stations in 3 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today so far.

UPDATE 1425z: Now 27 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today.

Stations spotted on 2m 
FT8 RX today to 2007z.
UPDATE 1756z:  Now 39 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today. An FT8 CQ (2.5W) earlier this afternoon was spotted by 6 stations in 4 countries with best DX spot being by GI6ATZ (479km).

UPDATE 2007z: Now  46 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today.

Sunspots - Friday October 25th 2019

Solar flux is 65 and the SSN 0. A=18 and K=4.

24 Oct 2019

Pumpkins - NOT amateur radio

It is Halloween season. As our elder grandson is with us before Halloween night we are celebrating it early. He still wants a party!

Poppy Day - NOT amateur radio

This morning on Breakfast Television was a piece on the making of poppy badges. These are sold about now to support the work of the British Legion. I came in late so missed most of the piece. At first I thought "how odd to be featuring poppies at this time of year". Then it dawned on me that this is the time of year when poppies are sold. Doh! Time certainly flies as in my mind it was still summer.

Active RX loop kit

Southgate News has a piece about a new active RX loop kit that retails in the UK for £44.66 inclusive of shipping.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/october/loop-antenna-amplifier-released.htm

2m FT8

Overnight I remained on 2m FT8 RX. As on previous occasions, most stations were spotted around breakfast time or later. Little was copied overnight. In fact there is little point remaining on 2m overnight.

By 0925z 16 stations in 7 countries were spotted.

UPDATE 1555z: Now 34 stations in 10 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today. Best DX on 2m FT8 RX is EA2BFM (1030km) in northern Spain. This station was strong, suggesting aircraft reflection perhaps?

Self Importance - NOT amateur radio

Several times recently I have travelled by train and observed people in work talking with their colleagues. Usually there is a more senior person with someone more junior. Often the older person has to impress the younger member of staff or look "cool". The younger person looks in awe of the senior person and has to set a good impression as future advancement may depend on what his impressions of you are.

Having been retired now for 11 years it is amazing how silly all this looks. Work matters seem so important at the time, when really they are not.

I guess this is how we all behave or have behaved in the past. I am not saying it is wrong, but when you can stand back, it does look posed.

Sunspots - Thursday October 24th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the SSN 0. A=2 and K =2.

23 Oct 2019

Spelling Mistakes - NOT amateur radio

From time to time I make spelling mistakes. Today as an example I had Octeober  instead of October. Most times these are simple typing errors, but occasionally I just miss these because of my 2013 stroke. Where possible these are corrected as soon as I spot them. Don't be afraid to tell me if you spot any I miss!

2m FT8

So far today, 15 stations in 6 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX, including, Ireland and Germany. This is using the FT817ND and the big-wheel omni antenna. I have not tried calling CQ yet.

AMSAT-UK Colloquium

Southgate News has a report of a recent AMSAT-UK colloquium and links are being made available on YouTube to some presentations including one on Oscar 100.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/october/report-on-eshail-2-qo-100-ham-radio-geostationary-satellite.htm

Move to groups.io

Several of my groups had a home on Yahoo, but they are winding down their groups service, so I have migrated these to groups.io.  Many people have now moved.

Starting groups "from scratch" is free in .io, whereas transferring old Yahoo groups costs $110 in the first year. I started new groups and asked people to transfer files and photos they believe are needed, but to keep the size to a minimum. The historical messages will be lost though.

See https://groups.io/

Sunspots - Wednesday October 23rd 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the sunspot number 0.  A=3 and K=0.

22 Oct 2019

Cactus Day - NOT amateur radio

Our younger grandson is quite creative. Here he is with his little sister baking the cake to celebrate Cactus Day (see photo).

In case you are wondering what Cactus Day is, it was invented by his little sister on October 22nd last year, inspired by a cactus on a cardboard box.

It is now an annual event!

Windose Defender Crappery - NOT amateur radio

Recently Windose 10 did a big update. When I tried to log into Windows Defender all appears to have changed. It is no longer clear if Windows Defender is trying to protect things or not. In the past this was very clear and it told me that my other anti-virus program was providing protection.

This was sneaked in without my knowledge. I am getting more "big brother" conscious than ever.

Microsoft, just what are you playing at? If you intend to make things worse, just tell us!! We are grown up!  When it works, Windows 10 is good, but if it is so darn good why is it forever changing?

Licking the bowl - NOT amateur radio

After baking a cake earlier, 2 of our grandchildren busy licking the bowl!

2m FT8

Just before 1000z, I switched on 2m FT8 again using 2.5W to the big-wheel omni. Already 6 stations in 4 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX. My own CQ call on FT8 was spotted by 4 stations in 2 countries with my best DX on 2m FT8 TX being GI6ATZ (479km).

UPDATE 1545z: Currently 37 stations in 7 countries spotted today on 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 2151z: Now 65 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today. Off to bed now, but still monitoring 2m FT8 RX.

Sunspots - Tuesday October 22nd 2019

Solar flux is 64 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=0. As far as I am aware this is the lowest solar flux this solar minimum.

21 Oct 2019

BREXIT deal near? - NOT amateur radio

The UK pound continues to appreciate in value against the euro. It seems the currency markets have already assumed a deal will be done, even if there are delays. I am not sure if this is or is not good for the UK, but many will prefer certainty.

Orionid meteors

We are reaching the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. These are the result of Halley's comet. I have no idea how good this shower is at enhancing 2m propagation.

Making parkin - NOT amateur radio

Our younger grandson making parkin in our kitchen with my wife earlier. He loves it! Eating and making I mean.

Breakfast - NOT amateur radio

One of our sons is staying with us for a few days. Here he is at breakfast with his two children.

Oscar 100 geostationary satellite

As regular blog readers know, every few weeks I look at activity levels on this satellite. At the moment activity looks similar to a month ago. I am certainly still seeing plenty of space on the narrowband transponder.

It would appear many people enjoy the challenge of getting a signal through the satellite, then lose interest. If all those who had gear were on, it could get quite busy considering the footprint. By now, I was expecting it to be very busy, although the lack of black boxes may keep numbers moderate.

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Yet again on 2m FT8

At the moment I am on 2m FT8 RX.

In the last 6 hours 9 station in 4 countries spotted including the Isle of Man and Germany. Best DX so far today on 2m FT8 RX is DJ9IE (515km). 2m FT8 never fails!

UPDATE 1929z: Today, 26 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX. For some reason my time server (not the internet) is not working so nothing spotted in recent minutes.

Sunspots - Monday October 21st 2019

Solar flux is 65 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K=3.

20 Oct 2019

Singing - NOT amateur radio

Our granddaughter loves singing. Here she is in our lounge - singing and dancing.

Web SDRs

This was mentioned not long ago, but if you are unfamiliar with web based SDRs I recommend them. It is like a window on the world and many of these support multiple users. Great fun.

See http://www.websdr.org/ for a list of some. Martin G8JNJ knows of some others.  I think he gave links in a comment on an earlier post.

Family - NOT amateur radio

This is half-term week, so we should see all the grandchildren one way or another. In our household October 22nd is "cactus day", so called as our youngest granddaughter named this after a cardboard box and our youngest grandson decided to decorate a cake with cactus decorations last year! It is a bit of fun. The photo shows us last year.

10m WSPR

My antenna blew down in the spring, so apart from a brief outing with a tiny magnetic loop on the back of the transceiver, it is some time since I've been on the band. With JT65 and WSPR I have literally spanned the globe with a low end fed wire antenna and QRP.

When my antenna is up again, I hope to resume WSPR beaconing on 10m. For this I use a 500mW stand-alone (no PC needed) WSPR beacon by W5OLF. This works really well.

When good, 10m is a great band and perhaps my favourite. Antennas are small and often just low power is needed. It is good every summer for Es propagation. Well over 100 DXCC countries have been worked here on 10m QRP SSB.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/w5olf

UPDATE 1247z: According to feedback from Keith, my original link to Jay's page may not be there any more, so it has been removed. A similar unit is available from https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/wsprlite-antenna-tester/

2m FT8

Overnight, I stayed on 2m FT8 RX. So far, 6 stations spotted in 4 countries, with most of these after breakfast.

A 2.5W FT 8 CQ to the big-wheel omni antenna was spotted by a couple of stations with the best being G4RRA (334km) in Devon. No QSOs resulted from the CQ call.

UPDATE 1058z: Now 19 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX today. Best DX on 2m FT8 RX is GI0ITC (561km). As far as I can tell, conditions are flat and this is the sort of range I get most days.

2m FT8 spots this morning
UPDATE 1137z: The map shows the stations spotted to 1101z today on 2m FT8 RX using the big-wheel omni antenna. At 1137z still 19 stations spotted.

False decode

Ah well, it beats BREXIT for excitement. Just now, on my PC screen was this supposedly on 2m FT8 RX:

075345 -24  2017Hz TO2MJR   WA9RRX R  LM80

At first I was puzzled. Then I checked to see if anyone else had spotted him. Just me! Conclusion: false decode. It happens sometimes.

Sunspots - Sunday October 20th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=2.

19 Oct 2019

UK amateur radio in decline?

Southgate News has a piece about the decline in the numbers of UK radio amateurs, making the point that the rate of deaths is not being made up by new people coming in to the hobby. This is serious stuff. One possibility is introducing a "Beginner's Licence" restricted to VHF/UHF only with commercial gear only. Somehow I doubt this will do the trick as radio is no longer the magic it was to young people in the 1940s-1970s.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/october/will-a-beginners-licence-cure-the-slump-in-new-radio-amateurs.htm

2m FT8

Mid morning, with the storms well gone, and after a night off, I have returned to 2m FT8. Despite just using 2.5W and the big-wheel, my CQ was copied in Devon and Cornwall again (no QSOs). On RX, 7 stations in 4 countries spotted.

Overall there appear to be fewer stations on 2m FT8.

UPDATE 1322z: Now 15 stations in 5 countries spotted.

UPDATE 1748z: Now 39 stations in 7 countries spotted. A recent 2.5W FT8 CQ was spotted by 6 stations but no QSOs resulted.

Stations spotted here today on 2m FT8 
receive with the big-wheel omni antenna
UPDATE 2046z: Now 53 stations in 8 countries spotted today on 2m FT8 RX with the big-wheel omni and the FT817ND. Who says 2m is dead?

Old age - NOT amateur radio

Maybe this is something that comes with advancing years, but these days I am grateful for small things.

Years ago our full lives were ahead of us, whereas as we get older we are more aware of our brief mortal span. I am grateful to be alive and generally well, that my wife is fit etc.. If this sounds morbid, I am sorry.

Live every day as if your last and think of all the good things, however small.

Charity Cards - NOT amateur radio

My wife was about to buy 40 Christmas cards from a charity online. They looked nice and were quite good value. We don't mind paying a bit more for a good cause. Then, we got to checkout to see an additional £4.95 added for delivery. We cancelled and that charity lost out. For the delivery cost we could have bought another 15 cards from a different charity. Not only that, my wife "unsubscribed" so she no longer gets emails from them. In several ways this charity has lost out. It has lost our custom and our goodwill. In future we hope the card price is inclusive of delivery. Simples.

Sunspots - Saturday October 19th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K=1.

18 Oct 2019

Windows 10 updates - NOT amateur radio

Windows 10 is supposed to be wonderful and safe. Yet again I have waited about 30 minutes whilst updates were installed. If it is so wonderful why are these massive updates needed? To say I am not impressed is an understatement. A good job I wasn't in a hurry.

Caught out! Heavy storms

Whilst out at my U3AC course in Cambridge we had a heavy storm this afternoon. There was lots of hail and thunder. Everything was connected. Yet again, our weather forecast was hopeless as there was nothing of the storms forecast for here.

Luckily, all seems to be well and everything, as far as I can tell, is working at normal sensitivity. The next time I go out, I shall ignore the weather forecasts and disconnect everything.

When we return later (everything is currently disconnected) I shall try 2m FT8 with the FT817 at 2.5W.

New .io groups formed

As I hosted several Yahoo groups (that are closing) new groups have been on groups.io . Transferring groups involves money whereas creating new ones does not (I hope!).  Notices have been posted in the Yahoo groups encouraging people to join and transfer across any files and photos which should be kept. At the moment, these new groups are awaiting approval. One thing that will not be saved is old messages.

Below are the old and new groups.

miraclewhip                                miracleantennas
sub9kHzamateurradio                  sub9khz
vhfam                                         vhfam

More UK Rallies


Downshire Secondary School, Downshire Road, Carrickfergus. Doors will open at 12 noon for the public and 9.30am for traders. All proceeds from the sale of the food and beverages will go to Belfast Samaritans, a very worthy charity. More information from Elizabeth Forde, 0785 544 2839, elizabethforde64@yahoo.com.


3rd Witham Scout & Guide HQ, Rear of Spring Lodge Community Centre, Powers Hall End, Witham, Essex CM8 2HE. Registration is at 8.30am for a 9am start. The event is due to finish at around 4.30pm. Pre-register as places are limited to G0IBN: g0ibn1@yahoo.com or 0745 342 60 87 Previous events have welcomed visitors from all over the UK.


Volunteer Hall, St Johns Street, Galashiels, Scottish Borders TD1 3JX. Doors open 11am for disabled visitor and 11.15am for general public. There will be traders and a Bring & Buy. Refreshments will be available on site. Admission price TBC Plymouth Radio Club would like to inform people that this year's rally in November, will not be held due to falling numbers of members and helpers this year. The club would like to thank all those who have supported them over the years.

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

BREXIT and the DUP

At the moment the latest deal done with the EU by Boris Johnson may not get through the UK House of Commons without the support of the Northern Ireland DUP party.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlene_Foster

Another great night on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Overnight was another great session on 472kHz WSPR TX. In the last day alone, 22 different stations have spotted me with a station in Norway yet again spotting me. Those spotting me are shown in the table below.

So far this season, I have been spotted by 43 different stations on 472kHz WSPR, which is far more than last season.
Stations spotting my 472kHz 10mW ERP WSPR in the last day. 
As usual, still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.

Sunspots - Friday October 18th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the sunspot number 0. A=6 and K=0. We really are in the pits with sunspot minimum conditions. Surely, soon, conditions must get a bit better?

17 Oct 2019

SAQ (17.2kHz CW) transmission on Oct 24th

Southgate News reports that there will be a special CW transmission from SAQ to commemorate UN day on October 24th.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/october/saq-to-transmit-on-un-day.htm

Autumn garden - NOT amateur radio

Already our garden is looking autumnal. Dew is now appearing on the grass and trees are starting to lose their leaves.

Last summer we lost a fair bit of the grass due to the heat. After reseeding (as you can see) the grass is recovering well.

Even better on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Overnight, I was spotted by 16 stations in 5 countries including 3 different stations in Norway!  The pleasing thing is I was spotted multiple times in Norway, and not that marginally! As usual, still using the unchanged earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground, so really nothing special at all. 12 stations spotted here on 472kHz WSPR RX.

I think this is the first time I have been spotted in Norway by 3 stations on 472kHz WSPR ever. The chart is arranged in distance order and shows where I was spotted and how many times.
Spots received overnight 
(10mW ERP) on 472kHz SWPR


Whatever your views on BREXIT, the latest statement by the DUP is a bodyblow for those seeking a deal.

Sunspots - Thursday October 17th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K=2.

16 Oct 2019

Yahoo Groups closing

It has been on the cards for ages, but Yahoo is closing its groups. Some have migrated to .io although this is not free ($110 for Premier Membership in first year?). I created several amateur radio related Yahoo groups and I propose to close these. Some groups have migrated, although none that I host.

BREXIT deal slipping away? - NOT amateur radio

Frantic last minute BREXIT discussions are continuing, but meanwhile the clock ticks. Is a deal for the UK to leave the EU about to happen? I think both sides want a deal, but they are finding the precise words of a legal agreement hard to find.

Good night on 472kHz WSPR

Last night was, I think, the best ever at this QTH with spots of my 10mW ERP 472kHz QRPP WSPR by 2 different Norwegians. One was the best DX ever from this QTH on 472kHz WSPR - LA9IY (1374km).
Stations that spotted my 10mW ERP
 472kHz WSPR overnight

Sunspots - Wednesday October 16th 2019

Solar flux is 67 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=1.

15 Oct 2019

2m UKAC results

The results of the October 2m activity contest (UKAC) have been published. In the low power section I have moved up to 76th out of 190, despite being active for less than an hour and just using the big-wheel. In my view, this is a fun contest.

Grass cut - NOT amateur radio

Although still dull, it was dryish, so I cut the lawns.

The garden is starting to look quite autumnal with several trees losing leaves.

The photo shows the back lawn earlier.

Poor night on 472kHz WSPR

Last night was a poor one on 472kHz WSPR. Both on RX and TX (10mW ERP to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground) there were far fewer spots. I am wondering if after several days of rain, the soil conductivity is higher so the effective loop size in the ground is much smaller? Or were conditions just poorer?
Overnight on 472kHz WSPR here
Martin G8JNJ modelled my ground loop at 475kHz and got the "gain" as -33dBi. This seems about right and it maybe even worse!

UPDATE 1338z: I have been on 472kHz WSPR all day. Spots received up to 203km in daylight and I have spotted some new stations on 472kHz WSPR RX.

Earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

For some years now I have used this antenna system successfully on the VLF, LF and MF bands. It certainly works and has worked as high as 60m, although this high I am unsure how much is the "loop in the ground" and how much is from the wire just above the ground. If you don't have space for a big antenna and earth on 160m, 630m or 2200m, you might want to give this a try.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/earth-electrode-antennas

Sunspots - Tuesday October 15th 2019

Solar flux is 66 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K=1.

14 Oct 2019

472kHz WSPR

Although I have spotted several stations, including multiple spots of LA8AV (1035km), not a single spot of my 10mW ERP so far. This seems a little odd. By now, I would have expected some spots.

UPDATE 2043z: I restarted WSJT-X and resynced the clock and was spotted by 2E0ILY (209km). Was this just coincidence?

2m FT8

As 6m was not showing much promise, I have moved up to 2m FT8 using the FT817ND and the big-wheel. I am getting suspicious of PSKreporter maps today as no spots (of my 2m FT8 CQ) appeared and neither were several calls by G0GGG on 6m which were copied here locally.

Stations that spotted my 2m FT8 CQ 
(2.5W to big-wheel) this afternoon
UPDATE 1456z: Now getting my usual spots from Cornwall and Northern Ireland on 2m FT8 despite just running 2.5W to the big-wheel. I suspect there was a short problem with PSK reporter. Also seeing 2m FT8 stations in Belgium and The Netherlands.

UPDATE 1639z: So far today, 17 stations in 7 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX here.

6m FT8

Laziness again!

Using the FT817ND at 2.5W to the V2000 vertical antenna, I am again on 6m FT8. G0GGG in IO81 square (Warminster) was calling an SM in Sweden. My own CQ calls were spotted by no-one.

UPDATE 1410z: No spots.

Pagers: SO dated now! - NOT amateur radio

About 20 years ago I was in charge of the RF development for the Cobalt FLEX pager for the USA, that was manufactured in Mexico.

We had an excellent bunch of developers who could probably have designed anything in RF. Instead, Philips got out of paging and made a hash of mobile phones.

The photo shows the team at a dinner after the development was completed.

472kHz WSPR (10mW ERP)

Overnight I was spotted by 15 different receiving stations, although a few were the same stations running different systems. This was the first time this season when my signal was not decoded in Norway. So far this autumn I have received spots from 28 different receiving stations as the table shows. As usual, I am using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.
472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP) so far this autumn
On 472kHz WSPR receive I have so far copied 22 stations here. I think this is the first time my TX results have bettered my RX results. My noise floor is low, so I guess there must be fewer active TX stations in range.

World Cup rugby - NOT amateur radio

Although not a great rugby fan, I see that Japan beat Scotland yesterday 28-21. The game was in doubt because of the typhoon. At least the match took place and the host nation goes on.

BREXIT deal coming? - NOT amateur radio

Although it is hard to tell, I get the feeling that the UK and EU are struggling to reach a last minute deal.

The UK leaving the EU without a deal would be messy and almost certainly not good for the UK or the EU. No doubt we will find out more this week. Likewise, further delay cannot be good.

UPDATE 1244z:  The UK pound has been falling all morning. I guess the markets are scared of a no-deal this week.

Optical communications

G4HJW's over the horizon 
(9km disatan) optical signal
Before my 2013 stroke, I really enjoyed my experiments out in the field with homebrew optical kit. Everything was home made: the electronics, the optics and even some of the test gear. This really is an area that is ideal for simple homebrewing. Sadly, I am too wobbly to do field work these days.  Truthfully, all the gear can be made in the "back of the garage" (mine was!) and it is easier than microwaves as all you need is a scope, multimeter and a weak LED source.

My "specialisation" was over the horizon weak optical signals. I managed to reach 8.1km non line-of-sight using a 481THz red LED with QRSS3. Nothing at all could be seen in the sky, yet there was perfect decoding on the PC. Had I been fit, I am sure much further would have been possible. As there were no clouds, I think this was clear air scattering.

What was needed was a much better tripod which was more stable and could be repeatably set in the right direction. My cheap tripod was wobbly and far from suitable. Accurate alignment is important. Once aligned there was the signal.

G4HJW's signal was way above the noise at 9km non line-of-sight (see photo above).

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

Iceland church - NOT amateur radio

We went to Iceland for a holiday in 2011, not knowing what to expect. We thought it would be barren, but instead it was green mostly with lots of lupins to be seen. We very much liked it.

Several churches were seen, often heated geothermally, including the one in the photo.

If you get a chance, do go there. When we went in August, it was not cold. In fact in one of the towns in the north people took off their shirts!

Sunspots - Monday October 14th 2019

Solar flux is 67 and the SSN 0. A=2 and K=2.

13 Oct 2019

Return to 472kHz WSPR

At about 1815z, I returned to 472kHz WSPR using my 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Already I have been spotted by 4 stations with the best spot being by F5WK (364km).

Fridge - NOT amateur radio

For some reason people have a fascination with looking in the fridges of other people.

Ours is as boring as most are!

Web SDRs

Even if your local noise level is high, you can still take a look at the HF bands by using a web based SDR RX. A good place to start is http://www.websdr.org/ . This has links to many SDR receivers around the world, so you can even listen to the bands as if you were elsewhere on the planet.

Webpage about 2m FT8

On my main website is a page about 2m FT8.  This mode has transformed 2m.  There is probably less SSB and CW operation, but every day, irrespective of conditions, DX that was previously unimaginable with QRP becomes possible. Almost without fail my QRP is copied at any time in Cornwall and Northern Ireland. This seems more like "flat band" tropo than aircraft, which would only work at certain times.

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

80m chirps?

Southgate News has a report from the IARU about odd chirps that have recently appeared on 80m.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2019/october/mysterious-chirps-in-80m-band.htm

2m FT8

Although I have been on 2m FT8 overnight there are no spots yet this morning.

UPDATE 0935z: So far 24 stations in 6 countries spotted on 2m FT8 with best DX being DK1FG (815km).

UPDATE 1205z: A recent 2m FT8 CQ (2.5W to the big-wheel omni antenna) was spotted by 7 stations. G1BHM (355km) in Devon was worked. In all 33 stations spotted today on 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE  1229z: As an experiment, I set the FT817ND to 500mW and called FT8 CQ. I  was still copied by 3 stations with the best being G1BHM (355km) in Devon. With 2m FT8, you definitely do not need high power or big beams!   On 2m FT8 RX, 35 stations spotted so far today.

UPDATE 1326z: Now 37 stations spotted here today on 2m FT8 RX with the big wheel.

UPDATE 1712z: Now 58 stations in 8 countries spotted so far today using the FT817ND and the big-wheel omni antenna. The maps shows the stations so far received today on 2m FT8 RX.

Richard Dawkins - NOT amateur radio

Richard Dawkins is now 78. In his lifetime he has expressed some extreme views and termed religions as outdated or similar. I have admit to agreeing with many of his views.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins

Mechanical TV in the 21st century

When TV first appeared it was a 30 line mechanical system pioneered by John Logie Baird. These days there are still 30 line TV enthusiasts, although now PCs can be used to do line conversion and reception.

See https://www.taswegian.com/NBTV/forum/
See also http://www.tvdawn.com/background/

The mystery of consciousness - NOT amateur radio

All humans are conscious beings who can contemplate our pasts and futures. We do not know about other animals.  As it is highly likely we evolved from animal species, it highly probable (at least) some animals are conscious and aware of themselves as we humans are.

In all the vastness of our observable universe, we are here on this planet at this time.

At some point in the future we may be able to explain what consciousness is. For now, it remains a total mystery. Is it linked to our physical body?

Sunspots - Sunday October 13th 2019

Solar flux is 67 and the sunspot number still 0. A=13 and K=3.

12 Oct 2019

2m FT8

OK, I admit it. I am lazy!

As it saved unplugging the lead from my SignaLink USB to the rig, I went on 2m FT8 using the FT817ND rather than the FT991A, so power was 2.5W. Even so, my brief FT8 CQ was spotted by 5 stations with best being GI6ATZ (479km) in N. Ireland at -16dB S/N. G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall seems to spot me every time! I should try with 100mW to see if he still spots me!

On 2m FT8 RX the best station spotted here was G1BHM (355km). Again, I am just using the big-wheel omni antenna.

UPDATE 1528z: Now 19 stations in 6 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX in the last few hours.

UPDATE 1606z: Now 22 stations in 6 countries spotted so far this afternoon on 2m FT8 RX. My very recent 2.5W FT8 CQ was again spotted in N. Ireland and Cornwall. I am sure the 43 element at G7RAU must help!

2m FT8 RX so far today.
UPDATE 2002z: Now 37 stations in 8 countries spotted in the last 5 hours on 2m FT8 RX using the FT817ND and the big-wheel omni antenna. Best DX today on 2m FT8 RX is DK6JU (529km).

Summer migrant birds - NOT amateur radio

At the end of September we visited our son near Canterbury. There were plenty of young swallows overhead getting ready to migrate south. Already most of the summer migrants have flown south. By now most have gone. It will be March or April next year before we see them again.

Network radios

At the moment we are at sunspot minimum and conditions on the higher HF bands are poor. If you look, there is still some DX there, but it is much harder to find than a few years ago.

Conditions will soon start to improve, but in the meantime some will turn to network radios. These look like typical 2m or 70cm rigs, but use the internet to connect.  They can be useful to connect to distant repeaters via Echolink.

Portable network radios have antennas, PTTs and batteries and look and feel like conventional radios. Although I have owned a network radio for over a year, it hardly ever get used. They may appeal to some.

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

Extinction Rebellion - NOT amateur radio

There is no doubt in my mind that the climate IS changing.

The overwhelming evidence points to man having a great influence, although that matters less than changing habits to minimise the impact of rising temperatures. Renewables are now far cheaper than they were.

In the UK, there was criticism over recent actions by Extinction Rebellion activists causing disruption in London. As in HK, activists risk alienating the very people they seek to influence. Certainly climate change is now being talked about. A year ago it was talked about far less.

I am not sure what I think. What is needed is a big change in transport, heating, food and other things across the world. This will involve subtle changes brought about by gradually persuading people to change habits. In my mind this will happen. I just hope this happens soon enough.

Recovering lawn - NOT amateur radio

Today it is a wet miserable autumn day. In summer 2018 a lot of our grass died in the heat. I reseeded the bare patches and the lawn has largely recovered. This summer was nothing like as hot and dry as 2018. Any remaining bits will be reseeded.

The light strip is because I put down too much feed. Hopefully this will recover over the winter.

To Norway again on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

So far this season my QRPP WSPR from the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 472kHz has reached Norway on every occasion. Overnight LA8AV (1035km) spotted me 4 times! He must have a very low noise level. The table shows the results overnight.

Sunspots - Saturday October 12th 2019

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 0. A=8 and K=2.

11 Oct 2019

Another Beatles recording? - NOT amateur radio

Looking back, I was one of the rare people who saw the Beatles live on stage. This was in 1964 in Torquay before they became really famous.

It is just possible that the two remaining Beatles could make a recording together. Back in 2017, Ringo and Sir Paul appeared on Twitter together.

My wife did her teaching practice in a junior school where some of the Beatles went. She also helped at Strawberry Fields and banked on Penny Lane.