31 Jan 2020

Overnight on 160m FT8 RX

Quite a decent night on 160m FT8 RX with 763 stations spotted including 16 North American stations and 2 South Americans.
Stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX overnight 

UK Rallies

The following UK rallies are occurring this weekend:


The Wilton Lounge, Sully Sports & Leisure Club, South Road, Sully CF64 5SP. Doors open 10am to 2pm. Entry £2 under 18s free, single pitch £10, traders £25 (tables included). There will be 2nd hand radio, computer and electronics and there is a close unloading point for traders and ample parking. Catering and a bar will be available. Nigel, GW1CUQ, gw1cuq@gmail.com.


Cornelius Vermuyden School, Dinant Avenue, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 9QS. Talk in on 145.550MHz. Free car parking and easy level ground floor access to two large halls. Doors open at 10am, disabled visitors 9.45am. Admission is £3, children under 10 free. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available, as well as bacon butties. There will be radio, computing and electronics traders. More details from Tony, G0JYI, via tony@tonystreet.net.

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

Sunspots - Friday January 31st 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 11.  A=12 and K=2.

At the moment, it looks like we have just passed the solar minimum, although we will need several more months to be sure. It will be interesting to see what my favourite solar website has to say in a few days time.

30 Jan 2020

Return to 160m FT8

Crowded 160m FT8!
Trying to find a space to call CQ on 160m FT8 with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground this evening was hard even though most FT8 signals are just 50Hz wide. I have never, ever, seen it so busy (see first photo).

My 10W FT8 CQ resulted in no QSOs, but was spotted by 21 stations throughout western Europe (see second photo).

Spots of my 10W FT8 160m CQ just now
Best DX on 160m FT8 RX so far is RV0AR (5577km).

UPDATE 2210z: The first North American spotted was WU1ITU (4862km) at 2142z.

481THz beacon

It is some years since I designed my optical gear. This is a photo of my beacon TX which was copied well over the horizon.

Other bands with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

Just for fun yesterday, I tried (not very hard) to use my earth-electrode "antenna" on 40m and 30m FT8. Using the auto-ATU in the FT991A I tried to get a good match. On both 40m and 30m the SWR was too high, so it failed to even try! On 40m FT8 RX it was still seeing plenty of spots even so.

At some point I must try the unun in my x80 to load up the coax to my big-wheel antenna. With the auto ATU in the FT991A it may match on some bands.

G3TFX yesterday

Richard lives in the same village and often pops in.

Cambridge - NOT amateur radio

My wife made this collage yesterday when she went to her U3AC course in the city. It is beautiful and all too easy to take it for granted. The bikes in the bottom photo are typical of Cambridge.

160m FT8 overnight

Overnight I returned to 160m FT8 RX with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. It was an average session with just under 600 stations spotted with just 5 North Americans, 1 Caribbean and no South Americans.  Best DX spotted was KV4FZ (6762km).
Stations spotted overnight on 160m FT8 RX

Sunspots - Thursday January 30th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 11. A=9 and K=2.

29 Jan 2020

Wayback machine - old internet sites

It is possible to find many old websites from the past that are old and long gone by looking on the Wayback Machine that archives and takes a snapshot of many closed websites. For example, today I viewed one of my websites created 23 years ago (www.lapr.demon.co.uk). I think my first ever website was created in 1994 using Compuserve. I shall have to see if I can find it!

A tip: keep a record of the URL of your old websites. Many of my old ones I can't remember, so I cannot do a search!

Crystal sets

It is some years now since I last played with crystal sets. If you have never tried these I urge you to have a go. These are powered entirely by the received signals, so no batteries or power source of any kind is needed.

Being envelope detectors, they are only really suitable for AM, although I have detected SSB and CW signals on mine in the past. There are even designs for band 2 FM using high-Q circuits and slope detection!

In the past, I have copied all over the world on a short wave crystal set. These were genuine receptions from the originating countries and not from relays nearer home. I have copied several amateur signals on 160 and 80m too.

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

See also https://crystalradio.net/crystalplans/index.shtml

BREXIT - NOT amateur radio

This Friday, the UK will no longer be in the EU. It has been a member for 47 years, after being famously blocked by General de Gaulle in 1963.  We eventually joined in the 1970s.  It will be a difficult year ahead with trade negotiations with the EU and other countries.

I have mixed feelings. There is a lot wrong with the EU and I feel the EU will be much weaker without the UK. On the whole, I favoured staying in the EU and trying to get change from within.

Having left, it is up to the UK to forge its place in the world. I hope we maintain close trading ties with the EU. That was why we joined in the first place. Federal Europe was never, as far as I know, ever in our thinking.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51287430

Linear time? - NOT amateur radio

We always assume that time is linear going from the past into the future. But what if time is an illusion? One thing is certain: we know so little about so much. It is entirely possible that in our future we will come to a different conclusion about many things. Think how our world view changed with Einstein and later quantum physics.

New houses - NOT amateur radio

It seems that every nook and cranny in our Cambridgeshire village is being used for "fill-in" houses. At the moment, houses are not selling well, but that does not stop developers keen to make a quick profit.

SSTV from ISS?

Southgate News reports that there is expected to be SSTV from the International Space Station on Jan 30/31st.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/january/slow-scan-tv-from-iss-january-30-31.htm#.XjFNtfKTLnE

80m FT8 overnight

What strikes me is how similar results were to 160m FT8 recently. As before, I am still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Overall, 769 stations spotted since yesterday afternoon.
80m FT8 RX here overnight
UPDATE 1322z: After remaining on 80m FT8 I was surprised to see a recent CQ (10W) was spotted by 6 stations with best DX spot being by LA7DFA (1311km). Earlier, I called a G station and enjoyed a solid 80m FT8 QSO. I am pleasantly surprised how well the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground is performing on 80m FT8.

Cambridgeshire's most inspiring teacher - NOT amateur radio

A few days ago my wife was named in the local media as a candidate for most legendary teacher.

She enjoyed her time as a teacher and judging by all the pupils who stop her when shopping years later, she certainly made a lasting impression.

I am proud of her. There have been some very kind comments made about her.

Ferrite rod transmitting antennas.

This has appeared before, but I think it is worth repeating.

Ferrite rods can be used on TX as long as the ferrite does not saturate. This means low power.  I like to think of the high permeability as a "shrinking of space".  Indeed this is how I visualise ferrites work on RX.

Being a loop, they can be very narrowband, but will work when frequency is fixed such as with WSPR or FT8.

I have no idea what the "gain" is, nor have I any idea of the ferrite material that I used.  It is some years since these experiments were carried out.  The results astounded me.

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

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permeability_(electromagnetism)

Sunspots - Wednesday January 29th 2020

Solar flux is 74 and the SSN 11.  A=5 and K=3.

28 Jan 2020

80m FT8 with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

Just for a change I am trying 80m FT8.

At this frequency some may argue that as much energy is radiated by the wire running along the garden fence as is radiated by the "loop in the ground". I cannot be sure.

Anyway, it certainly works. I had to use my FT991A auto-ATU to get a low SWR and I am still limiting power to 10W so my PSU is well within its ratings (20A max).

So far this afternoon, my CQs have been spotted across Europe and I have spotted 77 stations on FT8 RX with best DX R4IK (3218km).

UPDATE 1938z: So far this evening plenty of EU stations spotting my 10W. On 80m FT8 RX 298 stations spotted so far.
Stations spotting my 10W FT8 TX so far
UPDATE 2047z: Now 359 stations spotted today on 80m FT8 RX.
80m FT8 RX so far today

How to call kingfishers in Assam - NOT amateur radio

You may enjoy this video. In the UK just seeing a kingfisher is a treat these days!

House plants - NOT amateur radio

My wife is very keen on house plants and we usually have several out at one time. We have had some cyclamen out for months (see photo).

10m operation

10m is one of my favourite HF bands. At the moment it not too good (mind you Es in the spring/summer months is good at any part of the sunspot cycle) but in a few years it will again be one of our very best HF bands. I suspect 10m FT8 will be transformative.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/10m_op

6m FT8

At about 1300z, I QSYed to 6m FT8. Although I called CQ at first (10W to the V2000 vertical) no spots yet on TX or RX.

UPDATE 1420z: Best DX on 6m FT8 RX today is IZ8IBB (1677km).

Good night on 160m FT8 RX

Overnight with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground 602 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX with plenty of North Americans.
160m FT8 RX overnight 

Sunspots - Tuesday January 28th 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 12. A=3 and K=1.

27 Jan 2020

160m FT8

This evening (with a break at 2000z for the East Cambridgeshire 2m net) I am on 160m FT8. My 10W CQ was spotted by 72 stations right across Europe (see photo).

6m FT8

I recently changed to 6m FT8 from 160m. As yet, just G3XDV (45km) spotting me and no spots of others apart from G3XDV.

Cookies warnings - NOT amateur radio

Recent EU laws have made it necessary to ask users permission before installing cookies. Personally I could not care less, but get very annoyed with all the pop-up messages asking my permission.  Like many, I rarely read these and just click "OK". In my view, this stupidity gone mad. You may like to think about these Chrome and Firefox extensions:


I think it is fine, but caveat emptor.

New 134GHz record

Persssonally, I found optical comms easier than microwaves as all the testgear and kit could be easily home made. According to Southgate News a new mm record has been set in Germany. They must be keen!

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/january/new-iaru-region-1-record-on-134-ghz.htm#.Xi7uK_KTLnE

160m FT8 overnight

At the moment I am having trouble accessing the PSKreporter database, so I cannot check the stations spotted overnight. It is now 0722z.

Stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX overnight 
UPDATE 0908z:  It is working now. 17 North Americans, 4 Caribbeans and 1 South American spotted. Just 280 stations spotted.

Sunspots - Monday January 27th 2020

Solar flux is 75 and the SSN 18. A=4 and K=0.

26 Jan 2020

Back on 160m FT8

As 6m was useless, I decided to swap to 160m FT8. There is still a contest that explains the general scarcity of FT8 signals on the band.  So far, just signals. from Denmark and Germany, although I suspect this will change after dark. On TX just 1 spot by a G station.

As usual, I am running 10W into the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. When the contest ends (presumably at 2400z) it will be interesting to see if FT8 activity picks up. Quite possibly those in the contest will want a break!

UPDATE 1625z:  Now it is getting dark, more Europeans are being spotted on 160m FT8. Currently, 11 stations spotted so far. My own 10W CQs have been copied by 5 stations in 4 countries so far.

QO-100 (Es'hail-2) Satellite

Every few weeks I check activity in the narrow-band transponder section of this geosynchronous  satellite. The last time I looked (just now) was at 1525z on a Sunday afternoon in Europe. The impression is that activity is increasing. This is just an impression based on a quick look at the webSDR at Goonhilly in Cornwall, UK

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

That new coronavirus - NOT amateur radio

It is still too early to tell how dangerous this is. Certainly with air travel all over the world, it can spread very quickly. With long incubation periods when people are healthy, but capable of spreading the disease, it could spread very widely, very quickly. There is always the danger of mutation.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-51254523

Brain overload? - NOT amateur radio

This may just be old age or another effect of my 2013 stroke. Driving has become much harder in the last year. When going 45mph it feels like 65mph. Also, I find I am always looking out for things that could happen, like drivers pulling out and not seeing me.

It is almost as if my brain is now more like someone with autism that has too much to process. My wife thinks this is all in the mind. She may be right. Certainly driving is tiring and stressful. Even with someone else driving I am still in brain overload.

6m FT8

A little while ago I QSYed from 160m FT8 to 6m FT8, calling CQ initially. It is now 1145z. Just 1 spot by G3XDV (45km) of my CQ (10W to the vertical omni V2000) and no QSOs.

On 6m FT8 RX just G0PQO (50km) spotted so far today.

UPDATE 1445z: So far today 3 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX with best DX IK8DYD (1638km). On 6m FT8 TX just 2 spots by G stations,

How do they do it?

An old friend of mine, Andy G4FZE, sent me a link to this video on YouTube. Originally it came from EEVblog.  This is an Australian UHF CB set.  The estimated BOM cost is $5 US. How do they do it?

Daphne - NOT amateur radio

These plants can have a wonderful scent. The Daphne Mezerium was one of my day's favourites.

See https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/popular/daphne/growing-guide

Sunspots - Sunday January 26th 2020

Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 14. A=3 and K=0.

Poor night on 160m FT8 RX

Stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX overnight 
Last night was poor on 160m FT8 with fewer stations than ever. In all, just 228 stations spotted in the last 12 hours with 6 North American stations and 1 Caribbean. Nothing from South America.

UPDATE 1136z: No spots at all in the last 3 hours on 160m FT8 RX!

25 Jan 2020

160m FT8

One of the reasons why I copied so few North Americans on 160m FT8 overnight could be because there was a big contest on. At the moment I am again on 160m FT8. So far, 20 stations have spotted my 10W with best DX being a spot by LA4GHA (1029km). On 160m FT8 RX 158 stations spotted so far, but none from North America yet.  Yet again,  still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.

UPDATE 2255z:  So far, 210 spots on 160m FT8 RX this evening.

Big Garden Birdwatch - NOT amateur radio

Every year about now, the RSPB carries out an annual survey to find the health of our bird populations in our gardens. I have done this now for many years. You are asked to record the maximum number of each species seen at one time. I chose to do 1530z -1630z thinking I might catch birds coming in to feed before dark. What a disappointment! In all just 6 species seen , mostly larger birds. The bird table was well stocked. Quite a few common birds were absent.
  • Starling 9
  • Woodpigeon 2
  • Crow 9
  • Robin 1
  • Blackbird 1
  • Collared Dove 1
You do not have to be an RSPB member and the survey runs until Monday.

What does the future hold? - NOT amateur radio

My dad died in 1987. He was totally unaware of the internet, the fall of the Berlin wall and much else too. If he came back today he would wonder at mobile phones.

I wonder what new things will appear in the next 30-40 years? It is hard to crystal gaze when new things appear of which we have no concept.

2m FT8

2m is so much more productive than 6m FT8 at this time of year.

My first 10W 2m FT8 CQ (using the big-wheel omni) was spotted by 25 stations in 5 countries! Best DX on 2m FT8 TX was EI3KD (583km).  On 2m FT8 RX, 14 stations so far spotted.

Stations spotting my 10W FT8 CQ
on 2m FT8 this afternoon
UPDATE 1718z: Whilst doing the Big British Birdwatch, I went on 2m FT8 TX. Quite a few spots of my 10W to the big-wheel plus a few 2-way QSOs. Best DX QSO was F6KRK (355km).

Electroboom - NOT to be tried at home!

It is amazing that this guy is still alive.  I think there are several videos around of his.

Do NOT try this at home!

6m FT8

Since about 1010z, I have QSYed to 6m FT8. Quiet so far with 2 G spots of my recent 10W CQ with best being G0LGS (171km). I am using the V2000 vertical omni. On 6m FT8 RX just G3XDV (45km) spotted.

UPDATE 1211z: This is proving a dead loss! A recent CQ was spotted by just G0LGS. I may try 2m FT8 instead. On 6m FT8 RX, nothing new.

160m FT8 overnight

Stations spotting my 10W FT8
on 160m last evening
As there was so little "real DX" spotted, I wondered if my PC had turned off to install an update. In total, just 3 North Americans spotted on 160m FT8 RX with nothing from the Caribbean or South America. In all, 410 stations were spotted in the last day on 160m FT8 RX. 

Things were looking promising last evening with plenty of spots of my 10W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground (see photo).

Breakfast - NOT amateur radio

Most mornings I eat a cooked breakfast. This sets me up for the day. It is cooked in just a drop of oil.

Some may consider this unhealthy. Personally, I enjoy it. A few years ago eggs were thought unhealthy. As far as I am concerned a little of what you like is fine.

Sunspots - Saturday January 25th 2020

Hopeful signs...

Solar flux is 71 (still above 70) and the sunspot number 12 (not 0). A=3 and K=1. I am beginning to think we may have started the climb.

24 Jan 2020

2m VHF - WSPR versus FT8

It is some years since I tried WSPR on 144MHz. Although I  managed some reasonable results, drift over the 2 minute transmission slot was a major issue.

FT8 is about 10dB less sensitive than WSPR, but the 15 second TX period means drift does not appear to be an issue at all. With WSPR the window is only 200Hz wide whereas FT8 has a window of at least 2500Hz. All signals within this window can be detected and decoded. Signals on FT8 occupy 50Hz, whereas WSPR signals occupy about 6Hz. FT8 allows 2-way QSOs, but this is not really possible with WSPR.

Overall, I find better results with FT8 than WSPR on VHF. I have even had 2-way FT8 QSOs on 70cm!

With the 15 second TX period there are more aircraft relections too with FT8. I have not tried FT4 which uses 7.5 second TX periods, but is less sensitive. Logically, with even shorter TX periods this should be even better with aircraft scatter when signals can be quite strong.

IC705 in Japan

It was reported on a Facebook page that the first 1000 purchasers of the IC705 in Japan will get a box with Japanese sweets inside. The tin box will have a photo of the IC705 on the tin. This is just in Japan.

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

6m FT8

For the daylight hours remaining, I am on 6m FT8 with the V2000 vertical omni antenna. A recent 10W CQ was spotted by no-one and just 2 Gs spotted on 6m FT8 RX so far.

160m FT8

Last night was average on 160m FT8. 498 stations were spotted with 17 North Americans and 2 Caribbean stations, but nothing from South America.

A recent daytime 160m FT8 CQ (10W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground was spotted by EI3KD (583km) only.
160m FT8 - stations received overnight

Film 1917 - NOT amateur radio

We go to the cinema rarely. Today we went to see the film 1917 by Sam Mendies.  It was not what you'd call an "enjoyable" film, but it was very good. It is about the horrors of WW1 and was totally immersive.

These days we know so little about the horrors of those days. Life must have been very hard. Wars seem so senseless, although we never seem to learn. Of course, all those who fought in WW1 are dead now, making the futility of war all the more poignant.

Sunspots - Friday January 24th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=0.

23 Jan 2020

On-line manuals

If you are like me, you will have mislaid many operating manuals over the years. Take heart as Google is your friend!

The last time I used my little VX-2 Yaesu handheld was probably 8 years ago.The battery was flat and I had forgotten how to operate it! Charging the battery was no problem, but how did you set the CTCSS tone?

I Googled "VX-2 Yaesu operating manual" and this link appeared:


Problem solved. I expect there are all sorts of manuals somewhere on the internet.

The Yaesu VX-2 can be obtained from Radioworld at just over £117.

See https://www.radioworld.co.uk/yaesu_vx-2

160m FT8

At about 1515z I QSYed to 160m FT8 calling CQ (10W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground) initially. 2 stations spotted me with the best being G8ECI (122km). It is still quite light here. On 160m FT8 RX no spots yet.

UPDATE 1612z: So far, 9 stations spotted this afternoon on 160m FT8 RX. Best DX spotted is OG2A (1693km) in Finland.

UPDATE 1702z: A recent 10W 160m FT8 CQ resulted in 1 QSO and spots from 15 stations in 6 countries with best DX being a spot by LA2XPA (1308km).

UPDATE 1930z: 197 stations spotted so far this evening on 160m FT8 RX.

Chinese new coronavirus - NOT amateur radio

We do not yet know what we are dealing with. With modern travel viruses can spread worldwide in a few hours, so containment becomes all but impossible.  At the moment it is mainly a few hundred cases in China. In a weeks' time?

It could turn out to as harmless as the common cold or it could be lethal. There is little doubt that at some point a worldwide pandemic could be a threat to all human life. Hopefully this is not it.

4m in Germany 2020

Southgate News reports that 4m will again be available in 2020 for German amateurs. As Ger ismany at just the right range in Es openings, this is good news for amateurs in the UK.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/january/4m-returns-to-germany.htm#.Ximr4PKTLnE

Reducing our carbon footprint - NOT amateur radio

There is little doubt we all have to do better if we are to help reduce the increase in temperature of our planet. I am one of the culprits: I drive a car, fly abroad, heat my house with gas and eat too much red meat.

This is what I think will happen:
  1. We will eat far less meat in future. By advertising and price we will be persuaded that non-meat alternatives are better for us. This has already started.
  2. We will, at some point, drive electric vehicles. We are not quite there yet as prices are too high and ranges too low. With research into better batteries I suspect changes will come. Also, I suspect governments will be persuaded to subsidise renewables rather than fossil fuels.
  3. There will be government subsidies to use less energy such as incentives to insulate homes and use less energy. Maybe the charge for using too much energy will be very high whereas it will be lower for the first so many kWhrs.
  4. There will be subsidies to convert to greener energy to heat our homes.
  5. We will travel less.
  6. The price of renewables will drop.
  7. Storage of renewable  energy will become economic, rendering fossil fuels obsolete.
  8. Technologies for carbon capture will be created.
There will be plenty of other things we can do.
Overall, I am optimistic.  Change is coming and we will embrace it.

BREXIT - NOT amateur radio

At the end of next week the UK officially leaves the EU. In the transition year ahead not much should change.  In the UK-EU trade negotiations, I hope both sides work constructively to forge a good relationship. We are still Europeans and it is surely in both parties interest to work for a good outcome.

6m FT8

A few minutes ago (0944z) I QSYed to 6m FT8 calling CQ (10W to the V2000) initially. As yet, no spots on RX or TX. There seems less aircraft scatter on 6m than on 2m. Occasionally I spot Gs by tropo and winter Es on occasions on 6m.

UPDATE 1420z: Well, so far it has been pretty dismal on 6m. Altogether, just 6 stations (5Gs+ 1F) spotted on 6m FT8 RX and no spots at all of my recent 10W 6m FT8 CQ.

UPDATE 1505z: A recent CQ resulted in not a single spot!

UPDATE 1533z: Just one spot of my recent CQ by G4RDC (127km). Now QSYed to 160m.

160m FT8 RX overnight

Not a bad night with 619 stations spotted in 5 continents. Yet again, fewer North Americans, but 1 in the Caribbean and 1 in South America. Best DX was CX6VM (10767km). The latter was greyline propagation.
Stations spotted here on 160m
FT8 RX in the last day

Cambridge - NOT amateur radio

Every Tuesday I go into Cambridge for a U3AC course. The photo shows a typical scene in the city.

Sunspots - Thursday January 23rd 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K=3.

22 Jan 2020


This evening, I had a new subscriber to my YouTube G3XBM channel. When I checked I noticed that this person's videos had Arabic titles. At first I was suspicious, so I put some through Google Translate. Those I checked looked perfectly fine.

I guess it was the Arabic text that got me concerned. I guess I did "the right thing" although it is so sad that I was suspicious.  I am sure the vast majority of Muslims wish nothing but peace.


"It seems we have crossed a threshold. Though solar activity remains low, recent history shows no Solar Cycle 24 sunspots, only Solar Cycle 25 activity. I remain optimistic." 

From the K7RA propagation website.

160m FT8

As 6m was quiet, I have QSYed to 160m FT8 using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Best DX on RX is RU1AB (1966km). At the moment (1744z) 29 stations have been spotted on 160m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1839z: Now 70 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX with best DX RV6ADY (2980km).

UPDATE 2209z: Very early spots of VO2AR (3823km). So far this evening 348 stations spotted. Best DX on 160m FT8 RX is RV0AR (5577km).

Sub-9kHz amateur radio on TV

How good is your German?

A recent ARD TV program had a bit on sub-9kHz amateur radio. Even though my German is almost non-existent it was good to put some real faces to people I had previously only known as callsigns. Even without any German language skills you can look at the pictures!

MX-2 - 2m SSB portable

Somewhere, I still have my MX-2 SSB handheld for 2m. The last time it was used must be 7 years ago! I had a lot of fun with mine.

It was used as a handheld on 2m and to drive a homebrew 10m 1W transverter. As I recall, for a while it was the only rig I had. Plenty of DX contacts were had on 10m and some handheld DX with just a whip on 2m SSB. The battery did not last long and by modern standards it would be considered slightly large.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/vuhf/mx2

The end of winter is in sight - NOT amateur radio

A few days ago we visited nearby Anglesey Abbey. Although we are in the middle of winter, there are already signs of new life appearing, as the collage shows.

2m FT8 with the vertical antenna

Overnight I remained on 2m FT8 RX with the vertical omni antenna. The height of the big-wheel and V2000 are similar as are the gains on 2m for the big-wheel and V2000.

In all, 34 stations in 4 countries were spotted in the last 6 hours on 2m FT8 RX. This is very similar to the results with the big-wheel, suggesting many stations come in via aircraft scatter, where the polarisation is randomised. Staying on overnight is a waste of time as most stations were spotted in the last few hours.

Conclusions? I agree with Martin that much of my "real DX" on 2m is via aircraft scatter.

6m FT8

At about 0930z, I swapped to 6m FT8.  Initially I called CQ (10W to the vertical V2000). As yet, no spots given or received.

UPDATE 1146z: Just a couple of Gs spotted so far this morning.

UPDATE 1340z: A recent 6m FT8 CQ (10W) was spotted by just a single G: G0GGG (211km). It would appear that he is the only G able to copy me. He has now spotted my CQs twice, although no QSO.

UPDATE 1520z: Just 4 G spots today only.  My CQs have been spotted by a couple of Gs, but nothing from continental Europe.

Sunspots - Wednesday January 22nd 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=6 and K =2.

21 Jan 2020


One possibility I have is to erect a BuddyPole or similar multi-band /P antenna in the garden when needed. This cannot be as effective as a larger antenna, but would give me multi-band capability. I imagine on 10m, 12m and 15m they could be quite effective.

Certainly on FT8, they should work. This might solve my antenna erection issues. I could put it out when required and put it away when not needed.

If you have any views, please let me know.

UK earthquakes - NOT amateur radio

Thankfully, we get few serious earthquakes in the UK. Big ones are rare. The website below keeps records of those that have occurred recently.

See https://earthquakes.bgs.ac.uk/earthquakes/recent_uk_events.html

Homeless in Cambridge - NOT amateur radio

In recent years we seem to have seen an increase in rough sleepers on the streets of Cambridge. For a fact, some are "on the make", tapping in to the many tourists we see here. Some are mentally ill people who seem to have fallen through the cracks and are rough sleeping.

With so many jobs locally, people should not need to rough sleep. "Can you spare a few pennies please?", is the call. Rather than give directly to people who may spend the money on drugs, I prefer to regularly donate to a homeless charity. This way you know the money is really helping. There is little doubt that, for whatever reason, there are some genuine people who need help.

2m FT8 RX - aircraft scatter?

At the moment I am on 2m FT8 RX using the vertical antenna (V2000 omni).  My theory is that if signals are coming in mainly by aircraft scatter polarisation won't matter, so I should see as many stations in the log as with the big-wheel horizontal omni.

At the moment (0947z) I have spotted 59 stations in 8 countries. Yes, I appreciate conditions could be different on a different day, but this would suggest many stations are being received by aircraft reflection. I know this is not definite proof.

UPDATE 1020z: A recent 2m FT8 CQ (10W to the vertical omni V2000) was spotted by 25 stations. 2 QSOs resulted with the best QSO being PD4KK (287km). It would appear results with the vertical omni match those of the horizontal big-wheel for "real DX".

Stations so far spotted today on
2m FT8 RX with the vertical omni
UPDATE 1640z: So far today with the vertical omni antenna 138 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX. I think the K6 (supposedly in New York) was a pirate in the UK as all his calls were spotted in the UK.  I think these spots confirm that a good proportion of the spots I receive are via aircraft. With 15 second transmissions, Doppler was not visible on my waterfall, even with stations on for several minutes.

UPDATE 1926z: 160 stations in 9 countries so far spotted in the last 12 hours on 2m FT8 RX using the vertical omni.

Stations spotting my 10W FT8 CQ 
on 2m on the vertical omni this evening
UPDATE 2034z: I recently called CQ (10W to the vertical omni) and was rewarded with 34 spots of my signal and several QSOs. Sadly my old work colleague Bob G3WKW called me, but did not hear me calling him 4 times!

Sunspots - Tuesday January 21st 2020

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

20 Jan 2020

Aircraft scatter?

Martin G8OFA thinks that most random DX over 200km on VHF and UHF is due to aircraft scatter. I am unsure, but he points to the very high number of planes in the air. Certainly on the approach to the USAF airbases here and to Stansted, there will be lots of planes in the air nearly always.

I guess, without an SDR to help look at Doppler, my best bet would be to compare my vertical against my big-wheel. If many of the DX stations are coming though off aircraft, I assume the polarisation would be random. I seem to remember trying this some years ago and being surprised by the number of DX stations still being copied.

UPDATE 2046z: Maybe he is correct. I just connected the vertical omni V2000 and worked PD4HW (294km). Maybe I am consistently seeing aircraft reflections and there is always a very good chance of reflecting off aircraft. If I had a beam, I might expect better results then if I was beaming south towards the stack over Stansted Airport?

Monday evening 2m FT8

A few moments ago I called CQ on 2m FT8 (10W to the big wheel omni). 33 stations spotted me with one QSO. I shall have to go QRT for about 30 minutes as I join a 2m FM net (if people remember!).
Spots in response to a
recent 2m FT8 CQ (10W)
UPDATE 2015z: A very recent FT8 CQ was spotted by 34 stations (1 QSO with G0JEI at 142km) with the best DX spot being by F6DBI (501km) in Brittany.

1950s UK TV - NOT amateur radio

Quite a few readers were children in the UK in the 1950s and may like a dose of nostalgia!  You may well enjoy this link.

See http://www.whirligig-tv.co.uk/

Monday morning on 2m FT8 TX

A short while ago I transmitted a CQ (10W to the big-wheel) on 2m FT8. Although no QSOs resulted, I was spotted by 14 stations in 3 countries with the best DX being a spot by EI3KD (583km).
Stations spotting my 10W 2m FT8 CQ this morning

2m FT8 RX overnight

Overnight (mostly last evening) 85 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and big-wheel omni antenna. This is pretty typical.
2m FT8 RX here - mostly last evening

Our village yesterday - NOT amateur radio

As it was so sunny yesterday, we did a short walk around our village, as the photo shows.

High Street shops - NOT amateur radio

This is probably the same in most countries.

Our High Street "physical" shops are losing customers as more and more of us shop "on-line". It is often cheaper and more convenient. My trips to banks are very infrequent apart from "holes in the wall" (cash machines) to draw out cash. We even use less cash these days!

In 20 years time the high streets will be very different. I guess they have always evolved, but few retailers will survive unless they radically alter their business models. We could see more big names disappearing. Independents are trying to plug gaps, but I cannot see many of the coffee shops remaining for more than 5-10 years.

It is hard to look into the future. All we can definitely say is that things will be very different in years to come. If you ask me, I would say we may go to some places to look, then ordering on-line for home delivery. What is certain is the retail trade is changing.

We are all guilty of making this happen. Whilst I like to support local, independent shops, it is hard to resist on-line when the local shops don't have stocks, don't intend to stock and are more expensive than online retailers who deliver to your door the next day for less than you pay in "physical" shops. Oh, to place the order from the comfort of your armchair takes 30 seconds!

Sunspots - Monday January 19th 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=3 and K=1.

19 Jan 2020

2m FT8

This evening I am on 2m FT8 using 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna. A recent CQ was spotted by 15 stations in 4 countries with best DX a spot by GI6ATZ (479km). On RX, 20 stations in 4 countries spotted so far.

UPDATE 1935z: So far this evening, 24 stations in 5 countries have spotted me on 2m FT8 TX.  On 2m FT8, RX 52 stations in 7 countries spotted.

UPDATE 2004z:  37 stations in 7 countries have so far spotted my 10W 2m FT8 TX to the big-wheel omni antenna this evening.
Stations spotting my 2m FT8
(10W) so far this evening
UPDATE 2107z:  68 stations in 9 countries spotted this evening on 2m FT8 RX. Isn't FT8 amazing?

UPDATE 1015z: 78 stations in 9 countries spotted on 2m FT8 RX this evening.

6m FT8

At about 1018z I QSYed to 6m FT8 from MF WSPR. On 6m I am using about 10W to the V2000 vertical omni antenna. An initial CQ resulted in no QSOs, but was spotted by EI2FG (565km). Judging by the report I do not think this was aircraft reflection. On RX no spots as yet today.

UPDATE 1042z: Although this has not happened today so far, I have noticed several spots of me appearing some time after my transmissions have stopped. I guess these people are not using WSJT-X as I thought this sent spots to PSKreporter immediately.

UPDATE 1156z: Just 2 fairly local Gs spotted so far today.

UPDATE 1450z: A recent FT8 CQ was spotted just by G4YKQ (104km). Best DX on 6m FT8 RX is EB1DJ (1279km).

UPDATE 1538z: A recent 6m FT8 CQ (10W) was copied by 2 fairly local G stations and nothing from further afield. Still just 9 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX today.

Floods - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we went from Cambridge to St Ives (Cambridgeshire) on the guided bus. Many of the fields were flooded and the river was far higher than normal. One car-park (see photo) was totally under water. I was not expecting this at all.

2m cumulative contest results

The RSGB has published the results of the first 2m UKAC cumulative contest held on first Tuesday evenings. I am about mid-table in the low power section (AL). See the RSGB's website for details. Because of my poor voice, I am rarely on for more than 40% of the time and I only use the big-wheel omni antenna.

472kHz WSPR TX overnight

Stations spotting my 10mW ERP in the last 12 hours 
Last night was quite a good one with spots of my 10mW ERP by 24 stations.  Overnight just one more station spotted me.

UPDATE 1015z: Now 28 stations have spotted my 10mW ERP 472kHz WSPR in the last day.

Sunspots - Sunday January 19th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=4 and K=1.

18 Jan 2020

Promising evening on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP)

Already 12 spots from Norway this evening and spots by 17 different stations!  This is looking very promising.

UPDATE 2235z: 19 stations have spotted my QRPP 472kHz WSPR TX so far this evening. I shall run until well light tomorrow.
Stations spotting me this evening

By guided bus to St Ives - NOT amateur radio

Many people in the UK know about St Ives in Cornwall, but fewer know of the St Ives in Cambridgeshire. This is a delightful market town on the banks of the River Ouse. It has lots of independent shops, a market and plenty of places to eat.

For some years now you can reach it on the guided bus from Cambridge. Special buses run on special guides (see photo). It uses the route of the old Cambridge - St Ives branch railway.

When in Cambridge and central St Ives they can behave as ordinary buses on ordinary roads. The service from Cambridge is fast and traffic-free. If you have a bus pass it is also free! It goes through some fine countryside and lakes.

472kHz WSPR TX overnight

Overnight, I was again on 472kHz WSPR with the 10mW ERP from the earth-electrode  "antenna" in the ground (see post on this "antenna" a few days ago). 18 stations spotted me including 24 by Jan in Norway.
Stations spotting my 10mW ERP 
on 472kHz in the last 24 hours

Miracle antennas

Miracle whips and similar antennas are only as good as the whip length they are. The trick is an effective ground or counterpoise and matching them effectively. Although not miracles, the miracle whip is a good compromise. Using mine indoors, my best DX on 5W SSB is 11000km to LU. On 10m SSB QRP I expect they are very good for Es working in the Es season.

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

10m Tenbox transceiver

Like many of my projects, this came to an abrupt halt after my 2013 stroke. I just hope someone, or some group, can take it further. It would not be suitable for DX working, but could make a nice, simple, club project if finished and a PCB made.

If anyone has finished this, please let me know as I am very happy for this to happen. All the data is freely available on the website below. Copy and feel free to change!

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

Groups .io

Quite a few amateur radio related groups have migrated to groups.io from Yahoo. The latter has made changes which seem to be a backward step.

You may want to search to see if your favourite groups have moved. Just starting a new .io group is free, but migrating an old Yahoo group across (complete with messages, file and photos) can cost money. Most have created new groups.

See https://groups.io/

Sunspots - Saturday January 18th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=3 and K=2.

17 Jan 2020


Whenever there are storms around, I disconnect everything "just in case". Usually I disconnect antennas, mains plugs from rigs and PC.

 According to the BBC weather, there was a chance of thunder and hail, although the storm maps do not show any risk at present.

At the moment, all is still connected.

BREXIT - NOT amateur radio

Whatever your views on BREXIT are we can all agree on one thing: it has taken a very long time! In the 2016 referendum I voted narrowly to stay, despite there being a lot wrong with the EU. I thought it was better to fight for change from inside the EU than from outside.

We narrowly voted to leave and we do this at the end of January, although there is quite a long period when things won't change much. Getting a good trade deal with the EU is likely to be harder than many expect: the EU will not want us to have a favourable arrangement outside of the "club". At the same time, they will want our trade. At the moment, the UK Pound is quite reasonable against the Euro.

The longer term outlook for the UK economy is hard to discern.  We could do well, but it is hard to know.

Speech changes - NOT amateur radio

At one time I would have been appalled by the overuse of "like" and the fact that younger people tend to go up at the end of sentences.

Then I realised that speech and language are always changing!  You have only to observe how much speech has changed in the last 100 years. I expect if we heard speech from 500 years ago we would struggle to understand it.

And to think how languages have evolved in the last 1000-2000 years! No, we have to accept that speech and language will be forever changing.

OFCOM updates affecting wi-fi

OFCOM has announced opening up 100GHz frequencies for wi-fi. I have no idea how well such frequencies go through doors and walls. I hope someone has done some research. See OFCOM's website.

Not quite spring - NOT amateur radio

We still have several weeks of winter still, but at nearby Anglesey Abbey there are now several snowdrops, a few daffodils and a few hellebores. Those in the photo are examples seen.

Another good session on 472kHz WSPR TX

Last night I was on 472kHz WSPR TX (10mW ERP). 23 stations spotted me including 32 in Norway by Jan. As usual, still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground (see yesterday for details).
Stations spotting my 10mW ERP on
472kHz WSPR TX overnight 

Peter Skellern RIP - NOT amateur radio

Peter Skellern was a unique British piano player and singer. He died a few years ago sadly. Often he was accompanied by brass bands. His sound was original.

Shortly before he died (a brain tumour) he became a priest. He lived in Cornwall and was born in Bury, Lancashire.

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