31 Mar 2020

Sympathetically designed - NOT amateur radio

Near our church is a modern house which has been sympathetically designed to blend in.

Personally I think they made a good job.

2m FT8

At the moment I am on 2m FT8 using 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, at 0900z 9 spots of me.

Spots of me to 1040z today 
UPDATE 1040z: 18 spots of me so far today.

UPDATE 1555z: Now spotted by 29 stations in 6 countries.

10m WSPR TX again

Once again I am on 10m WSPR TX using 500mW to the tiny indoor loop antenna. No spots yet at 0855z.

UPDATE 0910z: A spot of me by G4KPX received.

Covid-19 hope - NOT amateur radio

Although the economic impact will be huge and the death toll is still rising, there are little glimmers of hope.

Across the planet, companies are going to extra-ordinary lengths to design and make things in impossibly fast times. Although a vaccine could be some way off, there are trials of re-purposed drugs that might just help.

The rate of spread of the infections here in the UK seems to be starting to slow since social distancing measures were introduced. We are learning to work from home in many cases and are using technology to keep in touch with friends and family.

This could be a long haul, but there is a glimmer of light.

East Cambridgeshire 2m FM net

Last night, at 8pm UK time on 144.575MHz vertical (yes 144.575 FM) we met on the air. Several people were listening too. We welcomed newcomer to the net Martin G4FZM, who has yet to erect a vertical antenna. I used to work with Martin many years ago.

Put it in your diary: 8pm Monday 144.575MHz FM vertical, in the East Cambs area. Everyone welcome.

Sunspots - Tuesday March 31st 2020

Solar flux is 69 and the SSN 0.  A=11 and K=4.

30 Mar 2020

Daisies - NOT amateur radio

On our walk earlier we saw several patches of daisies in the grass. They are wild and cheer us up.

Springtime - NOT amateur radio

At the moment, for most of the world, life is very hard and uncertain. Nonetheless in the northern hemisphere we are starting the spring season with promises of new life. There are lots of spring flowers and trees have that fresh green look.

In the autumn we'll probably look back at these days in amazement.

As I post to many places, I cannot remember if this has appeared on this blog before or not, but it is a nice cheerful image and I am sure you don't mind it appearing again!

UPDATE 1247z: The photo was first on on March 25th.

Cheese scone recipe - NOT amateur radio

These turned out very easy to make and excellent to eat. I have made a couple of batches and you might like to have a go.


  • Preheat fan oven to 180 deg C.
  • Weigh out 300g self raising flour.
  • Add 150g of grated cheese.
  • Add dried chives to taste.
  • Mix a little water and milk in a jug.
  • Add water/milk to dough and mix just enough to make a dough (not too wet) when mixed by hand.
  • Roll out dough to about 2cm thick.
  • Cut out scones with a cutter.
  • Add some grated cheese on top of each.
  • Place on an oiled baking tray.
  • Place in oven for 18 minutes.

Take out and enjoy, ideally warm with butter!

The original Tesco recipe used natural yoghurt.


As on the last 2 days, I am on 10m WSPR TX (500mW) using my W5OLF WSPR beacon to my indoor loop. Frequency randomly changes every TX period. This series of transmissios is more in hope than expectation.

If you can see me and upload to the WSPRnet database I would much appreciate this, even if you are local.  As yet, I have still to get any spots this year!

UPDATE  1104z: Spots! G4KPX (14km) Richard in Ely has spotted me. These are my first 10m WSPR spots this year. Thank you.

UPDATE 1230z: Just been spotted by OE9GHV (871km).

UPDATE 1530z: More spots by G4KPX. No DX other than the Austrian earlier.

UPDATE 2030z: Now QRT.

On 2m FT8 again

A few moments ago, I went on 2m FT8 with my usual 10W to the big-wheel omni. My technique is to sit on one frequency calling CQ and see who responds. A quick look on PSKreporter maps shows who is spotting me.

At the moment  (0750z) I have been spotted by 4 stations in 2 countries, but the power was only 6W. On 2m FT8 RX no-one yet spotted. Activity seems low.

UPDATE 0830z:  18 spots of me so far today. Best DX so far are spots by a couple of stations on the Lizard in Cornwall.   Just 1 spot so far on 2m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1112z: 26 spots in 5 countries so far of my 10W to the big-wheel omni including GI and GD (again), Cornwall and GW4VXE (367km) in west Wales.

UPDATE 1235z:  29 spots of my 2m FT8 10W today so far.

UPDATE 1530z:  After a brief period on RX after a QSO, I am back on TX again. 34 stations have spotted me so far today.

UPDATE 2030z: 43 stations have spotted my 2m FT8 10W in the last day. Now QRT.

Amateur radio social distancing humour

We live in strange times. One radio amateur has added a dash of humour!

See http://qso365.co.uk/2020/03/social-distancing/

Oscar 100 activity

Every few weeks I give an update on the activity level on the narrowband transponder of this geosynchronous satellite. At the moment, it would appear that activity levels are broadly similar to a few weeks ago.

This is just my impression and not very scientific!

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Picnic time - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows one of my granddaughters out with her dad on a cycle ride.

Here they are having a picnic stop a few days ago. Her dad is taking the photo. I think this is the River Lee.

Sunspots - Monday March 30th 2020

Solar flux is 68 and the SSN 0. A=7 and K=2.

29 Mar 2020

Life goes on - NOT amateur radio

On our walk earlier we saw several buttercups in flower.

Walks - NOT amateur radio

Nearly every day in these strange days we try to do a walk. We have probably walked further than normal. Today we went on a walk of about 2 miles and saw very few people. We chose routes that avoided seeing many people.


With my W5OLF 10m WSPR TX beacon and my tiny indoor loop, I am on 10m WSPR TX (500mW).  As yet, no spots received, although I am not too surprised. At least I can put out a signal on 10m.

It should be quite effective in the Es season, although this is a bit early. I am not sure how many people are still on 10m WSPR. When I tried WSPR on 80m I was quite surprised by the level of WSPR activity.

UPDATE 1503z:  Still no spots yet on 10m WSPR  TX .

UPDATE 1905z: Now QRT on 10m WSPR TX.  Still no spots all day.

2m FT8

Once again, I am on 2m FT8 (10W and the big-wheel omni). So far today (1145z) 20 stations in 3 countries have spotted me. Best is a spot again by GI6ATZ (479km). I am convinced this is some sort of scatter.

UPDATE 1225z:  22 spots of my 10W so far today.

UPDATE 1432z: Now spotted by 28 stations in 5 countries today.

Stations spotting me
on 2m FT8 today
UPDATE 2118z: 34 stations in 5 countries have spotted me today so far.

BBC weather forecasts - NOT amateur radio

From time to time, I have a moan about the BBC weather forecast. This morning,the BBC weather suggested a low chance of rain and light cloud and sun so we were going to do our health walk practising "social distancing". What did we get? Dark cloud, snow and rain! So we are still indoors.

As they say in the adverts, "if you want to know the weather in your area check the BBC weather app". Whatever the app says, probably the opposite applies!

Sunspots Sunday March 29th 2020

Solar flux is 69 and the sunspot number still 0. A=5 and K=0.

28 Mar 2020

Daily walk - NOT amateur radio

In the current lock-down conditions,we are encouraged to do some exercise not too far from home. Of course, we are encouraged to follow "social distancing" and keep our distance from others.

So, we chose a 2.5 mile walk around the village keeping our distance from others and washing our hands on entry into the house. We avoided touching things. Strange times.

The photo shows some of the things on the walk.

Cheese scones - NOT amateur radio

In these strange lock-down times, I tried my hand at making some cheese scones this afternoon. This was a very simple recipe and my wife's verdict? Excellent. 

I have to admit they were better than I expected. More will have to be made!

2m FT8

My 2m FT8 is on TXing (10W to the big-wheel) every 15 seconds. Already 14 spots of me in 4 countries. My best spot is by EI3KD (583km).

UPDATE  1853z: In the last day 51 stations in 8 countries have spotted my 10W 2m FT8.

Stations spotting me in the
last day on 2m FT8 (10W)
UPDATE 2240z: Now spotted in 9 countries today.

10m WSPR TX (500mW)

Just now, I realised that I could use my 10m WSPR beacon on my tiny indoor loop continuously whilst going on 2m FT8 (10W) with another rig and the big-wheel. At this part of the solar cycle and outside of the main Es season, it would not surprise me to be copied by no-one! Still, it is ON and TXing. It changes frequency slightly every 2 minute cycle. I live in hope!

UPDATE 1900z:  No spots today. Now there's a surprise! I shall leave it on a little longer.

UPDATE 2005z: Now QRT on 10m WSPR.

More from OFCOM

OFCOM has just released its annual audit on the pay of different genders and ethnicity.  Although I am a great believer that gender and ethnicity should make absolutely no difference to pay for the same work, I question whether this is the best use of their resources and money preparing this. Just pay fair wages to all and get on with the real job!

See the OFCOM website for more details

South Devon - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows where I come from in South Devon. It is pretty unspoilt. For those that know the area, it shows Bolt Tail with Thurlestone Rock in the middle distance.

Sunspots - Saturday March 28th 2020

Solar flux is just 69 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=2.

27 Mar 2020

Reading - NOT amateur radio

In the next few months many of us are facing lockdowns. This means lots of time at home. For many it will prove difficult, but thankfully we have technology to help keep us in touch. We can video chat to friends and relatives by Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and the like.

In the last few days many of us have witnessed great acts of kindness and generosity. In trying times like these, many are expressing themselves by great acts of selflessness. At heart, many people are very kind. Sadly, we often hear about the bad things, but less often about acts of kindness. When this sad chapter ends I very much hope we emerge as kinder, more caring, people.

This year, many houses will be cleaner than ever and gardens looking a picture. Pollution levels are dropping and the climate emergency will have a break. I expect the economic ramifications will be felt for years to come. I suspect many will question long supply chains and the chase for ever cheaper prices by making in low cost countries far away.

Many of us will be finding the joys of nature again and some will find solace in books. With visits to local bookshops and libraries not possible, many will turn to online sellers like Abe Books and Amazon.

At the moment I am dipping into a book written 300 years ago about a trip around Britain by Daniel Defoe. It is fascinating.

VHF scatter?

2m FT8 continues to amaze me.

Every single day I get spotted at great distance. Ranges are typically more than twice the range I can manage on CW or SSB.

At first I thought this was a mix of "flat band tropo" and aircraft reflections. As this sort of range seems to be possible at any time, I do not think aircraft reflection is likely. Another possibility is random MS. At the moment I am more inclined to think of this being some sort of scatter. Polarisation seems not to matter.

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

Quiet repeaters

Just now, I tried to access GB3PI with my little VX-2 Yaesu handheld from the lounge.  It got in OK with the 77Hz sub-audible tone.

When GB3PI first appeared back in the 1970s, it was very busy as were most repeaters. These days most repeaters are very quiet. Using Echolink I have accessed repeaters across the planet and this seems to be a universal issue.

I guess this is because people, by and large, can talk to others for free via the internet and smart phones. Also, I think people just chat less on the air.

Tonight at 8pm, the local club is having a net on GB3PI. This is because the Cambridge club (CDARC) cannot hold meetings currently. They have the blessing of the local repeater group for this.
Hopefully, this will generate some activity and keep people bonded. The GB3PI repeater at Barkway, Herts is well sited and uses a 77Hz access tone.

Although my voice is poor, I hope to call in and mostly listen.

Amazing 2m FT8

Although I have only been on 2m FT8 with my 10W and big-wheel omni for a few minutes, I have already been spotted  by 16 stations. Quite amazing.

UPDATE 0940z: Now spotted by 18 stations today so far on 2m FT8 TX.

UPDATE 1437z: 40 stations in 6 countries have spotted my 2m 10W today so far.

UPDATE 1655z: Now 45 stations in 7 countries have spotted my 10W 2m FT8 today. Incredible. Every day I get these sorts of ranges!

Sunspots - Friday March 27th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=2.

26 Mar 2020

More cancelled or postponed rallies

The following have been brought to my attention. Again, my apologies for the white background that probably makes these hard to read on some screens. These are as they came to me.


DOVER ARC HAMZILLA RADIO FEST AND ELECTRONICS FAIR Discovery Science Park, Gateway House, Ramsgate Road, Sandwich, Kent CT13 9FF. Open 9.30am for early bird admission, £5; 10am for general and disabled access, £3. Under 16 and disabled carer free entry. There will be trade stands, exams available on the day. Hot and cold refreshments available. www.hamzilla.uk.


CALLINGTON RADIO RALLY. Callington Town Hall, Callington, Cornwall PL17 7BD. Doors open 10am - 1pm and admittance is £2. There will be a Bring & Buy (10% commission) and trade stands. Catering available on site. Ample free parking in the adjacent carpark. Rally organised jointly by the Devon & Cornwall Repeater Group and Callington Amateur Radio Society (CARS). More information and bookings from Roger, 2E0RPH on 07854 088 882 or email 2e0rph@gmail.com.

Back on 2m FT8

Since about lunchtime I have been back on 2m FT8 with 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far today 22 stations have spotted me as far away as Northern Ireland. This mode continues to amaze me.

UPDATE 1420z:  24 spots of my 10W so far today.

UPDATE 2020z: 43 stations in 6 countries have spotted  my 10W 2m FT8 today.

Emus - NOT amateur radio

In a nearby village garden we have two emus living with chickens. They look pretty incongruous. They have been here for several years!

At first, they looked out of place, whereas now we always look out for them.

MLS mail order

MLS is a big UK amateur radio dealer. Although their showroom has had to close, they are still doing mail orders. They are talking about big price increases as a result of exchange rates declining.

15m Pipit QRP transceiver

Pretty sure this has appeared before, but not sure when!

Back in the 1980s I designed an 800mW, VXO controlled, transceiver for 15m CW. For quite a while this was the only rig I used.  As I recall it worked plenty of stations with a low wire dipole. I never seemed to struggle. The receiver was direct conversion.

It worked very well, and far better than I ever expected. It was first designed and built in 1984 and appeared in GQRP SPRAT in 1987.

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

Low cost ventilators and radio amateurs

The ARRL website has news of a collaborative effort to make a low cost ventilator to help battle Covid-19. Some very well known amateurs are involved.

See http://www.arrl.org/news/radio-amateurs-team-up-to-help-university-design-low-cost-ventilator

Sunspots - Thursday March 26th 2020

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

25 Mar 2020

Lovely walk - NOT amateur radio

In the warm March sunshine we did a lovely walk in the village today.

In all, we have walked about 3.75 miles today, with everyone keeping at least 2m apart!

Shops shut - NOT amateur radio

Quite a few of the businesses in our village are now closed. See the photo.

2m FT8

Today I am on 2m FT8 using 10W and the horizontal big-wheel omni antenna. So far, 12 stations have spotted me.

UPDATE 2011z: 47 stations in 7 countries have spotted my 10W 2m FT8 today. GI6ATZ (479km) called me and was worked. EI2OC (583km) spotted me.

UPDATE 2300z: Now QRT.

Sunspots - Wednesday March 25th 2020

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

24 Mar 2020

How we adapt - NOT amateur radio

It's strange how quickly we adapt to a new reality.  Many countries are on a war footing in the battle with Covid-19 including here in the UK. A year ago no-one could have remotely imagined this. All of us are changing our ways of living and life goes on: we adapt.

My great hope at the end of all this is that we are kinder to each other. Across the entire planet we have all been in it together. This has been a battle for all humanity.

Garden in spring - NOT amateur radio

Springtime again! Despite the virus, life goes on. Today the lawns were cut for the third time. We are lucky to have a garden.

Amateur radio resurgence?

With many of us in full or partial lockdown, minds will turn to what we can all do at home. This year, gardens will be well tended. Home improvements will get done. Many books will get read. Friends and neighbours will be phoned or contacted by video chats.

All things being equal, amateur radio has its part to play. It is a free way to keep in contact with like-minded people. We have an outlet, so let's use it.

One of the things I shall try is to write a few radio articles for magazines. I usually write about things I have done.

OFCOM statement

On the OFCOM website is a statement about their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

See their website.

2m FT8 vertical

This morning, as an experiment, I am on 2m FT8 with the vertical antenna. ERP is about the same on both omnis. At first glance, it is making little difference with plenty of spots at great range on the vertical antenna. 14 spots of my 10W already!

Stations spotting my 10W FT8 today 
(to 1230z) with the vertical on 2m
UPDATE 1252z:  Already several QSOs and 32 spots in 6 countries of my 10W FT8 to the vertical antenna with the best spot being by EI3KD (583km). Remember this is 10W to a vertical "white stick" fed with cheap CB coax on 2m. Both GI and EI have been reached (again) today with 10W and the V2000 vertical. Really,  polarisation seems to make absolutely no difference! I am being spotted by as many stations on vertical as horizontal omnis.

UPDATE 1319z: Switched to horizontal polarisation to see if Tim Kirby GW4VXE in west Wales and I can work each other. He has a small horizontal beam.

UPDATE 2110z: Today I was spotted by 61 stations in 6 countries, mostly with the vertical omni antenna. Who said 2m is dead? I am only using 10W!

Sunspots - Tuesday March 24th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=12 and K=2.

23 Mar 2020

Back on 2m FT8

As 17m seems to be closing or closed for me, I have QSYed to 2m FT8 again with 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna.

After just a few minutes, 19 stations have spotted me including GI6ATZ (479km) and EI2OC (583km).  DX on 2m FT8 never fails.  Imagine if I had a big beam and 400W!!

This sort of range is always possible on 2m FT8 and I am convinced this is some sort of (non-aircraft) scatter.

UPDATE 1955z:  Now spotted by 27 stations in 6 countries.

UPDATE 2245z: Since the East Cambs net, I have been using the V2000 vertical antenna on 2m FT8. It seems to be making very little difference, sort of confirming some sort of scatter mode, but not aircraft.. At the moment the best DX spot on the vertical is by EI2OC (583km) with 23 stations spotting me on the vertical. Just now GI6AVZ (479km) was getting at about the same strength as on the big wheel.  Fascinating. Going QRT shortly.

Useful data on social distancing - NOT amateur radio

Many of us are finding life harder at the moment with the current Covid-19 pandemic. This chart shows how social distancing can help slow the spread so that health services can better cope.

We are all asked to do our best to help. Don't just think of yourself: isolating yourself more really, really helps us all.

17m FT8 (10W and the tiny indoor loop)

As I think I have been spotted by most of the stations who would get me on 2m FT8, I may now try 17m FT8 until later this afternoon.

UPDATE 1104z:  Now on 17m FT8 (10W) with the tiny indoor loop. Just one station in southern Spain spotted so far and no-one has yet spotted my signal.

UPDATE 1122z:  Now 3 stations in Europe have spotted me. 4 stations spotted on 17m FT8 RX so far today (3 Europe and 1 Africa).

UPDATE 1235z: 18 stations have now spotted me with PY5EG (9891km) being the best so far. On RX, 16 stations spotted so far today on 17m FT8.

UPDATE 1408z: 35 spots by me of others and 35 spots of my 10W from North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe! Not bad for 10W and the tiny indoor loop.

Stations spotting me to
1546z today on 17m FT8
UPDATE 1546z: 46 stations have spotted me so far on 17m FT8.

UPDATE 1638z: Now 48 stations on 4 continents have spotted my 10W 17m FT8 to the tiny indoor loop. The loop should be even better on 10m.

UPDATE 1910z:  Now QSYed to 2m after being spotted by 51 stations on 2m FT8.

2m FT8

For a change, I have already gone on 2m FT8. Already 19 stations in 5 countries have spotted me including EI2OC (583km). As usual, still using 10W and the big-wheel omni. This must be some sort of (non-aircraft) scatter as it never fails.

Kestrel - NOT amateur radio

On a recent walk we saw a kestrel. These are quite common. When hunting prey they seem to hover in the sky. This is why the alternative name is wind hover.

Sunspots - Monday March 23rd 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0.  A=7 and K=3.

22 Mar 2020

2m FT8 (10W to the big-wheel omni)

Stations spotting my 10W FT8 TX to the 
big-wheel omni in the first few minutes
Although I have only been on 2m for about 5 minutes, I have been spotted by 20 stations in 4 countries already! Just like that! Amazing.

This is possible at any time it would appear. I am convinced this must be some sort of scatter, but not aircraft scatter.

UPDATE 2146z: Now 36 stations in 6 countries spotting my 10W with best DX being a spot by GI6ATZ (479km). This station seems to spot me every time! Only 5 stations spotted so far on 2m FT8 RX. I shall be active for a bit longer before going QRT.

UPDATE 2225z: Now spotted by 40 stations in 7 countries! QRT soon.

Stormy day - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows "our" windmill next door with a stormy sky. Thankfully, the last few days have been sunny. The marks at the bottom are filled cracks ahead of a repaint. The mill is 200 years old this year!

DXCC using FT8

DR4K was carrying out an experiment to see how long DXCC would take with modest power and a simple antenna using FT8. The answer is not long!

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2020/march/dxcc-experiment-completed.htm

CDARC (Cambridge Club) net on GB3PI - Friday 8pm

As CDARC cannot hold regular club nights at the moment, they are moving online. A net is being organised at 8pm Fridays on the repeater GB3PI. This is with the agreement of the Cambridgehire Repeater Group.

Sounds like a very good use of quiet repeaters.

Country walk - NOT amateur radio

Whilst we are still allowed, yesterday we did a nice walk seeing very few people. A tree had fallen partly obstructing the path. We had to go around it.

20m FT8 again

Once again I am on 20m FT8 using 10W to the 45cm diameter indoor loop. Already I have been spotted strongly in southern Italy and I have spotted 16 stations on 20m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1103z: So far today, my 10W has been spotted by 15 stations (1 QSO) and I have spotted 196 stations.

Spots of my 20m 10W 
FT8 TX to 1410z
UPDATE 1440z: 50 stations have spotted me today on 20m FT8 with the 10W FT8. On 20m FT8 RX 426 stations spotted so far today.

UPDATE 1618z: 54 stations have spotted me so far and 512 stations have been spotted here today so far on 20m FT8.

Sunspots - Sunday March 22nd 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the sunspot number still 0. A=8 and K=2.

21 Mar 2020

W&S open?

According to Southgate News W&S is still open for business and taking sensible precautions with a couple of staff working from home "in the cloud". 

I guess this policy (of keeping the shop open) could change if government policy changes.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/march/w-s-open-and-serving-your-hobby.htm#.XnZ2Ld-TK00

2m FT8 this evening

Stations spotting my 2m FT8 to the big-wheel 
omni antenna in the first 40 minutes this evening
It never fails.

I have only had my 2m FT8 10W to the big-wheel on for about 60 minutes, but I have already had 27 spots in 5 countries.

This must be some sort of non-aircraft scatter. It has completely transformed 2m for me. Unimaginable DX is in range.

Walks nearby - NOT amateur radio

Whilst keeping a safe distance from others, we are enjoying outdoor walks.

Today we went to Dalham, near Newmarket. Trees are coming into leaf and nature carries on.

On a positive note, I expect this latest set of bans has had a good effect on the planet. In some ways we have been alerted by over-dependence on cheap labour on the other side of the globe for our supply chains.

We seem to be kinder to each other too.

Webcams - NOT amateur radio

At the moment, quite a few of us are feeling more isolated. Quite a lot of us are using Duo, Skype, Facetime and similar to keep in touch.

Another thing is webcams which allow us to look at a distance. Last weekend I was able to see my brother and one of his grandchildren at the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh (see photo).

See https://www.earthcam.com/

See https://www.southdevonrailwayassociation.org/RailCam.shtml

On 20m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop

At 0730z, I turned on 20m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna (45cm across and thin wire!) and 10W. Already several stations spotted. No spots of me yet.

UPDATE 0936z :  70 stations in 2 continents spotted so far. Just 1 spot of me from Norway so far.

UPDATE 1445z: 30 spots of my 10W today (see map). On RX 332 stations spotted so far.

UPDATE 1620z: Now 51 spots today of my 10W FT8 using the 45cm across indoor loop.

Pixie kit

Some years ago I built a Pixie kit from China.  The Pixie is a simple CW transceiver usually for 40m or 80m. Mine (shown in the photo) cost under £5 with free shipping by air and worked first time. Like many simple rigs, it is a compromise. Great fun.

2m FT8

Last evening I again QSYed to 2m FT8. 20 stations spotted me in 5 countries again convincing me that this is some sort of scatter propagation. EVERY time I go on I seem to be spotted at great range. I am only using 10W to my big wheel omni antenna. The map shows where I was spotted last evening.

Sunspots - Saturday March 21st 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=7 and K=2.

20 Mar 2020

Returning migrant birds - NOT amateur radio

Sand Martin
Already we are hearing and seeing chiffchaffs and sand martins are regularly being seen in Devon. Up here in East Anglia, we usually see returning swallows by mid-April with swifts later, usually early May. These returning migrants bring joy to the heart.

My dad, who died in 1987, regularly saw returning sand martins on the golf course at Thurlestone in mid-March.

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/sand-martin/

Life goes on - NOT amateur radio

Mute Swan
Strange how we all adjust to a new reality. Just a few months ago we would not have believed it. In the strange times at the moment some people have been very kind.

Today we did a walk and saw very few people. Life and nature carry on. Nice to think this mute swan knows nothing of Covid-19!

20m FT8

Once again, I am on 20m FT8 (10W with the indoor loop). So far today 11 stations have spotted me with the best DX being KI8JP (3916 miles). On 20m FT8 RX 125 stations spotted with best DX being K7SCX (7505km).

Stations spotting me to 1730z
UPDATE 1617z: 55 stations have now spotted my 10W FT8 and I have spotted 224 stations so far.

Stations spotted today here to 1730z
UPDATE 1730z:  287 stations spotted so far today. 58 stations spotted here.

UPDATE 1915z:  75 spots of me today. A few QSOs.

UPDATE 1946z: 77 stations spotting me today so far. Activity now dropping off. On 20m FT8 RX 455 stations spotted her.

UPDATE 2011z: The last map shows the stations spotting me on 20m FT8 TX.

VHF/UHF beacons on FT8?

It seems to me to be a "good idea" if all beacons had an FT8 transmission slot. A single FT8 TX slot is only 15 seconds, but this would allow monitoring of beacons at great range.

For those not equipped for FT8 there could still be a CW slot. All the beacons in a region could co-exist in a few kilohertz of band which beacon hunters could monitor all the time.

WSPR is too long at 2 minute transmission cycles, but FT8 would be far better. Shorter TX slots would make monitoring by modes like aircraft and other types of scatter more probable.

On reflection, maybe all beacons including HF ones need an FT8 slot?

Sunspots - Friday March 20th 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=12 and K=1.

19 Mar 2020

2m FT8

As 20m seems to be closed now, I have QSYed to 2m FT8 instead. On 2m FT8 RX stations as far apart as Brittany and Germany spotted.

On 2m FT8 TX (10W to the big-wheel omni) 10 stations have spotted me so far with the best being GD3YEO (384km).

As I have said before, I am convinced this is some sort of scatter mode, but not aircraft. Polarisation does not seem to matter much and it seems to be there nearly all the time.

UPDATE 2140z: 14 spots of me so far this evening with best DX a spot by GI6ATZ (479km) and 10 spots of others.

Stations spotting my 10W
on 2m FT8 TX this evening 
UPDATE 2310z: After a QSO with a Dutch station, I am now QRT. In the end, 20 stations spotted me.

Covid-19 spread - NOT amateur radio

If you are like me, you are probably fed up with talk about Covid-19.

This map seems quite good. You can animate it to show how the disease has spread across the planet.

With a vaccine likely to be some way in the future, I hope they can re-purpose some existing anti-viral drug to lessen Covid-19s effects. Some are already being trialled.

Another rally postponed

I have been informed about another rally that has been postponed. If the background makes this hard to read I apologise, but this is as I received it.


CW BOOT CAMP. Stirling and District ARS, Unit 68, Bandeath Industrial Estate, Throsk FK7 7NP GMDX in conjunction with Stirling & District ARS are running a CW Boot Camp in Stirling. Great opportunity to improve you CW skills, registration open to all. Further information at https://www.gmdx.org.uk/cwbootcamp.

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

20m FT8

For about 15 minutes, I have been on 20m FT8 with 10W to the tiny indoor loop.

Already over 40 stations have been spotted, but no spots yet on TX. Although I thought that I chose a clear frequency, I must be swamped by a big station that I cannot see. If this persists, I might try a QSY.

UPDATE 1047z: Now QSYed.  70 stations spotted and I have been spotted by 3 Europeans so far.

UPDATE 1345z: So far today, 31 stations have spotted my 10W 20m FT8 including 4 in the USA.

UPDATE 1505z: Now 36 stations spotting me today so far.

UPDATE 1703z: Now 77 stations spotting my 10W FT8 on 20m. On 20m FT8 RX 442 stations spotted with best DX E20EHQ (9459km).

Amateur VLF

The photo shows the amateur VLF activity received here 9 years ago.

Amateur VLF activity is only possible with very stable signals and very long integration periods.

The exception is earth-mode, which can cover some remarkable ranges with low power and simple equipment. My best DX on earth-mode is nearly 6km with just 5W.

Wicken Fen on Tuesday - NOT amateur radio

This is me at Wicken Fen on Tuesday.

Sunspots - Thursday March 19th 2020

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

18 Mar 2020

Eurovision Song Contest cancelled - NOT amateur radio

This event has been cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51870325

OFCOM and shared rural networks

There are more details on the OFCOM website about efforts by the big 4 mobile network providers to provide a shared rural network for 4G in rural areas in the coming years.

20m FT8 (10W) again

At about 1250z I turned on 20m FT8. No spots yet on TX, although the usual clutch on RX. I must be on the same frequency as a "big" station that is not visible here.

UPDATE 1330z :  On RX 46 stations spotted so far and just one station spotting me today.

UPDATE 1626z: 28 stations have spotted me so far today. On 20m FT8 RX 223 spots of other stations in 4 continents so far today with the indoor 45cm diameter loop antenna.

UPDATE 2130z: 53 spots of my 10W FT8 today including 12 in the USA. On RX 470 stations spotted. A few QSOs were had too.

Oscar 100 upconverter

AMSAT-DL has produced a small up-converter design that can use either 70cm or 23cm input and produce 6W direct from the board at 13cm. This is quite enough output for CW/SSB in most cases. It can also take a reference frequency from an external source.

At 189.5 Euros this looks quite good value. It means a whole Oscar 100 station could be put together for far less than an HF transceiver. I am not sure if these units can be obtained ready built.

The geosynchronous Oscar 100 has been up for about a year now.

See https://amsat-dl.org/en/der-neue-qo-100-upconverter-mit-integrierter-pa-upcon6w/

Wicken Fen - NOT amateur radio

Yesterday we went for a walk around Wicken Fen. This windmill used to pump water.

This has been replaced by a modern wind pump.

Sunspots - Wednesday March 18th 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=1.

17 Mar 2020

QSY to 2m FT8

As it is getting quite late, I have decided to QSY to 2m FT8 (10W to the big-wheel omni antenna). Within the first few minutes 17 stations in 2 countries spotted me. So far, just 1 station spotted on 2m FT8 RX.

This is typical with this set-up on 2m FT8 TX. I am thinking this is some sort of scatter. As mentioned recently I do not think this is aircraft scatter. Polarisation seems not to matter that much but DX ranges seem always possible. If this was flat band tropo, I would have expected polarisation to make much more difference.

UPDATE 2052z: Now spotted by 23 stations in 3 countries with the best being G7RAU (461km) on the Lizard in Cornwall.

UPDATE 2310z:  QRT.


Southgate News reports on a VERON QSO Party on March 21 and 22nd.

See http://southgatearc.org/news/2020/march/veron-vhf-qso-party.htm

Societal changes - NOT amateur radio

The recent Covid-19 outbreak has brought out the best and the worst in people. Overall, when this is behind us (whenever this is!) I hope we are all kinder to each other.

Certainly we have had a couple of offers of help already. In difficult times people are coming up trumps.

20m FT8 (again!)

As usual, I have gone on 20m FT8 again with the tiny indoor loop and 10W. At 1545z 34 reports of my 10W, all from Europe with best DX being a spot be OH60KSA (1862km). I guess this must be a special prefix. No QSOs yet, but I was late getting on today. Nothing from the USA yet today.

UPDATE 1734z: Now 63 stations spotting me with best DX a spot by OH6GZD (1998km).today

UPDATE 1950z:  67 stations have spotted my 10W 20m FT8 today so far.

Where I come from in South Devon - NOT amateur radio

This is where I come from in South Devon.

Village tragedy - NOT amateur radio

Almost 300 years ago there was a tragedy in our village. A puppet show was being put on in a barn. Someone locked the door. There was a fire and 78 people were killed. At the time, when the village population must have been much smaller, this must have been a real tragedy. The dead are commemorated in our churchyard.

Sunspots - Tuesday March 17th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=7 and K=1.

16 Mar 2020

Adverts I HATE - NOT amateur radio

If there is one sort of advert I absolutely hate it is one like this designed to whet our curiosity with words like:

"Seniors born before 1969 are snapping up this new benefit" 

In my view this is click bate. Without clicking, we feel we might just be missing out, so many will click.

20m FT8 with the tiny (45cm diameter) indoor loop

After sorting out the WSJT-X issue, 35 stations have spotted me so far. Best DX was a spot by N4DJT (4213 miles). 312 stations spotted on 20m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 1424z: 451 stations have now spotted my 10W with UA9MA (4630km) being the furthermost to the east. On 20m FT8 RX 420 stations spotted so far.

Stations spotting my 10W FT8
to the tiny loop on 20m today
UPDATE 1904z: Now 103 stations in 4 continents have spotted my 10W today. See map to see who spotted me. On 20m FT8 RX 701 stations have been spotted on FT8 today.

WSJT-X issue

Just now I switched from 2m FT8 to 20m FT8. I was very puzzled that none of my spots were appearing on PSKreporter. I checked on the "all bands" tab and they were there!  For some reason PSKreporter was reporting me as still being on 2m!

After a restart, all was well with plenty of 20m RX and TX spots.

It seems that if you change bands you have to restart the programme or even restart the PC.

If you see rare DX stations reported on 2m, blame me!

Rally cancellations and postponements

Understandably in the current situation quite a few rallies are being cancelled or postponed until later in the year. 

See https://rsgb.org/main/news/rallies/ for the very latest news.

Oscar 100 QRPP experiment with FT8

Southgate News reports on a QRPP FT8 experiment from Brazil on the geosynchronous Oscar 100 satellite. The aim is to get people experimenting with real QRP via the satellite.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/march/amsat-brazil-qo-100-experiment.htm#.Xm9HIMiTK00

President Trump (allegedly) - NOT amateur radio

Sorry that the quotes may not be clear because of the white background.

These were sent to me. I assume they are true, but I have no way of verifying them. They are all supposed to be said by President Trump.

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

February 25: “I think that's a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”

February 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”

February 26: “We're going very substantially down, not up.”

February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “We're ordering a lot of supplies. We're ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn't be ordering unless it was something like this. But we're ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”

March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don't think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”

March 2: “A lot of things are happening, a lot of very exciting things are happening and they’re happening very rapidly.”

March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”

March 5: “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”

March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”

March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”

March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 6: “I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault.”

March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.”

March 9: “This blindsided the world.”

March 13: "I am declaring a state of emergency"


According to Southgate News the ARRL is trying to minimise the risks to its staff by stopping visitors. Someone had better tell the US President.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/march/announcement-from-american-radio-relay-league-headquarters.htm#.Xm6O1MiTK00

Sunspots - Monday March 16th 2020

Solar flux is only 70 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=1.

15 Mar 2020

Lighter evenings - NOT amateur radio

The seasons are wonderful.

Mid-winter it is dark by 4pm.  At the moment it is light to about 6.30pm. In mid summer it is light until about 10.45pm.

This photo shows our windmill right next door shortly before dark.

2m FT8

At about 1730z I QSYed to 2m FT8 from 20m FT8. Still using about 10W to the big-wheel omni.

UPDATE 1744z:  So far, 22 stations in 5 countries have already spotted me. I am convinced this is some sort of scatter, not aircraft scatter, as it is so consistent. Polarisation seems less important as I get nearly as many spots with the vertical omni.  Best DX is a spot by DF6PW (562km).

UPDATE 1822:  Well that was odd!  After about 40 minutes I was seeing stations but these were not appearing on PSKreporter. In the end, I restarted the PC and all now seems well. I can only conclude this was some sort of software issue that was cleared by resetting the PC. On RX 2 spots so far in 2 countries with the best DX being GW8ASA (301km). 26 spots of me so far today.

UPDATE 2229z: Now spotted by 31 stations in 5 countries. Going QRT shortly.

Coronavirus step change - NOT amateur radio

In the last week we have seen a step change in the UK over coronavirus. A week ago we were hardly affected, whereas now we seem to be on a war footing.  People seem to have changed.

XBS Telecom

This EU company seems to offer very good prices with VAT added and good guarantees. I have never used them, so have no experience. If other have, perhaps they could share their experiences here.

It is interesting that many dealers are now offering the ICOM IC7300 with free gifts. It appears that ICOM are resisting dropping the basic unit price.

See https://www.xbstelecom.eu/shop/en/12-ham-radio

20m FT8

A few moments ago I went on 20m FT8 with 10W to the tiny indoor loop.

It is now 1426z and 36 stations spotted on RX and just 1 spot on TX by II0IDR (1442km).

UPDATE 1450z: No other spots of me on TX. When a strong signal appears I can get swamped. I have just moved about 100Hz LF to see if that makes a difference. I always check I am on a clear spot, but this does not always work!

UPDATE 1725z:  Now spotted by 18 stations across Europe.

Webcams - NOT amateur radio

It seems possible that some of the next few months we will be stuck at home under quarantine. Thank goodness for webcams!

Earlier today my brother was in Devon at Buckfastleigh at the South Devon Railway. He alerted me on WhatsApp so I was able to see him on the platform with his grandson. There are plenty of other webcams around the world. Some are live.

See https://www.earthcam.com/

New life - NOT amateur radio

Every year the daffodils in the churchyard look a picture giving us hope of spring and better weather. In these Covid-19 filled times it good to see nature getting on with life.

Sunspots - Sunday March 15th 2020

Solar flux is 68 and the SSN 0.  A=3 and K=1.

14 Mar 2020

Solar flux

For the last few days we have seen solar flux numbers in the sixties. In February, unless I am mistaken, numbers were in the low 70s. Perhaps we have not quite reached the solar minimum yet? We may just be bumbling along the bottom.

More on loops

At our old house, I did some tests with a loop antenna using central heating pipe.

More recently I have been using a Wonder Wand loop that was a gift many years ago. As described yesterday, this loop uses a different way to match the loop and much thinner wire for the loop. Thicker wire results in better efficiency and sharper tuning. As I recall, my loop of some years ago was surprisingly effective.

For 10m FT8 the loop could be brought to resonance with a small length of coax. This needs to be carefully cut to tune to frequency, but once cut, it should not need further adjustment. A short length of coax acts as a capacitor and should be able to cope with the high voltages at the top of a resonant loop.

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

Pre-theatre meal - NOT amateur radio

Some months ago we went to the theatre in Wembley. The photo shows me eating a pizza before the theatre.

Please watch this - NOT amateur radio

I was told of these videos from Dr John Campbell by Chris M0PZC. The "delay" phase is trying to reduce the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, so that health services are better able to cope. This is to help the community.

Children, in general, are not badly affected, but they can spread the disease. Older people with pre-existing health conditions can become seriously ill and die.

Your help is imperative. Do what you can to slow the spread of the virus. Thank you. Your actions could save lives!

With a vaccine readily available being some way off despite great effort, our best hope is some antiviral treatment that may improve outcomes. From what I have read, the best hope is remdesivir, although I am no expert.

20m FT8

In a short while, I shall go on 20m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna. Results previously have exceeded expectations.

UPDATE 1118z: I have turned on the 20m FT8 (10W). Already 39 stations spotted, but no-one has spotted my yet. I maybe am (unknowingly) co-channel with a strong signal inaudible here. I checked the frequency before TXing.

UPDATE 1230z: Since moving about 200Hz HF I have been spotted by 18 stations! Best DX is a spot of my 10W by N4PSK (4374 miles). On 20m FT8 RX 145 stations have been spotted so far.

UPDATE 1920z:  Still being spotted! 111 spots of me today and 7 in the USA.

UPDATE 2129z: 121 spots of me today on 20m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop and 10W as the map shows. Several 2-way QSOs too. Now QRT.