31 Aug 2020

Grandchildren - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows the grandchildren earlier outside the windmill next door.

2m FT8

For about 40 minutes I have been on 2m FT8 using 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far 37 stations in 6 countries have spotted me today. Best DX was again a spot from N. Ireland and 2 from Germany.

UPDATE 1747z:  So far today, 53 stations in 7 countries have spotted my 10W to the big-wheel omni. 2m FT8  never seems to fail and it amazes me.

Ely sunset - NOT amateur radio

This photo of the sunset at Ely yesterday appeared on Facebook. Ely is a growing market city with a very old cathedral.

Origins of sayings - NOT amateur radio

Origins of some sayings shared on Facebook yesterday. Assuming these are true, quite fascinating.  If not true, I wonder what the origins were?

1. In the 1400s a law was set forth in England that a man was allowed to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb.
Hence we have 'the rule of thumb.'

2. Many years ago in Scotland , a new game was invented. It was ruled 'Gentlemen Only...
Ladies Forbidden'... and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

3. Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:
Spades - King David,
Hearts - Charlemagne,
Clubs -Alexander the Great,
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

4. In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... 'goodnight, sleep tight.'

5. It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink.
Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the honeymoon.

6. In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts...
So in old England , when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them 'Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down.'
It's where we get the phrase 'mind your P's and Q's'

7. Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service.
'Wet your whistle' is the phrase inspired by this practice.

8. In 1696, William III of England introduced a property tax that required those living in houses with more than six windows to pay a levy. In order to avoid the tax, house owners would brick up all windows except six. (The Window Tax lasted until 1851, and older houses with bricked-up windows are still a common sight in the U.K.) As the bricked-up windows prevented some rooms from receiving any sunlight, the tax was referred to as “daylight robbery”!

Sunspots - Monday August 31st 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0.  A=9 and K=4.

30 Aug 2020

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

Been on several hours today. Spotted by 49 stations in 8 countries.

UPDATE 1930z : Now QRT but I was spotted by 63 stations in 9 countries today on 2m FT8 with the big-wheel omni antenna. It never fails.

Time - NOT amateur radio

"Time is just a construct of the human brain" - discuss.

I saw this recently on a Facebook page about research at Durham University into the universe.

Broadcast listener resources

In my first years in the hobby my main focus was on broadcast band listening, especially on the shortwave broadcast bands. Often this was with a humble crystal set.

In the past I have copied right across the planet on a crystal set. These were actual broadcasts from the originating countries and not via relays. Radio Australia was a real challenge.

The thrill of copying broadcast stations from great distances was exciting especially on a crystal set in which the only power is that from the originating station.

It was amazing what could be copied on a very simple regen RX.  Quite a few of us "cut our teeth"  on simple regen receivers.

Some useful links are shown below.

See https://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Shortwave_Radio/BCL_Resources/


A friend of mine built a 100mW 20m WSPR beacon based on a Raspberry Pi. It has been spotted in Brazil.

Sunspots - Sunday August 30th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0.  A=14 and K=4.

29 Aug 2020

SPAM emails - NOT amateur radio

On the whole the SPAM filter on Gmail works well.

As an example, I have just been informed that my Norton anti-virus software is running out. The only problem is I don't use Norton!

Every day I get messages telling me how my bank balance has gone up as a result of winning a prize. As for Bitcoins, I must get at least 20 SPAM messages every day.

Regarding sexual partners, every day I get requests and I am sure it is not because I am a great stud! 😁

Transatlantic 2m tropo

EA8CXN (IL18) has worked FG8OJ on 2m SSB tropo. This was reported on a Facebook group earlier.  He also worked FM5CS.

2m aircraft scatter?

As many will know, I frequently try 2m FT8.  What puzzles me is that even will 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna (3dB over a dipole maximum) I seem to get great ranges at any time.  

This could be aircraft scatter, but I am puzzled why this is there all the time. If it was just at certain times I would be more inclined to think this is aircraft scatter. Just maybe, there are enough aircraft in the sky to allow brief 15 second periods of FT8 to be reflected at any time.

Another possibility is that FT8, with its additional sensitivity, allows other scatter modes to be possible. Whatever, 2m FT8 seems to allow me to reach incredible distances every single day, even with my very simple antenna and low power. If I had a big beam and 400W, some amazing distances should be possible.

Hair time - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows one of our grandchildren having her hair combed by her mum.

Her family is with us for a few days.

2m FT8

For about 50 minutes, I have been on 2m FT8. So far, my 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna has been spotted by 25 stations in 7 countries. Best DX is a spot by GI6ATZ (479km).  Nothing yet spotted on RX.

Stations spotting me with 10W 2m FT8
to the big-wheel so far today to 1502z
UPDATE 1502z:  43 spots of me in 8 countries so far..

UPDATE 2002z:  58 stations in 9 countries have spotted me today. QRT soon.

Local amateur

The photo shows a local amateur in his front garden. We are about 300m apart.

IC-705 packaging

On the IC-705 Facebook page earlier was this photo of the packaging for the IC-705. Many people are lusting after one. Attractive packaging can help sales.

Covid-19 vaccine - NOT amateur radio

So the UK government will give temporary approval if clinically necessary for the administration of proven safe and effective vaccines for Covid-19 if available. There is still a way to go. See the UK government website for more information.

Sunspots - Saturday August 29th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=10 and K=5.

28 Aug 2020

10m FT8

Since 0856z I have been on 10m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna and 4W.  So far, I have been spotted by just 1 station up in the Faroes. A couple of stations in northern Spain copied. Otherwise very quiet here.

Yet again the Es (if that is what it is) seems to favour more northern stations, much as I found in previous years late in the season.

8 years ago - NOT amateur radio

This photo shows me with one of our grandchildren 8 years ago. This is the same boy as in the previous post.

Eating out - NOT amateur radio

Since the lockdown we have eaten out 3 times so far. The last time was last Wednesday with one of our sons and his children. Every time we have eaten out we have felt perfectly safe.

60m in Australia

As of now, Australia has not allocated the WRC 60m amateur band. The main concern is sharing the band with commercial users. At present there is a consultation about sharing this small allocation.

In the UK we have more slots with higher power limits. Personally, I'd prefer a narrower band with a lower power limit in the UK i.e. swap the various slots for a smaller, contiguous and shared WRC band.

See https://www.acma.gov.au/consultations/2020-05/possible-use-53515-53665-khz-band-amateur-service-consultation-132020

Indoor verticals

Many have restrictions on outside antennas, possibly with covenants preventing any form of outside antenna. Some years ago I made one for 160m, although similar antennas could be made of other HF bands. If I can make one for 160m, I am pretty sure ones for higher HF bands should be even better. Never say you cannot erect an effective HF antenna.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/antennas/160m_loft_ant

Sunspots - Friday August 28th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the sunspot number 0. A=8 and K=0.

27 Aug 2020

10m FT8 (4W to the indoor loop)

Since late morning, I have been on 10m FT8. So far 2 stations have spotted me: Faroes and Sweden.

UPDATE 2004z:  10 stations have spotted me today.

UK rally updates

The following rally updates were received earlier. If the background makes these hard to read on some screens, please accept my apologies, but this is how I get them.


MILTON KEYNES ARS RALLY. MKARS, Irish Centre, Manor Fields, Watling Street, Bletchley MK2 2HX Additional information at www.mkars.org.uk/rally.

Sunday 30 AUGUST : POSSIBLY CANCELLED check TARS website

TORBAY ANNUAL COMMUNICATIONS FAIR. Newton Abbot Racecourse, Devon TQ12 3AF. Doors open at 10am with disabled visitors gaining access at 9.30am. Indoor event with plenty of free parking on site. There will be a Bring & Buy as well as an RSGB bookstall. Catering will be available on site. Details & bookings: Mike, G1TUU, 01803 557941 or rally@tars.org.uk.

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

Meal out - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows our son with his son during our meal yesterday.

Day off amateur radio yesterday

Yesterday for the first time in some time, I decided to take a day off operating. We were out for much of the day and the gear was not turned on when we got back. I shall probably turn things on later although I am unsure which band.

Sunspots - Thursday August 27th 2020

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

26 Aug 2020

Simple pleasures - NOT amateur radio

Let this morning we went to Cavenham Heath. The photo shows our son showing his daughter a caterpillar.

Oscar 100 activity

Every few weeks I take a peek at activity levels on the geosynchronous Oscar 100 satellite.

Usually I give a warning that this is very unscientific. I randomly look at the narrowband transponder via the webSDR at Goonhilly in Cornwall. When I looked midweek activity was low.

See https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/


In 2012 I designed a very simple RX for 10m WSPR as shown in the photo and circuit. It used low cost 14.060MHz crystals and a Polyakov mixer. It worked well. Even now there's WSPR on 10m, although FT8 is more popular.

Sunspots - Wednesday August 26th 2020

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

25 Aug 2020

Anglesey Abbey earlier - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows Anglesey Abbey earlier in the week.

10m FT8

Since mid morning I have been on 10m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna and 4W.

UPDATE 1130z :  So far, 4 stations have spotted me.

UPDATE 2120z:  QRT. 6 Europeans spotted me today.

Where I come from in 1952 - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows where I come from in South Devon in 1952. Our house is visible.

Yesterday on 2m FT8 using 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna

Quite a quiet day yesterday on 2m FT8 with 21 spots of me with the best DX being a spot by G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall.

Sunspots - Tuesday August 25th 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=3 and K=1.

24 Aug 2020

More where I come from - NOT amateur radio

These photos show where I come from in South Devon.

10m WSPR TX beacon

Late morning I turned on my 10m WSPR TX beacon using 500mW to the tiny indoor loop antenna. So far (it is now 1425z) 3 different stations have spotted me.

Sunspots - Monday August 24th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=7 and K=1.

23 Aug 2020

Growing fast - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows some of our grandchildren growing fast.

10m WSPR (500mW and indoor loop)

So, I am expecting to be spotted by no-one! If anyone is monitoring I shall get a pleasant surprise.  As the 10m TX WSPR beacon was available and the indoor loop, I have turned these on "just in case".

UPDATE 1205z:  Surprise, surprise! A single spot by DJ9PC (825km) proves that there is some propagation on 10m after all. I am sure I'd have far more spots on FT8, but that ties up the main rig and PC.

UPDATE 1325z:  Also being spotted by a Danish station. Sometimes he's getting me very strongly.

UPDATE 2016z:  QRT.

2m FT8 (10W and big-wheel omni antenna)

It is now 0816z and I have been active for a few minutes. So far, 17 spots of me in 2 countries with the best being F0EYI (465km) in Brittany. G7RAU (461km) has a great site and antenna and is also spotting me. No RX spots yet.

UPDATE 1030z: 37 stations in 3 countries have spotted my 10W FT8 so far with the best DX spot being by GI6ATZ (479km). It seems odd that none of my spots have been uploaded. I may try a total reset.

UPDATE 1225z: 40 stations have spotted me so far, but just 1 station copied on RX. This suggests there are far more stations monitoring than transmitting.

UPDATE 1630z: 54 stations in 5 countries have spotted my 2m FT8 10W so far today.

UPDATE 2017z: QRT. 56 stations in 6 countries spotted my 10W FT8 today on 2m with the big-wheel omni antenna.

Time - NOT amateur radio

This year, I shall be 72 years old.

In some ways I feel old now, but at the same time I feel as if the years since I was a teenager have never happened: in some ways it is almost as if time is just an illusion. Memories of those days are still strong.

Time and memories could be illusions.  Every day we wake up it could be that we think we remember past events and places, but we don't. There is always the feeling that time's arrow goes forward into the future, but it could equally well point into the past. Our whole notion of time past, present and future could be flawed.

No, time is puzzling.

Our view of space also puzzles me. I note the similarly between the very big and very small. Is the universe somehow different from how we see it? 100 years on we may say, "did they believe THAT?".

Favourite walk - NOT amateur radio

One of my favourite walks (when I was fit!) was along the coastal path from Hope Cove to Salcombe along the coastal path in South Devon. It remains very unspoilt and beautiful. I cannot imagine this has changed much since my father walked this way almost 100 years ago.

Sunspots - Sunday August 23rd 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0.  A=8 and K=2.

22 Aug 2020

2m FT8

As 6m seems dead here, I have QSYed to 2m FT8 with 10W and the big-wheel antenna.  After about 15 minutes 19 stations in 4 countries have spotted me.

UPDATE 2034z:  QRT now. 34 stations in 7 countries spotted me today. Just 1 station spotted on RX today on 2m.

Butterfly - NOT amateur radio

If this has been on before, sorry but too bad!! 

It is a nice photo taken earlier this summer. If I recall correctly, it was at nearby Anglesey Abbey.

Social media - NOT amateur radio

Like many, I seem to be addicted to instant social media fixes. When waking in the morning I grab my smart phone to check Facebook, emails, blogs, BBC etc. Most of these could easily wait several hours or even days. Talk about "must get a life"! These things could and should be relegated to their proper place.

More IC-705 videos

These are now coming think and fast as more dealers around the world are seeing samples. Only today I saw videos today from Finland, Wimo in Germany and the USA.

6m FT8

It is now 0800z. A few moments ago I turned on the 6m FT8 gear (10W and the V2000 vertical). So far, no spots given or received.

UPDATE 0833z:  Still no 6m FT8 spots.

UPDATE 0904z: Nothing on RX but I have been spotted by 1 station in Sweden.

UPDATE 1622z:   So far today, still just the single spot of me and no spots at all on RX.

Sunspots - Saturday August 22nd 2020

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

21 Aug 2020

South Hams video - NOT amateur radio

This video shows some of where I come from from the air.

Fen blows - NOT amateur radio

The UK Fens are very flat with some of the best agricultural lands in the country.  Most of the topsoil is peat.

With strong winds we can experience "fen blows" when the strong winds blow this topsoil away. At the moment we are having exceptionally strong winds for August. This morning on our walk, we could see the brown clouds of dust in the sky: evidence of a "fen blow". Although I tried to take photos, the "fen blow" is hard to make out. At the moment, winds are gusting to about 50mph here.

Cycle 25?

From regular visits to my favourite site for solar data, it looks far more likely that we have passed solar minimum. Most days now we see some sunspots and indicators are increasingly good.

As mentioned before, it could be some time before HF conditions get noticeably better. With luck we should see more openings to "real DX" on bands like 10m, 12m and 10m.

This is the first time we will have had FT8 available as a tool on the climb up to solar maximum. It is probably worth monitoring the FT8 frequencies on 10m, as I suspect the band is open far more often than is realised.

2m FT8

Following a poor outing on 6m and 10m FT8, I have returned to 2m FT8. So far, my 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna has been spotted by 23 stations in 3 countries at 1400z includin Northern Irelaand and Germany.

Stations spotting me to 2010z
UPDATE 1607z: Now 29 stations in 5 countries have spotted my 10W 2m FT8 today.

UPDATE 2010z:  36 stations spotted me today on 2m FT8.

UPDATE 2200z : Now QRT. 37 St spotted me today on 2m FT8 using 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna.

Salcombe, Devon, UK - NOT amateur radio

As a child I lived and was brought up in Salcombe, Devon. We took it all for granted, not appreciating just how lucky we were.

I have mentioned before how the light reflected off the water made patterns on the ceiling of the classroom. It was a long time before I realised what it was!

There are several videos on YouTube including these here.

2m progress

When I was first interested in amateur radio AM was king on 2m. Working 10km with a Heathkit HW30 "Twoer" seemed good. Nowadays working 200km with 10W of SSB is commonplace with a big-wheel omni antenna. With FT8 distances of 500km seem possible at any time. We have come a long way.

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

Sunspots - Friday August 21st 2020

Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 13.  A=3 and K=1.

20 Aug 2020

2m FT8

At about 1600z, I decided to QSY to 2m FT8. On 10m FT8,  I was again widely spotted across Europe despite running just 4W to the indoor loop.

On 2m I am running the usual 10W (high power eh?) and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, 12 spots of me already in the first 5 minutes!

Stations spotting me at 1610z
UPDATE 1610z: Already spotted on the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland after just a few minutes.

UPDATE 2050z:  QRT.  In all today, my 10W was spotted 40 stations in 7 countries.

International Lighthouse Weekend 2020

For this year, the ILLW event when lighthouses around the world are activated has been moved to this weekend Aug 22nd/23rd. This is NOT a contest. Google for more details.

Flash floods - NOT amateur radio

After the floods 
A few days ago, the heavens opened and it rained so heavily that the drains could not cope. One of our old neighbours really suffered badly. I feel sorry for people who have their homes ruined by floods.

Cambridge shopping - NOT amateur radio

For the first time since March we ventured into Cambridge. We went shopping. It was busier than I expected, but still easy to social distance.

10m FT8

It is now 0836z. My 4W to the tiny indoor loop antenna has been on for about 15 minutes. So far no spots on RX and on TX 2 spots.

Sunspots - Thursday August 20th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 15. A=6 and K=1.

19 Aug 2020

Swifts - NOT amateur radio

Most swifts have now left on their long migrations south. Imagine my surprise when I saw one earlier. There are a few stragglers still around, but most have now left until next spring.

10m FT8

Es about today.  Although I have only been on for about 10 minutes with my 4W FT8 and the indoor loop already 10 stations have been spotted and I have been spotted by 7. So far, just EU.

UPDATE 2110z: 27 stations spotted me today. On RX the best DX was a station in Chile, South America.

WSJT-X V2.2.2 or PC bug?

For several days now I have been using WSJT-X V2.2.2 on FT8. Several times when I first use it the RX signals are "smeared" and I get no decodes. Restarting the PC clears this and I get plenty of decodes. I am using a SignaLink USB interface that has given me perfect service for years.

I wonder if any others have experiences this?

Simple pleasures - NOT amateur radio

As we awoke early we decided to go on an early walk.

We picked some apples and blackberries as the photo shows.

8m activity

The 40 and 60MHz Facebook group has news of more activity on 8m. Some countries have an allocation and some stations have sought special access.

South Devon - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows where I come from in South Devon. This is the Kingsbridge Estuary in Devon in an area known as the South Hams.

Cycle 25

There is little doubt that cycle 25 has now started. We seem to be seeing a few sunspots most days now although it could be some time before HF conditions on bands like 10m are noticeably better. By the autumn of 2021 openings to the USA should be much more frequent on 10m.

Sepura - NOT amateur radio

It seems amazing that I retired from Sepura 12 years ago!

For almost 40 years I worked in the Pye/Philips/Simoco/Sepura empire. As a design engineer, I worked on some interesting products including a few years working on pagers including a brief spell in California.

See https://www.sepura.com/

Sunspots - Wednesday August 19th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 12. A=6 and K=3.

18 Aug 2020

QSY to 2m FT8

As 10m seemed dead here today, I have QSYed to 2m FT8. Almost immediately my 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna was spotted by 11 stations including GI6ATZ (479km) in Northern Ireland and DF6PW (562km) in Germany. It never fails!

UPDATE 1858z:  42 stations in 10 countries have spotted me today so far on 2m with 10W and the big-wheel omni antenna. As this sort of DX seems to be available at any time, I do not think all of these are aircraft scatter or tropo. Some may be, but not all I think. Personally, I suspect some other sort of scatter that weak signals such as FT8 signals can access.

Stations spotting me
on 2m FT8 TX (10W) today
UPDATE 2039z:  47 spots of my 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna today. Even with my low power and simple antenna, it appears that these sort of ranges are possible on 2m FT8 at any time. On SSB with the same power and antenna, I am pleased to work stations 200km away!

Granddaughter - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows our 9  year old granddaughter on holiday in Norfolk.

Cartoon - NOT amateur radio

This cartoon appeared as a Facebook memory from several years ago. 

It seems appropriate in the UK at the moment.

Ultra-simple RX

Some years ago, I wanted to see just how simple a receiver could be made with a decent performance. Later, this was converted into a full transceiver.  For so few parts, it is remarkable.

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

10m FT8 (4W and indoor loop)

Since about 0800z this morning I have been on 10m. No spots given or received yet today. I have the feeling today is going to be a quiet day.  Certainly no evidence yet here of Es. Things could change.

UPDATE 1110z:  Still no spots on 10m FT8 today. Unless things improve after lunch, I may QSY to 2m FT8 later.

Amusement - NOT amateur radio

This recently appeared in WhatsApp in response to the UK government's u-turn on exam grades. They tried to normalise school exam grades but at the very last minute had to agree to teacher's assessments instead. Many good students had results downgraded.

What a total display of ineptness!! If the UK had any credibility left, they have now lost it. The government comes across as "back of a fag packet" people.

The future of amateur radio

On Southgate News there is discussion about online exams as recently done in the UK and in the USA. This particular piece is about Australia.  Personally, I think it is a far bigger issue than exams.

When I was young radio was magic and the idea of talking across the world was like landing a man on Mars. To talk around the world meant amateur radio and getting a licence.  My first introduction to the hobby was hearing AM amateurs on HF and 160m. These days there is no magic as people can hold video chats with friends and family across the planet for free using the internet.

Unless we can properly connect with the generation of today, I can see amateur radio just fizzling out within 20 years. Now, I hope I am pessimistic, but the signs are not good. As the amateur radio population ages (most are old men) fewer radios will get sold and some manufacturers will leave the market as there are no profits to be made. There will be fewer dealers, fewer ads, fewer and smaller magazines. Fewer new people will enter the hobby.

I just wonder what our hobby will look like in 2040.

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2020/august/time-for-reconstruction-of-the-ham-radio-hobby.htm#.Xztyp2jYq00

137kHz transverter

From this QTH I have never tried 137kHz. At some point I really should. It is an interesting allocation. From the old QTH I copied a station in Sweden with just an E-field probe antenna. The transverter below was used on TX (see link below).

With QRP ERP from my old QTH it allowed me to be copied 250km away on WSPR. I forget the actual ERP but it was low mW at most. The antenna was either my earth-electrode antenna in the ground or my 80m square loop.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/mflf/137khz_tvrtr


Before buying new or used gear, it is often worth looking at reviews.

Remember than people who are very happy or very unhappy tend to leave reviews and many just use the gear.

I often look at the reviews on eham.net to get an impression. If a product is well liked, or disliked, this can be a good indicator.

See https://www.eham.net/reviews/index

Sunspots - Tuesday August 18th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the sunspot number 0.  A=3 and K=1.

17 Aug 2020

Visitor - NOT amateur radio

This picture was a Facebook memory from last year.  It rested on a white background long enough for a photo.

Not including the antennae, it was about 3cm long. I don't think these can fly.

I have not seen one this year.

East Cambs 2m FM net

Every Monday night at 8pm UK time, we hold the East Cambs net on 144.575MHz FM vertical. Usually we are on for about 30 minutes. Sometimes there are technical discussions, although this is usually just someone sharing their knowledge to help someone out.  It is rare for deep technical discussions to take place. All are always welcomed.

Government U-turn - NOT amateur radio

After a public protest, the government has been forced to make a U-turn over A level and GCSE grades. These are usually given as a result of exams held in the summer term. This year, these were not possible because of Covid-19. A level grades are used for offers of university places. Many grade predictions made by teachers were down-graded by an algorithm designed to normalise results.

After a public outcry in England the government has decided to use teachers predictions after all. Although they will be humiliated (again) over this, at least they saw sense in the end.

Flood - NOT amateur radio

For a few minutes yesterday, it rained very heavily. For the first time since this happened, I went into the shack just now. The floor of the shack is about 10cm lower than the rest of the bungalow.

Much to my surprise some of the floor carpet is wet. Luckily nowhere else in the shack or house seems to have been affected. I have placed a convector heater in the little room to dry the carpet. I hope it does not leave a bad stain.

10m FT8

I have just switched my 4W 10m FT8 to the indoor loop on. We had thunder and my son and family staying, hence the late start today. Within a few minutes my 4W was spotted by 20 stations (mainly in eastern Europe) via Es. 3 stations spotted on RX so far. It is now 1445z.

UPDATE 1544z:  Even though I have not been on long, 28 stations have already spotted my 4W 10m FT8 signal today so far.

UPDATE 1745z: 30 stations have spotted me today so far.

Gifts - NOT amateur radio

We had some gifts brought back from Brittany by our son's family. See the photo.

10m FT8 on Sunday

Until we had thunder and heavy rain yesterday, I was on 10m FT8 with 4W and the tiny indoor loop antenna. There was plenty of Es about.

In all, I was spotted by 65 stations and I spotted 247 stations on RX. I was only on for a few hours too!

Sunspots - Monday August 17th 2020

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

16 Aug 2020

Rain stops play

About 15 minutes ago all leads to the rig, PC and PSU were disconnected as we have heavy rain and thunder. It is the first decent rain for weeks. Luckily I cut the front hedge and lawn earlier!

Yesterday on 10m FT8 (4W and the indoor loop)

Yesterday, I went on 10m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna. It was a successful day with my 4W spotted by no less than 67 stations across Europe. On RX I spotted 62 stations.

What is not clear is how far down the loop is on an external antenna like a dipole. At a guess I reckon this must be less than 6dB based on results.

This difference could be important with weak signals, but is probably less important with Es. As mentioned before, I'd like to get an external 10m antenna up soon.

No spots from South America.

Predicting the size of the next solar maximum

We know that predicting the size of solar cycle 25 maximum can be extremely difficult: a bit like weather forecasting in that the best predictions are made after the event!  Many try and we are getting better.

A summary of recent predictions is available at the site below made by K9LA. I expect there will be revisions as cycle 25 really starts to motor.

See http://k9la.us/Aug20_Cycle_25_Predictions.pdf

Open Thursdays - NOT amateur radio

After several months of remaining closed, our local museum is open again on Thursdays.

As all sections cannot guarantee social distancing, they have decided to open parts only and ask for donations.

It really is a splendid place and most visitors are surprised how good, and how big, it is.

Sunspots - Sunday August 16th 2020

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=3 and K=1.

15 Aug 2020

Walk - NOT amateur radio

Fruit seen on the ground
on our walk today
Today, the weather is much duller than last week. We decided to do our "Muntjac walk" which is 3.5-4 miles long and when we often see Muntjac deer.

It was drizzling slightly on our way back.

Although still August, there are signs of autumn with these sloes and plums on the ground (see photo).

10m FT8 (4W to indoor loop)

Having returned from our walk, I decided to go on 10m FT8. So far, lots of Europeans spotted via Es and already 16 stations have spotted me in about 15 minutes!

UPDATE 1128z:  Already spotted by 33 stations and I have spotted 33 on RX.

UPDATE 1240z:  35 stations have spotted me so far on 10m. On 10m RX the best DX spotted is 5T5PA (3791km) in Mauritania.

UPDATE 1414z:  So far today, 48 stations have spotted my 4W 10m FT8 to the indoor loop.

UPDATE 1802z:  So far today, 65 stations have spotted me and I have spotted 62.

Early start on 2m FT8

As I was awake early, the 2m FT8 gear was turned on.  Already (at 0600z) the 10W to the big-wheel has been spotted by 18 stations in 4 countries. On 2m FT8 RX nothing spotted yet.

Going up? - NOT amateur radio

This has been said here before, but have you noticed how younger people go up at the end of sentences? If you listen to people below the age of 30 this is quite common. At one time this used to really annoy me. Then I realised that languages evolve over time, so just shut up!

It seems amazing to me that Latin evolved into modern Italian in not much more than 1500 years. The same is true for most languages. That's about 80 generations only!


One part of our hobby that I have never explored is DMR.

There are some dual band portables on the amateur market that cover 2m and 70cm with FM and DMR. I do not even know if there are any DMR repeaters in the area! It is possible that DMR repeaters can be accessed via a PC. Apparently not - you need a radio and hot-spot.

Funny, but this is one area of our hobby that really does not "turn me on". As I have said before, it is a good job we are all different. For some people DMR is a whole area to explore.

There was another excellent Zoom talk last night, arranged by the Cambridge radio club, about DMR. See the photo for a screenshot.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/digital-modes-anytone/anytone/anytone-at-d868uv-vhf-uhf-dmr-handheld-gps-pd-8616.php for an example of a dual band, dual mode FM/DMR handheld.

Clunch - NOT amateur radio

Clunch is a local building stone used in many buildings in our village. It is a kind of chalk.

It is also the name of our free village magazine that drops through our postbox every 2 months. It is A5 size and has been going since 1975, about the time we came to the village.

It is a mix of local news and adverts for local firms.

Sunspots - Saturday August 15th 2020

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

Arecibo dish disaster

Earlier, I read that one of the supports holding the large Arecibo dish in the Caribbean had broken. The main use of this 50 year dish radio telescope was for research by the University of Florida. Until this dish is repaired (no mean task) no work can carry on.

Back in the 1960s, this dish was used for amateur 70cm EME tests. Because of its huge size, it allowed access to EME QSOs not possible at the time with more modest stations. It appeared on the cover of the RSGB Bulletin. I think this was 1965.

See https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/arecibo-radio-telescope-goes-dark-after-snapped-cable-shreds-dish

Last evening on 2m FT8

Although a very brief time was on TX, most of the time was spent on RX.

There was a lift on probably as stations as far apart as Eire, Ulster, Isle of Man and Sweden were copied. QRT was at about 2215z.

14 Aug 2020

10m FT8 (4W and indoor loop)

As 6m was so dire, I decided to try 10m FT8 with 4W and the indoor loop. Already an EA3 spotted on RX. On TX spotted by F4FOM (1024km) in the south of France as well as a couple of others by Es. It is now 1030z.  At the moment, 10m FT8 seems the best bet as there is still Es around.

UPDATE 1048z:  Currently spotted by 7 stations with the furthermost being R1CAA (2040km).  As far as I recall, I have not been spotted outside Europe on the indoor 10m loop, although I hspotsave been spotted in South America on the (inferior) loop on lower bands.

UPDATE 1232z:  31 stations have spotted my 4W 10m FT8 signal to the indoor loop.

UPDATE 1435z:  39 stations have spotted my 4W on 10m FT8 so far today. Still plenty of Es in evidence on 10m.

UPDATE 1543z:  No recent spots of my TX. All my spots (RX and TX) today are Europeans. Nothing (yet) from South America.

Spots of me today
UPDATE 1845z: 49 spots of my 4W to the indoor loop today. One of these supposedly copied me in the Far East an hour ago. I am pretty sure this is a European pirate.

IC-705 PSU

MyDel is producing a small PSU to go with the IC-705 QRP rig. MLS is selling it.

It is not clear if this is a linear or switched mode design. It does not have a fan.

See https://www.hamradio.co.uk/accessories-power-supplies/mydel/mydel-mp-705-pd-5271.php

6m FT8

Just after 0900z I QSYed to 6m FT8 with 10W and the V2000 vertical omni. It is now 0905z. No spot given or received yet.

UPDATE 0957z:  Just 1 G spot of me by G3NSM (123km). I have moved the audio LF a bit and checked the SWR in case something was amiss. The SWR looked normal. Basically, as exciting as watching paint dry!

UPDATE 1020z:  Just Jim G3YLA (64km) spotted on 6m FT8 RX and no further spots on TX.


Some, not all, of my early logbooks are available as PDF files online. Most of these PDF files were created when I was still at work, which is over 12 years ago!

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

Alstromerias - NOT amateur radio

One of the plants in our rear garden is called an alstromeria. We have several in pots. They seem to do well.

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

2m FT8

Using my 10W to the big-wheel, I have been on 2m FT8 since breakfast. I have already been spotted in Cornwall and Germany.  On 2m FT8 RX, 14 stations in 4 countries spotted so far. No QSOs yet.

2m MSK144 RX (MS Perseids)

Overnight, I tried watching 144.360MHz MSK144, in the hope of catching some MS activity on 2m. In the end just 1 G copied calling a UR4.

As usual, the antenna was the big-wheel omni. Either I was too late, few were on 144.360MHz MSK144, or my system was not up to it. I doubt the latter as I have copied MS signals before with this antenna. Also, in MS showers signals are usually strong, but short-lived.

Maybe, it would have been better a day sooner?

Sunspots - Friday August 14th 2020

Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 11. A=4 and K=1.

2009 shack

The photo shows the shack in 2009. Things (including the QTH) have changed quite a bit.

13 Aug 2020

Network radios and Oscar 100

I suspect many who get network radios or use Oscar 100 are/were concerned about poor conditions and are/were looking for a reliable means of chatting with people a long way away.

Certainly my own network radio has hardly been used. I bought it 2 years ago when we were on the way towards sunspot minimum. At least with Echolink I could access repeaters on the other side of the planet. Likewise Oscar 100 should open up DX to a good proportion of the planet at any time without fading. In many ways you might consider Oscar 100 perfect. Once the gear is set up and the dish(es) aligned there is nothing else to do. No neighbours to annoy, no big towers or beams to worry about....and yet.

Yet, for me at least, neither satisfies. I prefer "real" radio where every contact is a challenge. After about 60 years in the hobby I have found that the changing nature of propagation is what gives me a buzz.

Different people enjoy our hobby in different ways and the world would be a sad place if we were all the same.

Maybe my network radio will get used.

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

IC-705 video from Lamco

It would appear most UK dealers are getting their hands on samples of the ICOM IC-705 and are busy making videos. The latest I have seen is by Lamco.

Walk before the rain - NOT amateur radio

We went for a walk around the village earlier before the rain. When we went it was warm and dry.  Since getting back, it has been raining. This was our 70th "lockdown" walk. We have noticed the seasons more this year than for a long time.