In these strange days it can be hard to see reliable data. I was recommended the videos of John Campbell. These are updated most days.
30 Sept 2020
29 Sept 2020
As many know, I am a dedicated QRPer. Apart from the price, the ICOM IC-705 as a 5/10W radio appeals. It supports GPS, D-star and WiFi. It can be used for FT8 which is one of my main modes since my voice deteriorated after my stroke. Results today on 2m FT8 with an omni antenna and 1W confirm that QRP is usually fine.
I asked MLS (a major UK dealer from whom I bought the FT991A a little over a year ago) if they were interested in a trade-in for the IC-705. They have offered me a good trade-in price ,which I am considering. In these difficult times it pays to think which dealers will survive and which may not.
Joe Taylor has released a release candidate for WSJT-X that has new modes to replace WSPR. One is a QSO mode and one a beaconing mode. I am not sure when these will be formally released.
See https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html for more details. My thanks to Bob G3WKW who alerted me.
For a change I am on 2m FT8 with 1W from the FT817 to the big-wheel omni antenna. At the moment after about 15 minutes (it is now 1047z) 5 stations have spotted me with the best G4MSA (222km) and on 2m FT8 RX the best DX spotted is DO1KRT (522km). 5 stations in 3 countries spotted so far.
28 Sept 2020
27 Sept 2020
The last time I looked there were 2 eHam reviews of the ICOM IC-705 transceiver. Last week there were none. As more people outside of Japan get them, we can expect quite a few more.
There is more news of this transceiver on: https://www.fbnews.jp/
Some years ago I wanted to see how few parts are needed to make a viable transceiver that really worked. The result was the FETer transceiver for 80m. This appeared in GQRP "SPRAT" magazine and copies were made. G3XIZ worked as far as Switzerland with his!
Yet again we saw the benefits of FT8 on 6m. Whilst getting on with other things I was on 6m FT8. There was some Es around that would have been missed by casual listening. Some argue that FT8 is not "real radio" and it has resulted in less chatting. I agree that many prefer FT8 these days, but it's been a godsend to me with my poor voice and does enable very modest stations to hear and work DX.
26 Sept 2020
As Friday was quite successful, I am again on 6m FT8. I was even spotted in North Africa! No spots yet at 0754z.
At the moment I am not even getting spots from Gs, although it is early on Saturday.
UPDATE 0930z: 3 spots received on TX and 3 on RX. So far, all Gs.
One of my winter projects should be to find out how to use LOTW. I see Southgate News has a link to a guide. I must read it! Although I use eQSL, I am way behind, so need to update things.
LOTW seems the way to go in future. I may transfer some of my old QSOs when I join. I can't do them all as this could take days and days!
25 Sept 2020
A UK company wants to build a large solar farm with back-up batteries around villages in the area. I have replied to their questionnaire on line. If eventually approved building will start in 2022 and the farm will be operational in 2025.
Although I have few concerns overall, I have raised the issue of RF pollution if they design and fit power converters "on the cheap". This unlikely to affect me, but could make life tough for those trying to detect weak signals nearer these sites.
From reports I am seeing, it looks as if UK customers are getting IC-705 transceivers from UK dealers at last. Most seem pleased. The first review has appeared on eHam.
At about 0800z, I turned on my 10W 6m FT8 to the V2000 vertical. So far, just 1 G spot of me - G0PQO (50km) and nothing on RX.
UPDATE 1105z: 9 stations have spotted me so far with the best being EI2FG (565km) in southern Eire. This could be aircraft scatter. 3 stations (all G) spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1550z: Now 16 spots of me with the best DX spot being by CN8LI in Morocco (2114km).
24 Sept 2020
It occurs to me that the HF noise issue is going to get far worse.
At the moment I am lucky having a fairly low noise floor, but more people will, rightly, be getting cars that don't depend on fossil fuels. Wireless charging of these could raise local noise levels still further. There is a danger that HF bands and down could become unusable with weak signals. Narrow-band modes could be better. In the future there could be a big market for noise cancellers to help reduce noise from certain sources. Noise nullers usually work with one noise source and not white noise.
As regular blog readers may know, I take a very unscientific peek at the Goonhilly web SDR to judge activity on the narrowband transponder of this geosynchronous satellite. Activity levels remain low with plenty of space for new users. When I looked just now, there were only 2 QSOs going on! OK, some are at work, especially in Europe, but in many places people are not.
or about the last hour (it is now 1012z) I have been on 6m FT8. Nothing has been spotted on RX and on TX just 2 Gs have spotted me so far.
UPDATE 1055z: 2 Gs spotted on RX here and just 2 spots by Gs of my 10W to the V2000 vertical omni. No Es seen.
UPDATE 1813z: Just the 2 G spots of me today and just 7 Gs spotted on RX. No signs here of Es.
23 Sept 2020
Just wondering if anyone in the UK has received one yet? ICOM UK were expecting them "mid September", but I have not heard of any with customers yet. I haven't ordered one as they often fix early life issues with hardware or firmware updates. It is also far too expensive. I can wait. Although I have a few videos on my site, new ones are appearing most days now.
Today, I decided to go on 6m FT8 (0830z). Already 1 station has spotted me - G0DYW (77km). So far, he is the only station spotted on 6m FT8 .
UPDATE 1257z: 6 stations have spotted my 10W to the V2000 vertical omni today so far. 4 stations spotted so far with the furthermost being F6HGB (985km).
UPDATE 1430z: Now spotted by 7 stations with the best being DJ8RZ (881km) on TX and I have spotted 5 stations on RX.
UPDATE 1925z: 12 stations have spotted me with the furthermost being SM7CAD (1140km). Gone are the days of big Es openings for this year, but even with my small system there is still some occasional DX.
For about $50 you can buy a NanoVNA. This is excellent value. I have never used one, but I believe it can be used as a spectrum analyser. If so, this brings spectrum analysers well into amateur budgets. I am half tempted. There are several YouTube videos on the NanoVNA, although I have not yet watched any.
If you have one, please tell us how you found it.
22 Sept 2020
Many times I have said that SPRAT is brilliant. The latest version, 184, has just come out.
A useful resource (although I rarely use it!) is the Hepburn tropo forecast. I think this is done for all areas on the planet, although the link is for western Europe. This could be useful if you are a keen VHF/UHF DXer. Click the main map to get forecasts for future dates.
Since arriving home from our walk and doing some gardening, I have been on 2m FT8. So far (at 1050z) 40 spots of me in 3 countries and 1 QSO.
UPDATE 1947z: Now 78 spots of me in 9 countries today on 2m. 5 QSOs. I am convinced that these sort of 2m results are possible with 10W and a big-wheel at any time. It seems far too common to be due to aircraft. A more probable hypothesis is that this is some other scatter mode that FT8 allows simple stations to access. Somewhere I read that FT8 is about 18dB better than SSB. That is like changing a dipole to a huge beam! Nearly every time I go on 2m FT8 I get spotted in N.Ireland. This is far too random for aircraft surely!
21 Sept 2020
In all, I have owned a Chromebook for about 10 months. I wondered if this decision would be regretted, but the complete opposite is the case. The battery lasts all day (it was used several times yesterday and still has over 8 hours battery life left), it boots up in seconds and I have yet to find anything it cannot do. It is brilliant and far better than my Windows laptop. My wife needed a new laptop, so she too has a Chromebook.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 is on the rise, with more cases in western Europe than for several months. We are getting smarter at treating it, but it remains a real threat to the elderly especially. I just hope that the UK government can do enough to stop the exponential rise of this disease. They are trying to balance public health with economic damage. It is not easy.
Since 1219z I have QSYed to 2m FT8 (10W to the big-wheel omni). Within a few minutes I have been spotted by 41 stations in 4 countries.
UPDATE 1314z: Already 2 QSOs and spotted by 64 stations in 8 countries.
UPDATE 1837z: 106 stations in 8 countries have spotted me today on 2m FT8.
|Stations spotting me |
today on 2m FT8
Continuing my "playing" with 6m FT8, I turned on the 6m gear (10W to the V2000 vertical) at about 0833z. Already spotted by 5 G stations plus OV3T (732km) in Denmark (Es?) and I have spotted G3PXT (80km).
UPDATE 0850z: Now my 10W is being spotted by 7 stations, mostly Gs.
UPDATE 1217z: Now 9 stations spotting me and G3PXT is calling "CQ SM" on 6m. Is he after 6m tropo QSOs? I may QSY to 2m FT8 later as apparently there is lots of tropo DX from Scandinavia on 2m FT8.
In really good sunspot maximums the F2 MUF exceeds 50MHz at times and world wide DX is possible on 6m. Even with a low wire dipole I recall ZS (South African) stations chatting on SSB and Ws (USA) chatting as if they were locals. These days the F2 layer rarely gets that high. Luckily some impressive DX is possible via E layer, especially in the summer months.
I think it is fair to say I "play" at 6m using 10W and a V2000 omni antenna. Serious operators have big towers, big beams and maximum legal power. This extra "station gain" could be worth some 30-40dB. There is little doubt that this will make a difference.
Most Junes, Japan is worked from western Europe on 6m. With weak signal modes this is possible with more modest stations, although big stations are better equipped to work such long paths. Last year some even worked Australia from western Europe on 6m through a combination of propagation modes. It is not for nothing that some call it "the magic band".
Often people leave the band thinking it is just "white noise" outside of the summer months. Even at unusual times and months the band can open, which is why FT8 can be so useful: it works with weaker signals than SSB or CW, activity is concentrated in a few kilohertz, and there are lots of monitors. WSPR would be even better, but the longer TX slots could mean some fleeting openings are missed even though WSPR can detect even weaker signals.
Southgate News has a piece on the report of the Examinations Standards Committee about recent amateur exams. It shows increases in those taking the exams in the UK, although most are men.
20 Sept 2020
It is very late for Es, but my Facebook memories today reminded me that some Es can occur very late in the summer, certainly well outside of the traditional "Es season". For this reason I decided to try 6m FT8. It is now 0921z and I have been active for about 10 minutes. Surprisingly, already a couple of Gs have spotted my 10W to the V2000 vertical omni antenna. No great DX (best 77km), but life. Nothing yet spotted on RX here and no QSOs.
UPDATE 0929z: Now also spotted by G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall. Not Es, but pleasing. His report of me at -15dB S/N is quite strong. Aircraft?
19 Sept 2020
|Stations spotting my 10W at 1431z today|
It is total myth that VLF Rx antennas have to be big. They do not!! Very effective VLF, LF and MF RX antennas can be very small indeed. Some years ago I tried an e-field probe antenna on 136 and 472kHz with excellent results.
Southgate News has a piece about the impact of wireless electric vehicle charging on the amateur and other services. The noise level close to these is way above ITU standards and is going to get worse over time. Wireless vehicle chargers operate between 79 and 90kHz.
As an experiment I left 20m FT8 RX on overnight. Best DX was 5Z4VJ (6858km) in Nairobi. As usual, I am using the indoor loop.
UPDATE 0825z: On RX 150 stations spotted in the last 3 hours with best DX ZD7MY (7606km) on St Helena. 4W TX switched on at 0747z. No spots of me yet.
UPDATE 1040z: 248 stations in 4 continents spotted here this morning and 11 stations spotting me.
18 Sept 2020
Our neighbours were asked to keep an eye on their neighbour's house and garden when they were away on holiday. My neighbour decided to rebuild the fence. I think his neighbours have some leaks!
Since just before breakfast I have been on 20m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna. It is now 1140z. So far, my 4W has been spotted by 14 stations in 2 continents and I have spotted 198 stations.
UPDATE 1545z: 13 Europeans plus 1 on the Canary Is have spotted my 4W 20m FT8 today so far. On RX, 424 stations spotted with best DX YB2HAF (11989km).
In the last few months I rejoined the Cambridge club as a country member. Meetings are currently held as Zoom meetings online and these have been very good. I do not like driving far, if at all, at night these days. Zoom meetings suit me well. This week, we had a joint quiz and social by Zoom with a club in Northern Ireland. This worked out really well.
17 Sept 2020
At about 1345z, I returned to 20m FT8 using 4W and the indoor loop. So far, in about 12 minutes, 47 stations have been spotted, although no-one yet has spotted me and no QSOs.
UPDATE 1425z: Plenty of DX being spotted with the best being LU4EFC (11336km). 4 continents spotted so far in this session. 88 stations so far spotted this afternoon. 179 stations spotted on 20m FT8 today.
|Stations spotting me|
As mentioned in the last post, I use a Wimo big-wheel omni antenna for 2m SSB and FT8. This is horizontally polarised and has a slight gain (2-3dB?) in all directions. It works very well. It was erected some years ago by David G0LRD.
It is also used on 70cms for SSB and FT8.
It suits my operating perfectly as no rotator or beams are needed. It is ideal for FT8 and monthly activity contests on 2m and 70cm SSB. For FM I use a vertical V2000.
At about 0700z, I turned on my 4W 20m FT8 to the tiny indoor loop. The loop is about 0.5m across, made of thin wire (1mm diameter?) and sits on the shack windowsill. It is hardly a great 20m antenna!! So far, after 15 minutes, 14 stations have been spotted and 1 station has spotted me.
16 Sept 2020
As 15m FT8 here was dreadful here, I QSYed to 20m FT8.
Although I did a total reboot of the PC and reset the clock to internet time just now, still nothing on PSKreporter. Locally I am spotting loads of stations.
I wonder if there is a problem, albeit probably temporary, with PSKreporter? My RX and TX spots were fine on 2m FT8 earlier. I am pretty sure the internet connection is fine as I was able to do a time sync.
UPDATE 1506z: 1 spot on TX and 41 on RX now, so all is now fine.
According to spaceweather.com, solar cycle 25 has started. At the moment it is hard to believe as we have had no sunspots for several weeks.
The latest NASA/NOAA predictions show the next cycle just a tiny bit better than the last one. They are forecasting a weak cycle and peak.
See also https://blogs.nasa.gov/solarcycle25/
Certainly in the UK, Russia, Belarus and the USA it would appear our leaders are out of touch with reality. I am not a political animal, but it would help if they were honest. Honesty and the ability to admit mistakes seems in very short supply.
As mentioned before, I find it very hard indeed to find anyone in politics these days who is there for anything other than their vested self interests. We desperately need real leaders with backbone and integrity.
Oh, there's another pig flying by......
For about an hour I have been on 2m FT8 with 10W to the big-wheel omni antenna. 50 stations in 7 countries have already spotted me. It is now 0955z.
On 2m FT8 RX 36 stations in 6 countries spotted the furthermost being DL3TW (655km) not far from Denmark. One G QSO so far.
UPDATE 1211z: 67 stations in 10 countries have spotted me with 2 QSOs. On RX 57 stations in 8 countries spotted. 2m dead?
One of the positives of lockdown is the proof that clubs can come together even though they are miles apart. Someone from the Antrim club mentioned that they had had a speaker from the USA on a recent Zoom meeting.
15 Sept 2020
My 10W to the big-wheel omni on 2m has been spotted by 31 stations already (after about 20 minutes) in 6 countries. So far, just one Welsh station spotted on RX.
Although this could be aircraft scatter, I suspect some other sort of scatter as it seems to work at almost any time.
This evening the Cambridge and Antrim radio clubs are joining forces by Zoom for a quiz at 1830z. This is one of the positives of the current odd times as people are brought together. Certainly I have seen far more lectures by the Cambridge club by Zoom than I would have if I had had to journey into Cambridge at night.
When in Norfolk we eat at the Old Reading Room in Kelling. This is a second hand bookshop and tea room. The food is nothing special, but it has been run by the same people for many years. These are simple Norfolk folk who are just themselves. One of the pleasures is it never changes.