28 Feb 2021

Stroke update - NOT amateur radio

My 2013 stroke left me outwardly looking fine, but it has had a lasting impact on me. Before I was quite active and healthy, but these days things are far harder. 

In many ways I am more fortunate than many. My voice is poor and driving, and being driven, is far harder. A few years ago I could drive 300 miles to Devon. Even 10 miles is hard these days.

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

CDARC 80m net

As an experiment I tried to join the CDARC (Cambridge club) 80m net this morning with my 2.5W and the earth-electrode antenna. Although I had no problem hearing people, I could not be heard. My noise level is very low on this antenna, but I needed more power to overcome noise others were probably suffering. 

The SWR is too high for the auto-ATU on my FT991A. It just says "High VSWR" and gives up. On the FT817ND it works fine.

Hare Park Chippenham - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows Hare Park, Chippenham near Cambridge a few years ago. This is open to the public a few times each year. The snowdrops were incredible. 

Reeds - NOT amateur radio

This part of the UK  (East Anglia) is thought of as flat and boring yet it has a unique beauty. 

Often the skies are amazing and the land watery. My wife took this photo a few days ago. 

Ultra simple transceiver for 10m FT8

One of my ideas is for an ultra simple crystal controlled FT8 transceiver for 10m probably. Another option is 15m. Crystals can be quite expensive, but bought in quantity the price comes way down. 

I have in mind a simple DSB rig at 28.074MHz only, a bit like my WISPY transceiver.  The full transceiver version of WISPY was never built, but both the RX and TX versions were built. I wonder if there is a low cost source of 14.040 (easily pulled) or 14.037MHz crystals? This would be simpler than a synthesised source. I don't think pulled ceramic resonators would be stable enough, but they might be.

My health rather precludes me designing and building one these days, but I would be more than happy to share my ideas with anyone who could take this on seriously. Ideally, a PCB could be made as a simple kit. 

In my mind this could be a really simple rig that would be able to work the world very soon once 10m really gets going. Don't forget that 10m is always good in the Es season at any part of the solar cycle. Even very low power FT8 would get all across the world.  10m is an excellent band with small antennas and QRP. I can imagine such rigs being incredibly simple and low cost. In this version I used a 2N3866 PA, but I would use paralleled 2N3904s as these are far less expensive.  For greater TX power, further 2N3904s PAs could be paralleled with low value emitter resistors.  This is a very low cost way of getting useful output.

Very few controls are necessary, probably none! It would need a BNC connector and probably something to show it is on RX or TX. I can imagine it fitting in a low cost, small, plastic box.

QRPguys are offering something similar on lower frequencies. Maybe they will offer higher frequencies later as the sunspot cycle gathers pace? 

See https://qrpguys.com/ .

UPDATE 2020z:  Steve G1KQH has told me of some low cost crystals that would certainly work: https://kc9on.com/product/14mhz-hc49u-tall-crystals/

Sunspots - Sunday February 28th 2021

 Solar flux is 79 and the SSN 14. A=4 and K=2.

27 Feb 2021

Silver birch - NOT amateur radio

This photo shows a silver birch tree seen on our walk yesterday in our village here in East Anglia, UK.

As you can tell, the last few days have felt mild and spring like.

According to the UK Met Office, Monday is the first day of spring.

2m FT8 RX today

On 2m FT8 today, I have been RX only with the FT817ND and the big-wheel omni antenna. 

156 stations in 9 countries spotted by teatime. 

UPDATE 2250z: QRT.

Cambridge Radio Club Zoom talk

Last evening, CDARC had another excellent Zoom talk. 

Being on Zoom, speakers can be anywhere and this time the speaker was in Canada! 

I like Zoom talks as these can be seen all over the world. As well as the speaker, there was someone else in Canada taking part I believe.

Zoom has surprised me. By sharing the screen, slides can be seen as easily as in a room. Also, all taking part can chat, by video or just mic if they prefer to wear their bedclothes!

Almost spring - NOT amateur radio

We went for a walk around the village earlier. It felt very mild and springlike. Daffodils are coming out widely now as shown in the photo. 

As we are only in February there is every chance for some bad weather and snow still.


Last evening the reports of distant stations on 2m FT8 was clearly the work of a pirate. 

Sunspots - Saturday February 27th 2021

Solar flux is 80 and the SSN 16. A=11 and K=2. 

26 Feb 2021

2m FT8 QRP ( Friday)

At 1905z I QSYed to 2m FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna. 

So far, 3 stations in 3 countries have spotted my QRP TX. On RX 10 stations in 2 countries spotted here so far.

Stations spotted on 2m FT8
RX this evening
UPDATE 2220z: Plenty of spots of eastern Europeans on 2m FT8 RX. If this is tropo, these are a very long distance away. I am puzzled what sort of propagation this is. In all, 47 stations spotted on RX. Furthermost is,supposedly,  UA3PRS (2481km) which is almost unbelievable. I wonder if some pirate is having a laugh?

UPDATE 2300z: As conditions seem good, I have decided to stay RX only on 2m FT8 overnight.

Batteries catching fire

Some years ago, when I was still working, there was a small risk of batteries being damaged and catching fire. 

When battery packs catch fire the result can be dramatic. LiIon batteries were especially vulnerable, especially if dropped or abused. The incidence was probably about 1 in 150,000 packs. Failures, especially causing fire, cause customer alarm. In the limit, this can warrant a product recall. Recalls can be very expensive. You can imagine the cost of recalls if you sell mobile phones or laptops. A manufacturer will do everything possible to deny this and avoid the cost of a recall.

According to the BBC, Hyundai is replacing 82000 batteries in some electric cars at crippling cost. I pity them. This must be a nightmare for manufacturers of electric vehicles.

From personal experience, LiIon battery packs can be little bombs. I never, ever, risk leaving them charging without supervision. One person we have met left her mobile phone charging and burnt down her flat. Such incidents are rare, but they do happen. Modern technologies may be safer, but treat all batteries as potential bombs.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-56156801 .

15m FT8 QRP (Friday)

The 15m FT8 QRP gear was turned on just before 1030z. As usual, I am using 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop on the shack windowsill. No spots yet.

UPDATE 1055z:  Just EA8ACW (2988km) spotted so far.

UPDATE 1240z:  Just 3 EA8s spotted on RX. Nobody has spotted me on TX. 

UPDATE 1538z:  Just 7 stations spotted on 15m FT8 RX today and nobody has spotted me on QRP TX. A few South Americans only spotted.

UPDATE 1844z:  So far, 1 station has spotted my QRP (2.5W) TX:  EA8BFK (2881km). On RX, 10 station have been spotted. Quite a poor day.

Scale - NOT amateur radio

One thing I am sure about is that in 100 years people will look back at us and think, "did they believe that?".

In the last century our ideas of the universe and of subatomic particles have changed enormously. I am sure they will change again in the next. Just think of the changes to our thinking as a result of quantum theory and Einstein.

Whatever I think is hardly likely to be correct, but I am often intrigued by scale. The visible universe is unbelievably huge with probably huge numbers of habitable planets. The subatomic world is incredible. Time is a puzzle. What if all these were linked and whole universes were inside each of us?

It is all a matter of scale. There is no reason whatsoever that universes have to be on the scale we know. Somehow I have the feeling that the macroscopic and microscopic worlds are somehow linked.  One thing is certain: we know so little.

Everything remains a mystery.

60m FT8 overnight

Using the earth-electrode "antenna" I stayed on 60m FT8 RX overnight. In all, 467 stations were spotted in 5 continents. 

Where I come from - NOT amateur radio

This photo has been on before. It shows where I come from in South Devon. Most years I get back there. It is still a most beautiful area. 

Sunspots - Friday February 26th 2021

Solar flux is 80 and the SSN 31. A=13 and K=3.

25 Feb 2021

Dubai princesses - NOT amateur radio

I am suspicious of the UK's motives. 

Dubai is an important trade partner of the UK and the sheikh in charge there is friend of the Queen. In the UK race industry he is high up and he is reported, by the BBC, to be a big UK landowner. 

It rather looks like we are choosing to look away.

Recently it was reported that the sheikh's daughter Latifa was kidnapped. 20 years ago his daughter Shamsa was reportedly kidnapped in Cambridge and returned to Dubai.

Now, I have no way of knowing the truth in all this. What I will say is this: nobody should be above the law and I hope the UK government and Queen will not want trade done with any country that does not have basic human rights. If we have to lose valuable contracts, so be it.

In the case of Dubai, all the ruler has to do is allow his daughters to chose their own futures. If he is not prepared to do this all trade should stop.

I hope the UK government does not put trade above people. We seem to like to trade with Saudi Arabia and have proxi wars fought on our behalf. We like to export our "dirty" industries to places like China.

Need I go on?

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-56188745

The UK spring budget - NOT amateur radio

Although interest rates are at historical lows - basically you earn nothing now by saving - the UK is in huge debt as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The focus in the short term is economic recovery and this will no doubt be the focus of the UK budget next week.

In the longer term, debts have to be repaid and interest rates will go up. The UK chancellor has a difficult job now and in the years ahead. I hope he can come up with a fair way.

60m FT8 RX

Using the information supplied by Keith, I am looking on 5.357MHz FT8 RX using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. I have been looking since 1205z. Nothing spotted yet.

UPDATE 1426z:  8 stations in 5 countries spotted.

UPDATE 1528z:  22 stations in 7 countries spotted.  So far, all Europeans.

40m FT8 overnight

 Using the earth-electrode "antenna" I stayed on 40m FT8 RX overnight. In all, 601 stations were spotted here. 

Decay - NOT amateur radio

These were bought on the same day last week 

Sunspots - Thursday February 25th 2021

Solar flux is 81 and the SSN 33. A=21 and K=1.

24 Feb 2021

40m FT8 RX (Wednesday)

 As WSJT-X does not list the 60m FT8 frequency, I decided to give 40m FT8 a go with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.  At this high a frequency, I think my theory of a "loop in the ground" is unlikely to hold. The SWR is quite high, but I am still copying loads of stations. Already, within just a few minutes, 104 stations spotted.

UPDATE 1945z:  So far this evening, 210 stations spotted on 40m FT8 RX.

UPDATE 2220z:  364 stations in 4 continents spotted so far on 40m FT8 RX. I am amazed this "antenna" works at all at 40m.

Winter flowering primroses - NOT amateur radio

Over winter, we plant primroses to give us winter colour. This year, we bought the plants from the nursery in the village rather than from the nursery in the next village. They were less expensive and are very healthy plants. We are very pleased and will use them again.

Change of fortunes - NOT amateur radio

Ghislaine Maxwell is accused of helping sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in a prison cell in 2019, with procuring under-age girls for sex. She denies this and is trying to get bail. 

Her lifestyle in prison must be a million miles from the lifestyle she was used to. She is the daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. Epstein was well connected.

If convicted, she could spend 35 years in jail according to the BBC.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56181754

15m FT8 QRP (Wednesday)

At about 1013z, I turned on 15m FT8 using 2.5W and the indoor loop on the shack windowsill. No spots yet at 1022z. To be honest, it sounds very quiet. Either HF is poor or the band has not yet "woken up".

UPDATE 1328z: 7 stations have been spotted on RX and 3 stations have spotted me on 15m FT8 QRP TX with the furthermost now in Brazil on RX.

UPDATE 1424z: 11 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost YC1JEL (11777km). In QRP TX, still 3 stations spotting me.

UPDATE 1812z:  Today has been quite poor on 15m. There were no USA stations spotted and just 1 in S.America. Soon be time to go QRT.

2m scatter using QRP FT8

My recent article in RSGB RadCom postulates that FT8 is opening up scatter for QRP set ups.

This becomes possible at any time with really low ERPs. Unlike aircraft scatter, this seems possible whenever I go on suggesting it is troposcatter.  DX is possible without lifts!

My ERP is probably less than 5W. I use the FT817ND and a big-wheel omni. Ranges over 450km are possible every day, even with my set up! It has totally transformed 2m possibilities for me: no towers, no beams, QRP ..... and DX!  GI and EI are possible every day from JO02 (East Anglia) even with my QRP.

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

Rotten - NOT amateur radio

We saw this rotten tree on our walk yesterday at Wicken Fen. 

When? - NOT amateur radio

There is a guided busway from Cambridge to St Ives which runs out along special tracks on the route of the old railway. The bus can travel fast and traffic free. It is a very good route past lakes.

We are looking forward to doing this again soon. 

Sunspots - Wednesday February 24th 2021

 Solar flux is 78 and the SSN 31. A=12 and K=3.

23 Feb 2021

472kHz WSPR RX

At about 1930z, I turned on 472kHz WSPR RX using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. So far, no spots. It is now 1952z. 

I notice the noise floor on 472kHz with the PC charger on was S8, whereas with the charger off it is S2. As WSPR bandwidth is only about 6Hz, I wonder what difference this makes? I am no theory man, so I do not know the answer.

UPDATE 2210z:  5 different stations spotted this evening with the furthermost LA8AV (1012km). I shall shortly be turning off the gear.

Cat problems - NOT amateur radio

Last night, my wife had a video chat with one of our grandchildren. During the chat his cat decided to jump to his mother's highest shelf with her most valuable pottery.  
I think things ended without disaster. 

Walk - NOT amateur radio

We have just got back from a walk around Wicken Fen. Windy and sunny. 

ICOM - IC-705: still tempted

The price of this rig, like the IC-7300 and IC-9700, is not going to fall any time soon. 

Clearly, if you want one from a UK dealer in the next few years it is very unlikely that prices will fall. It is definitely my kind of radio, but I do not like the price.  I like the connectivity options and the GPS.

The feeling you are left with is that this radio is market priced. Prices will not drop if we are prepared to pay the current price. Clearly many are.

If I get a decent trade on my FT991A, I might be tempted...

Several dealers are selling them ex-stock now.

160m FT8 RX overnight with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground

After being spotted by 31 stations with my 2.5W 160m FT8 last evening, I was RX only on 160m FT8 overnight. Over 400 stations spotted (see map). Fewer than a few days ago, but still plenty.

I am amazed how well this "antenna" works on 160m and 80m QRP. Why go to all the trouble of a big eyesore antenna if something this simple works?  

I may give this setup a test on 80m SSB next Sunday in the CDARC net.

New windmill path - NOT amateur radio

In the last few days they have been making a new path to the local windmill and museum, as the photo shows. This is designed to make access better in all weathers. We live next door.

As of yesterday, they had put hardcore down. I am not sure what goes on top.

Sunspots - Tuesday February 23rd 2021

 Solar flux is 76 and the SSN 26. A=17 and K=3.

22 Feb 2021

136kHz experiments

Before moving to the current QTH about 7.5 years ago, I did some tests on 136kHz QRSS. I used the E-field probe for 136kHz on a mag-mount on the car and drove around to see where the beacon could be copied. The beacon produced 8W into 50 ohms, but the beacon ERP was only low milliwatts or even less. The antenna was the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. After successfully receiving the beacon on the far side of Cambridge (20+ km?), I just stopped as it was obviously working well both on TX and RX. The E-field probe is shown in the photo.

Other than a brief test with the earth-electrode "antenna" on RX, I have never yet tried 136kHz at this QTH.

My old site (links may not work as this old site is not maintained) has a description of the E-field probe RX antenna and other tests at 136/7kHz.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp/Home/136k .

See also http://g3xbm-qrp.blogspot.com/2013/01/137khz-e-field-probe-mag-mount.html for more on the LF EFP.

Lockdown - NOT amateur radio

A year ago few of us were aware of the crisis ahead of us. It seems to have gone on for ever. 

With warmer weather, better treatments and Covid-19 vaccines, there is some hope in 2021.

In England, the Prime Minister usually addresses the nation when there is something important to say. Today, he is to give a "roadmap" out of lockdown. It is expected schools will return March 8th, although the path back to reality could be a long one. 

The last thing we all want is a return to lockdown after it has been eased. Mixing in cafes and pubs? Holidays? We can all hope!

Going out - NOT amateur radio

Do you remember when you could "go out"?  Yes, an odd concept, especially if you live in the UK. We use to go "abroad" on things called "planes" on things called "holidays".  😏

One of our favourite places was the National Trust place called Ickworth about 17 miles away. Usually, we walked in the grounds, but occasionally we went in the house and famous rotunda shown in the photo. 

If you book in advance you can still walk around the grounds. We enjoy walking around nearby National Trust grounds. Sadly, houses are closed at the moment.

160m QRP (Monday)

At 1103z, I decided to try 160m FT8 QRP with 2.5w and the earth-electrode "antenna".  It is now 1109z and so far no spots, although it is daylight.

 (UPDATE 1434z:  3 G spots of my 2.5W QRP 160m FT8 TX. No spots yet on RX.

UPDATE 1532z:  The first DX has started to appear with DK3UA (869km) on the Baltic coast of Germany about 70 miles north of Berlin. Still just 3 G spots of my 2.5W FT8 160m QRP.

UPDATE 1818z: 12 spots of my 160m FT8 QRP on TX and all over Europe spotted on RX as shown in the map.

UPDATE 1945z: Already 31 spots of my 160m FT8 QRP TX has been spotted in 9 countries with the furthermost OE9GNV (869km). Amazing, with just the FT817ND and the small earth-electrode "antenna" which the XYL and neighbours don't even realise is there! This "antenna" system really works for me.

UPDATE 2120z:  
37 spots this evening of my 2.5W 160m FT8 QRP on TX as shown on the second map. Quite astounding how something this poor works with such low power! It seems obvious to me that this setup is working remarkably well. I shall probably go RX only overnight.

UPDATE 2220z: 41 stations spotted this evening.

Black bears - NOT amateur radio

Several years ago we had a holiday in western Canada. One of the most beautiful roads I have ever driven on is the Icefields Parkway. It was very snowy when we were there in early summer.

We saw several black bears and black bear cubs. Coming from the UK this was really exciting. The one in the photo was only a few metres from the car.

HF conditions

We are now over a year since the end of solar cycle 24 and the start of cycle 25. 

So far, we have got off to a slow start. HF conditions are a little better, but it will be some while before we really notice a difference.  

I suspect this autumn we will see widespread openings from Europe to the USA on 10m again. 

With modes like FT8 we are finding openings more often. FT8 is not a mode for chatting. SSB and even 10m FM and AM are better for this. As much as I like FT8 because of my poor voice, I do hope people still stick with speech modes.

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

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

Since connecting up the 80m FT8 RX yesterday, 1122 stations in 5 continents have been spotted on RX using the earth-electrode "antenna" as the map shows. 

Yesterday, 16 stations spotted my QRP TX too. It certainly works!! 

Oscar 100 narrowband activity

Every few weeks I check activity levels on Oscar 100 using the on-line SDR at Goonhilly Down in Cornwall.

My very unscientific look suggests activity is similar to a few weeks ago. This was the situation on Sunday PM UK time. 

See: https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Sunspots - Monday February 22nd 2021

 Solar flux is 75 and the SSN 11.  A=20 and K=4.

21 Feb 2021

Asus EEE PC - NOT amateur radio

At one time this was my only PC, but it had not been used for many years. 

Much to my surprise, it still booted up when connected to a charger. My grandson enjoyed a game on it. I must admit for years it served me well.

The PC has a small screen and runs under Linux, although you need no Linux knowledge to use it. You still find them on the secondhand market.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp/Home/asuseee. As this is my old website, the links may well not work still!

80m QRP FT8 (Sunday)

For a total change, I am trying 2.5W FT8 to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 80m.  So far, nobody has spotted me and just 1 G spotted on 80m FT8 RX - G6KUI (136km).

UPDATE 1600z:  G6TEL (233km) has spotted me well on TX and 17 stations spotted here on RX.

UPDATE 1751z: 221 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost R7GW (3240km). On TX spotted by 5 stations with the furthermost being F5PGT (480km). The earth-electrode "antenna" obviously has an SWR just over 3:1 so the FT991A auto ATU will not tune, but the FT817ND is OK still. This odd "antenna" still works fine on 80m. As I have said before, the XYL and neighbours do not even know it is there!

UPDATE 1922z: 433 stations spotted so far on 80m FT8 RX and 15 stations have spotted me on 80m FT8 TX with the furthermost EA1N (1076km) in northern Spain.

UPDATE 2120z:  596 stations spotted on RX in 3 continents. 18 stations have spotted me on TX.

UPDATE 2235z: 660 stations spotted on RX. Now RX only for the overnight period. 

Not quite - NOT amateur radio


Our grandson yesterday on a walk not quite in the sleepy village of Reach. 

Reach was an important inland port when the roads were poor and there were no railways. It has had an annual fair since the 1200s.

See http://www.reach-village.co.uk/index.html

472kHz WSPR overnight

By accident, I left my 472kHz (630m) WSPR RX on overnight. It was a waste of time as no further stations were spotted that I had not already spotted in the previous evening. As before, using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. 

In future nights I must remember to turn this off overnight or try RX on another band.

17m FT8 QRP (Sunday)

After a very brief period on 10m, I decided on 17m FT8 QRP with my 2.5W and tiny indoor loop today. So far, 2 stations spotted in Spain on RX and EA1ALE (1037km) has spotted me on TX.

UPDATE 1040z: So far today, 27 stations in 4 countries spotted on RX. All of these are in Europe.

UPDATE 1258z: 35 stations spotted on RX.

UPDATE 1505z:  Nothing spotted on RX from the Americas. 

UPDATE 1518z:  QRT.  In all, 2 stations spotted my QRP TX with the furthermost being EA8JK (3022km). Just 37 stations spotted on RX.

Sunspots - Sunday February 21st 2021

Solar flux is 76 and the SSN still 12. A=20 and K=4.

20 Feb 2021

472kHz (630m) RX

At about 2000z, I QSYed to 472kHz RX. At first I tried FSW4W, but so far only WSPR has been received. Just F5WK (364km) spotted. Using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.

UPDATE 2122z:  4 stations spotted on WSPR with the furthermost being F5WK in IN99.

20m FT8 QRP (Saturday)

About an hour ago I went on 20m FT8 with 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop. So far, 136 stations spotted on RX. On TX 8 stations have spotted me.

UPDATE 1900z:  11 stations have spotted me on QRP 20m FT8 TX.  On RX 232 stations spotted.

UPDATE 2052z: QRT.  QSYed to 630m RX.

Sprung? - NOT amateur radio

This winter has felt very long. This is partly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and it has been colder than it has been for some years. At last there are glimpses of spring such as the daffodils on our green in flower at last   We could still have bad weather ahead but at least we have hope. 

Illegal contracts? - NOT amateur radio

As reported by the BBC, according to the high court, Matt Hancock acted illegally by not disclosing contracts within 30 days of when these were let during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He has an unenviable task leading the health of the nation during a pandemic. Nonetheless, it is vital that he upholds transparency at all times such as this so the public can have maximum confidence.

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56125462

Sunspots - Saturday February 20th 2021

 Solar flux is 73 and the SSN 12. A=17 and K=3.

19 Feb 2021

More grandson at Hare Park - NOT amateur radio


The collage shows more of our grandson at Hare Park, Chippenham, near Cambridge.

Carry cage for IC-705

MLS (and perhaps others) are advertising a carry cage for the ICOM IC-705 portable rig.  At £139.95 it seems expensive. It has a handle and may be ideal for those that want to use the IC-705 out portable. 

This was featured in the latest "something for the weekend" email.

20m FT8 QRP (Friday)

At about 1630z, I QSYed to 20m FT8 using the tiny indoor loop and 2.5W.  Up to this time I was on 2m FT8 QRP.  After 5 minutes, 17 stations spotted on RX, but nobody has yet spotted me on TX.

UPDATE 1812z: 85 stations spotted on RX with just 1 station spotting my QRP on TX.

UPDATE 2115z: 148 stations spotted on RX and 3 stations have spotted me on TX since just before teatime. I shall be going QRT later.

Grandson - NOT amateur radio

The photo shows one of our grandchildren today at Hare Park, Chippenham near Cambridge. 

2m FT8 QRP scatter article

 One of my articles is in the latest RadCom magazine. It is about 2m scatter with simple QRP stations made possible by FT8. 

2m FT8 QRP (Friday)

Probably I will go on 2m FT8 using 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna after breakfast before trying an HF band later.

UPDATE 0719z: 2m FT8 QRP turned on.

UPDATE 0918z: 6 stations have spotted me today with the furthermost being DL0GX (461km).

Stations spotting my 2m
FT8 QRP so far today
UPDATE 1420z: 10 stations have spotted my 2.5W QRP on TX and I have spotted  25 stations on RX.

Sunspots - Friday February 19th 2021

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 12 suggesting the more active side of the Sun has come into view. A=4 and K=1. Let us hope we see a few more sunspots in the days ahead. 

18 Feb 2021

2m FT8 QRP (Thursday)

At 1913z, I QSYed to 2m FT8 using 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, 2 (local) stations have spotted me.

UPDATE 2300z : QRT. As on previous evenings, lots of spots of my QRP with the furthermost being GI6ATZ (479km). 

Days without sunspots

Last month we had quite hopeful signs on the sunspot count for cycle 25. Currently we have had many days without spots. 

I see that Southgate News has some details of spotless days broken down by years. I have no idea what the current view is of the size of sunspot peak for cycle 25.

Spotless Days

Current Stretch: 14 days 

2021 total: 31 days (63%)

2020 total: 208 days (57%)

2019 total: 281 days (77%)

2018 total: 221 days (61%)

2017 total: 104 days (28%)

2016 total: 32 days (9%)

2015 total: 0 days (0%)

2014 total: 1 day (<1%)

2013 total: 0 days (0%)

2012 total: 0 days (0%)

2011 total: 2 days (<1%)

2010 total: 51 days (14%)

2009 total: 260 days (71%)

2008 total: 268 days (73%)

2007 total: 152 days (42%)

2006 total: 70 days (19%)

Walk yesterday - NOT amateur radio

The collage shows more of our walk yesterday. 

Just afterwards it rained! We just hit a gap when it was not dull and raining.

More on the walk yesterday - NOT amateur radio

On our walk yesterday we saw lots of snowdrops and aconites. 

15m FT8 QRP (Thursday)

Most of the morning I've been on 15m FT8 with the tiny indoor loop antenna and 2.5W. So far, 5 stations have spotted me and 110 stations spotted on RX. 

Sunspots - Thursday February 18th 2021

 Solar flux is 72 and the SSN 0. A=8 and K=2. 

17 Feb 2021

2m FT8 QRP (Wednesday)

At 1900z I QSYed to 2m FT8 using the usual 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, 5 stations have spotted me and I have spotted nobody.

UPDATE 1930z: 7 stations have spotted me so far and the furthermost is GI6ATZ (479km) again. I have spotted 2 stations.

UPDATE 2312z: QRT. 

Winter walk - NOT amateur radio

Every winter we go for a walk around Landwade, which is the smallest village in the county. 

The snowdrops are great as are the aconites.  Very few daffodils out.

Pancakes - NOT amateur radio

My wife had sugar and lemon on hers and I had savoury pancakes. 

They were delicious. The daffodils were past their best and were thrown out tonight.

Burwell church - NOT amateur radio

We have a fine old church in our village. It is currently closed. Parts of it are 1000 years old. From the top  of the tower the view is amazing. Years ago, I went regularly. My wife still attends, but not every week.

The video was made many years ago.

Antenna ideas

For many with small gardens or difficult neighbours, antennas can be a problem. The biggest antenna I have ever used is a CB halfwave. I have never used an HF beam. Despite this, I have worked QRP DXCC with 10W SSB. Most  times I have used just a low wire dipole.

One "antenna" I have found useful is the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. This has proved very effective on VLF, LF and MF. Only last evening I was copying Italy on it on 630m and the night before there were lots of stateside stations spotted on 160m FT8. An advantage is the XYL and neighbours do know even notice it is there at all! 

Another possibility is to use the coax outer feeding maybe a VHF antenna via an ATU on the HF bands tuned against ground. Such antennas can be quite effective. OK against a beam on a tower this maybe an S-point or 2 down, but for the lack of neighbour hassle is a tall tower and big beam worth the fuss? This is a hobby after all. If you don't work DXCC entity 247 does it really matter? Get a life!!!

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

Winter MF plans

Well, that was a non-happening! 

One of my plans for now was an E-field probe in a tree for 137kHz and 472kHz RX. We had the tree lopped, but the E-field probe is not up. I replaced my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground, but my 472kHz transverter does not work, so I am restricted to 472kHz RX only.

Maybe next winter, I shall have more luck!

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/mflf/winter .

10m FT8 QRP (Wednesday)

Since 0945z, I have been on 10m FT8 with 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop. No spots yet on RX or TX at 1047z.

UPDATE  1840z: No spots all day.

Trump friends - NOT amateur radio

Although ex-President Trump has gone from office, he still seems capable of turning on his (one time) friends. I am amazed that so many voted for him. To those of us outside the USA, he appears to hold grudges. 

See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-56092781 .

Transformation - NOT amateur radio

Our local bank has been empty for several years. It is now being converted into commercial units. 

Sunspots - Wednesday February 17th 2021

Solar flux is 71 and the SSN 0. A=15 and K=2. This month, the sunspot count has been dreadful. 

16 Feb 2021

472kHz (630m) WSPR RX

It is now 2030z. A few minutes ago I went on to 472kHz WSPR RX. So far G0MRF (139km) and DL1HWK (816km) copied.

UPDATE 2215z: 5 stations spotted this evening with the furthermost being IZ3QQG (1155km). Still using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground.

2m FT8 QRP (Tuesday)

At 1845z, I QSYed to 2m FT8 using 2.5W (FT817ND) and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, just 1 spot of me by G4TRA (185km).

UPDATE 1858z: 2 stations spotted here on RX. 5 stations have spotted my 2.5W QRP with the furthermost GI6ATZ (479km).

UPDATE 2007z: So far this evening I have been spotted by 6 stations as shown on the map. 2 QSOs this evening.


This aerial photo shows my old QTH. We moved from here about 300m. That was 7.5 years ago. My son lives in this house now. 

We now live next door to the windmill in probably the highest spot in the village.

SETI - NOT amateur radio

As far as I know, we have been searching the universe for almost 50 years via SETI (search for intelligent life) without success. Much of the decoding is done by volunteers using spare processing power on their PCs.

Based on the estimates of planets, I find this odd. As time goes by the means of looking have improved. By now, I would have expected to get some indications.

Maybe, we are looking in the wrong way? Maybe intelligent life self destructs? Maybe we really are alone? Maybe our whole understanding of the universe is wrong?

If ever we did find intelligent life elsewhere, it could have profound implications for humans.

See https://seti.org/

The FETer transceiver

Thinking of ultra-simple rigs, perhaps consider my FETer. I was surprised how well this worked.

See https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp3/hf/feter-80m-qrpp-cw-transceiver

Pixies and Micro-80s

One of the fun parts of our hobby is seeing how simple gear can be made that is capable of contacts of several hundred miles or more. 

Examples are the Pixie and Micro-80 designs. Pixies can be bought as kits from China for a few pounds or euros. In the past, I have made versions for 80m and 40m, including homebrew and kits.

With these circuits, the main limitation is the RX. These are compromises using the PA device as the RX mixer. Often the sensitivity is a bit lacking and AM breakthrough can be a problem. The front end selectivity is barn-door and the audio filtering mainly one's ear! Nonetheless, many miles can be spanned. In terms of "bang per buck" they take some beating. 

The challenge is to find the best overall circuit which has a decent TX and RX.

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

Old photo - NOT amateur radio

When my mother's house was being cleared some years ago, we came across this old photo which we had never seen before. 

It was on a metal plate and is hand tinted. It probably dates from the 1800s and is possibly of my great great grandmother.

15m FT8 QRP (Tuesday)

It is now 0835z.  About 15 minutes ago I turned on my 15m FT8 QRP gear using 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop antenna on the shack windowsill.   Already I have spotted 8 stations on RX and I have been spotted by 3 on TX.

UPDATE 1835z:  Spotted by 11 stations on TX with the furthermost being EA8AXT (2996km).  265 stations have been spotted on RX with the furthermost YB2DX (12050km).  I continue to be amazed just how well this loop does considering how small and thin the wire is!

Spring coming - NOT amateur radio

All the seasons have their own beauty, but this winter has felt very long. At last there are signs of spring coming. 

The daffodils in the photo are under a tree in our close.  In a few days some will be in flower. Robins are on high branches singing out to mark their territories. The first daisy has been seen.

Spring is coming! With it, new hope and new life. In a few weeks winter will be gone.

Sunspots - Tuesday February 16th 2021

 Solar flux is 70 and the SSN 0. A=5 and K=4.

15 Feb 2021

8m beacon

At some point we will be allocated some frequencies at 40MHz.  In the coming Es seasons I can see many more applying for limited access to the band. These may be spot frequencies with limited power. Small first steps.

There is a beacon which may be worth checking in the Es season S50ZMS.  This is ideally placed for Es to EI and the UK.

472kHz tonight

Hopefully, my transverter works. I shall try later.

Whatever happens, I intend to be on 472kHz (630m) this evening. If the transverter works I shall go on TX. Otherwise RX only. 

In both cases, I shall be using the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground, that gave good results on 160m FT8.

UPDATE 2044z:  I tried my transverter again and still no sign of any 472kHz output, so I decided to go on 472kHz WSPR RX only. Just LA8AV (1012km) spotted so far. If I was fitter I might be able to fault find. With my health as it is, I think this is beyond me sadly.

UPDATE 2130z:  6 unique stations spotted on 472kHz WSPR RX with the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. Furthermost is SM6NOC (1056km).

Oil prices up - NOT amateur radio

Before too long we will all be driving cars that are powered by non-polluting energy. We must also ensure that these energy types are also not produced from polluting sources and are sustainable. 

In the end there needs to be a breakthrough in battery technology and energy storage so that fuels like electricity produced by solar and wind can be stored.

For now, oil prices are a bellweather of the economy. Oil prices have doubled in the last few months and fuel at the pumps has gone up in price. I guess this suggests more optimism for the year ahead.

Covid-19 vaccines - NOT amateur radio

 At the moment, the UK is doing quite well on the vaccination of vulnerable people. I think we are 3rd in the world. Much of what we have done in the last year was poor and this is one area where we have done well.

As long as the rates of virus circulating in the world are high, there is a chance of importing a variant that spreads easily, is more deadly and evades vaccines. There is an adage "until the world is vaccinated we are all at risk".

I hope all the world is vaccinated soon.

15m FT8 QRP (Monday)

In a few moments I shall be turning on my 15m FT8 QRP using 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop antenna. 

UPDATE 1112z:  15m FT8 gear now on. 13 stations already spotted on 15m FT8 RX and spotted by SV2BRA (2154km) on QRP 15m FT8 TX.

UPDATE 1152z: 30 stations spotted on 15m FT8 RX and 2 spots of my 2.5W to the indoor loop on TX with the furthermost RZ4HO (3291km).

UPDATE 1449z: 73 stations spotted so far today on 15m FT8. 

Stations spotted
on 15m FT8 today
UPDATE 1803z
: 95 stations spotted today on 15m FT8 RX with the tiny indoor loop. 

Remarkable - the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 160m FT8 RX

As reported last evening, 31 stations across Europe spotted my 2.5W FT8 to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on TX.

Overnight I left it connected on 160m FT8 RX. In all, 328 stations were spotted including very many in N. America as shown on the map. 

UPDATE 1024z: Apart from VE3PJ (5492km) at breakfast time (0722z), all spots now are UK on 160m FT8 RX.

1908 harsh winter - NOT amateur radio

In 1961, my wife's grandmother wrote a letter to the Sheffield Star newspaper about the harsh winter of 1908 in the UK. We don't know how lucky we are and how hard life was. 

Sunspots - Monday February 15th 2021

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

14 Feb 2021

160m FT8 QRP (Sunday)

As an experiment, I am trying my earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 160m FT8 using 2.5W. Immediately, stations across Europe were copied on RX. Already spotted strongly in Oxford on 160m FT8 QRP TX. Furthermost on RX is R9GM (3499km) in Perm.

Stations spotted on 160m FT8
so far with the earth-electrode
"antenna" in the ground by 1830z
UPDATE 1830z: Already 102 stations spotted on RX. 1 QSO with a station in Germany and 12 stations have spotted my QRP TX in 4 countries.  My earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground obviously still works effectively. I must try it on 472kHz (630m) probably tomorrow evening, assuming the transverter works!

UPDATE 2225z: So far, 263 stations spotted on RX and 31 stations have spotted me on TX with the furthermost being OE9GHV (869km). Not bad with antenna you cannot even see with just 2.5W from the FT817ND!

The 31 stations spotting my
2.5W to the earth-electrode
"antenna" on TX on
160m FT8 this evening
UPDATE 2227z:
For the night I will leave just the RX on and turn off the TX. TX now off.