31 Mar 2021
At one time, Radioshack was very big in the USA. I was told about a comeback, although most of the products look as if they were made in China.
Maplins, that was a near equivalent here in the UK, closed some years ago. These days, many people buy direct from China!
At one time Radioshack sold a nice single band 10m SSB rig. The name escapes me.
Way back in 1961 I was bought a Heathkit electronics workshop for Christmas. Little did I know then that this was to be the start of an absorbing hobby and career. Heathkit is trying to make a comeback although the offerings I have seen have definitely not been impressive. These kits are overpriced and I am surprised they are still around. They must have some very loyal customers!
See also https://sites.google.com/site/g3xbmqrp/Home/ew on my very old (not maintained) website. The links of the left cannot be relied upon.
30 Mar 2021
It was far more expensive than I wanted to pay from a UK dealer, but I rarely buy gear and I probably haven't that many years to enjoy it. It should give me years of fun. I cannot see the prices falling any time soon. The IC-7300 hasn't dropped in years.
In the end, the review by Peter Hart in the latest RadCom persuaded me. So, I have succumbed. At the moment I am still reading the manual and will probably try it later.
29 Mar 2021
As many will know, I am not a great DX chaser these days. If I work DX great, although I rarely go looking for it. To some, it is an important aspect of our hobby. Working rare DX on multiple bands can be a source of great excitement.
If I remember correctly, I achieved DXCC on 10m SSB QRP way back in the 1980s. My greatest thrill was working New Zealand with 10W SSB on 10m early one morning with a simple sloping wire dipole. The other thrill was working a VP8 in Antarctica.
If you are a keen DXer you may like Club Log. It seems an ideal resource for keen DXers.
In the last few years, FT8 has become the dominant mode on many bands.
Unlike speech modes, FT8 is definitely not a chatting mode. Basic QSO data only is exchanged. To use FT8 needs special software like WSJT-X that can be got for free on the internet.
Whilst this mode is great for simple stations and those who find talking hard (like me), it is not a mode that you just stumble across. Many years ago I "found" amateur radio by chance hearing AM stations on 160m and 15m.
In the end FT8 and similar could kill our hobby. What I am advocating is FT8 should be seen as complementing speech modes, not instead of speech modes. I hope, as HF conditions improve, more people will use SSB, FM and AM again.
After many years, our old bank is being converted to commercial units. One of these is to be a hairdressers. People who know me know that I cannot take advantage of this!
Shortly I hope to go on 17m FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop.
At present (0820z) I am on 160m FT8 RX. As we have daytime conditions, there is no DX, in fact no spots at all!
UPDATE 0836z: 17m gear turned on. 10 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost 5Z4VJ (6858km) in Kenya. Nobody yet spotting me on TX.
UPDATE 1228z: 246 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost YB7OO (11788km). On TX my QRP has been spotted by 2 stations with the furthermost R2ASY (2426km) near Moscow. 1 QSO today.
UPDATE 1420z: 326 stations spotted on 17m FT8 RX and 4 stations spotting my QRP on TX.
UPDATE 1720z: 465 stations spotted on 17m FT8 RX and 6 stations have spotted my QRP TX.
28 Mar 2021
In the last few years FT8 has taken off like crazy. It is very sensitive and works with very weak signals, much weaker than SSB and CW. It is not a chatting mode. It allows the minimum details for a QSO to be exchanged. There is a spin-off called JT8call that does allow free form messages, so chats could be had.
Sadly FT8 has resulted in fewer speech mode chats. Although not a QRP mode per se, it does allow worldwide QSOs with QRP and simple antennas. Most find far less than 100W is sufficient to work the world.
One thing I have noticed is just how busy the narrow FT8 slots get. Although the transmissions only need about 50Hz, it is quite possible to find 20 or more stations in the FT8 window. The advantage is all signals get decoded by the (free) software and split operation within the FT8 window is encouraged.
There is a case of several FT8 slots in each band. The disadvantage is you may have to monitor more slots. There is a case for 2 or 3 FT8 slots on each band. This is still narrower than a few SSB signals.
Rules within the UK nations vary, so what follows applies to England only. At the moment, the plan is to cautiously relax some rules on March 29th. This is part of a roadmap to complete relaxation of the rules.
Dates could slip, although at the moment things are still on track. A lot depends on how people behave, vaccines and the 3rd wave in Europe and of course variants emerging.
Although I have looked quite hard, I have failed to find out if this years grand show in June is definitely cancelled.
2022 is on and I would be extremely surprised if this years show was on, especially with rising Covid-19 cases across Europe. Putting on a show would be expensive and it is unlikely many would want to be there in big crowds with the pandemic, even if they could travel.
The last definitive information I saw was that Dayton, USA was cancelled and Friedrichshafen 2021 was to be decided still. However, Southgate News is reporting that it is cancelled this year.
It is definitely not happening in 2021. I have found the official announcement of this. A pity, but understandable.
Notice the word "suspended" . There is an online event June 25th - 27th 2021.
At 1109z I went on 17m FT8 QRP with 2.5W to the tiny indoor loop on the shack windowsill. It is now 1116z and so far today, 18 stations have been spotted on RX with nobody spotting my QRP on TX.
UPDATE 1425z: So far today, 2 spots of my QRP with the furthermost being UW5ZM (2317km) from the Ukraine on TX and 185 stations spotted on RX. At some point I shall remember to convert BST to GMT. Give me a few days!
27 Mar 2021
Every few weeks, I give my impression of activity on the narrowband transponder of this satellite as seen by looking at the webSDR at Goonhilly.
As said many times before, this is not a scientific look. It is more of a "quick peek" impression, in this case looking mid-afternoon on a Friday in Europe.
My impression is activity is very slightly up on the last time I looked. There is still plenty of room.
26 Mar 2021
According to Southgate News, the RSGB is to accept /P entries in contests from March 29th. They state you have to obey local Covid rules, but the "stay at home" message is to be replaced (we hope) by "stay local" in England. This would mean /P operations would be legal if local.
I am definitely a grumpy old man!
OFCOM has just posted its plan of work for the next financial year on its website. If I was still working and not retired I would have been told the statement is full of "motherhoods" !
Personally, I would prefer if they concentrated on real enforcement and less on such statements.
It is very easy to criticise, but the impression this gives me is a total lack of RF knowledge and a bunch of children, trying to be "grown ups". Your views may well differ, and these are my impressions only.
As I was always told "don't judge a book by its cover".
See the OFCOM website and make up your own minds.
At 1217z, I turned on the FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the windowsill tiny loop. It is now 1222z and, so far, 20 stations have been spotted on RX but no spots of me on TX.
UPDATE 1435z: 127 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost YB8ADX (12413km). On QRP TX 2 stations have spotted me so far today.
UPDATE 2212z: Now QRT. Altogether, 204 stations spotted on RX and 2 stations spotted my QRP on TX.
25 Mar 2021
Next birthday I shall be 73. Both my dad and granddad died in their sixties. I could die tomorrow or live for many years.
On the balance of probabilities I probably have not got many years left. Certainly I am more aware than ever that the years are passing by.
Some of the things I could so easily do are now impossible. I am giddy all the time and driving is no longer a pleasure.
Someone once advised me to enjoy things before it is too late. Maybe they are right. One thing is certain: the future is unknown.
The Callington Rally in Cornwall has been cancelled. Many years ago I went to this when I lived in Devon. It should have been March 28th, which is this Sunday. Hopefully it will be on again in 2022.
Probably many more rallies will be postponed or cancelled this spring and summer.
Since before breakfast I have been on 2m FT8 with 2.5W and the big-wheel omni antenna. So far, at 0947z, I have been spotted by 13 stations in 2 countries with the furthermost G7RAU (461km) in Cornwall. On 2m FT8 RX 20 stations in 4 countries spotted with the furthermost DJ9ON (489km).
UPDATE 1025z: One QSO with a station in IO70. 15 spots of my QRP.
UPDATE 1648z: 3 QSOs today. My 2.5W FT8 to the big-wheel has been spotted by 25 stations and I have spotted 55 stations in 6 countries.
UPDATE 1830z: 29 stations in 3 countries have spotted my 2m FT8 QRP today on TX. 65 stations spotted on RX in 7 countries.
OFCOM has announced that its next stage of auctioning 700MHz and 3.6GHz spectrum has moved to the negotiating stage where bidders can trade spectrum between each other. See the OFCOM website for more details. It makes sense for bidders to have contiguous chunks.
24 Mar 2021
A few moments ago, I QSYed to 17m FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop. It is now 1111z. So far 6 stations have been spotted on RX with nobody yet spotting my QRP on TX.
UPDATE 1127z: So far today, 15 stations spotted here on RX, and still nobody has spotted my QRP FT8 on TX.
UPDATE 1421z: 105 stations in 5 continents spotted on 17m FT8 RX today and nobody has spotted my QRP TX.
UPDATE 1806z: 139 stations spotted on RX. Nobody spotted me on TX.
Southgate News reports that a new EMF calculator is now available from the RSGB. If your EIRP is greater than 10W, you may have to use this.
The BBC reports that a large container ship has run aground in strong winds and blocked the Suez Canal. This is vital artery for world trade. It is already caused major tailbacks. Imagine being in charge of steering this ship!
|Stations spotted |
last night on
160m FT8 RX
|Stations spotting |
my 2.5W FT8
QRP last night
23 Mar 2021
When my dad first retired he got a job with the National Trust and was in charge of a team working on repairs to the coastal footpaths in South Devon. When he died they erected 2 seats on Bolberry Down in his memory. In the photo I am sitting on one of them some years ago.
At about 1330z I turned on my 160m FT8 QRP with 2.5W and the earth-electrode antenna in the ground. No spots yet.
UPDATE 1708z: Just 1 G - G3NSM (123km) has spotted my QRP TX and European DX is starting to come through on RX. So far, 7 stations spotted on RX.
|Stations spotting my |
160m FT8 2.5W
One QSO on 160m FT8 QRP with a German shortly before midnight.
Just 268 stations spotted on 160m FT8 RX overnight in 5 continents. I do not use 160m often enough to know if this is conditions changing or just a bad night. 2 North Americans and 1 South American spotted.
UPDATE 1009z: Back to daytime and just 1 G spotted!
22 Mar 2021
If you are like me, you are getting more scam calls that originate abroad, but use UK numbers to actually fool punters. TPS, which we have, cannot stop these I think.
We have tunes on our phones so we know when genuine people are calling: different friends and family members have unique tunes. Everyone else is asked to leave an answerphone message. Most scammers just hang up. We work on the assumption that if it was really urgent they would leave a message or call again.
I have asked for a package on Virgin Media that may help. It is free for 30 days. We will see.
Apparently someone is working on software to waste scammers time. Great!
About 15 minutes ago, I turned on my 2.5W to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground on 160m FT8 TX. No spots yet.
UPDATE 1605z: Still no spots on RX or TX. The Europeans should start appearing soon.
UPDATE 1625z: The first DX from Europe came through at 1614z on 160m FT8 RX. There are others starting to be spotted. Still nobody spotting me on QRP TX.
In the foreground is the shack PC with WSJT-X monitoring 160m FT8 RX.
As you can see, there were plenty of European (later transatlantic) stations being spotted on the earth-electrode antenna at about 1845z.
|Stations spotted |
on 160m FT8
We are now officially in spring by any measure. The UK Met Office counts March 1st as the first day of spring whereas the traditional start is the spring equinox.
In the weeks ahead we will see migrant birds like swallows returning.
The UK clocks change to British Summer Time (BST) next weekend.
21 Mar 2021
My 13 year old grandson has a YouTube channel he has created. He is looking to get more subscribers. This is his channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4m_i-SRpAFX-iBtk9z8O4w
20 Mar 2021
Until this morning, I had never heard of this. Today, I have come across it twice within about 6 hours! Firstly I saw that a radio amateur had made some and then it appeared in the BBC Good Food magazine.
As far as I can see, it is a form of fermented tea. In Japan it refers to tea made from kelp seaweed. I think you can get kombucha in various flavours.
Funny how you can go a whole lifetime without coming across it, then it appears twice! 😄
OFCOM is consulting about the dangers of exposure to RF by the general public.
It is intending to add something in the licence to make clear that radio amateurs have to ensure the public is safe.
OFCOM and the RSGB are working on calculators so that amateurs can work out if the RF produced is likely to be a danger.
Being able to show how any potential danger was worked out could be important if a station was to be inspected, for example in the event of interference to a neighbour's TV.
OFCOM is to trial 10 limited power FM broadcaster stations for a year and is asking for volunteers to take part. It is wondering if such licences would be suitable for hospitals and army barracks for example. Rnage could be approximately 1km.
See https://www.ofcom.org.uk .
ICOM has released the auto ATU for the IC-705 (the AH-705) reports Southgate News. It is quite expensive and there are lower cost auto tuners that will work as well or better e.g. the Elecraft T1. This is also smaller and probably has a wider range. It is also, lower cost.
The AH-705 is £309.60, which is expensive. The answer is use resonant antennas or lower cost tuners!
At 1355z I turned on my 2.5W FT8 to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. I am calling CQ in the middle of the FT8 "window". All I am spotting currently is G stations. No DX is being spotted in the daylight. It is now 1402z. Just one, fairly local, station G4HPW (37km) spotting me this afternoon.
UPDATE 1659z: 5 stations (all G) have spotted my QRP TX this afternoon. 5 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost LY2BVB (1659km) in Lithuania. It is still very light here, although I guess it is darker further east. The European DX is just starting.
UPDATE 1749z: 26 stations now spotted on RX. Clearly European DX is now coming through as night draws in.
I hope to do one soon.
The earliest she has is one showing a relative who fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This is partly hand finished and probably dates from the dawn of photography in the 1840s.
19 Mar 2021
At 1850z I QSYed to 160m FT8 with 2.5W and the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. It is now 1856z. So far this evening, 4 stations have spotted me on TX and I have spotted 22 stations on RX.
UPDATE 2030z: 16 stations have spotted me on QRP TX on 160m FT8 today.
Last week I mentioned that I had, by accident, found my 136kHz CW beacon. I also found my battery operated E-field probe which fits on a car mag-mount.
At the moment, during lockdown, we are only meant to leave the house for defined purposes. Just going out for a 136kHz test is not allowed, so I shall have to combine my tests with a walk for exercise. I have a possible test site, but may be able to test as we drive around if my wife drives the car. The beacon can be switched to QRSS, but I want to test "by ear" with 10wpm CW.
On TX the beacon is connected to the earth-electrode "antenna" in the ground. So far, I have never tried 136kHz TX outside the home. I did try 136kHz WSPR RX a few years ago.
At 1345z the 17m FT8 QRP gear was turned on. So far today 22 stations have been spotted on RX and 3 stations have spotted me today so far on 15m FT8 QRP TX after just 10 minutes!!
UPDATE 1840z: 151 stations spotted on RX. 8 stations have spotted my QRP TX.
18 Mar 2021
The Chinese have launched a very low cost electric car aimed at commuters. It is a joint venture with General Motors. It is outselling Tesla cars by about 2:1. The standards in China are much lower than in Europe and the USA. At the moment it is only on sale in China.
It seems to me they have got their marketing spot on. In the west we have not got our electric car marketing correct. Our cars have (generally) got insufficient range for long distances and yet are far too expensive.
In what appears to be a stupid move, the UK government has today reduced the grant on electric cars under £35k and withdrawn it totally for cars over £35k. So much for encouraging us to go green!
In my view, the UK should launch a no frills electric car that fits the commuter range and can be charged at home. The government could actively encourage sales of these by strongly subsidising low cost electric cars made in the UK designed for commuters and local shopping trips.
One of the simplest antennas is the dipole made of wire.
On 10m this is quite small being only about 5m long. Although I have been very impressed with my tiny indoor loops, an outside dipole should be several dBs better in the best directions.
Whereas, in the past, erecting this would have been a trivial task, my ladder days are largely over, so I depend on others now for erection. Hopefully my son can help in the coming weeks.
It would be good to have this up before the Es season starts, late next month. By the autumn I think we can expect the USA to come through regularly on 10m, even on 10m AM just above 29MHz.
I have an idea on where to hang it. This should be good for North America and Europe.
An advantage of Echolink is network radios can be used. As long as you have the internet, then you can gain access.
At 0830z, I turned on my 2.5W QRP FT8 to the indoor loop on 17m. So far, no spots on PSKreporter even though there are several stations spotted.
UPDATE 1215z: 101 stations spotted on RX. 5 stations have spotted my QRP TX.
UPDATE 1348z: 7 stations have spotted my QRP today on 17m FT8 with the furthermost being AJ1AJ (5264km). 167 stations spotted on RX.
|Stations spotting my |
2.5W QRP on 17m FT8
with the tiny indoor loop
17 Mar 2021
I am deeply puzzled by some EU nations. I voted to stay in the EU in 2016, but am now convinced we did the correct thing leaving! They seem protectionist and slow beyond words!
Both the European Medicines Agency and the WHO have declared the AZ vaccine safe, yet still some nations insist on a pause. In the meantime many people will die and even more will be more vaccine-averse in months to come.
Surely investigate if you must, but do not in the meantime pause vaccinating people who so desperately need it. This stinks of crass stupidity on a massive scale. Sour grapes?
Shortly, I hope to go on 15m FT8 with 2.5W and the tiny indoor loop antenna. It is now 1412z.
UPDATE 1701: Just 4 stations spotted on RX and no spots of me on QRP TX.
UPDATE 1930z: 27 stations spotted on RX and 2 stations have spotted my 2.5W on TX.
UPDATE 2030z: QRT. In the end 29 stations spotted on RX.
OFCOM has announced the results of the first stage of its recent spectrum auction. See the OFCOM website for details.
Yet again the big mobile phone companies have paid a lot for spectrum. It seems all OFCOM is interested in really is ££££££!
What happened to the GPO and enforcement?
The recent announcement about safeguarding the public from harmful EMF rings hollow.
16 Mar 2021
Southgate News reports that plans for an in-person Friedrichshafen in June are still going ahead. I do hope so. I think there is an online event too. This is one of the biggest amateur radio gatherings in the world.
On a sadder note, the ARRL reports that the Dayton Hamvention is being cancelled for the second year. In the USA there is a great danger of a new spike in Covid-19 infections, so this is probably sensible.
The UK organisers of the National Hamfest is making a final decision in June.
UPDATE 1420z: Just ordered a 10m kit. Due May. I see the SMA parts are pre-fitted.
UPDATE 1620z: Someone asked me if I had given up on my ultra-simple DSB project. No, definitely going ahead still!