30 Jun 2021
My favourite band is 10m (28MHz). This is getting good again after a few poorer years. Recent licencees may not realise just how good it can be.
Modes like FT8 may come into their own in solar cycle 25, although just a simple antenna and a few watts of SSB is all that may be needed to work the world.
On WSPR I have been spotted in every continent (including Antarctica) with 500mW and a low wire antenna on 10m in the last solar cycle.
Don't forget that 10m Es (to about 1500km) is often good from April-September at any point in the solar cycle. 10m can also be useful for local natters.
Since before breakfast, I have been on 10m FT8 RX with the tiny indoor loop. It is now 0828z and, so far today, 55 stations have been spotted.
UPDATE 1305z: 255 stations spotted so far today on 10m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 1530z: 348 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX today (see map).
For several weeks I have had issues with my V2000 omni which I use on 6m, 2m and 70cm.
G3TFX has been investigating and it looks like the main issue is the coax. The antenna had some moisture in, but this has been removed. I need fresh coax.
In the interim I was hoping to use my VX2 handheld out portable for the Cambridge club net on 145.55MHz FM (2m) this evening. However I cannot find the charger!
29 Jun 2021
Next Sunday, this historic alternator TX is transmitting for Alexanderson Day on July 4th. I have a QSL card somewhere from them for a transmission many years ago. This is a good chance to test your VLF system.
Compared with a half decent outside 10m antenna I know my loop (50cm across, indoors) is at least 1 S point down. This means stations others copy, I miss.
Nonetheless, 197 spots in the last day is not bad. These were in Europe, Africa and South America. In the next few weeks with help, I hope to get a decent outside antenna up for 10m.
|Stations spotted |
UPDATE 0710z: Just M0BPQ (74km) spotted.
UPDATE 1020z: 140 stations spotted on RX. Mostly Es. The map shows the stations spotted on RX at 0950z.
UPDATE 1336z: 247 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 2120z: 336 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX. QRT shortly.
28 Jun 2021
The microwave bands are an area of amateur radio that I have never got seriously interested in, although we can only do so much I guess. Quite a few people are doing ATV at 5.6GHz using low cost modules.
Years ago I bought the "Backscatter compendium". This is now available free to download.
Years ago, I worked on the Pye PFX. An old friend has just pointed me to a PFX service manual for sale on eBay.
I have just spotted that it was my personal copy with my name on it!
No, I shall not be bidding, HI.
The PFX was widely used by the UK police and some were used on 70cm. It was the first synthesised portable Pye Telecom ever made. It had a few false starts, but was very successful in the end. The PF85 was a crystal controlled handheld using many of the same modules.
At about 0750z, I turned on the 10m FT8 RX with the 50cm diameter indoor loop. So far, 2 Iberian spots on RX.
UPDATE 1022z: Now 30 stations spotted on RX with furthermost 5T5PA (3791km).
UPDATE 1142z: 59 stations spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1545z: 86 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX.
27 Jun 2021
Earth-mode is a form of VLF communication that is open to all. With 5W I managed to cover 6km, although far further should be possible even with the same gear. I have updated my webpage to include a link to my earth-mode blog showing my experiments some years ago.
My understanding is this does not require a UK licence, but check with OFCOM as I cannot give legal advice.
Later, we have the threat of thunderstorms. At the moment there are storms on the near continent, but not here. If they get close I shall go QRT.
UPDATE 1710z: Still nothing here. At the moment the storms are not expected until 0100z tomorrow.
We are going to have a very different time. Not all is bad.
About now each year, we hear of DX openings between Europe and Japan on 6m VHF. I believe there have already been 6m openings from Western Europe to Australia. One has always to watch for pirates who are actually much closer! I very much hope these QSOs are confirmed as genuine.
The regular 6m Japanese openings (and to the Far East more generally) seem to be linked to mesospheric noctilucent clouds that form about now. I am sure this is E-layer, but not Es. I also wonder about some of the very long transatlantic 6m openings. Some may be multi-hop Es, but I suspect many are not. E layer - yes. Es - no.
They do not call 6m "the magic band" for nothing. Well equipped stations can work some amazing DX. Even very modest stations can have plenty of fun with QRP and simple antennas.
This why a future 8m allocation could be so informative to radio science: midway between 6m and 10m could be so interesting. We could all learn so much.
I am convinced there is a great deal for us to find out about E layer propagation and this is one area in which radio amateurs can really contribute to radio science.
The UK Health Secretary has resigned.
Somehow, the UK press got hold of CCTV tapes of him having steamy embraces with someone in his department. He is seen breaking the very rules we have all tried to follow since the Covid-19 crisis hit us. I do not like the way the press got hold of the "scoop", but it shows him in an untenable role breaking his own rules!
Surely a cabinet minister would know there is CCTV around. This is designed to safeguard them. I feel for the families broken over this. Once pillars of society they are thrown into the limelight in the most ignominious fashion. Lives are ruined. What about the children?
I am sure there are many in high office in many nations with dark secrets.
The UK Prime Minister came out in support of him.
In my view, there is gross ineptness at the highest levels. I am sure this has gone on for centuries. We all have dark secrets, but we can do without those telling us "we are all in this together" breaking the very rules they set us! Gross stupidity!
In my view, those in government in the UK have lost a great deal of credibility.
At just before 0830z, I turned on my 10m FT8 RX setup with the tiny indoor loop antenna. No spots yet at 0833z.
UPDATE 0922z: 4 spots on RX so far.
UPDATE 1624z: 13 stations so far spotted on 10m FT8 RX with the tiny 50cm diameter loop antenna this morning. Disappointing so far. At the moment, the Es here today is the worst this season. I shall stay on until late this evening "just in case". With the loop, I am probably not seeing some of the stations others are able to copy.
26 Jun 2021
25 Jun 2021
24 Jun 2021
23 Jun 2021
Microsoft is about to make a big announcement according to Verge. Windows 11 maybe?
Windows 10 is OK, but painfully slow on my machine bought 4 years ago and, it seems, always needing updates. If it is so good, why?
Surely if it is so great, why does it not clear rubbish slowing it down and do updates quietly in the background? My virus protection is by Avast.
Overall, I am not impressed by Windows.
I have a Chromebook and it is both lightning fast and does updates and virus checking in the background. For almost everything it is perfect. By comparison it makes Windows seem poor.
Jay, W5OLF has sent me an article on the next solar peak suggesting it could be good. The last forecast I saw suggested it could be similar to the last one. Sadly, I think it is too early to tell.
In the northern hemisphere we have the sporadic E (Es) season, which offers good QSOs on all modes on bands like 10m, 6m and 4m. Occasionally, it is also good on 2m, but this is far rarer. Skip is usually 800-1500km.
As a child, I used to see what DXTV came through on Band 1 TV. I well recall the lunchtime watching Midi-Pyrenees via Es on 819 lines. On a standard 405 line TV we got 2 images side by side with a black band in the middle. There is far less TV on Band 1 these days. I am not sure which countries still use it.
As is often the case, I am on 10m FT8 RX with the tiny indoor loop antenna. So far today, 5 stations spotted.
UPDATE 1015z: 16 stations so far spotted today on 10m FT8 RX. All Es I think.
UPDATE 1450z: 87 stations spotted so far today on 10m FT8 RX. Furthermost is 5T5PA (3791km) in West Africa. Nothing yet seen from the Americas.
UPDATE 2016z: 116 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX with the furthermost CE2SV (11716km) in Chile.
22 Jun 2021
There is a misconception that 160m antennas and grounds have to be big. This antenna fitted in a small attic and results suggest it does very well.
Most people have high noise levels on the LF and MF bands these days, but I find FT8, with its effective 50Hz bandwidth, is still effective.
You may be surprised by results. I was.
A reminder that if you find any errors or omissions on my new web pages, please let me know so I can address them. Mike pointed out an old link that I have (hopefully!) corrected. I am sure there are others.
21 Jun 2021
If some of the SPAM emails I get (filtered out) were true I would be a millionaire many times over. Every day I get told there is nearly £300k coming to my account if I just share my details. As for Bitcoin, I get told every day I am due for so much!
I do not share my details!!
All of these are, of course, scams.
Oh, and how to get a 15 inch penis......😁
One of the new features that is possible on the new Google Sites is embedding. Some browsers do not support this for fear of viruses or malware on the embedded sites. I have embedded PSKreporter maps on my new web pages which normally points to what I see on 10m FT8 RX. So you can see what I am spotting here.
Just occasionally I may be looking at something else.
Amateur radio gear can be badly affected by nearby storms. Often, when there are storms nearby, there can be damaging power surges. I am always nervous with nearby storms. My normal practice is to disconnect everything until the storms have well passed. At the moment, the immediate risk seems to have passed.
As usual, whilst doing some housework, I am monitoring 10m FT8 RX with the tiny indoor loop. At 1030z, 106 stations spotted.
UPDATE 1104z: 136 stations spotted with the furthermost CT3MD (2521km) on Madeira.
UPDATE 1902z: 402 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost PT2GTI (8866km).
20 Jun 2021
There is widespread Es on 10m this morning. A few moments ago (it is now 0917z) I turned on 10m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and the tiny indoor loop antenna. Already, 49 stations have been spotted.
UPDATE 0948z: 85 stations spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1214z: 198 stations spotted on RX. The furthermost is VO1CH (3737km).
UPDATE 1604z: 325 stations spotted on RX.
UPDATE 1904z: 467 stations spotted on RX with the furthermost PY5BH (9903km).
This was missing from my main website. It has now been added. I did not realise it was missing!
The laurel hedge provides a good screen from the path by the windmill, but it is hard work!
19 Jun 2021
One of the things I enjoyed was experimenting with weak signal optical signalling over the horizon. My own tests used QRSS (slow CW) received on a PC . There was absolutely no sign of the optical signal in the sky, yet there was a clear trace visible on the PC.
Had I been well, these experiments would have continued and far greater ranges would have been possible.
In all, 380 stations spotted yesterday. Not too bad.
I am still not sure how far down the loop is compared with a reasonable outside antenna.
For a long time I have thought dealers aimed to make excessive profits. We all know that they have costs such as wages, premises etc.
Maybe I am being unfair?
I am all for fair profits (after all, this is their business), but I object to excessive profits. In my opinion many dealers and magazines will go out of business in the coming years as most amateurs get old and buy fewer radios. Magazines will suffer as there will be fewer dealers and less revenue.
Maybe the strategy is to make as much money as possible whilst they can?
18 Jun 2021
As you may know, I have no external antenna for 10m at present. Instead I use the 50cm loop on the shack windowsill.
It is extremely hard to measure the difference in performance of, say, a dipole and my loop. Even over quite small distances signal levels can vary greatly. There are many factors: location, time, directivity, polarisation, radiation angle etc.
The best I could do is compare signal levels at similar times in the best and worst directions of the loop with that received by others locally. The best I can work out is that the loop is up to 6dB down. There are quite wide errors bars on this.
Overall, the loop is performing better than I expected.
If there is F2 DX from the USA or South America later, I shall try again. With lower angle signals the differences might be greater.
G0LRD (26km from me) copies far more, although if he can copy signals that are 6dB weaker, I would expect this to make a considerable difference on FT8.
It will be interesting to see my results later with an external antenna. The impression I get is that the small loop is not too bad on Es signals from Europe, but it performs less well with low angle DX signals.
UPDATE 1915z: Well there's a surprise! CX2CC (11128km) was coming through just now. I was getting him 5dB S/N better than G0LRD (26km). This may just be the momentary polarisation being optimum. Still it proves the loop cannot be too bad.
UPDATE 2101z: At the moment I am confused: many times G0LRD is copying better than me and he certainly is spotting far more stations than me. Nonetheless the loop is not at all bad considering its small size and being indoors!
At 1325z, I turned on my 10m FT8 RX with lots of Es evident. I see Spanish stations are calling the USA. So far, at 1328z, 25 stations already spotted.
UPDATE 1430z: So far today, 103 stations have been spotted on 10m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 1648z: 242 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX with the furthermost XT2AW (4478km).
UPDATE 1815z: 294 stations spotted so far.
UPDATE 2106z: 362 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX today.
UPDATE 2132z: 379 stations spotted today on 10m FT8 RX. Have to go QRT shortly.
MLS has been appointed as the dealer of the Hilberling transceiver which retails for just under £12k. Yes, you read correctly - twelve thousand pounds!!
I am sure it would be very good and some will buy it. At that price it should be superb. Add a linear, tower, rotator and beam and you won't see much, if any, change from £20k. To me this is not amateur radio.
OK, each to their own, but I prefer to spend my money more modestly. Even for a professional radio, this is stupid money in my view, but we are all different.
If you want to spend this on a hobby - go ahead. Just remember you can communicate just as well across the planet with amateur radio spending a tiny fraction of this and you can video chat for free across the world with a low cost tablet or PC.
There have been radio amateurs for over 100 years.
Like many things today, I can understand why somethings are done - to protect people - yet often the unintended consequences make things worse, not better.
Take for example the EU rules on data protection. Now most web pages have a pop-up about cookies. Most people either just say "yes" without reading or use a pop-up blocker so the message never appears. Most find these very annoying! The intention was good, but in reality by not reading the small print we could be accepting all sorts of rubbish!
It is a bit like the recent licence changes to protect the general public from harmful EMF. Yes, of course, this is admirable, but how have we managed for over 100 years?
I am not sure what the answer is. What is missing is common sense.
Before agreeing to any changes, think of the unintended consequences. If overall things could be more harmful, think again. We seem to be moving ever more in a more stupid direction.
We left the EU completely some months ago. The EU is far from perfect, but I voted in 2016 to remain "in". Overall we voted by a small margin to leave.
Despite the difficulties of trading with the EU, the UK Pound seems to have appreciated against the Euro.
Personally, I would have preferred a softer BREXIT especially as the vote was close. I suspect the EU misses the contributions to its budget from the UK.
We will have to find our own way in the future. Only time will tell if we were right or wrong.
For almost my entire life, the gold at the end of the rainbow was nuclear fusion (not fission) with its promise of almost endless low cost energy with no pollution. At every point we seem to have hit hurdles and I cannot see it being reality in my lifetime. I hope in the end the technical issues can be overcome.
Things may have moved a step closer with a new research facility at Oxford funded by Jeoff Bazos. This is reported by the BBC to cost £400M.
For "one-off" projects, MeSquares can be a good solution. The photo shows my 10FT8R RX using MeSquares.
These are simply snapped out and glued down to plain copper clad board. The copper clad board makes an excellent RF ground plane and the MeSquares excellent islands.
If glued down carefully (unlike mine!), a very neat layout is possible.
See www.qrpme.com .
17 Jun 2021
We escaped the storms last night. It rained, but that was all. We missed again last night the storms are creeping up from France and thunderstorms and heavy rain are forecast for tomorrow.
Every month, if I am free, I go on the UKAC activity contests organised by the RSGB. Although I submit entries running 10W SSB to a 2m omni antenna I have no chance of ever winning!
I only enter the 2m and 70cm legs. Mostly I go on for fun and the activity. Without trying at all hard I see I am still about third down the table in the low power section. Activity levels on SSB are very good. I think these sessions are primarily for clubs, although I just go on as me. There is no compulsion to submit a score.
Tjeerd PA3GNZ has a webSDR online. It is interesting to listen to.
For a change I am on 10m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and the tiny indoor loop (50cm diameter) antenna.
Plenty of Europeans being spotted by Es. After just a few minutes, 51 stations spotted with the furthermost being 5T5PA (3791km) in Mauritania, West Africa.UPDATE 1246z: 150 stations spotted.
UPDATE 1515z: 281 stations spotted on 10m FT8 RX today.
UPDATE 1815z: 465 stations spotted so far in 4 continents.
UPDATE 1913z: 524 stations spotted so far today.
UPDATE 2146z: 682 stations spotted today. Furthermost is PP5JD (10072km). I now have to go QRT and disconnect everything.
We have a very talented young artist in the family. No, he does not take after granddad! I have just updated his page on my G3XBM website to include his YouTube tutorial.
See https://sites.google.com/view/g3xbm4/home/non-amateur-radio/grandsons-art for a direct link to this page.
All being well, my simple, low cost, RX for 10m FT8 should appear in RSGB RadCom in August. This is not certain.
My thanks go to Jay W5OLF for kindly doing the schematics. Jay is developing the circuit further. I hope it brings him success.
It may be old age or an artefact of my stroke in 2013.
These days I seem to be exhausted after doing very little. People who do not know me probably think I am just lazy, whereas at times I am totally exhausted. A particular time is after breakfast (like now) when I really really need a quiet time.
At one time I was a very active person whereas these days I absolutely need breaks.
16 Jun 2021
Maybe I am paranoid over the risk from nearby storms. Everything has been disconnected (PC, PSU, rigs, antennas) to avoid the risk of nearby voltage surges and strikes. If I miss something, does it matter? No.
15 Jun 2021
Last year, this developed a fault.
I strung an end-fed wire using the Par transformer out of the shack window. The VSWR looked low, so I assume this Par transformer is fine. At some point I shall re-erect this tri-band antenna, but with new coax. Either there was moisture in the coax or the plug had failed.
In the past I have been spotted all over the planet with this antenna and 500mW WSPR on 10m. It is good for 35W, although my absolute maximum is 10W and often much lower. With WSPR and FT8 it is far lower.
It is now 0759z. A few minutes ago I turned on 6m FT8 RX using the FT817ND and the V2000 vertical omni. So far just G4IFX calling CQ DX, no doubt hoping for the Far East.
Just now I realised I was looking at the 12 hour view on PSKreporter maps. I am now looking just at today. So far just 2 Gs spotted (0807z).
UPDATE 1112z: 18 stations spotted. No Es evident here.
UPDATE 1237z: 26 stations spotted including the furthermost HI3T (7001km) in the Caribbean. With no Es evident here, I am more convinced than ever that some of these long distance paths are not Es, but some other E layer propagation. I am sure with a better antenna, higher up, I would copy far more, especially as the V2000 being faulty.
14 Jun 2021
Since breakfast I have again been on 6m FT8 RX with the FT817ND and the V2000 vertical omni. It is now 1042z and so far 129 stations spotted.
UPDATE 1414z: 238 stations spotted on RX including 2 in the Caribbean.
UPDATE 1530z: 252 spots on RX so far today on 6m FT8.
13 Jun 2021
You may like to hear what some DX stations sounded like. These recordings were made last year. There is a link on my main website.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, a lot of us have turned to orders online. We have ordered stuff from various suppliers and all have done well delivering the correct packages to the door within a few days. No car journeys, no heavy lifting, convenient.
When things return to more normal, I can see lots of people staying with online orders for speed, choice and convenience. The high street suppliers that will survive have to either offer something unique or change their business model.
This had already started before the pandemic, but the last 12-15 months have speeded up the change process. I still enjoy browsing and having a coffee whilst my wife spends our money, but things will be different.
One thing is certain: high streets will be very different. I suspect the changes will take some time. In the end I can see more city centre flats and fewer, different, shops.
Just now (well actually 20 minutes ago!) I turned on my Windows 10 PC as this has all my RSGB activity contest details stored. I am still waiting for Windows updates to install. In this time, I could have cut the grass, had breakfast, washed the car, etc...
18 months ago I bought a Chromebook and this must be 20 times faster. I am totally pleased with my choice.
I thought the Windows 10 PC needed a defrag, but apparently this already happens automatically every week! The PC has gathered bloatware it does not need, I suppose. It is about 4 years old.
Anyone have recommendations what to do please?
BTW, after 30 minutes of my life - zzzzzz - I am still waiting for this heap of junk to start! It now tells me it is "cleaning up". More waiting..... zzzz.
BTW, I use Avast anti-virus.
Later, I hope to be on 2m SSB briefly to give away a few points in the PW QRP contest. I entered last year and will do so again, although with no chance! It is on 0900-1600z. I know G2XV will be active for the Cambridge Club (CDARC)
UPDATE 1533z: as we had a family BBQ I only worked G2XV.
UPDATE 1530z: 99 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX (see map).
UPDATE 1805z: 183 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX so far today.
UPDATE 1929z: 252 stations spotted today.
12 Jun 2021
It looks like the Chinese manufacturer Xiegu is going to launch a new product called the X6100.
Regular readers will know that every few weeks I check activity on the narrowband transponder of this geosynchronous satellite.
The last time I looked was at 0832z on a Saturday, which is when I would have expected it to be quite busy in Europe, being a weekend Saturday morning.
It was quiet. If anything, activity is lower than it was with very few stations on. I guess it is just too hard for black box operators!! I have no doubt that if Yaesu or ICOM made a simple solution then activity would suddenly rocket!
The Es season is in full swing. 388 stations spotted yesterday.
This is the time of the year when better equipped 6m EU stations make contact on 6m with Japan. This regularly occurs at this time of year and may be linked with the formation of noctilucent mesospheric clouds that form at this time of year.
11 Jun 2021
Since about 0830z, I have been on 6m FT8 RX using the FT817ND and faulty V2000 vertical omni antenna. So far (at 0842z) 43 stations spotted today.
UPDATE 0915z: 76 stations spotted today on 6m FT8 RX. Furthermost is 4X1YS (3595km) in Israel.
UPDATE 1238z: 179 stations so far spotted today on 6m FT8 with the furthermost 5T5PA (3791km) in Mauritania, West Africa.
UPDATE 1703z: 279 stations so far spotted today on 6m FT8 RX.
UPDATE 2013z: 376 stations spotted so far today on 6m FT8 RX.
It is like busses, with all issues happening at once!
Now my big-wheel omni (2m) has developed a high SWR. It probably just wants a good clean as some of the joints may have oxidised. Sadly, I need help these days. I think the coax is still fine. Well I hope so!
Earlier, my V2000 developed issues. Despite trying hard, G3TFX was unable to get the bottom part off. I think a new antenna and coax are called for before the poorer weather sets in. The V2000 must be very old. It was up at the old QTH before going up here for nearly 8 years, so I have had my money's worth.
With some luck, all my antennas will be in good shape again before autumn.
10 Jun 2021
Since about 0830z, I have been on 6m FT8 RX. It is now 1104z and 41 stations spotted so far. Surprising number of UK stations, suggesting some tropo?UPDATE 1132z: 55 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX today so far.
UPDATE 1538z: 256 stations spotted so far.
UPDATE 1755z: 427 stations spotted on 6m FT8 RX with the furthermost WP4G (6803km) in Puerto Rico.
UPDATE 1936z: 646 stations spotted today on RX with the furthermost PV8DX (7830km) in northern Brazil. Not bad for a VHF band with an omni antenna with a poor SWR!