Results for this activity contest organised by the RSGB have just been published.
22 May 2022
21 May 2022
This is a video of the ICOM stand at the Dayton Hamvention. I am underwhelmed.
The VHF transceivers look "same as", the linear looks big, and the SHF concept looks like it will never happen. Where is the truly handheld version of the IC-705?
If Yaesu is similar I can see them both leaving this market within 5 years. I suspect they both can see the writing on the wall.
20 May 2022
19 May 2022
The better equipped 8m stations have been getting spots from a very long way away such as Argentina, Chile, South Africa and off Angola. With my low ERP I think this will be well beyond my expectations.
My experiment is to find out what is possible with low ERP QRP and modest, low wire dipoles. So far, my conclusions on FT8 and WSPR is that locals and Es stations can spot me, but I have had no success, so far, with other G stations on 8m.
By the way, FT8 or WSPR were used for these DX spots.
The favourite spot seems to be 40.680 MHz USB dial and the favourite mode FT8.
In my view, it seems a pity that all beacons don't have FT8 as part of their cycle and were all at 40.680 MHz USB dial so they all could be monitored 24/7. Of course they would all be on different audio spots so they were separated.
Imagine the excitement of seeing the spots after you'd been out of the shack for a while! I suspect if they were all on a single dial setting then more would be spotted at unusual times.
Many will have bought components from John Birkett in Lincoln. Sadly he has died at aged 93. I have no news about the shop, but I saw it in Lincoln last September. I hope his family carries on the business.
18 May 2022
I guess a PA could be added to reach a higher power out for a beacon for example.
See https://www.rfzero.net/ .
Later today I expect to be on 8m FT8 TX on 40.680 MHz USB dial. Yesterday I was spotted again by EI9KP (649km). If the Es is like yesterday I may be spotted by others.
UPDATE 0637z: TX turned on.
17 May 2022
In a few minutes time I shall be on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX (first period).
Although I have been widely spotted across Europe mainly by Es, it seems unlikely I shall be copied further with my low ERP.
As my TX seems to lose power after a while, I shall probably stop my experiment for much of the Es season later this week.
Someone suggested a 24/7 WSPR beacon. This is a good idea. My issue is building it: my fine motor skills are poor now, making building impossible. Otherwise I would be on 8m WSPR all the time TX!
UPDATE 0912z: Been on TX since 0856z. No spots yet.
16 May 2022
Years ago, in my working life, I used to keep lab books detailing all I had done. When I retired and was still fit, I carried this on. It is surprising what you forget!
Also, you never know when this data will be useful in the future. The notes don't have to be neat.
I must admit, I haven't written in my lab-book for many years, but I can recommend getting into the habit.
People look at me and often say, "you do look well". Little do they know that for almost 9 years I have felt giddy all my waking hours, I feel tired and my voice is rubbish. It can be extremely frustrating!
I'm not after a sympathy vote, but next time you see someone think how they feel on the inside. Never judge by the "outside of the tin" as they say.
Often people are struggling with a hidden disability be it physical or mental. In my case it is physical.
Although I expect to be on 8m FT8 TX on 40.680 MHz USB dial at times during the day I suspect my operations will soon be scaled back.
I seem to have proved that all of continental Europe is within range, even with my very modest station, although my low ERP seems to preclude me being copied outside of the local area in the UK.
UPDATE 1024z: A few minutes ago, my 8m FT8 RX was turned on.
UPDATE 1226z: No spots today. Currently rig is off cooling. Hope to be back on at 1300z.
This is near where I come from in South Devon. It is very beautiful still.
I still miss it, even though I have lived away from the area for over 50 years. In some ways it still feels like "home".
Maybe the fact that my ancestors have probably been hereabouts for thousands of years gives me a "pull" deep within my soul.
15 May 2022
Although I was on 8m FT8 TX and RX for about 40 minutes, no spots. The rig is now off, but I hope to be on again at about 1200z.
UPDATE 1326z: No spots all day. I think my experiment on 8m is drawing to a close. Most of Europe is in range via Es. What else can I learn?
UPDATE 1855z: EI9KP (649km) has again spotted me this afternoon. I have lost count how many times Phil has spotted me on 8m.
UPDATE 2030z: QRT.
Yesterday, the June RadCom arrived. In it stated that I had been an RSGB member for 60 years!! That means I must officially be a "boring old fart" (BOF).
Looking back, I just wonder where those years went.
I can honestly say that I enjoy amateur radio as much now as in 1962. Things have changed a lot over those years, but there are still challenges and ways to have fun.
This is May 20-22nd. It is the biggest ham gathering in the world. I have never been. This year it is in person once again. Often major manufacturers announce new products here.
14 May 2022
"Each to their own", as they say. These days, the boundaries are blurred and it is a long time since working DX meant HF bands and QSB. An example is DMR which allows users to talk with others around the world on their VHF handhelds.
In the depths of the last sunspot minimum, many of us bought network radios that used the internet as the backbone. Mine looked and behaved just like a VHF handheld complete with antenna and PTT. With it, one could connect with repeaters on the far side of the planet.
I never enjoyed mine and prefer to work stations the "old" way. Now the sunspot numbers are climbing, this is more possible again.
Now, I am not saying one is any better than the other. As they say, "each to their own". Ours is a hobby of self training. I am sure there is as much to learn from DMR and network radios as from working DX the "old" way!
In a few moments I hope to go on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX (first). The photo shows my 8m dipole.
UPDATE 0902z: TX turned on at 0823z. No spots.
UPDATE 1709z: Just been spotted by EA3ERE (1153km). So far, I have been spotted in 6 European countries on 8m mostly via Es. All the continental Europeans have been via Es. With my setup I think it very unlikely I shall be spotted outside Europe.
UPDATE 2045z: QRT.
13 May 2022
Regularly, I get emails from OFCOM. I look at these and get the distinct impression they are trying to justify their very existence. The impression I am given is of a group that largely does not understand RF and is only interested in money.
This is my personal view and you may feel differently. Experiences 10 years ago and in the last few months have re-enforced my view that it is in radical need of an overhaul. I ask myself, if it wasn't there would it be missed? Probably not!
This is one band I have never tried. Like 10 GHz , there are Doppler radar modules that could be "repurposed" for WBFM (wideband FM) on this frequency. I have not searched for 24 GHz WBFM, but I am sure circuits must exist.
The results of the latest 2m activity contest run by the RSGB have been published. In the low power section I have climbed from 81st to 70th place. At this rate I might win the section by 2060!!
Yesterday was very successful with my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon being widely spotted across Europe. It is on again now (0821z). No spots yet.
UPDATE 1310z: Well it helps to remember to turn the PA on!! For the first 30 minutes I forgot. Doh. Mind you, still no spots.
UPDATE 1954z: Apart from the 2 stations spotting me multiple times, presumably by F2, no others spotting me. No Es apparent here today.
In the coming months we will be in the Es season in the northern hemisphere. This brings lots of short skip DX on bands like 10m, 6m and 4m. Occasionally it even reaches 2m although this is rare. Sometimes we get very long distances via the E layer, but I suspect many of these openings are some kind of chordal E propagation. Enjoy it whilst it lasts!
With my QRP, I am running out of stations with whom I can realistically exchange reports.
My problem is I do not know who else, without a TX permit, might be looking for me. There is an outside chance that I could be spotted in the USA, but I think it is unlikely that I will be spotted in South Africa.
I remain totally baffled by OFCOM and the RSGB who seem dead against even a very tiny allocation of an amateur band at 8m, by NoV, digital only, when this could really help propagation research and self training!! I find their OBSTRUCTIVE attitude unbelievable. Contact OFCOM and the RSGB to persuade them they are so WRONG!! Even 5 kHz would be useful, say at 40.680 USB dial. Having to buy a T&I licence seems so wrong and totally the opposite of "self training".
UPDATE 0810z: 8m TX turned on 40.680 MHz USB dial at 0805z. FT8 first period TX.
UPDATE 1420z: There are lots of stations monitoring on 8m. Sadly, nobody has spotted me today and I have spotted nobody on RX.
12 May 2022
At 0830z I propose to go on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX (TXing in the first period).
UPDATE 1221z: EI9KP (649km) has spotted me and I have spotted him.
UPDATE 1315z: QRT on RX and TX whilst rig cools Back on at 1345z on 40.680 MHz FT8 TX (first period).
I am on 10m WSPR TX with my 500mW W5OLF beacon. No spots yet today.
UPDATE 1521z: 15 unique spots of me today, mostly Es.
There are far more people monitoring 10m WSPR than I was expecting. Great.
Every few weeks I take a look at activity on the narrow-band transponder of this geosynchronous satellite. I last looked at 1230z on a Wednesday. It has never been quieter! When I looked there was nobody at all active! Now, I may have just caught this at a bad time.
In this month's Practical Wireless is a review of the Chinese Xiegu X6100 transceiver. Like many things made in China, quality still seems to be a bit "hit and miss". They report an issue with the auto-ATU that is not fixed with the latest firmware. What seems clear is these are low cost.
My concern is what happens if it goes wrong? Who will fix it? Is the guarantee really worth it? Given time, I am sure the major Japanese manufacturers like Yaesu, ICOM and Kenwood will feel a chill, with more, better quality, and far lower cost offerings starting to appear from China and other countries.
I am quite surprised that one (or more) of the major Japanese manufacturers is still there if I am honest. It all hinges on volumes and markets. I would expect to see items that could sell in high volumes worldwide coming from China rather than niche products. Over time, quality will shoot up.
At the moment I still feel nervous about buying Chinese amateur radio products. But...
They are coming......
11 May 2022
All my life I have not been good at endings. At this stage in life, I am feeling that lots of things we have just taken for granted are coming to their ends.
At the end of next month I hope to travel to Devon, where I come from, to see my brother who is 77. How long will he and his wife be there in good health? My wife and I are ageing. What happens if one of us dies? Lots of our relatives, friends and neighbours are now older. I can no longer drive a long way.
It seems we have no choice but to accept that everything passes. Life as we know it is an illusion of stability. Everything changes. I guess we have no choice but to accept this.
The last few days have been poor here with no Es evident here and no spots on RX or TX. Let us hope today is better!
UPDATE 0803z: On 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 first TX at 0757z. Ever hopeful!
UPDATE 1120z: EI9KP (649km) in the west of Eire has again spotted me.
UPDATE 1742z: No further spots given or received today. Better than the last few days, but still pretty poor. Now QSYed to 70cm FT8 RX.
10 May 2022
In our hobby we all have different interests, and that is only right: it would be a sad world if we were all the same. Some like ATV, others chasing DX, others just talking with old friends on 80m. I cannot say how you get fun. Neither would it be correct.
My own "thing" is QRP (low power). Now, I freely admit that at times more ERP helps. However, especially on bands like 10m in the better solar years, the world can be worked with low power and simple antennas. This is even more true with modern modes like FT8.
Perhaps my G3XBM website may give you some ideas. Whatever, the next few years could be the time to give QRP a go. You might be surprised.
Yesterday was dire with no stations spotted on RX and nobody spotting me on FT8 TX on 8m. Even 10m had no Es here. Hopefully today will be better. Well it can't be worse!!
Currently on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX.
UPDATE 0951z: No spots yet on 8m TX or RX.
UPDATE 1025z: Still no spots on 8m FT8 TX or RX today. Apart from the remote chance of contacting some of the USA experimenters by chordal hop Es this summer, I think I have exchanged reports (won't say QSO!!) with all the stations I am likely to. The ZS stations are unlikely to spot me with my low ERP, even though I have spotted ZS6WAB on 8m FT8. I suspect the latter was TEP and Es together, as we are a bit too far north for pure TEP.
UPDATE 1855z: No Es today, in fact no spots again on TX or RX.
9 May 2022
For me, the return of the swifts from Africa is important. Today I saw several overhead. All is well. Swifts have been doing this long before I was born and hopefully long after I have gone.
I had the companion T28 RX, which was rubbish. I think the pair were really meant for mobile use, as most mobile in those days was on 160m AM. My T28 was a university prize for a VLF project on whistlers. It ended up as a 4-6 MHz IF for a VHF converter. I recall hearing USA stations on 2m via Oscar 6 and Oscar 7.
I also had an Eddystone EC10 receiver. Apart from the mechanical construction, this too was rubbish.
We have come a long way since those days. Today, you can buy a multi-mode transceiver with internal batteries covering 160m -70cm in a smaller size than the AT5! In fact, this has been available for more than 20 years!
All seems pretty quiet so far with just multiple spots of me by TA4/G8SCU (3010km). I think this is single hop F2 rather than Es.
UPDATE 2014z: 3 unique stations spotting me (2 in the Canaries and 1 in Turkey).
UPDATE 2030z: The Canary Is stations are still spotting me! I wonder what time this will end?
8 May 2022
EI2DKH, the Irish transatlantic 2m beacon is off air according to the EI7GL blog. This is partly due to the site and cost of electricity as well as no reports in 7 years. I have recommended the use of FT8 if the beacon is re-sited. This works with fleeting signals weaker than CW.
Better equipped 6m stations are working some remarkable distances. There have been openings from Europe to South Africa and South America and reports of even further contacts. Although these could involve F2, the N-S QSOs are probably a combination of Es and TEP.
They don't call 6m (50MHz) the "magic band" without reason. With the right combination of propagation almost anything seems possible. Even with a very simple vertical antenna and 1W I have worked the USA on 6m QRP CW.
FT8 is an ideal mode as it is widely monitored on 50.313 MHz and works with fleeting signals much weaker than CW.
UPDATE 1948z: 6m opened to the USA this afternoon.
My 500mW 10m TX WSPR beacon was turned on at 0830z. Nobody has spotted me yet.
UPDATE 1155z: Still no spots of me today. 13 unique spots on 10m WSPR of my QRP in the last day mostly by Es.
UPDATE 1452z: Plenty of spots from the Canary Is now.
UPDATE 1850z: 3 unique stations spotting me. It seems the Canary Is stations nearly always spot me if they are on.
The last couple of days have been quite good on 8m with new stations spotted and an exchange of reports with a station in Slovenia. Later this morning I will be on FT8 TX on 40.680 MHz USB dial.
UPDATE 0832z: FT8 TX (40.680 first) turned on at 0829z.
UPDATE 1125z: Just EI9KP (649km) spotted on 8m FT8 RX today. No spots of me.
7 May 2022
Well, I think most of the text is now done. I have to reorder the pages and add photos and schematics. At the moment, it is still on target for the end of May, but I make no promises!
As I have said before, this will be a free PDF book, so anyone can have a copy. All I want to do is share my ideas and fun. If you want to print it out, that is your choice.
It will be linked from this blog and (I hope!) most major radio magazines. At least I shall send them the link. Whether or not it is used is outside of my control!
As I find mistakes or things to add, I shall create newer versions with probably the same link. This way, the link should always point to the latest version. There are bound to be mistakes or omissions. At least, this way I can readily change or add things.
Now, I am very happy to be told I am wrong, but I think DSB rigs can be received on other DSB receivers, but it is much more tricky than receiving DSB on an SSB receiver. I have no experience of this, but a comment on a post yesterday has me thinking. The comment was made by Ken G4APB. Thanks Ken.
Clearly a simple SSB 10m transceiver (if very low cost, simple and easily copied) would be much preferable to a DSB transceiver, but I am unsure of the relative costs.
If you have experience, please let me know.
Clearly, if 2 DSB transceivers can not (easily) communicate, maybe a simple 10m DSB transceiver is not as ideal as a club project, even though most QSOs would be with SSB stations.
I wonder how inexpensive a 10m SSB transceiver can be made as a simple kit?
After my best day yet yesterday, I am again on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX. No spots yet.
UPDATE 1012z: EI4GNB (445km) spotted strongly on FT8, but no spots of me.
UPDATE 1630z: 4 stations spotted here today on 8m FT8 RX with the furthermost ZS6WAB (8931km). Today has been surprisingly good. The ZS was probably a combination of TEP and Es. There are a couple of newly active 8m stations near Preston that I hope to copy.
UPDATE 2047z: Actually 5 unique stations were spotted today. GR9B near Preston was spotted on FT8 working ZS6WN, but for some reason this did not appear on PSKreporter. At -21dB S/N he was not strong so this might have been Es backscatter or tropo. Now QRT.
6 May 2022
Before my stroke in 2013, I had an idea for a very simple DSB transceiver for 10m.
This was never competed, but with 10m looking good again, now is an ideal time. With just a few watts Europe should be easy and you will work DX. Don't forget antennas are small and simple and CB verticals work well.
What I envisioned was a very simple, easily copied, DSB transceiver on a single, small, PCB. These days a simple phasing SSB rig may be possible with a synthesised VFO. This would be better, but the design goals, were simple, low cost and easy.
This would make a neat club project next winter. Imagine if all builders had a simple sideband transceiver for 10m that they built! I should be more than happy for someone to design this and do a PCB. No design rights, simple...
Many things are better nowadays, but many things have got worse. My coats have fewer pockets, my underpants are thinner, National Trust bags are more inferior, Picasa has been "retired". You get the distinct impression that suppliers are designing to a fixed price.
Recently we bought some new cordless phones. As far as I can see these are the replacements of the ones we have. On the old ones we can assign ring tones to certain people e.g. family, friends etc... On the new ones I cannot see how to do it! This was a really useful feature as we could ignore SPAM. If it is a call from people we know, we answer. If it is someone else important, they will leave a message or ring again. If I cannot find out how to do this, they are of no use and will be returned.
What are your views?
Shortly, I shall be back on 8m FT8 TX on 40.680 MHz USB dial. Yesterday was disappointing.
UPDATE 0917z: My FT8 TX was started at 0813z. EI9KP (649km) has spotted me and I have spotted him. This is so regular that I am suspecting aircraft reflection.
|Stations spotting my QRP 8m FT8|
|Stations spotted here on 8m FT8|
UPDATE 1502z: Reports exchanged with S50B (1220km) in Slovenia. 5 stations have been spotted on the band here today. Belgium 8m amateur operation is currently illegal, although the Belgians are considering a small amateur allocation. So far, I have been copied in 5 countries on 8m, despite my QRP system.
5 May 2022
The ICOM IC-705 is a great 10W radio with many wonderful features. I love the waterfall and many of the things it has as standard.
It is regularly used on 2m and 70cm (FM and USB, but I have not used it on FT8. Instead, I have used my FT817ND on 8m and other bands for FT8. Why? With the USB lead (even choked) I get desensitisation. I believe the simple solution is to use the IC-705 with wi-fi (yes it has this too!), but I have been too lazy to set this up yet. I am sure there are YouTube videos showing how to set this up! One of my projects in the coming weeks must be to set this up.
If you can point me in the right direction this might save me time. What is the simplest and clearest please?
As the 10m antenna is free, I am on 10m WSPR TX using 500mW from the W5OLF beacon. So far, spots from the Canary Is only at 0833z.
UPDATE 1355z: 3 unique stations spotting my 500mW with the furthermost TA4/G8SCU (3010km). I suspect these are all single hop F2 propagation.
At the moment (0830z), I am again on 8m FT8 TX on 40.680 MHz USB dial. When we go for a walk later I shall be RX only. So far, no spots given or received.
UPDATE 1505z: After just over a month, I am already drawing some conclusions as follows:
(1) With my QRP and simple antenna I can work DX by Es, but I think TEP exchanges e.g. with South Africa are beyond me. I estimate my ERP could be 20dB down on some of the better stations.
(2) There are far fewer stations active than I was expecting. Is no-one really interested?
(3) I suspect many of those active lose interest once they know their capability. It looks like I shall have FT8 exchanges with Slovenian stations, then what?
UPDATE 1507z: Today I have spotted nobody and nobody has spotted me on 8m FT8. At this rate, especially as OFCOM wants £50 every year, I can see few being interested in the UK. What a great pity.
UPDATE 1518z: Looks like I shall go QRT on 8m TX after the Es season.
UPDATE 1607z: Now on 8m FT8 TX (first) on 40.680 USB dial.
These summer migrant birds winter in South Africa. They used to arrive here in early April. They are around as my son has taken a photo, but I suspect there are fewer. It is already well into May and I have still to see one. Last year I only saw 2 the whole spring and summer! Swifts normally arrive about now.
UPDATE 1410z: We did a nice walk this morning around the village which included several stretches near water. Had there been swallows and swifts around, we would have seen them. We saw none. My impression is there are fewer even than last year, which is very sad.
My favourite band of all is 10m (28 MHz). At 1.7 MHz wide, there is room for all modes. Apart from daytime in the better years of the sunspot cycle, it is unusual not to find clear frequency. Even with low power and small antennas worldwide DX is possible.
4 May 2022
As far as I know this is on as a face-to-face convention later this month after a couple of dire Covid years rather getting in the way.
Often the big manufacturers announce new products here, sometimes well before release. I guess they are testing the market interest. It will be interesting to see what is announced. This is an ideal chance for Yaesu to announce a proper successor to the FT817/818 series. The recent offering (the FT818) was distinctly underwhelming! With sunspot numbers rising this is an ideal time. Or will Yaesu again "miss the boat"?
This is one of the largest amateur radio gatherings on the planet. I have never been.
See https://hamvention.org/ .
As regular readers will know, Jay', W5OLFs 10m WSPR beacon is a small stand-alone 500mW WSPR beacon that I have used for many years. It is still in use this very minute. With it, I have reached all parts of the planet.
Despite writing to Jay some days ago, I have not got a reply. Does anyone have any news please?
Once again, my intention is to stick with FT8 today on 40.680 MHz USB dial. So far, I have been copied in 4 European countries and expect this to increase during the Es season.
The impression I am getting is that other than Es openings my QRP is not capable of being spotted at any distance. Also, I think there are fewer stations with TX permits this year. I was expecting more to be asking for these. Overall, I am a bit disappointed. Other than stations in the UK, Croatia, Slovenia and possibly Eire, I suspect the chances of exchanging FT8 reports are small. Once these countries are "worked", I suspect interest might wane.
If I am honest I was expecting stations across Europe to be active this Es season. Sadly, this is not the case.
Personally I think a very small 8m, digital only, allocation to the amateur service would really help research in radio propagation science. I think OFCOM and the RSGB have been totally stupid over their attitude to this! You feel that they are not really interested in real self training and research. Talking about gardens and arthritic knees on 80m with Japanese commercial rigs is fine!!
UPDATE 0835z: For about an hour I have been on 8m FT8 TX. I was spotted (yet again) by EI9KP (649km) in the west of Eire. Nobody spotted here, although I am currently RX only.
UPDATE 1320z: No further 8m spots. Currently RX only again.
3 May 2022
This chatroom is often used to set up skeds etc. When I tried to log in earlier it came back with a 404 error and said, "not found". This may be just a temporary glitch. I hope this is just temporary as I normally post news of my 8m tests here as well as my blog.
UPDATE 1740z: All working again - thankfully.
It is pleasing to say that this book is on target to be completed by the end of May.
My intention is to collect all my projects into a freely downloadable PDF book. I shall add the link on this blog and send it to the major radio magazines. I want this to be freely available so you can share my fun. It is a scrapbook as it is full of ideas that I am sure can be improved by experimentation.
Nothing would give me more pleasure than if someone took my projects further.
The reason for the free PDF is to avoid the copyright issues that might arise with a printed book. Also it means I can add additions and corrections easily at any time.
Yesterday was hopeless with no stations spotting me and no stations spotted.
As May goes on, Es should get better and more common. With my QRP, I am not expecting great things, but most active 8m stations in Europe should be in range at some time. There are also a number of stations monitoring , if not able to TX.
At the moment (0828z) I am on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX.
My usual pattern is TX FT8 in the first period around 1950Hz audio for about 30 minutes, then go on just RX for about 30 minutes, then QRT whilst the rig cools, then repeat.
UPDATE 0926z: No spots given or received yet. Currently RX only.
UPDATE 1030z: Currently QRT as the rig cools. Back on FT8 TX (40.680 MHz USB dial) at 1100z. No spots still today.
UPDATE 1550z: Back on 40.680 MHz USB dial FT8 TX. My earlier attempts on 8m FT8 TX and RX have been unsuccessful today. I hope I catch some Es at teatime. It often peaks around noon and teatime - no idea why.
UPDATE 1748z: It looks like today will pass without any 8m spots. Currently RX only.