Last night we were treated to a very rare blue super moon. I tried to take a photo. What a dismal failure!
31 Aug 2023
The following should take place this weekend. As always, I strongly recommend checking the information is correct.
- Saturday September 2nd - GQRP Club plus Telford and District ARS Convention. Telford, TF10 8NB. Contact 01952 255416 or 07824 737716.
- Sunday September 3rd - Annual Telford Hamfest and continuing GQRP convention. Contact and postcode as above.
30 Aug 2023
Although I have been on for about an hour, no spots so far. I get the impression Es is very marginal today.
In the last month, apart from today, solar activity has been poorer than the month before. As the last solar minimum was only in 2020, I cannot believe we have already gone past the peak of solar cycle 25. In the last cycle there was a bigger peak after the first.
What is certain is that solar activity can remain good for several years after the peak. Even if this was a very early peak and not a blip, we can expect solar activity to remain good for several years yet. If the peak really is a way off, this means we can expect solar activity to be pretty good until at least 2026.
It is my belief that it is often low activity rather than conditions that make the higher HF bands seem dead. With modes like FT8, we may well find 10m, for example, is "open" far more often than we once thought.
29 Aug 2023
We went for a walk around the village this afternoon. Much to my surprise I saw a swift on two separate occasions. It is possible this was the same bird. Most swifts fly south weeks ago, so this was a straggler(s). As far as I remember, this is the latest date I have ever seen swifts in the UK.
At about 0942z, I QSYed to 40.680 MHz FT8. I had already had plenty of QSOs on 6m and the band looked open in the direction of Iberia. As usual my gear on 8m is a modified FT817ND (2.5W) and a dipole.
UPDATE 1757z: No spots today. I suspect there are very few people monitoring.
UPDATE 2056z: QRT now. No spots all day. Disappointing.
My 500mW WSPR TX beacon was turned on before breakfast. So far spotted by 9 unique stations.
UPDATE 0951z: I see my 500mW WSPR beacon has been spotted in Antarctica by DP0GVN (13685km). See the photo of this permanent German base.
28 Aug 2023
The man in charge of football in Spain, Luis Rubiales, is at the centre of a media storm.
The fact that the media has created such a fuss has taken the focus off the women's team that won the world cup and onto this man instead.
Now, I do not have all the facts and stand to be corrected. My reading of the situation is that this is a story whipped up by the media. Yes, he was carried away by the excitement of the moment, made a mistake, but it would have been better just forgotten. He is also in trouble for scratching his crotch. This took about 1 second! I am pretty sure he just had an innocent itch.
The media has a habit of creating stories. Personally, I do not think he should be made to resign.
It is almost 10 years ago I suffered my brain bleed/stroke and was in hospital for 3.5 months. Thankfully, I made an almost complete physical recovery and was able to get back to an almost normal life. I was given a second chance, unlike many.
My main issues are my poor voice, being giddy nearly all the waking hours, and getting exhausted very quickly after physical or mental exertion. Whereas before I enjoyed going out in the car doing experiments, I no longer feel able. I still drive, but do not enjoy it. Driving seems to require so much more concentration for me nowadays. All the time I am reading the situation, looking for stupid drivers. It is almost as if my brain takes longer to process things. Driving at 50mph feels like 70mph.
The net result is trying to find ways to enjoy things differently. These days, my experiments are at home rather than "in the field".
Although I long to be as I once was, I know this can never be, so we have to make the best of life.
As an experiment, I may try 50.313 MHz QRP FT8 tomorrow. The main Es season is over, but Es still occurs, but less often. FT8, which is better than CW, uses a 15 second TX period. If propagation lasts this long, one has a great chance of being detected. Often Es signals can be quite strong, if short-lived.
I like to experiment on 8m FT8, but there are too few monitors sadly.
With very low power and simple, homemade, gear I could detect my beacon on a PC way over the horizon. In Australia, the "over-the-horizon" (NLOS) distance record is way over 100km. With my own very modest gear, I can well believe this.
My tests were done on cloudless nights, suggesting the propagation was scattering off atmospheric dust. There was no sign of the light from the TX in the sky at all. This is definitely where everyone, licenced or not, may experiment. It would be good to find out how far we could achieve non line of site (NLOS) in the UK. Incidentally LEDs are generally considered better than lasers due to scintillation (look it up!).
My own beacon and optical gear were made in the back of the garage. If I was fit, I would be experimenting now.
My optical gear used LEDs bought off eBay. Far more powerful ones are available. I used 100mm lenses used in magnifying glasses bought at Poundland. Better equipped stations used Fresnel lenses. My tripod was hopeless. With better LEDs, lenses and tripods, ranges could be increased a great deal. Even with my system ranges could be considerably greater than the nearly 9km I managed.
In my view the Reformation did a great deal of harm in England. Looking back, it seems pure vandalism.
In my view, we have to look at history, reflect on it, but not destroy it.
27 Aug 2023
Until this year, most had not heard of AI. Now it is widespread.
There is no doubt that with big computers that learn we can all benefit from the huge processing power. What a human brain can do in days could be done by an AI computer in seconds. This could really help in such things as fast cancer diagnosis.
At the same time it could be a great cause of harm in the wrong hands.
Some time ago, I did an experiment with AI. I put my name and callsign in and within seconds it produced line after line about me, most which was accurate. I then put my son's name in (he is an internationally famous jazz musician) and it came back with rubbish. The danger is that people may accept what AI tells them as absolute truth. Imagine a hostile power using AI. We can be sure the military services both east and west are "on the case".
I can see both good and bad. We have interacted with AI for years e.g. with chat bots and phone chats that, for example, ask you to "press 2 if you need to discuss future cruises". In the future they will be far better.
At the moment, I am reserving judgement.
Yesterday I tried some and it was very good. It is just a pity there is so little!
Although my QRP beacon has been on since breakfast, no spots yet. It is now 0942z.
UPDATE 1005z: Doh!! It helps if you turn the PA on too! Without this, I was probably running a just few microwatts. PA now turned on and resynced time.
UPDATE 1047z: The map shows the stations that have spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon in the last few weeks.
My 2.5W to the dipole has been on since 0700z. No spots.
UPDATE 0848z: Already spotted by WESSEXSDR (266km) and SR4BBX (1217km).
UPDATE 1312z: Spotted by 3 stations so far. 2 are in the EU.
26 Aug 2023
Today must be a bad day.
In an earlier post I moan about the future of our hobby. Before my stroke in 2013, I had the honour of giving talks at radio clubs throughout East Anglia. Sadly, I can no longer do this as my voice is poor.
One of the things I noticed time and time again was that old men outnumbered young people overwhelmingly. As for females, maybe one or two. By far the most interested were old men. Some had been in the hobby for years, whereas some had recently become interested with family cares and work behind them.
Thinking to the future, the writing is on the wall. In 20 years' time most radio amateurs will be dead or past caring. A few might be in care homes. Amateur radio will be a distant memory, assuming we can remember at all!
Time and again I hear calls to really understand young people of today. If we really understand younger people we have chance to attract them and keep them in the hobby. Sadly, most old men are not trying, so the downward spiral has started.
Just now, I looked at my profile, but had forgotten some of the blogs I created years ago!
Usually, one is created when we go on holiday, as it is easy to forget things later. One was created shortly before we moved here 10 years ago. It is interesting to look at these again.
We have just had a clap of thunder and looking at the lightning map, there are storms all around. As a precaution I have disconnected antennas, PSUs and the PC in the shack. when the danger has passed I may reconnect things. I have seen no flashes of lightning, so assume the storms are some way away.
Although the 2.5W to the dipole has been on all morning, no spots on TX or RX at 1150z.
UPDATE 1434z: No spots.
UPDATE 1517z: It seems odd that real experimenters have to pay to do experiments in the UK because OFCOM and the RSGB seem so stupid and short-sighted, for example, about 8m. I despair for the future of our hobby that is meant to be all about self-training. Tell that to OFCOM, the RSGB and the FCC!! I have said this many, many times: when most radio amateurs are very old, forgetful, men (most amateurs are old men), I can see our hobby just dying out. 20 years? Fewer (or no) profits, fewer adverts, fewer magazines, fewer new transceivers..... Am I bothered? Not really. I have enjoyed experimenting, but many prefer to talk about gardening on 80m with commercial gear or chasing DXCC. Neither appeal to me. If this is amateur radio, sorry it is not for me.
UPDATE 1916z: S50B (1220km) has spotted me.
UPDATE 1953z: QRT shortly.
Actually it was very poor. By modern standards I expect a very low cost SDR is better. They still pop up on auction sites from time to time. They use germanium OC171 transistors which often get leaky and need replacing.
As I get older, I am more aware than ever that life is time limited. Most (if not all) religions point to some sort of life after death. I think most people hope for this.
At the same time, I cannot square this with the fact that when I die, I can have no memory. If I just ceased to exist how would I know? At the same time the whole concept of "I" has no meaning. Also, I am puzzled by the vast number of planets in the universe and the smallness of our brains.
Death remains a mystery. Most religions fail to answer my questions.
25 Aug 2023
24 Aug 2023
In England, Monday is a public holiday. I have been notified of the following rallies. As always, I advise checking the information is correct and the rally not cancelled before driving a long way. Where possible, I add contact details.
Sunday August 27th - Torbay Annual Communications Fair, Newton Abbot Racecourse, TQ12 3AF. Contact 01803 864528.
Sunday August 27th - Milton Keynes ARS, Heron's Lodge Guide Activity Centre, MK8 9AA. No contact details given.
Monday August 28th - Huntingdonshire ARS, St Neots, PE19 2SH. Contact email@example.com .
23 Aug 2023
Yes you read correctly.
Yesterday I picked the crabapples on our tree. It looked a good crop. Following the recipe in BBC Good Food, I simmered them and dripped them through muslin overnight. The resulting juice was ....... pathetic. If I get just one very small jar I shall be amazed.
I am seeing if I can salvage something, although I am not holding my breath. Perhaps I should stick to radios?
My gear was turned on just after breakfast. At 1050z, only spotted by WESSEXSDR (266km). I assume this is aircraft reflection.
I am sure the many spots in the past by EI9KP (649km) must be by aircraft reflection. These appear random as there are many so many aircraft on this route.
UPDATE 1254z: No further 8m spots.
UPDATE 1820z: Just 2 G spots of my QRP. Aircraft scatter?
22 Aug 2023
Every day on social media I seem to get most ads about electric cars. I am interested, but feel we are not quite there yet. Prices are too high. Range is too short. Lithium is in short supply,. Charging away from home takes too long and there are too few charging points. Prices need to be halved, ranges doubled, and a technology that does not require slave labour is needed. 2027?
My experimental licence has been held since April 2022. So, I have experienced two Es seasons and F2 last autumn and winter. My 2.5W to a low dipole has been copied widely in Europe by Es and in the USA, Caribbean and Canada by F2.
On RX I have spotted S.Africans on several occasions. In the autumn it would be great to be copied in South Africa with my QRP FT8. Last summer was disappointing with fewer active TX stations than in 2022.
At the moment, we are between seasons. The big Es openings have all but ended and F2 has not really started. Better equipped stations are tapping in to TEP either directly or with F2 linking up with Es.
Overall, I am disappointed in 8m. I was hoping there would be far more activity by now, but if anything there are fewer stations active on TX. Where are the experimenters?
21 Aug 2023
In the past, there has been a lot of doubt and uncertainty over the timing of this. The site I mostly use has been predicting the next maximum in November or December 2023 for some time.
Quite often we get a second peak after the first. What is clear from other cycles is that conditions could be good for several years after the peak.
In the past I have worked stations in Argentina on QRP 10m SSB when the sunspot count right at the minimum has been zero. Quite often 10m propagation is there but there is a lack of activity. With FT8, we can now monitor the higher bands and see. Stand alone 5W FT8 transceivers for 10m can be obtained quite inexpensively freeing up "the big rig".
My 2.5W gear was turned on just before breakfast.
UPDATE 2112z: No spots all day. My inclination is to concentrate on QRP 10m FT8 for now. If I go on 8m QRP FT8 I must remember to try 10m QRP WSPR TX with my 500mW TX beacon. Now QRT. If anyone needs me on 8m I can be active on 40.680 MHz FT8 TX in minutes.
My 500mW 10m WSPR TX beacon was turned on just before breakfast. So far, 2 stations have spotted me.
20 Aug 2023
A reminder that OFCOM is consulting views on amateur radio.The deadline for responses is rapidly approaching, so make your views known ASAP.
There is a form if you need it to help make a response. At a guess, just 10 minutes should allow the form to be completed.
This is important.
At about 1340z I switched to 8m QRP FT8 on 40.680 MHz. So far, no spots. I gather there is some TEP.
UPDATE 1625z: Spotted by EI9KP (649km), I am pretty sure this is not Es . He spots me regularly. As the time varies, I do not think it is aircraft. I suppose it could be random MS, but think this unlikely. It is too far for tropo.
UPDATE 1906z: The jury is out on the propagation to EI9KP , but it is most likely aircraft scatter. What I had not thought about is that there could be many aircraft on the path.
This must come with old age.
As we get older, we know our time is limited. Certainly it is highly likely that our health will fail. So, every chance to do a walk is a gift to be enjoyed.
Today we saw, a green woodpecker, blackberries, Ely cathedral and lots more.
19 Aug 2023
To be honest, I am disappointed in the interest shown in 8m. This is between 10m and 6m and especially around sunspot maximum (like now) there is a lot of useful research that radio amateurs could do.
Instead, we have had fewer active TX stations on 8m this summer and the FCC is not renewing the few USA permits I understand. In Belgium higher class amateur licencees will be able to TX on 8m. One station in Greece has been granted special access for a limited time. EI, ZS, S51 and 9A I think have amateur bands and a few Caribbean stations (I think) have been given access to 8m.
In most countries everyone is able to run very low power beacons in the 40-66-4.70 MHz ISM bands without a licence, I think. We know from Australia that just 5mW WSPR can be copied 5000km away. As far as I know, few have tried 8m WSPR ISM beacons, instead preferring to talk about tomatoes with commercial rigs on 80m. Self training is interpreted as testing weedkiller.
Amateur radio is meant to be about self training and research! I despair for the future. At this rate, the hobby will be gone by 2040.
18 Aug 2023
The latest RadCom has a review of this ICOM microwave transceiver.
At £3549.95 without the 10 GHz transverter I cannot see them selling many, let alone make a profit. It would not surprise me if this product quietly disappeared in 2024. There is a theory that this product is a free trial for a later commercial product. Watch this space.
It is an interesting product, but would you pay this much to cover essentially line of site and rain scatter QSOs? Perhaps "appliance operators" with deep pockets might buy as the latest toy. This is not for me unless a fairy godmother waves her magic wand, HI.
Well, today was pathetic on 8m FT8 and 10m WSPR.
The main Es season has now ended and the main F2 peak is a few months off. Most of my reports recently on 10m, 8m and 6m with QRP were via Es.
These openings will occur, but not with the frequency we were used to in May, June and July. Probably 10m FT8 is worth a try as there is far more activity than WSPR. Also, the far shorter TX periods of just 15 seconds means that very short openings may be caught. FT8 is about 8dB worse than WSPR mind you.
Been on 10m 500mW WSPR TX since about 0856z. No spots.
17 Aug 2023
The following have been notified to me. It is advisable to check details are correct.
Sunday August 20th - Rugby Amateur Transmitting Society Rally, Rugby, CV23 9PY. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Sunday August 20th - Lincoln Short Wave Club Summer Rally, Marken Rasen, LN8 3HT. Contact email@example.com .
Sunday August 20th - Red Rose Summer Rally, Leigh, WN7 2PJ. See http://www.wmrc.co.uk .
It looks like the main Es season in the northern hemisphere is just about over but, as I remind people, Es can occur at any time. OK, the days when 10m or 6m may be open for hours may be over for this year, but there will still be times.
This is why FT8 can be so useful, sniffing out very brief openings that in the past would have gone unnoticed. Frequently, the 27 MHz CB band is busy, yet 10m is quiet. This suggests decent propagation, but a lack of activity. These days, there is little excuse. Just 15 seconds of FT8 transmission is all that is needed to prove a path is "open".
16 Aug 2023
This is a handheld radio available from AliExpress for less than £67. I have no idea how good it is. The Chinese will soon will be a real challenge to the Japanese in the years ahead. In my view the Chinese have more work to do on quality control, but they will get there.