Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Noble Radio NR4SC 70MHz rig: weak signals

I was very conscious, having been playing with the rig that I really hadn't put it on any sort of decent antenna. Well, I still haven't, but at least it was something horizontally polarised!

A few weeks ago I ordered a Moonraker 70MHz HB9CV. I wanted to have an antenna that I could use for some meteor scatter and I was also very interested to see what I could hear over tropo paths with a simple antenna.

Today I had the chance to put the antenna together, which didn't take more than about 30 minutes. I mounted it on a spare pole in the garden, held up by a stepladder, so the HB9CV was probably no more than about 8 feet above the ground.

Of course, the first signal that I listened to was the GB3RAL beacon, just a few miles away from me. I was pleased to see that the signal strength varied substantially as I rotated the antenna - anything from about S8 to S1, so the pattern of the antenna was reasonable, despite the low mounting height.

Next I listened for the GB3BUX beacon. I heard nothing and a quick look at the Beaconspot database suggests that it may be off air. Then, I pointed the antenna to the south west to listen for GB3MCB in Cornwall. Very pleasingly, I was able to hear it, just out of the noise, peaking up every few minutes. This may have been tropo or it may have been aircraft scatter. Either way, I continue with my assertion that the NR4SC has a nice quiet receiver. I've not, yet, tried this path with the Spectrum transverter. Interestingly, I have not heard GB3MCB on 144MHz very often. I've always assumed that is because of Faringdon Folly - a hill to my south west a mere 4 or 5 miles away. So it's interesting that the path works ok on 70MHz, even with a low antenna.

I also listened for the GB3ANG beacon near Dundee in Scotland. I cannot be certain whether I heard it - certainly nothing concrete, but I've a feeling I heard a fragment at one point. More extensive listening would reveal, something I am sure.

This was a very pleasing test and one of the benefits of having the compact NR4SC was that it was easy to bring down to the lounge, with a PSU and connect up to the coax coming in through the patio doors! The NR4SC is very compact and would make the basis of a nice portable station. Just need a matching 150W PA now!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

New version of DSD+ released

With more digital radio appearing on the bands - I noticed the GB7BS (Bristol DMR) repeater coming on stream last weekend, you might want to think about ways of listening to the activity before you decide whether to take the plunge and invest in digital kit.

Over at the RTL-SDR blog, I noticed a post announcing a new version of the DSD+ software which will decode D-STAR, DMR etc. The package runs on Windows and you'll need an RTL-SDR, Funcube Dongle or some other SDR receiver

See the post here

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Noble Radio NR4SC update: strong signals

I had a few minutes to play in the RSGB 70MHz activity contest this evening. Although I was still only using the vertical antenna which is not ideal for such activity it proved a useful session.

Neil G4BRK my nearest 70MHz neighbour was on and going well. His signal was well over S9 and it is a compliment to his signal and to the NR4SC's receiver than he was gone within about 4khz either side, which I was quite happy with. M1PRO, a little further off were also rattling the s-meter and easy to lose a few khz either side.

Most distant signal heard was from Keith G4ODA in IO92/Spalding.

A 70MHz HB9CV antenna arrived today, so I'll put that together at the weekend and see what can be done.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back to basics with the IC740

For the last few weeks, the IC-740 which was sitting quietly under the bench had been niggling at me. I had no HF rig on the operating bench, other than the FT-847 which gets used on VHF mostly. I'd taken the FT1000MP off the bench a while ago and didn't feel that excited about using it. In fact, I'd thought about selling it - though haven't really thought that through yet.

But the IC-740. There was an appeal to getting it out and going again. It was my HF rig when I first got on the air back in 1983. I knew it worked ok as I'd had a handful of contacts on it a few months back. Chasing DX, no, that wasn't really wanted to do. Perhaps some CW - just run of the mill stuff - there have been times when I've found working around the UK on 7MHz CW good fun. Maybe something like that?

Finding a few minutes this afternoon, I hooked it up - plugged an aerial and a paddle in. It puts out the 85W or so that it always did. Tuned around 28MHz and quickly made a few QSOs across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America (not great conditions, but good). I listened to my old pal G3TXF doling out the QSOs as ZD9XF. Although it would be lovely to work Nigel, I don't really feel the need to play pileups.

So maybe you'll even hear me and the old IC740 (31 years old) around 7030 playing low power. Who knows! It's nice to be reunited with my old friend!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

First impressions of the Noble Radio NR4SC 70MHz CW/SSB rig

After my post mentioning the release of the new Noble 70MHz rig, I very quickly had an email from Rob PE9PE. Rob and I operated together on the FSDXA trip to the Comoros, D68C. Rob is involved with Noble Radio in Europe and offered me the chance to take a look at one of the first NR4SC radios. Of course, I said yes!
The rig arrived yesterday and of course, I wasted no time in unpacking it.

The first impression is of a solidly built radio. It's quite chunky. When I posted a picture on Twitter, someone used the U word! But, I think the U word we should use is Utilitarian. It's functional and reminds me of some of the Tentec styling.

Powering it up - I love the clear, big display of the frequency readout. Initially, I found the volume control a bit noisy. I mentioned this to Rob PE9PE and he said that some of the rigs did this, but a few quick rotations of the volume control would cure it. Sure enough it did. I hooked the rig up to my 70MHz vertical, which is what I normally use for working Es and the occasional tropo contact. Not ideal, but enough to make some contacts.

First tests were to listen to the GB3RAL 70MHz beacon. It was the same sort of signal strength that I expect with the Spectrum Transverter and HF rig, but interestingly, I felt the receiver was a lot quieter, which was nice.

The rig has a built in Iambic keyer for CW. I wanted to try that out as it seemed as if CW would probably be my best chance of making some contacts! The keyer socket on the rig is for a 3.5mm jack rather than a 1/4 inch jack - slightly pesty as all my other rigs have the larger size and I couldn't immediately find an adapter. However, the Palm Paddle which I use with my FT-817 had the right size connector, so I decided to use that and plugged in and changed the mode to CW.

I discovered that the keyer jack is expected to have the dash on the tip, rather than the usual dot! Simple enough to resolve - I turned the paddle upside down and all then falls into place. The keyer is quite nice to use although I made the occasional mistake - which is just a question of getting used to the dot/dash memory.

The rig can also be supplied with a fist microphone and Rob had kindly included one of these with the package. Listening to the transmitted audio and the CW on a monitor receiver was fine and on a quick listen I didn't hear anything I didn't like the sound of.

Early this evening, Pete 2E0SQL kindly tried listening for me, although we didn't manage a QSO - probably owing to our cross-polarised antennas. However, I did hear John M0UKD calling CQ on 70.200 from Hornchurch in Essex and was very pleased to be able to have a quick QSO with him. John was running 25W to a vertical compared to my 10W, so I was pleased to work him.

Tomorrow afternoon brings the Practical Wireless 70MHz contest, so I hope to make a few more contacts then.

In the meantime, the first impressions are positive. A rig which is simple to use, has a nice quiet receiver - and here's the real plus - a rig with which you can monitor 70MHz without tying up an HF rig - no transverter needed.

I'm looking forward to playing some more, hopefully with some better antennas too and will post my further thoughts.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A new 70MHz mono-band radio from Noble Radio

Rob, PE9PE got in touch to let me know about the new 70MHz mono-band rig from Noble Radio

The rig produces 10W out - you can see a full list of the specs here

The rig is priced at EU499 in the Netherlands, including 21% Dutch VAT.

I've asked Rob if there are plans to distribute the rig in the UK and what the price will be. I'll update this post accordingly when I find out. The PDF also mentions a 50MHz variant, but I'm guessing that the 70MHz will be of immediately more interest.

Updated: Rob PE9PE replied to say that the rig is available direct from the Netherlands and comes with a 2 year warranty.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR and PiAware - feeding ADS-B spots to the Flightaware network

Earlier in the week, the nice people from Flightaware got in touch and mentioned they had some software called PiAware. This software runs on a Raspberry Pi which has an RTL-SDR dongle and antenna attached and the Dump1090 software running.

Flightaware say:

If you are running an inexpensive Raspberry Pi ADS-B receiver with dump1090 then you can install the PiAware Package from FlightAware to freely view nearby flight traffic and transmit this data to FlightAware’s tracking network.  Most aircraft within Europe by 2017 and USA by 2020 will be required to have ADS-B transmitters onboard.

FlightAware’s user-hosted worldwide ADS-B receiver network tracks about 90,000 unique aircraft per day and feeds this live data into the FlightAware website in combination with other public/private flight tracking data sources.  FlightAware has over 500 user-hosted ADS-B sites online across 60 countries, with top contributors tracking over 10,000 aircraft per day.  To see how ADS-B data is put to use, check out the FlightAware Live Map.

The PiAware installation process takes only a few minutes.  If you don't have PlanePlotter, you can download it and then send FlightAware your installation's serial number and we'll buy you a license.  FlightAware will also give users a free Enterprise Account ($90/month value) in return for installing PiAware.
So, if you don't have a copy of PlanePlotter and would like one - this is a nice bonus for setting up and sending your data into Flightaware. I had a copy of PlanePlotter anyway, but this looked like a fun challenge to get working.

The instructions from Flightaware are good and comprehensive and can be found here

It was a while since I had run Dump1090 on my Pi, so I had to do a bit of work to get things in a state where PiAware would work.

- After some issues, I decided to ensure that Raspbian was updated: sudo apt-get upgrade (this takes a while!)

- I then refreshed rtl-sdr

git clone git://
cd rtl-sdr
mkdir build
cd build
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig

- Having read around a little, I decided to install a Flightaware specific version of Dump1090. It appears that this shouldn't be necessary and you can use a 'regular' version of Dump1090, but I decided that my chances were improved of getting it working if I did this!

cd ~ 
git clone git://
cd dump1090
sudo apt-get install pkg-config

Having compiled this - assuming you have installed RTL-SDR and have your RTLSDR stick, with an antenna (the little antenna which comes with the stick should work fine), plugged into the Pi - or a connected USB hub, it's time to see if you can receive any ADS-B transmissions

Navigate to your dump1090 directory (dump1090_mr in my case)

cd dump1090_mr
./dump1090 -- interactive

If everything is working, you should start to see some data coming through from the aircraft in your area.

Having got this going, you can install the PiAware software. Goto this page and you can start from step 2. I had some issues (mostly my fault!) with PiAware versions prior to 1.7-1 - but that is working fine.

Before you start PiAware up (in Step 4), stop your Dump1090 if it's still running and restart it as follows:

./dump1090 --quiet --net

I used the quiet parameter to keep resource usage to a minimum. The net parameter ensures that Dump1090 makes the data available to other applications (PiAware in our case).

Start up another LX Terminal window and type

sudo piaware start

Hopefully, you will shortly see a message saying that PiAware has started. You can get a good idea of what is going on by checking the Piaware log file

tail -f /tmp/piaware.out

With any luck, you will see a bunch of messages including 'Connected to Flightware - logging in and so on).

You should then see a message every 5 minutes detailing the number of messages that Flightaware has received from your receiver. If you run into problems, there is a helpful forum thread here

After all this, my Pi is feeding date into the Flightaware network successfully!

It's intriguing to note, running the Pi/RTLSDR combo at the same time as PlanePlotter and the LZ2RR microADSB receiver (on similar antennas). In the same time interval, the microADSB receiver has seen 488 aircraft and the RTLSDR has heard 329. So, the RTL_SDR is not quite as sensitive, but it's not bad at all! It may be worth trying different versions of Dump1090 and see if this can be improved.

Great fun to try - thanks in particular to Max at Flightaware for letting me know about PiAware.

Finally, if you want to see the map that your spots feed into - it's here

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Practical Wireless SOTA VHF weekend 23-25 August 2014

Just a quick reminder that next weekend is the August Bank Holiday weekend and Practical Wireless are encouraging VHF/UHF operators to operate from Summits on the Air on the VHF bands. It's not a contest, more an excuse to get out and enjoy some portable radio in some great scenery!

Richard G3CWI at SOTABeams has very kindly sponsored some prizes.

I'm planning to be out during the weekend on one or more of our local summits (there aren't many in Oxfordshire!) and will be listening out for other SOTA activity.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reflections on the passing of VO-52

Unfortunately, our concerns were well-founded. Yesterday, on the AMSAT bulletin board, the official news of VO-52's passing was announced.

The loss of VO-52 leaves quite a gap. What I enjoyed about it particularly, was that it was the one of the linear transponders that could be used with very simple antennas. My V2000 vertical worked very well for a variety of contacts. I just wish I had started using it earlier.

VO-52 had a great downlink signal and was always in transponder mode (AO-73 is great, but I rarely hear it in transponder mode, or if I do, it's usually brief, as it switches over to telemetry). So, hopefully the new generation of satellites which will be coming on stream soon - some already in orbit doing other things, waiting to be activated into their amateur radio roles - others waiting to be launched.

A good time to remember to support AMSAT (a VO-52 lookalike would work very well, thank you...)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

VO-52 satellite missing in action

It's been a busy couple of weeks here, all good, but busy. Last weekend, a visit to the shack coincided with a pass of VO-52 according to GPREDICT. I listened and listened and didn't hear a thing. Being somewhat new to satellites, I always assume that if I don't hear anything, it's my fault (it usually is!). I checked the TLEs I was using in GPREDICT and all was ok. I checked the 145Mhz receiver - all ok. Very odd.

I didn't have a chance to think about it again until yesterday afternoon when I was in the shack working on a review of the Wouxun UV-8D for Practical Wireless and I noticed that VO-52 was due again. Once again, I heard nothing. Again I checked my receiver and the TLEs. I was now starting to think that perhaps it wasn't me.

On Twitter, I asked my satellite friends if there was any news about VO-52 that I had missed. Ricardo EA4GMZ kindly replied saying that it had been out of order for some days and included two useful links, one satellite status page and secondly to the threads on the AMSAT message board, where if you page down, you will find some messages relating to VO-52.

VO-52 had very quickly become one of my favourite satellites once I got going with it earlier in the year. I hope we shall hear from it again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

VC1T copied in the UK on 144MHz

I'm indebted to Roger, G3XBM for pointing me at the news that the VC1T expedition was heard in the UK on 144MHz by G4SWX, but unfortunately no 2 way QSO was made, despite trying for 4 hours to make a two way contact. It is also reported that a station in Ireland heard portions of the VC1T transmission.

See the news from the ARRL site

See a screenshot from G4SWX at G4CQM's site

UKube-1 satellite heard on first pass....

The UKube-1 satellite was launched this evening with the first pass due over the UK at 2014 local time.

Coincidentally, supper had finished around 2013 local time, so I sped upstairs and switched on the FT-847 with the V2000 vertical connected. The UKube-1 CW beacon on 145.840 plus minus doppler was the first target. It doesn't transmit continuously, but I was pleased to hear it around 2018 local up on 846. Shortly after that, I heard the telemetry on 145.915 coming through at very good strength.

Congrats to the UK team responsible for the satellite!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A day of variety: Legal AM/SSB CB, patchy 50MHz Es and fun on VO-52

Some would say it was 30 years too late, but here in the UK, today was the day that AM and SSB CB was made legal on the CEPT 'mid' band, with an output power of 4W AM and 12W SSB. Good news as far as I am concerned and it will give me the opportunity to make contact with various friends who are active on CB and not amateur radio.

Not much about in the way of Es today, although I did manage a late afternoon QSO with HA8IB on 50MHz. Pretty quiet apart from that.

Late in the afternoon, I caught a couple of VO-52 satellite passes. The first was a very low angle one, around 2 degrees over Russia. I had a nice snappy CW QSO with Imre HA1SE. I was pleased to find I could work a pass at that distance and elevation, as I'd love to try working UA9CS and potentially even UA0SUN.

The second pass was a bit higher and I had a sketchy exchange - I'm not going to call it a QSO with 4X1AJ, but we heard each other before some noise kicked in here and that was that. As we're both reasonably regularly active, I'm hopeful of making a QSO before long.

Monday, June 23, 2014

VC1T plans Transatlantic 144MHz attempt

Over the years, there have been plenty of attempts to bridge the Atlantic on 144MHz, via tropo or meteor scatter. Up to now, it hasn't been done. There's no doubt at all in my mind that it's possible - it's just a question of try, try and try again.

A North America group, operating as VC1T plan to try from July 5th to 12th this year. They plan to use good power to a 43 element yagi (yes, 43 elements) and concentrate on FSK441 and JT65b modes.

You can read more about their plans here

Will this be the year it's done? Wouldn't it be great if the answer was yes!

Friday, June 20, 2014

New satellites second pass: QB50P1 and P2 heard - perhaps Nanosat-BR too?

I decided to listen on the second pass of the new satellite deployments, this time using the Funcube Dongle Pro, recording in baseband, so I would have the chance to replay it again if there was anything interesting.

QB50P1 was heard sending CW, QB50P2 was sending QPSK. Down on the 145.865 there was some CW (a sample was B1UARJZB4K - hopefully not too many errors there!) which I think may have been Nanosat-BR


Thursday, June 19, 2014

First copy of new satellite QB50P2 over the UK

With the launch of a number of Cubesats this evening, I was keen to take a listen on the first pass over the UK. I listened for QB50P1 on 145.815 and QB50P2 on 145.880. The pass was very low here - only a couple of degrees, but I was delighted to hear QB50P2 on CW - weak but easy copy.

You can read more about the satellites here

Latest TLEs for tracking here

On Twitter, Dave G4DPZ reported he'd heard P1, so they are both alive and well!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Finished work on the TYT TH-9800 quadbander review for Practical Wireless

I've had a review model of the TYT TH-9800 quadbander (28/50/144/433MHz) around for a little while, to do a review for Practical Wireless and over the last few days, I've wrapped the review up.

Clearly, I can't give too much away here - the review will be in the next issue of PW - but it's fair to say that the rig worked out well. As regular readers will know, I've had a Yaesu FT-8900 for a few years now. The TH-9800 follows that pattern very closely and works well (though is not identical). Well worth a look if you're in the market for an FM quadbander. I'll be sorry to send it back!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tuning 50 and 70MHz over a coffee - and an interesting blog (SV5DKL)

Tuning around this morning, 50MHz hasn't been massively open, but there have been some interesting signals popping up. First thing as I was drinking my first coffee, I worked IK6HIR from JN63 who came up quite nicely for a while. I6WJB was heard calling CQ DX, so I didn't call him, but he was a decent signal.

Although I don't use clusters much these days - especially on HF, this Es season I have been looking at which is a very nice web based cluster and allows me to filter everything except 50 and 70MHz spots. I noticed a 70MHz spot fly by of Martin GM6VXB on 70MHz meteor scatter. I tuned to the frequency in question and did get a short burst from him, but not enough for a QSO. Hardly surprising, given my vertical antenna.

Returning to 50MHz just before getting some chores done, I tuned around the CW end and SV5DKL (KM46) was coming through. With the small antenna, I don't work SV, SV5 or SV9 very often from here, so dropped in a few calls. Signals were quite weak and then, in typical Es fashion peaked up to S7 or so and I was able to sneak a QSO in, which was very nice. The distance is just under 2900km, which I think is ok for the setup here (SV5DKL was doing all the work, of course)

As I frequently do, when I work someone, I tapped his callsign into Google and found that Efstathios has a very nice blog, with information about his operating and QSOs, particularly on 50MHz.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Magic on the magic band... (JT65A on 50MHz)

Actually, I've never liked people referring to 50MHz as the 'magic band'. Sure, signals can come out of nowhere, but that's hardly peculiar to six metres! Either way, I've been having fun on 50MHz as is usual in the Es season.

Over the last few days, when there's been not much happening on the band, I have been leaving the receiver running on 50.276 with WSJT-X running JT65A. I don't think there is a huge amount of activity, but there have been some interesting loggings; Iceland, Greece amongst others. Typically the most interesting ones have been when I've been elsewhere, but I have called CQ a couple of times and was delighted to be called by 3 or 4 stations in succession. Signals were pretty small and there was no sign of any CW lower down the band.

For me, that's magic - working stations that you can barely hear! Of course, when the band is well open, JT65A, taking at least 5 minutes to make a QSO, is not the way to go - but when you fancy a bit of magic, it can be fun!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

An interesting afternoon's 50MHz WSPR; propagation near and far

I mentioned yesterday that I had got WSPR-X running and tried it out on 50MHz.

Despite it not being the most active of 50MHz days, it actually proved to be very interesting. Later on in the afternoon there was some Es around and I was pleased to spot and be spotted by CN8LI at a distance of just over 2000km. Not bad for 5W or so.

But actually, the most interesting signals were from Roger, G3XBM over in Cambridgeshire at a distance of around 140km. Roger runs 1W to a vertical, like mine. Pretty much every transmit period he made, I could see his signals, although often insufficient strength to decode. Another challenge was that owing to the amount of aircraft in the skies between us, the signals were often heavily doppler shifted, which is a problem for WSPR.

To our delight, Roger was able to decode my 5W signals several times and I was able to decode his 1W signals on several occasions. Our suspicion was that tropo came up a little and that there might have been some assistance from aircraft, perhaps flying on such a path that there was limited doppler shift.

I did also note that on the couple of times that we exchanged signals, Es had bubbled up a little. Clearly there is no suggestion that the propagation was via Es. However, I did wonder whether there was some benefit from some sort of scatter associated with the Es. At such low powers, I'm doubtful, but will look to see if it happens again.

Monday, May 26, 2014

First play with WSPR-X on 50MHz (DirectX strikes again!)

Inspired by Roger, G3XBM's 50MHz WSPR experiments, I decided that a wet bank holiday was just the time to see what I could do. Es has been quiet today, so I thought some WSPR would be fun to see if any weak signals would make it through.

A few days ago, I noticed a post mentioning a new version of WSPR, WSPR-X which can be downloaded at K1JT's site Realistically, as the main improvement seems to be the addition of WSPR-15, mainly for VLF, I wasn't sure whether there would be any major changes.

As it turns out, the user interface is a bit more modern, folllowing the WSJT-X design.

I downloaded it and installed it and could see noise being received. I set it up to transmit and was surprised when G8JNJ and G8JNJ/A, 80km away or so did not copy my transmission. I tried again, still no. Then I remembered that when I first played with WSJT-X, I couldn't get anyone to copy me, until I switched the output audio device driver to Direct X. I did that and immediately, I was spotted! Not really sure why - but pleased that it works ok.

So far, nothing decoded - although actually, I am seeing G3XBM and G0LRD's transmissions. The screenshot shows one of Roger's transmissions, with a huge amount of Doppler from a passing aircraft.


Friday, May 09, 2014

VP8ORK 2011 ebook available, free!

Although I'm not a huge fan of chasing Dxpeditions these days, I still think it's fascinating and magical to travel to a remote part of the planet, set up a radio station and be able to make contacts all over the world.

Nodir Tursoon-Zadeh EY8MM has produced several eBooks based on his photographs from various high profile Dxpeditions which are available for free.

If you are an iPad/iPhone user, simply go to the iBooks store and search for VP8ORK 2011 and you should be able to download and view the book, which makes excellent reading. Nodir has taken some wonderful photographs which really capture what it is like.

It looks like Nodir has published an eBook on the FT5ZM trip to Amsterdam Island, which is available in the Blurb store but I can't see it in the iBooks store just yet. I suspect you can get it onto your iDevice from Blurb, but I haven't tried that yet!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

You know you've been doing a lot of satellite operating, when....

I caught a nice little Es opening on 50MHz this evening. Nothing huge, but some HAs coming in on CW with a few other countries audible from time to time.

I realised I had been working a lot of satellite QSOs recently, when I was reaching for the VFO during the QSOs, expecting to have to tweak it for doppler!

Talking of satellite QSOs today, I was pleased to work RA3MAU over in `KO97 on VO-52 this afternoon. A gotaway on FO-29 was UN7CY. Great to hear him on CW - easy copy on the vertical, but I couldn't find myself to call him! Other nice QSOs today with PA3ARK and EI9EW on VO-52.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Caught my first 50MHz Es opening of the year

Although I've been aware of some Es happening on 50MHz for the last few days, inevitably, the openings have been when I have been busy or engaging in good works (cleaning the village church, springs to mind!).

This evening after supper, I popped up to the shack to see what satellite passes might be of interest and I decided to check 50MHz. To my delight there was an S9 CW signal around 50.097. A quick listen and a call and IS0GQX was in the log for the first Es QSO of the season.

I heard him work a few others around this area, but no other stations from the Med were heard, and within 5 minutes, the band was quiet again. Love those early season Es openings!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Catching up! More satellite QSOs, First 50MHz Es of the season and 1000 blog posts

It seems to be a while since I stopped and wrote something here.

The simple satellite operation on VO-52 and FO-29, using the FT847, diplexer and the V2000 vertical continues. On VO-52 in particular, I have been surprised how well it works and have made a fair few QSOs, mostly on CW. Some passes are better than others, depending on the direction of the satellite and the vertical nulls of the antenna. I was interested to get decent signals through VO-52 the other day as it was over Greenland and the footprint of the satellite covered VE1 and W1 - so perhaps I may manage a QSO into North America when the time is right.

FO-29 tends to be a bit harder - just in terms of finding my downlink signal - again it depends where the satellite is, but I've managed a few contacts now, which is very pleasing indeed.

Nice to work GS3PYE/P - the Camb-Hams expedition to Lewis (IO68) on SO-50 this evening. I ventured out into the garden with the UV-5R and the Elk.

I've missed them both, but there have been at least a couple of Es openings on 50MHz. Earlier in the week, Ron ZB2B emailled to say that he had worked some stations in G, GW and EI in an Es opening and it looks like the band was nicely open yesterday morning (we were out, cleaning the local village church!).

Finally, apparently, this is my 1000th post to this blog. I enjoy writing it - and sometimes, enjoy looking back a few years to see what I was playing with then. It's interesting to see how things change. Thank you to YOU, though, for reading it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Printing your own QSL cards using HAMQSLer

Anyone who knows me well may be slightly taken aback to find me writing about QSL cards! Each to their own, but it's a part of the hobby that really doesn't appeal to me at all. However, I've always said that I think it's nice to be able to QSL contacts which are special to you in some way.

And so it was, I felt, the other day when I worked Berend, PA3ARK on FO-29. Berend often inspires me to try something new and so I thought it might be nice to try and create a QSL to commemorate the QSO.

I looked around and found the HAMQSLer program from VA3HJ. I managed to get past the 'the final courtesy of a QSO is a QSL'statement at the top of the website! In my opinion, the final courtesy of a QSO is to say 73, but therein lies why I find myself at odds with the 'every contact must be QSLed' brigade!

The program is free to download and I found it well-designed and easy to use. I did have to install the Microsoft .Net framework 4.5.1 and install it on my PC before I could install the software.

I was able to import a background image of a photo of our village church to use. I really had wanted to try and use one of the aerial photographs I took of the village when I flew over in G3WGV's aircraft a couple of years back. However, I found the colours didn't really lend themselves to overlaying text on top of the photo. Actually, I'm sure a more artistically gifted person would have managed, but I opted for the easy approach - one where I had a nice blue sky, where I could place most of the text.

I found that I was able to setup various static text fields and create a QSOs box, which could be populated  from an ADIF file from my logger.

After a bit of resizing and trying various options, I was ready to import my ADIF records. I did tweak the Mode field in the ADIF record, so that I could show that the QSO took place on a satellite. The logger, of course, records that I was (in this case) transmitting on 144MHz, but not that it was a satellite QSO. I wanted this to be clear, so I amended the Mode field in the ADIF field to say CW Via FO-29, which I thought was clearer.

Here's what it produced, which I am quite pleased with. Of course, it looks much better on screen than on my slightly dodgy printer, which is normally just used for printing text. Nothing to stop me putting it onto a USB stick, though and taking it into the local photo printing establishment before popping into the post to Berend!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

More on FO-29 and VO-52 operation with the V2000 vertical

As I went into the shack this morning, GPREDICT told me that VO-52 was close by, with a nice overhead pass. I decided to see if I could hear myself on CW. Sure enough I found myself and tried a few CQs, although without any replies. I got the hang of tuning my transmit signal to keep the downlink the same place.

A little later FO-29 was due over and I wondered if I might be able to hear anything. The pass was quite quiet, but I did hear my Twitter friend, Berend, PA3ARK on CW. I was able to find my signal and place it reasonably close to Berend's and we had a bit of a sketchy, but valid QSO.

Really pleasing to find that some simple CW satellite operation is viable with just a vertical antenna.

Berend sent a nice photo of the entry of the QSO in his logbook!

Evening update: I caught a late afternoon pass of VO-52 and was hearing myself well enough to have a tune around and was able to answer UT3UX who was calling CQ on CW and work him. I've not found too much CW activity so far. I'm sure I can work some SSB, but with the slightly lower signal levels, CW gives a bit more latitude!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

More smartphone PSK from the mobile, with PSKer

After I mentioned running a PSK program on my iPhone the other day, my friend Simon asked which one it was and whether it was PSKer. That was a program that I hadn't heard of, so when I had a moment yesterday, I decided to investigate.

PSKer looks a very nice program and I decided to give it a go. When I got back to the car yesterday evening, I ran it up and set the receiver running on 28.120. There was plenty happening.

PSKer seems to decode a little easier than the Multimode program I was using the other day. I haven't yet tried it on transmit. However, I did discover that it can be set to send tones through the speaker, rather than the earphone socket, which is what you want when you are too lazy to make up a lead!

Friday, April 04, 2014

An evening on 472khz WSPR receive

I realise that I have not been very active monitoring 472khz WSPR this winter season. HF conditions seem to have been so good that I have rather ignored LF.

Noticing Roger, G3XBM blogging that 472khz WSPR was quiet, last night, I decided to run the FT847/HF6V on 472khz WSPR receive overnight. Sure enough it was quiet, but it was good to hear PA3ABK/2 and DF2JP, who I think is a new station to me.


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