As I have commented before, I have enough handhelds really. However, Sunday night saw me on the Handy Radio website (a UK based vendor of Chinese handheld radios and accessories) looking around for an after market antenna to stick on my tiny Baofeng UV-3R. I couldn't help but notice the Baofeng UV-B5 on sale at £28.99. It would have been silly not to, really.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
As I have commented before, I have enough handhelds really. However, Sunday night saw me on the Handy Radio website (a UK based vendor of Chinese handheld radios and accessories) looking around for an after market antenna to stick on my tiny Baofeng UV-3R. I couldn't help but notice the Baofeng UV-B5 on sale at £28.99. It would have been silly not to, really.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
This morning I decided I would see if I could get it going. It proved to be even simpler than I imagined! Boot your Pi up, and then start up a terminal window (LX Terminal). Then type
sudo apt-get install gpredict
The Pi will then download and install the GPredict software for you and return to the commaind prompt once it has finished.
To start the software up, from your terminal window, simply type
The software will then start. You need to do a little configuration to tell the program where you are (the default is Copenhagen where the author lives!).
Click Edit/Preferences and then select the Ground Stations tab. Hit Add New and you can add the details for your location, latitude/longitude and your altitude. Save that, then you can delete the sample location of Copenhagen and make your own the default.
Whilst you're in preferences, you can decide on the layout of the screen. If you've got a nice large monitor, then the optimum is Map, table, polar and single sat (wide), but you can play around and see what suits you best. I found I had to restart the program to see those changes take effect.
Around now it might be good to check that you have the latest satellite data, which the program will download for you. Choose Edit/Update TLE/From network and wait for the update to complete.
Finally, you'll want to configure which satellites you are tracking. The software defaults to the Amateur radio module. Click on the module options/shortcuts which is in the top right of the main window, just below the main Windows controls (minimise, maximise and close). Click on that, then configure...
You can then choose which satellites you want to track. Funcube-1 or AO-73 is not showing up under those names, but it is thought to be 2013-066B, so you can search for that and include it. Other satellites that I included were FO-29, ISS, SO-50 and VO-52. Your choice may vary.
You should now see the position of all your satellites plotted on the screen.
If you want to see more about a particular satellite, highlight it in the list at the bottom and right mouse to select 'Show next pass' or 'Future Passes'.
GPredict software works nicely on the Pi. It does seem to max the processor out pretty well, but it's quick to start up and shut down if you want to do something else.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
During local daylight hours, the satellite will send telemetry, with the intention that it will be available for schools to receive and decode and then at local dusk, the satellite will switch into Amateur Radio mode, with a 435/145MHz inverting transponder (SSB/CW).
At the time of writing, the satellite has just been switched into autonomous mode when it will switch between telemetry and the transponder automatically as described above. If that works out ok, it will stay in that mode.
To decode the telemetry, you need the Funcube Dashboard software, which you can download here
Setup is fairly easy, although is only currently available for the Windows platform and you'll need the .Net 4 framework available on your PC. As I don't have a Funcube Dongle Plus, I needed to use my Windows soundcard, connected to the FT847 via the usual G4ZLP interface. I had a slight false start when it didn't seem to be selecting the soundcard, but that was easily resolved in File/Settings.
Then it's just a question of setting Capture from Soundcard in the software and waiting for the satellite. My best antenna (given that I did not want to be outside waving the Elk antenna in the cold) was the V2000 collinear.
Fortunately, the first pass that I tried was quite a high one and I was able to receive quite a few good frames - some screenshots of which are shown below
Saturday, November 16, 2013
There's never quite enough room in the shack, no matter how much space you are lucky to have! So it is that whatever VHF/UHF rig is in use here, tends to perch on top of the FT1000MP. To prevent scratching, a piece of junk mail had been placed between the two rigs!
However, SOTABeams have a very nice range of desk stands for various rigs, including Baofeng UV-3R, Elecraft and Yaesu FT-817. They're very reasonably priced and rather attractively, have your callsign on the front. Handy for when you forget it!
The rstand is made of good quality plastic and was nicely finished, no rough edges. There's some edging strip provided to use as feet and a backstop which clips into the back of the stand, to prevent the rig falling off the back.
The rig is presented at a good angle and distinctly better than propping it up on a
- case of jewellers screwdrivers
Another benefit I found was that although the stand is designed for the FT817, I found that the FT8900 fitted nicely too - a little overhang, but the rig is solidly placed on it and won't go anywhere at all.
It's good to read of SOTABeams success. Started by Richard G3CWI with products aimed at lightweight portable operation (SOTA operation, of course!), they have grown and grown and have recently moved to larger premises
Visit the SOTABeams website
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Late in the afternoon today, I decided to drive down to the hamlet of Duxford a mile or so from where we live. There's a nice peaceful part of the River Thames there which I enjoy a walk around.
As I was descending the hill towards the river, I had the Anytone rig running on 29.010MHz AM when I heard a weak 'W0TDH testing'. I dropped my call in and was totally surprised when I got a response.
Tom's in the mountains of North Carolina and we had a nice QSO, despite my comparatively weak signal there. Good ears, Tom - thank you.
After I finished my walk and I returned home, I looked up Tom on QRZ.com - he's got some lovely looking vintage equipment. We swapped emails and Tom said it was a while since he'd heard any mobiles coming through.
AM QSO number 3 and the best DX so far!
Paul G4DCV posted another video that he took at the recent RSGB Convention. This time, it is the excellent presentation from Liviu, YO4FNG. Although it is titled '4300 km on 144MHz', it tells the story of how he evolved his VHF station in Romania.
It is full of fascinating stories, charm and gentle humour and I thoroughly recommend it to you.
Thanks again to Paul G4DCV for the excellent video production.
See the video here
Sunday, November 03, 2013
The only trouble with my very portable satellite setup, consisting of the UV-5R handheld and the Elk yagi is that if the weather is less clement, the prospect of venturing out to make satellite contacts is somewhat less attractive!
Today was sunny if a little cool and once I'd finished my chores, I decided to see what was happening on SO-50. The first pass was well to the East of me, with plenty of activity but few contacts being made. I was more optimistic about the next pass, which was almost overhead here. I was pleased to work PA4MRS/P with a nice easy contact and scraped a quick one with an S56 station over in JN76. My final pass yielded a very nice contact with ES6DO. Just as the satellite faded, I'm pretty sure I heard a Norwegian station.
Good to make some interesting contacts. I suppose making some satellite contacts when there's snow on the ground will prove my enthusiasm!
Saturday, November 02, 2013
However, by the time I went to bed, I was very pleased to discover that I had heard two new (to me) German stations; DC0DX and DK6NI,
When I got up this morning and checked what the system had heard, I was staggered to find several spots of WE2XGR/6 in FN12. My first North American copy on 472khz.
I reiterate that this is all down to the guys at the other end! I am using completely unmodified gear, so with any luck, if you decide to try it, you will do at least as well as me.
Friday, November 01, 2013
I was delighted to see, earlier in the week, that Paul G4DCV had filmed the talk. I've just thoroughly enjoyed watching it on a rather wet lunchtime here in London when I didn't fancy going out for a walk.
The talk was interesting and it was good to see Lyn GW8JLY speaking. Although we have worked very many times on VHF over the years, I don't think we have ever met and it is always nice to finalise the mental picture of the person at the other end of the QSO!
Thanks to Lyn for the excellent talk and to Paul, G4DCV for putting together an excellent video presentation.
See the talk here
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Some new stations received over the last week or so have been
Propagation varies quite heavily from day to day. Some days I hear only a couple of G stations and other days, I hear the more distant DL stations.
If you've not tried, I really recommend that you have a listen!
Saturday, October 19, 2013
The old timers reading this are going to be laughing I think!
Ten metres was in good shape today and I'd just finished some programming work on the Anytone rig in the car. I tuned up around 29MHz to see if there was any AM coming through. Sure enough there was.
Barry N1EU was coming through nicely, running an Apache labs SDR which was sounding great. Barry was kind enough to pull my 10W/whip signal out and give me an S5.
Really thrilled to have made my second AM QSO! Hopefully there are more to come.
Friday, October 18, 2013
I tried a few CQ calls on 29.000MHz AM, but didn't hear anyone at all. I wondered if there would be anything on the FM segment. Sure enough the KQ2H repeater from the Catskill Mountains in New York was coming through well - at times well over S9, although fading somewhat, making me think that what had probably been a good afternoon's opening might have been coming to an end!
I listened for a few minutes before hearing KC2OBW call through a connected UHF link and decided to give him a call. Although my signals (10W or so to the whip) were not strong, it was enough to have a simple QSO. Good fun!
Remember the 29MHz repeaters have a 100khz repeater shift, so if you hear the output on 29.620, you need to transmit on 29.520. Fortunately, the ability to program the Anytone rig makes it easy to set up memories with different transmit and receive frequencies.
Maybe see you on KQ2H?
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Yesterday at work, whilst I was waiting for a bit of code to finish running, I was idly looking at some apps on my phone. In particular, I noticed that the icon for my SSTV app had changed.
It's the SSTV app for iPhone/iPad by Black Cat Systems. I got it a while ago thinking about using it to receive SSTV on the 28MHz rig in the car but hadn't really got around to doing much with it.
Looking at the app yesterday I noticed that there was now the facility to take a photo with the iPhone and send it via SSTV. That got me thinking. You know how I'm not one for complicated interfaces! Well, I wondered if there would be any mileage in using a handheld and the iPhone together and just using audio coupling.
It struck me it could be fun, if you were out portable on a hilltop, to send an SSTV picture from the phone, through your handheld, just by holding the speaker of your phone in proximity to the microphone of the handheld.
Though I didn't try it from a hilltop, I did try sending a picture from the iPhone through the Icom E92 (on FM) to the iPad with the Baofeng UV-5R on receive close by. The picture isn't excellent, but it's a reasonable approximation of what was sent!
If you're an Android user, there's DroidSSTV to do the same as SSTV!
See you on SSTV from a hilltop?
Monday, October 14, 2013
Conditions seem to have been pretty good on 10m over the last day or two. Yesterday, as I was driving back from the convention the band was buzzing! I concentrated on 29MHz AM and was interested to hear N4ZED coming in from Georgia. I called but although Ken could hear a G there he wasn't able to pull me out. Hardly surprising given my low power. I was surprised he heard anything at all,
This evening AM was quiet as I was heading home, but the SSB portion was lively. I managed a quick fire contact with K8CW which I was happy with, running 10W or so to the whip.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
You can never please all the people all of the time! We all know the truth of that statement. I thought the programme for this year's RSGB convention was a particularly strong one. But talking to a friend at lunchtime, he felt it was a weak one! a couple of people mentioned the lack of any contesting content, other than the trophy presentations!
The best day for me to attend was Sunday, immediately meaning that I couldn't see GW8JLY's Meteor Scattter and YO4FNG's VHF DX presentations, both of which I would have loved to have seen, but they were Saturday only.
I arrived on Sunday morning and found my way to the room where Graham G0NBD was presenting on the 472khz band. Given my experiments I was interested to hear how it was being done 'properly'. Graham's presentation was fascinated and I came away with a few ideas. An interesting snippet was that apparently, in addition to the IC706 working on 472khz, so does the old IC735 - up to about 25 W of output!
There were also some interesting uses for the RTLSDR dongles and making them work much lower in frequency. I need to have a look at that!
I would have loved to have had more time to hear about propagation on the band, but Graham filled 45 minutes very easily and capably.
Next I headed over to hear half of the OFCOM update, presented by Paul Jarvis and Ash Gohil. I was impressed with what I saw and felt they did a good job, with a generally good natured, but challenging audience! There were some in the audience who seemed specialised in making issues where no issues existed! However, it was an interesting session and gave a flavour for the nature of the upcoming consultation on the amateur licence review.
Far from being faceless Government officials, which one might be tempted to imagine. Paul and Ash came across well, seeming very approachable and genuinely willing to listen.
After this, I was looking forward to Pete, 2E0SQL's 'Another slice of Pi' presentation. At yesterday's presentation, Eben Upton himself, from the Raspberry Pi Foundation was in the audience. No pressure, then! but Pete said they had a great and very fruitful conversation in the bar afterwards, with Eben offering some interesting insights to forthcoming developments.
Pete's presentation was excellent and I came away with some more things to try with my Pi - particularly with some ideas for new software to try.
I didn't fancy the Roast Pork lunch so much, so drank coffee and chatted with friends, some not seen face to face in 10 years or so. Undercurrents of 'politics' are never far away and I noticed a couple of discussions going on which I was glad I didn't need to be involved in!
After lunch it was time for the presentation which had been the trigger for me to attend the convention, 'DXing with weak signals' by Joe K1JT. You may remember I have referred to Joe as one of my 'Ham Radio Heroes'. I really wanted to hear him speak and if possible to meet him and have the chance to say 'thank you'.
Joe was an excellent and engaging speaker. Although I know his software pretty well, there were some very interesting points discussed and things I learned.
I was particularly enthused about the idea of getting on 144MHz EME. Joe talked about having worked over 800 stations with his station which uses a pair of 10el X-Y yagis. This was inspiring!
It was interesting to get a sense of how the various JT modes stack up with SSB, CW and so on - just how weak can a signal be to get some intelligence out of it.
I would have quite happily listened to Joe for hours, but sadly the talk was soon over, but it was a privilege to hear him speak.
A really enjoyable and inspiring day out!
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Driving home this evening, 28MHz was in good form with some strong US and South American signals audible.
I was particularly pleased to work Ziggy KZ9DX from near Chicago. Although my signal was not huge, I was happy that 12W to the mobile antenna was doing ok.
Hopefully signals will continue to improve and there will be AM contacts to be made soon!
Thursday, October 03, 2013
You have to admire the way the CBers make the most of the spectrum. For the last month or so, as I've been getting back to the car in the evening, I've been turning the 10m rig on. By and large the amateur band has been quiet, with the occasional Brazilian station coming through.
Tune down a MHz or so and listen to the CB band and there's distinctly more activity. The 27.555MHz calling frequency (not legal in the UK, of course) generally has something going on, even if conditions are poor.
I suppose amateurs, if they find 28MHz closed, they head off to another band - whereas the CBers, in theory, only have the one band that they can use, so make the best of it. It must be the VHF operator in me, but I find a half-open band far more interesting than a wide-open band - it's far more fun to try pulling the weak signals through than having them boom in! So, I admire the guys that are trying out propagation day in and day out and making, from what I hear, some interesting contacts.
When the band is poor or half open - the concept of a centre of activity or calling channel makes some sense. A weak signal somewhere between 28.400 and 28.600 is unlikely to be heard - but perhaps if there was a centre of activity - someone somewhere might hear something.
I wondered whether the 10-10 International group might 'nominate' a centre of activity, but could not see that they did - nets at specific times, certainly - but nothing more generalised.
I seem to remember somewhere reading that 28.400 was nominated as an unofficial calling frequency. Perhaps over the winter, when the band is not in great shape, we should make a few calls there anyway and see what happens! I'll bet some interesting contacts would result.
Maybe some possibilities for 29MHz AM too - some more activity around 29.000 and 29.010MHz AM would be very welcome.
On many bands, it's all about activity. 28Mhz deserves more of our attention, even when it's not wide open! See you on 28.400 SSB or 29.000 AM, maybe?
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Anton, based in southern Johannesburg, South Africa also has a couple of interesting WebSDRs that you can play with. One which particularly caught my attention was his VHF/UHF Satellite SDR, on which you can listen around 437MHz. It might be quite interesting to get some Satellite passes for Anton's location and take a listen!
Monday, September 30, 2013
It was OE2CAL calling CQ at around S7! He worked a GW and I called and was very pleased to be able to make a QSO at around 1120km. Not bad at all. Signals dropped with me just after I worked him, although I suspect he turned his beam. I continued to hear him at good strength throughout the afternoon, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. On the vertical, I was hearing the DB0FT repeater on 145MHz from JO40 - not a bad distance.
Later in the week and over the weekend, tropo conditions were still good - although not over such great distances. I was able to work through an ON repeater on 145.6875 on Saturday and on Sunday morning, I had a nice simplex QSO with Ken, G3UDA in Shropshire.
With the CQWW RTTY contest over the weekend, any thought of JT65 or JT9 was off! No matter, I looked to see what RTTY signals were coming through on 28MHz.. Nothing amazing, but logged a few US, Asian and African stations. High power (100W) RTTY feels pretty unsubtle compared to JT65 and JT9 - but very different beasts, I suppose. It was nice to use PZTLog on RTTY for a change.
I also played a little on DSTAR, naturally whilst I was in the garden on Sunday morning, when it's nice to listen to what's coming through and have the odd QSO whilst working in the garden and the henhouse. The Raspberry Pi/DVAP combination works well, although I sometimes see an issue when I boot up, with the DVAPNode software reporting Bad DVAP Data and then resynchronising DVAP Stream. This seems to leave the CPU at 100% and so far, I've rebooted and it generally comes up ok next time. Not always and on Saturday it took a couple of goes. I'll have to see if I can avoid rebooting and work out what process I have to kill and then restart. Nice QSO with Wis, YB0AZ from Jakarta, who told me there were two DSTAR users on his repeater in Jakarta. Him and his wife!
Finally, two of my favourite amateur radio bloggers are missing at the moment. Julian, G4ILO is taking a bit of a break on health grounds, as is Roger G3XBM who is also not well. Wishing you both the very best - hope to see you writing again very soon - I miss what you do.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
However, looking around Ivo's site, which is in his mother tongue, Italian I found lots of interesting things. Unfortunately, my Italian is very basic, so I was pleased to use the auto translate features of Chrome to turn the site into English. It's a real joy of the internet that language ceases to be a barrier, in a context like this.
I was intrigued by a posting about TV-SHARP which is a program based on ADSBSharp, to be used with an RTLSDR dongle, which will decode PAL and NTSC TV signals. Note that the program only works with Analogue TV signals.
I was interested in the program for a couple of reasons. Firstly, during the Es season, it should be possible to use the program to receive any Band I TV that is still around. Secondly, if you are in range of an amateur TV repeater, it can be used to receive those signals.
Because the RTLSDR dongle can only deal with a 2Mb bandwidth, you cannot receive full colour signals, but it appears that you can receive black and white signals. You can see some example's on I6IBE's site.
The closest ATV repeater to me here appears to be on Dunstable Downs. I am not sure how well at 50/144/432MHz collinear will work on 1318MHz! I will give it a go though. If anyone else is in range of a ATV repeater and feels like trying this, I'll be interested to hear how you get on.
You can download TV-Sharp here
Driving home from the station, on 145.650, when GB3WH was not transmitting, I heard a French repeater in Limoges, JN05. Not bad, considering I was only using the Moonraker MD-7400 antenna in 1/4 wave configuration.
Once I was home, I had a quick look on 432MHz and heard John G3WZT calling CQ on CW on 432.200. To my surprise, I was able to hear DL5MAE come back to him. I waited for the QSO to finish and then called DL5MAE a couple of khz higher than their QSO frequency. Often this doesn't work, but this time it did! I was thrilled to work Wolfgang, who was one of my 144MHz meteor scatter pals back in the 1980s - a nice distance to JN58.
Other stations popped up on 432Mhz during the evening, a couple of DLs, LX1DB, who I didn't manage to work and French station in JN27. Closer to home I worked F5MFO in JN19, also on CW.
I'm not on 144MHz CW.SSB currently, but I listened on FM, where there were lots of French voices and some repeaters from interesting locations coming through. Listening on 145.725, there was a particularly loud signal. I was just scanning the French repeater list to see what it was likely to be, when it IDed on CW; HB9G!
OK! I waited for the QSO to finish, turned my CTCSS off, so as to try and avoid bringing closer repeaters and called F6BPZ. I think Jean was surprised to be called by a G station and I was surprised that he heard me! We had a pleasant, brief QSO, before the repeater dived in fading, though it came up again later.
Although this morning dawned foggy and there is some good enhancement on UK signals, I've not heard anything more distant so far.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
With the weather being a little better today, in between the chores, I put the Elk log periodic yagi together. SO-50 had just finished its' last pass for about 13 hours, so I decided to get the FT790 out and have a listen for FO-29.
There was a nice overhead pass, so I had a listen around. Signals were pretty good and I heard IZ8IBC, UR3CTB, SP6ASD, SQ9MEH, ON2VHF, EA7AHG, 9A5YY and others. A next pass was much closer to the horizon and the best DX at the start of the pass was UA9CS on CW with a few other closer stations about.
Keen to be QRV on the satellite. I was thinking that over the winter, I might try some 'mobile' with the FT847 and the Elk antenna from a decent spot. Should work fine!
I fired the Raspberry Pi/DVAP up and was pleased to find that all was ok. Since it was a few months since I updated the G4KLX DVAPNode and ircDDBGateway software. I thought I would get that done.
I ran the klxupdate utilities for both repeater and gateway software and then when I rebooted, I found thaqt although the ircDDBGateway software started, the DVAPNode software didn't! First of all, I couldn't see why, but then I tried
which returned a error message saying that libwiringpi.so could not be found
Initially, I thought perhaps I just needed to upgrade the OS, so tried the standard
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
The upgrade took around an hour, but after that was completed, I tried to start dvapnode - still the same error!
Whilst the Pi was upgrading, I had plenty of time to research the issue a little more and found a page which described installing the WiringPi library
This was the solution! Following this, the DVAPNode software started just fine.
To my amusement, when the software started up, REF001C was very busy with a DSTAR contest!
Sunday, September 15, 2013
I believe that all radio amateurs should buy a new radio once every few years. New toy renews interest and enriches learning process.Last night I saw a tweet from Nigel M0CVO saying that he thought that every ham should buy (or build) a new rig every few years. When questioned, he said that he thought that it provided a fresh injection of enthusiasm and perhaps 'freshened' up interest in the hobby.
— Nigel Booth (@m0cvo) September 14, 2013
In an ideal world, I'm sure we'd all like to have the latest rig every year or so, but for all but the lucky few, that's simply not realistic. However, I can see what Nigel means and I think there is something in what he says.
Happily though, it doesn't take a new rig to keep it fresh! I found that it might be as simple as a new piece of software (possibly free!), a new aerial, trying a mode you've not experimented with before. The hobby is so broad, there are always new things to look at.
I found when I didn't read an amateur radio magazine regularly, my interest was diminished - simply because I wasn't reading articles about what other people were doing and thinking, 'Hey, I could do that - that sounds interesting'.
So whilst I couldn't agree that you need an expensive new rig every year or so, keeping trying new things and experimenting - that, after all, is the whole point!
Saturday, September 14, 2013
The results are not bad, although I've done better. I don't think I've heard G3WCB before, so nice to hear a new station and always good to hear the Dutch stations.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I was thinking this morning about some of the different radio projects which are on my mind to have a go at over the next few weeks/months:
- 10GHz receiver using LNB and RTLSDR. I have most of the bits to do this and just need to piece it together and try it out. I'm particularly interested to see if I can receive the beacon on Cleeve Common, GB3CCX regularly. I'm also keen to see if it will exhibit rainscatter characteristics. Initially I will try using the LNB and see if I can hear anything. If that's insufficient, I guess the next trick is to try and source an old Sky dish and use that. Should be fun.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum, I wonder if I can get some RF out on 472khz. I had an interesting reply to my post about the IC706 and 472khz from Daniele IN3FCI, who is using an IC706 at around 5W output. He's built some matching to get his long wire working. I must find out more and see if I can get on and make a QSO! I'll have to see if I can hook the IC706 up to the WSPR gear if so and see what is possible.
- I also have in mind to get hold of one of the cheap and attractive Intek CB rigs and modify it for 29MHz AM and FM. I already have the band and modes in the car, but it would be fun to get it going and try it out for myself.
- Getting active on FO-29 with the FT790 and FT817. As I posted the other day, I think the acquisition of a duplexer for 144 and 432MHz will be useful for satellite activity. I can use it for FO-29 and potentially also with the FT-847. I was musing the other day about doing some satellite activity from the car (static mobile!) using the FT-847 and the Elk antenna. I'd need the duplexer for that too.
Plenty of projects in mind then! No doubt I'll get around to a few in due course! Operating wise, it's been mostly 14 and 21MHz JT65A and JT9 over the last few days - mostly remotely controlled from the iPad on the sofa! Perhaps we can have Bailey the kitten making contacts...
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
If, like me, you are intrigued by microwave propagation, but for whatever reason, don't have gear of your own, this provides the opportunity to listen to the band from a good location in different conditions and see what you can hear.
I am particularly looking forward to seeing what possibilities are afforded by rainscatter. So far, when I have been listening, I have heard the 'local' GB3XGH beacon at good strength and fading up and down. I also saw traces of GB3KBQ on the Mendips. Judging by the short duration, I wondered about aircraft scatter.
Thanks to G7CKX, G4HJW and G6GXK for a very interesting facility!
Sunday, August 25, 2013
After breakfast, I noticed that there was a beta release of WSJTX v1.2 so I downloaded it. I installed it and initially my heart sank - as there didn't seem to be an option to select the Direct X sound drivers on transmit. You may remember if you have been reading the blog for a while that I found I needed to select these in order to transmit intelligible JT9.
I decided to go ahead anyway and if I needed to, I could rollback a version. Fortunately, this was not necessary. I had a quick listen on the monitor receiver as I transmitted both JT65A and JT9 and the signal sounded good. So, whatever there was before that was causing this problem, Joe K1JT seems to have sorted it out! I was also pleased to see that both my JT65A and JT9 transmissions were picked up by other people - so it must be decoding ok. I was particularly pleased to have my JT9 transmission picked up by TF3G in Iceland.
Initial impressions of v1.2 are good. I can see some JT65A decodes which look a bit suspect to me, but we'll see how those go! On the positive side, I like the new power slider on the right hand side of the screen, which allows you to tweak the power down. I think this will be particularly valuable on JT9, which is exceptionally good for low power QSOs.
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I've not done much with FO-29 so far. With the FT817 being half duplex, I'm a little wary of transmitting much, as it would be easy to interfere inadvertently, with another QSO. Having said that, some simple QSOs are readily possible.
The other day, I had an idea. With the lovely old FT790 that I bought for not a lot off eBay last year, could I use that in conjunction with the FT817 and a duplexer and make a full duplex portable station?
The key would be how good the FT790 receiver would be. This morning, FO-29 was passing over to the west, so I hooked up the 790 to the Elk and had a listen. It seemed to work fine. I heard many stations on the pass: G4DOL, GW1FKY, EA3LW, EA8HB and several others whose calls I've forgotten. In fact, I got the impression that I was hearing the satellite better than some others.
I think I will try a duplexer and see if I can make this work. De-sense may be a problem perhaps, and physically managing both the FT817 and FT790 may be a challenge.
It's got to be worth a go! Also, it will be nice to use FT790 in 'anger', rather than just sitting on the bench looking nice.
Friday, August 16, 2013
I've set up 6 different memories, just as you would for a repeater, except that in this case, the input and output frequencies are on different bands. For each memory, I have left the transmit frequency as 145.850 (it might be a bit out towards the beginning and end of the pass, but hopefully not too far off). On transmit, I have the CTCSS tone set to 67hz. I have seen documentation that SO-50 likes this, and other people saying it doesn't really matter! I also programmed one memory which is not used for QSOs with a CTCSS tone of 74.4Hz. This can be used to 'wake' the satellite up if the radios have switched off. I've not done this myself yet.
Receive frequencies are 436.805, 436.800, 436.795, 436.790 and 436.785. I also programmed up 436.780, but have not used this one so far.
On the basis that a picture speaks a thousand words, here's a picture from the programming software of what the setup looks like.
Some people like everything to be perfect before they embark on a project. Every little last thing needs to be just right. That's not me. In radio terms, I'd far rather try and lash something together to get it going and try it out than wait for something to be perfect (in my case, it would never happen!).
As a VHF enthusiast, I very often hear, I don't have an antenna for 50MHz, or whatever. If you're a 160m enthusiast, you probably hear the same thing! There's usually some sort of antenna that you can bodge into service, even if it's a grotty wire dipole twisted together. It's rare that you can't get it to radiate SOME sort of signal, and I'm sure I've made hundreds of QSOs on antennas where bits of wire were just twisted together.
I often hear people say of the data modes, such as PSK31 - 'I don't have a data modes interface'. To get started - just hold the microphone over the speaker of the computer as it transmits the PSK31 tones - and use the microphone on the computer to decode the tones from the radio. It works fine - even if there's a little juggling to do. You can even use apps on your mobile phone to decode the PSK31!
Having proven that you can make something work simply, you may be enthused to get a more elegant solution going. Or you may not - sometimes, just the simple matter of having made something work is enough and you don't need to come back to it.
Give it a go (what ever it is!) I bet it will be fun...
Thursday, August 15, 2013
The experiments with the UV-5R and the Nagoya NA-771 were encouraging for listening, but being a bit impatient I thought I could use the Elk yagi to get a bit of gain to make some QSOs.
What was needed was an adapter from the UV-5R (SMA-F) to the Elk - I'd used a PL259 to connect to the FT817. I decided I would use a pigtail lead rather than a straight adapter, to avoid putting undue strain on the antenna connector. Various US outlets listed the leads on Amazon, but wouldn't ship to the UK. I was pleased to find that Sinotel Ltd had stock in the UK, so I placed an order.
The adapter arrived this morning and I was able to get set up for an SO-50 pass. It was raining hard - so I opened the patio door and waved the antenna outside. Signals were good. If anything, I felt the UV-5R might have been more sensitive at 436.800MHz than the FT817 - just a guess. I was able to have a tentative QSO with Simon G6AHX, an old friend from Cheltenham days. For some reason the satellite dropped out with me, so the contact was a bit stilted, but think we got there in the end.
So the UV-5R and Elk looks like a very viable portable FM SAT setup. At over £100, though, the Elk is a lot more expensive than the UV-5R! It works well, but will probably put off the casual experimenter. Perhaps a homebrew tape measure antenna might be an option?