Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Remote Receivers

Many of you will probably know about this, but I thought  I would share it with you anyway.
On our local 2 metre net this evening one of our local amateurs commented on web SDR receivers. There are a number of websites which allow you to tune a remote controlled receiver in another part of the world. Its a great way of checking what propogation is like, in fact you could even try to listen for your own signal. Rather than me try to explain more about how this all works try this link and have a tune around. Be careful, it is quite addictive!

On another note, and perhaps slightly controversial (in fact I did wonder whether to post this in my blog) I heard or saw an unusual callsign on PSK on 40 metres yesterday. The Call was 1B1AB, a station located in Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus or the TRNC as it is called is only recognised by a small number of states, the main one I believe being Turkey. As a result, it does not count for DXCC awards. In effect stations operating from there are in a sort of administrative limbo as it could be said they are illegal, even though they have licences issued by the governing authority. Would you work 1B1AB? For me the decision was made by the propagation gods as the signal faded out as quick as it faded in!

Monday, 28 December 2009


A little while back I mentioned that I was applying for a few awards from the "Eurpean Phase Shift Keying Club" or EPC. As well as being an EPC member I had also joined the 30 metre Digital Group, another club that exists to promote digital modes, but this time specifically on the 30 Metre (10Mhz) band.
Just like EPC the 30MDG has an automated system for applying for awards. You download the "Ultimate 30" software, load in your electronic log and away you go! I was pleased to discover that I was eligible for one of their awards, I applied and it arrived just before Christmas.
I haven't been that active on the air over the past month or so, but these awards are a little incentive to get on the air- and that must be a good thing.

I have done a fair amount of listening over the Christmas period and have been further evaluating the Wellbrook loop. A trip to the Local DIY store yesterday saw me purchasing a length of plastic pipe-this will be used to mount the loop outside. I am not back in work until 4th January  and I am hoping to get the loop outside, even it its mounted temporarily before then.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas time

Happy Christmas to all who read this blog! I hope you all have a happy and peaceful holiday time.

One of the casualties of 2009 was the Excellent publication "Passport to Worldband Radio"

This annual guide targeted at the shortwave broadcast listener  contained receiver and antenna
reviews, news and features on international broadcasters and comprehensive frequency and station listings.The 2010 version should have been on sale now but sadly, no doubt due to economic reasons there will be no 2010 edition and I think its unlikely that will see another edition. It was I suppose inevitable that this would happen as, sadly, Shortwave broadcasting is on the decline with many nations turning to the internet as a medium for broacasting to the public.

In a way this may be good news for radio amateurs as they will be more space freed up within the shortwave spectrum and possibly new amateur bands available.In any event I think we are almost at the end of the time where every major power in the world had a voice on the shortwave bands.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Special Event

Since I have been trying out the new Wellbrook loop antenna I have been doing a lot of listening and hardly any transmitting, so when I heard a special event station on 80 metres early this afternoon I thought I'd give a call. I worked Paul (GW0JTY) operating GB0NG, a station commemorating the famous Nos Galan Races held annually on New Year’s Eve which take place in  honour of the  Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran and his legendary athletic prowess. Legend has it it that he once ran to Pontypridd and back - about seven miles - before the kettle boiled- pretty fast! Anyway the station is run by Aberdare Amateur Radio club and you can hear the callsign on air up to New Year's Eve- one to look out for!

Inspired by fellow Blogger Adam, M6RDP I have downloaded the "Ultimate EPC"  software to see if, as an EPC member I was entitled to any of their awards. The process of applying for these awards is totally automated. All you have to do is download the software, load in your log file( I use the log built into the Digipan program)  and the rest is done for you.This year i have been fairly active on HF, particularly on PSK31 but I was surprised to see I qualified for a number of awards including AUPA,CZPA and EPCDL, I have applied for these three to begin with. Thanks for the info-Adam!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Loop update

I have had a bit more listening time with the Wellbrook loop now and here are my thoughts:

 *It is very effective on the lower frequencies. On top band (1.8mhz), signals that are inaudible on the random long wire are clear on the loop. Signals that were S1 on my inverted L (which to be fair is not designed for 1.8mhz) were S5-6 on the loop.

*On 80 metres the loop eliminates a lot of noise that is present when using the random wire. It is comparable to my inverted L which is amazing when you consider the size of the loop and the fact that it is currently in the loft.

*The loop is VERY directional on the lower bands, particularly Medium wave where rotating the loop can increase a signal by at least 8 S points on the meter! It is of course difficult to rotate the loop if you don't have a rotator. If you were a medium wave Dxer and using this loop I think a rotator would be pretty much essential.

On the higher bands the loop appears just as noisy as the random wire. Of course this is an unfair comparison since the wire is outside. I did try a wire receive only dipole in the loft at this QTH a while ago and abandoned it is at was so noisy, in comparison to that the loop is much better.

I really think the loop will come into its own when mounted outside. As an indoor antenna it is quite impressive but it does pickup noise as any indoor antenna will. It is quieter on the lower bands however and particularly impressive on 80 metres.
Tonight's picture shows the little amplifier box which sits between the receiver and the loop.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

My Wellbrook loop arrived today. The postman that delivered it was a little bemused by the shape of the parcel saying it was the most unusual one he had ever delivered!

My Loop is the LA5030 Indoor. I decided on this model as I thought it would be the best of both worlds- it is suitable for loft mounting but also suitable for use outdoors. My plan was to install it temporarily in the loft and then later to mount it outside in the garden. In fact I have a spare run of Coax waiting for it.

Anyway for now I have popped it into the loft and stolen the feeder for my Loft 50Mhz dipole to feed it for now.

I have not had much time to evaluate the loop yet but my initial thoughts are it is a well made piece of kit. It is certainly directional on lower frequencies. This would be a good antenna for anyone interested in the Non Directional beacons below the MW band, the antenna seems very sensitive there.

Considering it is in the loft, which is not a good location for any antenna it is not picking up that much noise. It is certainly quieter than a wire antenna would be in this situation. On 80 metres receive it is quieter than my outdoor random wire and is on a par with my inverted L which I use for transmitting on 80. On 40 metres so far the outdoor wire is far superior- that was something of a surprise!

There is no doubt that this antenna will perform much better outside.  I intend to evaluate it it whilst its in the loft for a little while, but If I get time over the Christmas break I will put it up at the end of the garden. I will post some more views on this antenna soon.
The top picture shows the antenna as it came through the post, the bottom one is the loop naked, so to speak!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The TS450

I thought I would write a little more about the Kenwood TS450S I recently added to the shack. This rig is a Kenwood, produced I think in the early 1990s and should not be confused with the Yaesu FT450 which is a totally different beast. The TS450 although it does have a limited menu system is controlled in the main from its front panel.
You can see from the photo above that the TS450 is identical in dimensions to the R5000 receiver (the receiver is on the left). The TS450 was bought primarily for use on PSK, WSPR and other data modes. It has a rear connector which is suitable for a data interface and this makes for a neat setup.
From time to time I have also been using the rig on SSB and  it seems to work very well. The front panel power meter appears pretty accurate, I have checked it against an external meter and that makes it very easy to set the rig to the QRP levels required for modes like WSPR.
 I have found the TS450 to be almost as good a shortwave receiver as the R5000. The Am filter gives a nice clear sound from broadcast stations. The only major difference is sensitivity on medium wave is well down on the R5000 but under 500Khz it picks back up so this set would be OK for LF listening.
All in all I am pleased with this little rig.

Friday, 11 December 2009

The effects of winter

It has been a week since my last blog, partly beacause of a lack of time and partly because not much has been happening on the radio front here.
I have managed to download and set up WSPR 2.0, I find it an improvement over the original, particularly the "Tune" button which enables me to set up my transmit power with ease.
Conditions at least when I have been in the shack haven't been that great on HF. Apart from PSK 31 I have been trying to work a little SSB on 40 and 80.
Interestingly the onset of winter has had an effect on my UHF reception here. There is a semi local 70Cms repeater which I cannot normally hear at all from my location (I am not in a good site from VHF and UHF here as I am fairly low down with higher ground either side of my QTH) however since the leaves have fallen off the trees I can hear this particular repeater, a noisy signal but it is there.VHF signals are unaffected so it seems that at UHF the foliage absorbs some signal.

I have thrown caution to the wind and ordered a Wellbrook receiving loop. The website advises me that it will be dispatched on the 12 of this month so I am hoping it won't get delayed by the Christmas rush of parcels.When it arrives and it set up I will post my first impressions of its effectiveness.
The image accompanying this post is a shot of my 2m/70cms vertical on a winter February day this year.

Friday, 4 December 2009

A good read?

Today I discovered that the Bookshop/newsagent chain “Borders” is in liquidation and likely to close.
Whilst there isn’t a “Borders” store locally there is one in Cardiff and whenever I was in the area I would take the opportunity to pop in and browse. Now I enjoy reading and so I like bookshops generally but the good thing about the Borders stores is they also stocked a good range of magazines and periodicals including specialist radio magazines.
Thus from time to time I would be able to purchase a copy of the U.S Amateur radio Magazine “CQ” or the  U.S Magazines aimed at shortwave listeners- “Monitoring Times” and “Popular Communications”.It was interesting to get a different countries perspective on the radio hobby and I will miss my occasional purchases of those magazines
Here in the UK, to my knowledge at least we now have only two magazines available at the newsagents that relate to our hobby- Practical Wireless and Radio User- the latter magazine aimed at the shortwave listener/scanner enthusiast. Of course if you are a member of the RSGB you also get the Radcom magazine but that’s not available at the newsagents.
I pretty much grew up with Practical Wireless, it formed part of my introduction to the hobby, it had information relating to both Amateur Radio and Shortwave and the advertisements were always a constant source of interest for an aspiring young radio amateur!
I have bought Practical Wireless magazine pretty consistently over the years but a few weeks back, after buying the December edition I began to wonder if I will continue to buy it.
The first problem I have with the magazine is the equipment reviews. It has long been the case that you are unlikely to read much negative comment in these reviews- presumably because the manufacturers/suppliers are also the magazines advertisers and its best not to offend them! For Example December’s magazine has a review of a soundcard/data interface. You don’t have to read too closely between the lines to see that the reviewer was not all that impressed with it, but clearly he isn’t really allowed to say that. I suppose the best place to look for reviews is now online on sites such as Eham where the reviewers are not dependent on the suppliers for their income..
But what really takes the biscuit is the 3 page article which tells you how to install the batteries in your FT817, screw the antenna on and switch the rig on! The article then goes on to tell the reader that they need to plug the microphone in and guides them as to how to make a contact on the local VHF repeater.
Now I am not the most technical of people but surely this information could have been obtained from either:
Classroom learning in the foundation/intermediate/advanced radio courses OR reading the manual!
It is a shame because there are still some good articles in Practical Wireless but is does seem as if the magazine is being “dumbed down”.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Up and Running

The Data Leads for my TS450 Arrived today. As I was working from home this afternoon as I was able to take a quick tea break and test things out!
My first contact using the TS450 on PSK was with SP3AOS on 30 metres. It was nice to know everything was working OK and thanks to EZE (UK) for the prompt delivery of the lead.I think the TS450 will be a very nice rig to use on data modes and with its internal ATU it will be relatively easy to hop from band to band.
Its much colder here today, I think winter is well and truly on its way although in many ways I prefer the crisp cold weather to the damp stuff we have been having recently.

My thoughts are now turning to what is likely to be my last radio related purchase of 2009 (and probably for a while). For some time I have been reading reviews of a receive only active loop antenna made by Wellbrook. The reviews have been very good, particularly in respect of the antennas ability to reject noise and electrical interference. One of the loops is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. I am considering getting one, trying it in the roofspace over the winter and maybe in spring putting it outside. The Main use of the loop will be for my shortwave listening activities although if it proves useful there is no reason why it can't be used as a receive antenna for amateur bands.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Weekend update

I have been  busy playing around with the new addition to the shack the TS450S. Before pressing it into service on data modes I have been tuning round the bands and having a few SSB QSOs on 40 and 80 metres. All in all it seems to work well, it is quite fussy about various settings, the ALC in particular must be kept at a reasonable level or the rig won't operate properly, the Auto ATU works reasonably well (Apart from 160 metres where it doesn't work at all- the manual warns you of this).
As a receiver it seems quite lively, though if you are interested in receiving Medium Wave it wouldn't be much use as sensitivity is deliberately much lower in that part of the spectrum. The connections on the rear include a small 13 Pin DIN socket for use on data modes. Although I made up the leads between my data interface and my TS830 I didn't fancy my chances of soldering up a tiny 13 pin connector so a quick email to Dave G3VFP of EZE UK confirmed a lead for the 450s was available, so that has been ordered and hopefully will arrive soon.I have always liked Kenwood/Trio Gear and am not disappointed with the 450S so far. My main rig is a Yaesu FT1000MP which is a superb rig but I feel its complexity means its not the most suitable rig for data modes.
In the meantime, last night whilst chatting to a few local amateur friends on 2 metres we also exchanged a few pictures on SSTV on 20 metres. The band was otherwise dead, as it seems to be here after dark, but it was interesting to use this mode as it is years since I have used SSTV. The software we used was MMSSTV, which seems to work really well. I have in the recent past also tried digital SSTV using a program called Easypal and the quality of pictures this produces is amazing. It does however seem to be quite a resource intensive program and the old PC which I use for radio applications struggles to run it.In addition I don't think it is a mode which is very tolerant to QRM.If you are interested in receiving Digital SSTV then on 80 metres around 3730Khz in the evenings is the best place. It sounds quite unlike analogue SSTV. As I understand it the software technology is based on the DRM transmissions that some international shortwave broadcasters now use.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A new addition

Pictured is a Kenwood TS450s, not a new rig by any means but the latest addition to my shack. I am hoping to run this rig on the data modes, but tonight I have been running it on 40metres and 80 metres SSB just to test it. The rig seems to be working OK although it has had a slight modification made to it, on the picture of the rear panel you can see an RS232 socket, that shouldn't be there- its a mod by a previous owner. I have tried connecting this this to my PC but Ham Radio deluxe doesn't want to work with this rig. It may be possible to computer control the rig using one of the original ports on the rear, in any case luckily I am not too worried about computer controlling the rig.
First impressions of the TS450 is that it is a little quirky to operate but seems to have a nice receiver.
Next step is to get a lead sorted out between my data interface and the rig.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Spreading the word

Having discussed WSPR with a few local amateur friends we now have 5 local amateurs in this area using the software and finding it very interesting. I had a listen on 10 metres yesterday and had a reprt from France. I tried 15 metres for a short while but heard nothing. Apart from that I have been concentrating on 80 metres where my 1 watt has been heard in the USA. In addition I have also heard fellow bloggers PE4BAS and G4ILO! I note from time of time unusual or impossible callsigns appear in WSPR and am wondering whether this is corrupt data, badly decoded or someone unlicensed messing around?
I note that there is a new version of WSPR, I may download that in the next few days and give it a try.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

30 metres again

It is fairly clear now that the 30 metre band is likely to be pretty dead over the winter once we are in darkness.Running WSPR last night on 30 metres I noted that I didn't hear anything past 1930 UTC though the 40 metre band was still very active.
My TS830 is becoming a little temperamental, with a tendency to drift at times, making it very difficult to use for Data modes. This is however an intermittent fault and having consulted the excellent TS830 survival guide I think I know what the problem may be. Even so I am still considering looking for another HF rig for the data modes and semi retiring the 830!

Whilst driving today I was listening to a local 2 metre repeater. Two stations were in QSO and it was clear that someone was trying to jam the repeater and interfere with the conversation. The stations in QSO were aware of this, in fact one station commented that the jammer was wasting his time as both stations could hear each other 5 and 9 on the repeater input!Which rather begs the question why were they using a repeater at all?? It seems locally at least the standard of repeater operation is going downhill-another reason to avoid them I think.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Quiet Evening.

Conditions seemed poor this evening. 30 metres is dead, which seems to be the case often now that winter is coming. I dropped down to 40 metres and managed to work UA1TAN and S51PL (pictured) on PSK31. But even 40 doesn't seem as lively as usual.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


No Luck with picking up Radio St Helena last night. I was not too suprised as its a difficult catch at the best of times but the main problem here was QRM. I Had S8 of interference on the frequency of 11092. Doing a little research from the UKQRM website  it seems the interference I am getting is from someone nearby using the BT Homeplug system to distribute their internet. It seems this QRM is strong across 11 Mhz here, including the more traditional broadcast frequencies between 11.5 and 12 mhz.I Guess I am lucky that this interference is not affecting the amateur bands at the moment, but it is extremely annoying and seems to crop up all over the place, at varying strengths between around 4Mhz and up to 30 Mhz.

Today I took my Sony ICF7600 portable receiver out and walked a little way around the estate here, but I could not trace the interference source. As I understand it it could be coming from anything up to 500 yards away. I Am very glad I haven't got one of these things next door to me as I don't think I would be able to use HF at all.
I will have another go at trying to pinpoint where the QRM is coming from soon and then consider reporting it to Offcom, in the meantime I am just thankful its not wiping out the amateur bands.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Listening Around

Last night I was away from home, visiting the YL's family, so no radio operating! In common with most of the UK the weather here has been awful with high winds and torrential rain, so when I arrived back home I was pleased to see that my antennas had all survived.A quick PSK contact with an RA1 on 30 metres confirmed all was OK.
Tonight I am hoping to have time to do a little bit of shortwave broadcast listening, listening for a very special station.

Radio St Helena transmits once a year only from the tiny island of St Helena. Tonight at 2200 they will be beaming towards Europe on 11092 USB. Since I am not normally in the shack this late I think I will set up my digital  sound recorder and leave the rig on frequency.
Given the location of St Helena (See the picture above) and the current conditions I am not too hopeful of getting anything but I will give it a try. I have picked the station up in years past and have a tape recording of it somewhere.
Radio St Helena I believe uses an Amateur HF transceiver and around 1000W, that may seem a lot but its flea power for a broadcast station!!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Normal Service has been resumed.

Good news for me. My TS830 is back up and running. I was concerned that it may have a fault of some sort but since replacing the fuse all seems ok. Whilst I had everything on the deask pulled out of its place I took the opportunity to calibrate the low power scale on my MFJ antenna tuner. I can now read powers down to 1 watt or less. Careful adjustment of the soundcard volume and the TS830 Mic gain has allowed me to get my power on WSPR down to 1 watt.
This evening so far, with just my single watt on 30 metres  I have been reported in WSPR by U.S German and one Austrailian station- Amazing!!

I had similar reports last night on 30metres, yet when I moved up to the PSK section of the same band I was only able to hear and work one OK2 station, apart from that the band was dead.
I don't think I will be able to get the TS830 down to much less than 1 watt reliably. I am considering at some point getting a slightly more modern rig for data modes and using the TS830S as a backup to my Yaesu FT1000MP main rig, The 830S is capable of superb transmit audio and is slightly wasted on PSK!

I am rapidly becoming convinced that 30 metres is quite a seasonal band. Certainly as winter approaches it seems to "drop out" around 2100 UTC , something that was not happening in the summer. If I am operating any later I find I have to drop to 40 or 80 to make contacts.

Monday, 9 November 2009

POP......Goes My TS830!!

Well there I was, in my shack, tuning up my TS830  so I could do some operating in PSK on 30M when Pop!!! the rig went dead. Once the initial panic had passed I found that the screw in AC fuse at the back of the rig had blown. This is a 4amp fuse and of course I didn't have any. I replaced it with a 2amp, which will run the rig on receive OK. I am hoping to get some replacement fuses in Maplins  on the way home from work tomorrow. Until then its receive only on the data modes here!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Rising to the challenge

Well I had some limited success on 17metres this afternoon. I was heard by W1BW and heard several spots from LA3JJ. Now darkness is upon us I think I will put the TS830 back on 30 metres PSK. I may give 15m WSPR a try tomorrow if I get time.

Believing the worst?

Yesterday I was driving home from a work appointment. In my car I have a VHF/UHF rig coupled with a dualband Antenna. I don't like using a hand microphone in the car so I have a 20 year old Yaesu switchbox which allows me to just switch between tx and rx. Whilst motoring along I heard a very strong station calling CQ on S20, quite an usual event these days, so immediately I returned his call.
When I replied, unknown to me my trusty PTT switch had failed and I ended up transmitting a blank carrier with no audio. Now the reason I am relating this fairly mundane tale is that at this point, the other station assumed I was an idiot, a jammer,an IQ0 whichever term you prefer. To be honest his response was perfectly polite but it was clear he thought I was someone who was out to disrupt. Realising what had happened I didn't transmit again, and today I have fixed the fault, a bad solder joint on the plug from the microphone that goes into the PTT box.
This got me thinking- how often do we  dismiss someone as a poor operator or an idiot when in fact they are a genuine amateur perhaps with a problem with their equipment or perhaps lack of operating experience? Now I am not talking about the misguided souls who insist on jamming and blocking repeaters with inane comments and strange noises. I am sure they know what they are doing! What I mean are those stations with poor audio or perhaps have not adjusted various settings properly or with what to us is poor operating technique. The latter often occurs when the newcomer doesn't have experience of listening on the amateur bands.Years ago most amateurs started out as shortwave listeners and by the time they obtained an amateur licence that already had a good idea of operating procedure.In these days of repeater abuse and the general poor operating that seems to happen in the UK on 2 metres in particular,it is all too easy to dismiss someone as an idiot. The next time I hear A blank carrier on 2 metres FM I will try to see if I can help first!!

Bas, PE4BAS has challenged me to try WSPR on one of the more difficult bands following my good results on 30 and 40 metres.This afternoon I tuned up my 830S on the 17m WSPR frequency and unleashed my 5 watts on the unsuspecting radio world. Nothing heard as yet but I will report back. I suspect in any case there are far fewer stations using WSPR on 17m than on 30 or 40 metres so that will limit my results but we will see. As an aside my inverted L is a fairly good match on 17metres, It shouldn't be really but I was suprised to see the ATU was not required.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Quick update

Having read on G4ILOs blog yesterday that last night was an activity evening on WSPR on 40metres I duly tuned up the TS830, cranked down the power and set up WSPR on that band at 5 watts. After wondering why nothing was happening, i.e no decodes I realised that I had not Synchronized the PC clock! Once this was done I was up and running.So Last night my 5 watts was heard in the USA, Brazil and Austrailia!! truly amazing. What a superb piece of software. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could dig SSB and AM signals out of the noise the way WSPR does? Maybe in this day and age of SDR receivers, some of which are apparently very impressive we are not so far way from this.
Tonights picture has nothing to to with radio, rather its my excuse as to whay there hasn't been much radio done here this evening as I went along to the local firework display!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Thoughts for a new month

Well November is here and winter approaches fast. In August of this year I decided to concentrate most of my HF operating on 30 Metres (10Mhz) as this is a band I had almost totally ignored in 25 years of being a licenced amateur. I had wondered if after a few months I might have worked all the "regulars" on that band and would have difficulty makiung new contacts. Three months later and several hundred QSOs on I am still working new stations and have worked farther afield than I expected.Now I am using WSPR running 5 watts  from time to time and am amazed at how a 5watt signal from a less than ideal antenna can be heard so well.
I am making an effort at the moment to make a few PSK QSOs at the 5 watt level as well and I have had some success although there is a temptation to turn up the power if the going gets tough..
What I like about this hobby is that there are so many angles to it. From my own point of view I can chat to the locals on 2metres, work HF SSB and have voice contacts, use the data modes or simply turn on one of my receivers and tune around the bands, amateur broadcast or utilities. I have always thought it such a shame that some people take the trouble to obtain their licence and just  operate through the local VHF repeater. maybe thats something peculiar to this area but there are a number of stations you will only ever hear via a repeater. There is so much more to the hobby than that.
For the past few months I have made a conscious effort, wherever possible to have at least one QSO per day! I haven't set any specific rules about this just that it must be a direct contact, repeaters don't count! This may not sound like much (and normally I manage more contacts than that) but I think if everyone that could did this we would see much more activity. Look in a callbook if you have one? How many amateurs are in your area? How often do you hear them? Yes they could be operating CW or data where its not so easy to hear them but many are simply not active, or at least they don't transmit! I know from experience of local clubs that you will meet amateurs face to face that you never hear "on the air".
Anyway I will try and maintain my activity and I think I will stick to 30 metres for a while. When the band is quiet I do pop on to 40 or 80 and I keep an ear on the higher bands but since CQ WW a few weeks back they seem rather dead. I really should put up a monoband antenna for 10mhz. My inverted L was designed for 40 and 80 metres but it does work OK on 30. The layout of my garden means that I am unlikely to get away with another vertical for transmitting, particularly as I am planning to install an active loop for listening, but more of that another time!

The picture accompanying this entry is of one of the most used pieces of equipment in my shack the Kenwood R5000 communications receiver along with a Yaesu ATU. I have lost count of the number of receivers I have owned over the years but this is one of the better ones.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

I have the power

With my 830S “data Rig” I use an MFJ 945 tuner. This is a compact ATU which seems to work quite well. One of the handy features it has is that there is a built in SWR/Power meter. The power meter has two ranges  0 to 300 watts and 0 to 6 watts.
Now I wouldn’t like to try running 300watts through this ATU, I really don’t think its up to that but it works quite well at 100 watts and the built in meter seems fairly accurate.
Whilst setting the rig up for WSPR I was trying to measure my power at 5 watts. I have a fairly high quality  AVAIR power meter and used this to set the 830 at the QRP level. I was surprised to notice that with the external meter showing 5 watts out, the meter on the MFJ on its low range was showing just 1 watt. Switching the MFJ meter to its high range it was showing approx 5 watts like the external meter. Its obvious that the low range setting on the MFJ meter is pretty useless. At least I know that the high range is OK and I can set my power based on that.

WSPR has been working well for me.  I ran it overnight last night and for much of the day today, all on 10mhz (30 metres)I note that I have been heard now by several U.S stations and much of Europe. This morning I noted some G Stations on my heard list but it seems they didn’t hear me.

When I was a youngster and just getting interested in Shortwave I used to love visiting the local “Tandy” shop and used to look forward to the annual Tandy catalogue  . This contained details of all sorts of Hi FI, computer, Electronics CB and of course shortwave radio equipment. In the 80’s I really wanted their flagship communications receiver the DX302, very impressive with its digital readout. I ended up with the cheaper analogue DX200 receiver but still had lots of fun with that. If you would like the chance to look at the “Tandy” catalogues of long ago and relive the 70s, 80s and further back, take a look At this excellent site

Friday, 30 October 2009

I heard a Whisper.............

On my last blog entry Bas PE4BAS, pointed out that it was easily possible to go QRP with my TS830s simply by altering the output of my PC soundcard! Now why didn't I think of that?? Its a lot easier using data, with a voice transmission simply cranking down the mic gain won't work.
Anyway having set the power to 10 watts using the TS830 Mic gain, a liitle tweak of my soundcards volume setting and I was running under 5 watts.
Incidentally whilst experimenting and trying to reduce power I had 3 PSK31 contacts on 30 metres. 2 Russian contacts and one into Germany, all on around 4 watts!

Anyway last night I downloaded the WSPR software and after studying the excellent instructions written by Julian G4ILO I was up and running. I am still finding my way around the software and need to do a bit more reading up on WSPR but last night I was rewarded with being heard by an OH2, a WB3, two W3's and A W9. All with 5 watts on 30 metres. Now I have worked Stateside on PSK31 on 30 metres in the past but I was running around 40 watts then. WSPR looks a really interesting mode. I intend to run it when I am not using the 830s for anything else. Of course not being licensed to run an unattended station it means that I cannot run WSPR when I am not at home. It would be most interesting to run 24/7 for a while. As i understand it this is not a mode that could be used for a QSO but it is a very good way of measuring propagation conditions.
Interstingly the PSK section of 30 metres seemed all but dead just before I set up WSPR so I was suprised that my signal made it to the USA!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


One of the most useful features of the internet  amateur radio wise in my opinion is the website. Here you can instantly look up someones callsign, QSL details and in many cases a picture and additional information. The Digipan PSK program I use has a 'Lookup' button which automatically links a callsign that you are working or have worked to the appropriate QRZ page. All very useful. Of course the information isn't always up to date and occassionally, but in my experience not that often a callsign may not be listed but all in all its a very useful tool.
A little while ago the QRZ system was revamped a little and I note that it also provides you with a google map of the area in which your QSO partner is located. Most of the time it cleverly draws a line between your QSO partners location and yours showing the direct path.
I have noticed however that although there is always a map there is not always a line drawn between the two locations. I wonder why this is? Does anyone know? I guess maybe I should post a query on the QRZ forums!

I notice a number of "radio bloggers" talking about the WSPR system. This looks interesting and I wouldn't mind giving it a go. The only thing is I believe it requires you to run QRP power levels. now my Data station is based around an old Kenwood TS830S. I can get that rig down to around 10 watts, in fact I worked a CT1 on 30metres on around 10 watts tonight! But is that low enough power for WSPR? It can be difficult to get the older equipment with valve PAs down to QRP levels, although I have worked several foundation licence holders using old FT101's  and similar rigs who must have managed it!!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Casual contester?

Well I managed to work a few interesting (for me!) stations over the weekend. In addition to those I mentioned in the last post I managed Greece and Cyprus on 10 metres as well as Morrocco. I didn't bother with 20 metres much as it seemed so crowded but did manage one stateside contact.
Isn't it strange how you can a 59 report from all of these stations, even though they are clearly struggling to hear you?I have been in the hobby now for over 20 years and it has always been the same for that time at least. I wonder when it started though? I guess it allows stations to complete a large part of their logs in advance as they know what the reports are going to be!

The bands seem back to normal now, with 10 and 15m dead here, for now at least. Lets hope that conditions are picking up slowly as 10 metres is one of my favourite bands.

The picture accompanying this post is of my trusty Trio/Kenwood TS830s. I have had this set for many years now, and for the last two or three years it has sat largely unused. Since August however it has been working hard as my "data" station running on pSK31 on 30 metres and has been working very well. I guess this rig is around 25 years old or so now and is still going strong.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Conditions or Activity?

I'm not a great fan of contests but they are a useful way of getting some contacts in the log as contesters want to work as many stations as possible! I had a tune around the HF bands this morning and early afternoon and found the CQ Worldwide contest underway.
I have been at this QTH now for 18 months and since then I don't think I have had one contact on 15 metres. Maybe I have not been around at the right time but whenever I have tuned the band its been dead. Today I have been working 15 metres and the band has been full of contest stations. Mainly European stuff but I did work into Tunisia and heard (but not worked) a stateside station. On 10 metres there were a few Europeans again and I heard (but sadly could not work!) ZS9X, A surprise signal on 10 metres.
All this makes me think, when we think the higher bands are dead  are they really dead or is it simply a lack of activity? I think I should call CQ more often.

At least today I was able to give my ground mounted vertical, the HYgain AV12 an airing. It seems to work quite well, although I have never been able to get the tuning quite right on 15m. I will have another go at it in the spring but at best the SWR on 15M is around 2:1. It still seems to work OK though and the matching is pretty good on 20 metres and 10m. The picture shows the AV 12 ground mounted in the corner of my garden. Its pretty low profile but I have been toying with the idea of mounting it on a pole and risking the wrath of the neighbours.....maybe next year!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


In the past week or so I have been going through my log book and filling out my QSL cards. I have always maintained a manual logbook. In the days when I first had my licence it was mandatory in the UK to maintain a log of your transmissions. That requirement was lifted some time ago now but I still kept my log!
I have flirted with computerised logging software and in fact most of my contacts up to the year 2000 or so are saved electronically (somewhere on a disk I think!!) but I find it easier to maintain the written log as well. Certainly when filling out my QSL cards it saves me staring at a screen.Perhaps its because I am not incredibly active on the air or perhaps its because I still find it much easier to write than to type but I prefer the manual log.
I wonder how many Amateurs no longer keep a log? Apart from making life easier if you have QSL cards to write its also nice to look back from time to time on the contacts you have made. I totally accept that computer loogging is invaluable if you need to generate statistics, check which prefixes/countries you have worked etc. In fact "one day" I will get around to inputting all of my contacts to a computer log. But there is still something about the old manual logbook and I can't see me giving that up for some time to come.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Radio Rallies/Real Radio

I went to a local radio rally today, run by the Blackwood Amateur Radio society, the rally took place in the village of Crosskeys around 30miles from my home. The rally seemed to be quite well attended and its always nice to meet up with old friends and put a face to people I have spoken to over the air but never met. Myself  I came away with a 2010 RSGB callbook In which I find my details are wrong!(despite the fact that I notified Ofcom last year!) and some PL259 plugs, not much, but then again there isn't a great deal I need at the moment. I did keep and eye on the bring and buy stall there but didn't see much of interest to me there.There always seems to be less equipment on bring and buy sales these days. I wonder is that because people are increasingly using Ebay and other internet sites to sell their gear?

There has been quite a bit of debate lately on some of the radio blogs I follow about the program CQ100. This is basically an internet chat program for use by licensed amateurs. In that respect its not unlike Echolink or EQSO. In the case of cq100 however most users are operating PCs and the program has a visual interface that resembles a radio and you are able to pick the "frequency" or "band" you wish to use. Of course its not radio at all and it doesn't matter which "frequency" you tune on the CQ100 "radio" you are just chatting via the internet.
What I haven't heard mention of on the blogs I have read is that there is another program called "Hamsphere". Unlike CQ100 Hamsphere is more of a simulator and tries to mimic HF conditions with noise, interference and fading. Listening to Hamsphere the "signals" sound more like SSB too. More details can be found here .
Is it radio? Of course not! It could be fun for some maybe and its undoubtedly a very clever program. Myself I will stick to my PSK and SSB signals from my HF radios, with a bit of broadcast band listening. Thats what keeps me happy but each to their own.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

New QSL Cards

My new QSL Cards arrived today. I have been at this QTH for 18 months now so I thought I had better get some done. The picture is of Coity Castle, which is just down the road from my location. This is the first proper QSL card I have had for many years. In the past because I haven't been that active on HF if anyone really needed a card I printed one up on my PC. I also use EQSL which is a very useful facility but many people still prefer the traditonal paper QSL. Now all I have to do is sit down and write out about 200 of these to cover the recent PSK31 QSOs that I've had!
QSL cards are of course not just confined to amateur radio. For years most of the broadcast stations on shortwave issued QSL cards to their listeners in return for reception reports. As a youngster I sent many reports to broadcasters and still have the QSL cards.The Broadcaster Radio Sweden has recently announced that it is going to stop issuing QSL cards. It got me wondering how many broadcasters still QSL? Maybe I should try sending some reception reports , of course many of the well known shortwave broadcasters have left the airwaves, in favour of the internet. I wonder if electronic QSLing will eventually overtake the paper QSLs? I believe for DXCC awards paper QSLs are still required Anyway here is a QSL card from Radio Sweden which I received back in 1984!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


I am not someone who uses VHF/UHF repeaters from home as a rule, but I do have a mobile 2m/70Cms set in my car and have been known to make the odd contact via a repeater when mobile.One of the strangest things I have heard on a repeater was an amateur, clearly operating from home, telling his QSO partner that he refused to speak to mobile stations using the repeater as he thought mobile operation was unsafe! Now of course this may be a reasonable point of view but the irony is that the repeater network was intended for use by mobiles and portables, so really- no mobiles-no reasons for repeaters. I couldn't resist calling into this conversation and making this point, and yes the station in question did speak to me even though I was mobile! I think though my point was lost on him.
When I first became interested in amateur radio it was drummed into me that repeaters were for mobiles and that if fixed stations were using the "box" that they should always give priority to mobile stations. From the repeaters I hear whilst mobile day to day this doesn't always happen. If you are interested in operating procedure and the ethics of amateur radio try this link its a very interesting document. Maybe it should form part of the current exam strucure. What do you think?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Good Conditions today

Spent quite a bit of time shortwave listening this morning, for once the noise level here was fairly low (its often quite noisy on weekends) so it made a nice change.

Later on I did a bit of PSK on 30 metres and that band seemed in good shape too. Perhaps conditions are on the up, I noticed some CW activity on 15m yesterday, its been quite a while since I've heard anything on that band.
I thought I'd include a run down on the station equipment in this posting, as you will see its nothing spectacular at the moment but it keeps me busy!

On the HF bands I have the Yaesu FT1000MP. Its one of the few pieces of equipment that I have had from new. I also have an old Trio TS830s, I use that rig for data (PSK) and the Ft1000 for phone. HF antennas are either my home brew inverted L or a ground mounted Hy Gain AV12 verrtical which covers 10-15-20 metres.

On VHF/UHF I have a Yaesu FT857D, running into a dual band vertical and also a loft mounted dipole for 6metres. Oh I also have an Ascom PMR rig for 4 metres (70Mhz) running into a loft mounted dipole.
My main receiver is a Kenwood R5000 and this uses a longwire fed by a 4:1 balun. The Kenwood was a top flight receiver in its day. I didn't pay a lot for mine as its a little bit scruffy cosmetically but it works well. My R5000 is pictured above.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

PSK on 30 Metres

Despite being licenced for quite a number of years, in the past, I had never used the 30 metre (10mhz) band.I'm not sure why, in my early years on the HF bands I used to use CW, later on I was keen on data modes, I just never used that particular band. This summer, after a break of many years I set up again on data, mainly, for now at least PSK 31 using the Digipan software.I also decided to concentrate on the 10Mhz band. Since August this year I have had a few hundred qso's using my inverted L and power of between 20 and 50 Watts. My contacts have admittedly been mainly into Europe but I've been having a lot of fun and found it to be a fascinating band. Tonight however my PSK signal made it "across the pond" to the station of K1NOX. It just makes me wonder how much better I could do with an antenna resonant on 30metres. I'm just not sure whether or not I can get away with another antenna in the garden!


Hello! Welcome to my blog. I hope to be posting here regularly about my radio activities. I live in a modern house with a garden roughly 30' by 30'. Although this is probably more space than some people have it isn't ideal for amateur radio antennas.
However I do manage to operate a simple station that is capable of transmitting from 80metres up to 10.The picture shows my inverted L antenna (lying on the lawn just prior to me putting it up!) which is based around a fibreglass roach pole, its a quarter wave on 40 metres with a trap in it to allow operation on 80. In this Picture you can see the base of the antenna with the 1:1 balun at its feedpoint. This antenna was based on an article in 'Practical Wireless'magazine, there is a link to the design here it really works quite well and fits easily into my garden.