Monday, 7 July 2014

WAS


WAS now complete.
After several attempts to contact stations in Hawaii i finally completed WAS this morning when William, KH6KV came back to my CQ call. I had heard him on before but had been unable to make contact.
All I need to do now is get 7 states confirmed and I am done..
Thanks to all who have contributed.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Contest QRM - Inconsiderate or ignorant.

It is understood that the band plans are gentleman's agreements. In view if the QRM caused by many stations in the CIS DX QPSK63 Contest today 14th September 2013 then many operators are NOT gentlemen.

Having repaired my PC after being corrupted by a Windoze 8 update I finally got it working again and was looking forward to working JT65 in the 14.076 -14.078 vicinity but found this 
impossible due to the volume of contesters using this part of the spectrum. The screenshot below exemplifies the situation.


I do take part in contests myself, but respect the use of spectrum by other users.

These guys simply disgust me.


Friday, 23 August 2013

Sending QSL cards to the RSGB Bureau

Over the last few days I have had very lengthy correspondence with the RSGB QSL bureau following the return of several cards with a scribbled note on the back of a standard letter. an item they term a leaflet.Their initial reply generated many more questions.
The gist was that sending cards to the bureau, although I have always sorted into country order and prefix order within that country, that I should have sorted the country blocks by lowest prefix, i.e. countries with a "A..." prefix would supercede "B..." regardless of country name (numerics precede alpha) . My initial reply when I sought clarification of this (never received this despite a second request to confirm my premise) was that I should follow the sequence documented in the RSGB yearbook, a publication I don't own. This is not mentioned in the instructions on the RSGB website nor on the 'leaflet' so how are we to know? It would seem a 'no-brainer' to publish this list on the website but nobody has done so. If we could read minds then we wouldn't need expensive rigs. Apparently Affiliated societies are sent a free copy of the yearbook, so I should use that. I am not a member of a Society.
When I queried the logic of this and keeping the sort information and it's use 'secret' I suggested that it should be available on the Website which I had been advised had "much more information".
The problem with the website was that it made no reference to any such list or document. In addition the 'note' referred to the need to split Russia cards into prefix blocks, all sequential however, and as such my prefix sort accomplishes it. No reference on the leaflet or on the website. Again asked to follow a rule where the information required is not on general release.
There were many other points raised such as checking that (for example)  African countries have a bureau using an IARU list before sending and / or checking QRZ.com to ascertain any via xxxxx. information.Again not mentioned on the website although on the 'leaflet'.

In order to help myself and all parties concerned I developed a list of issues to be addressed reproduced below;



The most glaring thing that has come out of this exchange is however the total lack of effective 'official' communication to us members as to how they want cards sent , summarised below:

  1. Website makes no reference to any list of any required sort order
  2. Website does not have a link to above list
  3. Inherent assumption that all ‘senders’ will know about and have access to this list even though it is not on general release or referred to anywhere.
  4. Website makes no reference to Russia callsign blocks.
  5. Website does not say to keep USA cards in a separate block, but does say not to use separators. Similary for 'new' 5 Russia blocks.
  6. Website does not ask that reference to the IARU list of bureaux should be made
  7. Website does not refer you to or have any link to the ‘leaflet’.
  8. Leaflet’s instructions different to the website, no mention of call zone sorting of USA cards
  9. Neither website or leaflet mentions the new sort rules for Russia cards
  10. You’ll never get rid of human error but can make things easier by keeping things simple

    Actions to address the differing / misleading or incomplete instructions for sending QSLs should be taken in order to bring the written and the electronic instructions into line, and provide links the relevant information, i.e. sort list and IARU list. However you state that you do send cards to some bureaux not on the list so it would be more definitive if the RSGB bureau made it clear which bureaux they deal with and provided this information on the website. This would also be more up to date as you would not be relying on other organisation’s timescales when changes occur. When done this should feature prominently in Rad Com and not be a note in QSL Matters.
The final reply I received was very dismissive and basically said
  • Get access to a yearbook
  • We'll eventually get around to putting information on the website.
  • There is only so much information they can put on an A4 leaflet. (Note: they could use the other side as well, or is that reseved for scribbled notes?)

I respect the work those people do on our behalf, but bleating on about cards not being recived in their 'ideal' order is not now not one of them until such time that they PUBLISH the information needed to accomplish this and are consistent in what is both written and electronically distributed. As a former Area Representative of the RSGB I am quite honestly disgusted at their apathy about improving their own communications, and in view of the use of modern technologies to produce cards a system which can easily inerface will reduce sort time as well as human induced errors when dealing with large pre-sorted despatches.

I will probably now send cards in much smaller batches which are easier for me to manually sort as the algorythm to do this automatically when the cards are printed would be far too complicated.

Links referred to below:
RSGB QSL Instructions
RSGB Leaflet
IARU Bureau list

Friday, 26 July 2013

What is the origin of '73'?


A quick one here. Came across this site which I thought was very interesting.

http://www.ac6v.com/73.htm#73

Enjoy

Er.... 73

Thursday, 25 July 2013

We sell Technology (but don't use it well)


I am in the process of replacing a Snowdonia Radio Company HF-360 vertical which I believe is not operating properly. It all started when I bought a Rig Expert AA-30 Antenna analyser a week or so ago along with a LDG - IT-100 autotuner to use with the IC706Mk2G for JT-9 and JT-65 working. I had rigged my various antennae through a series of switches so I was able to select any antenna and switch it to either the TS570D which has an autotuner built in or the ICOM which hasn't.
The first aerial I checked was the G3TPW Cobwebb and the lowest SWR on all but the 20m band was well within my operating ranges, lowest SWR on 20m was at 13.95 MHz.
Second was the SRC X65 end fed wire. This was OK, but not good however a tuner could cope easily.
Lastly the SRC HF-360. Absolute rubbish until around 25 MHz when the SWR started dropping, Best was around 4:1 at 28 MHz. I attempted to contact SRC for advice and found they had ceased trading due to lack of business. Another company though seem to market the antenna (or a clone) this being Sigma Eurocomm.

Decided to bite the bullet and researched the 10 - 80m verticals on the market. Limited space for radials here so had to eliminate those requiring same.
Decided on a GAP Titan-DX which I ordered from a major dealer after seeing it on their website and reading several independent reviews. I accordingly ordered this online, and as I had to mount it away from the house bought a 10 foot aluminium pole from another major supplier.

Now the fun started.

The order for the mast was confirmed by email within the hour, but nothing heard about the antenna, although the orders page of my account showed it was "in process". I therefore contacted the supplier the following day who advised that it was not in stock and there was a 4 to 6 week wait. An email had allegedly been sent from their system but as has happened before with a purchase from them a year or so ago this never arrived. The chap I spoke to then said he would get the system to resend this and also send a copy from his own account. Latter arrived, former didn't. Another point to note which I raised was that the 2nd Funcube Dongle Pro Plus which I ordered in May and received 2 days later was still shown on my order summary as 'in process'. I received a follow up email a few hours later from their backorder department saying that the delay was only 3 weeks.

Now the mast. Not the supplier's fault here but the courier. I received no confirmation of despatch via e-mail however their order system at least updated the order status and provided me with a tracking number. I used this and found that my mast was 'in transit' (it actually was in a transit) but no delivery time. I needed to go out for an hour or so and left a note on my door to place the mast in a safe location. I arrived back home to find the note still on the door and no card through the letterbox so assumed the delivery had not been attempted. I therefore waited in. When it didn't arrive later that day I checked the tracking information and found that a delivery had been attempted (just before I got home - typical!). The company, UK Mail policy stated that they would attempt delivery the following day (now today) and this took place without issue. The driver advised that a card should have been left and blamed a temporary driver.

The questions raised here are:
  • Why does a 'modern' company not have order updates linked into a customer's account page?
  • Why is 'no stock level' not advised in the ordering process? - probably linked reasons.
  • Why with 100% failure rate in sending me an automated  email that this has not yet been resolved - I had reported this some time ago when I ordered my first Funcube.
  • Why do delivery operatives rarely use common sense when the occupier is away from the delivery address. A simple card would suffice saying "we called but were unable to deliver your item. A further attempt will be made tomorrow".
Bottom line for the 1st dealer is that I will go elsewhere should a product be available at the same price. 

Just hope these are the only problems I will have in replacing the vertical. I doubt it though as I understand from reports that the instructions to assemble the Titan-DX are very poor.

73 for now
Charlie
www.G4EST.me.uk

Monday, 29 April 2013

RFI in the shack

Not much to say to be honest, this seemed to creep up on me and was only evident when I became interested in aviation frequencies after looking at PlanePlotter as an interesting application. More  on my web site ( www,g4est.me.uk ).

I have been running a dual monitor system here for use with HRD mainly, however with my Planeplotter monitoring on the top screen I had the bottom screen available for other stuff. bottom monitor was full HD @1920 x 1080, the top being 1680 x 1050. As there was a format / size change to windows when I moved them between screens I was getting a bit fed up with the slight change of aspect ratio and the visible data in HRD when going to the lesser screen.

I have set up my system to receive data from aircraft transponders on 1090 MHz which I feed into the PlanePlotter servers, and thus leave my station on 24/7. To save power I reduced the power saving settings on my monitors to 20 minutes. Nothing special there.

An aircraft I was interested in came through Scottish ATC and control was passed to a local frequency to which i tuned my Icom IC706MkIIG. Noise on that frequency was horrendous. At that point the power saving cut in and switched off my monitors, and also switched off the noise. A quick test of each monitor showed the top beast was the troublesome on.

As I had won a raffle, the prize being £200 of Amazon vouchers the way forward was clear. I had another full HD monitor on another PC so I checked this for RFI - clear, so I ordered a new one. It arrived today and I swapped them over. WHAT A DIFFERENCE. even on the bands I thought were unaffected the background noise dropped dramatically. I had thought my monitors were all OK as I had checked them within the ham bands for spikes, however the general hash was missed.

All my monitors are LG, I stuck to this manufacturer to try and match colour balances, not really come to pass, the replaced monitor will now be coupled up to my new Raspberry Pi which I hope to receive for my birthday (Kids - hint hint).

I also checked using a SDR as a waterfall display and the main band of interference was right on the frequency I was interested in. I had planned to use my Funcube Dongle Pro + as a radio source with SDR-Radio to hunt down RFI, however I left in in my hotel room in the USA as on the final day of my holiday got gastro enteritis which cost me $297.00 for a doctor's visit and knocked me for 6. Needless to say it was not found and handed in by their housekeeping.

Said more than I thought - will stop rambling now

73

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Windows Hate (8)

being an early adopter, and seeing many reviews saying upgrading was straightforward I took the plunge and purchased 3 upgrades for my 2 desktops and the laptop. The fun starts here:

Upgraded the laptop and all worked fine until I attempted to run Ham Radio Deluxe version 5.24.36 - the last update the new owners were to release before the paid for and very expensive version 6.xx is released. Their website/forum indicated that it was Windows 8 compatible otherwise I would not have upgraded the OS. I was not the only guy with this issue and it turned out that their testing did not include the users with a UK keyboard. As a former IT professional with oversight on such matters this lack of attention to a 100% probable scenario is absolutely unforgivable, and developers working for me who committed this error would quickly be shown the door as incompetent. They subsequently released a new version which addressed the issue. It still had 2 bugs which they introduced in their update path previously however, one being sheer lazy or again incompetent programming. For these reasons I will NOT be upgrading especially as the new software is priced at around $70.00 initial cost followed by $30.00 per annum. As there is free software out there, admittedly not so good, but functional nonetheless I will use that if version 5.xx.xx becomes obsolete.

This was not the end of the issues however with this software and Windows 8. I upgraded my spare machine, installed HRD on this and all ran as expected. I did not however have access to my rigs so could not test the connectivity. There were no reports of issues however. I then took the plunge and upgraded the main shack desktop. Updated HRD in this case and then activated Logbook, DM780, and HRD itself. Audio settings were unchanged and I was decoding PSK31 etc. without problems. Decided to call a station and NOTHING HAPPENED. HRD showed as transmitting OK, and a switch of the audio output to my speakers confirmed this. PTT did not fire either. I wondered if HRD had somehow lost the switching settings, but decided that if that was the case it would be all over the forums. I have 2 rigs a Kenwood TS570D connected via an extension COM board, and an ICOM through a USB/COM conversion lead. I tried the auto detect on the Kenwood without success so being stumped got onto the forum for advice. A couple of exchanges within the next few hours, the guys were brilliant, At some point I had swapped the RS232 lead to the other port (COM6 to COM5). No joy until I tried a further attempt at auto detection of the COM port - SUCCESS - however COM5 was now COM3. Tried again with the ICOM connection, and COM7 was now COM5. It seems the autodetect could not try this for the Kenwood as the ICOM was connected (unknowingly).

New COM info noted, connections configured, and all operational again.

Would not have guessed that Windows 8 would reconfigure my COM ports. Still don't know where COM6 went (and don't care anymore!)

Story over - NOOOOO.
The 'live tiles' on windows 8 are non operational on my desktops. Apparently due to running the Upgrade rather than a clean install. Many suggestions as to the reason for this but no cure released from Microsoft for this very common problem. There is one suggested solution called 'PC Refresh' which is like a system rebuild which DELETES any desktop applications not sourced through Microsoft Store. Tried it on the laptop which has a bare minimum of applications installed, and YES all desktop apps bar IE were DELETED. Thought I could reinstall MS Office, Photoshop without problems if that happened, however it took out all the OEM software for the Lenovo which is a pain-in-the-A. Also took out my anti-virus which I am not happy about.

The tiles issue is very common I understand, and the suggestion to either PC Refresh or do a clean install is just not acceptable and much of my software is configured for me, sometimes by trial and error, and reinstalling is not an option. Microsoft you dropped the ball on this one - perhaps why that manager was shown the door last week!.

Rants over for a while!



Thursday, 13 September 2012

QSL Cards from Instant Print


I ordered my first batch of QSL cards from a company called Instant Print a year or so ago and received excellent service, so much so I lauded their service on my website. (www.g4est.me.uk).
I went back for reprint September 2012 and met nothing but problems as set out below

  • It seems they have computerised now as I can only order items via their website, 
  • They have no record of my previous order / artwork
  •  I also needed to register with them now. 
  • I asked if they could send me samples of their 250gsm card to see it this would pass through my printer successfully; they said order through the website - I did and they sent me 1 sheet of A6 plus other marketing stuff despite advising them what I needed it for. 

Their help desk seemed totally useless as all they did was refer me back to the website. Gone are the days of personal service it seems. I still ordered the reprints after reworking the artwork and emailing it to them as their prices are very competitive and I know the card will pass through my printer OK

JUST BEEN ADVISED THAT THEY CANNOT DO CUSTOM SIZES NOW - ORDER CANCELLED

A printing firm that cannot do custom sizes is to my mind unfathomable. Perhaps they do not know how a guillotine works!

Now looking for a printer who can do my cards on a card which can pass through my printer.
Any suggestions folks?

Saturday, 5 May 2012

HRH Queen Elizabeth II - Diamond Jubilee

Callsign GQ4EST activated for period 5th May to 10th June in celebration of the above event. New QSL card on eQSL and will be available via Bureau.


Monday, 19 March 2012

Am I too technology dependent?

On Saturday 17th March I drove from St Helens in Merseyside to pick my son up from Newcastle where he is at University. No real issues here as I am familiar with the route into the city as my eldest daughter also went to University there. One part of the route is tricky though, so out came my ageing TomTom ONE sat nav. It was already programmed with the destination and connected into the car's 12v system so just switched it on. It went off in 5 seconds. Checked power was OK then tried again. Went off 20 seconds later. Hit power button again - on then off - just as I was getting to the dodgy junction. Memory did not fail me though as I took the correct exit, but then made a right turn 1 traffic light too early. Sat Nav switched on again and I found that I had joined the road I needed just via an earlier connecting road. Tried the unit a few times after but it just would not stay on.

I had vowed not to get another TomTom device as earlier this year when my device shut down only occasionally I looked at upgrading. 4 years ago I purchased the full USA and Canada maps as I had intended touring and found that they were linked to my old device and could not be transferred. I enquired of TomTom if this was the truly the case and said that I wanted to upgrade as a fault had developed in my unit and was basically told "tough luck". I could not recall seeing any T's and C's stating this when I bought the maps or since.

I therefore decided to look elsewhere for my next sat nav. Garmin have a nice device so I researched it a bit. Their website is very poor as delivered '404' page not found when I went to look for maps, locked me into their FAQ pages after attempting to raise an email with their support people, and I could not find any downloadable information on any PC management software. I subsequently rang their UK support 'team' and got the following responses to my questions.
  • Can it pair up with my IPhone? - No Android OS only
  • Can I add costom POI? - Yes through POI Loader application
  • Can I change colour display? - No
  • What functionality from PC management software is available? - Only the POI.
This non-competitive feature list is a showstopper for me. Navman not attractive, so must shelve my principles and go back to TomTom - probably XXL Classic.

Big question though is do I need a discrete sat nav device ? would my smartphone navigation software be good enough? Answer probably yes as I don't want to risk losing the GPS signal at inopportune times, especially in the USA.

UPDATE 21 March 2012.   Bought a TomTom XXL Classic and USA Maps. Will do the job ; however due to them now combining individual country / regional USA maps into discrete maps (Western Europe and USA) I need to physically replace one with the other when going from UK to USA. The XXL does not have an SD slot which would have made life much easier. Now I need to take my laptop and wait 40 minutes for the exchange to complete. Agent I spoke to did not inform me of this although I did ask if the USA and UK maps could reside on the unit as at that point I did not know that UK was not a separate fileset.