Friday, 2 December 2011

digimodes and modulation

I have just come off 20m PSK around 14.070 MHz having had my QSO blasted away by a station overmodulating so badly the PSK31 signal covered in the region of 250Hz, faint intermod products just discernable outside that range.
I appreciate that it is not easy to check your own signal visibly, but I have read the following guidelines which may be of interest to those wondering (worrying) about their own signal quality.
Steps are simple:
  1. Ensure any audio processing is OFF
  2. Right-click the audio icon on the system tray to bring up the Playback devices (Windows 7, maybe Vista also). Set the level on the device used to provide audio input to the rig at 60 - 70%
  3. If rig has a menu setting to adjust audio in from accessory socket set midway value.
  4. If interface has an audio setting control then initially set midway.
  5. Fire up the rig, set to transmit on a clear frequency and adjust volume either from the Interface control, or the PC output to interface level slider so that the ALC just starts to kick-in.
  6. Back off slightly so the ALC is dormant.
  7. If the ALC won't back off, or never registers then adjust the other controls accordingly.
  8. When conditions seem OK then make a QSO and ask for honest reports
If a signal is bad I do not give the standard RST(Q) of 599. The last digit is for Quality (Tone) and if it is not free of intermodulation products I reduce this to 7 or even 5. I have seen several references to reporting guidelines on the web, and recommend this one from RSQ-INFO

I have noticed that as the 'tones' generated by the digimode software go lower in frequency, then the audio power tends to make the ALC kick in, conversely the higher the frequency the less audio, and less transmit power is generated. I usually check around a tone of 1500Hz, midband with frequency set at the PSK 'calling'. This will depend on the linearity of the soundcard I think.

I have two rigs which require differing input levels, I adjust from the Playback devices level control as I know the settings I need for each rig now, the rig with the menu driven volume level TS570D is too coarse to equalise both rigs. Settings are 61 for Kenwood, and 69 for the Icom. These will be particular to me though as rigs, sound cards and interface combinations will vary.

I have asked several stations to check my output periodically to ensure that something has not gone awry.

Hope this helps folks

UPDATE 2 December 2011
After several attempts to get the station to correct their overmodulation I have decided to post the spectrum display from the DM780 Superbrowser to highlight the worst signal I have seen on the bands
even able to resolve the ghost transmissions.

4th February 2012 EPC WW contest:
nice bunch of overmods here - or could be "Space Invaders"

Saturday, 26 November 2011

QSLs, eQSL and all that

Firstly I must state that I prefer paper QSLs via the bureau, however recent experiences suggest that this is not supportable in this modern age. Reason I say this is that after 10 months on the air I received my first batch of QSL cards from my QSL manager, 25 in all, none of which were for any QSOs I have made.QSO dates were between 2000 and 2010, a period I was QRT, and for CW a mode I do not use. All were for my callsign so no blame to the QSL bureau for this.
In my first spell on the air, 1976 to 1992 I received the occasional card for Bill, G4EHT I think, a CW operator, and as some of these these cards include his name then I assume they are his. As he is not on I cannot send them on, although technically they are not valid QSO's anyway, well not in my book.
Bottom line is 10 months on air with 600 contacts but no paper QSLs via bureau.

As for eQSL. I send out eQSL log updates automatically from DM780 on the assumption that if you have an eQSL account then they will be accepted, and if not then they will still be recorded on the system in case a ham joins up later and therefore a card will await them or else they merely exist in electronic limbo.
A recent QSO was rejected however by a guy who has an active eQSL account whose valid date range covers that QSO but rejects eQSLs received. This to me is illogical as if you don't want eQSLs then don't have an eQSL account, or at least adjust the dates acceptable range to refuse them if you do. With the volume of auto eQSLs sent then rejecting them manually seems like unnecessary work.

The message I got back was "not a eSQL user)"(sic) from an eQSL account holder?

I use eQSL as a means of collecting cards to show people on the computer. It's virtually instantaneous and convenient. Paper cards on the wall of the shack are better but take too long to arrive if at all.

I appreciate that different people have different views, however incorporating these into the bigger picture could be better thought out.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Contest operating

Not having added to the blog for some time - nothing really to report - I have decided to air my views on contest operating having just been on the CQWW SSB contest this last weekend.
As a keen contester (?) in my early days of radio, and being the contest manager of a local club for some years I feel I have some relevant input in this field.
Comments :
  1. with data competitions there is a visible clue when a station has ended the CQ call. With phone there is no such indicator, so "CQ TEST CQ TEST" gives no clue to the receiving station that a reply is needed at that point. this leads to point #2
  2. If you are leaving the receiving station time to assess if you have finished transmitting then leave more than 2 seconds to LISTEN for stations coming back. Heard several instances after a CQ call as above when after a second or so's delay many stations called to respond, but the calling station was already calling CQ again, possibly wondering why nobody was calling back. This went on for some few minutes when stations were obviously calling back.
  3. I heard a couple of pile-ups on a station who was simply giving the callers callsign then the report followed by QRZ. some 10 minutes passed when responders requested the caller's callsign, and this did not materialise for some time after that.
  4. The 'flow' of some languages or even regional accents are such that spaces between words are compressed, and coupled with national accents can mean call letters can run into each other if spoken quickly. having to repeat 2 or 3 times takes up more time than speaking more distinctly in the first place.
  5.  calling stations listen more. There is nothing more ridiculous than a station calling in, giving a 59 report then asking "what is your callsign?". 
  6. If the station being worked asks a particular station such as "station with DK in the call please try again" then don't try to piggyback the contact if your call does not match the pattern..

The protocol I tried to encourage was:
  1. Transmit on a clear frequency. Also remember it may be clear at your end, but in the middle of other stations which you cannot hear in the areas you are trying to reach. If nothing comes back after a while then QSY to another clear frequency - easier said than done I appreciate.
  2. Finish off a CQ call with the station callsign and 'listening' indicator e.g. "CQ TEST CQ TEST ... de G4EST and bye".
  3. Listen for more than 2 seconds - perhaps 5 or even more.
  4. If the station you are calling is attempting to contact or in QSO with another station then DONT call in.
  5. Give your callsign clearly and frequently.
  6. If after several attempts on responding to a CQ then log the frequency, QSY and go back later when conditions may be more favourable.
I hope these musing strike the right chords for some people.
REMEMBER: contests are not life or death, have fun and remember your manners at all times.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Manners cost nothing

This is no doubt a one off, but called UR6IM on PSK31 today. he was heavily overmodulating with a IMD of -11db. In response to my callback to his CQ he responded with "G4EST QSO BEFORElq BEFORE!!! de UR6IM  CQ... " that QSO was in May 2011, so not that recent.

I accept he may not wish to have a long QSO but a simple exchange would suffice rather than just being RUDE!

I responded thus: "UR6IM Igor -- sorry to bother you!!!
did not realize that you only accept 1 QSO per station
G4EST".  Perhaps he understood!

If memory serves me correctly I have seen him on the band (15m) fairly regularly and usually overmodulating.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

USB, Soundcards, and connectivity.

Just thought I would document the problems I have had recently with my data connection between my interface unit (ZLP USBMiniPro) and the PC through external soundcards.

USB 6 channel audio external soundcard
After reading an article somewhere on the web about a decent external soundcard to use instead of the cheapo USB plug-in dongle I was using I purchased an External Sound Card USB 6 Channel 5.1 Audio from Amazon. It arrived a day or so later and as described in the article performed well, installation being straightforward, DM-780 recognising it easily and connection being 100%. Also there was far less added noise on the audio from the rig (TS-570D), as expected.

One morning however, weeks later after booting up the digimode software refused to recognise the microphone input, so I went about the usual steps of rebooting, reinstalling etc, all to no avail. I assumed therefore that the unit had developed a fault so returned it via Amazon's very efficient returns service. As it was sourced outside of Amazon I was unable to obtain a replacement, so a refund was made.

I temporarily connected with the dongle - no problems there.
Maplins 5.1 Multimedia Soundcard
Next stage was to obtain another external sound card (I wanted external so I could use my laptop if out portable). I went to the local Maplins and purchased a 5.1 Multimedia sound card. This as with the 1st unit connected easily and gave solid connections.

After a few days I decided to move the USB connection from the front of the machine to a rear panel input. On starting the DM780 software I was advised that the connection to the microphone had failed.(deja-vu) Went into the soundcard options and reselected the microphone without success. Next stage was to look at the recording devices available from right-clicking the icon in the notifications area of my toolbar (Windows 7). This shows activity against each connected device, and in my case showed that the Line-in was active although audio input was plugged into the microphone jack!  I selected this in the soundcard options dropdown and all was well, signals on the waterfall. Went to transmit and NOTHING.

To cut this long story short, after reloading drivers etc. the only way I could get both TX and RX to work was by connecting via different USB ports and reloading the disk based drivers. Currently working off line-in, audio plugged into this socket now.

I have a decent spec PC with a 750W PSU and am wondering if the voltage to the USB ports is marginal thus the intermittent connectivity. Also wondering if the latest W7 updates have fouled things up!

Working at the moment, so will keep fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

QSLs and all that

After a few false starts with a QSL card design I finally decided to got some printed for both my own call and the GR4EST call. I wanted to design something which typified village life in the UK, and a game of cricket at the village club, the church in the background under overcast skies seemed to represent this perfectly. The GR card was easier, being based on the Union Flag.

As for producing the card I trawled the internet and obtained several quotes. I ended up using InstantPrint, based in the North East and ordered 500 'main' cards and 130 for GR4EST. There were some issues with the artwork I supplied, however they helped me sort this out and reference to their website for detailed information proved useful. The cards were duly printed and I am pleased with the results - Thanks guys - I will definitely come back for reprints.

This is where the fun (sic) started.
I use HRD for logging which is based on an Access database. I have some expertise with this DBMS from a professional role (before I retired) as well as Microsoft Word. I therefore decided to overprint my cards via a Mail Merge.

I created the "Word" template, linked to the database as the Data (Recipient) source and did a test merge. All seemed Ok so next stage was printing out a test card. I then found that the minimum size my Kodak ESP-3 AIO could handle was 6x4 inch paper. As it drinks ink, and the cartridges cannot be refilled I decided to bite the bullet and replace it with one which could handle QSL cards @ 3.5x5.5 inches.
Trawling the internet I found the HP Photosmart Plus B210a at £79.99 in my local PC World. Got it home, connected up via the wireless network, printed off A4 test print OK, then loaded up the QSL cards into the Photo tray. Options set to use this tray on Printer Preferences, however A4 from main tray selected. I went to the Printer properties and found the Photo Tray was shown as "Not Available". Set it as holding 9x13 cm paper as it was the closest size to cards, Custom not available on this printer, and 'Saved' - well perhaps not as message came back that it "Can not save Printer settings". Eventually, after about an hour of fiddling, got it to print out one card from the Photo tray, but after this settings were lost again. Investigation on the internet showed that this is not an uncommon problem with this printer.

I decided to upgrade drivers etc. so downloaded the new versions from the HP site. 88% into the extraction it failed saying "unable to create output file" even when run as Administrator.

Contacted HP who suggested resetting etc. but then said it was a hardware issue, and to replace the printer. One guy who had the same problems reported that it worked off one of his PCs, but not the other two, so hardware not the issue in his case.

I have had issues with HP kit before as regards software stability and this purchase was made with some trepidation.

I took the support advice to heart and returned the printer for replacement - I have bought an Epson BX525WD which is working perfectly.

I will not touch HP stuff again. - Lesson learned the hard way.

The format of the date and time field held in HRD required some conversion to get it to look right, and after applying sorts on the data to get it into country order for the bureau I am good to go.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

TG9AHM - what a nice guy

I have just finished the GR4EST call after an eventful period of operation. I spent several minutes attempting to contact TG9AHM in Guatemala in the dying moments of the call and my perseverance was rewarded  by a solid and interesting contact which ended bang on midnight local when the callsign variation ended. Emmanuel enquired about my home call, at which point he then called me and a new country was then worked as G4EST.

Emmanuel - you are a scholar and a gentleman, thank you.

Monday, 9 May 2011

My thoughts on digimodes

I use digimodes a lot now, lazy perhaps as I am just pressing keys to activate the macros on DM780, logging done through HRD automatically, the only real input being the adding of custom phrases or messages within the predefined text. I do this often now though to stop me getting bored.

Major mode is BPSK-31, although other flavours are used as the digital imprint on the waterfall is easily recognisable.

More esoteric modes though are not as easy to identify, excepting RTTY, and I avoid using these unless previously identified to me by RSID 'coding'. I have this enabled on my transmissions and consider it has got me a few contacts when conditions are quiet on 15 and 18m.

My plea for the day is that those stations using less common modes who have RSID capability Enable it: you may well get more contacts.

Last day of my GR prefix, been busy so far, but mainly Eastern European. Still waiting for East Coast USA, the Antipodes, or South Africa (no chance as my antenna is end on to there!)

Living in hope anyway.

Good DX to all who read this anyway - both of you ;)

Monday, 2 May 2011

New toy

I got my ill-fated FT 480R back from Castle after the TX was repaired and all seemed well. After a day or so I attempted to use the memory facilities, which were operational previously, but now are not. I cannot be bothered to get this fixed professionally so delved into the unit to see if it was something obvious like a loose plug. No luck, although noticed a retaining / earthing screw on one of the boards was missing. Now looking for one to fit.

As it was my birthday a week or so ago I decided to treat myself, and saw a multimode transceiver HF to 70cm IC 706Mk2G for sale at LAMCO. As I had bought my main HF rig from there in January and was pleased with their service I had no qualms about a second purchase. It arrived the next day.
Issue now was antennae for 70cm and 6m.

70cm not an immediate issue, probably replace my 2m 1/2 wave with a 2m / 70cm colinear, but 6m caused most confusion. Horizontal or vertical.

I opted for a Moonraker 6m Halo (folded dipole in their catalogue). Arrived in 2 days and after building which was not without some issues on the tuning capacitor (Moonraker you must improve your instructions). we completed within an hour.
I decided to fit this to the mast supporting the rotator for the 2m beam so that I could gain access to the tuning capacitor easily. SWR 1.8:1 at best initially, but a couple of tweaks of the capacitor brought this down to 1.1:1 as best as I can tell in the lower section of the band. All I need is a contact now.
I coupled the 2 2m antennas to the Icom via a switch and listened for activity on 2m. Not a lot, so browsed VHF frequencies to see what i was able to hear. Radio 1 OK etc. then a a former pilot tuned to the local airport. have spent most time on the rig listening to Liverpool approach and therefore some of my former colleagues coming in for touchdown.

As a devotee of digital modes I ordered a switching box and cables from ZLP electronics in order to use the new rig on those modes and drive using CAT. I must have moved by existing ZLP Mini interface as half way through a contact on HF my TX power dropped, and when on receive I got a very weak signal. It was suggested that I had changed a setting.
As I had had issues with the reliability of the interface to soundcard connection when first received in January, I again reported this to ZLP along with a video showing the fault occurring when the jack plug was moved. I received a curt "clean the jack plug" response as a response to my complaint about the fault, this being something that had been done this time as well as when the problems first occurred.
Despite my experiences and evidence a fault was never acknowledged and I still have not received my new purchases.


I am writing this Bank Holiday Monday after the Royal Wedding.
I personally did not watch it, but considered the prefix may well be useful.
At 01:00 local on 29th April I fired up the rig on PSK on 20m worked an Italian station, then was subjected to a pile up of mainly Russian stations. Then went to 40m where a similar pile up occurred.
Been on intermittently since, mainly late afternoon and evenings, and made contacts with Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Cuba as well as the usual European bunch and West coast America
 Must keep going and hope band conditions improve so I can get East Coast USA.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

NARSA (Blackpool) Rally

Sunday 10th April - Attended the rally above not knowing what to expect having been disappointed at the Red Rose rally in January. Pleasantly surprised, especially with the attendance of 3 major suppliers.
Having been disillusioned by prices of new gear, and the lack of availability of multimode VHF/UHF rigs I was looking for something to replace my ageing TR9000 and the FT-480R which I bought on eBay as functional but turned out to be a box of @#*!; this has cost me over £300 to get the TX and RX operational, and it still has faults...
Bumped into G3OCR at the Rally - Hi Stu - hope you got the amp you were looking for. I was after a GDO of some sort. Found 2 on one stall, cheap at £10.00 and £25.00, with coils, but on one the coil on the unit seemed immovable, and no instructions. The other seemed a bit battered and considering my experiences with second hand gear decided to look around a bit more. After a full circuit I returned and found the better one gone, no surprise really.
Spent money at the RSGB bookstall where I purchased an ARRL Antenna Handbook. I saw one in the US last week when on holiday there, and found this one cheaper. Will remember that for future trips. Also bought 30 or so assorted ferrites to help me combat the electrical noise emanating from those damned switched mode PSUs. my router, and also to block RF getting into my Sky box which does not affect the signal, but disables the remote control.
Such a lovely day I decided to have lunch in Blackpool, but after driving around for 20 minutes and not finding a parking space I headed for Lytham. Found a nice seafood restaurant wher a plate of fish and chips hit the mark.
Drove home with the top down on my Saab, exhilarating.

Friday, 8 April 2011

RST - a New definition?

In my time, RST stood for Readability, Strength, and Tone (CW).
Has it changed?
On several occasions now I have heard new callsign holders telling a station that they are coming in at Radio whatever, and Signal whatever. Is this correct, or it it a matter of lowering standards, or just ignorance of the protocols of signal reporting. As an addition to this one station reported to another that "you are coming in clearly, about 4 and 5".
Been back on the air now for almost 4 months, and in my QRT time new license classes were introduced. I do not know what level of knowledge is required to obtain a license now, but when one amateur needs to spend several minutes describing what a dipole is to a new licensee then I fear the worst for the hobby.
I appreciate the need to introduce new blood into our wonderful hobby, but are we to become a hobby where everything is bought 'off the shelf'?

Any views?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Snowdonia Radio - get your act together

Despite me sending them my details on 9th March 2011, they have still not responded to my 3rd support call. 1x phone, 2x e-mail.
Note to self: use alternative supplier who actually cares about a customer.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

G4EST - a ham abroad

I have just returned from an 11 day trip to Orlando Florida and would like to tender a word of warning as regards bringing kit back.
I went to AES Orlando, a Ham  equipment supplier, and found them a friendly bunch, their shop festooned with antennae externally, and with books and mainly mobile and CB stuff internally. I purchased a 4 way antenna switch which I seem unable to obtain in the UK for a reasonable price. This is where the fun started. On returning home I thought of what the security at the airport would think of this solid (to X-Rays) bit of kit, the thought not being one of ease, so I packed it in my hand luggage. Upon entering the security area, I removed belt, shoes etc, and placed these in a tray along with my laptop, my Camera bag in a second, my jacket, iPhone, loose change and the antenna switch removed from the camera bag  in a third. I went through the metal detector arch without incident and waited for my stuff. Tray 1 sailed through. Tray 2 took longer as my camera bag held my sat-nav, video camera, camera and 3 lenses, and assorted power leads and chargers. Then Tray 3 got some attention... I could see from the end of the belt how the tray was moving... it was going back and forth, then the operators seemed to play with a setting or two. Eventually the tray appeared and the security guard grabbed the antenna switch which was still in it's transparent packaging. She looked puzzled, then asked a colleague (background scene - other passengers waiting to be processed looking frustrated). This colleague then wandered off to ask a third who seemed to recognise what it was and from that point it became a non-threat.

This process took around 3 minutes, and was facilitated by having the equipment easily available for physical inspection, I hate to think how it would have been handled had it been buried in my camera bag, or worse still in my hold luggage.

ADVICE: Think ahead and segregate any 'dubious' items out for inspection to save time through security, and avoid the daggers  emanating from other passengers held up while your equipment is being evaluated..

Monday, 21 March 2011

Murphy's Law

Question: What happens when a Radio Amateur leaves his rig monitoring PSK on 15m to do some essential maintenance at Home.
Answer: Stations from Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela make their appearance along with many from Brazil. USA was pounding in, although none of the missing states for me showed up on PSK-Reporter.
My tropical fish tank looks good now though after 4 hours of work, and found a fish I had thought had died.
Spent some time trying to resolve a PSK-125 signal, then realised the noise reducer on my TS-570D was on. It has no effect on narrower band PSK, but made decoding PSK-125 inoperative.

GB3MP - going a bit weird lately, receive performance seems erratic, and on several occasions TX noisy.
"Sausage and Scouse" net had to abandon it's regular sched last week as many stations usually loud and clear were unreadable at times.. i understand that since the privatisation of the site, access is an issue, as is the cost for any visits for maintenance. I-O-M government support GD3GD I believe, pity this can't be done here as it would be an asset in any local emergency. Perhaps when Wales gets more financial devolution...

Been scouring local shops without success for fabric to cover my homemade speaker enclosures. Then Eureka... I had found an old pair of trousers which will never fit me again so snip snip snip, I have fabric for my speakers That didn't cost me an arm and a leg, just a leg!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

2 months in - observations

Main difference I see from "the old days" is in operating practices on VHF, although only from a minority. For some callsigns seem to be obsolete, as does management of the QSO. Sudden drop of carrier in group leading to doubling where nobody knows who it has been passed to. In large groups sitting on repeaters, breakers being acknowledged, but not brought in for some 10 minutes when the reason for the break may well have passed.
Also on VHF, both simplex and on repeaters the presence of interfering stations playing music or just swearing/insulting those on frequency. The opinion of those affected is that OFCOM will do nothing, and on one occasion I heard that after the police had been advised of a known 'pirate' they said that it was not illegal and there was nothing they could do.

On HF predominately, the noise levels from more and more electrical paraphernalia. Conversations with other Foreign Amateurs seem a thing of the past, especially using data modes.

EQSLcc is brilliant. I am however surprised (disappointed) at one 'modern' station in Gibraltar who will only QSL direct, and this only if we send him money to cover postage. Perhaps a nice little earner...
Again a computer based facility I find excellent. I use DM-780 for data modes,this being part of the "Ham Radio Deluxe" suite of programs. Within that program is a PSK-REPORTER module. Stations using this optional facility automatically report back to a central server details of stations identified on the PSK waterfall, recording time and in most cases frequency. The user can then look on a world map and see a map showing stations heard, or stations who have decoded the transmission of the home station. This also appears in a logbook form. Very useful for checking the directionality of any aerial.

FT-480R boxed up and ready to go back to Castle for replacement of the relays, one of which seems to be the culprit for TX dropping out randomly. With the money spent on this OLD rig I could have bought a new one...

My local crowd seem a good bunch. There is no local Club however the nearest being some 17 miles away. Perhaps we have a niche to fill?

Just finished building the speaker enclosures for the shack, now 15m and 17m antennae to design and install.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The FT-480R yet another issue

Been using the FT-480R received back from Castle Electronics earlier in the week, It appears from reports that the output intermittently fails, although no indication on the transmit led-line indicators.
Changed antenna, no change in behaviour, so spent 30 minutes sitting on 145.200 after connecting in an in-line power / SWR meter. Thought this was not working as the new vertical showed negligible SWR. The beam showed 1.4:1 so not bad for a start.

Anyway, the rig puts out 12W FM for some time, then it drops to very low power, estimates at < .5W.  Back to receive and it is full again, sometimes for a period of minutes, in fact up to 12 till next failure, but sometimes 20 seconds or so. Initial thought is the relay... Back to Castle.

Seems that this cheap rig circa 1980 is going to cost me more than a new modern one.

Thanks Nottingham Amateur, you dodged a bullet which got me right in the bank account.

At what point do I cut my losses?


April 2011
 Sent rig to Castle again, both relays repaired and now fully functioning except for the memory. Going to get a new rig and keep this as a spare.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wind over the willows

Thursday, just 4 days since 2m beam went into proper service. Received my FT-480R back from Castle Electronics yesterday. The fault on this radio which I bought of another amateur on eBay was that the front end was way out of alignment. This is a fault which could not have happened in transit from this Nottingham based guy, so unless he was totally unaware of how deaf the rig was, (very improbable unless a complete idiot), then I had been taken for a ride. The rig ended up costing me £112.00 + £10.00 initially, plus £6.00 postage to Castle, plus £100.00 for repair and return. £228.00 in total.
My advice, unless you can pay by PayPal for goods sight unseen then don't take the risk. This unscrupulous guy refused PayPal, now I know why, there was no comeback under eBay buyer protection.


Anyway, rant over. The rig is performing very nicely now when connected to the new vertical, so have migrated the TR9000 to SSB duty on the beam. This is working OK, but no real test yet, and need to lift the beam up another 3 feet or so. 10' pole now arrived which will go up soon.

The wind is having fun with the aerials however, just hope they are still up there this evening!

Snowdonia Radio Company emailed me Tuesday apologising for their delay in responding, busy and all that, and requested I send them contact details so that we can discuss the issues I have/questions raised. Did so, but no call yet.

I find the hex beam design for HF interesting, and am looking to adapt this for loft installation for 10m.
Will report if successful or not, but need to get the hang of the aerial evaluation software first. Also working of add-ons to link eQSLcc to Ham Radio Deluxe to automatically update my log with details of QSLs received.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

where is the 2m activity?

Received my ZL special 5 element beam from Moonraker last week in installed it on a rotator about 25 feet agl. This was topped off some 5 foot higher with a 2m 1/2 wave vertical to replace the 2 x 1/2 wave phased vertical made from copper pipe. Main reason being aesthetic, both aerials technically 2.5 db gain.
Instructions for the beam were basic but clear, none received for the vertical, although construction obvious.

What a bummer - vertical down some 20db on the old one,  As for the 2m beam - not a thing heard, although spent some time on the ARRL contest, need 6 more states to complete my collection. Since raised it a further 2 feet, some improvement, but still down. Reasonable take-off in most directions can hear GB3LD, GB3VT at S2 and S4 respectively, well could on the old antenna.
Spent several hours listening on 144.300 MHz on Sunday evening with no success, generally pointing east where I expect to most activity.

Ordered a 10 foot mast (Sunday) to lift all by 3 feet, and hopefully will get some improvement.

Tuesday mast arrived, did not fit through the letter box though!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Tuesday - Bazooka for 20m installed

After much reading I decided a few weeks ago to construct a 20m Bazooka antenna for deployment in the loft. Built it using RG59/U co-ax with 300 ohm ribbon end pieces and later realised I had insufficient 75 ohm co-ax for the feeder. A company close to me (KENABLE) stocked what I needed at a very reasonable price, 100m was purchased.. Arriving home I set about connecting the feeder to the antenna - The solder would not take on the 75 ohm coax, so out I went again for some 'chocolate block' connectors. None in stock in Screwfix, but Tool Station had them in at 29p. Yahoo.
Connected up then set about fixing it in place. An hour later, covered in dust, I emerged from the roof space victorious. Little bending of the ends was needed and it lies approximately North-South.
Another hole drilled through the wall, coax fed through, and PL259 employed.
Aerial connected to the rig's #2 input and I trolled the band.
Seems to have an S-Point or so gain over the long wire , and picks up less static. This letter point was to be expected as the Bazooka is supposed to be a quieter aerial noise wise.
As I use PSK via HRD and DM780 software I left the Propagation monitor running over Wednesday to see if there was any discernible difference between antennae. Result - bazooka seems more efficient and more signals seem to be clear of the noise.
Rest of Wednesday spent constructing ZL-Special for 2m.
Also thinking of bazookas for 15m and 10m now. Probably folded dipole for 17m.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

My views on customer service

Over last weekend I contacted several companies to either purchase equipment or enquire about kit already owned. Responses have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.
I decided to continue my rebuild of the station by purchasing a 2m beam, rotator, and a less conspicuous vertical antenna. I ordered the antennae from Moonraker, and the rotator, 4-way PL 259 switch (HF use) and PL 259 plugs from Nevada Radio. After I had placed the order from Moonraker (on the Sunday) I realised I had forgotten the ferrite chokes I needed. I e-mailed their support area and received a response almost by return  advising that they would add these items to the order and take additional payment automatically. Kudos.
On the Monday I received a telephone call from Nevada Radio advising that the rotator was not available and that they would not be restocking the item. It also transpired that the switch was also not available. I was offered the PL 259 plugs post free to compensate for the inconvenience.
I subsequently looked on the internet again for the rotator and found it at Moonraker, albeit £20.00 more expensive. 4 way switches were vastly more expensive elsewhere. I ordered the rotator.
Later that afternoon I received an e-mail from Moonraker advising me that they had noticed I now had 2 orders with them which they have now combined thus saving me postage. WooHoo.
Also on Sunday I e-mailed Snowdonia Radio Company regarding a query on their HF 360 vertical. This is the second time I have contacted them. As of Tuesday lunchtime no response. (again)
Moonraker 10/10
Nevada Radio 6/10
SRC 2/10 (very disappointed in support capability, 2 given as their long wire antenna is quite good)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Well - here we go again

After a spell of 19 years off the air I have decided to return to the hobby, having now got my own place where I can indulge my love of antennas and other techy stuff.

I purchased a Kenwood TR 570D at the Red Rose rally along with both a long-wire and vertical antenna fron Snowdon Radio Communications just to get me started. I had built a 2x1/2 wave phased antenna for 2m which was erected as well as the HF stuff and I was soon on the air again. Picking up the Lake District (GB3LD) and Stoke (GB2VT) repeaters from my QTH in Rainford fine. GB3MP 20db over 9 as to be expected. HF has been mainly PSK31 (Ham Radio Deluxe and DM 780 enabled) and best so far is Brazil, while Azores and Jakarta heard. All on the long wire antenna.

Immediate impressions were an incredible amount of noise on the HF bands and operating practices on 2m absolutely appalling from some operators.

How I handled RFI in the shack to follow.