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. (
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


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.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

G3TPW - CobWebb antenna

In January 2012 I ordered a CobWebb antenna from G3TPW as I had heard glowing reports from another station in the Netherlands and it's specifications made it ideal for my loft. After communication with G3TPW I ordered one, but was then met with an 'information blackout'. The explanation for the delay in despatch was quite acceptable. The designer has supply issues with the antenna wire and had to source elsewhere and he needed to evaluate the new component re velocity factor before he despatched the kit to me. That is attention to detail.

After 4 weeks the antenna arrived. Now built and operational. - I plan to put a photographic guide to the build on here when time permits.

WOW - as compared to my vertical and long wire antennae it is much less prone to noise pickup yet receives signals just as well, better perhaps as it is more omnidirectional. Have heard South Africa, China and Indonesia now which were not resolvable previously, and the areas I previously heard very well are still pounding in. Truly omnidirectional. Incidentally the first station I worked was in Belize.through a pile-up using 50W PSK31 so nice christening.

I have posted a construction video on my site, for interested parties.

My Website

At the beginning of the year I developed a frozen shoulder which was quite painful and immobilised me for some time. Got really bored as driving, or even walking some distance was painful. Could not even go to bed for some 10 weeks as lying down brought on the pain.

What to do? I decided to restart my website build and now have a framework to build on. The site is and still under development. I am using Dreamweaver CS4 which is working well, however having installed Internet Information Services (IIS) on both my PCs am unable to get them working well. One machine tells me that the service is unavailable, while the other fails to process the css or javascript files.

Shoulder 95% OK now so will be putting up my 2m/70cm antennae which came down in the January storms very soon, so will be leaving the website for 'rainy days'.
I plan to move this blog there, but have not researched it fully yet.

UPDATE: 19th March 2012: Website nearing completion and on the live server. Still not technically live but is viewable - bugs and all.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year and etiquette matters

Happy New Year to all who are reading this.
I decided to revive an old tradition of mine whereby I work at least one station on each of the bands I have available to me on both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I used to do this in my first period of operating from 1977 to 1983 when I resided at an address where I was able to erect decent antennae. At that time only 2m and the 10,15,20,40,80 and 160m bands were available to me so not really a problem. I succeeded most years.
Did not think it through this holiday though as in addition to those I now have 70cm,6,12,17 and 30m to operate on.
New Year's Eve- success on all but 70cm and 6m - ^m band dead to me - even changed the aerial from a halo to a dipole to change my target audience, but not a signal to be heard on FM or SSB. On 70cm I use a collinear, decent take-off but silence rained.
New Year's Day same issue with those bands, and 30m eluded me also. Putting up the new dipole for 6m the day before aggravated an existing shoulder injury and I was in no position to stick at it for long, so better luck next year. Used new 6m bandplan to hunt as well

Just thought I would just pop in a comment on this. I just worked an Italian station on PSK125 low down in the usual PSK operating  portion of the 20m band - very strong but wide - I gave him 597 as IMD was clearly visible. advised him of such. A few minutes later on in the main area of the PSK operating portion 14.071 he reappeared calling CQ, still wide and obliterated 2 PSK31 stations underneath him and caused QRM to several adjacent signals. I appreciate that he may not have heard them, but there would have been some indication that QSO's were going on in that frequency range as the band was absolutely 'chocker-bloc' at my end. Finding a clear frequency for a 31Hz signal was hard enough, nevermind a 125Hz one doubled in size due to IMD products!

When the band is busy I do not use the wider modes in consideration for other Hams. There is an excuse for PSK variants at times as the messages are transmitted so much faster, but Contestia for example is just a bandwidth gobbler (IMHO).