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 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.


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

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, ).

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