Friday, 31 December 2010

End of year

This is the QSL card and sticker I received from Radio Prague just before Christmas.As a young SWL I used to send reception reports to many broadcast stations (back in the 80's there were quite a few more of them) but its something I have not done for years. When I heard that Radio Prague is to leave the airwaves at the end of January 2011 I thought I would send a report for one of their last QSLs. I am also awaiting a card from Radio Slovakia, another broadcaster about to leave shortwave.
So for 2011 I will be trying to collect QSLs from some of the remaining broadcasters-who knows it may be the last year of major international broadcasting?
One of my radio ambitions for 2010 was to get back into using CW. Sadly, although I have been doing some practice and am able to receive reasonably well I have yet to pluck up the courage to get on the air with the key! So this will become my goal for 2011. I used to love CW and bitterly regret not keeping up my skills with it when I was younger. Now in my forties getting back into the mode seems much more of a struggle.
Anyway a happy and healthy 2011 to you all and I hope to hear and work some of you on the bands in 2011. Who knows it may even be on CW!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Step Backward?


For quite a while now PSK31 has been my main operating mode. I use the "Digipan" software, its been around for some time now but I find it straightforward to use and it runs very nicely on my elederly Windows XP machine.
I was very interested therefore to see on the "MixW" website that there is now a new version of Digipan- Digipan32
Unfortunately the new version is nowhere near as good as the old. It appears to lack a number of functions, including the ability to decode multiple PSK QSOs at the same time, a function that works well in the original version. In fact I cannot see anything that is better than the previous version. Now I know I should not complain as this software is free. But presumably someone has gone to the trouble of releasing DIGIPAN32 its just I am not sure why. I for one will be sticking to the "old" version for now at least!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Radio Review

I have had a chance to look at my new Dual Band handheld Luiton. First impressions are that it is a quirky set, rather difficult to program. It is it seems an exact clone of the TYT UVF-1

If you would like to read more about it go here

It should be borne in mind that I am still getting used to this transceiver, but there is no doubt that it is not as easy to use or as logical to programme as your usual Kenwood, Yaesu or Icom gear.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

This was the scene at the end of my street a few days ago. In fact it still looks pretty much the same so it seems that we will have a white Christmas!
I am looking forward to opening my dual band radio tomorrow (in addition to my other gifts of course) and will post my finding on the new rig in the next few days. I am hoping it will be superior to the earlier Chinese made gear like my KYD 2 metre handie pictured below which I have had for around 5 years. Although it is not an entirely bad little rig it does suffer with low audio (I have enlarged the microphone hole which helps), slow scan speeds and an s meter which either reads full scale or nothing at all.

Anyway I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for 2011.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Another one bites the dust!

Further to my last entry- I mentioned that Radio Prague allowed you to submit reception reports online. Well not for much longer as it seems that Radio Prague is also about to leave the shortwave bands at the end of 2010. It seems that the days of European Shortwave broadcasters are numbered with the internet taking over. As radio amateurs this may be good news in the long term as it looks as if there will be a lot of empty space on shortwave. Maybe we will get an extra band or two?

Thursday, 2 December 2010

reception reports

It appears that another international shortwave broadcaster will soon be no more. Radio Solvakia International is to cease shortwave broadcasts at the end of this year. As I was working from home today I was able to tune into one of their daytime broadcasts on the trusty R1000 and I have sent a reception report in the hope of getting one of their last QSL cards.
It seems that the international broadcaster for Argentina RAE may also soon cease broadcasting on shortwave- I will keep an ear out for them. I see that some broadcasters now allow you to submit a report electronically-Radio Prague being an example although apparently they still send a paper QSL.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Do not open until Xmas!

I have ordered a new VHF/UHF dual band radio which arrived today. It appears to be a re-badged TYT TH-UVF1. This rig is a Luiton LT-UV.
The TYT version had a favourable review in this months "RADCOM" (The Radio Society of Great Britains's monthly magazine). The TYT was on sale for £99.95 but the Luiton was only £79.99 (approx €95.70).

Anyway since we are close to the Christmas season I have decided that this will be my Christmas present to the shack and therefore it will not be opened or used before Christmas! Expect a short review over the holiday season.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Still here

I know I haven't made a post for a little while, partly this is due to having (another) heavy cold and partly because i have been busy with other things. Looking in my logbook a lot of my HF activity has been on 80 metres PSK of late.Strangely enough this is the band on which my antenna is he least efficient since it is basically a 40 metre dipole with an inductor on each leg to bring it onto 80. I am beginning to think that it may not be as good on 80 as my old inverted L was, maybe the vertical component of the L was helping me with the longer distance stuff. Anyway as during the week I am normally only in the shack after dark I am pretty much confined to 40 or 80 metres as the higher bands are still closed in the evenings.
I notice that Ebay is still full of Chinese produced handheld radios. A local amateur here has bought one for use on 4 metres (70Mhz) and is very pleased with it. I see that VHF/UHF dual band handhelds (like the one pictured below) can now be bought in the UK for as little as £79. I wonder is the quality better than the earlier chinese made equipment, as I recall many of their handies had poor TX audio.
it can't be long before the Chinese manufacturers make their way onto the HF side of the market- that will be interesting.



I was in QSO with a few locals on 2 metres the other night and the comment "where are they all?" was made.
In the UK for some years we have had a relatively easy entry into amateur radio vis the Foundation licence. A short basic course and exam could earn you a foundation licence with a power limit of 10 watts and the ability to operate on most of the amateur bands. Foundation licencees can be identified by the m or M6 calls. The strange thing is that as was discussed in our QSO- many local clubs throughout the UK have been running these courses since the introduction of the foundation scheme. Thousands of people must have gained licences, certainly in my local area the radio club has been running courses for years. It seems many people take the course and exam, get their licence and are never heard from again. Certainly VHF is this area is virtually dead. I know there are many M3's and M6s to be heard on the HF bands but I think there are more that we never seem to hear from I Perhaps the current licensing system is not that much of a success.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Picture Quality



As any readers of this blog have probably noticed one of my favourite modes of operation is PSK31. I have also dabbled with SSTV and modes like RTTY . I do listen from time to time on 3733 LSB where you can find the digital slow scan TV activity, this can be quite a busy frequency in the evenings.. I use the "Easypal" software to decode these pictures, unlike analogue SSTV, you never get a noisy or difficult to see picture , the digital SSTV either gives you a perfect picture or nothing at all. The software is more resource intensive than that for the other data modes and my "radio PC" with its old AMD 1.2 Ghz CPU struggles to run it, but just look at the results. The pictures take a little longer to transmit than standard SSTV and I always felt that the duty cycle was a bit harsh for the rig, particularly if I was to run 50 watts or more. Now I have the SRW linear I could run the rig at 10 watts and get 50-60 watts from the linear, that way I won't be overdriving anything and  I may try a few Digital SSTV QSOs of my own.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The power of QRP

Listening on my mobile setup this morning to a very noisy 40 metre band. I heard DF2DD calling CQ. His signal was around a 4 and 5 very impressive as he was running only 1 watt! If the band had been a little quieter it would have been an easy QSO. I guess that shows that QRP can really work.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Amplifier Update

Well my SRW Linear is back on the Air. A replacement resistor and installation of the spare set of valves got things going although it is not certain  that the old valves have expired. Yesterday I was running the Amp, just "tickling" it with 10 watts drive from the rig, giving me around 100watts out. All went well for a couple of QSOs. Then as I was closing down "pop"! The household mains supply went out (The RCD tripped) and the linear blew an internal fuse again! The Cause? A 1500Pf Capacitor on the 30 meter section of the bandswitch blew .


I have replaced this with 2 3300pf caps in series (all I had) and although it is back working again the linear presents the rig with a High SWR on 30 metres- I guess that is due to the slight difference in capacitance but the internal ATU copes with that OK.
This particular Linear appears somewhat fragile and not up to standard of say some of the Yaesu amps. However I am learning from it and am fortunate that I have helpful and knowledgable local amateurs nearby who are willing to help out.
It certainly appears that I will need to note down the values of the various capacitors in this unit and start building up a stck in preparation for the next failure!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Radio Sweden

Having resurrected the R1000 I was cruising the broadcast bands and stumbled on Radio Sweden on 15735 Khz. They were announcing the fact that from October 31st this year they will no longer transmit on Shortwave. So another well known international broadcaster leaves the airwaves. Interesting my Interner Radio (based on the RECIVA platform) does not seem to list Radio Sweden. Their website at http://sverigesradio.se/international/
doesn't seem to offer any clues either.


New schedule from Oct 31
Short wave disappears, still on satellite around the world, live webcasts, and FM nationally.

10 metre mobile

I had a short 10 minute journey to make today, just across the village. Since 10 metres was open again I put the 10 metre whip on the car. Actually its an El Cheapo CB whip that I bought from  a local Maplins shop.
I relly need to trim it for 10 metre use, but at the moment the LDG auto tunes it nicely. I was rewarded with a QSO with an Italian station, located in Sicily. Can't remember the call though, keeping a log is difficult when you are mobile!
In any case that was my first 28Mhz mobile contact.

More R1000 work

Looking at the blown S meter bulb in my R1000 I suddenly remembered that I had an old Scrap CB transceiver which I had bought for parts. That had a brightly lit s-meter. A few minutes later I had extracted the bulb, it looked almost identical to the R1000 bulb.

So this morning I removed the power board from the receiver and pulled out the old bulb. The wires are so thin it was difficult to solder the "new" bulb in but I managed it eventually. Here it is on the flying lead that connects to the power board.

And the proof that it works!- here is the R1000 with the meter illuminated
Of course the replacement bulb is I guess almost 30 years old. It will be interesting to see how it lasts. But for now at least my R1000 is back in full operation.

Higher bands open

I noticed yesterday that 10 metres was open with quite a few signals to be heard on SSB. I managed to work  Rob TA4ZN and then moved on to PSK 31 and worked a couple of Russian stations. Its nice to use 10 metres again, I have seen reports of several band openings but until yesterday I seemed to keep missing them!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

R1000 repair

I finally got around to repairing my Trio  R1000 receiver which was intermittently locking up with a frequency reading of 39Mhz. Sometimes a good tap to the side of the receiver cured this but the fault always reappeared. Research on the internet showed this was a common problem, normally caused by dry joints on the power board.
I removed the power board and remade some of the joints below the multi way connector on the board. This did not do the trick unfortunately. I then turned my attention to the two transisistors you can see on the heatsink in the picture. Re flowing the solder on the underside of the board here has cured the fault, for now at least and the R1000 is sounding good again. Now I notice that the S meter bulb has blown so I either need to find another bulb or maybe try an LED as a replacement.

QSLs

Received another batch from the QSL bureau this week. No DX here bit some interesting cards!



Sunday, 17 October 2010

Last rally this year

This morning despite suffering with the start of symptoms for a nasty cold I headed off to the Blackwood and District ARS rally at Coleg Gwent, Crosskeys about 45 minutes drive from here. I wasn't looking for anything particular at the rally, other than some coax cable, connectors and fuses, all of which I found. I also purchased these books from the RSGB stall which looked interesting
  I have only had time to have a quick scan through these books but I notice that "Stealth Antennas"  has a case study featuring the antennas of a certain G4ILO!

A Learning curve


A few weeks back I picked up this linear Amplifier on Ebay. Now in the 25 years or so that I have been licenced I have never run more than 100 watts or so maximum RF power and usually less. So why a linear? Well my original idea was to be able to use it on data modes, under running it so that perhaps with 10 or so watts from the rig I would get 50 or so from the amp. Of course I would use it on SSB from time to time. This is a valve linear but the prospect of tuning it up wasn't a problem as I am used to that with my TS830 and other rigs I have used in the past.


When the unit arrived here it all looked OK (and I should point out that I believe it was most likely working properly before it was sent but I don't think a journey through the postal system is good for equipment like this!)  so eager to test it out I connected up to my rig and a dummy load and switched on. The next thing I heard was a "pop" sound and I was sitting in darkness, no computer radio or anything- the linear had tripped the household RCD circuit. After a reset and replacing the internal fuse in the linear I tried again. I managed to get around 150 watts into the dummy load before the internal fuse went again, no surprise this time as I needed a 2.0A fuse but had only 315MA available. A few days later I got hold of a 2a fuse. Ran the linear up and before I could apply any RF to it "BANG!!" a capacitor on the output stage blew. I have an amateur friend locally who is skilled at electronics generally and he had a look at the circuit diagram. The blown capacitor was 3600pf, voltage rating unknown.


 He worked out that be using four lower rated capacitors 2 pairs in parallell, connected in series that should be ok. well I connected the new capacitors and much to my surprise everything was working well.


 So with a certain sense of satisfaction I had repaired the linear. All was well until today when I find that there is no current on the anodes of the valves according to the front panel meter and I can get no RF out of the linear. What has blown now? another capacitor? I cannot see anything obvious so I will be looking for advice from my G3 friend again.
You most likely will not recognise this model of linear from the pictures. I think it was manufactured in the 1980s/90s. It is an "SRW kilowatt loudenboomer" which actually produces a maximum of 400 watts out. If I ever get it working I will write a little more about it as currently there is very little information on the net.

Given my very limited electronics skills  this is a real learning curve for me, I am very fortunate that I have an experienced and skilled  radio amateur living nearby who is very helpful. I know that many people think that people with a limited technical knowledge/background should not be in amateur radio I of course would disagree! I try to use these things as learning points although I know I am never going to be skilled in the electronics field although I do enjoy learning.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Digital Mode Samples - v2.0



A very useful little video I found. Thought it was worth sharing.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A dinosaur with a lot to learn

Although I have been in this hobby for around 27 years I still have a lot to learn. Or mybe its just that I haven't kept up with developments! I started thinking this way a couple of days back when I had a PSK QSO with a station on 15 metres. This was a European station, not DX, at the end of the QSO he asked me to "spot him on the cluster". Now I think I know what this means, I am aware of the DX cluster, but I don't use it and I would not have a clue how to "spot" some one.
A Local amateur friend has a Two HF rigs, both conected to the PC and uses the "Ham Radio Deluxe" software. He has the DX cluster on the screen and if he sees an interesting DX station he can just click on the callsign and the rig is automatically tuned to the DX station frequency. I could do this, there are two computers in the schack and my FT1000MP could be computer controlled. Why don't I do this- I'm not sure-maybe I should. Perhaps I am a dinosaur, I still use a paper logbook and sometimes its nice to use the radio without a PC switiched on.

Conditions generally seem to be picking up. I notice that 15 metres and 17 metres are open more now. My 40/80 metre shortened dipole appears to be working fairly well, it also loads up an all bands from 80 metres upwards.
As far as the mobile HF setup is concerned I have been concentrating on 40 metres. Over the past few weeks I have heard many VK and ZL stations on 40 first thing in the morning with good signals. So far I haven't worked any as they always seem to have big pile ups. I have had some inter UK contacts on 40 mobile though and am enjoying the facility of HF when I am driving.

Friday, 24 September 2010

New Microphone

I noticed this base microphone on Ebay about a week ago, its a Yaesu MD-11ABJ. After doing a little bit of research (thanks Google!) I found that it had the same pin outs as my Yaesu FT857. As the price was very reasonable I thought I would give it a try. Its a fairly odd looking piece of kit, I think it was aimed at the PMR market, but it works well enough and I am told the audio from it is quite good. Since I mainly use the FT857 on 2 metres FM at the moment I don't know if the mic would be suitable for SSB work. One odd thing about this Microphone-if you look at the picture there is a "PTT "button, a "Lock" button and a "Monitor" button.
We all know what the PTT does, but if you push the monitor button the rig powers down and  switches off. The "Lock" button is not to lock the PTT it is to lock the "monitor" button down, as if you do not keep the "monitor" down the rig will not stay on. Not a problem of course-but I wonder what the purpose of this was?



My new inverted V dipole seems to work well enough. On 80 metres I have worked several G on SSB with good reports  and into Germany on 80metre PSK with 25 watts. If anything the dipole seems better than my old inverted L, particularly for inter UK on 80. On 40 metres I have heard VK and a couple of stations in the USA it seems quite lively and the background noise is noticeably lower than the end fed inverted L. I still need to get the match on 80 metres sorted out and one leg of the dipole needs to be brought  higher and into the clear.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dipole

Since I had a days leave from work and the weather was good today I set about making up a 40/80metre shortened dipole using two EL40-XC coils that are intended to allow a half size G5RV to tune on 80 metres.

First impressions are that the antenna works well on 40 metres, maybe not so good on 80 but time will tell, I haven't really had a chance to fully test it. It still needs some work I think and I want to re-position it slightly to get it a little higher. Overall it seems quieter than the end fed inverted L and still tunes from 80-10 metres using the internal ATUs of both my FT1000MP and TS450s

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Antenna thoughts

Before winter sets in I am pondering whether to try replacing my Inverted L that I use on 80 and 40 (and 30 metres) with  either a doublet or a dipole. The disadvantage of this is that half of such an antenna would be running through the empty field behind me would not be, as the inverted L is fully contained in my small 10 metres by 10 metres garden. The antenna would have to be supported at its centre in an inverted V style. At an old QTH for a while I used a half size G5RV. It worked fairly well and I even inserted traps and an additional length of wire to allow it to tune up on 80 metres. I didn't have that antenna up for long enough to properly evaluate it, so it may be worth another try.
Long gone are the days when as a young SWL I had a 100 metre long wire, even a 40 metre dipole is too big for my garden!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Story so far.


I am quite impressed with the way my mobile setup for HF is working. This week I have mainly been monitoring 40 metres on my travels. I have worked into Germany and the Orkney Islands despite 40 not being in such great shape. I also had a contact with a station in Cardiff who was able to give me a very useful audio report as I was driving nearby. It seems I don't have any nasty noises, no RF getting back into the rig or anything like that. I do get some QRN from the car on 40 metres but luckily the noise blanker takes care of it.
When I have been out and about earlier, around 7AM I have heard several VKs and ZLs on 40 at quite good strength, haven't worked them yet though, there always seems to be a pile up!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tuning up

Here is my LDG IT100- my latest purchase- is an auto ATU that connects to the Icom 706 that I use mobile. Its a compact unit- you can see my mobile phone on top to give an idea of its size.
It is now living in the boot of my car and seems to work well. Its capable of tuning my 20 metre whip on both 18 and 7mhz, of course that whip won't work well on those bands but it gives an idea of the capabilities to the ATU. Basically as long it it gives me full band coverage on the whips I will be happy.
It came with a connecting lead for the 706 (about 15cm long, I had to extend it to about 1.5 metres) and a short patch lead to go between rig and ATU.
Although the ATU instructions say that the unit can be used mobile there are no provisions for any sort of mounting bracket, I have managed to mount it in built in plastic tray that sits in the Volvo boot.
In a quiet shack you would notice this ATU as the relays clatter quite loudly, not a problem mobile of course particularly as its in the boot!

The quality of the unit seems OK, but is does seem similar to the sort of construction of MFJ equipment in other words not really up to the standard of the likes of Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Going mobile

My mobile setup for HF appears to be working well, on receive at least. I have ordered a small auto ATU to broaden the bandwidth of my mobile whips as at the moment the TX bandwidth is very narrow. Nevertheless on 20 metres I have heard stations In Austrailia, Indonesia and the USA as well as the Carribean, all on 20 Metres, note I say heard the only transmitting I have done so far has been a local QSO in order to get an audio report!
I am happy to report that my car does not seem to generate much QRM at all on HF and what little there was (on 40metres) the noise blanker on the 706 deals with.
I am not so pleased with the boot mount I bought for the HF antennas. It looks like the one below


Mine is unbranded but I have seen these branded as Sirio mounts. The connectors to the centre pin and earth under the mount are not in any way weatherproofed. Worse than that tightening the nut (as I needed to do) around the SO239 connector can cause the coax to disconnect and break away from the mount. This happened to me and I had to remove the mount from the car and solder the coax back on. Yes the mount does work and it holds the HF whip on fine. It is however poorly designed and its a pig to fit!  Not clear in the picture  is the plastic dome on which the SO239 sits which is mounted on a smaller metal dome. The plastic dome is free to slide over the metal one below altering the angle of the antenna. All very well but there doesn't seem to be a way of stopping it moving. So the antenna will not stay at the exact angle you want.
I guess its a case of you get what you pay for as these mounts are fairly cheap. I am looking for something better now as I don't think mine will last to long!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Intermittent

My Trio R1000 receiver is working again! I didn't even take off the covers either. It seems the action of removing it from the shack desk has cured it for now, obviously a dry joint or loose connection then but I will have to wait for the fault to re-occur before I can Investigate.

My laptop is running Winrad nicely now with the loaned Elektor SDR receiver attached. I now have three receivers connected to the Wellbrook loop and it is interesting to compare them.
Findings so far are that the Kenwood R5000 is the best receiver, the R1000 a close second and the Elektor a good way behind these two. Weak signals that are audible on the two old receivers are not present on the SDR. It does however sound very lively on Medium Wave so I will give it a try on that band tonight.


This weekend there are many "Special Event" stations on the Air. I believe it is international lighthouse weekend and many lighthouses around Europe have been activated on the bands. I have worked a few, mainly on 80 and 40 metres but band conditions are not too good. A pity as the weather here is so bad its an ideal day to spend in the shack!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Battling with SDR


I thought I had the answer to my problems with the Elektor SDR yesterday. The Winrad software would not run under Win 7 properly and my base Unit XP machine seems just to slow to cope. As a last resort I dug out my seldom used Win XP laptop, Installed Winrad, hooked up my external soundcard and............It worked! But hold on, the audio is a bit distorted, and now the machine wants to switch off. Guess what? My laptops power supply has died! Oh well, I have ordered a replacement so hopefully I will soon have the loaned SDR receiver in operation. Watch this space!

Update

Well I have been having fun adjusting my HF whips for 40 metres and 20 metres. On 40 metres all seems to be ok, I have a reasonable bandwidth and pretty much in the middle of the band.

On 20 my antenna seems to want to resonate on 13.9Mhz, there is no moving it, shortening the whip section results in a very poor SWR. This means the antenna is just about useable uo to 14.2Mhz, its a very good match on the CW end of 20 but I am not sure CW mobile is a good idea!
I have heard mixed reviews of this type of antenna, some users have reported they cannot get a reasonable match at all so perhaps I am doing fairly well. In any case I have head Indonesia and a mobile VK station on 20 so far so the antenna is certainly receiving ok.

Both antennas are the kind with a rigid helically wound base and an adjustable steel whip. The total antenna is around  7 foot (2 metres) long with the adjustable whip section being around 4 feet (1.2 metres). I also need to change the site of the HF antenna to the right (offside) of the car, the spot where the VHF antenna is located. The reason for this is the HF whip keeps hitting overhanging tree branches. changing the antennas over will mean re routeing the cables in the car so that may have to wait for a while. I have now added a spring at the base of the mount to give a bit more flexibility.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Reaching Higher


The photo above shows my old Trio (Kenwood) R1000 receiver. You will see the frequency readout shows 39.545 Mhz.
Now this is not a good thing, the R1000 is only supposed to cover up to 30Mhz. Mine is now locked, it cannot be tuned, the bandswitch has no effect and there is no sound- it has tin fact died.
An internet search reveals this is a common problem with the R1000 as they get older- this one must be close to 30 years old, and it is normally caused by dry joints in various places. I have a few pointers to look for when I get the time, I want to try and get the Elektor SDR running first. Until then my trusty R1000 is out of service.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Computer woes


In earlier entries I have mentioned the Softrock SDR receivers which I have been loaned and have been playing around with.These little receivers are single band, fixed frequency affairs. Basically you just feed their output into your computer soundcard, chose one of the many SDR software packages and away you go.
My local amateur friend who loaned me the softrock has recently purchased a Flex Radio HF transceiver. I called around to see it in his shack last week and had a quick tune around and it looks an impressive piece of kit. He is still learning how to use it and this is where I think the SDR rigs fall down at the moment. They are nowhere near "Plug and Play". Now thats fine in itself as part of the hobby is about learning and self improvement. The problem here thogh is you don't need to learn about radio its computer knowledge that counts. Knowing which operating system will or wont work with your software, installing USB drivers, dealing with incompatible soundcards, not your usual radio related problems.
I have been dealing with some of this myself this week. My friend having purchased the new rig offered me the loan of his Elektor Hf receiver. Covering up to 30 mhz this little receiver is an interesting device but:


The best way to control it is to use the "Winrad" software to which a file can be added that allows it to fully control the Elektor receiver. The problem is however that my main PC uses Windows 7. Windows 7 doesn't like Winrad- it says it is incompatible. Now Windows 7 isn't telling the full truth as I did have the little SDR working well for about 10 minutes or so before Winrad and Windows 7 disagreed and the PC locked up. Now of course Windows 7 won't even open Winrad, or if it does the software instantly locks and cannot be closed!

This isn't too bad a problem because I have an older PC here, which I use for HF data work that runs Windows XP. The only thing now is it is a slow machine 1.3Ghz CPU and 512Mb of memory, it doesn't seem to want to run Winrad. I am going to try to remove as much unnecessary software as I can from this machine and see if I can get it to work but this may take some time.

My point is this, no doubt many SDR transceivers offer superb facilities. But this morning I was able to pop into my shack- I had a few free minutes and take a quick listen on the bands. I turned on my 20 odd year old Kenwood R5000 receiver. I didn't have to wait for it to boot up, it didn't need to recognise a soundcard or any drivers- it was on- instantly and ready for use! What's more, when I was finished it switched off just as easily. As well as this it doesn't have any noisy monitors or peripherals that cause hash on the HF bands. At the moment I am not sure that there are any SDR radios that rival it!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

4 Wheels on my wagon

Today I have managed to Install the Icom 706HF rig in my car. Actually I am quite pleased with the mount of the Head Unit- it looks quite neat. In order to get the space to mount the head unit I had to remove the factory fitted double size radio/cd unit and replace it with a single DIN sized unit. Here is the old Volvo unit I removed.
And here is the 706 head unit with the replacement CD player below.

The 40 metre whip on the boot mount rather dwarfs the VHF/UHF dual bander!. I am not too happy with the quality of the boot mount I have used, it was the only one a could get at the last rally I went to, I may have to change it later.


Si far I have two HF whips, one for 40 metres and one for 20. I have done some preliminary tuning and managed to get them both fairly close to where they should be in terms of resonance but there is still a bit of work to do. I am thinking of getting hold of an auto ATU which would make life easier. The only problem is I don't know where I would put it. Under the driver's seat is my remote head VHF/UHF rig and now the body of the 706 is under the passenger seat.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wspring again..

Various household chores prevented much radio operation this morning. However I set the TS450 to run 1 watt on WSPR on 17 metres- I have been neglecting WSPR of late but I still thinks its a great way to test propagation. not a great deal of activity of note on 17 today but my single watt of RF did find its way into Germany and Austria.
I have at last started the groundwoork for fitting my Icom 706 HF rig into my car. Today I ran a power cable from the engine bay into the car, routing it through to the space underneath the passenger seat where the 706 will be located. I still have to install ther boot mount for the antenna, sort out an external speaker and of course fit the rig itself! I am also considering one of the reasonable priced LDG Auto ATUs which would help extend the bandwidth of my single band HF antennas.

On a totally different note and I apologise in advance for this non radio related snippet, I took a trip to the cinema last night to watch the film version of the TV series "The A-Team". I guess I am giving my age away when I say that the A team, was a favourite series of mine when it was first shown in the 1980's. Action packed fun, with a tongue in cheek approach it was an instant hit with many.
I went to see the film therefore with mixed feelings.Often when a TV series transfers to the big screen, with a higher budget and different actors the outcome is not always a good one. For example I could never get on with the "Batman" films having grown up with the 1960's Batman TV shows starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
With The A-Team I needn't have worried. The film was good action packed fun, the actors carried their parts well and I was able to accept them as their characters quickly, without thinking back to the original cast and comparing. So All in all I can recommend this film!!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Latest Activity

Most of my recent radio activity has been confined to SWLing and a few local chats on 2 metres.
However today I did a little HF operation and worked 3Z1BLH on 20m PSK. This rather exotic sounding callsign is in fact on Chelminek Island in Poland. Its hard to keep up with callsign allocations sometimes and I wonder why this station didn't have an SP prefix? However I guess the UK allocation with its G's M's and 2's must be confusing too!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Space Pirates

About 18 months ago or so I bought a second hand computer controlled scanner- an Icom PCR1000. This little set has wide coverage from around 100Khz to 1300Mhz.
Its not too good as a shortwave receiver but it performs well enough as a scanner. I connected it to my backup VHF/UHF antenna- a Dualband colinear in my loft, programmed it up with a few Airband, Marine Band, PMR446 and various other frequencies and it happily scans the bands when I am in the shack and remember to turn it on!
A few months ago I read that there were US military satellites that had outputs around 255mhz, I programmed a few spot frequencies into the Icom and forgot about them, so whilst working from home this afternoon I was very surprised to hear 255.550Mhz spring into life.
What I heard was however not any military type communication, rather it was a CB type conversation in what I believe was Portuguese. You see these satellites have a problem with piracy-the bulk of the pirates that are using the satellites appear to be in Brazil. There have been crackdowns and raids but the problem still goes on.
If you are interested there are more details here and here.

In the meantime I am quite impressed that my little Icom with its loft mounted vertical (which of course is a long way of resonance on 250Mhz) is picking these signals up.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

QSLs

Last year and over the first couple of months of 2010 I had been quite active on HF, largely using PSK31. As I result I had sent out quite a few QSL cards via the RSGB bureau but had received nothing back.
This week I had my first batch, around 12 cards- no DX but its nice to know the bureau is working.
Here are a couple of the cards.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Everything in Moderation

Just a quick note to say that I have had to enable moderation for comments on this blog. This will mean that if you are kind enough to comment on any of my posts it may take a liitle while for your comment to show up here- not too long as I usually regularly monitor the blog.  I regret having to moderate the comments but I seem to be attracting quite a few Chinese "Spam" comments recently!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

I'm Back

There has been a distinct  lack of postings to this blog in the past week. This has mainly been due to the fact that I have been away on the sunny island of Fuerteventura. So not much to report on the radio scene then, although I did manage a little bit of SWLing on my trusty Sony 7600 and reel out wire antenna as pictured below.

























Apart from the Usual broadcast stations I did pick up a little on the Amateur bands, mainly 20 metres where I heard a JA, a couple of PY stations and a few Europeans. Its always interesting to listen (or Operate) from a different location. Locally the FM band in this part of the world is pretty quiet with 3 or 4 Spanish language stations. Medium Wave is similarly quiet although with the nearest mainland land mass being the Western Sahara perhaps this is not surprising.


As a new departure for this blog I will mention a few non radio bits! When abroad I love to read. Of the Three books I read last week my favourite was written by the now BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans



"Its not what you think" is a book which I found to be written in a down to earth, informative and amusing yet inspirational way. I am aware that many people may find Mr Evans a rather annoying character (personally I find him entertaining) but the book is well worth a look anyway!
And finally for this post, whilst I was away of course Spain won the World Cup. As you can imagine being on a Spanish Island the celebration of this win by the locals was quite interesting. The short video below gives a little example of the kind of celebration that I think would not be allowed in the UK. Bear in mind that I was staying in a very quiet resort in an area which normally had very little traffic. There were quite a few Dutch fans around that night and it was wonderful to see the way in which the Spanish and Dutch were shaking hands and laughing together-very sporting and a good example to us all.


video