Monday, 9 December 2013

Some Progress

A little while back I posted about the problems I had with remote operation of my CCW SDR4+ SDR receiver.
Originally I had set the receiver up on my main PC, running windows 7 and I (and others) were able to access it over the internet using the SDR-Radio software. All was well until a problem with Win 7 on the PC meant I had to reinstall the OS, after that whatever I tried I could not get the remote access to work. After many fruitless hours I pretty much gave up.

Yesterday I dug out an old Windows XP laptop I have. After a bit of tweaking, to my surprise I was able to connect the SDR receiver to it and operate it remotely

The important part of the screenshot above is the little "OK"  near the bottom of the left hand section. That means the SDR server program is accessible online. I don't think I can use the laptop as a permanent solution. Whilst I am happy enough to leave PC in the shack running for a day or two am I a bit concerned that a laptop would overheat. Maybe I am over cautious? In any event I have at least proved that my router is ok and the settings I am using in the SDR software are correct. Clearly something in my Windows PC is blocking access. Finding out what is the difficulty.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Some Work required................

Some time ago I borrowed an old KW1000 linear amplifier from a local radio amateur friend. It had been here on long term loan for some time. My friend used it mainly on modes like DRM (digital SSTV) on 80 and 20 metres. Driving the linear with 10 watts it would happily run these high duty cycle modes giving around 100 watts.

Now this is a vintage piece of gear, at least 40 years old and surprisingly there is not that much information about it on the net although I do have a manual and circuit diagram for it.

I used the linear mainly on SSB and noted that whilst the linear would produce 350 watts or so on 40 metres with around 30 watts of drive power was down significantly once you got above 20 metres with a maximum output of 150 watts or so on 28mhz.Not too much of a problem at first as I only used the linear on the odd occasion and then mainly on 80 or 40 .

Now I had been warned that the output valves (or "tubes") were probably "soft" and this was likely to be the reason for the low output. indeed the linear should have been capable of a higher output on its current best band of 40 metres!

To cut a long story short the owner of the KW had bought another old linear (A Yeasu FL2100) and offered me the KW at a knock down price, too good to resist. So now owning the linear I thought I would treat it to a new set of 572B valves. I sourced a matched pair of Chinese made 572bs and ordered them up. They were quite expensive, in fact costing more than I paid for the linear itself!

When the new valves arrived I set about removing the covers of the linear, not an easy task on the KW1000 I think the case is truly a horrible design for easy access!

PA Compartment open

It took me almost an hour to get to this stage!

The 572Bs were then removed. Far from being a matched pair the existing valves were not even a pair. One was a Chinese made valve, the other a U.S.A branded "Cetron". They didnt look physically damaged in anyway unlike the 6146bs I removed from my TS830

 U.S 572B
Chinese 572

One of the new 572's on left with the two old ones. The glass envelope looks a lot cleaner on the new one.

Anyway I fitted the new valves and well............errr very little difference- everything works but output power still down. So what next? Well on 80 metres the load control is fully closed yet It looks as if I need more capacitance. with some help I think we have identified a capacitor that it switched in on 80 in series with the load control- this may need replacing plus there are some other issues that may need work- watch this space! Given the voltages inside however I am VERY wary and extremely careful when working on this unit.

I am hoping to get this linear working a little better. It does seem more robust and easier to use than the "Loudenboomer" I still have here in the shack.

Monday, 7 October 2013

New Rig

Here is the latest addition to the shack. An Icom 7000. I did for a while consider the Icom 7100 but it is more expensive and I have to say I didn't particularly like the styling of that rig and I have no need of D-Star which doesn't interest me or a touch screen, so the 7000 was the choice.

The 7000 is mainly going to be on 6metre/2metre and 70cms duty here although I will of course be trying it out on HF but I still have the Yaesu FT1000mp as the main HF rig.

First impressions are quite favourable, the Icom seems a little more sensitive on 70cms than my Yaesu 857 and reports on transmitted audio have been good.

Programming the memories does not seem that easy however and I will be ordering a CAT cable for the rig so I can program it on the PC.

The dealer I bought this rig from (Martin Lynch and Sons in the UK) is advertising on their website that Icom have ceased production of the 7000- presumably the 7100 is replacing it but I haven't seen confirmation of this anywhere else.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Computer problems

I have been beset by computer problems lately. Firstly the machine I operate my SDR receiver on crashed. No real problem, this is my main pc and the important stuff- files, pictures etc was backed up. I just did a reinstall of Windows 7 and all was well. Actually not quite. I can no longer operate my SDR receiver remotely. I think the problem relates to a port I need to open. Try as I might I cant get it to work. Even with the router and the PC firewalls off, nothing seems to do it. So for now I have given up on it, I just don't have the time to spend on the PC.

My other machine in the shack was running Windows Vista. For some reason this machine decided it didn't like working with the interface I use for PSK etc. This interface uses a USB connection to switch the PTT on the rig. I remember having one or two problems first  setting it up due to driver issues (It needs a cp 2102 USB to UART driver which looking at Google seems to cause problems for some.) but I had it up and running fairly quickly . Now try as I might I cannot get the machine to work with it. My other machine accepts the driver and recognises the interface fine, but that's no use as it is on the wrong side of the shack too far away from the radio!! So far I have spent a few hours on this problem but have got nowhere.
The hobby was a lot simpler before we used computers!!

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Did a couple of hours HF operation from the YL's QTH this weekend. The noise level there is terrible. 80 metres is pretty much unusable, 40 is extremely noisy. I think it would be very difficult to carry on the hobby from this location permanently!

The first short video shows me tuning the TS450 around the amateur bands

and then a few of the broadcast bands.

What a racket!

Friday, 6 September 2013

A new one for me!

I have never been . the keenest of Dxers, I am.more of a listener and a ragchewer when it comes to radio. My motto however has always been if I do hear the DX and I have the opportunity I will try to work it!
Tuning around an otherwise quiet 10 metre band this afternoon I heard VP8LP at good strength (a genuine S9) calling CQ. I went back to him and got a 5/4 report on my second call. Proof that the Antron CB vertical works OK on 10. I qsy'ed a little further down the band and called CQ but had no replies. Tuning around I could hear nothing else . I guess that's what makes 10 metres such an interesting band.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

New Tri Bander

Well the new 6m/2m/70cms vertical is finally in place, it was put up with the kind assistance of local amateur GW3FSP.

The weak point in these antennas is, in my opinion, the single nut or screw that holds the antenna to its support tube. You can install the brackets and clamp the antenna up as tightly as you like but if that screw fails you have a problem.

  You can just see the all important screw directly below the radials. The antenna itself is a "Sharmans" branded V2000. I imagine it is effectively a copy of the Diamond V2000, whether the quality is any different-time will tell.

The little Watsom W30 vertical I took down served me well, it is still in good order and I may use it as a backup antenna in the loft or even take it portable.

It is currently connected up to my Elderly 2 metre FM rig, although I dug out  the Yaesu FT857 which I use for portable work to test things on 6 metres and 70 cms. Indications are that this new antenna has a bit more gain on 2 metres plus of course gives me the ability to use the 6 metre band, although I have pretty much missed out on the sporadic E season!!

I am still debating whether I can justify another rig in the shack to cover 6/2 and 70. I could use the FT857 I suppose that normally stays packed away for the odd portable outing. The funny thing is I was never that keen on the 857 in the shack, its display is rather small and it is a little fiddly to use in my opinion. The Icom 706 I have in the car is better in that respect. An Icom 706MK2g would be nice, or even an Icom 7000 (but these seem very expensive). In any event I will also need a duplexer to split between 6 metres and vhf/UHF

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Antenna Work

Last weekend the weather was good here so on Saturday I started some antenna work.
Currently one end of my HF doublet and my VHF/UHF vertical is supported by this pole.

I am not sure how well the picture captures it but that bracket and pole are not quite vertical!! When I moved here in my enthusiasm to get on air I put the bracket up on a cold wet autumn evening and well...........I could have done a better job.

I have now installed a T and K bracket and will be putting a thicker , larger diameter pole up as my new mast. The old fitting will then be taken down.

As part of the antenna work I will be installing a new vertical for 6m/2m and 70 cms. I thought I would assemble the new antenna in advance and set it up on a short pole in the garden just to test it. A local amateur had a similar antenna and found the SWR was high on 6 metres and in order to get it right had to shorten the 6 metre radial.

I used my Yaesu FT857 with an external SWR meter to test the antenna. This proved interesting, the 857 has a built in SWR meter, its not calibrated, just a series of 'blobs' on the lcd but its an indicator I suppose.

On 6 metres I had an SWR reading of 1.6:1 on the external meter, not brilliant but acceptable so I wont be trimming the radial on my antenna, oddly the 857 meter was showing a perfect match (no blobs) and 2 metres both the external and 857 meters showed a good match. On 70 Cms the external meter showed again a good match, the meter on the 857 indicating quite a high SWR. It seems that the built in meters are not really that consistent, something I also noticed with the Icom 706 I have in the car.

Anyway the vertical is ready to go up on a new mast once I have some more time and some decent weather!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Not much time.............

At least there wasn't much time for radio operation on my holiday last week in Cornwall.We stayed at a Caravan park near Perranporth, not far from Nequay and about 10 minutes walk to the beach. On VHF just using my Chinese Luiton handie and helical whip  I managed to work back into Wales via the GB3WW repeater and via a more local repeater I worked another Welsh station also on holiday in Cornwall. Overall the 2 metre band was even quieter than it is here in South Wales.

I managed to get out with my HF portable station for just an hour or so one morning, setting up very close to the sea, you can see the pro whip antenna below.
On 20 metres I heard a few VK stations, at good strength along with some East Coast USA and many European signals. I tried a few calls on CW to no avail and tuned across the SSB section of the band. Running 30 watts I managed a QSO with special event station 9A282AA before I had to go QRT and enjoy the rest of the day with YL and family.
I was hoping to have got right down to the beach and maybe run the radial wire into the water to see how that would help my signal, but time was against me! Maybe next time!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

21 Mhz

Conditions seemed quite strange today, most of the times I listened the bands seemed pretty flat. However I tuned around 15 metres at teatime and managed to work 7Z1TT on  my first call. Running 100 watts I got a report of 58 on the Antron vertical. Not bad for a CB antenna!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


The pole at the end of my garden has just up until now been supporting one end of my HF doublet, and more recently had the Wellbrook receive loop on top of it. The Wellbrook loop doesn't need much height in reality. At my previous QTH it was mounted  less than three metres from the ground and worked well especially on the lower bands. It didn't seem to work much better in its new home at around 7 metres up on the pole.
So I have had a change around. I dropped the pole down on the weekend. I will find a new home for the Wellbrook, in the meantime I have put a vertical antenna on the pole. What antenna? An Antron 99. Yes its a CB antenna but at the radio rally I attended the other week I picked up "Practical Wireless's" book "Even more out of thin air". This book mentions the fact that the Antron is usable on 18,21 and 24 Mhz as well as we would expect 28mhz. I decided to purchase one and give it a try, being of glassfibre construction it is lightweight and hopefully will not put too much strain on my unguyed pole!

The antenna is 5.6 metres long, has no radials  and comes pre tuned to the lower end of 27Mhz. Since at the very least I wanted to use the antenna on 10 metres I adjusted the "tuning rings" at the base of the antenna, hoping to raise the operating frequency a little. This was still when the antenna was on the ground so the adjustment was guesswork!

As it turned out I guessed fairly well. Once up in the  air the antenna covered 28 to 29.6 Mhz with an acceptable SWR reading. Digging out the CB rig I have in the shack the SWR on 27 mhz was still within acceptable limits (below 1.5:1) so this is a pretty wideband antenna.
The surprising thing is the Antron covered 24, and 18 mhz without an ATU.

The Western HF-10 wire  doublet I use gives me pretty good results but I never really heard much on 24Mhz (12metres) with it. The vertical seems more lively on this band as well as 21 Mhz. In fact I worked LU8EEM on my first call with it.

My very quick evaluation of the antenna so far is as follows:

28Mhz- works well but as far as signals heard to date goes is about equal to the HF wire, sometimes slightly down.

24Mhz- Much more lively than wire- signals generally two three or more s points better.

21Mhz- Generally again signals several S points greater than the wire.

18Mhz- Two or three S points weaker than signals on the wire.

14Mhz- Antenna tunmes using internal ATU but pretty deaf on this band.

It will be interesting to compare this antenna with the Hygain AV12 Vertical when I get that erected. However the AV12 covers only 20,15 and 10.

Here it is up in the air, the visual impact is pretty low I think and I haven't had any adverse comments from my (very tolerant) neighbours.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Uprating the 857

I have owned my Yaesu  FT857D for about 9 years. I bought it to use portable and apart from a stint in the shack as a 6 and 2 metre rig that is what it has been used for.
However portable work usually involves less than efficient antennas, or at least the way I do portable does! In the past I have used the Buddistick and now I have the Pro Whip vertical, for what they are the antennas work quite well but are not as effective of course as my doublet at home.
To make the best of things then I need to use CW. My CW is still a bit hesitant but is coming along and of course I need to practice more! The 857 however doesn't have a CW filter and the standard SSB filter is a bit wide for CW when the bands are busy.
So I decided to bite the bullet and order and fit the 500hz CW filter for my 857.

it arrived today

So eager to install it I set about removing the top cover of the rig. I have never needed to take the cases off the 857 before, but I thought it would be easy enough, just remove the screws at the top......................but wait....the covers would not come off! The Answer? Read the manual, you have to remove these screws which are attached to the bottom panel too!

Once the covers were off it was an easy matter to drop the filter in

There is still space for another filter so I could add the 300hz one but I don't think I will need it and they are very expensive.

Anyway I put the rig back together and switched on:

As you can see the rig has recognised it has a 500hz filter so all is well. The filter makes quite a difference so it should give me an incentive to operate CW on holiday!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Update on the RTL dongle

I have had a little time now to play around with my low cost Digital TV dongle. It works well enough, the specification that came with it stated the frequency coverage to be 48Mhz up to 863 Mhz. It is however wider than that. I have detected (very) local signals in the 27Mhz range and the unit works up to over 1Ghz.

Using a program called RTL1090 in conjunction with the "Planeplotter" software I am able to decode live position transmissions on 1.090Ghz from aircraft flying locally. All this using the tiny "mag mount " antenna which is about 15cms long that came with the dongle. The antenna is sitting on top of my R1000
 receiver on the shack desk. Now personally this is part of the hobby (receiving aircraft transmissions etc) that I have never been particularly interested in but it is quite compelling to see the aicraft symbols pop up on the screen and amazing to see what this little device can do.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Noise source?

I have mentioned before about my occasional operating from the YL's QTH  and the high noise level there. In some ways I felt the noise was worse because I was using a vertical antenna (The pro whip) although the noise level was a great deal lower when using the same antenna at my own home.
So what is the cause?  As we all know there could be many causes-Plasma TV's, internet over the mains and so on. But in the middle of the housing estate and very close to the house is this:

It must be 25 Metres or more high and is covered in all sorts of antennas from what looks like VHF beams and verticals to Microwave dishes. I have no idea what frequencies are being radiated from this mast but I think that at least part of the noise problem may be coming from it. I am just glad its not at the end of my garden, on the other hand I would like to be able to run a wire dipole from the top of it!

Radio Rally

I took a trip down to the West of England Radio Rally today held at Frome in Somerset. This is one of the few remaining rallies that are within reasonable travelling distance for me. The event looked to be fairly well attended  with exhibitors both inside the main hall and outside in the open air, luckily the weather was dry!
The rally was perhaps a little unusual in that there was no talk in station nor was there a bring and buy stand.
A useful rally for picking up those bits and pieces we all need. I emerged with a reel of Coax cable and a book.

The rally venue "The cheese and Grain Centre" at Frome

Inside the hall

Some exhibitors outside

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

10 Metres

Interesting evening on 10 metres. I managed to work HB30OK, IS0DCR and EI6JK as the skip shortened. Oddly though I heard a single Brazilian station, at good strength around the same time. Couldn't get back to him on 100 watts to my doublet though!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

DVB Dongle

I have been reading quite a bit lately both on the Web and in the various radio magazines about the use of cheap USB digital TV dongles as VHF/UHF SDR receivers. Whilst browsing Amazon the other week, looking for a birthday gift I noticed that they had suitable USB dongles for around £11. At this price I could not resist. Well the TV dongle arrived yesterday. After a few false starts I have managed to get it to work with the "SDR Sharp" software. So far I am just using the tiny vertical antenna that came with it but I have managed to receive some local FM broadcast stations. I have an antenna adaptor lead for the dongle so will see if I can sort out a better antenna. For the very modest cost it has to be worth experimenting with this little unit.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Murphy's Law!

Operating from the "alternative" location this evening. The pro whip  got me a couple of European QSOs (ZA and E73) on 17 metres.Heard a few stateside stations too. 40 metres has S9 noise here tonight, may be band conditions but this is a noisier location than my home QTH. I had the idea to listen to my remote SDR receiver at home using my netbook here to see if I could hear my own signal. No luck though as the RF from the TS450 is knocking out the wi-fi connection on the netbook!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Alternative location

This weekend whilst visiting the YL I took my Kenwood TS450 along and set up an HF station using the portable "Buddistick" antenna. Operating time was very limited  as it wouldn't be polite to spent my time on the radio when I am supposed to be spending time with the YL, but I did manage an hour or two of radio time over the weekend!
Additionally  the antenna had to be placed in a corner of the small garden, out of the way of inquisitive young children! Sadly HF conditions were not too good  but I did manage a QSO on 40 metres SSB into Northern Ireland as well as a chat to a more local GW station. The Buddistick does work but its quite difficult to tune and changing bands  means going out to the antenna to move a tapping point on the coil.CW is your friend with this antenna , I have always found SSB contacts with it quite difficult. It is an easily portable antenna but its small size has limitations.

Buddistick in position at the alternative location

The "Alternative" shack. (The "Stuff" behind the radio isnt mine by the way!)

As an alternative to the Buddistick for portable work,I have recently purchased a Pro-Whip portable antenna. This is basically a glassfibre fishing pole, 6 metres high with a wire running up inside it, a 9:1 Unun at the base with a wire counterpoise. I have only had time to briefly set up this antnena at the weekend but first impressions are quite good. It is very easy to deploy, tunes from 80-10 metres using just the internal ATU in the TS450 and seems livelier than the Buddistick. I hope to update the blog in the coming weeks with my experience of the Pro-Whip.

Pro-Whip on test in my garden

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Out with the old

Well the old, rather poor quality Sirio Boot (trunk) antenna mount on my car finally gave up a few weeks back. I used this mount for my VHF antenna. The Coax connection came adrift inside the mount. I had been meaning to change it for some time anyway so no problem. Actually there was a problem. Not only was the mount rusted on top and looking pretty nasty, the allen screws underneath which grip the bottom of the boot lip had rusted solid! Nothing would shift them! The answer? My trusty hacksaw- I had to carefully cut the mount of. Lukily I managed to avoid damaging the car.
I replaced the mount with an unbranded one obtained from Ebay, model number MB400. It looks a lot sturdier than the Sirio but time well tell. In any event it is unlikely to last as long as the Diamond mount holding my HF mobile whip, that must be around 20 years old. Those mounts are around £60 new though so for now I will try the MB400!!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Up Up and Away...............

Today I finally removed the Wellbrook receive loop which has been hanging in the shack window for the last 18 months. It worked there, better than I thought it would but it was well down in terms of signal strength compared to my wire doublet.
It is now on top of the pole at the end of my garden at a height of 20 feet or so and in the clear. I havent had much chance to test it but it seems to work better up there but not THAT much better. The Western HF 10 doublet is a far better receive antenna on all bands other than top band and medium wave. Still given the size of the loop it is quite an impressive performer.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Surprise DX!

At home a little earlier than usual this afternoon I decided to take an hour out in the shack. 15 metres seemed quite active so I set up the FT1000MP on PSK31 and worked UR4UM  which confirmed everything was working OK since i changed soundcards on this machine.
I left the rig monitoring the bands whilst I pottered about in the shack. Nothing unusual on the screen, mainly European stations with the occasional Stateside signal to be seen. Then I noticed HI8CSS calling CQ from Dominican Republic. I called him, not expecting a reply as surely there would be a pile up and I was running 20 watts into my doublet. He came back to me instantly with a 599 report and I had 100% copy on him. So a new country for me and quite a shock too!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Antenna maintenance

Over the past few days or so I had noticed that the performance of my HF wire antenna (the Western HF 10) had changed. The SWR was higher than usual where it was resonant on parts of 80, 20 and 10 metres the SWR was now 3:1. The rigs auto ATU still tuned it ok on most bands but the receive seemed a little down too.
A physical inspection of the antenna itself showed nothing obviously wrong. I then disconnected the Coax feed at the antenna end and replaced the antenna with a dummy load. The dummy load showed 3:1 SWR. So the fault was in the coax or maybe the PL259 plug. Not surprising perhaps in view of the very heavy rain and substantial snowfall we have had here over the past month.
So out came the soldering iron and off came the PL259.

You may just be able to make out the corrosion on the plug in the picture, the body of the plug also looked a little bit tarnished. It seems water had found its way in even though the plug had been given a good covering with self amalgamating tape. Luckily trimming the coax back a few centimetres showed that water had not got that far. A new plug was soldered on and reconnecting, weatherproofed as much as possible and the antenna was back to normal! Thankfully an easy fix.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Pictured is how my HF doublet looked first thing this morning! Covered in snow which had fallen overnight (as foercasted) and the wire sagging badly. South Wales has seen some heavy snow in the past 24hours making travelling difficult. So no work for me today!
A quick shake of the antenna feeder got rid of the snow by the way and the antenna is back to normal.
So today I have some extra time and have started reorganising the shack.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

60 Metres

Today I applied online for a notice of Variation to my licence to enable me to operate on 60 metres. The NOV was granted seconds after applying so it seems the intention is now to grant an NOV to any full licence holders that wish it.
The NOV gives us in the UK 11 frequencies that can be used on 5mhz.
Interestingly enough initial experiments show that this is one band that my Western HF10 doublet doesnt like - tuning is extremely tricky even with an external ATU. Although keeping the power down seems to improve matters.  It seems if I want to use this band I am going to need to rig up an alternative antenna.