Sunday, 23 November 2014

Noise!!

I have thought since I moved to this QTH how lucky I was to have a fairly low noise environment for radio. Considering I am in an area close to shops and other houses RF noise levels are pretty low. That is until the last week or so when I noticed some very strong interference on the top end of the Medium Wave band
.

and the CW end of the 80 metre band.



Here is a quick recording of the 80 metre noise on the FT1000MP and doublet antenna.

video

The problem is the same whether using my doublet or the Wellbrook loop receive antenna. Its not coming from this QTH as I have turned off the mains supply to the house and the noise is just as bad using my FT857 on a 12 volt battery supply. I really need to try and find the source of this interference!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

First QSO on 80 metres!

Well not actually my first QSO on 80 of course but the first 80 metre contact on the Pro-whip vertical at the YL's home. The Pro-Whip works reasonably well on 20 metres and above for what it is- 6 metres of wire with an unun at the bottom and a single radial wire. On 40 metres it is less effective and of course I have to battle the high noise level here. 80 metres is less noisy but the whip is very inefficient on such a low frequency. I was surprised then to get a reply from special event station ON1418HRT on psk 31.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Just an update

During the summer months my radio activity has been less than usual with so many other things to be done! As winter approaches I hope to be a little more active on the bands. I have however been having some fun on 10 metres. Over the past week or so my 25 Watts of PSK31 has resulted in contacts with the U.S, Canada, Chile, Argentina and today, South Africa. On ten I have been using the Antron 99 vertical which generally appears to be (slightly) superior to my horizontal doublet on 28 Mhz.

Today's contact with ZS4GB, Gert, resulted in me receiving this QSL card by Email moments later!


Sunday, 20 July 2014

10 metre conditions

There was an opening  on 10 metres FM this evening. Here in South Wales I could here a number of stations in the North of Scotland with good signals
I worked GM0EKL located north of Aberdeen. Switching between my vertical and my doublet I found very little difference on received signal strength which often seems to be the case on this band. TX signal did however seem stronger on the doublet.

I only became aware of the opening as I have a new piece of equipment in the shack that was scanning, pictured below.



This rig is in fact a multimode CB rig an Albrecht AE5890EU. It is still in its original configuration in which it covers 80 CB channels with multimode facilities on the lower 40 channels (legal in the UK since 27th June) and FM only on the higher "UK" channels. Changing an internal jumper converts the rig to higher powered 10 metre coverage  with repeater shift facilities. The rig can also be configured to cover the 12 metre band.

First impressions of this rig are pretty good. The CB bands in this area are pretty quiet but there has been a little activity on SSB since its legalisation. I operated CB for a short while in the 1980s as a youngster, but was a shortwave listener before that. In those days the band was crowded. Even though my parents lived in a poor radio location at the bottom of a valley it was difficult sometimes to find a clear channel. It is a very different story today. Unless band conditions are good the entire 80 channels are usually quiet!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Weatherproof

I did a little research before weatherproofing the Pro-Whip Balun. To be honest I had nothing to lose. I have a spare 9:1 balun and if the original balun failed I would replace it. I looked into purchasing the purpose made compounds for "potting" electronic components but they were expensive and sold in larger quantities than I needed. In the end I settled on "neutral" silicon sealant, the type used to seal around external window frames. Since this contains no Acetic acid (which is corrosive and is found in the many of the bathroom type sealants) it should not attack the solder joints. The balun is now waterproof as  the box is filled with sealant, it doesn't look pretty (although the picture is of course with the cover off) but it should do the job.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Water

Taking down the pro whip antenna after it had been up for a couple of days in the rain I noticed that the balun  appeared to be full of water! After undoing the screws on the casing  and prising off the "superglued" lid,sure enough it was wet inside. To be fair the maker does not claim the antenna is waterproof and it certainly isn't! I need to find a way of sealing it up. I think the only solution is to fill the casing with something waterproof. Maybe silicon sealant. For now I have emptied out the water and used the YL's hairdryer to dry it out!


Monday, 19 May 2014

6 metres

I have read several reports of the Es season opening on 6 metres and people making some contacts. But until today, each time I tried the band it  was dead. However this evening I made a couple of contacts on 6m ssb into Italy. It was a welcome chance to try my Icom IC7000 and tri band vertical on 6 for the first time!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Antenna Repairs

After my antenna problems on the weekend I was keen to drop my wire doublet and see if I could sort things out.
The Western HF 10 commercial doublet I use is extremely well made and hasn't had any problems in the 18 months or so that it has been up. Although I installed a small a small centre support to anchor the balun that is at the end of the 450ohm ladder line the ladder line itself is still under some strain, particularly in high winds. I suspected therefore that the problem was either the ladder line or the balun itself. The designer does suggest the antenna is fully supported in the centre but this isn't really possible at my QTH.

Using my trusty multimeter I checked the antenna for continuity and sure enough the "earth" leg of the doublet was not connected the to "earth" side of the ladder line. I then disconnected the bottom of the ladderline  but one part broke off in my hand!



OK so this was the problem, I stripped back the offending piece of wire and reattached to the balun.


However, back in the shack and testing the antenna showed all was still not well. I dropped the antenna again and did what i should have done after the repair, used the multimeter again and could then see the "earth " of the antenna was still not connected. In fact there was another break in the same wire a few centimeters up. More stripping and re-attaching to the balun and things were back to normal. One side of the ladder line is now slightly shorter than the other but this doesnt seem to cause any noticeable problems. Still I think i will have to replace the whole section sooner or later.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Murphy's Law




Back at the home QTH this morning with an unexpected couple of hours free to play radio, mainly due to the wet weather.
Switched on the rig and linear, tuned up for 40 metres and worked a couple of special event stations taking part in the "mills on the air" weekend. Then I noticed the linear "flashing over" and an erratic SWR reading on my doublet.  On  receive it was like a rapid QSB effect.
So I had to close down and investigate. I checked all the patch leads, they were fine, then went out to the antenna and put my dummy load at the antenna end to check my coax feed, again all ok. So the problem is the antenna itself- not surprising with the high winds and heavy rain we have had over the last few days. It was too wet and windy to drop the antenna today so I am hoping to get some fine weather and time in the evenings this week to investigate. In the meantime I can operate 15 metres and above on the vertical.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Logging

At my home station I still use a paper logbook, I guess I am old fashioned. I have tried logging software over the years but never really got into it. When operating at the YL's QTH I have been doing quite a bit of PSK31 operating using my Acer Netbook PC. I thought as the computer was on my lap, why not use it for logging too? So at this QTH  I am computerised!  I chose the Winlog32 logging software by G0CUZ and have been getting on with it OK. I like the way it uploads my QSOs to EQSL automatically. It also produces statistics of my QSOs so I know that I have worked 33 countries from here, not bad as my operating time is very limited and on some bands I have S9+5db noise level.
 I was surprised to see that I had operated 40 metres quite a bit from here. It is the noisiest band and my 6 metre long pro whip vertical is not very efficient but I have managed some contacts.

So will I go computerised logging at my home station? I am still not sure!!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Fishing for DX

My "fishing pole" antenna (Pro Whip) at the alternative QTH works reasonably well for what it is. After all its just 6 metres of wire with a 9:1 balun at the end and a wire counterpoise. Its not as good as a wire doublet or dipole which would be difficult to put up at the same location but it does seem a lot more efficient than the little "Buddistick" vertical I have used in the past.

Anyway today I had a short period of operation on 10 metres. 7X3WPL gave me a 59 on SSB and I bagged PU2OAJ with 25 watts of PSK31. Not bad for my temporary set up. I have a copper earth rod which I intend to put at the base of the pro whip plus I intend to run some extra radials which can be hidden and left semi permanently which will also speed up the erection of the antenna in future.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

NVIS?

Having an hour of radio time at the YL's while the Sunday roast was in the oven I fired up the TS450, having put up the pro whip the previous evening. Whilst I had a coffee i tuned round on my remote SDR rx so I could see what the bands were like from home before comparing it to this location.

I noted that on 18 Mhz at least a burst of RF from the TS450 did not kill the wifi connection on my netbook. I found a clear 18Mhz frequency and gave my callsign whilst listening on the sdr rx. To my suprise I heard my signal, weak but readable.  I would say about 3 and 3. I think conditions may have been a little odd as I wouldn't expect the groundwave on 18Mhz to make the approx 30 miles (48Kms) trip back to my home QTH. If I can solve the problem of the wifi cutting out as soon as I transmit on the other bands this would be an interesting experiment on the lower frequencies. I have read a little about NVIS propagation and I guess this is the effect that I am hearing, however for NVIS a horizontal antenna is normally required rather than the vertical Pro-Whip. I hope later in the year to be able to put up a low slung long wire or dipole of some sort at this location later in the year which presumably should result in a stronger signal over this sort of distance.

Whilst on the Higher bands I was pleased to work KB2ZVP on 18Mhz and Z63MED in Kosovo on 28Mhz. Both with the Pro-Whip vertical about a metre from the ground.


Sunday, 23 February 2014

TX Factor


If you have a spare 30 minutes or so have a look at the new UK produced amateur radio Videocast

"TX Factor" "TX Factor is a professionally produced programme presented by radio amateurs for radio amateurs "

Looking at the first programme I was very impressed. The quality of the video was extremely good and the whole thing was very interesting and most professional. I am looking forward to the next episode.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A little bit of operating time

I managed an hour or two of radio work from the /alternative location today (the YL's house) having dodged the showers of heavy rain to get the pro whip vertical set up.

As usual from this spot 40 metres was pretty much unusable due to S9+ of noise but the higher bands were OK. I made a few contacts on 10 and 12 metres but the highlight was a nice QSO with HB9HFB, Chris in Basel, on 17 metres band conditions allowed us to have a nice contact, much better than many of the "59 QRZ??" type contacts that seem to be so popular at the moment.

Below is the pro-whip antenna, behind it and of course much larger is the nearby mobile phone mast which I suspect is the source of much of the QRM I suffer at this location. It makes me appreciate how low my noise level is at home.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Alternative Shack

The YL kindly found me some space to store a little radio gear at her QTH.

So I have A Kenwood TS450 (my Spare rig), MFJ ATU and PSU for occasional operating there.



For an antenna I will use the Pro-Whip which is quick to set up and covers 80-10 metres, not the most efficient of antennas but should be fine for the odd short spell of HF ops. The main barrier to operation from this location (apart from the lack of time!) is the high noise level.

Just to test the setup I hooked it up to the Buddistick" portable vertical Indoors. Surprisingly it picked up quite a few signals and even more surprisingly the TS450 auto ATU tuned it. I didn't fancy transmitting however, not with the antenna that close by.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

A different way of listening

Although I have been a licenced Radio Amateur for some years (thinking of it actually it will be 30 years this year!) I have always been a shortwave listener at heart. I entered the hobby through my interest in tuning around the shortwave bands in the late 1970s/Early 1980's. Those were the days, long before satellite TV and internet when the only way to hear news and views from foreign broadcasters was via your shortwave radio.

Times have changed of course and many, if not most of the big international broadcasters have left shortwave, even it seems the Voice of Russia is considering winding down its shortwave operations. The SW bands are now dominated by China but most of the familiar European stations are gone.

Around 8 or 9 years ago I purchased an Internet Radio which hooked into my WIFI and enabled a choice of I think around 20,000 Radio Stations worldwide. Most are local or National stations but some are the old international Broadcasters.

The selection of broadcasters available depends on the Internet "Portal" used by the receiver manufacturer. Some Portals carry more stations than others. My Original Logik radio uses the "Reciva" portal


Using some money I received for Christmas I have invested in a new WIFI radio a Roberts Stream 83i



This receiver uses the "Frontier Silicon" portal and whilst it doesnt appear to have as many radio stations listed as the "Reciva" portal there is still a fair selection. The radio itself is Superior to my old Logik with better sound quality, improved wifi sensitivity and the option of DAB and FM bands also.

I thought it would be interesting to see how many of the international broadcasters were available to listen to on internet radio with the results below, over both Reciva and Frontier Silicon portals:


Radio Slovakia
Vatican Radio
Voice of Russia

Deutsche Welle

Radio France International
Radio Exterior (Spain)
RRI (Romania)
Radio Tirahna (Foreign Service)
VOA
NHK Japan
Iran IRIB World Service
Radio Cairo

There are probably many others but these are the ones I have stumbled across. Its not the same as real shortwave of course but its nice to hear some of these familiar voices. It is slightly concerning that these days if the state wished to control our listening habits they could simply block the internet. There would be very few "Real" broadcasters left on the bands.