Wednesday 30 December 2009

Remote Receivers

Many of you will probably know about this, but I thought  I would share it with you anyway.
On our local 2 metre net this evening one of our local amateurs commented on web SDR receivers. There are a number of websites which allow you to tune a remote controlled receiver in another part of the world. Its a great way of checking what propogation is like, in fact you could even try to listen for your own signal. Rather than me try to explain more about how this all works try this link and have a tune around. Be careful, it is quite addictive!

On another note, and perhaps slightly controversial (in fact I did wonder whether to post this in my blog) I heard or saw an unusual callsign on PSK on 40 metres yesterday. The Call was 1B1AB, a station located in Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus or the TRNC as it is called is only recognised by a small number of states, the main one I believe being Turkey. As a result, it does not count for DXCC awards. In effect stations operating from there are in a sort of administrative limbo as it could be said they are illegal, even though they have licences issued by the governing authority. Would you work 1B1AB? For me the decision was made by the propagation gods as the signal faded out as quick as it faded in!

Monday 28 December 2009


A little while back I mentioned that I was applying for a few awards from the "Eurpean Phase Shift Keying Club" or EPC. As well as being an EPC member I had also joined the 30 metre Digital Group, another club that exists to promote digital modes, but this time specifically on the 30 Metre (10Mhz) band.
Just like EPC the 30MDG has an automated system for applying for awards. You download the "Ultimate 30" software, load in your electronic log and away you go! I was pleased to discover that I was eligible for one of their awards, I applied and it arrived just before Christmas.
I haven't been that active on the air over the past month or so, but these awards are a little incentive to get on the air- and that must be a good thing.

I have done a fair amount of listening over the Christmas period and have been further evaluating the Wellbrook loop. A trip to the Local DIY store yesterday saw me purchasing a length of plastic pipe-this will be used to mount the loop outside. I am not back in work until 4th January  and I am hoping to get the loop outside, even it its mounted temporarily before then.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Christmas time

Happy Christmas to all who read this blog! I hope you all have a happy and peaceful holiday time.

One of the casualties of 2009 was the Excellent publication "Passport to Worldband Radio"

This annual guide targeted at the shortwave broadcast listener  contained receiver and antenna
reviews, news and features on international broadcasters and comprehensive frequency and station listings.The 2010 version should have been on sale now but sadly, no doubt due to economic reasons there will be no 2010 edition and I think its unlikely that will see another edition. It was I suppose inevitable that this would happen as, sadly, Shortwave broadcasting is on the decline with many nations turning to the internet as a medium for broacasting to the public.

In a way this may be good news for radio amateurs as they will be more space freed up within the shortwave spectrum and possibly new amateur bands available.In any event I think we are almost at the end of the time where every major power in the world had a voice on the shortwave bands.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Special Event

Since I have been trying out the new Wellbrook loop antenna I have been doing a lot of listening and hardly any transmitting, so when I heard a special event station on 80 metres early this afternoon I thought I'd give a call. I worked Paul (GW0JTY) operating GB0NG, a station commemorating the famous Nos Galan Races held annually on New Year’s Eve which take place in  honour of the  Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran and his legendary athletic prowess. Legend has it it that he once ran to Pontypridd and back - about seven miles - before the kettle boiled- pretty fast! Anyway the station is run by Aberdare Amateur Radio club and you can hear the callsign on air up to New Year's Eve- one to look out for!

Inspired by fellow Blogger Adam, M6RDP I have downloaded the "Ultimate EPC"  software to see if, as an EPC member I was entitled to any of their awards. The process of applying for these awards is totally automated. All you have to do is download the software, load in your log file( I use the log built into the Digipan program)  and the rest is done for you.This year i have been fairly active on HF, particularly on PSK31 but I was surprised to see I qualified for a number of awards including AUPA,CZPA and EPCDL, I have applied for these three to begin with. Thanks for the info-Adam!

Friday 18 December 2009

Loop update

I have had a bit more listening time with the Wellbrook loop now and here are my thoughts:

 *It is very effective on the lower frequencies. On top band (1.8mhz), signals that are inaudible on the random long wire are clear on the loop. Signals that were S1 on my inverted L (which to be fair is not designed for 1.8mhz) were S5-6 on the loop.

*On 80 metres the loop eliminates a lot of noise that is present when using the random wire. It is comparable to my inverted L which is amazing when you consider the size of the loop and the fact that it is currently in the loft.

*The loop is VERY directional on the lower bands, particularly Medium wave where rotating the loop can increase a signal by at least 8 S points on the meter! It is of course difficult to rotate the loop if you don't have a rotator. If you were a medium wave Dxer and using this loop I think a rotator would be pretty much essential.

On the higher bands the loop appears just as noisy as the random wire. Of course this is an unfair comparison since the wire is outside. I did try a wire receive only dipole in the loft at this QTH a while ago and abandoned it is at was so noisy, in comparison to that the loop is much better.

I really think the loop will come into its own when mounted outside. As an indoor antenna it is quite impressive but it does pickup noise as any indoor antenna will. It is quieter on the lower bands however and particularly impressive on 80 metres.
Tonight's picture shows the little amplifier box which sits between the receiver and the loop.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

My Wellbrook loop arrived today. The postman that delivered it was a little bemused by the shape of the parcel saying it was the most unusual one he had ever delivered!

My Loop is the LA5030 Indoor. I decided on this model as I thought it would be the best of both worlds- it is suitable for loft mounting but also suitable for use outdoors. My plan was to install it temporarily in the loft and then later to mount it outside in the garden. In fact I have a spare run of Coax waiting for it.

Anyway for now I have popped it into the loft and stolen the feeder for my Loft 50Mhz dipole to feed it for now.

I have not had much time to evaluate the loop yet but my initial thoughts are it is a well made piece of kit. It is certainly directional on lower frequencies. This would be a good antenna for anyone interested in the Non Directional beacons below the MW band, the antenna seems very sensitive there.

Considering it is in the loft, which is not a good location for any antenna it is not picking up that much noise. It is certainly quieter than a wire antenna would be in this situation. On 80 metres receive it is quieter than my outdoor random wire and is on a par with my inverted L which I use for transmitting on 80. On 40 metres so far the outdoor wire is far superior- that was something of a surprise!

There is no doubt that this antenna will perform much better outside.  I intend to evaluate it it whilst its in the loft for a little while, but If I get time over the Christmas break I will put it up at the end of the garden. I will post some more views on this antenna soon.
The top picture shows the antenna as it came through the post, the bottom one is the loop naked, so to speak!

Sunday 13 December 2009

The TS450

I thought I would write a little more about the Kenwood TS450S I recently added to the shack. This rig is a Kenwood, produced I think in the early 1990s and should not be confused with the Yaesu FT450 which is a totally different beast. The TS450 although it does have a limited menu system is controlled in the main from its front panel.
You can see from the photo above that the TS450 is identical in dimensions to the R5000 receiver (the receiver is on the left). The TS450 was bought primarily for use on PSK, WSPR and other data modes. It has a rear connector which is suitable for a data interface and this makes for a neat setup.
From time to time I have also been using the rig on SSB and  it seems to work very well. The front panel power meter appears pretty accurate, I have checked it against an external meter and that makes it very easy to set the rig to the QRP levels required for modes like WSPR.
 I have found the TS450 to be almost as good a shortwave receiver as the R5000. The Am filter gives a nice clear sound from broadcast stations. The only major difference is sensitivity on medium wave is well down on the R5000 but under 500Khz it picks back up so this set would be OK for LF listening.
All in all I am pleased with this little rig.

Friday 11 December 2009

The effects of winter

It has been a week since my last blog, partly beacause of a lack of time and partly because not much has been happening on the radio front here.
I have managed to download and set up WSPR 2.0, I find it an improvement over the original, particularly the "Tune" button which enables me to set up my transmit power with ease.
Conditions at least when I have been in the shack haven't been that great on HF. Apart from PSK 31 I have been trying to work a little SSB on 40 and 80.
Interestingly the onset of winter has had an effect on my UHF reception here. There is a semi local 70Cms repeater which I cannot normally hear at all from my location (I am not in a good site from VHF and UHF here as I am fairly low down with higher ground either side of my QTH) however since the leaves have fallen off the trees I can hear this particular repeater, a noisy signal but it is there.VHF signals are unaffected so it seems that at UHF the foliage absorbs some signal.

I have thrown caution to the wind and ordered a Wellbrook receiving loop. The website advises me that it will be dispatched on the 12 of this month so I am hoping it won't get delayed by the Christmas rush of parcels.When it arrives and it set up I will post my first impressions of its effectiveness.
The image accompanying this post is a shot of my 2m/70cms vertical on a winter February day this year.

Friday 4 December 2009

A good read?

Today I discovered that the Bookshop/newsagent chain “Borders” is in liquidation and likely to close.
Whilst there isn’t a “Borders” store locally there is one in Cardiff and whenever I was in the area I would take the opportunity to pop in and browse. Now I enjoy reading and so I like bookshops generally but the good thing about the Borders stores is they also stocked a good range of magazines and periodicals including specialist radio magazines.
Thus from time to time I would be able to purchase a copy of the U.S Amateur radio Magazine “CQ” or the  U.S Magazines aimed at shortwave listeners- “Monitoring Times” and “Popular Communications”.It was interesting to get a different countries perspective on the radio hobby and I will miss my occasional purchases of those magazines
Here in the UK, to my knowledge at least we now have only two magazines available at the newsagents that relate to our hobby- Practical Wireless and Radio User- the latter magazine aimed at the shortwave listener/scanner enthusiast. Of course if you are a member of the RSGB you also get the Radcom magazine but that’s not available at the newsagents.
I pretty much grew up with Practical Wireless, it formed part of my introduction to the hobby, it had information relating to both Amateur Radio and Shortwave and the advertisements were always a constant source of interest for an aspiring young radio amateur!
I have bought Practical Wireless magazine pretty consistently over the years but a few weeks back, after buying the December edition I began to wonder if I will continue to buy it.
The first problem I have with the magazine is the equipment reviews. It has long been the case that you are unlikely to read much negative comment in these reviews- presumably because the manufacturers/suppliers are also the magazines advertisers and its best not to offend them! For Example December’s magazine has a review of a soundcard/data interface. You don’t have to read too closely between the lines to see that the reviewer was not all that impressed with it, but clearly he isn’t really allowed to say that. I suppose the best place to look for reviews is now online on sites such as Eham where the reviewers are not dependent on the suppliers for their income..
But what really takes the biscuit is the 3 page article which tells you how to install the batteries in your FT817, screw the antenna on and switch the rig on! The article then goes on to tell the reader that they need to plug the microphone in and guides them as to how to make a contact on the local VHF repeater.
Now I am not the most technical of people but surely this information could have been obtained from either:
Classroom learning in the foundation/intermediate/advanced radio courses OR reading the manual!
It is a shame because there are still some good articles in Practical Wireless but is does seem as if the magazine is being “dumbed down”.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Up and Running

The Data Leads for my TS450 Arrived today. As I was working from home this afternoon as I was able to take a quick tea break and test things out!
My first contact using the TS450 on PSK was with SP3AOS on 30 metres. It was nice to know everything was working OK and thanks to EZE (UK) for the prompt delivery of the lead.I think the TS450 will be a very nice rig to use on data modes and with its internal ATU it will be relatively easy to hop from band to band.
Its much colder here today, I think winter is well and truly on its way although in many ways I prefer the crisp cold weather to the damp stuff we have been having recently.

My thoughts are now turning to what is likely to be my last radio related purchase of 2009 (and probably for a while). For some time I have been reading reviews of a receive only active loop antenna made by Wellbrook. The reviews have been very good, particularly in respect of the antennas ability to reject noise and electrical interference. One of the loops is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. I am considering getting one, trying it in the roofspace over the winter and maybe in spring putting it outside. The Main use of the loop will be for my shortwave listening activities although if it proves useful there is no reason why it can't be used as a receive antenna for amateur bands.