Sunday 29 November 2015

QRT? Not Quite

I haven't posted here for quite a while. Its not that I have lost interest however the shack has largely been dismantled  and most of the antennas taken down as I am waiting to move house. Of course these things take time and even if all goes to plan it may be a few months before I am at my new QTH. In the meantime the only antenna still in use is my Wellbrook active receiving loop along with a couple of receivers in the shack. So for now I am almost totally an SWL. This would not be so bad if I didn't have a very bad noise problem here. I have been unable to trace this noise. It disappeared for a couple of months in the summer, but now its back. I don't think it comes from my neighbours properties as a while back we had a power cut in the street and checking with a battery powered receiver the noise was still there. The noise it at its worst below about 7 mhz, it wipes out parts of the medium wave, as well as the 160m and 80 metre bands and affects 40metres to a lesser extent.

Here's an example of the effect on medium wave.

I am just hoping my new QTH will be a bit quieter on HF!!

I still have 2 metres FM and HF on my Icom 706 in the car so can operate mobile however 2 metres in this area is a wasteland with very little activity. With the house move and the prospect of no antennas for a while I have even got involved in an area of radio that I had always been rather critical in the past- D-STAR. I will talk more about this in future blogs, it is a way of still getting some radio activity in at the moment but it is cheating and doesn't of course have the same magic at operating on HF!

Sunday 16 August 2015

I had a little time to play radio this weekend so managed to work a few special event stations that were running for the lighthouse weekend. Conditions were not  that good and the noise problem I still have here doesn't help but I managed a few. One surprise was working EI0LHL on 20 metres. I can't remember ever working an EI on 20 before, the skip isn't usually that short on that band.

The noise problem here is very strange. A few weeks back we had a power cut in this area. Listening around on a battery operated radio at that time showed the noise was still there. So my noise is not caused by a near neighbour with a PLT device as I had suspected. Stranger still about two weeks ago the noise disappeared. Sadly it is now back again but perhaps isn't quite as bad as it was but it still makes a mess of Top Band (160m) and Medium Wave.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

6 Metres

Caught my first six meter opening of 2015. Some pretty strong signals on the band when I switched on around 1930 UTC. Managed to work a few with just 50 watts from the Icom 7000 to my vertical. Nothing spectacular but it was nice to work Italy, Spain and France on 6 metres.Switching on the "radio" computer to enter the calls in my electronic log I found the computer had died! I havent time at the moment to investigate the problem but this PC is quite old and in fact was given to me for free. Possibly time for an upgrade I think. In the meantime I am glad I still keep a paper log in the shack.

Saturday 6 June 2015

A new (but old) addition

Here is the latest addition to my Shack. As a young shortwave listener in the 1980's I always wanted one of these receivers but back then it was of course well out of my price range. It is the Icom R70
I managed to get an immaculate example of this receiver at a reasonable price and I am very pleased with it. It is a heavy, well built set, it feels far more substantial than the Kenwood receivers I have from the same era.
It is however quite a quirky receiver in some ways. Each time you turn the receiver on it defaults to the same frequency (15mhz in general coverage mode and 7 mhz in HAM mode). In addition you tune in 1 MHZ bands and you must use the UP and DOWN buttons to go to the next Mhz segment. In other words if you are at 7.999 Mhz and keep tuning, rather than go up to 8.000mhz the R70 rolls back down to 7.000mhz. Quite an odd way of doing things. Still as an HF receiver the R70 is excellent and I think this one is a "keeper".

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Silent Keys

Its never good in this hobby of ours to see the words "Silent Key". In this case the Amateur was not known to me (He was a relative of a work colleague) and in fact he has passed away over three years ago. I was asked to help his widow value and dispose of the radio gear.

I found a well equipped station with An 200watt Yaesu FT1000mpMk5, A Kenwood TS870s (having tested  it here I am very impressed  and various other transceivers. All in good condition and as I later found in good working order.  I was told in passing by the silent key's XYL that one of her relatives had advised her to simply throw the gear in the radio shack away! Luckily she knew enough to realise that this was not a good idea. It did make me wonder however how much gear is potentially destroyed like that. There were also one or two less valuable but perhaps more interesting pieces of gear:

This Sony ICF2001D was a state of the art portable maybe 20 years ago or more. This one was in very good condition and its still an excellent receiver. This one has been added to my shack!

What is in this box?

Its actually a multimeter,  A CT471C I think used by the military (possibly the Royal Air Force?)

Here it is with the lid removed.

Inside the lid are the test leads and some sort of probes.

This is a heavy unit, not like the little lightweight plastic multimeter I have!

For VHF/UHF there was a Yaesu FT4700RH dual band rig. Although this was quite an old radio I was surprised to find it had a CTCSS unit fitted and it appeared more sensitive on receive than my Icom IC7000

As radio hobbyists we know that all of this equipment has a value. We may not know exactly how much each item is worth but we would have an idea or, at least, an idea of where to find out. It is easy to forget that to people who have no interest in the hobby (this may include relatives/loved ones) may not realise that this equipment is worth anything. To the untrained eye this is "junk" metal boxes that could be thrown out.
Equally there are people out there perhaps less than honest that may take advantage and clear shacks out paying only a fraction of the true value. What can we do about this? Perhaps list the main equipment we have and let those close to us know that some of this equipment is valuable .

Tuesday 6 January 2015

A new receiver

I have owned the Cross Country Wireless SDR 4+  SDR receiver for a couple of years now. I wasn't sure how I would get on with an SDR, as it turned out I have really taken to it. I am probably more active as an SWL than I am as a transmitting radio amateur but since having the SDR in the shack my Kenwood R1000 and R5000 traditional analogue receivers have been hardly used. there is a link on this blog to a short review of the SDR4+and I will soon be updating it with my views of the receiver two years on, but basically I have been really pleased with it. It is still in almost daily use and coupled with my elderly Windows XP laptop acting as a server works well remotely.
One of the big plus points of the SDR is than I can control it remotely over the internet using my compact Acer Netbook computer and I have had a lot of fun doing this. I suppose the next step would normally be an SDR transceiver like the flex radio but for my ham radio activities I still prefer the traditional "knobs and buttons" approach of my rigs.

However on the receiver side, early in December I ordered  a Elad FDM S2 direct sampling SDR.
This receiver covers from 9khz up to 160mhz and comes with its own bespoke software. Due to a stock shortage the receiver was not delivered until 24th December, this meant that with the Christmas festivities and visiting family  I have not had much time to use the receiver until the last week or so.

Here it is sitting on top of the SDR4+. Although  almost the same width the Elad is only half the depth. Its facilities are more complex than the SDR4+ and the software takes some getting used to although I can also use third party software such as the "SDR Radio"  package which I am more familiar with. First impressions of this receiver are excellent, although it is more demanding of the PC hardware. My main machine here in the shack is a dual core processor with 4Mb of Ram but struggles with the receiver on some of the wider bandwidth settings-possible an upgrade of the shack PC will be required.
I have no doubt I will be posting more about the Elad as I get to know it better.

Just prior to the Christmas break a fault developed with my main station antenna the Western HF10 doublet. I checked all the obvious things, the coax cable was OK, no breaks in the Ribbon cable feeder (which seems to be the antennas only weak point-it is otherwise extremely well made), The antenna element itself was checked for continuity as were the loading coils. All seemed ok but the antenna would not tune on 80 metres. As I was short of time I have taken the antenna down and replaced it with a half size G5RV for now. I will give the balun connections on the HF 10 a good clean up and replace the ribbon feeder and hope that will cure the problem. I am keen to get it back up in the air as I have found it to be an excellent antenna.