More than just a Ham radio blog.
is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Thank you Yaesu

Over the years I have had reason to both praise and curse the three big amateur radio retailers. I have had issues with Martin Lynch ,Waters and Stanton and Radioworld at times but I have also had good service and good deals off all of them. I can understand that some radio amateurs have had bad experiences off one or other of them and just will not go back, but my motivation has always been price and who ever is cheaper usually gets my business, as a result all three have managed to please me at times by offering a good price and that little bit extra in service. Maybe being the 500th radio amateur to try and brow beat them in to a deal at a radio rally starts to become tiring on the sales man who has forgone his weekend, travelled halfway across the country and still has a hangover from the late night session in the hotel last night. No wonder he would not take your last fifty pounds for that fifty nine pounds ninety nine SWR bridge.

My experience of the big three manufactures has been somewhat better but probably because I stayed away from their turkeys by listening to what other amateurs have said and reading reviews. I also wait a while before buying a new model to make sure there are no issues. My direct experience of dealing with the manufacturers has been limited but good.

Today's good service accolade goes to Yaesu UK who managed to help me swiftly with an issue I had that none of the dealers could help me with. According to the footer on their email I cannot reveal what it was they did for me or the contents of the email in any "newsgroup" nor "mailing list" without the express written consent of the sender so I will not risk their wrath by revealing it here either, but I will say well done Yaesu UK. Thank you very much. Sam Ruddy service manager 'You are the man!'.

Saturday, 27 June 2009


I got a nice little surprise in the post this week, an invitation to join the Chiltern DX Club. Somebody must have tipped them off that I am the number one DXer in my house, my street and maybe the whole of CQ town. To join costs £18, which seems reasonable and you must have worked 100 DXCC countries. I would have to check how many countries I have but I think I probably have worked three times that many at a guess.

The invitation came with a well produced A5 booklet the 'CDXC Digest, Journal of the CDXC'. It is well printed with eight pages of high quality colour images in the centre. It brought back warm memories of the Commodore 64 computer and the eagerly awaited publication from the Commodore Pet Users Group and long hour spent inputting basic programs from the hallowed pages. The CDXC production is a much more professional production but it seems surprising that in these days of the Internet there is still call for a printed club journal like this. There is plenty to read and the website looks good too.

I have not decided if I should join but maybe they can sponsor my next DXpedition to activate rare Scottish hills for Summits on the Air.

Missing the action

This weekend is Friedrichshafen 2009 and a lot of the SOTA guys have headed that way and have been activating summits in Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and France on route and while at Ham Radio 2009. Me I am stuck in work on nights. It is hot and humid and I am having trouble with sleeping days.

Next weekend 4th and 5th July is National VHF Field Day. I would love to get out with the Mold and District ARC of whom I am chairman and take part or at least try to work as many stations as possible from home, but guess what? Yes, I am working.

31st Oct and 1st Nov 2009 are the dates for the Llandudno Rally to be held at John Bright School, Llandudno LL30 1LF and I have just checked my shift rota. Phew! I am actually off.
The Llandudno Rally has massive potential and it failed to live up to that potential last year after a couple of years lay off. I just hope that both visitors and traders support this years rally and make it better than the previous venue ever was. The advantages of the new venue are free and vast parking and much more space at less cost than before.

Thin end of the wedge?

According to GB2RS news amateur radio gear may need to meet emissions standards.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is moving towards requiring commercially produced, finished amateur radio equipment to conform to international standards for emissions. We understand that the proposals will not affect kits or homebrew. More details will be published in RadCom as they are known.

Although it cannot be denied that this is probably a good thing because we do not want gear that puts out unwanted emissions it will undoubtedly push up the cost of new gear as it has to be type approved and will also lead to delays in up-dating small and not so small faults that occur from time to time as every change will have to be re-assessed. Think along the lines of faulty PA transistors in early an model and imagine if the makers decided it was too expensive to change the components and just carried on producing the rigs anyway.

It may be the thin end of the wedge and before we know it we will need type approved antennas and leads. Put away that soldering iron that is for qualified professionals only!

Whenever I see this sort of thing I just want to know who is lining their pockets?

Amateur radio fun

Darrell VO1MDS is making available a new series of 'Fun with Amateur Radio' videos on YouTube.

Amateur radio fun! Get serious Darrell.

Just joking! You will have to search YouTube yourself as I am in work and it is blocked.

Apparently in the first video Darrell is getting excited about 10 metres being open for the first time in a long while.

It's who you know!

From Southgate ARC news...

G0KYA's new amateur radio blog
Steve G0KYA, RadCom's propagation columnist and author, has launched a new blog devoted to amateur radio.
The blog already has 10 articles devoted to antennas, including magnetic loops, portable verticals and end-feds, plus articles on HF propagation, Marconi's work, radio heritage, 10 metres and much more.
Steve aims to add new features each month.
Your can view the blog at: http://www.g0kya.blogspot.com/

Which goes to prove it is who you know that gets you publicity.

No knocking Steve Nichols but there are a lot better and more often updated amateur radio blogs on the web that deserve to be plugged. Still he has some good stuff there so pay him a visit.

I said no knocking but one little niggle about Steve's profile; as a scientificly minded person I find the inclussion of 'Astrological Signs' and 'Zodiac Year' really really strange.

Piratical Obsession

Reading through the forums on QRZ of late there seems to be a glut of accusations that such and such a station must be a pirate usually because some lame brain could not find them on QRZ.com I find it somewhat childish.

What the heck is this dumb obsession that these people have with calling everyone a pirate all of a sudden? If you think the guy is a pirate you do not talk to him, that way if he is a pirate you are not breaking your own licensing conditions by doing so.

Just lately I have heard contest stations being harassed because “they are not on QRZ”, special events stations with unusual calls being told “DL775, that can’t be a real callsign” and newly licensed operators being told “You must be a pirate you are not on QRZ and you don’t know what you are doing” in each case the callsigns were genuine and most were easily verified through other sources on the Internet including announcements in news items on QRZ.

Self appointed ‘Band Cops’ we don’t need you. If you think someone is not genuine record them and send to the authorities with time date frequency etc. They probably will do nothing but if they ever catch them they will have evidence for a legal action.

Learn morse and join the Clique

Morse code could once again be making a resurgence but this time with the texting and Twitter generation. This may be old news to some but Toshiba has teamed up with American microprocessor giant Intel to produce Clique, a handheld, thumb-operated device that uses only three keys. Introduced in Japan at the 2008 Microprocessor Forum Japan (MPF Japan) ‘Clique’ is the size and shape of a lollipop or a disconnected, miniature joystick and uses Morse as a means to send texts to social networking sites like Twitter. Unfortunately this is a one way device and users get replies via normal email channels.

Earlier attempts to create a Morse-based device were stymied by the variable length of the Morse characters, which made it hard to adapt to automated circuits. Toshiba’s solution is the three keys: one for the ‘dot,’ one for the ‘dash,’ and a third that acts as a space-bar between letters –- two ‘clicks’ between words.

It is only going to be available in Japan initially and even if it takes off over there I cannot see hoards of teenagers rushing out to buy one, but you never know this could be the next generation of radio amateurs in the making.

I am a bit miffed that hours of scouring the Internet could not uncover a single picture of one.

US Hams show UK the way

On June 27th – 28th at Carl Barton Jr. park in Montgomery County US in conjunction with the week-long Amateur Radio Week, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, Montgomery County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and County Amateur Radio Enthusiasts (CARE) will be holding a public demonstration of what they do and how they do it. The local press have been out and announcements made on local radio stations.

Have a look at the nice article and photographs in The Courier of Montgomery County

Now compare it to what is happening in the UK where a report into Digital Britain has been published (Click Here) The report is primarily concerned with the delivery of digital services, however it speaks of the importance of resilient communications networks and the need for regular tests of emergency communications systems. There is mention of a major test in late 2009 to manage and recover from a major loss of network capability, but no mention of RAYNET. A response from the Radio Society of Great Britain states that “The RSGB regrets that Government communications planners seem to have completely overlooked the valuable resource that RAYNET can offer in such emergency situations.” It is totally ridiculous that RAYNET who have the skills and knowledge to set up reliable portable communication quickly and at zero cost does not seem to be completely integrated into the nation’s emergency communications planning.

See my web page for what RAYNET get up to…


GW7AAV is a member of the Flintshire RAYNET Group

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Dead duck DAB

An article appeared in the Times on 22nd June 2009 by Libby Purves describing DAB as “energy guzzling”. Suddenly I had that feeling of ‘maybe I am not alone after all’ and various discussions down at the Mold & District Amateur Radio Club and with other amateurs on the air came flooding back.

In principle DAB should have been a method of delivering extremely high quality content in a narrow bandwidth, instead because of commercial greed and officialdom DAB is a lame duck using too much bandwidth with a lack of quality that is painful to anyone used to CD quality or better. Worse still is that it is totally useless when driving because of the ‘now I have a signals, now I don’t’ effect and if you ask most people they only listen to the radio when driving. Most of the stations available on DAB are also available via Freeview, Satellite and the Internet at much better bit rates than the DAB broadcasts which for most of us makes buying a DAB radio pointless. Very few people are buying into DAB because the receivers are expensive and they are expensive because the chips used in their production are expensive because they are not selling enough, the classic vicious circle.

As someone at M&DARC said they have traded low cost, energy efficient receivers and high power transmitting stations for high cost, energy inefficient receivers and low power transmitters. The problem comes from amount of power used in the DAB receiver to decode the digital signal. Computer processing comes at a price and for the consumer with a simple portable radio that equates to buying batteries every two weeks compared to every six months with an analog receiver.

Read the article 'Radio revolution will leave listeners in silence' (Times June 22) at

Practical Wireless editor Rob Mannion, G3XFD had something to say about it in the Daily Telegraph’s letters page but editing made it sound like he was in favour of DAB. Read the unedited version here… Rob's view

Monday, 22 June 2009


What are hackerspaces or should it be Hacker Spaces? Well apparently there are groups of electronic enthusiasts springing up worldwide to take advantage of the wealth of the electronic junk that people throw away. By pooling resources and expertise new and interesting gadgets are being fashioned and the only limit is the imagination. Everything from robots to lamps that change colour with the weather, all sorts of weird and wonderful devices are being produced in basements and warehouses all around the world. These groups have been described as "almost a Fight Club for nerds" and although the ideas flowing out of them are like a million super intelligent monkeys pounding on typewriters, every few days those monkeys create another masterpiece.

The BBC has this article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8107803.stm about it and http://hackerspaces.org has links to loads of websites and Blogs with some great project ideas. Get your soldering irons warmed up.

A tall tale from Spiderbeam

Those that are aware of Summits on the Air will know that for HF the favoured mast for mounting wire antennas in the field is a fibre glass telescopic fishing pole, often referred to as a roach pole. When I started out I used a 10 metre pole but when that broke I replaced it with something a little lighter a 7 metre version and found it is usually sufficient. These poles can be obtained from Richard G3CWI's SOTAbeams at a reasonable price or any fishing shop but I found a supply on the Internet where I could get them for £5 each. They were just the job, cheap and cheerful and I would not be bothered if I broke one.

The guys at Spiderbeam see things a little differently to me and have come up with a pole 26 metres high, that is 85 feet to us old fogies. Which may be a little over the top for back packing operations, like SOTA, but might have its uses as a support for vertical wires come field day. However ideas of fazed arrays can be put away for now as the price is 599 EUR which at todays exchange rate is £707 or $838 US and there was me all ready to buy four. Sorry SpiderGuys but I could buy a lattice tower for not much more and that would not snap in the first 70mph wind. These beauties are about four times the height of my 7m poles so I would be prepared to pay maybe £40 which is 8 times as much but not 141 times the price, but the SpiderGuys must know their market and there must be plenty of people with more money than sense.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Clean the impossible clean

Have you ever wondered why consoles and computer keyboards turn from near white to yellow or a yucky brown even when no-one in your home of office smokes? Well the plastic used is a tri-polymer called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or ABS and the reason it goes off colour over time is the addition of a flame retardant in the form of Bromide. It was thought that this process was irreversible but the people at RetrOBright have discovered how to restore those old cases to something like their original look. You cannot buy this stuff in the shops but the recipe, instructions and an explanation of how it works can be found on the web site. Very interesting but not for the faint hearted.

How to connect a scart plug?

According to the Times, Ben Bradshaw, now the Culture Secretary responsible for the country's digital future, allegedly spent £30 on an engineer to show him how to connect a scart plug to his TV. Once again proving that to be a politician requires no brains, an inability to read or understand simple instructions and that you just need to be a self serving, arse kisser. The country's future is in the hands of these idiots and we* voted them in, God help us!

Read the whole article here... http://www.timesonline.co.uk

In all fairness to Ben his claim for £30 pales in to insignificance compared to those of his fellow MPs and his Blog makes interesting reading even if I do dispute a lot of what he claims. I wonder who writes it for him?

(* Well not me personally but the country in general)

Latest on the missing spots

While we wait impatiently for solar cycle 24 to start here are the latest theories about why the sun has no spots...

NASA - Mystery of the Missing Spots
New Scientist - Solar sleuths tackle mystery of quiet sun

Free children at HamFest

This reply to my remarks about the New National HamFest appeared in my comments but was not displayed due to it being marked as Spam. In all fairness the organisers of the event deserve to have their say a little more visible so I am reproducing it here. I have in the past attended the Lincoln event when I was in the area and it was a very good rally. Good luck to those involved.

Jonathan Whiting Says:
June 15, 2009 at 11:46 am

First, thanks for pointing out to us that we had not mentioned that children under 16 are free – this has now been corrected.

The National Hamfest is an expansion of our very successful Lincoln Hamfest which has been running for many years. A number of years ago we moved our event to the Newark Showground.

Whilst we appreciate your comments about the situation of the venue it is less than five minutes from the A1 – one of the major north south roads in the country – and served by the A46 with its links to the motorway system.

If you require any more information about the National Hamfest please contact, Clive G1BSN – National Hamfest Event Coordinator (a member of the Lincoln Shortwave Club – not an RSGB employee) – his contact details are available at http://www.nationalhamfest.org.uk and he will be happy to help.


Anyone who reads this Blog (does anyone actually read it?) will spot a familiar article in the July 2009 copy of RadCom, the RSGB's official magazine. 'Peking Duck's' was published in 'The Last Word', which is the letters column. This is the second time I have had a letter published by the esteemed magazine, but at least this one was not a moan like the last one I wrote. I guess it was too long to get the star letter and win the Yaesu hand held transceiver, so I will have to try harder next time.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Making it harder for buyers

Radio Classified

They call themselves “The place to buy and sell amateur radio equipment on the web” but Radio Classified obviously don’t want me to buy anything off their advertisers. They want you to register before you can even see if it is worth registering for. I have an almost an aversion to selling radios and I have equipment that I will probably never use again, but “you never know” so it is packed away in case I need it, so the chance of me wanting to see anything is close to nil, I might however want to buy something. What sort of person cripples the popularity and usefulness of a sales forum by stopping the casual browser?


Junksale used to be the boss when it came to buying and selling used gear, but oh dear me what a mess it is now. The green on light grey text with XXL lettering is painful to read and leaves you almost snow blind trying to read it. Add to that the flashing adverts on the page which could easily trigger an epileptic fit and it makes for a very unpleasant viewing experience. A fussy header and the sponsored ads and other little boxes make the whole thing a mess. In their favour at least you do not have to register to view the advertisements, but they shot themselves in the foot by not importing their registered user list for the old site. Regular users seem to have given up and the number of classified advertisements is well down on what it has been historically. Sorry LAM but it seems like you and your web designer have tried hard and come up well short. LAM’s own web site is actually a little better but almost as annoying with everything too big and flashing ads.

G3CWI's Amazing Online Flea Market

“G3CWI's Amazing Online Flea Market” is simple and straightforward and in the light of the above could be the best of the bunch. No need to register means that an advert gets maximum exposure and the occasional spam ad that sneaks under the radar get quickly deleted by Richard. However the problem with this site is the host, Bravenet that is a nightmare for the end user if you do not have ‘pop-ups’ blocked. I have no problem with Firefox with the add-ons I have installed but if I get the site up using Internet Explorer at work I am bombarded by pop-ups and pop-unders and have to spend ten minutes closing the damned things down every time I change page. Several of these advertisements have been known to crash the browser. However most annoying of the lot are a couple of banner ads that appear at the top of the page, if you move the mouse over them they speak or play music, which can be a little embarrassing if you are having a sneaky look at the adds when you should be working.


There is always eBay; unfortunately they too have messed up. I really think the new look is not as good as the old one and the search preferences I use have been hidden away in the advanced menu. I always look at Radio Equipment/UK only /Used & Finishing in the next 24 hours and Radio Equipment/UK only/Posted in the last 24 hours. I have had to save these searches, which were easy to set up before however now you have to get up Radio Equipment and then click UK Only, which reloads the page, then Used, which reloads the page and then go into the advanced menu to select Ending in the next 24 hours. You used to be able to click these selections all in the sidebar and then Search. It all seems like a backwards step to me. Another thing that I find bonkers is that by default searches comes up as ‘Best Match’ but it never is the best match and can mean that you get something up with 29 days to run first and then ten pages in you find what you where looking for which would have previously come up first with one minute to go and find you missed it, eBay you screwed up!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Pirate radio stations using net

Shock horror! Apparently pirate radio stations have ditched the micro-wave links and are connecting their studios to their remote transmitters via the Internet. In the piece in New Scientist Net gives pirate radio the last laugh Ofcom states the blindingly obviously to those who have any idea about what is technically possible these days, but it does make you think. For example by using some relatively cheap Internet linked mobile phones and some fairly simple low power transmitters a network could be set up across high points in any city which could be switched in sequence making DFing them almost impossible. In the past pirate stations have been caught running their transmitters from vans circling their target area but a similar effect could be set up using multiple low power devices from parked cars, by switching one device off and another one on every few minutes very little effect would be noticed to the listener but finding the transmitters would be near impossible. Theoretically someone with access to a fleet of vehicles could install such devices hidden behind the dashboard and use the normal radio aerial for transmitting. The drivers of the vehicles would not have any idea they were acting as a conduit for an illegal radio station. Hot pizza wid funky tunes delivered to ya door mon.

The article also makes brief mention of illegal cellphone jamming devices, that is one place I have sympathy with the users. It annoys the hell out of me when you are in a theatre or restaurant and some idiot gets a call or more likely numerous calls and either yabbers away with everyone listening or pushes past to take the call outside only push past again on the way back again. Hospitals are another problem area. Signs everywhere telling you not to use mobile phones and everyone including the Doctors are chunnering away in to them. What could be more wonderful than sitting next to someone while they describe in detail the septic tumour they just had removed and how they where able to watch the whole thing on a monitor because they did it under a local anaesthetic. Alexander Graham Bell it is all your fault.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

New National Hamfest announced by RSGB

Close but no cigar! The RSGB set themselves up to fail once again with the announcement of a new National Hamfest. 2 and 3 October 2009 are the dates and the venue has been carefully chosen to be an absolute nightmare to get to for anyone not living on the doorstep. It is very nearly in the middle of England which should be good but it is nowhere near any motorways at the George Stephenson hall on the Newark and Nottingham showground.

Sorry RSGB but if you are going to do a Hamfest put it somewhere with good access via the motorway network and if you are going to make it a two day affair put it somewhere with lots of accommodation and preferably make it in summer so we don't have to drive 200 miles to queue in the pouring rain to get in only to find that we could have bought what we wanted cheaper on eBay.

The pain does not end there because the cost of admission is £3.50 if you get tickets in advance or £4.50 if you pay on the gate. There is no mention of letting youngsters in free either so if I was going with the three kids and XYL and planning to stay over night so we could go both days, on top of my fuel and accommodation costs it would cost £45 in admission alone. I can see the amateurs staying away in droves and the failure will no doubt be put down to an apathetic lack of support.

600 mHz to 8 GHz RX Chip

"A computer chip modelled on the human ear could be used in universal receivers for radio-frequency signals ranging from cellphone and wireless internet transmissions to radio and television broadcasts.", so says New Scientist.

We normally tune to a narrow band signal of a few kHz wide but this device can receive 600 mHz to 8 GHz in one chunk. Wide band receivers similar to this are normally very complex, very expensive and consume vast amounts of power. Scant information at present but you can read about it here...

Human ear inspires universal radio chip - tech - 13 June 2009 - New Scientist

Shared via AddThis

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Strange propagation

Thursday July 11th was one of those days when I was glad I work shifts, six metres was bouncing and despite only having a vertical antenna which I converted from an old eleven metre CB aerial I got two pages of contacts in the log. Many different countries worked, mainly around the Mediterranean and in the region of 1,000 -1,250 miles. Things started very well around 0800 UTC with almost all Europe coming through at 59+. It seemed a bit ironic that the only stations calling CQ seemed to be Spanish as everyone working them was as readable as they were. For a couple of hour it seemed you could have worked any EU country from here. About 1000 UTC the band nose dived for about an hour and when it came back it seemed I could only here the stations around the Med and it seemed to be that way all day. Loads of great contacts including some rare squares but the biggest surprise was my last contact on the band Gulli TF8GX Iceland seemed to buck the trend of SSE from here but was spot on the trend with the typical distance at 1015.5 miles.

Friday July 12th was not as good but there was still a good sporadic e opening on both six and ten metres. This time most of my contacts were on ten and nothing amazing, but I did manage to get a couple of SP stations in the log. Poland should not be a problem but they have been a bit elusive for me during the most recent lift conditions on six, ten and two metres I have heard but not managed to work any SPs. Hopefully I will get someone next time on six and two. I still managed one page in the log and I am quite please how the ten metre 5/8ths vertical has performed despite being mounted very low at the moment.

This morning (Saturday 13th July) has seen the most odd propagation. I expected six and/or ten to still be open but all seemed very quiet. I was hearing A4 Oman and A71 Qatar on SSB but they were too weak to work, just the odd word in and out of QSB. Then I decided to peruse the cluster and I saw Rafi 4X4FR in Israel on 29.520 FM and gave him a call. A fairly easy contact despite QSB, the only problem being that he kept getting the last letter of my call as Zulu. I don't know why so many people get the last letter of my call wrong maybe Victor is not a strong sound, but I can never understand why so many think I say Whiskey, it sounds nothing like.

Otherwise not much happening radio wise today. Just an ON Summits on the Air station and a chat with Tony M0ATV on 23cms FM.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Six of one or 10 of the other

Six metres is bouncing here this morning. 9A2, SP, IZ, ON, OK, EI, EA the list goes on.

I haven't listened on ten metres today but there has been some good stuff of late as can be seen on Tony G4CGC's Ten Metre Band Report.

Time to stop messing around on the net and work some DX me thinks.

EH Antennas

Do you fancy a vertical antenna for 80m that is only 6 feet tall?

The EH Antenna is a unique concept that allows the design of a high efficiency broad band antenna with physically small proportions. There has been much controversy over not only how well they work but how they work. The theories expounded by there inventor have been lambasted by others. I must admit to being a sceptic of anything that purports to being a magic antenna and the EH antenna fall neatly into that category. However unlike other magic antennas you can make your own very cheaply and then decide for yourself if they work. I first heard of EH antennas when one of our club members at Mold & District Amateur Radio Club Dave GW7MQE brought one to show us and it appeared to work okay, but don't think his experiments went any further than proving it seemed to work. The furore that accompanied the first appearance of these antennas seems to have died down, but they are being produce commercially so maybe there is still something in the design. You can read all about the theory at E.H.Antenna Systems and there are some construction ideas at W5CXC 's website. There is also a Yahoo EH Antenna Discussion Group

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Ham Radio June 26 - 28, 2009

International Exhibition for Radio Amateurs with HAMtronic - Electronics, Internet, Computer
June 26 - 28, 2009 Friedrichshafen, Germany


Even for anyone that has been living under a rock as regard the world of amateur radio will tell you the amateur radio rally scene has all but died in the UK. There are as always a number of factors that has led to its demise. As far as I can see it all started with the rise of home computing. Rallies when I was first licensed were acres and acres of real radios, bright shiny boxes, old dusty ex PMR and military sets waiting to be converted and great piles of bits suitable for conversions and home construction. Shortly afterwards the odd green-screened Tandy TRS-80 appeared and voices disappeared from the airwaves to be replaced by that infernal noise that they called packet radio. I too was drawn in and computers started to take over our lives. More and more computer gear started to appear at rallies and less and less radio gear with that came the backlash. “It’s all computers! I’m not coming back next year.” was heard at every rally we visited, an opinion that echoed around every repeater up and down the country before and for weeks after every rally. Numbers started to fall and as numbers fell the smaller traders dropped by the wayside until only two or three big boys such as Walters and Stanton and Martin Lynch were left. Venue costs skyrocketed as visitors fell and then the Internet boon meant anyone could buy or sell radio gear without travelling across half the country to do it, it was another nail in the coffin.

Fortunately there are still a few rallies hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the UK and I think I detect a returning to ‘real radio’ of those once lost to the glowing eye, probably because PCs are so much integrated as part of our everyday lives they have lost there draw. Then there is Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, which is like every rally we ever had in the UK in one place at once. Fired by the fact that flights to Friedrichshafen are available for silly prices (£10 Ryan Air) it has become the number one destination in the rally calendar for many British radio hams.

I haven’t been yet and I will not be there this year, but it is something I intend visit sooner rather than later. Everyone makes at least one pilgrimage in his or her life, I have made a few, as a motorcyclist I visited the Isle of Man TT races every year for a while and as a golfer I played the Old Course at St. Andrews, as a radio ham I need to make the pilgrimage to Friedrichshafen, the biggest amateur radio event outside the US. How about you?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

144MHz UK Activity Night

Last night was the first Tuesday of the Month, which is the RSGB’s 144MHz UK Activity Contest & Club Championship and the good weather brought the ‘hamsters’ out in droves. I suspect every one was expecting there might be a lift on and although there was no massive sporadic e to the EU conditions seemed better than I can remember in a while. Several Scottish stations were heard but never on their own frequency were they could be worked and some of the South Coast stations were romping through here. It was a little frustrating to turn the beam only for them to turn theirs in the opposite direction but that is nothing new. Two nice easy contacts in to GI were my highlight and one was worked while the ten element Jaybeam was pointing NNE. It should have been somewhere Eastish. I was most surprised when he said, “You are a massive signal here” he certainly was too. I only managed to get 17 in the log but if I wanted to do this seriously I would get out portable with a big Yagi. It was a good night and I must try to get on more during these Tuesday nights. Next week is 70cms and I need to mount the delta quad well in advance or I will miss half the fun like I did last month. I don’t have a permanent beam up for that band at the moment.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Amateur Logic TV

One of the great things about the Internet is that amateurs can now do things that only the media could in the past. Suddenly web sites and Blogs are providing the news, entertainment and information that libraries and news stands did, the power is at our finger tips. YouTube has provided an outlet for the creative and the ridiculous and hidden amongst the arty and the sick are some productions worthy of the professionals. One such is Amateur Logic TV a whole heap of fun and fascination, and it is all about amateur radio too. The episodes vary in length but are mostly around 3/4 hour long and the latest is number 23, so hours of watching if you haven't seen them before. You can view in you web browser via Google Video or YouTube or you can download as Windows Media, Quicktime or Ipod video and watch in your favourite application at your leisure.
Definitely something to do watch the bands are quiet or the XYL is watching the soaps. I particularly liked episode 17 and the MFJ factory visit with the demonstration of the flow soldering machine.

Olli, Olli, Olli

Well I ran about in the sun for a bit and gave the ten metre vertical a good dose of WD-40 and cleaned up the jointed sections with a nylon pan scrubber and got it nice and shiny and back in the air just in time to almost miss the opening. However I did have a nice long chat with Olli DH8BQA 59s both ways for a most of the QSO. Unfortunately all the action seemed to have dried up when I finished with him, so I had a look at his web site http://www.dh8bqa.de. Most of Olli's site is in German but he has English on the index page and on a page about his sequencer . It is a pity the rest of his site is not in English as he has a nice design for a single button voice keyer and a frequency display for when he uses the FT-817 to transvert on the microwave bands. You can of course use Google Translator to get an idea of what the German text says.

6 Metres Sporadic E

There was a nice sporadic e opening to the Mediterranean on six metres yesterday afternoon. I was alerted by Zvone S57OPZ who had been watching the DX cluster and decided to do a quick Summits On The Air activation of S5/CP-016 Škofje, his alert said the band was open to the UK.
I went looking for Zvone but although I heard stations working him and the odd part of a CQ call he was too weak to consider calling. The band was however full of stations from Juliet November square, I worked stations in Montenegro, Slovinia and loads of Italians including IC8TEM on the island of Capri. I had great fun for about an hour and a half before Helen came in from work and dragged me out shopping.

Stations worked or heard good enough to be worked from Squares JN92, 75, 76, 70, 65, 62, 61, 55, 45. I heard many more stations active, around 35 noted, and several stations from some squares. Around 14 of those stations were consistently above S5 and peaking S9 on my vertical antenna. What would I have heard on a beam I wonder?

My antenna for six metres is a modified CB antenna that I adapted by reducing the turns in the coil and telescoping the sections of aluminium in until it was the right length for six metres.

I have just had a call that ten metres is open and my antenna for that band is flat on the ground so I had better call it a day for now and see what I can do.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Ham Radio in Star Trek

Demetre SV1ENS says on eHam "Did you guys notice the amateur radio mobile antennas installed in the USS Kelvin bridge in the new Star Trek movie ?

There were 3 of them, one was a Vhf/Uhf Diamond antenna, the other looked like a mobile scanner antenna, the third was indeed a mobile antenna but couldn't make out the type..."

I went to see the movie with my son Adam. As a long time fan I went prepared to be disappointed but was pleasantly surprised. I was certainly concentrating more on the story and less on the script than some and didn't spot the antennas. I also didn't spot things other people noticed such as the Tribble in one scene and the words 'Inert Reactant' (What!) on the tubes that Scotty gets beamed in to. These were pointed out to me by Richard GW7NLZ.