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.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Thermopiles, Bibles and the KGB

In the 1970’s we had a family friend who had spent most of the 1960’s as a Christian missionary smuggling bibles in to the Soviet Union. He always told wonderful stories of his adventures and how he travelled extensively behind the Iron Curtain paying his way with Wrangler Jeans and Wriggles Chewing Gum. He had been a member of the Communist Party as a way of appearing a legitimate visitor but that did not stop him from being constantly followed by KGB agents or from finding that every room in every hotel he stayed in was bristling with hidden microphones. Somehow he usually managed to evade his followers and travelled to places where tourist were not supposed to go, to meet his contacts and distribute his contraband. The problem was that avoiding the secret police drew attention to him and after a few near misses, were he was interrogated and then released, he was caught red handed and spent six months in a Siberian Labour Camp. If the tale of his escape is not in a book somewhere it probably should be but it ended with him crossing from East To West Berlin in the boot of a car, where he would have been caught if someone had not chosen that moment to make a run for it.

It was while he was in the Siberian prison camp that he came across a radio receiver powered by a kerosene lamp. He explained that the lamp had what is known as a thermopile which directly converts heat in to electricity. A thermopile is a mass of hundreds or thousands of thermocouple junctions in parallel and series to generate a useful amount of current. A thermocouple works due to the fact that when there is a junction of two dis-similar metals and there is a temperature difference a current flows.

I had no reason to disbelieve him or his amazing stories but for years I wondered if this thing really existed. For some reason after many years it suddenly popped in to my head and the wonders of the Internet let me research the subject. Sure enough there it was a kerosene lamp with a thermopile powering a transistor radio.

Visit this link to find out more.

Site of the year 2009

Of course its a fake. I can dream can't I?

Friday, 18 December 2009

2010 Radio Rallies

Dates for your diary... 2010 Radio Rallies


Lowton Civic Centre WA3 2AH, just off the A580 East Lancs Road.

Further details from Steve on 01942 888900



Whitfield Village Hall, Dover CT16 3LY.



Horncastle Youth Centre, Lincolnshire LN9 6DZ. £1.50

Details from Tony, G3ZPU 01507 527835

http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]


'The Paddocks', Long Road, Canvey Island, Essex

SS8 0JA (southern end of A130). £2,

Dave, G4UVJ, 01268 697978 (evenings).



Didcot Leisure Centre, Mereland Road,

Didcot OX11 8AY. £2 (under 12s free),

Details on 01235 816379

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Ossett School, Storrs Hill Road, Ossett, West Yorkshire WF5 0DG. £3.



Afan Lido (Aquadome), Aberavon seafront, Port Talbot, SA12 6QW,

1 mile from M4 J41 £1.50/50p

Details Roger, GW4HSH, 01792 404422.


Rainham School for Girls, Derwent Way, Rainham. Gillingham.

Kent ME8 0BX. Trevor, G6YLW, 0771 7678 795.


America Hall, De la Rue Way, Pinhoe, Exeter, EX4 8PW. £2

Contact Pete G3ZVI, 07714 198374

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]


"Autotron", Rosmalen ('s-Hertogenbosch, just off A59 motorway). PI4SHB €6.

Details +31 6 1356 1325,

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



The Village Centre, 7 Ballynahinch Road, Hillsborough.

Contact Jim, GI0DVU, 02892 662270,

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]


Woodrush Sports Centre, Shawhurst Lane,

Hollywood, near Birmingham B47 5JW

on the A435, 2mi from J3 M42. £1.50

Contact Chris, G0EYO, 07710 412 819

email http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Callington Community College, Launceston Road,

Callington, Cornwall PL17 7DR. £2.00

Contact Chris G7UDX, 07973418371

email http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Nuclear Bunker, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 8AP. £2.50

Contact Rod Siebert, 01270 623353

email http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



ASSOCIATION EXHIBITION – Norbreck Castle Exhibition Centre, Blackpool.

Dave Wilson, M0OBW 01270 761 608

http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



The Share Holiday Village, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh BT92 0EQ N. Ireland.

Access from Erne/Shannon Waterway.

Details Iain 028 66326693,

email http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Hasland Village Hall, Eastwood Park, Hasland S41 0AY (M1 j29/30).

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Hall, Hound St, Sherborne, Dorset. Digby Hall adjoins the

Digby central shopping car park.

Robert, 01935 706715

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Tavistock College, Crowndale Rd, Tavistock, Devon, PL19 8DD. OT

Details Peter, M1AYI, 01822 860277


Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio, USA.

3 day pass $20/$25 on door



Messe Friedrichshafen, Germany.



"Cheese & Grain", Bridge Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BE.

Contact Shaun, G8VPG 01225 873 098

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Cobham Sports and Social Club Ground, Merley, Nr.

Wimborne, Dorset BH21 3AA.

Details Mike, M0MJS 01202 883 479

e-mail http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]



Enginuity Technology Centre, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DU.

Discounted admission to Enginuity Centre.

Details from Martyn, G3UKV, 01952 255416



in association with the Lincoln Short Wave Club.

George Stephenson Pavillion, Newark and

Nottinghamshire Showground, Lincoln Road, Winthorpe,

Newark NG24 2NY (close to junction of A1/A46/A17).



Nuclear Bunker, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 8AL. £2.50

Contact Rod Siebert, 01270 623353

http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]





Llandudno, Ysgol John Bright, Maesdu Road, Llandudno. LL30 1LF

Liz Cabban GW0ETU, 01690 710257

http://www.blogger.com/[email protected]


This list is available here to download in word format.

If you have any up-dates or additions please let me know by leaving a comment.

Red Roses but no news

The RSGB figure there will be nothing happening between now and the 10th of January and as a result have given their news readers the 27th of December and the 3rd of January off. GB2RS will return on the 10th of January after their final transmission of 2009 on the Sunday 20th.
Never fear though because CQHQ along with great services like those of Southgate ARC Newsline will do the best to keep you up to date with what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

The news GB2RS listeners will be missing includes the first UK radio rally of the year...

On the 17 January the Red Rose Winter Rally takes place at Lowton Civic Centre WA3 2AH, just off the A580 East Lancs Road. Talk In is on S22, Opening Time is 10am.

It should be even better than last year's event at this superb new venue.

All on one level. More traders.
Low cost “Bring & Buy".
Special Interest groups.
Hassle free. Large spacious halls at ground level.
Free car park, disabled facilities.
Really excellent catering
Large, comfortable, social area
Licensed bar

RSGB bookstall

Further details from Steve on 01942 888900

500kHz deadline extended

Good news for UK radio amateurs experimenting with the 500kHz band. It was announced on Wednesday 16th December that the period due to expire in February 2010 would be extended until 29 February 2012. RSGB have received confirmation from Ofcom who have been negotiating with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency over the 501-504kHz band and have extended the validity period to 29 February 2012. RSGB General Manager Peter Kirby G0TWW, said “This is another fine example of the RSGB working closely with Ofcom to the benefit of all UK radio amateurs.” Just like they are working with you on the issues of PLA and PLC interference hey Peter?

This announcement has come at a time when there is growing interest in the band from non-coders due to the popularity of using narrow band modes such as WSPR to study propagation. Previously almost all amateur 500kHz traffic has been CW.

The full text of the announcement can be found via the RSGB web site at www.rsgb.org/news/article.php?id=0010, or at www.ofcom.org.uk where you can search for update special research permit.

Kenwood makes it to PsD

Kenwood USA have made it to the mainstream by getting one of their advertisements on the hilarious PsD or Photoshop Disasters Blog. The disembodied hand stands out so obviously that one has to ask 'How could someone create that, and think it was good?' And 'how did someone actually approve it for the brochure?'

To see the PsD post...
Kenwood: The Right to Bare Arms.

To view the original brochure...
Click here! [PDF]

The daft thing is this might actually get Kenwood more publicity than if they had done a proper job.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mobile Phones Crash Cable TV

BT have making a misery of life for those that enjoy the short waves for some time with their power line adapters now it looks as though O2 are not to be out done and have come up with a way of crashing cable TV set-top boxes using mobile phones so couch potatoes can be just as miserable.

We are told he next generation of mobile phones will be capable of lightning fast speeds and advance features but Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G will use the 800mHz band in the UK. 4G is not available in the yet but O2 is currently testing 4G at the LTE Slough testing centre. LTE allows users to connect to the internet at speeds twenty times faster than currently available. The problem lies in the fact that cable TV set-top op boxes operate on a frequency of between 800 to 900 MHz and a 4G mobile phone in the vicinity can cause break up of the picture and sound and even crash the box, which requires turning the box off and on again to reboot. O2 researchers are looking at the problem, but aside from replacing millions of set top boxes or using a different frequency band I think they are on a looser, which is a pity because the advantages of 4G would be most welcome to most mobile Internet users and we do not want it delayed too long or the UK may miss a whole generation of mobile technology.

Source: Various

Fighting talk

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our hobby, to ride out the storm of PLC, and to outlive the menace of PLA, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of the Radio Society of Great Britain - every man of them. That is the will of RSGB and the nation of radio amateurs. The RSGB and all UK radio amateurs linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their RF spectrum, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Power Lines Communications and all the odious apparatus of Power Line adapter, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in the court rooms, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength on the air, we shall defend our hobby, whatever the cost may be,we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Society or a large part of it were subjugated and penniless, then our fellow amateurs beyond the seas, armed and aided by the British amateur community, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the PLC menace, with all its power and might, is resigned to the dustbin of history.

Appologies to Winston Churchill.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Most Wanted DX 2010

From QRZ.com we have more about DX this time from John Ferringtonde VK6HZ/VK6ARI who has created a Most Wanted DXCC for 2010 survey on his website.
The URL is http://dxsurvey.vk6hz.com

He says he has two reasons for the survey.

1. He would like to compare global needs for DXCC against VK needs
2. A statistics assignment for a course he is doing and what better survey to get a decent cross section of the community than a DXCC wanted survey?

The poll is open until March 1st and results will be published on www.vk6hz.com and other DX websites, along with an article for AR magazine here in VK.

Please vote and ask your friends from the DX community to join in and give John some good data.

Who has the biggest DX?

Over at the DX World of Ham Radio it is time to vote for your choice as to the best DX peditions of 2009. You can vote for up to three from a randomised list here.

The one that grabbed my attention was K4M Midway Atol but as I never managed to work any of those listed I will not be voting. Sure I heard quite a few of those in the running but my 100 watts to a wire at 30 feet never cracked the kilo-watts to a seven element beam on the tower at 300 feet boys. It is a pity these great opportunities to work somewhere rare usually turn in to a free-for-all peeing contest. For me a good expedition is one where the calls are managed numerically, alphabetically or by zones. Calling occasionally for QRP marks you almost for sainthood in my book.

"Na na na na. Look my DX is bigger than yours!"

Monday, 14 December 2009

Radio Pirate Finally Sunk

The story of obnoxious spoilt brat 14-year-old Jayhaed Saade and his pirate radio station has had adequate coverage from newspapers and bloggers all over the world and I did not write about it earlier because I did not feel he deserved any more publicity than he had already. Today is different because he has finally done the right thing and shut down his illegal station and that has to be cause for celebration for those in Ottawa who were having their listening pleasure ruined by his stations interference to legal broadcasts. He had ignored two cease-and-desist letters from Industry Canada. The second had warned him he could face a $5,000 fine for each day he remained on the air, but the reason for his final compliance remains a mystery. He had been operating his station out of his fathers hotel and strip club the Sadde Inn. His father, Georges Saade, initially supported his son but later said he and his wife wanted the station turned off. The big question is why his broadcasting has gone on so long when there are so many regulatations.

More about this item at... DigitalHome VA3QV Ottawa Sun

In his Blog Post about this issue Bob VA3QV says "Perhaps its time for Industry Canada to sit down with Canadian Border Services and get on the same page about what Radio Equipment can come legally into Canada so this does not happen again.", but the way I see it whatever radio equipment can come legally into Canada it will not stop pirate stations springing up. As a radio amateur you may have heard of ‘Home Construction’, it is a long lost art amongst us radio amateurs but it is still widely practiced by broadcast pirates. Then there is a plethora of ex licenced station equipment for sale if you know where to look. Grey imports from places like China will always be possible because customs cannot check every single import. Industry Canada (and similar agencies in other countries) need to either be more pro-active in cutting off each of the Hydras heads as they arise or make some legal way for these stations to be licensed for low power local broadcasting. I am in favour of some form of limited licence where all the would be DJs can practice their art away from real broadcast stations and off the local amateur radio repeaters.
For information: The obnoxious rum swilling cut-throat in the picture above is none other than your truly who has been known to terrorise the seven seas in search of booty.

Christmas Humbugs

According to a survey published by Samaritans and YouGov nearly half the UK population (48 percent) has worried this year about debt and money. In addition, almost a quarter of people (23 percent) describe 2009 as a bad or their worst year ever. For me it has not been quite that bad and there have been some real high spots but the last few months have been pretty crumby. Firstly there has been uncertainty at work, which makes you want to hang on to every penny in case the worst happens. Various friends and family members have been in hospital for one reason or another including my mother. So many reasons to wear my black suit that I do not even want to think about it. Then there is the reminder that it is 12 months since a similarly black period last year. Last night my eldest son was in hospital after injuring his knee. He is now on crutches for the festive season and unable to drive. Fortunately his work as a web developer will allow him to work from home, but that is not a situation that can go on indefinitely. It also meant a 100 mile plus round trip to collect his car.

My work pattern over the festive season has been particularly bad. I was working over the weekend and missed the mass return of the Summits on the Air operators as everyone unperturbed by the cold set forth to grab a few Winter Bonus points in what turned out to be a brief bit of winter sun. I am due to work a twelve hour night shift on Christmas eve and another Christmas day so although I am home for the big event most of it will be spent in bed. Previous years we have been put in to a limbo standby state at work and have effectively only been there to fire watch, but an unplanned seven week shutdown means we are working flat out to catch up. I then have a little break and return to work at 7am on New Years Day morning, so an early night and no celebrations for me then. What I will miss most over Christmas will be my brothers and sisters who I only see a couple of times a year because I am working when they are visiting and my Granddaughter's smiles. New Year's eve and way until the early hours I will miss wishing all those old friends and many strangers on the radio "Happy New Year" while getting mildly pickled and eating left over trifle.

So there you have it. It is dark damp and miserable and as an grumpy old fart with nothing to look forward to I should actually be more grumpy than I actually am. I will just take my pleasures and victories where I find them because I know the sun is going to come up tomorrow. Now only if that sun had a few spots!

Todays highlights were Frank K9HMB on 5.4035mHz USB romping through while I munched my special K and later LA1TPA/P on SOTA summit LA/TM-049 Holtankollen 5.3985mHz USB, followed by Richard GW0VMW/P 144mHz FM on two of the three local summits he did today. I also had a ragchew on two FM with my buddy Mike M1DAP. In between I chilled out by watching some recorded TV and freeing up some space on my inadequate SKY+ box. On Jonathan Ross World Champion Formula One Jenson Button came across as much matured and more sensible than I remember and Andre Agassi changed my opinion of him that had been swayed by shock revelations in the news papers. I never was quite enamored by Terry Wogan but he was mildly entertaining but N Dubz, the MOBO-award-winning hip hop group from North West London(North West = N Dubz get it?) , left me wondering what the hell happened to education in this country and wanting to put every drug addled hoodie I see up against the wall to be shot. I watched some other stuff too but the space freeing was all in vain as I found some more films to record that are on while I am in work and then it was off for a few hours sleep before another night shift. Once again I was not visited by Marley's ghost so maybe I am not as big a humbug as I think, but I still fancy putting up the importal words 'Bah Humbug!' in twenty foot high letters at this time of year.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

RTTY Day Welcome

RTTY Welcome Day Cheerleader Phil N8PS announces a RTTY welcome day. A what you ask? Phil tells us that "This event is being held all day on January 1, 2010 to encourage RTTY operation." So you can meet and greet other RTTY operators. There are no hours, no rules, no score, no pressure, no quota, no log needed and you can use any band*,any contact, any time, any power, any equipment, or any antenna. He tells us we can have a short exchange or a rag-chew - whatever suits us. He wants us to help others find joy in RTTY for the first time, or the thousandth time.

Great idea Phil. Now how about we try it on SSB. It's good to talk!

I'm slightly worried at the vision of Phil (pictured above) dressed in his cheerleader's outfit but at least it is not Amateur TV.

If you have not tried RTTY why not try a new mode for a new year?

Remember Hiro if we save the Cheerleader we save the World.

Spectrum is Green for Go

The RSGB have finally decided it is time to come out fighting on the issues of PLA (Power Line Network Adapters) and PLT (Broadband Over Power Line Transmission) by taking legal action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of radio amateurs and other radio spectrum users effected by the horrendous interference most of these devices emit. Ofcom have prove singularly dismissive of the problems preferring to side with the powerful and influential businesses behind the ventures.

The first stage is a fighting fund and in January’s issue of Radcom they announce the formation of the Spectrum Defence Fund. RSGB’s lawyers have suggested the first stage is a judicial review that could cost over £75,000 (I suggest someone missed off a few zeros there) and there is no guarantee of success.

RSGB say that now is the time to stand up and be counted and make it known that we, as a community of radio amateurs and short wave listeners alike are not prepared to accept any level of interference from non-compliant devices. We are looking to our administration, Ofcom, to protect our interests, which is their statutory duty. This is a long-term project and all monies donated will be ring-fenced for those actions alone.

To donate to the Spectrum Defence Fund please make cheques payable to The Spectrum Defence Fund and send them to:
Spectrum Defence,
3 Abbey Court,
Priory Business Park,
Bedford MK44 3WH.

Alternative methods of payment such as PayPal etc will be announced in due course.

The RSGB is appreciative of the efforts and support from Society members, the UKQRM group and its membership, among many others.

You can now donate on-line to the Spectrum Defence Fund at www.rsgb.org/defencefund

Personally I think every one should consider a few things before donating-

The chances of success are going to depend on having the very best legal representation and that costs. A decent barrister probably would not get out of bed for £75,000 and unless both he and the Judge are vaguely familiar with amateur radio the chance of success are minimal. I suspect if we want to win that a final bill no less than two million pounds is quite likely and even then the other parties may appeal. I am in touch with some friends who are involved with what appears to be an open and shut case of criminal negligence and their legal bill is already over £250,000 before they get to court and is no-where near as complex as this case is likely to be. So the question is am I throwing away my money by supporting this project? If we avert this threat will some other damnation spring up in its place? And if we do win who is going to go around and collect all the thousands of PLA devices already out there?
Having said all that we all give buckets full of money away to charities such as Cancer Relief, The Heart Foundation and Famine Relief and none of then have solved their much more important problems. Maybe donating is not about the winning or even about faith in the cause but simply about joining the fight because it is the right thing to do.

I have to say that the Spectrum Defence Fund is a great name but that logo is not very inspiring. If they had used the one from Captain Scarlet I would have been right in there. Tee shirt sales alone could raise enough to fund a dozen court cases.

Launch Angels to intersept enemy jamming devices SIG.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

4x4 Driver Missing

I received this rather worrying email and although I am thousands of miles away I thought I should do what little I can by passing this on to my readers who may be just a little closer and able to help.
Off Road and On the air!

A message to all members of 4X4 Ham Radio Operators

URGENT – Offroader missing – Jay Lafontaine Bryan has been missing since last week. If you can, please help post this and pass this around or on other forums. He was last seen driving from Boomtown nevada to Death Valley on 11/27, driving a Jeep Rubicon – black, no doors.

Additional info on the link below. http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2750358620050172860AuTWpy

Visit 4X4 Ham Radio Operators at: http://4×4ham.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Look Mam no hands!

Driving while distracted has been a regular topic of conversation amongst amateurs all around the world recently as more and more countries bring in legislation to clamp down on the number of motor vehicle accidents caused by mobile telephone users. Radio amateurs in some countries have been caught up in the legislation while some others have been left in limbo due to grey areas, which leave them unsure of their position when operating mobile transmitting equipment. In the UK radio hams using two-way radio are specifically exempted to the law that bans the use of mobile phones, but try explaining that to the nice PC Plod when he stops you. Even so we are in an almost unique position and it would be nice to think we could at least maintain that position and not have more restrictions placed upon us. Unfortunately lead by white van and taxi drivers the numbers of people openly using their hand held mobile phones while driving is even higher in the UK than before the restrictions were brought in. According to the Times on Line during the last twelve months more than 14,000 people were observed in London alone. A 2006 survey showed 2.6% of drivers used a mobile phone while driving, the implementation of restrictions brought that figure down to 1.4% but this year’s figures indicate 2.8% of us are flouting the law. The have been calls for higher fines, automatic driving bans and tougher regulations, including the banning of hands-free devices.

It was my hope that the previous legislation would have lead to a plethora of cheap hands-free equipment being available for use with two-way radio equipment and that manufacturers of mobile amateur radio equipment would have grabbed the bull by the horns, neither of these things has happened yet. Yaesu has one Blue Tooth enabled mobile rig and Waters and Stanton sell an add-on device that costs almost as much as a radio itself. It appears that like the general public manufacturing is not taking this problem seriously, not that government are backing up their rules either by enforcement or perhaps forcing all new cars to have hands-free connect capability. I suspect law enforcement feel that they have more important things worry about and a lot of them do not like the idea for booking someone for something very similar to what they were doing 30 seconds before they full them.

Personally I do not feel any more distracted by talking on amateur radio when driving than talking to someone in the car or listening to music or a pod-cast so I do not feel any further restrictions are necessary, but this is a problem that needs to be addressed before Mother State uses a sledge hammer to crack an egg once more. We need better hands free devices for our ham kit because what is on sale now is at best inadequate and we need the manufactures to respond by fitting hands-free connections to all mobile two-way equipment including amateur gear. Car manufactures should respond by Blue Tooth (or similar) enabling every car they sell.

I have Blue Tooth capability in my Land Rover Discovery and via a Tom Tom sat nav in my Vauxhall Corsa and the convenience and safety of being able to take a call with the push of one button compared to fumbling in a pocket, flipping open the phone and then trying to press the ‘accept’ button before the other party hangs up makes not having hands-free a real no brainer. Now if only it was so simple to link in my ham gear as well.

“I know the audio is low. There is a cop car behind and the mic is on my knee. Hold on, it’s okay he pulled some guy blogging on his Iphone.”

Thursday, 10 December 2009

First Time Travellers Arrive in Norway

Several sites on the net have similar images to this taken in the early morning over Norway. Some people are speculating that it was caused by the malfunction on a Russian rocket launch while most are calling it a Photoshopped hoax. We can exclusively reveal that it is a quantum vortex caused by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and was formed when time travellers from the future were able to latch on to one of the tiny black holes created in the experiment and form a worm hole. The blue swirling line is a quantum eddy in the fabric of space caused when the time ship entered through the vortex in to our time line. The time travellers tell me that the only known after effect reported in the future was that during Wednesday 13th January 2010 a cat in Norway was killed by a car and was seen to be walking away from the accident at the same time. The owner of the cat a Mr Schrodinger will refuse to comment on the incident.

Maybe I have been watching to much Sci-Fi or maybe not. Read more at Space Weather.com

UK Goverment ignores PLT problems

Many of my UK readers will have signed the petition at
asking the Prime Minister to "require the relevant regulatory authority namely Ofcom to take active and speedy measures to test samples of all makes and types of PLT device and to remove from the UK market all those devices where the sample is found to be non compliant with the requirements of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2006. And to take all practicable and necessary steps to prevent anyone placing non compliant PLT devices on the UK market now and in the future. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and Ofcom are familiar with these devices they being widely distributed by a national communications supplier, various high street stores and on the Internet. These devices are used to transfer electronic data via domestic electrical household wiring and the techniques involved in typical use result in harmful interference to short wave radio reception."

Gordon Brown in charge of 10 Downing Street! More like 10 Drowning Sheep. However the Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition with its typical complete disregard for the problem and you can view it he http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page21654 or read it below.

Thank you for the E-petition about testing Power Line Technology (PLT) equipment.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is responsible for the Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Regulations 2006. Enforcement powers are delegated to local Trading Standards offices and to the Regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), where there is a radio spectrum protection or management issue. Ofcom is the body responsible for the management of the civil radio spectrum in the UK.

In the last twelve months Ofcom have received 143 individual PLT interference complaints about inability to receive radio transmissions in the High Frequency (HF) band (3 to 30MHz). Of these, 121 have been investigated and referred to the apparatus supplier who has resolved 104. The solutions employed include replacing the apparatus, hard wiring and conventional wireless alternatives.

As a result of the Regulator’s investigations which found no breach of the EMC requirements, Ofcom decided against taking further enforcement action at this time. Ofcom is therefore working to reduce any negative effects in individual cases with BT, the largest supplier, and with Comtrend UK Ltd, which supplies the apparatus as part of the BT Vision package. Further information about PLT and Ofcom may be found on their website:


On the available evidence, we do not believe an outright ban of all powerline equipment is justified.

Ofcom can provide advice and assistance to those who complain of interference with radio communications equipment. Any individuals who wish to report specific cases of interference that may be caused by PLT apparatus, or any other source, should contact Ofcom’s Advisory Team on 0300 123 3333 for further assistance.

You may wish to visit http://www.ukqrm.org/ to find more about the threat to the amateur radio spectrum.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Paper batteries

One of the biggest things holding back electronic technology is battery technology but the pressure is on and new ideas are starting to emerge. The latest of these uses normal copier paper coated with an "ink" made from tiny carbon nano tubes and silver nano wires. The fibre in the paper acts as a skeleton on which to hold the nano carbon and it is then soaked in ionic liquid electrolytes, such as a lithium solution. Stanford University scientists have demonstrated a postage stamp sized battery with enough power to light a small bulb. The exciting thing is the possibility for cheap and fairly light batteries that could be produced by using a convention printing press, which is a fairly low-tech solution compared to most other emerging cell technologies. With pressure from the makers of laptop computers and mobile phones plus the hybrid car market the future looks bright for the scientist behind this idea. Other ideas are being investigated such as using cloth instead of paper and a version that uses blood as the electrolyte, which could power things like pace-makers or other life saving devices.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The cracking Elecraft K3

Keith GW4OKT has just returned from working in Sakhalin Island where he never managed to persuade the authorities to issue him a reciprocal licence. So unable to transmit he spent some time building first an Elecraft K2 and more recently a K3, which he tells me is nearly finished. I have thought for some time what a cracking bit of kit the Elecraft K3 is but an item over on Julian G4ILO’s Blog explains that cracking piece of kit now has a different meaning. Julian tell us that the knobs on the K3 are made entirely from plastic or some compound material and do not have a brass insert, so they are very vulnerable to over-tightening. According to Elecraft, the manufacturer of the knobs made a bad batch that was rather brittle. They are now making the knobs with a much tougher composition and these were sent to all those affected and are being fitted on all newer K3s. He goes on to say, “That should have been the end of the matter, but every now and again another incidence of cracked knobs is reported.” Hopefully Keith and others building K3s in future will not have to experience their knobs cracking and falling off, but if they do maybe it would be better to look for better quality items than Elecraft provide. They could do worse than looking for ex-equipment alternatives, which have by definition survived longer than the dodgy batch of knobs. Which brings me back to the previous item I wrote, so how about a Steampunk K3 with nice Bakelite knobs?

Update: Now Julian's knob is cracking too. Now I've Cracked-Up

Steampunk Radio

I was watching an item on BBC television about the rise of a fashion phenomenon know as ‘Steampunk’, which is an offshoot of Cyberpunk and Goth styles. Steampunkers tend to dress in Victorian clothes adorn themselves with gadgets styled as if from the science fiction of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and H.G. Well’s Time Machine. I was extremely taken with the beauty of the gadgets with their polished wood and brass, but it was the glowing valves that really took my eye. However much as I might find it fun to dress in tailcoat and top hat I know I am somewhat past what might be considered an acceptable age for such satirical elegance but there is definitely a spark of yearning inside that wants to Steampunk something. The attraction is possibly because it was the glowing valves within the polished wood and brass of our old radios and radiograms that attracted me, as a child, to radio in the first place. Then later when I got into amateur radio and first sat in a friend’s radio shack with the warm light and the smell as the valves heating up, while we chased one drifting oscillator with another drifting oscillator.

Old radios were quite often at least a piece of furniture and sometimes verged on being ‘art nouveau’, compare that to the stark functionality of today’s plastic and steel. There is a certain beauty in the simplicity of modern designs, but where are the purely decorative swirls and flourishes. Maybe there is room for amateur radio equipment that looks as attractive as furniture with modern functionality, but I cannot see it getting mainstream, more is the pity. So I sit here and think that maybe I could build a Steampunk PC because there are plenty of people who have done that and I could easily modify their designs but as far as I know no one has done it with an FT-817. There is probably little chance of me actually doing it but I can see a Walnut case with brass scrollwork decoration with the rig hidden inside and the Bakelite controls under a flip up lid with the valves of the linear and coils of the tuner visible through a glass porthole. Oh well back to looking at pictures on the Interweb!

There is one kit that almost goes some way to having the look I desire, unfortunately it is only a receiver. Have a look here.


CQHQ-4, originally uploaded by GW7AAV - Steve.

If CQHQ was a magazine. Issue 4

A test post from flickr to this blog and Twitter.

Reinventing the wheel

Sometimes reinventing the wheel is the right thing to do, take the radial tire for instance, but most of the time it is done through ignorance and an inability to research why things were done the way they are in the first place. Every now and again I read or hear something on the air that makes me cringe or simply shake my head in disbelief. Recent cases in point are experiments with horizontal FM, a two metres AM experiment, trying to generate a revival in Packet Radio and various people building antennas that are well know to be useless or near impossible to get working. I also heard of someone spending a massive amount of money on equipment and antennas to do something that I know defies the laws of probability if not those of physics. What is it that make some people deny what has gone before and have to fail for themselves before they will believe? With the Internet generating almost as much misinformation as information will future generations have to reinvent every time they want to achieve something? Are the odd cases of amateurs trying to reinvent the wheel simply a reflection of evolution in action as humanity responds to a misinformation overload?

Rumors Of Demise Exaggerated

The none event of the day has to be the news from various sources that rumours of Icom ceasing production of the IC-706 have been just that, rumours. It all started with this article over at Southgate ARC News and it may have begun because Icom Australia may no longer be importing the rig.

When I saw today's denial I just wanted to jump up and down and shout "I told you so!", but although I said as much to my buddies on air I did not publish anything as I did not have the evidence to back it up my theory when this rumour started circulating. We had the same rumour circulating when the IC-7000 came out and then again a couple of years later. It is perhaps surprising that the IC-706 is still being produced twelve or so years on but maybe that is because it is a direct competitor for the Yaesu FT-857 were as the 7000 is considerably more expensive. When Yaesu replace the 857 I would expect Icom to ditch the 706, but I believe both rigs still have a few years in them yet.

I have an IC-706mkIIG in the shack and a couple of Yaesu FT-857D for using mobile and portable and have found then excellent rigs. I have used an IC-7000 from time to time and I would have any of these radios in my armoury.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Shiny Appy People

If there is one thing guaranteed to generate a myriad of opposing opinions it is the Windows vs Linux debate. I recently spent half a day trying to get access to Shackbox, a Linux distribution aimed at radio amateurs, and another half a day downloading and writing it to a DVD. I then spent four hours trying to get it to install both from the created 'live DVD' and as a proper install with no luck. Plain Umbuntu 9.1 was a breeze much easier than Windows and faster, I even have a live version on a USB pen drive. However although my heart wants to wave the pirate flag (or should that be penguin flag) I know almost nothing I want to do can be done on the Linux machine without an immense outlay in both time and money simply to replace the programs I already have for Windows.

Unfortunately Microsoft keep moving the goalposts and I have ended up with multiple machines running different versions of Windows just so I can keep running my favourite software. With Windows 7 there appears to be a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. My son is a web developer and has been using the betas of Win7 for a while now and has recently had a full 'Ultimate' version installed on one of his machines. He has been most impressed with the Microsoft Virtual Machine which allows other operating systems to be installed and run as a virtual PC. Some Windows 95 & 98 programs apparently run faster and are more stable in the VM environment than they ever were on a dedicated machine. The idea of VM is that developers can test their products under different operating systems before releasing them in to the wild, but for those who want the best of all worlds it gives us the opportunity to keep using those old programs without having half a dozen obsolete machines hanging around for the purpose.

For those of you who already have a Windows 7 or Vista machine there is a new ham radio gadget out. It is a simple gadget for propagation and searching QRZ and can be found on the gadget site http://gallery.live.com/LiveItemDeta...e-0993d61b3bca I have to say I do not really like gadgets and task bars cluttering up my desktop and I find the style somewhat dated but it is quite useful. What is it about ham applications that most of them look like they were designed to run under Windows 3.1? Are we hams not 'Shiny Appy People'?