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.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Wouxun KG-UVD1P

Having two more members of the family licensed is not a problem in my house because there are usually enough radios to go around. That is apart from when we all want a 2m/70cm hand held such as when we go on RAYNET exercises, so I needed to buy some more radios. The question was what to buy? I have for a long while had the belief that if you buy cheap you buy twice, but a couple of good portable dual banders would cost me around £600 and then I would need spare batteries, which for Kenwood, Yaesu or Icom could easily cost another £100. A base charger would also have to be bought separately and even then we could only charge one rig at a time. I was reminded that one of my Kenwood G71Es had an annoying fault too. I now needed three rigs and that was in the silly money area of spending. I did not fancy spending around £1,000 just so we could stand around in yellow jackets five or six times a year. The alternative was cheap Chinese handhelds and I had been amazed at the one I bought for four metres so Wouxuns it would be.

The Wouxun KG-UVD1P was what I had in mind and I am very pleased with what I have bought. The dual watch KG-UVD1P covers a wide range of frequencies that include the 2m/70cm bands. I had been seriously skeptical of these things when they first appeared on eBay but several people I had spoken to both on and off air were raving about them and when I saw an independent analysis of their output I was convinced. These radios (or at least the ones tested) are as clean as anything the Japanese are putting out. Quality is good but they are not yet up to the standards of build quality we have come to expect from the Japanese manufactures, but the Chinese are getting there and the big boys have produced some truly awful rigs themselves before now.

Sensitivity is slightly better than my Kenwood G71Es and all the audio reports I have had have been excellent. The answer to the question “How is my audio?” has always been “It sounds like you!” so it is at least as good as all my other radios. The S-meter bar chart is either all or nothing, but most portable rigs suffer from this. With my Kenwood on the rubber duck I cannot access the local 70cms repeater whilst sat at my computer, but the KG-UVD1P gets in easily and I have been told I am Q5, this is despite both radio putting out similar power levels.

The rigs came with a base charger, power wart and cigar socket charging lead, earpiece hands free, belt clip and a strap. The manual is better than most of the other Chinese rigs have and programming is very easy with the free to download software and a cheap programming lead, which also fits some Kenwoods including my G71Es. Then there are those extras such as the built in broadcast receiver and torch, no Japanese rig has those. On the cons side there is the antenna that is a reverse SMA plug, but adapters are available cheaply enough now. Spare batteries are cheap (£8-12 including postage) and a cell pack that takes five AA batteries can be bought for around £6 including postage, which kind of future proofs the rig from the “Sorry they don’t make batteries for those anymore” syndrome.

I have programmed all our local repeaters in to memory along with all the FM simplex frequencies. So by leaving the radios in ‘Channel’ mode there is no chance of accidentally transmitting out of band. However for someone who wishes to listen were maybe they should not these radios could almost double as a scanner. As a for example they cover St. John Ambulance frequencies of around 160mHz and the 440mHz free band, both of which might be useful when on Raynet type activities.

I bought five of these radios because it was as cheap to buy five as four individual radios and it cost me only £333 with postage so we now have one each and a spare for the next member of our clan to get licensed. When I took them to show our Raynet group three people were impressed enough to ask me if I could get them one and down at the Mold radio club I got a similar response. Now if only I could get hold of a container full...Mmm!

So for the price if one good Japanese rig I have five. Yes these are almost disposable radios but the big manufactures should really be worried. I am waiting for them to do a dual watch rig that covers 50 to 70mHz or something that covers 23cm and I will buy again. Wait for the ruffles when they start to put out mobile and base transceivers. If the Jing Tong is the Trabant of the radio world then these Wouxuns are Volkswagens with a Skoda badge, but soon I believe they will be up there on the racing grid competing on equal terms with the best radios the world can produce.

For those still worried, according to the FCC OET website this transceiver was “Type Accepted” on February 16, 2010. FCC ID: WVTWOUXUN04 , (For Part 90).


Romainia joins SOTA

The latest country to join the Summits on the Air program is Romania. As of the 1st of April 2010, Romanian SOTA will become active.

The web page (http://sota-romania.blogspot.com/) is available with google translation. The list of Romanian summits and ARM (Association Reference Manual) will be available soon on the main SOTA site and announcements of forthcoming activations of YO summits will be announced both in Romanian and English language.

Good luck to those behind the project to bring Romania in to the SOTA family and all those who will activate the Romanian summits. I look forward to my first YO summit in the log book as soon after April 1st as possible.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Antique Radio Tuning Dials

Found at J-Walk Blog eye candy for the radiophile... Antique Radio Tuning Dials

This site (http://www.indianaradios.com/) has lots of beautiful vintage receivers to peruse and the links page (http://www.indianaradios.com/links.htm) should keep you surfing for days through the web sites of antique radio clubs, private collections, and museums worldwide. Dreams of glowing valves and the family gathered around the radiogram listening to the BBC Home Service broadcasting from Alexandra Palace.

Contests and stuff

Last night (24th March 2010) was the RSGB's six metre accumulator and I rushed home from work hoping to have a little fun giving points away to the regular locals and maybe get some DX if the conditions were right. I was under no illusions that conditions would much good and the fact that it was raining heavily made me sure there would be fewer than normal mobile stations, but an almost completely dead band was not what I expected. I only heard one station, Dave G8ZRE. He was probably beaming away from me , but was very weak and if I did not know his voice probably have not known who it was. There was nothing to be heard on the rest of the band and as I waited for Dave to move his beam this way he disappeared too. I spent the rest of the contest tuning up and down and hearing nothing but static.

That was a complete contrast to the good conditions inter UK on Thursday 18th March for the 80m Club Championship. I recently was invited to join a the Travelling Waves contest group and this was the first contest I actually tried to take seriously and sent in a score sheet to. I was a little nervous to start with and had a few stumbles that cost me precious time. Mis-clicking on the log book caused the most lost time and because I could not find a free frequency to call on I trawled the band often getting stuck in pile ups and loosing more time. The lesson seems to be to get on with a friend an hour before the contest starts and hold the frequency and to get someone else to log for you. Next time I will also try recording the whole session so I can double check the log afterwards.

Much as I would like to help my team's score, CW is out of the question but I am being persuaded to have a go at the data contest. I have only used PSK once and I was not really all that impressed and I have never even listened (or should that be watched) a data contest in progress so I need to get my head around the software and then see a contest in action before I have a go. The team stands in 15th place after the 10th of March CW contest so I hope my points can help us claw our way up the leader board.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Nanotubes help create thermopower waves

Nano tubes, the discovery looking for a use, finds yet another revolutionary use that could make batteries obsolete: battery sized fuel cells with 100 times the power of a conventional battery. Read all about it here...
Nanotubes help create thermopower waves

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Proud Parents

Just to warn the world that two of our children have just got their novice callsigns. Adam who no longer lives with us and is second of the three boys is now MW6AFK (Away From Keyboard) and Caroline who is only 15 and eldest of our two girls is now MW6CLF (Caroline Loves Fridays). They were among a group of four at Mold and District Amateur Radio Club that passed their tests on Saturday. Congratulations also to Vic and Graham who also passed and should have their calls soon.

Mum and Dad are very proud and are looking forward to doing the odd mass family SOTA activation some time soon. From time to time the qualification of a summit can now be provided on almost any band from one QTH ;0)

Caroline and Adam will be joining the Intermediate course starting 21st April at Mold. We have seven candidates so far for the course. If anyone wishes to join the classes please left me know. My email is on QRZ.com.

We are hoping to persuade the rest of our kids to join the fun next time around.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Foundation Success

Congratulations to Vic Evans, Graham Jones, Adam and Caroline Studdart who today passed their Foundation Exams at Mold & District Amateur Radio Club. Today's success leaves the clubs 100% pass rate intact for which everyone should be proud. I would like to thank Linc Lindley GW3KFA and all the other club members who have helped out by guiding and answering the many questions of the students. I would also like to thank our new senior lecturer Keith Williams GW4OKT for his work running the more formal classroom and revision sessions. Thanks also goes to those that gave their time to invigilate and support during the practical sessions.

Adam and Caroline are of course my children so I am especially proud of them. Caroline is 15 and is in the middle of her GCSE exams so I was a little concerned it would all be too much for her but I should not have worried. I hope she can replicate today's success when the results of the slightly more important exam results come through later in the year. Maybe I should not worry too much there either as when I asked how her last exam went she said "It was fun."

Vic is already a member of Flintshire RAYNET and I pass on the good wishes of the group to him on his success and hope that he enjoys the experience when we drop him in the deep end next time out. Adam and Caroline will also be joining the group when their MW6 calls come through, but we need a little talk about RAYNET at the radio club sometime for the sake of Graham and some of the other members who are unsure of what we do.

My next SOTA outing could be a family affair with four operators on four bands at once or if I go solo I should only need to find one extra contact to qualify the summit. Not that I usually struggle to qualify summits very often. Now to persuade my other children to follow the lead set by Adam and Caroline who are already chomping at the bit to do the Intermediate course.

Photo R-L Adam, Caroline, Keith GW4OKT (Instructor), Vic, Graham.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Winlog32 and Windows 7

When I was first licenced I was never off the air then I got the seven year itch and for some years I only operated on RAYNET exercises or occasionally while mobile. In 2005 the changes in the licensing regulation that did away with the Morse requirement re-sparked my interest and I took the decision to change from a paper log to a computerised one. This was sparked mainly by the fact that I could not find my last paper log book anywhere and that I could not wait for a new log book before I started to transmit again.

I started by making an Excel file with various columns for Time, Date, Call Sign etc. I then download every log book program I could find and installed each one in turn to try it. After I had rejected all the others one stood out as better than the rest. It seemed more complex than it really was so I was still unsure, but it was better than my rough Excel file which had become sluggish to load and seemed to get worse the more data I put in to it. The program I choose was Winlog32 and I soon got the hang of it and its advanced features now seem second nature.

My main shack PC ran Windows 98 second edition and Winlog32 has worked faultlessly since I first installed it. I have also run it for short periods on an XP machine also without issue. My new shack PC runs on Windows 7 and I am very impressed. Expected problems with program compatibility have been almost non-existent and I had been running Winlog32 for a few months with no problem until Windows or possibly my Virus Scan software decided to reboot with the log minimised on the task bar. After the reboot Winlog32 opened on the task bar and I could not maximise it again. The first time it happened I reinstalled Winlog32 and everything worked fine again. When it happen a few days ago I got the program back by opening it in XP compatibility mode, although there appears no advantage to permanently run the program in this mode.

I wrote an email to the author Colin G0CUS who replied very quickly. This is not a problem he has come across and he does not have a copy of Windows 7 yet to investigate. The problem can be replicated by shutting down the PC with Winlog32 minimised on the task bar. If anyone can confirm this happens I would be most grateful so as to exclude a none standard set up on my machine being the problem. If anyone knows why this is happening or how to fix it please let me or Colin know. I am going to stick with Winlog32 as I still think it knocks the socks off the competition.

Riding the ROS roller coaster

Over the last few weeks I have been ‘otherwise engaged’ and my blogs have been sadly lacking in content. There have been plenty of things to write about but I have had to set them to one side while I get on with ‘real life’ issues. I often say to my wife that radio is not a matter of life and death to me, it is far more important, but even radio has to be put aside every once in a while.

One of the things I have failed to write about is the saga surrounding the new ROS data mode, fortunately other great bloggers such as Julian G4ILO and Anthony K3NG have kept the world up to date by putting their own inimitable spin on the latest bizarre events surrounding this new mode.

To try to bring those who have been living under a rock up to speed on the subject this is roughly the list of events so far.

1. A message on QRZ.com announces the introduction of a new shiny data mode with a link to a free download on the authors website.
2. Visitors to the website see the new mode described as ‘spread spectrum’ by the author.
3. Forum members question if this new mode is quite legal.
4. Timothy N3TL writes to the FCC asking if ROS is legal to us in the USA.
5. The FCC reply that if the mode is truly spread spectrum then it is not legal but they do not know enough about it to say if it is or it is not true spread spectrum, putting the ball at the authors feet by saying he should know what he made.
6. The program’s author declares that his program is not spread spectrum by the terms of the FCC’s definition.
7. The word goes out that ROS is okay to use.
8. The author threatens legal action against Timothy N3TL for asking the FCC for clarification.
9. The author threatens almost every amateur radio blogger that has been covering the unfolding mess and anyone who questioned the programs legality in various forums that their use of his programs by them would become illegal.
10. A ‘persona non grata’ list of thos no longer permitted to use the software is posted on the ROS blog listing K5OKC, AA6YQ, M6RDP, PE4BAS, KQ7W, ZL4PLM, DL4PLM, GM4PLM, NN4RH, and G4ILO. Impressively Simon ZL4PLM / DL4PLM / GM4PLM managed to get all three of his calls in the list.
11. Julian G4ILO receives an apology from the author after spotting his post of 2nd March saying ROS is now legal in the USA.
12. The ‘persona non grata’ list disappears from the ROS blog but not before many potential users have uninstalled ROS in disgust at the authors reaction to those simply reporting the latest news about the mode.
13. Julian G4ILO writes to RADCOM suggesting that band plans include areas for experimental modes and that the use of such modes is restricted until they are evaluated by an international committee which would take into consideration the benefits of the mode, the amount of bandwidth it occupies and decide what frequencies it may be used on.
14. Just when I thought it could not get any more confused and bizarre, it does. As G4ILO has just posted…
On March 3, Dave AA6YQ called the FCC to confirm whether the statement that ROS was now legal for use in the US which had been posted on the ROS website and which I wrote about on Tuesday was true. The FCC advised that the information (which has since been removed) was not true, and that the matter was still under review. Dave was told that the ARRL was involved and would publicize the outcome. This they have now done, and the outcome is that ROS remains illegal for use in the USA on frequencies below 222MHz.

It would seem that I still have time to get on the banned list and that this little lot is going to drag on.

Paul PC4T posts …I tried to get rid of the ROS 'sh*t on my computer, But the program doesn't have a normal uninstaller. So the software developer must take care for a proper way to uninstall the software. Now I have to remove the software in the register of the computer. Aaargh...

Very soon the list of those allowed to use ROS will be smaller than those not allowed.

Personally I do not care too much about data modes until they start up over my SSB QSOs with a low power station on a mountain and then I might turn on a decoder so I can capture the call sign and send them a horses head by return of post, but the ROS saga has given me hours of chuckles and the occasional sharp intake of breath.

From what has come out of this I believe approval of new modes is essential to avoid us breaching our licensing conditions. Let me explain! If I write software for a new data mode and only give it to a few of my mates we are effectively using an encrypted signal, which is not permitted. Packet radio was seen as illegal when it first appeared on the amateur bands and a change in the licence was made before the law abiding amongst us gave it a try, however new data modes seem to surface regularly these days and it appears that ROS is the first one were anyone questioned its legal position.

So we can note that whatever happens in the US ROS remains legal to use in the rest of the world until such time as someone decides it isn’t. However I question if any new data mode can be considered legal until such time as is declared so by our country’s authorities and nation radio society.

Latest news

In the last few minutes this statement has appeared on the ROS site...

I have created a new narrowband digital mode for Ham Radio Operators. The wideband of this mode is of 500 Hz.
Technical description will be sent to FCC with the aim that they give their approval for this new mode. Until then, the author will not make public any technical explanation about this mode.
5 March, 2010 by José Alberto Nieto Ros