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.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Dumb DXers

What the hell is it with dumb DXers? I am thinking of starting a black book of stations I will not work if they call me on a DX-pedition or whatever. The bands have been in reasonable shape for a couple of days and I have found a number of prefixes not in my log-book calling without anyone going back to them. They were not calling for any particular area but as soon as I called them they shouted "North America only!" and carried on calling CQ. Well stuff you too!

What I cannot figure is in that a number of cases I was actually several thousand miles further away than from them than North America. What the fascination is with the US I cannot work out either. One Arab operator even gave the North America cold shoulder to a number of rare South American calls. The same idiot even had the cheek of answering one of my CQ calls after I had moved up the band when I found I was not wanted. Sorry Abdul but I could not hear you even though you were 5/9. My problem is that I just feel I cut off my nose of to spite my face because I still need that country in my log for 17m. Maybe I should call a very quiet G then shout W7AAV so they call me in? Oh well, back to the pile ups. "CQ North Africa only!"

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bedtime Stories

I was hoping to do a little piece about amateur radio podcasts. There are quite a few out there and some of them are quite good and I have mentioned them before, but the latest batch I downloaded all seem to suffer from being patronising in the extreme. Delivered in a droning monotone mid-American drawl some were so irritating I turned them off quite quickly. Some of them seem to be merely audio blogs ("My mother-in-law was visiting this week so the shack was out of bounds") and not even good ones. Why one needed to broadcast (potentially) to the world that he only worked one station in a big HF contest, while following it up by advice on how to set up a effective station, I do not know? How can you take someone like that seriously, even if the advice was sound? Some of them simply repeat stories from Southgate ARC Newsline, ARRL and RSGB with little or no original material. I must say I am amazed at the amount of stuff out there and there is something for everyone. I will not name anyones podcasts as being unworthy of a listen because it is just my opinion and at least these people, however anal I find their oratory, are trying to spread the word about amateur radio. My advice is search out, download, listen and make up your own minds. There are some gems out there that can make a long car journey seem like it was over too soon, but beware there are some that may make you fall asleep at the wheel.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Oh Bother!

I had a few hours this morning and I just went to have a look at my web site http://www.gw7aav.com as it is a while since I did any up-dates there and was dismayed to find that it was broken. I think I know why. I used images from my previous site on the new one and instead of uploading them to the new one I linked to the old site's image directory. I had intended to redo some of the graphics, but it got put on hold as I did not have a copy of Photoshop on my new Windows 7 machine. I have a shiny new copy of Photoshop installed now so it looks like a lot of work to up-date and restore the images. My news headlines page has not up-dated since September either so another issue to address. Sometimes the Internet is fun but it can easily become a chore quite quickly.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

SOTA Database Problems

Frustration is the feeling that you want to beat the crap out of someone, but you know that for one reason or another (usually that it would mean more trouble than it is worth) you cannot do it. Frustration is the feeling that I have at the moment about the SOTA database. It is someones fault but there is no-one I can even shout at to vent my anger. The database is down due to a cock-up during a server up-grade by WebHost4Life.com and has been for over a week now. The main SOTA website has been back for a day but they have screwed up the database so it will probably need restoring by the webmaster from his back-ups. The SOTA management team have sent many emails and made many expensive telephone calls to WebHost4Life.com but they seem to have had a complete lack of service. If SOTA was a business loosing thousands of pounds a day would they have got any better service, I wonder?
Having eight activations and many pages of chases in the log book to up load whenever the site is back I feel that the longer the downtime goes on the more of a chore it will be when it is back. Helen even suggested I might like to give up chasing SOTA and do some gardening. I maybe annoyed but I am not that angry yet.

CW practice via Echolink

In what is probably the best use of Echolink yet devised, W1AW’s CW code practices and CW/digital bulletins is now available using EchoLink via the W1AW Conference Server W1AWBDCT - Node 37374. The transmission is sent in real-time and runs concurrently with W1AW’s regular transmission schedule.

Suggestions have been made that "you can now get Morse code practice sessions on your 2m FM hand held" but tying up your local Echolink enabled repeater simply to listen to these sessions might not make you popular with all of the other users. Much better to access them via your PC and even better to record them to your MP3 player for practice later.

Server limitations may apply at least for a while so don't be late on parade or you may miss out. The transmission schedule is here...http://www.arrl.org/w1aw-operating-schedule

International SOTA Weekend

1st and 2nd May 2010 sees another International SOTA Weekend and activators have already posted 42 alerts from 17 different associations. No doubt this list will grow and there are always those who either don’t or cannot alert. If the weather is good we can expect to swell the numbers even further with those who will not decide until the day. Hopefully the tendency will be towards HF and those international contacts, but VHF should be buzzing too. Wouldn’t you know it, guess who is working all that weekend? You guessed it, little ol’ me.
May is going to be a little bit of hell for me as I already have a full diary of work covering colleagues who are on holiday and we are in to a very busy time due to a maintainence shutdown as well. “Sleep is for the weak”, they say but I may need to sleep for a week before May is over. Not to worry I have my next SOTA expedition to plan.

International Marconi Day

Today was International Marconi Day. How many stations did you work?

I was working nights last night and when I got up just after lunch I worked a handful of SOTA stations, mostly on 2m. I had forgotton that the activity was taking place until I heard a local club call CQ on 145.500. That was just about the time a SOTA station was calling on 144.300 SSB and I worked the SOTA and promptly forgot about ol’ Guglielmo. I am stuck in work again now so no chance of a bit of fun finding any of the special calls on 80m this evening. If you were involved then I hope it went well.

Belkin's Nightmare Powerline Adapter

Roger G4OWG spotted this video of the new plug in Gigabit network adapter from Belkin. The video was made by Nige, G7CNF. It shows the massive interference to VHF radio in the range of 50 to 370mHz wiping out broadcast radio on both analogue and DAB, the amateur bands but also more seriously airbands and emergency services. Any respect that Belkin had as the producer of quality computer networking products must now be in tatters. I would never buy any powerline adapter but after seeing this I will no longer buy anything else from Belkin and maybe I should have a closer look at their products I am already using.

Higher bands, higher thinking

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric. Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

Today we might call it ‘thinking outside of the box’, which is considered to be a good and useful skill in most fields. However every free-thinker will have some strange and unusual ideas and some weird and ridiculous ideas. The socially inept will proffer his ill-considered ideas along with his well conceived plans and both will be ignored equally. The skill in knowing when to speak and when to keep silence is what separates the merely eccentric from the genius. No hope for me then.

Radio amateurs are often conceived as being eccentric and some of us can only hope that our neighbours and friends think of us as some sort of slightly eccentric genius rather than just being some kind of weirdo. It is usually a good sign when they think you can fix everything from a pop up toaster to their computer, but boy! can it be a pain in the ass.

The most eccentric of radio amateurs must surely be those who operate on the higher bands and there are certainly some of the brightest brains who operate almost exclusively in the gigahertz. So maybe it was the attraction of the people with big brains that attracted me to 23 cms or maybe that contacts are so few and far between that speaking to anyone was like getting rare DX on HF, I do not know. In all probability it was that I did not want to be missing out by not being QRV.

Tuesday night was the RSGB UHF contest for 23 & 13 cms and I was there to give away points. The problem is I only have FM on 23 cms and I only have a vertical antenna. I only got three contacts but it was quite satisfying to take part and know I had helped those who had bothered to come up off the ssb portion of the band to increase their score. One of these days I will get equipment that allows me to work ssb on 23 cms and then I might be able to get in to double figures, but until then I appeal to those taking part in these contests to give a call at some point on FM, there are points waiting. Contesting on FM is pehaps just too eccentric for some.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Beware of replacement laptop chargers

Just before I went away on holiday for a few weeks my daughter broke the charger on her laptop. Fortunately my laptop has the same charger as hers but it was a bit of a pain because we ended up like a couple of divers buddy breathing. "Quick it is my turn for the charger!" would come the call and we would swap the cable from hers to mine or vice versa.

On returning home a quick search on eBay revealed loads for sale. Some of them are obviously cheap Chinese copies while others are said to be genuine. We opted for one that was said to be genuine, from a UK supplier and it arrived next day in the post. It seemed to work fine when I tried it and it gave the same output voltage as mine under load.

All was happy in the household until the weekend and Emily was using her laptop while I was on 80 metres. As soon as she turned on the charger the noise level shot from S3 to S9 + 60dB. A quick check on 60 & 40 metres revealed that they too had S9 of noise from the charger. There was no problem at higher frequencies or on 160 metres.

So it is back to borrowing mine for a while until we resolve the problem with the faulty charger. The question is I suppose is if the problem is a one off dodgy item or an inherent fault. All of the chargers, both the replacement copies and the originals are made in China. The labels say they are made by Delta Electronics Inc., but I suspect the so called genuine replacement is either a poor quality copy or maybe has been bought as a batch of rejects from Delta, which is why they are so cheap.

Rather than risk buying another duff charger I think some investigatory surgery is required on both the noisy and broken chargers. I just hope they are not embedded in the usual resin as it should be easy to make one good one out of the two.

Mysterious radio waves emitted from nearby galaxy

Mysterious radio waves emitted from nearby galaxy - space - 14 April 2010 - New Scientist

"A bright spot of radio emission emerged over only a few days, quite rapidly in astronomical terms. Since then it has done very little except baffle astrophysicists. It certainly does not fit the pattern of radio emissions from supernovae".

"The new source has hardly changed in brightness over the course of a year, and its spectrum is steady."

"Yet it does seem to be moving – and fast: its apparent sideways velocity is four times the speed of light."

ET calling home?
Klingon Bird of Prey off the starboard bow Captain?
End of the Universe or what?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Intermediate Licence Course

I just got a reminder from our chief instructor that an Intermediate course starts next week, 21st April 2010 at Mold and District Amateur Radio Club.

For those people wishing to attend, please ensure you have a copy of the Intermediate Licence handbook with you. We think it will be about 8-10 weeks long and approximately 1.5-2.0 hours each Wednesday evening at the Mold Rugby Club site.

If you have any questions please contact Keith GW4OKT or myself Steve GW7AAV. Our contact details can be found on QRZ.com or just turn up at the club and introduce yourself. Don't delay as places are filling up fast.

We are also taking names/callsigns for the Full licence course later in the year.

Good luck to all the students.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Holidays are over

I don’t know if I was missed, but there are probably a few people wondering what happened to CQHQ in the last few weeks, so a quick note to say I am back.

I was almost forced to take a holiday when my boss said I needed to use up my time off that was carried over from last year. I amounted the equivalent of to two weeks off and when I mentioned it to Helen she had a similar amount of time owing. It was however all a bit last-minute as her boss was not sure he could spare her over the busy Easter break. In the end he relented and we had the two weeks to coincide with the school holidays.

We arranged a week in Devon and a week in Dorset. The plan was to do some walking, some SOTA and some visiting. I wanted to do two SOTA summits in Devon and Cornwall that I failed to do two years ago because of bad weather, but I was thwarted again by even worse conditions, which included snow on Exmoor and lots of rain accompanied by high winds. We managed one SOTA that week on the first Sunday but even that was curtailed by rain after three-quarters of an hour.

The second week was better. A better house and much nicer weather. We managed five more SOTA activations and took time to visit about eight National Trust Properties amongst other things.

Driving home we took advantage of fabulous weather and did two SOTA activations on our way home, which made a pleasant day out of a long drive.

Details of my SOTA activations will appear on the SOTA reflector and on my website in the near future, but as I have eight activations to log, eight reports to write and several hundred photographs to sort it may take a while. Mean time I am back in work with my nose to the grindstone feeling a little less stressed and planning my next holiday to give me something to look forwards to.