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, 24 August 2010

SOTA from the Scottish Highlands

Appologies for not posting for a while but I am up in the Highlands of Scotland activating for Summits on the Air. Having a great time and the noise on HF is nil both at the cottage and from the summits. I have worked many stations I would not hear from home.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

GB2RFS Ruthin Flower Show

Saturday 14th of August 2010 is Ruthin Flower Show and my friend Graham GW0HUS and a gang of volunteers and pressed men will be operating GB2RFS on all bands from 80 to 2m from the event. I will not be there but please give them your support by trying to work them.

More than just a flower show there will be horse and buggy events, music, dancing, vintage cars, tractors and motorcycles plus various demonstrations such as chain saw carving. Lots of stalls form things such as the Fire Brigade and Air Cadets. There are some photographs that I took here from 2008.

The official web site:http://www.ruthinshowsociety.org.uk/

RUTHIN FLOWER & COUNTRY SHOW is on Saturday, 14th August 2010 at The Farmers Auction, Denbigh Road, Ruthin LL15 1PB.


Antenna Repairs.

Today I had the soldering iron out for some repairs to my portable antennas. Call me last minute dot com if you will, because these repairs have been waiting since my Easter fortnight in the South of England. Helen, Caroline and I were activating hills for Summits on the Air (SOTA). I managed to break both of the linked dipoles I carry and Helen snapped the 2 metre J-pole when the fishing pole mast collapsed in on its self. What makes it worse is we have been out on SOTA since with the jury rigged antennas. Reason for the repairs, SOTA activations as GM7AAV/P with Helen as GM7AAU/P and Caroline airing her new intermediate licence as 2M0YLO/P. We will shortly be in North Scotland for two weeks activating summits.

The J-pole consists of a U shaped stainless steel welding rod and a .75mm diameter length of wire. To keep the U section parallel there are three electrical block connectors. The block connectors are cut to three terminals and the brass removed from the centre terminal. Two of the removed brass terminals are utilised for the feed point by soldering the coax centre and braid to the outside. The terminals can then be adjusted for the lowest SWR. The wire is crimped at one into a straight pin terminal sleeve and is held on to the U shaped stainless steel welding rod by means of the other brass terminal from the 'chocolate block connector'. A small piece of perspex with two holes is used as a top insulator, about an inch of wire passed through one hole and is held in place with a cable tie. A second cable tie allows the top to be slipped over a fishing pole at the desired height. The U section is held to the mast with a Velcro strap. To stop the feed point connections breaking the coax feeder is cable tied to the bottom of the U. The repair to this antenna consisted of fitting a new wire and straightening the U section. Bearing in mind this antenna has been being used for five years it has held up well. It has worked well and I was very impressed at the signals I was getting when I tested it this afternoon in my garden.

The linked dipoles use commercial dipole centres and the wires had broken at the place were the cables were cable tied to take the strain off the where the eye terminals are soldered to the wire. I replaced the 10m band sections on both antennas and was able to use some .75mm diameter hook up wire similar to what I used when I made them, but with insulation twice as thick. Hopefully that will make them last a bit longer, but the older of these two antennas is five years and the newer one four years, which bearing in mind the times the wind has broken fishing poles is not too bad.

Some of you may be wondering what a linked dipole is and I suggest you look at these pages from my friend John GW4BVE. ONE / TWO /THREE /FOUR /FIVE Basically a dipole is cut for the highest band you want, in this case 10m. The ends of the dipole are terminated in a connector, such as in John's and my second version Anderson Power Poles or on my first version automotive bullet connectors. The latest trend amongst SOTA activators is for using the gold plated 'banana' bullet connectors favoured by the radio controlled model fraternity, which are cheaply available on eBay. An insulator made from perspex or some other insulating material is cable tied about an inch and a half from the connector and then the next section is added on the other end of the insulator and so on. You can add as many links/bands as you need. No tuner is needed if you make each section carefully enough. It is more efficent if you tune (trim) the sections for the exact frequencies you intend to operate. Mine are tuned to 3.666, 5.3985, 7.118, 14.285, 28.495 MHz but I can cover the whole of each band with the only a slight change in swr up to the top end of 80m where it approaches 2-1. The linked dipole is unbeatable as a portable antenna as there is no need to carry a heavy tuner and there are none of the losses associated with the use of the mis-named device, which should really be called a matching unit.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

144MHz Low Power Contest

The RSGB's 144MHz Low Power Contest is today at 1400-2000 (UTC). Maximum output Power 25W at the TX. RST , Serial Number (starting at 001) and a 6 character (e.g. IO92JL) locator plus first 2 letters of your Postcode. Scoring is one point per Kilometre multiplied by the number of Countries plus Postcodes plus QTH locator squares.

I have printed out a log this time so no forgetting to write in the time like I did on Tuesday night. If I feel I did okay I might actually up load my log this time. Not that it is worth getting competitive about because I just cannot compete with stations who have 4 x 16 elements on 100 foot towers who live on the East coast and can rack up the continental stations like shelling peas even if they are only running 25 watts. It would be too easy to suggest that they might be running a couple of kilowatts as well but that would be without substantiation, so I will not do that and after all I can't accuse anyone or they might not come back to my call. So I am just going to have some fun and hopefully I will get off page one of my new log sheets.

Update: It is one minute after the above contests and that was one of the biggest none events I have ever tried to take part in. After six hours I have seven stations in my log and I only heard one station I did not work and he was only heard working others and was never on his own frequency. A bit of a contrast to Tuesday night and the 144MHz activity night where I worked that many stations in the first six minutes. What makes it more galling is that before the contest many people were working sporadic E in to Portugal on the same band.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Northern Lights over UK

The Aurora Borealis may be visible over Northern England this evening http://bit.ly/cuJTMM and it was visible in some parts of the UK last night (4th August 2010). Time to get beaming North for some weird VHF DX?

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

VHF Activity Contest

Tuesday nights are RSGB activity nights and last night (3rd August 2010) was the 144MHz Activity Contest. I never take these things very seriously and I am happy to give away points to those who do. I treat them as a bit of fun, because like happened last night I never seem to be able to get a good run at it. First there was a telephone call and as the rest of the family had gone swimming I had to take the call, then I had a Skype call, and then Helen called me, via the local 70cms repeater, to say she was on the way home and would I like beef in black bean sauce for my supper. Later on I had a break while I ate my meal before I was called upon to uncork a bottle of wine and when a friend called me on another band, I final gave way a half hour before the end for a rag chew. Factor in that every time I want to turn my beam I have to go outside in to the garden and move it by hand and you get the picture. Roll on the day I get my Tennamast up! Today was meant to be taken with fabrication of a new ground post, but it is raining. The one it came with having been made over size by its last owner.

If I were to take these thing seriously I would have to go portable simply to avoid the interruptions and an added bit of hight at VHF is always welcome. All things considered I did okay though. I had a look at the claimed scores and I would be somewhere about mid table going on QSO rate and due to the distances of some of my contacts a bit higher on actual score. That was when I thought I would actually enter my scores for a change, but something had gone wrong. I had decided to not bother with the PC and log on paper as I find it faster. I used a notepad and scribbled down the details before I call the station, that way if I don't get straight through I can move on and come back to that contact. I started off my log with Dave GW8ZRE/P who is an ever present local in these things, but there was a bit of a pile up and I was 003 in his log. I wrote down the time as 1902 and then for some bizarre reason I never wrote down another time in the log until I worked G1HSG/P at 1936. Bearing in mind the interruptions and that I turned the beam a couple of times I have no idea of the times of a stack of contacts. What made it worse was that since I realised in the 80m club contest that I had some errors in my log I have been using the PC to record my contest QSOs. Last night I did not do it, if I had I could cross check the time with the minutes elapsed on the recording. Sometimes the learning curve is steep. Next time I will start the recorder and use a preprinted log sheet.

I have raised my 2 metre beam up a bit higher and that improved things last night by reducing the noise from the computers, games consuls and other electronics in my house. Previously it was about level with my son's bedroom, which was not good. It still however is not above the roof line and so my operation in certain directions is blocked out. When the mast goes up it will be well above the roof line which I am hoping will make a big difference. Unfortunately my QTH is too low down for my liking but whenever I suggest moving higher I face the same arguments about being snowed in from Helen. I always tell her that is why we have a 4x4 but she will not even consider it.

I had an interesting contact this morning on 20m with Edwin HB9ZAP/P who was on SOTA summit Gulmen Reference: HB/SG-033 it is 1789m and worth 6 points. I do not have a good antenna up for 20m and was listening on my 80/40m trap dipole. I could just hear him and then I lost him in QSB, at best he was 4/3. I suspected he might be working vertically polarized and had a listen on my 10m vertical, which is a half wave and so near a quarter wave on 20m but heard nothing, however he was 5/5 on my 6m vertical and much to my surprise the ATU tuned it up easily and I had no problem making the contact. I still cannot figure why the antenna worked so well with the 5/8ths wave on 6m being about 3.75 metres, which is well short of a quarter wave on 14.285 MHz. What is even more odd is it has gone off tune on on 6m and only works with an ATU. Maybe part of the coax has gone short and is acting as part of the antenna or something. When I fix it no doubt it won't work on 20m any more. Not so much of a problem as the other antenna going on the Tennamast when it is up is a tri-band beam for 10/15/20 metres. I just need some good weather to finish the digging and for my pal Graham to finish the fabricating of the new ground socket. Will it ever stop raining? This is Wet Welsh Wales, so maybe not.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Lebanon Arrest German Ham on Spy Charge

German radio amateur Manfred Haug OD5/DL6SN mainly works CW on 10 to 40 metres. He says that although he works some 80 and 160 metres the noise level is so high he hears very little DX outside of Europe. He is working as an engineer in Lebanon until the end of the year. At least that was his plan until he was arrested at 1:30pm on Monday, July 26 2010 accused of spying for Israel.

The German dairy specialist, who is working for cheese manufacturer "Liban Light" at their factory in the town of Talya on the Riaq-Baalbeck road was the engineer responsible for the technical maintenance of the machines. Liban Light’s specialty is cheese strings. Maybe the paranoid Lebanese authority is worried that cheese string technology might fall in to the hands of the Israelis, but it was no laughing matter for poor Manfred. The Lebanese are not high on the list countries likely to bother with a person’s human rights.

Manfred drew the suspicions of the Lebanese Intelligence Agency because he was “in possession of sophisticated communication equipment” (surely these days that is a mobile telephone with Internet capability not an amateur radio transceiver?). He was subjected to intense questioning (which usually mean beatings and torture) by counter-intelligence officers before eventually being released late on Tuesday.

Since the beginning of last year some 70 foreigners have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel. Two men have been already sentenced to death for espionage while the other suspects face the death penalty or life in prison with hard labour. Last week the Lebanese cabinet unanimously agreed to file a complaint with the UN Security Council against Israel, over alleged spy rings uncovered in Lebanon. Israel has not commented on any of the Lebanese charges. The 13-member Hezbollah bloc in the Lebanese parliament stressed “the need to uncover and execute individuals charged with collaborating with Israel.”

The fertile Bekaa Valley is dairy farming country and is where the cheese factories are. It is also one of the strongholds of the Shiite militia Hezbollah. Liban Light’s factory is on the road that connects the provincial capital of Baalbeck with the south of the country. It is well known that this road is a main route for weapons smuggling from Syria to Hezbollah on the border with Israel. The factory was destroyed during the July 2006 Israeli conflict with Lebanon. Any foreigner with a radio is likely to be treated with suspicion by the notoriously paranoid locals who tend to sympathize with Hezbollah. Manfred was probably put in the frame by someone local with connections to the militia.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Privacy is dead

I spotted this little gem on the Southgate ARC news page and if I read the Ofcom information right, those radio amateurs (and other users of the radio spectrum) of you who want to keep your details secret for whatever reason are not going to be happy. Apparently unless you can show a need to keep your details secret for reasons such as 'National Security' will not be able to opt out of having them publish on a list.

Ofcom is preparing to open up its radio licence database, so anyone who wants to keep their transmissions secret needs to let the regulator know before 12 November.

The change comes because radio waves are now considered "emissions", and "emissions" come under the remit of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

Ofcom consulted on the matter, and has now concluded that it is obliged to share the transmitter details and will start doing do next year.

Read the full article by Bill Ray on the Register at

Ofcom update: Providing spectrum information

I don't keep my details hidden but I understand why people do and it is very worrying to some people that thieves may use their details to break in and steal their valuable and cherished radio gear. No doubt these are the same people who are concerned with Google Street View and the like. It seems ironic that on the one hand we are told to keep our details to ourselves because of identity theft and yet the same politicians are allowing our rights to privacy to be eroded by publishing lists, and photographing us wherever we go. Someone said to me "that if you have nothing to hide you should not worry", but one day I might have reason to hide, one day I might want to topple a dictator, one day I might be part of a resistance. By letting these big brother tactics slowly filter in to everyday life when the time comes resistance will be futile.