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.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

DAB Figures Slipping

The somewhat ill thought up forced switch from analogue to digital broadcast radio seems to be faltering. Figures just out show that radio listening is at an all time high, but more people are listening via their TVs and the Internet than are listening to DAB. Despite a high profile advertising campain starring Stephen Fry the take up on the governments analogue scrappage scheme was low and despite the promotion listener figures have remained nearly flat. In fact according to the latest Rajar (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures, DAB's share of UK radio listening fell from 15.8 per cent in the second quarter of this year to 15.3 per cent in the third quarter. In the same period the share of listening achieved by traditional AM and FM radios actually increased, from 67.0 per cent to 67.6 per cent. The target set by Labour, and adopted by the current coalition government, is fifty percent take up by 2015. The present rate of growth suggests this is not likely to be achieved in the time frame.

This news should please Dr. R. B. Mannion G3XFD Editor of Practical Wireless magazine and the driving force behind the Save Analogue Radio Campaign. You can throw your support behind the campain by clicking here.

Ham Fail

Some radio amateurs seem to be living under a rock...

From the blog of RSGB General Manager Peter Kirby, G0TWW

In recent weeks I have received a letter from a belligerent member who threatened to resign unless the RSGB changed its stance on compulsory “Morse Testing” his letter banged on about how “unfair” it was to Class B licence holders that, in the 21st Century they are still restricted to VHF operation only! Now come on. The RSGB changed its policy back in 1998 and compulsory Morse Testing ceased in the UK in 2003. He had put his telephone number on the letter so I rang him up. When told of the changes he said he had not seen anything in RadCom! Had heard nothing over the air, and it was sometime since he visited his club?

After I stopped laughing I thought that we need this guy's telephone number so we can let him know about a few other things, such as the end of the 2nd World War, the death of Queen Victoria and the sinking of the Titanic.

Read Peter's blog here... http://www.rsgb.org/managersblog/managers-blog-28-oct-10.php

Halloween Warning

With today being Halloween can I remind you of this post on the use of amateur radio to survive a zombie attack.

Evolving Ham Radio

A lot is being talked about ‘Cloud Computing’ Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers often using the idle time of the others on the network. One of the first implementations of such a system was the SETI@home project where software on home computers was used to examine massive amounts of data generated by the Search for Extra Terrestrial Life’s scanning of the galaxy with radio telescopes all around the world. It should take the Internet to the next stage of evolution empowering every user with computing power beyond anything we know now.

There is some indication that mobile telephones and other devices could soon utilise similar technologies allowing devices between a base tower and a distant station to aid downloads or boost signals. All sorts of devices from public and private WiFi networks to wireless linked laptops and mobile telephones could be part of such a system.

Cloud communication may be the future of both professional and amateur radio too. In computing the system works by utilising unused processor cycles. Mobile telephone networks work by switching the working frequency and base station as a device moves location. I suggest we could replace the current repeater network by a digital network that could seek out the unused frequencies and shift frequencies when another signal was detected within in its range. I propose that a first step might be a new digital mode based on an SDR (software defined radio) transceiver that could examine the activity on a band or bands and choose its clearest operating frequency and also lock on and synchronise to the desired signal wherever it was in the band or bands. One advantage might be an ability to automatically find the best band for the current state of propagation and move higher or lower in frequency so as to maintain the link without disrupting other users already using the band. It would certainly be better than the recent wars of words about whether a particular mode should be allowed to monopolise a frequency already allocated for another use.

One of the reasons I am sceptical of things like D-Star and DAB is I think that standardisation leads us in some cases down a blind alley and there is built in obsolescence in these systems. I think the future of technology is almost beyond our comprehension and we do not want to restrict its development. Those in the amateur community that decry developments such as IRLP linked repeaters as ‘not real radio’ probably will not like what the future is about. It is about the blurring of lines between what is communication and what is entertainment, what is voice and what is data, what is broadcast TV/radio and what is the Internet, and a multitude of other convergences. That means all sorts of convergences are likely within the next few years in out hobby too. If amateur radio is not innovative it is obsolete. To keep our bands the hobby needs to remain relevant in an ever-changing world and to do that we must be innovative so that those who need to know can see we are viable and forward looking. Hopefully there will always be a place for the simpler methods that amateur radio was founded on, but if we bury our heads in the past like some would like us to do then ham radio will be as extinct as the Dodo before too long.

Resistance is futile!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Does the Hamfest Scene need CPR?

Is the amateur radio rally/hamfest scene in the UK dying or is it just a blip that will recover like with the coming of the solar maximum I wonder?

This morning Helen and I were up at the crack of dawn to get down to Llandudno for the North Wales Amateur Radio Rally. A quick telephone call to my son Adam 2W0DPI, who had been keen to visit his first rally, revealed that he was doing zombie impressions indicating that he had partaken in ‘a good night out’ with his friends and was in no fit state. A quick check of my wallet and Helen’s purse showed we had enough cash for maybe one coffee between two. So after a visit to the nearest cash machine we headed down the A55 to Llandudno. Fortunately the road works that have plagued that section of road for about two years had gone two weeks ago and they had not found somewhere else to place them and it was a pleasant and uneventful journey.

When we arrived my pal Graham GW0HUS was waiting for us chatting and using Tony 2W0LAE and his wife to save us a parking spot. The first challenge was getting out of the car park. I was not particularly cold but it seemed more sense to get in to the rally where it was a bit warmer and chat. There seemed to be a very good turn out of people we knew making progress around the rally somewhat slow. Normally I would be as interested in standing and chatting as anything, but I wanted to get in get my purchases and be back in bed for 1300 hours as I had a thirteen hour night shift ahead of me. It took me three hours to get out. It is great to meet people and I felt a little rude to give some good pals only the briefest acknowledgment but a did get to chat to an awful lot of them. Had I had a lot more time I would have probably been there until the end or at least close too it. In that respect the rally was a success.

My friend Mike M1DAP said he thought that it was a “great disapointment”. My own opinion was not quite as bad. From my point of view it was what I expected but not what I had hoped for. The North Wales Radio Rally was in the past a ‘premium event’ and it is hard not to compare the new venue with it’s past glories. The new venue shows plenty of chance for expansion but support from the dealers is not what it might be. Three of the big dealers had masses of new and nearly new gear on sale so for anyone after a big purchase everything was there. The problem is most of us are looking for bit and pieces not radios costing thousands.

I had a list of stuff I wanted and a second list of would be nice to have if the price is right items. The component guys were nowhere to be seen. I wanted some project boxes, no go there either. I needed a speaker to replace an old one I used in my new motor, which crackles a bit. I could not even find something that basic. I did get 18 PL259 plugs in various entry sizes and a 100m reel of RG-58U. So back to eBay and the Internet to find the items I could not find at the rally. I had taken £200 to get the bits I wanted and I spent only £50 of it, that for the dealers is £150 that could have been in their pocket. Waters and Stanton failed to have the Kenwood TS-590S at the rally which was disapointing for me but a relief for Helen and the credit card. All that hard work trying to pursuade her I needed it all gone to waste. She had not caved in but I am sure the salesman’s chat along with my powers of pursuasion she would have done. I am sure I could have put up with the cold shoulder for a little while when she realised had been stung and I am sure she would have used the rig a million times over the next twelve months as the reason she could buy this pair of shoes and that dress.

So the rally was not all people hoped, including me, but is this a sign the scene is dying? I seriously hope not, but the experience of being disapointed is one that seems to reflect the experience from most rallies. If we don’t pursuade the dealers to attend these events then we will not get the punters through the doors and they will die and so too will that great feeling we get meeting people who up until then were just voices in the ether.

As radio amateurs if we don’t want to loose these events we need to support them by getting out and spending money. If the dealers see it is a money spinner then word spreads and we get more dealers. More dealers means a good feedback and more punters. It is either a downward spiral or an upward one and at the moment it seems it could go either way. In this area we seem to be experiencing a bit of a revival in the hobby and these new hams need gear, the market is out there, but you cannot buy what is not there.

To the dealers who were not at Llandudno I plead with you to be there next year and make it twice as big. If you bring it they will come and if you have it we will spend.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Kenwood TS-590S Llandudno

I asked Waters and Stanton PLC the question "Will you have the Kenwood TS-590S at the Llandudno Rally?" They replied "It's touch & go, they're due to arrive Friday but if they'll arrive before the team leaves for Llandudno is in the lap of the gods!" I do hope so, I really want to see one in the flesh. I would wait a while for all the reviews to come out before buying one however, not only to see if they are as good as Kenwood claim but also in case of any teething troubles.

There are so many interesting new rigs due out with the Icom IC-9100 and the Wouxun KG-UV920R Mobile Dual Band number one and three of my wish list to get my hands on, but it is nice to see that at least Kenwood have their rig headed for the dealers shelves. Although it does not look that special if the Kenwood TS-590S lives up to its expectations it will be the rig for the DXer on a budget. It's super sensitive receive would make it ideal for the SOTA chaser listening for weak portable stations like me. However I doubt it will stop me lusting after the Icom 9100. I'll just have to do some overtime and get both.

Llandudno Amateur Radio Rally 2010

For all your ham radio needs; Llandudno Amateur Radio Rally is 30th & 31st October 2010 at Ysgol John Bright School Maesdu Road, Llandudno. LL30 1LF.


From the A55, take the A470 into Llandudno, after approximately 3 miles at the end of the dual carriageway, turn left at The Links Hotel Roundabout. After 300 yards go across the mini-roundabout and the venue is immediately on your right. A map showing the location can be found here.

From Llandudno Railway Station, turn right on exiting the station. Immediately as Augusta St bears left, turn right into Oxford Rd. Take the 1st right onto Builder St and then 2nd left into Cwm Rd. After 150 yards you will find John Bright School on your right. No more than 10 minutes walk at a leisurely pace.

If anyone has any difficulty finding the venue please talk in is on S21 (145.525).

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Kenwood TS-590S on sale

I just received an email from Martin Lynch and Sons; The Kenwood TS-590S will be available from 29th October. This is the rig that they say has a better receiver than even the Elecraft the best from any manufacture in fact. Soon no doubt we will be able to find out.

Friday, 22 October 2010

A callsign to remember

Hi to Tim KJ4YWR over in Virginia whose ham radio call has come through. Tim is my cousin Elaine's husband and he just passed his is Technician's amateur radio exam (see my previous posts). According to Elaine she will be doing the Technician's exam in November, while Tim goes for his General class licence. Good luck to them both. She also tells us they are immersing themselves in the hobby. Tomorrow they are intending an informal ham get together that occurs every Saturday in a local diner and the Sunday they are off to a hamfest in Maryland. Tim has already noted that the hill nearest the hamfest is four points for Summits on the Air. I hope they have tight hold on that credit card as they are about to experience that "I want it all and I want it now!" feeling that you get at you first couple of visits to such an event. Combined with the "I am not really sure what I need yet" feeling of the newly licensed it can be a dangerous and expensive combination.

Tim thinks his call is a bit of a mouthful but KJ4 You Will Remember sounds quite memorable to me.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Perfectly Portable PSK Present

I have yet to really get a grip on the datamodes side of amateur radio. Most of my attempts at PSK and RTTY have been mini disasters and apart from that I cannot type fast enough. I set up macros and then cannot remember which function key to press, so when I have made a contact I usually fail to get a reply out before the other station has QSYed. So it comes as no surprise I have never given much thought to portable datamodes.

It would be easy to see how I could try as I own a small netbook, a Yaesu FT-817 and the cables needed to do any number of datamodes. If I was all that enamored with that side of the hobby I would probably have tried it by now, but it has never been a high priority for me. The only issue I can see is operating in the open seeing the screen is a bit of an issue. I know this from trying to read emails while out on hills because there was no mobile broadband coverage in the places I was staying.

Last night when we met up with Mads LA1TPA and his friends my wife Helen was fascinated by the NUE-PSK Digital Modem that Halvard LA1DNA was using to do PSK from the summits. The NUE-PSK digital modem could easily be used in the shack but is perfect for field portable operations. According to the website; The NUE-PSK is a small 7" x 4" x 1" standalone, battery-operated digital modem using a graphic display for transmit and receive text data, as well as for showing band spectrum and tuning. Just plug in a standard PS2 keyboard and connect to an SSB-capable transceiver like the FT-817 or the PSK-xx transceivers from Small Wonder Labs, and you'll have an effective digital mode station that goes absolutely anywhere.

It seems to me that teaming the NUE-PSK up with the similarly sized PSK-20, 30 or 40 from Small Wonder Labs would be an excellent idea and make for a neat and very compact portable station, ideal for SOTA and other portable operations.

Up until recently the way Helen and I operated on our SOTA adventures was that I did HF SSB and Helen GW7AAU did VHF FM, but since Caroline 2W0YLO and Adam 2W0DPI got licenced there is room for a change of plan. From time to time we have had to share bands or even contacts but Helen has been itching to branch out and do something different. For a while now she has suggested she could learn morse code and operate CW leaving SSB for me and VHF for the youngsters. Seeing the NUE-PSK got it in to her head that she could do datamodes if she had one, I am quite happy with that, however what I am not sure she understands is that the datamodem comes as a kit.

Oh well that is her Christmas presents sorted out; One NUE-PSK kit, One Small Wonder Labs PSK-30, a soldering iron and some solder, that should make a change from the bath salts and perfume!

Norway Comes To Wales

Amateur radio has been shrinking my world for sometime now. The Internet has shrunk it even more and it keeps getting smaller. Last night it shrank some more as far as I was concerned. Making friends in other parts of the world has always been a strong attraction of ham radio to me, particularly as I am not well travelled. Having a large (for modern times) family has meant that travelling abroad has been so expensive as to not justifiable.

The Internet and my wife Helen's interest in genealogy has put us in touch with cousins in the US, Canada and relations all over the UK. Facebook has enabled these brief exchanges of information to turn in to something a bit more special. We can keep in touch and up to date as to what is going on in each others lives. It was great when I got to meet our cousins from across the Atlantic and for me that made a far away place seem closer and a photograph became a real person.

Through the radio I have many friends the world over and some of them have become people I keep in touch with off the air via Facebook and/or our respective blogs. Photographs and videos posted on Flickr, Youtube and the like allow me to keep following their adventures as well. One of those is Mads LA1TPA. Mads is over in the UK for a QRP conference and to do some SOTA.

Yesterday I was up at 05:30 and by 6AM I was on my way in to work. After a particularly bad 12 hour shift I arrived home at 19:30 with plans to eat shower and fall in to bed. I had just taken my plate back in to the kitchen when my mobile phone rang. No one ever rings my mobile so it took me by surprise, it was Mads. He had just checked in at a hotel about two miles from my home. Suddenly I found some energy from somewhere and dived into the shower, dressed and headed out with Helen to meet Mads and his party in the hotel bar.

Radio amateurs tend to be a friendly bunch and Mads and his pals were no exception. It was great to meet Mads LA1TPA, Aage LA1ENA, Kjell LA1KHA and Halvard LA1DNA for several hours of chat over a few pints of Guinness. It shrank my world a little bit more and the guys became a bit more than just a voice on the radio and a photograph. I just wish I was not working tonight or I would have joined them on their Summits on the Air activations. I hope to make a contact with them later this morning from a couple of my local hills.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Congratulations Tim

Back in September I mentioned how my American cousin Elaine and her Husband Tim had become interested in Amateur Radio ( Facebook Inspires Hams ) encouraged somewhat by reading about the SOTA exploits of my wife Helen and I on Facebook. I can now proudly announce that Tim has passed his Technician class exam and is expecting his call any day soon. Well done Tim! I am sure it will not be long before I am posting that he has passed the General and Extra classes too. Apparently Tim and Elaine are now regular readers of my blog too, so I hope they enjoy getting a mention.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Funcube Dongle

State of the art amateur radio, the Funcube Dongle. I just have to have one of these SDR devices in the shack. Some hams do not like the idea of software defined radio but I the attitude reminds me of the guys who scoffed at transistors saying they never would replace valves. SDR is the future. Next stage integrate a transmitter then a PC on a chip?

AMSAT-UK FUNcube http://www.funcube.co.uk/

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Power Line Adaptors Fail

John Petters G3YPZ has produced a video showing how Power Line Adaptors (PLA) fail in the presence of low power RF signals. In this video John tries low power (10 watts) RF on the 18.MHz Amateur Radio band.

So is this the way to fight back against interference from neighbours with PLA networks? It would be interesting to see how low you would be able to go and still jam the adapter. I suspect a couple of watts or less from a personal APRS beacon on the right (amateur) frequency might render a PLA useless and force the user to return it to where they bought it and either go wireless or hard wired. I don't think anyone would seriously recommend this as a solution, but if I was that desperate I might not be so sure.

Early History of Radio

Wednesday 13th of October Mold and District Amateur Radio Club had a presentation by Dave GW8NZN entitled "The Early History of Radio with references to Wales", which took us from the very first days of the discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum to the start of broadcast radio.

I personally found the talk fascinating and even though I was aware of a lot of the information it was good to see it presented in a chronological order. We could probably have gone on all night with the masses of supplementary data Dave had brought with him. It was Dave's first attempt at presenting this talk and he did very well, but I am sure it will get slicker if he can show it at other clubs. I know our smokers were gagging for a fag by the end and I warned everyone to double up on there drinks but the fact that it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop right to the end tells me other people enjoyed it too.

If you would like to hear this talk at your club please contact Dave his details are on his QRZ page or contact me and I will forward your information to him.

RSGB price rise

The Radio Society of Great Britain is to raise subscriptions by £3 for all membership types as from 1st January 2011. They say that for the RSGB to maintain the services that it provides to its members at the same level this rise is very necessary.

General Manager Peter Kirby, G0TWW says, "Over the past few years the RSGB been increasingly more active in representing the interests of radio amateurs, be it with Ofcom or the UK government but also at European and World level. This has been necessary to ensure the maintenance of the spectrum allocation we enjoy, the protection of our spectrum plus negotiations to get more spectrum." Sorry Peter, but that reads to me as "You guys have to pay more because we have been stopping in the best hotels around the world at your expense"

He goes on to claim success in getting the 7MHz extension. What in line with most of the rest of Europe? So that was all RSGB was it? Then he mentions the fight against the interference caused by the introduction PLA/PLT devices. Well the failed legal bid is probably the real reason for the price rise. He goes on to say that RadCom is recognised as the best Amateur Radio magazine in the world. By whom? I certainly prefer Practical Wireless and the news function has largely been negated the Internet so news in magazines, such as RadCom is months out of date by the time we see them. Magazine production is not cheap and I personally would like to receive my RadCom electronically. The would at least save the postal charges even if production of the printed version was continued for the computer illiterate and those who prefer paper copies. I admit there are advantages of paper over electronic delivery, for example; you can't hang the PDF on a nail in the bathroom. One has to ask why with the amount of advertising in RadCom just why is it not free anyway?

Next in Peter's list is the QSL bureau which he conveniently forgets is mainly staffed by unpaid volunteers so costs very little and is used by only a fraction of the membership. Just like those who run the contests, awards, read the news and the like, most volunteers, including regional representatives do not claim expenses or claim the minimum so they are not out of pocket. So it is difficult to see where the money goes, but then we remember the palatial shed that is the new head quarters and we see another fantastic waste of our money. Was not this move away from London meant to save the RSGB money?

Of course I am not particularly bothered by a small rise like this but pensioners, the unemployed and students will be thinking "is this an expense I can afford?" and with things the way they are in the UK who knows when any of us might be thinking the same way. Sometimes rises like this are counter productive and with the ARRL offering a better magazine at a cheaper subscription the potential for desertion becomes higher once again.

SA Plane Spotter Prosecution

Unemployed South African mechanic Jason Swift was arrested earlier in the year for illegal possession of an airband receiver and for listening in on "several radio frequencies". Following his arrest and prosecution local plane spotters have been warned that they will need to sit an exam and qualify as a radio amateur to legally possess popular airband receivers.

ICASA is the regulator for the South African communications sector, responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, postal and telecommunications services. They say that there is no specific licence for an airband receiver alone. SA Flyer Magazine recently published a list of frequencies that the general public are allowed to listen to they are AM (medium wave), commercial short wave bands, the FM band, television frequencies and low-power hand-held transceivers which operates on VHF CB frequencies – these do not include frequencies used by airlines.

The case has caused both national and international condemnation from aviation and civil liberties groups.
Swift was arrested in a parking area adjacent to OR Tambo International Airport. The editor of SA Flyer magazine Guy Leitch said that the South African aviation community was both perplexed and angry about the arrest and subsequent prosecution. One of the issues that was troubling, Leitch said, was that the state seemed to make no distinction between a receiver and a transmitter.“The state has five witnesses – including the woman who sold Swift the receiver. They are not just determined to throw the book at Julian – they are still writing a telephone directory and War and Peace to throw at him.” Last week the state amended the charge sheet against Swift to include every frequency on his receiver. Leitch said Swift’s counsel, Schalk van der Sandt, had objected to the continuous amending of the charge sheet.

The "illegal airband receiver" in question is said to be an R5000, which I assume refers to a Kenwood R5000. The Kenwood R5000 was produced between 1986-1996 and is an AM/FM/SSB/CW HF receiver, 108-174MHz was available as an option. The chances are that was Jason using a small hand held receiver instead of the bulky base station rig he would not have drawn attention to himself.

This should probably serve as a warning to plane spotters everywherere as listening in to the airbands is illegal in more countries than not and that just because "everybody does it" does not mean you will just get a slap on the wrist. It is a common misconception in the UK that listening to various frequencies is legal, it is not. For example until the licence for CB radio was withdrawn in UK it was illegal to listen even on those frequencies unless you had a licence and then it had to be on an approved set, so listening on a scanner or short wave radio was in breach of the law. OFCOM has said that it is unlikely anyone would be prosecuted in the UK for listening on the airbands, but would not rule it out as the law is still on the statute books. Think along the line of prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion because the the FBI could not prove his gangsterism. If they are out to get you they will get you somehow.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Breakfast Radio

While my wife was having fun working the tropo last night I was stuck in work and it is the same tonight. I had a text earlier from one of my buddies to tell me 2m, 70cm and 23cm are wide open to the continent, thanks mate. I am not sure if he thinks I am off or if he is just winding me up, but Helen tells me 2m is busy again with EU stations.

I got in from work just after 7am (0600 GMT) this morning and I was determined to see if the tropo was still there. I was fairly sure it was as the sky had been cloudless and the temperature inversion could still be seen all night from some of the higher structures around the plant. The opening was still lively and I filled a page in the log in the hour before I headed to bed. Most of the stations were Germans or Dutch but that was due to my beam pointing roughly south west, which is where Helen left it last night. I did however also grab some SOTA points from Gerald G4OIG on 2m SSB and Paul G4MD on both 80 and 60m in the Lake District.

I should probably have gone straight to bed as I could not sleep with the sunlight from a stunning day streaming through the windows. I was up and down every half hour or so and eventually came downstairs at 1pm (1200 GMT) to grab a drink. In the next hour I filled another page in the log including Gerald and Paul on G/LD-003 Helvellyn for a nice 10 SOTA points and Steve G1INK who was on G/SP-004 Shining Tor 70cms SSB. I topped it off with some 17m DX before collapsing in to bed and going out like a light. Nothing to amazing on 17m but I did get one new DXCC on the band.

All in all probably more in the log in two hours than I would expect in a whole day so I cannot be too upset about missing the action. I hope the high pressure lasts for a while longer and I can catch some more tropo, but to be honest I would settle for a good sleep and waking up feeling refressed instead of like I have been ten rounds with Mike Tyson. I will give it a try in the morning and who knows I might get something new on 2m. Poland keeps evading me, I have heard them on 2m SSB numerous times going back to other stations but although I have bagged most of the EU on that band I still have to work one. So if there is anyone from Poland reading this please beam towards me at about 0630 GMT and shout CQ on 144.300

GB2RS News Service

UK hams, if you are like me you always forget about the GB2RS amateur radio news until it is too late, but is it? Did you know there is a schedule in MSWord format you can download here, so if you miss your usual local broadcast you can find another one, possibly on a different band? Failing that you can either download the podcast here or the script in PDF format here. There is no excuse to not be up to date about what is happening in the hobby from your national society. You don't even need to be a member of the Royal Surrey Gas Board, sorry Radio Society of Great Britain or even licenced to be able to listen. The RSGB news readers do a great job, giving up their free time to read the news so please if you are listening call in afterwards and let them know you were listening. Tell them if you enjoyed it or if their broadcast difficult for you to hear. Give them a reception report and say hello, but let them know that what they are doing is worth it and there are people listening. Don't whatever you do call in and tell them you can't stand their squeeky monotone voice, seriously don't, unless you are prepared to do it yourself and make loads of enemies in the process.

US Ham Who Made Threats Sentenced

As reported here back in May radio amateur, Irene Marie Levy KJ6CEY, was been arrested after allegedly making threats on Police and Fire service frequencies. At her hearing a couple of days ago Levy pleaded guilty to seven charges. A Murrieta judge sentenced her to three years probation and gave her credit for the time she spent in jail since her arrest last spring. She was also ordered to undergo psychiatric care.

Coming soon...North Wales Radio Rally

Clear your diaries for the 24th North Wales Amateur Radio Show on Saturday & Sunday, 30th & 31st October 2010. Following on from the success of the 2008 and 2009 rallies the North Wales Radio Rally will be held at Ysgol John Bright, high school in Maesdu Road, Llandudno. LL30 1LF.


From the A55, take the A470 into Llandudno, after approximately 3 miles at the end of the dual carriageway, turn left at The Links Hotel Roundabout. After 300 yards go across the mini-roundabout and the venue is immediately on your right. A map showing the location can be found here.

From Llandudno Railway Station, turn right on exiting the station. Immediately as Augusta St bears left, turn right into Oxford Rd. Take the 1st right onto Builder St and then 2nd left into Cwm Rd. After 150 yards you will find John Bright School on your right. No more than 10 minutes walk at a leisurely pace.

If anyone has any difficulty finding the venue please talk in is on S21 (145.525).

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Rubbing my nose in it

Absolutely typical! Here I am stuck in work on the night shift and my wife rings me to ask how to switch the two metre beam from horizontal to vertical. I tell her which switch to turn which way and she says there is a great lift on. Thanks Helen you made my night! Listening to her work DX over the telephone was just rubbing my nose in it.

It makes my laugh though, all that pretence that she is not really interested and then there she is, as soon as I am out of the door. It is similar on our SOTA expeditions, she says she only comes along to keep me company but the big grin on her face when she still has a pile up while I am packing up gives it away.

This morning was good but did not start that way. I got up earlier than I would have liked because I knew I would be in bed this afternoon before the night shift. When I got into the shack I saw a SOTA spot for Steve G1INK/P on 40 metres. When I powered up the rig there was nothing there not even any static so I knew something was wrong. The 80/40 metre trap dipole had broken at the feed point. 25 minutes later and I had replaced the broken section and was back on the air, still in my pyjamas. All these people who buy their wire antennas - How many weeks would you have been off the air? Oh and during that 25 minutes I worked two SOTA stations.

Back on the 80/40 dipole and the SOTA points were racking up nicely until the contest started. Good job there was fun to be had on other bands. 17 metres was bouncing and amongst others I worked Cuba and Lebanon that were new to me on that band. For those who are in to stealth antennas my 17 metre dipole is clipped to my uPVC guttering and the coaxial feeder runs up the back of the drain pipe. It is made of white heavy duty speaker cable (available from B&Q stores) that makes it even harder to spot. The figure of 8 cable is simply cut to a quarter wave and the pulled apart to make the two parts of the dipole the dipole centre in an electrical block connector and a few turns of coax suffice for the choke balun. Another ten minute antenna for under five pounds.

There was plenty more SOTA action before I decided to catch some shut eye, with the odd bit of nice DX thrown in. Looking at the sunshine, the SOTA alerts and the DX cluster did not put me in the mood to sleep but when Helen woke me to say it was time to get up and go to work I really had to drag myself from the arms of Morpheus. There was more SOTA action before I left for work on 2 metres SSB, 60 metres and then oddest of all Richard G3CWI (of SOTAbeam fame) on 15 metres. I have not worked much on 15 since I took down my vertical when Helen mowed the lawn without taking up the radials and Richard was my first ever UK contact on that band, which seemed a bit surprising.

Helen just called me back to say she had just spoken to a German station on 2 FM and that my son Adam 2W0DPI had also worked him from his house were he has a small Diamond collinear in the loft. This is Adam's first DX contact so I bet it put a grin on his face. Helen has the beam pointing towards Europe now and is prowling the SSB portion of 2 metres. I wonder what will be in her log when I get home in the morning? I hope the band is still open and I can work something in the morning before I go to bed. I am praying for one of those big lifts that lasts for days it is something that has been a long time coming. Oh well some you win, back to the grind stone!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Wouxun Mobile Dual Bander

Longtime readers and on air friends will confirm that a couple of years ago when I saw the first Wouxun handheld I declared that this Chinese manufacturer was going to give the major Japanese names a good kicking. I suggested that more features would be followed by better quality and that the next step would be mobile radios. Since then the radios have gone mainstream with dealers in both the UK and US dispelling the fears of some that these were cheap rubbish and probably illegal. Sure they are cheap but they are neither rubbish or illegal and in fact outperformed many radios cost five times as much. I can now say "I told you so" as Wouxun have unveiled the KG-UV920R dual band mobile rig. 50/25/5w VHF/40/20/5w UHF RX/TX with AM 500-2000KHz/FM 65-220MHz and LW 150-500 KHz reception. Put me on the list, I will have one or two if the pricing is as competitive as that of the handies.

JOTA Cluster

Jamboree On The Air is an excellent event organised for Scouts every year. It brings amateur radio to the attention of many youngsters that may never have heard of it if it was not for JOTA and encourages understanding through communication across international boundaries.

I was never a boy sprout, sorry scout, but I have a deep respect for the work that youth organisations like the Scouts do in particular embedding a love of the great outdoors in to those whom otherwise would no nothing but the depressing grey concrete jungles where they live. Scouting cuts across social boundaries and educates its participants on a myriad of subjects in ways that make it seem like fun. In these days of obese hermit children who never stray from in front of the TV, games consul or PC except to order pizza or a McDonald's we need to make sure these organisations have our support.

We can all show our support by working the JOTA stations, but if you are going that little bit further and actually running a JOTA station there is a new tool in your armoury to making Jamboree On The Air a day the kids will not forget. You can now find those prized JOTA to JOTA contacts more easily via the JOTA Cluster.

JOTA Cluster is simply a Dx-Spider cluster node running stand-alone, so spots posted on it will not appear on the DX-Cluster. Amateurs from the JohnMcCormick group in the Netherlands came up with the idea. The cluster is available at the address pi4raz.nl port 7300. If you have a telnet cluster client that can be configured, just add the node so you can use it or use the web interface at http://www.pi4raz.nl/jotacluster/cluster.php

Federal Bureau of Incompetence

The FBI have become the laughing stock of the espionage community after a US born student found a GPS tracking device attached to his car and posted photographs on the net to find out what it was. The student whose father was from Egypt was targeted because of an anonymous tip off that suggested he might be a threat to national security. To add insult to injury the FBI later came knocking to ask for their device back. The FBI told him not to worry they had all the information they needed on him and he was "boring"!!! You can read the full story over at Wired.com and see the post that started it all at Reddit.com

No doubt the civil liberties people will be up in arms about this invasion of privacy and there will be arguments until the cows come home about if this was truly necessary for the security of the United States, but what amazes me is the incompetent way in which it was done, look at the size of that thing! These days it would have been a million times easier to track and bug him through his own mobile telephone and laptop. Devices that do the same job as the one used are now so small the chances of finding it are close to nil and do not require eight C cells to power them.

Readers in the UK might be thinking "this could never happen here" but I can assure you that the security services in the UK are no better than the FBI. There are a few tales I could tell here but who knows what trouble I might find myself in trying to explain how I know and who told me but I have had one experience first hand of what happens. Back in the 1980's my father who was a children's entertainer appeared on a television show called 'Record Breakers' in an attempt to establish a record for balloon modeling. His challenger actually beat him but my father was just happy to get some publicity. A couple of weeks after the show he received a summons to the tax office. The idiots in the tax office basically told him it was because he had been on television and if you are on TV you must have been paid millions. My father laughed at them and told them of the pittance he had been paid but they would not believe him. He had to employ an accountant and return with all his accounts numerous times, but he could not convince the morons. It was then that I detected something strange on the telephone. I was at that time, much to my fathers annoyance, the prime user of the home phone as I spent hours courting my girlfriend of the time, so when the phone suddenly had a strange noise in the background, made odd clicking noises when you picked up the receiver and took several seconds to get a dialling tone, I noticed. In my large family we got a lot of mail and we started to notice our mail was arriving two or three days late and had been badly opened and resealed. We were fairly sure my father was under surveillance by the Inland Revenue Service and we send test letters to prove our mail was being intercepted and it was. They must have had fun cleaning up all the glitter we put in the envelopes from their office floor. When something like this happens you start to wonder are you becoming paranoid but strangely no sooner had the noises disappeared from the telephone than the mail started to arrive on time unmolested and the two grey suited guys in the camel coloured Ford stopped hanging around outside the house. So if the tax man will go to these lengths one can only imagine what the security services get up to if you are considered a threat.
Apologies to my regular readers for the lack of posts here. This was due to holidays, followed by a period of playing catch up after two weeks away and then I have been unwell for a couple of weeks. Being sick had one advantage; The hard drive on my Sky Plus box has been at 97% full since the first week I bought it and while confined to the sofa with a box of tissues and a bottle of Scotch I got it down to 97% empty, just like the Scotch. I also got to watch the whole of the Ryder Cup golf, brilliant. Now if only I could have my lungs clear of this thick green mucus I might feel normal again.