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, 30 January 2011

Fuzzy Antennas

There is a lot of interest these days in extremely wideband antennas. One reason is the potential for low power ultra wide band date transmissions, which would allow the transfer of massive amounts of data very quickly. The problem with UWB transmissions is that a normal antenna is only resonant at one frequency and near resonant over a narrow band of frequencies. What is needed is an antenna that is resonant on the whole of the bandwidth being used. This is usually achieved by arrays of antennas each covering a portion of the total band in use.

What is needed did not exist until recently but answer are being sought. The main contender in this field is fractal antennas, which I have mentioned briefly before in this blog. Fractal antennas exhibit wideband characteristics probably due to the fact that within their complex structure electrical lengths exist from almost the atomic level through to... well however long it is you make them.

This got me to thinking does the system actually need to use fractals at all? We hear a lot about fuzzy logic would not a fuzzy antenna have similar wideband characteristics? I mean a real fuzzy antenna. Look at a length of wool, it may be a metre long but within that length there is nearly every length of stand in between and at some point down the length there is one of those strands sticking out, this is the fuzziness. Now imagine we did this with an antenna, surely it would exhibit those wanted wide band characteristics.

Now I know some of you reading this will be thinking okay he has lost the plot, but without people thinking outside the box we would never discover new things. To prove my theory I am constructing a dipole antenna which should be resonant from 3.5MHz through to 10GHz. I have purchased 200 balls of wire wool and my mother is knitting it as we speak. It should be finished testing by the end of March and hopefully if it is as big a success as we suspect we will hold a press conference on 1st April 2011.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

D-Star Come To North Wales

I noticed from the website of the North Wales Amateur Radio Society that...

An NOV application to host a DV access point has been submitted to the ETCC and we are hopeful of a positive outcome very soon. This will be the first GMSK node in North Wales. We have had discussions with the suppliers and once frequencies have been allocated we can have the equipment within a few days. The system has been well researched and we are confident of a smooth install.

At last all you frustrated D-Star radio owners will be able to connect! For those of you that don’t have a D-Star rig, NWRS have decided to install one in the club shack which will be available for members to stick their toe in the D-Star water!

Actually all the flustrated Death Star owners I know have sold up due to the complete lack of repeaters and the fact that were they have access they are finding no-one to talk to.

Now me saying that will probably bring a rush of people to the defence of this mode but the problem is the system is not functional due to the lack of repeaters where needed and the fact that those there are, in the main, not intergrated with either Internet or site to site connectivity enough to form a usable backbone for the network to function. They therefore are just a digital version of the analogue repeaters we already have with a very tiny number of amateurs actually having the equipment and inclination to get involved.

Although I wish the guys behind this every success I don't believe there is enough interest in D-Star to warrent the outlay.

The alternative that may drive the final nail in the coffin of D-Star is Codec2 the open source digital speech codec.

Codec2 is an open source low bit rate speech codec designed for communications quality speech at around 2400 bit/s. Applications include low bandwidth HF/VHF digital radio and VOIP trunking. Codec 2 operating at 2000 bit/s can send 32 phone calls using the bandwidth required for one 64 kbit/s uncompressed phone call. It fills a gap in open source, free-as-in-speech voice codecs beneath 5000 bit/s and is released under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).

The motivations behind the project are summarised in this blog post.

You can help and support Codec2 development via a Donation.

RSGB QSL Manager Changes and issues

QSL cards are the radio amateurs way of saying thank you. These days with postal costs going in to orbit a lot of people are giving up on the traditional QSL card and opting for the electronic alternative. The RSGB QSL bureau is still busy however dealing with hundreds of thousands of cards each year. To make sure you get any cards you are due you need to send stamped addressed envelopes to your particular QSL sub manager and RSGB have just announced the following changes so make sure that if they apply to you that you are up to date...

The G7 volunteer QSL sub manager, Martin Forrester, G7JWR has moved. Please check his new address on the RSGB website members' area before sending C5 size SAEs to collect your cards. Also, MM3 & MM6 licence holders are advised that their sub manager, Ray Simpson, GM7NZI, is stepping down. Our thanks go to him for his service to his fellow amateurs. These two groups are being consolidated with MM1 and MM5 calls under the guidance of long-time manager Brain Shearer, MM1HMV. All outstanding cards and envelopes are being transferred but all new envelopes should now be sent to him. Details on the RSGB website or via e-mail from qslrsgb.org.uk.

This message reminds me that here in the UK we have a little problem with the QSL bureau that needs solving. In fact a complete rethink on how the managers are organised is needed.

Sometime ago I received a message from (I think) Martin Forrester, G7JWR the G7 QSL sub manager, telling me I had cards waiting. That to me seemed strange as my sub manager is not Martin because I live in Wales. The problem is I operate from all over the UK so I could in theory be operating as GW, GM, G, GI, GD or even GU or GJ. So what do I do? Do I hope that everyone checks QRZ.com and sends the cards to my home call or lodge envelopes with each possible sub manager?

At the time I sent a couple of envelopes to Martin but possibly because I only had a couple of cards I never saw them and if I got them tomorrow I would probably need to pay extra postage on them. I also checked on cards sent to me as GM7AAV and sure enough there were some, but I never acted on it and then promptly forgot.

The answer seems obvious that the managers should be dealing with a series that takes no notice of what the prefix is and then this would not happen. Of course if everyone just checked QSZ it would not be an issue, but for stations outside the UK realising that our prefix changes when we cross internal borders is just not going to get through. When I speak to Americans who have never heard of Wales how can I expect them to be familiar with the anomalies in the UK's licencing system.

23cms Activity Night in the North West UK

In another ham radio email I opened today was from Ross G6GVI. I quite often speak to Ross on 23cm or 4m when he is operating portable while walking on a Winter Hill. It is always a pleasure to chat to Ross with the added advantage that Winter Hill is a SOTA summit (G/SP-010) and while Ross is not a SOTA activator I can still claim the point if he happens to be walking within the activation zone at some point.

Ross's email was to tell me that Bolton Wireless Club are to hold a 23cm activity night on Monday. He says:

We have a few BWC members just getting going on this band, who would welcome the opportunity to make a few contacts outside the contest sessions, and experiment with beam-headings to exploit reflections over
difficult paths. A few of our members should be QRV from 8pm: first on SSB around 1296.2, and then on FM around 1297.5. We'll also be monitoring 2m SSB (around 144.175 &
.210) for talkback - please call in if you hear us.

BWC stations with 23cm include: G6GVI & G7ROM in Bolton; M0ICK in Wigan; G0MRL in Westhoughton; M0UFC in Manchester; G1SWH in Standish and G1SMI in Skelmersdale 

I intend to be operating from my home in North Wales during the FM portion of the evening and hope that others will also be encouraged to get on as well. I suspect that at least one other Welsh station will also be on. I wish the lads from Bolton Wireless Club every success and think it would be nice to see this turn into a regular thing.

While we are on the subject, can I encourage those contesting on 23cms to at least try a few minutes on FM. There are others like me who would love to work you but only have FM on this band. The same applies to both 70cms and 4m.

More about the Anytone AT-5189

I haven't had any time to play much with my new amateur radio set the 4m Anytone AT-5189, but from what I heard this afternoon I am pleased with it compared with the AKD 4001 and PMR sets I have had. As I said in a previous post it is much more pleasant to listen to than the AKD 4001 that I have been using and the complements on the audio are encouraging.

An email I opened this evening sheds some light on why it is better on the ears. Tony Allen EI4DIB also has this radio and has had a bit more time to look in to things. In his blog post Tony says " There is one thing that I was surprised to find in the Menu was a thing they call “Compander Function” this I discovered operates a bit like a very fancy Noise Blanker as it totally eliminates the static heard on a very weak station." Well what ever you call it it works! There was an M6 station calling someone this afternoon and when I have heard him in the past he was 25% white noise. There is no S-meter so it is difficult to tell if he was actually a stronger signal but I suspect not, so wow! My antenna is quite low so I have great hopes for the future when I get the 4m antenna up above the roof line.

I am slightly jealous that Tony got a DTMF mic with his, where as mine is a standard mic. The ability to enter frequencies directly would be nice, so I think it is time to scan eBay and see if I can get one cheap enough. I will have to look in to which rigs have compatable wiring. The programming cable is a USB to RJ45 which plugs into the mic socket. One of those would be nice too.

Read Tony's blog post reviewing the Anytone AT-5189 here.

Note the Anytone AT-5189 is sold as the MyDel MY-5189 at Martyn Lynch and Sons.

Photo shows the 2m version.

How to afford an Icom IC-9100

Should I be blaming all the RF from my amateur radio gear for my failing memory?

A little birdy tells me we may see the new Icom IC-9100 in the shops by March, but can I like as heck remember were I saw this little gem so I can point a link at it or confirm it anywhere else. The Icom sites have no mention of it and as we were once being told we would see it on sale be August last year I will not hold my breath. March would be good for me as I get my bonus then but Helen has already earmarked that for new French doors to replace the patio doors :0(

How to afford an Icom IC-9100

I could work a bit of OT.
I could get an extra job.
I sell drugs for a gangster,
Who works for the mob.

I could learn to cheat at poker.
I could rob or steal a car.
I could sell some of my ham gear,
No I wouldn't go that far!


With the imminent arrival of Helens NUE-PSK device I remembered about the HB-1A tri-band QRP ham radio. The HB-1A started life as a kit produced by BU XIANZHI BD4RG from NANJING, CHINA. From a kit it grew in to a ready assembled device that was available direct from eBay. When I first saw it it was CW only but Bu and his brother Yimin announced plans for a MKII version that would do SSB. Read more here.

In July 2010 nothing could be found of the Chinese product but suddenly TenTec were marketing something with one less band at twice the price. It was in fact the MKII and it did SSB making it possibly a perfect match for the NUE-PSK with a similar size case, but until recently I would have to order from the USA. Then a few days ago an advert appeared on the Waters and Stanton website...

Waters & Stanton have been appointed sole distributors of the first of these new HF transceivers from China.

The HB-1A-MK3 transceivers offers 2 band coverage with up to 5 Watts output. It includes a digital display, built-in CW keyer with auto CQ and switched bandwidth filters. Designed very much with the portable QRP operator in mind, it can be run from internal cells or external 12v system. There are two models available, the HB-1A-MK3-40-20 which offers 40m & 20m and the HB-1A-MK3-30-20 which offers 30m & 20m.

This radio is sold in the USA under the TenTec banner. The China factory has now appointed Waters & Stanton as their exclusive UK distributor and this radio will be the first of a range of HF models. Look out for the new 6-band HF rig SSB and CW!

To find out more about these radios which will be arriving soon click here
My only issue here is how much more expensive this is to what they were selling on eBay for. At £199 they are neither cheap or too expensive, so the jury is still out here. As I have a Yaesu FT-817 the does 160m to 6m plus 2m and 70cms which I paid £350 for I don't think I will be buying one soon. Anyone know of a similar radio maybe in kit form?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Everything, nothing and fuel protests

Some days in amateur radio things can be like buses, nothing seems to be happening and then it all comes at once. You know the scenario everything is dead and then as 40 metres opens up and you find a station you want to work a 20 metre spot on the cluster alerts you of someone you need for that DXCC and at the same time you find you are being called on 2 metres by a mate. At that point my wife usually calls on the local 70cm repeater and the phone rings.

I can vividly remember one such occasion were I was hopping between radios trying to work three separate SOTA stations, one on 80m, one on 60m and the other on 2m SSB. I had heard one mate call me on 2 FM, my wife was on GB3CR 70cms repeater calling me, my house phone, mobile and Skype were all ringing at that point I thought I was going mad.

I answered the land line and then rang the mobile back by the time I got to Skype I notice a trend emerging. The landline call was from someone telling me my wife was calling me on the radio, as was the Skype call, the mobile was from someone telling me the SOTA station on 2m SSB was there as was the 2m FM call and my wife was calling to tell me she had worked the 2m SSB station on FM and that he was now on SSB. By the time I sorted that lot out I missed all three SOTA stations.

There has not been much going on here just lately and the bands have seemed unnervingly quiet, but thing seem to still be happening all at once. I have finally got Helen's Christmas present on order and the NUE-PSK unit should be here sometime soon. Then I was tipped off that the 4m (70MHz) Anytone 5189 was back in stock at Martin Lynch and Sons. I ordered one as soon as they went on sale before Christmas but got an email saying they were out of stock. A quick telephone call and it arrived next morning. I must say it is so much more pleasant to listen to than the AKD 4001 that I have been using and the complements on the audio are encouraging, but no time for a full test yet. The one thing I have noticed is whenever someone put a call out on 4m the AKD would precede it with a burst of static noise and follow it in the same way as if the squelch was too slow, no such problems on the Anytone. Although the two rigs seems to be similar in sensitivity single generally seem to have less noise on them. In other words I don't seem to be hearing any more stations but they appear slightly stronger. The telling will be when I get someone who I know is a weak signal to me on.

We have the Advanced course in full swing down at Mold Amateur Radio club and it cost me a small fortune paying fees and buying drinks for my two kids who are doing the course. A couple of our club/Raynet members are down at Flintshire Lifeboat station for SOS radio week. We hoped to have a special events call but it never arrived in time. I was down there this morning and they were having trouble getting the HF antennas to tune up. I suspect the tuner but I had no time to get them another as I had to come home to go to bed being on nights tonight. They are using the club call GW7HRG so if you hear them give them a call.

I wanted to get down to the RNLI early to help with the setting up but I had to wait in for a tradesman to measure up for a new door we are having. That gave me the chance to work three SOTA stations before I left. Two of those stations (Carolyn G6WRW) and Robert (G0PEB) were using APRS tracking so I was able to delay my leaving by 10 minutes as I could see they were on the summit before they started calling CQ. The more I follow people the more I like APRS but I am still not sure I like the idea of being watched myself.

Tonight we had fuel protests at work, but the protest convoy got delayed by an accident on the motorway so I got in before they got here and they all got too cold and went home by 23:00 hours. So if you see a Black Freelander with a big 2m/70cm antenna on the back drive behind a SKY TV interview on the news it was me. These guys have my support just so long as the don't come back in the morning and stop me going home ;0)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Amateur radio op buys a new ham radio, wife not pleased

Thank goodness my XYL is licensed already.

Ham Radio is for all the family, all you have to do is pass the test...and I'll start loving you again. Sweet!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Embroidered SOTA patches

Diego EC1CW just received some custom embroidered SOTA patches. They are first quality patches, 3" x 3", with 100% of the surface embroidered in 4 colours, heat sealed iron-on backing and stitched border. There are two versions one with a yellow and one with a red border.

You can order from Diego by emailing him. His email is on QRZ.com. You may like to visit his blog here for information about his Summits on the Air adventures and other related amateur radio items.

You can also view many of Diego's SOTA activations on the video blog SOTA Television ,which is another CQHQ production. There are now over 375 videos to be viewed all to do with Summits on the Air and portable amateur radio operations.

Local SOTA activators - I have ordered a limited number of patches from Diego, which I will pass on at cost to you if you can see me in person. If there is demand I will see if I can get more.

Update: 27th January 2011 - Got my shipment of badges from Diego. The Spanish postal service must be much more efficient than the Royal Mail, that is all I can say. Thanks Diego.

Dot Dot Dash Dash Tweet Tweet

One is not at all surprised when a radio amateur comes up with strange uses for Morse code. So when my friend Graham GW0HUS sent me something about using the code to send Tweets to Twitter I expected an iPhone app that would let you tap Morse on the screen and a ham to have been behind it. I was a little off the mark; it was not an iPhone app and it was not a ham who had made it. It is a bit odd but the fascination with Morse code runs way deeper than amateur radio operators and short wave listeners. Do a bit of searching on line and we find that youngsters in Japan are using Morse as a more efficient way to send text messages.

Joe McKay is no wizz on the Morse code but his ingenuity makes up for his lack of skill. Watch the video to see what this is all about.

From Joe's website...

The Tweetargraph uses an arduino to capture the dots and dashes created by the telegraph. The Arudio itself is running Firmata (now comes as a built in library with the arduino software) so that it can talk to Processing. The Processing sketch is using the java library twitter4j which handles the communication with the Twitter API.

You need to establish a Twitter account (obviously) but you also need to "register" your application through Twitter. This is new - as of the summer of 2010 Twitter uses OAuth for their permissions. Here's the twitter page to begin authenticating. Admittedly, this can be a bit confusing - you need authorization codes AND also the "token" and the "token secret" codes.

Twitter4J does not have very good documentation online when it comes to integrating it into Processing, but robotgrrl does an awesome job of walking you through the process.
I found that acquiring the token and token secret through Twitter is much easier than through processing as robotgrrl has you doing in steps three through six (to be fair to robotgrrl that was probably the only way to get the token at the time of writing).

Processing, arduino, twitter4j and twitter are all free and open source. The arduino micro-controller costs about $35 US, and the telegraph I got on ebay for $27.

You can download my Processing code here. Please respect the Creative Common license below. I wasn't really writing it with public consumption in mind, but you're welcome to take a look at what I did. If you're new to Processing and the Arduino, this is not the best project to start with.

Read the original here...

Check out Joe's other projects here...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Things to be loved...

In the words of an obscure song (except to fans of Sparks) miss the start, miss the end. It goes on 'Cause they're such very good friends, there are things to be loved and things to only attend, miss the start, miss the end.

It looks like we may have been a bit late for SOS radio week, but we have just booked a week in a Windmill and after a great deal of searching I find we are two weeks early for Mills on the Air. I say a great deal of searching because Denby Dale ARC's website did not seem to want to let me in. It also says because of technical difficulties the new Mills on the Air web page is not available. I am tempted to apply for a special events call for the week anyway as I see at least one other club is doing their mill activation the weekend before. With four of us licenced it should at least guarantee something to keep us occupied for a couple of hours each night. It might make up for the fact that although there is a SOTA summit a stones throw away the next nearest is 47 miles distant. Radio was never going to take a backseat where ever we went but who can turn down the chance to get an antenna to the dizzy heights of the top of a windmill.

MILLS ON THE AIR is the weekend 15th/16th May 2011.
Denby Dale ARC will be on from 10-30am to 4pm at Thwaite Mills Stourton Nr Leeds.

As for me; keep watching this space for details.

"The opening bars and the closing bars might as well not exist. They're not needed, needed, really needed."

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Play Safe Stay Safe

Over at Bob VA3QV's Amateur Radio Weblog he tells the sad news of a Canadian solider Cpl. Jean-Michel Deziel who having survived the horrors of the Afghanistan conflict died falling from a roof while installing a communications antenna.

This story comes hot on the tale last week of an Amateur in the US installing a vertical that came in contact with some overhead power lines. His step daughter ended up in hospital critically ill with severe electrical burns.

Every year we hear of people killed on mountains in poor visibility and with the growing popularity of Summits on the Air the next one we hear of could be a ham radio operator.

So be careful out there. It may be a great hobby but it is not worth dying for. Stay safe people.

Missed the boat?

At mid-night 22nd January a nine day amateur radio fund-raising event will start in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, SOS Radio Week runs until 23:39 on the 30th. Anyone can participate, be they clubs, individuals, adults or youths. Simply register on the event web site, download a sponsorship form and raise at least £5. As an encouragement there are over £700 worth of prizes from Icom, the SRC Young Persons award, a radio from Martin Lynch and four antennas from Sigma Euro-Comm to give away.

Flintshire Raynet works closely with Flintshire RNLI and we were hoping to be running a special event station for the event, although any cash we raised would go directly to our local lifeboat team rather than in to some arbitrary distributed scheme. However the suggestion was a little late being proposed and then with the madness that is the Christmas preparations the forms for the special events callsign got put to one side and then finally ended up in the Christmas post. Assuming the forms got through the post unhindered and even if the weather had not probably backed things up, taking all the holidays in to consideration I am begining to think our application is at the bottom of a big pile on someones desk. Maybe I am being sceptical but it looks as though we may have just missed the boat. It will be a pity if we don't get it in time as we had a few Raynet and few radio club members who were keen to have a go. If we fail we will have to make sure we are ready for next year. I think this is an event which will go from strength to strength and unlike Raynet no one tells these guys to "leave it to the professionals".

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Unchallenged 2011

In amateur radio we all need challenges from time to time to keep thing fresh. That was one reason for my CQHQ challenge, which has resulted in a steady stream of emails vowing to have a go at doing a few things not normally routinely attempted. The idea was to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while and at the very least prove to yourselves you really do hate contests, SSB, FM or whatever. The hope is you will actually find these things more fun than you expected. I suggested picking 10 items from my list, but it is all really about personal challenges.

Now having proposed a series of personal challenges I should not knock someone elses challenge, but I laughed my socks off when I heard of Keith Maton G6NHU and his "ambitious challenge" to have a QSO every day for a year. To me a more difficult challenge would be to stay off the air for more than 24 hours. A more serious challenge for me would be to have a minimum of 25 QSOs a day.

I picked this gem up from Amateur Radio Newsline for January 7 2011 who had managed to cock up Keith callsign in their previous issue. I was surprised to find I missed it the first time around. So off I go to Keith's blog to suss out the details not quite expecting to spray coffee all over my monitor when I read this... The caveat to this is that if I’m away from home (holiday, working away, etc) then I won’t be able to have a QSO on those days – It’s difficult to have any contacts when one isn’t near a wireless! Talk about setting yourself up to fail. Personally I am never more than a few feet from a radio transceiver for very long wherever I am. I would never go on holiday if I could not take a radio, what would I do. If I am in work the radio is in the car for at least the trip to and from work.

While I wish Keith every success in his venture I do find it a little underwhelming, a bit like telling someone you intend to get fit by leaving the remote control on top of the TV. Still whatever works for you! By the way who on earth still uses the word "wireless" other than when talking about Internet connections?

Solution Looking For A Problem

I am a like most radio amateurs a gadget man. My home is a hard wired network with multiple users all using multiple devices to access the Internet, but on top of the myriad of desktop PCs, games consuls, networked printers and media player there is the wireless network. Despite having desktop PCs running everything from DoS to Windows 7, Red Hat to Unbuntu 10, Chrome, and Snow Leopard I still find the need for a laptop, a netbook and a PDA.

These days the PDA is seeming a little redundant because of the development of mobile telephones and has not been used in a while. This is a pity because the Mio P550 also included a GPS, but even this useful function is somewhat redundant with my present vehicle having built in GPS. Also due to poor battery life the PDA was never much use for walking and I own a couple Garmins for that purpose.

The battery of the PDA seems to have finally died and I wondered if I really needed it anymore. If I was to sell it it would need a new battery anyway so I ordered one. The replacement battery I have ordered was twice the capacity of the old one and my brain sort of went, "Um! that's useful." I was still wondering what I could do with the revitalised PDA when I came across someone elses solution to the poor battery life, an external battery booster with three time the PDA battery's capacity so I have ordered one of those too. The unit is roughly the same size as the PDA but only half as thick.
So now I have a PDA that will run for five times as long as before, what to do with it. It then occured to me that with the built in GPS, wireless and Bluetooth in would be an idea platform for APRS. If I could only find the right application, it could link via either WiFi or Bluetooth to my mobile telephone and upload to an APRS server.
There seems to be a couple of applications out there that might work, but they look like they expect an external GPS source to be connected and they seem to be crippled until you pay for them. One thing I won't do is pay for something that may not work.
Any suggestions welcomed, for how to do this or other ham radio uses for my old PDA. By the way Pocket Digi is one fun use I have already tried.

Smart Meters a Public Nuisance

One reason cited for the trial of the the Devil's spawn that destroys peoples’ enjoyment of ham radio (and every other form of radio in fact) PLC in Liverpool is smart meters. So it may come as a surprise to the idiot supporters of this scheme to hear that one Californian County has criminalised smart meters.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance (pdf) that deems the installation of smart meters a public nuisance in some areas. In addition to electromagnetic health risks, the board cited concerns about meters being used to collect information about residents' activities, impacts on aesthetics and potential damage to amateur radio networks.

You can read more in the New York Times.

FCC Put the boot in

One of the perceived issues in amateur radio circles is the lack of action against those that choose to abuse the airwaves. In a similar way that the Police are never there when you need them but always in you wing mirror when you are in a tearing hurry, there never seems to be any action against pirate radio, mic keyers, foul mouths or people operating out of band, but we often see stories of legitimate operators being given a hard time because of misunderstanding and it seems to be the same the world over. It is a little reassuring therefore when we see that someone is doing there job. It is just a pity that OFCOM was not following our US cousins lead.

During October last year the FCC raided Doctor Radio's CB Shop in Monroe, Michigan. The store was selling amongst other things, a radio that was described as “an Amateur Radio that could operate on CB frequencies” and that was modified to operate above the approved power limits. The salesperson explained that the Cobra 150 GTL DX was an Amateur Radio transceiver that could operate on CB frequencies and had been modified to generate 170 W of power. Section 95.655(a) of the FCC rules prohibit radios that can transmit on both the amateur and CB bands. The FCC therefore issued a Citation to the store on January 4 for marketing unauthorized radio frequency devices in the United States in violation of Section 302(b) of the Communications Act and Section 2.803(a)(1) of the Commission’s rules.

The FCC may impose monetary forfeitures of up to $16,000 for each such violation or each day of a continuing violation, and up to $112,500 for any single act or failure to act. In addition, violations of the Communications Act or the Rules can result in seizure of equipment through in rem forfeiture actions as well as criminal sanctions, including imprisonment.

Time To Be Alarmed

What do you think when one of your ham radio buddies is suddenly not around any more? If they are over fifty you think the worst but if they are a bit younger you suspect they found a new woman or something. Sometimes we get surprised like the time a wrinkly old 96 year old G2 turned up with twenty something fashion model on his arm and told anyone who would listen that he was going to be a daddy again.

It was that long since we had heard from our friend Dave 2W0PWR that we thought he had given up radio completely or emigrated. He was no longer even part of the "Tell you who we haven't heard for a while" conversations. Dave had not moved away but had set himself a big project that left little time for anything else, Dave had gone in to business. Now I don't normally plug anything none radio related but I feel I should give Dave a plug so here it comes...

Alarm Boyz supply, fit and service Wireless Alarms (Okay a little radio related). They pride themselves on their "100% Customer Service". Servicing Wrexham, Chester, North Wales, Wirral and Shropshire they offer Free Consultation, Wireless Alarms, Installation, Servicing, Vacation Alarms.

For only £249 they can even fit a wireless alarm that calls your mobile when activated. Not that it would be much use to me as I have to turn my mobile off when I am in work, but it seems a good idea at an affordable price. If you are in the market for a new alarm give Dave a call, I can guarantee he is a genuine nice guy, does not have spurs on his boots, so will not take you for a ride and has worked in this business for some time.

Must say Dave I am not struck on the name, the spelling things with Z instead of S is a bit stuck in the 1990's and we gave up calling ourselves boys when we were ten years old. We were "Dudes" back then and the term boys was for little kids and sissies. I would have gone with something like Power Alarms or how about Mafia Alarms that should put the burglers off? AlarmNinja? Jedi Alarms? Dalek Home Protection System?

Good luck Dave!

San Marino Republic DX Invite

I just got invited to DxCoffee’s Birthday Party and other UK radio hams are welcome to join me. Well you can join me if someone buys me tickets to San Marino Republic and I can get a passport in time. It all sounds great, if only getting there was as easy as the email bellow suggests. If only work and family commitments did not prevent me from jumping on the next available flight. Oh well the least I can do it publisise the event on CQHQ.

This is the invitation...


We invite you to join into the DxCoffee’s Birthday Party that will take place next month in San Marino Republic.

There will be a radio station there and you can operate the special event callsign T70DXC.
All the program and schedules are here: www.dxcoffee.com/happybirthday
If you can’t join us, please make a post in your blog and insert a link to http://www.dxcoffee.com/ also.

We think there are a lot of low cost flights from U.K. and reaching San Marino is very easy.

Maybe some other hams from UK will join.

Best regards

DxCoffee Team

I wish I could go, I bet there will be ice cream, jelly and cakes and everything!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Waters and Stanton VAT beaters

Everyone's favourite cartoon characters Wallace and Gromit are doing some cracking deals on ham radio gear. Sorry private joke, that should read... Those great guys at Waters and Stanton are holding back the VAT increase on amateur radio gear (and more) until 1st February. They also have a few special offers worth looking at that may seem even more special if you get in quick and avoid the inevitable price increases. At a time when other companies are sneaking a bit on top of the VAT rise it is nice to see.

Okay let us see what the rest of them can come up with. Come on ML&S, Radioworld and LAM you need to try harder. Email or Tweet me if you have deals and I let my reader know.

Steve has a ham radio

Okay this one is not much about amateur radio and maybe it is because I am suffering from the flu but I need to get this one off my congested chest. I am starting to feel a little paranoid, but we all know that saying "Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you", so let me run this by you and see what everyone thinks.

Firstly as a background I hate strangers in my home, I see it as a violation of my space. Therefore when I got a visit a few months back from a company called EON offering to do a "complete home insulation survey, for free". It would only take 30 minutes. I told them to go away. Imagine my surprise when a week or so later I got the same offer from a company called 'The Energy Savings Trust' they too were sent packing. This was followed by another similar offer from a company whose name I no longer remember that told me they could arrange massive grants on double glazing and insulation. I have checked out these sorts of claims before and I always find I earn too much for the grants to apply, so they did not interest me at all either.

Then in November I had a letter from the local council telling me my home had been randomly chosen to receive a full structural survey as part of an assessment of housing in the area. The survey would take at least 30 minutes and I would be entitled to a copy of the report. Why the hell the council was interested in a private residence was totally beyond me. There was no way to say no and they turned up on the door at 'their' appointed time getting me out of bed after a night shift. They argued black was blue that I "had to let them in" but in the end the extremely angry half naked maniac got through to their thick heads that they were as welcome as Syphilis at an orgy.

This morning in my mailbox I received the following: "North Wales Fire and Rescue Service will be carrying out FREE home fire safety checks in your area on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th January. This visit will take 30 minutes maximum. " 30 minutes? That sounds familiar! At least with this one there is a get out clause in the from of a big red cross to place in your window, but even that sounds kind of weird, almost biblical. No thanks, no Angel of Death today!

I also recently turned down free check of my gas appliances and a "we want to tell you how you can save money by not leaving your appliances on standby" talk, which would only take up 30 minutes of my time.

Why does everyone want to spend 30 minutes in my home? Do they think I am making crystal meth in the garage or anthrax in my bathroom? Maybe it is the intercontinental ballistic missile I am building in the garden. More likely it is just a run of coincidences but I am feeling like the guy in that episode of the Twilight Zone.

The neighbours find out Steve has a ham radio...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Liverpool PLC plan

The worst criminals are not the guys in stocking masks and stripped tee shirts, who sneak around after dark, they are the men in grey suits with thin watches. They dish out misery for profit and in most cases do not even realise they are doing wrong, for they have no morals. They are just as likely to start a war as sell their own mothers. The little fish quite often will sell a miracle cure without revealing the true misery it brings. For those without a broadband connection Broadband Powerline Communications (PLC) may seem like an answer, but for the amateur radio community it is death on a telegraph pole.

Just when we think we might be winning the war against PLCs some other scumbag pops up.

Five years after PLC was last used in the Britain, the technology that destroys peoples' enjoyment of radio is to be trialled in Liverpool in 2011.

Liverpool has announced plans for a 200Mbps ISP trial to supply 1,000 homes with broadband Internet access. It's believed that the trial is being run by Scottish Power and Plus Dane Homes.

The Mersey Partnership (TMP), a regional inward investment agency, hopes that the trial, which started in the summer, will lead to a major jobs boom for the city region.

An essential element of the scheme is the smart meter, which gives a very detailed breakdown of how much energy is being used by a household. It will mean that, instead of utility companies getting an electricity reading between one and four times a year, they will receive readings every 30 seconds. So what happens is, even in the middle of the night when no-one is using their broadband, there is data from 1,000 homes flowing 120 times every minute and this means the interference is continuous without a break.

Work apparently stated in July and has been going on at 12 substation in secret, supposedly to avoid cable thefts. It would seem to me that the real reason is to avoid direct action and protest at the trial.

The smiling assassin behind the evil scheme would seem to be Mark Knowles the "Low Carbon Economy Manager" for TMP. I would suggest that those who will be effected and other interested parties contact this guy first. I would also suggest that as radio amateurs we should boycott Scottish Power and write telling them why we are changing electricity supplier.

Read the story as it was released at the Daily Post

The following video is a display of the interference caused by this technology.

My thanks to my good friend Joe G7KDZ for alerting me on this story.

Solar Panel stolen from GB3JB.

It is the kindness and generosity of radio amateurs over the years that keeps my faith in human nature hanging by a thread. I hear people say things like "there is good in everyone" and I think they are sadly deluded. People are not born good they choose it as a path. Some of us choose good over evil because our parents had morals which they passed on and others in defiance at the immorality of our parents. The same can be said of the other path. If I break the rules it is because I choose to do so and if I do something kind I choose to do that also. Unfortunately we live in a world where those that choose to be kind are out weighed by those who are totally selfish.

One of those selfish people has stolen the Solar Panel at GB3JB.

I received this email from the team...

Hi All,

Well, in my communication of the 29th December, I stated "Unless anything unexpected happens, then GB3JB, will keep going until the end of October 2011, when the site fee is due and the insurance is also due for renewal." I must have tempted fate!

Since over the last day or so, we believe, the Solar Panel was stolen from the site. Having arrived at the site for a general inspection and battery voltage check, it very quickly became obvious that the panel was missing. The bolts securing the brackets that held the panel and its frame to the wall had been removed, and the panel and the entire mounting frame assembly have been stolen. The battery voltage, nominally 24 volts, and typically floating between 25 and 27 volts, was down at 13.5 and despite the turbine rotating at a reasonable speed and gusting to quite high speeds, it could not be determined if charging was taking place or not. GB3JB was switched off. Of primary concern are the batteries themselves, the turbine and the charge controller. The latter, which is microprocessor controlled and contains significant quantities of IC's could well have been damaged by what must have been a significant transient spark / current surge that would have occurred when the cable to the solar panel, was cut. As will be appreciated the batteries themselves could well have been damaged, having been discharged to that terminal voltage in the very cold ambient temperatures. We are not sure, at this time if the turbine has been damaged in anyway, either, as the turbine assembly contains the a.c. generation to d.c. supply rectification. I will return to the site tomorrow, with suitable equipment, and have a look at the battery condition. If the terminal volts are still low, then we really could have a problem, as this would point to the turbine having been damaged. So to the B*@&$#d's who stole the panel ....

(1) I hope that you blew-up the isolating diodes when you cut the cable, which would probably render the panel useless, and

(2) if not, I wish you a very early and very expensive disaster when you connect it to some kit, especially if you think it’s a 12v module. The theft has been reported to the Police. However, the chances of them being able to track down the culprits, is somewhat slim, at best. I'll send out a further e-mail after my visit to the site tomorrow.

Please let us know, if you hear of anyone trying to sell off what is a very expensive and physically large solar panel, cheaply.

Please feel free to forward this communication on to any individuals whom you feel would be interested in its contents.

Cheers & 73’s (Too all bar the culprits)
Dave, G3ZXX.

I wonder if the theft had anything to do with the posting of this video on the Southgate ARC Newsline, possibly giving the thieves an indication of the remoteness of the repeater, its solar panel and wind generator.

So it looks like GB3JB requires some of that uncalled for kindness. Can you help?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

70Mhz mod for Yaesu FT-897

Duane Mayberry ZS6DJM has posted an amateur radio video on YouTube showing his Spectrum Communications 70MHz transverter built in to the battery compartment of his Yaesu FT-897. I'm sure if he was making these commercially he would be killed in the initial rush. The last time I saw anything this neat it was a home built transverter in the battery compartment of a Yaesu FT-290. This design looks somewhat more accessible due to the use of a kit for the mod. It is a pity there are no more details of what was done to get it to fit. Thanks to Tim G4VXE for putting the video on his blog and to Dave G4AQK for tipping off Tim about it.

Invisibility Cloak - The Future is Clear

It is 2011 so...

Where is my flying car and house on the moon?
Where is the robot to tidy up my room?
Why hasn't the common cold been cured yet?
And why after all these year do we still have a National Debt?

At least the future we dreamed of is here in some areas even if the areas of advancement seem more unlikely than those mentioned above.

According to my friend Graham the Klingons and the Romulans have had cloaking devices for eons and now thanks to Fractal Antenna System Inc. Earthmen are catching up. The video is proof of concept of an invisibility cloak all be it one that only works at microwaves. Bearing in mind the military implications one wonders what they are not telling us. The potential for Fractal Antennas is huge, a lot of this is due to the almost infinite number of resonant electrical lengths within a fairly short length of the Fractal Metamaterial. This may seem hard to understand for anyone not familiar with the work of the mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot, but fractals are regarded as the geometry of nature. A fractal is described as a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole.