More than just a Ham radio blog.
is an informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

More on - RSGB Finacial irregularities

A little more on the financial irregularities that caused Peter Kirby, the former RSGB General Manager to leave the Society’s employment...

I am told that the financial irregularities refer to £41,000.00 on his company credit card over 4 years. Ow!

...for everything else there is Mastercard!

Icom IC-7600GE - A rig for billionaires

Are you someone who thinks most of the Amateur Radio producers have lost the plot? Don't have nearly £4,000 for a fully loaded Icom IC-9100 or 7600? Then you won't be interested in the IC-7800 at nearly £8,000. You certainly will not be interested in the GE or gold editions of the Icom range of rigs. Suitable for your Saudi Prince or Billionaire if you need to ask the price you certainly cannot afford one. Gold plated with solid gold knobs and inset with real diamonds these rigs are individually customised to your personal requirements. The very existence of these radios has until now been only known to a select clientèle, but we at CQHQ have had a sneak peak at a IC-7600GE ready to ship to the Middle East. Here is the only known picture of one of the most expensive ham radios on sale today. Yes that is a huge diamond in the tuning knob and smaller diamonds around the volume, RF gain etc.

Monday, 28 March 2011

RSGB General Manager - Amateur radio news from the RSGB

RSGB General Manager - Amateur radio news from the RSGB

The Board of the RSGB has today released the following announcement:

Peter Kirby, RSGB General Manager, has left the Society’s employment after the discovery of financial irregularities on his part.

For the time being, RSGB Director Don Beattie, G3BJ, will act as General Manager.

Raising of eyebrows and sharp intake of breath as we at CQHQ await further news.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Lost time, poor eyesight, contesting and WOTA

Here I am stuck in work when I really want to be in the ham radio shack or out on the hills. It is the SOTA UHF funday and to be honest I don't want to loose ground or points on those elusive higher bands to chasers who never normally bother listening for the UHF regulars, but there is nothing I can do about it so I will just have to grin and bear it. I have already (08:30) missed Matt 2E0XTL on Hegest Ridge 1297.5MHz.

I have plenty to sulk about today. If getting up at what would have been 04:30, but because today is the start of British Summer Time is now 05:30, is not bad enough then driving in to work in the dark again certainly is. For the last few weeks the one redeeming feature of the drive to work was some stunning sunrises. Now we are back to cold dark starts and running with headlights on. Why? Just what is the point? For my colleagues on the night shift an eleven hour night beats a twelve hour one, but someone has to do the thirteen hour night when the clocks return to GMT and the shift coming in loose an hours sleep.

It has been a busy week and when I got time to breath I did the mods to Helen's NUE-PSK unit. My nerves were a bit frayed afterwards as my eyesight is no longer up to such fine soldering and my hands not steady enough, probably due to being worried I was going to mess up. I realised after that the reason getting the solder to stick had been so hard was due to the board having been lacquered post production. The problem with removing the lacquer was down to not being able to see the fine tracks on the PCB or work any kind of tool between the other components as I would have liked. Soldering a few wires seemed an easy job but as soon as the iron touched them the insulation melted back so quickly I thought I would end up replacing the lot. Still it is done now and the USB mod is installed and we have the latest software on board too.

Other jobs I had planned for this week took a back seat as what little time I had slipped through my fingers. On Thursday I was back in work for a refresher course that turned out to be another stresser. I was so out of it that later after playing taxi to the family I came in to the shack and looked at the clock. It was twelve minutes to seven but I read it as twelve to eight. I made a mad scramble to get ready for the RSGB 80m Club Contest. I cleared my desk then set up my log and my recording software, found a quiet frequency switched in the 80/40m trap dipole and pushed tune. As the minute hand hit twelve on the atomic synchronized clock I hit record and started to call CQ, an hour early. Opps! When no-one answered I knew something was wrong I looked up at the clock and swore. What a plonker!

I made some coffee and then I retired to the lounge and slumped on the settee and chilled out by watching a rerun of X-Files I had recorded on the Sky Plus box. I never saw the first series when it was on years ago. Then I returned to the shack for another go.

Surprisingly on what was a very busy band I found a free slot and started calling CQ, however after the first half a dozen contacts the dirty tricks started. First of all a tuning signal appeared making a couple of contacts a little slow as although they were end stop signals and fully quietening. I had to ask for many repeats. Then the killer a duo tone signal of the type one puts into a rig under test so you can monitor the output on an oscilloscope, but normally doing this the rig would be on a dummy  load. Stations were answering my CQs but I could not make out any calls under this racket. After ten minutes I went to search an pounce mode, which is not the best method to get a high score unless the band is dead when you get better results working other peoples CQs.

It was a bit depressing to get a log number of 32 when you are still in single figures. It was going to be hard going. In the end I only managed a poor 46, while others gave me numbers closing on 200. My only comforting thought was this was a group effort and John GW4BVE gave me an encouraging number. If only I could have maintained my frequency I may have had at least 100 and probably more. As I worked up the band I worked a station on the frequency I had abandoned and made a mental note of the call. I will be watching for that one in future.

On Friday I worked Phil G4OBK/P on a Wainwrights on the Air (WOTA) summit. He asked me to spot him on SOTAwatch as he was on his way to a SOTA summit. Not just any SOTA summit but the highest mountain in England G/LD-001 Scarfell Pike, which for WOTA is designated LDW-001. What had me laughing was the casual way Phil said he had not intended to do the big one, but as the sun was shining and he was passing by he thought he would add it to his itinerary. He did two more WOTA summits after Scarfell Pike but I never heard him.

One thing Phil did was persuaded me to up-date my chases on the WOTA site. It was when I was doing this I realised that there is at the moment a problem with WOTA. I have a good take off towards Lakeland and have worked all of the SOTA summits numerous times, however I have only worked a handful of WOTA summits that are not also SOTA summits. I can see two reasons for this; First off the none SOTA Wainwrights are more often than not shielded by the surrounding much higher mountains and secondly the majority of activations are handheld only on two meters. Some of this might be because to qualify a WOTA summit only one contact is needed for an activation to count and then there is the fact that a lot of WOTA activations are done by activators whose prime objective is one of the higher SOTA summits and they may as well do the lower WOTA fells that are on route. They however they save the batteries for their HF stations until they get to their prime objective. This is just an observation and I am not complaining, it just may be a hell of a long time before I bag all the Wainwrights.

I do not think activating for WOTA will ever be seriously on my agenda as I have no intention of going back and doing those few I already did for SOTA. Two a couple of weeks before it started. So any WOTA activations will have to also be SOTA or not at all. The stunning Lake District calls me but accommodation is over expensive so my forays in to that part of the UK will have to remain few and far between.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Venting Steam

Do you ever wonder why you can call CQ on amateur radio and no-one comes back? It could be that you have a poor antenna, cheap coax and badly set-up rig or it could be that it is just because you are an irritating arse, but the chances are it is all of those things. Listen how those other stations call once and everyone wants to talk to them, they have well set up stations and always have something interesting to say. Could it be that the ability to converse and the ability to set up a good station have something to do with that other ability, the ability to listen and not only listen but to learn from what you hear.

I dragged myself out of bed at about 15:30 UTC with a banging head and stumbled down stairs. One more 12 hour nightshift to go. It seemed like forever since I had a day off. Helen put the kettle on to make some coffee and I took something for my poor head. I powered up the shack and read my emails. I really needed something to cheer me up, a funny email or a nice ten pointer SOTA contact would do. I seemed to have missed all the SOTA stations and there was nothing to cheer me up in my inbox either. I looked at Facebook. "Ten metres is bouncing!" said a post from Graham GW0HUS hours earlier. I tuned through the band. One UK station. "Not now it isn't I wanted to shout!" Thanks mate that really cheered me up.

On 5MHz I managed a contact with Dave M0MYA/P on Cleeve Hill G/CE-001. One point in the log. Oh well it is better than nothing, I thought. I had started to do some up-dates on SOTA-TV when just before 16:00 UTC I got another Dave and my second SOTA summit of the day in the log. M0TUB/P was on G/SP-002 Black Hill.  Shortly after that my evening meal arrived.

It was after my evening meal that a certain station came on the local 70cms repeater. "Crrrsshh shaahhh for a rig check",  "Crrrsshh shaahhh calling on "Crrrsshh shaahhh for a Crackle phisss". What happened next was almost unbelievable "The station for a rig check, you are fully quietening in to the repeater. Great audio." I just could not believe it this guy must be listening on the input because the station calling was 90% noise through the repeater.

The station calling was known to me and he caught me off guard in a grumpy mood, I told him his signal was very poor in to the repeater, as it always is because he is using a handheld with a rubber duck antenna from over 30 miles away. The other station, an M6 with a cracking signal from his mobile set, was not too far from the M0 who was calling on a handheld and I am certain must have been listening to him on the input. My RX on the repeater is always 9+ 60dB as it is a couple of miles away and line of sight.

The issue is that this is not unusual. There are a number of stations locally whose only conversation is "Testing Access!" and "For a rig check". I try to ignore them. There are also a number of idiots who like to go back to these stations and say "You are 5/9 here". I am sure these morons don't know what 5/9 is and on a repeater the signal strength is totally irrelevant. So how can someone be S5 if you have to ask for them to repeat their callsign eight times? Often when I am driving I will tell a station that he is a poor signal in to the repeater only for someone who doesn't understand how repeaters work to tell them they sound great. If you cannot be heard above my engine noise when everyone else can then you have a problem. I just wish people would tell the truth about peoples signals. Is everyone to afraid to offend each other that they have to lie?

The issue with signal reports in contests is another issue entirely. I won't open that can of worms here, but hey it doesn't half screw up the big guns if after you get your 59 you give them 43."43? But I am running 2Kw into an 18 element at 250 feet". Oh Joy!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Shooting the Super Moon - EME for beginers

This evening as I drove in to work, for a night shift, while the talking on ham radio with my pal Graham GW0HUS I noticed the so called Super Moon. Between 18:00 and 19:30 the moon was sitting in a clear cloudless sky and looked so close you could touch it. Apparently it is 18 years since the moon has been so close and as last night was a full moon it looked particularly impressive. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Charlie G0PZO has been out with his telescope and camera and will post some more of his amazing moonscapes on the net.

The sight got me to thinking about Moon Bounce or Earth-Moon-Earth communications and I realised I did not really know too much about what is involved. So the Internet being my lobster oyster so to speak I started to do some research and found this PDF by Bob Kocisko, K6PF about getting started on EME.


I was a little put off by this line, that refers to an advanced station "Minimum power should be in the 800 to 1000 watt range" (no good, only allowed 400w in the UK) and because I don't do CW but it is all fascinating reading. The article is a few years old and I wonder if some of the newer low power digital modes such a WSPR and JT65 could be successfully used with a much more modest station than would be required for CW or SSB contact?

The moon in the composite image above was taken using my Canon D-400 using only a 300mm lens. The stars were added later, but the UFO is obviously real. Just call me Spooky Mulder.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Linked Dipole For Portable (SOTA) Operation

One of the things those of us involved in amateur radio for a number of years tend to forget is that things we have learned over time are not necessarily common knowledge even among our peers. So when I am operating HF portable and I tell people I am running a linked dipole I expect them to know what I mean. The truth is rather sad in that more often than not they do not have a clue. For the majority of UK hams at least the G5RV is as adventurous as it gets. Try to tell them their antenna is a poor choice and you might as well be an atheist preaching from the pulpit to a church full of Southern Baptists. For home use even something as simple as an Off Centre fed dipole could offer a better bet than the a G5RV in a similar space, but that is a discussion for another time.

For now I want to talk about the linked dipole as used by numerous SOTA operators for two reasons. One: several people have asked me to write something and Two: an Internet search for linked dipoles did not come up with anything useful. The main advantage of a linked dipole is there is no requirement for an ATU (antenna tuning unit) so we have one less heavy item to carry in our back-packs. Because on SOTA we as the activators choose the frequencies we work on we can optimise our antennas for the very frequencies we operate on. So on 10 metres I can normally be found around 28.5MHz and so I started my linked dipole by cutting a half wave dipole for about 28MHz and then using an antenna analyser or the Yaesu FT-817 and an SWR bridge I fold back the ends until the lowest dip in SWR (or max field strength if you have facility to measure it) is at 28.5MHz.

Note: Fold back. Do not trim until you have determined where to cut. A lot of amateurs trim a 1/4 inch a time until the SWR is acceptable, but that way you end up with an antenna that has had either too much or too little lobbed off.

Next I add an insulator as seen above and a link. I have Used Anderson Power Pole and automotive type bullet connectors. I would also recommend the small gold bullet connectors used by the radio control model community and bought cheap in bulk on eBay. Power Poles have the advantage that they are easy to deal with with cold fingers or in gloves. Then I add the section of wire required to make the total length suitable for 20 metres and tune in the same way and so on. 
The pictures are of a linked dipole made by John GW4BVE and available on Flickr. I made my linked dipole independently of John and when I did a joint activation with him was surprised at the similarities of his design and mine. The differences are I use a commercial dipole centre, I don't bother with a balun and I use RG-58 coax. I have actually never seen RG174 coax or plugs for sale other than mail order, which is the main reason I don't use it. It would be much lighter to carry of course. The main surprise I got was when I measured my dipole elements they matched John's sizes in the above picture exactly. However if you are using a thicker wire than we used or tuning for the CW end of the bands your lengths could vary a little from the sizes shown. I have since constructed a second dipole blind using John's measurements and when I checked later with an antenna analyser it needed no adjustment.

For deployment in the field the antenna can be strung from handy trees, but as on most hills trees are not an option then a telescopic 6 to 10metre fishing pole (also known as a Roach Pole) is used as a mast. The antenna is deployed in an inverted vee formation.

The fishing pole mast is held up by guys. I use a collar made from PVC which fits just above the bottom section of the fishing pole with three short guys and use heavy duty rock pegs, that look like huge masonry nails to hold the ends. Other activators guy the mast near the top, while some use a single guy and let the antenna act as the other two guys. The choice is yours.

The reason I guy at the bottom is that it keeps the guys short and easier to manage. I do not like the single guy method as it adds additional strain on the antenna. Easy of management is the reason for the next image. Winders can be made from ply as John shows here or made from plastic card (available from model shops) like mine or purchased from kite suppliers, eBay or from Richard G3CWI's SOTApole website.

The ends of the dipole as shown in John's images have an insulator and then a length of thin guy rope. When deploying the dipole it is a good idea to get the ends as high off the ground as possible. Tests have shown that the difference between having the ends of the dipole low to the ground and at a mere three feet (1m) off the ground can be considerable. As a result of these tests I now raise the ends of the dipole by using my walking poles, extended to their full length, to hold the guys on the dipole ends just before they pegged. To simplify this a Y shaped double guy can be fitted to simplify the support. Because I rarely activate alone I use a single guy and a pair of walking poles on a cross formation to do the same thing.
This last image shows John's dipole centre made from a disc of perspex with a hole for using the single guy method of supporting the dipole and a choke balun. As I said I use a commercial dipole centre and although the choke balun is a good idea I have never noticed any RF feedback running even 100 watts without one.

My thanks to John GW4BVE for use of his images. John says:

I have been asked to publish some photos of my /P HF antenna. It is a dipole with the element lengths adjustable by plugging/unplugging connectors. The antenna weighs 580grams including feeder and winders. The wire is surplus thin connecting wire and the feeder is RG316 (PTFE RG174). Insulators are small pieces of scrap plastic. It is normally erected inverted V fashion with the centre supported by a 7 metre fibreglass fishing pole and the ends by my walking poles. This antenna covers 80m, 60m, 40m, 20 & 10m, but it can be made for any combination you chose. No ATU is required. The winders are made from Lightply, which is sold by good model shops.

The drawing shows approximate dimensions of my HF dipole. The balun has been omitted for simplicity and I now use RG316 feeder which I find is higher quality and of course has less loss, although as the feeder is so short the loss at HF is negligible. Please note that you should tune the antenna at the height you are going to use it on the hills. Make each section slightly longer and cut to minimum SWR starting at the highest frequency and working to the lowest. You will not get full coverage on 80m so it it is best cut for your preferred operational frequency.

The balun could be omitted to make the antenna lighter. The balun core is 3.5cm diameter and is made of type 77 ferrite with about 20 turns of coax.

The insulators ensure that there is no strain on the connector itself. The connectors are Powerpoles and are available from CPC and Farnell in the UK or can be ordered from the USA. Of course any reliable single pole connector could be substituted.

Note: Click on the images to take you to John's images on Flickr where they can be seen full size.

Monday, 14 March 2011

International Space Station heard in Yorkshire too.

In response to my previous post about the International Space Station being heard in Wales on amateur radio, Tom AB9NZ found this YouTube Video of the very transmission it was made by Mike M6OZZ. Thanks guys!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

International Space Station heard in North Wales

My old pal Ian GW6MXJ was on the local 70cm ham radio repeater while I was on the way in to work this evening (12th March 2011) and he tells me he heard the International Space Station on 145.800 today. Ian was tuning through the band and found the conversation purely by accident. He heard them via his two metre collinear antenna and was quite surprised he did not need any special antennas to pick them up. I wonder if any more experienced satellite enthusiasts picked up and made a recording of this particular fly past?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A Tear for Japan

Japan has over 1.3 million radio amateurs and every school child learns early what to do in the event of an emergency such as an Earth Quake. Local authorities run regular drills and there are sirens to warn everyone of an impending quake. Nature is however an untamed beast and even the most disaster prepared country in the world was helpless in its jaws. Even the old Japanese favourite Godzilla looks like a pussy cat compared with what nature had in store for the Japanese people. 1,300 people killed or missing and billions of pounds worth of damage and the chances are it is not over yet. A nuclear emergency has been declared caused by the failure of cooling systems and the like at numerous power stations.

911 aside I have never been one to get emotional at what I see on TV but the sight and the scale of this disaster brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. One of the problems with modern living is we now see things as they happen on TV and with YouTube and Twitter it can become very personal. It also makes one feel somewhat impotent as we watch things unfold unable to do anything to help.

Personally I have always been fascinated by Japanese culture, but for most British people they are not our favourite nation. For many Brits whose grandfathers suffered at the hands of the Japanese in WWII the very idea of buying a Japanese car is abhorrent even today. Until recently I had friends who had been involved in building the bridge over the river Kwai or had spent time in Jananese POW camps. After hearing their experiences it is not hard to understand peoples feelings. Strangely less of us hold those same feelings for the Germans and would buy a BMW or Mercedes over and above a British car any day. I think at long last the British people in general can put aside those feeling and sympathise with a people we find hard to understand. Unfortunately this might be the only good to come from this disaster.

I think what has gone on should be a warning to us all. You cannot be too prepared for a disaster and you cannot predict what nature will throw at us. Just because we in the UK live somewhere that Earth quakes and tsunami are rare does not mean something similar might not happen here (or where ever you are). My advice is, be as prepared as you can and have a plan and don't expect the authorities to help you out, in an emergency you may be way down their list. Now I don't expect everyone to join their local RAYNET or EmCom but a grab bag of essentials should include at least a hand held VHF radio and some fully charged batteries as well as clothes, a toothbrush, matches etc. Now hope you never need it.

My heart goes out to the Japanese people, but if anyone has the ability to bounce back, rebuild and restructure it is them. Let us hope and pray that there is not more destruction around the corner. Hush Godzilla go back to sleep.

New World, Old Dominion, New Licensee

Regular readers of CQHQ amateur radio blog will know how delighted to hear that my American cousin Elaine and here husband Tim had been inspired to get involved with ham radio after reading links to my blog from my Facebook posts. On 21st October 2010 Tim was granted his General licence (KJ4YWR), but due to circumstances beyond her control Elaine had to put her plans on the back burner for a while.

A few days ago I got a message from 'Laney' as she likes to be called to say she was taking Technicians license  on Saturday 5th March. At 18:16 UTC I got a message from my cousin Elaine in Virginia USA to say “Passed my Technicians license!" This morning I got another message "This is KK4AUW/AG..... yes, I got my callsign and 2.5 hours after it was posted in the FCC database, I got my General (hence the /AG, to designate temporary General)". She does not hang about, does she?

Not only that but she tells me that the guys at the club want me to do my Extra, next week.
She says that "Tim doesn't even have his Extra yet and he's a broadcast engineer, so what chance do I have?" However by the time they had all been talking to her about it for 2 hrs straight, she found herself agreeing to have a go. Poor Laney was talked into having a go last night, but she gave up when I didn't even understand most of the questions, never mind have a go at answering them.

KK4AUW is not impressed with her Callsign, so is looking for a Vanity Callsign in my very near future. The problem is of course all the good ones are taken. It will need to start with W,K, N or AA-AL. Tim has found some really funny but quite rude ones but I can't tell you what they are as Elaine said "Please don't post the last paragraph on your blog!" Oh well I will just have to let you work them out for yourself.

Any suggestions of available calls can be posted in the comments and I will pass them on.

First Look - The Icom IC-9100 in the shack

One of the first videos of the Icom IC-9100 in the shack. Pardon me while I mop the drool off my keyboard.

Air Training Corps - Ham Radio Help Needed

Since I started CQHQ I have received a large number of requests from radio amateurs and when ever I have I try to help out if I can. Sometimes it might just be a case of emailing some information or a link, at other times it gets more complex, but usually through one or other of the hundreds of contacts I have made in this fascinating hobby I can point someone in the right direction. If all else fails someone out of CQHQ's many readers can usually help.

My latest challenge came in the form of an email from Jim G3YDL who has just started as Squadron Radio Officer (CI) at Mirfield 868 SQDN Air Training Corps. He says, "We are just starting out in the world of radio at cadets though I have had several years if not my whole life in the world of Amateur Radio. The shack is coming along quite nicely and our first Foundation Course will be starting shortly. However I'm lacking in ACP31 knowledge and materials, we have a little training material but seems a little out dated". Jim's colleague is FlGT SGT Mark Andrews M6MIA was comms in the RAF.

If anyone can help out with advice or up to date training materials please contact Mirfield 868 Squadron, Jim G3YDL (his email is correct on QRZ.com), Mark M6MIA or myself and I will pass it on.

Jim hopes to be on the air next Saturday (19th March 2011) afternoon with the cadets so any calls would be gratefully received, so listen out for MX0GWG.

If anyone can help their local ATC in a similar way to Jim please contact your local ATC and offer to help. My own experience of working with cadets during RAYNET activities show them to be usually well behaved and polite young people, just the sort of youngsters we want in amateur radio.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

XYL up-grades NUE-PSK

Regular readers of CQHQ the informative, cynical and sometimes humorous look at what is happening in the world of amateur radio will know about my wife Helen and the NUE-PSK portable PSK device. So for those not in the know here is a quick up-date...

Last year a group of Norwegian radio amateurs came over to the UK for a conference and to do some Summits on the Air activations. Helen and I met up with the group for drinks and was most taken by the NUE-PSK portable PSK device used by one of the group, Halvard LA1DNA. I suggested that Helen might like one for Christmas but was slightly put off by having to order it from the US. Recently one came up for sale and I asked Helen if she was still interested. She was so I bought it. Helen and I liked the idea of the add on USB board for up grades and to allow logging to a USB memory stick so it was ordered. Unfortunately the software on the unit turned out to be version 1.2 and that needed to be upgraded first or it would not even see the new board. That involved ordering another serial cable or sending the unit and board back to the US. If you are in the US it is a reasonably cheap option but two way postage to/from the UK makes it a little expensive option.

The latest news is that one of the Mold and District Amateur Radio Club members was able to knock up a serial cable from parts he already had and on Wednesday night he supplied Helen not only with the cable but the software and a simple step by step guide to doing the up-grade. 

Having done these type of up-grades in the past I know just what can go wrong so I was expecting a nervous half hour at some point in the next couple of days. Imagine my surprise when I got home from work this morning (Thursday) and Helen told me she had done the up-date and the unit was running the latest software. It is great to see her getting stuck in at the sticky end of ham radio and getting a buzz out of it. Well the next one that comes along the Helen GW7AAU is the expert.

There are a couple of small mods and some chassis bashing to fit the new board and I have to make a new linked dipole for her to use and then after some testing we can head for the hills and Helen can call CQ SOTA on PSK and thanks to the up-date on RTTY as well. Hopefully I can have it ready before our next holiday and we can find the time to get out on a hill or two.

It is Helen's birthday soon and I have promised her a Kindle eReader, but due to all my portable antennas being tuned for the SSB section we could do with a portable tuner for the FT-817, so if anyone has an LDG Z-817 autotuner or similar going cheap please let me know.

Wouxun KG-UV920R - "Still testing"

News about the Wouxun KG-UV920R Dual-Band Mobile ham radio is not very encouraging. It had been expected to be in the shops by now but the only information coming out of China (8th March 2011) is that their engineers are "Still testing". No release dates and no prices yet. Last I heard was they were rumoured to be waiting for FCC approval, so the suspicion is they have some issues with meeting the approval and need to sort those and reapply, which could mean a long wait for what is hoped to be a real bargain market buster.  Still, I think we would all rather have a nice RF clean rig tomorrow rather than a cheap but dodgy one today. There is a growing group of people who think this radio is a myth, but delays of this kind are common in the industry.

Icom IC-9100 £2,999.00

It has finally arrived in the stores! The ham radio dream machine the Icom IC-9100 is available at all the major dealers at a price designed to keep it a dream. At a best 'introductory' price of £2,999.00 for the basic model it is double what I think is a fair price and then there are the extras.

The Icom IC-9100HX which includes 23cm's is around £3499.95 and the list price is £3622.99.
If you want D-Star without 23cms the IC-9100 D-STAR is £3099.95 and that lists at £3176.20.
For the fully loaded IC-9100HX D-STAR is £3599.95 with a list price £3797.89.

This makes it one of those radios where travelling to the US or Asia to pick one up is actually cheaper than getting it from a UK dealer. If you really want one now, do not delay as although all the dealers have them there are limited stocks and at that price it might just be the last batch. All I can hope for is that it sells like hot cakes and I can pick up a IC-910X and IC-7400 as folk ditch them for the new toy.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Radio Gaga

What a weekend! It has been a hamtastic couple of days on amateur radio. In my post on Thursday I said I thought this might be a good weekend for VHF propagation and boy has it. The 2m/70cms contest helped.
Saturday seemed to be wall to wall SOTA and I never realised conditions were so good on two metres until the last SOTA station was in the log. That was Carolyn G6WRW who activated GW/NW-050 Gyrn Ddu, a little two point summit with a sting in the tale. It was one of only two North Wales Summits in my un-worked list and at only 522m it sounded a real easy one. The problem is the climb starts at just about sea level and it is quite a walk in for a mere two points. Okay there are some Scottish one pointers were you need a day to walk to them a day to climb them and a day to walk out, it is not that bad.

I had worked Carolyn earlier on a previous summit and was watching her progress on APRS via http://aprs.fi/ I was a little surprised when the track of her car mounted unit shot of past were I suspected she would stop, but figured she was going around the hill to tackle it from the high side. When her track told me she was now headed back the way she came I got a little anxious. I wondered if she had forgotten something on the last hill or was lost. I admit my concern was that the activation would be cancelled due to some misfortune. When she eventually parked near were I was expecting I breathed a sigh of relief, but like watching a pot that never boils her progress up,the hill seemed unusually slow for her. That was easily explained by the topography but now I had all my fingers and toes crossed that the band conditions would be conducive to a contact. I need not have worried at 16:28 Carolyn's signal boomed through on 5.3985MHz SSB and we exchanged 59 reports. I was most surprised to find 60 metres still working inter G but very grateful. Even more of a surprise was when she went on to 40 metres that was open inter G as well and we once again exchanged 59 reports. It was the icing on my cake for a day when I bagged well over 70 SOTA chaser points, but the fun was not over.

After our evening meal I was at the PC and at 18:16 I got a message from my cousin Elaine in Virginia USA to say "Passed my Technicians license, with 34/35. Only missed getting my General license by 3 questions... pretty incredible seeing as I haven't even opened the book yet !!!!"  Wow! This was turning in to a good day. Elaine and her husband Tim got fired up by reading my blog. It was something Tim had wanted to do but had never got around to it. Elaine had said "Well if Tim is going for it so am I" and she thought if Helen (my XYL) could do it so could she. A little talk the other night had her brimming with enthusiasm. It would not at all surprise me if she did not get her Extra Class licence in the next couple of months. It seems to me the local hams are fast tracking her. I wonder if they want to get a female voice on the mic for field day, sounds like a sure fire winner too me.

A little later I remembered about the VHF/UHF contest and thought I would give some points away. This is a 24 hour contest running from 14:00 Saturday to 14:00 Sunday and as the contest had been running seven hours already I was not expecting much. The first station I found on two metres was G7HOA/P in IO93AD but he QSYed to 70cms. I only had the 2m beam but I used it to get him on 432 MHz. I listened around but could not hear anyone else working 70cms. Two was buzzing however and it was not long before the DX started coming in thick and fast. DK0ZB in JO42ID started the ball rolling followed by PI4GN in JO33II. The Germans were piling in but I squeezed in a few 2SSB contest regulars such as Dave GI4SNA. More Germans, then an OK station I could not get to hear me. I plugged away at him on and off and eventually bagged OK2M  in JN69UN at 22:26. In between loads of Belgium and Dutch stations. I kept hearing French stations but it never was their frequency. At one minute past midnight I called it a day after getting DJ8WK in JN40AV in the log.

At 08:00 Sunday my curiosity got the better of me and before I had finished my first coffee I had PA0GSM in JO21VU logged. Then a few locals before I was distracted to 80m SSB to work John GX0OOO/P on a North Pennines SOTA summit and so it was all day, SOTA and back to the contest. It was a pity really that at the same time most of HF was bouncing Canada and the US were booming through on 20m and up as far as at least 12m, but there is only so much you can work. It was another great SOTA day made better by the fun on 2m.

I have to admit I needed this weekend's fun because tomorrow morning I am up at 05:30 and off to work by 06:00. I have a couple of extra 12 hour night shifts to work and I am not looking forward to that prospect. I finish 07:00 Sunday morning :0(  Tomorrow night is the 80m club data contest and I will be seeing if I can get anything to work. I suspect RF may be getting in to the PC on that band and it is why I am not having much success. It may just be that 80m is just too noisy hear for me to decode anything. Anyway if I don't try I will never know. Here's hoping!

Thursday, 3 March 2011


It was a bit of a strange day today and I awoke to thick fog. "Mmm!" I thought "High pressure? Propagation on VHF?" After taking my son to work and dropping my granddaughter at school I headed for the shack The visibility on the road had been only four cars length at best and down to three or less in patches. The number of idiot with no lights on annoyed me. How come all those without lights are in white cars or vans or silver BMWs? That is all the ones most difficult to see in a whiteout.

I settled down to do some catch up on my logs from our SOTA trip on St. Valentines day weekend, but I had only just settled down when my friend Graham GW0HUS called to say "There is a lift on two metres". He pointed me to 144.310 where a German station was faintly intelligible to me but fairly strong to Graham who is nearly 1,000 feet higher than me. Our German friend did not seem to be interested in the fact there was some DX and carried on talking to his buddy telling the UK and Irish stations calling him that the frequency was in use.

Graham called CQ and picked up a Dutch station Martin PE1BIW and after a short chat I worked him too. While Graham called CQ I scanned up and down the band but heard nothing at all. Graham worked a couple of other stations who I could not hear and then everything went quite. It seemed that as the fog lifted the propagation died. Graham and I were talking on 70cms and he noticed Martin had posted us on the DX cluster. Hopefully this little bit of DX is a sign of good things this weekend.

I am stuck in work now, called in for an extra night shift, but things look quiet for now. Maybe when I get in from work in the morning I will see if there is any more early morning DX. I remember Helen calling me one night with a list of the DX she was working while I was stuck in work. Next morning the band seemed dead but I put out a call anyway and got 17 replies and by 0800hrs I was tucked up in bed having worked most of Europe on two metres SSB in an hour. I was still grinning when I was getting ready for work that night.

I just had an email from Helen (my XYL) telling me the lead for the NUE-PSK unit and Yaesu FT-817 also works on the Icom 706 so I am expecting the shack to be in bits when I get home in the morning and Helen asleep over her keyboard, but she has not been spotted on the cluster yet.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Saint David's Day Challenge

Today (1st March) is Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant or Saint David's Day. St. David is the patron saint of Wales and many Welsh people wear one or both of the national emblems of Wales on their lapel to celebrate they are the daffodil or the leek. Although I live in Wales I was born in England so I do not get quite as passionate about this truly Welsh day as some of my Welsh friends so I will not be wearing a leek or a daffoldil, but I may just sport the national team's rugby shirt to show my support. To be honest I have yet to see any daffodils in my garden yet this year, so I can use that as an excuse.

So what has this to do with amateur radio you may ask; It is just a suggestion but why not call CQ for any GW stations and wish them a 'happy Saint David's Day'. How many GWs, MWs and 2W stations can you work today?