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, 27 October 2011

SummitsBase - New web site

For those who take an interest in SOTA, WOTA or HUMPS or simply like to combine hill walking with radio Summitsbase has moved to a new a new home. The site has a new url in www.summits.org.uk and with the move to a new host, the opportunity has also been taken to upgrade the software from version 1.zz to version 7.zz. This was no mean task as it involved upgrading in several stages.

They have also tried to improve the look of the website with, amongst other things, a new colour scheme. The work is not yet complete and there are a few teething problems as you would expect. While most things have been transferred over successfully, anything that was added to the old site during the last 10-14 days or so may have missed the 'transfer window' but they will endeavour to 'copy and paste' any such material (where possible) in due course. Several functions that were available in the old Wiki have not yet been enabled; the new software has many extra commands and these are being looked at initially (a steep learning curve) before they implement some of them.

Summitsbase registered users do not need to re-register to use the new website, your user IDs and passwords have been transferred to the new site and should work without any problem. If you have forgotten your password, perhaps because it was saved with the old URL in your web browser, then simply send an Email to [email protected] asking for your user ID to be deleted. Once it has been deleted, we will send you an Email to that effect and you can then re-register with your normal callsign.

Don't forget to update your bookmarks or any links you have on blogs and web pages.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

RSGB EGM - Make up your mind time

Most of you will have seen or heard that the Radio Society of Great Britain is to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting on 19th November 2011 at the NEC in Birmingham. Without going in to too much detail it is a matter that effects all UK radio amateurs, not only the members of the RSGB but also those of us who for one reason or another choose not to be members. Some amateurs I know have even rejoined the society after many years so that their voice can be heard at this meeting.

Can I appeal to you to read the the open letters sent out by Dave Wilson (bellow), the items in RadCom and to read what is being said on the RSGB Governance Changes Discussion Group and elsewhere and either get to the meeting yourself or use your proxy vote. If you've not seen RadCom, then the proposals are at: http://www.rsgb.org/EGM/

Well worth a listen is the ICQ Podcast. The most recent one, contains an interview with Leslie Butterfield, the board member who resigned, in which he lays out the good and the bad (mainly bad) points of what the Interim Board will mean to the RSGB and its members.

The next episode, which should be released over the weekend, will contain a rebuttal/answers from RSGB President Dave Wilson.

Note: In the interests of the wider picture I leave out my own opinions of Mr Wilson, the RSGB and the proposals at this time and ask you to make up your own mind. Please just do not sit, back do nothing and then moan that your national radio society is being run by a bunch of tossers who could not organise a riotous drinking session in a brewing establishment.

To all radio clubs in the UK
From: Dave Wilson, RSGB President
25th October 2011

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to all clubs (and copying others) after discussions with the Regional Teams.

The proposals being presented to the EGM are important for the Society. They will fundamentally impact the way we handle current difficulties. And yet some have sought to ridicule the proposals, based on an incomplete understanding of exactly what is being proposed and why. Hence this letter.

Contrary to the chatter on the wires, this is not about democracy – it’s about giving the Society the best chance to fix its problems. We have a crisis, and a crisis demands exceptional actions.

The current chatter is the result of selective disclosure (against the Board’s wishes) of some elements of the Board discussion on 10th September. The board recognised that careful communication was needed and agreed to prepare a full communication pack. In the interim, the matter was confidential. One Board member has inflicted serious damage on the Society by disregarding that decision. That is unacceptable, does not reflect well on the individual concerned and is inconsistent with his position as a Director.

In a recent podcast, a former Director said that he did not recognise that there was a crisis. That in itself speaks volumes. The impending problems had been flagged to the Board over the last year or so, and now are with us. To be specific:

‐ There have been some significant errors in governance over the last five years. This has led the Society into dangerous waters financially.
‐ Cash is running low, and next year places a huge additional cash demand on the Society from needed capital investment and the running costs of BP. Whilst not insolvent, we cannot sustain further drains on our cash
‐ Yet right now we do not have an acceptable budget for 2012. The current one shows, against our aspirations to run BP and GB4FUN and other factors in the 2012 budget, a loss of some £ 60k. We simply cannot afford this and have no option but to take very significant action to keep our budget balanced. This in itself will demand some hard choices.
‐ Nor do we have a General Manager.
‐ Furthermore we are regularly told that we do not have the right attitudes and behaviours towards our members and our volunteers.
‐ Action is needed quickly by a sure‐footed Board to pull things round, both financially and in terms of the way the Society works.

It is understandable that those who do not recognise the crisis might say “we don’t see the need for change”. As soon as you recognise the seriousness of the position, it suddenly becomes clearer.

That is why the Board is proposing an Interim Board (IB) for some 15 months made up of highly professional and experienced amateur radio people, professionally engaged in running companies. Their focus will be to restore health to the finances whilst at the same time maintaining or enhancing membership services, instilling the ethos into RSGB described in RadCom for November, and developing all aspects of the Advisory Group proposals to present to members for consultation and member input. Some of these proposals have not yet been considered in detail by the Board, some have been rejected and some – most notably the “Web” and “Ethos” recommendations, have been generally accepted as suitable for member consultation. In everything it does, the IB will be accountable to the membership. And, just like any other Board, it cannot make changes to the Society’s Constitution without the approval of the membership. So the claims that the Interim Board is “not accountable” are simply scare‐mongering and disinformation.

The IB members will be expected to devote a significant amount of time to turning the Society around. It will be a working Board and will be in a position to support the Acting GM (who cannot continue to carry his current load) in the absence of a full time GM replacement. During this time the National and Regional Councils will continue, with enhanced frequency for the NC, ensuring close consultation with representatives of the membership at large.

If, however, the EGM proposals are rejected the Society will continue as at present, with an uncertain outcome.

The Board believes that the proposals being put to the EGM represent the best chance of addressing the Society’s difficulties with confidence and certainty.

Rather than focus on the democracy issue (the EGM proposals are democratic – just different) members might want to consider whether the RSGB described in the AG report summary and the “future” article on page 15 is the sort of RSGB they want to see. That’s where we need feedback – quickly.

The Board deserves your support in being frank and open about the issues and no matter how different the proposals are for resolving the current issues, please support them. The alternative is far less certain of securing the right outcome.

Dave Wilson
RSGB President

Follow on letter:

To all radio clubs in the UK
From: Dave Wilson, RSGB President
26th October 2011

Dear Colleagues,

Since writing to you yesterday about the issues relating to the forthcoming EGM, I have been made aware of an apparent concern being expressed by some about the proposed Interim Board.

It seems that there is a concern amongst some members that the Interim Board, once in place, will seek to consolidate its position. Let me state quite categorically that this is not possible. The terms of Resolution 1 (specifically the clause immediately after (b)(iv)) clearly state that the M&As will revert to the current ones no later than the 2013 AGM. This means that the IB cannot continue to exist beyond that date. The only way that this can change is if the IB calls another General Meeting of members to propose further changes to the Memorandum and Articles of the Society.

Members can therefore be assured that the IB has a limited lifespan, in which to discharge its role, and that after that the current Board arrangements will return, unless the members agree otherwise in a further EGM.

I hope this allays any fears in this regard.

Dave Wilson
RSGB President.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

North Wales Radio Rally Traders

I am off to the 24th North Wales Amateur Radio Show this weekend and a lot off people have been asking me if I know what traders will be there, so I snaffled this off the North Wales Radio Club site...

Saturday & Sunday, 29th & 30st October 2011, 10am – 5pm both days. The rally will be held at Llandudno’s new high school, Ysgol John Bright, 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 300yds go across the mini-roundabout and the venue is immediately on your right.
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 yds 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 us please call in on S22. See you there !!!!

View Map

This Year’s Exhibitors

  1. Radioworld
  2. Moonraker
  3. RSGB
  4. Ian Kenyon Electronics
  5. Snowdonia Radio Company
  6. Derby Communications
  7. Air Band Online
  8. Rigfix
  9. Harp
  10. Mark Wowra
  11. Francis Norris
  13. Kanga Products
  14. Pro-Whip Antennas
  15. Pooley
  16. Linear Amp UK
  17. PR Hall Embroidery
  18. G S Electronics
  19. Cross Country Wireless
  20. Rocket Radio
  21. AGS Software
  22. North Wales PMR
Club,Groups & Individuals
  1. UKFM
  2. WAB
  3. RSARS
  5. V-MARS
  6. Dragon ARC
  7. Conwy Valley ARC
  8. R.Roberts & O.Clarke
  9. BARLS
  10. St. John’s Ambulance
  11. Lifeboat ARS
  12. Bob O’Callaghan
  13. RNLI
  14. IOMARS
  15. RAIBC

Iron Fist Velvet Glove

Working shifts has its advantages sometimes. For example I get to work a lot of DX and SOTA expeditions that occur mid week. It used to be great when I played a lot of golf because I could go when ever I liked and not have to wait until the weekends and join the crowds. One disadvantage at the golf club was that all the competitions tended to be weekend affairs, which meant my handicap never truly reflected how crap I was at the game. On the radio too there are disadvantages to shift work with most of the activity being at weekends. Even when contests are like the RSGB 80m club contest are mid-week evening affairs it can be difficult and this year I managed to be available for one round.One advantage I have had has been getting a few hours quiet time when on the night shift in which to update this blog.

A long time ago our union persuaded our then employer that there were things that shift workers needed to do from time to time that folk working 9 to 5 took for granted and that the company got away with a lot of things, such as if a day worker needed to visit the hospital, dentist or doctor they either took a day off or were given a day off. Shift workers in contrast were expected to go on their days off, which is like saying to your days staff they had to do these things at the weekend. As a result of the negotiations we were given limited Internet access so that we could deal with stuff like paying bills and arranging deliveries to coincide while we were at home. This was particularly useful to the single guys who worked lots of overtime as they could get their weekly shopping delivered when they had no time to do it themselves because they were doing 6,7 or 8 12 hour shifts in a row.

I don't smoke and don't read the papers so I used my breaks to search the net for interesting stuff to put on the blog or to write a post. I never saw any difference between doing that and sitting in the mess room reading the news paper. Not any more I am afraid as our new employer whose softly softly approach so far is showing now its true colours and has cut off almost all Internet access. One of the reasons the blog has not been updated as regularly as it might have been has been that I was half expecting it and I did not want to be the one to rock the boat. 

The company have missed the boat however if they think removing this handy privilege is going to somehow improve productivity as most of the things we do can now be done on smart phones, Ipads, and even Kindles. All it has done is alienate the staff who are already demoralised after the take over. The velvet gloves are coming off and the iron fist is about to be shown so if my posts get more negative you know why, its just me getting depressed about the way things are going.

On a happier note, I have deflected a call on my time which would have meant doing a three 12 hour night shifts, then going straight to a hospital appointment followed by a fourth 12 hour night shift and then travelling down to Llandudno for the North Wales Rally Rally. I would have been like a complete zombie, but now I am going to Llandudno on Friday and stopping all weekend. I have raided the piggy bank and hope to pick up some bargains, hopefully including an antenna analyser.    

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Accusation that did not add up.

Once again amateur radio is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Porn_slur_leads_to_dock

Apparently, Gareth Evans (G4SDW?) emailed a school to say one of its teachers was a pornographer and a danger to children. The teacher of mathamatics, Brian Reay (G8OSN?) is also a ham and the two men fell out on internet forum. Mr Evans accused Mr Reay of being racist towards the Welsh after comments on an amateur radio forum. The mutual dislike persisted for some years before Mr Evans sort his revenge by making his unsubstantiated accusations to the school, which caused massive disruption and much distress to Mr Reay. Gareth Evans has been given a three-year conditional discharge by the court.

(Please note that the callsigns listed above are assumed correct but as yet are unconfirmed.)

This should be a lesson to all of us. Trolling on Internet forums may be taken as harmless banter by some but others may not see it the same way. Amateur radio is just a hobby and silly little remarks either on air or on line are simply not worth getting your blood pressure up. They certainly are not worth going to jail over or causing someone to loose their job, both of these scenarios being a possible outcome of the above tiff.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Talks on possible 5MHz extension

Talks on possible 5MHz extension

Following their meeting with the Ministry of Defence earlier in the month, Ofcom has been in touch with the RSGB to discuss harmonisation improvements to the 5MHz Experiment. Whilst MoD is not in a position to release a continuous tuning band like that available to some other countries, they have agreed to consider some additional bandwidth for access by UK NoV holders. We will bring you any further news as it develops.

Monday, 17 October 2011

OFCOM Jobs Worths

I do not suffer fools gladly and I am constantly astounded at the incompetence of officialdom.

Last week my wife posted off a form to OFCOM to get a special events call that we had last year reissued. The event is five months and three weeks away but OFCOM spent more time telling Helen via email that she needed to apply six months in advance, but that she could apply for the call for use the same event in 2013, if she sent yet another copy off the form in, than it would have taken them to reissue the call.

Note: Last year they issued the call but the paperwork arrived two days after the event. The rule at that time was the call had to be applied for at least one month before and this is still what it says on the top of the form.

Caveat emptor

Caveat emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer beware" and nowhere is that more true than when buying off the Internet.

I have a couple of 3-15V DC 25/30A power supplies which I purchased cheap and second hand off eBay. They are identical apart from one is badged Palstar PS-30M and the other Manson EP-925. They usually retail new at between £90 and £120, although you can find some unscrupulous sellers vending them to the Tattoo market at well over £250. I only paid around £30 each and so I was not bothered that one had a noisy fan, it would be a cheap and easy repair.

This morning in my email I received an advertisement from a computer retailer from whom I have dealt since well before the Internet and eBay. Yes, that was way back in the days of printed adverts in magazines and telephoning orders in. What caught my eye was a fan of the type I needed for my power supply for 49 pence. So I went to the retailers site and thought while I was there I would purchase a hard drive as well. The hard drive had free post and packing.

I was about to buy a 2TB Western Digital HDD which came with free postage, but when I added the 49 pence fan to my basket it said my postage would be £6.95 plus VAT, therefore making the true cost of the 49 pence fan £9.42. Annoyed I wrote a letter asking them to explain and received this explanation...

The free delivery offer is only intended to be on the hard drive but the same parcel that the hard drive ships in can accommodate up to 5 kgs and we’re happy to ship other items in that parcel for no additional delivery charge if you order over the phone.

The web site needs re-programming in order to accommodate this scenario and the costs will run into thousands in programmers time so we’re stuck with the anomaly until we order a new web site.

Please call to order or send your number and we'll call you.

Which is fine until you call and they then say these two items are web order only.

Oh well I ordered my fan from eBay for £3.42 including P&P, but wonder how many others have thought they were getting free P&P only to be charged 18 times what the item cost for the postage.  The only reason I don't mention the retailer by name is because I have had some great deals and excellent service from them in the past but I shall be keeping a close eye on them for tricks of this type in future.

Welcome to 'Rip Off Britain'!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Radio Inactive

Do you ever feel like your get up and go has got up and gone? I know I do and quite regularly too. Stressed out and fed up everything can go to hell when I feel like this. It is usually just for a short period after I finish my night shifts and my brain feels like it is stuffed with cotton wool. The one thing that has been my constant comfort has been my radio and the company of good pals with a sense of ironic humour that makes me laugh. Even when I do not feel too much like talking there are SOTA activations and DX contacts that require a minimum of conversational skills. I can usually sit at the radio and literally loose days at a time either ragchewing or spinning the dials on a dozen rigs. Just lately however it has been different; I have found myself either turning the radios off or forgetting to turn them on in the first place.

Today I sat sorting screws that had accumulated in a tray in a draw of my computer desk. Somebody had left a microphone keyed on the 2m calling frequency and was working a station in Algeria on 10m. My initial reaction was like most folk and that was to call him all the plonkers under the sun, but unlike the idiots who tried to tell him by calling on the same 2m frequency he was transmitting on or tried to key him out I thought I would see if I could hear the DX too. My rig was tuned to 80m and as I came up through the bands everything above 40m was buzzing. When I finally got to 10m there was wall to wall activity. I tuned up and down the band trying to decide who to work and then unable to make up my mind I went down to 12m, had a listen and the carried on down the bands until I got to 20m when I turned off.

I just could not be bothered and it bothered me. A little later I had a look for MS0WRC Isle Of Tiree IOTA Expedition who someone called Peter had told me about on the local repeater earlier and soon found them. I had my microphone in hand but someone beat me to the call and although I listened for ten minutes I did not pick up the mic again.

My new Icom 7400 is still sat in the box, much to the annoyance of Helen who has more than once threatened to sell it or give it away. I can't even really put my finger on why I feel like this, it is not like I feel particularly depressed and I have been busy with other things. This weekend we have a RAYNET event so I have the perfect excuse as to why the new rig is not installed in the shack, but I really must motivate myself to get it done and maybe the shiny rig will rejuvenate my enthusiasm for the hobby again. After all with winter approaching what else do I want to do on cold wet days and long dark nights? Then there is the North Wales Radio Rally at the end of the month, no point in going if I don't have a big list of toys to buy and I would not want miss that.

Here I am now kicking myself for not getting some of the great DX there was today in to the log or am I bothered? Mmm! Oh well here's hoping you guys and gals grabbed some of the action I didn't.