Sunday, 31 July 2016

58 hours on 30m

I left WSPR running for about 58 hours and closed the station when a thunderstorm was nearby.

RX including bogus spots

TX with 1W


Received uniques 24 hours on the 30th

Received total distance on the 30th
Not bad but average again. I ended just above PI4THT for the number of uniques. But total distance was not great. Does this mean my antenna just receive to much high angle signals? Or do I have interference from something. No, I think it is the low heigth (9m agl) of the antenna. I wonder if a magnetic loop would receive better? Tests with to 84m horizontal loop this winter showed a better receive performance of the loop. Although my vertical has been changed now. Some things interesting from these 58 hours; I only received one station from VK. However I have been received by many VK as well as ZL. No Japan and no South America spots at all both RX as TX.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Average

I got a few e-mails about the coppertape vertical and see now that I forgot to make more important photos from the building process. Anyway, I tried to make some close ups from the connection of the coppertape to the tuner. You clearly see the wire that is connecting the radiator I hope...It's so simple and you think everyone would know this but it seems not to be clear. It is electricity wire we use in the Netherlands, a insulated solid insulated copperwire. I took 7,5 meters of it and stripped 7,1 meters. I left 40 cm with insulation and that is the part you see. The rest is on the coppertape which is sticked on the antenna in one piece covered finally with insulation tape.


I'm busy testing my rebuilt vertical with 1W WSPR TX and RX with the Yaesu FT-817. I started on 20m and was there for 48 hours this week. Challenging as the sunspot number was zero. A good time to test a antenna RX and compare results with your fellow radioamateurs. You can compare your results on PE1ITR's experimental WSPR challenge site. I was on 20m 27-28th but strange enough my call didn't appear in the table from the 28th. On the 27th I got a average result of 146 unique calls received which left me on place 23 from 50. However only fellow dutch receiver PI4THT did receive more unique calls.


Distance is a difficult thing from the Netherlands. Distant signals seem to be
covered by strong european signals which are nearby. However my total was 251567km. Only one fellow dutch receiver did have more luck, it was PA0MLC with 263290km. PI4THT was, strange enough, not in this list. It puzzles me as PI4THT received much more unique stations but I guess the DX was covered with too many signals from nearby for this station.

Now let's look at the TX side. This is a plot of 48h on 20m at the 27-28th.


No Australia, no South America, no Africa. But at least some spots from Japan with best DX 9121km. Even one spot from the west coast USA. Unfortenately I can't find a 1W station from the Netherlands in the same time period. Comparisation is difficult. Since propagation is not too good and without any sunspots I think the results are reasonable. Not really good and not really bad. Average is the good word for it.

At the moment I'm testing on 30m. I've not decided what the next band will be. A final antenna shot:


It is always nice to experiment with only a few things at hand. This time of the year I haven't got much time to play with radio. But WSPR is doing the job and keeps you on-air.

Friday, 29 July 2016

PH0NO Lars activates Canadian WWFF

Lars PH0NO wrote last week:

Tomorrow l will be heading to VE3 with my family. It will be a first time visit for me to VE. I will be visiting my brother who lives in Toronto and travel around Ontario with my family.
Addicted as I am to activating WWFF reserves, I will be taking my mobile radio on this trip and with the great help of VA3RJ I have a list of VEFF locations within reach of the places I will be stopping.

Depending on our program - that will evolve as we are travelling around - I will try to find time slots to go out and activate a few reserves.
As most of the VE3 reserves have not been activated before I will be trying to get as many chasers in the log as possible. I am packing wire antennas for all phone bands from 40m up to 6m.
Looking at reaching the areas where most chasers live - EU and VK - using VOACAP I found that it will be quite a challenge. The best openings are forecast around VE dinner time. However I don't think I will be very popular if I skip dinner a number of times. Perhaps I can attract some (new) NA chasers as well.
Looking forward to this trip and to speaking to familiar chasers and new ones from VE3.

I got a message today that he will activate the first World Wide Flora & Fauna location this weekend:

Arrived in VE3 with my radio (it was thoroughly checked by customs). After meeting up with family in Toronto we are now on our way up to Manitoulin Island. From there I will go out to activate one or two VEFF reserves. Probably Saturday or Sunday evening.
Then we are travelling to Algonquin park that I plan to activate Wednesday or Thursday next week (perhaps in combination with another reserve nearby).
In two weeks from now I will be near the national park 1000 Islands that I also plan to activate.

Propagation seem to be not the best. Check the frequenties to work Lars. He will probabely be spotted on a DX cluster.



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Shocking

A thunderstorm was approaching last week en when I saw a lightning strike nearby I decided to disconnect the verticals. I still have to find out why I got a electrical shock from the outer of the PL connector as soon as the connector came loose from the grounding strip. It was not a heavy shock but just enough to feel, like touching static. Immidiatly I thought of a video I've seen on youtube which was originally made by my most loyal blog reader PE1BVQ Hans. I'd e-mail him to hear his thoughts about it but only could tell me there must be a potential voltage difference somewhere. However, I'm puzzling. It is probabely build up static that got in via the longwire to my tuner although that wire is not connected to earth. The video shows that with this kind of connector panel (have the same thing here) you need to connect the inner side to earth as wel to prevent damage if you use a antenna that has no short circuit like most antennas.




I think a thunderstorm is something a radio amateur fears most besides a heavy wind or tornado.
A good site to determine if lightning is heading your way:

http://www.lightningmaps.org/

And to see if a heavy wind is approaching.

https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-0.93,53.76,1056/loc=11.502,63.284

Thursday, 21 July 2016

​After nearly two decades, a spy "numbers" station is back on the air

Actually this is "old" news but I'm surprised no other blogger has picked it up yet.



I was unable to find a youtube video or any other recording of their "show" from last Friday. I'm shure it exists. If anyone knows, please let me know and I ad it to this post.

However, it's puzzling why they started to send coded messages via the old medium radio again as it's easy to send coded messages via the internet these days. It might be they lost contact with one or more secret agents? Another approach is that they just want to scare South Korea to show them they still have spies around. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Vertical antenna rebuilt

I collected all the neseccary ingredients for this simple upgrade from Alu tape antenna to Cu tape antenna. Now, this monday was the right time and coorperating weather to disconnect te vertical and rebuilt it with the I-max 2000 as base. Before I started I made a photo from the field strength at the shack on 15m I expected a increase with the "new" antenna. I was wrong but I think I know why. More about that later.



When I had the old antenna down to dismantle I now had the possebility to inspect it closely. Actually in 7 years time it had been damaged so much that there were holes in the insulation especially at the top part. Even the copper wire was broken at one point. The antenna obviously suffered a lot from the weather.

 It is a miracle I still could make DX with this antenna even with QRP! Since there were holes there was water inside which resulted in heavy corrosion of the tape were it touched the copper wire. Of course I know copper and aluminium are not good together when air can reach it. But since a aluminium wire was hard to find I had no choice. At least it did hold for several years.

I dismantled the antenna and built the "new" one. The I-max is a very flimsy antenna compared to the size. Actually I hope it holds this winter and with the large winds that always come up once or twice a year.

Anyway, the tape was applied on the antenna and just to be shure I taped a copper wire on the first layer of tape again. Everything was taped in with insulating tape. That's a lot of tape isn't it ;-)


Actually everything went smooth. Till I had to fasten the radials again, it started to rain. Rain is something we get a lot this year. It is probabely a forecast that the next half of the summer will be very dry, we'll see. Back in the shack I noticed SWR on all bands was close to perfect and below 1,5:1. Looks good, so now a look at the field strength meter on 15m. The needle dropped? Strange I expected a improvement. I moved the field strength meter away from the radio and it went "dead" no reading at all. I probabely measured a radiating coax cable? Or I measured radiating radials as the old vertical was in such bad shape that it almost couldn't radiate anymore? If anyone knows better?

Well, I'm just a antenna experimenter. I like to experiment with unconventional designs. I don't know much about antenna theory and certainly am not a antenna expert. Actually I'm just doing it for fun, to learn something from it and hopefully it works out. I tested the antenna in the afternoon and noticed I was spotted in Paraquay on 17m and in the USA on 20m. Received stations from Japan on 20m. I made some contacts on 20, 17, 15 and 10m and it all works fine. Propagation was not that good at the start of the week I think. I used PSK and JT digimodes for the test. Listening on SSB before going on digimode I heard nothing on those bands! A strange experience!

I had some time to do more tests in the next few days and was not disappointed although propagation was rising. A amazing 17m JT65 QSO with BD0AAI from China wednesday evening into a dark path doesn't happen to me often. His signal was very good actually, could it be longpath? At the same time there were conditions to South America, excellent signals from that part of the world...Thursday evening I read PC4T's post about the quote from K2WH "bands are only dead if you believe they are". So I started calling with JT65 on a "dead" 10m band and immidiatly got response from IZ2NAB and later from UB6AAK. Signals were weak but it was not bad for a dead band. Again confirmation that the antenna works especially for weak signal communication, something I really love in this hobby.

At the moment I only tested with digimode. Through the week I have been listening on SSB but hardly heard any interesting (DX) station although digimodes showed propagation was there. I probabely have to wait for a nice contest to really test the antenna out. The results so far are promising. Of course it is not as good as a (3 band or more) directional antenna. I think it can be compared with a endfed antenna although this one can match to about 50 Ohm everywere from 1,8 - 30MHz, a real multiband vertical.




Friday, 15 July 2016

Guest post: Interference from a LDG Z-817 autotuner

This actually is a guest post from PE1BVQ Hans. Hans did suffer from heavy noise (S9) on his FT-817 affecting his receive especially from digital weak signals like WSPR and JT modes.

By coincidence I discovered that the noise on my FT-817 with the laptop connected only appeared when the CAT cable is connected through the LDG Z-817.

When the CT-62 CAT interface is connected
directly to the radio the noise disappeared. When searching for the problem I noticed the noise came up even when I touched the Z-817 connector with the CAT cable connector, it was not even plugged in!

The noise disappeared when connecting the PL259 chassis to the earth of the CAT connector. This problem never occured to me as I use the Yaesu FT-817 + LDG Z-817 as a combo as the Z-817 is sticked to the radio. Opening the ATU reveals 2 circuits, one that tunes the antenna and one that controls the memory.




Both circuit negative sides are connected with each other through coil L14. I didn't bother measuring this coil and just made a connection between the connector earths, that solved the problem.

I hope Hans can now finally enjoy digimodes again and actually decode weak signals.
If you as reader has something interesting about the hobby to share and don't want to post it yourself please contact me, I'll be happy to publish it for you here on this blog. The only thing I need are photos and a small story. Dutch will be translated by me. And if desired I will place dutch text as well.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Summertime, experimentation time!

14MHz currents new design
Antenna experiments are something I'd like to do more. But life has not enough time to do it all, at least not for me. Experimenting and building antennas is not something you do in winter. And now it's summertime. One of my goals for this year is setting up de antenna tower again. But I doubt I'll manage that this year. So many other chores in and around the house preventing me to do other (hobby) things. So, I have this idea to do a simple experiment and that is improving my Alu tape vertical. How? Well, I have been thinking. One of my wishes was to have another base, in other words something that is taller as the Solarcon A-99 (4,87m) to get rid of the lineair load that makes it taller now. And I just found it when I got a broken Solarcon I-Max 2000 which is about 7,1m long. It doesn't matter it is broken, the A-99 was also broken when I got it. I'll cover it with "anti snail tape" which is coppertape instead of aluminiumtape. I expect this tape will have lower restistance and theoretically this will result in a 0,01dB improved radiation. The idea is to make the vertical 7,5m,.the radials stay at 7,5m each. I hope to get a better balance out of it this way. I've been comparing the old and new design with a free copy of EZNEC 6 and overall it looks slightly better.

Freq.
MHz
Sidelobe gain
Alu-tape antenna (7,1m) in dB@deg.
Sidelobe gain
Cu-tape antenna (7,5m) in dB@deg.
1,80,03@240,07@24
3,70,16@230,18@23
7,10,24@210,25@21
10,140,81@190,82@19
14,21,15@141,19@14
18,11,39@121,57@12
21,31,87@631,55@30 & 10
24,93,54@263,85@25 & 10
28,54,63@224,69@21


It reveals that 15m is not well performing now with a very high angle of radiation. And indeed it is not doing a good job on 15m although I still make contacts on the band, even DX. But with the new design that would be a lot better.

Comparisation between old design and new design field plot
The copper tape is a new thing. Unfortenately it isn't as cheap as aluminium tape. But though I hope it is performing slightly better. Theoretically it should. Not shure what I'll do with the coppertape yet, I experimented to see if a wire could be soldered to the tape. As seen on the picture that seems not a problem at all. However I think I will tape a copper wire at the coppertape in case the tape will break.
It would be better to solder the wire to the tape. But I don't like to solder 7,5m of wire, it would not ad anything only costs a lot of solder.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Interference

KPN Experia box internet modem
At the start of this year I did the 100DXCC in 100 days QRP challenge. At 5W power output there is not much chance you interfere with other appliances. But lately I had problems when I was using 50W or more on 80,60 and 40 meters. The problem is that my internet connection (not the WiFi connection with the router) was lost as soon I started transmitting. That means, no internet, no TV and no telephone. Especially the telephone disconnection can lead to dangerous situations in a emergency situation. So this problem had to be solved. Of course you first check everything at the shack. No earth loops, bad earth connections, bad connectors? I had the same problem on the horizontal loop so it could not be the antenna. The vertical antenna standing at least 10-15m from the house so any interference is almost not possible. I have a RF choke right below the autotuner at the base of the antenna to limit any RF on the coax. I noticed and measured a earth loop in the shack between the power supply and radio going trough the antennatuner.

So I disconnect that and fed my central earth point now through a ferrite ring to prevent my earth from radiating. It did help a tiny bit, internet did not disconnect immidiatly now but still after 5-10 seconds transmitting. So I made some interference precautions at the internet modem. Placed a netfilter between the power supply and net, although my shack is not physically connected so interference is almost not possible via electricity wires. Then I placed ferrite clamps on every wire at both sides. It didn't help anything at all! The only thing left was to disconnect cables one by one. Starting with the longest one a 10m CAT5e FTP cable to our TV. Without this cable I had no trouble at all, the internet did not disconnect. I plugged it in and had the trouble again but now after a while transmitting. So it definitely found the culprit. I immidiatly ordered a shielded CAT cable shown in the picture. This time as short as possible 7,5m. It actually was a little too short so I had to place the router modem elsewhere. I was afraid the WiFi signal would not reach the shack anymore now. But surprisingly the signal went up from good to very good. Anyway, I tested on 40m, 60m and 80m with a 80W PSK31 signal. Transmitting 3 times only give a few small hick ups at the TV. The internet connection was not lost, telephone and TV were ok. Hopefully the problem is solved now. When I have the horizontal loop up again in november I'll do more tests. For now at least I can work full output again.


Saturday, 9 July 2016

PDØFF SK

Sorry to write this but my radio friend Foppe PD0FF died last thursday. I knew Foppe from long time ago when I was a CB operator and later he obtained a novice license to enjoy the amateurradio bands and hobby. On HF Foppe was a avid user of PSK as his english was not that good. Using the macros a language was not really important. Of course the dutch language was not a problem and he had nice ragchews on VHF/UHF especially on the repeaters (sometimes annoying people) and even made a short step to DMR. Foppe had several other hobbies and activities as well. He was a drummer with his "Backyard Blues Band" and have been a referee at soccer teams. I remember at some time he even was a bridgetender here at the village. That was all after he retired from his job at a regional utility company. Foppe was 76 years young, much too young. He wanted to do so much more but he couldn't anymore. Rest in peace Foppe, you will be remembered.

And again!

Remember my efforts and struggle last month in the Dutch Kingdom Contest? Well, it seems I was not the only one struggling as I won the A1SSB section (low power 100W) again.


I think the time of the year this contest is held is totally wrong. But I know it's hard to find a free weekend at a better time. Anyway, I won this contest making only 32 QSOs. Isn't it amazing?


Tuesday, 5 July 2016

On The Air


"On The Air"

Built in the belly of junk by the river, my cabin stands;
Made from the trash I dug off the heap with my own bare hands.
Every night I'm back at the shack, I'm sure no one is there,
I'm putting the aerial up, so I can go out on the air...

On the air
On the air
On the air

Every morning I'm out at dawn with the dwarfs and tramps
For a silent communion lit from above by the sodium lamps.
Everyone I meet on the street acts as if I wasn't there,
But they're all going to know who I am, 'cos I can go out on the air.

On the air
On the air
On the air

Leaving the car down the leafy lane,
Turning out Tarzan for my Jungle Jane.
Anyone at all, from Captain Zero
And his band of superheroes standing by on call.
Oh it's not easy,
No it's not easy making real friends...

Don't give me your steak-reared milkboys, milkboys,
Half alive on empty white noise, white noise,
I've got power, I'm proud to be loud, my signal goes out clear,
I want everybody to know that Mozo is here!

On the air
On the air
On the air


I actually saw this published on KQ2RP's blog. So, I actually copied it. Sorry but I can't give a comment on his blog and want the thank him for pointing me to this Peter Gabriel gem from his 1978 album "Scratch".