Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Alpha Charlie (Air Cadets)

In between busy familie chores I found some time to be in front of the radio and work some of the air cadets in their blue ham radio excersise. I think many stations did not know what it was all about as the air cadet stations don't use the radioamateurs language and codes. They call CQ with "Alpha Charley". Unfortunately I was not able to get that on video but will try to do that next weekend. I made a video from my contact with MRE31S but unfortenately the audio doesn't sound very clear.
Most of the activity was outside the frequencies allocated for most countries as the region-1 60m allocation. We dutch radioamateurs are still lucky to be allowed outside these frequencies and so it was possible to work these militairy style stations again.

I found a interesting report from a participating air cadet station of last year, nice read:

http://www.centraleast-atc.org.uk/archives/3715

Another interesting page is the wiki page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Air_Force_Air_Cadets

There are also dutch air cadets, but will they ever organise a radio excersise?

http://www.nlac.nl/air-cadets.html


Friday, 17 March 2017

RX VK 160m JT65A

Amazing, I received VK5PO a couple of times on 160m. Strongest signal was -18dB. Several stations were replying but he didn't make a QSO. My own signal was spotted across Europe and part of Russia. There was one transatlantic spot from VO1HP. However I've never been able to make a real QSO on 160m that direction...




Correction I just made my first transatlantic QSO on 160m. Used 30W on my vertical. Never thought it was possible....with Canada I would believe it. But the first one was with KA1R Matt from Massachusetts USA. Propagation on the low bands has to be amazing tonight...

Other bands seem to be open as well. Worked 9N7EI (Nepal) on 30m CW and V21ZG (Antigua& Barbuda) on 60m RTTY.

Blue HAM excercise 2017

Remember excercise blue ham from last year. A unique event on the 60m band. And it seems it tasted for more. Luckely the organisation planned another time of the year as well and divided activity over two weekends. 18/19 and 25/26 March. I think they will get busy this time as there is a lot more activity on 60m now. Last year it was just impossible to work the 25 contacts needed for a certificate. Hopefully this year will be easier. You can work the same stations every day again counting as separate contacts.

See for info/rules: http://alphacharlie.org.uk/exercise-blue-ham/

Some tips if you like to work these military style stations:

- Listen before calling!
- Speak slowly and articulate well.
- They want to have your call, signal report and location (6- digit maidenhead locator).
- Don't use Q codes, they don't use it.

Remember that most of the operators are excersising and not used to make QSO's every day. However some of them could be regular HAMs of course...



Thursday, 16 March 2017

You can't have all the DX

Some activity on 80m JT65/JT9 from my station yesterday evening. After trying to reach TU7C (Ivory coast) on 40m were he was S9. I gave up after 10 minutes, pile up was just too large over 15KHz. TU7C kept calling but worked only few. JT9 activity was no that busy and after some calling I gave up again, no replies. JT65 was a lot better. I was spotted in Australia to my surprise! Theoretically it would be possible to make a contact. I saw HS0ZEE from Thailand calling CQ but I could not get my signal visible on his end, he probabely does not use JTDX yet? Had to go QRT after a while, worked a lot of stations but no real DX. You can't have it all.




Monday, 13 March 2017

QRPver 20m PSK version test

I already announced on several sites I won a QRPver transceiver. Yes, I won! Remember the post from AE5X about the QRPver? Well, I did....and a few posts later John did a "give away". Well actually you had to do something for it. To keep a long story short: I won! The QRPver surprisingly arrived the same Saturday as the PACC contest started and John wrote me a e-mail if I received the package just that day. Of course it was just the QRPver and no cables so I had to search for those first. Then I had no spare moments to properly test and document my findings. So things moved on till last week. I finally hooked up the small transceiver to my old laptop and after some fiddling I could receive something. Of course it was late in the evening and normally 20m band is dead at that time. So it surprised me that the little thing was actually receiving DX, it has to be quite sensitive. I also made a small transmitting test and monitored myself to see if the signal was clear. The QRPver is very easy to setup, just a 12V power supply and 2 cables with 3,5mm stereo jack plugs are enough to connect it to your computer. It switches to TX internally by VOX as soon as audio is detected.


The next day I was at home in the afternoon and could finally test if I was able to make a QSO. That was no problem at all. RW3QW answered my 1W PSK63 signal. Actually the QRPver is a complete 1W output single frequency transceiver and it does a surprisingly good job. It is as small as a package of sigarettes and consumes approx 300mA when transmitting and only 20mA when receiving. You can imagine all kind of ideas you can do with this 20m transceiver like a 1W DX station working as many DXCC you can on 20m PSK, monitoring station, beacon station or whatever you like. Find a tranceiver that fits you best on the QRPver site. I'm shure it is possible to pick any frequency you want if you want to buy one. Personally I think I would like to have a 20m JT65 version but I know if you want to use it for example in portable communications a 40m model would be a good choice.

Well John, I really enjoy playing with it. Although I've not yet decided what to do with it?
I might set it up as a beacon for a while. Or keep it as a demonstration transceiver if someone likes to know how digimode works. It is easy to bring with you. The only other thing you need is a 12V battery or small PSU, some coax and a 20m antenna. Thanks very much for this tiny gem and the best wishes from northern part Netherlands.



Saturday, 11 March 2017

MP73N

M1KTA announced he will be QRV as E51KTA on MP73-N narrow band SSTV from 10-20 March. It would be cool to at least receive him. Transmitting on the 10.132 MHz NBTV frequency is a problem as we are not allowed to use that mode below 10.140 Mhz as far as I know the rules in the Netherlands. I never heard of this narrow band TV mode before but is sounds interesting. You can receive it with MMSSTV. Personally in his situation I would prefer FSQ as it has message capability and at the same time you can send pictures with (almost) the same quality as MP73N.

A nice page to read about NBTV is the K2UK's Quick and Dirty Guide to Narrow Band TV wikipage.

I was not aware this NBTV seems to be populair as there is even a N-SSTV group you can find it here: https://narrowsstv.wordpress.com/

I will be monitoring 10.132 MHz SSTV at least this weekend and hopefully I'll catch a picture....

Friday, 10 March 2017

Pain in the....

It seems so easy to write a blogpost. But sometimes things change because you did something stupid or even without your own fault. It costs valuable time I want to spend to write a new post. Last year I purchased a second hand laptop, a lot better than my previous one. It has W10, plenty of RAM, SSD, i5 processor and starts in 18 seconds. This is certainly the fastest computer I ever had. The problem only is that W10 seems to be very vulnerable for adware and virus attacks. Since I did make some videos for my blog I installed a converter I previous used on my XP and Vista computer in the shack without any problems. But it seems to infect W10. This is the second time this happens and I am not happy about it. I do have antivirus tools on and they do detect a few adware and trojans but not everything. Its a pain to remove everything as the malicious software blocks installation of anti-adware tools like Malwarebytes etc. I did have my share of virus programs in the past starting with a bootsector virus in the early nineties, so far anti virus software did detect everything on previous MSDOS and Windows versions. But W10 seems a complete different story....


Thursday, 9 March 2017

630m WSPR again

Results 630m WSPR RX till now.
It gets boring, 630m again. I got 35th place at PE1ITR's WSPR challenge. That's average. See results here from 5-3-2017. Not impressive. Max. distance was southern Italy 1600km. I know for sure my horizontal loop is not the ideal receive antenna for MF. If I want to improve I should make a dedicated antenna.

I attended a clubmeeting lately were PA2DTA showed some kind of direction finding receiver. It was capable of receiving in what I think the medium wave range. One of the things he showed was the difference between a attached longwire and a small dipole made with windings on a ferrite rod. I have to admit the dipole received a lot better as it didn't receive electric noise. However it was directional and that is nice to track a station but isn't when receiving WSPR signals around you.

However I found a commercial made MW antenna somewhere on the attick. So I thought I give it a test. I just have it on my radiodesk inside the house that is. And indeed the medium wave stations came in very clear but signals were significant less. All the noise received with the big loop was gone.


Would I receive WSPR signals on 474,2KHz? Yes, not as many but I did! I think this design could be much better as just a single wire outside the house. Thinking of a bigger loop outside the house. The only problem is the directivity. If you call it a problem of course as you are able to null out the QRM/QRN. It would be nice to experiment with it in the future. It also shows that you are able to pull WSPR signals out of the noise with a simple antenna inside the house on the 630m band.

Monday, 6 March 2017

#ARRL DX SSB contest

I took part in the ARRL DX SSB for little over a hour at Sunday afternoon. I'd choosen to be on 20m at around 16:00 UTC as it was the best time according to VOACAP. Propagation was not that good but managed to work 36 USA/Canadian stations. Not bad for 100W and a vertical. I did comparisations between the horizontal loop and the vertical and this time the vertical won with 6 to 12dB average.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

630m band OPERA

No, not a opera here. It's OPERA digimode. Really don't know what I'm talking about. But PA1SDB Peter asked if I could monitor the 630m band with OPERA. So I installed the software and it seems to be easy enough.


I managed to receive 5 stations in 24 hours. I guess it's just the popularity of this digimode. It's not as well known as WSPR. I might test it another time again. In the mean time I'm back on WSPR.


Friday, 3 March 2017

630m band WSPR

Neighbourstation PA1SDB Peter requested a couple of times if I could do some receive tests on 630m. He recently started to transmit on 630m with a Raspberry Pi. I didn't have much time for radio last couple of weeks but yesterday evening I managed to set the FT-817 on WSPR 474,2KHz and attached the loop only to the center of the PL connector. After some fiddling I managed to receive some WSPR stations.


Best "DX"was EA5DOM over more then 1700km. Peter also requested for a OPERA test. So I will probabely try this evening or in the weekend.

Some pictures of Peter's setup can be found on his QRZ page. Additional pictures of the antenna system he uses below.

Inverted L fed with a variocoil seen below



Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Spring!

March....spring! I didn't have much time for the radio hobby last couple of weeks. Hopefully I will have some more time this month...

To have a good start I participated in the UKEICC contest on 80m SSB this evening. So much fun and it only lasts one hour. You need to submit your log within 1 hour after the contest finished. I will see the results tomorrow. I like this type of contest. Simple, fast and easy.

Below a four minute video taken in my shack. When watching it I ask myself how on earth I dig stations out of that noise. But right in front of the radio is a totally different sound.







EI7GL wrote a nice review of the contest here:
https://ei7gl.blogspot.nl/2017/03/ukeicc-80m-ssb-contestwed-1st-march-2017.html