Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Experimental vertical antenna

Red lines indicate the vertical
In a quest to get my signal to south america and to have a second all band HF antenna for the PACC contest the idea was to make a vertical antenna and to use the autotuner at the base, a few radials and 15m wire aside the tower to the top. I've been busy with that last weekend but am not satisfied. Have 15m wire connected to the tuner and 5 15m radials at the bottom. However even on DX it is still 1-3dB worse compared to my 2x20m inverted-V fed with open line. I hoped for some more gain on DX but I think a vertical has to stand free from iron obstacles and that is not the case here. Not only my tower is iron but so is my glasshouse construction and my garage roof surrounding my "vertical". In the past I used my 7,5m long vertical with 3 elevated radials and the same antennatuner on 9m above the ground, it was "looking" over the garage & glasshouse. After all it worked pretty well for 10 years!

I've been thinking of mounting that 7,5m vertical on top of the tower. However, I need radials and not the mast as counterpoise. And I need the autotuner to be mounted at the top of the mast, it is possible but not a winter job. I've also been thinking about a gammamatch to connect the tower as vertical, it is an option but only for one band (or you have to switch between several gamma matches). I might try to do that just for 60m but doubt it will be better as the wire aside the tower? Anyone has a better idea?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Dutch radio piracy on sea

Just reading the blogpost from KB6NU today. Some things I read these days in the blog from the oldest women ever sailing the world VE0JS Jeanne are clear to me now. Reading about weather reports given to Mark, Uku and Jean Luc by radio puzzled me. But it seems there is a global sailing race going on in which a Dutch guy Mark Slats with his boat Ophen Maverick is now at second place. However Mark or any of his crew don't have a valid amateurradio license though they use a unregistered call and make contacts on the amateurradio bands. They received a official warning and it is forbidden for other radioamateurs to contact them as well. I think it is not wise for them to just use shortwave radio on the amateurradio bands without a license. I've been a "radio pirate" as well and lost my radio to the dutch authorities (dutch FCC) in the early 90s. I did transmit on the 10m as well (SSB in the CW portion, little did I know). After all it was my own fault and stupidity. Now Mark and his team can not contact other participants and their supporting team ashore anymore. They should have thought about that, and probabely did, but took their chances. However, considering my own punishment, I think it is fair the Dutch FCC (Agentschap Telecom) is taking action.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

#60m DX January 23

Had a whole evening to seriously look for DX on 60m. Still hope to work PY (Brazil) and ZP (Paraquay) since I've seen these DXCC several times but was never able to get my FT8 signal heard over there. However, most of the times I'm looking for DX I see a lot of it but my 15W signal seems not be loud enough to be heard at the DX. I wonder if we still could use 100W I could be heard? I think it is just bad luck and not the power or antenna. This evening I was lucky, things could be helped by a magnetic distortion and a high K index at around 23 UTC. I was able to get 3 new DXCC on 60m in the log. One of them 9X2AW from Rwanda is a ATNO for me.

Later in the evening I was able to work PZ5RA from Surinam. No traces from PY or ZP though this evening but I'm shure some day I will work them as well. Now FT8 "haters" would say, why not make a real contact with CW or....SSB. Well I've been listening out several times for CW or SSB signals on 60m but nothing was heard. And if you can't hear it you can't make any QSO.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Energy transition

I do not write very often outside the hamradio topic. But this time I do since the energy transition hype in my country worries me.

Ever heard about neodymium, lanthanum, dysprosium, cobalt, manganese, lithium and cerium? Probabely you heard about lithium like in Li-Ion batteries? But the other materials? They are used in electrical cars like the Tesla, Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf and many others. The dutch government wants to forbid sales of diesel and petrol cars in 2030. They suggest electrical cars for the future. You see old wise men from national drivers organisations and even older wise men from the government on TV take a serious face and declare this is the future. We should all drive electric...

The Netherlands has one of the biggest natural gas fields in the world. When it was just discovered they thought it would last forever, we would have a cheap source of energy for a million years. But now half a century later it is evident the earth surroundings of that field are moving because the natural pressure of the gas supporting that earth is getting lower. There is a large amount of subsidence which causes earthquakes here in the northern part of the country. Those earthquakes cause a lot of damage to peoples houses. So the government decided we should look for another energy source to warm our houses and for cooking our meals. Guess what they come up with.....electricity.

At the same time the Netherlands agreed that they should make cleaner energy by closing down energy plants that burn coal and invest in wind energy. Those windturbines have to be paid for, guess what.....extra taxes on the electricity and gas price. Yes, they promised....electricity would get cheaper and gas would be more expensive. But I don't believe this. I think electricity will get more expensive, not as expensive as gas but the price will rise. Because clean energy is expensive the way it is made, you have to invest and after the investment comes maintenance. Besides that wind and sun energy is not that reliable compared to a gas or coal driven power plant. Strange isn't it? Last year I thought electricity would get dirt cheap since I see solar panels on almost every house these days, all small power sources that make a big one. There are people that produce more energy as they need with solar panels. So, were is all this left over "free" energy? But it seems it doesn't work like this. As a side effect it the dutch power grid seems to be unable to handle all this extra "free" electricity, cables and fuse cabinets are just too small.

And now my worries...
Have the old wise men thought about how much of the needed special materials is left? Did you know most of those resources are from China? Some of these resources can only be found in Africa. And did you know that if the electrical car is build like we build it now those resources will not be there within 15 years. There you go....in 2030 there are a pile of electrical cars, but no batteries to power them. But that's not all. How long will a electrical car drive? What is the lifetime of the battery and motor? What will happen with the batteries? How many people will die because of the environmental pollution making and dumping the batteries? I'm thinking about this and many people do. The government seems not to be thinking about this they only need the comply with the political agreements they made. They need the Netherlands to be the cleanest place on earth, no matter what.

Cleaner energy to warm your house, to cook your meals to power whatever you want to power. How long lasts a windturbine? 10 years? 20 years? In the last 20 years I've seen windturbines come and go. 20 years ago the first ones were about 50m height I think. The windturbines that are build in this area now are over 200m height. In theory they will produce more energy, if there is wind. But will they produce that much energy to make it a profit? I doubt it and there are some investigations done that show windturbines only produce energy because we pay for it and not because it is free energy.  Solar panels, oh yes, it is clean energy you think? Will there be enough silicium, borium, fosfor, germanium to make these things for a long time? And what to think of the environmental pollution making solar panels. Yes, we in the Netherlands will have profit. We can breathe, we have clean air.....so they think.

....and at the end, the old wise men, they tell us we should invest in clean energy. In insulating our houses, buy solarpanels, heatpumps (on electricity), wind energy and whatsoever. We should all buy a electrical car before 2030... the old wise men probabely have money to do such things but can't imagine that ordinary people have not!

If only there was a environmental friendly and cheap power source for everyone....let me dream...

Time will tell....

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

40m WSPR

From wikipedia:

The band is most useful for inter-continental communication for one or two hours before sunset, during the night and for one or two hours after sunrise. It is extremely useful for short to medium distance contacts from local contacts out to a range of 500–1500 km or more, depending on conditions, during the day. In higher latitudes, daytime intercontinental communication is also possible during the short days of winter, for example a good path often opens between Japan and northern Europe in the hours leading up to European midday from late November through late January, with a long path opening to the west coast of the United States and Canada after midday.

It never occured to me that DX on 40m is possible at daylight. Till my 1W WSPR signal was spotted in VK and VK7 in the afternoon. I did receive stations from VK as well. Unfortunately the number of error decodes is very high at 40m compared to 20m. However the last 24 hours I ended at number 10 in the challenge list with 240 unique stations received. TRX was my FT-817, 1W and the 2x20m inverted-V @12m apex.

My 1W TX signal heard in last 2 days on 40m.

Monday, January 14, 2019

WSPR watch (apple)

No we're not talking about a apple watch! We are talking about a real good app to follow and analyze WSPR spots.

Just before the new year I was listening on 20m WSPR 24/7 but at a certain moment I was disappointed since propagation seems to be poor and I was not even appearing in PE1ITR's challenge list anymore. Then I was busy with the beverage experiment but since I have some issues with it I'm back on WSPR. 40m WSPR RTX this time, the first 30 minutes gave me immidiatly a first new one, Sardinia for number 91! Just 9 to go for 100, I will do my best to accomplish that hopefully this year. Though I hope that there will be more stations that listen as well as transmit from "unique" locations.

To keep an eye on things happening I use this WSPR watch app on my Iphone...
(There are other similair apps for Android) I begin to like this app more and more and it is updated very often with new features. You can even transmit with it if you have a transmitter just by holding the phone near to the mike and transmit the audio for 2 minutes. The app is made by fellow HAMradio blogger VK2TPM Peter. The program features usable graphs, you can view both TX or RX spots, unique spots and a map. Some screenshots:

This is not a commercial app. Some people think you have to pay for every app on a apple Iphone but that is not true. This app is free. I certainly think Peter deserves some etra credit for this app since it is very much usable. Tnx Peter!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 statistics

2018 statistics @PE4BAS. It has not been a real ATNO DXCC year due to low propagation and lack of time. My target bands were mainly 60m and 6m. I rarely visit other bands except in contests. I worked a lot of "new" band ones on the before mentioned bands. And it seems I was more active this year since the number of QSOs is 400 more compared to last year. The amount of DXCC was less but expected. Still SSB seems be my most populair mode especially in contests.

DXCC worked
DXCC confirmed

For 2019 I don't expect any new DXCC ATNOs to be worked at all. Instead I will concentrate on 60m and 6m again. Of course I will try to fill in some new DXCC with 1W WSPR but these days it seems most WSPR stations are transmitting instead of listening so it will be difficult to reach those last 10 DXCC for 100 in total. Has anyone counted the DXCC that have been listening on WSPR? I'm WSPRing since 2009 and have been heard in some pretty exclusive DXCC but still I'm on 90 DXCC overall in 10 years of time. Of course I was on/off the air so I could have been missing a few.

Like always Feb. and March are the months with most of my activity. However I worked a fair amount of stations on 6m in the ES season which explains the sudden rise in July.

I worked on all bands. Should I concentrate more on 30m? It is a great DX band but 60m wins at the moment. 80m is mainly contest QSOs, I still haven't got 100 DXCC worked there...When propagation is rising again in de upcoming years (hopefully) I should really concentrate on 17m-10m again. Well, that's years ahead... 

I once had a dream working as many modes every year as possible. But these days everyone seems to be addicted to FT8 me included. What a change from 114 JT65 QSOs in 2017 to only 2 in 2018!!
But still SSB is my most favorite mode and I don't think this will change...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fence beverage drawback

It has been raining a lot today and immidiatly I noticed a drawback of a non isolated fence beverage. Since the water is terminating the wire to the ground it doesn't work anymore. I have to wait till dry weather. That can take a few days according to the weather forecast. But anyway it was a nice experiment and from the comments I read that others find it interesting as well. OK1RP Petr asked for a drawing and info. Well all the info is on this blog in the previous posts. Here is a drawing of the setup:

I measured the fence with the help of google maps. One side is 450m long but I don't know if it is interupted bij a gate at the other side. My neighbour did cut out a piece so it is not a square anymore.

On this photo on google maps you can see the exact position. The fence is fed at the corner just below the trees.

So far it was a nice experiment. There is two experiments left actually. Measuring the noise difference between the inverted-V and the beverage on 160m which is especially important for our PA6AA contest group. Second is a receive comparisation on 80m. But I have to wait till I can do further experiments. When I finish those I will not continue since the antenna is not reliable. But at least I know the transformer and balun works well. So I can use them whenever I want to do a RX experiment.

60m FT8 RX results with beverage

Although it looks like my barbwire fence antenna or a so called open beverage is working on this band I have my doubts. I don't think it does receive more as my inverted-V on 60m. The nice thing is that I'm able to compare with 2 digital stations available. So next experiment will be comparing my inverted-V (2x20m open line fed @12m agl) with the fence antenna. Although a beverage is directive when it is terminated to the ground with a carbon resistor at the end the fence antenna is omnidirectional. Best DX was ZP4KFX from Paraquay although I received this station as well on my inverted-V before. I monitored 5362KHz for New Zealand this morning but there were nil spots.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

80m FT8 RX results on beverage antenna

I realize not everyone has the opportunity to connect a large fence wire as a receiving antenna. I don't hope I make people very envious. I just want to show what could be possible with a beverage kind of antenna. But even people with small properties can do it by trying a earth electrode antenna since G3XBM is receiving low bands with that and has similair results! The problem only is the construction of such a earth electrode antenna, I haven't got a clue with the description Roger gives on his website, he doesn't mention you need to transform the impedance as well. Best would be a universal transformer like a antenna tuner so you can match the antenna on several bands. If someone can explain it with a nice drawing and transformer information? I've been searching the internet but so far I can only find results and not a actual build diagram. Even with a small garden this could be a interesting experiment.

Back to the results with the fence "beverage". I started to listen 3530KHz for Japan FT8, but till 21:30UTC nothing was heard. So I switched over to the original 3573KHz and immidiatly saw a few Japanese stations. Why are so many Japanese stations on 3530KHz FT8? Is it for local traffic? It puzzles me since I didn't decode a single station on 3530KHz. The results from last night were astonishing. World wide reception of signals with best DX ZL1AIX from New Zealand (17962km), his signal wasn't even far into the noise...the noise is very low anyway! 

I'm planning a 60m session this evening and night and will switch over to that band shortly after I publish this post.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

160m FT8 RX results with beverage

With a storm approaching I lowered the antenna tower so my inverted-V was unusable. Luckely the beverage has no problems with large winds. Roger G3XBM has good results using a earth electrode antenna and does monitor FT8 frequencies rather then WSPR. So I decided to monitor FT8 last night. Late evening I monitored 1908KHz first since Japan stations are not allowed on the usual 1840KHz FT8 frequency. I managed to receive at least 3 stations, best DX was JG1IGX 9066km. Will monitor 80m FT8 this night with the beverage. I understand that Japan stations are on 3530KHz so probabely will monitor that late evening. WSPR is certainly good to compare antennas but FT8 could be more interesting to probe propagation these days.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Beverage experiments 2

Fence, click to enlarge. At the right the connection
with the transformer (clamp with red wire)
Well, a day later. I got some comments about the beverage that wouldn't work including some hints and tips from W0BTU Mike (I linked to his page regarding the beverage transformers). Did I expect too much. No, but I expected at least a low noise antenna and all I got at that moment was S8 noise!

I actually wrote part of the beverage experiment post many months ago at the start of 2018 I think. And kept it as a  concept post since I didn't realize a real beverage yet. But last week one of my neighbours announced he did buy part of the property behind our garden. That would mean the barbwire fence was going away. So, a little in panic I decided I had to realize the beverage before it is too late. A day later I found myself in the dark and cold connecting the tranformer, coax and earthrod. Then I made the test with WSPR for one night and listened to the signal. It wasn't really what I expected.

Transformer boxed with large ferrite ring in coax
Today I checked out the beverage in daylight. I could't find anything wrong except that I forgot to wind the coax through a large ferrite ring just before the transformer. But the coax I used (RG213) was too thick to wind. I replaced the coax for Aircell7 and wind it through a large ferrite ring material 61 which would be good for low frequencies. Then I had to do other things in the garden. A little later I saw my neighbour cutting part of the barbwire fence at his side. Oh no! There goes my beverage I thought....but talking to him he revealed that everything was kept in place except the part that was between his garden en the new aquired land. In the end the positive side of this is that the wire is not a  big loop anymore. W0BTU already commented that if I connected the transformer at the center of the fence it would not work like a beverage. But now my transformer is near one end of the barbwire so this is a huge difference.

RX station, 2x WSJT-X
And indeed it is. Listening again revealed the noise was gone and signals were just as good as on the inverted-V, some even better. Compared SNR levels so far at the start of the evening both antennas were equal. But comparing WSPR signals I already saw signal traces on the waterfall on the beverage that I didn't see on the inverted-V. Since a beverage antenna is directional it is difficult to compare with a inverted-V. My inverted-V goes from NE to S, The beverage is oriented to NE. Not ideal since most WSPR DX is from the direction NW (USA).

So another test was made last night...

RX on beverage. WB5WPA was not received on the inverted-V

RX on the inverted-V clearly not the winner this night!
See the difference in the amount of spots and the signal strength. I would say the beverage is clearly a winner. I'll have been listening with the beverage on MW and all AM stations sound great without the usual interference. Now next experiment is listening on 475 KHz WSPR, after one hour listening tonigh it looks promising!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Beverage experiments

Reading about the "open" beverage PA3FYM uses on 30m WSPR I went very curious. A beverage is for many the ultimate low noise receive antenna for low bands. But why? Well, because the beverage is a extremely inefficient antenna, at least for transmit. It is almost on the ground and therefore does not pick up much noise. "Beverage" sounds difficult but is only the name of the inventor Harold Beverage. Several designs are available and when you look at the diagrams and drawings you ask yourself were to get the parts. But the only thing you actually need is a lot of wire, a lot of room and longwire antennatuner. The beverage is in basically a very long longwire and if a transformer is not available you can use a longwire antennatuner as well. You have designs with a (carbon)resistor to ground at the end and designs with a open end, I think this will only have effect on the directivity a bit.

Johan's setup
A few years ago PE9DX Johan was visiting me and told me he was using the barbwire which is around a farmers field near his house. I showed him I've got a similair field at the back of our garden. I think the field is at least 250m long with barbwire around it. This could be a nice beverage receiving antenne. Johan told me that connect it to a receiver is not that difficult. He sent me some photos from his experiment including a e-mail from PA3FYM about the transformers used. At first sight I thought it was complicated. But reading and asking about it again revealed the project is simple as long as you got the right components. Luckely Johan told me were to get the ferrite (Bakelaar electronics, Julianadorp) and I ordered some BN-73-202 ferrite beads to experiment with. Johan send me some photos as well so I could get the idea. A good idea is to look at this website: http://www.w0btu.com/Beverage_antennas.html to see how things should like. Besides that you can find a lot of beverage info there.
At the shack of PE9DX

So I started creating with some help from the e-mail PA3FYM wrote to PE9DX. Some photos from Johan helped me as well. I made the 1:6,25 transformer and the 1:1 transformer. Then I had other interests and things and forgot the whole project actually.

When I discussed some antenna matters with PD1RP Peter on the PA6AA contest location we saw a big fence just behind the house, I suggested we should try it as a beverage to increase our receive on 160m. It could be a good idea. At least it would be a great experiment...I remembered I still have these transformers around somewere. So, continue with the experiment would be interesting.

Simplified drawing of winding a ferrite bead
Describing all the formula's from PA3FYM and theory would be out of my knowledge. It is far beyond my theoretical ability. But in fact the outcome is that a transformer 1:6,25 on the beverage side + common mode choke and a 1:1 transformer at the other end of the coax in the shack should do the trick with a 1m high fence wire. The 1:6,25 transformer is made with 2 BN-73-202 ferrite beads. 2 windings at the receiver side and 5 windings at the beverage side. Another trick would be to keep enough wire at the 2 winding site and twist it then do 1 winding through another ferrite bead. Coax should be wind through a large ferrite ring before you connect it to the transformer. One side of the 5 windings can be connected to the beverage or in my case the fence wire. The other "earth" side can be connected to a ground rod and some wire radials on the ground. At the shack you connect the 1:1 tranformer made from a BN-73-202 with 4 windings on both sides. Connect it to the coax and at the receiver side try which of the 2 wires connected to earth/receiver give best SNR results, you can try to listen or see in a spectrum waterfall. Switch the wires to see best results.

The finished creation...
Well, very nice. But does it work? Well.....no! I connected everything on the barbwire fence and put a copper rod in the soil as earth. I also connected 2 wires for extra ground radials. My first impression: signals were strong but so is the noise. Actually I find my inverted-V a much better performer. The noise on the "beverage" is at least S8 which is not what I expected. Could it be the fence is too long? Does it pick up too much? Or is the transformer not made right? I went outside again and reversed earth and antenna connections on the transformer but nothing changed. I expected something different from this experiment, a low noise antenna....but so far it is a very noisy antenna.

I made WSPR comparisations at night were I used my inv-V on the IC-706 and the beverage on the FT-817. The inv-V is far better. If any reader does know what is wrong? In theory this setup should work but it doesn't...

Actually 18 spots on the beverage, O25KFP is wrong spot

Inverted-V spots

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 agenda

My radiohobby agenda for 2019. Feel free to copy.

I always have to balance my time between my family and hobby. With a agenda and planning I want to prevent conflicts if possible.

This agenda is actually always for archive purposes...

09/10 Feb. 12-12 UTC 24 hrs PACC 2019 contest
30/31 Mar. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX SSB 2019 contest
25/26 May 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW WPX CW 2019 contest
01/02 Jun. 15-15 UTC 24 hrs Dutch Kingdom Contest 2019
28/29 Sep. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX RTTY 2019 contest
26/27 Okt. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX SSB 2018 contest
10 Nov. 10-12:30 local time PA-beker contest SSB section 2019
17 Nov. 11-14 local time Friese 11 steden contest 2019
23/24 Nov. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs CQWW DX CW 2019 contest
14/15 Dec. 00-24 UTC 48 hrs 10m ARRL 2019 contest