28 Feb 2015

40m Pixie - bench test went well

Well, it took a super-human effort on my part as a result of my extreme fatigue (brain bleed issue) but today I bench tested the little 40m Pixie kit I managed to build earlier this week. It is hard to explain just how exhausting this simple task was for me currently. I now need to recover my energy!

On receive a 1uV signal was perfectly readable and I could detect carrier on/off down to at least below 0.5uV. On TX it was putting out about 250mW into a 50 ohm load. On my antenna it was suffering some AM breakthrough, but less than I was expecting. I was using standard Walkman stereo headphones and a rechargeable 12V sealed lead acid battery. On a small 9V battery I'd expect about 100mW RF out, although this was not tried.

Overall, these results exceeded my expectations: it is more sensitive than I was expecting and the breakthrough of AM broadcasters is certainly OK in the day time. This is of course with no casing at all and no ATU. Using the fitted pot and fitted 1N4001 as a varicap it is easy to get the TX frequency and RX frequency to correspond, often an issue with very simple QRP rigs.

Next stage will be some on-air tests, but it most definitely works. Working the locals should certainly be possible. Sked with G6ALB (3km) arranged for 1000z Sunday on 7.023MHz CW.

UPDATE 2120z:  There is a contest in full swing and several Russians and Asiatic Russians copied on the little 40m Pixie. I did not stay on long but there was no apparent BC interference noticeable. So, on a quiet night I should able to use the rig in the evenings. The main issue on RX seems to be the lack of AF filtering, so one has to use "the filter that is between the ears" i.e.the brain.

Amateur Radio Weekly

Yesterday I subscribed to this online newsletter. It is also available every Saturday on www.amateurradio.com

One of the items was about Deutche Welle (German broadcaster) vacating a slot in the 49m band. A group of radio amateurs have obtained permission to use a 10kW commercial station there. This is their website http://www.channel292.de/ . Best of luck to them!

10m USA spots today

KZ8C (6290km) was the first North American to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR today at 1248z. Since then, K9AN (6505km) has also spotted me several times. I think he has a very good RX set-up as he is often copying me on 10m.

I have the feeling there will be a lot of 10m spots today as conditions seem quite good and it is the weekend.

UPDATE 2035z:   The last USA station to spot me today on 10m WSPR was KB9AMG (6300km) at 1922z. Quite a decently long opening today.


My little 500mW 10m WSPR beacon has been copied 8 times so far today in Malta by 9H1US (2135km). No great DX , but a first time and new country on 10m WSPR. Some reports have been very strong. F2 or Es?

UPDATE 2050z:  In the end 9H1US spotted me 14 times over the lunchtime period. The last spot was 1336z. This could have been Es, but more probably F2 propagation

Sunspots and 10m - Feb 28th

Sunspot number has risen slightly to 58 today and 10m propagation is set to be "fair". this is a better forecast than recent days.

Already, my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon has been copied in LZ, OH, SV9 and 4X1 this morning, but nothing from further afield, as yet.

UPDATE 1114z:  10m does seem livelier than of late. LZ1OI (2153km) has been spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR very well. This must be an optimum distance for single hop F2 propagation.   I've just been spotted in Malta (9H).

UPDATE 1126z:  First DX outside Europe today as when I was spotted  by PU2UIB (9524km) in Brazil at 1112z today.

UPDATE 1230z:  No North American stations copying my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon, as yet, but the first reports will probably be in the next hour.

27 Feb 2015

New online shop - creative wire artwork

Gifts for the XYL?

From my French daughter-in-law:
Hi there,
I have finally come around to opening my shop on easy. Spread the word.
Hope you like it. 

Frog 40m transceiver

This is the Pixie's "big brother". I have mentioned it before in this blog. It has more power than the Pixie and a better RX.  It costs just over £15 with free shipping from Hong Kong. Some suppliers sell it built for this sort of price! This is a real bargain.

I think it uses an NE602, with an attenuator pot in the receiver.

The image is on the eBay page and will be removed immediately if a problem.

See http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Frog-Sounds-HAM-Radio-QRP-Kit-Telegraph-CW-Transceiver-Receiver-Radio-Station-V3-/251405614850 .

See also: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/qrp-transceiver for lots of QRP transceiver bargains.

40m Pixie transceiver

Yesterday I found my rechargeable 12V battery and charged it up. I also checked the Pixie I built as a kit for dry joints and shorts. As all looks good, I hope to test this on the air over the weekend or early next week.

There are a couple of locals I'd like to test with initially, although I am expecting to suffer from AM breakthrough mainly from broadcast stations very close to our 40m band. Probably there would be less breakthrough in the daytime? My antenna is short and low on 40m (a Par triband end-fed covering 10m/20m/40m) so any contacts will be good!

I can test it first on a signal generator and then a power meter. If it works, I'd expect a sensitivity of around -100dBm and a power out of around 200mW on 40m. We'll see. Even -80dBm and 100mW would be enough to work locals as long as AM breakthrough is at a manageable level.

Cerebellum brain bleed update

Many of you know I had a cerebellum brain bleed in Sept 2013 and was in hospital for 3.5 months. Slowly I am recovering, but it is taking much longer than I expected.

Amateur radio field experiments and building work are on hold, but I hope to resume these soon as long as my fatigue improves.

The main issue is I get tired quickly,  especially after anything that is physical. Even small things leave me exhausted, quite unlike anything I have known. I still feel drunk when I walk, my speech is poor and drinking thin liquids is not easy. The profound tiredness really gets me down. It would be so good to be able to drink a cup of tea or coffee, or even a glass of water, as I used to.

Most foods are OK now.

All limbs, eyes, ears and intellect are fine. I still feel unwell and not my old self yet. Although recovering slowly, it is taking far too long.

10m USA WSPR spots

At 1314z K9AN (6505km) was the first USA station to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today. With the lower sunspot number I had some doubt the 10m band would open to the USA today at all.

UPDATE 1400z:    W9HLY (6257km) has spotted me a couple times this lunchtime, but I have the feeling there are few stations spotting me today on 10m WSPR.  OK, it is very early afternoon still.

UPDATE 1655z:   A surprising number of USA stations have spotted my 500mW WSPR beacon this afternoon, despite the relatively low sunspot number. When the next peak occurs it is likely to be a weak affair, but assuming conditions are settled we could still be spanning the Atlantic on 10m at the right time of year. It will be interesting to see how well this path holds up as the sunspot number continues to fall.

UPDATE 1732z:  Still being spotted in the USA

UPDATE 1822z:   K9AN (6505km) is still spotting me.

UPDATE 1830z:   Still plenty of USA and Canadian 10m stations spotting my 500mW WSPR beacon. This is a much better opening than I expected.

UPDATE 1940z:  It looks like the last USA spot was KC1AWS (5408km) at 1850z. Just local G4IKZ since then. I'll probably go QRT shortly on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 2120z:  I went QRT at 2058z. I am currently not active on any band.  Back after breakfast.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number has declined to 39 and 10m propagation is forecast to be "poor". Looks like we could have a struggle on 10m today.

UPDATE 1126z:  10m WSPR spots of my 500mW beacon from LZ1OI (2153km) and UR/SWL56 (2283km) this morning.  4X1RF (3519km) was copying me earlier.  These are probably single hop F2.

26 Feb 2015

Homebrew rigs, fieldwork and fatigue

Quite a few of the rigs I use are home-built, although my recent poor health has stopped me being able to build much. The 40m Pixie kit built this week was the first thing built since before my brain bleed.

Although I feel I now have the dexterity to build rigs and accessories - case work is more of an issue - doing so makes me very very tired and I have to rest to recover my energy.

I hope to resume some field work soon, but the main risk is my fatigue: can I manage being in the field for any length of time without being totally exhausted? Given time, I am told that my energy levels will return, but I have the feeling the medics really have little idea how I shall end up. To them, I have already recovered well, whereas I know I am still a million miles from how I was!

10m SSB with the Lincoln Mk2

This afternoon, I have been trying out the President Lincoln Mk2 (V3) which arrived early today. I have only tried on SSB but it seems to work, with the first SSB QSO being with N8II in West Virginia at about 1430z. He was using 800W and a 5 element beam! It was hearing plenty from Asia, Europe and North/South America. Maximum claimed power from the Lincoln, controlled by a rotary control on the front panel, is 31W  PEP on SSB.

Lincoln Mk2 with the other rigs
I have still to fully get to grips with the menu but it seems pretty intuitive.  There is a choice of display backlight colours, but I find green easiest on the eyes. The other choices are blue and orange. You can alter display brightness and lots of other features - I shall have plenty of time to play.  Blue is not good for my eyes on either the Lincoln Mk2  or the FT817. To my eyes, blue is hard to see, whereas the green is very clear.

My biggest issue was getting the power leads attached to the PSU.  Before my stroke this would have been trivial.  Now it tires me out! I wanted several rigs attached to the PSU at the same time so soldering the plugs on was non-trivial. As you know, speaking too long exhausts me,so I am taking a break.

I am waiting for my 12V battery to charge to test the 40m Pixie. Visually the Pixie build looks fine.

At the moment I am not on WSPR on any band.

472kHz WSPR

Although I was on 472kHz overnight, my PC decided to close (the whole PC including WSPR) some time after 0320z to install updates. It was re-synced to internet time and restarted at breakfast time.  Wednesday overnight is usually when this happens. I could alter settings but this is not really an issue.

Local G4KPX (14km) is spotting me this morning so far on this band. G3WCB (101km) and G3THQ (88km) were spotting me just before the PC turned off.

President Lincoln Mk2 (v3) arrives

Still to be unpacked, the Lincoln Mk2 10m transceiver arrived from Nevada this morning by "signed for" parcel post. Packaging was undamaged. I shall probably fire this up later today. Delivery was fast - impressive.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number today is 63. 10m propagation is expected to be "poor" although 4X1RF (3519km) was spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR at 0824z and 0912z this morning. Most spots were local - G4IKZ. No continental Europeans or further afield though.

UPDATE 1025z:   4X1RF (3519km) is now spotting my 500mW WSPR lots of times.

UPDATE 1050z:  LZ and SV9 now spotting my 500mW WSPR beacon on 10m as well. Things are warming up on 10m. Still no real DX spotting me.

25 Feb 2015

Invisible disabilities

I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be disabled in a visible way than  have a disability that cannot be seen easily. On a walk this afternoon at Anglesey Abbey there were quite a few people who were clearly disabled.

My wife says when I walk you cannot tell I have a disability. Inside, I still feel like I am drunk, I tire easily and I still feel wobbly when walking.  My voice is still poor and swallow of thin liquids is poor.

Most people think I am fine now. I am still a long way from that although I still feel I am making slow improvements.  My current disability is invisible to many.

The ongoing after-effects of my cerebellum brain bleed are the reason I try to avoid too much speaking on the air. WSPR is my favourite mode as no talking is needed. JT65 and JT9-1 are my favourite 2-way digital modes. Although I have used PSK31 I don't much like it as too many use macros.

10m USA non-event (almost) today

This afternoon, 10m only just opened to the USA with WB5B (8248km) being the only USA station to spot my 500mW WSPR beacon at 1350z and 1612z.  It is still possible others may yet copy me, but this is doubtful.  

4X1RF (3519km) has copied me several times today.

UPDATE 1710z:  K9AN (6505km) has copied me a few times recently.
UPDATE 1740z:  Now KG6MC (6545km) is spotting me. Maybe I should expect shorter, later openings now?

UPDATE 1835z:  K9AN has now copied my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 14 times so far today. The opening I thought would not happen seems to be on now.

UPDATE 1915z:   No further DX spots since K9AN at 1844z.  Going QRT on 10m by 2000z.

10m WSPR this morning

No earth shattering DX reports this morning on 10m WSPR.

4X1RF (3519km) has spotted by 500mW WSPR beacon several times but no further reports seen. At the moment, 10m is "ticking along". I think there will be an opening to the USA later.

Other blog updated

After my U3AC course on digital mapping in Cambridge yesterday I was able to take a photo of "The Round"  which dates back to 1130AD.  I have updated my other blog to include this. See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/   .

This is not amateur radio! Sorry.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number has risen to 63 but 10m propagation is again expected to be "poor".

24 Feb 2015

Pixie (40m) build completed this evening

Completed 40m Pixie assembly
This evening, I completed the build of the 40m Pixie PCB assembly. It will get checked over for dry joints or shorts in the morning and air-tested shortly.

A very half-hearted attempt at the 6m UKAC this evening was aborted because of my poor voice but I only worked 3 locals in the short time I was on with my V2000 vertical.

I really wanted to crack on with the Pixie build, although I was not expecting to finish the built today.  The small PCB based kit does represent very good value.

Return to 472kHz WSPR

Since returning to 472kHz WSPR at teatime, 6 unique spots so far received this evening.  No new stations logging me but on the whole decent reports being received. I'll probably remain on 472kHz overnight, but go QRT again on 28MHz (10m) WSPR as I think I've missed any DX for today.  Still using the earth-electrode "antenna" and about 5mW ERP (or less).
Unique 472kHz WSPR spot in first 2 hrs this evening
UPDATE 2300z:  Now 12 unique spots of my 5mW WSPR this evening with best DX report from F59706  (560km).

50MHz UKAC this evening

Starting at 2000z, the monthly UK activity contest takes place on 6m. I only have a vertical for 6m and my voice is still poor.  However, I'll come on briefly to see what I can work before my voice says stop. I may be only able to give a few points out to the locals.

10m - too late?

I turned on my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon just after 1700z, but only local G4IKZ spotting me. If the band did open to the USA I missed it today!

40m WSPR

For the last day (nearly) I have been WSPRing on 40m using about 2-2.5W from the FT817 into the low Par triband 10/20/40m end fed antenna. On 40m this is far too low, although on 10m it is probably just high enough. Despite the low height on 40m I have received 31 unique spots with best DX being K3BXO (7190km). Since about 20 minutes ago I have gone back on 472kHz (earth-electrode "antenna") and 28MHz (10m) WSPR on the Par end-fed.
Unique WSPR spots on 40m today/yesterday

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number has fallen again to 44 and 10m propagation is "poor". For the first time since way back last year (summer?) I have NOT been on 10m today yet, as I needed the triband antenna for some 40m WSPR tests.

BTW, in the end I have ordered a 10m President Lincoln Mk2 (V3) from Nevada Radio here in the UK. The Pixie (40m) should be finished tomorrow as I had no opportunity yesterday and today. I also need to find my small rechargeable 12v battery and charge it. I suspect 50Hz hum would be a problem on the shack PSU.

23 Feb 2015

President Lincoln Mk2 (V3) - 2 year warranty period

Not only has the price of this 10m transceiver dropped to £199, but John Gordon of Nevada has confirmed that the warranty period on these transceivers is 2 years. I am seriously tempted.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number today is 49 and 10m propagation is described as "poor". Despite this, my little 10m 500mW WSPR beacon was being copied in W.Australia earlier this afternoon.

10m conditions are changing

This afternoon,VK6DF (13606km) in West Australia spotted my 500mW WSPR signal at 1404z. The band opened to the USA,WB5B (8248km) but very late at 1550z.

10m conditions do seem to be changing.

UPDATE 1844z:  The last USA station to spot my 500mW WSPR beacon was KD6RF (7547km) 1736z.

22 Feb 2015

QRT on 10m now, on 160m WSPR now and overnight

The 10m beacon has been turned off until after breakfast tomorrow, but the 160m WSPR station is still running and will remain on overnight.

Later tomorrow I will probably try a different band, most likely 40m on the Par end-fed triband antenna. It will be this antenna that my 40m Pixie will be tried on. On 40m this antenna is quite low so further WSPR tests will be useful.   As this triband antenna is also the antenna used on 10m I shall have to go QRT on 10m when I fire up on 40m.  This probably won't be until early evening Monday.

Pixie (40m) progress

40m Pixie kit
Pixie kit - being built
After carefully unpacking this kit today I checked all the parts were there and measured all values for correctness. The kit was very well packed and everything was there. Even at the price I paid ($10 with shipping by air included) it represents very good value.

The kit comes with a nice silk screened and well labelled PCB, crystal, all parts, schematic and a parts list. It would be hard to buy the bits for the price I paid. G1KQH paid even less!

I now realise that for close-up work I need better glasses!  Fortunately I have a small assembly aid that includes a magnifying glass. I am taking the build slowly and it is quite exhausting for me.  However, the actual assembly is going well. Last year, for me, this would have been impossible. I can still solder - big steps, HI.

Although the Pixie will be tested on the air, the important personal test is the building. It proves that, with some effort on my part, the world of experimental amateur radio is still there for me. You have no idea what this small step means to me.

Before too long I want to get out in the countryside and try again with my VLF and optical tests. It has been a long long long time.

Sunspots, 10m and transatlantic DX

Sunspot number today is 53 but 10m propagation remains "poor". At the moment here, conditions on 10m are better than yesterday. The 10m band is open to the USA.

UPDATE 1506z:  There are far more USA and Canadian stations copying my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today than yesterday.

UPDATE 1946z:   The last USA station to spot me today was W8EMD (6211km) at 1840z. The first today was K9AN (6505km) at 1304z.

10m WSPR spots today - Sun Feb 22nd 2015

The first spot of my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon from a USA station today was K9AN (6505km) at 1304z. Conditions on 10m do seem better than yesterday which was pretty dire.

21 Feb 2015

160m this evening so far

At the moment the best DX on WSPR TX ths evening using my FT817 (3 blobs) into the earth-electrode "antenna" in the garden is 853km to Denmark.

So far, since trying my earth-electrode "antenna" on 160m, I have received WSPR spots (reports) from 37 unique stations and results have well exceeded all expectations. Best TX DX the night before last was northern Spain.

Testing time - 40m Pixie

Tomorrow I am going to try to build my little 40m Pixie kit that I bought for just over £7 from China. This build is an attempt to see if I am "up to the job". I know the limited performance the Pixie is capable of and on 40m BC breakthrough may be a major issue here in the UK.

I really really miss doing real building and truly experimental amateur radio. This is a step on a long road. My health has been so poor in the last 16 months or so that there was no way I could have attempted this before. People have been very kind and offered me building help and help with antenna erection. These offers have come from all over the world - the world is filled with good and very kind people. There are far more good and kind people than evil ones.

By normal standards a little Pixie build would be trivial. For me it is a major step and test of my current abilities. I do so hope I can manage this! Please don't laugh - to me it is a major step.

10m USA spots today

It has been a "bad hair day" on 10m today.

The first USA station to spot my 500mW beacon was at 1610z (very late) by WG2Z (5600km). This reminds me of the brief 6m F2 openings to the USA many years ago. To be honest, I was beginning to think that an opening to the USA would not happen at all today. In a few months we'll be on the look-out for multi-hop Es across the Atlantic in the Es season.

UPDATE 1808z:   Only 2 USA stations have spotted my 500mW beacon today with K9AN (6505km) at 1754z.  I suspect conditions are changing.

UPDATE 1940z:   It now seems that the 1902z spot by K9AN of my 500mW 10m beacon was the last today by a station in the USA.  Since then, just local UK spots.

UPDATE 2010z:   Now going QRT on 10m.  Still active on 160m WSPR where I have received 36 unique spots using my earth-electrode "antenna".

President Lincoln Mk 2 (V3)?

As the price has dropped to £199 (a drop of £50) from Nevada I am now very tempted to buy one of these as 10m is my favourite band of all.  It is just coming up to the Es season too. Power output is ideal (for me) and it does all modes. I owned the original Lincoln President transceiver and it served me well for many years.  It worked all over the place on SSB and even on 10m AM.

This is basically a CB radio with bells and whistles, although as delivered it is 10m amateur band only. It covers CB bands with a simple, illegal in UK, mod.

Anyone any views?

Sunspots and 10m - Feb 21st 2015

Sunspot number has dropped back a bit. Today the number is 53. 10m propagation is expected to be "poor".

UPDATE 1202z:   Best DX on WSPR with  my 500mW beacon this morning was just now with YV7DX (7294km) copying me at 1156z.  Several spots earlier from LZ, SV4, SV9 and 4X1. Conditions on 10m don't look "poor" to me!  I am also being spotted by local G stations.

My little W5OLF WSPR-AXE-CW 10m beacon is just brilliant! I love it. So small and perfect.

31 unique 160m reports received

Since trying my earth-electrode "antenna" on 160m, I have received WSPR spots from 31 unique stations so far in just a couple of days and nights at 2-2.5W from the FT817 rig. Results have certainly exceeded my own expectations. It says a lot about how effective WSPR is.
160m WSPR TX with earth-electrode "antenna"

20 Feb 2015

More historic East Anglian churches

Isleham church
Today my wife and I  visited Isleham and Fordham churches. We have updated our other blog to include these. I am always amazed that there are so many fine churches in our region.  Many date back over 1000 years, when the population of England was just a few million.

Whether viewing these as historical buildings or places of worship, it is clear they were once of very great importance in their communities as so many people would have been involved in their construction. In East Anglia alone there are well over 1000 medieval churches!

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

What will solar cycle 25 look like?

We now seem to be, on average, on the downward slope to the next solar minimum. Some are predicting that the next peak will be almost a non-event with the sunspot number peak of just 7. Of course no-one really knows, but I think it is true that most experts now think cycle 25 will be very poor. Conditions on LF/MF are likely to improve but decent F2 propagation on 10m is likely to be rare, except perhaps with N-S paths over the equator.  What is certain is no-one is really sure. Summer Es could well be the dominant DX mode on the higher HF bands.

UPDATE 2048z:  I have now gone QRT (for the night) on 10m but I will be on 160m now and overnight. Back on 10m tomorrow morning after breakfast.

USA 10m WSPR spots today

K8WW (6043km) was the last to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon this evening at  1904z. The earliest USA spot today was by K4RCG (5995km) at 1256z.

Although about to go QRT on 10m, I'll remain on 160m overnight again.

160m success with the earth-electrode "antenna"

Since yesterday I have been using my FT817 (2-2.5W) into my 12m spaced earth-electrode "antenna" on 160m. Matching was via my ATU feeding a small 42mm diameter 3C90 step-up transformer. In all, 22 unique people spotted me with best DX being EA1FBU (1297km) on TX.  Best reception was 2533km of a station in Russia. The earth-electrode antenna may not be the best 160m antenna but the results prove it certainly works! To be honest, the results of this test surprised me. The current meter was barely moving and ERP must have been in the milliwatt region.

Sunspots and 10m propagation - Feb 20th 2015

Sunspot number today is a healthy 86 yet 10m propagation is expected to be "poor".

UPDATE 1245z:   Despite the "poor" 10m forecast I see that my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon has been copied by in West Australia by VK6XT (14719km) several times this morning, as well as being copied in Russia and Israel. Odd how when 10m is expected to be in poor shape I often find my tiny little beacon is copied on the far side of the globe!

19 Feb 2015

Multiple RX responses on 160m?

I am not aware of this on other bands but on several stations I am giving WSPR reports to the same station at the same time but at several frequencies separated by 50Hz or 100Hz from the main response. I am not aware of this being an issue on other bands or an issue on TX.

Most recently I saw the issue with ON7KB and with G4BOO earlier. The issue seems to be with my end and not a TX fault.   It is not as if signals are that strong, for example the strongest from ON7KB was -13dB S/N.  As I have not seen this before and as I am a "transient" 160m visitor I am not keen to start pulling things apart.

Anyone else seen this?  I use a SignaLink USB to interface the FT817 to the PC. Maybe I have some RF getting into the heavy duty linear PSU  I am using and this only happens on 160m?

For example, I have never seen the issue on 630m (472kHz) WSPR with the same FT817, same PC interface via the same SignaLink USB.  Tonight I am not on 472kHz as I am using the kit on 160m WSPR.

I intend to stay on 160m overnight using the earth-electrode "antenna".

160m TX results so far with earth-electrode "antenna"

It is only 1805z but the results on TX with the earth-electrode "antenna" are encouraging so far.
Unique 160m WSPR TX results with 2W from 
FT817 into 12m spaced earth-electrodes in garden.

First 160m spots on earth-electrode "antenna"

PA3MET (325km) was the first station received on 160m today.  It is still daylight (will be for hours yet) so I assume this is normal daytime propagation.   S/N varied from -17dB at best to -28dB at worse. PA3MET was running 20W, which is high for WSPR.

As it is obviously working, I'll start 160m WSPR TX with 2.5W from the FT817 very shortly.

UPDATE 1405z:  GW0OAJ (240km) has just been spotted here on 160m WSPR RX at -28dB S/N. He is using 5W.

UPDATE 1430z:  G4FKK (106km) spotted.   He is running 100mW but not sure if this is ERP.  Have now turned on the 160m TX (20%).

UPDATE 1500z:   No spots yet of my 2.5W from the FT817 on 160m WSPR so far today.

UPDATE 1604z:  Apparently  G8LCO copied me at -28dB S/N but the WSPRnet database was down, so did not receive the report.  My best DX on RX so far is DF2JP (448km).

UPDATE 1612z:    Best DX on 160m WSPR RX today is now OZ7IT (853km). It is still daylight for another 2 hours here.

UPDATE 1712z:  I see that GW0OAJ (240km) and G8LCO (58km) both spotted me at 1650z, so the earth-electrodes work on 160m WSPR TX.

UPDATE 1750z:  I see now that  ON7KO (295km) is spotting me at -23dB S/N.   And it is only now getting dark!  So far, results on 160m with the earth-electrode "antenna" are encouraging.

UPDATE 1900z:   Best DX on 160m WSPR RX so far with the earth-electrode "antenna" is RX3DHR (2533km).

Mostly quiet so far on 10m

K3ZV (5600km) was the first USA station to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon this afternoon at 1258z. Since then, a few other stateside spots have been received. This morning it was 10m locals apart from UR/SWL56  and one Italian. 10m seems to be "going off the boil" a bit.

 K9AN (6505km) appears to be the last USA station to spot me on 10m WSPR at 1736z.

160m WSPR with earth-electrode"antenna"

I have managed to match my earth-electrode "antenna" on 160m but the RX noise floor is S8 on the meter, which is much higher than on 630m. For now I am just on 160m RX. Nothing yet received.

Last 24hrs on 472kHz with earth-electrodes and 5mW ERP

In total, 11 different stations have received my 5mW ERP WSPR signals from my earth-electrode "antenna" in the last 24 hours with the best report being from F1AFJ (607km) at 2202z last night at -29dB S/N. In the same period I received 12 unique stations.
472kHz - unique spots in last 24 hours
If I can match the earth-electrode "antenna" I shall be trying 160m for a change this evening and overnight. G8LCO has suggested this. If the earth-electrode "antenna" acts as a loop in the ground, I'd predict poorer results at 160m as the loop would be smaller. On the other hand, the FT817 would be better on RX (greater sensitivity) and my ERP higher (I think). Not sure of the noise floor here on 160m, but it could be poorer on 160m than 630m. Proof will be in the results - that is the fun.

Sunspots and 10m - Thurs Feb 19th

Sunspot number has climbed to 95 today and 10m propagation has changed from "poor" to "fair". So far today just locals spotting my 10m 500mW  WSPR beacon but during last evening and overnight G4CUI was copying me I think via tropo and aircraft reflection on 10m WSPR at 172km.

UPDATE 1800z:   So far today 7 unique 10m spots of my 500mW WSPR beacon from the USA.  13 unique stations altogether on 10m today.

Lincoln President (MK11 v3) down in price

Steve G1KQH has seen thst Nevada has reduced its price for the latest Lincoln President rig for 10m (and CB illegally). It was £249 but now £199, a saving of £50.

See http://www.nevadaradio.co.uk/amateur-radio/transceivers/mobile-transceivers/president-lincoln-ii .

18 Feb 2015


I have been on 472kHz WSPR all day. No new stations spotting me or being spotted but some decent DX with 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna".
Unique 472kHz WSPR spots today

No USA spots today

For the first time in a long time my 10m 500mW beacon was not copied at all in the USA today. The low power may not have helped and others may have been more successful. However, it may be a sign of things to come? The danger is falling conditions will see more people give up on 10m WSPR which would be a great pity. The next few years will be very interesting on 10m, especially outside the Es season.

AM on 28MHz and up

Much to my surprise, the RSGB actually published my recent letter to their "The Last Word" column in RadCom, together with a (pathetic) reply from their Spectrum Chair. At least my letter was printed.

The response did nothing to address my concerns. Although the RSGB claims not to be anti-AM, you'd find this hard to believe with a look at the most recent band plans. AM has its place on all bands from 28MHz upwards. I just wish the RSGB and other national organisations would simply acknowledge that this mode has its place. It may be a minority interest mode, but in my experience it is the simplest mode from a building viewpoint.

Flempton, Suffolk

This Suffolk church was open.  It is situated on the A1101 between Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds.

It is famous for a window dedicated to the last lord of the manor. The parishes of Flempton and nearby Hengrave share the same vicar these days. See http://www.suffolkchurches.co.uk/flempton.htm . The parish dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.  The churchyard was fairly wild and rambling, but delightful nonetheless.

We ate next door (just behind the church) at The Greyhound pub where we enjoyed good, simple pub grub but with excellent service. Being right behind the church, I can recommend this pub. It looks nothing special but both the food and service were excellent.

I am afraid this post has nothing to do with amateur radio! I took no gear with me.  My wife and I just enjoyed the winter sunshine and temperatures of 10 degrees C.

See our blog about visits to East Anglian Churches .

Internet of Things (IoT) already here

 This morning I received this email from KK4HSX saying that (certainly in the USA) Amazon is already selling wifi connected slow cookers called "Crock Pots". Not sure if this is a stateside generic term.
It's already here. Behold,the Crock Pot you can monitor and control with you phone.

Low cost ASSEMBLED unit from China

This morning, I received this email from Andy Cutland:
Check out this item I found on eBay: it comes ready built and has a nice side tone. Mine arrived today and works fb.
De Andy

End time: 23 Feb 2015 07:21:07

Falling sunspots

Yet again, sunspot number has fallen , this time to 40 with "poor" 10m conditions expected. I wonder if we'll see 10m open to the USA after lunch?

UPDATE 1100z: So far just G3YAC (12km) and G4IKZ (18km) spotting my 500mW WSPR on 10m this morning with no DX from even Europe or Russia in evidence.

17 Feb 2015


Landwade was the site of my first "over the horizon" optical tests. The tests were successful, but predate my stroke by some time. I remember well being surprised at the reception when "on beam".

We go here each year about this time for a delightful walk of about 1.5km calling at the small private church (locked these days). The church is surrounded by seas of snowdrops and aconites at this time of year. Landwade is very quiet at all times. It is in Suffolk but was in Cambridgeshire until 1994. It has been occupied since Roman times, but consists of a few farms, a hall and the odd cottage these days.

I have updated one of my other blogs.
See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Sunspots and 10m WSPR

Sunspot number has fallen yet again to 44 today.  We are definitely on the way down now. 10m propagation is expected to be "poor".

The 10m band did open to the USA yet again.

Late start on 10m WSPR today

Today I was very late starting my 10m 500mW beacon, so I have no idea what time the opening started. At the moment the last spot from the USA was KD6RF (7547km) at 1706z.

UPDATE 1805z:  Still being spotted by other USA stations . The opening is still continuing.

UPDATE 1945z:   The last spot of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon seems to have been at 1834z by KD6RF (7547km).  I am still on both 10m and 630m (472kHz) WSPR.

16 Feb 2015

More goodies found by G1KQH

From Steve, G1KQH:
Excellent VFM Pots.. I am replacing the preset on the Pixie board with one of these, works out at 16.5p each

They also had 100K which I had another 99p worth.. (For another of my many projects)

Maybe other values if you search their shop.. Of course its China again where do you think I do my shopping these days?

Internet of Things (IoT)

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things .

As the price of wifi and RFID devices continues to fall, it is very likely that we will see a number of household goods connected to the internet, so soon our fridge may tell our shops what we need, or we'll be able to start the washing on our way home from work. It is coming whether we like it or not. Already it is possible to remotely monitor our homes using internet connected cameras - of course it is most important that strong password protection is used and that passwords are regularly changed.

Falling sunspots and poorer 10m conditions

Sunspot number today was 45, the lowest for a long while and 10m conditions expected to be "poor" again. The 10m band is again open to the USA. We should remember that even with a SN of 45 the 10m band can still be good to the USA. Even if the peak of sunspot cycle 25 only reaches 45, we should still expect 10m openings to the USA by F2. Of course, as mentioned before, I expect the 10m band will still be good for transatlantic DX next autumn for the CQWW DX SSB contest, but following years will be very doubtful.

Transatlantic USA 10m WSPR spots today

 KB1YMI (5188km) was the first USA station to copy my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon today at 1212z.

I went QRT on 10m at around 1920z. At 1916z N2BJW (5262km) was the last station still spotting my 500mW 10mWSPR beacon.  As I have gone QRT, I shall never know if later spotters were possible.

15 Feb 2015

472kHz WSPR

I am on 472kHz WSPR this evening and overnight. As yet, just the usual stations spotting me and being spotted. Best DX spot of me was from G4JVF (151km) many times this evening.

Transatlantic 10m WSPR today

Despite the "poor" 10m forecasts, the band opened "across the pond" at 1222z when K3ZV (5692km) spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon.

During the morning I was spotted by TA2AEG (2547km) on several occasions. I have also been spotted by other Europeans.

I closed down on 10m WSPR at 1920z and KB1YMI (5188km) was still spotting me as I closed.

Dalham Walk

View from Dalham church
Today we walked from the delightful village of Dalham up to the village church. I have updated our East Anglian Churches blog to include this.  Dalham is a truly beautiful village not too far from Newmarket. It is in Suffolk.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

Sunspots and 10m - Sunday Feb 15th

Sunspot number today is 49 and 10m propagation "poor". This is the first "poor" forecast for a long while.

14 Feb 2015

Tenner 10m CW transceiver

Click for bigger image.
The Tenner is a very simple CW rig for 10m. It produces about 500mW output and has worked across the Atlantic on many occasions. Offset RX-TX seems to work out at about right, although no special circuitry is employed. This simple circuit just works. Although I used an "at hand" SBL1, any double balanced mixer is likely to be OK. Although I did not try it, a homebrew DBM would be fine. Google it.

472kHz WSPR

I shall be on 472kHz WSPR overnight but will go QRT on 28MHz (10m) shortly.

DK7FC remains my best spot this evening an RX and PA0RDT (243km) is currently the most distant station spotting my 5mW ERP to the earth-electrode "antenna".

Shack limited access this week

Busy birdwatching
We have different grandchildren staying this week depending on the days so I have limited access to my shack.  I should be able to do some WSPR for the first few days, but later in the week will be more difficult as there will be a cot in the shack!

Today we went birdwatching, counting the different species spotted on a 1 mile village walk. The elder grandson (aged 7) is into categorising and collecting. 12 species mostly seen (a couple heard).

Sunspots and 10m today - Sat Feb 14th 2015

Sunspot count is marginally higher at 59 today. 10m propagation is again predicted to be "fair". Although the 10m band has opened to the USA again, this morning on 10m was pretty flat with just the odd European station logging my 500mW beacon.

UPDATE 1310z:   GM4WJA (624km) has been spotting me on 10m.   This could be back-scatter or even winter Es. The distance is far too short for F2.

Stateside spots on 10m WSPR today - Sat Feb 14th 2015

During the morning the odd European was copying my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon.  No "astounding" DX from distant countries.

The first transatlantic spot today was at 1222z by K3ZV (5692km).

Last USA 10m spot of my 500mW beacon was K3EA (5657km) at 1854z.

13 Feb 2015

472kHz WSPR

Earlier this morning I turned off my 472kHz WSPR station. G0LRD (25km) was being regularly spotted and PA0RDT (243km) was copying me overnight.  Best DX spotted by me was F1AFJ (607km).

10m WSPR - DX spots of my 500mW beacon

The first USA spot of my 10m 500mW beacon was by K9AN at 1304z. I see I have also been spotted by VK6XT (14719km) a couple of times today and by FR5ZX (9740km) a couple of times. Considering the forecast of "fair" 10m propagation, today has already been very good.

UPDATE 1630z:   Plenty of USA stations still spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon.

UPDATE 1745z:  Still plenty of USA stations still spotting my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon.  I suspect this opening will continue until well past 1800z. It has been dark here  since about 1715z.

UPDATE 2140z:  The last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m beacon was K9AN (6505km) at 1824z. Still being spotted in Europe until 1908z.

10m beacon now ON

My 10m beacon was turned on just before 1100z. So far, it has still not stabilised so is drifting a little as the reference warms up, only G4IKZ (18km) has seen me. It will be well after 1200z I expect before any stateside stations see me today.

UPDATE 1109z:   LA9JO (2096km) is the best DX spot of my 500mW 10m WSPR so far this morning. He was spotting me at -8dB S/N, which was very strong. I assume this was single hop F2 propagation?

Digital experiments

In all my time in amateur radio I have never once experimented with microprocessor programming and I have done very little "digital" design.  This seems to be a gap in my knowledge, although I am still not really interested, preferring RF design, especially QRP.  I must say I remain very impressed with Wolf's (W5OLF) tiny WSPR-AXE-CW beacon: this goes to show just how much can be achieved with so little physically. Maybe this is a whole area I should embrace? The trouble is it is impossible to be an expert at lots of things, unless you are very bright. Certainly I do not consider myself a polymath! 

Pixie kit from China

My low cost 40m Pixie kit - although G1KQH only paid about 60% of what I paid - is on its way from China but has not yet arrived here. I assume, with free shipping, this comes by sea. I am in no great hurry. As I mentioned before, I very much hope to build this unit as I have not built much in ages because of my brain bleed.

UPDATE 1600z:   My kit arrived in the post today.  Still to open the package, but judging by the speed this must have come by air. It looks well packed.

Falling sunspots?

Sunspot number today has fallen to 50, the lowest for quite a while and 10m propagation is forecast to be "fair" again.

Yesterday, 10m did open for me to the USA and plenty of stateside stations copied my 500mW beacon in the end after a late start. I suspect today it may be harder going as we seem, on average, to now be on the downward slope towards the next minimum, although this is years away. If predictions of the next maximum are to be believed, a SN of 50 would be considered a decent figure for the next sunspot peak! Of course, the predictions could be wrong, although the predictions have improved a lot and most got cycle 24 pretty accurately.

I have not yet turned on the 10m beacon this morning as we have visitors. It will probably be turned on just before lunch. I am still on MF but there are few active stations in range.

See http://www.solen.info/solar/ .

12 Feb 2015

Transatlantic spots on 10m WSPR

VE3GEN (5593km) was the first stateside station to spot my 10m 500mW beacon today at 1346z. Since then (quite late) lots of USA stations have spotted me. At 1734z, there were still plenty of USA spots coming in.

UPDATE  2140z:    The last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m beacon was NY2M (5587km) at 1844z

472kHz WSPR

This morning G0LRD (25km) has been copied several times. During the overnight period my PC turned off to install updates so no 472kHz spots between about 0300z and breakfast time. Currently I am active with 5mW ERP (20% TX, 80% RX) ) on 472kHz and 500mW on 28MHz (10m) WSPR (100% TX).

UPDATE 1205z: G0LRD has been copied 16 times here on 472kHz this morning using my earth-electrode "antenna".  Signals have varied by up to 9dB in S/N, which is probably my local noise floor changing rather than propagation?

Sunspots and 10m - Feb 12th 2015

Sunspot number has fallen slightly to 76. 10m propagation is again forecast to be "fair".

The WSPRnet database is working again this morning and I notice that last evening my 500mW 10m beacon was copied by KB9AMG (6300km) as late as 1734z.  This was the last USA spot last night.

Nothing yet this morning from anywhere on 10m WSPR.

11 Feb 2015

472kHz WSPR today and last night

DK7FC, G0LRD and G3WCB are all good signals on 472kHz WSPR this evening. Last night I was spotted by G3XKR (347km) in IO70ux (North Devon). I think G3XKR is a new reporter, although I do need to double check.

East Anglia Churches blog

Sorry, this is not amateur radio.

Today my wife and I visited her old ancestral home at Wymondham in Norfolk. Some of her family lived here in the 1800s.

We visited the fine abbey there which was founded in 1107AD. We record our visits on a blog, which we updated.

The photo is of the market square in the middle of the town.

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ .

WSPRnet database back again and 10m DX

The WSPRnet database is back again. I had an e (mail when the database was still down from KC1AWS (5308km) saying he first copied me today at -18dB S/N at 1158z. I now see that VK6XT (14719km)  also copied me many times.

UPDATE 2107z:   The last USA spot today seems to have been K5XL (7660km) at 1702z.

Sunspots and 10m - Wednesday Feb 11th

Sunspot number today is 82 and 10m propagation expected to be "fair".

UPDATE 1024z:  The WSPRnet database seems to have a fault currently, so spots are not being uploaded (I think) and not displayed, so I have no idea what is happening to my 500mW WSPR-AXE-CW beacon at present. Let us hope they can fix the issue soon.

10 Feb 2015

70cms UKAC

This evening was the Feb 2015 leg of the RSGB's 70cm cumulative contest. My very poor voice was a real handicap as was my QRP SSB (5W pep) and my small 5 el beam fixed in the SW direction.  I was only able to manage about 40 minutes before I had to stop.
70cms UKAC - stations worked with 5W/5el fixed SW
Best DX heard (off the back of the beam) was OZ9KY. Best DX worked was G4CLA at 105km. Before the next session I must mend my beam so I can turn it.

Narrow Band TV (NBTV)

Partly because bandwidths are very low, there has been a revival of interest in NBTV systems similar to the early TV transmissions by Baird in the 1920s and 1930s.

There is even a Televisor kit available for about £40 delivered (in the UK) with a CD with some still and moving images and its own test card generator. I am quite tempted!

The televisor kit is available for £35.94 + shipping from http://www.mindsetsonline.co.uk/Site/Home (search for televisor). This is compatible with the 32 line standard of the NBTV Association.  The NBTV Association home page is at http://www.nbtv.wyenet.co.uk/index.htm .

Bandwidths are audio only, so a tape recorder or CD are fine. Over the air transmissions only require audio bandwidths too. Of course, with just 32 lines don't expect brilliant images! The narrow bandwidth should make it possible to transit moving images over a standard FM or AM link.

I think the very first transatlantic DX tests were done using the Baird system in the late 1920s  or early 1930s.

VHF AM and the RSGB

Recently, I wrote to the "Last Words" column in Radcom. I very much doubt my letter will be published. The main thrust of the letter is the (very negative) attitude of the RSGB to the AM mode.

My letter (as sent) is reproduced here. I'd be interested to hear your views.

At the present time G6ALB is experimenting with very low cost 70cms AM modules as the heart of a possible short range (3km) voice transceiver. We have had some success already.
"Thank you for publishing the latest Band Plans in the February 2015 RadCom. Although because of my poor voice (stroke) I tend to use digital techniques, I still enjoy the occasional outing using AM. Like many, I have worked transatlantic AMers on 29-29.1MHz with real QRP and simple antennas.

Yet again, one could be forgiven for thinking AM, especially 28MHz and up, is a dirty word at the RSGB.  AM gets no mention on 28MHz and 50MHz and gets a (begrudging?) comment as a footnote only in the 144MHz Band Plan when other modes get "centres of activity" mentions. For the avoidance of any doubt, AM is alive and well in the 29-29.1MHz sub-band. AM on the 144MHz (2m) band can be found on and around 144.550MHz. There has been AM on 29-29.1MHz for years and years and years! Yes, this is the all-mode section, but why not say this is the 28MHz (10m) AM sub-band? Also, why are 144MHz AM users asked to "consider adjacent channel activity"? AM should easily fit in 6kHz!!

Sorry, yet again, AM is being treated as a dirty and outdated mode. May I remind readers that ex-PMR AM rigs ripe for use on VHF can be picked up for virtually nothing and that there is room for AM on all bands from 28MHz upwards. AM has its enthusiasts on other bands too, but yet again the RSGB seems hell bent on killing off this mode. Why?

Roger Lapthorn G3XBM"

Motorola for sale?

Is the end in sight for Motorola?

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-06/motorola-solutions-said-to-explore-sale-of-87-year-old-company .

When I was at work (I retired 7 years ago) Motorola was our greatest rival. Since coming into existence in the early years of this century, my own company Sepura has been in profit every year. The demise of Motorola is a salutary lesson never to be complacent. How the mighty have fallen.

Cambridge on a winter day

Cambridge Punts
Every Tuesday I travel into Cambridge for my weekly U3AC course called "Maps in the Computer Age".  I am enjoying the course very much.

Usually I drive to the "Park and Ride" car park at Newmarket Road and get the bus into town. The U3AC course is at the U3AC headquarters in Bridge Street, which is about 30m from where the punts are on the River Cam.  At this time of the year the punts are quiet. Come the summer and this spot is very busy. Cambridge has lots of foreign visitors when the usual students go home. If you see a foreigner with a map wobbling along on a pink bicycle it is a good idea to be well clear!

Round Church - very old building
From the punt place you can punt right up via St John's, Trinity, Clare and Kings College.  Kings College Chapel is lovely from the river.   The secret is not to leave your punt pole behind. It is easily done. Luckily the Cam is not too deep. If you prefer, you can pay someone else to do the punting so you can just sit back and enjoy a timeless Cambridge moment.
Bridge St,  Cambridge

Some of the views have not changed much in centuries. The Backs in Cambridge are very beautiful and it is little wonder people travel from all corners of the Earth to visit this beautiful centre of learning.  It is all too easy just to take it all for granted. Certainly, when I worked in the city, I did.  Now being retired, I properly enjoy it. It is still a very beautiful city with fine very old buildings and the River Cam winding its way up behind the colleges. If you have never been, you are unlikely to be disappointed.

Many years ago I was with a friend who parked at the multi-storey car-park just off Bridge Street. We worked a VK6 (S.W. Australia) from the car on 10m SSB.

10m USA WSPR spots today

KE2N (5934km) was the first USA station to spot my 500mW beacon today at 1318z. Compared with yesterday, 10m conditions appear way down. We'll see how the afternoon progresses.

UPDATE 2002z:   K9AN (6505km) was the last USA station to spot my 500mW beacon on 10m WSPR today at 1752z.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number is 82 today and 10m propagation expected to be just "fair".  Yesterday 10m was (for me) exceptionally good.  I very much doubt they can be as good today.

9 Feb 2015

Radio Shack files for bankruptcy protection

So Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy protection.

See http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-radioshack-sprint-shops-bankruptcy-20150206-story.html .

This had been on the cards for some time, but the USA's famous radio store has been in trouble for some while. It was formed firstly in 1921. Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy protection last Thursday.

10m USA WSPR spots today (and South America)

The first USA station to spot my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon was KC1AWS (5308km) at 1214z today. With all the DX spots from Australia this morning, it make the USA seem like just the back door and hardly DX at all!

UPDATE 1420z:  10m is wide open today.  YV5ESN (7294km) spotted my 500mW beacon at 1412z.

UPDATE 1900z:   USA stations are still spotting me, The last was W9ZOC (6259km) at 1854z. This may not be the last.

UPDATE 2115z:   W9ZOC at 1854z was the last USA station to spot me from the USA today.

Handheld of the future?

See http://www.southgatearc.org/news/2015/february/ht_of_the_future_at_orlando.htm#.VNi6BC4WKPc .

Southgate News reports that Bruce Perens K6BP will be demonstrating a handheld platform that can cope with many modes at VHF/UHF at the Orlando Hamcation in Florida. This looks like a demonstrator at 100mW RF. With SDRs, quite a flexible, and low cost, architecture is possible.

I wonder which of the "big names" will be first to market with a real SDR design? This could enable them to sell very low cost units, but maybe they would rather shaft us and make big profits?

10m WSPR - multiple spots from Australia

It is now 1140z. Already this morning VK6XT (14719km) in Western Australia has spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR 13 times so far on 10m! This is far from over too! This is now. In a few years this will be stuff of dreams. In the last few minutes he has spotted me yet again.

UPDATE 1246z:  VK6XT (14729km) has spotted me 21 times so far today. This for 500mW seems amazing, but WSPR is amazing. That the WSPR beacon is totally contained in a tiny box (no PC needed) I find quite staggering. As you can see, most of the reports were good ones, certainly not "on the edge" at all.

472kHz WSPR this morning

I am being spotted well by G8HUH (250km) this morning. I know he has a good system as he has even copied me on 136kHz from the old QTH. If I can succeed on 472kHz with no antenna in the air, then I am sure anyone can! Mine is a far from optimum set-up.
Early morning on 472kHz WSPR (5mW ERP earth-electrode "antenna"

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number has risen to 94 today and 10m propagation is expected to be "good".

I have only just switched on my 10m 500mW WSPR-AXE-CW beacon, so it is still stabilising. My first spot (still showing stabilisation) was at 0916z from local G4IKZ (18km). To avoid drift and interference, the beacon is on TX 100% but the frequency is randomised to avoid warm-up drift and the risk of sitting under a stronger signal all day. This works well. Even on my 10m version there is no drift after the first 20 minutes..

UPDATE 0954z:  Surprisingly,  no spots yet from Israel, Russia or continental Europe and only a single spot (so far this morning) from G4IKZ.

UPDATE 1008z:  Spots are coming thick and fast now with best report so far from VK6XT (14719km) in Western Australia at 1002z.

UPDATE 1012z:   OH7AZL (2000km) was spotting me at 1006z at an enormous -2dB S/N. I think this was F2 propagation. Such strengths suggests he might still have spotted me at the uW power level rather than the 500mW I was using.  So far today, he has spotted me 5 times already. Other stations in Finland are also spotting me very strongly.

8 Feb 2015

Stroke update

I went for more blood tests last week.  Results should be back late this week.

I still have trouble speaking, swallowing thin liquids, feel drunk when walking and I tire easily with any physical activity. Although I am still mending it is taking much longer than I was expecting. To be honest, I am frustrated at the slow progress. My wife and I want the old "me" back.

472kHz WSPR puzzle

Last night and overnight more stations copied me than I copied. Since 1030z today I have copied lots of WSPR stations on 472kHz but no-one has copied me!

About 20 minutes ago I re-set the clock to internet time and changed frequency about 20Hz lower. I also closed and re-opened the WSPR software. Still I am copying plenty but no-one has so far copied me still since 1030z.

The 5mW ERP TX to the earth-electrodes will remain on overnight.

I checked frequencies and power into the ground loop.  All looks the same as yesterday. Odd.

UPDATE 2237z:  Panic over: G6AVK (78km) is copying me at -20dB S/N.

Wellbrook RX loop review

See http://medxr.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/review-wellbrook-ala1530s-loop-antenna.html .

Some stations have splashed out on this RX only loop in an attempt to overcome man made noise sources. This is a review of one person's results with this 1m diameter loop. Like many, this Australian was well satisfied.  In Australia it is even more expensive as the shipping costs from the UK are high.

I have wondered about the LF loop as a possible RX only antenna for 136 and 472kHz.  I believe the loop is balanced and being a loop, it has directivity. It has to be positioned some distance for any TX antenna and ideally rotated.

Digital repeaters

As I have mentioned before, I am a rare repeater user, partly because my voice is so poor currently and I don't find operating through repeaters that satisfying. Each to his/her own and if this helps you enjoy the hobby go ahead!

At the moment it is far from clear which form of digital repeater will win: there are several competing digital standards and all have their advocates. For now I shall sit back and wait. A bit like the video standards war in the 1980s, the best system may not win. Let's see. Up to now I have only used FM repeaters.

When I do use voice I use SSB, FM and AM. All modes have their places on our bands. SSB is good on the crowded HF bands, FM useful for nets on VHF, and AM rigs simple to build and there is space on all bands from 10m upwards for all analogue voice modes. A well designed AM rig should occupy less than 6kHz, far less most FM transmissions on our bands. 10m AM, just above 29MHz, is a great mode. I have worked quite a few stateside stations on 10m AM. And I have only used QRP AM.  Let no-one tell you AM is a dead mode!

USA 10m WSPR spots and MF today

The first USA station to copy my 500mW WSPR-AXE-CW WSPR beacon on 10m today was K3ZV (5692km) at 1214z. I have been spotted by lots of USA stations all afternoon on 10m.

UPDATE 2015z:   The last 10m USA WSPR spot today was K3EA (5657km) at 1846z

Whilst on 100% TX on 10m (500mW) I am still active on 472kHz (630m) WSPR (5mW ERP) and the earth-electrodes on both RX and TX. Unlike yesterday, I have mainly been spotting others today.  These are some of the MF spots today.

Sunspots and 10m - Sunday Feb 8th 2015

Sunspot number is much the same as yesterday at 80 today although 10m is expected to be "good", which is better than yesterday when the forecast was only "fair".

UPDATE 1050z:   Best 10m DX report (this morning so far) of my 500mW WSPR-AXE-CW beacon by Jay W5OLF is 4X1RF (3519km) although I have had quite a few spots from European and Russian stations this morning on 10m.

7 Feb 2015

472kHz WSPR today

I am still active on 472kHz WSPR with 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna"  My best DX reports today has been from PA0RDT (243km) and G8HUH (250km).  On RX my best spot so far is of PA0A (417km).

Interestingly today more stations were copying me than I copied on MF. Although the FT817 is a little deaf on 472kHz, it has not stopped me copying most active stations. I do sometimes wonder if a few more dBs of front end gain (with good large signal handling) would allow me to receive any more MF stations?

UPDATE Feb 8th 1053z:   My best 472kHz DX report overnight with 5mW ERP from the earth-electrode "antenna" was by PA00 at 440km. G8HUH (250km) has spotted me very many times today.

FT817 sensitivity

Today I checked the sensitivities of my FT817 and FT817ND using a loaned signal generator. Although about 10dB deaf at 472kHz (expected) both were easily able to copy down to -127dBm on CW on all bands to 70cms. -127dBm is as low as the generator would go.  I could have added a 10dB attenuator, but did not.  I also managed easy access of GB3PY and GB3OV 70cms repeaters at the 500mW level into the V2000 vertical.  My conclusion is things are OK at my end and I wonder if G6ALB has some additional cable loss at 70cms at his end (water in the feeder?).  My antenna has been up for about 2 years whereas his has been up for around 20 years.

A pity we don't have an 8m (40MHz) band.

An amateur band at 40MHz would be really useful as I suspect the F2 MUF has been in this region several times in the last few years. There are a very few beacons around 40MHz (UK and Denmark only I believe) but wouldn't it be good to have even 100kHz around this frequency? Sadly it is very unlikely, but I would happily lose 100kHz at the top of 10m in exchange.   It would also be a very useful Es band.

Somehow I can't see this happening, more is the pity.  The world of radio science would really benefit. This would have been so much more useful than 146-147MHz recently released to UK amateurs by NoV.  I know a handful of UK amateurs are trying narrowband DTV but the 2m band is mainly Japanese "black boxes" and is mostly white noise in most areas.

Radio Shack going?

Radio Shack is a familiar name in the USA, but maybe not for much longer? This news from Steve G1KQH yet again. I hope you can access the link as sometimes ARRL links can only be seen by ARRL members.
Is this the end of Tandy’s original owner? 

73 Steve

Looking at some of the range claims by Radio Shack for their handhelds I expect they get lots of returns from very disappointed customers.    I am sure that these ranges are achievable from hill and clifftop, ideal,  locations, but such ideal conditions are rare.  In the UK and the rest of the EC  such claimed ranges would be illegal. Much more realistic would be ranges of 0.5 to 2 miles at best, and often far less.  Caveat emptor!

10m WSPR USA spots today

Although I have been copied much further today, my first report from the USA was from KZ8C (6290km) at 1258z. This is quite a lot later than yesterday.

UPDATE 1356z:   Although I am being spotted in the USA, early indications are that there are fewer USA stations spotting me than yesterday.  Of course, it may be that some stations who were using WSPR yesterday have chosen other modes today.

UPDATE 2030z:  The last spot of my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon was by WG2Z (5600km) at 1954z, which is quite late.

More VK (really long distance) reports on 10m WSPR today

My little 500mW 10m WSPR beacon has been copied in Australia 3 times today already, and conditions are meant to be just "fair"! VK6XT spotted me a couple of times this morning (again) but the best was VK5MR (16144km) at 1230z.

It never fails to amaze me that this tiny little stand-alone 500mW WSPR-AXE-CW WSPR mode beacon is copyable in a shack on the other side of the planet. I have now been copied at this range many times.

Reports from YV5ESN (7294km) in South America seem almost local, HI.  USA stations really do seem like locals now!

4X1RF on 10m

4X1RF (3519km) was spotting my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon early today at 0854z.

UPDATE 1425z:   4X1RF has spotted by 500mW 10m WSPR beacon no less than 30 times so far today.

Sunspots and 10m - Feb 7th 2015

Sunspot number today is 71 and 10m propagation forecast to be "fair". It sounds quite similar to yesterday. So far only G4IKZ spotting me, and now 4X1RF.

UPDATE 1354z:  With the 10m band open (even for me using 500mW WSPR) to North and South America and Australia, it seems much better than a "fair" day. 

6 Feb 2015

40m Pixie from AliExpress

From my bank statement I see my 40m Pixie kit from China, that has shipped, cost a little over £7. This includes all parts including crystal and PCB. At this price it would be hard to buy the individual parts. I very much want to build this as it will be the first amateur radio construction here in a very long time.   It is sufficiently simple and low cost that I should manage it, even if I am a little clumsy still with the soldering iron.

 No doubt Andrew G6ALB (3km) will help with a first test.

Not amateur radio again

Today we visited the next village, Swaffham Prior, 3km west of here, home to G6ALB where there are 2 churches and 2 windmills. Andrew G6ALB and I are testing low cost AM modules on 70cm. As yet these tests have only been partially successful. Tomorrow I need to check the sensitivity of my receivers.

After our visit, I have updated our blog http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ where you can follow our visits around East Anglia.

UK National Grid status link

Again, from Steve G1KQH, a link that may well be of interest to UK readers:
Did I send you this one Roger?

73 Steve
Many times we hear that closing old and polluting power stations is putting us at risk of power blackouts. Check the electricity capacity yourself.

In the left hand corner you can also check for France.

USA 10m WSPR spots today

Lots of USA stations have spotted my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon today. The first USA station to spot me today was KC1AWS (5308km) at 1150z. The openings to the US A are starting earlier now.

UPDATE 1845z:  KD6RF (7547km) at 1834z is the last USA station to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon currently. I think it is unlikely I'll be spotted by others in the USA tonight, but we'll see.

UPDATE 2040z:  The spot at 1834z by KD6RF did prove to be the last today from the USA. Still, at nearly 6 and 3/4 hours this was a decent opening.

Sunspots and 10m

Sunspot number today has fallen back to 86. 10m propagation is expected to be "fair".

So far this morning VK6XT (14719km) is my best DX report on 10m WSPR with my 500mW WSPR beacon at 1024z. Considering the "fair" 10m forecast, this is pretty good.

5 Feb 2015

CB to ham

From Steve G7VFY:
Good use for old CB's.
There is a Yahoo group, CB to ham.

Stephen Walters

10m USA WSPR spots - Feb 5th 2015

The first USA station to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon today was WG2Z (5600km) at 1246z. Although open yet again across the north Atlantic - it has been open most afternoons now for months - today only feels "average" today on 10m WSPR.

UPDATE 1722z:   At the moment KC1AWS (5308km) was the last USA station to spot my 500mW 10m beacon at 1714z.  It is still quite early, so other stations may still copy me in the USA later.

UPDATE 1830z:   I am still being spotted by USA stations. The latest spot was by KC1AWS at 1826z but there are others too. 10m is still open transatlantic.

UPDATE 2100z:  The last USA station to spot my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon today was W8QYT (5798km) at 1838z tonight. Time to go QRT on 10m WSPR.

Radio Equipment Directive (RED)

See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/radio-equipment-directive-proposal .

Quite soon this new directive will apply in Europe including the UK. Many low cost modules may cost a little more as receivers will need to be more carefully designed to meet RED requirements. It is likely that more stringent RX parameters will have to be met. I wonder if some of the very low module costs are as a result of the dumping of old stock? This could well impact super-regen receivers that are sensitive, but not very selective. Although fine in some markets this type of receiver is less than ideal in a very busy ISM band where they could easily be blocked.  Listening around 433.92MHz recently, very many ISM devices could be copied.  One of my old colleagues is involved in international committees working on RED.

The "internet of things" means very many devices will include radios in future, such as a basic internet terminal in washing machines or RFID tags.

Sunspots and 10m propagation - Feb 5th 2015

Sunspot number today is 85. 10m propagation is expected to be "fair".  So far today, just LZ1OI (2153km) and local G4IKZ (18km) copying my 10m 500mW WSPR beacon this morning.  No further DX as yet, although I expect 10m to open to the USA after lunch.

UPDATE 1045z:  Just been spotted on 10m by 4X1RF (3519km).

UPDATE 1114z:  4X1RF has spotted me 3 times so far today.

UPDATE 1214z: 4X1RF (3519km) has, so far, spotted my 500mW 10m WSPR beacon 6 times this morning. No sign, as yet, of spots from stations in the USA.

4 Feb 2015

Yet more transceiver modules!

A search on eBay has thrown up lots of useful RF transceiver modules, not as low cost as the AM ones found by G6ALB, but nonetheless very low cost and suitable for local communications, Some are 100mW and some 500mW or 1W.  The ones I saw were data units, but these should be suitable for speech  with simple mods. I am unclear how some of these are programmed to the correct frequency. There is usually a choice of either VHF or UHF and I think some are essentially FM.

Put  "UHF transceiver module eBay" into Google to see what comes up. Or try "VHF" instead of UHF. I was amazed how low cost these were.