A summary mini-update

Hello there ! Well its been a while since i sat at the desk to do a blog-posting rather than a video and of antenna related results, so this evening I thought I would return to the blog and give a summary mini-update of what I have been upton !

How do I approach this.. hmm, well, lets go for by bands of operation and then methods as a subtext !

HF Operations (80m to 10m)

Well I have mostly been busy on improving the performance of my main 6BTV antenna, this is following a fantastic field trip with G4PRS (Poole Radio Society) to have a great day out and with so much learning about antennas.

As an outcome of that, I decided to improve my 6BTV and understand more about the tools that I have. I’ve made several fundamental changes to my 6BTV and initial results, well, are seeming promising. I have yet to take the X&Y measurements I wanted to take due to the inclement weather, but I think that will be this week.

I have been doing more and more telephony work on 40 and 80m. 40m via the IC-7300 and 80m via the Kenwood TS-690 into the excellent UK Antenna 80m multi band end-fed. Although its below its optimal height, it is functioning brilliantly.

Specific Modes – FT8

You would of seen from my QRZ page I used to spend allot of time on FT8. It is an interesting and exciting mode to start making contacts with. I found myself wanting more thou, so I found another digital mode to move onto. I am still doing occasional FT8, but really for what it was designed for in my opinion, getting signal reports and checking propergation/antennas, rather than solid FT8 only.

Specific Modes – SSTV (HF to start with)

I have been enjoying SSTV massively on 20m (14.230USB) – you will see on this site my most recent received images uploaded to the SSTV section. I use SSTV early and the early evening (grey line times) during mon-fri and where i can during the weekends. I have had some fantastic contacts and enjoying the pictures / QSOs massively. It is very rewarding to get a good 595 / P5 report from another operator well into DX terrority.

I continue to enjoy SSTV in making great contacts, I hope you could be my next one !

Specific Modes – Telephony on HF(voice)

Whilst on UHF/VHF I tend to be more comfortable with the longer QSOs via repeaters and even simplex on 2M, I still find HF QSO’s challenging, but very rewarding. At home I’m limited to 50 Watts, and when up against even legal full licence holders who can typically run 100W+ making a QSO and getting a good report, is really rewarding – lets not start about the Italians who are doing a great job of warming the atmosphere in what seems like an almost unlimited use of power of the HF airwaves.

I am doing more telephony on 40m and 80m recently (Sep/Oct 21) and really enjoying it. I’m using N1MM as a logging tool, which really helps me get the call sign down – i still don’t mind asking multiple times for a call sign until i get it right thou ! I have had great contacts with the ‘secret nuclear bunker’ and also Germany – I’m hoping the solar cycle continues to improve propagation on 40m

Specific Modes – Telephony on VHF & UHF

I use my IC705 on occasion from home on 2m and 70cm. I am very lucky to get into Southampton and the Isle of White very easily from my QTH in IO90BS. This gives me the opportunity to what must be one of the best repeaters on the south coast, namely, GB3IW. This repeater has excellent coverage with people connecting to as far west as Somerset and as far east as Brighton, inland I have heard people from Uckfield, Haywards Heath and also closer to my QTH in Bournemouth. I can take one of my handhelds out with 5W of power and get into it, with varying signal reports. From home with the X50 and 10W I am always 5/9+10 without problem.

I am working on a packet radio project for 2M based on the excellent Kenwood TH-D7 and the raspberry Pis I have. I am also into setting up a local ‘SSTV’ night,so if you in/around IO90BS and hear SSTV on 2m, it can well be me !

QRP / M / P

I continue to use my IC-705 both at home and mobile as a QRP transceiver. I have no interest in adding an amplifier to this fantastic and amazing transevier. For me QRP is almost becoming a sub-hobby in its own right. I have several very exciting antennas to use /M and /P and (/PP)

I’m hoping in the autumn and winter months to get out more with the IC-705 and my other UHF/VHF handhelds for some exciting and interesting field experiments.

Conclusion

Well I am keeping incredibly busy, its my final year of my MSc and am enjoying a new contract with a fantastic team who keep me wholly engaged thruout the day. I do hope to return to my local club when i can safely, until then i am keeping in touch with several of the members via email and hopefully when the weather gets better, back on the 2M net !

I have probably gone on for too long due to absence of recent postings, but thanks for reading and staying with me. I am hoping to do more frequent updates, no matter how busy i get, even if its just a short write up with some theory and application.

Until then take care, stay safe, and enjoy your radio.

Alan / 2E0FWE

Mobile at last ! New Forest Trip

Having owned the IC-705 for quite some months this was my first time to take it portable. With the weather looking slightly dodgy our group of friends headed to Boulderwood in the New Forest.

Our risk taking with the weather was rewarded with a fantastic, albeit slightly cooler than of late, evening in the New Forest.

Portable in the New Forest in Boulderwood

It was great to go with a friend as although the setup was minimal a helping hand was greatly appreciated. I attached my Alexloop Ham Pack antenna to my Buddipole mast with a bungee which done an excellent job of keeping it secure

bungee, buddipole tripod/mast and ALexloop hampack = nice secure setup

I brought along a couple of fold up tables, one for the ladies ot have their pic-nic on the other for me to setup my radio. I started with just the IC-705 first and tuned to 20m. The quality of the signals away from the QRM of my QTH was simply amazing.

Receive singals where really strong and clear – absence of background noise (QRM)

I did try to reply to the CQ calls, but couldnt get a response this time, but was nethertheless glad to just be trying.

Operating the the Alexloop Ham pack was everything it should be, really easy to tune into the frequency. I was getting SWR of 1.3 to 2 on all the frequencies i tuned. I dare say I could get better as I get more expericned with it, but the gauge on it is fantastic.

Resonence LED in full effect on 20m

As seen in the picture above the LED on the tuning unit shows the power/matching of the antenna to the transceiver. I also used the SWR meter on the IC705. I did bring along my rigexpert (HF) but didnt need it in the end.

Having run 5W on the internal batttery, i then switched to a Lifo battery and got the full 10W portable. My connections to the battery need improvement, but are functional.

I was able to test FT8, and received plenty of signals from around the world. I explained to my friend how FT8 works and our signals on PSKReporter. It was amazing how far we was getting out on 10W and the Alexloop !

2E0fwe portable from the new forest reaches far !

I was unable to make a contact, but I was still gald to be getting out. I need to learn how to adjust the volume control on my linux laptop, as the signal was overloading, i suspect i missed some DX/RX opputnities.

Next we tried WSPR – with the portable battery it was no problem to keep going. I checked the database and my own site and could see that we was getting out nicely, albeit with 10W which is probably the most power I have ever used on WSPR.

WSPR mobile

I must rememer to update my callsign for Mobile operation next time as I only changed it later in WSJT-X.

After digital modes and with the sun / grey line coming in I made one more try on telephony just calling CQ, but alas no responses. I dont feel disappointed, i had limited time and wanted to make sure we got back home all feeling well and having an enjoyable evening, so packed up. Again having a friend help was great, everything was put away with no damage and easily into my camper van.

This was a great first experience of being portable. I really enjoyed it and am sure to keep on trying and will probably make Boudlerwood my goto place. If you ever see me there, dont be shy and am always happy to talk to people who are interested.

Having a great time in Boudlerwood, New Forest with the IC705 and Alex Hampack

This has really added so much more to this already amazing hobby. I can thorougly recommend portable operation !

More vidoes next time, but until then 73

Alan / 2E0FWE

15m DX at night ?!

Was just playing about on my radio with FT8, having had one phone QSO on 20m to Italy, then a number of FT8 on 20m as well, thought, lets give 15 meters a try. Having never really persisted at using 15m, it was an ideal time as I could keep an eye on WSJT-X and tidy/file stuff at the same time.

The band looked completely empty when I started, but as the CQ’s keep transmiting, lo and behold I was rewarded with a contact !

FT8 15m contact

There was even some reports to see on PSKReporter !

Reaching far on 15m with 50W of power

I was really suprised, and impressed, with how well the 6BTV is doing, its such a great antenna and I’m getting more out of it every time I have time to use it on the frequencys I previously didnt really use.

Moral of the story is, if the band looks dead, still give it a go ! you never know who you might contact !

10m skip FT8

Having kept an eye on the Kiwi WebSDR I could see plenty of activity on the 10m band, a sure sign that the ‘skip’ from the ‘E Layer’ had picked up. For those ‘new’ to skip, there is an excellent write up here by VK3FS on the behaviour of this ionospheric band.

Here I’ll be showing over the course of just a few short hours how the E-layer built up, the collapsed.

10m skip at 18:04 UTC in IO90BS

Tuning to the 10M frequency for FT8, 28.074, there was allot of activity, transmissions from Europe where coming in the strongest, and even as far as Brazil in South America. It was incredble to see the band so ‘alive’

pskreporter on 10m transmitting 40w

I started transmitting on what had now become a very noisy channel, with plenty of DX around Europe coming in very strong. My own signal from the Hustler 6BTV and 40 watts of power resulted in the QSO’s started to roll in, with little to no reties.

Racking up the QSO’s on FT8

Grid Tracker really came into its own here, making logging to QRZ effortless so I was able to focus on QSO’s rather than uploading ADIF files. This resulted in 2 confirmed QSO’s almost immediately, with an impressive the furthest being 950 miles to IS0SLM in Dolianova.

Band conditions at 19:22 UTC showing the changed in the ‘E Layer’ propagation

Just as quickly the band and opened up, the conditions returned back to the regular behaviour for the E-layer, as seen in the 19:22 and 19:39 signal spectrum from WSJTX.

Band conditions at 19:39 – signals were getting much weaker in WSJTX Wide Graph

By 20:30 I could still be heard but the 6BTV, a vertical and with that being non-directional, wasn’t pulling in the weaker signals for a QSO to be completed.

10m reach at 20:33 with 40W

My reception reports via Pskreporter showed a big difference. I’d be interested to know if this was a phenomenon of the grey-line as the sun set or just the charge in the E-layer collapsing and limiting propagation again.

9 10m QSOs with some great reports and distances

I was still really happy in this ‘short’ time to get so many FT8 QSO’s via 10m. It really is a fascinating band, and one I will do more research with as I continue to improve the performance of the 6BTV and also work 6m with my Yagi antenna

The ‘coolest’ FT8 contact yet ?

Was one of those nights when I couldn’t get my head down after a great Easter bank holiday weekend, so had a little play on FT8 in the small hours. Having used WSJT-X for quite some time I wanted to experiment with other FT8 software, and gave JTDX a try. I followed the setup documents and was soon transmitting and receiving. Some say JTDX has better decode than WSJT-X – I think time will tell.

Tonight (Or is that very early this morning) I had what must be the coolest FT8 contact yet tho

DT8A – 8482 mi on the South Shetland Islands

I have never heard of the “South Shetland Islands” until they appeared in the JTDX log – I was quick to click and respond, then patiently wait in the hope my call got responded to. Sure enough, with a few minutes and on 20 watts of power DT8A responded and my signal report was received. What I do with all FT8 contacts is to check the QRZ page and read up to add a little more ‘this is more than just a signal report’ to the QSO, I was amazed at DT8A’s page and the fantastic photos !

In particular as my good lady is South Korean, I found it very interesting that Mr Lee was stationed in such a remote part of the world !

So glad to have reached Mr Lee and I hope his work/research in the South Shetlands goes really well !

OTH & JS8

Whilst enjoying my studies of Machine Learning I had the radio on in the background. I was very interested to see some ‘patterns’ on the 40m band

Interesting patterns in the waterfall

Not right at this time, but earlier in the day my fellow ‘neighbour’ ham G7VRD told me these are OTH. What is that ? Well this is Over the Horizon Radar, where radio signals are based off the ionosphere and then measured. They have been around a while, as in the 1950s, but technology has ‘evolved’ and ‘new’ arrays are being built ! These patterns were throughout the 40m band most of the evening ! Whilst annoying if you wanted to use the band for its intended use, nevertheless provided some interesting reading on what OTH was and how it worked.

FT8 and JS8 Call

Whilst I was busy with Juypter Notebooks, and as I now have the antennas plugged in thought it interesting to monitor JS8. Its nearby digital mode of FT8 gets plenty of traffic, JS8 is very sparse, which seems a shame as it looks a good way to ‘chat’ via FT8 digital mode.

I sent out HB and ACK’s and it was clear there are people listening, but not many sending CQ, nethertheless it was an interesting evening and this somewhat ‘dubious’ amateur transmission was observed, whilst interesting am wondering the legitimiacy of it.

Covid Stats transmitted into JS8 Call (no call signs only a reference of the source material)

I enjoyed seeing JS8 Call in operation though and didnt interrupt my studies, so i could do a bit of both.

late into the night… that’s data science for you and having a day job

So i enjoyed my FT8 and Data Science, having worked thru the night and with work-work the next day headed for bed eventually at 4AM.. 🙂

Stay safe and keep well !

Al / 2E0FWE

A new QRZ Award

Have had a great weekend on the radio logging up QSO’s via FT8. I’m now also using LoTW and importing those into QRZ – this has helped with getting more awards. I dont think i will do any more ‘logging’ tho as managing two (and wanting to automate them) is getting enough !

Was really glad that I got another award via QRZ – the grid squared award !

Grid2 accomplished !

For the non amateur radio users what this means is that the globe is segmented into ‘grid locations’, the reference codes being ‘maidenhead locators’ – for this award there has to be 100 unique and confirmed grids. Was very happy to get this done on my foundation licence.

Also was very lucky and got a QSO in the Canary Islands – which is officially classified as being in Africa, which means I’m now only one continent away from the continents of the world award !

Whilst i have heard south america, i’ve never yet managed a confirmed QSO – so it will be quite a challenge but hopefully with the summer hear propergation will improve and i can make that QSO !

First Contact Australia !

Yes, its FT8, but for me on 10W I’m estatic !

First QSo to Australia

I’m so amazed that i can be sat here in Bournemouth and have a QSO wtih VK7AC in Victoria, Australia ! A memorable night for M7ALU

Edit – hopefully will get continents of the world and 2rd before getting my intermediate and have to start again !

Only South America and Africa to go !

PSK Reporter Map

10W QSO with -17db on FT8/40m

40m propagation / Kanga Kit / Intermediate Exam news !

Its been a lovely warm weekend down in Dorset, and that seems to have affected the propagation. I had a great time on FT8 and JS8 Call, reaching amazing distances and really good signals being put out and received. I had many logged contacts and good signal reports.

40m got *busy*

By the evening 40M got as busy as I have *ever* seen it, as shown in the picture above i switched about the bands and was making contacts on 15M as well, it was the best conditions I had seen so far !

Resume work on the Kanga Kit !

After a break of sometime, I have resumed work on my Kanga Kit – this fits in with the news I’m putting below, but I have a big thanks to John Clements who helped me fix a fault with the kit I was unable to locate. John found the issue (soldered pin-header together – hidden by the plastic) and returned the now working Kanga kit to me ! I have resumed work and am taking my time – I’ve completed more work on the resistors and capacitors on the Active BPF.

kanga kit with added capacitors for BPF stage

I’m taking my time, esp as the board is now quite ‘busy’ – the next step is to add diodes and IC’s. Its really close to completing the build, but taking my time to ensure no more mistakes !

RSGB Announce Intermediate Exams on-line !

As shown in the picture above from the RSGB site Intermediate exams will be available from the 13th ! (in 8 minutes time as of writing) i’m very excited that i will be able to book my exam and get use more wattage but also gain more insight to a very interesting hobby as I continue my amateur radio development.

Whilst the practial assessment is waived currently, i will continue to build my Kanga Kit, so if the issue did come up of what Kit I did build, this is well recorded and documented.

To close the evening off I had a splendid evening enjoying the good propergation and just listening to the QSO’s on 40m. The ICOM’s filter and noise blanker are amazing, SSB has never sounded so good.

The waterfall is incredibly useful for visualising contacts

What i really like about the 7300 is the ability to visualize all or in very close range the frequency. I can easily find conversations happening and enjoy what is being talked about and the signal reports. Almost everyone i hear on 40m is using 100W but the distances are still several hundreds of miles – in particular hearing about life on Guernsey was very interesting – seems they are Covid free and back to some ‘normality’.

Well, heres waiting on being able to book my Intermediate Exam and enjoy more contacts around the world !

  • UPDATE – Have booked Intermediate exam today (13 June) for in August for more time to do a structured revision plan and passing !
  • Am still planning to finish my Kanga Kit ! making daily progress !

73 / Alan / M7ALU

DX Commander – Adding Radials

The DX Commander comes with 100m of very good wire, which is enough for making the 4 element (40,30,20,17m) vertical and some for radials. Having already bought 50 meters of wire for 80m I was still down on the count for both radials and the ‘all band’ – having complete the ‘all-band’ construction it was now time to sort the radials !

With the orignial wire and radials I had around 28-30 radials, which whilst much better than only 1 and improvement on 15, is still slighty short for 80m and also more radials=higher Db out at other wave lengths.

So what is the science about radials ? The Calum has a good video to help, and the references are very good, so I’ll put that here first.

Radial videos from Calum

So basically adding radials helps (I did try to find a video of a person fallilng off a boat getting onto a pier, but was getting to distracted…) I took 50 meters of wire (the same type I had use on the verticals) and set about making into 3.5 meter lengths, which some great help from my son Paul which saved my back alot in terms of getting up and measuring and cutting !

With the cutting done, it was time to return indoors for strip, crimp and solder !

I then returned outdoors to install the addtional elements. I doubled up on one existing element, but had a pretty decent fan of 3.5m wire elements going on now.

I’d need to an exact recount (will do so later) but I think I now have enough radials to accomodate the 80m vertical.

With having added the radials it was time to test ! For this I use FT8 as it has a great map and includes a signal report when a QSO is complete.

Reaching Kuwait on 17m

I was now reaching Kuwait on 17M and even better was that I could see the call sign in my WSJTX screen – i had to give it a try ! And sure enough within a few minutes (this guy was was getting alot of QSO’s in) I had made contact !

Contact with 9K2OW in Kuwait – a staggering 2,888 miles on 10 Watts of power !

So i think i could continue to add more radials, but for now I’m happy with how the DX Commander is performing and the radials are performing their function. I will investigate more ‘science’ based ways of radial performance, but his helps for now !