GB-0853 Craigmillar Castle Country ParkGB-0853

I traveled to Edinburgh for Quantum Computing Theory in Practice (QCTiP) and with a chance to use my locator of 2M brought my IC705 and Alexloop along. I had originally planned to go out with my radio on Friday evening or Saturday morning, but not being able to stand another Ryanair flight, opted to go on Tuesday evening and get the train back Saturday.

train back to Bournemouth from Edinburgh

I used the handy google maps app to find my way to Craigmillar Castle park, it was a short ride and easy to do from my hotel near Edinburgh university in the old town.

Route to the park via #2 bus

It was a bit of trek from the bus stop to the park, but after being in all day, quite pleasant to get some exercise.

The views from the park where really nice and the paths not too bad, with all the bad weather of late there was only a few patches of mud puddles, otherwise was easy to follow the trail/google maps to the adventure park which I had seen having a nice table to setup on.

Getting the Alexloop setup required all three bungees, the wind was not strong but enough that the usual bungee around the table wasn’t enough. I used a vertical bungee to secure the mast and sure enough was soon on the air. I encountered some high SWR and found this was due to the power lead and the feed line being in close proximity, so I worked thru all that and re-routed it, then sure enough was on the air with first 5W and then 10.

The QSO’s came in sporadically, one minute there would be a FT8 pile up, then minutes of nothing, I figured that other stations must be on the same frequency so bounced around the available bandwidth on the FT8 20M range, sure enough was soon edging towards the 10 contacts I needed.

At this point i realized I had come quite unprepared for the Scottish weather and whilst I was treated to a beautiful sunset the wind was beginning to really make me cold, thankfully FT8 requires minimal user input. I put my backpack on to keep the wind off me buried my hands deep within my hoodie. A chocopie gave me enough of a sugar rush to keep me going…

With some failed QSO’s (KF9UG) and some completed (VE1JW) I also had a run of 2 almost as I was shutting down (9A4ZM) – i had enough to activate the park. I was able to pack away and head back to the bus stop !

I was really impressed on just how one moment I could be in this seemingly wide countryside of Scotland, and next back in the city of Edinburgh. The walk back to the bus stop was made with much haste and was so glad to be back in a wind-protected shelter. The bus arrived on time and I was so glad to be back in the warm ! The short ride back to the hotel was followed by a very nice bowl of shin-ramyen !

Shin ramyan to the rescue !!

I took my ADIF log and uploaded to the POTA website – I had already setup my 2ME0FWE call sign on the PoTA site before leaving for Edinburgh, so it was easy to upload to the regional locator under my main ‘2E0FWE’ owner call sign.

VE1JW – thanks fo the amazing long distance contact !

I was really please to see a splattering of PoTA Hunters, getting VE1JW in the log from Canada on 10W was excellent. Whilst it was hard work to get the radio, battery and computer to Edinburgh, it was well worth it. Going back on the train removed all the hassle of unload the battery, radio, computer at the airport.

This was by far one of those PoTA’s where I learned alot more other than just the radio. Being prepared for the climate being the key one ! Hopefully one day I’ll be able to get back to Scotland and use 2M0FWE again, the scenery of this beautiful country makes it all the more worth it.

A cold 2M0FWE

POTA – FT8, FT4, SSTV, SSB – UPDATE – 18/3/24 –

After a very busy week, I had Sunday and getting out with my radio to look forward to. Thankfully the weather was being kind to me, whilst not warm, it wasnt raining as we had plenty of that over night !

Plenty of overnight rain at the QTH

I headed out to Boulderwood with the magloop and 705 and was on the air very quickly. Setup is quick and easy with the magloop and I actually learned a good wait to tune the antenna and get the SWR down quicker.

place hand UNDER feedline when tuning = better and quicker matching

I did run into issues starting out with WSJTX and FT8, the time on my computer was just ever so slightly out, but enough for a time sensitive decode of FT8 not to work correctly. I tried updating the time using the windows time server, to no avail ! I had to manually set the NTP server to rolex.ripe.net, sync the time and I was back in action !

I had 10 QSO’s in digital modes done in under 40 minutes, shifting between FT8 and FT4 on 20m, with POTA hunters chasing me thanks to the POTA app and RBN.

pskreport – 10W, FT8, 20M
PSK Report – 10W, FT4, 20m

Having completed enough contacts to activate the park, I was straight into Telephony and SSB. I went onto 17m, not that was any contests on, but I found it a good band for QRP operation, and sure enough I made two contacts, with EA1EC being a POTA Hunter, proving how using PoTA makes getting contacts that bit easier – when running QRP it all helps !

I jumped onto 20M, which was quite calm for a Sunday, and was able to tune around the band, making a contact with IK0VSY, with a good signal report. 20 meters really was the place to be today, so jumped onto SSTV and the pictures started rolling in from other SSTV users.

I waited my time and started to transmit and I made my first SSTV PoTA contact for 2024 ! I was really chuffed and excited, so big thanks to IK2QIN for the excellent QSO.

SSTV QSO received and uploaded to MAX SSTV by other SSTV receivers (Thanks MAX SSTV website!)

I then span the dial on 20m once more, and made 3 more SSB contacts, it was really great to make the contacts, with IU3EDQ being Portable !, but thanks again to EA2DT and EA4TL for hunting me and making the contact with excellent signal reports, with a 59 from me and a 5-5 for my reception report.

The IC-705 really done me a great service today, and being able to use the the voice repeat mode in conjunction with the ‘massive’ battery power of the ‘ultra max’ battery ensured I wasnt going to run out of power for the radio.

Sadly some massive QRM came in on frequency, but I was able to shift up and continue making contacts, that is the advantage of 20m over 17m, that it has more space in the band, so shifting isnt a problem. I quickly posted my frequency change on the POTA app and was able to continue making contacts !

QRM on frequency, maybe a new mode I’m not aware of !
the sun did try to come out

As the time approached for me to head to the supermarket to get my essential shopping, i packed up in no time, leaving the bunch and the park as I found it. Bolderwood is such a lovely place to come, its relaxing and gets me ready for the busy week ahead. I had a fantastic time getting out on the radio today.

Big thanks to all the people that made a contact with me today, it really is much appreciated and I really enjoy the amazing hobby that is amateur radio !

thanks for all the contacts !!!

*update 18/3/24*

Would like to say BIG thanks to Alessandro who contacted me with his QSL card, little did I know at the time that IU3EDK/P was up a mountain ! I received a lovely QSL card via email and a link to the activation – how amazing that it was a park-to-mountain activation all on 10W of power !!

Thank you Alessandro ! Please check out the activation from Alessandro here

QSL Card from IE3EDK up a mountain in Italy !

G-0112 4th Feb 2024 + Webtechnology site updates !

had spring come early ? The sun was out today!

Some lovely sun kept the chills off today with flowers blooming and when it reach mid afternoon looked like turning into a great afternoon evening, I thought it would be great to make an impromptu visit to Bolderwood to try a PoTA activation.

compare to Janurary temptures, I was basking in the winter sunshin at a 12 celsisus !

I had everything packed away, i did one quick check for the power beiing packed, which it was, but had no idea on the battery level of the laptop, I knew I had used it recently so it shouldnt be too low. I headed off and it was great to to Bolderwood which whilst still pleasently busy, didnt feel over crowded. I’m sure this will change even by the end of the month !

I was on the air in no time, with the Alexloop attached to the bench with a bungie and hooked into the IC705, it was easy to tune into 30m to start with for FT8. I chose 30m as I had alot of contacts at home and its not a band I used /P for POTA before, I made 4 contacts within 10 minutes, so wasnt disappointed. I then moved to FT4 on 20M – it was *busy* even finding a gap in FT4 was getting tricky, but I was glad to find a gap and get out. The laptop was down to 40% power by now, so I stuck it in energy efficent mode, which kept the battery going without issue and no adverse effect on the radio/USB connection.

using the laptop energy efficeint mode to extend the life the laptop

I was pleased with a series of rapid FT4 QSOs on 20m, i later learned these where all PoTA Hunters – whilst I’m amazed by them all in the distance, ranging from Austria and Spain in Europe, it was the DX contact with KC1MMC that blew me away – 3217 miles on 10W of power on a mag loop, I was really happy to say the least.

Sun went down and 20M opened up more

As the sun went down the volume of QSO’s on 20M just kept rolling in, from 17:17 to 17:25 I was having a QSO on FT8 every 2 minutes ! I had to call it a day as it was getting dark and wanted to get my equipment put away safely, but I think I enjoy coming out at dusk – maybe a small lamp or pen-light will be worth bringing next time.

14 contacts, 5 POTA hunters made happy !

This was a really enjoyable PoTA outing with minimal planning, I was really impressed how well the antenna done and the PSK Reporter picture shows, it can really reach the entire planet !

Digital modes doing really on 10W of power

I have seen videos of great QRP Contacts and am wondering how well I would do, I really think I should give it a try the next time I am out as the setup really impresses me and think it should be good to make some telephony contacts.

Making contact with KC1MMC on 20m FT8

Webtechnologies website update – WSPR Bands added !

I’ve been making monthly updates to my webtechnologies site, which last month I got back up and running so the code would scrape the data from the ‘updated’ WSPR old-db. I’ve now added sections that allow filtering by band. This is all transmitted via the 6BTV which is doing an excellent job of getting out on all 6 bands it is setup for.

Webtechnologies site – now with spots per band functionality.

I’m aiming to keep building more features for the website each month, just small incremental changes, but I’m sure will keep adding making for a feature-rich site. There is so much that can be done with WSPR data, I really enjoy using this mode and its great ot use my programming skills for amateur radio also. Check it out at the webtechnologies site.

Jan 2024 – Antenna update at the QTH

With some rather nice weather and available time, I was able to get to work on putting up the SOTABeams Travel Mast as a repacement of the DX Commander classic mast which has done me so well for serveral years, and one of the guying rings finally sucumbbing to the storms we had at the start of the month.

Use of electrical tape and jubilee clip to secure mast sections vertically

I put electrical tape and a jubiliee clip on each section to secure and make vertical slipping less of a possiblity. The same method worked very well for the DX Commander in keeping the sections up and those had to take a considerable strain when used in the way to use the split-dipole that the DX Commander is.

Wire up about 2/3s of the full mast height

I attached the wire to the mast via a piece of guying rope about 2/3’s up the mast. I may make this higher the next time I move the antenna, but as is, it clears the house nicely and is a good distance from the ground, I think more height will allow a full half-wave on 20m so something I want to do very much, given I enjoy SSTV on the 20M band alot.

guying and little strain

There is very little strain on the mast and a good level of taughtness to keep the wire from drooping and touching the house, the one set of guying wires are holding the mast very well, combined with some decent ground stakes.

I went into test the mast, 20M SSTV was simply flooded with QSOs – unable to get a QSO in as the band was so buys, but I guess thats a good thing showing that the reception was doing well. I jumped on FT4 on 10M as the band was well open.

FT4 on 10M doing very well on the EFHW antenna

I was very please to test the antenna and have a FT4 contact with JS9DS in St Lucia over 4000 miles away !

I’m very pleased with the mast and will improve upon it as the weather and mast moves to allow us to use the front garden more. Looking forward to catching you on the airwaves !

mast update at the QTH

G-0112 – Bolderwood New Forest, Alex Loop to the rescue

With another bright but cold day, it was a good time to get out and get on the air. This time I was packing my trust Alexloop Ham pack antenna along with the IC705, determined to make an activation on my 3rd attempt from Bolderwood.

WX – I caught the ‘warmer’ part of the day at round 9 to 7 celsius

I was no sooner out the car and onto one of the many available benches and quickly setup. The alex loop was out the bag and with a bungee hook strapped pretty tightly to the bench. I tuned for 20m and got a great SWR of between 1.3 and 1.4 but no more than 1.5 and 10W of power. The FT8 contacts came rolling in, and with a busy 20m FT8 was then onto FT4, for even quicker overs.

It was great to get a mobile phone signal as I tethered my laptop to the phone wifi and could upload my contacts directly to QRZ via the excellent grid tracker application, I still kept a manual log so it would be easy to confirm the order and QSO’s I had today. The Reverse Beacon Network and POTA app was doing me a great service, as quite a few of my contact were POTA hunters. Getting 10 contacts in under an hour was great given just how cold it was, it was nice to see 5 of the contacts are POTA hunters.

I gave SSTV a go, but the signal where coming in thick and fast, I started to see a response to my transmission, but another station came in over the top. I try to use Robot72 and BW12 to keep my over time on 14.2300 short, but most people dont QSY on SSTV, and even then we tend to get other people talking over the SSTV CoA on 20m as well..

Still, having uploaded my ADIF file from WSJTX to POTA I was soon awarded my 2024 activation. Just in the nick of time ! A good start to POTA in 2024 !

POTA 2024 Award – a good start to the year

I am really excited about getting out and do more POTA – its a great start to the year !

73, Alan 2E0FWE

POTA from G-0112, cold but worth the effor

Final POTA of 2023 – G-0112 New Forest

So having got everything ready and with the weather, whilst chilly, was ok to go and venture out with the radio. I scheduled on the POTA activation website, and headed off to the New Forest to Bolderwood.

The drive in the Hyundai i10 was fine after its recent service, and was good to stretch its legs on the lively A roads in the area. For a small car its got a decent enough poke to make the journey without issue, as I was just carrying my IC705 and a few drinks.. I did notice I had left my ‘large’ battery behind – so I would be running real QRP from the 705’s internal battery and limited to 5W – still, i was nearer bolderwood than I was home, so pressed on.

I de-tangled the the 30 meters of radials, this took me a little while, but nethertheless wasn’t too problematic, the ends of the radials have a nice round terminator which makes de-tangling more a case of pulling the cables thru, rather than unpicking a ‘rats nest’ of wire (plenty of experience with the DX Commander and radials there!!!) I used the rig expert on 17m got the SWR across the band down to 2.1:1, which for a compromise antenna was ok.

I hooked up the laptop via Wfview, Virtual Comport and WSJTX. Signals came in no problem at all, and decodes appearing in WSJTX without issue. I then tried to TX, the SWR measurement was the same as the Rig Expert, but oddly the TX ‘pulsated’ as if it was getting disconnected. I went thru and checked the settings once more, no difference between home and here, only delta was the antenna. I tried the USB cable I had packed away to remove wifi/wfview/audio port as an issue, but the noise level went thru the roof! So I went back to trying to get wfview to work, at least at home on 2M I did get out (suprisngly!).

it was not to be my day to make an activation….

As I continued to try to connect, I checked PSK report on my phone – not a single RX. I could only put this down to the combination of the antenna and using wfview, as with a magloop and 5W on an ipad, I would at least get out, and as other POTA activations showed, worked without issue.

With 0 contacts and a slight piece of rain, i forgo the activation and headed home determinted to find out what I could do to solve my WSJTX TX issue.

TX issues with the 705 and using the Toybox antenna

Once home I searched around youtube and found several useful videos and this one demonstrated exactly the issues I faced when using my USB cable.

USB = QRM

With that I searched around the house, the longest USB cable I had was 2M long, and wouldn’t take many wraps of the toroids I have, so have ordered a 5M USB cable and some cable ties from Amazon, hopefully they will be here tomorrow, then I can try USB with a nice toroid to see if that removes the QRM.

a variety of ham specific toroids

I also thought that I should of tried with the ATU between the radio and antenna, as I think that would of also acted as a ‘common mode’ choke, but will try the USB route first as that looks the most promising solution at the moment.

Until next time (which is hopefully early in the new year) 73’s !

POTA Prep

Its been quite some time since I’ve been out and done a Parks On the Air (POTA) activation, but with the year coming to an end and a bank holiday for a day off, it as good a time as any to get outside and get on the air !

The IC705, when used, has mostly be used in the shack. I tend to use it on the 6BTV antenna and keep the 7300 on the End-fed Half-Wave (EFHW) for SSTV and other digimodes.

At the moment my Mazda Bongo is awaiting a garage visit due to a poorly alternator (its 27 years old…) so I will be in the Hyundai i10 (to be my son’s car once he passes his test), hence I will be working /P !

Hyundai i10, compact and cheap to run!

I will be taking the IC705 in its LC192 bag, some may say that this is a branding gimmick, but this bag suits the 705 so well, its brilliant! I’m going to the extreme on portable option of using the Comet Toybox antenna. This antenna tends to get pretty slated, but when I’ve taken the time to set it up myself, found it works really well, even with QRP operation.

Toybox antenna

I’ve previously made a video of me using this from the QTH, showing how I tune and make a contact with it, but this will be my first time using it for a POTA activation.

IC705 and Toybox antenna in use

I’m getting all the parts together again, making sure that batterys and the mat705 ATU are good for operation.

WX for around IO90

I’ll probably be heading for the New Forest, as there is plenty of places to park up and get the radio out, i’ll be logging old school pen and paper and using the upload feature once completed.

Hopefully the weather is kind to me and I get out, I have work to do on the eggbeaters still, and thats going well, but will put that in another post, for now, determined to get out with the radio and make some contacts!

Egg Beater Pre Amp – Day 2

The splendid sunny day of yesterday could of been a whole season away – the weather today (26/11/23), bleak. Drizzle, a slight bit of wind so any gaps in clothing easily penetrated, it was not a good day to be outside, but I wanted to progress the mast head amplifier !

The weather station proving useful – preceptation whilst not heavy, was irritating..

First step was to get the mast down, thankfully the barinco tilt base makes this really easy – having help to raise it first time was ace as getting it into the tilt base is great, but once in its easy enough to do on my own, although my aged bones do struggle with bending over and taking the nuts off. This time out I made note of the different spanner sizes required for each bolt which will be useful in the future.

Having got the antennas down, it was time for some ‘fettling’ on the egg beaters – they was slightly off perfect vertical with the mast, so first thing was to straight them up with the rest of the mast. I also moved the 2m antenna further away from the mast so the radials didnt come into contact with the mast.

With the pre-amplifier installation work completed, I then set about attaching the amplifer to the mast head. I let gravity help here and attached the amp in a way i wasnt fighting it trying to drop off all the time – this worked pretty well. I had some issues with routing the cables internally, but otherwise got the feedline in nicely.

The Ultraflex 10 coax from M&P really looked the business, but it took some ‘convincing’ to go thru the egg beater base. Nothing too aggresive, just a firm push into the radial support, but it did go thru thankfully ! I then had to connect all the relevant ends up, I had pre-ordered some of the connectors I know I would needed but also had plenty to choose from in the shack.

After putting everything together and getting the egg beaters vertical it was time to beat a hasty retreat to the warth and a cup of tea in the shack. The rain wasn’t helping me today !

Once back in the shack I tested the SWR on the Rigexpert sitck, which does the majority of bands, alas today wasn’t to be my day as the SWR reports were not looking good.

yikes, thats not good !

With the WX not improving any time soon and a plethora of other things to do (XYL computer upgrades being one of them) I satisifed myself with at least getting the amp on the mast, I willl have to spend some time in investigating and correcting the connectors to find where the issue is !

Still, I’m exicted to be able to start using the egg beaters with an amp, the work will no doubt be worth the effort to pull out those weak signals.

Until then, 73s !

Egg beater Pre-Amps – Day 1

It has been a splendid sunny day down here in Bournemouth, whilst the tempretures have been dropping, it was nethertheless a fine day. My original plan was to get essential bits-and-bobs done and out the way, so i could spend the afternoon working on the antennas outside, however the week had caught up with me and a much needed afternoon rest resulted in 2-3 hours lost, but at least I felt better 😀

overnight temps from the now working weather station

Having had a rest I started work on the mast head amplifier, collecting all the parts I had stored away and the dremel, ready for making some holes. I had left my 9700 on 145.500 and was very surprised to hear a call out for a radio check ! Funnily this would be my first ‘ground’ QSO via the egg beater antennas and a good way to check that everything was working as expected. I had a great QSO with M0ABI who was portable in Barton on Sea, given I was using an eggbeater antenna for satellitle comms I was very happy to make this contact, and Mike had alot of history/knowledge of Satellites as well, it was a great QSO and I got back to work on my mast head amp.

Having place the mast-head amp in the ellectrial box housing and marking out where the bolts to attach it to the beam/scaffold would go, i then drilled two small holes with a dremel do it would line up nicely once in the box. I attached velcro supplied with the box to the back of the masthead amp. Its incredbly strong stuff and affixed the amp to the box nicely. I then screwed on the triplexer via a N-Type barrel connector.

With the triplexer and amp connected, i dremelled out the side-holes for where the feed line from the radio will come and the outputs of the triplexer, I stowed the 23cm output and kept a N-Type barellel connector on the 70cm output of the triplexer, as these are all PL259, hopefully this will make attaching the correct antenna to the triplexer easier once outside.

I checked out the feedline holes and am quitely confident the LMR coax I have will fit in there quite nicely. I have M&P Ultraflex10 for the feedlines to the eggbeaters between the multiplexer, to minimize the loss as mch as possible. I’m hopng tomorrows weather is at least dry so I can get outside and get the amp on the mast, then see if I can hear those birds just a little bit better….

A relaxing walk along the river Stour with 2M SSTV Testing

With the recent wind and rain, with the rain being very much needed given the recent near-tropical climate, the good weather presented a nice opportunity to take a stroll along the River Stour.

Its been raining alot this week!

I’ve recently received another VC-H1 via ebay – this one complete with its cable and in very good condition. The cable fits a Baofeng UV5R and with the THD7 not having a battery suitable for mobile operation, seemed a perfect time to combine a nice walk and testing out the THD7 with the UV5R.

The River Stour near the QTH

I started off on my usual walk to the local park, which has a nice path to take me to the Stour, there is a bit of road involved, but it was a good place to start testing the UV5R. I had setup FTP auto upload to the 2M SSTV section, so was able to see via the Website – of course I did wait a little just incase someone replied !

First transmission received back at the QTH

The UV5R max power is 5W, so I left it at that. I used normal FM (there is a narrow option) but I believe SSTV is fine as FM. The 9700 receives and sends in FM-Digital mode.

I could at least see the UV5R was working fine, as it should be at this relative short distance (less than 1 mile), but nether the less it was good to see al the systems working well together, i.e. RX via Radio, MMSSTV decode, FTP Upload and available via the website.

I headed a little further down towards where I would usually turn right and start the leg ward journey back home, in this case I carried on towards the Stour River via the Kingfisher Barn visitor centre, which has lovely wood carvings all along the path towards the river.

Having my mobile phone with me and it being a little less busy I was able to generate the tone to test the RX of the UV-5R, I sent the tone and transmitted, the received picture worked really well, with a nice carving of an owl received, which was then re-transmitted back and well received my the UV5R. I’m running 50W into a Diamond X50 back home, so it should come as no suprise that I could receive the picture is relatively short distance, but still glad all the systems worked well.

I kept walking towards the river, its slightly lower and certianly well below the height of the base of my antenna, but with being 30ft up, is still within line of sight. My pictures were well recived by the replay SSTV station and Sweety was having an equally good time, playing with other dogs and enjoying the cooler air.

Given the VC-H1 is quite old and transmits in Robot72 mode, I was quite impressed with the colour quality of the camera. I will need to do some research as to what CCD, or other device, it is using for the capture, the colours in the kingfisher memorial seat are quite true to life and with only Robot72 mode being used is a pretty good rendition. We can see the difference between a modern camera on an Iphone compared to the VC-H1 Robot72, but again being able to go mobile and do SSTV is still quite a novelty for me and am just glad it works!

Having neared Cherry Tree park it was time to head back home, we had walk quite a distance and the walk back home was along the busy roads, so no chance to take pictures there whilst walking Sweety. I was happy that the UV5R at over a mile way gave P5/595 picture results on 5W of power, so I could have a true portable SSTV experience and I felt really great from the lovely walk along the river.

I shall be sure to head back again as with autumn approaching, the scenery will get ever so radiant.