27 Dec 2011

Good Luck 2012

Today is a Bank Holiday and I'm taking a few moments to catch up on things, Radio/Computing has taken a back seat this month in the build up to Christmas and we decided to take a break a few weeks back and spent a while in EA8 for some winter sunshine, I did not take a rig with me this time as on our last outing to these sunny Isles it became clear you really need a larger antenna - I remembered we had quite a lot of static too and EU seemed just out of reach...  anyway it was fabulous break although the xyl's concerns over her pre holiday test's were never too far away in our thoughts, thankfully upon returning those fears were to prove negative (Big sigh of relief).
My new video camera got left behind and was kicking myself as the volcanic scenery was stunning...
We had a weather station set up on the premises and the local temperature was around 18c at night time and averaged out at 23c during the day, during one day it actually reached 29c which was amazing considering it was December and it certainly did not feel like we were building up for Christmas...
I had been reading of the awful storms that were hitting Europe but I'd had the forethought  to remove ALL external antennas, which were safely stored in the garage cleaned polished and ready for action upon my return, however it did not quite work that way as when we arrived back we found the front fence had been ripped out (posts and all) and looked for all the world as though a mini Tornado had passed through (more work)... indeed it still needs doing but will get it done soon after the new year.
Then of course we needed to get the shopping and Christmas preparation done - which we did  but I skimped a bit on some of the cleaning tasks, so all in all it ended up a very busy month - The Christmas passed quietly but now we are gearing up for New Year visitors and celebrations - also looking forward to getting back into the radio's in the New Year.
Good Luck and Health to all, cu all sn  -   HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012


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28 Nov 2011

JT65 CRASHED

And it kept on crashing ! Absolutely no idea why - I was just checking out some of the "Radio" software, as I had'nt used JT65 for a little while I wanted to see if it was still functioning and I also wanted to check if the TS590S would still talk to it - it came up with "Floating Point Errors" continually and just disappeared off screen - very strange as the last time I had used it (albeit a while ago now) it had been fine and  appeared stable under W7 - I tried a re-install (twice), no good, so looked for and update and I found reference to an update from  v 1.07 to  v1.08 but there had been a problem with it and had been withdrawn - fortunately I did find the new update v 1.09.3 which must have been very recent,  so I downloaded and installed it - all's well again, so if I want to have a quick play with JT I can, I get very frustrated when things just stop working for no apparent reason, the only thing I can think of is that I had  been playing around with "Logging Programs" recently and may have inadvertantly erased a shared file, but W7 usually tells you  and gives you the choice of whether to keep it or not and I am usually very careful about deleting system files - so v 1.09.33 appears to be ok now.


22 Nov 2011

Back to Basics

It does seem an age since my last post but there have been other things to do and frankly there has not been too much in the way of radioactivity on which to report - the best time for radio  is during late evenings/early morning - 160/80/40 and 30m are the bands most likely to be open and I STILL prefer 40m - I always listen on this band as you get quiet spells and suddenly hear W's and PY's at good strength - mostly workable - The last month or so I have been getting back to basics,  honing my Cw skills on both receive and sending and I am glad to report quite an improvement having apparently been up against the 15-20wpm wall for the last 10 years - it's just me I guess ! No Pain no gain and getting in a rut and the general "Lack" of Cw and too much fiddling with these "Digimodes" so I have been sitting back and opening the mind and letting it flow - of course you have to find some decent sending first! Years ago I did take the chair on a few occasions during FD contests and was beginning to show signs of becoming a reasonable cw op but I let it slip :-(  but persistence is paying off and copying much bigger "chunks" of text at up to 30wpm (thereabouts...)  holding it is another thing but it proves practice works - I will continue in this fashion now and am enjoying Cw again and give all this fangled digi stuff a wide berth for a bit - I have even got my old hand key out and surprisingly find I can send at the same speed, or faster than I was with an electronic keyer - where that came from I know not because I have not used a hand key for years but I will practice just for the novelty.


The return to using Linux was NEVER very far away and I tried about 7 Linux distros last week either Live, or from a USB stick and after much downloading and testing decided once again on Ubuntu - this time it has a completely different interface which at first I did'nt like but since putting it on my Samsung "Netbook" I am growing to like it - I have it dual boot with W7 starter, and defaulted to boot Linux first - the things that previous ubuntu versions had issues with, (Printers, Scanners, Cameras, Tablets, Webcams, and USBdevices etc... ) ALL worked right out of the box WITHOUT the need to install third party or "EXTRA DRIVERS" - Wow ! at least in my case anyway - for a change everything worked - AND  I can print documents wirelessly over the network on both my Pixma4500 deskjet  or  the Samsung Laser - all from the comfort of the sofa !!
For those with the Canon Lide 210 USB Scanner - the current online document on the ubuntu site states it will not work  -  IT DOES.
Lots of fun to be had with this distro...!




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8 Nov 2011

Burying Cables

Today was a must day to start getting the cables buried – the inclement weather did not deter me and having made my purchase of “Large Conduit” from the local store I set to work – my aim was to bury the cables under the exposed runs on  the lawn and pin the rest of the cables to either the house walls, and around the perimeters of the flower /shrub beds tucked under (hopefully") out of sight ?  I measured and cut the required lengths and inserted the cable “with ample space for the PL259’s”  then slotted the pipe/cable into the soil which I had cut to a depth of 4 inches, this turned out to be a bit messy but as it was still raining it did make the job quite easy – the pipe inner diameter was larger than the plug so threaded  with ease and the beauty of it is will be easy to fish a new cable through later – other parts of the garden I’ll be using 4 or 5” soil pipe for long runs of RG213, RG8X, and remote tuner – again it will then be very easy to add or replace the cables by fishing them through – as it stands now I have done the first bit and re-connected the vertical – and I have also encased the feeder wire up to the base of the antenna in case you know who takes a shine to it – I might also have to do the same to the earthing side – I also need to replace the chewed radials but thats fine – I can do that later – as it is I thought the Swr had gone haywire when I tried it but the tuner was set in by-pass, all bands except 20m are fine – certainly workable.

 

Lawn_cables

7 Nov 2011

This is WAR

Yesterday I picked up a few bits at a radio rally in London, a new 43 foot pole, some ground stakes, and one of these ready made (out of the box) end fed antennas (my thinking was portable qrp up on the pole 10m set-up) so this morning I did just that  out the back here and worked into Minsk EU1DC ALEX – Tnx fr 579. Hmm Swr not bad 1.2:1 so it IS at least working.

But the trouble started when I went to compare signal strengths on my other recently installed “Sandpiper MV5+3 vertical”  which to be fair had been working quite well up until last friday at least – upon switch over the  silence was ear shattering ! Something amiss here… I quickly tuned across all the other bands and compared signals (or lack of)….  signals were  w a y  down I went straight out to inspect the feeder – it leaves the shack and is tucked in close around the base of the building (in this case) and winds it’s way across a lawn to the back of a shrubbery and there sure enough my worst fears were confirmed as you can clearly see:-

DSC01129

I suppose it’s my own fault for just leaving the cables unprotected in the open – my original plan was to get as many of the feeders into long runs of buried 5” piping which enabled easy access for additional cabling or replacements – plus, I should have taken more heed of an incident a couple of weeks ago when I left a dipole on the lawn that was totalled by the “Foxes” (They’re more like Wolves around here) and somehow I just ignored it ! They even hacked up and gnawed some of the radial wires too:

DSC01130

They even sniffed around the base of the antenna and had a go at the earth wire too connecting the radials etc.… so all in all not too happy with this situation, so it’s WAR from now on and frankly I’d hoped they would have moved on during late July/August but they appear to be hanging around and dont know why – we did have a Fox problem 5 years ago with the constant fouling, ripping up flower beds, eating our strawberries and such – but I managed to block off areas of the garden but this year some of the hedging has died back leaving larger gaps for them to enter  Grrr I’m wishing now I’d taken action earlier and buried those  darned cables in pipe – all is not totally lost, rather than replace the whole run I’ll cut out the “chewed” section and join it – some of the cabling will have to be pinned to the walls now, and try to bury as much out of sight as I can, I just did not think they would go for it !  Wrong.

DSC01131

How do I actually get rid of them ?

26 Oct 2011

MV5+3 Update

Worked a few stations tonight on this “Compact” vertical antenna using 50w of CW from the FT450D on 30m -  working nicely around EU including SV1 LZ DL PA , and the highlight of this evenings session was Rob W1MK in Boxford Mass with a 569 – not bad at all and remember – (50w) – the extra radials make a difference  - also made a few contacts on 10m this afternoon,  mostly EU but if tens open tomorrow will be on the “Mode”.

Thanks Rob for the nice report:-

W1MK_Rob

 

Rob W1MK – thanks to Qrz.com

Sandpiper MV5+3 Compact vertical

mv5 3_ant (5)
A second multiband (type) antenna was needed to mainly use for “Low Power” operations using the FT450D, and more likely used for Wspr operations and as Paul PC4T had been getting some impressive results with his new MV5+3 from Sandpiper, I decided to go for it since it was well priced I thought for a compact multibander.
Originally I wanted to set it up near, or on my garage but thinking about it we will be having renovations going on next year so decided to ground mount it elswhere but it meant removing my 60m dipole – which was not actually getting much use anyway.
This antenna covers 40m up to 6m with a choice for either 10 or 12m (I chose 10m).
Construction is ok, and the quality of tubing is comparable to other antennas I’ve used such as HyGain, but looking at it I had doubts about the way the inductively loaded radials attach to a collar that slips over the tube and they tighten in opposition to each other.
mv5 3_ant (10)
This is probably THE weak point of this antenna although this is the MK V I feel this might be improved on and would have doubts about its ability to withstand the elements especially the strong south westerly winds we get here on the coast – but I decided to mount it on the ground and it’s in a sheltered position, also less likely to get our feathered friends  perching on those radial attachments.
mv5 3_ant (1)
This is the arrangement for the radial attachment – they screw in against the main  tube and you have to make sure they all line up centrally – in my view this is not ideal, perhaps they could have expanded on this idea to include a much beefier tight fitting collar to allow the studs to screw in fully, as it is they only screw in partially and the tendency is to over tighten .
The instruction sheet supplied is vague but adequate, and the basic measurements given are for the lower ends of all the bands, I later discovered during set-up these were a mile out and in two instances had to cut the radials shorter

mv5 3_ant (8)
Straight forward connection  by PL259

mv5 3_ant (9)
Having removed my 60m dipole I used the same mount (one of those beefy clothes pole stakes from B&Q) banged into the ground and a stub pole around 2 feet long to which the antenna is attached, also I put in a 4 foot length of copper pipe as a ground to which I will attach extra radials – I set it in position and went into the set-up using an antenna analyser – having previously read that this antenna was fiddly to set up I was wondering how some people had managed to unbox/assemble/and have it running in 10 mins ? on all bands ?  Your having a laugh…!  good hour I reckon ! checking through all the bands I did get reasonable matches, but would still have to use an antenna tuner.
mv5 3_ant (3)
Ground mounting – no radials yet
40m – it’s lowest operating band (I was not expecting much on here) SWR was 1.2:1 and was very surprised, as was 30m at 1.1, best I could manage on 20m was 1.4,  17m was 1.7, 15m was 2.1,  10/6m were both around 1.9 -  all bands were set in the CW sections – so clearly I need to have another look to see if I can lower these figures but it’s a starting point. –  I have added extra ground radials for 20/30m and have made CW contacts into PA,  DL. the big test for me was 40m – comparing it to my 40m dipole there was no discernable difference on Rx at all with perhaps a slight drop in noise levels but signals about the same – there was a difference on 30m though – signals up over a dipole and less noise – all the other bands seem fine and as you would expect the higher bands especially 15/10m work well  - this is not a “DX” antenna, it’s physically  small  at 2.7m but at the price it’s a decent compact antenna - ideal if your  garden is on the small side  -  I will be using it over the next month or so on CW with my FT450D   (As used by T32C)    I’ll also add some more radials which I’m sure will help things along – I’m sure I’ll have more to say on it’s performance in due course – best part about my installation is you can’t see it. (Hidden behind shrubs)
mv5 3_ant (2)

12 Oct 2011

10M WSPR

Yesterday I tried 10m wspr again as the previous sessions  were disappointing although there had been band activity the day before - My thoughts were that the I-Pro antenna was perhaps not performing well on 10m.
I changed my tune yesterday very early on as a couple of VK6's and a VK4 appeared on CW so I thought I'd let wspr do it's magic on 10m, propagation changed around lunch time and was producing many spots from the USA - in fact my biggest haul of reports on ten !
Below is just a snapshot of yesterdays activity.
Now a question for you - is there a way of entering or loading this "Data" into a program or Database to sort and list the information, such as listing DXCC entities/callsigns, distance,grid squares etc... I notice  there is a problem downloading csv or xml files at the moment - it would be interesting seeing how others USE this data... short of manually entering into a spreadsheet or something it all seems rather time consuming and tedious - your ideas welcomed.




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11 Oct 2011

Well since finishing the "small" job for my Sister-in-Law a few weeks back I thought I would have had more time to get Blogging and doing the radio stuff, but it has not worked out that way, plus I do seem to have got out of the habit of checking the blogs in the morning - and to be honest I have not had much inclination recently to get on the radio - listening to some of the "antics" of the pack chasing T32C beggars belief,  however today I thought I'd get the TS590S fired up and do some Wspr,  I started on 10m and though there appeared to be stations around early afternoon it was disappointing so switched late afternoon to 20m, and glad I did VK2,  VU,  VE6, W's galore so yes , conditions were very good I'd say and this is the first time I'd really put the TS590S/I-Pro  combination to the test.



The I-Pro should have come down over a month ago when I should have been erecting a 100' doublet, but the mast I ordered has STILL not arrived (Now 2 months)  :-(   not happy...  but the I-Pro has been turning up a few surprises so might leave it up  after a pre-winter check, it does seem to work very well on 20/17m but deaf on 10m - Today was encouraging and fun to see all those W's listed

1 Oct 2011

T32C Pile

What a pile too – at app’x 0700 UTC on 14187 SSB, I was reading T32C at 3/4, and later peaking up to a 4/5  -  I did have to go out and he was still running at 0900, I have absolutely N O intention of chasing the pack with my basic set up here and most certainly not with SSB, I might attempt a proper contact using  CW later on in the month when the “Big Guns” ease off a bit – let me say also here I am staggered at the “Moronic” antics of some stations ! Whistling, Breathing, Cooing, and Tuning,  and still some of these guys are using the wrong  frequency LISTEN ! most DXpeditions run split – read the manual for your radio and learn.

I wont even bother looking at the Phone end again, reckon I’ll stick to CW, much easier !

Remember the DX Code of Conduct? Link

28 Sep 2011

T32C

Expect huge pile-ups starting at the weekend as the hunt for T32C gets under way.

Latest Here

22 Sep 2011

Activities

Since I've had a bit more time  this last week or so It's been really good to be able to at least spend SOME time listening around on the bands - unfortunately earlier last week we had the solar flares which caused extensive Blackouts on most bands and I recall 20m having just two very weak/watery signals on one morning, but true to form a couple of days later things improved quickly and the bands have livened up very well to the extent of both 12 AND 10m opening up - hearing VK's JA and USA at very good strengths plus others, long may it continue !

I was planning to remove the I-Pro antenna but there has been a big delay with my new mast which STILL has not arrived so the new antenna projects are still on hold however, the I-Pro has been giving a very good account of itself with excellent contacts into CO, W, VE, nearly all have been 58/59 both ways CW capped last night with a 59, both ways into VU - again on CW running 50w from the TS590S - this radio is very, very nice to use and with silky smooth operation AND audio - compare that to my FT450D which although very good, has a much harsher audio on receive - and apparently on transmit also, which no doubt could be improved by using a decent desk or boom mic, and maybe the addition of external EQ.

Last weekend I decided to hang my quick and dirty dipole for 60m on one of my "shorter" fiberglass poles, so dodging the showers I managed to get it up ok and fix the two sloping legs to a fence, looking at it, it's no where near high enough with the centre at about 23 feet, but I have now established it works !
When the new mast is up we'll see how that same dipole performs at 60'

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11 Sep 2011

New Look

A while back I mentioned here that I would be undergoing a shack renovation, which included replacing the radio's and making some additions - the main reason for change was the somewhat "Cluttered" look on the desk - I wanted to give it a "Cleaner" look, which meant removing the small pine unit I made earlier this year to house equipment - I chose to keep it handy though as I may be able to use it later on sometime, so for now it's in the workshop.

Here's the old look:


A bit cramped and untidy


Here's the streamlined desk top:



Much better now I can see what I'm doing and everything is accessible - I wiil eventually move the Yaesu Power supply powering the TS590S underneath with the other one which feeds the FT450D/FT817  and/or accessories ...  there is also a two tier paper rack underneath to the right to keep clutter off the desk - as you can see I dont have a lot of space and I have a feeling I'm going to outgrow this during next year - what you cannot see are two colour printers/Scanner/TS830/FT817/Computer Plus numerous extra's I keep boxed - Might struggle to find room for an Amp !
Outside we have an I-Pro Home multibander, with which I have made some good Dx contacts this is due to be mothballed,  however I'm ALWAYS changing antennas and feeders these days so they DO NOT get a chance to weather and corrode, too many times in the past I have been caught by poor performance  issues and suddenly finding the Swr has gone through the roof, only to find one half of the feeder has detatched itself, or is so badly corroded  -  No More, I check and replace my feeders every year (or Less) especially the RG58 types - There is NO point using old - poor - blackened - corroded feeder, shame it does not have a longer life - 9-12 months and it's useless. !!
On a more positive note - Dinner is served.


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