21 Jan 2011

New firmware already ?

Gone are the days when you would go out and buy a Transceiver, take it home and it would (in most cases) work right out of it’s box occupying a large space on your desktop for the next 10 years,  as did my Kenwood TS830 which I bought new in 1983 (I still have it) with original 8146’s – though now  needing attention ! These days most new bits of kit contain chips and have their own processors built in which every so often require  an “update” be it via PC or “OTA” (over the air)  I’m always worried these things are going to foul up half way through and render your prized new possession useless – another thing that sometimes bugs me is quite often there is no indication to warn you of problems or how far the updates are going – in fact if indeed anything IS happening at all, while your sitting there wondering if it’s finished…!?

Before Christmas I indulged in a new all singing all dancing Blu Ray player  (it was one of the latest) and it was a networked model which you could sync up with your home router and connect to these online film “thingy’s”, You Tube,  and a weather service, and of course (for the benefit of UK viewers BBC I-Player) which I thought would be useful.

Having got it running I could not get it to connect to the router at first (I’m usually pretty quick on these things) but it took a couple of day to figure it out.

Anyhow it connected – no BBC I-Player,  everything else was there – quite fun flicking through some of the ham/qrp videos though , and seeing Randy K7AGE fill my wall in HD.

Then we started getting prompts for new firmware – which I tried every time it was switched on but nothing happened, coming up with a warning along the lines of “Cannot find source file” this continued into the new year until one fine day it found it and downloading commenced – now I realise its wireless but it took an age with only a bargraph type display indicating ANYTHING was happening, and frankly I was beginning to wonder if there would be any change at all when it re-booted, I was also praying we did’nt have a power cut or something and the whole thing  fouled up.

The install DID complete and relieved I powered up again to see what we had  -  BBC I-Player,  now this IS a very useful thing to have, and I have to say that even running wirelessly the quality is exceptional, so it did work and for once I was glad to have tried it – I cant think of anything else I’ll likely need so might disable future updating.

Getting  back to my original point (Kenwood)…  the All singing – Dancing TS590  super rig has a firmware update ! can you believe it – the thing has only been out a couple of weeks,  I wonder if these rigs will outlast my TS830?

19 Jan 2011

Couple of shots


For the first time in in some while it hasn't rained or been foggy and we have had some crisp clear nights bringing with it the frosts so its back to getting up earlier I think, although that's not such a bad idea as its a good opportunity to get in some radio.

The colder clear air has prompted me to get back outside and I noticed yesterday a large orange moon rising steadily in the north-east sky so I dashed in and grabbed my camera and see if we could capture it,  it was pretty chilly and I should have used a tripod and found it difficult to steady.




I turned my attention yesterday to tracking ISS  (International Space Station) and did actually hear on the Downlink OR4ISS calling SP7POS though there seemed little else happening before disappearing over the horizon – I later heard the same call working  on a later pass but was short lived (in Italian)?

This has reawakened my desire to work the satellites so this might be a project for 2011.


The next decent pass (and possible viewing appears to be on Friday at around 16:35 Local) Bins at the ready !


Screenshot_001 Jan. 19, 2011 17.41

17 Jan 2011

Useful Browser Addition

This morning I was casually browsing some “Ham” sites and stumbled upon a very useful Browser Bar – It’s probably one of the most useful things I have come across for some time (Ham Info Bar) – there are quite a few browser bars available but this ones directed AT   Radio Amateurs and SWL’s.

Screenshot_013 Jan. 17, 2011 12.10
click image to enlarge
It is fully user configurable and you can set it up to include your callsign at the end of the bar along with a plethora of other “Things” to which you can add – what I do like is the ability to have ALL these things under one roof and at your fingertips, like DX spots, Solar Flux information and RSS feeds on latest expeditions/News etc…  world time, callsign lookups, forums -  I was going to give a full description but frankly there ARE just too many features to describe.
I suggest you take a look for yourself –  click me.

14 Jan 2011

Dead Mouse

He sure was – right at the critical point, I decided to do some Psk tonight as it had been a while since I had used it  and suddenly I noticed the optical had died – I now have the chance to insert the new re-chargeables I bought before Christmas (Why do these things happen in the middle of a qso) ?


having put the new batteries in expecting some life  -  nothing, I swapped the batteries over and still nothing, so I put in some new Duracells (AA’s) everything fine, I then inserted one of the re-chargeables and it worked ok !

Having never had this trouble  before I then removed the batteries and I don't know why but I placed them side by side and noticed the re-chargeable batteries had a fractionally shorter positive terminal, with a very slight indent on the negative.

I re checked the other batteries again (OK)… then replaced again with the new batteries – still nothing – I then noticed one of the mouse terminals had moved back very slightly, obviously this has happened over time, this ones about 6 years old now and I reckon its had about 20 sets of batteries in it since new, not a great deal of wear I would have thought to have caused the terminal  to weaken enough to move but then again , like most things these days it’s plastic, as you can see in the photo one of the terminals has moved in slightly – a tiny screwdriver helped bend it back and it’s fine now –  I would not have expected the re-chargeables to be a different length though – One of the whole points of getting these batteries was that it was starting to get expensive with all the handsets and remotes/mice we have around here and I was fed up buying batteries. Will have another go at Psk tomorrow !!



13 Jan 2011

Life on 40m

What did I say in an earlier post about poor band conditions? well I stayed up a bit later tonight (Wed) lo and behold there is life on 40m,  almost as busy as 20m on a good day I’d say – plenty of activity on Jt65  I monitored for a while, I did work Dmitri EW1MU as you can see the band was quite busy and here are just a few !

Screenshot_001 Jan. 13, 2011 00.18



Screenshot_003 Jan. 13, 2011 00.19

12 Jan 2011

The thrill of Qrp

I was thinking earlier today, believe it or not whilst doing some house chores  on the occasions I have  put my FT817 on the end of the bed, or the xyl’s dressing table and attached my ATX antenna with a short “counterpoise” thrown out the window – and not only worked EU stations on cw, but also – on more than one occasion SSB as well (though not too often) I remember also going onto the morning 40m net which some readers (might) recall being run by the late G3CNO (Joe) along with some of the locals down here on the  south coast.

I tentatively called in one morning hardly expecting anyone to hear me,  proved by having to make six or seven calls and, surrounded by chatter and splatter, (you know how it is on 40m) ? anyway I finally got the break and was eventually heard and got a 4  4 from someone in the midlands, but Joe’s nephew MM0BED Jamie copied 5 9 up in Campbeltown Scotland – the band was right for me that day with my 5w doing FB - I had good propagation to 500 miles plus  distance, what a thrill – no big gun antennas – no Qro and running off a gel cell – this radio accompanied me on several “Christmas Expeditions” and in similar fashion continued amaze and amuse !

Half the fun is it’s not actually planned but more a spontaneous activity – plug and go ! and of course that “surprise” element in not knowing whether you might actually work anyone at all !  unlike those multi elements  beaming long path with anything from 300-800w (Plus) ?  and almost guaranteed a taker –  he who shouts loudest,  What is the legal limit anyway?  Who  cares.

So one of these fine days I will set my FT817 up on my xyl’s dressing table complete with the ATX/Counterpoise and gel cell combo and maybe surprise myself yet again – so, EU is not DX?  does it matter, in my book any contact goes.

So turn down the wick, you might be amazed.

Poor band cond’x

I was around quite early this morning and thought I’d have a crack on the radio – I checked 40 and was frankly disappointed at what I was hearing (or not)  .. 30 and 20m were not a lot better either – I noticed on the cluster there was some 10m activity, but not in northern europe Sad smile  Jt65 was thin on the ground as was Psk   and cw – sunspot activity  was down with some 20 active regions and solar flux about 89, not a great deal of improvement from this time last year – although I seem to remember there was one particular week during March when 40m was crawling with W’s on both cw and psk but faded off again – then we started getting short 6 and 10m openings – One can but hope ? plenty of time yet.

6 Jan 2011

Welcome 2011

Greetings all – to another New Year!

Radio activity was non-existent here over Xmas – just the odd spot of jt65, (must gear up for some proper radio this year – CW) ! and still eying a K3 (Probably K4 by the time I get round to it)…  I did take a couple of walks, and I have been playing with some new Photo editing software which is giving some pleasing results – I have also installed a new  colour laser printer which gives a deep crisp finish (On decent weight laser paper – NOT gloss  though) Win 7 is still behaving after the disappearing cd drives episode, I have been keeping an eye on that one, thats very strange, I reckon it may well have been before Christmas when I tried to install Photoshop but it could not read a .cab file on the cd – I copied all the files to a folder on the HHD and tried to install from there – it did start but failed and at some stage altered the registry, it always bothers me during installs and especially uninstall programs, you never know what's happening or what state your file systems left in, anyway it seems ok now.

Hopefully getting back into full swing soon – so good luck for 2011