Monday, June 29, 2009

Lost beacon map

Have you ever tried to revisit a web page that you can remember seeing a few days/weeks/months ago, and found that it has completely disappeared?

A few weeks ago I remember seeing a beacon map of Europe. I'm sure it was a 2m (144MHz) beacon map, but perhaps that's where my memory is failing me. I think it was plotted on a Google map background. But unlike the map at Make More Miles on VHF, the symbols for each beacon showed the beam heading, and when you pointed at each one a box popped up with information such as the locator, antenna and power output.

Does such a beacon map really exist, or did I imagine it?

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Rolls Royce

I have just acquired a Rolls Royce. Or at least, the Rolls Royce of transverters. Perhaps that should be the Mercedes Benz of transverters, since the new acquisition is a Kuhne Electronics TR 144 H 2m transverter made in Germany. It is probably the most expensive transverter in the world, as they say in the beer adverts. Though I didn't pay the eye-wateringly high new price as I got this one second hand.

If you know what this transverter is then you will probably consider that it is somewhat wasted in my full stealth situation. It boasts such a low noise receive converter that it can be used for high power EME without a preamplifier. And the transmit side is so conservatively rated that you can drive an amplifier to the full legal limit and still sound absolutely clean.

But why should you have to use budget gear just because your antenna opportunities are limited? Just like those old guys who finally afford a Ferrari even though they only use it to potter down to the golf club, it's good to own top quality equipment even if you can't fully exploit it. It's nice to have a 2 metre transverter that matches the performance of my K3. It's an investment. And should I ever want to go portable to do some serious 2m operating then now I have the best possible gear to do it with.

My first impression on receiving the TR144H was - it's huge! It's nearly as big as the K3 and about as heavy. There's a large heat sink on the back that makes it look as if it is capable of a cool 100W, not a mere 25W.

Remove the top cover and you will see that there is a lot of space inside. There are two main modules, a low power transverter module and the PA module, connected using high quality low loss interconnects. There is also a control board on the front panel and a large, well-damped meter that shows average power output.

As expected, the receive sensitivity is very good. I can hear the GB3VHF beacon a lot better than I could using the Spectrum Communications transverter. All I need now is a good 2m opening to try it out on the air!

No Trojan in KComm

Don Wilhelm W3FPR just sent me a note advising me that AVG anti-virus had detected a Trojan in KComm. The program had been sitting on his hard drive for some time, waiting for a chance to set it up. This was the first time AVG had found anything wrong with it.

AVG is somewhat notorious for false alarms. If it wasn't free I doubt if many would use it. Unfortunately it is, so a lot of people do. False alarms cause a lot of panic for users, and a lot of hassle for software developers.

As I always do in such cases, I advised Don to check the file at This will cause it to be scanned by over 40 different virus scanners so you can get a consensus of opinion on it. In my experience when you do this it is rare that none of the scanners find anything wrong with a file, but it is usually the poor or "never heard of" products that claim to find anything. When that's the case you can just ignore it. If more than one of the well-known brands like Norton, McAfee or Kaspersky report something malicious then you probably do have something nasty.

Out of interest I scanned the current version of KComm myself and here is the report VirusTotal generated. AVG claimed to find "Trojan horse Dropper. Generic ARGQ" just as Don reported, eSafe reported "Suspicious file" and VBA32 (whatever that is) thought it found "Trojan-Dropper.Win32.Wlord.acs".

There is a reason why the setup files for free and shareware programs are often mistakenly claimed to be Trojan droppers, and that is because they are both self extracting Zip files. However a reliable virus scanner should more thoroughly check the contents of the Zip to be sure that it really is malware before crying "Wolf!" and alarming everyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Englishman's castle

I have often claimed that there is a clause in the deeds to my property that forbid the erection of antennas. In fact, there is no such thing. The only clause that relates to antennas is one that precludes any TV or radio antenna from being installed on the front elevation of the house.

There is, however, a clause that states that the owner may "not do or permit to be done upon the Property any act or thing which shall be a nuisance or annoyance to the owner or occupier of any other property on the Estate." This catch-all clause could arguably allow a property owner who experienced RFI to get a radio amateur shut down by law, regardless of whose equipment was at fault. That's why I operate full stealth. Little did I imagine that this clause would be used to try to prevent my wife from turning our pocket handkerchief front lawn into a flower bed. But it is impossible to overestimate the extent to which the English middle classes can go to to make life unpleasant for their neighbours.

The picture shows the front of our house. Perspective makes the front lawn look bigger than it really is. What it doesn't show is that the frontage of our house is the driveway of our neighbour's property, and that it curves steeply towards the house so that on the right-hand side the lawn is just a few feet deep. As a lawn it is a complete waste of time, but when our neighbour parks his car at the end of his drive - which he does to stop people reversing into it - it looks as if the car is right outside our front window.

My wife Olga wanted to dig up the lawn and plant shrubs and flowers in its place, so we could look at those rather than our neighbour's old banger. Because the land slopes slightly down from the house, she planned to install a low curb at the boundary, to prevent topsoil from falling on to the neighbour's driveway. However, while she was discussing this with a man who was going to do the work, the neighbour came out and objected, and there was an altercation.

A couple of hours later this neighbour knocked on our door brandishing a copy of the title deeds and claiming to have spoken to his solicitor. He told us "you can't do this", citing the abovementioned clause as the reason. His main objection seemed to be concern that installing the curb would affect the foundations of his driveway. So I suggested that instead we would place a line of ornamental rocks inside our boundary to retain the soil, and make no excavations anywhere near his foundations. But he wouldn't have that, either. We had to keep the front exactly as it is, or he would go to law to stop us.

So it appears we have two choices. We can stay here, fight the neighbour, and end up as an item in the TV programme "Neighbours from Hell", or we can move house and avoid the stress that such a conflict is going to cause us. I would not be at all sad to leave Cockermouth, a town that one vendor of a property that I looked at when I first moved here described as "a small town for small-minded people." But I will be desperately sorry to have to dismantle my attic antenna farm which I have devoted so much time to perfecting, because with our limited budget and my wife's desire to live close to a town it's unlikely we will find a house with any better ham radio potential.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Excluding spammers

There is no fate too cruel to be inflicted upon the lowlife that pollute the Internet with unwanted messages. And I don't just mean the mindless morons that send an endless stream of emails offering unwanted pharmaceutical products and fake designer goods to my inbox. I'm talking about the vermin who pollute forums, blog comment sections and guest books with their irrelevant and often offensive comments, which waste my time deleting them.

One of the ham radio websites I run is Ham Directory. I started it a couple of years ago after finding a free web directory script on the 'net. I thought that a searchable, categorized directory of links to ham radio sites that users themselves could submit to would be better than the endless lists of often dead links at places like DXZone or

The rules for inclusion are clear. Any submitted site must be of direct relevance to amateur radio. Anything else will be rejected. But every time I go to check for new submissions I find links for data recovery software and various other irrelevant stuff.

Can't these people read? Obviously they can. One of the things I tried to stop them was to make submitters answer a simple ham radio related question: 14.2MHz is in the ?? meter band. That worked for a bit, then somebody worked it out. Next I tried: The IC756PRO is made by which manufacturer? That lasted about a week (I suppose they Googled the answer to it.)

Out of desperation I am trying a "morse captcha". You have to type in a word that is spelled out in morse (sorry, no-coders.) I wonder how long that will keep the unwanted submissions out?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meteor scatter by stealth

Whilst receiving the GB3VHF and IT9X beacons using JT65B mode I sometimes noticed a curved trace on the spectrum display. I guess this was a reflection from a meteor trail. This put the idea into my head to see if I could receive some meteor scatter signals on 6m or 2m with my stealth attic antenna system.

It took some research to find out where to listen, and in what mode, as it seems that meteor scatter enthusiasts use different modes (FSK441, JT65M and fast CW) and different frequencies depending on which band you use and whether you are in Europe or the USA. I'm still not sure where to listen for activity on 2 metres, but on 6m it appears that there is a lot of activity using JT6M mode centered on 50.230MHz, so I tuned my K3 to that frequency, started WSJT going and went for my dinner.

On my return, I found that I had bagged CQ calls from two stations, S51YZ and IW1AYD. WSJT thoughtfully stores the received signals as WAV files, so I was able to play back the recordings for those 30-second periods to see and hear what it heard. The program display from IW1AYD's call is shown above. It's a nice example of overdensed meteors according to the examples on Hans Meyer OE1SMC's web page.

This is very exciting and I am interested now to see whether I can make an actual meteor scatter contact using my stealth amateur radio station and indoor dipole with 100W. Before I can do that I need to figure out the correct protocol, as well as how to get the WSJT software to transmit. I don't imagine that people will be queuing up to make skeds with my QRP station (I think 100W counts as QRP in MS terms) but the big Perseids meteor shower is only a few weeks away so I shall probably try to make some random contacts during that. In the meantime, any advice or tips from experts in the mode will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bad protocol

In his blog, K3NG writes that he believes the use of a proprietary audio codec as part of the D-Star protocol makes it illegal under FCC rules. I am not a lawyer, and have no wish to get sucked into that particular debate. But I do feel that closed or proprietary protocols have no place in amateur radio as they impede or prevent home construction and experimentation and are contrary to the spirit of the hobby.

But to be frank, I am against developments like D-Star altogether. Such technically sophisticated systems reduce most of us true amateurs to the status of mere users, because only professionally qualified people have the necessary knowledge and skills to actually participate in their development.

Anyone who knows what a soldering iron is can put together a simple CW transceiver. With a little more skill (or with one of the many available kits) radios capable of SSB and data operation can easily be built. VHF FM transceivers aren't hard to build either, though I'm unaware of any currently available kits. But I don't see any opportunities for the ordinary ham to get involved in building D-Star gear.

You may argue that ham radio isn't just about building equipment. But the point is not that you have to build your equipment, but that you can if you want to.

I don't see what benefits developments like D-Star bring to the hobby. They just appeal to the type of people who want to make contacts without concerning themselves about how their voice gets from A to B, the kind of people who write to RadCom and QST complaining that there are too many articles that they don't understand. Citizen's Band was invented for a reason.

Super sporadic-E

This morning there was a super sporadic-E opening that appeared to be concentrated over southern France / northern Spain. Being Sunday I was up a bit later than usual, but when I checked the real-time maps I saw a good 2m opening taking place between eastern Europe and Spain and Portugal. At the same time, 6m was wide open. With a contest taking place Six sounded more like 20m! My dilemma was whether to go on 6m and make a lot of contacts or listen on 2m in the hope of the rare prize of a DX contact there.

In the end I went on 6m, but switched back to Two when the real-time maps showed some stations in England making contacts. However, I didn't hear anything, and the DX Cluster didn't report any 2m contacts made by stations in the northern half of England. It appears to be one of life's great injustices that the south of England gets far more 2m sporadic-E than the rest of us.

On 6m I managed to work Ukraine (twice) and San Marino (which is quite possibly a new one for me on any band) as well as most of the usual culprits. I didn't hear anything from the USA although I heard some of the more southerly located stations working them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

IT9X/B copied

There was a good Sporadic-E opening on 6m this afternoon and I copied the IT9X beacon on 50.057MHz using JT65B.

As you can see from the screenshot, the signal was quite strong and I could hear the slow CW identification as well as the JT65 tones. If there was a network of beacons like this, closely spaced so that they could be monitored by a receiver parked on one frequency, it would be a very useful propagation monitor.

G4ILO's logbook lookup

I finally got round to doing something I'd intended to do for a year or more, which is to add a lookup feature to the contact log on my site. So now it's possible for anyone to check whether they have worked G4ILO before or not.

Actually, the online log only contains contacts that I have made since moving to this QTH, in other words, since September 2001. I made a few contacts from the previous QTH during 1999 and 2000, but I went QRT for several years before that, and since at the time I never thought I would return to the hobby I threw away my logs, so those contacts are gone for good.

A few readers may be thinking that they would like this online logbook on their own website. The software I have written to display and search the log works only with log files from KComm, which I upload to the website using the backup log feature. The software is written in PHP as a set of user defined tags for CMS Made Simple, the content management system I use to create the site, and would require some adaptation to be used in a different environment.

KComm log files are plain text files, so searching is not very efficient. I have fewer than 2,000 QSOs in my log at the moment, so it is not too much of a problem, but a search still takes a few seconds, and would probably make me unpopular with my web host if it was heavily used. For those who have a lot more contacts in the log it would not be a good solution at all.

I have often thought about making KComm work with a MySQL database. But this would add a lot of complication that I don't need at the moment. Setting up the database would also probably be beyond the ability of most users of the program. A plain text file is nice and portable, needs no special setup and is easily backed up. So for the moment, I'll live with the inefficiency.

eQSL banner exchange has started a banner exchange program. If you have a ham radio website, they will send you one visitor for every visitor you send to their site. You just have to provide them with an advert graphic, such as a 468x60 banner, and tell them what web address (URL) to send the people who click on it.

It's easy to join up. First you must register using the eQSL Advertiser Registration Page. When your registration is complete, eQSL will send you an email containing your ReferralID number. You then visit the eQSL Link Exchange Program page and choose how you are going to refer visitors to their site. You can either display a banner ad - there are several to choose from in various sizes - or show a little form like this, allowing people to check how many eQSLs are waiting for them.

Enter your callsign to see if you have an eQSL waiting!

It's a great way to help publicize a great service and at the same time attract some visitors to your blog or site.

The ethics of online selling

I occasionally browse eBay and for ham radio equipment. It simply amazes me the number of times I read in the item description something like: "Not tested but believed working, no returns" or "Last used several years ago, was working then, no returns." Do sellers really expect buyers paying a large sum of money for an item of used equipment to take a gamble that it is working?

If I was selling something I hadn't used for a long time, or something I had never used (for example, something I was selling on behalf of a SK) then I would test it before selling it. I would certainly then be reluctant to allow the buyer to return the item having ensured that it was working when I sent it.

If I really was unable to test the piece of equipment then I would allow the buyer to return it if found not to be working, and state that in the advert. Otherwise I would state "sold as non working" and expect the price offered to reflect that. But to state that you aren't sure it is working and then also state "no returns accepted" sends only one message to me - that the buyer knows or suspects it doesn't work and wants to find a mug to off-load it.

Do people actually buy things under these conditions?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

IT9X beacon

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm very interested in methods of unattended propagation monitoring. It's always interesting to me to know when there has been propagation over a particular path, even if I wasn't around to take advantage of it and make any contacts.

A month ago I discovered that the 2m beacon GB3VHF transmits using JT65B mode, and after leaving my receiver on all day found that it had been copied on several occasions. I wondered whether there were any other beacons that use this mode.

Well, I have found one more. IT9X is an experimental 6m beacon that operates using CW, JT65B and BPSK31 on 50.057MHz. It is located in JM78re grid square. It is operational 24/7 running 10 watts to a loop antenna. Its carrier is locked to a GPS receiver to give a high degree of accuracy. I am listening for it right now.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Scanning not allowed on 6m

During the last few days I have set up my Elecraft K3 to scan a section of the 2m band either side of the SSB calling frequency so I can be alerted if there is any Sporadic-E. But when I tried to set up scanning on 6m a message scrolls across the K3 display saying "SCANNING NOT ALLOWED ON THIS BAND".

Is this another one of those daft restrictions placed on inhabitants of the "land of the free", like the one that prohibits hams from buying medium-power linear amplifiers that cover 10m because CBers might get hold of them?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

KComm 1.6 released

This weekend I had hoped to mount my 2m Moxon beam on the rotator I recently bought. But on Saturday morning I was bending down and suddenly experienced a sharp pain at the base of my spine, which went down my left leg. This pain has been reluctant to go away. So I have spent the entire weekend horizontally polarized on the bed.

The weather has been fine which is not that common an occurrence in these parts, so it is particularly frustrating to be kept indoors. I hate being confined to bed as I get bored very quickly. Fortunately it is not a complete waste of time because I have a laptop bed rest something like the one shown on the left, so I can at least use a computer and go on the Internet. I can access the shack computer using Remote Desktop and work datamodes if I want. But instead of that I decided to use the time to update all the KComm online documentation and make a public release of KComm 1.6, my Elecraft K2 and K3 logging program.

It has been over six months since I released the last version, so I have somewhat lost track of all the changes. The main changes I can think of are:
  • Can now use Fldigi as a datamodes engine, controlled through KComm user interface;
  • Can use MRP40 Morse decoder;
  • Built-in support to use Griffin PowerMate USB knob;
  • Can now send spots from DX Cluster client;
  • Now supports JUMA TRX2 native command protocol;
  • Can now import data to log in ADIF format;
  • Window size now a netbook-friendly 600px height;
  • Numerous bug-fixes and small changes.
KComm probably won't be of much interest to many other people even if they are Elecraft (or JUMA) users, and it isn't intended to be. It is something I wrote primarily for my own use. It does exactly what I want, and that's the whole point of it. If anyone else finds it useful too, that's just a bonus.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First 2m Sporadic-E

Today, I worked my first 2m Sporadic-E contacts. Actually, it is the first 2m Sporadic-E I have worked for at least 25 years, possibly even longer, as I was really only operational on 2m SSB for a few years in the 1970s until I was forced to leave the parental home with its rotatable Jaybeam, apart from a short period in the early 80s when I was able to put a 9-element Tonna up.

First contact at 1251z was with EA5/DC6IR in Denia, who was 59, and gave me 55. I then called EA5TT several times. He was a strong signal, but clearly was not hearing me. My second contact was with EA2AGZ at 1309z, with whom I exchanged 59 reports. His signal was extremely strong, showing 10dB over 9 at times, and he was audible for nearly half an hour altogether. The only other station I heard was EA2DK, but he didn't hear me, and his signal soon disappeared.

It's always a thrill to work real DX on 2 metres, but this was particularly pleasing for me because it was the first 2m DX I have ever heard at this QTH. From my location on the far side of the Lake District mountains I never hear anything from the rest of England, even during periods of high activity such as a contest, while the mountains across the Solway in Dumfries and Galloway block any signals from the north. So I didn't know until today whether it was worth having 2m gear at all. The antenna was the Moxon Rectangle and the power output was 25 watts. I have a small rotator which I bought on eBay so one of my next jobs will be to set that up so that I can turn the Moxon - currently it is fixed pointing south east which probably didn't help with this opening to Spain which is more or less due south.

As 2m went quiet I switched to 6m, and made a few nice contacts there. I worked C37NL (Andorra) twice, once on CW and then again "by accident" on SSB. He was extremely loud, and calling CQ with no takers for much of the time. Although he was working pileup style (even though there was no pileup) and not inclined to chat, I presume the operator was Jose, EA7KW, who according to the 6metersonline website has been invited by the Andorran Amateur Radio League to operate on 6m from June 8th to June 14th from its brand new shack for the specific purpose of enabling people to work Andorra on Six.

The other noteworthy contact was one with Dave, EA6/M0DLL on the island of Menorca. It's always nice to work fellow Brits abroad. He mentioned that the weather was glorious there, which - unusually for the Lake District - it also was at this QTH. In fact, considering how often I complain about our weather I really ought not to be indoors in front of the radio when it the sun is out.

But I wouldn't have wanted to miss that 2m opening for anything. Today was a real ham radio day to remember.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pet ferrites

Ferrites are my friends. You can never have enough clamp-on ferrite RFI filters. Unfortunately just about every radio and components stockist charges a ridiculously high price for them, like £2.50 (about $4) each, which makes it expensive to keep a stock of them. However, a few weeks ago I found an eBay seller in China that was selling packs of 6 or 10 clamp-on RFI ferrites at a much more acceptable price, so I sent off for a bunch of them.

This afternoon the K3 was sitting scanning 2m 144.250-144.350 while I was working, and I noticed a 3 S-point increase in the background noise level. My wife had just switched on her laptop, so I thought that might be the culprit, and sure enough we soon found that the noise was being radiated by the power supply cable. Even if the power supply was off and the computer was running from its battery, the noise level jumped up when the power cable was connected. One turn of the cable through a clamp-on ferrite was all it took to fix it. (Most PC power supplies seem to have a moulded-on ferrite at this point, but curiously not this one.)

A few weeks ago I used clamp-on ferrites to cure a problem with my Elecraft K3 transmitting a poor PSK31 signal (high IMD) on 10m. What seemed to be happening was that RF was getting picked up on the shield of my 2m antenna and coupled back to the K3, causing the problem. I dare say the real cause is a poor RF ground, but it's hard to get good grounding at 28MHz when you're about a quarter wave above ground already. Anyway, fitting clamp-on ferrites to the antenna cables and any other long cables that seemed to be contributing to the problem seem to have cured the trouble.

Clamp-on ferrites have also been quite effective at keeping RF out of the computer. The mouse would freeze when 100W is used on some bands, but looping the USB cable through a ferrite soon fixed it. Without having a box of ferrites sitting patiently in the cupboard, I might have wasted a lot of time trying to find another solution.

Review of MFJ-1026 Noise Canceler

I've just added a full review of the MFJ-1026 noise and interference canceler to the main website. This device has completely eliminated some awful noise that was S9+10dB on 20m. Read the review and see (and hear) for yourself.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Absolute frustration with QRP Kits

After lunch today I decided to take a look at the SWR meter kit that I ordered from QRP Kits which arrived a few days ago. Several people had posted on the dc40kits Yahoo! group that the Weber Dual Bander kits had missing parts, so I thought it would be a good idea to check the inventory, though as the SWR meter kit has so few parts I thought I'd have to be pretty unlucky for something to be missing.

I downloaded the manual from the website and printed it off, and then opened the box to check the parts. I was surprised that I couldn't see the ferrite core for winding the step-up transformer, so I cut open the sealed polythene bag to take a closer look. The parts supplied bore no relation to the kit I ordered! When I looked closely at the PCB it appeared that I had all the parts for a completely different kit, the N7VE battery state indicator, even though the slip of paper in the bag clearly states "N7VE SWR Indicator Kit."

I have of course sent an email to QRP Kits to inform them of the error, but as Doug and his XYL are taking a long-awaited holiday following her illness and have closed the business for two months I'm not expecting anything to happen until August. Which is a bit frustrating.

Some readers might wonder why I bothered ordering such a simple kit. The reason is simply that you often can't get all the parts you need from a single mail-order supplier. Unlike in the USA, many of the professional component suppliers here don't sell to hobbyists, you can only order parts in quantities of 10 or 100 off. With minimum order charges and postage and packing costs on top it's usually more expensive to buy parts for a project like this than it is to buy a complete kit.

I have a box full of new parts that I'll probably never use, which were bought just to make up an order to a minimum level. But of course there are always some things you need that aren't in that box! Plus, of course, when you buy a kit you get a ready-made PCB. So it is normally both easier and cheaper to buy complete kits, where available.

However, when it comes to buying from QRP Kits I seem to be jinxed!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Short skip on 10m

After lunch I switched on the K3 which was tuned to 144MHz. I switched on the transverter and had a quick tune around in case some Sporadic E was about, and was surprised to hear an ON station near to 144.430MHz, the GB3VHF frequency. Since that was an odd place for an SSB signal I was suspicious, and switched off the transverter. The ON was still there. It appeared to be IF breakthrough.

I pressed the K3 ANT button, which switches between the two HF antenna ports. Although in transverter mode using the KXV3 interface the K3 doesn't use either of the HF antenna sockets, and the front panel doesn't even indicate a selected antenna, this button still appears to function. It switched from the multiband (including 10m) dipole to the magnetic loop, which does not cover 10m. The ON immediately disappeared. Obviously the isolation between the HF antennas and the transverter interface is not very good on the K3. One might have expected it to ground the HF antennas when the transverter is selected, which ought to avoid this problem. It's a potential nuisance for keen VHF operators any time 10m is active.

I managed to make several nice contacts with near Europe - ON, HB9, DL and F - on 10m SSB. My Griffin PowerMate remote tuning knob on the desk beside the keyboard is really convenient. It's particularly nice that you can tune the radio while another application, such as Firefox, is in the foreground. The little program that makes this possible is called KTune, and I just spent a few minutes adding a page for it to the main website.

However, the as yet unreleased KComm 1.6 is still troubled by an inexplicable bug that seems to have appeared since I added the DX Cluster spot facility. If you spot a station to the cluster, then save the contact to the log, the log fields clear, but then some time during the next half minute - usually while you are not looking - certain fields like the name and locator become filled with a previous contact's details again. It's one of those things that have convinced me I'm too old for this programming lark. When (or if) I finally find this bug and get KComm 1.6 released that will definitely be it. I'll be giving up programming for good.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

QRP Kits takes a holiday

After my disappointment with the DC20B QRP transceiver kit I was a bit reluctant to order anything else from Hendricks QRP Kits. However, I was looking for an LED based SWR indicator for a QRP magnetic loop project I have been working on, and I found it on the QRP Kits site. So I decided to give them one more try. I'm pleased to report that it arrived in under two weeks.

Construction will be a task for a wet day, and I haven't opened the box yet to see if there are any missing parts. There have been a lot of comments on various reflectors and mailing lists from people who have recently ordered the new Weber Dual Bander kit and found that parts were missing. A note has just appeared on the website saying that the business will be closed until the end of July while Doug and his XYL JoAnne take a well-deserved break following her treatment for breast cancer. I guess Doug was trying to get as many orders out the door as he could before they went. I wish them a happy holiday.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Balearics on 6

I was pleased to make contact with EA6DX on 6m ES this afternoon for a new country on that band. However, despite several attempts at calling EA6CC who was much stronger than EA6DX at times, I didn't manage to make a second contact with the islands. The K3 is allegedly "deaf" on 6m but I have yet to work someone who hears me better than I can hear him, and I'm running the full 100W to my dipole.

A weekend away

I missed the CQ WW WPX contest and some good sporadic-E openings because Olga and I went to Yorkshire for a long weekend. On the strength of a forecast of fine weather for the weekend, Olga booked us into a self-catering cottage at the last minute. I agonized over whether to take the K2 or FT-817 for some portable operating, but decided that she would not be very impressed if I did.

Strawberry Cottage, Nunnington is a small cottage that was probably once a stable for the adjoining house (also a holiday let), but it is plenty big enough for a couple. The interior is delightfully olde-worlde and the owners have provided many thoughtful touches, like bathrobes and slippers. There is a large garden with open views and a couple of outdoor tables with chairs that would have made a fine base for some portable operating, which caused a few pangs of regret. But I would not have had the opportunity to do any operating in any case because with the weather being so glorious we were out most of the time.

There is a wonderful pub just a minute's walk from the cottage serving marvellous food and excellent Black Sheep real ale kept in perfect condition. The location, in the Howardian Hills AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is indeed very beautiful. I found myself wishing for a ban on overhead power cables and TV antennas as without them the village would probably look exactly as it did a century ago.

There are many marvellous places to visit in the area, including Castle Howard - the location for both the TV series and the more recent Miramax film of the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited - and Duncombe Park. It is an area we will certainly visit again, with or without ham radio gear!