Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10m WSPR spots 30 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 30 October 2012
Sorry, Tim!

Monday, October 29, 2012

CQ WW SSB 2012

I'm not a serious contester - how could I be with attic antennas? - but when I'm in the right mood I do find contests fun. And the CQ Magazine contests are, in my opinion, the best of all. Even though I'll never submit a log that appears more than a few lines up from the bottom of its category, I still get a buzz from that feeling of taking part in a big event. For those making a serious effort it is a big event, and I know that they do appreciate the points they get from working little popgun stations like mine. The big contests are important events in the ham radio calendar, and those who don't wish to participate can always use the WARC bands or a different mode for those few days a year that a big event is on.
Last year I didn't even feel like switching on the radio for the contest, so this year's effort marked a bit of a personal milestone. As I am only taking part for fun (though why else would anyone participate?) I thought at first that I would use the KX3 and make a QRP entry. But I soon changed my mind the afternoon before the contest when I tried to call some of the contestants who were checking out their stations and not one of them even acknowledged my calls. I decided that this contest is not the place for QRP, so I used my K3 with its 100W PA instead. Despite this there were still a few stations who didn't seem to hear me call. I guess they were not using Elecraft receivers!

I take my hat off to those who do submit QRP entries, particularly those who in the spirit of QRP use simple wire antennas. Roger G3XBM deserves a special mention as from the look of it he did as well with 5W from his FT-817 and halo antenna as I did with 100W and a dipole.

I set myself a target of 100 contacts and thought I would start off on 10m and see how it goes. In the event I made 128 contacts and there was so much activity on Ten that there was no need to try any other band. I amassed (if that's the right word) 203 contact points and 53 multipliers for a submitted score of 10759. Time spent was the main limiting factor: I spent a few hours on Saturday and slightly less on the Sunday, and didn't operate during the evenings at all. I could have submitted a check log but by sending in a normal log I will have the added interest of seeing how far from the bottom of the category I have come!

During the contest I took time out now and again to make tweaks to my logging program KComm. I actually found a bug that has still got me scratching my head. If you enter the contest exchange (CQ Zone in this case) as a single digit (such as "5") the value is not written to the log file. I worked around it by remembering to use two digits (e.g. "05"). Hopefully I can fix this before the CQ WW CW contest.

There is not much worth noting in my log. South America and Australia are notable for their complete absence, though I did hear a couple of Brazilian stations. Gotaways were Vietnam and Thailand. They would have been all-time new countries for me, but I just couldn't crack the pileups. New countries I did get were Ceuta & Melilla, Greenland, Tajikistan and Kosovo, which set me scurrying off to get a new wf1b.dat that included this new entity.

China I have worked before, but I missed a second Chinese station in a different zone because I just could not make out his call. I think some operators don't realize that if they spoke a bit more slowly and used a bit less compression (okay, a lot less compression) they would make just as many contacts and would have their call entered correctly in a lot more logs. One station told me "we have worked before" as a result of a logging error by me because the first time I mis-heard his call.

All in all it was a fun weekend. Now back to WSPR!

Friday, October 26, 2012

10m WSPR spots 26 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 26 October 2012
A really good haul of spots, especially considering that time out was taken around lunch time to try and make a few contacts. If these conditions keep up, the weekend's CQ WW contest will be very interesting.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10m WSPR spots 25 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 25 October 2012
No WSPR map yesterday as I spent too much time making phone (SSB, FM) and digital (PSK31) contacts on 10m. Today it seems as if half the stations I hear (or see) I have already worked!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10m WSPR spots 23 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 23 October 2012
Fell asleep after lunch so the WSPRing went on uninterrupted. This was the result.

Monday, October 22, 2012

10m WSPR spots 22 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 22 October 2012
Another nice haul with 2w and an attic dipole

Site changes

I've just spent half a day when I could have been working 10m DX updating the website and blog templates. The main difference is that I have made all the text about 10% larger, which should help those - including myself - who find small print increasingly hard to read.

I have also made the main content section wider so it makes better use of the screen. Most people have bigger monitors than when I first started G4ILO's Shack, from which the blog inherited its template. I dare say there will be a few using older, smaller screens who will find this change annoying. Sorry.

I have taken advantage of this change to include larger pictures and screenshots. Another benefit - though some may question that - is that I can use a wider ad format, which Google has been pestering me to do recently. I'm sure that some of my readers would have liked me to get rid of the ads altogether. However, they make far too much money to simply forgo it - not enough to live on but certainly enough to pay for my hobby and G4ILO's Shack's web hosting.

I wouldn't advise anyone on the basis of this to start publishing Google ads on their own ham radio sites or blogs - not unless you have G4ILO's Shack's level of visitor traffic. The ClustrMaps widget at the bottom of the left hand column will give you an idea how much that is, if you're interested.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

10m WSPR spots 21 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 21 October 2012
I have spent much of the last few days taking advantage of the fantastic conditions on 10 metres. But it is Olga's birthday today so I stayed out of the shack leaving the K3 free for WSPR duty. That produced some rather impressive results as you can see from the map. (Note for newcomers to the blog, this was achieved with 2 watts to an attic dipole.)

A good QRP site

Michel F6FEO sent me a link to his website. Many projects of QRP interest will be found there. The site is in French but Michel has provided Translate links for each of the articles. Definitely worth a visit.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nagoya holograms rumbled!

I've written on the subject of fake HT antennas on eBay before. It's a matter of concern whether an antenna is fake or genuine. Lately the antennas sold under the Nagoya brand name have come under suspicion. Recently purchased antennas have blue lettering printed directly on to the base, similar to some fake antennas purporting to be made by the reputable Diamond Antenna company.
Two identical fake hologram labels
These new Nagoyas come in an orange plastic sleeve rather than a yellow one. The sleeves carry a silver hologram label with two serial numbers on them. Presumably the idea is that if you want to check an antenna is genuine you can contact the manufacturer, give them the numbers and they will confirm or deny that the product is genuine.

Today I read in a Yahoo group that someone had obtained an antenna with an identical hologram sticker to another member. I have two such antennas but I had never thought to check the stickers. When I did, I found that the stickers that came with two different Nagoya antennas were identical!

You probably can't read the numbers off the picture above (try clicking the picture to see the full-size version) but the top number is TWx00647488x where x is a Chinese character. The lower number is CNx3333081x. If you have recently purchased Nagoya antennas and got ones with the silver sticker, I bet they have the same serial numbers!

It seems that the only way to be sure of getting an HT antenna that works is to buy a Diamond branded antenna from your reputable US, UK or EU dealer! Better still, take an antenna analyzer with you and test it before handing over any money.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10m WSPR spots 17 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 17 October 2012
Wow! Looks like being another good day on 10 metres!

Social networking

I noticed today that this blog has now got 150 followers not including those who read it on AmateurRadio.com. I'm amazed and humbled that so many people find what I write worth reading, especially as I am not all that active at the moment. While I wasn't looking, my other blog One Foot in the Grave passed 50 followers as well. Thanks to all of you for your interest.

These numbers are not as great as the number of followers some of my blogging colleagues have got on Twitter. I've resisted joining Twitter, in part because I couldn't see the point, but also because I don't need yet another way for people to try stealing my identity. I seem to remember a couple of years back writing something on the lines of "if I start Twittering, send the men in white coats round."

A few months ago I signed up to Google+ which is nowhere near as popular, but only because I use so many Google services already that one more won't make a difference plus it uses the same login. But perhaps I should take the plunge and join Twitter.

If you're a Twitter user, in what ways do you find it useful?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10m WSPR spots 16 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 16 October 2012
Some good propagation today. A good opening across the Atlantic seems to have caught operators by surprise. One US station remarked that he wan't hearing much on 10 metres.

I snatched the K3 away from WSPR duty long enough to work CO8LC in Cuba and Dave, N8DC in Michigan. Also heard several other US states as well as KP4 (Puerto Rico).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

10m WSPR spots 14 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 14 October 2012
Not very good propagation today. Several two-way spots with EA8FF and even more with UA6AAK, otherwise only 'local' stations.

This will be the last one of these I shall be posting for a while as I want to do some antenna comparisons on different bands.

BTW someone asked if the colours of the lines showing the signal paths mean anything. I have no idea. Do they?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

10m WSPR spots 13 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 13 October 2012
A day of poor propagation, enlivened in early afternoon by an opening to Argentina (LU8ENU). I was taking a walk at the time so could not take advantage of it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Digital Dinner

I see that Pacificon has organized a Digital Dinner this evening.

I suppose it will be a bit of this and a byte of that.

I'll get my coat...

10m WSPR spots 12 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 12 October 2012
Not a very lively day's catch but some good propagation in evidence. Two-way spots with EA8FF and 4X1RF seem to be a regular occurrence. More noteworthy are two-way spots with PY2SDR and K1UTI.

Just a reminder that G4ILO is using 2W to an attic dipole.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What is QRP?

Over on the Elecraft KX3 Yahoo group an argument has been raging as to whether running low power into a tower-mounted beam is QRP. Some folk feel that QRP also means using simple no-gain wire antennas. Others argue strongly that using an antenna with gain is a perfectly valid way to do more with less, that "less" relates to power and nothing else.

On his QRP - Do more with less blog, Larry W2LJ nails his colours (colors?) firmly to the mast. Saying those who use towers and beams aren't QRP is baloney, claims Larry.

Personally, I think QRP is whatever the ARRL, G-QRP Club, QRPARCI or CQ Contest committee says it is. If you are competing in one of their contests or applying for one of their awards you must follow their rules. And the only limitation they specify for the QRP category is power level. So I don't think it is possible to win an argument that QRP includes any other restriction besides low power. But I can understand why some people feel that those who have a lot of aluminium in the air have an advantage over those who only use a piece of wire and that lumping them into the same category is unfair.

To really put the cat among the pigeons does the spirit of QRP include the use of store-bought or kit-built equipment too? I certainly feel that the art of QRP is strongly allied to the practise of home-brew, but I still claim to be QRP when operating my FT-817, KX3 or K2. Should the ham who operates an Elecraft KX3 belong in the same class as one who uses a two-transistor Pixie?

Perhaps we need a new term to define this kind of minimalist operation?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10m WSPR spots 10 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 10 October 2012
A lot more short-skip propagation today, but not much DX.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Monday, October 08, 2012

10m WSPR spots 8 Oct 2012

10m WSPR spots @ G4ILO 8 October 2012
Propagation is noticeably worse than on the preceding few days.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

QRP Web Ring

For more years than I care to remember my website G4ILO's Shack has been a member of the QRP Web Ring. Web rings are a tool dating from long before search engines came on the scene and were set up to help web surfers locate sites of similar interest.

In order to be a member of the QRP Web Ring I include some links to other web ring sites on my home page, plus a banner.

Clicking some of the web ring links from G4ILO's Shack and other linked sites today I found that many of the links were broken and most of the rest were pages of extremely poor quality. So I am considering removing the QRP Web Ring code from my site.

Whether you still use the QRP Web Ring to find other QRP-related sites, or if you have never used it and have no intention of using it now that you know about it, I would appreciate your comments.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Friday, October 05, 2012