A summer outside

During the week I took a trip with 3 other members of the Workington Amateur Radio Club (MX0WRC.org) to the Furness Amateur Radio Club. A short hours drive away courtesy of Barry, G0RZI. There was a 2 pronged attack on their club, firstly Glyn M0UXH gave the low legendary power supplies presentation (legendary as it has the dubious honour of being the most postponed talk at the club) and my chat about what we do as a club with a hot soldering iron.

What struck me is what might be a common theme for clubs, not just with amateur radio, but the fact that we can all get a bit stale. What also struck me was that we have a similar demographic. Some really talented, clever people who can design and build stuff without batting an eyelid. Some (and I include myself in this) enthusiastic but short on skills and experience, and those that just like to use stuff.

I shared our experiences with building the Radio Kits digital power and SWR meter, the Ultimate 3 kit from Hans Summers and my experiences with Arduino’s. The latter included the great stuff being done by K3NG (Radio Artisan bloke) and those that support his work in producing kits and PCB’s. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one who has an interest in the ‘Maker’ fraternity and that tinkering is alive and well in Cumbria.

In between all this mucking about I do occasionally operate. But owing the excellent summer we’ve had I prefer to be outside, in fact I should be out on my MTB today but I’ve got a 10k race on Tuesday and don’t fancy doing it after an ‘off’. This weekend is the Cumbria Raynet support to the SBU 35 trail race from Bassenthwaite to St Bees over Honister. First one home in about 5hrs 30mins and the last around 12 hours. A long day for us but nothing compared to the competitors. Maybe I’ll do it next year. Maybe I’ll make use of Ennerdale Brewery instead, the summer ale was great.

After that it is most definitely heading for Autumn and time to bring out the mic, soldering iron and broken PCB’s. Looking forward to it already!

Alex Hill, G7KSE, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, UK. Contact him at [email protected].


It was once again a busy Saturday.  I rewarded myself with a bit of radio time in between mowing the lawn and starting dinner.  I hadn't looked at the contest calendar beforehand and had no idea if the bands would be full of ravenous contesters, so I headed off to the relative quiet of the WARC bands.

Holy pileup, Batman!

There was a H U G E pileup just above 18.077 MHz.  Some listening revealed that it was indeed a "holy pileup" as the quarry of the hunt was HV0A - Vatican City. And he was loud - very loud! In 36 years of Ham Radio, this was about the second or third time that I have ever heard the Vatican on the air. I have never worked them before.

But today, with them being that loud (599+), I felt I stood a chance. In case you're wondering, wonder no more.  My QRP sensibilities took a backseat and I pumped up the KXPA100 to its full 100 Watt setting. How many times have I heard the Vatican?  Again, only once or twice before - it's rare for them to be on the air, for me to be home at the same time, and for propagation to be so favorable.  I wasn't about to let some false sense of QRP Pride get in the way of getting a rare and new country in the log.

The operator was smooth and was handling the pileup quickly and efficiently. Operating split, he was running a standard racetrack pattern. He was listening slightly higher up after each QSO until he reached a certain frequency and then began listening down unilt he reached a frequency about 1 kHz above where he was transmitting. The he began listening up again, starting the whole cycle over again. Almost exacty like trying to work any of the ARRL Centennial stations - once I figured out his pattern and approximately how much higher he moved after each QSO, I made my plan to "get in his way". After about 6 or 7 attempts, I got in the log. If I ever hear the Vatican this loud again, then next time will be a QRP attempt, this time I'm just fat, dumb and happy.

According to the CW Ops e-mail reflector, the operator was Robert S53R, CW Op #492.  Whomever, he was, he was good!

This is one QSL card that will be framed and hung on the shack wall, once I receive it.

Still stoked!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Afternoon at Knox Mountain Pond

This afternoon Hanz W1JSB and I hiked up to Knox Mountain. What a beautiful place. We worked Russia, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Germany and Croatia.

Along the trail, the first bridge has deteriorated significantly since we made the trip last. The timbers have sagged so badly that the planks at the leading edge are sticking several feet above the ground. We crossed cautiously. We came to the pond after hiking forty minutes or so. It’s always a welcome sight.


Hanz and I set up between the two cabins on the hill above the pond. I tossed a half wave wire for 20 meters over a high branch of the cherry tree and we shared the antenna. I brought the KX3. Hanz brought his new rig. It’s an enhanced HB-1B in a waterproof Pelican case. It’s really gorgeous.


Hanz has added a large display, an amplified speaker, internal battery, charger, power monitor, and a touch keyer to the HB-1B. It’s beautiful and really works just as well.


Hanz took the first turn with the antenna. He worked Russia, Poland, Georgia, and South Carolina. We were working the Romanian DX Contest.


Here’s my log:

30 Aug-14 1941 14.025 HG8C CW 599 599 Hungary
30 Aug-14 1946 14.014 R3ZV CW 599 599 Russia
30 Aug-14 1953 14.031 W4IX CW 599 599 SC
30 Aug-14 1957 14.011 I3FIY CW 599 599 Italy
30 Aug-14 2003 14.027 YR9F CW 599 599 Romania
30 Aug-14 2029 14.026 DJ2QV CW 599 599 Germany
30 Aug-14 2032 14.018 N4AF CW 599 599 NC
30 Aug-14 2033 14.014 W4BQF CW 599 599 GA
30 Aug-14 2035 14.019 9A5Y CW 599 599 Croatia

We passed the antenna back and forth for an hour or so.


We packed up after a perfect afternoon and headed down the trail alongside the brook. Hanz took one last picture of the afternoon sun shimmering in a pool in the rocks.


Jim Cluett, W1PID, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Hampshire, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Mandatory Daily Repeater Testing

Part humor, part friendly reminder from Reddit user hamfacts.

(There are 6 more “HamFacts” if you’re into self-deprecating ham humor….)

Matt, W1MST, is the editor of AmateurRadio.com.

630m Trans-Pacific WSPR

Courtesy: https://www.google.com/maps/
It looks like the new 630m band may hold some surprising opportunities once the winter DX season is upon us. A recent posting to the down-under 600m Yahoo Group by David (VK2DDI) in New South Wales, Australia, set off a flurry of excitement when he announced his August 25th (0950Z) reception of the 475kHz beacon signal from WG2XIQ, operated by John (KB5NJD) near Dallas, Texas.

This is particularly noteworthy in view of the relatively low power used for John's beacon....around 200W. With the typical backyard antennas being used at these frequencies, efficiencies are very low and John's actual ERP is less than 5W. The transpacific reception of John's signal by VK2DDI confirms what most LF'ers already know....that small suburban lot amateur installations can have positive results on 630m without the need for huge antenna systems.

The WG2XIQ beacon was operating in the WSPR mode, which has become very popular amongst 630m experimenters as well as those just interested in listening-in. WSPR is not a QSO mode but strictly a one-way 'beacon' mode. Although two stations may each spot each other, it is not considered to be a valid two-way QSO. A check of evening  WSPR activity will often reveal dozens of stations actively spotting what they are hearing.

Like most LF stations, John's is mostly homebrew.


I'll let him describe the details:

"I have a few ways of making RF in the shack. I can do CW with a very nice waveform using the GW3UEP VFO/Driver coupled with a GW3UEP 100w amp with waveform shaping. The other way is via the MF Solutions transmit downconverter, developed by John Molnar, WA3ETD/WG2XKA. I have two of those boards, one is a backup. I use a GPSDO for the LO and use that signal to drive two parallel GW3UEP amps with max power at 125 watts each. The W1VD Ø degree hybrid combiner brings them together in phase for close to somewhere between 200 and 250 watts TPO depending on how hard I drive and how close I match the TX levels entering the combiner. I filter the output with the W1VD KW LPF that was built by Dave Robinson G4FRE (ex WW2R). I power the amps with a pair of BK Precision 30V 6Amp variable power supplies (variable current limit threshold also). Scope match is used to resonate and match the the impedance. IF Rig on 630m is typically a Yaesu FT920. These days RX antennas are the VE7SL multiturn loop or the TX vertical, both of which have their own merits depending on the conditions at the time."

John's 630m Vertical

"Antenna is an 80 foot asymmetric T-top marconi with 100 foot and 200 foot legs....radial system is almost 3 miles of radials connected via various busses. 26 ground rods around the property. I monitor current in the shack and sample via a Bauer current transformer from an AM BC ATU."

630m Radial System

630m Antenna Loading Coil & Variometer
"As far as my system is concerned, I am the poster child for "If I can make it work, anyone can!" 

John's system does indeed work well...just last year at this time, his 630m signals were copied by KL7L near Anchorage, Alaska.

Of course, equal credit must be given to VK2DDI for having a system good enough to hear John's signal all the way down on Berry Mountain, New South Wales, Australia! It is there that David has set up a fine LF station, 500m above and overlooking the Tasman Sea...an ideal location for weak-signal LF work.

VK2DDI - Berry Mountain, NSW

David's receive antenna at the time, feeding and SDR-IQ receiver, was a simple non-resonant 90' vertical wire, with no ground radials and no tuning. It seems that the old real-estate adage, "location, location, location", can also be applied to LF reception!

WG2XIQ Signal As Heard in VK
David's screen capture of John's WSPR signal, although very weak, is clearly visible at 09:50 and apparently, strong enough for a solid decode.
David also runs the Berry Mountain Grabber, providing other VK and ZL experimenters a handy way of checking their system progress or propagation conditions.

If you have been doing any WSPR work on HF, you might be surprised at what you can hear down on 630m, even without a dedicated antenna for that band. Surprisingly good results can often be had with a non-resonant antenna as the signal to noise ratio can often be better even though signals may sound weaker. Give it a try and spot what you hear!

If you are interested in learning how to receive WSPR, here is a nice tutorial by ZS6SGM. 

Should you be interested in knowing more about obtaining a Part 5 licence to transmit on 630m, John will happily guide you through the process. He can be contacted via email or you can find him hanging-out most nights on the ON4KST kHz (2000-630m) chat page.

To keep on top of what is happening or who is on-the-air, most LF'ers rely on three sources:

    Radio amateurs in Canada have had 630m as an amateur band since May of this year but unfortunately are not allowed to contact any of the experimental stations. Hopefully the U.S. will also obtain 630m as a ham band some time soon. In the meantime, a Part 5 licence for any U.S. amateurs would be a good way to be  all set when that day eventually comes!

      Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

      The Spectrum Monitor — September, 2014

      September TSM Cover

      Here are the featured stories from our September, 2014 issue:

      An Inexpensive VHF/UHF Spectrum Analyzer Dongle
      By Mario Filippi, N2HUN

      Commercial spectrum analyzers can run upwards of several thousand dollars in price, but for those on a limited budget, who don’t require the sophisticated features of high-end analyzers, the RF spectrum analyzer by Nuts About Nets fits the hobbyist’s bill nicely. It has opened up a new world of interest in the types of signals that inhabit the VHF/UHF bands, what they look like and where they appear. Regular contributor to TSM, Mario Filippi N2HUN, takes this spectrum analyzer dongle to the VHF and UHF bands, looking for signals. He notes, “Unquestionably, this is one of the most useful pieces of radio gear I have encountered as a hobbyist in many years!”

      The Slow and Unsteady Course of HD Radio
      By Ken Reitz KS4ZR

      In the days before Wi-Fi radio, Pandora™, and the many ways people digitally stream audio to their mobile devices, HD Radio was created to combat the first digital threat to over-the-air radio: XM and Sirius Satellite Radio. Six years ago the market was awash in tabletop HD Radio sets ranging in price from $100-600. Now, there’s only one such set: a $52 FM-only radio from Insignia. In the 13 years since its inception, iBiquity, the broadcast consortium behind the HD Radio brand, has seen its product go from “The Next Great Idea” to the question: “Whatever happened to HD Radio?”

      Going Mobile Digitally; Connect Systems CS700 Review, and Nifty! Mini-Manuals
      By Cory GB Sickles WA3UVV

      In this month’s look at digital amateur radio operating, Cory Sickles WA3UVV, reviews Connect Systems’ CS700 portable UHF digital amateur radio transceiver that boasts 4 watts output, a keypad and more, for a direct retail price of $180. That price is what created the initial buzz, as even a basic Digital Mobile Radio, without any display or keypad, can cost $360 or more. Factor in that the CS700 is supplied with a drop-in charger and free, downloadable, programming software, and you’ll discover why this radio has been such a game changer. We all know that price alone, however, does not guarantee a winner. But Cory found that, with the CS700, the quality and attention to detail was evident from the moment he opened the box and placed the radio in his hand.

      TSM Review:

      Hardrock 50 Amplifier Kit: Giving QRP a Boost
      By Mark Haverstock K8MSH

      QRP rigs are simple to build and fun to operate. But, as band conditions deteriorate over the next few years, you may find some need for a boost of power to get those contacts, especially if you’re chasing DX. The Hardrock 50 amp is an economical way to satisfy your urge to build, along with your need for a few dB of added signal strength on all the popular HF bands plus 6 meters. Regular TSM contributor, Mark Haverstock K8MSH, details his experience as he tackled the job of building this amp and putting it to the test on his Elecraft KX-3, a popular all-band, all-mode, low-power transceiver.

      The Spectrum Monitor is available in PDF format which can be read on any desktop, laptop, iPad®, Kindle® Fire, or other device capable of opening a PDF file.  Annual subscription (12 issues, beginning with the January 2014 issue) is $24. Individual monthly issues are available for $3 each.

      Ken Reitz, KS4ZR, is publisher and managing editor of The Spectrum Monitor. Contact him at [email protected].

      Icom 50th Anniversary Limited Edition IC-7850

      Icom 50th Anniversary Limited Edition IC-7850

      In the days of phones and tables getting smaller Icom goes big! The limited edition IC-7850 has gold color dials, buttons and strips. The front panel is finished in a clear black and special machined aluminum black and gold tuning tile. It will also carry a special 50th Anniversary number plaque on the top with Mr. Inoue’s signature.



      More information: http://nicktoday.com/icom-50th-anniversary-limited-edition-ic-7850/

      Nick Palomba, N1IC, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Florida, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

      XiOne SDR – Software Defined Radio

      The first Software Defined Radio easy to use with smartphones and fully open to the maker community!!!

      Why do I need a Software Defined Radio?

      You want to receive any kind of radio signals within a huge frequency range of 100 kHz up to 1.7 GHz?

      You like to follow ships or airplanes operating around you?

      You are an amateur radio operator who want to use SDR technology?

      You even want to develop your own radio frequency applications?

      You just want a plug-and-play solution?

      The XiOne Software Defined Radio is the solution for you, extremely versatile and flexible in its possible applications because the magic happens completely in software.


      Nick Palomba, N1IC, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Florida, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

      Amateur Radio Newsline Report 1933 August 29 2014

      • A ham radio floater balloon makes two trips around the world
      • IARU Region One official says 23 centimeters is in jeopardy 
      • Moldavia joins the CEPT universal licensing system
      • International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend sets a new record
      • Morse sprint will honor the memory of the late Nancy Kott, WZ8C

      Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, is the co-founder and producer of Amateur Radio Newsline. Contact him at [email protected].

      Alaska’s NDBs Awaken!

      Courtesy: http://www.alaskacooling.com

      This past weekend saw another of the monthly "Co-ordinated Listening Event" (CLE) activities sponsored by the Yahoo ndblist Group and organized by Brian Keyte, G3SIA. This is a group of dedicated low frequency NDB DXers that enjoy hunting down new catches as well as keeping track of NDB activity in general. These low powered beacons make excellent propagation indicators and are always a good measure of one's LF receive capability.
      As often happens, the monthly events seem to coincide with poor propagation periods for some unexplainable reason, as was the case once again. As well as the generally poor propagation, North America was plagued with high levels of lightning activity making any weak signals very difficult to hear through the steady din of QRN.

      In spite of the poor conditions, two nice catches from Alaska (ELF and TNC) heralded the fast receding midnight-sun in the 49th state and the start of another Alaskan NDB DX season!

      The NDB at Cold Bay is 'ELF' and transmits on 341kHz. Cold Bay is located on the Alaskan Peninsula, at the top of the Aleutian chain.

      Courtesy: http://pics3.city-data.com

      Built as a military airfield in WWII, Cold Bay's traffic is now mostly cargo and its long runway serves as an emergency 'alternate' for flights in the north Pacific.

      A search of Google Maps shows the NDB itself is located several miles north of the airport and appears to use a large vertical and an extensive ground system. With the transmitter power listed as 1000W, ELF makes an excellent target for DXers looking for their first Alaskan NDB.

      Source: https://maps.google.ca

      The NDB at Tin City is 'TNC' and transmits on 347kHz. Tin City is located in northwest Alaska next to the Bering Strait and, unlike most places in Alaska, you really can 'see Russia from here!' The airfield is not open to the public but is owned and operated by the USAF and used to support their long-range NORAD radar facility northwest of Nome.

      Source: https://maps.google.ca
      TNC is located right at the airfield, west of the gravel runway. Although the power is not indicated, I suspect it is running more than the typical 25 watts as its signal is often fairly good copy, as heard here early one morning.

      Like 'ELF', the antenna appears to be a vertical but possibly of smaller size.

      Source: https://maps.google.ca
      If you are listening for these targets, remember to tune with your receiver in the narrow-filter CW mode and listen for either the upper or lower sideband keyed modulation tone.

      For ELF, listen on 342.030kHz or 339.968kHz. The carrier will be on 341.0kHz.

      For TNC, listen on 348.034kHz or 345.968kHz. The carrier will be on 347.0kHz.

      For a list of all active NDB's in Alaska, complete with accurate frequency-spotting information, visit the beacon-reporting RNA website. Put 'AK' in the 'States' window and pick 'All Results' in the 'Show' window. There are presently at least 60 or more NDBs known to be operational in Alaska.

      As mentioned before, please exercise caution should you decide to jump-in...chasing NDBs can quickly become addictive as anyone in the 'ndblist' Yahoo Group will tell you.

      On the other hand...Alaska is waiting!

      Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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