Posts Tagged ‘skars’

Some Radio Antics

Shack activity has been curtailed with the antenna 'mast' spending a lot of time luffed over due of the winter storms and high winds that have battered the UK over recent weeks.

Thankfully things calmed down and was able to put the antenna back up but I seemed a little deaf on VHF/UHF dropping several S-points on local repeaters and then started to see high VSWR readings. The incessant rain had somehow got into the connector under the collinear despite being generously wrapped in self amalgamating tape. I replaced the connector and removed a couple of feet of coax in case any had seeped into the cable.

Like much of the UK amateur community I have been trying to listen in to British Astronaut Major Tim Peake during a number of ARISS UK school contacts during the Principia mission on the International Space Station. It is pleasing to see the enthusiasm, interest and publicity it has generated for the hobby.

There is another contact tomorrow (Friday 26th February 2016 at 1440UTC) with the City of Norwich School. While reception of the first two contacts proved a little disappointing for me, the one last week was much better and I made a video during the pass.


The Astronauts are certainly busy on the space station and there was an ARISS contact this morning with an Italian school. It was a low pass here only reaching 7 degrees above the horizon but was pleased to capture Tim Kopra conversing. I was using just the X-50 collinear on the FT857-D


The repaired ATU and a new balun on the OCFD has made a big difference to HF. It is much less noisy and I am now able to match the antenna to 80m something I could never do before. While it will be very inefficient on such a short antenna I did run a little over 2W last night on WSPR as a test, and was pleasantly surprised.


I have also been doing some JT65 and for the first time some JT9 inspired by a demonstration at SKARS and I was pleased to make a JT9 QSO with JA5BDZ on 15m using 10W.

A big help to HF has been tracking down the source of my recent QRM, which wasn't as many suggested my evil PLT devices but in fact the now redundant wireless router. While the WiFi was switched off it was still being used as a network switch and for some reason had suddenly become RF noisy, it wasn't the switching PSU but the actual unit and would happen a few hours after being switched on. Funny thing it is not the first time I've had an access point suddenly emit QRM.

A couple of weeks ago I went out with Stewart (M0SDM) to assist him flying his kite antenna and we operated under the club callsign MX0SKR, for a couple of hours, it was great fun.




Last weekend I also helped my brother David (M6GTD) install a couple of antennas at the family home. He can finally use the radio he brought at the Hamfest back in September, a Diamond X-50 dual band collinear and a home brewed 33ft long OCFD should get him on the air! 


David helped me at the Hamfest with the balloon launch


My apologies if this blog post sounds like a bit like an excited child recanting his holiday "I did this, and then I did this and I also did that" I hope to post something a little more coherent and structured soon!

Some Radio Antics

Shack activity has been curtailed with the antenna 'mast' spending a lot of time luffed over due of the winter storms and high winds that have battered the UK over recent weeks.

Thankfully things calmed down and was able to put the antenna back up but I seemed a little deaf on VHF/UHF dropping several S-points on local repeaters and then started to see high VSWR readings. The incessant rain had somehow got into the connector under the collinear despite being generously wrapped in self amalgamating tape. I replaced the connector and removed a couple of feet of coax in case any had seeped into the cable.

Like much of the UK amateur community I have been trying to listen in to British Astronaut Major Tim Peake during a number of ARISS UK school contacts during the Principia mission on the International Space Station. It is pleasing to see the enthusiasm, interest and publicity it has generated for the hobby.

There is another contact tomorrow (Friday 26th February 2016 at 1440UTC) with the City of Norwich School. While reception of the first two contacts proved a little disappointing for me, the one last week was much better and I made a video during the pass.


The Astronauts are certainly busy on the space station and there was an ARISS contact this morning with an Italian school. It was a low pass here only reaching 7 degrees above the horizon but was pleased to capture Tim Kopra conversing. I was using just the X-50 collinear on the FT857-D


The repaired ATU and a new balun on the OCFD has made a big difference to HF. It is much less noisy and I am now able to match the antenna to 80m something I could never do before. While it will be very inefficient on such a short antenna I did run a little over 2W last night on WSPR as a test, and was pleasantly surprised.


I have also been doing some JT65 and for the first time some JT9 inspired by a demonstration at SKARS and I was pleased to make a JT9 QSO with JA5BDZ on 15m using 10W.

A big help to HF has been tracking down the source of my recent QRM, which wasn't as many suggested my evil PLT devices but in fact the now redundant wireless router. While the WiFi was switched off it was still being used as a network switch and for some reason had suddenly become RF noisy, it wasn't the switching PSU but the actual unit and would happen a few hours after being switched on. Funny thing it is not the first time I've had an access point suddenly emit QRM.

A couple of weeks ago I went out with Stewart (M0SDM) to assist him flying his kite antenna and we operated under the club callsign MX0SKR, for a couple of hours, it was great fun.




Last weekend I also helped my brother David (M6GTD) install a couple of antennas at the family home. He can finally use the radio he brought at the Hamfest back in September, a Diamond X-50 dual band collinear and a home brewed 33ft long OCFD should get him on the air! 


David helped me at the Hamfest with the balloon launch


My apologies if this blog post sounds like a bit like an excited child recanting his holiday "I did this, and then I did this and I also did that" I hope to post something a little more coherent and structured soon!

Latest antics

Here I am a month after the last post and it is has been a month of very little 'radio antics'.

I was acutely aware that since the end of September my wife had become a radio widow so promised not to lock myself away in the shack for a while and have been doing some much needed painting and decorating around the house.

I haven't been in much of a radio mood anyway as I have been unwell and am still not fully over my last wobble. Band and weather conditions have been rubbish with a sustained period of high wind and rain including storms Abigail and Barney. As a precaution I dropped the pole and it became apparent I had some maintenance to do on the OCFD.


The shack too had been in need of some sorting out, which I thankfully I did muster enthusiasm to tidy up.


While being largely uninspired I haven't been completely radio silent, I did get on air for the South Kesteven ARS 2m net but found myself suffering some QRM again


It isn't the first time I've seen this sort of signal, but I had thought it had gone away, it seems it is back and stronger! This was an ARISS contact I monitored back in 2013 before I was licensed with a similar noise.


After using the SDR to identify the noise I realised I have been neglecting the FUNCube Dongle for far too long. So ordered some new SMA adapters from HamGoodies and pressed it back into service. I have been using it to decode the telemetry from the FOX-1A (AO-85) satellite with the updated software and have now got myself on the leader board even if the collinear is currently horizontal about four feet off the ground!

South Kesteven ARS had a talk in October by Sean Burton 2E0ENN about amateur DMR where he demonstrated some handsets and the new DV4Mini which allows gateway and internet linking.

I remembered I dabbled a few years ago with decoding PMR DMR using the SDR and a scanner with a discriminator tap using various programs but they were very hit and miss at the time. I reacquainted myself with the various projects and had a go at decoding some amateur transmissions.

I downloaded the latest program called DSDPlus  (support at RadioReference.com) and monitoring the nearby GB7RR DMRPlus repeater managing to get some clear decodes with little effort.


Finally this week I gave a presentation at SKARS on the subject of HABs and how to plan a HAB launch. Following on from the Eggsplorer-1 and Hamfest "Pigs In Space" HAB launch I decided to try to explain everything I had learned for anyone else contemplating giving it a go!

It was a long talk (perhaps too long) as I covered everything from building the electronics, software, making the payload box, getting the right balloon, parachute, gas, obtaining permission and then the prediction, launching tracking and recovery.



It was a great turnout with a lot of interest.

Latest antics

Here I am a month after the last post and it is has been a month of very little 'radio antics'.

I was acutely aware that since the end of September my wife had become a radio widow so promised not to lock myself away in the shack for a while and have been doing some much needed painting and decorating around the house.

I haven't been in much of a radio mood anyway as I have been unwell and am still not fully over my last wobble. Band and weather conditions have been rubbish with a sustained period of high wind and rain including storms Abigail and Barney. As a precaution I dropped the pole and it became apparent I had some maintenance to do on the OCFD.


The shack too had been in need of some sorting out, which I thankfully I did muster enthusiasm to tidy up.


While being largely uninspired I haven't been completely radio silent, I did get on air for the South Kesteven ARS 2m net but found myself suffering some QRM again


It isn't the first time I've seen this sort of signal, but I had thought it had gone away, it seems it is back and stronger! This was an ARISS contact I monitored back in 2013 before I was licensed with a similar noise.


After using the SDR to identify the noise I realised I have been neglecting the FUNCube Dongle for far too long. So ordered some new SMA adapters from HamGoodies and pressed it back into service. I have been using it to decode the telemetry from the FOX-1A (AO-85) satellite with the updated software and have now got myself on the leader board even if the collinear is currently horizontal about four feet off the ground!

South Kesteven ARS had a talk in October by Sean Burton 2E0ENN about amateur DMR where he demonstrated some handsets and the new DV4Mini which allows gateway and internet linking.

I remembered I dabbled a few years ago with decoding PMR DMR using the SDR and a scanner with a discriminator tap using various programs but they were very hit and miss at the time. I reacquainted myself with the various projects and had a go at decoding some amateur transmissions.

I downloaded the latest program called DSDPlus  (support at RadioReference.com) and monitoring the nearby GB7RR DMRPlus repeater managing to get some clear decodes with little effort.


Finally this week I gave a presentation at SKARS on the subject of HABs and how to plan a HAB launch. Following on from the Eggsplorer-1 and Hamfest "Pigs In Space" HAB launch I decided to try to explain everything I had learned for anyone else contemplating giving it a go!

It was a long talk (perhaps too long) as I covered everything from building the electronics, software, making the payload box, getting the right balloon, parachute, gas, obtaining permission and then the prediction, launching tracking and recovery.



It was a great turnout with a lot of interest.

A wonderful weekend of JOTA

What a difference a week makes, last week I was feeling somewhat low and as a result ducked out of the RSGB convention as I wasn't feeling very sociable.

But this week I had to get my head straight since the South Kesteven ARS (of which I am Chairman) were involved for the second year in the Scouting Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) weekend operating GB5FSG for the 1st Foston Scouts.

But before that we were also involved with another local scouting group, the 1st Barrowby where we assisted in a class of 12 Cubs with their communication badge.

Together with Stewart (M0SDM), Sean (2E0ENN) and Konrad (2E0KVF) we spent an evening giving them a introduction to amateur radio. Konrad who is an ex-scout leader explained the hobby, Stewart and Sean helped them pass messages via a radio. There was also a timely visible pass of the International Space Station during the evening and I hoped they might be able to see it while I demonstrated transmitting APRS messages via the onboard digipeater.

Using my new dual band Yagi, laptop and FT857D in the boot of my car I did successfully get messages digipeated and igated however the cloud and rain prevented the cubs seeing the ISS pass overhead (I put the coordinates in slightly wrong, so are shown slightly south of where we were)



The evening was a great success and the enthusiasm shown by the Scout leaders hopefully means SKARS will be involved in more activities for the Barrowby Scout group. Interestingly we were not the first local club they approached to assist but after they were given the cold shoulder by them we were happy to take up the challenge. The Barrowby group were also interested in being involved in the Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) next year.

So on to the main event this week, the GB5FSG JOTA station, operated by Stewart, Sean and myself. It is exactly a year since I gained my full licence and this was my first Notice of Variation for a special event station, last year under the previous chairman we had run GB2FFC with some success but this year we hoped to improve the experience for the Cubs/Beavers and Scouts.

Firstly we had a much improved antenna installation, with Stewart's Land Rover and impressive pushup mast we had an excellent OCFD dipole, resonant on several bands including 40m along with another smaller pole holding up an end fed long wire for the datamode station. We also put up a collinear for a 2m VHF station.


Last year we were hampered by the noise of excitable children in the main room of the scout hut which made operating and hearing contacts difficult. This year we asked for some separation from the hubbub and had planned to use a tent. Instead we setup in the storage area in the back of the hut which proved ideal as it allowed us to control the number of children and allowed easier working conditions - it was a little chilly but much warmer than a tent would have been.


On Saturday we used Stewart's FT897 as the main HF rig, Sean operated a 2m meter station with a number of contacts. Like last year I had my FT857 operating a datamode (primarily PSK) but a damaged feeder issue curtailed this for most of the day and we soon concentrated on the HF SSB voice contact as conditions were good and the band was busy with other JOTA stations.

In keeping with the aims of JOTA we didn't chase numbers instead we had some lengthy quality contacts, including a marathon 30 minute plus contact with I believe was GB2WSG the 2nd Wellington Scout Group with lots of two-way greeting messages being sent to really give the children a full experience of using the radio.

The day before I had quickly constructed a Morse code oscillator (since I didn't have one) using an arduino board and an old computer speaker for added volume and this proved popular as the children tapped out their own names, their friends names, call signs, their ages and various words.


I had created some certificates and stickers to reward the children and to prove they had completed the tasks should they need them for any future scouting badges and awards.

Sunday we just operated for the morning and since Stewart couldn't attend I brought along my FT450D and Sean and myself operated on HF SSB. Sadly my poor Morse oscillator failed quite spectacularly in a puff of smoke but all was not lost as again conditions were excellent and we were able to pass lots of greeting messages again. I haven't used the FT450D in anger so it was excellent to let it stretch its legs and the audio and DSP proved excellent in dealing with the QRM from the contest running at the same time.



Working with the Scouts this week has really was a therapeutic exercise for my soul and made me glad I got licenced and was able to get involved with this. I am not naturally comfortable with children, since I am not a parent. But it was rewarding seeing the look of wonder on some of their faces as they passed messages.. like it was magic ;-)



A wonderful weekend of JOTA

What a difference a week makes, last week I was feeling somewhat low and as a result ducked out of the RSGB convention as I wasn't feeling very sociable.

But this week I had to get my head straight since the South Kesteven ARS (of which I am Chairman) were involved for the second year in the Scouting Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) weekend operating GB5FSG for the 1st Foston Scouts.

But before that we were also involved with another local scouting group, the 1st Barrowby where we assisted in a class of 12 Cubs with their communication badge.

Together with Stewart (M0SDM), Sean (2E0ENN) and Konrad (2E0KVF) we spent an evening giving them a introduction to amateur radio. Konrad who is an ex-scout leader explained the hobby, Stewart and Sean helped them pass messages via a radio. There was also a timely visible pass of the International Space Station during the evening and I hoped they might be able to see it while I demonstrated transmitting APRS messages via the onboard digipeater.

Using my new dual band Yagi, laptop and FT857D in the boot of my car I did successfully get messages digipeated and igated however the cloud and rain prevented the cubs seeing the ISS pass overhead (I put the coordinates in slightly wrong, so are shown slightly south of where we were)



The evening was a great success and the enthusiasm shown by the Scout leaders hopefully means SKARS will be involved in more activities for the Barrowby Scout group. Interestingly we were not the first local club they approached to assist but after they were given the cold shoulder by them we were happy to take up the challenge. The Barrowby group were also interested in being involved in the Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) next year.

So on to the main event this week, the GB5FSG JOTA station, operated by Stewart, Sean and myself. It is exactly a year since I gained my full licence and this was my first Notice of Variation for a special event station, last year under the previous chairman we had run GB2FFC with some success but this year we hoped to improve the experience for the Cubs/Beavers and Scouts.

Firstly we had a much improved antenna installation, with Stewart's Land Rover and impressive pushup mast we had an excellent OCFD dipole, resonant on several bands including 40m along with another smaller pole holding up an end fed long wire for the datamode station. We also put up a collinear for a 2m VHF station.


Last year we were hampered by the noise of excitable children in the main room of the scout hut which made operating and hearing contacts difficult. This year we asked for some separation from the hubbub and had planned to use a tent. Instead we setup in the storage area in the back of the hut which proved ideal as it allowed us to control the number of children and allowed easier working conditions - it was a little chilly but much warmer than a tent would have been.


On Saturday we used Stewart's FT897 as the main HF rig, Sean operated a 2m meter station with a number of contacts. Like last year I had my FT857 operating a datamode (primarily PSK) but a damaged feeder issue curtailed this for most of the day and we soon concentrated on the HF SSB voice contact as conditions were good and the band was busy with other JOTA stations.

In keeping with the aims of JOTA we didn't chase numbers instead we had some lengthy quality contacts, including a marathon 30 minute plus contact with I believe was GB2WSG the 2nd Wellington Scout Group with lots of two-way greeting messages being sent to really give the children a full experience of using the radio.

The day before I had quickly constructed a Morse code oscillator (since I didn't have one) using an arduino board and an old computer speaker for added volume and this proved popular as the children tapped out their own names, their friends names, call signs, their ages and various words.


I had created some certificates and stickers to reward the children and to prove they had completed the tasks should they need them for any future scouting badges and awards.

Sunday we just operated for the morning and since Stewart couldn't attend I brought along my FT450D and Sean and myself operated on HF SSB. Sadly my poor Morse oscillator failed quite spectacularly in a puff of smoke but all was not lost as again conditions were excellent and we were able to pass lots of greeting messages again. I haven't used the FT450D in anger so it was excellent to let it stretch its legs and the audio and DSP proved excellent in dealing with the QRM from the contest running at the same time.



Working with the Scouts this week has really was a therapeutic exercise for my soul and made me glad I got licenced and was able to get involved with this. I am not naturally comfortable with children, since I am not a parent. But it was rewarding seeing the look of wonder on some of their faces as they passed messages.. like it was magic ;-)



My first RAYNET event

Sunday I took part in my first RAYNET event at the Walk for Parkinson's at Burghley House in Lincolnshire. This was a sponsored walk to raise money for Parkinson's UK a research and support charity working to help find a cure and improve life for those affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Starting at the Burghley House stately home, participants could chose to do either a gentle 3 mile stroll within the grounds or a more challenging 10-mile walk out of the park and through the Barnack Hills and Holes National Nature Reserve.


RAYNET's task was to provide communication support to the organisers with operators situated around the course at various marshalling points to pass messages and if necessary request assistance.

Earlier in the year there was a presentation about the work of RAYNET at the South Kesteven ARS by Jim Wheeldon (M0JHW) and Alan Clarke (M0NLR) after which I'd offered my services for future events, so when Jim called me and asked for some help I was happy to oblige.

My task was quite straightforward, simply manning one of the marshal points along the course directing the walkers and making sure they were happy and injury free, if not I was to call for assistance. Despite being under the weather for the last few days with a bad head cold and a painful sore throat I still turned out and really enjoyed helping.


It was nice to use my radio licence and equipment for something useful, spending a pleasant morning in the sunshine talking to the walkers and some local residents explaining all about amateur radio.


RAYNET was formed back in the 1950s following the East Coast floods to provide a way of organising the valuable resource that Amateur Radio is able to provide to the community. While it is called the Radio Amateurs’ Emergency Network the majority of its work nowadays is to provide support to community events, like the sponsored walk.

However it can still be called up to offer assistance at incidents such as the recent Shoreham Airshow plane crash. The South Sussex RAYNET group, assisted by members of South Kent RAYNET, were already providing communications support for the organisers and the user services at the airshow when the Hawker Hunter aircraft crashed into vehicles on the A27 during a flying display.

It was reported that following the crash the area was in lock down in four hours and it the demand on the local mobile networks by concerned spectators, residents and residents outstripped capacity making normal communication difficult. RAYNET operators were able to provide much needed support in the aftermath.

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