Amateur Radio

DX Commander Contest Antenna achieves top placed UK IOTA Station

IOTA-graphicI’m absolutely delighted to report that I was placed 4th overall in the world for IOTA-Fixed station, Unassisted, Low Power, 12-hour section. This was from a holiday home and I installed the antenna inside 1-hour.

Results here  – but what makes this more remarkable is that I only used the one antenna from 80m through 10m; DX Commander All-Band-Vertical.

For 80m, I confirgured the DX Commander as an Inverted-L, replacing the 30m element. Of interest, 30m was still achievable (albeit with a 4:1 SWR). Although 17m is not a contest band, I did notice some slight interaction with the new 80m element, however SWR was still acceptable without an ATU.

I logged 300 QSOs however I notice after adjudication, that fell to 289. Pretty good, only dropping 11 QSOs. And I was amazed at how effective the 40m element produced such startling results on 15m, effectively as a 5/8th. Even 10m as a 2.5m long, ground mounted quarter-wave was getting in the action with short skip too.

All in all, I’m extremely delighted that I test-proved this antenna from a holiday location in competition with my peers, who were using genuine fixed-station antennas.

M0MCX looking for a Multi-Multi or M2 contest seat (worldwide)

IMG_6963Folks, I’m after an SSB Contest Seat with a competitive team, ideally with track record, #1 in your country, top-ten EU / USA. I’ll work any band although I prefer the low bands or 15m (and 10m when it’s open!).

Ideal contests will be:

  • CQWW
  • CQWPX
  • IOTA
  • etc..

I’m fit and healthy, will work night-slots if required however I do also need some rest, typically 4 on / 6 off (prefer 8..!). I’d prefer not to be involved in any heavy build since I notice it affects my operating.

For an example of my (unedited) operating, this is me running during 2014 CQWW. I took the USB feed out my TS-990s into Audacity and let it run. I was working QRO through a 5/8th vertical only.

 

For UK teams, I can bring ACOM 2000 and TS-990s to the party. World-wide teams, I’ll just fly in with my headset and shaving kit :)

I have experience of the following rigs in anger:

  • K3
  • FT5000
  • TS-990S
  • FT1000MP (& Mk5)
  • TS-590SG

I prefer N1MM logging although I have exposure to most logging s/w.

Note: I absolutely need to use a voice-keyer for the basics. I also tend to puff periodically on a vanilla / coffee flavoured vape toy when I’m in a contest. This is effectively an air-freshener and I promise it won’t disturb the rest of you. It’s not like I produce clouds. Just a teeny stream of cold steam which dissipates instantly and periodically it might make you fancy a blast as well. Note: I do *not* smoke (although I can eat my way though most fridges and cases of beer if the opportunity arises!). I don’t smell, can take instructions from the team captain and I just get on with it.

If you are interested in me operating for your station, please get in touch:

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JT65 UK Band Plan and how to stay within

The 5 MHz band is pretty cool and I’ve written about it before however out the box, JT65 allows you to very easily transmit out of band on 60m band. The segment we’re interested in the UK is the freq block between 5.354 and 5.358. This has taken me a little while to get to grips with this because although the band-police are complaining – and the RSGB has also warned users, nobody is giving a clear instruction on how to achieve staying completely within the band allocated to us.

In the UK therefore, there’s a couple of simple steps to take to make sure you won’t transmit out of band.

If you don’t have JT65 already, get it here: http://jt65-hf.com/downloads/.

Run the installer and interface your rig as you would any other piece of software that connects to your computer. If you are after help with that part of the problem, there are other places to hunt solutions down, not this blog.

Go to file > Settings and click the Frequency tab at the top and edit the frequency for the 5 MHz band so it reads 5.356.

File > Settings > Frequencies

File > Settings > Frequencies

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Introduction to the 60m Band Plan (5 MHz)

60m is an interesting band. it’s partly channelised into small segments and the propagation is a cross-breed of 40m and 80m.The band was first introduced apparently in 2002. Over the years, various countries have allowed their amateurs radio operators to use the band. All this is negotiated and approved in conjunction with the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference(s). Many countries are now “on air” and can be heard. Be careful though, their frequencies may be different to ours.

In the UK, this boils down to 100 Watts maximum transmitter power and 200 Watts effective radiated power (* see note). Only Advanced licence holders are allowed on 60M band. You used to obtain a NOV however I believe that’s finished now.

To get around remembering everything, it’s probably best just to set up some memories in your HF set. I don’t know about you, but all these fancy rigs come with memories – and we never use them. Well, I didn’t up until now. 60m is ideal for getting up to speed with these Memories (and you can scan the channels too which is something else few of us know how to work!).

The following table should be able to set you up for your HF set memories (as at February 2017).

Frequencies: Upper Side Band (USB)

  • 60m-band-plan5.298.50
  • 5.301.00
  • 5.304.00
  • 5.320.00
  • 5.335.00
  • 5.354.00
  • 5.379.00
  • 5.395.00
  • 5.398.50
  • 5.403.00

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5.137 MHz 60m AM transmission test

So I’ve been fooling around on 60m band lately on SSB as well as CW and digital modes.Today I decided to see if using AM might strike it lucky for me.

AM is a mode I remember from my youth. All the original imported CB sets were AM at that time and I seem to recall that I enjoyed the sound quality. Somehow it’s more relaxing than FM. Maybe its because you don’t need squelch, I really don’t know. FM has great clarify but AM just has a roundness to it.

TS990s on AM

TS990s on AM

Most modern radio sets come with the ability to transmit on AM but there’s an element of setting up, for instance with an old fashioned AM CB radio, you probably don’t set up the carrier and then adjust the microphone gain to achieve the modulation.The good news is that out the box, my TS990s seemed to transmit AM pretty well. I have an additional benefit in that the AM carrier on the TS990s is 50 watts, with voice peaks naturally falling at around 100 watts, perfect for maximum juice on the 60m band which limits our power to 100 watts anyway.

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Working 15m band on a 40m vertical antenna

Note: This article discusses the merits of a 3/4 (three quarter wave) vertical -vs- a 1/4 (quarter wave) antenna.

You can build a 40m vertical quarter wave antenna and ground mount it with 16 x 4m radials and operate it at the third harmonic; 21MHz.

Actually, all my experimentation has shown that if you multiply the quarter wave resonance by 3.03, you’ll have the next available usable band. In this case, if you tune a 40m vertical to 7.00Mhz, you’ll have the whole of the 15m band to play with with a centre-point of 21.300Mhz. Oh, and you’ll still have the whole of 40m band under 1.3:1.

Now here’s the controversy:

Most people who read antenna publications or the ARRL handbook believe that if you actually make this antenna, you’re creating a cloud-burner on 15m.

Technically correct (sort of) – but for DX, wrong.

On the surface, the 10m long 40m vertical that’s used on 21.225MHz does indeed look like a cloud burner. Here it is. 15m band in green -vs- a pure quarter-wave in red).

quarter-vs-three-quarter-wavelength-vertical-antenna-plot

(click to expand quarter-wave in red, three-quarter wavelength in green)

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CQWW SSB 2014 Example QSO recordings

DSC_0041Had a ball with CQWW this weekend putting just over 1,000 QSOs in the log. 10m was very busy. The band scope on the TS-990s radio was extremely full with hardly a gap from 28.300 to 29.000 (and some!).

A couple of times, I used Audacity (software) to record out the back of my Kenwood TS-990s and caught some interesting sound-tracks.

Mostly, I forgot to hit the record button, particularly when I hit a very fast pile-up to the US but I found time to catch the tail end of this one after it had slowed down a bit.

 

Here’s a “perfect” example of a CQWW “rubber stamp” contact.   Continue reading

How to build a tilt-over 60 foot antenna mast from scaffolding poles

This job is not for the feint-hearted. You will need a natural tendency for engineering, be accurate and be comfortable with knots. However, there’s no reason that most small teams of keen amateur radio operators can’t build this as a project for field day use.

Let me explain how I built the one shown in the pictures, then I’ll cover the learnings with you later along with my own do’s and don’ts.   Continue reading

What size pole to insert to a steel scaffold tube?

Most radio amateur operators look at a pole* and immediately wonder how they might use it in their hobby. It becomes a weird past time and can become somewhat of a burden when passing for instance, a section of tubing in a handy-man store. I have to stop and work out if they nest together – or will they go inside some other tube I might have.

However, I have solved one riddle which is what diameter pole can I slip inside a standard steel scaffold tube?

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Solarcon Imax 2000 Review 5/8ths Vertical Antenna 10m

Dsc_0002I always fancied a low-angle vertical for 10m band and after doing my research, came across the Solarcon Imax 2000. It was a toss up between this, a Sigma 4 copy or the Sirio 827. The Sigma 4 is now called the Sirio Vector 4000 and I discounted this one because of the size of the radials which seemed excessive for my plot , Same with the Sirio Vector 4000 which is just too tall. Even so, the Sirio Imax 2000 is still 24 feet in length. But read on, it’s actually fairly stealthy for such a tall antenna.

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Success rates calling CQ on BPSK 125 Digital Mode

BPSK125 CQ CallI’m currently using DM780, parrt of the Ham Radio Deluxe suite of programs to conduct my digital hobby. Some of the modes are extremely fun – and I particularly like the very fast speed of BPSK125.

Recently, I have improved my very success rates calling CQ with this script:

5 CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
4 CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
3 CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
2 CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
1 CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
PSE K<stop>

I think it mst be quite a compelling trace to follow on the waterfall because once I get to zero and ask PSEK, I more often that not get a hit. It’s certainly better than the old standard :

CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
CQ CQ de MØMCX MØMCX
PSE K<stop>

But it’s only for fun!

ACOM 600s automatic HF linear amplifier

James (M0YOM) and I are pretty excited about a new automatic, solid state linear amplifier from the ACOM stable. 160m through 6m with continuous duty rated at 600 watts. Well, when I say portable, I mean it’s more portable than say the ACOM 2000 – but still heavier than say an AL811. But hey, it’s super sexy, automatic and has that amazing legendary ACOM metering and inbuilt protection.

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TS990s External Keypad

I recently had the privilege of dealing with Chris Taylor of Taylor Made RF who supplied me his rather excellent custom keypad for the Kenwood TS990s.

Chris gives the device the part number TMRF TS990KP and it follows the convention as outlined in the user guide 16-7 of the TS990s user manual which allows for the user to program each of the 8 function keys a specific task, for instance; change antenna, play a recorded voice macro or change filters. An extremely handy accessory.

DSC_0242

Of course, you could build one of these but for an “appliance” operator and for sheer mini-bling, the TMRF TS990KP is a delight to use. It comes very nicely packaged with basic instructions, a simple 3.5mm jack to jack stereo lead and of course, the engineered keypad.

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