Amateur Radio

ACOM 2000 Flight Case

Thanks to Nigel at Castle Cases, I now have a first-class flight case for my beloved Acom 2000 amplifier, all for less than £250.

ACOM 2000 Flight Case

Built up from a 9mm touring-quality plywood with aluminium fittings and steel corners, clasps and handles, I’m hoping this will last me a lifetime. I particularly love the hex-effect ply finish which is Nigel’s standard offering. Nigel came up with the idea of building a platform for the amplifier so that I can still get to all the connectors on the reverse and the on-off rocker switch on the front panel. This has a dual effect of allowing a neat storage space for the three-pin plug and RS232 linked remote control panel.

I had a case built for a couple of reasons; a cross between safety and convenience: To transport the Acom reliably in its carboard box, one needs to split the transformer from the amplifier because of the weight. If you try and lift an Acom 2000 on your own, you could easily end up with an accident. Removing the transformer effectively takes about 15 kilos out the amplifier, making it a lot easier to shoe-horn it into its box but it takes forever. Of course, the cardboard will only last a few years too and will gradually become worthless. Who needs a box now..? I drove off today and left Nigel with my cardboard (sorry Nigel, I was going to take it away but forgot!).

Going through the trouble of removing the transformer means that I was loathe to pack it into the boot for field days and Scouting events. But having it sit permanently on it’s flight-case tray means that it can come out to play more regularly which means more QRO fun 🙂

Custom made flight cases from Castle Cases here:

Cheers all (thanks lads for the coffee too!)



Kenwood RC-2000 Remote Control system for TS-2000

Kenwood RC-2000I’m pleased to report that after soldering hundred of connectors last Friday afternoon, the remote head for my marine-style TS-2000 installation worked perfectly, even though we had extended the head by 70 feet (21 meters).

How did we do this: The remote head requires extensions for a) 8 pin Microphone b) 2 core loud speaker and c) 4 core data. I had heard of a number of people complaining about RF feedback and other such “funnies” so I reduced the problems by over-specifying on the coax run (Ecoflex 10) and going completely over the top for the 8-pin mic and data cables.

The 8-pin microphone connector was a heavy-duty 8mm screened 25m reel from Farnell components at £90, expensive – but I felt worth it. The data was shoved down a neoprene style 4-core professional OFC microphone cable, as was the loud speaker.

The reason for the OFC microphone cable was an alert I had from a user on one of my Yahoo Groups suggesting that unless I used top-quality cable, the high frequencies might roll off on TX. Not being able to change the installation once the boat was built, I had no option but to buy the best cable I could find. As it happens, the audio is currently routed through the 8-core Mic lead, however I do have the option of running the mic audio through a spare pair from the professional microphone cable.

Tests demonstrated that nobody was wise to our remote head. No interference was discovered whether on our outgoing signal, nor on our data lines or speaker and control lines. Not one ferrite clip was used. Remarkable.

A first class effort. Thanks to james (M3YOM) for doing the soldering!

VHF NFD Report 2008 – Double X-Ray Firm

M0XXT/PCollectively, we have extremely limited experience with VHF. It came as quite a shock to the system to score so few QSOs relative to HF contests that we enter; we are used to scoring 1,500 contacts in a weekend. I must say that the turn-out felt positively low. Is this really the state of VHF contesting in the UK..?

Our location couldn’t get better for a Midland club; 1,000 feet high with easy access on private land (IO91bx [edited, did say IO92bx..!]). The weather was a different story with both the consistent rain and very high winds contributing to some scary moments. Why all three antennas were still standing on Sunday morning, I can’t understand however the guys, stakes or poles didn’t move an inch. Perhaps a testimony to all my recent knot learnings at the Scout Hut!

With limited resources on VHF, most of the gear had to be procured recently to enter this event including a 17 element Tonna and a three element Moonraker beam for 6m. A couple of months ago, we bought a strange X-Quad affair for 70cms which after completely stripping down and rebuilding last week, appeared to work well but we have no way of comparing it to anything else. [Edit: since found out this is a Jaybeam Multibeam, 48 element 12dbd ATV type antenna circa 30 years old]. At 2m long with zillions of elements, I trust it’s as least as good as the Tonna is on 2m. Time will tell. Again, we had to get equipped with rotators so we bought a TV style rotator for 6m and acquired a Hirschman rotator when we bought the 70cms antenna. The Yaesu G450 is permanently attached to the hydraulic tower for the 2m station (normally running an A3S). Coax was also a stumbling block, particularly for 70cms where we only had 50 watts available to us and potentially lots of loss on our standard cut of Westflex, perhaps too lossy for 70cms? A 30m length of Ecoflex 15 was despatched from Diode with matching connectors last week to compensate.

The line-up ended up with FT-2000 on 6m at 100w with a 50m run of Westflex to a 3 element beam at 10m. For 2m, we ran TS-2000 on 100w via 30m of Westflex to the 17 element Tonna at 10m and a pre-amp at the rig end. For 70cms, we ran a further TS-2000 which is factory throttled to 50w through 30m of Ecoflex 15 to our weird X-Quad type antenna at only 9m. Perhaps a small linear for 70cms next year and a pre-amp? A bigger 6m beam will be discussed for next year too.

Logging was exclusively N1MM on Dell Optiplex machines and 15 inch flat-screen monitors without networking enabled due to running separate serial numbers for each band. One Optiplex blew up on Sunday morning after refusing to boot due to condensation we think. We had shut the station at 2:00am for 4 hours to get some sleep and upon waking up and restarting the generator, James discovered an issue of the PSU. Hilarious at the time because when it was plugged in, it sounded like a crunchy plastic pop bottled being scrunched up and I’m shouting at Tim to take the plug out. But like the boy who always cried “wolf”, Tim’s got wise to my practical jokes and really thought I was scrunching up a plastic pop bottle and refused to cooperate. A final “bang” from the PSU convinced him that perhaps this time, I really was telling the truth! Very funny.

Before the off, Tim’s testing proved useful on 6m scoring a number of interesting DX entities, including 7X2RF from Algeria – which enlightened some passers-by who were amazed at what we were doing. I nearly sold two more Foundation tickets!


At 15:00hrs local time we started in anger with myself on 70cms, Terry on 2m and Tim on 6m. Having James and Aidan as rotation operators meant that 70cms didn’t become too onerous (50 QSOs in 24 hours..? Ugh!). Massive thanks to Aidan from the team here; he attracted at least 50% of our score on that band, refusing to give up and logging each contact in a determined and professional manner. This was Aidan’s first time on a contest and he’s just 12 years old. May I take this opportunity to thank those stations that recognised Aidan’s youthful voice and his achievement on this band, you stuck with him to ensure a 100% completion for each QSO. Aidan is currently under guidance as part of his foundation license and to be schooled in contesting so early, we think was marvellous. Thanks to all who helped him. Let’s be clear that he had guidance for each QSO and not left to his own devices.

As a “restricted” entry, we couldn’t use brute force to open any doors and it therefore is a slight embarrassment to only have logged 156 QSOs on 2m, 48 QSOs on 70cms and circa 95 QSOs on 6m.
The “magic” band did prove to house some interesting DX from North Africa through to the deep Mediterranean but 2m and 70cms held back offering us no more than 600 km contacts and then very infrequently. Most QSOs were inside the UK although 21 large squares were worked in the end from Ireland through to Germany.

The weather attempted to dampen our spirits but with such strong characters in the tent, we made our own fun and had a ball all the same. At dinner time, we turned the volume down on all three sets and sat down together for our evening meal. I had cooked a top-line Spag-Boll and Terry had us wash it down with a few bottles of bubbly. Fabulous atmosphere.


We were amazed at some of bad signal quality issues being produced on mostly 2m and 70cms; warbley modulation and severe splatter in the main. In one case, we had a couple of polite conversations over a period of a few hours regarding a particular club’s 60Khz splatter until they finally believed us and turned down the wick. I realise that Open class stations might adopt the AKR attitude, “All Knobs to the Right” but for the rest of us, even stations 60 miles away can still be 30db over S9 and this can spoil the fun when the signal isn’t as clean as it should be. Please check your equipment before the contest.

No real issues materialised bar some water in the 70cms feedpoint which was fixed by a wild guess. Dropping the mast and pouring it out and resealing it for another day had us back to full power. The PSU which blew up the 70cms Optiplex didn’t hurt too bad but dropped the 2m station for 10 minutes while James and I recovered the data by swapping out hard drives – just as Terry finally scored a small run into Northern France! The new tent, “Battalion HQ”, held up well to the weather, only developing a couple of extremely minor leaks after continual battering rain for 24 hours. With its huge side-pods, it really became a massive area to work in allowing a full kitchen in one area and an operations room in the other with a dining room for 6 people. We’ll roll this out again for SSB Field Day. Trust you’ll be there?


6m            95 QSOs           45,847 points       Best DX UT3UA – 2251 Km
2m          156 QSOs           27,819 points       Best DX  F4CQY/P – 640 Km
70cms      48 QSOs             5,066 points        Best DX  PA6NL – 411 Km


M0MCX (Callum, Supreme Commander 4th Quadrant)
G4MKP (Terry)
M0URX (Tim)
M3YOM (James)
Aidan (Foundation student)

There is some mild debate in the team if we’ll do this one again. I’m told that VHF can be fun with some lifts into the continent but maybe Silverstone, Wimbledon and perhaps the rain damped that down – as did lift conditions I think.

I’m amazed that with all those FT847s and TS2000s sold, few operators perhaps even knew to turn on their radios for an hour and work a few of us /P stations on 6m, 2m and 70cms. However, we did work a few vertically polarised stations quite easily who were giving away single digit points and I thank those stations for coming on since we worked hard for every QSO. It’s really quite easy to score a few QSOs from home with a V2000 style tri-bander vertical. Someone, somewhere should fly the flag for this since hundreds of private stations could have helped make this a bigger event.


Callum (M0MCX)

17 Element Tonna Test for 2008 VHF NFD

17 Element TonnaOur 17 element Tonna is up for a test tonight, to ensure that everything will be working for VHF NFD event this weekend. Initial results are proving that its an extremely capable antenna and at 30 feet high, it’s just sitting over the rooftops, giving me a clear run across Warwickshire to the continent.

Fingers crossed for a bit of a lift tonight since it’s the 2m activity contest and James is popping over for some practice. I’ll write up a small report later.

In case you are wondering, yes that’s a Yaesu rotator bearing that I’m guying to at the 9.5 meter mark. It’s not holding the mast up, just taking the horizontal strain off the rotator.


41 QSOs in tonight’s contest and 12 square multipliers. Not a big score but jolly good fun and at least we seemed to be ini the top third in terms of score. Longest DX was GM3UCI for 398 Km.


Abuse of power by N1KFC

I seemed to have pressed N1KFC’s eject button when I accused him of being a policeman in Yahoo’s Ameritron Amp group. Funny – I’ve never done that before (cough, ahem!). He’s a very diligent co-moderator! Anyway, the silly oaf then put me on moderated postings, censored my posts and finally deleted my previous ones 🙂 How to change the course of history, eh? There’s certainly some strange folk about 🙂

Anyway, after much debate, a few of the die-hards suggested we start a new group which we did – and we’ve called it “ameritron” (strange name for an amp group!).

Please feel free to join us there.



Narrowboat Antenna

IMG_8483Never one to do things by half, I have finally completed the HF installation on my narrowboat. First impressions are excellent, I believe it’s working very well. I now need a solid state 500 watt linear amplifier to make use of the 800w PEP atu at the feedpoint. Can’t wait.

WiFi and Cellphone antennas still not connected. My solution here will probably be a Dlink Router with PCMCIA card running an HSDPA service from Vodafone. The PCMCIA card will take it’s signal from the Cellphone antenna and the Dlink Router will then distribute WiFi throughout the boat via the WiFi antenna on the roof. I have personally cracked WEP and WPA access points so I wonder if there’s any point in securing them? Of course 🙂

[Edit, July 2008: All antennas connected and working :]



Tower Update

DSC_3207Last night, we finally fitted the rotator housing and G450 Yaesu Rotator to the tower and tested it out with a small VHF ZL Special which we’ll use for VHF NFD in July (being at 1,000 feet means that we might be able to get away without high-gain antenna arrays, time will tell).

Barry (M0DGQ) is working on designs for a hinged rotator cage which means we will be able to use a 20 foot aluminium pole at ground level. Maybe next year..?

Anyway, we can now claim the record for putting up a 35 foot antenna: 20 seconds with a hydraulic switch 🙂


My new vertical(!)

CB AntennaWith a feeling of “if you build it, they will come”, I installed a CB style antenna for the 10m band yesterday evening. I needed to shorten it about half a meter for it to work but I noticed that at 12 feet above the ground, it tunes with a low SWR on both 12m and 10m, although it’s not so good around the 27MHz slot- so it’s not exactly broadband. I was also surprised on the 15m band as it presented less than 2:1 in my shack. Red-herring.. it may present a low SWR, however it’s just a crap aerial on that band. The hobby of designing low SWR antennas goes out the window with the dummy loads.

Anyway, why the hell am I writing this? It’s this; I want to know how to feed a half-wave vertical. Why don’t I need radials? I have a 10m fishing pole and I’ll make one for the 20m band and work it all out myself. I know there’s a coil somewhere..

Oh! .. and in the making of this article, I captured a picture of a fly whilst taking a picture of an antenna. See it here: 

Where’s that Glenlivet?

Ameritron AL811x 800w tuning tips

Ameritron AL-811xDon’t spend your life tuning amps. Do it once with sticky labels and forget!

I’ve recently un-mothballed my Ameritron which has seen good service and delivers 200 watts for 10w drive – ideal for PSK31 and other low-power digital modes. This amp will go further and deliver 400 watts for 30 minutes key-down so it’s ideal for full legal power in the UK.

Anyway, flicking from 80, 40, 30 and 20m during the grey line with the AL811, I’ve discovered that I have never mastered the speedy band switching that some operators appear to have worked out. So I developed my visual system(!) using sticky labels tuned against a 50 ohm dummy load to calculate the fastest (approximate) setting for each band. It works blooming marvelous too!

Since a picture tells a thousand words, I won’t bore you any more. Here’s a close up!

[Later] – I can’t get 10m to tune. Maybe it’s not an export model? In which case, according to sources on the internet, to convert a non-export model to an export model, one needs to make a mod by cutting a wire. This will enable 12 & 10 meters on the Aux switch. I hate engineering! 🙂

Cheers, Callum.


Ham Radio Realtime Gray Line

Current Gray-Line Position

Courtesy of, this is the current real-time position of the Gray

Line, as utilised by Ham Radio operators over the world.

For those who don’t know, the”grey line” is a band around the Earth that separates daylight from darkness as the earth rotates.  Propagation along this line can be very efficient.  One reason for this is that the D layer, which absorbs HF signals, disappears rapidly on the sunset side of the grey line, and it has not yet built upon the sunrise side.

Interesting? Well, I’ve spoken to people on the other side of the planet during this 30 minute phenomenon. It certainly gives you a buzz.

[Later: This damned map can takes ages to load.. Grrr]


Proposed Field Day Location

VHF NFD Location

I’m very excited that we appear to have found a new Field Day location in the Cotswold Hills, particularly useful for VHF NFD since it is only a whisker short of 1,000 feet. Of course, this will be spectacular for SSB Field Day as well since we might even make use of the height to secure a few more 10m SSB contacts around the UK and into the continent if we’re lucky.

Tim, James, Terry and I visited the site today to ensure that it is suitable – and at only 40 miles from Solihull it’s not as if we’re stretching the fuel tanks to get there either.

I’ve never operated seriously at such a height so I will be fascinated to know how our performance compares with other years when we used to operate at a local club that sported 450 feet ASL plus a 100 foot mast. I have a feeling the extra 500 feet might prove to be exceptionally useful!

May I thank Tim who drove around one evening for hours with a friend of his, door knocking land owners that happened to live very high up. This land owner shall remain anonymous for the time being. Thank you Sir for assisting our group.

VHF Field Day 2008 M0XXT

VHF Field Day 2008 M0XXT

We’re looking for 1st-class contest operators which a good sense of humour who want a couple of interesting weekends away with our club call; M0XXT. If you are interested in joining our group, please email me your phone number.

Callum, M0MCX.

Construction of the 80m Vertical

I’ve had a few emails requesting a deeper understanding of the 80m vertical we put up in January. Andy (M0CTR) kindly emailed me today and I have published my email so that others might benefit.

Andy, The 80m vertical was an interesting project. Firstly, let me explain that the 80m vertical was a carbon copy of a 40m vertical I made a few months before. I multiplied most of the dimensions by a factor of 2 – bar the vertical radiator. I needed to make a coil for the middle. Have you seen this: – and read the PDF article. It was this that gave us the inspiration for the 80m version.

To business: The whole thing has an elevated radial system – this is very important because a grounded system would need loads more radials and the match would not be near the 50 ohms we achieved. Building a quarter wave though is relatively easy if you just build everything in quarter wavelength dimensions – hence the 20m long radials. Theory suggests that you only need 2 x elevated radials for an elevated vertical, however practice is demonstrating that you do get a slightly better radiation pattern for 4 x radials since nothing is actually accurately cut (even if you think it is). Don’t despair though – we have built this with 2 radials and it’s very compact like this. A wire cross 40m x 40m is a huge beast.

The height: We used a 6m scaffold pole to raise my 12m spiderbeam pole up. The photos don’t do it justice.. It’s quite high! You need the height though to make it all work. Don’t get me wrong.. It will work at say 12 feet above ground, but the higher the better. Theory tells you to build the radials at a 30 degree angle from the horizontal, but you would need to go higher again. However, it all becomes big – even the weight of the wire starts to make stuff sag – and the coax gets tangled, you trip over guy wires, etc, etc.

Dipole CentreAssuming you have built everything so far to this large scale, you only need to worry about the vertical radiator and then this is just a matter of making a coil. I forget the actual dimensions, I think it ended up at 33 turns on a 2 inch former, using 2.5mm ring mains insulated copper wire (we used the Red portion!) and we put the coil right in the middle of the vertical. It’s an easy matter of raising it, measuring SWR then lowering it again to make adjustments to the coil to finally get a match. I seem to remember that one turn was worth about 40kHz (this moved the SWR from 3.700 to 3.740) but I don’t remember exactly.

I guess you must have seen this: – well you will also note in the photos that we started life with about a meter of spare wire sticking out the top of the SpiderBeam pole. We didn’t need this, we had to chop it off and reduce the turns to get the frequency up to about 3.700. I recall that in the end, we agreed to remove another turn but by then, we just wanted to operate!

The feed point was a dipole centre from Lynch / Westlake or somewhere, however a home-brew one would have done just as well. Ensure that everything is watertight and that the centre conductor does end up feeding the vertical – not the radials! You may laugh, but I really did make some contacts on 20m on a narrowboat once by feeding the hull instead of the vertical (yes, the vertical became the ground for the boat antenna!) see here:

So that’s it really. Use any wire for this. It won’t matter at all. The coil needs to be insulated wire because otherwise it will short out and become a straight vertical. Oh! And you might like to put half a dozen ferrite cores on the coax near the feedpoint as a kind of RF choke so that your RF doesn’t come back down the braid and cause you RF feedback. We never did though.

Results? In the end, I personally concluded that the only band I don’t like verticals for is the 80m band(!). I have compared this antenna with high dipoles (60 feet) with both USA, ZL and VK switching between this vertical and the dipole – none of them gave me a better sig report on either antenna. “No difference” was the reply. However, a 60 foot high dipole is a pretty big monster in its own right unless you have some serious kit. We are endlessly operating of the fringe of physics – yes we have snapped a 12m Moonraker mast last year pushing the limits!

Tip: Next time we’re going to try an inverted L without the coil. Modelling suggests better inter-G and almost as good far field plots at lower angles for DX. Watch this space (as they say!)

Good luck,


Shakespeare Marine HF SSB 5300 Fails Again!

Shakespeare’s top-of-the-range HF antenna continues to defeat me. In response to my original failure, they sent me another one which they told me had been tested at their UK headquarters for structural integrity. It arrived promptly enough and I left it in the box for a few weeks until I got it out last Sunday for a quick test.

I discovered that the stainless ring that feeds three buried verticals inside the glass fibre (which I assume is to increase bandwidth) had come away from the main pole and splintered the top coat of resin. Clearly unnaceptable. Freezing water for a start would make mince-meat of this. I took some pictures and sent them off for comment.

It turns out that the US factory think that this is normal and quite safe. Let me get this right, a $600 antenna that is supposedly designed to save your life in the event of you needing to get help as a last resort via HF first breaks in half on a sunny lawn(!) then its spare develops a major crack sequence just where the feeder enters the mast(!) on the replacement.

Now I don’t want to be alarmist but the last time I put the following words: “shakespeare marine 5300” into my favorite search box, this page came first. A great advert if you want to buy a Shakespeare Marine HF Antenna (another search term which this site enjoys first place at google). I’m starting to get bloody pissed off since the boat show is in 6 weeks time.

Have no fear though! I have found a different supplier that apparently takes quality a lot more seriously than Shakespeare Marine. Courtesy of my mate Stewart (F/GM0GTU/MM), who is currently sunbathing on a large boat off the coast of Angola, he has introduced me to Conmod and their fabulous range of professional range of HF antennas:

They even do a hinged version which would be great! If you have very large pockets, they even do a motorised elevation hinge! Woah. Stewart is currently using their AT82M (8 meter vertical) and has worked 76 DXCC entities in three weeks.

Anyway, Shakespeare, if you can’t get your finger out and ship me a perfect 5300, I’ll be hogging the limelight for Shakespeare Marine search terms for many, many moons to come. Get your arse in gear and ship me a spanking new 5300 please.

<later> I’m pleased to report that the 2008 model is spankingly fabulous. They shipped me one directly from the US to replace all this mess I had and I love it. It’s very white and nice and shiny and smooth. It also polishes up well which got all the winter dirt off a few weeks ago. Thanks Shakespeare.




New Yahoo group:

Competing directly with the jumped up bunnys who post anonymously on, I honestly and openly welcome you (and hereby invite you!) to join the Yahoo Group uk_amateur_radio, regardless of any brushes with the law you may have had or anyone else in the UK hobby (or with me for that matter!).

Subscribe to

I really like the idea of but the anonymous postings concern me. At least an open warranted forum will encourage genuine debate.

We’re looking for at least three independant moderators who can approve / deny access to the list. Just drop me a line if you would do this job.

Here’s the direct link:


Callum, M0MCX

Floating Shack Update

Wherethehell-RweWherethehell-Rwe, our new 70 foot, 22 ton narrowboat was launched last week whilst we were in Disneyland. For once I’m actually speachless!

The fit out starts in earnest since it’s the factory’s show boat at the Inland Waterways 2008 show, end of May. This means that Mike and the boys need to get some overtime in and finish inside seven weeks. Record breaking stuff.

I’m fitting a TS2000 up front with an RC-2000 remote head at the steering position with an 800w PEP feedpoint ATU connected to a Shakespeare Marine 5300 SSB antenna on a Barenco hinge. This means when we are stationary, I can raise it up easily and play HF. I’ve also specified a quad-band mini vertical for 10, 6, 2 and 70cms near the stern that I can lift-n-tilt when needed (bridges and trees) as we’re driving along. I’ll truly be a mobile station.

The only thing I haven’t managed to shoe-horn in is SGC’s 500w amplifier. We just can’t seem to find the room to fit it and supply the air-flow along with up to 100 amps of 12V DC. We’re putting the cables in though in case I can find a place up fron in the future.. a 60 foot run at 100 amps..? Woah.

Anyway, we’re dead excited and look forward to working many of our friends whilst “mobile”. Watch this space!

More photos:



GB1DSG hosts Thinking Day On The Air 2008 (TDOTA)

We put up a single feed fan dipole for 40m and 80m at 65 feet which certainly hammered out a signal creating quite a pile up in the UK, particularly Sunday afternoon on 80m. We had no shortage of stations to talk to, so thanks all who hung in there waiting for an opportunity.The evening before, James and I held court through the night picking up ZL, VK, S and N America which is excellent and James’s first copy to VK on 40 meter band – this was very thrilling. Being a Scout Station – and being spotted continuously meant that we were creating quite a stir across the globe.


petroleum-jellyThe day itself was excellent; we had a different Brownie pack through the door every half-hour. Each pack would have a fun chat outside by me before watching the “Hello” film from the ARRL. It’s very American but I can’t find anything short and to the point that can replace this wonderful little blast of interest for children. RSGB, if you have something – please let me know since I would love to show something a little more English.

After the film, they went to Chris and did a kind of “appreciation of morse code” where they could all send their names too. Morse bracelets were new this year – so thanks to the individual who thought this up, I can’t remember who you were now – a Pink bead for a DIT, a purple bead for a DAH and a white bead for a SPACE. They thoroughly enjoyed this activity. If only I could get Cubs to sit quietly and do these little crafts!

Finally they prepared their greetings message and Tim just maintained a pile up the whole afternoon so that when we had some girls ready, he would chose a strong station to get a greetings message through. If there was time, we had our own QSL design factory to top it all off!

That afternoon, we talked to many stations – many had been Guides or Scouts and some even claimed that their first ever radio experience themselves was doing JOTA and TDOTA – so it was wonderful not only to hear those stories but also to let the girls climb over their nerves to deliver a simple message on the radio. It didn’t help when I explained that only the WHOLE world was listening! I’m a rotter 🙂

Although we were gratefully thanked by the Guide District, I must say that it’s a pleasure to share our hobby with young people. We’re slowly building some budding M3s and I’m really proud of our achievements at Dorridge Scouts. If you are one of us and you are reading this, then be proud of what we do – and make sure that your local community understands that being a Radio Amateur is not a thing of the past, it’s bang up-to-date and happening now, on your door-step.


Kenwood TS-2000 Remote Mobile Controller RC-2000 Review

RC-2000If you’ve been keeping up to date then you’ll know that I have chosen the TS-2000 as the primary radio on board our new narrowboat, “Wherethehell-Rwe”. At the helm (which is a dead give-away for my yachting heritage) I have specified the RC-2000 which should be rather fun to muck about with as I swan along at 3mph across the countryside. In English then, the TS-2000 will sit at the front of the boat near the bow and 60 feet away at the stern (the back.. or in narrowboat terminology, the steering position), I’ll be running an RC-2000 remote controlled head, remote microphone and remote loud speaker. Clearly I’ll also need a switching system up near the front so that I can also use my toys in the evening in the comfort of the boat.

Isn’t this a bit over-the-top, I hear you ask? Oh yes. For those visitors to the site who haven’t seen a narrowboat, they are the long, thin steel boats that sail the inland waterways and canals of the British Isles (they used to be made of wood). The canal system was started literally hundreds of years ago and squeezes through the cities of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Clearly running a bloody great big HF antenna is completely impractical, which is exactly why I’ll hinge my Shakespeare Marine HF SSB vertical over to rest when we’re motoring. However I have purchased a small 4-band 10/6/2/70 antenna that will allow me to play CB, 10m, 6, 2, 70 and PMR446 from my steering position. This antenna pulls-n-lays so that we can crouch under trees and bridges as required. Of interest, modelling my Shakespeare 5300 HF antenna whilst it’s actually lying flat to the deck, does demonstrate a small RF bubble of around -15dbi for the low bands. This will mean I can make some contacts on 40m and 80m as I travel along. Thank goodness for a high-power CG5000 ATU that has just arrived that will couple the HF antenna to my radio for an all-band experience (


I had seen pictures of the RC-2000 on the internet and I always thought it was about the size of three cigarette packets. I was about 40-50% too big. It’s more like one and a half packets sitting end-to-end (maybe a whisker more but I’ve stopped smoking so I can’t judge too accurately!). It’s smaller than you imagine because you don’t often see marketing literature or google images with the RC-2000 in situ with another item like a microphone or something.

What’s in the box? You get the head itself and a pretty external speaker that matches the size of the RC-2000. The speaker is very well made and the sound is good, peaking strongly in the 300-3000Hz band for clear voice comms. Three main cables come with the box, a large microphone extender that has a CAT5 joiner near one end connecting a female and a male 8 pin mic extension together. I don’t know why they’ve done this? Maybe so you can squeeze the CAT5 plug through little holes in your vehicle? Frankly I’ll be cutting this part off and replacing with something properly grounded. You also get an external speaker lead and a 4 way control lead. It says in the manual that one end is a 4 pin RJ45 style socket and one end is a 6 pin, in fact this is slightly misleading. The 6 pin doesn’t have 6 pins – it has 4. However the confusion reigns because it’s the size of a regular 6 pin version but the two outside slide connections / pins are removed completely. The pin-to-pin layout essentially transfers all pins on the 4 pin plug to pins 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the “6 pin plug”. If you have come here from a google search, I trust you can work this out! You also get a bag of screws, three clip-on ferrites and a large beefy TS-2000 Mobile bracket. Lastly, don’t forget a neat mounting bracket for the RC-2000 and the remote speaker.


The initial fears of the size issue soon disappear when you plug everything in and switch it on. Menu 00 (Brightness) and menu 59 (Contrast) work here for both the head and the TS-2000 at the same time, so you may have to enter a compromise situation, particularly on the brightness – however you can program different “users” and each user can have a different requirement so whilst using the main unit, you can select user 1 and when using the remote, you can select user 2 (for instance). I was initially extremely disappointed to start with because I couldn’t fathom out how to increase the contrast until I hit upon the idea of menu 59. Working these two menus mean that you can get a really clear and cute display on the go.

Using the RC-2000 itself is very intuitive with lots of neat stuff tucked away. I won’t give you a complete run-down because that would be extremely tedious however be assured that I was up and running in seconds. Apart from the soft switches down each side and across the bottom, you are left with three control knobs; the main VFO which doubles up as a finer VFO by pressing once, then the twin squelch and volume controls which mirror exactly what the main TS-2000 does.

The soft switches work well. Bottom left is initially called A-1. Pressing it repeatedly changes the functions of the bottom buttons via deeper menus, A-2, A-3, and A-4. Holding it down for about a second gives you the B series of menus as described and finally holding it down again gives you the C series of menus. Inside all these, you are mirroring the functions on the TS-2000 in various ways.

Essentially, everything that you can do with the TS-2000, you can do with the RC-2000. I’ve had mine sitting beside me for 24 hours now, forcing myself to use it for everything from changing power settings through to recalling memories. It works well – and just for fun, I called QRP into Russia on 10w and scored a hit. Why QRP? I just thought it might be an idea. Don’t worry, I’ve gone off the idea already!


My only concern is the main remote head VFO and this worries me for two reasons. Firstly, in terms of pure usability: You can tune in 1KHz steps, so let’s take the 40m band.. One clockwise mini-click on the remote VFO takes you from 7.050 to 7.051 (there’s about 30 clicks per rotation). However, you can hear a station in between these two frequencies, so you need to tune to say 7.050.50. To do this, you need to hit the VFO like a switch and a small “TUN” legend comes up on the display. You then rotate and mini-click your way from 7.050.00 up the required frequency in steps of 10Hz, so that to get from 7.050.00 to 7.050.50. You’ll need to rotate the knob around about one and a half rotations (50 clicks) to get to 7.050.50.

However, the UP/DOWN keys on the microphone is a heck of a lot faster so if you’ll be running the stock mic, you can NET someone in perhaps better by using that.

The second concern is the quality of the remote VFO knob. It feels a bit cheap, perhaps fiddly but I’m spoiled with a number of FT1000 variants in the shack here and of course the TS2000. To be fair, there’s an element of chalk and cheese here – after all this is a remote head is extremely economical, attractive and functional – and fairly unique in the amateur radio market, it’s not a snap-off, it’s an additional piece of equipment that will either extend your shack in your home to perhaps a different room or to another wall in your shack. Of course, most will buy it for mobile work, and what a beast that would be? You only need to add SGC’s 500 watt amplifier and a CG5000 800 watt PEP auto coupler and you’ll be mobile QRO all-band for under £5k! Oh! You’ll need an 8 foot stainless whip 🙂

Marks out of 10? Well I was expecting to give this an 8. I really was. I thought it would be too big – and a display that needed some “imagination” to make the best out of it. However now that I’ve had it on test for 24 hours, I can honestly say that it’s now giving it a 9, only losing points on the VFO issue that I’ll probably get over in time anyway.

Go on, treat yourself – they’re great fun.


Station Ground

Station GroundFive years after becoming licensed, I’ve finally got around to putting a formal station earth / ground in situ comprising 2 x four foot copper rods and a liberal amount of copper wire into the ground on the front lawn. Instead of cutting the last 8 foot off, I used a lawn edger and shoved the copper about 4 inches into the lawn until there was two foot left. Looking around wondering what to do with this, I spotted my massive hammer drill with 24 inch 20mm drill bit. Clearly, it was asking me to drill a hole into the lawn and shove the remainer into it! I did. So I now have 2 x four foot and 1 x 24 inch ground. No idea if this remainder will do any use at all. You never know.

They say one has to reduce the run of copper cable connecting the station to the ground as short as possible – and in this case, I’m running at about 8 feet prior to the first copper rod.

The bad news is that I managed to crack one of the 3 x 2 slabs outside the front door. Wendy is delighted because it means, to use the US expressions, we’ll have to re-model the front! Grrr.

Technically, I have no idea why this new ground will make a difference however my good friend Terry (G4MKP) put a load of copper in the ground a couple of years ago, connected everything to it and all his interference went away. Finger crossed, I might experience the same. I’ll connect up tonight and let you know.

Station Ground

[Later] Terry says that instead of connecting the earth to each grounding post, I should probably connect the earth to just one of the lugs. The thinking it’s unliikely for a single ground to induce a ground loop and in the case of a station “funny” it’s easy to disconnect the earth for problem solving.

The other thing he pointed out is that my bus-bar should be ideally gold 🙂

Yaesu FT-8800 TX mod for PMR446

I needed to mod my Yaesu FT-8800 recently. Be aware that the FT-8800 does not have have 6.25 kHz channel selection, the true PMR446 frequencies START the sequence at 446.062.50, which is channel 1 as in this table:

PMR 446 Channel Frequencies

  1. 446.00625 MHz
  2. 446.01875 MHz
  3. 446.03125 MHz
  4. 446.04375 MHz
  5. 446.05625 MHz
  6. 446.06875 MHz
  7. 446.08125 MHz
  8. 446.09375 MHz

So to listen for channel 1, you need to dial to the nearest you can get to, which would be 446.005.00. Channel 2 will be 446.020.00 etc. Obviously, set your rig to 5kHz channel selection (Menu #38).

FT8800 TX/RX modIdeally, you need 12.5 kHz channel selection starting from 446.006.25 which all Kenwood’s do (eg TS-2000 and Kenwood handies) however I don’t believe there’s a way to do this with FM only Yaesu Ham rigs.

Anyway, you want to mod yours? Here we go: Remove the screws on the top of the unit and lift it off, careful not to pull the loud speaker wires off.

Find the bottom right Resistor/Diode I took this picture, because I couldn’t find one on the net that was the detailed enough for my poor eyes! Remove the component on the bottom left, as shown in the red circle. Unsoldering this is lots more difficult than you can imagine when your eyes are having an off-day. In fact, I got it off by scratching the soldering iron around tying to find the blasted thing. All of a sudden it was gone. You can tell I’m no hardware engineer! I have no idea where it went – it just dissapeared. Could it have melted? Dunno.

Anyway, re-assemble the radio and power it up. It goes through a factory reset power-up procedure and away you go with a brand new radio. Well, it worked for me!

Tips from others: Use a low wattage soldering iron and a ground strap. I didn’t do either!



Antenna -v- High Wind

Movie IconWas I QSB this afternoon on PSK31? Probably!

(Can’t get video to play? Right-click and save it to disk first! Don’t ask 🙂

In the main, we’ve all heard that wind normally beats antennas when it comes to staying up. In case you haven’t ever seen a cheap fishing rod blank in high winds, have a look at this. I call it a 10m vertical, in fact this one is only 8m. The matching is done at the feedpoint with an SG230 and 9 raised radials. It’s a temporary antenna. I’m just testing it out for fun. The 12m beats this by a fair margin on the 40m band.Anyway, enjoy the little film!

By the way, don’t be fooled by the helically wound look. It is hardly that. Here’s a real helically wound vertical from a couple of years ago – and this one does tune on the 40m band without help from an SG230. It is directly fed with coax:



Radio Prosecution Statistics in the UK

In response to a Freedom of Information request I submitted a few months ago, I have been advised today by Ofcom that the new Prosecution Statistics have finally been published for the year 2006/2007 for stations and operators that have been flouting the law (cheers to Martin – you know who you are – thanks).

Frankly, I am extremely concerned that with a decline in operating standards, intentional QRM and foul-mouthed high-powered CB operators, nothing seems to have been done proactively to drive these awful practices away. 

In the US, there’s a culture of self-control, stringent practices and band-police that appear to work fairly well. In this country, you can cause intentional QRM on the ham bands or burn 1kW of FM or SSB at 11 meters into the SSB F layers with a foul mouth – and nobody cares. I was once an 11m operator driving 100w of FT101ZD. I worked hard to become a first class operator and was proud of my standards. I wasn’t a jumped up super-bratt (I was, but not with a radio!).

With the sunspot cycle on the up, the world will once again be able to listen to the UK acting like complete idiots. Don’t come knocking on my door when you want a level of control some time in the future.



12m SpiderBeam Vertical Pole Antenna

I’ve really been impressed this weekend over the quality of 160m SSB operators who I found were courtious, patient and keen to accept my call. I’ve done single-band entries before on 40m where the tight frequency allocation and numbers of operators mean that there’s a pretty agressive tension in the air – not so 160m. There seemed to be space enough for the big runners to hold a frequency and enough of them to allow the casual Search and Pounce operator to have a couple of hours fun from time to time.

12m SpiderBeam Pole

Regular readers of this site know that although I’m a keen contest operator, I love building and testing antennas. This weekend allowed me to build something a little different to squeeze in a 160m vertical into my back garden where I only have 10m x 15m to play with (in old money, that’s only 30 x 50 feet).

Pictures tell a thousand words so I won’t go into the heavy details other than I used up the full 12m SpiderBeam pole and put up 8 radials ranging in size from 6 meters through to 12 meters (telephone wire, spare from an old reel). The Feedpoint was 2 meters off the deck and the radials were parallel to the ground. I fed it at the feedpoint with an SG-230 powered by a car battery housed in the shed. 30 meters of low-loss, double-shielded Westflex coax fed the tuner.

My only trouble was that after a few hours, the pole started to telescope into itself with the strong wind which required me to take it all down and hose-clamp (jubilee clip) each section after using liberal amounts of plastic tape so that I wouldn’t damage the fibreglass. SpiderBeam do a clamp-set with small rubber shields and if you are thinking of getting one of these, do buy the little clamp set, it’ll make your life easier. Even then, one of the sections moved a few inches in the night. It’s settled now – but you can see the vertical telephone wire that I used as the antenna has become slightly loose.

Results were quite encouraging and with only three or four ventures onto 160, fitting in dinner, bedtimes and some family TV, I scored 51 QSOs with the USA being the biggest potential DX. I didn’t work them though. My footprint covered the near Atlantic islands (Madeira etc), North Africa through East Mediteranean and up around European Russia and Finland. I genuinley didn’t believe that such a small antenna would work that well particularly at only 100w. I think getting all the RF into the antenna instead of wasting power heating coax may be the key here – and it’s the SG-230 that takes the blame for this 🙂

Final relaxed score was 51 QSOs, 24 Countries for 6,144 points.

REF Contest: Not content with one contest this weekend, I also entered the REF contest. Conditions were terrible though. I’ve had much bigger runs into France on 40m but not this weekend. It kept me out of trouble but certainly nothing to write home about. 20m was off the score card because I could rarely find any propagation into France on 20m – the same on the higher bands too.

It did give me a chance to use the vertical though for general purpose DX and occassional tests with James (M3YOM) who had also put up a similar antenna this weekend – also using an SG-230! For me, some mixed results although the vertical normally won the competition barring 80m where the higher levels of radiation inter-UK suited the full-wave NVIS loop better.

I’m left with one question: Why did the vertical work on 160m locally – but not on 80m locally where the loop was required? There’s some propagation going on here that I don’t understand. More experiments are required.

Overall though, a great experiement though.

Cheers and beers.



Thinking Day On The Air (TDOTA) – GB1DSG

TDOTAOn Sunday, 17 Feb 2008, the M0XXT boys hosted Thinking Day On The Air (TDOTA) for the local Girl Guide district. We were QRO as usual on 40m and 80m for UK and EU.

The night before we went live for the girls, we ran a pile-up grabbing DX, capturing Australia, Venezuela, Canada and even Ethiopia, all on 40m as well as an ear-splitting pile within EU. Asking EU for silence brought the DX in. We’re learing how to do this. A fascinating insight into the minds of pile-up runners :). Of interest, VK came through at 21:30 UTC which caught us off guard – being a little late.

Thanks to Rod at Ofcom, even after applying extremely late for GB1DSG, he approved our application with hours to go before the event. Thanks Rod!

Pictures and Log to follow.



NATO stock number 5985997014493 – Reel and Ant Wire Assy

Nato Antenna Part 5985997014493I recently purchased an interesting reel of antenna cable made up of various different lengths of antenna wire and connectors in a contemporary design made of modern materials. The handle and bearing appears to be aluminium but the reel is of a high-impact plastic. This would have been fabulous if made in aluminium. There’s quite a few different lengths of this stuff and since I’ve yet to pull it all out in the garden, I can’t fathom it all out while its trailing around a room.

I need to work out exactly what it is. If you happen to know, can you email me please? I’d like to know the history and technicals.

Google is showing no documents for part number 5985997014493 so if you came here from that search, chances are this page was unique.


“Floating Shack” progress

Narrowboat drawingProgress on the narrowboat continues (USA visitors, you’ll have to google narrowboat) with the steel being cut this week. Shell should be finished by end of Feb for fit-out during March, April and May 2008. Some of my boating chums enjoy hearing about the design so I’ve uploaded the latest drawing.

Click the picture.

Find me in the narrowboat forum on Yahoo here:

Under-voltage fixed

Voltage GraphicI’ve been running on less than 200V AC most evenings for the last 18 months. Weird stuff was happening to my linear amplifier and I was getting higher output during the day to the evening. To cut a long story short, Central Networks have just completed a complete re-engineering job at the end of our cul-de-sac with a new transformer and new feeder. Amazing what you can get done if you are polite (not a strong point of mine).

Have you checked your AC at peak times? You may be surprised.

Terminal Server Hacked

HackedIt’s not very often that people admit to being hacked. However, I had the shock of my life today. One of my servers had been brute-forced at the RPC level recently. The hacker came into the network at the machine level, not the domain. Even so – this was our main terminal server and it took a while to understand what was happening:

I had spotted a rogue Administrator session running a few times during the month and just terminated it – thinking nothing of it. I just thought my colleague had hit a few too many buttons and left it running by accident.

Today by chance, I found the account “active” – so I jumped in and remote controlled the session. There was a scanner running on it brute forcing loads of machines at the IP level and at the same time running a Phishing email server, sending out squillions of emails hunting down usernames and passwords for bank (click screenshot to see more).

I watched for a few seconds and then fired up Notebook and typed, “Who the fXck are you?”. Looking back, it’s a shame really I scared him. We than had a bit of a fight over the mouse! I won because I just kept clicking the desktop. Occasionally, the hacker would get the log off screen up, but I would desktop-click the session again before he could click “log off”. Finally, I managed to “disconnect” both of us and then proceeded to race up the server chain to change the domain password. Poor guy must have had a bloody heart attack. Imagine, peacfully minding your own hacking business when someone comes in and remote controls your hacked desktop!

Anyway, a few moment later, I spotted him “active” again using the session. I dived in silently, watching him check the status of his stuff and then he disconnected again. My problem was that I could not take over his session when he was disconnected because he’d changed the damned machine admin account password. I couldn’t work this out immediately though because I was trying to manage his session with the (now changed) domain password and it wouldn’t work. I just couldn’t work it out why it wouldn’t work. When I tried to remote control the session, the domain password kept failing. Grrr.

All at once, it came to me. The local machine password wasn’t at all complex. I realised that I’d been compromised at the local machine level with a dictionary attack probably over many months. It wasn’t the domain that was compromised at all. I jumped into My Computer straight into “Manage” and did an emergency password reset using the domain account to over-ridce the local account. You get warned that you’ll lose some certificates and stuff because it’s not the de rigeur method, but I wanted him out for good. Once changed, he was locked out. I put the kettle on and browsed the mess.

He’d installed a number of components including an unzipper (RAR), AMS 4.3 (Advanced Mass Sender) with 15 days to go on the free trial(!), Hscan (a scanner) and XAMPP, a small platform apache site ( which was installed only as a service – that took me a while to find. It appears that the program had been fully installed and then uninstalled, leaving only the background service running. What makes matter more difficult is that many of the tools were renamed to standard Windows tools; for instance the scanner (see below) was called “taskmgr.exe”. The bottom line is that this was about to become a fully blown phishing platform whilst it looked for its next IP address – and it was about to be hidden away from me. Scary thought.

Observing the mess, I particularly liked the scanner (HScan) since I had only heard of this stuff, never played with it. You select a range of protocols and an IP address range and just set the thing off scanning for days and days. It gradually builds a report in HTML of all the IP addresses it found open with the protocols you selected. You then paste these IPs into a file and set off the dictionary hack using the known probable administrator account login. This is why its important to put a 10 minute lock-out on the account after only a few password attempts.

The “About” stuff shows:

HScan Gui Version 1.20 – HUC Network Security Scanner
Copyright (C) 2000-2003 HUC All Rights Reserved.
By uhhuhy (Mar 05,2003)

Mailto: *** withheld ***
Personal-Homepage: *** withheld ***

HScan is a powerful network security scanner.
Scan modules:
Multi-threading makes HScan very fast.IP scope and host list
are both supported.

Do normal people call the police? Maybe, but I was worried about having the whole server fleet trucked to Police HQ as evidence and being left with nothing to run the business on. Interesting debate.

It’s unlikely you will come face to face with your opponent like I did, fighting over a desktop! It was scary and I nearly pulled the cat 5 cable out the wall because your brain freezes up in these situations. However, I stayed calm and I did the right thing in the end. It was a bit like being in a film at one point. Mayur was standing behind me, “General!”, he shouted (yes, he calls me General!), “you’re hands are shaking”. Damned right they were.

Morale of the story? Even though you may have strong domain passwords, check the local machine account names and passwords for complexity rules in Group Policy. Also change the administrator account name (apparently you will be forced to do this with Server 2008 – thanks Stuart for the tip – and the three pints :).

Happy New Year everyone.


Quad Train Horns

Train HornsWe’re having a narrowboat built currently by Louis and Joshua narrowboats in Doncaster (USA visitors, please google “narrowboat”) and obviously I’m preparing for some /portable radio work with a small shack being built for me to house a laptop, FT1000MP and a small ACOM (this being a radio ham site, I thought I ought to put that bit in).

However it occured to me that being a QRO sort of bloke, an air horn system would be rather fun and I’ve discovered an excellent solution in the form of some Train Horns made in the USA. The importer kindly let me have the video (fitted to an off-road Hummer). But informs me that he has in mind a more powerful version for me(!).

I’ve uploaded it for you here: hammer4.mpg – can you hear the echo off the hills?

What a laugh 🙂


BHBN Hospital Radio on 48.425

I’m busy on my servers tonight however, I’ve got the TS2000 scanning the low end of 50Mhz and I’ve stumbled across Birmingham Hospital Broadcasting Network transmitting on 48.425 FM (wide). Signal strength is 60db over S9.

Where is the transmitter, anyone?

November Stats

Well, after only 6 months on line, appears to be a busy little site. If you like the site, please place a link on your site and let me know!



What other websites do I own? See


Licence -vs- License

I have finally discovered a way of remembering the difference between license and licence. “Licence” is a noun and “license” is a verb. Since I refer to the noun more than the verb, I shall remember that there are no Ss in LICENCE.

As Geoff (G4AFJ) pointed out; “You are licensed to transmit. You have a licence to transmit. Your licence is issued by Ofcom who are the UK licensing authority.”

Thanks Geoff!

(Spring 2009)

More than 10% of my site’s traffic is from people doing searches on Google for “License -Vs- Licence”. That’s over 400 people per month!

(Autumn 2009)

Now I have 16% traffic to my site, 48 people per day just because of this quirky article.
Crazy but true.


Rhandirmwyn and Llyn Brianne

Llyn Brianne is a dam – or is it a lake? I do know that it’s named after a stream called Nant y Bryniau which means a stream in the hills.  It would seem that at some time a map maker had mispelt the word Bryniau and it is said that had the name not been mispelt, Llyn Bryniau may have had a more apt name; “lake of the hills”. Whatever it’s called now, I can tell you that in the early 1960s when it was built, a large amount of landscape went to a watery grave.

Originally, this lake fascinated me because of the solitude and amazing landscape all around it. I knew nothing about the local inhabitants and nearby village – part of which was underwater. One day whilst looking through photographs of Llyn Brianne on Google, I came across the now famous photograph of Fanog Farm which was completely exposed during a very dry summer of 1976. I understand that before the reservoir was built, this farm was actually abandoned. I originally imagined the shock and horror of those people who once lived in it but thankfully, the people who lived there had moved out years before. The For Sale sign was of course put there as a joke – a very short lease!

The nearby village is called Rhandirmwyn – and contrary to foklore it wasn’t submerged when the dam was built. Local folk though were of course extremely scared of the dam. Imagine what would happen if it had broken in the night? Nightmare stuff. Indeed, a couple of years ago, Ian and I camped on a river beach, only a couple of miles downstream from the dam wall (and extremely pleasant it was too). I didn’t realise it at the time but I would have actually been quite scared had I realised where we actually were!

When I visit Llyn Brianne today, I am stunned by the quietness. I often talk about how so very quiet it is and I ask friends to come and visit the place with me as if it has magical properties – even though it takes 4 hours to get to from where I live!

I shall try and visit again next year (2008) and perhaps take an HF radio along so that we can light it up on 80m.

Post Script: I have recently discovered that three Francis-pattern turbines were installed as a “retro-fit” operation to turn this into a hydro-electric plant operating all the year round. Peak efficiency is between November and March producing 4.3Mw – enough electricity to power a small town. Fantastic!

Background story and photographs from, (seeking permission via email 24th Nov 2007)

M0XXT/P HF Doublet Test

James and I tested out a doublet today in preparation of our trip to Hampton in Arden Cubs, Friday 30th November.

We used the generator to power the FT1000MP MkV (200w) effortlessly pumping the hydraulic mast up to 10m with the SG230 bungee-strapped to the top, running one of our 80m dipoles across the top to form a doublet.

Total set up time was about 25 minutes. This included un-hiching the generator and levelling the mast.

We called CQ on 3.750.00 from the boot (see picture) and G3ZSE (John) came straight back with a 59 report. Then the rain started! We had parked the car so that the wind was off us but even so, it didn’t take very long for everything to get wet!

We only spent 30 minutes on the radio and had a pleasant 6-station pile-up but after clearing with G4FWG , we tore down the gear as fast as possible. I could hardly feel my fingers and my gut feeling was that shortly it would be hammering down. Within 25 minutes though, we were back at home for a cup of tea, all packed up.

In the log today:

  • G3ZSE (John in Kettering)
  • G4MSF/M (Keith, 10W in Gateshead)
  • M1HDD (Dave in Chesterfield)
  • GW4ZPL (John in North Wales)
  • 2E0RWX (Ron in Humberbridge)
  • G4FWG (Malcolm in East Sussex)

Bottom line: For 80m NVIS style of operation, it works a treat.

Thinking Day On The Air 2008

We’ll be on air again at the Scout Hut on Sunday 22nd February. This is a similar event to JOTA but with some of the more “boy” activities changed to slightly more “girly” ones. For instance, the girls will have the opportunity to make morse-code bracelets with their name in different coloured beads to signify the dots and dashes. Great, eh?

I’m just confused about the callsign we should chose since we’ll have two completely different Guiding Groups converging into one, perhaps GB1GG (the GG standing for Gilr Guiding?). I’ll call Ofcom.

What was Jota? That was here:


Mobile Lighting Generator Mast

My_VT-1_at_half_height.jpgA 10k generator and a lighting tower; the ultimate toy for a radio amateur. You get a generator, a hydraulic 10m tower and big, big lights – all in one package. It’s heavy but with a braked trailer and the right vehicle, it’s breeze.

Picture shows tower at about half-height and Barry has kindly offered to make a rotator housing for the very top of the unit which we’ll sort out this winter.

It’s easy to climb on top to make adjustments (mandatory at a field day with rotator housing fitting etc) and only 20 seconds to “wind” the tower up. Fair dinkum, it’s not a 100 foot tower but horses for courses, a great little easy-to-use package.

We should be operational for next Spring (2008) where we can enjoy some lazy days out in the Cotswold Hills on VHF – as well as HF Field Day (which was the initial reason for getting it!).

Pretty, eh?


GB1DSG plays JOTA 2007 with Tim (M3SDE) and Callum (M0MCX)

Tim and I hosted a first for Dorridge Scout Group club station this year when M0XXT became GB1DSG for JOTA 2007 on Sunday 21st October.

With dipoles for 40m and 80m erected at 18 meters(!), and the ACOM 2000 running, we were loud across EU on 80m delivering greetings messages for 30 Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. The event started with the ARRL film, “Hello” moving to Morse Code sending and receiving, QSL card design, greeting message construction – and finally the actual greeting message delivery on the microphone.

Thanks to all stations that ran with our little pile up – a particular thank you goes to GB50YOU operated by M0MLG (Michaela) who was patient, witty and laughed at my jokes! Riding shotgun with her was both her Mother and Father but for the life of me, I can’t remember your callsigns, sorry. A great QSO though, thanks.

Later that evening, between 21:00 and 21:30GMT, M0XXT came out the secret box to play some DX on 40m reaching all parts of the globe in just a few minutes. Here’s a cut of the log from 21:00GMT:

  • KP2AD (US Virgin Islands)
  • FM5FJ  (Martinique)
  • YV5ZD (Venezuela)
  • WP3ME (Puerto Rico)
  • KV4CF (USA)
  • FP5CJ (St Pierre & Miquelon Is)
  • JA8EIA (Japan)
  • VK6LK (Australia)

Go figure!

My personal thanks go to Tim, M3SDE, who once again was star of the show, holding the fort when we needed solid radio operating during the day and later in the evening, running one of the most pleasant pile ups you would ever likely hear. Keep up the great operating Tim, the world could do with more of you.



M0MCX and CQWW SSB – 2007

This year, I played single op, low power all bands with a couple of full wave NVIS loops for 80m and 40m and a fishing rod stuck on a 6 meter aluminium pole fed via the SG-230 ATU mightily hoisted to feedpoint for all other bands.Worked almost exclusively S&P and achieved 500 QSOs over weekend for just under 140k points which for me was my best score yet (30 x 50 feet garden).It was a trifle difficult to raise it up without crashing through Wendy’s new greenhouse however there’s at least some benefits to being a bit meaty!

How I would have loved to have run high power with my new ACOM but I don’t have the antennas at this QTH to warrant it – and in any case, I’d have blown the SG-230 up! 🙁 This weird vertical worked remarkably well, even on 160m however 15m was the best fun and most relaxed and having James in the shack (Foundation Candidate) for 15 hours on Saturday made the contest a very friendly affair – however all the chatting and demonstration meant that I was down on straight Qs but a good day’s radio for both of us all the same.

Voice started to go early on and I’d left it late to install and go through learning curve with my new MK2R+ (I must get around to installing this!) so I nearly had no DVK on hand. Luckily for me, Lee had lent me his DVS-2 for SSB Field Day in September so it rescued my failing voice early on. Very funny when someone needs clarification of the call but only needs last letter and I croak out something resembling XRay – but in a voice only my Mother would recognise (yes, there were stations NOT running super check partial!?!).Bed at midnight after scoring with the standard top-10 NA stations on 40m.Sunday I tried a little harder. Stations heard on all bands all the time but most productive was 15. Found 20m very difficult not having a yagi or higher gain antenna – it was just a mess of noisy frantic stations. Fastest scoring was above 14.300. Best fun was 15m.

I still can’t get over 13 countries on 160m with a 7 meter whip!

NB: Remember to send your log off!


Graeme Bromley – Solihull

Freecycle? It’s a fantastic idea and it works. You give stuff away instead of landfilling it. I’ve managed to give away stereo systems, speakers, computers, lights, ironing boards, you name it. I have also picked up loads of stuff for the scout radio group, like TVs, computers, monitors and cables. Find a Freecycle in your area here:

Basically, the deal is that you offer something and some accepts it. You end up in a private dialogue vie email to work out the finer points of the item and to work out if the item is suitable for you. And just like in life, some experiences can be better than others. On the one hand you have very polite and magnanimous individuals – and on the other, the occasional rude one. The “rude” Freecycler has been discussed a number of times all over the internet. I call it the “curse of the freecycler”. An innocent email from one party is misinterpreted by another. Before you know it, they’re at each others throat. I replied to one lady once that the item I was offering had already gone – I had already posted the fact on the Yahoo group. Because it was a top-of-the-range Pioneer car CD player, I had a lot of interest. I gave it to the first respondent – then had lots of emails over the following few hours. I replied to them all; “Gone – see post in group.” I had this in my clipboard and replied to everyone the same. One lady just went mad at me saying what a horrible experience this Freecycling was. I told her to have a holiday. She was terribly upset. I just couldn’t fathom it and I felt terrible afterwards.

My real gripe though is those people that give away genuine rubbish. I answered a post from a gent that was Freecycling a ladies bicycle. It was described as needing some TLC. On collection, I didn’t have the heart to tell him, but this 50 year old cycle was completely rotten through. Not even the frame was salvageable. Instead I thanked him very much and took it to the tip for him (into the steel recycling bin!).

Over the past six months, I’ve been after six 17 inch monitors for the Radio Scout contest team. I have 5 but I need one more. This has been a hard project because most monitors on Freecycle are awful; either the focus has gone, the colours are all out or they’re not the size advertised, we need good quality 17 inchers and we drive them at 1280 x 1024 (or is it 1024 x 768? I can’t remember right now) so that N1MM and the other stuff we need works for the real estate on the CRT. Some brands are better than others and from experience. I learned to ask before jumping in with both feet and picking up something we didn’t want. My advice: For the recipient, check with the freecycler that what they’re offering is what you want. For the Offerer; Don’t Freecycle when you should actually be “Recycling”.

Anyway, back to our Curse problem. Graeme recently wanted some computer parts to give computers to local schools. Tescos do this with brand new ones, however someone’s clearly given him loads of monitors and now he’s trying to get rid of them. In the process, he’s now got PMT 🙂 It goes like this (in reverse order).


—–Original Message—–
From: Graeme Bromley [] Sent: 30 November 2007 16:31
To: Callum M0MCX
Subject: Re: monitors

Actually, pompus gits like you need to take a holiday, as far away as
you possibly go would be best.

Graeme Bromley.
—–Original Message—–
From: Callum M0MCX [] Sent: 30 November 2007 16:19
To: ‘Graeme Bromley’
Subject: RE: monitors


I have collected about 10 monitors in the last year from well meaning individuals. Unfortunately, the majority needed breaking / recycling, because either the focus was completely b*ggered or they were 14 inch, scratched glass affairs that not even charities wanted.
Lord, I just read your message again. You need a holiday mate!

Callum McCormick
—–Original Message—–
From: Graeme Bromley [] Sent: 30 November 2007 14:56
To: Callum M0MCX
Subject: monitors

Hi Calllam,

At the risk of sounding rude, if you are so fussy, go and buy some, then
you can choose to be fussy cant you?.

Freecycle is about giving items away that are still useable which these
monitors are.

The items i have listed are free to collector, i really cant be bothered
with sorting all of the information out for you!.
—–Original Message—–
From: Callum M0MCX
Sent: 30 November 2007 14:41
To: ‘’
Subject: Re: Offer: 17 ” crt monitor(s) – Shirley

Hello Graham,

I acquire monitors for our radio group but I’m dead fussy(!)

If you have any of these left, may I ask you to tell me model number / brand etc – I don’t want to waste anyone’s time?

Thanks a lot.

Callum McCormick

Graeme loves this blog! He wrote to me today encouraging me to send him the link and then he said that really, he actually was a nice guy after all – he said so! Hey! Let me clip you his sincere words since he’s really coming out now:

(We’ll go in the “wrong” order to make a change:)

—–Original Message—–
From: Graeme Bromley [] Sent: 01 December 2007 11:06
To: Callum M0MCX
Subject: monitors


Anyway, i hope that you may possibly re-evaluate your initial thoughts about me, as i am actually a fairly “nice guy” oh and at the same time, i am disabled and i put myself out as much as my condition will allow to actually help other people.

Duh. Thanks Graeme!

—–Original Message—–
From: Callum M0MCX [] Sent: 01 December 2007 17:58
To: ‘Graeme Bromley’
Subject: RE: monitors

>>> i am actually a fairly “nice guy”

Oh great, Graeme is a nice guy. He said so!

And what about the rest of us?  


He falls for the “Curse” of the Freecycler, here it comes:

—–Original Message—–
From: Graeme Bromley [] Sent: 01 December 2007 19:20
To: Callum M0MCX
Subject: Re: monitors please read me thanks.

Just carry on being a twat then buddy, knock yourself out!



Graeme Bromley.

Graeme, you win a holiday. Call me.



SSB Field Day 2007 with M0XXT/P and our new amp

ACOM 2000

This was our first time out with our shiny new callsign with Chris (G1VDP), Tim (M3SDE), Lee (G0MTN) as well as myself as the main ops able assisted by Marti (M1DCV) and our 12 year old scout helper, Aidan – who ran the spotter station for the first time in his life – thanks Aidan. Colin (M3OFW) popped in a couple of times and took great interest in the setup – welcome to Colin.

For antennas, we went to town on qtr waves as well as dipoles for 80m and 40m but we let ourselves down by the tribander which we couldn’t get to work properly – showing fluctuating SWR, particularly on 20m where we could really only effectively run lower power. We found out afterwards that only one strand of copper was being used as the main feeder at the connection point to the driven element. Clearly a serious blow and we should have made many more Qs on 20m.

As a first time QRO /p station, we targeted ourselves at half a million points but fell short, mostly because of a lack of a big session on 20m but also due to lack of mults on 15 and 10 in my opinion. However, we aired the new tent and generator as well as my new ACOM and it all worked perfectly barring band filtering between stations which is being corrected by some band filtering currently on the drawing board of my friend Barry (M0DGQ). The main run station was my trust MP with Inrad roofing filter but due to a blow-up of my Mk5, we reverted to a backup plan of a TS2000 which actually performed pretty well as a spotter connected to a vertically polarised 40m loop which worked “all band” on receive. All coax was 50m lengths of Westflex.

Highlights was being called by ZL and VK on Sunday morning on 40m between 7:30am and 8:00am local time as well as hearing Tim asking for GW0AAA’s serial number again and again on 10m. I was out dropping the 80m and 40m verticals in the morning but was happy to hear a multi coming through. I found out later that some QRN gave him too much grief and we never made it, sorry chaps!

In terms of shifts, Tim and I worked the night – although I got the better shift; midnight to 3:00am. Tim went graveyard through to 6:30am (he’s a star!) and only woke me so that I could work the ZLs and VKs coming in. Is that because I’m older? 🙂

I realise that the interesting thing about these team events is how you put on a better show the next year etc. Of course, doing this with the open section means that you gradually get bogged down each year with bigger and better ideas until finally one becomes completely sensible and joins the likes of the Bristol chaps and string up a long wire or doublet with 100 watts. I believe that we have a couple more years left of being completely daft I think so perhaps there a chance of getting a higher score one year.

This is a new callsign / club with a new direction and a number of people need to be thanked for riding this wave with me, particularly all those mentioned above: Tim, Chris, Lee and Barry – and of course young Aidan and all those other young scouts that we hope to introduce to contesting over the years.

Anyway, just over 1,000 QSOs for 381,477 points.