Click here for the Ban PLT website.

Saturday 29 April 2017

a few bits of news.

I start first with my Intermediate results now they are out in the wild, I have passed and am awaiting confirmation from the RSGB, however if it arrives today I will be out of luck as Ofcom's licencing system is down for the weekend, so no new licences can be applied for, I celebrated on Thursday night by getting dinner from Domino's Pizza, which is something I rarely do as it isn't usually cheap.

Secondly, progress to an external antenna has been ramped up a gear, I ordered a Comet CTC-50M from Nevada (IHS Group) on Thurday, I expect to take delivery of it either today or Tuesday at the earliest, and a video of my first impressions and test into a dummy load after installation will appear on my YouTube channel in due course, being a council tenant putting a hole through the wall appears to be a no no, unless of course it's for television reception, but as I am putting my homebrew 2-metre grounplane antenna on the end of this thing I expect it won't be questioned too much as it's made of the earth conductor of 30A rated twin and earth and at a distance would be barely noticed from the flat, and if anyone asks it is for receiving, 2-metre FM usually is pretty benign but you just never know.

Thirdly I have been looking into crimp-on PL259 connectors again as I feel the solder-on type are too much hassle to work with and I strongly suspect a dodgy one is causing high VSWR on my loft CB antenna (but have no way to prove this without plug replacement), the plug on the antenna end has close to fell apart, a crimp-on plug would solve this issue on the lead but whether my suspicions are confirmed or denied will be a different matter, I can get 10 of these plugs from eBay and I have a tool that should work to fit them onto the coax as I plan to move over to crimped connectors anyway as I can give them a professional look, be sure they're reliable and ease the waterproofing of them, important considering I plan to use these in the outdoor environment.

That should cover everything, hopefully by my next blog post I have my intermediate licence or the CTC-50M, whichever comes first.

73 de M6RSQ

Wednesday 26 April 2017

An antenna that could solve my HF problems?

As you are probably well aware, HF is pretty much something I cannot do due to size of the antennas that are used at these frequencies, however during the course of my amateur radio related web browsing I came across an antenna from America that might just be the ticket, the TAK-tenna, an antenna that, in it's simplest description, is essentially 2 spirals of wire, a boom separating them, and not a lot more, weighing very little and not being huge.

As this antenna is not large like the majority of HF antennas performance would probably be down, though it would make for an excellent stealth antenna, it doesn't really look like one, and one of these should handle 50 watts no bother once I have my intermediate licence, as they are rated for about 1kW CW though that power level is not really legal here on any licence, my HF setup is mostly limited to 10-metres and CB, both of which aren't generally active and CB has it's own legal limit of 4 watts ERP AM/FM and 12 watts PEP SSB.

The drawback of this antenna appears that you'd have to order it from the US, shipping will probably take a few weeks unless it is shipped air mail and it may hold a customs charge, the antenna appears to be available for a few bands, 40 up to 10, so us in rented accommodation and especially us flat dwellers can in fact get on HF, I think this antenna may be worth a look.

73 de M6RSQ

Monday 24 April 2017

follow up to my temporary mast base rescue mission

As you may recall from March, I wrote about how the local authority sent out a letter to all tenants of the block of flats I live in regarding the external sheds on the building, that is that no tenants were permitted to store anything in them, and that all contents was to be removed otherwise they'd remove it and dispose of it, one of the other things they said they would do is fit locks to the sheds, this did not happen until today, despite the deadline being the 31st March.

The locks are padlocks and no keys have been issued to tenants, this is what I thought may happen and as such can use the space in between the two sheds to erect an antenna in a plant pot, this gets around planning constraints, and it shouldn't stick out like a sore thumb either, my groundplane dipole uses stiff copper wire and as such from a distance should be invisible, though the coax won't but that is the least of my worries right now.

This comes as welcome news so hopefully I can get my 2-metre groundplane antenna up and working, how much power I will put through it (10 or 25 as that is what my shack rig can do) will depend on what I tell you on Thurday night.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 23 April 2017

Intermediate exam - post exam

I have completed my intermediate exam about an hour ago or so, however I am not going to reveal the indicative results, except to a certain few, until after 9:30pm BST on Thursday night, this is to give chance for other club members at my local club to find out how I got on.

Naturally we all want me to pass as I have put in so much work and revised where I can, and passing will be a good thing as explained above.

For now however I shall let only those that need to know at this stage know, except for the invigilators on the day who already know if I have passed or failed.

73 de M6RSQ

intermediate exam today

I take my intermediate exam today at about 4pm BST, I am looking forward to this as I know what it means if I pass the exam, a few extra bands and allowed to use up to 50 watts, I set up some programming for my FTM-400XDE ready for when I get a 2E0 callsign, that is set the default power output to high (the radio outputs at 50 watts at full power, 25 at half power, and as I am well aware, 5 watts at low power), of course I would not need to use full power at all times and can simply press the button to lower it, passing this exam means I am allowed to do this, does also mean changing the callsign programmed into the radio but that's an easy job to do.

You should also be aware that 2 weeks ago I bought a QYT KT-8900D 2/70 radio that can output 25 watts on 2-metres and 20 watts on 70cm, coincidence is that before I took my foundation exam I bought my Leixen VV-898 and my CRT-SS9900 in preparation for entering the Amateur bands for the first time after my pass, the VV-898 gave me 2 wonderful years of operation until I replaced it, the CRT-SS9900 is still in my shack but otherwise not used as there is no suitable 10-metre antenna connected, I posted about building a groundplane antenna to place outdoors for 2-metres as well, as I aim to finish that next weekend I hope it can be ready in time for my intermediate licence coming through, which whether I pass or fail today's exam it will be ready regardless, I bought the QYT radio as it would allow me to make the most of my Intermediate from home once a suitable external antenna is set up and operating.

Also I have sat down when I can to read the book to ready myself for today's exam, hopefully this revision has helped, though I feel confident that things should be pretty much there for me it is best to revise.

I shall post a little later on to let you all know how I got on

73 de M6RSQ

Friday 21 April 2017

YouTube channel overhaul to focus on radio

I have had an account on YouTube for a number of years, nearly a decade in fact, and had used it for a number of videos both radio and non-radio related, yesterday I removed all the non-radio related videos after backing them up to my laptop in preparation for a different account later as I want to use my existing one for radio.

The changes I made were:

  • The channel description
  • An introduction/promo video for new subscribers (which will be changed after I get my 2E0 callsign assuming I pass my exam this week which I remain confident that I will)
  • Adding a section to my channel showing my subscriptions, so far this is only TX Factor at time of writing but it will certainly increase as time goes on
There is a little bit more work to be done as the course of time goes on, and more and more videos will be making their way onto the channel in due course, how this will affect existing subscribers is beyond me, however I may get more subscribers, I'll keep an eye out and see.

73 de M6RSQ

Saturday 15 April 2017

Some tinkering

In the early days of this blog I posted about building a homebrew extension speaker out of an old shower radio that bit the dust, I have had this speaker in service ever since and it has only let me down on a couple of occasions, today it received it’s first major upgrade in almost 6 years, a headphone jack, this is in the hole where the original AM/FM selector was fitted when it was a radio, I still have room to fit a mute and volume control, the headphone jack itself came out of an old speaker mic I disassembled, and is a mono jack as fitted to the rig at the other end, my CRT SS9900 at present, this was done after something else.

I had previously built a mono to stereo converter to run my stereo headphones (well both pairs of Sony over-ear headphones) from the socket on the back of the radios without losing audio in one side as these are mono, the previously built circuit was destroyed unfortunately, and had slightly too high resistors that made it so I had to turn up the connected radio to full, this new one was rebuilt using the same jack plug and lower value resistors, all this does is ties the left and right sides of the stereo part together using a pair of resistors for each channel, theoretically it should work in reverse but I’ve not tried that as I intend to use this solely with my radios, it works with them all and my improved speaker as noted above.

Earlier in the day I had run a test of a 2-metre groundplane antenna I had built a while ago, or part-built as it will be mounted atop some plastic waste pipe, it seemed to work ok though I did test it on a bed with a metal frame and mattresses are full of metal springs, so a proper test outdoors is needed, the test was done at 10 watts on my Leixen VV898 powered by my jump starter, the VV898’s first time on air since the QYT KT-8900D replaced it in the shack, needless to say the fact the antenna radiated at all (verified by my field strength meter I posted about) was impressive as the radiator is simply a piece of copper wire on the centre of an SO239 socket.

Well it’s what Amateur radio (and the radio hobby as a whole) is all about, making it yourself and tinkering with it, as well as the communication aspect of course.


73 de M6RSQ

Field strength meter

A field strength meter is a useful tool to have in the shack as it detects the presence of RF, and in the shack that is undesirable and can be a sign of potential feeder radiation, which as is known is often a problem if a balanced antenna is connected to an unbalanced feedline without some kind of balun, RF in the shack can also occur if the antenna is also in the shack (which in my case is more or less unavoidable at present).

A basic field strength meter does not require a battery, it works similar to a crystal set but without the tuned circuit, I had an old unreliable SWR meter for CB and set about salvaging components from it, 2 of these components were germanium diodes (silicon diodes won't work as well if at all), so I found what components I could close to the values specified from a particular circuit (some of these were from the SWR meter I had disassembled) and assembled a crude field strength meter onto a veroboard, in close range of an HT at full power it swings the needle on the meter display fully over to the end stop, a potentiometer reduces sensitivity so I was able to bring the needle back over to the end of the "FS" markings (this SWR meter had readings for field strength but they were not used in the meter as it was a basic CB SWR meter and the majority of CB users usually don't need to know more than if their antenna is working and not going to kill their radio's finals).

I built the meter as a proof of concept and just to practice my soldering skills, as I've not soldered anything in a little while and am a little out of practice, I plan to build a proper one, in a metal box, using exact value components for the circuit, at some point in the future, I could have built one of these for my Intermediate but my instructor had other things he wanted me to do and it didn't really occur to me at the time.

73 de M6RSQ

Friday 14 April 2017

National Hamfest–Planning

As you are no no doubt aware, I have visited the National Hamfest every year without fail since being licenced, this usually takes place at the end of September, and I got the dates this far in advance from the latest RadCom.

My plan for this year is to stop overnight so I can be there both days for a change, I have already got the form to arrange this and this just leaves me to take holiday from work on the Thursday and Friday of that week.

I downloaded a form from the website but obviously need to print this to fill it in, then I can mail this to the Hamfest organisers in good time along with sending payment to them.

As I intend to stop overnight I intend to do some radio activities on site as well, this is where my recently purchased drive-on mast stand will come into it’s own, as I will be able to put up antennas for 2-metres and 70cm at the very least, I probably won’t do any 10-meter operation unless I can get hold of or build a portable antenna for that band in the interim.

Another issue I will have is powering rigs, the FTM-400XDE requires the car be running in order to run it at full power (which as I’ll have a 2E0 by then I should be able to do), though I’d be sat in the car when operating this radio anyway from the magmount on the roof (and I should be able to hit the Lincoln repeater from the Newark showground no problem), for analogue 2-metre operation I can use one of my HTs, as the 10-metre rig is also quite power hungry with the power turned up I would normally run this off my jump starter but I may not have a means to power the jump starter when it needs to be charged again, so I am looking into the possibility of obtaining a generator if possible as the Hamfest doesn’t allow the use of the site’s electricity hookups.

So, I have a lot to plan and 5 months to plan it in, time to get to work.


73 de M6RSQ

Monday 10 April 2017

Blackpool rally 2017 - post rally

Having again attended the Blackpool rally I can safely say I did succeed in obtaining a variable capacitor that may work for a magnetic loop at high power levels, I also purchased a new rig for the home shack that replaces the Leixen VV898, a drive-on mast stand from SOTAbeams. and a Nokia extension speaker for the car, which works well with the FTM-400XDE, at least in analogue mode, hope to try this in Fusion mode soon as I've relied solely on the internal speaker, as the connector is stereo and the speaker plug is mono I had to use the supplied stereo to mono converter with the radio, the speaker is not fixed in final position just yet.

The drive over the previous day was good, the drive over on the return journey was not so good as I got held up in traffic on the M55, I spent most of this monitoring S20 though it seemed quiet for the most part,

The new radio, the QYT KT8900D, works well with my current 2/70 antenna and appears to have better rejection than the Leixen does.the QYT mic has bigger buttons on it and DTMF can be sent with the PTT pressed again unlike the Leixen, allowing access to Echolink and IRLP on repeaters, though for me at my home QTH this is just GB3IR, HG is seemingly having a repeater keeper change and from what I am aware currenlty lacks an NoV and has no linking anyway, and CD is screened by the buildings behind me.

I of course need to try out the radio further, assemble the mast stand and have a look at the capacitor properly before soldering it to a mag loop.

And my replacement radio also allows higher power, it's currently in low (10w) mode, the radio is 25w, great for my intermediate pass in the near future all being well and getting my intermediate licence.

73 de M6RSQ

Sunday 2 April 2017

Preparation for the Blackpool rally

With a week to go preparations for attending the Blackpool rally are now well underway, today I have programmed the frequencies for both GB3FC (which like the Blackpool rally is at the Norbreck Castle Hotel), and GB3OA, located at Southport, a short way down the coast, the former is a 70cm repeater, and therefore seems only to cover Blackpool sufficently for HTs, the latter is on 2-metres, the coverage map shows good coverage into Blackpool, this will be ideal as this year I intend to go on the day before to avoid an early start and be at the rally in good time to get parked.

I have also bought some stick on letters and numbers from Halfords and now my car has my current callsign on it, as I run APRS this will allow any other Amateur operator to know it’s me, also I don’t make a secret of being a licenced Amateur radio operator for the most part, however this will be the first Blackpool rally I have attended in which my car is equipped with APRS

This leaves a few final jobs to do, first of which is to have the oil level of my car checked, as at the home QTH I have to park my car on a slight incline I will enlist the help of Halfords, the next job will be charging of the jump starter in case the battery is flat at any time, and finally if I have the chance it will be to wash the car.

I also need a battery box for the capacitor tester I acquired and since modified to run off a PP3 battery, these are cheap and available from Maplin, and I will need a capacitor tester for testing of any variable capacitors I can find, both the tester and my multimeter will be called on for this task.

This week will go quickly, and on closing I hope the sun is out again going over to Blackpool.


73 de M6RSQ