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Tuesday 30 January 2018

Unfortunate news

I make this post after receiving some news today that I hoped not to hear, which could potentially put a dampener on my summer radio activities.

I can't go into any real detail right now, but it could put pay to being able to run a portable station from anywhere other than outside the home QTH and even then I may lack power in which to do so.

However it may just turn out to work out OK, and these radio activities will indeed commence when they are meant to.

as soon as I am in a position to reveal anything I will do so, but for now I will leave it there

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 28 January 2018

Summer radio activity planning... follow up

Yesterday after I posted I decided to dig out my Leixen VV898 to see if it powers up, by means of connecting it to my car jump starter as a temporary power source, low and behold it worked fine, but one thing was nagging me, it was programmed to start up with my old callsign and not my current one displayed, so I connected the programming cable to the radio with CHIRP running on my laptop, however no amount of reprogramming would change the callsign over, however I noticed another oddity, for the VV898 CHIRP seems to not quite work as you'd expect, to change the power level you would change the mode and the mode you'd change the power level, I do not know if this is a bug with the radio or a bug with CHIRP, the same effect was found on my shack computer.

So what to do, the original Leixen software remains on my shack computer, running this after much trial and error finally got the results I wanted, the radio displayed the correct callsign on power-on (being something my Yaesu FTM-400XDE does as standard I figured all my radios should, and they do), with the radio confirmed working, and TXing fine into a dummy load at both 5 and 10 watts on VHF and UHF I turned my attention to a source of power that would happily run radios and also, importantly, be lightweight, of course LiPo batteries would be an option but these can catch on fire if handled improperly, so a bit of digging on Google was in order and I found the blog of James M0JCQ.

The article in question can be found here in which M0JCQ explains the subject in full detail, needless to say I may have found the solution to the power issue and with summer some time away that will give me chance to ensure I have batteries, the batteries in the article are LiFePo batteries and the article impresses me, though I don't plan to do any SOTA activations as is the case for M0JCQ.

Shelter comes next, of course, a small basic pop-up tent would suffice but I also need to take room for the equipment into consideration, and perhaps make it a joint venture with someone I know, they don't need to be licenced as I'll more than likely also have CB equipment with me, which they would be allowed to use legally.

Once shelter is sorted getting an antenna erected is the next thing, I have my telescopic fibreglass mast, though with the top two sections damaged I may replace it or keep it and use it as is, it will still hold my T2LT for CB use, but obviously not anything heavier than a wire antenna, as I want to operate 10-metres as well I'd need something that could cover both on the same antenna though this will be something I can look at, for 2-metres and 70cm (as it appeared to work on the latter) the groundplane antenna will be rebuild and a new PL259 connector installed, the antenna will be tested in an open environment.

I now have further digging and research to do on this subject, and I'll keep you posted.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 27 January 2018

Summer radio activity planning

I know we're only into February but this is an ideal time to start planning for those summer radio expeditions.

It was suggested to myself by a colleague that I walk up a hill called Roseberry Topping, a very distinctive hill here in the North East of England, given it's height it would make it ideal for radio on most bands as it has views for miles, a YouTube video will be made when this takes place, but this being England you can never tell what the weather, even in summer, will be like.

I also learned that free camping is allowed up at Tan Hill, a favourite spot for the radio amateur and CBer alike, again because of the height above everything else, I may also partake in this and have a portable station on air on whatever bands I have equipment for on the day, again this is very weather dependent and of course a YouTube video of my activities will be made, though it may take a few days to get on YouTube.

All I need to do both these is a form of shelter and a suitable amount of batteries to run radios (for VHF and UHF I will take my VV898 as I want to keep my KT-8900 in the shack and it isn't much power hungry, 10 and 11 metres will depend on what I can manage battery wise, though Tan Hill may lend itself to a generator these may not go down well with others, and Roseberry Topping's summit is not accessible by road.

I also plan to take HTs along as well, always good, and if I can get someone to come along with me so I am not on my own (safety and such like) then that will be good.

CB will also be used as it is very much licence free and whoever accompanies me can be in contact with me without the need of a phone, looking at the radios I have for this band to do anything useful will require I use the Grant II, as it is the only type approved CB I own that has SSB.

Hopefully I will have a summer of radio that I would like

73 de 2E0EIJ

Edit: 14/02/18: I subsequently discovered that you actually have to pay £5 to the Tan Hill Inn in order to camp up there, hopefully my antenna won't be complained about but I can research other wild camping if needs be, though if you see my more recent posts you may note this will be on hold for a while

Wednesday 24 January 2018

further delay in clearing out the shack

It was my plan to start moving the storage boxes from the shack back into the storage cupboard across the hall from it this week, however due to unreliability the smart meters were not installed (I had no phone call and no one came to the door) and therefore I have to put clearing the shack back out on hold until mid-February.

This comes as a bit of a blow as I wanted to make a start in getting things cleared and had a few antenna ideas in mind that might work to get me on air temporarily better than what I have but without the available space this cannot happen, as I need the space to measure out wires at least.

What this also impedes is good access to my operating position, though I can get to it as I kept the path clear for the plumbers to bleed the radiators if they had to, there is my old television directly in front of my shack desk and this has no place to go until I remove the rest of the items, with me also losing space to the boiler it makes this a harder task.

It doesn't prohibit me from operating though I'm pretty much limited to 2-metres and 70cm as the equipment away from the shack, save the handheld CBs that may as well just be two bean cans and a piece of string, is only on those bands.

Well I have a new appointment to get the smart meters done on the 19th February, hopefully they'll actually arrive

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday 20 January 2018

Shack progress on hold

The works I alluded to in the previous post have caused a new problem, this is in the form of my shack in that I have had to move everything from the store cupboards there until the works to replace my boiler and my electricity meter have been complete, as it stands the boiler is done but for obvious reasons the boxes that were in that cupboard cannot be moved back there.

To make any progress with the shack now requires that I wait until the smart meter installation has been completed on Monday, all the storage boxes will be moved in to the store cupboard opposite, where the meter is, where room permits, though keeping a passage clear for access to the circuit breakers and keeping the window and emergency gas shut off valve clear as well, the smart meter work will obviously render obsolete my energy monitor as the smart meter will have something similar that can read from both electricity and gas, therefore I no longer need to decode the data from it.

I can still get at my operating position within the shack though the antenna has been removed from the radiator while the plumbers were in doing the work to install the boiler, as I believed they'd need to bleed it as part of refilling the system, I also can operate using HTs as the chargers are also accessible as is the switch to isolate them (I keep the chargers off until I need them for whatever reason).

Later in the year I hope to replace the metal desk with a larger wooden desk with room for my radios as at the moment the metal desk is far from ideal, there is plenty of room for it and I think it would make an excellent upgrade, however getting everything that is stored placed back in suitable locations is priority number one.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 14 January 2018

Wireless thermostat

In December, I had the unfortunate failure of the home QTH hot water system, the original system being a back boiler from an age gone by, along with an aged water tank, a pump, external changeover valve and an electronic time switch and manual thermostat all hard wired, after the leak I continued to use the boiler and thermostat on advice from the plumbers that the landlord had sent out, as the radiators had not been drained, only the tank, however the plumbers returned this Wednesday and removed the entire old system save for a few pipes and the radiators, rerouted the gas supply and installed a combi boiler in my large hallway cupboard, with space freed up in the smaller cupboard where the tank once was.

So, with this complete change of boiler came a new thermostat and programmer combined, put in place of the original hall thermostat, the difference is that the new thermostat is wireless, a bit of searching on the Internet later I found the exact model (the receiver is specific to the type of boiler I now have), and this afternoon, a short time ago, I listened to the 868MHz band on my good RTL-SDR (the NooElec one) and found the unit transmits at roughly 868.240MHz though I think it's closer to .245 for centre of frequency but this requires more information.

So, what to do with this, I could let it just transmit and control my boiler as anyone else but I'd like to perhaps use the data for some practical purpose, though not to control the boiler directly as this could confuse the receiver on the boiler, perhaps a simple indication of when the boiler is switched on and off so I need not look at the thermostat, or perhaps some other useful data as well, a receiver within band that can parse the data, such as an RTL-SDR of decent grade, and a Raspberry Pi for low energy draw, would work, however faults at the boiler would not be detectable.

I am also due to get a smart meter fitted for both electricity and gas a week tomorrow, naturally I am keen to see how these communicate date to the in-home display, it's obviously wireless however I don't know on which band and what protocols yet, but plenty to think about.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday 7 January 2018

first post of 2018

I haven't posted anything since before the New Year so a belated, if by a few days, Happy New Year, and I am going to try and get more radio into 2018.

I have missed the first 2m FMAC of the year as it was so close to New Year so plan to get on in February for the contest, they've changed the names of the sections to 10V and 50R, I will enter in the 50R, as I went and replaced the OS on my main laptop to Linux I will have to compile Minos from scratch so it will run (the code is available), though most people would do this the easy way and run the precompiled Windows version under Wine, I prefer to do the hard work of compiling these things if possible, though most Linux software is in the package repositories for each distro, I already have access to Echolink this way and a copy of Chirp.

I'm also looking at magnetic loops again, a project I did not ever get off the ground, as I cannot operate HF at all here without one, whether that be the HF bands allocated to Amateurs or the frequencies around 27MHz for CB, as since watching a show on Netflix set in the 1980s it has piqued my interest in CB again, my two CB HTs will be getting fitted with Eneloop Pro batteries as soon as possible as the batteries in the Intek H-520 are failing and only hold a charge for a short time and won't allow the radio to key up at full power, the batteries in the Midland 42 are holding fine for the most part but still could stand to be replaced with the Eneloop batteries I alluded to as they are the best rechargeable batteries on the market.

I also plan to get the bicycle on the road again next month by refitting the pedal that worked loose, this requires me to go get a nyloc nut for it, and reinflating the tyres best I can as my tyre inflator no longer works and I only have a bicycle pump at present, this will allow me to work on fitting some radio gear to the bicycle, though I still need a battery and some method to charge it.

I also hope to repair my groundplane antenna for 2-metres as I have the vertical section in my shack, it would require me to remove the Sugru on the SO239 and fitting a PL259 plug to the feeder which as you know was cut while I was at my old QTH, the rest of the antenna is at the rear of the shed, somewhat hard to access right now and I'd need to reinstate the weatherproofing after completing the repairs and retuning the antenna, the whole job may take a while but the antenna vertical can be soldered back on in a matter of moments and I would need to get hold of some PL259s to fit one to the coax.

I look forward to getting more time on air this year than any other year thus far

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730