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Monday, 31 December 2018

A couple of final things for the end of the year

So with 2018 drawing to a close, and a new year literally hours away now, I finish up with a couple of things.

First of all, I found a very experimental Android app that allows an Android device, including network radios, to connect to D-STAR, called Peanut, unfortunately it has proven very difficult for me to register on D-STAR as there appears to be no means to do so in the UK without having to use a specific repeater, could be a blessing in disguise considering the danger posed by Chance Callahan KD0MXN on D-STAR, however there has not been anything heard from him in a while even though he reappeared on IRC and his Snoonet server ban had expired, and in the world of Amateur radio it is all about experimentation so why not run this app on the Radio-Tone RT3 and see how it fairs, I'll follow it up in the new year when things return to some normality.

Secondly you'll also remember I came very close to destroying my President Grant II in the summer, but did not do so thanks to a diode, now I know it transmits into a dummy load (and my meter claims it puts out the 4 watts legal power) however I haven't put it on an antenna to test it properly until now, the large antenna on my car roof that I want to use for 10-meters has not been retuned as yet to work on both bands, the radio receives fine, despite the amount of QRM in towns, and while the bands were quiet after my return from work I ran a couple of transmission tests on AM, FM, and SSB, the radio reports on its internal SWR meter that the antenna is an almost perfect match (can never be truly perfect),  and reports that full power output is taking place, to test SSB I had to whistle, I chose channel 19 EU for this as I knew if I used channel 19 UK for the FM tests the muppets would cuss me out as they think 19 is their channel only (they should read Ofcom document Of 364, in particular the paragraph on page 9 that includes the words "channel 19 for mobile use"), the only way to know for certain that transmission is taking place is get reports from a receiving station, though I have a plan up my sleeve for that one.

So for my radio plans for 2019? I have a video in the can for that one already and will get that one on YouTube tomorrow as soon as I am able to considering I have work commitments and am on the rota for a closing shift at the pizza shop I work at this evening, though it will be up on my twitter and this blog, and during which I will find out as to why the last video came out 4:3 despite being filmed in 16:9, I filmed the New Year video on Christmas Eve as I've not had a lot of time to fit video filming in the hectic schedule over the last couple of weeks.

So tonight I will be monitoring GB3IR, the network radio (notably channel 00), CB channel 19 UK as part of the Grant II's ongoing tests though I don't hold out hope to hear anything civilised there, and I am debating on including the Jumbospot in the car tonight on the power bank so I can monitor the hubnet at the same time as GB3IR as I can monitor hubnet over DMR, however with me working I may not be able to respond to any calls, though I could be finished before midnight.

Time to wrap this up, and have a happy new year to you all

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730 for the last time in 2018

Friday, 21 December 2018

Testing the 10/11-meter antenna

Today I took a drive up to the Whashton Road end of the old racecourse in Richmond, since my last forays onto 10 and 11 meters up there there have been some houses built nearby and some are already occupied, my worry here was that some were full of the spectrum polluting PLT devices, however the noise floor remained relatively unchanged.

After putting the antenna on the roof of my car once I'd unscrewed the broadcast antenna to allow room for the magmount, I connected the SWR meter and the CRT SS9900, the SWR was about 2.8:1 right at the top of the band whereas with the President Grant II on 11-meters as this radio is a legal type approved radio for that band the SWR was 1.2:1 right at the bottom (26.965MHz) and about 1.5:1 at the top (27.99125MHz) near the boundary between there and 10-meters, suggesting I might have a long antenna here for 10-meters, the idea is to make it so it's a happy medium on both bands as I want to be able to use both.

After these tests, and a check to ensure the 2/70 antenna was performing as it ought to be (there had been no change on how that antenna was behaving with an extra antenna present), I did a drive test from Whashton Road to Catterick Garrison, namely Tesco as I was in need of a few things, I had the Grant II connected and decided just for amusement purposes listen to UK channel 19, perhaps one or two stations in the noise as driving into and through Richmond revealed the town to be in an electro smog, presumably down to a lot of cheap and nasty Chinese sourced Christmas light power supplies with the light strings themselves acting as a crude and nasty antenna, and add PLT to that mix and whatever else, on leaving town the noise floor dropped but went up again shortly after I entered Catterick Garrison, the antenna was fine on the car with no incidents, the one thing i did notice is that it was not far from the ceiling of the petrol station canopy when I went in for petrol to get me covered for work.

So this evening I put a plug onto the Grant II and plugged it into the cigarette lighter socket on the car, this didn't matter as it was mainly for listening, again UK19 which either lacked muppets or they were so down in the noise I couldn't hear them and no amount of "kilowatt burner" would get them over it, there was at least one clear transmission but it had no audio that I could tell (the rig was behind the passenger seat as I needed to use the passenger seat for my deliveries tonight).

With me working tonight only one of my fellow drivers noticed the antenna, though I think they saw it earlier in the day when I was parked up in Tesco.

I'll get the video finished off and up at some point tomorrow, and maybe just have a search online for any active CB nets until I can figure out how to get this thing to work on both 10 and 11 meters.

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Thursday, 20 December 2018

An antenna for 10-meters /m

Yesterday I was given an antenna to use on 10-meters by Mac, M0RIE, which he had left unused for a while as he used an ATAS antenna on his car up until recently, though he said this antenna is actually for 11-meters (which would certainly seem to be the case as the antenna is longer than my orbitor/springer type which is also for 11-meters, which I never actually cut down for 10 as I hoped to do as the car it was on was scrapped before I could) it does tune to parts of 10-meters, I can't remember what figures he got for SWR but on my car this is likely to vary.

My current 10-meter rig is the CRT SS9900 (a rebadged AnyTone AT-6666) which I have configured for the last current 10-meter bandplan I saw (though this rig cannot do CW so I can't use the CW part of 10 once I have learned morse code but I can still use SSB, AM and FM).

Looking at Thunderpole's website the antenna in question, which is also taller than me, appears to be one of the Sirio Hi-Power antennas though there is no label on it, it is fitted to a very familiar magmount, a Sirio Mag 145 PL which I already use on the car myself for my Diamond NR770RSP for 2-meters and 70cm.

As I would like to put this on the car in a more permanent fashion I need to figure out next, by looking at the roof, where the antenna could go, it needs to be spaced sufficiently from the existing 2/70 antenna in such a way as that both when driving and when parked the SWR is not upset on both antennas, the antenna whips around as typical of CB antennas of that size, the Diamond antenna for 2 and 70 is more rigid with a spring in the base, looking at the space on the roof of my car I would probably have to sacrifice the broadcast antenna and replace the whip on that with something exceptionally short, another hands free mic would be needed, though the mic part is OK in situ as it appears to be connected using a Phono connector I could use a switch to switch between the FTM-400 and the SS9900, both radios would still have their own PTT switch.

Power to the rig would require another relay, there's an auto parts place in town I could get one from cheaper than Halfords, and I can tap into the same loom, for power I'd have to run yet another power feed from the battery to the SS9900, though Mac did suggest I could run this radio, as he has one, off the cigarette lighter I suspect that I'd have to run it QRP which is fine sometimes but not all the time if I did this.

The height of this antenna introduces new problems, low-hanging tree branches being one, low bridges, car park headroom restrictions, a local petrol station in Richmond where the clearance closer to the shop is lower than it is closer to the road, though I rarely refuel there, and potentially one or two other issues like power lines (though these are generally high enough for HGVs to pass and this antenna would not add that much height to my car, it's about equivalent to a person standing on the roof), and telephone lines, again these usually are high enough for an HGV to clear safely.

My plan is to test the antenna static first, that involves a trip to my usual radio playground in Richmond with the antenna in the boot, a notepad, the Zetagi SWR meter as it is the most reliable one I have for those frequencies, and the dummy load to get the power levels sorted, the radio will be powered by battery, the notepad is to note the SWR curve on the antenna on my car, this does involve sacrificing the broadcast antenna but nothing that a quick trip to Halfords won't fix, I'm going to film this for YouTube as well, and while I'm there, I'll stick a CB on it as well, my trusty President Grant II, and see how it performs on 11-meters, might as well if it's a nice day and that rig can run off the cigar lighter as it's quite low power, I'm obviously not going to run the SS9900 on 11-meters as, after all, that's technically illegal, even if it can be made to work there.

Though I am taking a dedicated 11-meter rig with me the T2LT will not be coming with me because this is a test of this antenna across both bands, any contacts I make on either band will be done using the antenna I have been given.

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730

Monday, 17 December 2018

new videos are up

I got the new videos up on YouTube, one about APRS, and the other about whether it is 'ham' or 'HAM, I have both these attached on this blog post, I don't need to do too much of a writeup on them

This is the APRS video, below is the 'ham' or 'HAM' video, both filmed using my Samsung Galaxy S8 mobile telephone.

I will try and make a point of more video uploads to the channel to keep it fresh and keep it going, I still have to finish off the Retevis RT87 video and I am pleased to find that the audio issue on the Everio camcorder may have started after I did the power test part, I will be getting the outdoor part filmed on the S8 however and may have to resort to an external mic of sorts if I can find one for the phone that will do the job.

73 de 2E0EIJ

upcoming Amateur radio videos

I have two upcoming videos for my channel, the first goes over "is it 'ham' or 'HAM'?", the second goes over whether or not APRS and is secure or not, however all was not well.

The JVC Everio camcorder that I have been using to do my videos has developed an audio fault and has at least at one attempt to record a video recorded one with very bad audio, to the point I suspect the mic element is failing or there is a connection loose somewhere, as I've already recorded part of the Retevis RT87 video on it I will have to investigate as to whether this is also bad or not, and also investigate whether this fault is intermittent or not and if it can be repaired.

The two videos are being uploaded to my Google drive to allow transfer to my video editing box (as I don't have a reliable USB-C lead in the house), this will give me some time to figure out what is wrong with the Everio so future videos can be made on it, if not it's a trip to CeX to replace it (the Everio itself was a CeX purchase).

I should have these videos both edited and up on YouTube by the end of the evening, here's hoping that the person who wanted to abuse radio doesn't rear their head and thinks it is all about them again, after all these videos aren't about them at all.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday, 16 December 2018

The weather and radio

As you know I am in the progress of putting together the video on the Retevis RT87, however the outdoor parts of the test have been hampered by the bad weather of late, so I've not been able to get up to the old racecourse in Richmond, however I hope the weather tomorrow or Wednesday will be good to do this.

Also with the winter weather there can be treacherous driving conditions, ice on the roads can be an extreme hazard, though I have a mobile station so should I get into any difficulties and my phone for whatever reason does not work I can radio for help on 2-meters or even 70cm, and I also plan to keep a HT or two in the car whenever it is out, I plan to include PMR446 equipment as well as many people tend to use this just as a cheap means of communications, I am also working on 11-meters as well however I have no place to mount an antenna at present for that band.

I do intend to brush up on emergency procedure should I need to call for help as, of course, I've never made an emergency call and hope never to have to, however I feel it is best to be prepared, after all in the severe weather mobile phones simply may not work and the only way to call for help could well be the radio, which is why I recommend every driver carry two-way radio equipment in the car, be that CB, PMR446 or, if you're duly licensed, Amateur radio, I don't include taxis in this as they tend to already have a PMR set in the vehicle as part of their duties, and I don't include truckers in this as they tend to have CB radio as a minimum.

A pair of PMR446 radios costs £10 for a very basic set, even Baofeng make them now, a CB radio all in is less than £100 with antenna and cabling and can be run from the vehicle cigarette lighter socket, the only accessory you'd need is a cheap SWR meter and a patch lead which you'd only ever use when first installing the equipment and there are lots of guides on how to install a CB radio into a car online, forget the mobile phone if the weather turns nasty, use radio, it will never let you down in the bad weather if you get into trouble.

Perhaps vehicle manufacturers should include CB radio as standard equipment, or even PMR446 as the antenna, even external, would be permanently fixed and still meet the required standard, it makes sense, the mobile phone in times of adverse weather simply cannot be relied on

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Some thoughts

This is kind of radio related as it involves 2 people that make intent to abuse the spectrum, one licensed (sadly for us) and one unlicensed.

Noting a lot of similarities between the person that wanted to abuse radio to prank truckers from my previous posts and Chance Callahan KD0MXN I thought they'd pair up nicely, the other similarities being that they both like to blame people for things that they have not done.

I didn't want to post this on twitter because I wouldn't have been able to go into any detail, but it makes sense, these two fit together well, they're both manipulative (though Chance Callahan KD0MXN is more successful at this), harass people they don't like as they see fit, accuse people of things they've not done and make intent to abuse the radio spectrum, of which both of them are liable for should they do.

Hopefully both these people will be away from radio in the near future, and limited to the one two-way radio every person near enough has with them, a mobile telephone and even then on serious limitations

73 de 2E0EIJ

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The differences between Amateur and CB radio - the video

Last night I filmed a video and uploaded it to YouTube following on from the last post and with a few extracts from it.

I also gave sound advice as to why it is a bad thing to abuse the radio spectrum, I have nothing against children playing with PMR446 radios as that would get them interested, what I am talking about is using radio to mislead truck drivers and using Amateur radio illegally and also using non-type approved equipment on bands you shouldn't be and running higher power than what you are allowed to run, noting that CB is 4 watts, the Aussie UHF CB is 5 watts, American 11-meter/27MHz CB is AM not FM, and PMR446 is 500mW, and how misuse of any kind could land you in trouble, as it could be classed as deliberate interference, along with pirate operation on the Amateur bands which is also highly illegal, and use of equipment outside of its intended market, the Australia UHF CB system is only legal in Australia and some other ITU region 3 countries if I recall.

My main piece of advice is don't operate where you're not meant to, in a fashion you're not meant to, do not cause  deliberate interference and absolutely do not operate in any radio spectrum that you should not operate in, not only is this illegal it could also cause danger to safety critical systems such as aviation, fire, ambulance, police and maritime communications

Needless to say one person, who is not even part of the hobby anyway, was insulted by this despite the only person being named was Chance Callahan KD0MXN, as we all know the sort of things he likes to do especially in breach of Part 97 of the FCC rules.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

The differences between Amateur radio and CB radio

Yesterday I saw something where someone thought they'd be able to use Amateur radio to wind up truckers, thinking it is exactly the same as CB radio, which it is not.

I will do a video on this but before I do I will post some things here.

Firstly, CB radio is, in most countries, licence exempt on 27MHz, the 11-meter band, limited in power to 4 watts AM or FM (but see below about the next uneducated thing from this same person), and 12 watts PEP SSB, depending on the rules and regulations in force in the country it is used in, ie no FM in the USA, usually 40 or 80 channels again dependent on country, Australia has UHF CB in around 477MHz (40-80 channel) with a 5 watt limit.

Amateur radio on the other hand requires a licence, which is obtained by taking and passing an examination which goes over knowledge of most fundamentals of radio transmission and reception, and gives access to frequencies all over the radio spectrum, and transmission power sometimes in excess of 1kW (I know this to be the case in the United States) though here in the UK and also in Australia I believe the top power limit for full licencees is 400 watts, using modes ranging from morse code, SSB, AM, FM and various digital modulation modes, the US limit their licencees on spectrum access rather than power limit, they get 1.5kW off the bat, kind of worrying when you factor in Chance Callahan KD0MXN.

The controls on a CB radio are limited to channel, volume, squelch, and RIT/clarifier on units capable of SSB transmission, and possibly a CB/PA switch to allow use of a PA speaker, on an Amateur radio set there are usually more buttons and a DTMF keypad on units that operate on the VHF and UHF bands where repeaters are common, none are channelised unless a ham uses converted PMR or CB equipment which they are legally allowed to do for the VHF/UHF or 10-meter bands respectively.

Amateur radio requires callsigns be used, and the operator must give their callsign at the appropriate intervals including at the start and end of a QSO, in CB there is no requirement for callsigns though an unofficial one can be got from various online groups such as Charlie Tango and Transmission1.

So, the person that decided they wanted to use an Amateur radio set to wind up truckers decried everything apart from AM and FM, these are modes of modulation that even Amateurs and CB operators use, not exclusive to broadcast, as it turned out this person had done no research into the subject matter and used this in an attempt to wind me up, however as I have more knowledge on this subject it backfired on them as I was laughing.

I later discovered the set in question is an old Australian UHF CB set, not an Amateur radio set, needless to say this person is very short on their ability to use Google, so perhaps this person should do their research before attempting to use references to Amateur and CB radio to wind me up, and also should they get a radio set to wind up truckers they could find themselves in trouble with the authorities of their country, as radio has rules, and misuse of radio can put someone in serious trouble

Video coming soon

73 de 2E0EIJ

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

ShackCam work

With my ShackCam being down for as long as it has I felt it was about time to remedy that situation, prior to my QTH move the camera was to be based around a Raspberry Pi Zero with a camera module inside the housing of a £1 dummy CCTV camera (which I still have and gutted for that reason (was just a couple of wires, battery contacts and a red LED), I plan to buy a newer Pi camera than what I have and a Zero W for this project because the Zero W has the WiFi onboard, power will be the only required cabling to the camera and the shack computer deals with the video feed from the camera.

Though I have moved QTH I plan to use the same camera housing, only this time I cannot fix it to the ceiling as I intended, this time I plan to run an overhead support from either the desk or the shelving unit for the camera, how power will get to it will remain to be seen, which has to be sourced from the mains supply to keep the camera on and ready for the shack computer to pick up the feed.

I also plan to set up a portable operations ShackCam over a 3G/4G connection with a feed back to the home server, I have written up pages to support displaying this however this requires another Raspberry Pi Camera and a 3G or 4G connection to send the data over securely back to the server at home, and a means to power it in the field, battery or solar power would suffice but a Raspberry Pi requires 5VDC and a supply rated at around 2A so I would need to make sure that at least that amount of current is available.

The original plan was to get the ShackCam on after last year's National Hamfest, this fell through for various reasons, including me shutting down the original web server used to host the page, with a new server up and running it is more likely that the ShackCam should return soon.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Retevis RT87 first writeup

As I managed to get a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime I was able to get free next day delivery and the Retevis RT87 arrived the next day, interestingly the Raspberry Pi I ordered the same day as the radio to run my websites from arrived the same day as the radio so I had a lot of work on but was still able to start some filming for the RT87's outing on YouTube.

The radio itself certainly feels like it was well made despite its Chinese origins, a nice clear LCD display, audio sounds good, not sure on transmit yet as I am working on that, and also not sure if it truly will get away without being overloaded by pagers or any other strong signals but we shall see.

I am not going to write up too much about the radio as I am still filming on and off and have yet to get to the outdoor tests, this will be on my days off next week as the weather has not been right for it this week, however I should have the video up soon, also I have done the power tests but can't reveal too much on that until the videos are up, I don't want any spoilers now, do I?

73 de 2E0EIJ