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Monday, 29 April 2019

Post-Blackpool rally post

So yesterday I was at the Blackpool rally and spent the weekend at the Norbreck Castle Hotel where the rally was to be held, not a bad hotel and I enjoyed my stay, however there was one small issue during the journey over, not counting a traffic jam on the A66 and the high winds along the high-lying areas.

I had to stop at some services for a pit stop shall we say, this particular service area was Lancaster (Forton) Services on the M6, on exiting the service area there was a Mini so close to my rear bumper it was borderline dangerous and I had to give way to traffic already on the M6, this Mini driver cut me up, thus forcing me onto the hard shoulder at the bottom of the slip road, pulled into the hard shoulder ahead of me, got out of the car, and, showing clear signs of aggression, walked towards my car (I had come to a stop and put the hazard lights on while I quickly composed myself and waited for a gap (the Mini driver left me no room in which to get up to speed on the hard shoulder as per the Highway Code), I saw a gap, shut off the hazards and indicated right and was left no alternative but to put my foot hard down onto the accelerator pedal, on passing the Mini driver who returned to his car as soon as he seen I was about to drive off gave me the “two-finger salute”, it was clear he was aggressive and could have caused me harm, this is the first and only time I was victim to road rage, it clearly was a road rage incident, I was still quite shaken on arrival at Blackpool, this is mentioned briefly and in less detail in the video I made on the rally which I hope to have up to YouTube soon.

So onto the subject of the rally, it was not as busy as my last visit and due to unforeseen circumstances the Bring & Buy was cancelled this year, I broke with tradition and did not buy a radio, I did buy the Sotabeams Fuser-6 and some Anderson Powerpole connectors, after the incident with the Grant II I certainly do not want a repeat of it with my Amateur radio gear so priority number one is to fit my CRT SS9900 with them, then my QYT KT-8900D, also I will be fitting these to the Leixen VV-898 ahead of it being used as an APRS igate radio once I obtain an M0 call which should be soon.

I have plans to return to the Blackpool rally next year, and hope to go to Blackpool later in the summer and do radio from the top of the tower as the weather this past weekend was not suited to it, obviously not using Baofeng radios.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Preparation for Blackpool and testing my Bluetooth GPS receiver for APRS use

Today the car went in for two new front tyres ready for my trip out to Blackpool, I aim to set off about lunchtime with an aim to be there for at least 2 or 3pm, all I have left to do is pack my things, including HTs, their charger bases, the Jumbospot and any other charger I may need for phones and the camcorders,  I will check the battery levels of all the batteries tonight and charge those that need it.

Now as I have ordered a replacement tablet to replace my current Android one that I destroyed the digitiser on, if you’re a regular follower of my Twitter feed you’ll know about this already, I have found no where in the specs for the replacement unit that is has any kind of satellite positioning receiver, commonly this is GPS with the addition of GLONASS and sometimes others such as Gallileo, as I want to use this in the car plugged into my FTM-400XDE in a similar vain to a video by Dallas Clements K7DCC I do need GPS at a minimum, the FTM-400XDE does have this as standard but does not, that I know, push it down the data lead at the same time as the APRS information, the test was two things, one to ascertain the receiver was working and could receive, it appears to be fine, the second was a Windows 10 compatibility test, not completely compatible as the SPP is used in the device and would thus have to present itself as a COM port (in my shack computer’s case this appeared as COM14 (there is a COM13 as well for Bluetooth that I have seen on the shack computer), this was done as the tablet in question certainly appears to be a Windows 10 tablet and therefore the setup done, albeit a few years ago now, by K7DCC can be replicated with changes made to accommodate British use, the differences are as follows:

  • K7DCC uses a service called “freedom pop” to get the Internet to the tablet in his video, as that does not exist in the UK I will use my phone, with its 5GB data allowance, for APRS-IS at the tablet
  • The APRS frequency here is 144.800MHz (this is a change I don’t need to make as my radio is set up for APRS already)
  • The FTM-400XD is XDR in the US, it’s the same radio just configured for a different market, in the case of K7DCC he uses the older FTM-400D model

The tablet I ordered has a micro-USB and a USB-C port, the latter doubles as the charger connector so the tablet can be kept powered in the car, I will be ordering a mount at the end of May shortly after I get paid.

After it goes live in the car it will be tested on some journeys.

Also hope to see you at Blackpool this coming Sunday

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday, 22 April 2019

Reason behind no video from Ripon rally, and a bit more on the APRS front

As you know I visited the Ripon rally last week, and got some video footage while there, however on final editing and looking at the footage I felt it was not up to my usual standard, partly down to there being far too many people in a small space not allowing me to film properly, so in the end I scrapped the idea, as the Blackpool rally is at a much larger venue and has more to offer I will of course do some filming there and I also have an opportunity to play more radio from Blackpool including, if my non-Baofeng radios don't suffer like the Baofeng radios would, from the top of Blackpool tower, watch this space.

Another thing I learned about APRS thanks to Carl 2E0EZT was that APRS has a "bulletin" feature, by which you can post bulletins simply by sending a message to "BLN*" (where * can be anything), these bulletins will show up on, and looking at this there appears to be little use of it in the UK, I tested this from my -5 using my mobile phone direct into the APRS-IS though it can be done through a radio over RF on the APRS frequency (the frequency differs by country, check what yours is, in the UK and Europe it is 144.800MHz), I may use the bulletin feature when I am operating portable, including from the Blackpool tower (though I don't have an APRS enabled HT so I'd have to rely on using an Android device, my Radio-Tone RT3 or my phone being the two obvious choices here, though I am saving for a Yaesu FT2D (as these are not cheap) and aim to have one hopefully before Hamfest 2019, and hopefully by which time I'll also have a full licence and be able to obtain the correct NoV in order to run a fully unattended igate so I can do HT based APRS properly and so can others around the area that use APRS.

So hopefully I can get a bit more serious with the APRS side of Amateur radio as it is still extremely useful in this era of mobile phones.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Sunday, 21 April 2019

APRS features beyond the tracking - SMS

APRS has always been pointed out as a system that is more than a vehicle/station tracking system, it is in fact real-time communication, the tracking part is only one of a subset of functions the system has.

The system has the ability to send messages between users, normally this is done by virtue of APRS radio to radio, however it is possible to send a shorter than normal (you'll see why) SMS message to any mobile phone on the planet.

To send to a mobile phone, on any radio so capable of APRS or adapted to work on APRS with a TNC and client software you simply send a message from the radio to "SMSGTE" which must start with @<phone number> (where <phone number> is any mobile phone number starting with the country code though not the +) and any short message you like, as long as an igate has heard you recently it will gate the packet and send it on to SMSGTE which will in turn send it back to the mobile telephone network the number is associated with.

The system can allow the recipient to send a reply, though that reply cannot leave APRS-IS if the recipient was not heard by an igate, no one can reply to a message without knowing the correct syntax or the phone number the message from the radio originated from, so no chance of spam messages, particularly important considering my recent troubles with a very questionable individual from Australia though not enough to stop problems with Chance Callahan KD0MXN however he appears to have vanished from the Amateur radio scene for the moment and he could use standard APRS messages to harass me if he so desired as he does know my current callsign, though that alone is grounds for me to report him to the FCC for Part 97 violations.

So if you're out of range of the mobile networks and need to get a message to someone, use this, if you're up a hill the chance is are your message will get out to an igate (remember to beacon first so a reply can be sent from the recipient), I tested this and it works at least from the radio to the phone.

I have Carl 2E0EZT to thank for this information, as he has done a video on some of the APRS features available.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Another APRS map display revisit

As you may recall I have been hoping to get a semi-permanent map display for APRS in the car, preferably using a Windows 10 tablet, the last tablet I ordered was an Android one, which though also capable of doing this doesn't do much in the way of gating shall we say, just shows it all on the map.

So another look on the usual Chinese suppliers leads me to a tablet with keyboard dock as optional extra, this would allow me to not only see APRS objects on a map, but would also allow me to do logging on the hills better than what I can do now, potential YouTube livestreams depending on the Internet availability at my location, the cost of this machine is under £200 and could perform as a laptop, drawback is that the keyboard dock is in American layout though I can probably live with that or just use a wireless Logitech keyboard with trackpad as these are reasonably good quality.

I am going to connect the data lead for the FTM-400XDE up to my existing Android tablet as I have a suitable OTG adaptor to do this and test using the applications on there, should this work then I'll see if I am able to buy this tablet I have seen and once it arrives then set it up in the way I seen previously on YouTube.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Activity on the hills

A rare free weekend has appeared in my schedule, so this is a good chance to go up to a high point to play some radio, and I have a few high points around me including the famous Tan Hill on the Cumbria border, inspiration for this has come from Mike M0XMX, one of his recent videos has him operating 2-meters FM and SSB from a high point near to him and he did very well, especially considering there's a lot of people out there who seem to think that 2-meters is dead, all one has to really do is pick up that mic and press the button, and if you're high up it's even better.

So I've been having a survey of high points around me that I can access with a vehicle, Tan Hill being one of them, Sutton Bank being another though there doesn't appear to be anywhere up there I can pull in at the side of the road, there is the visitor's centre up there but that is run by the North York Moors National Park and I doubt they'd be happy with me setting up 2-meter antennas in their car park, though I do keep a copy of my Amateur radio licence in the car at all times in case anyone asks any "awkward" questions.

So I'll do all the radio playing Sunday, as this is the best time for it, Saturday I will give my groudplane antenna a test on a high point close by, this will be after shortening the coaxial cable feeding it because this feeder is RG58 and is lossy on 2-meters if it's fed by any considerable length run, this antenna needs a test because it has not been used in a while, was damaged during the QTH move and subsequently repaired, it will technically be its first time back on the air after that awful man that was my neighbour at the old QTH decided to be intolerant of my hobby without justification, now I'm all for people asking me to stop my Amateur radio and 11-meter activities if they're causing problems but not if they're just doing it because it just simply happened to be out of the way, and my hilltop activities don't usually get me into too much trouble.

I hope to spend most of the day up on the hills on Sunday once I find a place to go, and if the weather stays good, and will be operating 2-meters FM, pending tests on the groundplane antenna as well, if not the dipole will be used instead.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Monday, 15 April 2019

Post-Ripon rally and pre-Blackpool rally post

The Ripon rally took place yesterday yet nothing immediately caught my attention, I did buy a new coax stripper and a SMA-M to SO239 adaptor that appears to be of better quality than the one I had in which the centre pin sheared off in the SMA socket on my NooElec NESDR SMArt. and the stealth antennas book by the RSGB for members price of course.

I do have video footage that I am working on, it isn’t much because the rally was far too crowded to film effectively at, and one gentleman did try to sell me another camera but having two JVC Everio camcorders already I don’t need another camcorder, just some action cams to fit to the car for a new element I am introducing to my videos (which will be seen in the Ripon rally video)

Radios I took on the day were pretty much all except the UV-5R, BF888 and all my PMR446 annd CB gear, the radio that ultimately went into the rally was the AnyTone AT-D868UV, and the very company that sold me it was actually at Ripon selling it, the QYT KT-8900D, and Baofeng speaker mics and a Bluetooth adaptor, the speaker mics unfortunately were all Kenwood fitting, I require a multi-pin type for the network radio, which just so happened to be in the car anyway, and the Retevis RT87 which is actually waterproof to a degree, a Blackpool purchase I think.

With me being in Blackpool for the weekend of the Blackpool rally, I plan to do some radio while there, now if you recall I wrote about a video done by Lewis M3HHY on his Ringway Manchester channel, in which he and another Amateur went to the top of Blackpool Tower and attempted to put out calls from there but were hampered due to the poor design of the Baofeng UV5R and UV82 series of radios (the latter of which my GT-5 is a reskinned variant of), Lewis also later went on to test the Retevis RT87 (which is partly why I ended up buying it in the first place) and he did this from a place called Werneth Low, which is a high point within Greater Manchester full of transmitters, he found the radio handled that environment with no big deal, so I intend to take it, along with my Wouxun KG-UVD1P and my AnyTone AT-D868UV up Blackpool Tower to see if they get absolutely battered by the RF environment up there OR they overcome what Baofengs, based on the RDA1846 radio on a chip and with dire front-end filtering (or a seeming lack of it) cannot do, hopefully they will prove better than the Baofengs and just in the interest of fairness the GT-5 and the UV5RC Plus will be going up there too, otherwise the operating conditions from there are good if you don’t factor the transmission antennas at the extreme top of Blackpool tower

Prior to this all I had was Baofengs and the Wouxun, though when I last went over to Blackpool for the rally I solely had the GT-5 with me and though I did go up the tower I did not operate, and as it turns out I chose wisely as I would have suffered the same problems as Lewis did.

I also plan to add a bit of the music of Andy Kirby, who as it turns out is a fellow Amateur with an M6 callsign I cannot remember off the top of my head. to some of my videos, subject to usage rights of course, I have seen his music used in Ringway Manchester videos and a couple of videos by ‘knoxieman’ G7LNK, so I do wonder whether they asked him for permission or it is simply a case of the music can be used as long as it is credited to the source, I’ll have to look this up or contact Andy myself.

73 de 2E0EIJ

Thursday, 11 April 2019

RTL-SDR dedicated machine sort of set up

I have an old laptop with a display that has no working backlight, a Samsung RV510, and am putting this machine to use as a dedicated RTL-SDR receiver, it originally served as the now closed Richmond CB FRN gateway, with me having high SWR (and having to use a matcher), it remained closed for quite some time however the machine was in fact hibernating from the very point it was closed down.

It seems to run the SDR# software fine and works with both RTL-SDR sticks (I already know that the cheapo black one works, the NESDR SMArt was tested). so first test was with Soundmodem and APRS, it worked ok, though I don’t think I configured it correctly to pass packets from soundmodem to APRSIS32 so nothing was gated in that experiment.

Next was to decode DMR, it did not do well here either due to there being some noise on the frequency I could not seem to get rid of, though this was in the 70cm band and the supplied magmount is fitted with RG58, trying a piece of 213 and a dipole didn’t make a difference and destroyed my SMA-M to SO239 adaptor almost to the cost of the stick’s SMA-F connector (though the sheared pin was removed with Blu-Tack.

I am going to rehash my Handheld CB and PMR446 videos after either the Ripon or Blackpool rally, the first videos were all HT to HT (or in the 446 video between two units with fixed helical antennas) using this setup, the final location of this receiver of many talents will be next to my “Stranger Things” radio (the Realistic Pro-53 Patrolman, I call it that because it really looks like it was pulled from the Netflix series Stranger Things though I owned it before I heard of that).

The two videos will be done under the same conditions at the TX end, using the same radios (Intek MT-5050 for PMR446 and Midland Alan 42 Multi for 11-meters, both again using the stock rubber duck antennas), the RTL-SDR will be connected to an antenna using a lenght of RG213 to keep loss as low as possible, the antenna will most likely be in the window, outside if possible, and I want to make it from a couple of cheap CB antennas with the 3/8th thread on them as I have a dipole centre configured this way, that arrangement won’t be used for TX as there would be no choke.

The receiver works from as low as 24MHz right up to 1.7GHz. so 10-meters, 6-meters, 4 meters. 2-meters, 70cm and a lot of commercial, licence-free and aviation frequencies are also covered as well as the Amateur bands and CB frequencies, first things first is that I require a new SMA-M to SO239 adaptor and preferably a way to stop the SMA pin shearing off.

On closing I now have an extended battery to record video footage from the camcorder, this is so I can record footage of the Ripon and Blackpool rallies , Ripon is on Sunday (with an aim to have the video uploaded by Monday afternoon), Blackpool is two weeks later (with an aim to have the video uploaded by the following Monday afternoon)

73 de 2E0EIJ/26CT730