Sunday, 26 February 2017

Turn your power down!!

I spotted this station SV9RMU in Crete on JT65 yesterday closing with the highlighted message stating he was running 40 Watts into a Hexbeam!

Why so much power?? Anyone using this mode should understand from the outset that anything above 10 to 15W is excessive, in fact somewhere around 5W is the norm for this mode.
Sadly, this kind of behaviour and lack of understanding of the operating protocols of digital modes is leading to increasing levels of QRM in the digital portions of the amateur bands. Once power levels start to increase it becomes a one way street with little chance of normal or proper use of the digital mode used.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Cheap(er) headset

For a few years now I've found myself increasingly using a headset while playing radio, sometimes to mask any background noises such as the television when my girlfriend is watching it or to help hear those weaker stations, especially those when in a contest.
There are a number of brands aimed at the amateur radio market which come usually at a high price but a brand that I've been using can be bought quite cheaply online. I recently bought a replacement set of headphones made by a company called 'Natec'. The original set were called 'Natec Grizzly', a comfortable headset which are still working well and will be the backup headset to the new set called 'Natec Toucan'. This new headset is very comfortable and judging by the reports I receive they are equally as good as the previous set.

I'm sure there are many brands out there that like the Natec brand are aimed at the Skype user or PC gamer and are much cheaper than equivalent sets aimed at the amateur radio user but for the price I paid, approximately €15, they represent excellent value for money.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Expanded 60m band

On the 1st of January 2017 all amateur radio operators in the Republic of Ireland gained access to a small portion of the 60m band without the need to apply for a temporary licence. The band allocation is 15 kHz from 5.351.5 to 5.366.5 MHz at a power of 12dBW (15 watts PEP).

The existing 3kHz wide channels remain available as long as the user has paid ComReg the €30 fee for the use of these channels. Users are allowed a higher power allowance of 23dBW (200 watts PEP). The frequencies are as follows...

5.280 MHz
5.300 MHz
5.332 MHz
5.348 MHz
5.400 MHz
5.405 MHz

As USB is the preferred mode on the 60m band set your transceiver to a frequency 1.5 kHz below the frequency, e.g for 5.405 MHz set your TX frequency to 5.403.5 MHz USB. This way you will minimise the chances of transmitting out of band.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

P5/3Z9DX operating in North Korea?

A Polish gentleman named Dom Grzyb has claimed to have operated recently as P5/3Z9DX from Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK, more commonly known as North Korea. Earlier in 2015 I had read on the web about a proposed DXPedition to the DPRK and given the amount of interest this would generate in the ham community I kept my eyes and ears open to any further updates.
At the end of 2015 it was made known that Dom had in fact done some demo's to the North Korean authorities and had worked a number of stations as P5/3Z9DX.
There has been a lot of scepticism about the P5 operation with various individuals, including myself, doubting the veracity of some of the 'evidence' produced.
I had the pleasure of visiting the DPRK last September to avail of the opportunity to fly in some old Soviet era airliners, aircraft that have been long since banned from European skies.

This is one of the last passenger carrying Ilyushin Il-18's in service, a type produced in large numbers and sold widely.

I also flew on Air Koryo's last remaining airworthy Ilyushin Il-62 from Pyongyang to Samijyon and back on the same day after our visit to Mt. Paektu.

During our briefing the evening before departure from Beijing we were told, amongst other things, that we could bring our mobile phones into the country but we would be unable to access the local network. We were never made aware of any North Korean network that we could access by buying a SIM. Given their need for foreign currency it seems strange that we weren't offered this service, no matter about the cost it just seems strange to me that Dom was able to access the 'Koryolink' network.

I don't doubt that he visited the DPRK when he claimed he did but I doubt very much that he would have been granted permission to operate from any site within North Korea. If he had been granted permission I'm sure it would have been very well publicised in advance of his visit.

Friday, 6 February 2015


Yet again the amateur radio community manages to shower itself in glory as another DXpedition struggles under the weight of an onslaught of stupidity, selfishness and general mental retardation.

Listening to the amount of QRM directed at K1N, the most sought after DXCC entity, it's staggering to think that people's sole intention is not to attempt to work them and make the QSO but to actively prevent others from making the contact.

I guess it's simply a reflection of mankind in general but to listen to the cacophony of retards tuning, playing music, playing pre-recorded bogus calls currently on 14.155 MHz is indeed quite depressing

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Tower install woes

I recently bought a Hexbeam from a friend of mine Trevor, EI2GLB and I'm hoping to put it up soon. I'm in the process of installing a 40 feet tower in my garden but this is proving to be a little less straight forward as I had hoped. As is so often the case here in Ireland I'm discovering that suppliers of concrete or steel seem to have a very lax attitude in dealing with customers. Last week I contacted a company to find out how my previously ordered reinforced steel cage was progressing. I was told I could collect it on Saturday morning but when I drove there the gates were closed shut. Working 9-5, Monday to Friday my only opportunity to collect would be on a Saturday. I still have not had any response from them this week.

I also contacted a concrete supplier to get a quote. The guy took my number as he was busy and said he'd call me back in two minutes. That was one week ago and still no contact.

No wonder this country is on its knees...

Monday, 6 October 2014

MFJ-1700C antenna switch

A recent addition to the shack is the MFJ-1700C switch. This is a really useful item and compared to similar switches on the market, very affordable. Apart from the obvious advantage of being able to select between 6 antennae and 6 radios it removed the need for me to convert my LP-100A to take readings from my two rigs. The cost of converting the LP-100A to the dual coupler standard was almost twice the price of the MFJ unit!

I currently have two antennae, a dipole and a Hustler 5-BTV going in to the switch. On the radio side I have a Kenwood TS570 and a TS-850 and I use one of the antenna sockets connected to my dummy load. The 'Com' socket allows me to connect my LP-100A meter so I can always read my SWR, power out and so on with any of the 4 connection options currently available to me.

As with all MFJ products it's always a good idea to check them over before putting them into service. This item was no different. I shook the box when it arrived and sure enough there was something rattling around inside. When I opened it up all that had come loose was a nut from one of the SO-239's screws, an easy fix! I took the opportunity to check the connections and since then I've had no trouble with this now, indispensable little unit!