Sunday, 31 May 2015

HF Ramblings

Well, I am at last operating HF. My first HF rig is a Xiegu X1M QRP set and it is coupled to a Magitenna end fed wire. It outputs 4.5W on SSB and CW, and covers the major bands. It will TX/RX on all from 3-30MHz but bandpass filters are only present for the amateur bands. I had my reservations about the rig as I have had issues with Chinese equipment before, but I am happy to say that, so far, it has not disappointed.  It emulates an Icom IC-718 for CAT control, using Ham Radio Deluxe,  and I find that controlling the rig via the laptop is a more effective way - the controls on the rig are a little convoluted.

The Magitenna is one of Nigel's (M0CVO) hand built antennas and is ideal for my situation as it is a single wire that receives it's ground input from the coax, meaning that there is only one wire coming from the matching unit and that is 7.6m (about 26ft) - great for small and confined spaces. Ok, it is something of a compromise aerial but it does have good performance considering its limitations. My first HF QSO was with DL65DARC, a Germany special event station, on 40m and I was given a report of 58, which is very good considering my limited setup. So, it would seem that, despite my reservations, the X1M is a very capable rig. The RX quality is very good and the audio from the inbuilt speaker is crisp and clear. The screen is a little small but has an inverted display and is clear to see. The controls are limited and a little convoluted but HRD control is seamless and a treat to use.

Following the sad demise of my Standard C5600,  the Icom IC-E208 is reinstated to the main V/UHF rig in the shack, which left a void as far as a mobile radio was concerned. As I don't use the car very much I looked for a dual band rig that would fit the bill without breaking the bank. I looked at used Yaesu and Icom rigs and was surprised as to how much they hold their value. So, the spectre of the dreaded Chinese radio reared it's head again. Having had an extremely bad experience with Leixen, I decided that maker was out of the question. So, what were the options? I looked at a few of the more mainstream manufacturers but even second hand they were a little too expensive.  There were a few Chinese ones around and I plumped for a Baojie BJ-UV55 dual band mobile. 35W on UHF and 45W on VHF it seemed ideal.  It arrived in the mail - or so I thought. I opened the box and inside was only the rig itself - no mic or mounting bracket and no power lead. Incensed, I railed off an email to the supplier, threatening all manner of legal recourse,  only to find that the missing items arrived under separate cover the next day. They had split the contents to avoid a weight penalty with the Hong Kong postal service. The UV55 is a strange beast, in that it has no built in speaker - the speaker being contained within the mic. Dashed inconvenient, so I have an extension speaker fitted in the car and that works mighty fine. The user interface is almost identical to Baofeng handhelds - clunky and awkward, not to mention complicated, and manual programming is the work of the devil. I am awaiting the cable, so I can program with Chirp.

Looking forward to Swaton, which is getting nearer. Andrew has made good progress with Eggsplorer1 and we have a game plan for the Special Event Station, GB2EGG. The next event will be JOTA in October, which we did for the first time last year, and proved to be a great experience. for more details.

73 for the moment

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Happier Ramblings

After my recent spat, I am now a bit more positive about things. I have been having a look at the shack and have made a few changes. I still do not have an HF set up but I'm determined not to buy anything until I have a good idea of what I want. I'm not so sure that I necessarily need to be home based for HF - a friend of mine is considering going QRT from home and working /p on HF instead. The idea appeals to me but the only reservation I have is that, if I have a little time to "play radio", I would have to gather the equipment up and leave the house to operate. I need to give that some thought - one idea I have is to have a Yaesu FT817 and use it from home with a wire and take advantage of its portability when out and about. Again, there is a slight reservation with the 817 as it doesn't have much power, I suppose I could use a linear from home. I'm still working on that idea - there's no hurry.

On the VHF and UHF side of things I have made an impulse purchase from eBay, this time it has turned out to be a good buy. I am now the proud owner of a third Standard radio - this one is a C8800, FM 2m radio from the early '80's. It came in it's original box, with all inserts intact and every accessory supplied when new. It has only one fault and that is an LED out on the last digit of the frequency display, but there's no issue with that as it can be read adequately. It has repeater shift but no CTCSS, so no good for repeater use, but I have the Icom IC-E208 for that. 10W or 1W output, and in superb condition. I do like the "old school" radios.

I have another Chinese radio for the car, a Baojie UV55 dual bander. It has issues with TX on high power - distorted modulation _ but it is OK on low power (15W) so it's fine for the car. I'm still not convinced that buying Chinese is a good idea but it was cheap and should be servicable as a mobile unit.

Preparations for GB2EGG are well in hand and we will have a run through of the HAB procedure at our next meeting. June 28th is the date and details can be found on the website

73 for now.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Disillusioned Ramblings

I'm not feeling upbeat about the Hobby at the moment.  After seeking guidance from Ofcom about setting up an EchoLink node for use with a radio, I was told that it was ok and no NoV was required. So, I set about establishing a node and then the lights came on in my head. Surely this is an Internet gateway, I need an NoV for that. According to Ofcom I don't but there's so much ambiguity surrounding what constitutes what I have decided to abandon the idea. There's little or no guidance that can be found - that's all very well until they come knocking at the door to remove equipment,  and it's just not worth the bother.

DMR is another cause for aggravation to me as well. Since purchasing my CS700 I have had one (brief) QSO and that ended abruptly when the signal from the repeater dropped out. I was out at the weekend with a roof antenna on the car and a clear link with the GB7RR repeater and called on the UK Wide talkgroup repeatedly, for over 90 minutes and not a sausage was heard. Same again today with the GB7LN repeater in Lincoln. I can't access that repeater from home due to geographical obstructions so I'm beginning to think I have wasted my money.

I moved my collinear to appease the XYL and that has decreased performance, and to top it all off the money put aside for HF equipment has all gone on car insurance.

Contemplating giving up on  the whole thing and saving my money for a set of golf clubs.

I'm sure most Hams go through periods of disaffection with the Hobby - I hope this is temporary,  and will soon abate.

73 from a Grumpy 2E0ENN

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Updated Ramblings

It's been an eventful weekend here at the home QTH. Saturday afternoon was spent moving my 2m/70cm collinear from the military mast to it's new permanent home on T&K brackets on the house wall. Stewart, M0SDM, gave invaluable assistance - and without whose help the enterprise would not have been such a success. Many thanks to him.Now the wind can blow as hard as it likes, as I no longer need to worry about the mast coming down and demolishing the neighbours garden sheds.

The collinear is about a foot lower than it was before and that gives only a marginal drop in performance - the pole is only 6ft so I may just replace that with a 10ft one in the relatively near future. The main advantage is that my XYL is now a happy lady as she has her patio back and the neighbours no longer have to gaze upon the splendour of my Clansman mast complete with guy ropes. I thought it looked reasonably OK but on reflection it did dominate the garden quite a lot - I'm happy with the results so all is well chez nous.

With some sadness I have to report that my Standard C5600 has a fault on the UHF side of things, it has an intermittent habit of losing TX on UHF and the received signal becomes distorted.The Icom IC-E208 has been removed from the car and reinstated as the main V/UHF FM set in the shack. I have ordered a new dual bander for the car and until it arrives I am using an 8W Baofeng UV-5RTP, with battery eliminator in the car. I have to report that it works really quite well in the car, so my faith in Chinese products is partially restored.

On Sunday Andrew, M0NRD and myself had a meeting with the organisers of the Swaton Vintage Day and we took the opportunity to undertake a site survey for the SES operating location and the Eggsplorer1 HAB launch.I can report that all is fine with the site and, CAA permitting, the HAB launch should go ahead. June 28th is launch date and our SES call GB2EGG will be operatin all day throughout the event.

May 20th sees a presentation on Raynet at the S.K.A.R.S. meeting - details of that and all other club matters can be found on the website

73 de 2E0ENN for now

Friday, 1 May 2015

Spurious rambling emissions

As I have a compulsive radio buying disorder I have purchased a couple of radios for "experimental" purposes. They are Motorola GP68 handhelds. One is UHF and the other is VHF. The GP68 is an Asian market radio and I'm rather impressed by them. Sturdy, robust and with fab audio, I have programmed in local repeaters and the quality is super. The only down side is that there is no 12.5kHz step so VHF tuning is a bit limited. The other slight disappointment is that the battery packs are ni-cd and I don't like them. There is a li-ion  battery listed but I have ordered two AA battery cases instead. Caveat emptor!  The standard Far Eastern drop in chargers are awful - I've already had one fail spectacularly so I'm using the charge jack on the radios with a decent PSU for battery replenishment.

The aim is to use them for Raynet events. I'm in the process of joining Raynet and I'm sure these will do nicely for local comms at events etc.

Speaking of Raynet, Jim Wheldon,  local area controller for Raynet, will be giving a talk on the organisation and it's uses at the SKARS meeting on May 20th,  see the website for details

73 for now