Saturday, 3 December 2016

Gateway to Rambling Heaven

I have been bemoaning my absolutely abysmal broadband connection for quite some time now. It was slow, unreliable and would drop - out at the drop of a hat. Well, that seems to be all in the past now, as I have a super - fast, high speed fibre connection now. It's been connected for 36 hours without a single drop out and the up and download speeds are improved threefold. The upshot of all this is that MB6IAG  (my Wires-X gateway) now operates as flawlessly as it can.

Heartened by this improvement I have obtained a second Yaesu FTM-100DE. The original FTM-100 is installed as node radio and the gateway operates through that and the HRI-200 interface, while the second FTM-100 is used for node access, local FM and to access the DV4 Mini.

The FT-817ND still continues to give a great deal of pleasure. I have found a superb spot for /P work and last Sunday I had a couple of hours working HF. I managed a QSO with a portable station in Denmark on 40m and a contact into Canada on 20m, amongst others which were mainly European stations, and all on just 5 Watts. Pound for pound that little radio has given better value in terms of enjoyment and functionality than any of my other radio purchases.

I'm still disappointed at not being able to have a decent V/UHF antenna at home but at least with the Internet Linked and Digital modes I am able to carry on enjoying the hobby. To be honest, working /P suits me fine - at least it gets me out of the house and into the fresh air.

And there I will leave it for now. Tune in next time for another exciting edition.........

73 de 2E0ENN

Sunday, 23 October 2016


It's been almost a month since I set up my Wires-X gateway and I can report that it appears to be working well, despite not holding a solitary QSO on it! There are countless nodes and rooms connected but few, if any, conversations happening  I have called out on numerous occasions in various rooms and, apart from US rooms, I have heard next to nothing. I wonder why this is? Maybe it's a low number of operators on the system? Doubtful, as a glance at the connected node list shows thousands world wide. Are we becoming a hobby filled with licenced SWL's? It's a great shame, as the audio quality is superb, the infrastructure of the Wires-X system is extremely sound and the potential for a huge uptake is certainly there. Even using the Fusion reflectors in the FCS system shows a distinct lack of activity.

D-STAR is very busy at times, I connect to REF001 C regularly and there is always a lot of traffic. Granted, D-STAR has been around for much longer and there are far more people using it, but the audio in comparison with C4FM is a little "robotic".

As for DMR, the almost constant monitoring by the "DMR Police" and the equally constant changes in the infrastructure, and the Politics involved with the various networks has spoiled a once pleasurable experience.

AllStar has not been without its difficulties as well. There has recently been a "branching out" where members of the UK Hub have splintered away to form HUBNet UK, taking users and splitting the community. It's impossible to pledge an allegiance to one particular "network", I just want to talk to people regardless of their particular differences.

Locally, the already depleted ranks of operators on 2m have dwindled away to the occasional few. Not so long ago a QSO could be guaranteed almost every evening, but not so now. Even use of repeaters has decreased to the levels that would not justify a Repeater Keeper continuing.

What do I glean from all of this? I suspect that there are many disillusioned Amateurs out there. There are the "Die Hards" who only use Simplex, Analogue and decry "new fangled ideas" such as Digital and Internet Linked systems. There are the up-takers of systems like DMR, who are put off by the almost constant derision by those who are seldom heard in a QSO. They only come on air to chastise those who they perceive to have transgressed. The fact is that, regardless of the means used, it's all about talking to people. Why participate in a hobby that involves communication if you don't wish to speak to anyone? So, let's put the calls out, let's answer a few of those calls and get talking again!

On a somewhat lighter note, the FT-817 is still impressing me greatly. It really is a superb radio, and if power (or the lack of it) is an issue, just look at some of the QRP forums out there to see just what can be achieved with a measly 5W. I bought a Moonraker SPX100 portable multi-band antenna to use with the 817 and I have to report that as a dummy load it is as useless as it is as an antenna. It is not resonant (at all) on any of the bands and flatly refuses to tune with a tuner. Even adding counterpoises has made little difference, so my Hamfest bargain has flopped somewhat. All is not lost though, my trusty wire with un-un is still doing its job. I have it mounted on a 10 metre fishing pole, as a vertical, and it still tunes 80m to 6m with no problems. Granted, it's a compromise antenna, but for portable use its fine. It telescopes down to a metre in length and can easily be carried whilst out and about.

Last weekend was JOTA and myself and other members of South Kesteven Amateur Radio Society activated the Scout Hut at Foston for the event. I was unable to participate on the Saturday but managed to spend the whole of Sunday operating and assisting with the station. Best contact of the weekend was into Cyprus, and many European stations were also logged. The Cubs, Beavers and Scouts all had a whale of a time, as did Stewart, Andrew, Richard and myself. Looking forward to next year.

Not much else to report, but watch this space.....

73 de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 6 October 2016

QRP and other Ramblings

Back on HF at last! My lovely other half got me a Yaesu FT-817 for my birthday, I've added a Z817 tuner and a multi-band antenna and I now have the ideal portable set-up. As a power source I have one of those car boost starter units - very small but packed with multi-voltage outputs and runs the 817 very well. As I write this I'm out in the car putting the set-up through its paces and I have to say that I'm mightily impressed.

Last weekend saw the National Hamfest,  just down the road from me at Newark. I went on the Saturday and had a fantastic day, meeting up with friends and making new ones. I collected my competition prize from the Practical Wireless stand, in conjunction with Yaesu UK. The Yaesu FTM-100 and HRI-200 interface are now up and working my Gateway, MB6IAG, on System Fusion/Wires-X. I did encounter a small problem with the interface in that it was the review model used by the magazine and had been previously registered on the Yaesu system. An e-mail to Yaesu quickly resolved the conflict and it's now working well.

JOTA is upcoming this month and it's my favourite event of the year. Members of South Kesteven A.R.S. ( will be activating the event for several Scout groups in the Grantham area and I'm hoping to be there, all being well.

SKARS now hold a weekly net on a Wednesday evening using GB3GR and it is well attended. GR is Echolink (GB3GR-R) and AllStar  (node 28202) enabled, so if you wish to participate, please do. The net starts at 20:00 GMT and all-comers are very welcome.

Back to the radio for a bit longer now....

73 de 2E0ENN

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Rambling On........

What's been happening Radio-wise since my last Blog? Well, I've now got more or less full Digital capability. I have acquired a D-STAR Icom ID-51 handheld, along with a second DV4 Mini and a Yaesu FT-1XD Fusion handheld.

I have one DV4 Mini coupled with a Pipo X8 Windows device that I use for Fusion and DMR, and the second DV4 Mini is coupled to a second Pipo X8 for D-STAR.

Activity is a bit limited on the FCS Reflectors for Fusion, but I suspect that word will get out and the number of users will grow. There is a lot of Fusion activity using WIRES-X and I hope to eventually get a Yaesu FTM-100D and WIRES-X box. D-STAR is a bit more lively with plenty of activity on REF0001C, so there's plenty of traffic to keep me occupied. DMR remains a small issue with the DV4 Mini in that it's awfully tricky to get just right with the settings, however it works sufficiently well provided I keep my overs short.

After months of indecision, I finally took the plunge and drilled a hole in the roof of the car to hard mount the SG7900 Super Gainer aerial for 2m and 70cm. I'm very glad I did, as signals are hugely improved over the triple magmount. Received signals are at least 2 to 3 S points higher and I suspect my transmitted signal is improved.

Back in the early 1980's, when I was a teenager, I had a CB radio. I had a shack and a Silver Rod half wave aerial and spent hours playing radio with fellow CB'ers in the local area. It fell out of favour for me when it became a haunt for ne'er do wells and the language and music playing made it an unpleasant experience. Fast forward to the present day and I notice that in my area are a number of Amateurs who still dabble with "The Dark Side". I have found an old Jesan KT-750 handheld CB and, after cleaning it up and installing fresh Ni-Mh batteries, it still works perfectly, so that's another weapon in the arsenal.

Have a listen out on AllStar  (nodes 41522 and 27066) D-STAR REF 0001C and Fusion  FCS001-55 for a natter sometime.

73 for now, de 2E0ENN

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Clarified Ramblings

Having set up and used VoIP systems for a little while I thought I would provide a layman's guide to what it is, how it works, what's needed to operate it and general information.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a means of communication whereby the service provider hosts a server that can be accessed via the Internet by its users. Voice (and data) traffic is sent to and from the server and users communicate in this way. To access the server, users are given log in credentials and these are used when signing in to the service.

There are many ways of placing your traffic onto the server: directly by PC using the sound card/mic and speakers, by connecting a radio via an interface to the computer being used to access the server and by mobile phone device access using dedicated software.
The software used transfers the traffic using a coding system that the servers can decode into voice.

EchoLink, for example, takes your voice traffic either directly from the PC (User mode) or from the node radio, via a connecting interface, to your PC (Sysop mode). You simply "dial in" the node number of the person you wish to speak to and, once connected, you conduct the conversation.

It really is basically that simple. There are more technicalities in how the systems actually work but for a layman's guide this should suffice.

Different systems (EchoLink, IRLP, All star etc.) can be linked with bridging software, however this is quite complex and best left to the experts.


BroadNet is a commercial VoIP service and is used mainly for professional communications via the Internet. BroadNet do offer a service for exclusive use by Radio Amateurs. Their UK NET gives access to registered users and there is a bridge into the AllStar UK Hub. They supply a mobile phone adapted for use with the service, which looks like a radio but is in fact an Android mobile phone with a PTT switch and external antenna. Access is via mobile phone data and it is supplied SIM free and can also be used for calls and texts, as it uses the mobile network.

If anybody needs any help or more information on setting up for VoIP, drop me an email and I'll walk you through it

73 de 2E0ENN

Friday, 1 July 2016

Digital Ramblings

I have recently taken delivery of a Yaesu FT1XDE C4FM/ Analogue handheld for use with the DV4 Mini. Here is a brief review :-

The first impression upon un-boxing is the sturdy feel to the unit. It is well built and, whilst not being heavyweight, it does feel rather substantial in the hand without being uncomfortable in use. The XDE comes with a higher capacity battery than the previous model and the GPS function is improved. Having said that, the GPS and APRS is a little tricky to understand and set up - I need to do a bit of reading before I embark upon that side of things.

Sound quality from the speaker is good, it's not the loudest of outputs but it is enough. The keypad buttons are a tad on the small side and for my large fingers I find it slows me down a little when inputting but it certainly is no great detriment to the radio - just needs getting used to.

Analogue performance is what you would expect from Yaesu - DTMF, CTCSS and auto repeater shift are all present and work as they should.

Now the really good bit - C4FM Fusion. One word - WOW! - the audio quality is superb, vastly superior to DMR. Crystal clarity and a balanced audio experience. Users sound as clear as if we were speaking face to face. Another bonus is that it works flawlessly with the DV4 Mini - no drop outs due to incorrect frequency matching and, because Fusion uses a different system for digitising the speech, there is no need for error correction. The DV4 and the FT1XDE are a perfect combination.

Throw an extremely wideband receiver into the mix and you have a great all-in-one monitoring solution. The receiver covers 0.5 to 999 MHz in AM, NFM, and WFM but sadly no SSB. The internal antenna is only really any use with strong broadcast stations but, with an external antenna, things improve.

The GPS receiver uses a whopping 66 channels and ensures a truly accurate fix. Time to first fix was under a minute and subsequent fixes are done in seconds. The position data is displayed on the LCD display and it is shown in a simplified, clear way.

Programming is a little convoluted if doing manually, but the instructions are concise and once mastered it becomes very intuitive. Yaesu supply a programming lead with the radio and programming software is available to download from the Yaesu website. There have been various reports on the functionality of the Yaesu software but I programmed in quite a few simplex/duplex channels with relative ease using it. Chirp also supports programming but is not as good (in my humble opinion). There is provision for a Micro SD card for storage of radio data and also snapshot images, which come when using the snapshot camera mic (not supplied but is an extra cost option). The SD function is not like the dStar, where programming information can be loaded directly to the radio - the SD card is used merely as storage and for back up  (reading the card information into the programming software).

The radio functions are mainly menu driven but they do follow a logical path, so getting to grips with the menus is no real hassle.

Would I recommend it? - Heartily

Is C4FM worth the investment? - Certainly

Do Icom need to worry about dStar? - I think so, the monopoly on DV radio has been broken so we will have to see how Fusion stacks up.

I'm off to play radio for a while,

73 de 2E0ENN

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

No Ramblings to Report

Since my last post, nothing much has been happening radio wise. It's been a quiet and relatively dead period.

The Allstar nodes continue to function as they should but there's little activity of late, save for a bit of drive time traffic here and there. I suppose it's the season for being out in the fresh air as opposed to being in front of a radio.

The DV4 Mini is now working well attached to the Pipo X8 Windows device and having a wired ethernet connection. There appear to be cliques emerging on DMR with a number of regular operators only working within their little gangs - so far this evening I've put out over ten CQ calls and nobody has answered, despite a list of call signs appearing on the system. Maybe I should change my deodorant.

I will be away this coming weekend and will attempt to use EchoLink at some point, although I'm not holding out for much in the way of contacts if the recent lack of activity is anything to go by.

The Broadnet system brings the occasional QSO - this is also very quiet with call signs listed as connected but no replies to calls. It would seem that by and large the Amateur Radio community is increasingly being populated with "licenced SWL's"

Local activity on 2m seems to be centred on the same group of people as well, and repeater use is virtually non-existent. There does seem to be a distinct lack of interest shown these days. I'm considering giving it all up and looking for another hobby - what's the point if there's nobody talking much?

The only contacts I've had recently have been as part of my Radio Club's special event stations and I suspect that that's mainly due to curiosity as opposed to interest.

I'm in a state of flux with the hobby at the moment - it's not stimulating me much (if at all) at the moment.

So it's a half hearted 73 de 2E0ENN

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Portable Ramblings

I now have a functioning portable set up. The antenna is a Watson Multi-Ranger-9, which sits on my triple mag mount. It covers 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2, and 70cm and also receives on airband. Tuning is via a jumper cable in the coil and adjusting the length of the resonator. A quick test in the car gave promising results. I'm fortunate in that I have an LDG AT-897 auto tuner attached to the FT-897 and tuning on 40, 20 and 6 meters is a breeze. I'm not expecting earth shattering performance from a whip on a magmount but at least it will get me on the air and out of the house. I also have an Ampro whip for 40m so I have some options.
I also have the end fed wire and an 11 metre long fishing pole so there's even more flexibility. I have bought a 12 Volt car battery boost starter (essentially a battery in a case with jump leads and a cigar lighter socket attached) to either power the radio or jump start the car once I've flattened the battery.

I have relinquished the 70cm Gateway and have applied for a 2m allocation in its place, due to myself and immediate neighbours experiencing issues with interference to car remote locking fobs. My Gateway frequency is/was 430.500 MHz, which is also channel 40 on the LPD band. As Amateurs and LPD users are secondary users of the 70cm band (the MoD being primary users) and as I live within the confines of an active RAF Base,  I thought it prudent to make the change. I have conducted limited testing on 2m with the AllStar node and it seems to be stable, without interference issues. I'm just waiting for the NoV to be issued, it has been passed by Ofcom so I just need the NoV document to make it all above board.

I'm out and about over the next couple of days - working HF from the car, and I'm looking forward to the experience. I have a number of locations earmarked but if the weather isn't too bad I might just have a ride up the East Coast to the Mablethorpe area, near the salt water, and try some 6m activity.

73 for now, de 2E0ENN 

Friday, 27 May 2016

RF induced Ramblings

Neighbours - who'd have them?
I went out into the garden last Sunday to change over the broken pole for my HF Antenna. I'd been out there for about five minutes when I was accosted by my looney tunes neighbour. He went into a rant about yet more aerials and threatened to report me. For what, I don't know but I retained a dignified manner and didn't rise to the bait (which is unlike me). Then his wife came rushing home from work as he had phoned her to say he was having an epileptic fit. It transpires that my AllStar node blocks their car remote central locking and that my collinear aerial requires planning permission and they can always tell when I'm on the radio because the frequency upsets their dogs. After doorstepping her my XYL was mightily fed up. So, the HF aerial was dismantled and tomorrow the collinear is coming down, even though the installation is within planning regulations. I will leave a smaller aerial up for VHF local use but HF operation will now be either mobile or portable. I have an Ampro 40m mobile whip and I've ordered a Watson Multi Ranger 9 multi band whip and I also have the end fed wire and a 11 metre pole, so I'm set up for some mobile/portable ops this Summer. The FT-897 will be used with a 12V boost starter for power (either to power the radio or to start the car once I've flattened the battery).

Once again the Numpties win. However, I'm not defeated and am looking forward to getting out and about over the Summer to work the bands.

The enrolment form has now been filled in for the Bath Advanced distance learning course and I will be getting into that in July.

I now have two AllStar nodes running. The home node is radioless, being directly linked via a Linux converted laptop. I have a portable Raspberry Pi RF node as well and that will be installed in the car - I just have to remotely mount the Pi, as if the access radio is too close to it my transmitted audio is accompanied by a hum. This is overcome by moving away from the Pi 's psu.

I have updated the control panel software for the DV4 Mini and now have a hard wired ethernet connection to the laptop and it seems to be working much better. I will also be looking into the DV Mega with a Bluestack board for DMR and I'm contemplating getting both Fusion and Dstar handie talkies to complete the Digital station capabilities. 

Doing a spot of Raynet duty in June, covering the Grantham Carnival  and a proposed SES to commemorate the Queen's official birthday.

73 for now de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Further Rambling News

Another period of relative inactivity radio - wise. After replacing the soggy X510 and further messing about with Raspberry Pi's and a spot of PSK31 activity, there hasn't been much of note to report.

I recently participated in the activation of GB5ROC at Buckminster, a SES hosted by SKARS at the Britain on the Brink event at the former ROC post at Buckminster. Stewart (M0SDM) brought along his ex military Land Rover and 12m push up mast and Andrew (M0NRD) supplied a Yaesu FT-450D and I supplied the biscuits! We had a number of contacts and the weather was good to us and the day was a resounding success.

I can't let a month go by without a radio related purchase, this month's aquisition is a Yaesu MD-100 desk mic. It's possibly the best purchase I've made in a long while, superb audio reports and a much more comfortable operating position whilst coupled to the venerable FT-897D.

I'm presenting a talk on Internet Linked systems on Friday 6th May at SKARS - for details - and I will be demonstrating AllStar with my portable Micro Node.

That's enough for now, further updates as and when there's anything of note to mention!

73 de 2E0ENN

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Rambling up the Ladder

I had occasion to remove my X510 Collinear today, due to abnormally high VSWR readings. Not surprisingly, when I disassembled the antenna it was obvious that there was a sealing problem. The antenna comes in three sections and the central element runs right up the middle of the fibreglass enclosure. Each fibreglass section screws together with an 'o' ring to seal the joint. Where the fixings to join the section are, the void around the fixing is sealed with an epoxy resin. On inspection, the resin had separated on both joints and was allowing water ingress - hence the high VSWR. The inner element was saturated and the N connector also had water present.

I have taken the antenna apart and it will be stored until it's dry but I won't be reinstating it. It's not a Diamond item, I went for the cheaper alternative, and the quality shows. The trusted X50 is now on a long (6 metre) pole and the base is about 30ft from the ground. It works much better than the X510 ever did, even when new, so it's staying where it is.

As I write this, I'm sat in the shack, bemoaning the lack of any activity on any of the bands. I'll have to put a few calls out.....

73 de 2E0ENN

Monday, 4 April 2016

Updated Ramblings

My experiences of setting up a node for AllStar have prompted a fair bit of testing and a little code writing, and my latest project - a mobile hotspot. I downloaded and installed the Asterisk image and wrote that to a 16 gig SanDisk micro SD card and uploaded it to my Raspberry Pi2. Software sorted, I then drove a 90 mile round trip to collect a modified Baofeng 888, hard wired to a modified sound fob, which interfaces with the Pi. Hardware sorted. Initially the Pi has to be connected via an ether net cable and Putty (an SSH client) is used to set up the configuration to run the node. All fine so far. Then I had to go into the network configuration file to find the wireless connection to my mobile phone hotspot. After countless visits to Google to find out how to get into the config files, I eventually managed to set up the connection, unplugged the ethernet cable and did a re-boot of the Pi. On re-booting, the Pi did indeed find my phone and I then proceeded to set up the audio on the node. Having set everything up I retired to my much missed bed and left the mobile installation for the next day. Using a 12V to 4.5V adaptor to power the BF-888 and a 2A USB supply for the Pi, I found a convenient spot in the dashboard to install the Pi and the interface and another spot to locate the radio. On test, the initial verdict was that it was all working as it should and I undertook a journey to test the mobile capability. I used the dual band mobile radio installed in my car to activate the node and was informed that there was massive over-deviation. So, I switched to another Baofeng handheld and tried again, this time ensuring that narrow deviation was selected. One user reported my audio as "too loud", another said "too quiet", yet another said "quiet and then loud" and a final operator described it as "just right" - quite which report was accurate is debatable but it seems that individual opinions vary greatly.

Problems continue to plague the DV4 Mini - this time it's software issues. I recently got hold of a Windows tablet, to be able to use the dongle when away, and I downloaded and installed the software and it worked perfectly - in fact it worked better than with the laptop, perhaps due to the tablet having a quad core processor, whereas the laptop only has a dual core. All worked well for a couple of weeks until the software started causing issues. When booted, the DV4 control software initiates in DStar mode, when changing to DMR mode, an exception occurs which closes DV Serial and connection to the dongle is lost. A look on the official software download site proved fruitless as all previous versions of the software had been removed, so rolling back the software version was out. I can't be bothered with it at the moment, so it will remain where it is until I can forgive it's shortcomings. Recent developments with the DVMega project have resulted in a software update which enables connection to the DMR network, using Bluespot software. I think this will be my preferred method of connection in future. In the meantime, I can still use DMR in the car, by utilising the facilities provided by GB7RR - this entails a short drive (about half a mile from home) but that isn't really a big deal to me.

I have experienced a noticeable increase in the VSWR with my X510 Collinear. I initially suspected the feeder but I think there might have been an amount of water ingress into the antenna. With the high winds, the aerial has swayed about a little, and I wonder if that movement has allowed the water in. I will take it down at the weekend and replace it with my X50 - this time on a six metre pole on the T&K brackets on the side of the house. I would think that the shorter length will eliminate any flexing in the wind and, although the antenna has less gain, the increased height shoud improve performance. I will replace the feeder as a matter of course, so I will hopefully have a correctly functioning V/UHF set up again.

The latest radio to be added to the collection is another Kenwood TM-G707, bought second hand from a local amateur for a very reasonable price. I already have one, indoors in the shack and when this new (to me) one came up I jumped at the chance to install it in the car. Receive audio is superb, as is transmit, and I find Kenwood equipment to be particularly well suited for mobile installation.

I really need to stop spending on radio for a while - I could do with saving up for a Yaesu FT-817 for portable use in the upcoming Summer season - I still have the Ampro 40m Whip.

Well, I'll leave it there and until next time - 73 de 2E0ENN

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Internet Linked Systems - An Introduction

There are quite a few systems that employ Internet Linking for International coverage. EchoLink, AllStar and IRLP are all available to Licenced Amateurs worldwide and may be accessed either directly, using a node or computer or by an Internet Linked repeater.

EchoLink is perhaps the longest established system and has thousands of users all over the globe. When you register for the service, you are given a node number, which is your identifier for the network. The concept is very simple - find a user/link or conference and connect to it in order to make contacts.

There are two ways to connect :

As a User with a PC.
The PC is connected to the EchoLink server and you use the sound card to make the QSO. Simply connect to the user you wish to communicate with and using the keyboard (usually the space bar) as a PTT with the on board mic and the PC speakers for audio. There is also an Android App for use with a smartphone or tablet.

The other way to connect is as a SYSOP, which involves using a node radio connected to the computer with an interface, which in turn is accessed with another radio (usually a handheld).

AllStar and IRLP are accessed in similar ways with only subtle differences. All methods are accessible via a repeater that is suitably equipped, Repeaterbook is a great Android App for finding a repeater to use. Access is gained by entering DTMF tones for various functions.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Broader Ramblings

Here's a brief review of the Broadnet BN01 handset and the Broadnet system in general.

The handset is typically Chinese in manufacture and operates on a trimmed down version of Android 4.4. As a phone it is adequate in so much as it was never designed to be a smartphone, however I run EchoLink,  Zello and Broadnet with no issues at all. Major apps such a Facebook will probably run but the screen and keypad may not be to everybody's liking.

Audio quality either through the speaker or earpiece is very good, with a loud output so ideal for outdoors or noisy environments.

Broadnet is a Voice over Internet PTT system, akin to the Airwave system favoured by Government agencies and the police here in the UK. It is available for download via Google Play for all Android devices and is free of charge for Licenced Amateurs after submitting a registration. All the features work with a smartphone or tablet, with the exception of the Broadnet/AllStar link, which requires a further registration and the Broadnet BN01 handset  (access to AllStar is not possible with the Android app).

Audio quality is superb - clear and reliable comms, providing you have a good data or wi-fi signal. Peer to peer calls and text messaging are available as well as group calls. There's not much else to say about the Broadnet system itself except to day that it works extremely well.

The BN01 handset is a little pricey. It has a PTT button and a pseudo antenna on top but it is essentially an Android phone with a PTT button. It has a conventional keypad as well as a touch screen. The touch screen is a little too small for exclusive use but I find using a combination of touch and key pad operation works sufficiently well. The screen resolution is poor but again, adequate for the purpose. The device has two SIM slots, SIM 1 being the 3g capable one with SIM 2 being GPRS only. SIM 1 is a standard sized slot and SIM 2 is micro SIM. The camera is disabled but I would think that it could be enabled with a software tweak. There is provision for a micro SD card so it gives extra storage, should it be needed.

The AllStar link is provided by a third party operator and utilises their server for access. There have been issues with this service, which is provided by an Amateur in his spare time as a service to other Amateurs, but it is now running very smoothly. The UK Net is a channel exclusively available to Amateurs and standard Amateur Radio operating procedure is observed.

I'm having immense fun with this handset and the Broadnet service and I also find it all very rewarding. There is almost constant activity on the AllStar UK Hub, so there is always someone to talk to and the regular participants are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and have tons of patience - new operators or those un-used to the system are welcomed and guided in a non-patronising manner.


The handset is pricey, but of reasonable quality. The Broadnet service is not without it's glitches but works in a generally stable way. The AllStar link is good, although the guy who hosts it is often too busy to attend to problems - but he does get round to sorting things out eventually (he is an amateur, has a day job and provides this service free of charge).

My advice is to try out the Android app first, then if you want AllStar? buy the handset (that's what I did and I'm glad I did).

73 de 2E0ENN

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Newbie Advisory Ramblings

Having been Licenced for two years now, I thought it would be good to share some of the knowledge I have gained, to assist anyone new to the Hobby.


A reasonable radio is always a good start. There are lots of Far Eastern offerings but I would advise a radio from either Yaesu, Kenwood or Icom. The cheaper options may look tempting but reliability and build standards are not great - better to pay more and get a decent radio to start with. If you just want VHF and UHF you will need something equipped with CTCSS for repeater access and preferably a DTMF microphone.

You will need a decent PSU to power it. Check the radio handbook for current requirements - my Icom IC-E208 delivers 55 watts maximum on VHF and a 15 amp PSU is recommended. My advice is to use a good PSU with a 30 amp output in case you want to power a higher powered radio, such as my Yaesu FT897. Current draw on that radio at 50 watts is around 15 amps, so a 30 amp PSU will cope.

Antennas - for VHF and UHF gain is important as the signals are line of sight so height is equally important. A good collinear, up as high as possible is the answer. HF antennas are a different matter - depending on your location, an end fed wire might be useful, although an off centre fed dipole works very well but room is needed for installation.

A good SWR/Power meter is a good addition to the shack (suitable for the frequencies you use) and one for HF and another for V/UHF, or a combined one would be needed. An antenna tuning unit for HF work would be needed, unless your radio has one already built in. More technical equipment (such as an oscilloscope or frequency counter) is not vital although useful when conducting maintenance or building projects. An antenna analyser is also useful for fine tuning those antenna projects or for diagnosing problems with existing antennas. A dummy load for testing purposes is also a worthwhile purchase - make sure it is rated for the power output and frequencies you intend to use. Very important is a quality multimeter for checking current,  resistance, voltage, reactance and capacitance - many are available and are reasonably priced.

Feeder for the antenna is a major factor. Thin coaxial cable such as RG58 is only really suitable for short runs (a couple of metres) or mobile installation, due to the amount of signal loss. RG8 is less lossy but something quite thick (and relatively inflexible) like RG213 is best suited for longer feeder runs. Whilst on the subject of feeder, it's only as good as the connectors on the end. Always go for the best connectors you can find.

That's about all you need to know to get started. The rest you will learn as you go along.

Before you pick up the mic for that first QSO, spend some time listening. You will soon pick up the correct transmitting procedure by listening in to QSO's and your style will develop. Keep your overs reasonably short to begin with and as you build confidence you will be able to "ragchew" like a veteran!

Most of all, refer to your Foundation Licence Training and the books that you used - there is invaluable information and there will always be someone on air to guide you. Most, if not all, operators will recognise a Foundation call sign and will be happy to point you in the right direction - that was what I found when stumbling over words and thinking of things to say. Keep a pad and pen by the radio and make notes of call signs and details so you can refer to them during your QSO.

There you have it - a brief guide to setting up a basic station and remember HAVE FUN!

73 de 2E0ENN

Monday, 18 January 2016

Antenna and other Ramblings

I just thought I would show you the current antenna arrangements at home.

The main HF antenna is a 7.6m end fed wire, utilising a 9:1UN-UN. it's suspended at 6m agl on two fibreglass poles, in an inverted L format, due to the lack of space in the garden.

The main U/VHF antenna is an X510 collinear, the base of which is around 7m agl. It's 5.4m long and has massive gain.

Attached to one of the poles, via a right-angled bracket is an NR770 dual hand mobile antenna, complete with ground plane kit. This is used for local comms on U/VHF and, unbelievably, has an almost flat SWR on both bands.

For mobile U/VHF use I have an SG7900 Super Gainer dual band antenna. Ideally I would have drilled a hole in the roof and "hard mounted" the antenna but the design of the roof won't allow that, due to a feinforcing bar across the middle of the roof. I have it mounted on a triple magmount and it's as solid as a rock.

For Mobile use of DMR I have another dual band antenna mounted at the rear.

The radios used are :

Yaesu FT 897D with the wire and X510
Icom IC-E208 with the NR770

Kenwood TM-G707 with the SG7900

Connect Systems CS700 with smaller antenna.

Regular readers will know of my interest in Internet Linked systems. I operate a SYSOP EchoLink node, using a Baofeng handheld, ZLP Minipro interface and a Lenovo Windows XP laptop. I have a number of handhelds to "excite" the node, but I tend to stick with an Alinco DJ-V57 or my trusty Yaesu FT60.

For DMR I use a DV4 mini stick, connected to a Samsung Windows 10 laptop and to "excite" I use either a TYT MD380 or Hytera PD365. The MD380 is also sometimes connected to the X510 to access GB7RR DMR repeater.

I have a new toy in the shack, it's a Runbo X1 mobile phone with a fully functional 70cm transceiver and I can access GB3GR, GB3FJ, and GB3LC from home but it is most often used to excite the EchoLink node.

A quick rundown of the operating conditions, hope it was interesting.

73 de 2E0ENN

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Ramble On

The first week of the New Year is upon us and, following a very mild few weeks, the WX is turning decidedly more chilly.

South Kesteven A.R.S. held their AGM, and I'm pleased to say that I was retained as Club Secretary, as was Andrew in the post of Chairman. Two new Committee posts were created and filled by Stewart and Konrad. Exciting times ahead for the Club, with a new club base and shack and an in house training facility set up for all Licence levels.

Speaking of training, I intend to study for my Advanced Licence and have set a goal to attain that by the end of 2016. With hard work and sage guidance I should be in with a chance.

The seasonal festivities have curtailed much in the way of radio - not much to report, other than the DV4 Mini is still (surprisingly) working well.

I'm becoming more confused with developments in the word of DMR, the politics and arguments continue to blight an otherwise interesting arm of the Hobby. As soon as I get used to one change, along comes another and it's getting hard to keep up. I might just lower my involvement until the situation stabilises, then it will be a bit more pleasurable.

I've given up on the AllStar node project as there is a lot of difficult stuff to do to get it to run properly and my knowledge of Linux and the other software involved, let alone the Raspberry Pi, is not enough. I still have the Pi and a USB sound card fob so I'll have to have a think about how I'm going to use it radio-wise.

I've started using a couple of VoiP and PTT apps with my PC and smart phone. Broadnet Systems run a PTT app which is free to use for Amateurs. I also use Zello with a Bluetooth PTT mic and they effectively turn your device into a kind of walkie talkie. Check them out as they can be fun to use.

73 2E0ENN