Monday, 28 December 2015

New Zealand & Japan at dawn from EA5

I hiked early this morning back to the Raca summit near Castellon & Benicassim - IN90xb - acompanied by some family members. This place is 440m a.s.l. and has a great take off towards the East.



I set up an inv V dipole for 20m and my FT-817 + 50W Tokyo Hy-Power PA. I was QRV at 7.10.z and started calling CQ in CW. I quickly logged a few Europeans and shortly after Hide JH8JYV.

Panoramic view of Benicassim & Port of Castellon - El Grao

A bit later, I spotted Ian ZL2AIM in the cluster and turned the dial to hear him calling CQ. I called him. He was a 559 on my end with 400W and was struggling to copy me but thanks to his patience we managed to complete the QSO and exchange names and QTHs.
Around 8:00z I heard C5WP with a good signal on SSB, gave him a call a couple of times but did not manage to break the pile up.


Around 8.15z, we packed and hiked back to our QTH to have some breakfast.

73 de Angel ... EA5/M0HDF/P

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

QRP DX from EA5 - Castellon

I went to the local sierra near our holiday QTH in Castellon to operate at dusk yesterday.
I found an elevated place - 440m a.s.l. in IN90xb that overlooks the Mediterranean sea which is a 15min drive + 15min hike from home.



Operating conditions: I dialed around the 15m band to hear a few good signals from the States although there was a lot of QSB.  Ron K5KX and John AE5X in TX came back to my CQ call and had a couple of nice CW QSOs. Then I answered Dione 9H5BZ  on single side band in Gozo Island - IOTA EU-023


Equipment: FT-817ND and 15m band dipole on a 7m pole.



Views towards the Mediterranean Sea


Below it is a panorama view and elevation path towards the East from the operating position.


Heywhatsthat - elevation path towards East

I am planning to operate at dawn one of the coming days. I hope to hunt some more DX either towards the East or maybe VK / ZL over the LP.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

HeyWhatsThat....Terrain Elevation Mapping



I have come across this Terrain Elevation tool - HeyWhatsthat - through Mikel EA2CW and cut plots from my QTH 168m ASL + 11m above local ground - against some of the main azimuth headings for ham radio areas.

As I suspected, the terrain slopes down and favors North East, East and South East directions, but overall no obstacles in the terrain nearby once I clear the tall local houses around me.
Highest terrain @ 3Km West from here is 215m  ASL and overall 1.5deg elevation from the horizon.

Towards the South West, the Clents Hills - my local SOTA reference - can be seen.

Overall map - showing high terrain from my QTH. 
Azimuthal map from my QTH  IO92al - 52.46N, 1.95W - courtesy of NS6T

Japan - 32deg N/NE
Central Europe - 90deg E
Central Africa - 150deg SE
South America - 230deg SW
NA - East Cost - 285deg W/NW



Sunday, 29 November 2015

2015 CQ WW CW contest

I had a go at the CQ WW CW this year again -..One of my favorites and still going as I type .... with a few changes in the station/strategy from last year... and a lot of fun,

With a very small yard and being limited in time by family activities over the weekend, I opted for 15m monoband low power assisted category..

Rig: I used Tasa's YU1LM design & trusted G11 SDR + 50W PA (Tokyo HL-50B) recently acquired.

Other station upgrades include:
- Lenovo T430 laptop. Quad Core & 8GB RAM - powerhorse
- 24'' monitor
- Spiderbeam 12m HD fibreglass mast

GSDR & N1MM+ software

Antenna: homebrew dipole @ 11m above ground in inverted V - broadside is 340deg N/NE -160 S/SE - not ideal, but the yard here is very narrow.
I guyed the mast a 5m & 8m, but with the gusty winds and rain  this weekend it collapsed a couple of times, mainly due to the sharp angle of the guys in the narrow yard. No damage apart from some paint scratches around the guys clamp areas. So, some improvements required here for the next time.

15m band homebrew dipole. (Sotabeams Core)

Operating conditions:
I found the 15m band to be in very decent shape over the weekend. I operated on Sat afternoon for a couple of hours and Sunday from 7.30-10:00z and early afternoon.
The most enjoyable part was Sun morning, When I started at 7.30z the signals coming from the East to the end fire of the dipole were weak, so not much chance to work DX but as the Sun rotated, I started to pick up loud Japanesse stations either over the LP or distorted by the aurora.. and that was fun. It was great to see the S-meter jump from S2 [180Hz audio bandpass] to S9+40dB by the KW guns!

Top picks were ZT6, VK2, 9X0, 5H, ZD8 - normally very difficult here with my setup.
But as always, some escaped my reach,. 6V, VR2, KH0, a few Caribeams, and any thing 70deg from here far East.

I ended up with 6 Continents22 Zones & 67 Countries.


New DXCCs:
PrefixEntityMost-wanted RankFirst Worked
FMMARTINIQUE#2652015-11-29
COCUBA#2542015-11-29
HIDOMINICAN REPUBLIC#2622015-11-29
PJ4BONAIRE#2182015-11-29
ZSREPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA#2942015-11-29
9XRWANDA#1202015-11-28

Stats - SH5 software

Beam Heading - SH5 software

QSO map - SH5 software

VY 73 M0HDF

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

WAG


The preliminary results on WAG are out...

I am pleased with the outcome -- limited to 4.5hours on-the-air and 40 & 20m bands... as my G7FEK antenna does not hear much on 80m here

3rd in G-land in my category

Single operator, CW, low power

CallsignQSOsQSO-PointsMultiTotal Score
M0HDF166      498              46       22 908


WAG 2015 QSO map - M0HDF

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Conventions.... RSGB & upcoming GQRP

Last Saturday I visited the RSGB Convention at Kent Hills - near Milton Keynes. It was the first time I attended this event and I was joined by my neighbor & DXer Chris G3SJH.

We both enjoyed the various presentations we attended. This was my pick.

Contest Strategy - Olaf  Lundberg  G0CKV / M5E
From Hartley to Hardwin - Paul Darlinton M0XPD
Is 3dB worth a divorce - Glenn Johnson, W0GJ
PJ7PK IOTA DXpedition - Dave EI9FBB
Portable operation using the sea to give you a boost Richard Bone, M0UOO
Understanding HF Propagation  Steve Nichols, G0KYA 

I got a few ideas for my modest cw contest station and my next project (playing with Arduino and DDS shields) as well as learnt about the Chilton Ionosonde life data among other things...

At lunch time, I had a few minutes of CW with the special event station MB5RC  - TS990

Special event station: Kenwood TS-990, Cushcraft A4S Yagi.


Next weekend I am off to Rinsworth for the GQRP Convention and the Buildathon.
We will be building a regen receiver - the Urmston





Monday, 5 October 2015

Swapped RSGB21/28 contest for nice WX & /P VHF

Before the weekend, I had planned to spend a few hours on the RSGB 21/28 contest on Sunday.
On Saturday, I upgraded the 10m dipole to 100W with a new hombrew balun (Sotabeams cores) and was keen to give a go to the new 12m Spiderbeam HD mast I got at the hamfest ...hoping the additional height would improve my RX.

On Sunday, I switched on the rig on the G7FEK aerial at 7.30z - not a soul I could hear..
By 09:30z I had heard a couple of UK stations and a very few week Russians & worked one 4Z...

A friend called around that time and I decided  to join him at the Clent Hills for a walk & kite flying with our sons. I found today in the UK HF Contest Yahoo Group that the conditions were the worst remembered for a very long time..



When we stopped for a snack I gave 2m a quick go...
Best "DX" was with Ken G3LVP & Giles G0NXA near Cheltenham...we had a good chat. Both are also keen HF cw operators. I got very complementary reports on my VHF setup. I promised to publish some photos here.

2m vertical dipole @ 4m above ground

I was running a Kenwood TH22E [on low power setting - 500mW] & 2m full size dipole @ 4m above ground.

Kenwood TH22E

Thursday, 1 October 2015

KH2L TU

With more sunspots in view and increased Flux in the last few days, the propagation conditions seem at its best since the summer.




Many thanks to Edward KH2L ... who hanged in there with me (qsb & other callers I suppose) on various repeats to complete the qso.

I am happy to have logged 4 new DXCCs, all on CW 100W & G7FEK aerial @ 7m [buried in the garden] -

7Q7BP        Malawi          10m
AP2NK       Pakistan        15m
HL5BMX   South Korea  15m

I heard Z21MG again, but was not able to break through...


Monday, 21 September 2015

Vatican City in the log

I logged HV0A yesterday evening (120th in the most wanted ranking).
I was listening on frequency after one of breaks by chance - whilst playing with the filters on SpotCollector from DXLabs.
I heard the QRZ? ...got him in the log on the second call before the melee came in again.
He was a S9+30dB without the pre-amplifier.
Pleased with that!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Better conditions...

It seems that the conditions are starting to improve, after the crude and poor propagation conditions over this summer.

I worked 6 new DXCCs over the last few days. Jersey on 30 & 40m QRP, the others with 100W. I had a shot today at V26K but without success and heard HQ0T.

7Z1SJ              Saudi Arabia 15m ssb 100W
ZP2CW           Paraway        17m cw 100W
MJ/DL2JRM   Jersey            30 & 40m 5W
8P5A               Barbados       20m cw  100W
A71AE            Qatar              20m ssb 100W
HC2AO           Ecuador         17m cw 100W

Mikel, EA2CW also reported an opening today on 10m - working ZS, JW, 5R & 3B8.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Nasty QRN...

I noticed in the last couple of months a new QRN - they are carriers spaced 4Khz - present on 40, 30 and 20m. Not present on the higher bands.

14.000, 004, 008,... Khz
10.100, 104, 108,... Khz
  7.000, 004, 008,... Khz

Nasty stuff...I might walk around to see if I can track the origin...certainly is not generated by my house.

QRN 30m 



Friday, 4 September 2015

Winkeyer WK2 Serial kit

I was in need of an external cw keyer for N1MM & DXLabs. Following the advise from SOTA friend - Mikel EA2CW - I decided to go for the Winkeyer WK2 serial from K1EL. $42 delivered to the UK.





The kit is very well documented, the quality is good, the functionality is great and integration with N1MM and DXLabs (Winwarbler) is seamless.




To complete the project, I got an Altoids enclosure, 3 x 3.5mm audio sockets & a USB to serial cable. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Night SOTA activation in EA5

With the high temperatures of the recent heat wave, I decided to go for a night activation near our holiday QTH, accompanied by some relatives.

I started on 17m with the 9m random wire antenna at 21.00z. First response was from KC3RT followed by JH1MDJ. ... can´t complain about that!
20m SSB, 30m  & 40m CW were relatively quiet...not that many chasers in EU at that time of the day. Ignacio EA2BD helped me with the spots and tipped me off to go back to 17m to work YN7SU...

As the night closed in, the temperature started to drop and found condensation water all over the gear. As I was about to pack, I saw a message from Guru EA2IF on Whatsapp who just came home from celebrating San Fermin in his home town of Pamplona. I QSYed to work him on 40m before closing down.

As we were leaving, we stopped to contemplate the great views towards the Mediterranean Sea.


View of  Benicassim from SOTA summit Penya EA5/CS-018  - 23.00z

Great fun & contacts on my first night activation... & a must repeat!

73 Angel 
EA/M0HDF/P

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

QRV /P from the beach - EA5 Castellon JN00aa

I was qrv from the beach in EA5 Castellon - JN00aa last night

Temperature at 21.00z was 27C, pleasant with the sea breeze. The propagation accompanied too, with a lot of callers coming back to my CQ calls until about 21.30z

55 QSOs in about 2hrs of CW operation 

DX: JAx5, K4, UN & partial with FK8DD/M
I also heard Korea & Brazil very loud, but were too busy.

Equipment: FT-817ND, 1/4wave ground plane on at 7m pole.

I will be back tonight and possibly another day this week in the evening.

M0HDF @ JN00aa - 21.15z


73 de Angel EA/M0HDF/P

Sunday, 21 June 2015

G11 SDR - Multiband filter board

The multiband filter board for my G11 SDR has been sitting on the shelf for a few months. Last Saturday I decided it was time to get it assembled. The additional board provides Wideband receiver and TX on all HF bands + 6m.

G11 PCB
 The first job was to modify the G11 SDR, by removing a couple of relays, doing a small mod around the micro and fitting the jumper cables for the Low Passs & Band Pass filters.
Removing the relays it is a bit tricky, I used the a desoldering pump to remove the solder and help with pliers. The other tricky bit is to solder one of the BPF coax shield to the board on a very densely populated part of board.

Multiband LP & BP filter board
The filter board built is very straight forward, once all the capacitors were accounted for and sorted by value, the only time consuming job is to build the toroids,..lots of them & lots of loops... patience required here. I used the technique with the vice + a chinesse stick ... which saves a lot of time.

Filter board installed in G11 SDR
Once installed, the manual gives you some clues on how to check the band pass filters & low pass filters.

 G8FEK  BBGen - broadband noise generator
I used the G8FEK BBGen broadband noise generator as a noise source to check all the filter operation. In the first instance, I just looked at the S-meter for the 3 conditions explained in the manual - RX1 antena, RX2 antena & Board control cable off.

For fine tuning / minimising insertion loss through the filter board, I am planing to use Noise Figure Measurement software by VK1OD to measure noise power of the audio output - but I need first to investigate how the inductance of the various toroids impacs the pole, zeros & gain at various frequencies of the LP & BP filters.

Calibrating the G11 SDR multiband board

Finally, I checked the sensitivy of the receiver on 10m vs. my Yaesu FT-817 ND using the BBGen and NFM software by VK1OD with an additional laptop as the audio measurement device as per the application notes on G8FEK.

The G11 SDR has better sensitivity than my FT-817 by a few dBs on 10m (both pre-amp on). I need to check some of the other bands. I found this tool useful to look at the sensitivy specs/values

The final step was to calibrate the G11 PA to 10W output power on all the bands.

On the Air:
I got the upgraded G11 on the air on Saturday, as I went into 17m, I heard and logged K8CW on 17m cw. On Sun morning, 10m Es conditions were good and logged on SSB my SOTA friends EA2BD & EC2AG on SOTA summits.

73 Angel




Tuesday, 16 June 2015

First time on 6m

First time ever on 6m. Good conditions across EU on ES 6m this evening. Some stations coming at S9+
 I put up a vertical dipole on a 7m pole. 1.43m per leg + better qrp balun.
FT-817 5W

6m homebrew - vertical dipole

LOG
S59A cw
HA5JI cw
IU4CHE cw
IK1SOW cw
IZ5DRW cw
S52NR ssb
HA3LI cw
F4VPX cw
EA3AR cw


Monday, 1 June 2015

CQ WPX CW Contest - more new DXCCs added to the log

I dipped into the contest as an when I had time this weekend...(12hrs) with a few minor improvements on the antennas vs. last Nov CQ WW.


N1MM+ & GSDR
Equipment
G11 SDR
G7FEK aerial @ 8m with remote LDG RT-100 tuner
Two dipoles for 15 &10m on the ceiling (indoor) of the top floor looking E-W

All time new DXCCs:
D44AC     40m    21.23z
ZF1A        15m    13.29z  (indoor dipole)
MD4K      40m     21.34z
5H3EE      20m     19.06z
5K4R        20m     21.37z

This pushes my QRP DXCC worked count to 107.

Other long haul DX:
FY5FY      20m     20.37z
JH3AIU     15m     17.17z
B7P           15m     17.30z
KP2M       20m      09.50z
UP2L        40m       20.30z
A65BP      20m       19.37z

South Korea, Thailand, KL7, KH6 & a few others escaped my grip.

Worked all continents except OC.

QSO map
Submitted log score

Observations:
- 10m was pretty much dead
- 15m was variable
- 20m very very quiet during the mornings...and open almost all night
- I was surprised to work D4 on 40m, a bit unexpected. (30wpm)
- Not much hear from OC (VK, ZL,..) 
- The additional 2.5m additonal I elevated the G7FEK was well worth it, my RX seemed better.
- The optimised audio settings for the G11 (following a note from Tasa, the designer) worked pretty well.

Mikel EA2CW - SOTA colleague, also participated in the contest with 100W & a G5RV on a 6th floor of an apartment block in Bilbao. He gave me a call on Monda evening to discuss the highlights of the contest and had a good chat about antennas. He did about 1258QSOs & 1.8m points over 36hrs.
I aslo exchanged some emails with Tasa YU1LM - who achieved 858 & 818k points over 36hrs - QRP category with 84m loop antenna at 8-12m.Great effort...

I wonder how other QRPers did....?


Sunday, 17 May 2015

10m Vertical Dipole Array - brought two new DXCC QRP

I built a 2-element vertical dipole array for 10m on Friday. I am planning to use this antenna (at least the driven element) for the 10m SOTA challenge. I had the chance to test it during the field day of a local club on Saturday and with the good conditions bagged two new QRP DXCCs.

CW150ITU Uruguay cw - 10817km bearing 223deg SW
OD5PY Lebanon - cw - 3612km bearing 109deg E/SE
CX2TQ Uruguay - ssb - 10919km bearing 221deg SW [500W to a 3-el beam] - RST 52r  57s


Vertical Dipole array -10m - beaming SW

FT-817 5W next to the club rig

Design Details of the VDA
I heard of this aerials first from Dom M1KTA, He helped me with some of the design details and tips. I picked some other design ideas from the Force12 VDA aerials and some simulations with MMANA GAL.Some research around the web indicates that these antennas worked pretty well from the beach as proven by a number of DXExpeditions

2x 7m poles,
Driven element is a resonant dipole at approx 28.300Mhz - effective length 4.83m
Dipole centre is made of an expired frequent traveller card and betterqrp 1:1 current balun
Wire - 100m reel 7/0.2 rapid online
passive reflector is  1.05 of the dipole length  - 5.071m
distance between elements -1.5m

dipole centre: card, betterqrp 1:1 current balun


MMANA simulation


VK5JST - VDA measurements

Sunday, 10 May 2015

CQ-M contest & new DXCC QRP.

I had some time this weekend to dip into the CQ-M contest, working CW QRP.
~ 4hrs of operation bagged 95 QSOs & 31 DXCC prefixes. Best hour was 32 qso around the grey zone on Sat evening. G11 keyer was running at 26wpm. The training I have been doing with Morserunner paid off as I was able to pick up all the calls and exchanges with ease.


The contest brought a new DXCC - NP2X on 20m on Saturday around 20 UTC.

The latest N1MM+ software worked seamlessly with the G11 GSDR software. I used allSnap to manage all windows on my laptop screen (thanks to PE4BAS).


QSO map - CQ-M Contest - CW QRP Azimuthal view

Friday, 24 April 2015

SOTA CW Pile up training

With the growing number of chasers on SOTA, the CW pile ups are getting relatively busy, even on QRP. On my activation in HB9 during Easter, I had to go to split mode, and even so, it was challenging to pull calls from the "melee".

Over the last few days, I have been training pile up with Morse runner (free software), it has been good fun and you quicly get into it.
I set it up as follows:

CW speed 32wpm
Activity - max number of callers = 5
RX bandwidth = 300Hz 

If you add the various noise artifacts (QRN, QSB,...), it even gets more challenging.

The speed is not realistic for SOTA QRP, but it is good fun.

73 Angel

Sunday, 19 April 2015

EA-QRP CW Contest

I had a go at the EA-QRP contest on Saturday evening. Had a decent run on 20m between 19:00 & 20:00 UTC - calling CQ. 18 Stations made into my log. EA1, EA2, EA3, EA4, EA5, EA6, YU, OK, LY
On 15m and 40m did not hear that much.

I used my G11 SDR rig at 23wpm & G7FEK aerial. I was good fun to work QRP to QRP.

73 Angel /QRP

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Russian DX Contest CW

I dipped in for a while on Saturday - CW. This is how 40m looked like on my SDR panadaper.
60 QSOs with 10W CW. (not quite QRP)

N1MM & GSDR in action

Panadapter in a busy 40m band


Friday, 13 March 2015

RXing with JT65 & JT9

I have not used the JT modes for a while. I had a go on 30 & 40m last Tuesday evening and left it running overnight in RX.

Software: WSJTX with 4.4Khz G11 SDR filter for combined JT65 & JT9 decoding & 5W.
Aerial: G7FEK


RX

TX - 30m (green) & 40m (blue)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

BBGen - Noise is your friend!

I acquired a Broadband White Noise Generator from RFDesign (UK) last Sunday at local Wythall rally. - BBGen
Specs:
 - 100Khz to 5000MHz
 - Flat output with, typically ~24dB ENR (Excess Noise Ratio).
          -This equals to approx -90dBm/Mhz or -120dBm/Khz.
 - 11-15V input voltage with reverse polarity protection

Once I wired it up, I used it to do an approx. calibration on my SDR S-meter and compare the floor noise on the various bands, which seemed ok with the 30m slightly down. It will certainly come handy when I build the G11 multiband board, which I hope to kick off within the next few days.

I recently realized  that the S-9 signal generator I homebrewed last summer had the wrong spec of led diode (Vf) and gives a higher output than S9. My friend Micky is trying to measure the output for me with some pro equipment.


BBGen under the magnifier glass
I still need to configure the recommended software to take some measurements with my laptop soundcard, it will be an interesting experiment to compare the sensitivity my various radios.

NFM (Noise Figure Meter) software by Owen Duffy VK1OD



G11 SDR Audio improvements:
I am  pleased with the audio improvements I made recently - USB galvanic isolator and RG174 audio cables. (described here).  I got the subjective impression that I was able to hear weak signal (on the noise) way better than before, there is no hum noise whatsoever and the panadaper looks flatter/cleaner.