Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cabo Verde, ahoy!

6m was absolutely running like a river this evening.  Armed with 'just' a 2 element quad and 30W for this band, I'm not exactly a big gun!

Still, I called alongside D41CV, managing a strong signal to him after a few calls.

At 4438km, D41CV is by far the furthest I've ever managed on 6m - not that I try very hard, or often.

As luck would have it, my daughter had just been doing some work about Cape Verde, so the radio signals got here interest, too!

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

An hour after (local) midnight.

I got up early, at around 01:00 UT this morning, in time to see if there were any noctilucent clouds about (there weren't).  Autumn is certainly around the corner, with the stars of the Pleiades now starting to rise higher into the eastern sky.

So I turned the HF radio on to 14MHz, to find the band very busy with FT8 signals.  I tried a CQ, and soon found the band was open to pretty much the entire globe. 

In the few minutes I operated, I managed to get QSOs with V31DL (Belize), plenty of US stations, including Puerto Rico, and even the mighty VK7XX.  That felt very much like autumn HF conditions, or perhaps, if we are lucky and the forecast is correct, a continuing increase in overall solar activity.

Always worth a 'CQ'!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Amateur radio and permissions for antennas.

For many years, I've been trying to represent amateur radio in Wales in relation to planning permissions for antennas and towers.

This is not an easy or short-term task!  It is not made easier by the admission from the RSGB a couple of years ago that they have abandoned any attempts to change the planning system to help radio enthusiasts.

This was a very big surprise to me, because the ability to put up an antenna at one's home is fundamental to pretty much everyone who wants to be a full operator or SWL.  The RSGB, it seemed to me, were ignoring the foundation whilst building a house on sand.

To add insult to injury, when I pointed out many changes within the Welsh planning system, the RSGB responded in a very irritating and silly way.  It couldn't tell me how many times it had contributed to consultations by the Welsh Government on planning.  But it did get annoyed with my questions and called Cardiff to see whether the rules were really any different to those of England.

This call was merely an attempt to say 'look, lad, there are no real differences, and you should shut up!'

Even if the rules are similar (and they are, every day, increasingly different) to those of England, the fact remains that the RSGB has not made any meaningful - indeed any - input into the various changes underway in Wales.

One change that has been developing in favour of the commercial telecomms operators in Wales is an allowance for them to both increase the height and width of their masts without consent.  This now extends even into protected landscape areas.  Already, commercial telecomms operators can install masts without consent in many cases.

Big TV antennas were ubiquitous in earlier times - as this 1954 image shows. (C) Paul Townsend.

But this generous flexibility that helps the commercial telecomms operators does not extend to the amateur operator.  No, we poor folk are only permitted two antennas no larger than that required for TV reception.

Of course, up until the late mid 1980s, a TV antenna in the UK was actually much larger than today's UHF versions.  They were often phased dipoles or simple beams, with a lower reception frequency of 45MHz - a bit bigger than a 6m beam.
The modern maximum antenna size that doesn't require planning consent.  Tiny, compared to previous times.

So, it was once the case that big TV antennas were permitted development, either by law or by non-enforcement.  Since the mid-1980s, the law changed - seemingly without any input from the RSGB, that dramatically reduced the permitted size of an antenna on a domestic building.

This is not representing the radio community!

I've read another 60 pages of planning change proposals from the Welsh Government this morning.  I am not sure how many pages the RSGB has read, nor how many representations, if any, it has made.  Well, I made my own response, anyway.  I also invited EURAO to consider involving itself with campaigning for better conditions for the amateur operator, which I think would instantly make EURAO both very relevant and very popular!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Welcome to Britain, Donald!

Words are not needed.  Tomorrow, this baby will fly above Parliament.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Special events...

Over the past couple of weeks, I've run two special event callsigns.  One (GB0NLC) was to celebrate the annual noctilucent cloud season, and the other (GB8RAF) marked 100 years of the Royal Air Force.

Unlike some of the more obsessive types in radio, my interest in operating special event calls is not to gather thousands of QSOs in the log.  Rather, it is the satisfaction that at least some of the people calling in have taken an interest in, and perhaps learned a bit more, about something otherwise they would not.

Although noctilucent clouds are perhaps a little niche, GB0NLC attracted a lot of interest.  With NLC often occurring at the same time as summertime Es, I was happy to operate quite a bit on 6, 10 and 12m with good propagation.

GB8RAF proved even more interesting.  Most of us men who operate radio tend to have an interest in things military as well.  So it was no surprise to find an even bigger interest in this SES.  What was pleasantly surprising was the fact that so many German stations took an interest to call their old adversaries - though I was careful not to create a page for the call that was centred on aggression per se.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Excluding others...

Even more exciting than the latest, light-speed developments in our Brexit politics today is this announcement from the RSGB on Twitter:

I'm afraid I have very little to say to contests, let alone 'elite' contests, mostly because they seem to be the preserve of the compulsive-obsessive, and hardly ever seem to include women.

I had never heard of this contest, and was irritated to see it is an exclusive, invitation-only event.  Looking at the Wikipedia entry for the contest, there is indeed no obvious mention of any women featuring in any of the several years' worth of 'winners' - if they are, in any meaningful sense, winners at all.

Of course, highlighting this to most of the radio community is like inviting someone to punch you in the face.  Nobody sees the lack of women or younger participants as remotely a cause for concern, let alone the 'big gun' exclusivity of it all.

My view of amateur radio is very, very different from a lot of the mainstream's views.  I always strive to include, not exclude people, and show them how effective cheap, simple radio can be.  I have no time for huge Yagis, amplifiers and 48 hours of nonsensical points gathering.

Worse than my personal prejudices against the contesting fraternity is the very retrograde message that all this machoistic exclusivity sends out to those who might be interested in radio.

I have seen exactly this same kind of exclusivity emerge in amateur astronomy, especially in imaging.  The clear motivation in these astronomy 'closed clubs' is to ensure those who are best at self-promotion in the hobby media, and who are in a position to simply keep on buying the best, most expensive equipment, maintain their self-perceived importance.  It is, frankly, pathetic.

Anybody can create a world according to what they value by excluding the 'undesirables'.  I'm afraid this lot is merely creating its own 'elite' of people so that they can comfort themselves with that accolade.  I suggest we give them as little further attention as possible.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Chinese WSPRs

Last night, I obtained a special event callsign from the regulator, so that I can tell the world about noctilucent clouds through the medium of radio.

The new call is GB0NLC. 

Yet again, I had to contact to tell them to change the country flag from England to Wales, as entering Wales into the DXCC entity box doesn't have any effect on the flag displayed (it's based on the prefix instead, hence the confusion).  Strictly speaking, GB stations should be 'United Kingdom', not England, and everyone except the more extreme nationalists would be happy with that.  Still, it's better than being in Northern Ireland, a constituent of the UK, which typically, and rather sadly, has no flag displayed at all due to the intractable, centuries-long political sensitivities and conflicts there.

It's rather busy in the house these days, so this morning, I deployed the SES on 20m WSPR.  To my surprise, and for the first time in a very long while, I heard a station in China - BH3NVN, albeit at a weak -27dB S/N.

In the morning (04/04/18), only I and an OZ station heard the BH3 signal.  Two other stations heard it at 22:20UT the previous evening.  In the preceding 24 hours, about a dozen stations heard China, all but one in Europe.

Spots of BH3NVN in 24 hours prior to 09:10 04/07/2018.
The timing of reception of the BH3 signal doesn't show a very obvious pattern, other than being a daylight shortpath to Europe, with the signal disappearing in Europe between 18:00 and 22:20UT.  One Russian station heard the signal, as did one Chinese and one Japanese station.  There were no spots from anywhere else at all.

The return of the signal between 22:20 and about 01:00UT reveals propagation eastward to Europe along the 'greyline'.  The signal vanishes again until OZ picks it up an hour or so after local sunrise.

The BH3 station appears to have become active at around 11:40UT on 03/07/2018, when the first spot was returned from a nearby Chinese SWL.  Even though there has been plenty of common daylight between them since then, nobody at all has yet heard the BH3 signal in the USA.