Saturday, 20 August 2016

Bringing new life to my station - SDRPlay & SDRuno

I have decided to explore the world of SDR and my first venture into this arena was with the rather sensibly priced SDRPlay RSP at £127.20 including VAT and delivery.

I have been really pleased so far with my experience and even more so that I have been able to sync the new RX up to my existing FT-1000mp Mark V setup to give me a band scope and additional RX using SDRuno software and the Ominirig connection server to share the CAT data with the radio. 

I have already been asked how I have setup the station so produced this graphic to help explain how I set it up. The PC is nothing amazing and is an old cast off from a family member as I usually am a Mac user and wanted a PC to run some basic software in the shack. 

I have made use of the RX antenna in and out from the FT-1000mp Mark V to split the RX and return it to the main radio and send half to the SDR. OK there are some losses but then they are marginal and can be turned on and off using the RX switch on the front of the Yaesu. It allows a band scope on the SDR and also benefits from the same band pass filters used in the main radio to help the front end cope a little better.

Initially I am happy with my results and the outcome, I am also very happy with the added functions to my aging radio setup. 

I hope to get some videos done once I get to grips with the software to get the most from the performance. So far I have found it very good on weak signals for QRP reception. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

RSGB field day changes 2017

I have been reading September's Radcom this morning and read that there are changes due to RSGB field day contests. I personally would like to see catagories for small stations and short term ops. Say 8 hours and QRP and battery efforts with additional points for the hard time these stations face. Perhaps similar to the catagories used in ARRL field day. 

I am appealing for QRP users who are RSGB members to support my thoughts and see if we can get a section more supportive of the types of operation we do. 

Here is a copy of the email I sent to Steve  White G3ZVW

Dear Steve, (

I have been reading about changes to field day contesting and would like to offer my input as a keen field day opp who has given up going out and about. 

I would like to suggest provision in both contests for small short term stations rather like the ARRL field day with a score multiplayer for QRP and battery power alone encouraging individuals such as myself to head out into the countryside for 8 hours or so and join in the fun but be recognised by a score multiplier for the additional efforts required for a basic station making contacts. 

It's just a thought but I have thought for some time we need to be working more like the ARRL field day as it seems to encourage a huge number of small scale entries each year without the need for a major camp and team effort. 

I would like you to be able to pass this forward on my behalf having not been consulted because 2015 was a year I decided the current system was "boring" "restrictive" and "lacking imagination " 

I want to see a raft of low power fun style ops going out and being recognised in their own way instead of being bottom of a table that they don't really fit in. 


Alistair - M0TEF

[edit - I received this reply to my email...]

Hello Alistair

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail. I'm not a member of the contest committee, so I don't have a hand in making the rules, but I'm forwarding your message to the Chair of the HF Contest Committee (G4FAL). [ 
mailto: ]

vy 73

Steve, G3ZVW


I hope some of you will support and put forward any thoughts you have too. 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Oh eBay why do you tempt me so...

I was casually looking through eBay looking at the QRP gear and I discovered a Youkits HB1A that was going very cheap indeed. I have a HB1B but thought about a second radio because they are great fun and easy to use. 

All things went well and the radio became mine for almost a quarter of what you would expect them to fetch. Two downsides though, It was from a silent key and had the knobs missing but for the price I thought I'd take a risk. 

The risk was a risk too, the radio turned up and was low on RX and TX power, I opened up the rig and saw instantly what the issue was. The marks of burning gave it away instantly. 

Those of you with a trained eye will spot a rather sorry looking 10uH inductor. Heaven knows what had melted it away but replacing it has left the rig working fine and outputting full power on TX too. Thankfully I had a well stocked spares shelf and a steady hand. I also had a couple of dodgy left over knobs from other projects so please excuse it's Frankenstein's monster type features. 

Was the risk worth it, this time yes it was and I am lucky enough to have a radio that was cheap enough for me to start experimenting and modifying in the near future. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Portable preparations

I have been really enjoying working with the you kits HB1B and have used it most days to make a QRP CW contact by the bedside station or out portable. So far I've been using a 12v SLAB as a power source but it has proven to be a pain to carry around with such a weight. I emailed you kits to see if I could buy an internal battery pack and was told this is not possible because of shipping issues. What to do? Make my own...

I found lots of great information online and set about making a 18650 lithium battery pack to put inside the rig but the more I learnt about balanced charging the more I felt this should be a consideration so I also purchased a small PCB from an eBay seller that allowed balanced charging and voltage limit on discharge too. It was not hard to make a pack that charged nicely from 12v and allowed me to fit the whole thing internally. 

Please ignore my messy bench but here is the pack and control board as I soldered all the connections up. I did a dry run on the bench and all looked good so I put the pack inside the HB1B and started to make contacts around Europe. The pack can provide as much as 12.6v at full charge. 

All was good but I needed to make going portable easier, I wanted a nice Peli case but couldn't afford to spend that kind of money on a whim so went looking for what I had stored away to "make do." I discovered an old case that once held spares for my aquariums and soon stripped it down to basics and set about looking for any foam I may have laying about. This is naturally where being a hoarder helps and soon enough I found some suitable foam and plastic to make inserts and set about filling the case and making a secure holder for my basic portable station, the radio, key, charger, ear buds, coax, plugs and antenna. 

Here are a few images to show how I managed to cram everything into a small space and keep it secure. All I have to do now is get out portable and enjoy the summer. 
73 - M0TEF

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Video of the working Pixie 2 QRP CW radio on 30m

Below is a copy of the video I made showing how the 30m Pixie behaved in testing and how I modified it for the band. I have yet to test it better as conditions have naturally gone bad since it was complete. I did get a few reverse beacon network spots form Europe last night but nothing worth shouting about. I hope to have a half decent contact with it soon.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

More Pixie fun

I haven't been on my blog recently but that doesn't mean I have not been actively seeking more QRP adventures. I had been enjoying messing about with a Pixie 2 given to me by M0SIY when he almost died laughing at the strange chirping signal it produced. The good news was I was able to get it to play ball and started to modify the little rig to cover more frequencies with switched crystals and a ceramic resonator to allow me to cover more frequencies with the little gem.

The picture shows, left to right,my amplified speaker, 30m, 40m and 20m versions of pixies lined up next to the key. Indications on my meters suggest I'm getting 500-600mW from the rigs with 12v input voltage about 200-300mW with a 9v battery.

So during my trials I was enjoying the fact that the kits are so cheap that you can mess about with them until you can't find anything else to do with them but without adding any stress on the bank balance. I ordered three other boards, some inductors, crystals and variable caps and set about getting a pixie on 80m, 40m, 30m & 20m. I found that changing the crystals and adding a variable capacitor inline with the crystal was enough to get it working but I also needed to changed the pi output filter with differing values of caps and inductance but this is far from hard work and most rewarding for the efforts.

I haven't been able to make any contacts of value and have had a handful of Reverse beacon network spots but the real fun has come from throwing such simple rigs together and the knowledge that has been gained in the process of building VXOs and optimising the rigs.

The best outcome overall is the awesome fun I have had over the last few weeks messing about with the kits, the next stage will be to add an AF narrow filter for the CW reception to improve and to stop me listening to what feels like a whole band at once. 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

To the beach

My wife suggested we have a family trip to the local beach and I took that as an opportunity to put the new rig in my rucksack and see how it worked portable.

I took the HB1B, Palm mini paddle, 12v SLA battery, a multi band 40m EFHW design antenna and a 6m pole as well as all of the family picnic related kit. 

It was easy to find a spot out of the wind and set up, initially I thought something was wrong because of the lack of noise but it wasn't long before the signals on the band gave me confidence. I put out a CQ call at the 14.060 QRP watering hole and was answered by OH5LP and also worked HA0HH further down the band who was calling CQ and a decent signal to me. I didn't spend much time playing radio with having the family but did try the new station and work a few contacts. 

I took some video that I will try and edit together for YouTube but my early findings on this rig is that it is certainly a FB radio and just perfect for what I needed. I hope to get a few more portable ops done before I return to work next week. 

EDIT----- video link to YouTube

73 for now M0TEF.