Monday, 24 February 2014

Experimentation and the wonder of a wire and QRP

This weekend allowed me the chance to start experimenting and playing with the radio equipment that I own. 

I decided to rearrange the shack and get the FT-847 ready for some portable ops in the spring, as a part of that I wondered how it might perform on the attic dipoles so decided to move it to the bed side shack location. OK it is a little bigger than the FT-817 but it is only to experiment and will be moved ready for portable soon after experimenting. My very understating XYL hasn't complained yet but I did get "that" look that so many of us radio obsessed folk get when we are playing radio. You can see the temporary setup in the image. 


I was really pleased with the success of this radio on 2w SSB QRP operation. The RX on this radio is a little better than the FT-817 at this noise swamped urban location. 

On Sunday I was pleased to work a few stations on the 817 and the 847. My best was 6W/MM0NDX using the 817 at 5w SSB on 10m and the attic dipole. The second best was a nice QSO and not just a 59 With Dieter DL8NDD/M who was shocked at the 2w out from the 847 into an attic dipole on 20m for a genuine 59 report and a decent exchange. 
I am always pleased and a little surprised by how effective lengths of thin wire and 2w of power can really be in making communications over a distance. 

I have been very busy in my day job as a college lecturer and radio has had to take a back seat. Thankfully I have been able to make a few contacts this weekend. I hope as the weather improves I can make the most of going out portable. I may even start to progress on a little more with my CW. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

QRP contacts, DX and local QRM

I have been really busy recently with a mixture of work and family life. It is great to have a hobby but sometimes other things just stand in the way. This weekend however I got a sneaky few hours to visit a local radio rally to sniff out some bargains and then an hour or so to fire up the radio in peace.

I managed to work a couple of stations using QRP one on 12m (at 5w SSB) to Romania and another on 10m to SV5 group of greek islands (at 2w SSB) Both using the Butternut HF-9V. I then heard a good signal from PP5BS in Brazil, I settled in to try my best to work him, I kept the power low, I didn't want to work Brazil on higher power, I have done that before. Then it happened... The family returned and the house was filled with QRM in the form of children, laughing, playing, screaming, crying. I had to give up on the QRP DX, a reminder that this hobby is a part time pursuit and that Murphy's law always puts family before decent DX opportunities. I did however add a couple of countries to my log for this years QRP challenge netting me a few extra points. I was happy to swap the microphone for hugs and kisses from my children returning after a trip out. I will have to hope the DX returns later in the week.

Maybe 2014 is the year to look at alternative locations for my shack, maybe converting one of the small outbuildings here so that I can have my dedicated man cave and radio shack to retire to free from stresses of daily life.

My aim is to work a few more QRP DXCCs this week to make sure I am on form with my score for our little QRP challenge. I have got a few others from my local club to compete with this year and they are already making headway on their own QRP achievements.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

My first CW contact... and using QRP too

Last night I went to bed and checked my twitter feed to see that MW0IAN had reported working W1AW/4 on 40m CW. I thought I would have a listen to the frequency that Ian had posted. Sure enough they were there and a good signal to me. I only had the FT-817 at the side of the bed into the attic dipoles mentioned earlier in the blog. I felt it was time to have a go and a simple 599 TU type exchange would be easy enough not to mess up. So I plugged in the palm mini paddles and had a go, sure enough first call with 5w CW I was receiving a M0? after another two sends of my call I received my report and thanks.

So it seems 2014 is finally the year to be brave enough to have a go at CW and even if I make mistakes I am taking part. This has certainly spurred me on to make more of an effort to get my CW going this year and I will make every effort to make a few more simple contacts before I start to progress on a little more. The bonus is I do not wake the house calling DX stations late at night.

There is one slight lie here, this is actually my second ever QSO using CW but the first was with G0RQQ and quite a few errors over a 1 mile distance  and pretty sloppy on my sending and receiving. So technically this is my first solo CW contact without the help or support of a good friend truing me and supporting with text messaging and 2m FM. Still I am happy to make my first foray into CW a QRP DX contact. I am still buzzing and will be having another go soon.

This is the humble bedside DX station, of course the microphone now lives in the drawer. :)


Monday, 6 January 2014

The unofficial QRP challenge 2014 (Mark II) and the first DX of the year.

A new year, a new challenge. I have been talking with Keith G0RQQ about our QRP challenge moving on into 2014, we thought there should be some changes to our rules and point scoring system. We decided that in the spirit of including foundation licensees (10w maximum power here in the UK)  That our scoring system would begin at 10w maximum power and points awarded as the power reduces. The scoring is as follows. 10w 1-point, 5w 2-points, 2.5w 3-points, 1w 4-points, 0.5w 5-points. This will be awarded per DXCC for any mode or mixed mode contact. This is in the effort to include people no matter what mode they use. 

Today I had to have a go on the radio, as the Solar flux and Sunspot number both ascended the 200 mark, I fancied seeing what QRP could do. I got home from work and had a go at working a few stations. I was on 15m SSB waiting to work Rol, K3RA when I thought I might have to use the full QRO of 10w. There was a large pileup and lots of stations calling him. He was a 59+ signal to me using the MQ-1 mini beam and the FT-847. I called once using 10w and he came back to me, surprised to hear I was using 10w QRP and complimented my genuine 59 signal. Rol asked me what antenna I was using, he said I was a lot louder than many other stations and was impressed with the 10w. I maybe should have dropped it to less for the points, but still not a bad QRP effort for the start of the year. I think there is a chance that Rol's antenna was doing the work based on the image on his qrz.com page. It looks like he was using a Step-Ir at some hight.

I will be keeping an eye on solar conditions to see if I can catch any more openings while the numbers remain high. I would love to see 6m open on F2 for 6m QRP adventures.

Watch this space for more details as we finalise things, we may even start the unofficial challenge trophy. Start logging your QRP contacts and join in with us throughout 2014.


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

QRP DXCC Count 2013

I know the year is not quite over yet, so things may change a little, but I have been working out some stats on this years operating at the M0TEF station.

This year I have worked 79 DXCC entities, 44 of them worked at 5w or below. That makes 56% of my countries count over the last year have been made by using QRP. In reality though I worked several countries several times on different bands all at QRP or QRPp power levels. My best DX was working VY2TT on 10m with 500mW SSB. This effort has come from very casual operating and a relaxed style using the radio every now and again to make the score. I wonder what could be done with a really solid effort and schedule of operation, let alone better wire antennas with decent gain.

I had a quick total up of my points based on our unofficial QRP challenge. I have a grand total of 81 points and at this stage Keith G0RQQ has 94, I have been beaten because there is no way I can get that many extra points in one day with less than great conditions. I am not sure about Tim M6ZRT's score but I am pleased to see how well I have done with such low power. I put Keith's success down to his contacts made with 500mw for a 4 point score. Keith managed 35 out of 67 DXCC entities at QRP making his a 52% QRP effort. I think he has clearly won it on the bonus for lower power operation. I need to do more like Keith and work more at 500mw next time. Here goes with a slightly premature well done Keith as we wait and see what Tim has come up with.

Happy New Year, good DX and good QRP efforts. If you make one resolution let it be to listen out for those quiet stations, it might just be us QRP ops calling.

73 DE M0TEF ES HNY  .  .

Friday, 27 December 2013

Busy times and a Christmas break.

It has been a while since I have had the time or the enthusiasm left to post to my blog. There is something that happens in education as things enter the autumn time. I have been flat out with my day job of preparing lectures, marking assignments and general administration duties. This has left me with little energy to play radio, let alone any QRP activity.

The good news though is that working in education allows me a decent sized break over the Christmas period. The first thing I have done is to modify the shack slightly So that I only have the FT-847 on the bench for the time being. I have to get the FT-1000MP Mark V repaired for a minor relay fault on the band pass filters and I should make sure it gets done really. I am enjoying the simple operation of this radio and basic layout to my shack. I have at the most 100w and two antennas at present and it is working well when I get the chance to play. Most of the time the FT-847 is dialled up to just 2w output power.




Today is the first real chance I have had to turn on the radio for any amount of time following the mayhem of having a small family at Christmas time. Today I wanted to see if I could work anything extra on QRP to add to my total before the end of the year for the QRP challenge with M6ZRT and G0RQQ. I must sit down and work out my score, I have a feeling it will take me some time to check my logs though. (See the post on the QRP challenge.)

I have just completed a QRP SSB QSO with K0TT on 10m at 5w and it reminded me I really must add to the blog. Denny was a decent signal here, he was 59 peaking 59+10db but he was using a 5 element monobander with 800w. He gave me a 52 report but said i was perfectly readable and managed to break through a small number of europeans calling him at the time. It seems my little station is once again proving itself and providing me with the enjoyment that QRP radio seems to do.



I must make a small confession though and say I still have the Drake TR-7 under the desk and can connect this to the antennas easily. It isn't really part of the QRP shack but I like to use it on the low bands and this time of year that seems to be the band of choice once I am home from a busy day. As you may recall the Drake is not QRP but I have managed to have some interesting QSOs at a mediocre power level and have not had to result to putting the PA back in the shack. I have noticed though that the Drake has a RX that beats all of my more modern radios for listening on 160-30m, there is something very special about the way this radio works considering its 1979 vintage.

The next mission for me... I must get my CW going again and work hard to get on the air with it before I go back to work in the new year.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Time for a change... and the amplifier gets kicked out.


Today was that day we all have to go through but all put off as much as possible. The dreaded shack clear up, it had to happen and today was as good as any other day. Of course before I did anything I worked a station in Oman on 10m FM A41LD/ND, Waleed, oddly he was calling CQ but had no takers, it as nice to have a decent QSO with a DX station without having a 59 - 73 type QSO and moving on.

I started my shack clearing work by taking everything off the bench and emptying the small computer desk I use and then slowly built the whole thing back up, once it was done I noticed that the bands seemed to be poor despite them being much better before I did anything. It turns out I had some losses somewhere from a combination of switches and patch leads. I undid the whole thing thought up a new plan and started again.

Thankfully now it all works well and to test it I had a nice QSO with K8NY ( Bob) on 12m using the Drake TR-7 and Butternut HF-9V. The new setup has the Drake set up permanently in line with antennas and microphones and connected to its own power supply and ATU/antenna switch. The most important thing about this move is that the Drake takes up the space where the linear amplifier once sat. Yep, I finally did it and took the linear away ready to sell it.

While in QSO with Bob, K8NY, I mentioned my boredom with high power and easy QSOs, he said he had been thinking the same and although he has an amazing setup he finds no thrill in using it like he does to use his old radio into a G5RV antenna on 80m CW. We talked about QRP and simple setups for a while and I left the QSO challenging him to work some DX on 500mw from his FT-817 for a real buzz in radio, Bob said he may just take me up on the challenge.

The images below show the linear free shack ready to work some interesting stations, This is a very small and simple shack space, I hope that what I have keeps me happy because unless I buy a much bigger house or build on a extension this is going to be it for some time.