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.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Firing up the Drake TR-7 and training new amateurs

This morning I have visited the Lincoln Short Wave Club shack at Aisthorpe in the hope of infecting a few of the members with the QRP virus, sadly the shack was in use to check a repaired linear amplifier. No luck there to convert them to QRP then.

I got talking with Mark M0ZLE about his training sessions planned to get some trainees on the air for the practical part of their exams. I offered to make sure I could monitor their activity to call in should they struggle for contacts, as it was they created their own mini pile up of short contacts wishing the well with exams and encouraging their progress. I had a chance to discuss with them that low power can work. Here in the UK foundation licensees are restricted to 10w PEP and sometimes don't see that it can work as well as it does.

I had decided this weekend would be a chance to catch up playing some radio and relaxing from the stresses of everyday work. So far it is a success. Part of that was to fire up the Drake TR-7 for a longer test period after realigning it a few weeks ago. I got a report suggesting the audio was a little on the low side so I set about setting it up correctly, so far it seems much better now.

I am hopeful that I can squeeze in a few QRP contacts today but while I am testing the radio a little more I am on VHF waiting to assist the trainees again. With some luck and effort I hope to be posting a great success story about another good QRP contact, or if very lucky several.

For now the Drake running barefoot will have to satisfy the radio requirements. QRP activities to follow.

Monday, 4 November 2013

RF problems - The cure... QRP

I have had a rather boring weekend stuck mostly at home feeling sorry for myself since my youngest daughter passed me her cold. I did however get a chance to enjoy some time playing radio.

I worked EA3EVL on sunday morning on 12m using 2w. When I exchanged my conditions and power output details with Pablo I was met with a comment of very fine business with 2w QRP for a 59+10 report. Now I wish I had got around to building the attenuators I have been looking at plans for. I am sure I could quite easily have worked him with 100mW or maybe even less.

My Sunday afternoon however was spent fault finding for RF problems at the shack of M0SIY, Simon is not really a huge fan of QRP and likes the dials turned full right most of the time. (Although I have seen him work several occasions QRP and, dare I say it, have fun.) Simon has a new installation at his place and we were trying to get something set up to reduce RF problems for him, we almost got there but his current setup seems delicate on 80m when there is more than 10w of power used. The good news was we did get him working on 40m and up ok using his (new to him) Tentec Orion - A nice radio but one that is large enough to require its own dedicated shack.

On the way home I received a message from Keith G0RQQ who asked if I would be able to do some on air tests to help him fault find distorted audio. To keep things short we found it... Keith had only gone and turned the power up above 5w! His indoor loop antenna was a little close to his radio - Another RF problem was on the cards. I will let him off because he was trying to work back into the area of Canada where he lived for so long.

It left me thinking after talking to Keith for a while about some of the advantages of QRP. It really seems that although it may be some recent good band conditions the low power doesn't seem to get in the way of making contacts. IT certainly never stopped me as a foundation licensee when all I had was the FT-817 and 5w max.

In addition and unexpected bill has made me consider the rehoming of my linear amplifier even more so, it has only been turned on once in the last 12 months, I think that means I don't really need it. If I actually get my CW skills honed to a competent level I can even take advantage of a better mode for QRP.

Final QRP thoughts, I am on a mission to get M0SIY to do some QRP even if it kills me trying. I managed to get Bob G7AVU working some QRP and with some good successes too. Go on Bob join us in the competition when we start it again in January.