Monday, 21 April 2014

A long break and some QRP fun

It has been a while since the pressure of modern life, a demanding job and a young family have allowed me to do much radio let alone blogging. I thought it was about time I updated and put some information online. 

It has been a busy month here with various things going on but I promised myself I was going to crack my morse enough to get me on the air. It has been tough and slow going so far but the push has meant that most days recently I have been making at least one CW contact. I had made a couple of contacts with W1AW/(portable) stations as QRP contacts but all I had to do was listen for my call, 599, TU. Not much of a challenge at all really, but, it was enough to get me on the air. 

My next mission was a proper contact with exchanged information. My very first CW contact of this kind was with IZ1POZ. Sadly half way though the exchange his batteries failed on his FT-817 so Paolo emailed me to assure me my morse was ok and that it was his fault we didn't fully complete the QSO, although we got as far as a basic exchange and RST. 

Paolo very kindly sent his QSL card, many thanks Paolo. 

So where next? Well I have been trying to find the time to make one or two contacts or at least listen to some CW to keep up my level so far (not great by a long shot)

Today I had an idea at the same time as the sun was shining, I went into the garden, cut the grass, tidied up and set up my FT-817 on the table with a painters pile and half wave wire antenna. It was fun to have a quick QSO with Miro OM7LM on 17m who gave me a 579 report using 2.5w from internal batteries. 

Below you can see my setup in the garden. 

Keep listening on the bands for some slow and dodgy CW from me and please have patience as I try my best to improve steadily. I hope to make it a much more regular thing now. 

Many thanks to anyone that has worked me and your patience with my 12wpm and my far from perfect copy of your TX CW it is truly appreciated. 

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 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.