Friday, 14 August 2015

IOTA CONTEST 2015 with M9K

This year I promised Simon M0SIY I would join him at his station to run the M9K contest call for the IOTA contest. We had a great time running in the 100w section with two stations and basic antennas. We hope we have done a reasonable performance this year. 

Summer in the Outer Hebredies

My career as a lecturer means I have huge busy periods in my life but I do have a nice time during my summer break. This year I took the family with me to visit my favourite place, North units in the Outer Hebredies. It was a nice chance to do some portable operating and some fishing too. I must admit the QRP did not get  a chance with the poor conditions experienced at the time but I did have radio fun in SSB and CW. 
The sunset above was the view from the temporary shack window. What a great location with virtually no noise on the bands. 
I worked a fair few stations on 40m and proved popular with my worked all Britain WAB square. Thanks to all those that called me as MM0TEF from North Uist. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Frog Sounds QRP Transceiver video

I was asked to put a video of the small TRX online and here it is. I am sure many of you will be interested to hear what it sounds like on RX but I must apologise in advance for the recording from headphones. I do not have an amplified speaker to record from at the moment but I am looking into this and should have one soon to get better results.

I will detail the portable setup soon.

73 for now.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

CQ WW Result

I saw on Twitter that lots of stations were tweeting certificates from CQWW 2014 SSB contest. I went looking to check my results and was pleasantly surprised. I found I had a certificate for #1 England and to say I was happy with that is an understatement. The sad news is that my entry was QRO and far from my enjoyable QRP activities but still an achievement I am pleased of. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Frog sounds QRP transceiver fun and first QSO

Last night I had a chance to try my new Frog sounds QRP transceiver that I got from a Chinese eBay store. The unit cost me £21 and a few pence and I hadn't realised when I purchased it that it was pre built. I was hopeful it would be a kit but that is no huge loss. 

I am impressed by something so simple, the rx wasn't bad at all and the unit transmits well too. 

I had my first QSO with Keith G0RQQ which was just a few miles away but a contact all the same and wanted to test it out and make sure all was well. 

I found its frequency for TX was 7023.45 and te rx is approximately 3khz wide. I had a problem with the band being very busy and 4-5 stations all in the passband, something I think I can live with this for the simple and basic rig and low cost. 

I ran the tests using a PP3 9v battery and was pleased it all worked and had a stable tone too. The spec says it should put out between 1 & 2 watts from 9v but I have yet to test it with a reliable low power meter. 

My next step will be to try and work some DX with it if we can. 

Sadly the eBay price didn't include extra straight key skills so all I can do is apologise to Keith for my pretty poor sending. 

I have included a couple of images of front and back and hope to post more about my contacts with this great little machine. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

CW practice and building a workshop space

This weekend I have been busy with some radio related activities. 
The first thing I did was to work a few contest stations on CW to give away a few points and see how the station worked at low power and with the modest antenna. I was pleased to work several stations on 40m and 80m CW and gave away a few points. 
My second mission was to get my components sorted out into their drawers and boxes. 
It was tough work but was helped along by a nice glass of red wine and some CW going in the background to help me practice at higher speeds. 

I encountered a problem now though. I had sorted everything but the dining room table was full of my "radio junk" to quote my wife. 

Sunday saw me planning a family trip to the park and then returning home to the garden and to sort out te shed. Many months of junk had stopped me from getting in and out easily so I decided to sort it out. The result was a pretty nice little workshop to build and repair my hobby items. 

All in all this weekend was a productive one and now I have this great workshop space so long as it stays tidy. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Improving the FT-1000mp Mark V RX

I have been on a mission to make the most of the equipment in my shack, I didn't want to get sucked into buying more radios or very expensive new models to chase a very small improvement. I decided the next best thing was to squeeze every improvement I could out of my existing equipment.

I have been really pleased with the RX on the FT-1000MP Mark V and wanted to get all of the filters loaded into it. It has taken me some time but I have finally tracked down the full set of Yaesu filters to install in the radio and improve the way the RX performs when using narrow filters. I have already done the NB mod that is documented earlier on my blog. I have now managed to add the 2.0kHz SSB 500Hz and 250Hz in both the 8.2MHz IF and the 455Kz IF. I can assure you that having two 250Hz filters inline can really help improve the signal to noise for CW and for RTTY/Digital modes. The 2.0kHz filters in line really help with SSB but it does make the signal less pleasing to the ear and requires some IF or carrier point shift to bring back the lower frequencies to audio.

This lead me to searching the internet looking for any other modifications that could help, I started to read about removing the Inrad roofing filter to improve the RX in the presence of close by big signals.  I started to dig a little deeper and discovered that some people attributed this to the distribution of gain in the IF stages. I then discovered an archived email thread that discussed a solution. The article I found can be seen here. there is a link to files on a blog that discuss the W2AJI mod to reduce the gain on the Inrad roofing filter board and prevent additional and unnecessary gain. Essentially it involves swapping out two resistors on the roofing filter board to make things better. R5 is changed from 12 ohms to 15 ohm and R6 is changed from 220 Ohms to 150 Ohms. (You can see the links in the original email reflector link above.) I do not have any test equipment in my shack to test the results but I do know that the performance appears to have improved to me and I was able to make some comparisons with and without the Filter board in line. All in all I seem to have been able to squeeze a little bit more performance out of the RX in the FT-1000MP Mark V and I like the results more than having spent £3500 + on  a new transceiver. All it cost me was some resistors, a little time and some good eBay finds for the additional filters.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Going digital in the shack

I recently decided to spend some time working on the computer in the shack. Normally I use my Macbook Pro laptop computer to run my log and link to the radios here in the M0TEF shack but have had a number of issues with the interfaces and drivers since using newer OS versions.
It was time to find a solution and the result came in the form of a windows PC my father was not using any more. I very quickly asked if I could use it and put together a simple shack only PC. My children have started to make use of my laptop computer more and more for their fun and educational needs which prevents me form using it for radio at the same time.

I had an old version of HRD on a memory stick and very quickly set up a basic setup, this wasn't enough for me and I just had to make it look like my FT-1000MP Mrk V. When visited by M0SIY he made fun of me but ten went home to do the same on his HRD screen setup to look like his FTDX-5000.

The second stage was to set up for RTTY. It was CQWW WPX RTTY contest weekend and I just had to have a go with a new mode for me. It was a great experience and I was pleased at what I could work at modest QRP power levels to a vertical antenna.

I am finding it odd after being an Apple fan for son long but I like the way this system is well supported and have been able to make use of some software not available for the Mac. So far I have experimented with N1MM, HRD, MMTTY, Fldigi and S-Meter Light. I am enjoying the experience of experimenting with something new to me and radio.

The next stage will be to try some QRPp work with PSK and JT65 although I still prefer CW over these modes.

Back to QRP and a 2 way QRP contact today with S52TLN

It has been some time since I have had the time to blog about my radio activities. My day job and young family have taken the majority of my time since my last post. Fortunately I have been enjoying a half-term break here in the UK. This is the break in an academic term for a much needed rest for educators and students alike. I have also been very busy working on my photography and improving my online presence and industry links to go alongside my lecturing.

I have spent the majority of my radio time working on improving my CW skills and making a few contacts and not always focusing on the QRP aspect of the hobby that I like so much. Recently I have been looking over my QRP log for the last year working out how many points I had for our local QRP challenge. When I was doing this I realised the last year netted me some great QRP DX including Senegal and Djibouti as well as some nice low power contacts into North America and Canada. It served as a reminder that when I turn the power down I can still work stations some distance away and interesting DX at that. I might add that the more successful contacts have come from me working on CW and building that as a skill. I have found that where QRP SSB activity limits me to calling a many times that with QRP CW I am often able to work a station with very simple wire antennas and often with one or two calls.

Today I had another reminder that QRP works. I decided to make use of an afternoon without the children here to play on the radio. I called CQ on 15m SSB (Shameful using 200w rig power) and was called by S52TLN - Tilen from Slovenia. He was running 5w from a FT-817 into a simple wire antenna. I figured if I can hear him then I should turn down the power to 5w and join in at QRP levels. We maintained a great contact at this power level and Tilen lowered his power further and was still readable here although there was more noise the signal level did not drop that much. I was politely reminded by the event that I can reduce my power and still make contacts and do not have to keep QRP for CW contacts only.

I will endeavour to keep more of the activity updated in the blog and will add some more technical adventures too.

Best 73 and remember QRP does work even on SSB.