June 2023 Entries

Tuesday, 27th June, 2023

Got my first voice contact for Brazil and Kuwait yesterday. Been a while since I just sat on the radio and scrolled around seeing who was there. Very enjoyable.

I find so many radio things I want to do. Making my QO-100 build first though. Mapped out the setup in google slides so I was clear on what I’m doing. I occasionally think it wasn’t a great thing to start with but too late now 😅

Watched a youtube stream of the DATV net, which is where people use that same QO-100 satellite but instead of just voice comms, they stream their video via the satellite! Needs much more power or a huge dish though.

People build some amazing things. Like this guy.

Thursday, 22nd June, 2023

I’m trying not to be too impatient with the licencing issuing body here in the UK for my full licence. It doesn’t really matter, but I just want to start using it and configuring everything (for the final time) to use that callsign.

I had a nice email exchange with GM5AUG yesterday, after reading his website.

A little ham radio matrix chat group I’m in, did it’s first net (local chat) on the geostationary satellite QO-100. I listened in on the webSDR, whilst chatting in the channel. Reminded me that I wanted to build a station for it. So much so that I ordered a random part for it from Germany last night. Now I just need to order the rest and then put it all together. I think it’ll be quite the project… I think a 80cm dish will be fine but everyone keeps saying I should get a 1.1m dish..

I worry I’m biting off more than I can chew, or have time to chew. I was thinking of writing down all the radio related things I want to do, then figuring out where to start. There’s no rush for me to do anything, and I don’t want to overwhelm myself and then hate it because of it.

My wife has said I need to get out of the kitchen by the end of the summer, so that’s probably quite high on the list.

My new licence came through at 5pm today! I am now GM5ALX.

To celebrate I went to the local amateur radio club tonight. Not been in 6-8 weeks. They also lost my application form, so I took a new one. It was member talks tonight. One guy, who is a retired electrical engineering professor, always gives good talks, and was sharing his experience in refurbing old 70s rigs. That was interesting…I made a new of a few models for one day down the line as another project!

The other guy’s talk was “my favourite power supply”. His talk was interesting, but if you’re imaginging a ~70 year old guy, with high waisted trousers,

Tuesday, 20th June, 2023

I decided. 😅 Went with what I first thought of - always the right answer. I’m tempted to setup the club UFO callsign for the Matrix HAM Radio Space. I like how Mike called it “space” and UFO and we all like satellites (not that I’ve done anything yet).

What am I going to do first?

Monday, 19th June, 2023

My wife applied to her first job in 10 years, after a being (and still is) a stay at home parent. She’s not very confident about it, hopefully she gets an interview at least.

My paperwork has finally been processed and now I get to pick my full callsign. This will be the one that I keep for life. So no pressure.

The one I first thought of and checked availability was for GM5ALX. I feel like I should just go with it, you know, your first answer is usually the right one. It’s nothing more than my name.

I then got sucked into “but is it a good CW callsign” as one day I might learn. I really might, as it looks like a good way to get long distance contacts but doing it yourself vs. the computer. People tell me ALX is a little trickier to copy, but has a nice rhythm to it. A local ham suggested something with repeating letters or maybe something recognisable but not confusing, such as DX. Meaning long distance contact. DDX looks good on morse, is recognisable, maybe not the greatest over voice “delta, delta, x-ray”. The two deltas run into each other? but supposedly double letters then a single is easier to copy than single and double letters. However, it’s also meaningless to me.

Then, whilst chatting in this small matrix server I joined, we got talking about finding out what was and wasn’t available. I used G7UFO’s callsign as an example and said the only ones free are likely to be G5UFO and G3UFO (although G3 is listed as silent key but a few years old so probably up for reissuing). Then everyone said I should get a UFO callsign and we can be united that way. We could even make QSL cards which are like a UFO jigsaw, and if you make contact with all UFO callsigns you can make the full picure. I then found the .radio domain offers cheap domains to hams, and we could get ufo.radio, and then do g5.ufo.radio, and g5@ufo.radio etc. It’s also fun to have a callsign which has an emoji 🛸. It’s sci-fiy and generally quite fun all round. Morse isn’t amazing and phonetic is uniform, foxtrot, oscar, which is a bit of a mouthful. But people often adjust those and could be united foxtrot oscar. I like united more than uniform.

Having said that, you get used to your own callsign and it ends up rattling off, in fact a slower one keeps you from rattling it off too fast. Could say “Golf Mike five uniform foxtrot oscar, UFO!”

I’m now wondering if there are other three letter words/acronyms, with accompanying emoji 😅, that I could look for instead…💭

As it’s for life, I do worry that I’m drawn to the ufo by the silliness of it, and the whole orchestration of ufo callsigns, and domains etc. It does say something that nearly every single UFO callsign is taken though.

We could also make a club and use the final remaining UFO callsign as the club’s one, and then other people can use it. I like that idea as we could dedicate it to the sk’s memory. I reckon he would like that. Nothing is stopping us from making the club callsign regardless of what I pick though.

In fact, there are a lot of UFOs around the world, 218 according to QRZ. Notable being the Roswell radio association, although poor showing of their bio page. We could do some special event stations for UFO related things…the list is endless.

Of course this is a lovely thought exercise, but would I actually do anything, and similarly, I can do all this without the UFO callsign myself.

I asked a non-ham friend and they thought ALX was best. Others like UFO. No-one has remarked on DDX…probably as it’s boring.

So I don’t know…

Sunday, 18th June, 2023

Got the new vertical antenna setup, put it on top of the pole supporting the wire antenna. It’s not truely vertical and that makes it more obvious to everyone. I was in a bit of a rush trying to do it before we had the school fair. Was a bit of a hassle, sort of job you want three hands or another pair. I just had the kids complaining.

I used the nanovna to tune it on 6m. I’d watched a video but then when I came to use it I didn’t know what I was doing. So watched another one whilst up in the air. It didn’t help I hadn’t really looked up where in the band I’m likely to be working and I don’t think I made it long enough for the lower end of the band. It still worked but if I’m taking it down again to sort out then I should adjust it again.

Although that puts me off from touching it.

Right now it’s the middle of the 24 hours 50 MHz trophy contest. I made 4 contacts last night and that’ll do me - I don’t have time for it anyway. Did get Portugal and Spain which I didn’t expect with the vertical.

The guy I visited last week is off up a mountain with his portable mast, 7 element yagi and 400W power, camping for the weekend to do the contest. His signal was the one I found first and help validate mine works. I’d occasionally tune in to hear him, and last I did before switching back to my HF antenna, he was on 95.

I did get Isreal in 15m last night. First time for that country and possibly first voice contact in 15m.

Heard the Seychelles on 20m but it’s impossible to get through. Europeans with their 1.2 kW legal setups blasting through. I tried calling a few times but I don’t know why I bother.

I got my certificate in the post on Friday, which shows they processed my exam on Wednesday, yet the ofcom licensing website still doesn’t know I’ve passed.

I started looking at 50 MHz yagis, as they’re small enough I could have one up at home. Although I think peak propagation time is May, June and July, so maybe wait a year. Also I should stop rushing to buy more things!

Wednesday, 14th June, 2023

Went round to another ham’s house the other day. I’ve been emailing him for a few months and met in person at the local club but never really spoken very much. Great guy and we talk for ages about things.

He has a huge mast and antenna in his garden and a great setup. Very envious! He pretty much only works CW (morse) nowadays. I watched him work Japan and some other random countries, was very impressive. He has a SteppIR yagi which adjusts its length when changing frequencies, and then a rotator to point it towards the station. All his boxes are all connected up, so everything syncs itself and adjusts automatically. He has his logger connected to the reverse beacon network, which is a group of listening stations around the world who listen to CW and report what they hear. He then sees that clicks on their name and the frequency adjusts, the antenna rotates and he starts dit-dahing away.

Makes me want to learn CW. I did start some website and was copying M and K, but need to establish a routine.

He’s collected all this stuff over 40 years so it’s a long journey.

It wouldn’t be a visit without me wanting to buy things. I’ve ordered an antenna that covers 6m, it also does 2m and 70cms for local chat. So then I’ll need a VHF/UHF radio to use it (and I’ve spied one on a used forum)…plus I might need to get an antenna tuner to make adjustments so it’s in the right part of the 6m band. The fancy tuner is about £400, which isn’t really something I just want to drop down.

I’ve joined a little chat group on Matrix of a few hams. There are a few people there who use QO-100 geostationary satellite and I’m quite keen to build a setup for that. Although I worry that the fun is building and once it’s done then I’ll not use it. Feel like I’ve said this before…

Glorious weather here. 🌞

I regret buying the new server SSDs whenever that was. Totally unnecessary, and to make matters worse, for the same amount you can buy 8TB ones now. I suppose that’s typical.

I remembered about the NanoVNA antenna analyser, it’s only £85 new and can do kHz to GHz measurements. Possibly not as robust as the rig experts but at 25% of the cost it’s hard to ignore. Can get a VHFUHF rig plus nanovna for the same price.

From an eham review “All is not perfect; there is no ‘perfect’ radio as there is no ‘perfect’ girlfriend or ‘perfect’ shotgun.”

Sunday, 11th June, 2023

Just sat and listened to several people in a net today on 40m. They were calling CQ and then everyone was doing a signal report with the new person. I did call but they didn’t pick me out. It also took about 10 minutes per person to go round everyone, so after 3 people I gave up. Did hear Callum from DX Commander, who has a YouTube channel as well.

I have also been researching satellite setup, specifically for the QO-100 geostationary satellite. Trying to decide if I want to go all SDR or whether to have a transreceiver and upconverter for transmit. Full SDR makes it all on the computer (and in theory anywhere I have internet access) but transceiver means I could make use of it for other stuff - either regular satellites or local VHF/UHF. I don’t own a VHF/UHF base station so I’d have to get one, which is probably more expensive than the SDR I’m looking at. The SDR is basically a computer running linux with some hardware attached, so it’s like having a computer at the dish.

I was trying to figure out where the dish would go on the house, I think it could go on the side, which would be nice as then out of the way and not too obvious. I was using the official website to locate the satellite and it looked like it would be fine. I then used my phone and various apps to do AR to locate it in situ. Weirdly, my phone was saying it was nearly 90 degrees away. I then found my phone would give different directions on the compass each time I opened the app. Not sure what that’s about.

So I think I should be fine, but probably need to test it with the dish before mounting it.

I worry that the QO-100 is quite involved and I end up spending a fair amount of money on it, for what is essentially one link - although covering a huge area of the globe. Also that the fun is in the building not the using….like making a new static blog website…

Which, btw, I’m only 2 months away from having this site for 2 years!

Perhaps I should just do orbiting birds with my handheld FM…

Friday, 9th June, 2023

I passed my full licence. It was weirdly easy, I think easier than intermediate. Anyway, I’ll take it! As usual I got worked up over nothing and slept terribly last night.

Posted one of the training manuals to my friend who’s getting ready to do full as well. Plus managed to convince a guy at work he should get his licence.

I phoned and checked about the callsign I want and it’s available. Another guy is telling me to pick carefully and consider morse code. I’m mostly set though but do worry that I’ll get annoyed if I learn CW. However, I can’t think of anything else. Got a few days next week before I can register it so I’ll think about it.

There’s something to be said about the old system where you just got the next callsign in sequence.

Paralysis by analysis anyone?

Now the real fun begins!

Thursday, 8th June, 2023

If I fail my licence exam I’ll be pissed off. I feel like I’ve done a lot of revision for it, and not sure what else I’d do. I think I’ve done more than the average person would, but maybe I’m biased. I was pretty good at studying but university was circa 20 years ago now, so maybe I just think I was. The other fact is, I only need to pass, which is just over 60%. However, I’ve never had exams where I had to just pass, it was always get the maximum score you can as it all added up, so I hope that works in my favour. I’m aiming for 100% and if I miss, I should probably get more than 60…right…oh well we’ll see when the time comes.

Really I want to be spending my time with the fun stuff - like new antenna, or investigating satellites, or even just chatting to randoms on the air. If I want a serious rag chew (as they call it), I hit up 40m and see who’s on in the UK. If I want to know the ins and outs of great uncle’s new medication I move to 80m.

I got a new radio, well used, but a fancy one in May. I’ve hardly spent any time on it as I’ve just been revising and reading the manual and making flash cards with Anki.

The funny neighbour who asked me to cut the hedge via recorded delivery, left a bottle of wine on our doorstep to say thanks. I saw him, so ran out to talk to him. Needless to say, he was a nice guy, and we’d started off on the wrong foot. He did ask about the antenna 😅 at which point I then proceeded to go into excruciating detail about all things amateur radio. I’m sure he was glad he asked. I said just to text me when the hedge gets too high. We can tell from our side as it’s far from the house, but his house is lower so it’s more noticeable. I do like it when it’s cut as it looks neat, even if I can’t quite do a straight line across the top.

These three days at work, all the managers have gone off on a team build. It’s remarkably quiet and calm in the office, and everyone just gets on nicely. We all look forward to the gems of inspiration that they’ve come up with.

I like the online radio communities more than my local one. I feel like that’s a shame but there’s more diversity online, and I can just drop in and out of discord to chat or ask questions. Still, it would be nice to get to know the locals.

I’ve been planning a new area in the garage for radio. My office gets taken over by the kids at the weekend, playing games or doing homework, so now I feel like I need another area for me. The garage needs sorting out first though. But a nice workbench along one wall, possibly at standing height with storage underneath and a tall chair. Then the radios and it makes it easy access for the cabling. Probably needs a computer too 😅 and maybe a TV on the wall with various things being displayed. Perhaps it’s an excuse to buy stuff. But seems like a good one. Only thing is it’s easy to forget how cold it gets in the winter. Right now it’s a nice temperature in the garage.

My wife wants the coax via the kitchen window to be gone by the end of the summer, so I want to set up the new “shack” by then too.

In theory, it could have stuff for photo developing, as last year I was going to make a dark area in the garage. But I’m also thinking it’ll be a good space for a 3D printer…

No doubt I’ll do nothing and then it’ll be winter again.

Can’t believe Jack has had his aquarium for a year! Time flies. 🐠

Sunday, 4th June, 2023

My daugther has commandeered the HomePod for her bedroom to listen to music on. I’m fine with that. I rarely used it for anything in the office, and I had it mostly to act as a Home base hub thing. Least she gets some use of it.

Did a mock test from the training manual and did quite well. Realised I didn’t understand a few things, which is always good to know. Spend some time figuring out transistor biasing, so feel more confident about calculations for that now. No doubt that question won’t come up in the exam.

Does make me want to learn electronics more. After this exam, assuming I hopefully pass, there’s nothing formal to learn. Unless I’m going to be designing and building things I suspect I’ll never touch the topic again.

The guy at work who passed all his exams and has yet to take a radio out of the box, is doing some remote degree in electronics. Not sure I want to go that far but does make you learn it if you have exams or assessments to do.

Also took some photos yesterday. Only about 20 of the kids and the garden but I’d gone over a month without taking a single one. Digital obviously, but nice to capture some playing in the garden on a sunny day. It’s sports day this week at the school, so I should take it for that.

When I’ll take another film photo I have no idea. I got a “members” promo email from a film store last week offering “great value” on Kodak Portra 160 5 pack. Members price of £65 vs. Retail of £80. I suppose it’s a good saving but it’s still much more than I want to spend.

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