Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wow - Argentina booming in on 20m at 23:41 !

It's 23:41 and LU7MAL is booming in on 14.195 USB. He's working a GI station (Ivan) in Belfast and he's hammering in here 57 to 59. Amazing stuff at this hour to hear Argentina so loud on 20m. He's running 1kw into a monoband yagi beam I believe he said. Unfortunately, this was the GI station's frequency, and the LU station said the contact had been the highlight of his day and that he was going QRT so I did not get the chance to work him.

23:56 I'm now hearing what sounds to be an American accent on 14.181 USB.

UPDATE: Wednesday 08:50am: I was hearing JT1CO in Mongolia this morning on 20m. I have to admit I was hearing him slightly better on my half-size G5RV than on the Butternut HF vertical. The vertical was being lashed around by a very strong wind it has to be said. I tried calling him for about ten minutes but there were other, bigger, more powerful European stations calling him and getting through. He went QRT abruptly and thus ended my chance to work Mongolia. Ah well, you know me, I will try again!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A new antenna (well, new for me) and another new country!

Tony EI4DIB was up again today to help me with my latest antenna installation. This time it's a HF vertical covering six bands from 80 down to 10 metres. We had quite a lot of work to do in the cold, but we got there eventually. Here is a photo of the Butternut on right.

I got into California on 20 metres just before the band closed this afternoon. It was my first west coast contact on HF. NN6R Wayne in San Diego gave me 44 which wasnt bad considering he was only 55 working from a 4 element monobeam. Then I worked VO1DGP Dean in Newfoundland and got 55 from him too. Not bad for a new, erm, I mean, second hand (and quite old!) vertical. I had worked Dean before about a month back and hear him regularly calling in on 20m in the afternoons. I was delighted to get VA2PW Pierre in Canada because I had tried him on previous evenings without success but he heard me this time. He was 59 and gave me 59 also. Happy New Year Pierre!

I worked W1AW, the ARRL headquarters, on 14.252.4 USB. We exchanged 59 reports.

The highlight of the evening was a new country - Iceland. He was working a huge pile-up. In fact, Jon remarked at least twice that, "It's like I'm in North Korea or something". Those of you who are not familiar with Ham Radio might not know that there are so few radio operators in North Korea, and they are heard so rarely, that North Korea is the single most wanted country on ham radio. At times the pile-up for Reykjavik was so huge that nothing could be heard. I managed to squeeze in during a wee gap and he called in Echo India 8 so at least I know I'm getting out on 80m at last. It took a few attempts to get the callsign over to him because people kept calling in over me. But he got it after two or three attempts and we exchanged 59 reports. I gave the customary "good luck with the pile-up" after wishing him a Happy New Year.

Interestingly, there was a late opening to the States on 20 metres. I worked K3LP (David in Maryland) for the second time in 24 hours at 20:50 and we exchanged 59s. There was some other stateside activity on 14.158 USB but they were in QSO so I left them alone.

If all that wasn't exciting enough, I then worked the US on 80 metres, just to absolutely prove the Butternut is getting out well. I worked W0EK - Bob in Minnesota - thanks to OE7USB who was asking if anyone in Europe wanted to work him. Bob was 59 and he gave me 57. Great stuff.

UPDATE: Tuesday, December 29th: I heard Taiwan on 20 metres this morning before going to work. BX2AAL was weak with QSB but because the vertical is so much quieter than the wire antenna, I could hear him a good bit of the time. Lots of Europeans were calling him. I tried a couple of times but had to give up to go to work.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Three more new countries today - Israel, Tunisia and Gabon

Another good day of action on HF. Considering my modest station, I'm making some good contacts. Of course, it helps that it's Christmas time and I am not working and have a bit of time to work the radio. My favourite band is 20 metres and I'm taking a significant liking to 17 metres.

At 11.21am I worked 3V8SS, a club callsign in Tunisia on 17m. Then at nearly 1pm I worked my first Israel contact on 20m. 4Z4DX Dov gave me 5 and 9 and he was 59 also. The contact that excited me most today was at 15:50 on 20 metres. I had seen TR8CA spotted on the cluster and heard him faintly but he gradually seemed to be coming up. He worked a Spanish station and must have beamed in that direction because he said "any other Echo Alpha?" and I called in "Echo India?" and he called me in. He gave me 5 and 5 and I gave him 59. A lovely contact into Gabon, which is on the west of Africa beneath Cameroon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Some nice Stephen's Day action - Brazil, Lebanon, Argentina, Malta

I worked Brazil for the first time this morning. There was an Italian station (IV3GKE - Roberto) working from Rio de Janeiro on 17 metres (18.140) and I got him first time. He was surprisingly strong. I gave him 55 and got 57 in return. I worked him with 100 watts on the vertical. Conditions must have been just right at the time. I was delighted.

Then an hour or so later I worked Lebanon for the first time. OD5NH was booming in at 59 and he picked me up first time so I was thrilled. His name is Puzant and he lives in Beirut. He would be very familiar on the bands - I have seen him spotted many times but he was not usually so loud from here! This is his photo. He went QRT immediately after working me so I was very lucky. Thanks again Puzant!

At 14:10 I worked Argentina for the very first time - on 15 metres. LU1YY was spotted on the cluster a couple of times and I was surprised to hear him when I tuned up. I gave a call through a bit of a pile-up and he called "station with Hotel" so I came back "Echo India 8 Golf Hotel Bravo". He initially thought I was just Italy 8 Golf Hotel Bravo, but eventually picked up the echo. Nice to work Argentina for the first time. It was a club station, operator name Hellmut. 7,350 miles from my QTH, so very nice indeed, especially with just 100 watts through an Antron 99 !

At 14:21 I worked Malta for the first time. I heard 9H1ET calling CQ on 18.130 so I shouted back and he gave me 56! Thanks John for being my first contact into Malta.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Two more countries on 20m - Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia!

Just worked another new country on 20 metres - Kazakhstan! I got a 57 report from UN7MMM and he was a very healthy 59 with me. His name is Valery and he is located, I think he said, near Oral? I will QSL with him via EA7FTR. It only took me three attempts to get through and the pile-up is building. I worked him on 100 watts with my Antron 99 on 14.215 USB.

Thanks Valery and Happy Christmas.

This was followed by another new one - Saudi Arabia. I worked 7Z1TT Hamdi in Jeddah on 14.270 USB. He was calling CQ and nobody was answering so I was very lucky. He had trouble hearing me. It took five attempts for him to get the full callsign, but I was delighted. Thank you Hamdi. 73.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spaceweather alert - Incoming, incoming!!

OK, now I'm really tempting fate. Sunspot group 1035 has grown beyond expectation and is now seven times the size of Earth. Not only that, but Spaceweather is reporting a C4 class solar flare associated with this sunspot group at 0120UT this morning. Here is the Spaceweather report:

INCOMING CME: This morning at 0120 UT, an eruption of magnetic fields around sunspot 1035 produced a long-duration C4-class solar flare and hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME) in the general direction of Earth. High-latitude sky watchers should prepare for auroras when the CME arrives on or about Dec. 18th. STEREO movies: solar flare, CME.

Hopefully this might bring a lift in conditions on the bands. We'll let you know!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I don't want to tempt fate, but look what's happening on the sun

OK, last time I wrote about this the sunspots fizzled away and there was another month without a single sunspot. So, it is with some trepidation that I raise the subject of sunspots again. Take a look at this animation from www.spaceweather.com and have a look at sunspot 1035 as it grows rapidly. Let's hope it keeps growing and that there is lots more such activity in coming weeks and months.

By the way, 20 metres was open again last night and I hopped down to Thos EI2JD's shack from where I worked Uruguay CX with his 3-element SteppIR. Thanks Thos. I heard some ZS (South Africa) stations from my home QTH but none of them were workable unfortunately. That was around 8 or 9pm last night. The Uruguay contact was made at around 10.30pm. Great to hear 20m still open in the evenings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's 8pm and 20m is still open!

It's just 8pm on the button and 20 metres is still open. I am listening to a SV9 station from Crete booming in on 14.254 USB. 10 metres was open until about 7pm, with earlier openings into South America, although I was home too late to work them. I did however work Spain, Portugal and France on 10m. It was the first opening on 10m that I have worked in ages.

The Crete station is SV9CVY and he's working stateside. He is 57 on my vertical and the same on my half-size G5RV. It's nice to hear any action at all on 20m at night, especially so deep into the winter. Let's hope there are more great openings in the coming days and weeks.

20:48: Update. He's still there on 14.254, still booming in at 5 and 9, working Stateside.

20:53: Worked him!! He called "QRZ anyone anywhere" and I shouted in. Said I was only 20 over!!! Thanks Mike.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just worked a new country - San Marino

I had only just arrived home for the afternoon and 20m was sounding pretty dead. I scanned the band and heard nothing. I scanned again and heard something a bit faint on 14.188.9. It was T70A in San Marino. I heard him call QRZ and jumped in and he worked me first time. Gave me 59. When I say the rest of the band is dead, I mean precisely that. He is the last workable station on the band this evening.

Anyway, that's another new one for me. Great stuff.

Spoke to EI8GGB last night for the first time. He's the one that got the callsign immediately preceding my one. His name is Andy and he lives in Skibbereen in Co. Cork. Thanks for the nice QSO Andy on Echolink.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A good night on 40m - three new countries worked

I did a bit of chasing on 40m last night and picked up three new countries for myself in the effort. They are:

Armenia - EK3SA
Monaco - 3A2MG
US Virgin Islands - K2V

The K2V is a special event station for Christmas and I worked Sharon K7WZB on Saint Croix last night. Here is some information about the event from QRZ.com:

DX announcement

IOTA NA-106------ K2V Virgin Islands
Special Event Christmas Festival Month of December
—From Saint Croix Island

Sharon K7WZB and Garry K9WZB will be operating from Saint Croix Island December 2-14 , 2009 as K2V..

Operating all bands 160-6 meters. Will be monitoring 6 meters most of the time for opening to US and Europe. Operating SSB, RTTY, CW and PSK 31 all bands.


--QSL direct only via K9WZB *SASE *---No Buro ***SAE Outside USA With $$ or 2 Euros...Please no IRC's
A special QSL will be available after our return. Log updates daily
Saint Croix Certificate for Special Event
For those that might be interested we will have special certificated for contacts made on Request.
Please send 4.50 to cover printing and return postage from USA please add additional 1.50 6.00 outside USA.
Log Search to see if you are in the LOG-- http://www.clublog.org/logsearch/K2V

Monday, December 7, 2009

A fantastic night on 80 metres!

I worked from the station of EI2JD (Thos) last night on 80 metres and had a fantastic time. I had only just started calling CQ when a pile-up started building fairly quickly. Conditions were good. The band was quiet (much quieter than the last time) and there was good short skip conditions with lots of UK and Europe. I even managed to pull in a couple of stateside also. Thanks to everyone who persevered through the pile-up, and apologies to those who I didn't work. The night finished with a GHB suffix! Here is the full log:

1 2009-12-06 21:46:55 80 3780.0 SSB EA3EVL 59 59
2 2009-12-06 21:47:19 80 3780.0 SSB GW3LDC 59 59
3 2009-12-06 21:48:33 80 3780.0 SSB DO5SL 59 59
4 2009-12-06 21:49:30 80 3780.0 SSB F1FPL 59 59
5 2009-12-06 21:51:09 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0ZXW 59 59
6 2009-12-06 21:53:14 80 3780.0 SSB EI9DZ 59 59
7 2009-12-06 21:56:24 80 3780.0 SSB OK2PJT 59 59
8 2009-12-06 21:57:42 80 3780.0 SSB DC2CT 59 59
9 2009-12-06 21:58:20 80 3780.0 SSB OK1DHP 59 59
10 2009-12-06 21:59:26 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0MBT 59 59
11 2009-12-06 22:00:58 80 3780.0 SSB EA7/G1WUU 59 59
12 2009-12-06 22:02:03 80 3780.0 SSB RA3ZN 59 59
13 2009-12-06 22:02:31 80 3780.0 SSB RA3RIU 59 59
14 2009-12-06 22:04:15 80 3780.0 SSB 2W0XTP 59 59
15 2009-12-06 22:05:29 80 3780.0 SSB GI0HWO 59 59
16 2009-12-06 22:06:49 80 3780.0 SSB MI0SDR 59 59
17 2009-12-06 22:07:16 80 3780.0 SSB OK1ARE 59 59
18 2009-12-06 22:08:05 80 3780.0 SSB EI9JU 59 59
19 2009-12-06 22:09:33 80 3780.0 SSB LA1ISA 59 59
20 2009-12-06 22:11:24 80 3780.0 SSB EI4IU 59 59
21 2009-12-06 22:11:53 80 3780.0 SSB M0CSI 59 59
22 2009-12-06 22:13:06 80 3780.0 SSB DL1ECK 59 59
23 2009-12-06 22:14:03 80 3780.0 SSB DD1JD 59 59
24 2009-12-06 22:15:08 80 3780.0 SSB RA6CR 59 59
25 2009-12-06 22:16:32 80 3780.0 SSB G0IET 59 59
26 2009-12-06 22:18:18 80 3780.0 SSB EI4GXB 59 59
27 2009-12-06 22:19:02 80 3780.0 SSB M3YFL 59 59
28 2009-12-06 22:20:01 80 3780.0 SSB ON3AJ 59 59
29 2009-12-06 22:21:30 80 3780.0 SSB YU7AS 59 59
30 2009-12-06 22:23:18 80 3780.0 SSB DH0PAZ 59 59
31 2009-12-06 22:24:39 80 3780.0 SSB LA2HPA 59 59
32 2009-12-06 22:25:20 80 3780.0 SSB LA5VNA 59 59
33 2009-12-06 22:25:52 80 3780.0 SSB LA8FNA 59 59
34 2009-12-06 22:27:09 80 3780.0 SSB 9A2NP 59 59
35 2009-12-06 22:28:03 80 3780.0 SSB MW3HUU/QRP 59 59
36 2009-12-06 22:28:44 80 3780.0 SSB PE1CZG 59 59
37 2009-12-06 22:29:02 80 3780.0 SSB G7SSE 59 59
38 2009-12-06 22:30:41 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0BIB 59 59
39 2009-12-06 22:31:36 80 3780.0 SSB RA4CVT 59 59
40 2009-12-06 22:32:21 80 3780.0 SSB DL4YEH 59 59
41 2009-12-06 22:33:06 80 3780.0 SSB CT1BXT 59 59
42 2009-12-06 22:33:38 80 3780.0 SSB G0WFK 59 59
43 2009-12-06 22:34:59 80 3780.0 SSB IW2NRT 59 59
44 2009-12-06 22:35:50 80 3780.0 SSB DL1DBO 59 59
45 2009-12-06 22:36:49 80 3780.0 SSB SP6EF 59 59
46 2009-12-06 22:37:42 80 3780.0 SSB EA5FEJ 59 59
47 2009-12-06 22:39:22 80 3780.0 SSB TA1DX 59 59
48 2009-12-06 22:39:53 80 3780.0 SSB OK1XQ 59 59
49 2009-12-06 22:40:24 80 3780.0 SSB G0TIW 59 59
50 2009-12-06 22:40:57 80 3780.0 SSB DK6AR 59 59
51 2009-12-06 22:41:44 80 3780.0 SSB G6XSL 59 59
52 2009-12-06 22:42:31 80 3780.0 SSB EA8AMQ 59 59
53 2009-12-06 22:43:18 80 3780.0 SSB SP7SZN 59 59
54 2009-12-06 22:43:55 80 3780.0 SSB F5VIM 59 59
55 2009-12-06 22:44:29 80 3780.0 SSB SM6WQR 59 59
56 2009-12-06 22:45:19 80 3780.0 SSB G4YKQ 59 59
57 2009-12-06 22:45:59 80 3780.0 SSB F6ARL 59 59
58 2009-12-06 22:47:01 80 3780.0 SSB G0OWU 59 59
59 2009-12-06 22:48:07 80 3780.0 SSB DO4JS 59 59
60 2009-12-06 22:48:55 80 3780.0 SSB DL2VSF 59 59
61 2009-12-06 22:50:04 80 3780.0 SSB DO7DU 59 59
62 2009-12-06 22:50:45 80 3780.0 SSB F1NZC 59 59
63 2009-12-06 22:51:10 80 3780.0 SSB DJ5AV 59 59
64 2009-12-06 22:52:57 80 3780.0 SSB MW3WZZ 59 59
65 2009-12-06 22:53:24 80 3780.0 SSB M3NOW 59 59
66 2009-12-06 22:54:12 80 3780.0 SSB M3NOY 59 59
67 2009-12-06 22:55:09 80 3780.0 SSB OZ4CP 59 59
68 2009-12-06 22:56:11 80 3780.0 SSB EI9JF 59 59
69 2009-12-06 22:57:10 80 3780.0 SSB EI5GUB 59 59
70 2009-12-06 22:59:41 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0IXC 59 59
71 2009-12-06 23:00:33 80 3780.0 SSB RX3XA 59 59
72 2009-12-06 23:02:01 80 3780.0 SSB DO5SKA 59 59
73 2009-12-06 23:02:45 80 3780.0 SSB DH1PS 59 59
74 2009-12-06 23:03:31 80 3780.0 SSB G0SIF 59 59
75 2009-12-06 23:04:02 80 3780.0 SSB G7NLP 59 59
76 2009-12-06 23:04:45 80 3780.0 SSB G3CCX 59 59
77 2009-12-06 23:05:37 80 3780.0 SSB SQ9HZM 59 59
78 2009-12-06 23:06:06 80 3780.0 SSB OK1KV 59 59
79 2009-12-06 23:07:06 80 3780.0 SSB RX4CH 59 59
80 2009-12-06 23:07:57 80 3780.0 SSB SQ1BHH 59 59
81 2009-12-06 23:09:00 80 3780.0 SSB M1REC 59 59
82 2009-12-06 23:09:54 80 3780.0 SSB M3OGH 59 59
83 2009-12-06 23:11:25 80 3780.0 SSB CT1DOF 59 59
84 2009-12-06 23:12:19 80 3780.0 SSB OZ7XJ 59 59
85 2009-12-06 23:14:17 80 3780.0 SSB IZ1MHL 59 59
86 2009-12-06 23:14:58 80 3780.0 SSB SQ7OEI 59 59
87 2009-12-06 23:15:45 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0TAQ 59 59
88 2009-12-06 23:16:28 80 3780.0 SSB 9A4ZZ 59 59
89 2009-12-06 23:16:53 80 3780.0 SSB EI6GKB 59 59
90 2009-12-06 23:18:24 80 3780.0 SSB SM7RYO 59 59
91 2009-12-06 23:20:09 80 3780.0 SSB EI4DIB 59 59
92 2009-12-06 23:21:08 80 3780.0 SSB DO7OS 59 59
93 2009-12-06 23:22:19 80 3780.0 SSB DH3JZ 59 59
94 2009-12-06 23:23:42 80 3780.0 SSB OE2WNL 59 59
95 2009-12-06 23:24:57 80 3780.0 SSB DD4BY 59 59
96 2009-12-06 23:26:38 80 3780.0 SSB M0OTT 59 59
97 2009-12-06 23:27:18 80 3780.0 SSB EI5GJB 59 59
98 2009-12-06 23:28:04 80 3780.0 SSB DL1GRT 59 59
99 2009-12-06 23:29:09 80 3780.0 SSB PA2KW 59 59
100 2009-12-06 23:30:59 80 3780.0 SSB WB3HUZ 59 59
101 2009-12-06 23:32:40 80 3780.0 SSB SV1ENX 59 59
102 2009-12-06 23:36:04 80 3780.0 SSB N1SDH 59 59
103 2009-12-06 23:36:55 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0HTS 59 59
104 2009-12-06 23:38:00 80 3780.0 SSB G4VLL/QRP 59 59
105 2009-12-06 23:39:14 80 3780.0 SSB EI6AX 59 59
106 2009-12-06 23:41:32 80 3780.0 SSB CT4GO 59 59
107 2009-12-06 23:42:33 80 3780.0 SSB DO5DW 59 59
108 2009-12-06 23:44:09 80 3780.0 SSB EI6AH 59 59
109 2009-12-06 23:45:11 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0CNJ 59 59
110 2009-12-06 23:45:59 80 3780.0 SSB DJ8GE 59 59
111 2009-12-06 23:46:54 80 3780.0 SSB G4ARP 59 59
112 2009-12-06 23:48:00 80 3780.0 SSB RA1QCB 59 59
113 2009-12-06 23:49:17 80 3780.0 SSB LY2UA 59 59
114 2009-12-06 23:50:14 80 3780.0 SSB CT1COU 59 59
115 2009-12-06 23:52:41 80 3780.0 SSB G4UFN 59 59
116 2009-12-06 23:53:31 80 3780.0 SSB UA6YGN 59 59
117 2009-12-06 23:54:24 80 3780.0 SSB PA3DGH 59 59
118 2009-12-06 23:55:03 80 3780.0 SSB M6JAS 59 59
119 2009-12-06 23:56:17 80 3780.0 SSB ES4JY 59 59
120 2009-12-06 23:57:09 80 3780.0 SSB G0KHM 59 59
121 2009-12-06 23:58:17 80 3780.0 SSB DO4YU 59 59
122 2009-12-06 23:58:33 80 3780.0 SSB EI9HW 59 59
123 2009-12-07 00:01:07 80 3780.0 SSB SA5AHI 59 59
124 2009-12-07 00:03:04 80 3780.0 SSB RA1QCB 59 59
125 2009-12-07 00:03:31 80 3780.0 SSB DM5TS 59 59
126 2009-12-07 00:04:50 80 3780.0 SSB UT6IK 59 59
127 2009-12-07 00:05:48 80 3780.0 SSB EA5/DL2YFT 59 59
128 2009-12-07 00:06:50 80 3780.0 SSB DO1CP 59 59
129 2009-12-07 00:10:55 80 3780.0 SSB IK0GHB 59 59

Friday, December 4, 2009

Worked Faroe Islands for the first time

Just worked OY1OF on 40m. Olavur came back to my call first time and gave me 59. He was 57 with some QSB. I had been listening a half an hour ago and he was very low but he has come up since so I was delighted to work him. Olavur is based in Torshavn. Thanks for the QSO Olavur - and I will exchange QSL no problem. 73.

There's an Antarctica station on 40m also right now, but of course I can't hear him. OR4TN is QRV on 7.078.10 LSB and there's a lot of interest in him with a bit of a pile-up developing. Anyhow I will keep my ears open in case he comes up in EI.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A small measure of success on my delta loop

I had some measure of success with my improvised Delta Loop for 80 metres last night, although only after a significant modification. I had a brainwave yesterday while reading a webpage about unusual items used as antennas. Someone had, apparently successfully, used the bed springs from a mattress to radiate RF on the HF bands. Someone else mentioned that using a chicken wire fence or a large metallic object as a ground plane can be quite effective.

Bing! - the light came on in my head.

Up to now my triangular-shaped delta loop consists of a total of about 50 metres of wire, strung around the garden not as far enough off the ground as I'd like. One end of the antenna is connected to the coax inner, while the other end is connected to the braid. There is a coil at the far end made of about 50 turns around 2" uPVC piping.

So I figured I would earth the "far end" of the loop, and run a separate wire from the braid of the coax onto the roof of my garden shed, which is made of metal. I was delighted to find it tuned up on 80m, right up to the top and right down to the bottom of the band. I was unable to test it until very late last night because I was at the Dundalk club meeting.

After midnight I worked two Echo India stations, one in Laois and the other in Cork, and both gave me good reports. They were both 59 with me. Later I got a contact in Germany, although with QSB he was having trouble hearing me at times.

Then this morning I was delighted to work Lima Alpha, a station inside the Arctic Circle in Norway. I'm delighted to be up and running on 80m, although without the proper height off the ground that I really need I can't expect to be doing too much DX. However, it is good to be up and running on 80m because the action on 40m has been quite limited in the past week or so. And 20m is only active while I am at work!!

I will post one or two photos of my Delta Loop when I get the chance.

Yesterday I also carried out an experiment using an abandoned clothes horse from the house. Yes, you read it right. I'm talking about those things you put clothes on to try. This one is made of aluminium and coated in plastic. I stripped back some of the plastic, and connected the coax inner to it, and the braid to the shed roof. I was able to tune on 80m and radiate RF. Tony EI4DIB gave me 59+20, but that was no true test of the "Clothes Horse Antenna" because he only lives a mile from me. I might do further testing in coming nights!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Worked Algeria 7X and Greenland OX today!

Well it might not have been a prolific day in terms of the number of contacts, but I did work a couple of interesting prefixes on the bands today. There is a dearth of SSB activity since midnight on Friday when the CQWW CW contest began. As you can imagine, there is huge activity on the CW portion of each band. SSB has suffered though. There was very little to be worked on the bands for non-CW stations like me.

At about 3.50pm this afternoon I saw 7X5ST spotted on the cluster on 20m. Not expecting to hear much, I quickly spun the VFO down to 14.210 and heard him about 4 and 5. He said 7X5ST QRZ so I jumped in and he came back to me first time. I gather he wasn't working a pile-up, probably because the band was closing to an extent. He gave me 4 and 4. I didn't care too much about my weak report, but was delighted to work a new country. It was a quick QSO.

This evening I heard Oscar Xray 3 Kilo Quebec (OX3KQ) calling CQ 40 on 7.155 LSB. I tried a few times and he got me the third time. Thanks for the nice QSO Jesper. My first contact into Greenland. By the way, that's Jesper's QRZ.com picture above.

Two good contacts on my half-size G5RV!!

I look forward to exchanging QSL cards.

A little aside to this post: After I worked OX I was punching the air and cheering, as one does when one works a country for the first time. My four-year-old daughter asked me "daddy, why are you cheering?" I said, "Because I worked Oscar Xray and Seven Xray," was my reply. "What's Seven Xray?" she asked, inquisitively. I said, "It's Algeria pet". She put her head to one side and, with a look of disdain on her face, said:

"Daddy, you're so boring . . ."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Up to 24 characters in Morse (CW)

I have progressed to learning 24 characters in Morse at between 8 and 18 words per minute. The latest character added is the slash or separation / which is dah dit dit dah dit. It's all quite rhythmical really, and if, like me, you are a musician, learning Morse might be a wee bit easier. I just scored 100% accuracy in a two-minute test with 24 characters.

At this stage in my learning I know the following in morse:


0 5 . , /

Only 20 more characters to go! Damn, when I say it like that it seems like such a mountain to climb. Still to go (although I know a lot of them already) are:

B C D H Q X Z @

1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 ? = + SK

I am using, as previously mentioned, a little free program called Just Learn Morse Code which I downloaded. It's a great aid to learning CW. I am delighted with my progress so far. I find it helpful to adjust the pitch for the various lessons but for now I won't be increasing speed until I know all the characters.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Repeaters off the air?

No sooner had I announced that the EI2RCR Ridge of Capard Repeater (commonly referred to as the Waterford Repeater, even though it's nowhere near Waterford!) was back on the air, it disappeared again. I heard it from my QTH in Drogheda that evening, but unfortunately I have not heard it since. I can open it from the house but it's a bit far away for me to work effectively. Perhaps someone with a bit of authority on these things can fill me in as to what happened?

Also off air for ages now is the Dublin Three Rock repeater (EI2TRR). I had information from its keeper that it would be back up and running two weeks ago but have heard nothing since. I will keep you posted.

For those on the east coast who occasionally listen to repeaters beyond our shores, the Isle of Man repeater appears to have been silent for the past month at least. I have not heard it in ages on 145.625. If anyone has information about the status of any of these repeaters, I'd be glad to hear about it and share it with the amateur community.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My log from the Bulgarian (LZ) DX contest

Well, here it is. Not exactly earth-shattering, but 76 QSOs is not bad for someone who is brand new to contesting, and who has a very limited station. You will see one QSO which reads "Wrongband1" - that's because I forgot to change SD back to 20m this morning after working a few on 40m last night. Whoops! Anyway, I enjoyed the experience. I entered in the 20m single operator low power (5-100w) category. All contacts were worked on the Yaesu FT-1000MP with 100 watts.

QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1205 EI8GHB 59 27 RX6AM 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1206 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ7G 59 PD
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1208 EI8GHB 59 27 IY2M 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1209 EI8GHB 59 27 RK3DXZ 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1215 EI8GHB 59 27 RK3DZH 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1217 EI8GHB 59 27 PD3MDM 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1220 EI8GHB 59 27 IQ8OM/7 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1222 EI8GHB 59 27 DH0GDS 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1224 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ2ZY 59 MN
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1226 EI8GHB 59 27 S52WW 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1227 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ1YE 59 SZ
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1228 EI8GHB 59 27 SP5LS 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1233 EI8GHB 59 27 SI7GM 59 18
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1236 EI8GHB 59 27 RZ9HG 59 31
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1238 EI8GHB 59 27 RK3DH 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1242 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ2EG 59 SN
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1243 EI8GHB 59 27 YU1DW 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1318 EI8GHB 59 27 F6DRP 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1327 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ1BJ 59 KD
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1331 EI8GHB 59 27 UA1AFT 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1335 EI8GHB 59 27 OR1Z 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1337 EI8GHB 59 27 RA3CM 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1340 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ5K 59 SZ
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1347 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ1MS 59 SF
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1349 EI8GHB 59 27 EW6AF 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1350 EI8GHB 59 27 EA2SS 59 37
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1350 EI8GHB 59 27 IZ5MMB 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1352 EI8GHB 59 27 RZ3TZZ 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1443 EI8GHB 59 27 AD1L 59 08
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1445 EI8GHB 59 27 PI4AMF 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1449 EI8GHB 59 27 DL3EA 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1502 EI8GHB 59 27 IW5EFX 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1530 EI8GHB 59 27 9A1BM 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1550 EI8GHB 59 27 DL2SAX 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1555 EI8GHB 59 27 CT2IVH 59 37
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-21 1601 EI8GHB 59 27 EA7IBK 59 37
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 1637 EI8GHB 59 27 PI4AMF 59 27
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 1639 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ5K 59 SZ
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2007 EI8GHB 59 27 YT1HA 59 28
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2014 EI8GHB 59 27 RK3K 59 29
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2016 EI8GHB 59 27 HA1YI 59 28
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2019 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ2LF 59 MN
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2031 EI8GHB 59 27 SN3B 59 28
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2116 EI8GHB 59 27 S51D 59 28
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-21 2311 EI8GHB 59 27 LY3BB 59 29
QSO: 7000 PH 2009-11-22 0919 EI8GHB 59 27 WRONGBAND1 59
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0920 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ2ZF 59 MN
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0925 EI8GHB 59 27 IW0HLZ 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0929 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ1195IR 59 PD
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0935 EI8GHB 59 27 RC9O 59 31
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0938 EI8GHB 59 27 RK3DZB 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0941 EI8GHB 59 27 YL3DR 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0943 EI8GHB 59 27 RW1CW 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0946 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ9R 59 BU
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0950 EI8GHB 59 27 RU9CC 59 30
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 0952 EI8GHB 59 27 YU1ARC 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1017 EI8GHB 59 27 RV0AL 59 32
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1029 EI8GHB 59 27 RW3XM 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1032 EI8GHB 59 27 UY0CA 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1043 EI8GHB 59 27 HG4F 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1045 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ1ND 59 PD
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1048 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ8E 59 RZ
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1049 EI8GHB 59 27 RX9AM 59 30
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1050 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ2HR 59 SN
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1059 EI8GHB 59 27 EW8KY 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1100 EI8GHB 59 27 YL2IP 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1103 EI8GHB 59 27 UA1AFZ 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1117 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ3FN 59 DO
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1119 EI8GHB 59 27 F1AEY 59 27
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1122 EI8GHB 59 27 YO3CZW 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1124 EI8GHB 59 27 EC7ABV 59 37
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1128 EI8GHB 59 27 YR1C 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1130 EI8GHB 59 27 HG41 59 28
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1133 EI8GHB 59 27 UA4CCG 59 29
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1141 EI8GHB 59 27 RN4WA 59 30
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1142 EI8GHB 59 27 LZ3GA 59 PD
QSO: 14000 PH 2009-11-22 1158 EI8GHB 59 27 HG8C 59 28

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What better way to work the LZ DX contest than with a FT-1000MP?

I'm sitting here listening intently to a QSO on 40 metres (7.133 LSB) with a station in Sri Lanka and, for once, I am actually hearing the DX station, albeit only just. The station is 4S7NE, and he is quite faint but audible some of the time.

The reason for the sudden improvement in my receive capabilities? It might be down to the installation of a Yaesu FT-1000MP in my shack, in place of the Kenwood TS-570D which has been the main rig here for the past 9 months. I am trying the Yaesu out but I can tell you that based on its performance so far I will be buying it, no doubt.

I worked 20m for the Bulgarian contest (LZ DX) today in the single op single band category and found the performance of the FT-1000MP to be fantastic against the Kenwood. There's no doubt it's a serious rig. This is what Amateur Radio is all about - sitting in front of rigs like this listening to the world on HF. Oh yes.

I have only 36 QSOs on 20m for the LZ contest, and a few on 40m which will be disregarded when it comes to calculating the result. But I've only just started down the road of contesting, and I have a very humble station, working 40m and 20m on a half-size G5RV and sometimes working 20m, and very successfully 17m, 15m and 10m on my old 11m Antron 99! Yes, it tunes on 20m!

So I will probably get up in the morning and work some more for the LZ, with hopefully a few multipliers thrown in. So far I have worked only 8 LZ stations, but they are few and far between in fairness.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Solar Cycle 24 begins to show signs of life

This is the sort of image an astronomer or radio amateur might not normally get excited about. However, given the extended low sunspot period we've been experiencing, any sign of sunspot activity is now causing delirious excitement. (Image: Spaceweather.com)

You might have to click the image to view a larger version in order to actually see the sunspots. They are rather small!

Seeing such small sunspots is the equivalent of getting four numbers in the Lotto. You know you can feel good, but you might not jump around the place screaming in celebration.

The sunspot groups numbered 1032 and 1033 are members of the new cycle, just beginning, which shall be known as Solar Cycle 24. Most of this year there have been no sunspots. In October, a large sunspot group caused great excitement when it emitted a number of B Class solar flares and might have helped increase propagation at times on the amateur bands.

The sunspot cycle comes and goes, with a period of 11 years. We should have expected a considerable uplift in the number of sunspots in 2009, but instead we have been in a prolonged low period of zero sunspots. The longest low period of recent times was in 1913, and this one was beginning to look like it might go on forever.

Radiation emitted from the sun, from outbursts associated with sunspots, ionises the upper atmosphere, aiding radio propagation. So radio amateurs, stand by your sets and get ready for the lift. OK, don't get too excited. These are small sunspots, capable of producing very small B class flares, so let's not get carried away just yet.

However, any sign of sunspots, big or small, is surely a good sign. The sun is beginning to kick into life at last, having been free of spots for most of 2008 and 2009. If you gave up HF in the past two years, now might be the time to buy a radio, because if the propagation lifts, a rig will inevitably cost more!!

Here is a very interesting website by an amateur (VE3EN) all about Solar Cycle 24: http://solarcycle24.com/

If you want to see an image of the sun when it is at sunspot maximum, have a look at this image which was taken on September 27th 2001 and illustrates how spectacularly busy the surface of the sun can be with sunspots.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good news - EI2RCR Ridge of Capard back on the air!

News just in: The Ridge of Capard voice repeater (EI2RCR) which has been off air since early September is back on the air today.

South Eastern Amateur Radio Group repeater keeper John McCarthy EI8JA confirmed the news at lunchtime to Ham Radio Ireland.

EI2RCR is on 145.650 (-600 shift) and is located on Ridge of Capard in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

This is great news for amateur radio operators in the midlands and further afield.

Thank you to John and SEARG for this update.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Great pile-up on 80m last night - thanks to EI2JD

Thos Caffrey EI2JD invited me down to use his excellent station last night, which I took great advantage of. We worked 400w out on an inverted V on 80 metres which performed excellently, although we did have quite a high noise level (+9 s meter) so some of the weaker stations were very difficult. It didn't take long for a pile-up to develop, which I enjoyed immensely. Here is my log from the night. All stations have already been sent eQSL. I will send QSL cards when I get them printed.

1 2009-11-15 21:53:00 80 3793.0 SSB ER4DX 59 59
2 2009-11-15 22:05:21 80 3780.0 SSB G0SIF 59 59
3 2009-11-15 22:05:36 80 3780.0 SSB DL1ECU 59 59
4 2009-11-15 22:07:58 80 3780.0 SSB SP9FUU 59 59
5 2009-11-15 22:09:18 80 3780.0 SSB DH3FAN 59 59
6 2009-11-15 22:10:43 80 3780.0 SSB DK1AQ 59 59
7 2009-11-15 22:11:07 80 3780.0 SSB HB9EHP 59 59
8 2009-11-15 22:13:03 80 3780.0 SSB M0PSW 59 59
9 2009-11-15 22:14:26 80 3780.0 SSB SP2QOT 59 59
10 2009-11-15 22:16:16 80 3780.0 SSB ON3IM 59 59
11 2009-11-15 22:19:05 80 3780.0 SSB ON3DMJ 59 59
12 2009-11-15 22:20:07 80 3780.0 SSB DO6RO 59 59
13 2009-11-15 22:20:34 80 3780.0 SSB IZ1NLS 59 59
14 2009-11-15 22:21:48 80 3780.0 SSB I2MWY 59 59
15 2009-11-15 22:22:10 80 3780.0 SSB OE2KHM 59 59
16 2009-11-15 22:23:28 80 3780.0 SSB SQ8NGV 59 59
17 2009-11-15 22:24:09 80 3780.0 SSB IW2NRT 59 59
18 2009-11-15 22:25:06 80 3780.0 SSB IN3EBU 59 59
19 2009-11-15 22:25:43 80 3780.0 SSB DL4DBG 59 59
20 2009-11-15 22:28:35 80 3780.0 SSB DF4NA 59 59
21 2009-11-15 22:29:19 80 3780.0 SSB M3OVC 59 59
22 2009-11-15 22:30:19 80 3780.0 SSB OZ2PM 59 59
23 2009-11-15 22:31:02 80 3780.0 SSB GW6JBN 59 59
24 2009-11-15 22:33:30 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0CSQ 59 59
25 2009-11-15 22:36:08 80 3780.0 SSB OM1AWA 59 59
26 2009-11-15 22:37:22 80 3780.0 SSB HB9MHR 59 59
27 2009-11-15 22:38:36 80 3780.0 SSB IW4EMV 59 59
28 2009-11-15 22:39:17 80 3780.0 SSB DH0PAZ 59 59
29 2009-11-15 22:40:48 80 3780.0 SSB ON3RY 59 59
30 2009-11-15 22:41:56 80 3780.0 SSB PE1CZG 59 59
31 2009-11-15 22:42:50 80 3780.0 SSB IZ1POQ 59 59
32 2009-11-15 22:44:55 80 3780.0 SSB LA8KHA 59 59
33 2009-11-15 22:45:49 80 3780.0 SSB MM0GZZ 59 59
34 2009-11-15 22:47:15 80 3780.0 SSB VE1YX 59 59
35 2009-11-15 22:48:26 80 3780.0 SSB DL6KMV 59 59
36 2009-11-15 22:49:17 80 3780.0 SSB DO9JV 59 59
37 2009-11-15 22:51:00 80 3780.0 SSB SQ9NOS 59 59
38 2009-11-15 22:51:32 80 3780.0 SSB 9A4ZZ 59 59
39 2009-11-15 22:52:10 80 3780.0 SSB RZ3RM 59 59
40 2009-11-15 22:53:00 80 3780.0 SSB UA3YOW 59 59
41 2009-11-15 22:54:18 80 3780.0 SSB IZ1RDQ 59 59
42 2009-11-15 22:55:06 80 3780.0 SSB SQ7NSX 59 59
43 2009-11-15 22:56:52 80 3780.0 SSB OM3CV 59 59
44 2009-11-15 22:59:12 80 3780.0 SSB OZ6QG 59 59
45 2009-11-15 23:00:05 80 3780.0 SSB CT1DKS 59 59
46 2009-11-15 23:01:32 80 3780.0 SSB G4PQP/QRP 59 59
47 2009-11-15 23:03:57 80 3780.0 SSB DL7ORP 59 59
48 2009-11-15 23:04:26 80 3780.0 SSB M3JWL/QRP 59 59
49 2009-11-15 23:07:30 80 3780.0 SSB DK6TA 59 59
50 2009-11-15 23:09:46 80 3780.0 SSB UA4NW 59 59
51 2009-11-15 23:10:32 80 3780.0 SSB LA1BSA 59 59
52 2009-11-15 23:13:55 80 3780.0 SSB OK1YC 59 59
53 2009-11-15 23:17:32 80 3780.0 SSB PC2EBE 59 59
54 2009-11-15 23:20:43 80 3780.0 SSB 2E0IMT 59 59
55 2009-11-15 23:25:02 80 3780.0 SSB YO2MHJ 59 59
56 2009-11-15 23:28:25 80 3780.0 SSB DJ2RO 59 59
57 2009-11-15 23:31:58 80 3780.0 SSB MI3WJH 59 59

Saturday, November 14, 2009

VIDEO: learn Morse Code (CW) with free software

This is a quick video I made tonight while in the midst of trying to learn Morse Code. I am currently on 18 characters out of a total of 44. It's fun but difficult at the same time. I am using free software called 'Just Learn Morse Code' which I downloaded from this website. It's a handy wee program and you can set the speed and also the number of characters. It starts you off with two characters and you add one when you score above a certain mark each time, usually around 90%. I was at one stage a few months ago up to 21 characters but had to give up learning CW in favour of studying for my amateur radio licence.

Now that I have the licence I would like to be able to operate CW. There seem to be more CW spots on the cluster at any given time than SSB, except during SSB contests. So it's a good way to make contacts when the bands are quieter.

When I am proficient I will take a test at a radio rally and may then apply for a two-letter callsign suffix. You may notice the superior quality of this video. It was shot on my new Canon XHA1 high-definition camcorder. I am impressed!

Worked Bulgaria for the first time

I just worked Bulgaria for the first time on 20 metres. I had a nice QSO with Ivan LZ2LP on 14.182.3 USB. He is an artist, with his paintings proudly displayed on his QRZ page. Conditions are not exactly fantastic on 20 metres this morning, however I am glad to hear some action because 40m and 80m have been quiet most nights this week.

I also worked a quick contact with EW8A in Belarus on 17 metres.

Yesterday I had a nice long QSO with John, who is originally from England, but permanently resident in Spain. He is EA7/G1WWU. He was working the IC7400 with 400 watts through a dipole. He was sounding good.

Also on Friday I worked HF35PEA which is a special event station celebrating 35 years of the SP1PEA club in Koszalin, Poland.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just worked Senegal on 40m - YES !!!!!

I just worked Senegal on 40m. 6V7S had been spotted lots of times on the cluster and was working split for a while but then went simplex. I decided to finally try him and he came back straight away!!

He gave me 59 and I gave him 59. I worked him on 7.155.5 USB on 40 metres. I was putting out 100 watts only.

A nice first for me. An unusual one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's a bit quiet on the bands . . .

Well it was bound to happen. I get my licence and then things go quiet. Since the Ukranian DX contest at the weekend the bands have been quiet at night. I say at night because I work during the day when I'm sure 20 metres is flying, but right now 40 is pretty quiet and 80 is not much better. I can tune my half-size G5RV on 40 and get out quite well, but on 80 I'm not getting much RF out at all, and my listening capabilites are restricted. So I'm a bit sad right now, but not to worry because I am listening on 2 metres through the Echolink gateway EI2MOG. The lads in the Skerries Radio Club (EI2NCR) are chatting with a Zulu Lima Station (ZL = New Zealand btw) and it's great to hear it.

My mind has wandered towards getting set up on 80 metres. Following some advice I've decided to experiment with a Delta Loop for 80 around the garden. I am quite restricted for space and estimate the overall length won't be much more than 60 feet, so I hope it tunes and gets me out a bit better than the half-sze G5RV.

I will let you know how I get on. Not sure when I'm going to get it set up but I am getting coax from Tony EI4DIB tomorrow and will purchase the wire also tomorrow too. So let's keep the fingers crossed that I get a half-decent bit of action on 80m. Who knows, I might be able to do a bit of listening on 160m too!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Contacts worked for the Ukranian DX contest

001 5B4AIF 59 182
002 IW5ELR 59 032
003 YU1DW 59 206
004 UZ0U 59 KO
005 YT6M 59 100
006 LZ1ZF 59 162
007 IZ8GNR 59 143
008 EA7IBK 59 109
009 YT1BB 59 281
010 UY4WWA 59 LV
011 YO5AM 59 039
012 YT0W 59 147
013 UR9QQ 59 ZP
014 UA9CLB 59 302
015 UW2I 59 DO
016 RU6LWZ 59 632
017 YU1WS 59 648
018 UT7L 59 HA
019 RZ3AXX 59 1966
020 RC9O 59 1827
021 UR4U 59 KO
022 UA9XL 59 619
023 UT1DX 59 ZA
024 HA8KV 59 456
025 UY7MM 59 LU
026 OK4PA 59 030

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stations worked today, 7th November 2009

W1FDY - testing my newly-raised half-size G5RV 59 into Virginia
CU2DX - Azores - and I beat the pile-up on 17m!!
5B4AIF - Norman in Cyprus, thanks for 59!
IW5ELR - 59 each way
YU1DW - Ukraine contest 003
UZ0U - 004 59 59
YT6M - 59 59 005
LZ1ZF - 59 59 006
IZ8GNR - 59 59 007
EA7IBK - 59 59 008
YT1BB - 59 59 009
UY4WWA - 59 59 LV 010
YO5AM - 59 59 011
YT0W - 59 59 012
EA6/DJ5GI - Heinz in lovely Majorca, where it is 21 degrees! Thanks.
UR9QQ - 40m - 59 59 ZP 013
UA9CLB - 40m 59 59 014

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stations worked over the past two days

Got some interesting contacts on various bands over the past 48 hours:

SQ3LVO 40m Poland
EI9CJ 2m Tom, Dundalk
ES1/OZ5IPA 20m Special Call - International Police Assoc. excursion to Estonia
EW8A 20m Belarus
I2OHO 20m Italy
IZ1JLG 20m Italy
YU1DW 20m Serbia
9A430KA 20m Croatia
EA2CNW 20m (2nd female operator worked!) Spain
EA6UN 17m Spain
YT1BB 20m Serbia
VO1DGP 20m Newfoundland - first QSO
EI2IN 2m Brendan, Julianstown, Ireland
YO4RIU 40m Bogdan in Romania
YU1XA 40m Serbia
HA8JV 40m Hungary
I5ZSS 40m Italy

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Got my very first QSL card in the post today

My very first QSL card since becoming a licenced amateur arrived in the post today. I was delighted to get it. In fact, it was more than a QSL card because there was a separate photo of the operator at his station.

The card came from Fox Nine Sierra Hotel - F9SH - in France. Thanks very much Charles for the lovely card with a nice welcome to the bands. I was only licenced two days when I worked Charles last Sunday, November 1st.

The contact was made at 10:33 UTC on 14.245 Mhz (20 metres) and Charles gave me a nice 59 report.

Charles is 85 years old and still going strong on the radio. "Hope and wish you have a long activity with many DX contacts" he sayd. Thanks a million.

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society monthly meeting

I thoroughly enjoyed the monthly meeting of Dundalk Amateur Radio Society last night. Held at Marconi House, Castletown Road, there was a good attendance of local amateur station operators from the area, including operators from north and south of the border, and some from Drogheda.

The meeting was introduced to one of the new Mike India operators, Mickey MI6MMT, who was given a warm welcome.

Of particular note at the EI7DAR meeting was the fact that the Echolink station EI2MOG (Mount Oriel Gateway at Collon) is up and running again after a power cut and a problem with hardware. Thanks to Richard MI3CQR for the speedy repairs.

I heard a Zulu Lima station (ZL = New Zealand) working a G (England) station through the EI2MOG this morning at about 8.50am. I am looking forward to working my first DX contact through Echolink soon.

The club's contest team, EI0W, is taking part in the Ukraine contest this weekend on 40 metres. I hope to be operating the contest station for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon/evening, so keep an ear out as this will be my first venture into the world of HF contesting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Worked Armenia on 20m this morning

I decided to switch on the radio for 10 minutes after breakfast this morning. I heard an interesting station calling CQ on 20 metres. He was EK6TA, and was coming in strong, about 5 and 9. There was very little noise on the band. I could hear that he wasn't exactly working a pile-up and gave him a shout. "Station with Hotel Bravo again" he said, so I keyed up and gave the callsign again. "Echo India 8 Golf Hotel Bravo".

He gave me 5 and 8. Nice new country for the log.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A few interesting contacts today

Today being Sunday, I got some opportunities to work the HF bands. I worked mostly on 20 metres and a bit on 17 metres where there were a few openings. There were one or two spots on 15 metres as well but I failed to work any.

I worked my first Stateside contact - W4CCS - at quarter past midday. Thanks indeed. And it has been confirmed on eQSL which I got set up with today.

I also worked my first female contact today. HB9EGR Regy worked me on 20m with a dipole and 100watts. A modest station, like my own. Thanks Regy!

I got two special callsigns in the past 24 hours. Last night I got DL60CHILD, celebrating 60 years of the Children's Villages charity, on 40m. Today I got SP80WAC, which is not listed on QRZ.com.

All my 20 metre contacts were worked on an Antron 99 with 100 watts.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

EI8GHB Anthony works DL7SP Holger in Germany on 20 metres

This is me having a QSO with a German station, contact number 13 on HF since I got my licence.

My first session on 20 metres

Worked an hour on 20 metres this morning putting out a CQ call and got about 20 contacts into Europe. Here's the callsigns logged:


Friday, October 30, 2009

Worked my very first HF contact just now on 40 metres

Having worked six stations on 2 metres already since I got the callsign this evening, I've now worked my first HF contact.

At 23:17 I worked EA5BRE on 7.121 LSB with only 20 watts into a half-size G5RV. He was patient with me despite the fact he was looking for DX. Thanks Luis. I recorded the latter part of the QSO for posterity, it being my first contact on HF with my callsign.

On 2 metres I have worked:

EI4DIB (No surprises there - thanks Tony!)
GI4SZW Seamus
EI4IP Sean
EI4HX Peter (hello again Peter!)
EI8IZ Darragh (mobile heading to Dundalk)
EI3GHB Alan in Maynooth, who was blasting in and gave me an excellent report. He also noted that we are both Golf Hotel Bravos!! Thanks for the welcome.

Just got confirmation of my new callsign - EI8GHB !!

Well the call finally arrived. At 4.45pm Derek from Comreg rang to confirm my new Amateur Station callsign - EI8GHB - Echo India 8 Golf Hotel Bravo!!

I like it!

It rolls off the tongue. I knew it would be EI8G something B. Hotel is alright by me.

I had my first QSO on the way home. I worked Tony EI4DIB mobile on the M1 (I was mobile) through the Dundalk Repeater on 145.675 and then Seamus GI4SZW joined in. After all the dreaming and study and apprehension, I'm finally on the air.

Looking forward to doing a bit of HF over the weekend.

Update: callsign on its way soon

I phoned Comreg today and a very nice gentleman informed me that there had been some system problem and that this had put a slight delay on the processing of my Amateur Station Licence application. However, he said he would do his best to have it processed today and hopefully I will know my new callsign very soon, possibly this afternoon, if not on Monday or Tuesday.

I told him if he could do anything to have it processed today I'd be very grateful. I'd love to be on the air over the weekend !!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My first (somewhat modest!) amateur station begins to take shape at home

OK, I'm giving you a world exclusive now. This is a real first for all you web surfers, amateur radio operators, short wave listeners and the general public! I'm going to give you a sneak peek at some radio equipment I've acquired for the operation of my new amateur station, for which I am just awaiting my licence in the post.

The main rig is the HF radio. It's a TS-570D from Kenwood. A nice transceiver which is a sort-of mid market product, better than an entry-level HF rig but obviously not as good as some of the bigger and more expensive models.

Above that is the Alinco DR-510 dual bander which I hope to use as my home-base 2 metre radio. Above that is the Icom IC-207 which I have a loan of from Peter EI4HX. Thanks Peter. And beside those two is my "handy", a slightly battered but very capable 5watt 2 metres handheld - the ADI AT-201.

Wonder what callsign I will be given?

Well now that I am waiting on my new licence, my thoughts have finally come around to what callsign I will be given. After the June exam, a lot of the new callsigns were EI7 (Echo India Seven) Golf something Bravo. So I assume that Comreg fill out the EI7G's and then move onto EI8G on the basis that EI8GAB has been assigned but nothing after it. Also, everything up to EI7GZB has been assigned but no EI7Hs.

So it seems likely I will be EI8G?B and given that my application was in last Wednesday, the same day I got the results, it might seem logical to suggest I will get an early letter. So here are some of the possibilities:

EI8GBB - Echo India 8 Golf Bravo Bravo
EI8GCB - Echo India 8 Golf Charlie Bravo
EI8GDB - Echo India 8 Golf Delta Bravo
EI8GEB - Echo India 8 Golf Echo Bravo
EI8GFB - Echo India 8 Golf Foxtrot Bravo
EI8GGB - Echo India 8 Golf Golf Bravo

Do I have a preference? Not really. I'm glad just to be getting a callsign to be honest. Golf Bravo Bravo is perhaps a tad tongue-tying, while Golf Golf Bravo is nice, but really I'm just looking forward to receiving my licence and putting out some calls!!

The sunspot activity has been deplorable recently, and I kept jokingly telling my radio friends that it was waiting for me to get my licence to start lifting.

Well what do you know, there are 29 sunspots today, up from 0 two days ago, according to the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society website. Hopefully HF will get a good lift now over the winter months!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Application delivered & received - callsign next week hopefully

I've spoken with Comreg who tell me they have received my application for an Amateur Station Licence and all seems in order. I should have my new callsign and licence some time next week hopefully.

I look forward to many QSOs on the air, with ham operators local and worldwide, on HF and VHF.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Here's me with my results form

One for the record . . .

If I look a bit tight in the face, forgive me. It's not intentional. I was holding the Nikon D200 with flash attached in one hand because there was no-one else around to take the photo!

Just an official photo of muggins with his results. I think I might pour myself a wee glass of wine now and enjoy the feeling of having passed.


The results just came. My XYL is reading them out on the phone.

Section A: 26 out of 35 - 74.29%
Section B: 12 out of 15 - 80%
Section C: 9 out of 10 - 90%

So that's not just a pass, but a good one! 60% needed in each of the three sections. My total is 78.3% (47 questions right out of 60). Brilliant. Delighted.


Needless to say I'm over the moon. I was told by Thos EI2JD today that I was the only one who doubted myself - everyone else knew I had it in me. I'm delighted with the scores, particularly with Section A where I thought I scored less. Congratulations to those who have passed and commiserations to anybody who didn't make it this time round. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Michael in Kilkenny who hasn't received word in the post today. Hopefully tomorrow Mick - good luck!

I took a slightly extended lunch break today to deliver my licence application directly to the Comreg offices. I figured with the way the post has been lately it would cut some time out of the equation. I left my completed application with a nice young lady called Aisling. Hopefully I will be on the air very soon.

Thanks to all who phoned or texted today - word travels fast - and hopefully we'll all be having nice QSOs on the air in the coming days.

I'm delighted with my scores in Section B - where I got 12 out of 15 - and Section C - where I missed just one to score 9 out of 10. I had a funny feeling I had done well in those sections. It was Section A that had me worried. But I needn't have stressed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No post today - unfortunately ! :(

Countup Timer: 2 weeks 0 days since the exam

The XYL is just on the phone now (12.09pm) telling me that there was no post. The postman did deliver one item of (unwanted) post but regrettably there was nothing from Comreg.

It's agonizing, all this waiting . . .

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome news re training from the IRTS

This welcome news was included in this week's IRTS news:

Train the Trainers

The Society is considering running a "Train the Trainers" session for theory tutors intending to run classes and who wish to use the Society's CD Exam Course Guide. This may also be of interest to those unable to attend classes and who wish to use the Guide as a study aid for the Theory Examination.

The two-hour session would most probably take place on a weekend afternoon and would demonstrate how best to use the CD Guide and also practical matters relating to
preparing students to sit the Exam. If you are interested in participating in such a Training Session please drop an email to Paul EI2CA or Seamus EI8BP or indeed any of the Committee Members. Their contact details are on the IRTS website and in the latest issue of Echo Ireland.

I have to say I think this is fantastic news. There were no theory classes operating in my area while I was studying for the exam, so I would have absolutely availed of the above suggested service. Let's hope it gets off the ground.

Watching and waiting for the post . . .

Countup Timer: 1 week 6 days

Tomorrow will mark two weeks since the exam, and I am waiting with much anticipation on the post. I am at work, so I have asked the XYL to keep a close eye for the postman at home. The post is normally delivered some time in the morning at home. Lately, the postman has been around early, before I depart for work, but not this week apparently.

I have given fairly direct instructions to her good self, which she said she would oblige in doing. I told her if she sees an envelope from Comreg, just to open it and find out whether I passed or failed, and then to phone me, and just utter two words: either "you failed" or "you passed". No beating around the bush, no delays, no procrastination. Just give me the result as soon as I answer the phone!!

So, here I am busying myself with work, hoping the envelope will arrive sooner rather than later. I find myself watching the phone, thinking I might have missed a call or a text message. In fact, it's now 12.18pm, so I must give her a buzz and see if any post came.

UPDATE: 12.26pm - the XYL is on the phone, telling me there's no post! :(

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The long wait continues . . .

I had been doing a "countdown timer" in advance of the exam, and now that it's over I should be doing a "countup timer". The wait seems eternal. It is now 11 days since I sat the exam and, it being the weekend, I know I will not receive any notification from Comreg before at least Monday.

My recently-licenced friend, Brian EI7GVB, tells me it was 17 whole days after the exam when he finally received his "golden envelope" from Comreg. By that measure, it would be next Friday before I find out. Hopefully not. The wait is agonising.

However, I'm a bit more relaxed about it now. I realise that although I found Section A tough going, I think I did enough to pass it and I reckon I did well enough on Section B and Section C. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I've been doing a wee bit of listening, as usual. While HF has been quiet all week, VHF has been more exciting. Most of the HF bands were closed a lot of the time, although right now, as I write this, there is good activity on 20 metres, and there were some openings earlier on 17 and 15 metres. On VHF, there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in 2 metres. I was particularly interested to hear a gentleman called Terry on the air, using his father's callsign - EI8Z - a nice short one!! Some of the people licenced after the June exam are regulars, including Nick EI7GOB in South Dublin, who can regularly be heard operating through the Dundalk Repeater EI2CCR. There are some new operators north of the border too who have recently joined the hobby. One local operator who had been licenced earlier in the decade - Darragh EI8IZ - is back on the air after a long break and can regularly be heard on 2 metres also. I look forward to working you Darragh IF I get the licence!! I hope also that you get set up on HF soon.

On Monday of this week, Short Wave Listeners, myself included, were delighted to hear so many people call in after the IRTS news - a total of 20 callsigns were registered. Peter EI4HX (EI0RTS) was kept busy for a long time after the news bulletin with all the callers. Ironically, the news itself was short this week.

Just checking the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society website, I see there are ZERO sunspots. This has been the norm this year. We are in a very prolonged period of low activity. Hopefully, things will begin to lift soon and we'll see some spectacular aurora - and some spectacular conditions on HF!!

Life hasn't been quite the same since Tuesday 6th October for me. I have not been doing any study!! So things have been a bit easier, a little less pressurised. I don't miss the study really, although I did learn a lot and am grateful for the experience. I hope I don't have to pick up the books again next year to try again. Obviously, as soon as the post comes with the results, I will let you know.

In the meantime, I'm trying out a new High Definition video camera. Maybe I'll point it at the sun, and see if I can see some sunspots!!

73 de

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CQ CQ Shortwave listeners of Ireland . . . yes you!

I have received this correspondence from Brendan Nutley EI1429 and considered it worthy of propagation.

CQ SWL’s of Ireland!!!

Recently I had a conversation with Dave Moore EI4BZ regarding the lack of Short Wave Listeners on the DXCC listing in the Echo Ireland. It turns out that up until I picked up the phone no one has enquired about it… WHAT?
I find it strange given that there is so many of us in Ireland not a soul has made this inquiry or even submitted their confirmed DXCC list?
Now I understand that we are unable to transmit, and that we have to have a “Babysitter” with us when we want to use a transceiver but “does we all know” that there are awards out there to be won? I am guessing not as I do not see SWL’s applying for the positions except one that I know of EI1588 Shauna Baynes. She won the 80m Counties SWL in June this year, with only 11 QSO’s...! “Shauna its mine next year, hands off!”
So you see it’s not tough and it would make things a little more entertaining. Every contest that has taken place this year SSB, CW, and RTTY, I have done my best to work it, and permitting that I have the good fortune to be able to have time off to sit through the entire length of the contest, I will.
Ask my XYL, it drives her mad! "Sorry Love!"
Only last week I entered the SKCC WES CW Sprint, In 24hrs I only managed to receive 12 contacts, but it earned me an SWL 2nd place and currently 33rd in the world (of SKCC Members). I am not anyway good at CW, in-fact I am appalling, but when you know the call sign of the Ham you are looking for it makes it easier to hear them, and you get the benefit of learning the sounds and how they are send, for me that is a big bonus as I have a learning difficulty.

So. . . . I want from you,
* Your name
* your call sign
* and your (Confirmed) DXCC total’s for 2009 to date

I have been told that if I manage to get “3 SWL’s” or more we will get a mention in the ‘auld Echo Ireland!
That would be nice. . . What’ a think?

Brendan Nutley
EI1429 (EI-Half-Past-Two . . . in a minute!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pensive but philosophical three days on

Well, it's now three days since the exam and, although I am still filled with apprehension about the results, I am trying to get into a mindset where I am not expecting anything.

I have been able to remember almost all the questions from Section A, and the answers that I gave, and I realise that it's very tight. I know I got some right, I think I got some others right, and there are others I'm not sure about. Plus there are a number which I know I got wrong.

The main conclusion that I've drawn is that, in Section A at least, it's so close that I couldn't possibly call the result. I may fail by just a question or two. I was disappointed that I got three out of the four measurements questions wrong. The propagation section was tougher than I thought and there's at least one question there which I'm not confident about. In the first ten questions, I am certain about only five - that's just half. I am puzzled about a question about what the purpose of a capacitor in a transformer was. I put down "to reduce hum" and am not confident. Also, there was the diagram of an audio amplifier asking what two capacitors and a resistor were for. They looked a bit like a pi network or low pass filter so I gave the answer "to limit the AF bandwidth". Another possible answer related to RF feedback so I assumed that to be wrong.

The first question in the whole test asked what a radio wave was:

a) an electromagnetic field
b) an electric field
c) a magnetic field
d) an electro-somethingorother field. (Can't remember the fourth answer).

I gave a) an electromagnetic field

In feeders and antennas, I think I was right in answering that the characteristic impedance of a quarter wave electrical feeder was determined by its dimensions and the spacing of the conductors rather than the other options which were: its length, the power used and something else, maybe the SWR.

Also, a feeder open at the far end would show low impedance at the near end. I looked that up when I got home and discovered I got it right.

An FM transmitter amplifier works in Class C because? Well I answered that it was rich in harmonics. An FM transmitter uses frequency multiplication which requires harmonics, so I might be right on that one.

There were three separate questions about band plans and power etc, two in Section B and one in Section A. To my absolute disgust, I found that I only got one right. 15 metres is 21.000 to 21.450. I was asked what the maximum power was on 1.9 MHz. I said 100 watts but the answer is 10 watts. I was asked what mode was 29.520-29.700 reserved for. Having initally given the correct answer - FM - I then doubted myself and opted for QRP instead. Again this was simply down to me not knowing my stuff well enough. Plus, in an exam situation where you have no books or internet or notes to refer to, self doubt creeps in when there is the slightest suspicion about a wrong answer.

There was a question, I'm not sure whether it was in propagation in Section A or not, about what the frequency 14.100 was reserved for. I answered beacons, which I believe is correct.

The end result of all my investigations since the exam is nothing but anxiety. And that's because I didn't give enough correct answers to give myself a comfort zone. I got two simple answers wrong - one was the graph for the current through an inductor, the other about AM being a carrier plus two sidebands. (I said carrier plus one sideband. Where the hell did I get that idea? Silly mistake which might have cost me the whole bloody exam.)

Another question in Section A was about the intermediate frequency of a CW transmitter, or something like that, maybe the difference between the oscillator frequency and the IF. There were four possible answers: 10MHz, 0.8kHz, 455kHz or 1Hz. I thought 10Mhz and 1Hz looked like completely spurious answers and I knew in all the superhet receiver questions that 455kHz was always mentioned so I went for that.

My little "Man United's New Players" mnemonic helped me answer a question which asked about what value a 1000 uF capacitor had. The answer was 1 nF. Great!

In the safety part of Section C, the first question asked how to wire a plug. The second question asked something like what was most likely to give you an electric shock in a circuit, and the answer was capacitor. The third question asked the purpose of a fuse in the plug of a transceiver. The most legitimate answer looked to me to be that it protected the transceiver from voltage or current overload, something like that.

There was a question about a HF transmitter interfering with a TV which was tuned to certain frequencies (I think one was an 800 mhz band). The most appropriate action, in my opinion, was to fit a high pass filter to the downlead of the TV antenna.

The first question in Section C was about the primary purpose or issue of concern with regard to Electromagnetic Compatibility. One answer was the protection of human health from emissions, but to be honest the more likely answer to me was the prevention of spurious emissions, so that's the one I gave.

If I can remember any more questions I will note them here. Hopefully that will provide some assistance to people who intend to sit the next exam. I might well be sitting it with you!! . . .

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Done and dusted - a difficult exam

Well, it's finally over. I'm sitting here at home after a long day, and one full of anticipation and tension and nerves. I was glad to have the company of Michael from Kilenny in the coffee shop on O'Connell Street to kill the time running up to the exam.

When the time finally arrived, and the exam started, I decided I would turn over the paper and have a read through it. I read all 60 questions. When I came to the end, my first thought was "this is going to be tough". And indeed it was. I found Section A particularly gruelling. This was not helped by the fact that I was uncertain in a number of answers (some of which I later discovered I got wrong, after I had left the test) and there were a number of questions which completely stumped me. I had hoped that the fact the test was concentrating more on the practical and a little bit less on the theoretical would help me, but I ended up with the feeling that I might have failed.

At this moment in time, I can do nothing else but be philosophical. I got a few questions wrong that I should have got right. For instance, what power can be used on 1.9 MHz? Answer: 10 watts, but I said 100. What mode can be used on 29.520-29.700? I changed my answer to QRP, having initially ticked the correct answer, which was FM.

I got the graph for current through an inductor wrong. Basic stuff, but I got mixed up and might end up paying the price for it.

Some of the early questions were straightforward. The resistor question asked what was the current through one of two resistors in series. The inductance question asked the total inductance in a circuit containing two parallel inductors. Straightforward stuff. One question asked to identify the waveform which would result from a certain circuit diagram containing a diode and a resistor. I made a guess at it.

I was happy enough with the propagation section - 6 questions in total. One interesting question asked which of the following would be the least likely to cause DX on VHF (or something similarly worded)

The Moon
F2 Layer
E Layer

I answered F2 layer.

In measurements we were asked what a two-tone test oscillator is used to measure. Two of the options were : carrier suppression and SSB suppression. I guessed the latter.

There were some extremely difficult questions. At least they seemed difficult to me because I had not come across them in all my weeks of study. One asked what would happen if an antenna resonant at frequency fMHz was lengthened by 5%. The available answers were something like:

It would go open circuit
It would present pure resistance
It would have capacitive reactance
It would have inductive reactance

I hadn't a clue on that one and took a complete guess.

There was a question about what would affect the low-angle, long distance radiation pattern of a vertically polarized antenna. Again I was completely stumped.

Overall, the test was more difficult than I expected. There were no questions about the selectivity or sensitivity or gain of a receiver. There was a question asking us to identify a certain block in an SSB transmitter. I answered correctly - "Mixer" - phew! At least I know I got one right . . . There were no questions about transistors, insulators, conductors. There was one question asking the impedance of a folded half-wave dipole. I answered 300 Ohms which I think is the correct answer.

The prefixes question was European. it was a CW call SP9??? DE OH5??? - a Finnish statin calling a Polish station. Another question asked to identify the callsign which did not conform to the ITU standards. I went for WAB7 because I think the third character must be a numeral if memory serves me right.

In the final section, there was a safety question which asked the correct wiring of a plug. I'm glad to say I knew that one!

Overall I thought it was a tough exam. I was taken aback I have to say. Certainly when I got to the last question in Section A - question 35 - I had already left out six or seven questions which I decided to return to later, simply because I was unable to answer them. I proceeded to Section B and then Section C before returning to Section A to have another go. There was a circuit diagram showing an audio amplifier which asked what was the function of two capacitors and a resistor in the circuit. I thought they looked like a low pass filter or a pi network and guessed that they were for limiting the AF bandwidth. A guess based on a wee hunch.

It's been a long day, and a long ten weeks. I'm exhausted. I'm also apprehensive, but there's nothing I can do now only wait. And if it's not to be this time round, I have to wait until next June before I can sit the exam again. I have to say it's a prospect I'm not looking forward to. If by some mircale I pass the exam, I will be absolutely overwhelmed with joy, but I'm not holding my breath.

I should know within two weeks. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later. Put me out of my misery !

One lesson from all this is that this is just a blog. A blog written by an enthusiast. An enthusiast who has no formal training in this stuff. So by all means take advice from this blog and try to learn something from it, but don't swear by it! I wanted to share my experience as someone who was taking this on from scratch (although fair enough, I was a short wave listener before I started studying). I hope that you have enjoyed reading it, and that you have indeed learned something from it. I followed my own advice by and large over ten weeks and have ended up with the feeling of being short-changed.

Whether that's just because of my own shortcomings or whether it's a mixture of factors I cannot say clearly. I would imagine there is scope to hold more than two exams in the year. If I fail this time, it will be eight months before I can sit it again. By that time I might have lost all enthusiasm, plus I would forget a lot of what I've learned in the meantime. There are no classes taking place in my region to help me. Michael in Kilkenny says there's nothing down his way either. At the end of the day, enthusiastic guys like him and me are left to our own devices to wade through a huge amount of material in an effort to get that all-prized licence. I know, and can state with certainty, that I would be a good operator, and would be a welcome addition to the hobby. If I fail this test, which is a distinct possibility, I would like the opportunity to be able to do a resit within a month. I think many would be in the same position. A resit in a short space of time would make sense because as I said above, a lot of the information currently stored up in my brain like current in a capacitor will have disippated (as heat!) I feel that if I had to leave it until next June, it would be like starting from scratch all over again. Michael was talking to another two repeaters (excuse the radio pun!) after today's exam and they all agreed that this exam was even tougher than the June exam.

However, not to end negatively, I have enjoyed the journey. Not knowing the destination can sometimes be fun, but sometimes it can be daunting. Right now, I am daunted. I feel that there's nothing else to do than to try and put it all out of my mind and turn to other things, at least until an envelope with IRTS on it arrives at my house some time in the next fortnight . . . At this precise moment in time, I am listening to a QSO on 2 metres between some of the local operators. So I haven't ditched the hobby on the basis of a difficult exam!!

I hope to work 11 metres later on. Yes, I know what the Ham operators are going to say . . . the last refuge of the desperate !! But no, there are some decent operators on 11m and some good DX to be had if the conditions are right.

And if I remain in positive mood, I might just take a scan through the ham bands and see if there's any interesting listening :D

Monday, October 5, 2009

One tiny last bit of cramming!!

Ok, I just had this idea that I didn't do enough on safety, relying too heavily on QADV, so I whipped out the IRTS disk and did a bit more study. A few interesting things turned up.

One is that the human body has a low resistance, of around 500 ohms. Voltages of as little as 30 to 50 volts can kill, but it's the current that usually does the job. Remember this:

"It's the volts that jolt and the mils that kill". That should help you remember it.

If you have to ground something for lightning strikes, make sure the rods are between 5 and 8 feet long.

Oh, and if you need to stay a mast, it must be stayed at a height of 60-80% of its overall height.

Just a day away now - good luck everyone !

Countdown Timer: 0 weeks 1 day to go

Well, we're almost there at last. Hasn't time flown? I'm still studying. No, I think you could call it "cramming" at this stage. There are a few things I'm still not sure about, but hopefully I've done enough to pass.

Make sure you bring your paperwork (would have been sent to you in the post by IRTS) and of course your photo ID (driving licence, passport etc). I intend to get a bus from Drogheda in the morning. I hope to get an early bus just in case of delays. I'd rather be there early and hanging around than to be late and find the exam has started without me!

I will report afterwards on how I think the exam went and what sort of questions came up. Remember that there are only 10 questions on theory now and 6 on propagation etc. See previous posting.

Just before I go, a little bit on transistor connections, which might well come up:

Common-base connection:
Low input impedance, high output impedance.

Common-emitter connection:
Input and output impedance similar (medium value).

Input impedance high, output impedance medium.

A quick note on propagation layers.

Lowest is D. Disappears pretty much at night, ionised during the day. When heavily ionised, prevents signals reaching higher levels.

D layer - 80km above ground
E layer - 120 km above ground
F1 layer - 200 km above ground
F2 layer - 350 km above ground

F layers combine at night. Their ionisation is weakest just before dawn.

OK, I'm off now to do some study on QADV and cram in some more !!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just one week left to go - and the question numbers have changed!!

Countdown timer: 1 week 0 days to go

Can you believe how fast time has gone around? And here I am, with just a week to go, an anxiety building, thinking about the subjects I still have to cram in !

Just a quick note on something I copped onto today. In Section A the number of questions on various subjects has CHANGED.

There are no longer 12 questions on theory and circuits etc, but just 10.
There will be 6 questions on propagation instead of 4.
There will be 7 questions on antennas and feeders instead of 4.

The above has been confirmed to me tonight by the IRTS. The change was obvious between sample paper revision 3 and revision 4 but to be honest I only saw it today!

Some people might consider this a boost. I certainly know some people who are anxious about the first part of Section A. It seems that the IRTS has rearranged section A slightly to focus on more practical areas and less on the theoretical.

My advice right now is this:

Make sure you can rhyme off all the formulae needed for Section A.

Ohm's Law and its variants - V=IR, I=V/R, R=V/I.
Power and its variants
Inductive reactance
Capacitive reactance
Resonance R = one over two pi square root of LC!

Here is the impedance formula:

How to calculate resistance, impedance and capacitance. Remember resistance and inductance in series = R1+R2, L1+L2 etc, and in parallel is R1xR2/R1+R2; and all this is the opposite with capacitors - i.e. CAPAcitors Capacitors Add in PArallel. So parallel = C1+C2, series = C1xC2/C1+C2.

It's handy to be able to identify various diagrams. These might include the filters (low-pass, highpass, band stop etc) and a balun and a transformer and an oscillator etc but don't stress out on this. Getting one question wrong won't make you fail.

Propagation = 6 questions, so use QADV and answer 30 questions at a time. You'll see a pattern emerging and eventually you won't be able to get anything wrong!

7 questions on antennas and feeders. Again, keep answering questions in QADV.

The other sections are the same as they were in Sample Paper revision 3. 15 questions in Section B covering the operating rules and procedures and the licensing conditions. Remember this is based on the new Radio Amateurs legislation introduced in June and not the previous Radio Experimenters legislation. Read document 09/45 on Comreg.ie to catch up if you haven't done so already. Remember at least one, but probably two, questions in Section B will relate to callsigns. See earlier posting for list of European prefixes. History would show it is European countries which are asked about and not anything obscure.

In Section C, electromagnetic compatibility and transmitter interference are now in one section of 7 questions. Again, hit QADV and answer a couple of hundred questions and you'll see a pattern emerging. QADV works. When you see the same questions coming up over and over and over again you eventually get them right!! I have done 1,400 questions in the past fortnight and got 83% of them right.

For safety (3 questions), one piece of advice is to learn the appropriate values for plug tops, thus:

3A = 550 watts
5A = 1100 watts
13A = 2850 watts

This is one area that I knew nothing about and hence got a question in Sample Paper rev.4 wrong.

Best of luck guys. If I don't update between now and next week, it's because I've got my head in the books!! See you there . . .