GM4ULS ham radio station

a QRM-free zone!

That station on Mockingbird Lane

Posted by gm4uls on February 24, 2019

Well, it makes a change from Tony Hancock.

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This is how things stand…

Posted by gm4uls on February 12, 2019

MScA lot has been going on lately, starting in November last year when I graduated with an MSc with Distinction, in Literature and Modernity, from the University of Edinburgh. No, I have no idea why a postgraduate degree in a Humanities subject attracts a Master of Science tag either. Since then, a lot of time has been spent trying to organise a PhD place somewhere and arranging for funding. I’m doing all this during what is in effect a ‘gap’ year, having taken time off between the MSc and starting the PhD, which is due to go ahead in September this year.

Radio? “Who has time?” he scoffs. But actually, I haven’t been totally inactive. However, it was only recently that I have seriously switched on my rigs and other equipment to see what needs opening up and the dust blowing out. What I found was a heck of a lot of niggles and narks. Let me take you round the shack.

  • The ancient Fujitsu-Siemens PC that drives the Perth Echolink Gateway MB7APT-L suddenly refuses to find the operating system, and so boot-up fails. The darn thing is seventeen years old, after all!

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  • There is still a big hole in the shack line-up where the FL-2100Z used to sit. It blew within eight seconds of the touch of my toe on the foot-switch. Martin GM8KPH currently has it, and I feel he might have a shock when he opens it up.

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  • The Ten-Tec 538 Jupiter suddenly refused to put out more than about 4W pep on USB. The company in the USA that owns the Ten-Tec brand suggested a factory reset, which was a good idea anyway. But after I had done it the 4W had gone down to an indicated nil, and I could only get 1W with the key. The rig has been taken out and will go to the menders in Wales.

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  • I think some of the others might be heading after it. For a start the FT-847 has an annoying fault with the MEM/VFO CH knob, in that it sometimes refuses to advance, and even goes backwards, when turned. This isn’t a major fault, but it is a minor inconvenience. The FT-847 remains the rig that is still functioning reasonably, but I might send it away to be fettled. If the Ten-Tec never works again, it would be good to have the FT-847 opened up on 60m/5MHz (though this isn’t a perfect option), so it might go away to the menders too.

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  • The FT-101ZD has developed a fault with the AF Gain. The fault behaves like a “dirty pot” on both speaker and headphones output. This has been happening for a while, and I have been putting up with it. However, I noticed a couple more niggles yesterday. Firstly, my WM-308 desk mic no longer seems to want to speak to the rig. Hitting the PTT mutes receive as normal, but nothing happens when I speak (the mic works with other rigs). I did manage a QSO on 20m using a fist mic. However, when I switched to CW and hit the key, there was a noise reminiscent of a dying cat, and no transmit…

The good news is that I have been promised a nice old TS-930S on approval. This is a rig I once had on loan, I believe, and it is currently part of the estate of the late Robin GM3WFJ. However, if service is back to normal here at ULS Towers, it’ll probably be just in time for me to start back at university and be too damn busy to operate!

Always look on the bright side of life.

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A couple of Munros, Spring 2017

Posted by gm4uls on May 11, 2017

Ruth, MM3YVQ and I climbed Beinn Ghlas (1103m) and Ben Lawers (1214m), the latter being the 10th highest Munro. GB3PR and GB3PU repeaters were end-stopping signals from there. The climbs are not technically difficult, but they’re hard work.

2017-05-09 04 Beinn Ghlas summit

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Updated – the page about my father’s wartime exploits.

Posted by gm4uls on March 20, 2017

I was in the loft yesterday and found some old photographs taken by my father in 1944 in Yugoslavia (as it then was). I have updated the relevant page.

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2016

Posted by gm4uls on December 26, 2016

2016-10-29-03-paulThere has been a lot going on in the world this year. For me, personally, the good propagation happened when my back was turned, and my doublet snapped and fell down. That was the bad news. The good news has nothing to do with amateur radio. I am pleased to announce that I am now the holder of a 1st Class BA (Honours) degree in English Literature, and am now studying for an MSc* in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh.

73 for 2017, everyone, and see you on the top end of HF, propagation allowing.

*Yes, Edinburgh awards ‘Master of Science’ in arts subjects.

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A 6m lash-up!

Posted by gm4uls on June 13, 2016

6m

I must remove that trailing bit of wire – it’s what’s left of my doublet, which has snapped, leaving me bereft of 30m, 40m, and 60m. I have plans for a slightly longer replacement, which I may be able to tune on 80m. Watch this space. ©GM4ULS

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With MM3YVQ in the Forest of Ae

Posted by gm4uls on June 13, 2016

As you know, I post an occasional update on my daughter Ruth, MM3YVQ, the third generation ham in our family. Our latest activity was a 20Km hike in the Forest of Ae, Dumfries and Galloway, on which I was photographer and bag-man. We hiked mainly on Forestry Enterprise tracks, but at one point climbed a twisty mountain-bike trail, making sure we didn’t get in the way of any mountain-bikers. It was a Tuesday and blazing hot, so thankfully there weren’t many about.

The point of the trek was to gather information for her MSc dissertation, which is to do with a project Glasgow University is undertaking for SEPA, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, all about sediment and channel-change in the Water of Ae, a river in southern Scotland. Ruth made many interesting and surprising observations about the upper reaches of the river and its upland tributaries, and hopes that these will inform her dissertation.

We went as far as the fairly new Array F of the Harestanes Wind Farm (see the picture below). We would have liked to go on to the source at the Pot of Ae – in fact we would have liked to climb Queensberry*, the nearby high spot, at 697m/2287ft – but we didn’t have enough time. The hike took over four hours on the outward journey, with stops to fix our position on GPS, make observations, and take photographs, and a forced march of two-and-a-half hours on the return leg.

2016-06-07 03a Ruth, Harestanes wind farm

©GM4ULS

As well as Ruth’s scientific observations, I did some wild-life spotting. It amazed me just how far into the upland area I could hear the spring call of chaffinches. They were everywhere and in great numbers. I wouldn’t have expected to hear the spring call this far into summer. We also spotted a slow worm by the trackside. This fascinating creature looks like a snake, but is in fact a legless lizard. This is the first time that either of us had ever seen one.

2016-06-07 05 slow worm.png

©GM4ULS

The Water of Ae is a very beautiful little river, particularly in the stretch between Ae Village and the footbridge above Dan’s Pool. Minor roads beyond Ae Village take you to tributaries such as Capel Water, and to little places that tourists seldom visit. It’s a lovely part of the country.

2016-06-08 03a NX96182-96365 Caperl Water (trib) conf w Garroch Water (sub-trib)

The confluence of Capel Water, a tributary of the Water of Ae, and Garroch Water, with Queensberry in the distance topped with cloud. ©GM4ULS

*For those of you are interested, Queensberry is a ‘Marilyn’, a ‘Donald’, and a ‘Graham’. 🙂

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Perth Echolink Gateway, GM6MEN-L

Posted by gm4uls on June 13, 2016

The Perth Echolink Gateway, GM6MEN-L, is temporarily off the air. It will be back soon on the new frequency of 145.2125MHz NBFM, with a CTCSS tone of 94.8Hz.

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Summer’s here and time is right…

Posted by gm4uls on June 13, 2016

… for dancing in the street!

That wasn’t what I was thinking, but it’s a nice idea too. I was thinking that it’s a good time for SOTA, for back-pack operation, for some /p activity, for doing something unusual. If your mind is working along these lines too, how would you like to have the use of a suitably distinctive callsign?

The Backpackers Radio Group has very informal membership. It was formed in the 1980s originally to take part in 10GHz portable contests. It offers the chance to use the callsigns G*1GHZ and M*0MHZ to anyone in the G* area. The callsigns are useful if there’s a bunch of you setting up something special and you don’t want to squabble over whose callsign to use!

Get in touch with me at gm4uls{a}googlemail.com for more details.

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“The Best 15 contacts I’ve ever had, and the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest as a ham!” – Trippy Brown, AC8S.

Posted by gm4uls on November 20, 2015

Visually impaired ham Harry ‘Trippy’ Brown contributes the following guest article. He uses a ‘snake antenna’, not unlike the one I describe here.
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As I write this, it’s just after midnight, on Sunday November 8, 2015.

This week, I decided to participate in the ARRL Sweepstakes cw contest, but using my own station.

Now I live in an apartment with severe antenna restrictions. Even though there are 10 floors, my apartment is on the 2nd floor, 1 floor above the manager’s office, and my balcony faces the parking lot, so, everybody who comes in, unfortunately, can see my antenna, if it is hanging below the balcony floor.

So, what to do?

I decided to buy a piece of rg213 coax. This is not the thinner rg8X coax, this is the hard line coax, so it’s a bit wider in diameter, but you get more power through that kind of coax.

So, I ordered a 25 foot section from Ham Radio Outlet, the Delaware store. Ken, and Roy, are just fantastic to deal with, I recommend them, highly!

So, I ordered the coax, knowing full well that 25 feet would be too long, because it would hang down, even below the balcony floor, where it would be seen.

So, when it got here Friday, I got out the best tool that I have in my tool box, and that tool? A pair of wire cutters, which cuts wire, and coax, even through rg213!

So, at 3 am on Saturday morning, I measured from the connection where my coax plugs into the adapter cable for coax, and that adapter cable plugs into my Elecraft kx3 at the other end.

When nobody was around outside to see me, using the greatest tool I ever bought, and that is, a braille 3 foot yard stick, I measured from there, outside to the edge of my balcony, and then, measured from the top of the balcony, down to where the bottom of the balcony floor is. It came out to just about 18 feet 6 inches.

I hung the piece of coax over the balcony, and bent down, and found the spot that was right on the bottom of the balcony floor. I wrapped my fingers around that spot on the coax. Then, I came back into the apartment, got out the wire cutters, and cut the coax, right at that spot, no separating the shield from the braid, I just cut the coax!

Since I didn’t want anyone to see me putting up the antenna during the day, I hung it over the balcony, then I closed my screen door, and the storm door to where they touched the coax, and went to bed. I thought, “after all this work, I sure hope this antenna works tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon, 2100 UTC arrived, and the big moment was here, the moment I was waiting for!!

I turned on the power supply, and turned on the rig!

Now the Elecraft kx3 is a 12 watt radio on high power. I use a box called the HAMPod, built by Rob Santello. This box tells me everything on the rig, even signal strength, and power! I’ve never had a rig that would tell me how much power I was running till now.

I remembered that there was a category called qrp, meaning low power, for those would be hams who don’t know what that means. People love to work everyone and get points, but they really like working qrp stations because from what I hear, you get more points if you work them.

I wondered, “I wonder if this thing will let me run QRP, and if I can get anyone on this 5 watt rig, running a nontraditional antenna?”

So, now that I had a talking box to tell me when I turned down the power, I did so, to 5 watts, and sure enough, the HAMPod told me when I pressed a key on the front of the unit “5.0 w”.

Now I haven’t worked qrp since 1978, when I used a borrowed heath kit hw8, running a 15 meter coaxial dipole, a traditional antenna, and that got out fantastically, but who knows if this nontraditional antenna would get out at all, with all the concrete, steel, and aluminum on my balcony.

I decided to start on 10, because I knew that band would fade out first, so, I wanted to work as many contacts on that band as I could, first.

I started at 28.001, and worked my way up. I heard my first station, w7rn, who was just blasting in, at an S9. How did I know that? The ham pod even reads signal reports!

I tuned up the rig, using the KXAT3 Wide-range internal automatic antenna tuner, and I’ve tried many tuners, manuals and auto tuners, and this one tunes up anything, even just a piece of coax!

I called him, and to my amazement, I heard my call come back to me! Now I’ve been a ham for over 38 years, and I still get excited when I hear my call sent back to me! He gave me his info, and I gave him mine, and my first contact was complete, and the ARRL section he was in? Nevada!

I worked some more on 10, then, switched over to 15 meters, and tuned up the rig, and heard a station, k5kg. I put my call out there, and again, I heard my call sign sent back to me. He gave me his info, and I gave him mine, and that contact was complete, and his ARRL section? South Texas, I needed that one, that was a new section for me!

I work 15 for a while, then, I went over to 20, and tuned up the rig, and looked for a station, and I found one, and what a contact this would turn into! It was n9rv. He heard me, and gave me his report, and I gave him my info, and the contact was complete, oh, and that ARRL section? a rare one, Montana!

Now I don’t have enough space for a piece of coax that would be long enough to work 40 and 80, but I’ll take what I can get!

So, how did I do? Here’s the totals:

contacts 15, sections 9, number of contacts:

11 on 10

3 on 15

1 on 20

Power used during the contest? Only 5 watts!

This truly, was the most fun I’ve ever had in a contest!

By the way, I’m a blind ham, and my antenna is called, the snake antenna, which was recommended to me by Paul, kg8ou, when I told him, about my antenna restrictions. It’s just a piece of coax, but no soldering necessary, it’s one antenna that a blind ham can build, I love them!! You can build them at whatever length you need, depending on how much room you have, and when you’re done, just pull the snake back inside you’re apartment, your home, your condo, wherever you have limited space, and you don’t want people to see it! It’s also great, because when you pull the snake antenna back inside the place you’re living in from outside, you have no problem with water or moisture ever getting in your coax!

And, oh, the concrete and steel on my balcony? It was no match for the snake, I got 15 contacts, and I’m on the east side of the building, and all the contacts? West and south west!

I sure look forward to using this snake, and if I ever get to live up on a higher floor, (I hope the 10th in this building), then, I’ll be up 80 feet, even higher than the 8 feet I’m up off the ground at the moment.

73 everyone, and I hope to work you on hf, in whatever contest! Just fire up that rig, and get on the air, and you can have this much fun as I’m having!

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