Wednesday, 3 December 2008

CQ WW CW Contest /QRP

Last weekend was wet and cold here in UK, so I was able to spend a bit more time than I expected on the CQ WW contest. We are right at the bottom of the sunspot cycle - the SFI was 68 and the A index 1 so about as quiet as it gets, but I decided to try the QRP (low power) section just to see what I could work.

Saturday was very slow with 15m hardly opening at all. I heard US East Coast stations late in the afternoon but could not work them so I had to content myself with European zone 14, 15 and 16 stations. Sunday was a bit better with two in Asiatic Russia in the morning. 15m hardly opened at all but I was lucky enough to work Netherland Antilles, which was a bit of a result. Late in the afternoon I worked a run of US stations, including one in the mid west, on 20m.

In total I worked 76 stations in 28 countries and three continents with about 4 hours of total operating time, which is not too bad for low power in very quiet conditions.

Friday, 28 November 2008

I recently visited Bletchley Park, near Milton Keynes in UK. ( ). This is the "National Code Centre" - the site where the German Enigma code was broken in World War 2. This work was secret for a long time and the story is only now being told

It is a facinating place and must be visited if you have any interest in history, radio or computers. It also houses other related exhibits, such as the museum of computing with the rebuilt Colossus computer. There is one hut stuffed full of vintage radios, including some of the WW2 'Spy' sets. There is a permanent amateur radio station, but it was closed on the day of my visit.

I took the conducted tour - which is free. Peter was our guide and he is an absolute mine of facinating information.

The only thing that let the place down was the catering, which was awful, and there is no alternative near by so do take sandwiches!

Entrance was £10, which allows unlimited visits for a year. I only allowed 3-4 hours for my visit, which was nowhere near enough so I will be going back.


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

2m Contest

It was the UK 2m Activity/club contest again last week. This happens on the first Tuesday of each month from 8pm-10.30pm (UK clock time). I enjoy this contest because it's not as cut-throat as some events and 2m is an interesting band, particularly as my location (Blackheath, SE London) is not in a good location.

Conditions were poor this month, but I did manage 24 contacts and 6 squares, giving a total claimed score of 144. Not my best result!

It's all to play for in December, when I am hoping the Bittern DX club ( will finish the year in the top 10.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

DRM - Digital Radio Mondial (2)

I have finished boxing up the 455/12 kHz mixer (http://www/, fitting connectors etc. and I have been spending a bit of time listening to DRM broadcasts. There are about 10 European medium-wave DRM stations, that become available in the evenings and about 20 or so SW stations available here in London at various times of the day. I am also fortunate that there is a local broadcast station on 25695 kHz just up the road from here at Crystal Palace so I always have a strong station to check the set-up.

The DREAM DRM is quite easy to get it going, but it lacks help files so I had to explore to find out how it works. The key menue is 'View'. from there, go to 'Stations' menu, which will give a list of stations. Make sure you 'Update' this regularly - DRM is still experimental so stations come and go. The list automatically indicates the stations available at the current time. Once you have tuned into the station you want (on my FT-817 it best to tune about 3kHz above the stated frequency).

Next select 'Evaluation' from the View menu and select 'Waterfall ' from the 'Spectrum' submenu. With a bit of luck, you will see a screen like the one below and once all the traffic lights at the top of the screen turn green, you will hear the decoded signal from your computer speakers.

Decoding is very sensitive to getting the audio level right. Unfortunately, DREAM does not have any facility to adjust this so you will need to open your 'Sounds' screen from your computer's Control Panel (or Settings) menu. You may need to access the 'Recording' sliders. To do this, go the the 'Options' menu and select 'Properties' and then the 'Recording' button (intuitive it is not!).

Then adjust the relevant input level until the DRM signal is mostly green and yellow, with a bit of red. Please note, shortwave is subject to long-term fading so you may need to adjust the level from time to time.

Listening to DRM is very different to normal shortwave listening. When DREAM is decoding sucessfully, the signals are very good quality (almost FM as most broadcasts are Mode 'B' which is intended for the better paths). However, when it gets overwelmed by sudden changes in path or bad multi-path propagation the signal does not fade it just drops. Once the signal comes back, DREAM usually regains syncronization quite quickly so the absence of signal is minimized.

I will say more next time about the programmes I have listened to. Meanwhile please leave a comment with your own experiences of DRM.


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

October 2m Activity Contest

This has not been a good year for me in this contest. I enjoy going out portable, but almost every month the weather has not been suitable this year. Tonight was no exception, with lashing with rain and strong winds, so I worked the contest from home again.

Conditions were a bit flat, but I did manage 30+ QSOs and 8 squares. Best DX 194 km into IO82.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

DRM - Digital Radio Mondial

I am not really a Shortwave Listener, but I have been experimenting lately with Digital Radio Mondial ( DRM ). This is a new digital mode designed for short medium and long wave bands so intended to be more resistant to fades and noise. If you tune the broadcast bands you will come across blocks, arounf 10 kHz wide, that sounds like noise - that's DRM.

There are several commercial DRM receivers now on the market - Google will point the way, but I went the home-brew route. I bought a 455 kHz -> 12 kHz mixer from Sat-Service Schneider in Germany. This is a circuit, about the size of a postage stamp, that does what it says on the can. I then opened up my Yaesu FT-817 and picked off the 455 kHz IF from the plug intended for the narrow CW or SSB filter (most receivers will have somwhere that the IF can be found easily). I connected this IF, which would contain the 10 kHz-wide DRM signal before it would be crushed by the narrow filtering in the receiver, and passed it to the 455 kHz input of the SSS mixer.

The output at 12 kHz is then passed to my lap top sound card which is running DREAM software that decodes the DRM signals. (Google Dream +drm +radio). DREAM if free and does a lot more than just decode DRM, but more of this on a later post.

I am currently listening to the German stations RTL from their tranmitter in Luxembourg cool music (ghost from the past for those who remeber 208?) - almost error free. I will post more on this subject later.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

An hour on 30m

The sun spot minimum just seems to keep on going; will we ever see another sunspot?

There is an up-side to this, my favourate band, 30m, produces reasonable activity and as I had an hour to spare this evening I tuned around it. Nothing spectacular but I did work EA8CAC, UA3MAI and Z30U before the band closed - thanks guys! 'Cards' are waiting for you at

That's one of the great things about amateur radio for me - I can enjoy it even if I only have an hour to spare.


Friday, 26 September 2008

Visit to VP9

My Bermuda licence arrived before I left for VP9, thanks to the Departmet of Telecommunications.

Operating from hotels is always a bit of a lottery. My room, at the Rosemont Appartments was lovely, as it opened into the pool area, but not much good for radio. I put up a wire antenna and was able to hear stations on the US east coast on 40 and 30 but could not get them to hear me. I did not hear a thing from Europe. Can anyone suggest a compact antenna, suitable for use in a hotel room, that will give a low radiation angle?

The local repeater, VP9AX/R was easy to access and I put out several calls. Unfortunately these did not produce any replies. The repeater is an Echolink gateway and on Wednesday evening I heard ZL2ADR call in. I am not a big fan of Internet linking, but as Andy had taken the trouble to call in from New Zealand I gave him a call back. I was just on my way out to meet some people for dinner so could not chat for as long as I would have liked. I was then called by ZL4CZ/M andso had a quick chat with Steve before I had to dash out.

From the radio point of view, my visit to VP9 was disapointing. This was partly because of the poor location of my room and also I was busy with work so did not have much time to improve the antenna. There was very little activity on the local repeater but I might take a small hand-held with me next time I go back there.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Visit to VP9

I will be in Bermuda from 21-25 September hope to take my FT-817 along for the ride.

The main purpose of the trip is business, and I won't have much time to operate, but hope to get on the air in the evenings on 40m or 30m CW.

Listen out for M0BGR/VP9 - I will be a weak signal as I will only be running 5 Watts and will be using a wire antenna.


Friday, 15 August 2008

August 2m Activity Contest

This contest takes place on the first Tuesday of each month from 2000 to 2230 Clock time. If you are new to contesting then give it a go as it's a lot more friendly than most events. Listen around 144.300 SSB. The exchange is (genuine) signal report, serial number and 6-figure grid square.

I sometimes operate portable, but the weather was bad so stayed at home. Just before the contest my 25W linear started playing up so had to run my bare back 817 with just 5W. Conditons were poor so spent the first two hours working local stuff and clocking up a miserable score.

I did work G4DEZ, Brin in Lincolnshire (JO03) , but just after my computer froze and I lost the report and I had to go back and ask for a repeat. Brin is one of the 'big guns' in this contest, but he very kindly broke off and helped me out.

Just after 10pm the band opened a bit and I worked 4 multipliers in 15 minutes that gave me a respectable score. Never give up on 2m is the moral of this tale.


Saturday, 2 August 2008

IOTA Contest

Unfortunately, I missed the IOTA contest this year as I had a wedding in Manchester that day. I did toy with the idea of taking a rig along and doing a couple of hours portable operation but decided it was better to spend my time with seldom-seen relatives and friends.

Prior to being invited to the wedding, I had started planning a light-weight operation in Iceland. Perhaps 2009? If you are interested in joining me then get in touch.



Tuesday, 22 July 2008

6m Activity Contest

I had a go at this tonight; first time I think. Conditions were not great and only managed three Qs and 2 Multipliers. I heard a few other stations, but with my 5 Watts and an indoor dipole (non-rotatable), I was not able to work them.

I don't realy have a 6m portable capability, to get myself to a better location, but I might work on this to see if I can improve my scores in this event.



Wednesday, 16 July 2008

2m CC Contest

The results of the 2m Club Championship contest were out today. I was pleased to see one of my clubs, Bittern DX Group ( improve our place from 13th to 11th.

This contest runs from 2000 to 2230 (clock time) the first Tuesday of every month on 2m SSB. Given that it runs every month throughout the year it's a tough one. Given my home QTH is not a good radio site I try to get out portable when I can which gives me the best chance of working some good multipliers (grid squares).

Monday, 14 July 2008

IARU Contest - 12 July

I had a busy weekend, but did manage to operate for an hour or so on Saturday evening. The SSB portion of 40 & 80 were very noisy so I moved down to CW. Sadly, I did not work the UK HQ stations but did work a few overseas stations.


Saturday, 12 July 2008

2m FM 2E0RPS

A short 2m FM QSO with Rod in Peckam tonight. Just as I was thinking of going to bed, he called CQ.

About M0BGR's Station

I live in a crowded suburban area where external antennas are not allowed. This means I have to either run low power with clandestine antennas or go out portable/mobile.

My station consists for an SGC-2020 for HF and an FT-817 for all bands, QRP, Portable. Additionally I have a Kenwood D7 for VHF/UKF FM and packet/APRS and a Yaesu VX5-R for VHF/UHF FM.

My antennas are all in the loft space:-

  • An HF doublet that tunes OK on all bands with my Z-11 auto tuner
  • A 6m fixed horizontal dipole (made from some old 15mm copper pipe)
  • A 2m 5-element beam on my Yaesu G-250 rotator
  • A 70cm 7-element beam, also on my rotator.
  • A vertical 2m/70 cm co-linear for FM.

As well as operating in London, we have a house in Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk and I operate from there whenever possible.