24 December, 2014

Getting ready for 60 meter

I have never had any contacts on the 5 MHz or the 60 meter band. But I guess it's time for that now.

Both my K2 and my K3 support it and about 40 countries now have access to this band according to K1ZZ in his column "It seems to us" in this month's QST.

As a first test I ran my 0.2 W Ultimate 3 GPS-controlled WSPR transmitter over night and the image shows the result. I am using an 80 m long loop skywire antenna (horizontal loop) tuned to 60 m.

The results were encouraging with the best DX being UR5VIB in Ukraine at a distance of 1887 km. By the way, considering that it is 1093 km to LA9JO in the north of Norway, one sees the distortion in the map projection used for the Google map.

I have also operated the antenna as a vertical (about 8 meters) with top-hat loading by tying both feed-line conductors together and feeding it against a ground plane. The result is quite similar. The article by Dave Fischer, W0MHS called "The Loop Skywire" in QST November 1985 is the reference for both uses of the loop. The article starts out with this catchy phrase: Looking for an all-band HF antenna that is easy to construct, costs nearly nothing and works great DX? Try this one! This matches my experience exactly as this antenna has been instrumental for my 8 band DXCC.

14 December, 2014

Waiting for an AP510/AVRT5 APRS tracker

I just ordered an AP510/AVRT5 APRS tracker and am anxious to get my hands on it to try it out. I like the small size and the fact that it is self contained - no external wires are needed to have a fully functional tracker for the automatic packet reporting system APRS: But is it useful or just a toy?

The specifications from the Amazon.co.uk site are (adapted from Chinglish):
  • SainSonic AVRT5 APRS Tracker VHF with GPS/Bluetooth/Thermometer/TF Card, Support of APRSdroid
  • GPS module: SIRF3 module, high sensitivity, fast positioning, stable power.
  • GPS antenna: 18mm x 18mm active GPS antenna, built-in LNA amplification, Star Search, locate quickly.
  • VHF Module (1W): The latest 1W VHF transceiver modules, small size, high stability for all types of wireless data transmission.
  • VHF antennas are individually matched to transmitter to ensure that the standing wave ratio is proper and the emission is efficient.
I also signed up for the Yahoo group AP510 AVRT5 APRS.

What attracted me were the reviews given by DK7XEDJ7OO (German), and APRS.facile.fr (French) and the descriptions at Radioddity and Sparky's blog,

It is evident that the 2. harmonic suppression leaves something to be desired, that the antenna is inefficient, that the programming interface isn't the easiest to deal with, and that it can be hard to set the frequency for people in countries such as Norway with PC's set for "," rather than "." as the decimal point. Hopefully I can figure out ways to deal with all these and also other issues that may show up.

12 December, 2014

Congratulations to Logbook of the World

Congratulations to the ARRL Logbook of the World (LOTW) which just reached 100 million confirmed contacts. This is the same as an impressive 200 million QSL cards out of about 630 million uploaded contacts on LOTW.

LOTW was established way back in 2003. This was only 2 years after I got my license. Since I have never enjoyed much to fill in QSL cards I embraced LOTW very quickly. I have to say though that I will of course respond with a paper QSL for those who ask for one.

But LOTW has been my primary means of confirming contacts for a decade. My DXCC was confirmed with LOTW.

Now at the same time that LOTW is celebrating 100 millions confirmations, I am celebrating 8 bands with 100 or more contacts all confirmed via Logbook of the World. This is on all bands from 3.5 to 28 MHz and has been my goal for many years. The last confirmation came from the TC0A contest station in Turkey on 80 m after last month's CQ World Wide CW contest.

I consider myself lucky to have reached 100 confirmations even on the elusive 12 m band which we all know will shut down soon not to reopen again until the next solar maximum in about 11 years time.

But as the saying goes "The journey is the reward", so what to do next as a radio amateur?