WSPR – Propagation Report on 10 Watts

Now revision is over, I’ve been playing with WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter)pronounced ‘whisper’, I’ve had the program for quite a while but never really dedicated any time to setting it up, other rather checking that I can connect to the Kenwood and it allows the program to receive and transmit.

I set WSPR to report on the 30m band with a spot receiving frequency of 10.138.70MHz USB with a 2 minute RX/TX cycle using 10 Watts, unbelievably my very first report back was from the USA, this is a screen grab after a couple of hours:

WSPR on 10w
Map showing stations who received my 10 Watt transmission

Maybe my inverted ‘L’ isn’t as bad as thought! I’ll keep it running for a while and see who else can hear me. I will add to this post with more screen grabs when it has been running for longer and I get some even further contacts hopefully.

The screen shot below was taken on the 20th May 2017, I was running a Kenwood TS-200- at 5watts :

 

wspr

Advanced Exam – Update

I sat the Advanced Amateur Radio exam on the 8 December, the venue was Cauis (pronounced Key’s) College in Cambridge city center with the exam starting at 19:00, Martin from Cambridge University Wireless Club (CUW) arranged the venue and invigilated, Colin from Cambridge and District Amateur Radio Club acted as the second invigilator.

The exam had an allocated time of two hours and three in total taking the exam, the results are due 6 working days after receipt of the completed papers at RSGB Headquarters in Bedford, so I’m hoping to hear one way or the other by Tuesday 16 December using the OFCOM licensing web portal as I’m told this is where you find out earlier than wait for the results letter, the downside is that if your registration code used on the OFCOM site does not allow you past the application stage, then it may not be good news :-(.

Watch this space and I’ll post up as soon as I know.

17 December 14 – Well it’s good news, checked the OFCOM web site and bingo, passed the advanced, my new call sign is M0HTA, when I got home the envelope containing the certificate was waiting for me, posted on the 16th.

In my blog I’ve mentioned Hamtests and QADV being used as part of my pre exam revision, here are a couple of screen shots of what I did:

Hamtests

hamtestSet of 10 test questions with a 10 minute time limit.

hamtest1Set of 62 test questions with a 2 hour time limit.

The results dropped on the 7th December as my exam was on the 8th and I was panicking!

QADV

QADV resultsCombined results of QADV.

Sorry for the compressed image – the last version used was downloaded on the 6th December, 2 days before the exam.

QADV I found to be very well supported in regard to upgrades and it was very easy to use,  the screen grabs were from my Laptop, the program was also installed on my desktop so the number of tests actually undertaken is a lot higher than shown (each version change wipes your previous results)!

Many thanks to the providers of Hamtests, QADV, advice from members of CDARC and CUW for facilitating the exam.

General Status Update

14 December 14 was a record for the duration the weather PC has worked without a glitch, usually I have to restart, or close and then re-open an application every week or so, but this time it ran for 31 days and 16 hours before a restart which is really good.

Had a few days of the weather site not being available (5 Dec – 10 Dec), this was due to an upload which failed due to a corrupt file, unfortunately everything work ok when I accessed the site, it was only when I enabled Pingdom.com did the problem come to light, this has meant that the’ Who’s Online’ menu bar item is not available until this corrupt file is found and fixed.

The other issue has been with ‘Space Weather’, NOAA has revamped their web site and this has led to a number of broken links, I’m waiting for a week or so before I start tracking the links down and re-linking in case they continue tweaking for a bit longer.

Sun & Moon Script

Managed, only with the help of the Weather Forums, to sort two problems on this page, the first niggle was the season under the Earth was showing Winter not Autumn, this was solved by the forums and involved pasting a later code over the top of my existing code, the other niggle was the sun/moon graphic not showing up, this was fixed by placing this line – date_default_timezone_set(“Europe/London”); on the script page, the script used to run before, but since moving to Go Daddy it stopped, but now all is well.

The forum thread issue is here: http://www.wxforum.net/index.php?topic=24288.0

Ham Radio Page

Made a few changes to the Ham Radio pages, this is a page that will continue to be under constant development, their are stacks of web sites dedicated to the topic and I’m refining mine to attract a general interest in the subject and a quick entry feature for hams to get search and discovery information.

If their is anything specific that you would like considering fro insertion in this page, please drop me a line using the contact form.

High Altitude Balloon Tracking

Finally managed to download dl-fldigi, this is a modification to the existing Fldigi in that it will download the configuration files needed for the balloons and upload the tracking details once received to a tracker site. so you can visually monitor the balloon progress.

The trouble I was having in downloading the program was due to my Nortons Anti-Virus not taking a liking to the download and rejecting it, after confirming that it was possible to download – thanks David, I set a restore point on my PC, inhibited the anti-virus program, and bingo, it downloaded, once unzipped and installed, I re-enabled the anti-virus and ran a scan just to make sure everything was ok, which it was.

Can’t wait to track a balloon now to see it in action, roll on Mark’s (M6CKD) next effort!

Blitzortung Build

I run a weather station incorporating amongst other things, two forms of lightning detection, the first is a Blitzortung and is based on a self build kit, details can be found on my weather site here, if you follow the build link on that page, there is further details on its construction or clicking here will take you to the build page directly.

The second lightning detector is a LD-250, the display page is here, this page allows you to set your own local lightning alert, click on the ‘User Options’ contained within the map frame to set your parameters, help files can be found here.

Modification to my setup

Not sure where to start with this, so the easiest first; I enjoy listening to the scheduled networks on FM, and as a member of CDARC I wanted to participate in their regular nets, unfortunately my Diamond X30 just could not quite pull in all the signals (Chatteris is not exactly the (highest point on the planet – not the lowest though!).

I opted for the SPA-X200-N from an ebay vendor due to the increase in gain, ability to be a direct replacement for the X30 and its price point. I tested the antenna for the first time today (12 Oct 14) and worked really well, this antenna is not a Diamond original so hopefully it will last, I have used silicon grease on the sealing gasket where the two sections screw together to keep the water out but I suppose that’s not much use if it snaps in the wind 🙁 -Watch this space!

SAM_5195 (Medium)X200 which replaced the smaller X30

The X200 is connected to a coaxial switching relay in the loft, as my intention to remotely switch over to a dual band Yagi antenna for listening/transmitting on sideband, but that’s for another time.

Ok, the next saga was my lack of reception when using my random length antenna, the antenna would tune but the transceiver was quiet of activity, called Andy (G6OHM) for his advice and whist we were on the phone compared what he could receive on a particular frequency to me when tuned to the same frequency, yep something wasn’t right.

Andy came round armed with his experience and a 4:1 balun, right he said “back to basics”, so the SG auto-tuner, MFJ artificial ground unit and MFJ SWR/tuner came out of circuit and the balun went in, simply connected to the antenna wire and earth, their was a huge difference, but Andy noticed the really high background noise level causing signals to struggle to be heard, I was pleased that the signals had been increased, but a bit miffed that all this quite expensive kit was redundant, Andy loaned me the balun, and that night I ordered one from ebay for £33.00.

A few days later I decided to power the rig from a battery and turn the house power off to try and locate the source of the background interference, it turned out that the biggest problem started around 29.700Mhz where S+60db signal noise is noted, I suspect is from a neighbours solar power inverter, outside of this frequency the background noise wasn’t that noticeable.

I relocated the rigs Power Supply to beneath the desk and started turning the power on, one circuit at a time, each time checking the radio for additional interference, I was hoping for a dramatic leap in background noise caused by electrical interference, but the background noise didn’t really alter which was strange, when Andy was here a few days earlier it did have a higher noise floor.

I have previously spent a lot of effort putting in a ground earth system, so I though I’d measure the resistance from the cable outer at the garden end to my earth terminal block which is robustly connected throughout back to the rig, when I saw the reading was into fluctuating Megohms rather than ohms, I thought ‘now that can’t be right’?????!

From the earth block at the bottom of the garden I ran a connected wandering lead with a multimeter inline set on ohms scale to track the where the problem was, at each of the earth rod positions measured the resistance of the copper earth rod connection back to the earth block (taking into account the additional resistance the wandering lead introduced), all read less that 1 ohm, that is until I measured the last one before it enters the house on route to the rig, where it was all over the place, it turned out that the brass bolt which secured the earth clamp to the copper rod had failed and the earthing connections had sprung open. Inspecting the bolt showed that the brass casting in the center of the bolt was flawed and the subsequent material stresses had caused a catastrophic failure.

Replacing the bolt and getting the integrity of the RF earth back to the rig and antenna tuner allowed me to put the SG tuner back in circuit and everything seems to be working and receiving just fine.

I have left the MFJ kit disconnected, hence the before and after pictures below:

2014-07-16 23.40.11 (Custom)As was.

SAM_5191 (Medium)As is (can you spot the difference).

Hindsight moment – Don’t over-read looking for resolution to problems which you haven’t met or experienced yet, more importantly, don’t buy equipment until you know you need it, I also bought a tuner with a built in power and SWR meter, the rig has this already built in, hence it’s now in a box in the loft.

On a lighter note – Here’s me and Barney in the man cave.

SAM_5198 (Medium)

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