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)

Study – Never to Old

I’m currently studying for the Advanced License exam which I would like to attempt in December 14, the sites that have training material freely available are:

BRATS
Chelmsford ARS

To test progress Hamtest have online mock exams, sample RSGB papers can be downloaded from here.

A superb downloadable program for your PC is available from G3KZB called QADV, this is a great program to assist learning as it has a huge range of sample questions allowing you to view your strengths and areas for development.

If you know of any more, please let me know using the contact form.

SWR of Inverted ‘L’

Their is a great saying that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, I was reading about the optimal (link to random length article) length of antenna wire, my overall wire length is 30m rather than at one of the optimum lengths specified in the link, one of the indicators apparently was if the auto-tuner tuned to perfectly, then it is not optimized for all the bands that the tuner can tune to.

According to the article, my antenna length should be 25.6m, so I loped 4.4m off the end and gleefully went to the shack to see what a dramatic change this will have made, well it used to tune on 80m and now it doesn’t 🙁

The ladder came back out as did the soldering iron and heat shrink, I now have it back to as it was and I won’t make that mistake again!

The table shows the results of the SG-237 tuning a 30m inverted ‘L’ wire at 6m above ground:

SWR Tuned Readings
SWR Tuned Readings

Lesson learned or is it now Lesson identified.

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