Greetings from the South West of France
Rarely active on the HF bands due a complete lack of interest and general disgust in the operating practices of a large majority of so called European 'DX' operators, who can make the simple task of working a rare station and turn it into nothing short of Chaos !!
Why am i so negative about some of the amateurs in Europe ? On my last Dx-Expedition, having spent a fair amount of money to activate XX9E with friends in 2012 i was appalled by the standard of operating from a large number of European operators, the JA stations were a delight to work as were most of the guys in the states. From now on i will concentrate my Dx-Expeditions to working guys who appreciate the time, money and sacrifice made to activate somewhere they want in their logs, not petty and constant complaints, i am not on this band, that mode when they decide it suits them !!! Watch this video by K6VVA to understand better the problem if you wish
If i do decide to take the risk and put out a CQ call i will nearly always be on CW or PSK, SSB is too much like hard work, occasionally on 6m with a wire dipole, most of the gear here is from Kenwood, the amplifiers are not normally turned on anymore as i enjoy QRP operating, that said i am in no rush to sell any of my gear, so be sure when one of our friends from the African continent e-mails you saying they are me with a price you just cannot say NO too, its not going to be me !!!! :-))))
I leave a small SDR receiver on 24/7 on either 40m or 30m normally with a 160/80/40m vertical or if there is any bad weather around (Lightning, not something i like) i switch to a dipole and keep my fingers crossed, or if its like this storm which we had over the house, i turn everything off !!
This cheap little SDR rx runs 24 hours a day and has never let me down or given me any problems, i do not use a preamplifier on this receiver and the signal reports it uploads to the RBN using CwSkimmer (an excellent overview detailing how it works described by Paul GW8IZR can be found here, i recommend you read it) are very close to what i see here on a conventional HF rig, for a dual-band 40/30m rx it is just superb (you just need to move a jumper to change bands) i do not understand why more guys do not run these and uploads spots to the RBN cluster, you have an internet connection 24hrs a day you have already paid for !! so why not make the most of it, you already have an antenna for most bands, all you need to do is spend fifty pounds for one of these receivers and buy the software from Alex and thats it !!!
Please note that since i wrote this Chris has discontinued this SDR receiver and replaced it with the new and rather interesting SDR+4 which covers HF all the way up to and including the 4m band, i will hopefully have one in the shack to monitor the sporadic E openings on 6 and 4m this year
The reverse beacon network is a fantastic tool for cw operators, whether you are testing a new antenna, checking out propagation on a particular band or working QRP, it enables you to put out a CQ call and to see virtually instantly how well and how far your signal is being heard and by whom. You can check here to see if i am hearing you !!
A quick way to see how well your signal is getting out is to put out a couple of calls and see in the list who hear you and where they are 'live' so to speak, but what about yesterday or last week from the portable site?
Simply click on the right hand side of the RBN page where you see the button 'options' this will open a drop down box where you can change your language preference, show stations who are logbook of the world users, etc, the map with greyline is what you want to enable, so click this and then click 'search spot by callsign' and type in your callsign and hit return on your keyboard
You will then see a list of all the stations running cw skimmer who heard you call CQ and each stations location is shown on the map, which can you can zoom in or out, to your hearts content !
You can see below, for example i put out a CQ call on the 40m band (7Mhz) with my IC706 running 50watts to the inverted V dipole, so even though i made 3 qso's, one Canadian, one station in Yugoslavia and an EA8 mobile, my station was working as expected
Below my bandpass filter i use when i have the rx on 40m, i have run 2.5Kw on 30m, the same on 80m and the SDR rx does not see me, even beaming an 7 element monobander yagi for 10m towards the vertical with an ERP of over 10Kw the SDR rx does not flinch one bit, impressive little toy.
Update 08.07.2013 Due to my computer crashing for reasons unknown the skimmer will not be running until i can figure out how to get it up and running again.
28.07.2013 For the time being the SDR for the RBN is still off-line, the processor in the PC and the primary hard-drive were both destroyed as was the SDR receiver, whether it was due to lightning i will never know, either way i have started to build a new RX and am waiting to collect the PC from the shop as i just could not figure out the fault, seemed more prudent to 'buy my problems' and let an expert fix it !!!
29.07.2013 Update - Thankfully i have the pc back home and although getting everything back to where it was is going to take some time, its working again which is a big plus, i managed to find the faulty component on the SDR board and replaced it and low and behold we are back in the 'skimming' business again.
For the time being i am going to leave the skimmer setup on 30m (10Mhz) as there are tonnes of Europeans all day long, some really nice Dx at the right times and plenty of SOTA activity, it also enables me to test out my new End Fed wire i bought from Rob PA3EKE and Ron PA3RK in Holland for portable operating, shown below quickly mounted to the window bars on the back of our garage.
There is a host of information about End Fed antennas some excellent, others very misleading, one of the best has to be from W8JI who has mine of information on his site.
To try out the theories W8JI mentioned in his article i added an Choke-Balun, shown below (bought from Balun Designs in Texas, a company who i recommend wholeheartedly to anyone) to the antenna and as always it reduced both the level of noise on my radio and the standing wave ratio decreased, the balun in the photo below is one of many i have here, they are very high quality high power units, i use one right after my amplifier another in the feed-line and one at the feed point of my 160m/80m vertical and they work exceptionally well in not only reducing noise, it ensures all my power is going into the antenna and no where else, for example into the neighbours TV set !!!!
For the time being i have run the antenna wire up to an old roach-pole and then it slopes off to and is attached to a tree in a sort of an inverted V arrangement, you can just make out the wire if you look hard enough in the following photograph. The wire to the left hand side is one leg of an inverted V for 40m (7Mhz)
The only mod i have made to the antenna is add a second insulator the end, the original shown below, i have left floating on the wire to act as a support on the roach pole.
As always when trying out a new antenna i will leave my gear for a day or two running WSPR its another superb medium to gauge how well is performing (depending on band conditons that is!!)
Having put up the new end fed (delivered the same day) i left the transceiver at 2watts running WSPR overnight , you can see how it worked below.
If you need a QSL card for a particular award i will be glad to send you a card via the Buro, have FUN on the bands - 73 CN3LY DA2QW F5VLY XX9TLY
If you need to contact me, my e-mail address is 'email@example.com, N.B for the terminally stupid please note that you need replace 'mycall' with mycall :-).however do not expect a rapid response as i am not really interested in the 'Net' and all the haSsle Associated with it !!!
Please all note previous e-mail address of mine are no longer active and should be ignored, i no longer use Microsoft, Google, Hotmail, cloud servers, Facebook, Skype, etc !!
As of Oct 2013 we have moved QTH, for the time being we have no internet connection here, thus no RBN uploads and the only antenna i have erected is the end fed for 30m up at 7-8m AGL together with my old Icom 706. However this location seems very noisy, which is normal as we no longer live in the countryside, so i only have Morse Runner to keep me happy on cw. All the rest of the gear, antennas and pylones are taking up a huge amount of space in the garage until i have time to start building a new station.
Update Jan 2014, finally connected to the internet, however this QTH is less than ideal to the point where my RBN spots are painfully low in signal strength compared to our last qth, i am going to move the long wire higher up when it finally stops raining to hopefully improve reception, as it has rained non-stop for weeks and i am not about to risk a walk on the roof, i have taken the easy option and erected a dipole for 40m as an inverted V on one of the large trees in the garden, the feedpoint is up around 6-7m above ground level and there is about 25m of RG213 running back to the house - it seems to work fine with plenty of good spots on 40m. You can see the feedpoint below, i know its a bit low, but i do not have a longer ladder !!!
Although i will be happy when i can get it higher up the 'natural pylone' i figure its a good 25-28m total height, you can just make out the balun in the photo below, if you look hard enough
Its not the ideal setup considering the station i had before, but that said, a lot of guys would be over the moon to have an antenna outside, so i am not complaining. I used this antenna in the French Contest late January 2014 (just having moved) and managed about 650 or so Qso's, mostly on 40m, about forty contacts on 15m and even a handfull on 10m with the internal ATU of the TS2000X, you the see the temporary setup below, a rush job the friday evening before the contest start, the gear in the garage below the house.
A bit rough and ready, but at least i worked a few stations and hopefully gained some points for my French Department in the contest, although it was damn cold down there, thats the reason for the fan and the cover over the amp, to blow some warm air my way, believe me i was very very cold !!
Last modified: 2014-02-20 18:42:20, 21759 bytes
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