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Join the Amateur Radio Community – Online Foundation Course starts September

August 11, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

Join the world-wide amateur radio community with our FREE successful online course!

If you, or anyone you know, is looking to get into amateur radio then the Wythall Radio Club Online Foundation course could be just what you are looking for.

With amateur radio, you could be chatting to someone in the next street – or another continent!

With the need for practical assessments currently suspended due to the Coronavirus, together with the RSGB’s ability to offer remotely invigilated online examinations which candidates can do in their own home, we can take students from anywhere in the country.

Our courses are done through a Virtual Learning Experience called Edmodo and comprise a number of video lessons (via YouTube) plus lesson notes and lesson quizzes and other supporting information.

We mark the quizzes and provide individual feedback.  As a consequence,  we limit our courses to a maximum of 20 students.

There is no charge for doing the course.  You will need to book and pay for your examination direct with the RSGB through the exam booking website. You can also purchase the course book “The Foundation Licence Manual” through the RSGB online shop.

You also do not have to be a member of Wythall Radio Club to do this course although many of our Midlands based student do join us.

We will probably start this course in early September and it will run for 7 weeks. If interested please contact our Training Coordinator, Chris G0EYO on [email protected] “ 


Antennas sprout for DX challenge

August 08, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

A variety of antennas are being used for this month’s Wythall Radio Club DX Challenge on the WARC bands, any modes.

Tim M6OTN, at his caravan in Somerset, made an inverted vee sloper cut for 18MHz with a counterpoise out of spare wire he had to hand (photo left).  He was shocked how well it worked – “it’s the fun of antennas!”  Tim now has 48 countries worked on this band using FT8 – and the challenge is only one-quarter way through!

Meanwhile John 2E0XET used his trusty 90 feet-long dog-leg doublet to great effect, working ZD7GB on 18078 CW  with 12 watts.  Nice!!

Using spare ladder-line, a coupled-resonator antenna was put into service by Chris G3YHF.

One side is cut as a dipole for 10mhz and fed with coax.  The other side is a single section half-wave for 18mhz with the middle above the dipole feed point but not connected to it.  The 18mhz conductor placed close to the dipole is imposed on the 10mhz dipole and means that the antenna happily resonates on both frequencies.

And at G0MTN, Lee is using a fan dipole for 10, 18 and 24 Mhz and 50Mhz – carefully disguised in a tree!  This has proved very successful in increasing Lee’s DXCC count.


New pictures from space

August 06, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Pictures transmitted from the International Space Station (ISS) were received by Wythall Radio Club members yesterday.

The pictures were received as the ISS passed near the UK on four occasions during the afternoon.  Besides pictures of the ISS, the main theme was Russian helecopters.

Pictures were transmitted by Slow Scan Television (SSTV) on the 2 meter amateur radio band (145.800MHz) and make a warbling sound that needs to be decoded using free MMSSTV software.  

Signals were received by Chris G0EYO and Chris G3YHF along with other members of Wythall Radio Club, using their normal 2 meter VHF equipment.

G0EYO used an FT847 transceiver linked to his computer via a Signalink sound card and a collinear antenna, while G3YHF used a small FT7900 mobile transceiver again with a Signalink and collinear. 

The picture on the left shows the SSTV signal being decoded on MMSSTV.

The ISS astronauts make regular SSTV transmissions.  These are part of the MAI-75 experiment at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) to support video information broadcasting from space in real-time to a wide range of users.

Wythall Radio Club members monitor the bands for these events.

The MAI-75 experiment is carried out using a notebook computer on the ISS, which stores and prepares the photos and videos that are then transmitted to Earth using the ham radio communication system, the primary component of which is the onboard Kenwood TM D700 transceiver of the “Sputnik” ham radio system within the 144-146/430-440 MHz bands.

More pictures received around the world from yesterday’s transmissions – and from previous events – are available here

Monitor ARISS (Amateur Radio on the ISS) for details of future SSTV transmissions.
 
Picture on right shows Russian Cosmonaut M. V. Tiurin during a communication session with the Moscow Aviation Institute. Credits: Moscow Aviation Institute (National Research University)

Worldwide contacts in Wythall RC’s July ‘Challenge’

August 01, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News, Training

What countries can Wythall Radio Club members contact on the 80, 40 and 20 meter bands during July?
 
That was the challenge for Club members, who could use digital, voice and Morse Code to make contacts around the world. 
 
Overall, club members worked 116 countries – including Alaska, China, Hawaii, Kenya and St. Helena island.  To see all the countries worked, click HERE
 
Impressive results were achieved by Allen 2E0VVG who worked 101 unique countries (each country counting only once across the three bands) and Chris G0EYO with 192 countries overall (the total of the countries worked on each of the bands). 
 
Allen decided to give his FT8 signals a little more elevation, so packed up his little all-band, all-mode FT817 rig and operated from his car on a hill-top (photo above).  Perhaps this gave him the edge in being the first to contact 100 unique countries!
 
He also spent “a lot of time on Google maps looking for places that I’d never heard of.   Mayotte is a French island just north of Madagascar apparently!” 
 
Mark M1AEC also managed contacts in the Indian Ocean:  “had a nice contact in to The Re’union Islands off Mauritius on 40m yesterday…. callsign FR4OM”.
 
Carsten OY1CT gave some members a contact with the Faroe Islands, located between Shetland and Iceland.
 
Some burnt the midnight oil in the hunt for rare countries!  “Inspired by the midnight/early morning efforts of Chris G0EYO and Kevin 2E0NCO, thought I’d explore the 40m band at 4.00 a.m. on Saturday” commented John M6KET.  “Surely there would be a VK/ZL waiting for that elusive M6 QSO?  ZL there was – but not audible here!”
 
However Chris’ occasional midnight operations were more productive than John’s:  “Some good ones caught at those times. eg US Virgin Island on 40m at 00:59Z. UAE at 01:33Z on 40m. Uruguay and Dominican Republic at 01:03Z on 40m etc.”
 
Chris G0EYO observed that there are “some interesting differences between us FT8ers (digital mode operators) as we each seem to get countries that others cannot connect to or in my case even see.  It’s all to do with timing, as I guess we have pretty much the same equipment set up.”
 
Here you can see how the total number of countries worked by each member across the 3 bands developed over the month!
 

The Challenge is part of a series, with a different group of amateur radio bands or modes being the focus of activity each month.  Previous months have covered 15,12,10 and 6 meters, and all bands Morse Code only.

The Challenge for August is to work as many different countries as possible on the 30 meter band (using Morse Code and FT8 digital mode) and the 17 and 12 meter bands using these modes and voice (SSB).  
 
 
 
 
 

QRP anyone? Low power fun at Wythall Club

July 13, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

Low power operating – QRP – has added an extra element of fun to Wythall Radio Club members’ recent two-way contacts.

John 2E0XET/M6KET often operates his small KX3 radio (on the left of the desk) in QRP mode – defined as 5 watts output or less – and recently serendipity struck!

“Funny thing radio conditions. With hardly a red spot in sight yesterday morning on DX HEAT at about 11.50 local time I called CQ on 14.060MHz with absolutely no expectations and only 5 watts output.

The band appeared empty, but Leslie K4DY in North Carolina USA came back to me with my RST of 529 (he was 329 here).
 
Hardly earth shattering DX I know, but it made one enthusiast just a little bit more enthusiastic!!”
 
QRP signals may not be s9 – but often they are perfectly readable, especially when using CW.
 
Meanwhile Darren GW7HOC/MW5HOC fired up his 20m FOXX-3 for the first time in about 3 years.  This little kit rig is built into a mint tin and is rock bound (crystal controlled) on 14.060MHz.
 
“I put out a QRS (low speed Morse Code) call with maybe 1 watt, and a guy in Greece called me back! First proper CW QSO in quite a while.  I do like making contacts with my mint tin rigs. Serious fun!”
 
So much fun, Darren has built 3 of these rigs!!
 
14.060 MHz is the calling frequency for QRP stations around the world on the 20M band.
 
Chris G3YHF is another QRP enthusiast.  He recently used very low power (QRPp) – 100 milliwatts – to contact stations in Belgium, Germany and Bulgaria on the 40 and 20 meter QRP frequencies.  Like John and Darren, he used Morse Code, this time with his K3S rig and 40 meter delta loop antenna.
 
His contacts were to celebrate receiving the QRP Master Award from the GQRP Club for working 70 countries with 5 watts of less, of which 20 must be 2-way QRP, plus 60 GQRP Club members.  This was achieved with an Icom 725 modified for QRP output and a G5RV antenna.
 
So wind back the power and give QRP a go!
 
 
 
 
 

90 countries worked in June’s ‘High Band Challenge’

July 01, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Fun, News

What countries can we contact on the higher HF bands during June?
 
That was the challenge set for Wythall Radio Club members.  The focus was on the amateur bands from 15 meters to 6 meters, using the digital mode FT8.  This follows the similar Morse Code-only challenge in May.
 
Overall, club members worked 91 countries – including Hawaii, Chile, Mauritania, Saint Helena island, Cuba and Asiatic Russia.
 
Impressive results were achieved by Chris G0EYO who worked 77 different countries, closely followed by Lee G0MTN with 69. 
 
On 6 meters – a band noted for its occasional and often very short openings – Mike G4VPD was very active working an impressive 46 countries.  Best DX included Bahrain, Puerto Rico, Tajikistan, Canada and Armenia.
 
Overall, there were 607 QSOs during June’s High Band Challenge.
 
But it wasn’t all easy going.  Band conditions were often poor, with limited and sporadic propogation – “Bands dreadful today, but managed to get Albania on 15m this morning, only there for 10 mins”. 
 
The heat wave in the middle of the month caused additional problems – “Too hot to go into the shack today!” 
 
And occasional erroneous entries in the on-line log caused excitement – “Well done – Swaziland on 15m & 12m! ”  “Just checking my log. Looks like I probably did mean Switzerland.”
 
Here you can see how the QSOs developed over the month!
 
 
July’s challenge for club members is to work as many different countries on 80, 40 and 20m using any mode – digital, Morse or SSB (voice).
 
To see the countries worked by band in June’s Challenge, click this link 

Award for CW success

June 17, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Stuart M0SRZ is the 2020 recipient of Wythall Radio Club’s Lew Williams Shield

This annual award recognises a member’s progress with CW (Morse Code), and is in memory of Wythall Radio Club’s former CW tutor and President.  It was presented at a recent virtual meeting of members.

Stuart obtained his Foundation Licence in 2016, followed by Intermediate and Full in the same year.  He took the CW Academy Beginner Course in spring 2019, and has been making great progress ever since…..

“The CW Academy courses have been instrumental in my progress. However, the vital element is the support, encouragement and example of a club such as our own.

The gentle introduction to the mysteries of Morse, and the inspiring, consistent example of John 2E0XET, began my present endeavour to learn and, hopefully, attain some degree of proficiency.  And that banner is now carried on by the Club’s current CW tutor David G0HVN.  

A history of CW teaching that started with Lew Williams, long before I joined this Club, continues to this day. 

Reading about the CW exploits of many club members provides further encouragement.

I shall try to earn that honour during this year by taking the CW Academy Intermediate course during September/October – and that is going to demand a lot of practice between now and then! ” 

Stuart commends the free CW Academy courses: “They are quite intensive – two online hour-long sessions each week – and you really have to put in the practice every day. If you’re interested take a look at https://cwops.org/cw-academy/

 


Inside the VP8PJ QSL Bureau

June 05, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Tim MØURX is QSL manager for some major DXpeditions as well as being a Wythall Radio Club member.  Here is his inside story of the QSL manager’s life for the recent VP8PJ expedition to Signy Island in Antarctica….

The recent DXpedition to South Orkney Islands VP8PJ took the QSL work here at United Radio QSL Management Bureau to a new level.

I have had the pleasure of working with the Perseverance DX Group since their activation to Mellish Reef VK9MT in 2014. So I was delighted to be asked to be involved with the VP8PJ DXpedition

As always, the project starts with a conference call with the team about 18 months before the DXpedition to explain what is expected of me and what I expect from the team.  A verbal agreement on all points is noted and is followed up by a contract agreed by email. 

For me there are two parts of this expedition that required a lot of work.

Prior to the expedition I need to make sure that the features and tools on OQRS (Online QSL Request System) were all set up correctly and working. 

An important part of this relates to the team’s donors.  VP8PJ had donations from 1,500 supporters and they wanted these supporters to get something back through immediate LoTW uploads and free QSL cards for those donating upwards of $50 to the expedition funds.

This requirement alone needs a tool that I call “Donor management from Excel”.  This feature saves me a huge amount of time. The Excel file uploads to OQRS and populates the QSL requirements to the log including mailing address labels.  It also queues the QSOs to LoTW (Logbook of the World) for those donors lucky enough to be in the log.

The main work for me is from when the DXpedition started in late February through to March.

It had been planned to make live log uploads from the DXpedition on site.  Sadly, the path to the satellite – of which they only could see the southern-most footprint – was just 8 degrees above the horizon. As the site on Signy Island was mountainous to the north it blocked the path to the satellite.

This meant that getting any log update from the team proved really difficult.  It involved a tricky Zodiac boat ride (photo right) from the site to the MV Braveheart (the white vessel in photo below) anchored in safe waters.  Then the Braveheart had to move away from the island so that the team could access the satellite and send me the log.

This process proved too complicated given the conditions, so we decided to upload the whole log at the end of the DXpedition. 

When we did get the final log update there were tens of thousands of log checks being raised and the strain on the OQRS was quite immense, but after a few hours it settled down and the QSL requests started pouring in. During March I had dealt with 800 busted / missing call inquiries on my OQRS and dealt with a further 400 emails.

Although most of the emails were straight forward there were a few emails that tested my patience with some people being rather rude and ignorant, but we got through it!

In April it was time to turn to the QSL design and further conference calls to talk it through and to decide on how the team wanted the card to look – a theme, a font style and the very important placement of the foundation and corporate logos.

It was these organisations that dug deep to help pay for the serious $330,000 cost of this expedition so getting everyone represented on the design was crucial. After a couple of weeks Max ON5UR had finalised the QSL design and this was then sent to the print room.

While the designs were being printed, I printed out both sets of labels, one for the 4,700 addresses and another set of 6,000 labels for the QSOs. Up to 7 QSOs per label. I had previously ordered 5,000 envelopes and overprinted the postage paid imprint back in February. So putting the labels on the envelopes was quite a huge job and then to keep them all in call sign order. 

On the 11th May the QSL cards arrived from Belgium in 3 huge 35kg boxes. With lock down it meant that I had to do this on my own which gave me some concern as I also have a full time job to do!  So every hour while I wasn’t working or sleeping I was sticking the 6,000 labels on the cards and then stuffing all the envelopes.

Finally I had 4,715 letters ready to post… So maybe now i can relax knowing that the job is done!

Already the team have announced their next project New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands DXpedition (OC-037).

See more photos of VP8PJ DXpedition here


Having fun with ‘old’ radio modes in May!

May 31, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Wythall Radio Club members have been having fun with Morse Code and AM – amplitude modulation – during May!

The Club’s ‘high band challenge’ was to contact as many countries as possible by Morse Code on the higher short wave bands – part of our Morse May activity month. 

Members worked 28 countries each on 15 and 10 meters, 3 on 12 meters and 12 on 6 meters.

Highlights were Argentina, Asiatic Russia, South Africa and Mali on 15 meters, Israel and Morocco on 10 meters and the Canary Isles and Sardinia on 6 meters.

And as conditions on these bands were so good, several members had contacts on 10 meters using AM – sometimes referred to as ‘ancient modulation’ – which used to be the main voice mode until the 1970s.  

Using ground wave, Club members within about 6 miles of each other were able to make contact.  But Winston, 2E0EGP, also had a qso with a station in Italy on AM via sky wave propogation. 

Morse Code was the original mode for radio communication, but is still widely used because of its reliability under poor conditions.  And AM used to be the main voice mode until SSB (single side band) replaced it in the 1970s.   So this was truely a month for having fun using ‘old modes’!

During June, Club members will be taking part in another ‘high band challenge’ – but this time using digital mode FT8, which is one of the latest modes for communicating by radio.

 


Successes and fun in CQ World Wide contest

May 26, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club, Contest, Fun, News

Three Wythall Radio Club members entered the 48-hour CQ World-Wide CW Contest in November 2019.  Now the results have been published, here are their stories and achievements!

Jamie M0SDV, Lee GoMTN and Chris G3YHF each entered different categories of this Morse code-only competition and were placed 2nd, 3rd and 2nd out of the English stations in their respective class. 

Jamie M0SDV reports:  I was looking for a station that was better equipped for contesting than my own .  Chris G0DWV in Norfolk said he would host me, using the call G9Y (see Chris’s antennas below!).   I decided to enter the SO2R (single operator 2 radio) high power all bands section.

The first night on the low bands was incredible. The contest started at 0001UTC and I managed the first 1,000 QSOs by 1 hour after sun rise. Then conditions flipped so I decided to have a go at dual CQ – calling on both 20 and 15m at the same time using the 2 radios.

The picture shows me operating radio 1 (left) transmitting an exchange whilst I use radio 2 (right) to do search and pounce for multipliers.

I learned a few things here. The main one being, if you’re going to dual CQ, the CQ itself needs to be short and fast!

With another night shift coming on, I decided to work the sunset DX on the low bands, working YB (Indonesia), VK (Australia), ZL (New Zealand), along with far east Russia and some South East Asian countries.  

On the second day I worked the missing Europeans from the day before and started to focus on chasing more elusive multipliers.  Using the second radio as much as I could I would pause the run on 20 and CQ on 15 whilst searching for multipliers, and vice versa.  

The 2nd radio also let me keep an eye on 10m, which did have a short opening to Africa bagging me V55A (Namibia), ZD7W (St. Helena) and some ZS (South African) stations.

This contest was super fun! Reflecting, I needed to spend more time in S&P (search and pounce) mode looking for the multipliers and less time trying to make a load of 1 point QSOs.  I also needed to better plan my off-time. This caused me to lose some 160m QSO’s.

It seems Experience trumps Youth in this case.  Thank you to Chris G0DWV and his YL Tina for being incredible hosts and making me feel welcome yet again!

Jamie operated for 41/48 hours and made 3,709 QSOs – that’s about 91 per hour!  His score was 2,635,578 points and he was placed 65/1057 entrants world-wide in his class.

You can find a write up of Jamie’s exploits using the pre-production Gemini DX1200 linear amp, loaned by the DX Shop, here

Lee G0MTN reports: Despite writing ‘CQWW Contest!’ on the kitchen calendar back in January, through bad luck and lack of other available dates my wife was away on a work trip on the Sunday so I was in “SO2R high power all bands assisted + childcare” mode.

I took Friday afternoon off work to wind up the mast and prepare the wire antennas. I had Spiderbeam yagi / 40m dipole @ 50 feet (see photo left) and 80m dipole @ 45 feet. I ran out of time to raise the 160m antenna.  Aside from the rain, there was very little wind for almost all of the weekend which was one less thing to worry about.

I typically start an hour or two after the 0001UTC start, having then had a modicum of sleep. I operated through till after 1am Sunday.  The operating itself was a bit of a blur – when checking worked DXCC for my local club’s DX ladder even last night I had no recollection at all of having worked particular countries! 

I then slept through a very early alarm clock (grrr), and operated until late afternoon when I’d reached 1,800 QSOs and it was time for domestic duties.

SO2R – not as easy as it sounds.  I’m using an FTdx3000 as a second radio, and at very low audio levels the audio is a little distorted. I need to fashion another volume control so I can have good quality audio but at a wanted lower level. I missed a number of first radio callers first time due to the second radio – I moved the audio switching ‘heavy pileup mode’ so I could better concentrate on the first radio when finishing a CQ. Much more practice required.

Even when not actively working people, just being able to dial around the other bands helped with general awareness. I do appear to have a second radio TXBPF failure on 15m, which is hopefully just a connection problem as I’ve only fed it 15w and into good VSWR. Other TXBPF is fine on 15M.

When looking at a bandmap and seeing a number of unworked stations, I did find myself wanting to Search and Pounce and stop CQing. Even trying to do that as aggressively as possible working a few a minute was perhaps slower than the CQ rate. I think the mantra is that I always ought to be CQing. My desire to S&P and not miss multipliers is what that second radio is there for.

15M and 10M were not as good as last month – I hoped that Sunday might be better than Saturday, but to me Sunday seemed even worse. I worked a few on 160M using the 80M dipole.

The technology played a few tricks.  After setting up DXLog I discovered that my sent CW was slightly laggy between each character.  I rebooted the PC, turned off the panadapter, tinkered with Winkey and Microham settings. Eventually I ticked an ‘extra character buffer’ setting in DXLog which did the trick.  

Not long after restarting on Sunday morning a 59+ loud DL appears CQing away slap bang in the middle of my audio passband. I complained a little. DL station protests. Then I found that I had somehow QSYd around 1 kHz in the last few minutes. I had no idea how that happened and wasn’t aware. Apologies to the poor DL station.

For me, not a winning score by a large margin, but I had fun. Will do better next time! 

Lee operated for 30/48 hours and made 1,766 QSOs.  He was placed 204/1926 entrants world-wide in his category. 

Chris G3YHF is our third contributor:  This was my first attempt at a big international contest.  I had recently erected a 160M inverted L for the RSGB Club Calls Contest, so I decided to leave it up and make a 160M Single Operator Low Power entry.  This type of entry means no use of DX Cluster or other kinds of station-finding assistance, and maximum 100w output.

This was only the second time I’d used N1MM logger in a contest.  I had it speaking to my TS590SG so it automatically recorded frequency and mode.  But I hadn’t mastered computer keying or shortcuts, so I used my Bencher Hex paddle for all the CW. 

Besides logging the QSOs, another benefit of N1MM was that it remembered the frequencies of stations whose calls I had entered (or just looked up to see if they were dupes).  So as I tuned the band and came across a signal, it would often tell me the call sign and I could move on if we’d already worked.

Of course, the advantage of a 160M entry is that the band isn’t doing much during daylight hours so I didn’t have the lack of sleep problems faced by Jamie and Lee!  And stations in the contest are spread over only about 40-50khz, so there’s not far to tune. 

However, the downside is that in this narrow band there are lots of big signals covering up the weaker ones.  The TS590 did very well, but I had a few ear-shattering moments.  Usually this was when I had the RF gain backed-off and AF gain turned up to reduce the noise and copy a weak signal, only to find a very loud station appear almost on frequency!  The 590’s filtering isn’t quite up to dealing with the conditions found on 160M during a CW contest.

Having just come back to 160M after over 40 years away, I was more interested in seeing what DXCC entities I could work.  So I concentrated on multipliers using Search and Pounce, rather than chasing each available QSO or calling CQ for long periods.  Overall, I had about 6 hours operating out of the approximate 30 hours when 160M would be active.

I was delighted with being able to work 40 countries on Top Band, particular notables being S01WS Western Sahara, CN3A Morocco, and RM9A in Asiatic Russia.  In addition, I had several contacts with stations in the USA and Canada.

This wasn’t a serious contest entry, but having received the results I did better than expected.  So next year I’ll make a serious attempt in the same category and see what I can achieve.  To help this along, I’ve now traded in the TS590 for an Elecraft K3S which will improve things on the receive side.

Chris operated for 6/48 hours and his 67 QSOs scored 3,384 points.  He was placed 33/56 in the 160M low power category.

A writeup and photos of the whole contest can be found here