G7HZZ Blog

The 2m CB band in Nottinghamshire

Yes, there is a 2m CB band in Nottinghamshire, and many nights of the week it has "Muppets" on it.

Several of these are Full Licence holders whose attitude is "I got my licence so I can now do whatever I *****ing want."

There are also numerous Foundation and Intermediate Licence holders - all over the age or 20 - who passed the Foundation Licence exam and who now have no intention of progressing any further in Amateur Radio. Many of these quickly wander off to the HF bands where they learn a bit more about Amateur Radio, but a large number hereabouts just treat 2m as a more reliable form of CB than they were hitherto using. 

This is not simply my personal prejudice against CB; it was where I started as a 'motor-caravanner' but I soon tired of its indiscipline. But, there are several people who incessantly say "break" at the end of every 'over' and "Roger-Dee" at the start of the next. 

"Bring it on in" is another classic CB-ism.

The galling thing about this is the apparent inability - or unwillingness - to leave old shoddy habits behind and learn new ways to operate. It infects other people too.

I cannot even begin to understand what Ofcom and the RSGB (etc) were thinking when they concocted the Foundation Licence and made it available to anyone over the age of 21, and without a mandatory requirement to graduate to a higher level (which is not feasible).

My son at the age of 11 passed the Intermediate Licence exam - that should be the minimum starting level for anyone over the age of 21 to get on the air.

So, these 2m CB Muppets are a disgrace. In fact, a couple in Nottingham are obnixious little *hitheads whose attitude is always pick an argument and treat anyone else who may know better, operate correctly, or simply give advice as pompous arses.

They don't give callsigns; probably don't use 12.5KHz channel spacing; do use too much power; display very anti-social attitudes at times; have ****-all to say; and much of what they do say is more often than not bigoted or quite inaccurate.

The worst thing is that many are key members of local clubs! Sadly, in terms of poor practice, "the Genie is out of the bottle" and it is now too late to put it back in.

They have reduced an interesting and useful band to little better than "Channel 14".


October 10 '15

Contesters are imbeciles. Yes, quote me on that, I don't care if it offends anyone!

OK, propagation is poor and paths are unpredictable, and some stations are strong, others are weak and there is bad fading / QSB  . . . .  But why do these minority of contesters sit for hours playing a cruddy pre-recorded message booming out from their 1KW + Step-IR + stupid $9000 radios when they don't *********  listen long enough to hear anyone calling back (unless it is another kilowatt clown)?

The answer is - they are imbeciles who selfishly take over the whole band to the exclusion of everyone else. And they are "all teeth and no ears". They often don't conform to the conditions of their licences or respect IARU guidelines on contest segments of the HF bands - imbeciles.

It seems that nowadays contests are only for obscenely high-powered stations. They should be for everyone, including QRP and mobile operators - but few get a look in. That way, we normal people  might feel 'included'  during a vary large number of weekends when sensible reasonable use of the spectrum is subverted to massage the ego of a few obsessive imbeciles. But no! Contesters largely seem oblivious to everyone except other contesters.

I hate detest and loathe them and everything they do.


DSP woes

September '15

Recently, during the very poor and variable conditions on 40m and above, I noticed that there was a great deal of strong warbling on SSB that appeared to be due to the prevailing geomagnetic and auroral conditions. The sound was rather like a shed full of turkeys or cooing pidgeons. The rig was a Kenwood TS-570DG.

The turkeys sound was so bad that I really struggled to make sense of some quite strong signals that appeared to be mixing with the weird modulation of the QRN. I assumed that the noise was 'real'.

Then I did a few upgrades to my older Icom IC-735, adding a solid-state linear which has a good pre-amp inside. Once working I compared the Icom and Kenwood side-by-side.

Immediately I noticed that the IC-735 was not producing the warbling, gobbling sound that was present on the TS-570. The turkey noise was then tracked down to the TS-570's Noise Reduction + AGC + DSP Slope Filter. Together, these were producing the pulsing artifacts. 

Once I switched off the Noise Reduction (NR1 & NR2) and set the AGC to slow on the TS-570 the horrible noises virtually disappeared reduced [ed. 8/11-15]. The TS-570's Noise Blanker may contribute to the turkey sound.

This is yet more evidence that the real-world capabilities of my IC-735 should not be underestimated.

Rob Sherwood has written about this topic: see downloads at the bottom of this page.


Someone has stolen 'my' Ionosphere.

(Or, Do we now have a "not-on-osphere")

August 15 '15

After a period of enforced inactivity I am beginning to think that the little bit of the Ionosphere that I used to use has been stolen. It isn't there any more. Maybe it has been moved somewhere that I can't reach. Whatever has happened it is definitely not good. During a 40m portable activity on 6th Sept '15 my group had just 6 completed QSOs in 6 hours. Noise levels were S7 and QSB was fast, deep and long.

We received complaints that there were lots of people calling us but clearly we could not hear them. The implication was that our portable station was rubbish. But we also received reports that our signal strength (in the UK) was swinging wildly from +30db to zero.

I really don't like this. The situation at my home shack it just the same. Someone has to do something about it. We have ideas about running a couple of 'big' portable Special Event Stations before the end of October, but if these conditions continue it may be a case of taking up a different hobby.


20m is a Disgrace at times

Today (16-5-15) a VK was working a pileup on 20m amidst some of the most disgraceful behaviour I have heard in a long time. In particular, several SV, RW and EA stations just called constantly, and virtually without a pause, over the ongoing QSOs. However, several of these - or others - seemed to have become annoyed that their calls were not being heard (or maybe ignored) and they began transmitting constant tones in an attempt to jam the frequency.

Why do people do this? Why, indeed, do people create mayhem in a pileup? All they want is a signal report and maybe another country for their latest pointless award programme. It doesn't incline me to want to use 20m, and especially to speak to any asshole whose sole focus is to simply get a "5/9" . . . . . . 


Nepal Emergency Ham Radio "Issue"

On 4th April news about the Nepal earthquake was heard on 14.205 and 14.215 MHz. The official IARU emergency frequency is 14.300, but due to interference problems inside Nepal 14.215 was used instead. The Nepalese stations could not operate at all times (due to aftershocks, etc), but an emergency net was set up by people in Israel, Portugal, Canada and the UK.

Due to the sporadic transmissions from Nepal - on their nominated frequencies - co-ordinators of the 'emergency controlled net' continued to request that those frequencies should be kept clear. Emergency traffic was passed at various times, also some 'welfare' information.

However, in the following days there was a lot of bitching on-line from stupid, ignorant people about any and every aspect of the Nepal emergency net's operation. Most of these comments were from US radio hams. 

All of this is reported in a jumble of posts on the QRZ Forums (example).

Because the 2-3rd May were scheduled to have a big contest, the IARU requested that the Nepal net should move to 14.300. But, 14.300 is apparently the private domain of two US nets, INTERCON and MMSN (Maritime Mobile Safety Net).

Unfortunately, INTERCON and MMSN operators appear to have obstructed the Nepal net when it attempted to move to 14.300 on the basis that their 'managers' had not been informed, but said that INTERCON/MMSN would be happy to allow the Nepal net co-ordinators to use that frequency by prior arrangement for scheduled calls. Surely, a clear indication that they think they 'own' the frequency.

While the emergency comms situation now appears to have been resolved, it does raise an important question:

What authority do INTERCON and MMSN have to run any net on an International Emergency Frequency?

The answer, surely is, "none". They appear to me to be self-appointed, self-congratulatory do-gooders. I cannot see how they have any legitimacy.

What legitimacy did the initial responders have to start an emergency net on 14.205?

The answer is that the originators in Nepal were unable to use another frequency and were working with Nepalese Police to maintain external communications in difficult circumstances. Also, it is a key responsibility of anyone responding to an emergency to take appropriate action, such as informing and authorities that might help while also keeping the lines of communications open.

Another issue: listening to the INTERCON/MMSN operators who 'control' the net - for hours on end - asking if anyone has any emergency traffic, I felt very uneasy.  The standard of operating seems to be rather poor; much more like a CB net than a Ham Radio net, and the attitude shown is often quite condescending. But ultimately, what the hell are they doing and who the hell do they think they are?

Just imagine if RAYNET operators sat on (UK) emergency frequency all day long asking if anyone had an emergency that they would like to report!


DK5DR - Again !!

April '015

During the operation of GB0STG for St George's Day there was lots of opportunities for contacts to give feedback on the audio and signal strength of the station. Most comments were that it all sounded fine.

However around 16:30(after 7 hours operation)  a QSO was interrupted by an unidentified station ~ no callsign ~ but clearly Walter DK5DR who complained of "splattering all over the band" causing "major problems". He then went on to give a short lecture in his usual manner.  As no other comments had been received, Walter's were noted but not immediately acted upon. In fact, most subsequent callers said that they could not detect any problem, but much later two did say there might be an issue.

Nevertheless, checks were made to see if there was a possible issue. What showed up was that there was a high SWR (no explanation for that), the mic. gain was rather high. As propagation was giving very high signal strengths and the possibility of overdriving, both the mic. gain and TX power were reduced. A few stations noted the improvement but most didn't.

Quite whether DK5DR was correct in his complaint is not fully known. He might have a rig that is prone to overloading or he may not. But one thing is certain, Walter DK5DR knowingly transmitted without giving a callsign (breach of regulations), he knowingly broke-in over an ongoing QSO (poor protocol), and he behaved in a  condescending manner (which is his nature).

Walter's reputation regarding such matters has been much discussed on the internet . . . notoriety is probably a better word.

Postscript  . . .  Someone must really dislike DK5DR. Today (29/4/15) his CQ calls on 40m were being recorded and played back to him . . . .  not me, honestly. It was sort of funny, but quite unnecessary, and I don't condone it.


Power Supplies

December 2014

You would think that it would be easy to get a good 12-13.8v power supply nowadays at a reasonable price. But there are many reviews that reveal reliability problems, even with traditional 'linear' power supplies, aside from the known problems that still occur with switch-mode ones.

How hard is it for manufacturers to make a reliable one? The 'technology' is hardly cutting edge!

I do have a Diamond GSV-3000 25A which is pretty good, and a couple of other 'linear' ones that have been trouble-free although lacking some sensible protection as standard.  However, in the medium power range (nominally 8-15A) I am struggling to find a PSU that doesn't have some negative reviews and is affordable.

My current solution is to use SLA batteries with a Aldi smart charger for some applications. It's not ideal for shack rigs, but my recently purchased Icom IC-703 only needs a few amps at 9.6 to 12v and a battery + charger is a lot cheaper than a 'dodgy' linear or switch-mode PSU.

In my 'new' Transit van I have a 120AH leisure battery which performs quite well, but after a year of use it is becoming tired. Maybe it is time to retire it to shack use and to trickle charge it regularly. That would be cheaper than buying any commercial PSU.


DK5DR . . . .  Oh dear!

30 August '14

The HF band conditions today (30-8-14) were awful, having taken a bit hit from a recent CME. The m.u.f. appeared to be around 7MHz and most people were really struggling to make any contacts. Even powerful east European Contest Stations were weak and making few contacts.

On 7.122 there was a SM6 station on Aaland calling "CQ-DX". So, because he had no takers, and as I was over 1500km from Aaland, I considered that I was a "DX" (Distant and Unknown) so I called him.

Immediately, Walter DK5DR - the world expert on everything to do with Amateur Radio - came back with "DX only, only DX". Of course Walter didn't need to give his callsign, everyone knows him and he has special authority to throw his comments in, uninvited, whenever he wishes, even when it is none of his business.

Not wishing to get into a slanging match with Walter I left the frequency. A few minutes later Walter himself was in full flow with the Aaland station, giving his advice as usual.

So, Walter (I do hope you read this), how is it that a station from the UK is not "DX" at 1500km, but DK5DR at 950km is "DX"?

There is a very simple explanation - Walter DK5DR you are a hypocrite . . . .  although there is a less polite word . .


Fauna and Flora
15 August '14

I heard a Belgian guy operating from a Fauna and Flora site, LXFF004, in Luxembourg.  The nature of the QSOs was little more than contest-style "5/9 rubber stamping", although he did occasionally say a tiny bit more to Dutch-speaking stations.

The World Wide Fauna and Flora programme says:

 "The WWFF program wants to draw attention to the importance of protecting nature, flora and fauna."

I do not understand how just saying "You are 5/9 in LKFF004, 73, QRZ" actually helps to achieve this aim. Surely, the truth of the matter is that ecology, or conservation, etc, is not the most important aspect of these sorts of activations? This is exemplified by these statements from the WWFF programme's website:

"With the effort of a lot of enthusiastic OMs - local coordinators, activators and chasers - we have now collected and made available 4,000,000 valid flora and fauna QSOs."


"Work to collect historic logs continues parallel to the "normal operation" where validated logs of current operations are uploaded to the WWFF database by the local coordinators. "

What on earth is the importance of "valid  flora and fauna QSOs" ?  And who on earth wants to look at them. What do they contribute to nature conservation? As in Shakespeare's Midummer Night's Dream, "Puck Knows".

These statements reveal that the principle objective of most of these radio stations is very, very little to do with nature conservation, but rather the number of QSOs required for a award and possibly personal cudos.

The only thing that WWFF operators and flora and fauna sites appear to have in common is antennae!

A year ago my club operated a Special Event Station from a local nature reserve in Central England . . .  only a few of our contacts were really all that interested in the wealth of information that we gave out about the site. Most people just wanted to collect a "Brownie Point" for having worked our station. TBH, none of the club members seemed much interested in the wildlife either!

Frankly, almost all On The Air Schemes bore me: they achieve very little for the effort that goes in to them. They are merely 'dressed up' contests or 'rubber stamp DXing'. Sadly, it seems that many - but not all - hams who activate lighthouses, mills, castles, postboxes, crossroads or other "interesting" places do not know (or care) much about them. Hence "more information on QRZ.com" . . .  usually that means "no more information on QRZ.com" -  except radio stuff . . .

Just to provide a context for my views I have been a member of various environmental and nature conservation organizations for 40 years and have undertaken courses on conservation and nature reserve management. There is a big different between doing things and just talking about them.


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30 Sep 2015, 05:52