The 2015 annual VHF national field day is now officially finished. So what’s the news?
Firstly I managed so excellent DX from the comfort of my own shack.
DX you say?
Yep 3 countries
Wow(?)…well yes they were EI,GM and GW so not exactly a long way but DX none the less.
Well yes, if the bands are normally silent and there’s not a station to be heard then the end of the village is DX.
But if there’s a bit of activity as there was this weekend then its always nice to work a few stations in other countries. But what would be really nice is to hear this level of activity on the bands regularly, and there to be rag chewing alongside contesting.
The ‘official entry’ from Workington was camped up on Corney Fell. I arrived too late to help get set up due to domestic duties but the photo’s didn’t do the conditions justice. There was a good 30+ mph wind up there and that 2m antenna was flapping about a lot. Hence the extra guy .
The VHF bands are XYL friendly in my house as the antenna’s are smaller, can be overlooked (on occasion) and don’t warrant the usual response of ‘What the hell is that doing there?’ and ‘ How long do you intend on keeping that thing there?’ The answer to both of these questions is to mumble a bit and pretend to be busy doing something important.
So here’s a plea. Don’t make me take down this antenna, or worse still turn it vertically for FM. I’d quite like to work stations regularly on VHF SSB or even CW. Remember to switch the rig on, look for IO84 square and break the silence. A response to one contester today on 70cms was ‘That woke me up, I’ve been calling for 2 hours solidly and you’re the first one today’ isn’t good.
Kanga Products are a kit and component supplier in th UK. They offer all sorts of simple kits for the ham. Notably they supply the Rockmite ][, Foxx and Sudden type TXRX’s.
At the Norbreck rally I bought an Arduino based Sudden TXRX that uses 3 shields. One shield acts as an interface to a AD9850 DDS module, one as a Sudden receiver and the final one as the TX.
Pinched from the Kanga Products website (click to follow)
Assembling the kits was relatively straightforward. There were a couple of small issues but they seem to have been hidden buy what has been a complete disaster with the Arduino. The code looks (to my rather uneducated mind) straightforward as it controls the vfo, a rotary encoder and two push button switches. The implementation of the I2C LCD has been the major issue along with an odd position with another of the libraries call Stdlib.
Try as I might I am having almost no success with the module. I have managed to get it to compile, upload and run a very simple ‘hello world’ after spending 2 evenings on the internet and keyboard. Its a very frustrating thing as with the exception of a bandpass filter the kit is ready to go.
The current error is:
Arduino: 1.6.4 (Windows 8.1), Board: "Arduino Uno"
Build options changed, rebuilding all
Using library Wire in folder: C:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\hardware\arduino\avr\libraries\Wire
C:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\hardware\tools\avr/bin/avr-g++ -c -g -Os -w -fno-exceptions -ffunction-sections -fdata-sections -fno-threadsafe-statics -MMD -mmcu=atmega328p -DF_CPU=16000000L -DARDUINO=10604 -DARDUINO_AVR_UNO -DARDUINO_ARCH_AVR -IC:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\hardware\arduino\avr\cores\arduino -IC:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\hardware\arduino\avr\variants\standard -IC:\Program Files (x86)\Arduino\hardware\arduino\avr\libraries\Wire C:\Users\Alex\AppData\Local\Temp\build7923519500833479682.tmp\sketch_jun01a.cpp -o C:\Users\Alex\AppData\Local\Temp\build7923519500833479682.tmp\sketch_jun01a.cpp.o
sketch_jun01a.ino:12:31: fatal error: LiquidCrystal_I2C.h: No such file or directory
What this tells me is that it can’t find the Library called LiquidCrystal_I2C.h. Believe me Mr Arduino IDE it is exactly where it needs to be! I’m going to get upset in a minute.
For a little while I’ve been pondering a problem on, or rather mostly off.
My SOTAbeams SB270 is a 2m & 70cm antenna that used a fairly unique way of holding the antenna elements. There are a set of elements for 2m and a set for 70cm. Each element had a hollow nylon cap head screw with a knurled end that was screwed into the plastic antenna boom. Unfortunately Richard can’t supply these as spares.
My SB270 is useful for, well SOTA, and the occasional VHF contest but what is makes up for in portability it lacks in gain. So I’ve thought about making a single boom version that covers 6m, 2m and 7ocm. The idea seems reasonable but the crucial aspect of mounting the antenna elements is a sticking point. Here’s a brief design brief.
1. Doesn’t need tools to assemble in the field
2. Must stay in place once installed
3. Must be easy to replicate (Just in case anyone else wants a go). So no need for specialist fabrication skills.
4. Must keep with the ‘elements live in the tube when not in use’ principle, So no big bulky parts
I have used standard pipe clamps and they get knocked about and blown around in our strong winds. Stauff type clamps need tools so they’re out. Some 3D printed parts are available on thingiverse but they look like they are for permanent installations or don’t really float my boat.
So, here’s the plea. Any ideas other than the one below?
The current thinking is to use some thicker walled ABS pipe (like durapipe which is cheap and easily found) and some threaded inserts for the parasitic elements. Only feeding the driven element is making me think a bit. May need a cut out or permanent part which has feeder and (ugly) balun.
Thinking caps on!
Since Christmas I have been attempting (again) to learn CW. There are plenty of people to whom this comes naturally. I, on the other hand, had a promising career as a CW radio operator cut short by a tragic lack of talent (to steal someone else’s joke).
So, why bother? Well to be honest I quite like the simplicity, portability and cost of rigs that focus on CW. As the price and complexity of rigs increase it moves me to reduce my interest in this exotica. So to keep the hobby alive in my shack and to carry on learning about RF I thought it’d be nice to try some new stuff out. I can use what I have as a base (Icom IC-7000) and get out and about for UKAC VHF contests when I fancy it. But CW was always a bit of a step beyond me.
I’ve used a bunch of resources to help but by far the most useful was hooking up with a group on twitter called @lids_cw. Along with the plethora of software the encouragement from them has been excellent. What I have found out is that my sending has improved no end by getting on air but my receiving is stubbornly refusing to come together. Practice make perfect. The Goal for me is a Morse proficiency test at the Norbreck rally next year. Hopefully at 15wpm
Sunday saw the annual pilgrimage to Blackpool for the NARSA rally at the Norbreck hotel in Blackpool. The club has a stand there and its a good place to promote the club, meet up with on air and social media friends as well as selling your old
crap valuable things.
There are always a good number of stands with the main suppliers going toe to toe with the the back room business. This year I met up with Dennis from Kanga who helped to remove some of the hard earned cash I made for the new Arduino based Sudden TX, RX and DDS. I’m a sucker for Arduino so it wasn’t too hard for my resolve to crumble.
I also plumped for a desk stand for my IC-7000 from M6TNW at a fraction of the cost of a commercial version (There was a tenner off at the rally as well no contest really) as well as the worlds most expensive separation cable for the IC-7000. I daren’t say how much it was as it brings me out in a cold sweat. Needless to say it keeps the XYL happy as things are ‘tidy’.
It was sad to see that as a forty something year old I was one of the youngest there. But I’m aware that the RSGB are on the case so hopefully we’ll see a reduction in the average age before too long. It’ll be another year before I go to another rally so I’m glad that I went and thanks to Dave and his team for putting on the event.