Autumn = projects time

I usually cycle to work. Wow I hear you say, what a guy….Well thanks but I hadn’t finished the introduction. Cycling means you notice the seasons a lot more than if you drive. Its still the season for shorts and after some very mild days we’re definitely heading towards fully developed autumn. So what?

Well its time to spend fewer hours outside (because you’ll be blown across the street) and more time preparing for those murky days when projects are preferable to souwesters.

This year I have got a couple of PCB’s that need populating. 1 of them is the Budd Churchward Morseduino. The other is the Minima Transceiver.

Budd created a neat little barebones arduino and morse code decoder and he kindly gave me the gerbers. It is essentially a very simple device that will allow audio to pass through and it will give a reasonable decode of CW. I say reasonable because it is never going to be as good as your purists ears but it’ll help get the less talented on the air (hopefully). This video gives you a flavour

Project 2 it the Minima Transceiver, by Ashran Farhan of BitX fame. It is my first foray into complete rig build for the experimenter so I’m expecting some tinker time. Essentially it is a Arduino controlled simple transceiver (Any spot the link here?). This will be a lot more involved and I’m just getting my head around the schematic.

There seems to be a lot of useful information about so if I get stuck then google will no doubt be my friend! Here’s a little taster.

IC7000 CAT control….flaky at best

I’ve just about had enough of rig CAT control with my IC7000. After buying 4 different CAT interfaces and attempting for numerous hours to get the things working, some of which do for a while, I’ve stripped away the (lack of) capability.

One of the more frustrating aspects of this hobby is that whilst some areas move on, some just relentlessly remain steady in the mediocre. The argument between serial and USB is about as dead as it can be but us with serial to USB converters get short shrift.

I like my IC7000. Its my main rig but when it comes to rig control with a PC then its been a complete disaster, working one minute then not, then back to working again. Oddly enough my IC703 before it wasn’t too bad but this one refuses to behave for any length of time.

The last straw was to plump for a complete reset, removing all my memories and leaving me with a blank rig and still no CAT control.

Anyone want to buy a partially used G4ZLP digimaster pro?

Lakeland APRS


The picture on the left, from shows the level of coverage by APRS iGates in Wasdale (A lake district valley that is home to Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain). You can see that the coverage is fairly limited to heights above about 400m. That really isn’t very good.

I had walked from the road north of the river Irt and up what was a quite steep hill to Whin Rigg. What makes the lack of gates even more disappointing was that there is a clear view of the Isle of Man as well as southern Scotland as you move up the ascent.

So why is it so bad? Well the geography doesn’t help. Like many hilly areas the western lakes is a series of valley that lead out to sea so when you are low there is not much scope for RF to go anywhere. this also explains the patchy mobile phone coverage. Another aspect was the stock antenna on my vx-8. It really isn’t that good compared to other larger aftermarket options.

So what? well first off we hams aren’t the only people to us APRS or a similar protocol. The mountain rescue also use a proprietary system. They must suffer with the same lack of coverage despite a sizeable array at the head of the valley.

So what do other areas use? do they use APRS in hilly areas? are there low cost self powered digipeaters or iGates about? is APRS out-dated now that digital modes are so popular (not here mind you)? I’d like to know simply because I like APRS and think its a under utilised system here in IO84, perhaps elsewhere.

Frog Transceiver

You will have doubtlessly heard about the super cheap Pixie QRP TXRX. Well for those feeling a little flush there is a (and always has been) a real high powered alternative knocking about on eBay. The Frog Transceiver is around the £8 mark at the moment and will give you about 1.5w on 40m and an evenings worth of fun putting it together.

Frog TXRXI’m off work this week for my summer hols and in between kayaking on the sea, being eaten alive in Ennerdale by voracious midges (my own fault for going there when there was no wind and not taking any insect repellent) I’d planned on assembling this little friend to add to my growing collection (along with the Pixie).

The PCB is as one would expect, not bad but not brilliant, components are fit for purpose but the packaging was a little shabby with everything just thrown in a bag, not much protection for the IC’s. So I’m getting my excuses in early….this might not work!

Still £8 is less than an evening at the pub, less than a trip to the cinema (for one) but more than a Pixie 😉

CW Progress

Over 6 months ago I pretended to myself that I was going to learn CW. Just one QSO and then I can call myself a ‘real ham’.

Well I’ve had that QSO now and it seems reasonable to assume that I’ll have a few more now that I’m helping other local hams to learn CW. None of us are any good. I think I top out the speed tables at about 8-10wpm but now that there are a few more locals ready to take to the airwaves then I’m sure I’ll speed up to the target of 12-15wpm by Christmas.

So what? Well here’s the good news. 2m is as quiet as a mouse round here. Even the repeaters are empty so there’s no need to worry anyone with some troublesome sending.

Thursday nights are on air practice nights. Who knows, one day someone may not be part of the group and a real QSO might happen!