Lakeland APRS

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The picture on the left, from APRS.fi 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!

VHF NFD 2015

The 2015 annual VHF national field day is now officially finished. So what’s the news?

G4VFL/P on Corney FellFirstly 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.

Uhh?

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) and2m 70cm Antenna 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 Sudden Arduino Shields

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
compilation terminated.
Error compiling.

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.