Thursday, October 18, 2018

Video about the International Amateur Radio Union

The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) is an organization that represents the amateur radio community. It consists of over 160 national amateur radio societies around the world. This video which is from the recent RSGB convention gives an idea of the work the IARU does and the challenges facing amateur radio in the future.



Roughly £1.30 / €1.50 of the membership fee of each national society goes towards the work of the IARU. Obviously the more members a national society has then the better.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Wed 17th Oct 2018

Conditions were down a bit today but still plenty of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz...


Some of the most interesting signals were from stations that were closest...

a) I seem to hear G0OYQ on the east coast of England every day (580 kms). Perhaps he is using a lot of power but he is one of the most consistent signals. Meteor scatter or aircraft scatter? It seems hard to believe there is short Sporadic-E every day.

b) I heard Don GW0PLP on the west coast of Wales for the first time on FT8 on 28 MHz. At a distance of 260kms, it was probably via tropo as I have worked Don in the past on SSB.

On this occasion, Don's signal was -14dB on FT8 and I could actually hear it. It was interesting to see what a steady -14dB signal on a quiet band sounded like. Iif it had been on SSB, it was almost certainly too weak to work. It would probably be a very difficult cw contact. On FT8, -14dB was no problem and I was hearing other signals down at -18dB and -20dB.

Irish Radio Telescope images Milky Way Galaxy at 44.92 MHz

A new radio telescope in Ireland was established at Birr Castle in Co.Offaly in 2016. One of the antenna arrays works at low VHF frequencies and they produced this image of the Milky Way galaxy as seen at 44.92 MHz.


The above image was taken in July 2017.


It's a reminder that this part of the spectrum around 40 MHz is used by the radio telescope and obviously any signals in the spectrum from 30 to 80 MHz in this general area may be of concern.

Any radio amateur living in the area shown in red below should be aware of the radio telescope in Birr and be careful of any transmissions.


FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Tues 16th Oct 2018

Lots of FT8 signals heard again on 28 MHz but down a bit on previous days...


A lot of the usual signals although 9Z4Y in Trinidad was a new one heard. D41CV in the Cape Verde Islands also made an appearance. Solar flux in the low 70's.

Monday, October 15, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Mon 15th Oct 2018

No shortage of signals on 28 MHz today even though the solar flux is down at 72.


Again, lots of Sporadic-E signals from Europe with plenty of distant DX via F2 as well.

Some of the more usual signals were....
a) 3B8CW in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
b) TR8CA in Gabon who is always a regular on 10 metres.
c) ZD7GWM in St.Helena.
d) VP8NO in the Falkland Islands.
e) Two Argentinian stations in Tierra del Fuego.
f) W2OR in Florida. This was possibly the most unusual. North-South signals are to be expected so hearing South America and Africa on 28 MHz is good but normal. It's the East-West signals that are harder and usually require better conditions. Looking at PSK reporter, I was the only person in Europe to hear him on FT8 on 28 MHz today. That's is almost certainly due to my westerly location.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

SNOTEL on 40 MHz in the USA...

This post is about the SNOTEL network in North America which shows how 40 MHz signals from remote weather stations are relayed by meteor scatter back to base stations.

SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry). Across the western half of the USA, remote weather stations in mountainous locations record the level of snowfall in their respective areas. This data can then used to calculate the potential amount of melt water in the catchment area of a particular river.


Radio bursts around 40 MHz are sent at the remote sites and these signals are then reflected off trails of ionised gas left by small meteors in the upper atmosphere. These trails decay quite rapidly so the signals tend to be of a short duration.

The frequencies I have seen listed for SNOTEL are 40.530 MHz, 40.670 MHz and 41.530 MHz.
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More information is presented below...



Saturday, October 13, 2018

EchoLink now connected to Irish DMR Network


The Irish digital radio community continues to grow with more stations registering for DMR numbers every month. New digital repeaters and gateways have been established around Ireland to allow various users talk to each other.

One of the latest improvements to be made to the DMR network has been the establishment of a link to the Echolink network by John Anderson MI0AAZ. Anyone connecting to MI0AAZ-L under LINKS on the Echolink network will now connect to Talk Group 2724 on the Irish DMR network.

It will also connect at the same time to Yaesu Fusion Wires-X room  CQ-IRL  no 41411,  YSF independent fusion network no 04251 and the Allstar network no 29884.

This is an excellent way for those who are unsure about digital radio to connect to users on the DMR network so that they can ask questions and to see what the audio sounds like.

Additional info...
There are currently three Talk Group channels on the Irish DMR network with  multi bridging capability to other digital voice systems.

DMR TG 2724 links to the following:
Allstar node 29884
Fusion C4FM  YSF node 04251
Fusion C4FM Wires-x node 41411
Echolink node 883269

DMR TG 27247 links to the following:
DSTAR XRF925D
Fusion C4FM Wires-x 41280 & 41619
Fusion C4FM FCS 00430

DMR TG 27248 links to the following:
Allstar node 47137
DSTAR XRF925C
Fusion C4FM FCS 00480

Credits : Thanks to John MI0AAZ and Don EI8DJ for the above info.

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Fri 12th Oct 2018

Another day listening to FT8 signals on 28 MHz and it was pretty much the same as previous days...


Not too much in terms of Sporadic-E but some nice North-South F2 signals to South America and Africa. Solar Flux about 70.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz - Thurs 11th Oct 2018

There was a lot less Sporadic-E from Europe today but there were still some nice DX signals on FT8 on 28 MHz...


3B9FR in Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean and VP8LP in the Falkland Islands were heard again.

The lack of Sporadic-E made me wonder if some of these distant signals were via F2 propagation only? I'd have no doubt that many of those distant signals are due to a mix of Sporadic-E for the first hop from Ireland and then F2 for the rest of the way. But is it for all of them? The solar flux is down at 68 which is pretty much rock bottom.

QRP Labs announce new 10 watt HF amplifier

QRP Labs have just released a new 10 watt amplifier for the HF bands and it looks pretty impressive considering the modest price of $26.


According to the release notes, it can comfortably produce 10 Watts from a 12V supply and will not overheat even on continuous 100% duty-cycle operation.

It has 26dB gain with +/- 1dB gain flatness from 2 to 30MHz. This means that it requires just 25 milliwatts of drive to achieve 10 watts output.

It has lower gain above 30 MHz with a potential output of 4 watts on 50 MHz and 1.7 watts on 70 MHz.

There are no Surface Mount Components (SMD) to solder and a number of small transformers need to be wound.

Key Features:
10W output from 2 to 30MHz, using 12V Supply
Generously-sized heatsink, will not overheat even on continuous 100% duty-cycle modes
2-stage amplifier provides 26dB of gain
Push-pull driver and push-pull finals, for high linearity and low harmonic content
+/- 1dB gain flatness from 2 to 30MHz
4dB down at 6m (50MHz) and 8dB down on 4m (70MHz)
Standard 50-ohm input and output
Through-hole plated PCB, all through-hole components (no Surface Mount Devices)
Standard inexpensive components throughout
Tested for 1 hour at full-power 10W, 100% continuous duty-cycle with no forced air cooling
Tested for 15 minutes at 20W, 100% continuous duty-cycle with no forced air cooling
Tested at 20V supply
Tested into open load, shorted load and various mismatches without instability (oscillation)

http://qrp-labs.com/linear

Amplifier with supplied heatsink.

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz ... Wed 10th Oct 2018

Wednesday the 10th of October started off with a very quiet 28 MHz band with very little being heard...just one G and DL in the morning.

The afternoon was better though as the European Sporadic-E started up and the DX signals came in from further afield...


Some nice distances but much the same as previous days. One OD5 in Lebanon was heard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

IARU Monitoring System issues September 2018 Newsletter

The September 2018 Newsletter of the IARU Monitoring System for Region 1 has just been released and it again shows the various intrusions into the radio amateur bands.

The newsletter reports that Russian radar is causing interference on the short wave bands again.

The contributor for the IRTS is Michael EI3GYB and he reports many instances of fishermen heard on the 80-metre amateur band.

The full newsletter can be seen here... http://www.iarums-r1.org/iarums/news2018/news1809.pdf

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Tues 9th Oct 2018

Another remarkable day of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz. It's almost like we were a few years out of solar minimum rather than actually being at the very bottom.

As can be seen from the map below, there were a load of stations in Europe heard via Sporadic-E and this no doubt helped with the F2 signals to further afield.


Highlights....
Two stations heard in South Africa.
A second St.Helena Island station in the form of ZD7GWM was heard.
Lots of South America including Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Falkland Islands.
Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
The most unusual signal was probably KE8M in Ohio in the USA mainly because it was an East-West path. Perhaps it was a skewed path? Impossible to tell. What was strange was that I was the only person in Europe to hear him.

Monday, October 8, 2018

FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz... Mon 8th Oct 2018

Just like yesterday, there was plenty of FT8 signals heard on 28 MHz on Monday the 8th of October 2018...



The band seems to have been more or less open all day with lots of Sporadic-E signals from Europe and some F2 signals further south. Interesting to hear 3B9FR on Rodriguez Island in the Indian Ocean as well as ZD7JC on St.Helena and VP8LP on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. WP3MM in Puerto Rico was also heard.

Pretty amazing conditions considering the solar flux is just 68 and we're at the bottom of the sunspot cycle.

I suspect a lot of this is due to the FT8 digital mode. In the past, I have often heard the band open in October at the solar minimum but I would be just hearing weak cw beacons in Europe and then maybe the occasional DX signal on SSB or CW working back into Europe.

With FT8, everything is different. Everyone is on the one frequency so if the band is open, it's obvious. It's a bit like everyone is congregating around the 'watering hole' of 28.074 MHz as opposed to being spread across the band.

Lots of people might complain about FT8 but it is certainly increasing activity on bands like 28 MHz at solar minimum.

Notice : IRTS 40m Counties Contest - Sun 14th Oct 2018


The next IRTS contest is the 40m Counties which will be held on Sunday the 14th of October 2018 at 12:00 UTC (1pm Irish Summer Time).

The contest will last for two hours and SSB and CW can be used. For more info, go to the IRTS website.

From the IRTS News... The IRTS 40 metres Counties Contest takes place on Sunday next, 14th October. It starts at 12:00 UTC and runs for 2 hours.

There are SSB only and SSB/CW mixed mode sections for both fixed and portable stations. Multipliers are the 32 EI and GI counties as well as overseas DXCC entities.

See the IRTS Contests page at www.irts.ie/contests for the full rules which include permitted frequencies for this event. The Contests page also includes the contest calendar for 2019.

Big opening on FT8 on 28 MHz... 7th Oct 2018

There was a very good opening on 28 MHz on Sunday the 7th of October 2018. Using the FT8 mode, I heard 292 stations in 29 countries...


The signals around Europe were Sporadic-E. The opening to South Africa and South America were probably a mix of Sporadic-E and F2.

As soon as I saw all of those South American stations, I new that conditions were exceptional and was wondering if there might be an aurora later? Sure enough, there was an aurora later in the evening!

I've seen this before.....really good conditions on 10m followed by an aurora. So much for 10 metres being dead at the solar cycle minimum.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

70 MHz Echolink Gateway now operational in Co.Louth

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society have announced that their 4 metre link to the Echolink network is now operational at weekends and on evenings. The call sign of the link is EI4FMG-L and it operates on 70.350 MHz. This has been heard of late in Cork on the south coast so it have quite a large coverage area.

EI4FMG Echolink
Dundalk Amateur Radio Society operates a 4 metre VHF internet gateway node using the Echolink protocol on 70.350Mhz. The gateway is located at Fieldstown, Monasterboice just north of Drogheda Co.Louth. From this location the gateway provides VHF communications for a large area of the east coast.

CALLSIGN - EI4FMG AUTO ID EVERY 8MINS
ECHOLINK NODE:57006
LOCATION - FIELDSTOWN
METRE ABOVE SEA LEVEL - 122M
TAIT TM8100 RADIO
EI4JR ECHOLINK INTERFACE LOGIC
SIGMA CAT70 @5MAGL
FREQUENCY - TX/RX 70.350Mhz
TX POWER - 15 WATTS
ACCESS - CTCSS 88.5Hz

For more information, go to http://ei7dar.com/ei4fmg

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Guest post : The Galway DMR Repeater by EI5DD

The following article was written by Steve Wright EI5DD and outlines the progress being made in establishing a new DMR repeater in Galway in the west of Ireland.




The Galway DMR Repeater... by Steve Wright, EI5DD (Sept 2018)

After deliberation, it was decided that a good quality Commercial DMR Repeater should be acquired for Galway. It is easy to suggest that ex commercial DMR mobiles could be converted and lashed together with homebrew components but at the end of the day there is nothing to beat the reliability of an item that was purpose and virtually operator proof.

Consideration was given to ex-commercial Motorola Repeaters, but they still retain their value despite long hours of service and being a well-used second-hand model. It should be noted that Waterford have a plentiful supply of these repeaters and have two in service at present but there was a slight reluctance to sell one off to the “Galway Lads” as they would surely have a good use for every item further down the road considering the prolific Southern Ireland Repeater Network currently expanding. There are, in fact, plans to place a third Digital repeater on Mount Leinster by 2019.

The Galway Repeater and Gateway ready for the New Site

The decision to go with Hytera was prompted by John, MI0AAZ, who had a little used Hytera RD 985 UHF repeater for a reasonable price. This Repeater was capable of running 50 watts maximum although it would be more prudent to run it at 40 watts. The repeater had built in cavity filters capable of handling the power passed through them. Aengus, EI4ABB, kindly tuned them without difficulty, and had them ready within the day. The code plug was relatively easy to compile and probably the harder part was ensuring that the internet connection was correct set up within. Unfortunately, to get the internet information correct required adjustment of settings within the wireless router. By working between the two systems it was possible to secure a trouble-free connection. Connection to the Repeater was made to the router by Ethernet cable.

Inside the Hytera


As the 2 metres Digital Gateway is to be co-sited, the same procedure was required for the connection of the Gateway to the Internet. Not an easy task but it all came together with the purchase of the correct router.

Fortunately, an ABS case had been purchased from Arthur, EI7GMB, some time ago. It was a perfect housing for Repeater, Gateway, Pi-Star controller and Power Supply. Everything was securely housed with a cooling fan installed below the GM350 Gateway Radio. Time to apply the power. Everything sprang into life and went through its boot-up process. Connectivity through the internet was perfect and it was possible to adjust parameters on the Gateway via remote access. Once Set-up, the Repeater settings can not be altered remotely unless there is a computer attached. There would never be a need to do so at the best of times although a means of cutting the power and restarting would be necessary should a hang up occur. Unlikely, but possible. To this end a remote access GSM controller was added to cover this eventuality and also a necessary addition to shut down the Repeater at the whim of ComReg should the eventuality arise. All systems were in perfect working order and the soak test began.

The Galway Multi-mode Gateway

After running solidly for one month, the repeater has run trouble free. There is no de-sense on the receive side. Signals passed through have exhibited no distortion and the Bit Error Rates (BER) are zero. Obviously, there are limitations in coverage from the EI5DD QTH but it does give opportunities to observe the effects of reflections or weak signals. Around this time Mark, EI6GUB, obtained a DMR set and has given the Repeater and Gateway plenty of activity. His activity was not confined to Galway, or Ireland, but reached out to England and Scotland where plenty of QSOs were made. In the background it was possible to determine the reliability of communications through the Repeater and Gateway systems.

The Repeater and gateway are now be considered ready for their new site where an excellent service typical of this high spot can be expected. Better still, the Western side of Galway along the Spiddal Road will be enhanced as well as operation from the Aran Islands. Loughrea and Tuam should receive good signals and the roads along the opposite side of the Bay and around the Burren will also benefit.

Where do we go from here? Following the IRTS AGM we had enough to procure a second Repeater. An offer of a second, brand new Hytera RD 985 was snapped up to complete the system. It would be proposed that this be located on a high spot in the middle of Galway or, wherever is most effective, where it would be able to cover huge footprint of the county and perhaps neighbouring counties. As the footprint of the Galway Repeater would overlap with the proposed Repeater, it should be possible to “Roam” between the two much like a cellular phone. This would provide seamless communication whilst driving over distance.

Practicality suggests that there would be minimal fuss installing this Repeater as the operating parameters have already been defined. It would only require a power supply, connection to the internet and appropriate filters, and an antenna to get it on the air. This process should be painless considering the ground work done on our other two systems.

Those on trips abroad will be guaranteed communication back into Galway as will those who have relocated. Operators driving through the Galway area will be given an excellent service as will those resident in the City and County. Of course, it will rely on a little co-operation from our own operators in the form of a welcoming QSO from time to time.  Even if the Galway operator appearances are few and far between, there will always be a wealth of activity within the network that may be operated by the press of the PTT via a User Activated Talk Group. Never a moment where it is not possible to connect another DMR operator anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, it the facilities in Galway would be second to none in the digital world. DMR is obviously a proven technology governed by the ETSI standard. It works well for commercials and has “done what it says on the tin”. Judging by the equipment in use, the Hytera RD 985 is reliable and will be trouble free so there will be little need for maintenance. Additionally, the 2m Digital Gateway complements the system and gives the VHF operators another entry into the system. Obviously, there may be firmware upgrades from time to time but his again should pose no problem and would be brief. You are all cordially invited to enjoy and participate this rapidly developing network.

The Server 
It was through Steve, EI5DD, and John MI0AAZ, and Dave Randles, M0AUT, that the possibility of the Brandmeister Server for Ireland was negotiated through the Brandmeister management team in Holland. Having secured the go ahead, the next job was to find a home for it. John Ronan kindly consented to establishing it in his IT section located in the Waterford Institute of Technology. The system was established in the Waterford IT in March 2016. Following a running in period, and more familiarity with the system, the Server went live in May 2016. The criteria for operation was to have a minimum of 10 repeaters linked in – we only had 3, 2 Gateways and a number of personal hotspots. Within the year, we have a migration of Scottish Repeaters and several UK repeaters resulting in 20! The migration was down to the fact that the server was running perfectly with minimal down time save for the occasional Firmware and Software updates not to mention that the Sysop was approachable.

The system has been trouble-free to date and well managed/maintained by John Ronan, EI7IG. By comparison, the UK has had numerous outages. It really is a credit to Ireland. It is a vital requirement to have somebody with the knowledge and dedication running such a system.
Waterford

Waterford have made huge progress with the establishment of two multi-mode Digital Repeaters and propose a third on Mount Leinster in 2019. Such enthusiasm has encouraged many operators to participate in Digital Radio in Cork and Waterford and surrounding areas. John McCarthy, EI8JA, has spent much of his time building and setting up the Digital Repeaters in his area alongside his commitment to the Southern Ireland Analog Repeater Network. The dedication exhibited by John Ronan, EI7IG, has made it possible to connect these projects together and to the rest of the world.
The DMR network will expand and it will probably be down to the efforts of the Southern Ireland Repeater Network. Galway can do little more at this time. It is going to be well served and can only rely on the continuity from other areas such as Mayo or in directions along the Dublin road from neighbouring counties.

Mayo has a Digital Gateway running both DMR and Fusion and this provides a fine link into the system. It has been running for the last year and results are good from it. It does, however, share the antennas for EI3IX’s

Other parts of the country have long standing plans that have not developed much further than discussion. Ronnie, who would have been in a great position, had he made progress at the time. Hopefully his efforts will bear fruit soon. Ronnie did have plans for the Dublin area as well and that would probably encourage an interest from an area well populated with amateurs. Mullingar has a DMR Repeater License but nothing built or active to date. Rumour has it that Dundalk has plans but nothing actually written in stone as yet.

Limerick has fusion but has never exploited its networking capabilities making Fusion a bit of a “dead Duck”. The repeater does, however cover a good area and /M Fusion is possible which is a plus point. A shame that Limerick operators seldom communicate outside of their own group.  Donegal’s fusion project is not really a player as such as it is tucked away giving little coverage here in the southern parts of the world.

The Galway Repeater will eventually see a high location and combined with its wires-X should provide an excellent service. This will give everybody an opportunity to network via Wires-X but all is not lost, as Fusion can be accessed via Talk Group 2724 on DMR.

Links...
1) EI5DD website
2) Galway VHF Group

Sporadic-E on 28 MHz... 5th & 6th Oct 2018

After a month messing about on the lower HF bands, I'm back on 28 MHz again. Sure enough, there is still some Sporadic-E about even in October...


The signals were mostly weak but the band was still open. The kind of conditions where most HF operators would declare the 10 metre band dead but those that know the band know better.

The signal from Argentina is pretty typical at this time of year. There are probably F2 conditions between areas like Spain and South America and the weak Sporadic-E conditions allow stations further north to hear the signals.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Four days of FT8 on 40m... End Sept 2018

A week ago, I had a post up about the results of listening to WSPR signals for a week on 40 metres (7 MHz). I repeated the test by spending 4 days listening to FT8 signals on 40 metres and the results were pretty similar.

The charts are for roughly 24 hours from noon to noon. Antenna used... Doublet which is a full wave on 40m. Only 4-7m above the ground though.


The first obvious difference is the sheer number of stations using FT8 compared to WSPR.