Saturday, December 27, 2008

GB3RAL on 28 MHz & the Ursids Meteor Shower

On the morning of the 22nd of Dec 2008, I had a listen for meteor bursts from the GB3RAL beacon on 28.215 MHz during the Ursids meteor shower. This shower is supposed to have a number of active 'outburts' sometimes. This year, the forecast for the peak was for 07:30 UTC.

Why GB3RAL??.........I tried listening to other beacons in Europe around the 1,200 km to 1,500 km mark. Some run very low power so the refections are very weak. In addition, this distance is very good when there is any type of Sporadic-E propogation and it can be very hard at times to tell the difference between the Sp-E and meteor scatter. At least with GB3RAL at 490 kms, Sporadic-E is somewhat less likely and reflections for meteor scatter are likely to be stronger although shorter in lenght.

Equipment : As before, Kenwood transceiver on CW with a 500 Hz filter. Antenna in use was an old CB type half wave vertical.

Listening Period.........07:00 to 10:00 UTC on the 22nd of December 2008.

Results.......Plenty of pings and bursts but there was nothing spectacular. I didn't notice any particular sharp peak in activity. At best, it could be described as 'a small' increase in what be heard normally.

For the 3 hours, the level seemed to be much the same.
Between 08:00 and 09:00 UTC, I heard 9 pings and 9 bursts (10 sec x 1, 20 sec x 3, 30 sec x 3, 60 sec x 2).
Between 09:00 and 10:00 UTC, I heard 14 pings and 9 bursts (10 sec x 3, 20 sec x 3, 30 sec x 1, 60 sec x 2).

All signals were pretty weak. Note however that it was not possible to get a positive ID of the GB3RAL beacon as it's keyer is currently faulty. However, there would seem to be nothing else that it could be other than GB3RAL as there is no other beacon listed within meteor scatter range on that frequency.

From my point of view, there did not seem to be any 'outburst' in activity. Looking at the activity level plotted on the Make More Miles on VHF website, it does not seem to show much activity either. On the chart, the Geminids show up very clearly whereas the Ursids look pretty poor.

It looks as if the 2008 Ursid meteor shower was nothing special.
The next shower is the Quadrantids. These are supposed to peak at 13:00 UTC on the 3rd of Jan 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dec 22nd....Good Tropo conditions on 144 MHz from EI

Interesting to see that even at this time of year, 144 MHz can still suprise. On the 22nd of Dec 2008, there was some nice ducting of 144 MHz signals between the North coast of Spain, the West coast of France and the UK and Ireland. While most of the signals were over a marine path, perhaps the duct was somewhat elevated because plenty of 'inland' stations were getting in on the action.
For example, the EI stations in IO52 and IO53 would have hills (~400m) between them and the South coast of EI. The fact they were working so much and the DX signals were in GI as well might suggest the duct was elevated?? I know there are times when we get marine ducting here on the South coast (IO51) to the North of Spain and the DX signals don't seem to get too far North.

No sign on the cluster of any 432 MHz activity. Lack of stations??? or propogation???

The graphic above was from the excellent Make More Miles on VHF website.

Here are some of the 144 MHz reports from the DX-Cluster.
EI3GYB 144300.0 EA1FDI 52 2155 22 Dec
EA1MX 144403.0 EI2WRB/B IO62IG IN73XK 2136 22 Dec
EA1MX-@ 144403.0 EI2WRB/B IO62IG IN73XK 2136 22 Dec
EA2DR 144300.0 EI4GHB now more weak 2125 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144406.0 CT1ART IO52QQIM67 2119 22 Dec (1710 kms)
EI4GHB 144300.0 EA2DR IO52QQIN83MH 2112 22 Dec
EA2DR 144300.0 EI4GHB IO52 2110 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144310.0 F1NUM IO52QQIN88AJ 2041 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144300.0 EA1FDI IO52QQIN53TF 57 2022 22 Dec
EA1BLA 144300.0 EI8IQ 59+ IN53IO62 1947 22 Dec
F0EJW 144330.0 EI8IQ IN78VJIO62SF 57 TNX QSO 1932 22 Dec
EA1BLA 144403.0 EI2WRB 579 IN53IO62 1926 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144310.0 EA1BL IO52QQIN53UM 1908 22 Dec
EA1MX 144290.0 EI4EY IO52QP IN73XK 59 1906 22 Dec
EB5EIB 144300.0 EB3DYS 59 im98ux tr jn11 1858 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144310.0 F1MOZ IO52QQIN93RS 1823 22 Dec
F1NUM 144320.0 EI4GHB IN88AJ<>IN55QQ 1805 22 Dec
F4BWJ 144309.6 EI4GHB IN93MPIO52QQ 53/54 1801 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144310.0 F4BWJ IO52QQIN93MP 1758 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144320.0 F1NVM IO52QQIN88AN 1746 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144280.0 EA1FDI IO52QQIN53TF Still 59+!! 1715 22 Dec
EA1XT 144300.0 EI4GHB IN53(TR)IO52 CQ NO TAKERS 1620 22 Dec
EA1XT 144300.0 EI3GYB IN53(TR)IO53 CQ NO TAKERS 1619 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144300.0 EA1FDI IO52QQIN53TF 1613 22 Dec
EA1FDI 144403.0 EI2WRB 579 beacon io62ig tropo to 1553 22 Dec
EI3GYB 144300.0 EA1FDI 55 1552 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144260.0 EA1FDT IO52QQIN53TF 1520 22 Dec
F6FHP 144300.0 EI4GHB CQ 55 in IN94 1514 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144249.0 F6APE IO52QQIN97QI 1513 22 Dec
EI3GYB 144300.0 EA1XT 55 and rising 1503 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144300.0 EA1XT IO52QQIO53VK 1502 22 Dec
EA1XT 144402.8 EI2WRB IN53VK(TR)IO62IG 559 1458 22 Dec
F5BUU 144290.0 EI4GHB io52qqjn03po 1445 22 Dec
EI4GHB 144290.0 F5BUU IO52QQJN03PO 1439 22 Dec (1250 kms)
EI4GHB 144290.0 F6FHP IO52QQIN94TR 57 1433 22 Dec
F6FHP 144402.8 EI2WRB/B IO62 559 in IN94 1344 22 Dec
EA1FDI 144403.0 EI2WRB 559 beacon 1204 22 Dec
F0EJW 144270.0 GI6ATZ IN78VJIO74AJ Rx 55 cq cq 2110 22 Dec
EA2DR 144270.0 GI6ATZ IO74aj 5-7 in IN83 2105 22 Dec
EA2TO 144269.5 GI6ATZ IN83MBIO74AJ tnx qso 73!! 1928 22 Dec (1280 kms)
F0EJW 144270.0 GI6ATZ IN78VJIO74AJ 59 Tnx Qso 1925 22 Dec
EA2RCA 144300.0 GB3NGI/B IN83MBIO65 519 !!! wow !! 1912 22 Dec (1350 kms!!)
EA1BLA 144482.0 GB3NGI/B 599 IN53IO65 1854 22 Dec
GI6ATZ 144290.0 EA1MX IN73XKIO74AJ 1226km 1742 22 Dec
EA1XT 144481.3 GB3NGI in53vk(tr)io65vb 1452 22 Dec

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting ready for the ARRL's LOTW....Logbook of the World program

This post is mainly for my own benefit so that I can keep track of what I have done and what I need to do.

Logbook of the World is the system used by the ARRL in the DXCC program to get electronic confirmation of contacts/qso's. If two stations upload their logs and there is a match for callsigns, date, time (30 minute window I think) and mode then each station gets a credit. There is no need to submit a QSL card to the ARRL to verify the contact if you were applying for a DXCC award.

This has 2 big advantages as far as I can see...
1) It's another method by which you can get some of the rare countries confirmed. Having had countless direct QSL cards not replied to, getting contacts confirmed electronically has obvious attractions.
2) It should/might reduce the number of incoming QSL cards. After all, if someone else works me and needs to have EI confirmed then regular LOTW users won't need to send me a QSL card.

Current status.......22nd Dec 2008
I remember looking at LOTW before but I could not remember when. I had a folder on my PC with files created in March 2005 so it was three and half years ago!
I download the current version of the programme tqsl-111.exe (the version I had was tqsl-110.exe).
Normally, you would run this programme and complete the first step which is to run TQSLCert and create a certificate request. I obviously had done this before as I have the required file (EI7GL.tq5) already in the relevant folder on my PC.

I went to the ARRL LOTW website and uploaded the certificate request. I got the following results....

Certificate request processor result:
Started processing your New Certificate Request.
For call sign: EI7GL
For DXCC Entity: IRELAND (245)
For QSOs not before: 1986-10-03 00:00:00
For QSOs not after:
Your certificate request is accepted and awaiting further processing.
You must mail in (via postal mail) supporting documentation to complete the request.
Details about what to send and where to send it can be found at:
Your certificate request processing is completed.

All non-US radio amateurs are required to send in supporting documentation to obtain a certificate. As luck would have it, buried in amongst all of the packets of QSL cards I found an old envelope with all the required photocopies (passport & EI7GL licence) and I had never posted. Next step is to post it! (Posted letter 22nd Dec 08........Received password by e-mail on 5th Jan 2009)

With the current progress of updating my logbook, I probably won't be in a position to use LOTW until April 2009 at the earliest anyway so there is no mad panic.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beacons on 28 MHz during the Geminids meteor shower...14th Dec 2008

Back in mid November, I tried a few tests listening to the beacon GB3RAL on 28 MHz during the Leonids meteor shower. For the Geminids, I repeated some of the tests but this time, tried listening for some other beacons as well.

Same as the last time....Kenwood transciever on CW, 500 Hz filter. Antenna....old commercial CB type end fed half wave about 4 metres above ground level. I monitored the received audio using the Sprectrum Lab audio analyzer program.

I tried listening for 4 different beacons on 28 MHz......GB3RAL (~500 kms), LA4TEN (~1,200 kms), F5ZWE (~1,300 kms) and DL0IGI (~1,500 kms). I listened at two different times on the 14th of December.....around 01:00 for GB3RAL and LA4TEN and around 09:00 for all 4 beacons.

Listening around 01:00......
GB3RAL.....I received a few bursts from this beacon. Nothing spectacular but it seemed to be there ok. Due to the fact that it has a faulty keyer, I was not able to get a positive ID. Like before, a lot more shows up on the trace than what I could hear by ear.

LA4TEN......This beacon seemed to be very good. It seemed to be nearly always there and at times, it got strong enough so that I could hear the CW by ear and make a positive ID.

Why was the LA4TEN beacon so consistent?

1) My view in that direction is excellent with no obstructions so that may have helped.
2) Is it the fact that 1,200 kms might be a much better distance for meteor scatter. Certainly for GB3RAL at 500 kms, I would expect that more intense meteor bursts might be required (more ionization) and the bursts would be of shorter duration.
3) Perhaps certain directions are better at different times during the shower??
4) Or perhaps it was the power level? LA4TEN is supposed to have an ERP of 250 watts which is very high for a beacon.
5) Of course, there is always the chance that what I heard was actually weak Sporadic-E rather than just meteor scatter propogation. It's seems unlikely at 1am in the morning in December. Considering that the peak of the shower was around this time, it was probably meteor scatter.

Listening around 09:00....
Conditions were worse. I still got a few pings from GB3RAL. I got very little from DL0IGI and F5ZWE. However, LA4TEN seemed as busy as ever! Looking at other sites, the peak was well over at this stage. In addition, the radiant point for the showers in Gemini may have set below the horizon by that time. I wonder though if the LA4 beacon at this stage was Sporadic-E or or not???

1) I need to find out what times the radiant point is above the horizon for any future shower and what the likely peak time will be.
2) The results show that meteor scater on 28 MHz is pretty impressive. Everything heard here was with an antenna with no gain.

Useful links......
International Meteor Organisation
G7IZU meteor detection page

Next shower is the Ursids on the 22nd of December.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

ARRL 10 Metre Contest...13th/14th December 2008

Considering that this is the only band I am really currently active on, I was on during the 2 days of this ARRL contest to see what would pop up. At this stage of the solar cycle, the solar flux level (~70) is way too low to support direct F2 propogation from this far North in Europe (52 deg N). However, some Winter time Sporadic-E came to the rescue and there were short weak openings to F and EA from here. It's amazing that when all that activity is concentrated on one band, every propogation path becomes obvious and is spotted on the DX-Cluster. Most of the signals were weak although one French station did peak at 599+10dB. However overall, most signals were weak and CW was really the only way of working most stations.
Some observations...
1) In total over the 2 days, I worked 7 EA stations, 3 F stations and 1 S5 station. There might have been some openings to Germany as well but either I was missing or it was too weak for me to hear. The band opened up for a while to LA as well with the beacon LA4TEN in JO28 making an appearance for a while. No LA stations were heard though. In terms of DX, V51AS was heard although very weakly.

As you see from the map, the orange areas represent was worked....all Sporadic-E and about 1,000 to 1,800 kms distance. The V51 station was probably a combination of both Sporadic-E and F2 layer propogation. Sporadic-E from here (IO51) to Spain and from there probably by F2 to V51.

2) This year, the contest coincided with the peak of the Geminids meteor shower. I heard plenty of pings from beacons over the weekend and no doubt, a good few contacts made by stations in the contest may have been due to meteor scatter whether they realised it or not!

3) On a personal level, several years off the radio didn't do much for my CW!.........Oooo........very rusty ;o)

4) After I worked the S5 station, I heard Robbie, EI2IP working him. Later that night I noticed that Robbie had put up the following spot on the DX Cluster

EI2IP-@ 28000.0 EI7GL John ur cw tone is not so clear! 1215 14 Dec

So, I turned on a 2nd reciever with no antenna attached and listened to my signal on 5 watts....

di...di...di...dah.....di...di...di...dah........sounds ok........Turned up the power to 50 watts..... so good!! :o(

It reminded me of when back in the days when the Soviet Union existed and a lot of the stations there were using home made rigs and plenty would have a chirp on cw.

How to fix my problem??? I thought at first it might be too much RF in the shack. I know I cause interference to the loudspeakers of the PC in the shack so I thought that might have something to do with it. Perhaps RF was getting into the power supply or somewhere else.

Connected up my 20 year old home brew 100 watt dummy load and tried it... joy. Then I looked at the power supply. It's a variable power supply going from 0V to 20V with a small analogue meter to show the o/p voltage and current. Looked a bit low.......mmm......checked it with a digital volt meter.....~11 volts!

Turned it up to 13.5 volts and tried again...

di...di...di...dah...success!!...........It turned out that I must have knocked the voltage dial at some stage and the Kenwood transciever didn't like transmitting with a low voltage supply. Not only that but my max power out now has increased from 80 watts to the full 100 watts.

All from a simple spot on the cluster!....Thanks Robbie :o)

5) .....and on a final note, I found myself listening nearly all the time on the CW part of 10 metres for the duration of the contest. I listened to the SSB section for a while, heard some weak signals but to be honest, I never felt inclined to open the drawer, take the microphone out, plug it in to the rig and call someone. I wonder if I was operating just SSB only, would I just get bored of the whole radio thing again???

Sunday, December 14, 2008

EI/ON5GS/P in IO55 square QRT???

I have been checking how this expedition has been getting on over the last few days and it seemed like he was getting lots of contacts into Europe on 144 MHz via Meteor Scatter. ON5GS seems to have set up near Muckish Mountain which is shown on the map below. The location selected seems to be on the high part of a small road that goes between the mountains. It seems as if the highest point is perhaps 100 metres or so inside IO55 square!! It seems like a good spot though....about 250m asl and no major mountains blocking the horizon to the South-East.

However on Sunday, it seems like the expedition came to a halt when the antennas fell over in the wind. The winds on Sunday morning were from the North-West and this site looks like it might be very exposed in that direction.
Here are some of the comments from ON4KST chat.....

"LATEST NEWS from DXC 2008-12-14 1039 UT: <<<>>>> Heavy storm has blow over his mast. Antennas crashed. Dirk went QRT"
"well too bad for EI/ON5GS/p: I thought Dirk would make it to the end and would not join the list of blown away DXP's in IO55"
"Dirk, ON5GS, was qrv serveral days from his "berlingo" shack with 4x4el vert stacked antennas. At Dec.14 10.39UTC Anton ON6NL reported: EI/ON5GS/P is QRT! Heavy storm destroyed his antenna"

Some details of the Expedition can be found at and on my earlier post.

Is he QRT for good??? ON5GS is supposed to be there until the 20th. Even if all of the antennas were destroyed, there are some radio shops within driving distance so maybe not???


Now QRT. More info on what was worked at

Update...21:00 (14/12/08)
Back in action......but this time in IO65 square.
SP6NVN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io65jg jo81cj 1609 km Tnx D 2007 14 Dec
SP2MKO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx for new loc / vy73 1959 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IN97NJ<>IO65 TNX new loc again 1957 14 Dec
DF8IK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io65jg-jo30 tnx 1950 14 Dec

Here are some of the other spots from the DX-cluster....(Blue=Tropo)
ON6NL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P QRT! Storm blow antennas away 1043 14 Dec
G4ZFJ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO01HOIO55XA 55 FSK 0929 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P WRONG frequ b4 0920 14 Dec
F1DUZ 144352.0 EI/ON5GS/P IN97NJIO55 TNX so 73 0914 14 Dec
DF0WD 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55xc>jo42 fsk,fb 20sec burst 0850 14 Dec
I4XCC 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx new square! #543 2248 13 Dec
PE1OPK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO23IO55 thnx new# Good Lu 2223 13 Dec
PA3DOL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Many thanks for new # 27/27 C 2148 13 Dec
HA5UK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P jn97-io55 2061km tnx 2124 13 Dec
DK7DR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P jn47dpio55 3min tnx 2104 13 Dec
OE3SJA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P sorry not finish...chaos ! ! ! 2019 13 Dec
OE3SJA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P in qso only....chaos... 2008 13 Dec
SP6NVN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx qso 1944 13 Dec
OZ8ZS 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR IO55JO55 Tnx # and GL 1937 13 Dec
IZ5ILX 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN54<> IO55 TNX QSO !! 1930 13 Dec
EA6VQ 144090.0 EI/ON5GS QRV for you. Tnx 1726 13 Dec
DF6YL 144385.0 EI/ON5PS/P tnx for new# io55jo31gl 1650 13 Dec
OH6PA 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TNX 4 New # best 940/8 1554 13 Dec
DF4IP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TNX FR QSO 1252 13 Dec
DG5AAG-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx qso & new square 1227 13 Dec
DK1VI 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN49HHIO55XA 26 TNX QSO 1200 13 Dec
EI5FK-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55XC 52/57 tropo tnx 1128 13 Dec
DF8IK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55-jo30 tnx qso 1104 13 Dec
DF1SO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55JN48 C 1800/12 tnx 1055 13 Dec
HB9DFG 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN37SMIO55XC CR 5dB/560ms 1031 13 Dec
DJ5BV 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55JO30 good refl tnx 1012 13 Dec
DG5CST 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P gd refl. io55/jo60 gl! 0942 13 Dec
PE1GUR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx random qso IO55<>JO22, 2142 12 Dec
PA1VW 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Tnk new #, 140/2 2107 12 Dec
SP3IYM 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P new #188 without SMS/chat pwr 1908 12 Dec
OK1TEH 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR jo70-io55 #520 tnx! 1845 12 Dec
F5JNX 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Best 780/4db tnx new # 1836 12 Dec
PA3CEE 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P MS IO55 Tnx loc. #705! 1809 12 Dec
OZ1IEP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P new loc. 1725 12 Dec
DF2ZC 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P sri typo 1717 12 Dec
DF2ZC 144305.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55JO30RN tnx #906 1714 12 Dec
OZ1BNN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P TU fer new grid GL. 1653 12 Dec
DL1RPL-@ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx MS QSO 73 GL 1440 12 Dec
DL1EAP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55JO31 C tnx dirk 4new# 1159 12 Dec
SP2MKO 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx for new loc 1048 12 Dec
DG5AAG-@ 144000.0 EI/ON5GS/P 384 or 385 ??? 1031 12 Dec
ON7KEI 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P FSK441 sket elinknode 7125 0917 12 Dec
I2FAK 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN45io55 tnx for new# 2049 11 Dec
ON4KHG 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55XAJO10 2037 11 Dec
DF6YL 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P tnx new# jo31io55 2029 11 Dec
DL1SUN 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P norm refl, c, #563 1941 11 Dec
SP6HED 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JO80ILIO55XA tnx random qs 1921 11 Dec
ES3RF 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR ko29IO55. 2011 km 1834 11 Dec
DH4FAJ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P JN49EXIO55XC 480/d tnx Dir 1818 11 Dec
SP2JYR 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P 1760km with 50W - Tnx Dirk ! 1755 11 Dec
PA1GYS 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Tnx qso jo22
PA4PS 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P Tnx new# JO33ghIO55 1725 11 Dec
PA3FPQ 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55 tnx new #. FB refl. GL! 1657 11 Dec
PA4EME 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P CR JO20WXIO55XA tnx new # 1640 11 Dec
G4PBP 144385.0 EI/ON5GS/P MS from io55xc 1613 11 Dec
G8GXP 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P IO55IO93 59 450KMS TNX 1610 11 Dec
G4PBP 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P 5/5-9 tropo in io82wo 1607 11 Dec
SP6NVN 144370.0 EI/ON5GS/P io55xcjo81cj TNX 1601 11 Dec

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

GB3RAL and the Leonids Meteor Shower...17th Nov 2008

This is a post that I have been meaning to put up for a while. Now that the peak of the Geminids meteor shower is coming up next weekend (13th of Dec), now seems like a good time to put it up.

During the morning of the 17th of November which was supposed to be the peak of the Leonids meteor shower, I tried listening for the GB3RAL beacon in England on 28.215 MHz.

Equipment.....Kenwood TS690s tuned to 28.215.1 MHz on CW (500 Hz filter fitted)
Antenna........Half wave 10 metre vertical at 5 metres AGL
Distance......490 kms due East from here (IO91in<->IO51tu)

As well as listening by ear to the received signals, I put the microphone from the PC next to the rig and monitored the signal with the Spectrum Lab Audio Analyzer program.

After a while, I got a few audible pings that showed on the waterfall dislay so I could see that there was something there around 500 Hz.

At 09:24, I recorded what was the start of a long 5 to 6 minute burst. As you can see above, it started suddenly and after a few minutes, it began to slowly fade away. Listening by ear, I could just about hear that there was something there yet it showed up quite clearly on the waterfall display.

From what I could hear, there was no cw. It was just a constant carrier.

However when I looked at the display closer, I could see that the signal was about 7 Hz wide before finally becoming a narrower signal. I can see from beacon lists that the GB3RAL beacon uses FSK....i.e. the carrier moves in frequency to generate the CW rather than turning on and off. I asked the beacon keeper G0MJW about this and he informed me that the keyer on the beacon has failed and a replacement is under construction.

What I heard and saw was like the beacon keyer was still working (i.e. FSK) except that the frequency shift was now a lot lower than it should be (i.e. 7 Hz instead of say 300 Hz).

Q. Was it GB3RAL that I heard? Probably likely but to be honest, until I can get a positive ID, I will never be 100% sure. I might have a listen again during the Geminids and see how it goes.

(1) The various other lines shown on the above displays are mainly just interference generated by the PC. Even though I can't hear them, they show up quite clearly on the display.

Friday, December 5, 2008

DX-pedition to IO55 square on 144 MHz...Dec 2008

It's strange how you can find information sometimes. Last night, I started out looking at a website for 70 MHz.....found a link for information on transverters on an OZ website...then I spotted some 'most wanted locator squares' maps...and that got me onto a page about upcoming 144 MHz DX-peditions!

The above map shows the locator squares in Ireland. Some of the squares like IO51, IO63 and IO74 have a number of amateurs in them who are pretty active so are not so rare. The other ones are not so easy to catch. The squares on the Western seaboard (IO41-44) are all pretty rare while the square in the most North Western tip of Ireland (IO55) is the rarest of all. By all accounts, it is on the EU Top 10 most wanted list!

Well, it turns out that Dirk, ON5GS is going to activate the square on 144 MHz during the Geminids meteor shower in mid-December. The information from the website reads as follows...

"I will be qrv on 2m during BCC contest in IO55 (top-10 EU most wanted) using EI/ON5GS/P with 4 x 6el DK7ZB and 200w from a citroën berlingo-shack in donegal NW-ireland from 10-20 dec 2008. All MS skeds before and after contest and/or EME skeds during the period in moonset/moonrise are welcome on or sms ++32477677005 or 14.345 MHz during operation. I will most possibly be qrv on ON4KST chat and DX-cluster via GPRS so you will find me there for a sked also. Please no skeds during contest. My random freq is 144.384MHz good luck may the rocks be with you (...and with me HI) Dirk Reyners ON5GS."

There is a link on the post for a website in Flemish but you can see that he is obviously doing a lot of work getting ready for the trip.

IO55......When you look at a map, it may not be the easiest of squares to activate.
1) Logistics.....anyone coming from Europe will arrive in the South East/East of the country and will have to drive all the ways to the North West corner....not an easy journey.
2) Trying to find a good location in the square.

As you can see from the map, there are a lot of mountains to the South, South-East and East. Trying to find a spot with a low horizon will be tricky. It will be interesting to see the results.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

DXCC Card Checker in EI.......

Trawling back through some old IRTS news item's, I came accross this news piece which might be interest to any EI stations who have an interest in the ARRL DXCC awards.

"Dave, EI9FBB, has successfully been appointed a DXCC card checker for EI. Effective immediately, he is able to check and submit applications for ALL ‘ARRL’ awards except 160 metre and deleted countries. Also, any ‘ GI ’stations that wish to forward cards onto him are also welcome to do so. He asks that any perspective candidates adhere to the proper application format,which is clearly listed on the ARRL Web site.
This will certainly take the cost, delay and risk out of mailing your cards overseas for checking. Any enquiries can be forwarded to:“ei9fbb at oceanfree dot net”.

That certainly is a very useful service to have locally. Once I get my logbook updated and start using the Logbook of the World program, then this service is something I must really look into.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The EI 50 MHz Inactivity night....

A few weeks back while looking through the VHF section of the IRTS website, I saw a notice about the EI 50 MHz Activity Evening on the 1st Monday evening of every month. I kind of guessed that there might be nobody on but decided anyway to try and get on for it...Mon Dec 1st.
I set up a loaded quarter wave magmount on the roof of a shed during the day. It was hardly ideal in that the roof has a slope and the magmount was over at about a 30 degree angle. However, the VSWR was good and listening to the EI0SIX beacon (180 kms), putting the antenna vertical only increased the signal a bit (319 to 419).
I made a sked with Alan, EI3EBB and by 21:10, we were both on 50.135 MHz. The idea for this activity night started in Kerry so if there was going to be any activity, it might be there. I thought Alan might hear something at his place (~180m ASL) but we heard nothing for the 30 minutes or so we were on for.
I'm not sure if these activity evenings would be of much interest during the Summer months when there is plenty of activity anyway but they seem like a good idea for the long winter evenings when the band is dead.
I wonder there anyone on for these 50 MHz activity evenings? Anywhere in Ireland..??

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not a spot to be seen....

Here is a picture of the Sun today....not a single spotspot to be seen. We are still well and truely at solar minimum.

For the record, the solar flux reading for today is 68. Not really up or down....about the same as before.
In a recent ARRL e-mail, W7TJ wrote..."I have been on the air 44 years, and never have I seen a cycle with such a long extended bottom. Usually the bottom is brief, maybe 6-9 Months of low Sunspot numbers and Solar Flux Values in the Mid 60s. The rise and fall is and has historically been short. Looking back (depending on where one measures) there is a very long and stretched bottom spanning 1 1/2 to 2 years. Graphically instead of a "V" we have a "U" with a long flat bottom."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

EI3EBB, Watson 2000 & antenna work...

After a slightly shorter absence from the airwaves compared to me, Alan EI3EBB is coming back on again. So after he installed a new Watson 2000 vertical on the chimney, it was time to help out with a bit of tuning.

The EI3EBB 'antenna farm'. Diamond X510 on the left and a Watson 2000 on the right.

The Watson 2000 is a 3 band fibreglass VHF antenna. On 50 MHz, it is a half wave (claimed 0dBd gain), on 144 MHz it is a 2 x 5/8 wave (4dBd claimed) and 432 MHz, it is 4 x 5/8 wave (6.4 dBd). The overall lenght is 2.5 metres so the claim that it has the same gain as a half wave (3 metres) on 50 MHz is a bit optimistic.

Adjusting the 50 MHz radial on the Watson 2000

50 MHz......It has 3 ground planes with one of them adjustable for tuning the antenna to 50 MHz. The initial test showed that the VSWR was lowest up around 51 MHz. After adjusting the radial for maximum lenght, the lowest VSWR was at 50.7 MHz. The VSWR plot was as follows...

The 1:1.5 VSWR bandwidth seems to be around 0.9 MHz and the 1:2 VSWR bandwidth was 1.5 MHz. The final result is that the VSWR for the SSB portion of the band is 1:1.4 to 1.6 which should be ok. It's not that we had much choice when it came to tuning anyway because if we had adjusted it any further, the radial would have fallen out!

144 MHz....The VSWR meter suggested the following...


This suggests that the aerial was slightly too long. Certainly, the VSWR looks a bit high for the FM part of the band where this type would normally be used. As there was no way of adjusting the VSWR on 2 metres, we had to leave it as is. Did adjusting the 6 metre radial affect the VSWR on 2 metres?? We didn't check.

432 MHz....We had no equipment to check the VSWR on this band.

(Note...The VSWR was checked with a pretty cheap meter. A days later, we took some readings with another meter. While there was some differences, the VSWR minimum point stayed the same. There was nothing to suggest that the graph above is not accurate)

50 MHz.....It's way too early to say how this aerial performs on 6 metres. The only way we had of testing it was to listen to the EI0SIX beacon and compare it to how I hear it at my place. On paper, we both expected the beacon to be a lot stronger at EI3EBB's location. He is roughly double the height above sea level that I am and he is near the top of the range of hills that I have as my horizon. In addition, he is using an aerial that is resonant and should have nearly the gain of a dipole while I am just listening on a non-resonant CB half wave. If I was hearing the beacon at 319 to 419, I would have expected it to be maybe 539 at EI3EBB's place?

Instead, the beacon is very weak at his house. Why??
Is it the Watson 2000? It's hard to believe it's that bad. Anyway, it seemed to have got a good review here.
Different path???.....I looked at some maps and we have almost the same path (EI3EBB - 168kms - 38 deg / EI7GL - 183 kms - 34 deg). If anything, the path for Alan looks slightly better in that the Knockmealdown mountains look like more of an obstruction for me.
Local obstructions???......EI3EBB has some high ground to the East but at 38 degrees, he should be clear of most of it. Is there some sort of 'plateau' effect?? Is the aerial just in a null spot?

Updated 25th Nov 2008......We did a few tests by going mobile around the roads near EI3EBB's location. We used a loaded quarter wave magmount on the roof of the car and an IC706 parked on 50.052 MHz CW. Now, the tests were a bit subjective as we had ignition noise, noise from the car's electronics and there was some fading on the signal as well. Yet, we still got a good feel for what could be heard.

Area 1) Around EI3EBB's location which is about 500 metres back from the brow of the hill and at ground level, would be around 5 metres lower. The signal was very weak, maybe 319, 419 max.

Area 2) Near the peaks of the local hills (~2-3kms away, 40m higher and 15m higher) to the East and West of EI3EBB. Here the beacon was around 539, nice solid signal and a lot stronger than with the Watson 2000 at EI3EBB's place. (On the hill to the East, the signal did not really get strong until we cleared the trees)

Area 3) The strongest signals by far were along the Northern slopes of the Eastern hill. The signal peaked around 559 here, amazingly strong for a beacon that was around 165 kms away. I have seen this with VHF signals before where the signals on the downward slope of a hill in the direction of which the signals are coming are often stronger than at the top.

Conclusions....??? Still nothing definite. We established that the Knockmealdown mountains (direction of EI0SIX) are visible from the Watson 2000 on the roof. If there is any 'local' high ground in the way, it's not much. We tried just holding the magmount out a skylight on the roof so that it was close to the height of the Watson and doing some tests by comparing it to the Watson with a coax switch. We could hear the beacon a little bit better with the Watson. So, in other words, we were hearing the beacon 'a bit' better on what is supposed to be a resonant half wave antenna than a loaded quarter wave with no ground plane. Perhaps it's a bit early to come to any firm conclusion on the Watson 2000 but for the moment, on 6 metres at least, there is certainly no 'wow' factor.

144 MHz......Compared to the Diamond X510 which is nearby, the Watson is a bit down as expected. The only tests done were listening to local repeaters and they seemed fine.

(Notes....Limerick Repeater on IC706. X510=s'9+10', Watson=s'9').

432 MHz.....No tests done.

So, EI3EBB in IO52ta is back on 6 metres...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Number of EI stations...

While I was looking around the Comreg website today, I found some information about the numbers of EI stations. The graph covers the period from 2003 to 2008. It might be worth pointing out to any non-EI visitors to this blog that here in Ireland, we have Radio Experimenters licences rather than Radio Amateur ones.As you can see, a fair drop from 2003 until 2006 and now it has remained steady. Why the drop? I seem to remember something about Comreg removing anyone who had not renewed their licence from their database?
Whatever the reason, there are currently about 1,500 EI stations with a licence. When you consider that the majority will probably not be active at all and another section who will rarely use the radio, there are probably only a few hundred active EI stations out there on the bands.

When you spread out that few hundred accross all of the bands, different days and different times of day, perhaps there are not so many of us after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Irish award

I found this by accident today when I was looking at something else (...the joys of the Internet :o))

Steve, EI5DD has set up a new website about the EI CASHOTA award....Castles And Stately Homes On The Air. The news release on their website is only from last Saturday so I presume it has only just been announced?
Perhaps it is of interest to a limited number of people but it sounds like an activity that would be ideal for a radio club. Anyway, it kicks off on the 1st of Jan 2009 if you are interested.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Echoes from a bygone era...

I found this website by accident today. It shows some old QSL cards from EI stations during the 1930's to 1950's. Certainly, working conditions must have been very different back then with most of the equipment home made or ex WW2 military gear in the 50's.

The QSL above is the card from the original EI7M station. It was re-issued some years back to the East Cork Radio Club who now use it in contests.

Friday, November 14, 2008

VQLog...Progress of editing the VQLog logging program

This is a scratchpad for me to keep progress on my editing of the VQLog logbook program.

a) When I examine all of the QSO's imported from Fastlog, my callsign and locator are missing from each record. So, if I do a search under 'blank' callsign, I get the correct totals for DXCC etc. When I do a search under 'EI7GL', I only get totals based on the entries that I have edited already and put in my call and locator.

First QSO...3rd Oct 1986!

Fri 14th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as and including...31/10/1987...QSO Nr.00181
Sat 15th of Nov 2008...Checked as far as 20/12/1987...QSO Nr.00296
With 300 QSO's checked up as far as the end of 1987, I have noticed 2 things....
1) DX on 144 MHz SSB. Lots of contacts into ON, PA and F on 2m. It kind of got me thinking about 2m ssb again! But then again, things were different in 1987. There were a lot more stations on 2m ssb then. If I had the same conditions now and was using the same gear, would I work as much?? I kind of doubt it.
2) Loads of 10 metre contacts in November 1987. Most if not all F2 layer. Lots of Europeans, some USA and DX. 1987 was getting close to the peak of that solar cycle. Huge difference in conditions between then and now...November 2008 as we are just passing Solar minimum.
Sun 16th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 17/06/1988...QSO Nr.00365
Mostly Summer Sporadic-E contacts around Europe on 10 metres with some DX stuff as well. Two contacts caught my interest...
1) TQ6JUN...a special event station on 10 metres on the 6th of June 1988, 40 years after the D-Day Normandy landings, an event that is now 60 years ago.
2) FY0EK on 10 metres in the Ariane Space Centre in French Guyana.
Mon 17th of Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 23/10/1988...
Finished up until the end of 1988. A few things stood out...
1) Lots of 10m Sporadic-E contacts...especially West Germany!
2) Contacts with what was then the Soviet Union...UR2 (Estonia), UP2 (Lithuania)
3) Contacts with East Germany (Y22)
4) And on the local scene, Charlie EI5FK reading the IRTS on 10 metres every week! Guess there must have been more EI stations on 10m back then.
Tues 18th Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 02/07/1991...
1990....My first 50 MHz contact! Iwas using a home brew Meon transverter with a might 0.25w o/p!! Antenna was a half wave dipole in the attic.
1991...April....I built an amplifier for the Meon. Output power 4 watts....QRO at last!
1991...June...With 4 watts and the attic dipole, I worked loads of Europeans on 50 Mhz via Sporadic-E that month....SM, OH, OE, OZ, DL, LX, ON, I, HB9, PA, G, GM, LA, CU3. What was obvious from the logbook is that this is still a new band with lots of people using transverters and the typical power level was around 10 to 20 watts. At this time, countries like Spain did not have access to the band. Another unusual feature was that all Italian stations were confined to a small segment within the band.
1991...July...Unusual contact...worked EJ7FRL on 2m on the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse off the SW coast of Ireland. Built a 2 element yagi for 50 MHz and put it up outdoors, ~6 metres above ground level. Big improvement in reported signals.
Looking at VQLog, I had done this editing process before but only got as far as July 91.
Wed 19th Nov 2008...Checked up as far as 30/10/1991...
1991...October...Nice aurora on 28/10/91. Worked several stations on 6m ssb even with 4w to a 2 el yagi. Some nice DX contacts on 10m as well, conditions are good.
Thurs 20th Nov 2008...The 1st logbook is now checked....Checked up as far as 16/03/1992.
1992...7th of February. An amazing day for VHF propogation. In the afternoon, I managed to work AI1K, K1TOL & VE1YX with my 4 watts and 2 element beam! Propogation was F2. Later that evening, 2 metres opened up with contacts down to Spain and a tropo duct into PA & DL. It's amazing to think that it is possible to get a contact from Cork to Berlin at 144 MHz with just 25 watts and a small beam.
VQLog notes (mainly for my own use...)
1) When I imported the log from Fastlog to VQLog, all the information transferred ok. However, when I check each individual qso, my call is missing from the callsign field. My locator is missing as well. I need to edit each qso and click on the pull down menu to put in my call and locator.
2) When I put all of the qso data into Fastlog back around 1998?, I left out a lot of contacts like countries on 10m that I had already confirmed. At the time, I just wanted to get a logbook up and running asap. However, when I got qsl cards from some of those 'omitted' contacts, I got a 'not in log' result and I had to go looking for the contact and then adding the contact to Fastlog. This time, as I edit the log, I will put everything in from the paper logs so it an accurate reflection on what I have worked (....with the exception of repeater qso's)
3) I had a lot of info in the comment field in Fastlog that I used to track various things...DIG, WAS, WAB, etc. I need to edit each qso anyway to put this information into the correct field for award tracking.
Friday 21st of November....Checked up as far as 27/03/1992...
1992....3rd of March....Nice tropo opening on 2 metres down to the West coast of France...IN96,97, JN05,06,07. One station in IN96 gave me a 5/5 report when I reduced my power to o.5 watts!
1992...16th of March...My 1st contact on 20 metres....6 years after I got my class A licence! Guess I wasn't too interested in HF back then ;o)
1992...March...Lots of nice DX on 28 MHz. I have VK5EK logged as having a 5/9+15dB signal. Plenty of signals from the West coast of the US as well. I have a note in the log saying that solar flux in mid-April was 130.
Saturday 22nd of November.....Checked up as far as 10/05/1992...
1992...10th of May...Big aurora. Worked loads of G stations with my 4 watts and 2 element on 50 MHz. Also managed to work a G and a GW station on 28 MHz via aurora but the signals were very weak.
Sun 23rd Nov.....Checked up as far as 8/6/1992...
1992...17th of May....Big tropo opening on 2m to G/F/PA/GU/GJ. Tried a test with GP4IPA in Guernsey....he gave me 5/9+20 with 25 watts, 5/9+10 with 3 watts and 5/8 with 0.5 watts.
1992...May...Loads of Sporadic-E on 50 MHz. Managed to work 5B4 in Cyprus on double hop with my 4 watts.
Mon 24th Nov.....Checked up as far as 5/7/1992...
1992...22nd of June...Big Sporadic-E opening on 2 metres. Filled nearly 4 pages in the log......31 DL, 32 SP, 2 OE, 1 HA, 15 YU and 2 OK.
1992...June....I noted one unusual contact where I had worked GW0PLP in Wales on 28 MHz via tropo! We were both using verticals. Distance about 270 kms.
Tues 25th Nov.....Checked up as far as 27/7/1992...
1992...July...Nothing special except I was out portable a lot in West Cork and Kerry on 2 metres....Bear Island, Hungry Hill, Mangerton, Caherconree and IO41 square. Also had my first contact on 70 cms.
Wed 26th Nov.....Checked up as far as 13/9/1992...
Thurs 27th Nov.....Checked up as far as 3/10/1992...
Looking through the log, I have lots of little notes made. One typical note was regarding an antenna test. Not long after I got my licence, I built a little low power attenuator that would go up in 1 dB and 5 dB steps. I know that on 144 MHz, it's not super accurate ;o) but good enough to get a rough idea of what is going on. The test in question involved John, EI6AK. He had a colinear at about 10 feet out in his garden. He made a note of my signal at various power levels. A few days later, he moved the colinear to the roof of his house. By noting the amount of power that I needed to achieve the old signal levels, I estimated that his signals had improved by around 7dB....the equivalent of running 50 watts instead of 10 watts! A worthwhile improvement and proves that height above ground level is really important at VHF frequencies.
Fri 28th Nov...Checked up as far as 24/12/1992...
1992...7th & 8th Oct...Some nice tropo ducting on 144 MHz into Europe. The one contact that stands out is OK1VEI using 25w and a 7 element. An amazing distance for tropo.
1992...Oct...Built a colinear for 70 cms and put it in the attic. Performance is pretty impressive compared to a simple dipole. What becomes obvious is that 432 MHz signals are nearly always weaker than 144 MHz signals and they certainly don't go around hills so well.
1992...Oct...Bought a 2nd hand Diamond X510 dual band vertical and put it up on a 15ft pole. Comparing it to the Slim Jim that I had outdoors, my signal improved to stations in Cork City by around 5 to12 dB. Probably a combination of more gain and less obstructions like the house in the way.
1992...6th Nov...Worked EI5FK on 70 cms. My path to EI5FK's is very difficult as I have some very high local hills in the way. Charlie could hear me When I was using the indoor colinear but nothing with the outdoor Diamond. That's the thing with 70 cms, it can always suprise.
Sat 29th Nov...Checked up as far as 10/06/1993...
1993...5th Feb...More nice tropo on 2m. Some of the best ducting seems to occur in the early hours of the morning. DC3QB who is using an indoor 9 element yagi!! Later the same evening, I work G0NXD who is on the 19th floor of a block of flats in Birmingham using a J-stick on FM. Amazing when you consider that the signal had to come over the mountains in Wales.
1993...7th June...Yet another 70 cms suprise. Worked EI5HG who was near the local car ferry. Nothing unusual in that as it is local. What is suprising is that from that location, which is completely blocked from Cork City, EI5HG managed to work EI3EBB in the city on 70 cms yet they could not work on 2 metres. One possible answer is that the 70 cms signals were bouncing off the large IFI/NET building to the North while the 145 MHz could not??? Without beams, it would be impossible to prove. Still though, it proved that sometimes the 70 cms signal will get through while the 2 metre signal won't. It is supposed to be for this reason, i.e. the ability of the shorter wavelenght signal to bounce off objects, that 70 cms is often supposed to be better in cities than 2 metres.
1993...10th June...Big Sporadic-E opening on 144 MHz. 99 QSOs...10 countries...38 squares.
Sun 30th Nov...Checked up as far as 22/06/1993...
1993...11th June...I had recently built a 70 MHz to 144 MHz transverter. The o/p power on 4 metres was only 0.2 watts. During a QSO with DK2ZF, I tried transmitting on 70.200 MHz with the 0.2 watts and using the 2 element 6 m beam. DK2ZF said he could hear my signal. Amazing...
1993...15th June....Did some tests with EI3EBB (10 kms to the West). Both of us listened to another EI station on 144 MHz about 120 kms to the North. There was a lot of fading on the signals. Sometimes, the signal got weak with both of us at the same time. Other times, it was strong with me and weak at EI3EBB's location and vice versa.
1993...16th June. Worked UZ2FWA (Kaliningradsk) on 10m/6m crossband. i.e. I was transmitting on 50 MHz.
Mon 1st Dec...Checked up as far as 16/07/1993...
I had a bit of a scare with the log. I thought I might have entered some of the QSO times incorrectly, i.e. putting in local Summer time instead of UTC. The way Logbook of the World works is that it looks for a match within a 30 minute window. If my contacts were 1 hour out, then they are useless. After digging out some old QSL cards, I was able to confirm that all the data that I had entered was correct! Phew.....!!
The problem stems from my very first paper logbook. In the space for time, it just says 'Time' and not 'UTC'. So not knowing any better when I started, I logged everything in local time. This was fine in the winter but everything was 1 hour out in the summer. Eventually after a few years, I started keeping everything in UTC. Fine as long as I can remember when I started to use UTC all of the time. The problem is that I have forgotten!
Lesson......always keep your logbook in UTC, not local time!
1993...4th July. Make my 1st 4 metre contact with EI7M/P who is 120 kms away. I was using 0.2 watts from the transverter into a home made 2 element yagi in the attic.
Tues 2nd Dec...Checked up as far as 01/05/1994...
1993...12th August. Worked an Italian and German station on 2m SSB during the Perseids meteor shower. Some of the bursts were 10 seconds long allowing a complete QSO to take place. Also listened on 70 MHz to an expedition station in Scotland. There were some very impressive 10, 20 and even 50 second bursts on this band.
1993...18th August. Nice tropo opening on to the North West coast of France. Worked F1EMX on 70 cms SSB who was using 10 watts and a quarter wave antenna in his attic. I was using 10 watts into the colinear in my attic.....attic to attic on 432 MHz!!
About 3- minutes later, I managed to have a 2m to 23cms crossband QSO with F5PAU. I was holding the 23 cms yagi in my hand and pointing it at the window with the cable going to a scanner. 530 kms on 1296 MHz.....Amazing.
1993...Oct...Some nice conditions on 10 metres. One contact that stands out is with KD2RZ who is using 5 watts from a car in a parking lot in New Jersey.
1994...Feb...Some interesting contacts via the Russian RS-12 satellite....up on 15 metres and down on 10m. The doppler shift was low enough that it was a pleasure to use.....not like the current crop of 432/144 MHz satellites.
1994...Mar...It was from here on that kept using UTC for all Summertime contacts.
Wed 3rd Dec....The 2nd logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 29/05/1994 (13:33)...
Thurs 4th Dec...Checked up as far as 03/05/1995...
Sat 6th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/05/1995...
Mon 8th Dec...Checked up as far as 05/06/1995...
Tues 9th Dec...Checked up as far as 25/06/1995...
Wed 10th Dec...Checked up as far as 18/07/1995...
Fri 12th Dec...Checked up as far as 29/07/1995...
Going through the logbooks is slow going. I left out loads of contacts when I was first typing up Fastlog. For example if I had one of the more popular countries worked on one of the HF bands, I didn't put any more from those countries into Fastlog. I'm pretty sure that once I finished the initial process of typing up Fastlog, I put in all subsequent contacts after that. This was probably sometime around 1997?
Sun 14th Dec...Checked up as far as 23/09/1995...
Tues 16th Dec...The 3rd logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 05/04/1996...
Wed 17th Dec...Checked up as far as 22/05/1996...
Thurs 18th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/06/1996... Time for a break from updating! Approx 20% done. At this rate, I won't have the log updated until sometime in mid-April :o(
Sat 20th Dec...Checked up as far as 19/09/1996...
Sun 21st Dec...Checked up as far as 19/06/1997...
Mon 22nd Dec...Checked up as far as 24/07/1997...Judging by the log, I must have entered all of the original entries from the paper log into Fastlog sometime in late 1996 or early 1997. There are a lot fewer contacts omitted now when I am checking. Because of this, I have to enter less data and it is getting easier and faster to check the log.
Tues 23rd Dec...The 4th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 30/08/1997...
Wed 24th Dec...Checked up as far as 11/05/1998...
Sat 27th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/08/1998...Just passed the 30% mark.
Sun 28th Dec...Checked up as far as 05/04/1999...
Mon 29th Dec...The 5th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 06/07/1999...Just passed the 40% mark. From about late 1998 onwards, I have plenty of contacts for DXCC band countries that were never confirmed. In some cases, I never even sent a QSL card. I'm not sure if it is now too late to get these confirmed or if there are just too many of them??
Tues 30th Dec...Checked up as far as 13/11/1999...
Wed 31st Dec...Checked up as far as 18/03/2000...
Fri 2nd Jan...Checked up as far as 11/04/2000...
Sat 3rd Jan...The 6th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 29/06/2000...Just passed the 50% mark!! A lot of the contacts in 2000 consist of pile-ups and contests which are very quick to check and edit. Estimated completion date....early February 2009?? A lot better than the old estimate of mid-April 2009.
Sun 4th Jan...Checked up as far as 29/07/2000...Just passed the 60% mark!!
Due to a head cold, I checked a lot of the log today. At this rate, I would expect to have the log finished and checked by the end of January.
Mon 5th Jan...The 7th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 09/09/2000...
Tues 6th Jan...Checked up as far as 08/12/2000...Just passed the 70% mark!!
Wed 7th Jan...The 8th logbook is now checked...Checked up as far as 06/01/2001...
Thurs 8th Jan...Checked up as far as 03/03/2001...
Fri 9th Jan...Checked up as far as 09/06/2001...Just passed the 80% mark!!
Sat 10th Jan...The 9th logbook is now checked...Starting on the last and current logbook...Checked up as far as 15/11/2001...
Sun 11th Jan...Checked as far as 24/12/2001...Just passed the 90% mark!!
Mon 12th Jan...Checked as far as 13/09/2003...
Tues 13th Jan...Finished!! 2 months and 23,029 QSO's later...
(Note to self....Any contacts for 2008 onwards are in VQLog and there is no need to edit them).

DX, DXCC, VQLog and a mountain of QSL cards...

Now that I am getting interested again in the radio scene, I took the time to actually read through the September issue of Echo Ireland properly, the Journal of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society. I had been getting it all the time I was QRT but I paid little attention to them. Looking at the current issue, 2 things caught my interest....

1) The HF Happenings column which covered nearly 4 pages. It's written by EI9FBB who appearently is in Cork and it's obvious it takes a fair bit of work to put it together. I'm not sure if after reading it, I'd go try chasing DX again ;o) but a good article all the same.

2) DXCC awards gained by EI stations, especially the single band ones. This was the aspect that I used to be interested in.....getting DXCC on a band rather than just using a combination of bands. Each band has it's own characteristics and the challenge for me was to see if it was possible to get DXCC on each band using just 100 watts.

The chart in the magazine is shown below...
The suprising thing for me is that there are only 13 EI stations with single band DXCC's. Somehow, I thought it would be more.

Anyhow, it got me thinking again about all the stuff that I have worked and never got confirmed. I remember that when I was on the air before, working the DX was sometimes the easiest part. The logistics of trying to track what was worked, what was confirmed and what I needed to get confirmed was a nightmare.

Fastlog.....back in the late 90's, I started using a Logbook program called Fastlog. It was a simple DOS based program but it was excellent. No nonsense and it was great for VHF operation as well as it was easy to keep track of locator squares worked. In fact, if I wasn't interested in getting stuff confirmed, then I'd have probably have stayed with it.

However, the logistics of tracking QSL cards was a nightmare. What to do? Back around that time, the ARRL started up their Logbook of the World program, a novel way of getting contacts confirmed electronically. Just upload your log and it looks for matches with others that have uploaded theirs. Every match is a confirmed contact, no need for QSL's!! The problem was that Fastlog was not a compatible program.

I had around 20,000 contacts logged in Fastlog and I wasn't going to type 20,000 qso's into a new logging program!! So, I chose VQLog. It was very much a VHF orientated logging program and it was able to import the Fastlog program data. The problem however was that although it imported the data ok, I still had to open every contact and edit it to get VQlog to accept it. A lot easier than having to type in all the data but with 20,000 contacts, still a lot of work :o(

Present status.......I had begun this long process before I went off the air. When I run VQLog now, it tells me I have worked 48 countries on 10 metres when I know that the figure should be around 230. So, the current plan is....
1) Learn how to use VQLog again.
2) Get the data on all 20,000 contacts up to date and correct.
3) Get going on Logbook of the World. Upload the log and see what I have confirmed. There are something like 75 million QSo's up there, surely I'll have a few matches!!

QSL's.........Only at that stage will I even start looking at QSL's again. I have unopened packets of QSL's here that I have received over the last few years so there might be a few confirmations in there as well. If you are reading this and you are waiting for a QSL from me, then sorry, but you'll have to wait! I guess that after 4 to 5 years, you have probably given up on that QSL anyway ;o)
eQSL.......This was another thing in the IRTS Journal....a list of DXCC confirmed on eQSL. I checked out the website and appearently, I have 831 eQSL's waiting for me. All I have to do is pay some fee and I can retrieve them. Considering they don't count for DXCC purposes, I really can't see the point. Maybe it might cut down the number of outgoing QSL cards?? Is it still a novelty like it was 4 to 5 years ago or is it now more mainstream? Is everyone using it?? Regardless of whether it is or not, it's way down the list of things to do.