Friday, 8 January 2016

Contact with Tim Peake on a handheld.

And a happy new year to you too.

Today was a great day. I wanted to listen in on the ISS as it flew past and especially the contact that Tim Peake was going to have with Sandringham School in St. Albans.

The pass was scheduled for 8:47am and I decided that I would share my experiences of listening in and also show you all how easy it is to accomplish with nothing more than just a handheld radio.

Today I used my Yaesu VX8. only because it was the only radio charged up. The fact is that any 2m FM radio will be able to listen in on the ISS and other amateur satellites that fly overhead.

Anyway here is the video, I hope you enjoy it. And yes. It really was very very cold.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

KX3 Shield installation

Amongst many deliveries this week, one very welcome package was side plate covers for the KX3. Ive noticed on recent trips that the soft pouch that I use to hold the KX3 is offering very little protection to the knobs.

The side plates allow the installation of a clear cover that is intended to give protection to the delicate front panel.

Installation is easy. It takes less than 10mins and also comes with a Heat sink to help the PA transistors stay cooler for longer. I didn’t want to fit the heat sink at first – I thought it wouldn’t allow the radio to fit in the carry pouch. But as you will see the case I use was able to take both the radio and heat sink. To complete the installation you will need 10minutes of spare time, a screwdriver and a 10mm spanner.

If you own a KX3, use it out and about - this is a quick and simple upgrade you should seriously consider.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Ham Radio & PLT devices

Over the past few years and again recently I have heard a lot of chatter regarding PLT interference. Especially with Ham radio and shortwave bands. These devices plug into a power wall socket in your house and allow you to create a wired network via your mains wiring in the property. It’s a perfect solution for properties that cannot send a wireless signal from one end to another (Just like mine).  It does however have a draw back. In creating a wired network these PLT devices create a lot of mains born interference and this can effectively block out any amateur radio bands.

In recent stories I have heard audio samples and read stories of how these devices can create S9+20db of noise. Thus reducing the amateur bands unusable.

I wanted to see for myself the effect of using PLT devices in my property. So I visited PC World and purchased 2 devices from NetGear. The Powerline 500 promise 500Mbit/s and this would solve a huge problem I have in my home right now, but feared for what it would do to my beloved radio.

The results were interesting and nothing what I expected. You can see my full test in the video below – but for a spoiler alert keep reading....

The results were - It did nothing. It had zero effect on any of the bands I use at home. After the video I monitored the shortwave bands and tried other frequencies. Again, nothing.  I tried it while the network was busy - I streamed 4K films and copied a 25Gb file. Guess what. Nothing.

The moral ? – Don’t believe the hype.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Morse Tutor kits - the details

Its been a few weeks since I last updated you on the progress of my Arduino Morse Tutor. Well I hope this blog post will satisfy those who have shown such a great interest with the project.

The project is being released as a kit for you to purchase, construct and enjoy. It will be available from Kanga Products and will be released in the upcoming weeks.

We have created 2 variations of the kit, based upon feedback we have received from our beta testers.

Standard Edition

The first “standard” kit is available without a display, and has 3 modes. It will generate Letters, Numbers and Mixed. In groups of 5 available from 4WPM to 34WPM and also allow you to insert a character space of between 0.01 and 4.5 seconds.  There is the option of using headphones and also allowing you to connect a key to this kit. This kit will have about 3 to 4 hours of life in it based upon a standard PP3 battery and a moderate volume.

Deluxe edition

The deluxe version has everything the Standard Edition has, with the addition of a 4x20 LCD screen showing you all the characters that are generated and it also has the addition of a Contest Mode.

This mode will generate a call sign, an RST and either a serial number or a locator square.  Again the kit will come with sockets for an telegraph key & headphones. Early tests have shown that this kit will last about 2.5 – 3 hours at a moderate volume again using a PP3.

The delay at present is finding a cost effective enclosure that is both rugged, small and suits your and our needs for a truly portable Morse Tutor.

You can register your interest by clicking here, and at the bottom of this post is a video of the 2 prototypes I have created.

Tech Specs

Fully silk screened PCB
Thru Hole components
65mA – 78mA current draw
9v – 12v power supply
Tone Frequency – 300Hz – 900Hz
Modes :
Calls *
Display 20x4 LCD *
Telegraph Key (Straight – option of K1A iambic keyer)
(* = Available on the deluxe model only)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

being social.

Being social, or to be more accurate being social online is a full time job. Maintaining as much of a presence that people can easily find, holding information that is both reliable and easy to obtain is an incredibly time consuming role.

For the creator it’s a worrying concept, how will people find my information? is it relevant and the channels I use to distribute my ramblings, are they sustainable?

For years now I have only focused on Twitter. The Ham community on twitter is an excellent, thriving and international group. Simply tweet with the hashtag #hamr and you will be amazed how quickly you will get engrossed.

My Facebook musings have been for my friends and people I know. It’s a place I vent my frustrations, celebrate achievements and have an online yet private presence. However I do get many Facebook friend requests and not wanting to turn people away or offend I struggle to keep my radio friends in the loop.

So the easy solution is to create a Facebook page. And that is exactly what I’ve done. You can find it here and all my radio related ramblings will be posted on line. You can “Like” the page, and you will be kept up to speed with anything that is interesting from my neck of the woods.

This is an experiment, and I cannot guarantee its perfect, but its a good place for updates that are immediate and require more than 140 characters.

Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

GQRP / Kanga receiver

I was sent a kit this week by Kanga UK, who supplied me a new regen receiver. The kit in question makes its debut at the GQRP convention at Rishworth UK this week. Its appearance is marked by the annual buildathon.

The buildathon is a great way for anyone who has an interest in electronics, radio or has indeed has no experience in construction, build a kit and walk away with a working radio. The step by step guide we supply with the kits allows easy installation of the components and instant gratification.

I wrote the instructions for this kit and whilst doing so, I managed to video the whole build. The video is sped up, but the build actually took about 2 hours, not rushing and includes the videoing & taking pictures.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Competition time

An amazing thing happened this week. I reached 250 subscribers on YouTube. Its amazing how quickly my subscriber count has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

I watch many videos on YouTube and I have found some excellent examples of contributors that have a fresh and informative way of delivering content to their audiences. Ive also seen terrible examples too. Adding fresh content that people find informative, fun and want to watch more of is something I have been wanting to achieve for quite some time. but I just couldn’t find the topics or style of videos that I thought people would find interesting.

It turns out that what I thought might interest people and what might bore people to sleep are in fact complete opposites. So it shows what I know !!

While I struggle with thinking of new videos and fresh “relevant” content – I thought it would only be fair to celebrate this milestone with a giveaway.

I’m giving away an Acorn II SDR kit (as seen in this video). It’s a excellent Kit, easy to build and a brilliant introduction to software defined radio. Its able to receive on the 40m band straight away – but can easily be a multiband SDR with the addition of an external VFO. This kit has been kindly supplied by Dennis at Kanga Products and requires no licence to operate.

This prize is open to all subscribers of my channel (if you haven’t already subscribed – now would be a good time to) who answer the question correctly.

Simply fill in the form, answer the question correctly and press submit. Its as easy as that. The winner will be chosen and announced at random on the 10th November and the kit will be posted once I have made contact with the winner.

Good luck.