A gorgeously lovely summer means I spent less time on the wireless for these three months, making just over 600 QSOs and working only 80 DXCC entities.
My data / phone / CW ratio is still about the same as earlier in the year and I’ve picked up three new entities on 160m and two on 80m. I’m a very long way away from DXCC on those bands so it’s nothing really to write home about.
I’d normally expect a high number of QSOs during the last weekend of September due to the CQ RTTY contest but unfortunately I was away for most of the weekend. I did still manage a token entry though but nowhere near the size I’d normally like.
Unsurprisingly considering the summer doldrums and the point of the solar cycle, the majority of my QSOs have been to Europe and largely on 20m.
This is a question that’s being asked a lot these days.
For me, the answer is fairly simple.
If it involves RF leaving my station on a frequency which requires me to have an amateur radio licence to transmit on, then it’s “real radio”. That is, it’s “Amateur radio”.
That includes, HF, VHF, UHF, etc and any appropriate mode on those bands. Therefore FT8 is real radio, chatting via a repeater on 70cms is real radio, DMR and D-Star are real radio (although I’m far happier using them to talk to locals when they’re unlinked from their internet backbone). Simplex natters on 2m are real radio as is working the DX on HF bands using SSB, CW, RTTY or any other data mode.
Anything which doesn’t include RF leaving my shack on a frequency range listed in my Lifetime radio licence as issued to by my Ofcom is quite simply not amateur radio. The laughably named “Network radio” is not amateur radio and how it can claim to be is beyond me. Neither is CQ100 (QsoNet) or HamSphere and what makes them worse is you have to pay a subscription service to use something which isn’t actually amateur radio.
All licensed radio amateurs have passed an examination, whether it be the old written exam, the C&G multiple choice or the newer exams and this demonstrates an interest and understanding in radio. I think it’s quite insulting and demeaning to the hobby to communicate using cellular or internet technology and call it amateur radio.
A few days ago was the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend and a group of locals under the umbrella of Colchester Radio Amateurs operated a special event station using the callsign GB6NT from the Naze Tower at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex.
This location is very close to me and I visited on both Saturday and Sunday. On the Saturday I drove to Walton-on-the-Naze and parked in the town from where I walked up the hill to the site. On Sunday I walked there and back from home, stopping in Frinton on the way for an ice cream.
The setup was very impressive, a large tent with three HF stations and one VHF station. The group had been able to use the Naze Tower as a skyhook and had a doublet for 80m hanging from it. The doublet was fed with 450 ohm open feeder via a smartuner so it could be used on different bands.
Also set up was a 65ft Antenna Solutions pneumatic mast with an MFJ 1775 rotatable dipole and a MQ-24SR hybrid quad on top and a 60ft Versatower with a couple of nine element 144MHz beams. Neither of these two masts were extended to their maximum height.
The aerials at GB6NT in 2018
View of GB6NT from the top of the Naze Tower
Conditions weren’t bad for the weekend with some good DX worked. The public interest was high and amateur radio was demonstrated to a lot of passers by. The prominent location of being right next to the Tower helped with that and awareness was also raised by Anglia ITV being on site on Friday evening to present the weather and to interview Garry, M0MGP.
International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend is a popular event and there were hundreds of lighthouses and lightships active around the world. The Naze Tower was only registered with the ILLW a couple of years ago so many people were keen to add GB6NT to their logbook.
I was persuaded to operate for a while so I spent some time running the FT8 station and made quite a few QSOs. It was a fun few hours spend in pleasant company. I even had time to treat myself to a baked potato from the cafe in the base of the Naze Tower.
For a treat I had a baked potato
A few years ago I set up a DXCluster using AR-Cluster on my old Mac Mini with Windows XP installed. It ran for a long time, I had good connections into the network and although it was listed on the DX Cluster info page, nobody ever connected to me. This was fine, the cluster was really for my own personal use.
I decided that I didn’t want to run a full blown PC 24/7 just for a DXCluster and so I bought a Raspberry Pi and spent some time trying to get DXSpider working on it with little success. I was very new to the Pi and didn’t really understand what I was doing, why it didn’t work and how to diagnose the problems I was having.
I gave up and found other things for my Raspberry Pi to do. Since then, I’ve become quite fond of the Pi and now have multiple Pis around the house doing useful stuff. I’ve learned a lot more about Linux and am now fairly competent when it comes to getting things working.
Last week I decided to have another go and building a DXSpider on a Raspberry Pi3 I had spare. It didn’t take long to get it all working using the guide here and relatively quickly, I’d set up some partner connections and got the cluster running fully.
I’m not fishing for users but if anyone wants to connect to my DXCluster, please feel free – Simply telnet to g6nhu.getmyip.com:7300.
I keep a regular eye on the contest calendars as although I don’t have a lot of time for serious entries, it’s nice to be able to give away a few points. For example – I worked around one hundred stations in the IARU HF World Championship last weekend without too much effort.
This weekend was the DMC RTTY contest and I fired the wireless up yesterday afternoon for half an hour or so and only noticed after I’d finished that it was still set to just 10W output following a WSPR session where I was specifically trying be spotted in Canada on 10m.
This morning, I worked a few more stations in the same contest and left the radio on low power deliberately so I could make an entry in the QRP section. It’s quite fun to operate just the last hour of a contest because (in theory), you should get a lot of stations wanting to work you and it’s possible to get a decent rate going.
In the last 55 minutes of the contest, I worked 42 stations which for a QRP setup isn’t bad. It’s not going to be anywhere near a decent score but I’ve submitted my entry anyway.
Map of stations worked in the DMC RTTY contest 2018
Although this blog hasn’t been very active over the last few months, I’m still operating the radio regularly. The warmer weather has appeared in the UK and I’m spending a lot of time outside walking, riding my bike, eating ice-cream and topping up my sun tan.
During the second quarter of 2018, I’ve made just under 900 QSOs and worked 99 DXCC entities using three callsigns, G6NHU, GR6NHU for the Royal Wedding and M7P. I’ve worked one All Time New One, 3B7A (Agalega and St Brandon) on 17m CW and you can hear that QSO on my Audio snippets page. I’ve been sending out some direct QSL cards and I’m happy to say that I’ve now worked and confirmed 275 entities. Every new one is a struggle these days, especially with conditions the way they are so any new one is a fairly major achievement.
A lot of my QSOs have been data again and I’m still sitting around 89% data, 10% phone and 1% CW. I’ve left the inverted L in place and have been continuing to work the lower bands with a bit more effort to try and pick up countries on 80m, 40m and 30m. I’m still a long way from 80m and 30m DXCC but only a handful of countries away on 40m.
Map of stations worked during April, May and June 2018 (click for large version)
Because I’ve been aiming to work more of the lower bands, the percentage of European QSOs is even higher this quarter than earlier in the year. I’m not concentrating quite so much on 17m now so that band has fewer QSOs than before. Not listed in the band breakdown are the 36 contacts on 6m or the 13 I’ve had on 60m.
I’ve recently made some updates to this site to make things better for my readers.
Firstly, there’s a new “Subscribe” button up in the top right hand corner so you can receive email updates whenever I make a new post. Simply enter your email address and hit the “Subscribe” button. You can also subscribe to comments as well so if you make a comment on any entry, you will automatically receive replies. This is a nice feature which I’ve found very useful on other sites.
Next, I’ve changed the method used to share posts – At the bottom of each post there are new buttons to share the item to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (does anyone still use this?), WhatsApp, email and a few others. Each post also now has a “Like” button. If you enjoy what you read, please share it.
Finally, there’s now a Mobile theme for this site which should make things easier to read on Smartphones. If you prefer the full site then there’s a link at the bottom of each page to switch to the Desktop version.
These are the main changes that you’ll notice but there have been other tweaks behind the scenes which should make for smoother reading.