You can get this design on a t-shirt from Redbubble by clicking here.
73 Keith G6NHU
73 Keith G6NHU
As radio amateurs, time is important to us and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), often called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the most important.
We log our QSOs in UTC, (ideally) we give net times in UTC and our clocks need to be accurate to the second for data modes such as FT8, FT4, JT65, JT9 and WSPR.
For a long time, I had a piece of software running on my Mac which I had configured to show UTC in large text, overlaid on the bottom left corner of the screen. This was ideal as I could just glance at it and see the time including seconds.
Sadly the author of this software died some time ago and because it was a 32bit application, it stopped working when macOS Catalina was released so I spent some time looking for an alternative. I couldn’t find anything suitable and instead I looked for a clock I could configure in the menu bar to show me UTC time.
There are many clocks available but none which suited my needs. They all offered far too many functions such as multiple time zones, alarms, moon phase but none of them would give me just UTC including seconds.
I contacted the author of one of these and he very kindly offered to write something for me which does exactly what I wanted.
The result is a Mac application called “Menu Bar UTC” which does nothing more than sit in your menu bar and display the time in UTC, including seconds. It’s customisable so you can set it up exactly how you want and because that’s all it does, it consumes practically zero system resources.
If you have a Mac, I can recommend this handy little utility and thanks to Steve Foster for writing it.
Maps are important to radio amateurs – We like to make contact with countries all around the world so a good map is essential.
Some years ago I bought an Amateur Radio World Prefix map from DXMaps and it’s been on my wall ever since. I noticed that there was a tiny minor printing error on the map and contacted Mike, GM0PHW at DXMaps who very kindly sent me a replacement free of charge. Thanks Mike!
I really recommend these maps, they’re large, easy to read and printed on good quality glossy paper. That makes them quite difficult to photograph and this picture really doesn’t do it justice.
Although this is an excellent map, the one I probably look at the most is the Great Circle map I have stuck to the inside of the shack door. When you look at a flattened map, like the one above, you assume that if you want to work North America from the UK, you’d point your aerial due west. Due to the shape of the earth and how this sort of map projection works, that’s not quite true. A Great Circle map shows the actual direction to point your aerial.
As you can see from the map below, if I want to work North America, the correct direction to point my beam is from 290° to 340° not 270°. Realistically, HF beams are quite so that it won’t make a lot of difference to stations on the east coast but consider that New Zealand is anywhere between 10° and 70° rather than the 140° you’d think from the map above and you can see how important a Great Circle map is.
This Great Circle map was produced from NS6T’s web page here. I simply put my latitude and longitude in the Location box (although it will take a grid locator), set the maximum distance to 19500, changed the paper size to the largest available and hit ‘Create Map’. This gave me a pdf file which I took to a local printer who charged me about £3 to print it. The paper isn’t great but it really doesn’t need to be as it’s just a very quick visual aid. I did intend to find somewhere who could do it on better quality paper but this is perfectly adequate for what I want.
With all the hotspots I have in the house for various modes, I decided to do something about the RF. They all run very low power but they’re only for me to use and I didn’t want the RF escaping the house.
I bought a few tiny little dummy loads from eBay and replaced the rubber duck aerials on my hotspots with them. I’ve checked and I can still access them from anywhere in the house and that’s all I need. I picked that supplier because he’s in the UK and delivery is very quick, there are other sellers who will supply packs of five for the cost of two from him but they’ll arrive on the slow boat from China.
These dummy loads have the benefit of being nice and small and having perfectly flat SWR across both 2m and 70cms which is far better than the supplied rubber duck aerials. Of course, if you want to use your hotspots at any distance further away then this isn’t a tip I’d recommend.
Over the last four or five years I’ve been a regular user of two digital voice modes, D-STAR and DMR. I don’t particularly like to use them to work ‘DX’ but they both have their advantages regarding linking repeaters together and allowing me to keep in touch with people when I’m away from home.
Both have a relatively steep learning curve but over time, I’ve got my head around them and am quite happy configuring radios, building ‘code plugs’ (*shudder*) and operating them.
That left one digital voice mode that I’ve not yet tried; Yaesu System Fusion, often abbreviated to just Fusion or YSF. A few weeks ago I bought myself a Yaesu FTM-100DE and it’s sitting in my shack now. There are no Fusion repeaters nearby so I set up a cheap hotspot to allow me to access the network.
The first thing I’ll say is that the speaker in the FTM-100DE is rubbish! It’s tinny and the audio out of it is dreadful. I plugged an external speaker in and it’s so much better. In fact, I would say that the audio on Fusion is by far the best out of any of the digital modes.
Fusion is just as complicated as the other modes to a newcomer but I’m not going to go into that here. I’m assuming you’re here because you want to set up a reflector. I had a good reason to do that last week and I couldn’t find a complete (and accurate) guide to doing it. It was so frustrating that once I’d got one working, I decided to put together what I hoped would be a decent and easily followable guide.
I must point out that I’m not an expert. I’ve barely touched Fusion and I have a lot to learn. I just wanted to share a detailed solution to something which gave me a lot of frustration. I don’t claim to have written any of the scripts or packages used in this guide, I’m just putting everything together in one place in hopefully easy to follow steps. I have linked to the source pages I used as starting points at the bottom of this entry.
I did this on a Raspberry Pi and so my instructions are written specifically for that device. I’ve tested this on a Pi Zero W, a PiB2, Pi3A+, a Pi3B and a Pi3B+. It will not work on a Pi4 as I’m using Raspbian Stretch which is not supported on a Pi4. I’m using Stretch rather than Buster because some parts of this have been removed from Buster.
First, download Raspbian Stretch Lite and write it to an SD card. I highly recommend balanaEtcher to write the image out to an SD card. Note that we’re using the ‘Lite’ version of Raspbian so you won’t have any graphical user interface and all the work will be done from the terminal.
You will need to either give your Raspberry Pi a static IP address or set up a reservation in your router. I do this by looking at my router and checking what devices have connected and then set up a DHCP reservation so each particular Raspberry Pi I own will always have the same address each time it reboots.
Open up a terminal/dos prompt or whatever client software you’re going to use to connect to the Raspberry Pi and log in. In my case, the Raspberry Pi is on 192.168.1.185 so I use the command
You’ll be prompted for a password – It’s currently set to raspberry.
Use the following command to enter the Raspberry Pi config utility:
First of all, expand the filesystem. You do this by selecting option 7 Advanced Options, then A1 Expand Filesystem, then select OK and you’ll be returned to the main screen.
Now select the first option Change User Password and press enter. Press enter again and you will be prompted to Enter new UNIX password. Type a new password, press enter and re-type your new password again. You will get a message telling you your password has been changed successfully. Make a note of this new password.
Use the arrow keys again to move down to 4 Localisation Options and press enter. Use the arrow keys again to select I2 Change Timezone and press enter. First select your Geographical area and press enter and then select your Time zone and press enter.
Now you should set your Wi-Fi country – By default, this image is set to GB (Great Britain) so if you’re in a different country you should change this to ensure that the Pi uses the correct frequencies. Select 4 Localisation Options and press enter. Scroll down to I4 Change Wi-fi Country and press enter. Find your country, press enter and then press enter again to return to the main screen.
Finally, select 2 Network Options and press enter. Press enter again on N1 Hostname and give your Raspberry Pi a suitable name.
You will now be returned to the main Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool main screen. Use the tab key to select <Finish> and press enter. You will be asked if you would like to reboot now. Press enter to reboot and once your Pi has rebooted, log back in using the new password you set earlier. Make a note of this password because if you forget it, you’ll need to start from scratch.
If you’re using a Mac and connecting to your Raspberry Pi via the terminal you may notice the screen flashes badly. You can fix this easily and quickly by going into the terminal Preferences/Profiles and make sure the box “Allow blinking text” is not ticked.
Assuming your Raspberry Pi now has either a static or reserved address, you can start with the actual setup.
Log in to your Pi with the new password you set above and type the following commands.
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade -y
This is making sure that Raspbian Stretch is fully patched as far as it will go. The first will go through quickly, the second command may take a little longer and if you’re using an older Pi or a Pi Zero, it will take a good few minutes. When it has completed, reboot the Pi.
Log back in and enter these two commands which are loading pre-requisites for the actual installation.
sudo apt install git -y
sudo apt install insserv -y
With those done, it’s time to download the install script and run it using these two commands.
sudo wget https://register.ysfreflector.de/install.sh
sudo bash install.sh
When the install completes, it will ask you for the name and the description of your reflector. The name should always start with your two letter country code, have one space and then the rest of the reflector name. You can use a maximum of sixteen characters. For my reflector, I chose GB QSO365. The description is free text and is a maximum of fourteen characters. For my reflector, I put qso365.co.uk in the description.
Don’t start the reflector just yet though as there are some things you need to do first.
Log into your router and set up port forwarding to the Pi. This is a great site with guides to many different routers. By default the reflector needs port 42000 forwarded to it although you may find that port is already in use on your system. In my case, ports 42000 and 42001 were already being used by my Fusion hotspot so I used 42002. If you’re not using 42000 then you need to edit a configuration file on your Pi.
sudo nano /etc/YSFReflector.ini
Scroll down and change the following section:
In my case, I changed 42000 to 42002.
Save the file by pressing ctrl-x, then hit the Y key and then press enter.
Now you’re ready to start the reflector using the command given at the end of the installation.
sudo /etc/init.d/YSFReflector.sh start
The next step is to register the reflector. Head over to the Reflector Registry site and click on Register Reflector. Enter the name and the description you used earlier but leave off the two character country code from the name. You need to put in the Host/IP-Address of your internet connection (NOT your Raspberry Pi). If you have a static external IP address, enter it here otherwise you will need to configure a dynamic DNS service.
The Port is the port you configured earlier and the rest should be obvious. You haven’t set up a dashboard yet so you can’t enter that. Click Submit and you’ll get an email telling you it’s been registered with a link to click to accept the privacy agreement.
You could stop here but it’s not so much fun without a dashboard because you can’t see what’s going on. You can see my reflector dashboard by clicking here. Let’s install a dashboard.
Enter the following commands:
sudo apt install apache2 -y
sudo usermod -G www-data -a pi
sudo usermod -G www-data -a root
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html
sudo chmod -R 775 /var/www/html
sudo apt install php7.0-common php7.0-cgi php7.0 -y
sudo apt install libapache2-mod-php7.0 -y
sudo git clone https://github.com/dg9vh/YSFReflector-Dashboard.git
sudo cp -R ./YSFReflector-Dashboard/* /var/www/html/
With those commands entered, open a web browser and go to http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx/setup.php where xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx is the IP address of your Raspberry Pi and you’ll get the following screen:
All fields on this configuration page need to be filled in, the defaults are all correct but you have to overtype them yourself. To help you out, here are all the top options, you can just copy/paste these.
The same applies for the Global Configuration section. Even if there is text in the boxes, you need to overtype it. The Timezone is obvious, the URL to Logo field can be left blank and the rest are your personal preference.
When you click the ‘Save configuration’ button, you are presented with a screen telling you to remove setup.php. Sadly it doesn’t tell you where that file is saved so here’s the command to delete it. You should also remove index.html so that doesn’t get served by default:
sudo rm /var/www/html/setup.php
sudo rm /var/www/html/index.html
If you need to edit this configuration in the future, you can do it by editing a file. Once you’re in the file, the options are obvious.
sudo nano /var/www/html/config/config.php
In your web browser now, just enter http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, substituting all those xxx for your own IP address. You should be presented with the dashboard for your reflector. If you want to make this available to the outside world, you need to forward port 80 in your router to the Pi and add the dashboard link to your entry on the Reflector Registry.
Everything is done. Now you just have to wait for your reflector to appear on the list of active reflectors here which can take up to two hours. You can also search for it on the Reflector Registry as it should now show active.
By default, your Pi-Star won’t know about the new reflector until it has automatically updated overnight but once it shows in the active reflector list, you can force an update. At the top of the Pi-Star dashboard you’ll find a button called ‘Update’. Click it.
When that has finished, click on Configuration and your new reflector will appear in the YSF Startup Host: drop down box. Select it and click the Apply Changes button.
And that’s it. Although it looks complicated, it’s quite straightforward. When I ran through the complete setup to write this guide, the process took about half an hour.
The reflector I created is called GB QSO365 and the YSF DTMF code is #26368. I will leave it online if anyone wants to use it but please don’t bridge it anywhere. The dashboard can be seen by clicking here.
Finally, here’s the reflector itself. It’s running on a Pi Zero with an external USB ethernet interface. It’s not exactly high-tech.
In 2013 I applied for M7P as a Special Contest Callsign, and have used it successfully in a large number of contests throughout the years. One of the reasons I chose that particular callsign was for the rarity value when working the WPX contests, my logic being that people are always chasing new multipliers and the M7 prefix was quite rare with only a potential 26 callsigns.
In October 2018, Ofcom started issuing M7xxx callsigns to new applicants for the Foundation licence and so my contest callsign suddenly lost the rarity value.
I decided that when it was due for renewal that I’d change. I’d never been entirely happy with M7P when using it on SSB as I’ve found that getting the final letter across can sometimes be difficult in crowded and noisy bands. Of course that’s not a problem on data or CW but that, combined with the reason above made me start looking around at alternatives.
I decided very quickly that I didn’t want an M prefix again, simply because what happened in October could quite easily happen again. I could have picked an unused M prefix but as and when M0s run out, I could have been caught out again.
I looked at G prefixes and immediate discounted 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 simply for the fact that they’re still relatively common. That left me with the G9 prefix and once I started researching, I discovered that G9 callsigns have only been issued commercially for experimental purposes and never used on the amateur bands. This doesn’t include the G9+1 callsigns that are now issued as Special Contest Callsigns.
The RSGB post a list of which Special Contest callsigns have been issued and at the time I checked, there were just nine G9+1 callsigns. I looked through the list and decided to apply for G9D.
My application form was duly completed and emailed on the 1st January 2020. At 09:00 on the 2nd January I received confirmation that G9D has been issued to me.
I’ve got this callsign for at least five years and I’ve already registered it with LoTW so all QSOs made using it will be uploaded there. It’ll be a few years before solar cycle 25 kicks in properly but I’m looking forward to giving it a good airing.
If you hear G9D during a contest on SSB or CW or see it scrolling up your screen during a data contest, please give me a call!
It’s not often that I write an update here that’s completely unrelated to radio but it’s time for that now.
On the last day of November, I visited a friend of mine who lives about a mile away for a meal and a couple of drinks. Although it was a cold night, it was dry and I decided to wrap up warm and walk home. I’m no stranger to walking – I’ve been carrying a Fitbit tracker since 2011 and in that time I’ve walked nearly 15,000 miles so a fifteen minute walk was no problem. I had a torch with me to light my way.
On the way home, I tripped on a pothole and fell over, landing heavily on my upper right arm and shoulder.
As I laid on the floor, my smartwatch fall detection kicked in and it offered to call the emergency services for me. I remember struggling to reach to it with and hit the “I’m OK button”, even though I clearly wasn’t OK.
With hindsight, I should have let my watch contact the emergency services but being a typical bloke, I initially thought I’d just be able to get up, dust myself off and walk home.
I tried to get up but couldn’t. The pain wasn’t that bad but I just couldn’t move my right arm. I laid there, hoping that a passerby would stop and help me. Luckily, even though it was after 23:30, it didn’t take long for a car to stop and I was aware of people talking to me, checking to see how I was. One of them was an off-duty police officer and he and his partner were very caring, they produced a tea-towel from their car to mop up the blood coming from my mouth. After my arm hit the floor, my head must have bounced off the ground as well as I had a grazed nose, a cut on my chin and I’d badly bitten my tongue.
While they looked after me, a police car which happened to be passing also stopped and they took over. They were very professional, first asking if I’d had a drink and then checking to find out what had happened as they were concerned there may have been a fight. They gave me a once over and after determining that I lived almost literally around the corner, they offered to give me a lift home which I very happily accepted.
My wife got quite a shock, to have someone knock on the door at 23:45, only to discover a couple of police officers and her husband! They immediately quashed her fears as they said that I wasn’t in any trouble but had had a fall. They suggested that they thought I might have broken my arm.
Once inside, my wife and daughter quickly decided to take me to A&E in Colchester and despite my protests, within a couple of minutes, we were on our way.
Luckily, the A&E department wasn’t that busy and it didn’t take long before I’d seen someone and been taken off for an x-ray. By this time, the pain had started to build and I was given strong pain killers.
The results of the x-ray came back and it was determined that I’d broken my humerus in “at least” four places in what is called a proximal humerus fracture. Because of the location of the break, I was told that I wouldn’t be put in a cast but instead given a collar and cuff sling to immobilise the arm and be called back to the fracture clinic in a few days to see what should be done next.
Here you can see the initial x-ray with the the four most obvious breaks highlighted.
I had a very uncomfortable few days – My pain killers were increased a couple of times until all I was suffering was a dull ache. I kept my arm immobilised and got very bored, very quickly.
My appointment at the fracture clinic came through quickly and the consultant started off by saying that I “probably” wouldn’t need surgery but he called for another x-ray and a CT scan of my shoulder to be sure.
The CT scan was done and I was called back a week later. This time, the consultant went into much more detail and after some discussion, he decided that I would need surgery to repair the damage. In particular, one piece of bone had moved from the back of the humerus and would stop movement. He said that as I’m relatively young and active, he really had no option but to operate. If I’d been a lot older then it would have been a different matter but without surgery, I’d probably end up with so little movement that my arm would be effectively unusable.
I asked how much damage there actually was and he started out pointing out the broken segments within my arm but stopped counting at eight and said “it’s just like a mush in there.”
The surgery was booked for the following week and went without any major hitch. I was on the operating table for about two hours which is a lot longer than originally intended because the bone fragments had already started to knit back together. The surgeon had to scrape those bits out before he could even start the repair process.
I had a metal plate fitted, along with three screws and eight pins to get all the fragments back in the correct places and held together. This metalwork will be in my arm forever because once the bone has grown back it fits the metalwork at microscopic level. You can’t apply enough torque to turn the screws without breaking the bone so they’re basically fused in.
It’s still very early days as I haven’t even had the thirty staples out yet which are holding the incision closed. My arm continually aches but I’m pleased to report that I’ve already started physio and have got more movement now than I had before the surgery.
This healing process isn’t going to be quick. I can’t drive and I can only use a keyboard one handed. I’ve been writing this article using voice recognition so I don’t have to do much typing.
One of the big issues I’m suffering from is lack of sleep. Since the fall, I’ve not slept continually for more than about forty minutes because I just can’t get comfortable. I find a position that’s relatively painless, nod off and then wake up again soon after. The medication I’m on for the pain causes a dry mouth and each time I wake up, my mouth is so dry that I can barely open it to pour some water in. I’m just catnapping whenever and wherever I can for a few minutes at a time.
I was told that when I’m all healed and this is all over, if I can raise my arm to shoulder level then it’ll be considered a success. I want more than that, I’m doing all the exercises I’ve been told in the hope that I can get better than what the surgeon predicts as ‘best case’.
As I progress through the healing process, I’ll post updates on Twitter.
I’m just bored though. At this stage, there’s not much I can do. I can play a bit of radio but my attention span isn’t very good and it soon frustrates me. I’m putting this down largely to the lack of sleep and am looking forward to the time when I’ll get a full night again, or even just a few hours uninterrupted sleep.
I suspect that going through security at airports will be challenging in the future as well.
This arrived anonymously in the post today, I genuinely have no idea who sent it to me but if you’re reading this then thank you!
It gave me a much needed laugh.
The dressing and the staples were removed two weeks after surgery and now the long process of rehabilitation starts. My aim is to get as much mobility and strength back into my arm as possible.