G0VQY's Online Blog
What's on the mind of a UK ham radio operator?
My name is Penn, I was born in 1969 and live in a small fishing town called Brixham located on the south-west coast of England. In 1986 I dived into an outdoor swimming pool and sustained a serious neck injury which left me permanently paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. I have various hobbies such as angling, tropical fish keeping, computers and constructing and maintaining websites, and then of course amateur radio. I first became interested in radio in the early 80s when I used to use the citizens band frequencies. After I had my accident I then got back into CB and in 1995 I obtained my amateur radio licence. I now spend most of my operating time on HF, 20 m in particular where I enjoy talking to people all around the world. I use an ICOM 7800 along with a three element SteppIR directional beam antenna which is located on top of an 18 m heavy duty mast.
I'm really pleased to say that I took delivery of my new GoodWinch electric power winch last week. Just now it is still sitting in its box on the floor in my room. As soon as we get some decent weather I'm going to swap the electric winch over with the manual winch and get everything working properly.
Come back very soon and see my new electric winch and its working glory
A few years ago I provided a link where people could download a small application which enabled you to download all your EQSL cards from their website. Unfortunately it seems that this application is no longer working. I seem to recall a few people leaving messages saying that they couldn't get it to work. I've just tried to install it and it didn't work, I just got an error message so I didn't even bother trying any further.
I am somewhat annoyed though. I just did a search looking for an up-to-date EQSL downloader. My website comes up at number two, obviously that's no good to anyone now. However, I came across another page which supposedly contained the link where you could download the EQSL download utility. Well, it just contains a bunch of advertising links including AdSense. These type of pages are there to make money for whoever owns the page. They are not really bothered in offering you what you are looking for, they are there to trick you into clicking on advertising links which I'm quite sure contravenes some rules somewhere.
Oh well, if somebody comes up with a really good bit of software that enables you to download EQS L cards than let me know.
It amazes me of the amount of times I see DO NOT SEND ME ESQL CARDS plastered across people's QRZ page. If you don't use EQSL and haven't got it set up on your computer then it doesn't matter if 1000 people send you an electronic card, it's not going to affect you in the slightest. However, what is great about EQSL is if you do decide you want to sign up you will receive cards that have been sent to you previously.
I no longer send paper cards now, it's just too expensive. The price of a second class stamp in the UK is 57p, I think it's something like 67p for first class stamp. Electronic QSL is the future as far as I'm concerned. I design my own cards in photo shop so it doesn't cost me a penny. Sending cards automatically is just so easy, in fact my cards are sent automatically every time I log contact. And if somebody wants to print the cards out all they need is a decent printer and some card, you've then got a perfect paper QSL card for your collection.
I am annoyed, I worked them on 20 m but my microphone had stopped working and I didn't notice so the video didn't have any sound.
Sometimes you may hear a station that appears to be very weak and not worth bothering with. However, propagation acts in weird ways sometimes and you'll find that occasionally even though you are hearing the station with a very weak signal, they will hear you with a much stronger signal. So this video is a good example of how some people may not bother calling the station in Ghana because they think they wouldn't be heard. But you can seec he heard me perfectly okay and gave me a good report. I think he was a little taken aback when I gave him his report. I always like to give a station it's proper report, unless of course you are contacting one of these Dx expeditionS where they are simply not interested in your report
Other than amateur radio my other passion is angling. I love nothing more than spending a nice warm summer's day on the lakeside catching carp. More than often there are other anglers fishing on the lake as well. Occasionally you may inadvertently cast over somebody, or hook up their gear without realising it. Anglers are very polite and I have never once received any verbal abuse from another angler whilst out fishing.
I have been a ham radio operator for 21 years now so I would consider myself to be fairly experienced. However, even experienced people make mistakes occasionally, we are not all perfect. Those of you who know me well have no doubt seem many of my YouTube videos that I make of me operating on amateur radio. 99.9% of people who have commented on my videos have been respectful and courteous. But then you have that very small minority of people who think it's perfectly okay to basically leave abusive messages. The Internet is a great place, but it has its dark side unfortunately it's given some of these people and easy way attack other people for no reason whatsoever. If you ever take the time to look through posts that are made by these people then nine times out of 10 you will notice that they are not doing so using their real name, they almost always hide behind a username. Also you will often find that the ones doing it on YouTube have never made and posted videos to YouTube themselves. People who leave abusive messages on other people's webpages, Facebook, YouTube have gained the name "Troll". Don't get me wrong, I've often got into heated arguments with people in the past online, however it gets to the point where I'm going to tell somebody to FCUK OFF then I will do so with the knowledge that I am not trying to hide behind an obscure username hoping that nobody will ever find out who I am.
So that brings me onto Mr Larry Keene, a.k.a. W5LW K. He goes by LarryK1978 on YouTube and yesterday decided that he would leave me an unpleasant comment on one of my videos. So exactly who is W5WK? Well according to his QRZ page, whose first licensed in 2007 and currently holds a technician license. Probably doesn't mean an awful lot to most people, well I can tell you that's the equivalent of somebody holding a provisional driving licence. Whereas I am able to operate on the full amateur radio spectrum using our country's maximum power limit, this individual is very much limited to small sections of the band and is basically prohibited from going anywhere near the HF frequencies.
Tell you what Larry, when you've had a little bit more experience on the amateur radio bands then maybe I'll take you seriously. Just remember that it's not clever or tough to be rude to people whilst you hide behind a username thinking that nobody will ever know who you are, it took me all of a minute to find out what your callsign is.
I have been making YouTube videos for a few years now and I have got several hundred subscribers who really enjoy watching my videos. My videos are nothing special, just videos of me operating certain people and countries, or recording someone so they can pay what they sound like. I made a video of myself trying to make contact with the K1N dxpedition from Navassa Island a week or so ago. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get through, they were working split frequency and quite a large split at that. Anyone who's ever worked a split frequency will know that it's almost a case of all for one, and one for all, that basically means you've got to keep calling in order to be heard. I would certainly describe myself as a responsible and polite amateur radio operator. I certainly wouldn't deliberately talk over someone, or interfere with a QSO. So you can imagine how I felt when I started getting abusive messages posted on one of my videos accusing me of not operating properly. One such so-called amateur radio operator was Trevor, EI2ELB from Ireland. He was rather rude in his message, totally uncalled for. If he thought I was not operating properly then he could have been polite and explained how he thought I should be doing. But no, as far as I'm concerned he's just another Internet troll that hides behind a stupid username in the hope that nobody will ever find out who he is.
Modern day amateur radio transceivers have become quite compact and stylish. If you compare the modern day HF transceiver to one from the 60s or 70s you will probably find that the older models have larger knobs and buttons, whereas modern-day transceivers that are packed with features now have tiny buttons and knobs within knobs. You may be surprised to know that as a disabled person, I actually find the older radios easier to use than modern day transceivers. Since owning the more modern transceivers I've now realised that even though it's nice to have one of these all singing and dancing modern transceivers that almost looks like a fashion accessory, they are not actually very practical to operate when it comes to using them if you have a disability that renders your hands and fingers unusable. Some people may suggest that maybe they should make the transceivers more disabled friendly, make them unsung buttons bigger say that we disabled people can use them easier. No, I don't think that is the case and I'm more than happy with the way they are designed. The easiest solution to this problem is to provide on-screen operating software with every transceiver. This would enable people who have a disability to operate all the controls and features of the transceiver using the computer alone, cutting out the need to struggle with all the buttons and tiny buttons on the front of the transceiver.
Some of the manufacturers already provide on-screen software, Kenwood provide completely free on-screen operating software that is simply fantastic. You can even switch the radio on and off for the software, you don't have to touch the radio at all, everything can be done using the computer.
I want to say a very big thank you to ICOM UK, especially Chris. Recently the PA (finals) went in my IC 7800 which meant the radio was as dead as your turkey at Christmas. So I contacted ICOM UK and they arranged for the media to be picked up from my house. Now since this happened only a couple of weeks before Christmas, you could quite understand me having to wait until after the Christmas holiday. Well, that wasn't the case, ICOM had the radio fixed within the week and returned it back to me a couple of days ago. Understandably, I was quite upset when this happened and I did send a letter with the radio telling ICOM how disappointed I was that the radio had packed up after just four years of me buying a brand-new. They obviously were quite sympathetic and listened to what I said because they waved their labour free and only charged me for the parts that were replaced. Obviously this was a massive surprise when I received my invoice.
All I can say is thank you very much ICOM UK, you are incredibly generous
A very Merry Christmas & a happy New Year
This Marine band receiver probably dates from the 80s. However, this in my opinion is a first-class Marine band receiver. At themoment it does have various channels programmed into it. They are channels 16, 67, 9, 10, 12 and 14. You can also listen to channel 0 which is the coast guard personal frequency. This receiver is about the size of a CB radio and doesn't need a power supply, it just plugs straight into the mains.It's quite basic, but that is all you really need to listen to marine man traffic.
Also included is a receiving Marine antenna & an external speaker
If you are interested then please drop me an e-mail email@example.com
I was doing some operating on 15 m this afternoon when Ed, ON5GA called me. Apparently he had made a schedule to contact Jean, 5T0JL down in Mauritania on the frequency I was using at the time. Of course, I wasn't going to be rude and tell them to go elsewhere, we actually joined up and worked him together. He was only using a vertical, however his signal was really strong, I think we were talking to him at the absolute prime time of the day When the signal will probably be at its strongest.
Anyway, I put the video on so you can hear how well he was coming in from the west coast of Africa
If you haven't heard or come across eQSL yet then you have probably been living under a rock, with all due respect :-)
I can't speak for the rest of the world but postage costs here in the UK have skyrocketed over the last few years and it now costs a ridiculous amount of money to send post, and that is just within the United Kingdom itself, not including the rest of the world.
If you like to exchange QSL cards but you simply cannot afford the postage costs, or you haven't got time to sit down and write all the cards out then have you considered using online facilities to do the work for you? Think about it, if you already use the computer for logging contacts then you are already halfway there.
In order for you to send electronic QSL cards then all you need to do is create a free account at www.eqsl.cc. Once you have created an account you are ready to go.
Paper qsl seems to be coming less popular nowadays. It's been a couple of years since I've been really active, now I'm back I'm quite surprised just how many people are using the electronic means to send cards to each other, it's actually very enlightening.
I use a program called Ham Radio Deluxe which has a logging program built into it. Within the programme there is a facility that allows you to automatically send eQSL every time you log contact, this certainly makes my life a lot easier as you don't even have to think about sending the card. Even if the other person doesn't have an account, the card will stay in hyperspace ready for them to create an account, then it will arrive in their inbox.
There are ready-made cards for you to use within the software, however they are quite bland and not particularly interesting so I prefer to design my own using Photo Shop.
I created a video a few years ago which gives you the very basics of how eQSL works. I'm sorry but it's not an in-depth tutorial on how to use everything in eQSL, it's just a guide to show you what Eqsl can do.
I have downloaded a new program called Procaster which is still live stream, but a much better quality version. I don't sit in front of the radio all day so obviously you will only catch me live when I am operating. If you go to the main live stream website then you can use the message system to send me messages which I will see. Sometimes it's fun to not only interact with the person I'm talking to on the radio, but also the people who are watching me live on the web.
Follow the link below and all will become apparent
I've recently installed my new Optibeam 11-5 which has turned out to be an awesome antenna. Being disabled means I have to rely on other people to do my antenna installation for me, I'm just a bystander that can really only offer a little bit of advice and guidance. Now the Optibeam 11-5 at first glance when taken out of the box may look rather daunting when it comes to assembly and installation. However, I can tell you straight away that this antenna is an absolute piece of cake to put together, as long as you read the instructions properly. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that you sit down first and read every bit of the assembly installations before even attempting to put the antenna together. The antenna has been cleverly designed so that you simply bolted altogether, there is no need for tuning or any complicated measurements, just follow the instructions very carefully and you will not have any problems whatsoever, I can almost guarantee it. The people who do run into problems are normally people who can't be bothered to read the instructions properly.
During the installation and assembly of the antenna, we did have a few minor problems, most of them turned out to be a case of not reading the instructions properly.. We also had an issue with a small component that got broken. However, Tom, DF2BO the COE of Opti beam was extremely patient and helped us with every single question I had. When the small insulator from one of the elements got broken, he even sent me a brand-new part completely free of charge. I really can't thank Tom enough for all the support he gave me over the few weeks that it took us to completely install the antenna. Even on a Sunday afternoon he was there answering e-mails within an hour or two, the support this company gives its customers is second to none.
As for the antenna, I am absolutely delighted with it, it is an absolutely wonderful piece of German engineering that has quite obviously been designed with a lot of thought in mind.
If you are looking for an HF beam them look no further than Optibeam, they really are at the very top of their game when it comes to design and performance in HF antennas.
A lot of you will know that I really enjoy making "Ham radio" YouTube videos. What you may not know is I also like streaming live video of myself operating the radio. I have used various web cams over the last two or three years and have now found the perfect WebCam for both live streaming and YouTube videos. It's made by Logitech and the two models I use other 910 HD, and the 920 full HD. To be honest, I can't really see much difference in the quality of picture between the two cameras. However, the 920 comes with a very handy fitting that allows you to mount it on a tripod. Unfortunately the 910 doesn't come with the screw fitting so you either have to rest it on top of your monitor, or just stand it on a flat surface.
The Logitech 910/920 does come with an internal microphone as well. The microphone produces good quality audio when tested in recording mode. However, if I was to be truthful, I would probably say the microphone picks up a little bit too well. What I mean by this is it picks up every little bit of noise, even in a fairly large room. This means that if you are talking to somebody on Skype, you cannot have a television or radio on in the background because it seems to overpower your voice and makes it very difficult for the person you're talking to to hear you. I would recommend getting yourself a noise cancelling external microphone. I have actually ordered a Blue Snowflake Ice microphone that I hope will give me good quality audio, but will also stop any unwanted noises spoiling the conversation.
I also really like the software that comes with these web cams. As soon as you're finished making a video, with just one click you can upload your video to YouTube or twitter, alternatively add your video to Facebook, or send it as an e-mail. I particularly like the controls that come with the software that allow you to zoom in, or pan left right or often down. These two cameras are fabulous, really great products that I would recommend to anyone. To be honest with you, if you don't really need a camera to fit on top of a tripod then the 910 is what you need. You can get these cameras from places like Currys. However you may find that eBay or Amazon provide the cheapest options to buy them.
Obviously there are hundreds of different computer microphones on the market, some of them very cheap, others into the hundreds of pounds. What I want and don't really want to spend too much money at all. I've had a Logitech desktop microphone for quite a few years now and even though it's found at the cheaper end of microphones, it's actually very good for what I need it to do. The internal microphone on the Logitech 910/920 WebCam is good, but because it's really meant for voice, it doesn't really reproduce audio very well when recorded from my amateur radio speaker. I suppose I could spend a lot of money on a microphone that is made for the purpose, but the Logitech desktop microphone does a really good job at recording what's coming out of the speakers, without any echo from my large room. I've included some videos below that demonstrate me talking using the internal microphone on the WebCam. And then using my Plantronics 400 headset. Obviously if you want privacy then using a headset is the best option as you can use the headphones, rather than computer speakers.
Below is a demonstration of the quality of the audio that the Logitech desktop microphone produces, even when the speaker is set fairly low.
The three images below are screenshots from the WebCam software. The first image on the left is the screen that comes up when you open the software. The second image is what appears when you click on "quick capture" The third image is what comes up after you've recorded the video and then selected the particular video. It's very simple to use and straightforward.
I'd forgotten just how much fun it is to get a small pilot going. The Optibeam Is performing like an absolute champion.