My Amateur Radio Site

G0SLQ - George Zero Sugar London Queen


A new purchase - Icom IC7100

The obsession with 4m has finally got the better of me and i have ordered the new Icom IC7100 and along with other UK amateurs awaiting delivery.  The radio is the natural upgrade to the IC7000 - or so some say although general consensus seems to concentrate on how ugly it is!  Having considered a 4m transverter alongside one of my existing radios for all band coverage, I now have a radio which is definitely a shack-in-a-box.  Primarily for mobile or /P operating - especially 2/4/6/ & 70.  Having dabbled with D-Star that doesn't particularly interest me, though it will be better than using my handheld. 

 

Of greater interest is the touch screen and the hundreds of memory channels which will be put to good use with all those frequencies available - making it ideal for home monitoring too.  Apparently, the unit receives and decodes RTTY on its screen - another little gismo as I am one of those few people who doesn't normally hook up their radio to a pc or laptop.  Anyway, I hope to have this by mid-August so hopefully not more than 3-4 weeks.

To Key or not to Key? ..........

Recently saw an invite to a new CW forum, and thought CW? - I remember that, some test I passed many years ago, by sending and receiving an assortments of dots and dashes (or was it dahs and dits?) at 12wpm.  I'm often looking for something new to try, a new facet of the hobby and an an A licensee, it is rather a shame, some might say disgrace, I never used CW other than practice send and receive when preparing for examination all those years ago.  As I already own the kit already own all the relevant gear it is just a case of getting up to speed and removing the rust from my own brain and possibly my old key.  I don't as yet possess a paddle/paddles but at present the key will do as I attempt to recall what all those little rhythms mean!  I even joined FISTS.  A group for morse enthusiasts of all ages and levels of experience.  

 

A bit of a crunching Gear-change for me.  Having tried the modern (ish) D-Star to now consider taking the more "traditional" route of  CW

Another "Golden Oldie" added!

Back in the day, when most people had either no money, or enough to but one radio (perish the thought!) I possessed my favourite radio of all time and nobody will ever convince me there was better than the magnificent Kenwood TS711E 2m multimode - it was a plug-in-the-wall job, and a magnificent looking piece of kit which worked well too.

 

Kenwood later brought out the compact mobile set - TR751E - like the 711E it was a 25w all moder but a much smaller package and as I never drove in those days, I never got one.  I always wanted one though as it was probably the last great 2m set made before dual-banders and shacks-in-a-box became the norm.

 

There's something satisfying owning a 2m dedicated set - even though the modern radios can do a lot more besides, I still rate the TR751E as a great little set.

Have I gone full circle? - or perhaps just mad?

By full circle I refer to my recent purchase of a 27Mhz Citizens Band set, or CB to use the correct term! - Another 80ch set comprising both bands available here in the UK.  My Maycom had recently been "mis-treated" - albeit in error when I stored it in the glove box of the car (out of sight) and drove several thousand miles with it being bashed against the insides of said glove box!  I'd forgot to give it any form of proptection, so it got a few scuffs! - anyway, any excuse to buy a new toy!

 

Deciding what to buy from the almost endless choice was not easy - in the end I purchased a Midland 248 - not a top-end radio by any means, then again there's little to listen to without good conditions as locals have all but given up with these bands.  I'm proud of myself in that I supported the local economy by purchasing local too! - normally I'd use the purchase as an excuse to travel to one of the larger emporiums, or even worse mail order.  

 

The radio will monitor in the shack until the decent weather arrives and it will get to play on the hills, in the warmth and sunshine.  I just about remember those conditions!

Winter Wonderland!

Winter has landed and with a vengeance! -1st December as i type and it is frozen outside.  Not only that, but the northeast of England seems to have suffered independently of the rest of the UK! Not been able to use the car for 4 days, eventually dug it out of the drifts and hopefully the forecasted thaw at the weekend actually happens!

Latest news? - thinking about trying SDR (Software Defined Radio since you're asking) Not 100% sure of this and may well take advantage of an offer to have a listen from someone in the vicinity.  I don't get on with computers interfacing with radios.  For example, I've never been interested in driving a transceiver by HRD or other software.  I have a scanner which really needs a laptop/PC to drive it and as a result it doesn't get used.  I will have a listend, but I will porbably be purchasing the Welbrook 1530L loop with a rotator and using one of my many old fashioned radios for SWL'ing.

I don't mind PC's - use 'em all the time but they are

At last! *** Photographs added ***

Just a few and not the best.  Time to replan the pictures on the site as well as a complete shack overhaul

The Leader of the Shack!

Have added a Yaesu FT-1000MP to the shack that I had never considered, but for once it was not a radio I was particularly looking at or indeed chasing.  A work colleague - the only fellow amateur at work has over the past few years more or less lost his voice.  He said this is a great radio going to waste.  At first there was believed to be a fault on it, but with a few reads of the manual and a few switch presses the radio is behaving very well.  He even threw in a Heil Pro-Headset, but I prefer to use hand mics or desk mics - call me old fashioned! - the past few weeks have been abit of a bind as the world cup coverage has seriously eaten into radio time.  All that good weather too!

As usual, the 1000MP has many menus and a steep learning curve.  Of course the average person can jump straight in and have a play, but there are so many menus with the EDSP and especially to set up and achieve decent audio.  Receive is very good as one woulod expect from such a radio and of course a whole bunch of EDSP settings for further reducing QRM/enhancing signal.  It isn't of course a new radio, but like many other radios of old, the MP has earned cult or classic status.  It will probably be a while before I get it setup as I would like, but there's no hurry.

 

So I'm happy to add a "proper" homebase radio, i.e. 240v and not have to use yet another PSU! - on the downside, the shack has had to be re-arranged/dismantled to house such a beast.  It is a long time since I added any photographs to this site and as such I had better add pics of the recent additions - there have been several. 

I-Pro Traveller - User Review

WARNING!

It might be a good idea if you intend to read this to grab a cup of tea or something more substantial as I tend to get long-winded with these things.

 

This is my review of the I-Pro when I took it out portable for the first time (12/6/10).  I found a nice quiet spot in the County Durham hills at approx 1690ft ASL located in IO84WT WAB NY94 (for those interested).  Choosing such a location enabled me to test the antenna free of QRM, QRN PLT and all other forms of "noise" - The only noise of any note was the calling of nearby Golden Plover! Therefore this review is not scientific, it contains no figures and is merely the findings of an ordinary Joe, well, Steve actually, trying out a new antenna for the first time.  See Radcom or PW for proper review;-)

Firstly, setup.  I couldn't do it in sixty seconds as the manufacturer can (see links), but then I was on uneven ground and setting the base level is vital for the efficiency/balance of the antenna.  The included spirit level/bubble greatly helps with this.  Once assembled it was time to choose a band form those offered and have a play!

Setting up

Just a bit of info first, the antenna is tuned by a capacity hat, the idea being tuning via capacitance is less lossy. The lower capacity hat is used to resonate or fine-tune the antenna on any given band, the band is chosen by coils and plugs.  On the higher bands, 10/11/12m they share the same coil setting, so raidng and lowering of the capacity hat is all that is needed.  This I do whilst plugged into the analyser.  Initial tests show that the legs on the capacity hat can be marked for future use.  However, I just like using the analyser ;-)

 

10m band

First band I tried was 10m - not for any other reason than I heard someone say it was open when I switched on 20m.  I was hoping to try all 5 bands if possible as a good first test.  I also noticed there were a few contests going on.  I wanted to avoid these as to be honest when portable with a small antenna 5&9 reports are of little use.  I have nothing against contests or contesters by the way.  I heard 10FM signals - possibly via repeaters, but wanted to try SSB.  First call was Chris, SM2OWX  (Stockholm) no great DX but solid copy and a genuine 5&9 report each way - we chatted for a good 10 minutes and it was a pleasure.  A great start, and I soon added a few more on 10 with EB7DX  (both 5&9), IK1XVO (both 5&5) and EA3/PA3S who took time out from his holiday to chat and exchange 5&7 reports each way.  The little antenna was working fine, the noise was non-existent and I tuned to 17m

17m band

 The quick adjustment of the antenna and the help of the MFJ 259b analyser got me on 17m - no signal meter movement & no noise - it takes some getting used to, then find a signal and the radio comes alive! 17m is possibly my favourite band, as it seems more relaxed than the others.  People will chat and a lot of mobile and portable stations use this band too.  DL6NK was a solid start and a good chat to an old-timer (Eric) in his 80s with 5&9 reports each way.  He was also using a vertical with wire wound on a fishing pole! - worked fine both ways.  IZ6JIH was a strong 5&9 and gave me 5&7 back - the antenna certainly worked.  F4RST was a strong 5&9+10 big station, big antenna and got me at 5&9. A very nice call was Carolyn, a mobile station on Jersey, GJ6WRW/M who was 5&7 and gave me 5&8 back - very satisfactory for mobile-portable on 17m.  HB9EKK was logged briefly but then seemed to disappear - very, very strong station, probably blew his linear;-)  All in all excellent to have chats with people as opposed to "rubber stamp" contacts.  So I thought try 12m...

12m band

A quick check on 12m found what I suspected was an empty band - very quiet but as I looked between 24.930 and 24.990 (no cw from this station) I put out a call and IW0CZC answered my call - he was 5&9 when the band looked deserted and probably running high power.  He gave me 5&6 in return.  I was happyy with that, as I said no great DX, but the antenna works on 12m.

15m band

15m, was sort of similar to 12m - I had to try it and get someone in the log and CT1REP was logged with 5&9 reports both ways again on what seemed a dead band.  No others were added or attempted, I was just really trying to get a "feel for the bands"

 20m band

20m was the last amateur band I tried.  Two reasons for this, firstly I call it "kilowatt Alley" as it seems even full UK 26dBW (400w) seems insignificant to some of the signals on there, so a modest vertical 3m dipole with 100w might get lost in there!   Secondly, there seemed to be only contest stations on there, so I had to look and listen carefully.  UA3VFS was a good chat, with genuine 5&9 reports each way, and a pleasant one for me was OX3KQ - 5&9 with me and I was given a 5&8 return - not a great DX but nice contact and I believe a first for me (Greenland).

So in conclusion.....

Now then.  virtually all of those contacts while not being huge DX were all actual QSO's like they used to be - A lot commented on the fine signal from the portable antenna and seemed genuinely interested or intrigued by it. I took time to mention the manufacturer and his call to enable further exploration. 

What I liked most about the antenna is how simple it is to tune (essential) and no ATU needed, and how little noise there is - in fact there was no noise.  I know that is mainly down to location and battery power meaninhg no mains noise.  This is really important.  When was the last time you switched the radio on in the shack and started tuning the bands and hearing no noise? - Ok apart from that time you forgot to put an antenna in (we've all done it!) seriously though, it is an absolute pleasure to get out of the town/city and listen to "pure radio" as that's how it seems.  From my hillside location, as you may imagine I spent a lot of time listening around the bands, and indeed could have bagged more had I been ruthless, but a review incorporates receiving as well as transmitting.  It was a great pleasure to listen to the bands.  Some of the stations on 17m for example were very weak (JA was starting to come through) Turkey, UAE etc.  They also attract the "big guns" but from what I gather, this little gem can compete with "saltwater" - i.e. when at a coastal location.  One thing I don't know as it was the first time with said antenna and said location was whether performance was particularly good, bad or indifferent as I had never worked those conditions before.  Some people were reporting poor band conditions, others a lot of QSB.  Seemed fine to me.

For £300 or thereabouts, this is not a cheap antenna.  Yes for a fraction of the cost a long wire and tuner can be rigged up, a vertical on a mast, a home-made yagi, I'm sure we can all add to that list.  However, bear in mind I was heading to a known location and found this one en-route.  I pulled the car off the road and placed the antenna on uneven ground, levelled it (the antenna not the ground - but that's an idea...) - remember this antenna is self-supporting, no guys, mast (except in extreme winds) no ATU needed or fenceposts to lash anything onto - you get the picture.  Add to that it all fits very snugly into its own nylon case and into the boot of a Nissan Note.  It can be used virtually anywhere - even your own small garden if restricted - I know this as this was where I did preliminary tests and setup.  

 Conclusion of conclusion!

For the forseeable future this will be my portable antenna of choice, there is the facility to add 40m which I may add at a later date - might actually use it in the garden for 40m only on a temp basis.  This will mean my Buddipole deluxe kit be relegated - don't know why but I like vertical HF as opposed to horizontal.  The thing is easier to tune than the Buddipole, the latter being more fiddly and more of an experimenters antenna with rotable arms etc.  Though this is no I-Pro v Buddipole review! - just my own thoughts.  As I touched on earlier, adding saltwater, or operating from as close to the sea as possible really brings this antenna to life - as with all verticals of course.  In due course, when I try this I will update or add review.  Meanwhile I am still learning and probably haven't yet got the best out of the I-pro.  One thing I do know is it has renewed my enthusiasm in not just the hobby, but getting out there and talking.  As summer approaches, please listen out for G0SLQ/P - I'm hoping to add a Heil mic to improve the audio, but that's another story!

I'm also glad that my under-used antenna analyser is part of the mobile shack and as such will be use with this antenna - not essential to have one, but makes things much faster.

 

I-Pro Traveller - Portable Antenna added

This was an antenna I originally looked at in February, and exchanged a few mails with its creator Carl, G4GTW.  I have the Buddipole for portable which covers 10m-40m and can incoroporate 6m & 2m in a reduced capacity.  The Buddipole, as you may know is a horizontally polarized dipole.  The I-Pro Traveller covers 10,11,12,15,17 & 20m in a vertical configuration standing 3m (10ft) high. Preliminary (garden) tests show the aerial works well and tunes beautifully by using the capacity hat to lower/raise frequency.  Unusually, there's no necessity for earthing or radials - although proximity to saltwater does it the power of good, as with any vertical.

 

This is a good aerial for portable use, and will be used as such.  No ATU required as it tunes like a dream as I had fun trying it out in the garden with my (under-used) MFJ 259b analyser. It's nice to think all of my power can be radiated and without loss just by raising or lowering the capacity hat to resonate the antenna.  I will put a full and proper review on the site once the radio has had a full and proper portable test - away from home/man made QRM - see my links for further details of the I-Pro Traveller and its creator's website.

 

Oops! another radio finds its way into the shack!

After wanting a President Lincoln for as long as I can remember, well, at least as long I have been into radio, I purchased its "twin" - a Uniden 2830.  One of my regrets is that I never purchased one when they were available, but have rectified that now. So desperate was I to obtain one of these, I even purchased one without box and packaging! Unusual for me, but perhaps it is more about the radio and not the superficial appear

Wouxun KG-699  - 4m on the cheap!

Well I have ordered one of them from 409 Shop (online) - apparently it will take a little longer as it is in Hong Kong I believe.  Small handset covering 68-88Mh, but I have ordered it just for the 4m amateur band where it can sit scanning the FM portion of the band.  First time I have purchased one of these Puxing/Wouxun-type radios as I am a devout Kenwood/Yaesu/Icom man when it comes to my dualband handies - God knows why as the price difference is amazing - this little fella ordered with SMA-PL adaptor & speaker mic comes in at well under £100. I will probably need a 4m mobile antenna or whip which should not be a problem.

Welbrook Loop 1530

Latest ideal is to try a spot of low noise, stealth shortwave listening after looking at Julian's (G4ILO) excellent website - see links page - Have read the reports and more importantly spoke to a few users who seem overall happy with their antenna.  The loop can be used indoors or outside and with or without rotation.  Its main feature being it doesn't need a great deal of height - any noise can (hopefully) be nulled and from what I can gather although the loop will not have the same signal strength of the longwire-type antennas, the signal to noise is much, much better.

D Star's Coming Home!

Apologies to Messrs Skinner & Baddiel for stealing their Euro 96 anthem and nicking it for my own needs.  Nowt wrong with a bit plagiarism I say.  Well after looking into the possibility of D Star, it didn't really take me long to decide I will have a go at it.  Who can tell whether it is for me or not without actually having a go.  I've ordered a IC E-92 Icom handset (at a good price) and as such will be dipping my toes into the murky water that is D Star.  I understand there is a steep learning curve and a lot of programming to be done - That's where an old mate G7EVW (cheers Nick!) comes in as not only does he own the same handy, but has the programming and means to make my life a whole lot easier.

 

Not only that, but the purchase of the handset means a bit of mobile fun can be had from higher ground and all from the relative comfort of the car and a dual band mobile antenna/magmount combo.  As I have already stated elsewhere, the worst case scenario is D Star sucks and is not for me, I still have a nice (if expensive) Icom dual band handy.  From what I can gather, there may be nobody out 

D Star - I presume the D stands for Devil/Diablo!!

Well after my recent purchase of a couple of old-style CB multimode types, I began to look for something different.  To this end I came across D Star - I had heard of it without knowing exactly what it is/was - I knew it was expensive in that the radios are a normal Handie or dual band mobile set plus another £150 or so.  Not a problem in itself, but I was hardly prepared for the vitriol that ensued when I asked the question what it was all about on my usual forum. (transmission1).  I had heard a couple of stations on 2m chatting about D Star - very vociferously as it turned out.  The combination of cost, exclusivity and lack of a way to "build your own" meant the system was on a hiding to nothing.  Fortunately, I found a couple of supporters among the protesters and learned more.  I followed a few links and learned more - including the discovery a few local digital repeaters.  An added bonus was hooking up with an old mate who is setup on D Star - thus a good source for Q&A sessions.  As yet I have not decided whether to take up this sector of the hobby, but I think there is a good chance I will - the devil in me tells me something that so many people are so against means I should really have it!

 

Not the most reliable gauge of whether to try a new mode (if that is the correct term)  but the worst case scenario is I still finish up with a dual band mobile set or handheld - It would be good to have Dual band handies from Kenwood, Yaesu and now Icom - hmmmm my reasoning and logic really is off beam at present hi hi. 

New toys added!!!

I have been hankering for new radios of late, especially thinking of importing from The States- but I found trying to deal with them was a "strained" affair! eventually I saw what was available nearer to home and saw and read (and re-read) many reviews on the pro's and (mainly) cons of the 10m Superstar 3900 radios.  Long story short, I couldn't decide which flavour to buy, 3900 (chrome) 3900 EL (Black) or 3900 EFT (built-in frequency counter.  Eventually, knowing that in real terms I was spending "bonus" money from work I bit the bullet and ordered all three!- I'll get a picture done as and when they all arrive. 

Latest News - Christmas/New Year 2009/10

Finally got around to adding some more kit - after more than a passing interest in digital modes over the year, I finally put myself in a position of being able to join in with those screechy noises.  In the past, I remember a dear old friend of mine, Tom, G0OBF - sadly no longer with us, showing me how RTTY could be decoded on a PC - this was in the early days when not everyone had PC's! - Hard to believe that nowadays.

 

My early efforts were with a ZX Spectrum (come on, own up we all tried it) and later a BBC B - which was better, but mostly failed - mainly because the noise coming from said computers would swamp any signals!

 

I recently looked at commercial kit - so many to choose from and such a price range.  I decided, in the end to try one from M0AQC see links page - Alan makes these kits at a cost of less than £30 - there is a whole lot of software available free of charge on the web, so PSK31, RTTY SSTV etc. all within easy range - oh it will even decode CW if you'd rather read morse on a screen than listen to it! - very lazy, er, convenient.

 

It also means my little Yaesu FT817 or 857 has a job along with a 45 ft wire in the garden.  At present I am only listening, but should do ok with no ore than 5w or 10w (depending on radio) as low power is very much the way with these digi modes.

 

Also debating on whether to add a Yaesu FT950 or even the FT2000 to the shack collection.  I was very good last year - my savings went on a new car so no major radio purchases.  I like the look of the 2000 but the 950 reviews just as well and will probably save enough to purchase some other piece of kit or radio further down the line.

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