Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Christmas

Wishing everyone who reads this blog a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2016! Hope you all got some fantastic radio gear!

Updates to come in January.

73,

Lewis, M3HHY

Sunday, November 8, 2015

New Yaesu FT-290R

I managed to score an absolute bargain off eBay this week in the form of a Yaesu FT-290R. This 2m all mode portable radio was very popular in the 1980's and I've wanted one for a while so when I came across one on eBay for about £40 I had to grab it.


It arrived a couple of days later and is in excellent condition for its age with only minor wear on the front where a couple of the button labels have faded but this doesn't bother me at that price. Telescopic antenna is straight and corrosion free, the signal meter works a treat, the LCD screen is free from any damage and all lights and buttons work as they should. Rotary knobs all work fine and the microphone is also in great condition with a good quality cable and plug.

I opened up the box and realised that the radio doesn't have a power lead, it takes batteries or a lead that has the center pin wired to earth so the polarity is the opposite to usual. It only took a quick message to Steve, G1KXP who very kindly had one made up for me on the same day!


I plugged it into a little PSU in the shack and it powered up without any issue. I've had a listen round on 2m FM and it works fine, I also had a 5/9 report about 8-9 miles away across town which I was happy on the 2.5 watts the radio puts out.


I've got some batteries on order so I can take it up on a hill and listen in on the next 2m UKAC on SSB which I'm looking forward to.

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Update

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, work has been hectic. I thought I'd do a bit of an update post. I had a couple of shack issues recently which luckily have been ironed out now.

New Antenna


Firstly, my SWR was really high on VHF on my Icom ID-5100 and as previously mentioned here I decided on a replacement antenna. I chose the Diamond X-200 dual bander for 2m and 70cm. Well I wasn't disappointed! I got the antenna up and noticed a massive difference immediately. +3 or 4 points on most local repeaters. Some other repeaters went from S7 to 5/9 60+ which was impressive. I'm also hearing more stations that bit further away on 2m which would usually struggle to break through the noise. The antenna is alot bigger and about 5-6ft higher than my existing X-50 so I'm made up with the difference. Picture doesn't do the difference justice from that angle. The X-200 actually starts near the top of the X-50.


TYT TH-9800 Fault

I've had this radio a couple of months and I noticed within the first couple of weeks that one day it just wouldn't turn on in the car. I checked all leads and fuses and couldn't find a fault. I was on my way out somewhere at the time so just left it, about 30 minutes later it turned on on its own. The fault didn't come back in the weeks following so I just forgot about it. Anyway, a few weeks ago I went to turn the radio on and it wouldn't come on. I waited 30 minutes and still no luck. I brought it into the shack and put it on a power supply and still no joy. I noticed when I pressed the power button that the fan came on for a split second and then went off.


I researched online and didn't come across anyone else talking about this fault. I posted a video on YouTube about the fault and a viewer posted a comment asking if the radio was a face off radio. I told him it was and he replied saying that he had the Yaesu version of the radio (8900) and it had the same fault.

Luckily the TYT comes with a car separation kit so I plugged the cable in and the radio came to life! Obviously very happy at how it turned out. I've left the radio in the shack for now as my car isn't suitable for mounting the radio with the separation kit but I'm glad it works as I was about to write it off.



Sainsonic RST599 Fault

 
Me and my brother bought one of these each and to be honest I was t
horoughly disappointed with this radio from the start. It's not really the radio and more a charger fault I think. I got the radios and noticed the batteries drained despite being on charge for a while. The same issue on both radios had me stumped. I thought they may have been in some warehouse for a few months and the batteries had died. After swapping chargers and batteries between the two radios I had no luck so I emailed the seller on eBay who sent me a fresh pair of batteries direct from Sainsonic.

I put the new batteries on the radio and didn't give it much thought until noticed they still weren't taking charge! The seller offered to send me two Baofeng GT-3's instead of it costing me to send the Sainsonics back to China. I suppose it's better than nothing but I'll steer clear of the Sainsonic RST599 in future.
 
Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Friday, October 30, 2015

UK To Auction Former Ham Radio Spectrum

Spectrum at 2.3 and 3.4 GHz that once was allocated to Amateur Radio is going on the auction block in the UK. Telecommunications regulatory agency Ofcom announced this week the steps it will take in selling off the shared spectrum it took back after the military no longer needed it. 

Ofcom announced a rule making proceeding -- that involved the release by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of 40 MHz of spectrum at 2.3 GHz and 150 MHz of spectrum at 3.4 GHz. Amateur Radio was secondary on both bands.

"We expect the award frequencies to be of interest to mobile network operators (MNOs) and others involved with mobile broadband," Ofcom said in its Public Sector Spectrum Release document released on October 26. "The particular characteristics of the spectrum to be released, in terms of propagation and the penetration of signals, make it especially suitable for the latest long-term evolution (LTE) mobile technologies."

Amateur Radio lost privileges on frequencies in the two bands that overlapped with the 190 MHz of spectrum that Ofcom now has put on the block -- 2350 to 2390 MHz and 3410 to 3475 MHz. Amateur Radio will retain access to the adjacent bands, but Ofcom has put procedures in place to remove even those frequencies from Amateur Radio access, if necessary in the future.

Ofcom said in 2014 that, with military and other government use of the 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum ending, it believed that "an award of the spectrum for high power use is likely to deliver greater benefit to UK consumers and citizens than continued amateur use."

The MoD plan is part of a government commitment to release 500 MHz of spectrum by 2020 for new civil uses "based on growing demand from UK consumers for spectrum-hungry devices such as smartphones and tablets." 

Ofcom has said it would make 2300-2302 MHz available for amateur use, but licensees first must obtain a Notice of Variation to their licenses. Hams in the US have access to 2300-2310 MHz, 2390-2450 MHz (Amateur Radio in the US is primary in the band 2390-2417 MHz), and 3300-3500 MHz. Neither the affected 2350-2390 MHz segment nor the 2310-2350 MHz that may be removed down the road in the UK has been available to US amateurs for many years. 

In the international Table of Frequency Allocations, the 3.4-3.6 GHz band is designated for future mobile wireless broadband in many countries, including the UK, but not in the US. Germany and Israel are the only ITU Region 1 countries with amateur allocations at 3400-3475 MHz. -- Thanks to RSGB, Ofcom

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wouxun KG-D901 DMR

This week brought a new announcement from Wouxun and in my opinion quite an exciting one too! A new DMR radio which is due to come on sale early 2016. There's not much in the way of detail yet except that it is a DMR and analogue.



The analogue side of things features the usual stuff like CTCSS, DCD, dual watch etc and the DMR side features group call, select call, text messaging etc.


I'm looking forward to seeing this come about and I'm sure if it's like Wouxun's other radios, I'm sure it'll be a huge success!

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Baofeng UV-82HP Colours

Baofeng tech have announced the release of the UV-82HP series in a new colour range. The radios are being released in Red, Blue, Yellow, Camouflage, and the original black. The uploaded a picture of the radios in low light last week.


The UV-82HP is the the tri-powered version of the UV-82 with a max output of 8 watts. The radio is great and does work better in many ways than the UV-5R series radios. I always liked the more commercial lookin styling of this radio and I think the new colours look great! I wish I could have one of each.

I particularly like the camouflage version. The UV-5R camo is the digital camo but the UV-82 has more of a hunting/woodland camouflage which I think looks awesome.


I find Baofeng Tech too overpriced and I'm not sure they ship to the UK so I doubt I'll be picking any of these radios any time soon.

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kydera DP-550S dPMR

I've been looking for a replacement for my Kirisun S780's since I sold them as me and an amateur friend wanted to try dPMR simplex on 70cm. I know nobody on the amateur bands uses dPMR so it's perfect for short range, uninterrupted conversation.

I toyed with the idea of getting the Kirisun S780 again but they're not so great on the digital side of things when it comes to distance. Even though they're a nice radio I thought about something else and ended up coming across the Kydera DP-550S.


What a radio for the price! £60 delivered from a UK seller which I thought was a bargain. The radio took around 4 days to arrive and I wasn't disappointed when I opened the box. Inside was a small english manual which was good, a large 1500mah battery, belt clip, charger and chunky power supply and of course the radio itself.


The radio is nice and solid, looks very commercialised as the pictures above show and is a little bit smaller in size than the TYT MD-380 and Baofeng UV-82. It has a nice weight to it which always makes a radio feel that bit better. The buttons on the front are rubber and the quality feels very good. They're illuminated buttons which make operation in the dark easier. The screen is nice and large and quite bright and doesn't seem to rinse the battery like the screen on radios such as the Wouxun KG-UV8D.

One side of the radio has the PTT, monitor button and a button that turns the backlight on and off. The other side has the speaker mic and programming cable port. On the top is the volume and on/off dial and of course that flash light.

I switched the radio on and had a quick look round it and decided to programme it. I was at a friends at the time and my laptop doesn't accept some types of re-written CD (which featured the software) and with no download available online I couldn't programme the radio. At first I was frustrated until I had a look through the menus and realised how much this little radio packs!


You can select VFO mode which I've never seen in any of the cheap Chinese digital radios before. When in VFO mode you can choose between digital mode and analogue mode too which I thought was such a handy feature. You can also select encryption which garbles the audio beyond recognition in digital mode. In analogue mode you can set your offset, CTCSS, DCS too.

Some of the other features you can customise from the front of the radio are:
  • New contact.
  • VFO/Memory mode.
  • Analogue/Digital.
  • Power Level.
  • Channel Display.
  • Channel Name.
  • Scan.
  • Busy Lock.
  • Bandwidth (Wide/Narrow).
  • Encrypt.
  • Squelch.
  • Beep Tone/Other Sounds.
  • Time Out.
  • Backlight Brightness/On/Off.
  • FM Radio.
  • Battery Save.
  • Scan.
  • Language.

The radio also features text messaging like most other digital radios which is another handy feature. Another menu item is GPS which allows you to turn the radios GPS module on. Unfortunately it doesn't have GPS and I don't see why this menu option is in the radio.


The display is nice and bright. The symbol in the top left shows when a signal is being received, DM and D show the radio is in digital mode. H means high power.



All in all I'm very impressed with the radio. It has plenty of features that the Kirisun dPMR and TYT DMR radios don't have. I've tested it out and the audio in analogue and digital is very good and the range is pretty average for a cheap handheld.

I've included some YouTube videos below so keep checking over there for updates on this radio.

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Old Police & Fire Frequency Allocations Part 2 : UHF

A couple of posts back I shared some scans from an old 1993 scanning directory showing the old VHF police/emergency frequencies for the UK. Below is part 2 showing the UHF allocations. It's such a shame these frequencies aren't in use any more since the Tetra take over across the UK which was completed around 10 years ago.

 
Click Images To Enlarge - Use Arrows To Go To The Next One






Scotland


Hope someone found that of some interest, if only we could go back in time! Of course no copyright infringement intended, the information in the above pages is no longer in date and therefore of no relevance. I've uploaded it purely for reference.

Thanks for reading!

73's, Lewis M3HHY.

Manchester, UK.

RSGB 2m UKAC

Myself and Roydan M0LEX participated in the VHF RSGB UKAC last night (Tuesday 6th October) so I thought I'd get a blog post up about it. I say WE participated, it was Roydan in the hot seat for the contest, I helped set up the antenna and provided the drinks instead of competing. Not to say I didn't have a great time. It's always nice to see so many stations take part in the event from up and down the country. It makes a change from hearing the bands dead. Roydan worked 110 stations in the 2 hour 30 minute contest with some nice Scottish, Irish and even a Belgian station coming through.


We stopped at our usual spot between Heywood and Norden which are 2 towns between Bury and Rochdale. The site is on the edge of Scout Moor Wind Farm which boasts some impressive turbines that are surprisingly quiet as their blades spin. Ashworth Hill Reservoir lies a few hundred yards to the North. You can usually see as far as Holme Moss Transmitting Station to the East and as far as the hills of Blackburn and Darwen to the West. The view North is obscured by the Scout Moor Wind Farm and the view South stretches as far as the eye can see towards Manchester Airport and Alderley Edge. Unlike the last 2 contests we've done, the rain was coming down and it not only made visibility very poor, it also made setting up the beam and putting it on the mast hard work. I usually take lots of photographs and video footage of the setup and contest itself but it just wasn't possible. I've got some video footage of the contest which I'll upload to my YouTube as and when. We perservered in the rain and got in the car and waited for the contest to start.

We had a really busy start with the first 30 stations coming through in the first 10-15 minutes but it did slow down after that. The 110 he worked was really impressive. We spoke car to car DMR simplex on the way up to the site and the TYT MD-380's really worked well. I put a couple of calls out on 2m after the contest and got nothing back. I always enjoy visiting the spot as I can open so many repeaters on a handheld from Stoke to Blackpool, Llandudno to Huddersfield and everywhere inbetween.

Below is the list of stations worked and their location marked on a map (click to enlarge):

    G3UVRM0HAZM0VAAG4LPD
    2E0BMO2E0ILO2E0BMA/P2E0BIB
    2E0BZU2E0LDZ/P2E0DKY2E0TJX
    2W0JYN2E0LKCG0RXTG0BRC
    G0AJJ2E0LMDG1PPAG0BWB
    G0CER2E0XJPG3PHOG0GJV
    G0OHYG0BFJ/PG3YOAG0JJG
    G0RKTG0DQQG4JLGG0LUJ
    G3SQQG0SLRG4NTYG0MCV
    G4AQBG1KFBG4YBSG0WWH
    G4HYGG3TCTG8BUNG1MHU
    G4LBHG4BRKG8FDJG2ANC
    G4NDM/PG4GFIG8PEF/PG3LAS
    G4OAR/AG4HGT/PG8REQG3RCW
    G4WUAG4KCTG8ZREG3TDH
    G6BKFG4OAR/AGD1MIPG4CRF
    G6XHFG5BBL/PM0GAVG4IDF
    G7VGPG8KBHM0HGYG4NBS
    G8EOPG8TICM0JAVG4RQI
    G8OVZ/PGM4BYFM0PNNG4YUP/P
    G8WUYGM4JJJM1EIBG8MKC/P
    GW4ZARGM4JTJM1EYP/PGI4SNA
    GW8ASDM0EMMM5DWIGW0PEB/P
    M0CES/PM0MPM/PM6KTP/PM0DZB
    M0COP/PM0NSTM6XAKM5MUF
    M0HWOM0PNNMW0HTGM6GZE/P
    M0OGGM6FTTON5AENM6TFV
    M0WBGM6NKB


    Thanks for reading!

    73's, Lewis M3HHY.

    Manchester, UK.

    Old Police & Fire Frequency Allocations Part 1 : VHF

    A friend of mine messaged me asking if I remembered the old police and fire frequencies for the UK and I couldn't remember. After digging around in the loft I came across an old frequency directory from 1993. I had a glance through and quickly realised how much the allocations for the UK had changed. Lots of amateur repeaters that have long since gone silent and off the air, no PMR 446 allocation, lots of stuff that has now gone digital and moved frequencies such as police, fire and ambulance services.


    Anyway, I decided to scan the pages of the directory for him and thought I may as well share them on here too for anyone who wants to reminisce about the old days of scanning.

    Click Images To Enlarge - Use Arrows To Go To The Next One 

     




    Hope someone found that of some interest, if only we could go back in time! Of course no copyright infringement intended, the information in the above pages is no longer in date and therefore of no relevance. I've uploaded it purely for reference.

    Thanks for reading!

    73's, Lewis M3HHY.

    Manchester, UK.

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Antenna Replacement & Modern Radio Bolton

    You know when everything seems to be going well and then all of a sudden everything goes wrong? Well it's been one of those weeks this week!


    First of all I decided to SWR test my Diamond X-50 colinear as it is getting very old now along with the feeder that supports it. The SWR reading was off the scale on 2m and was 1:3 on 70cm which of course had me worried as I hadn't checked it in a long while and wondered how long I'd been transmitting with it like that. Ok 10w isn't too much power but with an SWR off the scale it still isn't good.


    So I decided a replacement for my aging X-50 was in order so I priced up some options to make a list of everything I needed. My current antenna is on a homebrew bracket screwed into the fascia board on the back of the house which my Dad made 11 years ago when I first got licensed. The antenna I had in mind originally was a Diamond V-2000 which is a 6m, 2m and 70cm trilnear which at 2.5m long is way too big and heavy for the existing mount so T&K brackets were needed.

    I can't spend too much on a new setup so I went for RG213 coax which is low loss enough for my needs. I also went for an 8ft pole, I was limited to this size purely as it was all I could fit in the car and didn't want to pay extra to have something bigger delivered.

    With my list made I took a drive over to Modern Radio in Bolton, Manchester to pick up everything I needed. I asked about the Diamond V-2000 and saw that the shop sells the Sharman variants which I've been told by numerous amateurs that there is no difference in quality. So I have a look at the antenna and quickly realised that A, I don't need a trilinear due to not having 6m in the shack and B, The radial on the antenna for the 50mhz side of things was way too long and would nearly touch the roof tiles. I asked about the closest alternative and Dee showed me the Diamond X-200 which was the exact same size at 2.5m but only a colinear for 2m and 70cm. Perfect.

    I reeled off the list of what I needed and we pulled the pieces of the jigsaw together, 24" T&K brackets, 15m of RG213 coax fitted with the relevant plugs and as for the pole, the only one thick enough was 10ft long which was too big so we cut one down to 8ft instead.

    I can't wait to get everything up and running next weekend and I'm looking forward to seeing a big difference in both transmit and receive performance. Thanks to Modern Radio in Bolton for all your help!

    Oh and turns out that the patch lead I was using was faulty. SWR on the X-50 is perfect! #!@$&!*!!!

    Thanks for reading!
     
    73's, Lewis M3HHY.

    Manchester, UK.

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    Better Results Today!

    2 hours on the local hill brought a bit of activity out today. Not bad for mid week, midday!

    25/09/15 12:08:00 12:13:00 MW0YDH/P DAVID CORWEN
    25/09/15 12:15:00 12:23:00 GW4GRW/M JOHN CONWY
    25/09/15 12:24:00 12:27:00 M6NKB/M NOEL URMSTON
    25/09/15 12:29:00 12:31:00 M0OTE/M DANIEL STOCKPORT
    25/09/15 12:31:00 12:36:00 M6GOF MARK SKELMERSDALE
    25/09/15 12:34:00 12:36:00 M6AIF KEIRON WIGAN
    25/09/15 13:00:00 13:06:00 M0OGG/P CHRIS WITHINGTON
    25/09/15 13:07:00 13:09:00 GW4VPX/P ALLAN DOLGELLAU
    25/09/15 13:16:00 13:26:00 M1ANX/M MAX URMSTON
    25/09/15 13:29:00 13:38:00 G7ILP KEVIN BICESTER
    25/09/15 13:38:00 13:47:00 G4NHO JOHN SHEPHERD'S BUSH
    25/09/15 13:47:00 13:48:00 G4KWT DENIS READING
    25/09/15 13:49:00 13:57:00 M0KPH/M PHIL BURY
    25/09/15 13:58:00 14:15:00 M0OGG/P CHRIS WITHINGTON
    25/09/15 13:59:00 14:15:00 M3DNA/M DAN ALTRINCHAM
    25/09/15 14:13:00 14:15:00 M6GYT/M ASHLEY ASHTON UNDER LYNE

    Thanks for reading!
     
    73's, Lewis M3HHY.

    Manchester, UK.

    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    The Dying Hobby...

    I think it's safe to say that in the UK, activity on 2m and 70cm is on the decline. It may be slow, and it may be quieter in some areas than in others but it definitely seems to be on the decline. I went up Matchmoor lane near Winter Hill in Bolton the other night to play a bit of radio /p. I spent a couple of hours putting calls out on S20 and managed 6 contacts! We had 2m FM, 2m SSB, 70cm FM, 6M, DMR 70cm and DSTAR 2m/70cm at our disposal and that is all we managed. This made me wonder what is happening to our hobby.

    Now don't get me wrong, some nights are busier than others and that was only a 2 hour snapshot of the hobby but I spend alot of time listening around from home and get disheartened about how quiet 2m and 70cm are getting.

    Are people leaving the hobby? Is anyone interested in radio anymore? Are many people taking their foundation exams? Well when you look at the numbers, there's quite a lot you can take from them. Here's some of my thoughts on the amateur radio license statistics from Ofcom.

    Since the new year, there have been 528 new foundation licenses issues but if your area is anything like Manchester, they don't come on the air much. Possibly due to nerves, some never come on air after getting their license. Some use it just to talk to one or two friends. I don't hear many M6's around here, or new ones at least.

    The worrying thing its that we've lost 1051 full license holders. Sadly there's lots of silent keys which can be seen on the RSGB website, and some that become too old to be bothered with the hobby, and others that just never re-validate their licenses. A lot of full license holders were probably the older generation of amateurs that we mainly active in the 70's and 80's.

    All in all there are -308 less amateurs as of this September than there was in January 2015.


    Club Foundation Full (Recip) Full Intermediate Total
    January '15 1500 19951 759 53059 8468 83737
    February '15 1497 19929 761 52589 8460 83236
    March '15 1493 20017 761 52493 8495 83259
    April '15 1475 20101 768 52448 8544 83336
    May '15 1473 20164 768 52084 8564 83053
    June '15 1477 20266 770 51912 8584 83009
    July '15 1473 20339 776 51870 8625 83083
    August '15 1473 20444 778 51957 8675 83327
    September '15 1473 20479 777 52008 8692 83429
    Total +/- -27 528 18 -1051 224 -308

    Some people reading this may have different views than me but I do feel the hobby is slowly dying which is such a shame. Now on the other side of things, there are plenty of new avenues to go down linked to amateur radio, many of which have come about in the last couple of years such as DMR, SDR and the slightly older DSTAR.

    Equipment is getting cheaper and cheaper too, Baofeng handhelds and all these cheap £60-£150 mobile radios are making it easier to get on air from a financial point of view. So why are there less people on the air nowadays? Could it be social media and the ever falling price of mobile phone tarrifs? 

    In the early 2000's I remember having so much choice when it came to what I listened to on those late nights sat up in bed with my scanner. When I became licensed in 2004, there were so many people to talk to on many different frequencies around 2m and 70cm. Nowadays I can scan around 2m in the evenings and be lucky to come across anyone. More than one local QSO going on at the same time on 2m these days is a rarity around here.

    Let me know your thoughts on this. Is your area busy?

    Thanks for reading!
     
    73's, Lewis M3HHY.

    Manchester, UK.