Saturday, March 24, 2012

TV Times

This is so true!
In 1990 we had five channels and a huge we have hundreds of channels a tv that you can carry under your arm!
Maybe it is time to curb all the crazy digital channels available now. I can't believe how many times I try to find a channel that has someting watchable on it. So much rubbish and OMG! how many commercials do we have to watch. I must admit that I simply don't watch television unless it has a good programme or film that I want to watch without the commercials!
When will it end!
Now, how about this...
Today my daughter had Sky installed in her house. She so pleased to have it at last! Fantastic efficiency from Sky, all documents arrived, engineer rang to confirm times, fully installed and working fine!
Then, the same day at teatime she gets a knock at the's the Television Licencing Officer. "Your TV licence ran out 2 weeks ago" said the man. Then under caution proceeds to 'book' her for not having a licence. "I only had Sky fitted today" says my daughter. "Can you prove it?" he says while writing down what channel she is watching at the moment and whether he can see a digibox anywhere.
How crazy is this?
No gentle reminder, no letter through the post, no phone call or text message, but a 'baliff' at the door just 6 hours after having Sky installed. This is obviously because Sky informed the Television Licencing prior to installing and the Licencing Department seeing an opportunity to jump on a 'licence dodger' My daugher always pays her licence monthly and was up to date, but March was the end of the licencing year and they had not reminded her to renew her Direct Debit.
Technological efficiency at it's gutter level!
Why don't they go back to the old analogue days and find the real 'licence dodgers' with help from their 'TV Detector Vans'. It don't work with digital anyway!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Auriol Weather Station

For a long time I wanted a wireless weather station with outside wind and rain sensors. I have a 'simple' weather monitor from Maplin in my room that I was given as Christmas present. I looked at the price of the complete weather stations, but they are quite expensive, then I was told about the Auriol weather stations sold at Lidl before Christmas. Too late now! Would have to wait ages until Lidl get around to put some more into the stores.
After a search on the internet I came across one for sale brand new for £20, so I bought it! What a wonderful bit of kit this is! Has wind, pressure, rainfall, dew point, outside temperature and lots of other measurements. Using this I was able to predict the 144Mhz tropo opening a few nights ago! The Auriol weather station display is very clear and has a lovely black facia, different from all the boring grey facias on the expensive weather stations. The wireless signal transmits at around 434Mhz with a distance of about 50m. It works fine in my garden.

Gosh! How things have changed. Back in 1980 I had a huge wind speed and direction monitor made of solid brass on my shed roof. It came from my Uncle Bill, who worked at the Winter Hill Transmitting Station. High up on the mast was the weather monitoring equipment. The stuff I had was taken down from the mast after being hit by lightning. It still worked fine, but the analogue electronics that came with it was incredible!
I also made a wind speed monitor myself using some brass rods, plastic cups and an electric motor. It worked, but of course the wind speed on the meter was erratic and totally inaccurate.
Eventually, I gave away the equipment to a Secondary School so that they could develop it further.

Friday, March 16, 2012

144Mhz Tropo

Last night I worked EC1AJL on 2m, here are his antennas in Spain...dream on Steve!
At last! An opening on 2m!
Since putting up my new antennas conditions have been either flat or awful. Over the last few nights I have been watching the weather maps and monitoring the pressure on my new weather station. High pressure of 1036 sitting over the country for most of the week, but then starting to slowly move to the South East. This is the recipe for good conditions into Europe! I was really pleased with myself for remembering how to predict an opening like I used to do back in the 1970's and 80's.
On Wednesday I heard several French stations and some German and Danish stations, most too weak to work with my measly 5 watts, but then later in the evening two quite strong French stations F6BGR and F1UVN were heard and I managed to work them with no problem!
Last night, the opening moved more to the South West with some quite strong stations from Spain coming through. I managed to work two stations EC1AJL and EA1FDI on the North coast of Spain!
Gosh! This was amazing with just 5 watts and a 5 element! It is something like 15 years since I have worked Europe on 2m, and I can't remember if I worked any stations in Spain!
Now i'm writing QSL cards!

Friday, March 09, 2012

G4AQB/P back in the 80's

How things have moved on! In my last post my Yaesu FT-817 covers all bands from 1.8Mhz to 432Mhz, a shack-in-a-box! Now contrast this to the same location in the early 1980's.

Here is my Yaesu FT101E (which I still have!) along with a home made transverter by Chris G4AGJ and SWR /Power meter. When I look carefully at these photos I see other things from that time. Can you see a scruffy looking Mothercare Baby Box? That was my toolbox for many years when I did field service mending televisions. I always kept it in the car! My car was a White Ford Escort and in those days carpets wre unheard of, you had to put in your own! So I cut bits of carpet left over from my front room, you can see it under the equipment. Note the RSGB sticker on the windscreen and the HUGE power supply!

Now this photo is in the back of Chris, G4AGJ's car. Chris spent a lot of time building an HF Transceiver. It covered 1.8Mhz - 30Mhz and used Plessey SL1600 circuits. It was an amazing project with it's Eddystone 898 dial and professional looking front. This inspired me to build a copy myself, but just for 160m and 80m. Again, home made transverters and power supplies.
We had a lot of fun up on Matchmoor Lane (Winter Hill) I still do, it is so quiet and relaxing just listening to stations and working them in contests.
Now we have the Tuesday night contests when the VHF /UHF bands come to life and it is time to go out there and work portable!
A thought for tonight...
We have a huge Aurora at the moment and the pressure on my weather monitor is showing 1033, surely we should have good tropo conditions and also contacts through Aurora. I listen on the 144Mhz and 432Mhz bands and there is nothing! Back in the 80's we would be working stations all over Europe. How come?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Last weekend was the 2m / 70cm contest. It started at 2.00pm for 24 hours.
It seemed like a good day, so I went out onto Winter Hill with my Yaesu FT-817. I took with me the Skyscan mag mount and an HB9CV for 2m. Although I didn't take part in the contest, is was fun listening to some of the stations. I was amazed at what I could hear on the little HB9CV antenna. I only worked a handful of stations, the best being M0BAO/P on the South Coast in IO80LX on 2m.
When I got home I decided to put together the 4 element yagi that I acquired so that I can use it next time and also modify the HB9CV to use on 70cm. This will give me some antennas to use during the Summer contests.
It was a shame to put the hacksaw to the HB9CV, I will try the 70cm version out during the next contest.