Network ‘radio’

The network radio rave continues and everyone will have, and will be perfectly entitled to their own views. Here’s mine.

I got into amateur radio after decades of not doing so but the interest began when I could pick up strange music and news from far away. This was in my childhood. I worked in electronics for some time and understand RF and all that jazz. I went through various SWL phases including getting heavily into RTTY, at one time having a couple of Creed 7E machines, a tape reader, a tape punch, and a TU connected to either my B40 or B41 receivers. Those are long gone but the number of radios I have is increasing. People ask me why bother with any of it when I can simply use the phone? But it still tickles me that electrons emitted from a bit of wet string in our loft can be picked up in the Falkland Islands. This is the essence of amateur radio to me.

Why bother? When asked why he wanted to climb Everest mallory famously and simply said “because it’s there”. Yet, I’ve seen photos of rock climbing vs climbing wall climbing used an an example of how network radio is the same as ‘real’ radio. I don’t see that. Climbing is climbing – a wall, a tree, a mountain. Yes, each is very different but all are still a physical exercise of getting oneself up a thing and defeating gravity. Extending this analogy, I would suggest that if climbing a wall were an analogy of radio, then taking a lift is an analogy of network radio.

Radio in the common sense differs, i.e. listening to local radio for example on a radio receiver vs streaming on a PC. But here, the listener wants to access whatever is playing regardless of the transmission medium. A colleague once stated the medium is not the message – when you need to access information, or music, or whatever it matters not what the medium is, only that you can access whatever you are after. But amateur radio is about RF. It’s about communicating for the sake of it rather than for the message. Here, the medium is the reason, regardless of the message.

True, lightwave radio is not RF, but it is cutting edge stuff and experimental and so still fits my idea of what the hobby is all about. Hotspots? These are just local repeaters – sort of anyway – and you still use an actual radio and RF to connect to it, as does the person the other end. And digimodes are kind of the inverse. A hotspot is RF – Internet – RF; digimodes are PC – RF – PC. Network radio is, well, Internet and nothing else. And remove the Internet, give me a decent battery and I can still talk to the world.

So I am solidly in the ‘if it does not use amateur frequencies it is not amateur radio’ camp. To me, network radio has more in common with a pair of tin cans and a string than with amateur radio. Skype, other VoIP, these are all a means to an end and not a means in themselves. You don’t Skype for a hobby, but you do ‘do’ radio. (that is not meant to belittle any hobby-Skypers out there!)

Meteor scatter

The Perseids are with us, peaking on 12th August apparently. Anyway, I’ve never received any MSK144 before so I left the rig running two nights ago on 50.280 and actually received two properly decoded CQs from a DK station. Now, if I had a decent aerial, and more watts…

D-Star registration blues

So I got an Icom ID-51 so I will have DMR, C4FM and D-Star. Well why not… it’s currently on its initial charge for 2 more hours or so. I though that a good time to read the manual and sort out registration. So far, not so good.

DMR was simple. I can’t remember what I did for C4FM but it all works. D-Star? I followed the guidance and looked for the nearest repeater in the list. But the nearest one in that list is now C4FM. Ok, next nearest. That has a registration URL which takes me to an information page on which there is no sign of anywhere to go to register. Right. Next nearest – and no way I could contact it from here – has a broken registration URL.

So I started at the top of the list. I gave up after 15 – most had no registration URL, the rest had broken links or had apparently gone over to DMR. I picked a few others at random, all follow the same tale.

Off to Icom UK via Google – it has a link to a registration form but it does not actually work, i.e. you end up back on the page with the link. Google finds an old form – I guess it’s old anyway and I’ve no intention of putting my details into it. But at least the Icom page has an email option… and that worked fine and I am set to go! Well, I will be once I read up about how etc.

Hyper bands

The bands were hyper last night, I’ve never experienced Es until now. 6m looked like 20m it was so crammed. I managed 3 FT8 QSOs in quick succession which is a lot for me and anyway 10W into a bit of wet string does not compare well when the waterfall is completely packed with strong signals. 10m was equally packed – I didn’t try further down as sleep beckoned. I did try a couple of voice calls but ended swamped in a pile-up but hey, next time. Quite a bit of morse on 6m too… my learning is way too little at the moment but hopefully will pick up next month. There was even a bit of 4m FM about.

 

21MHz FT8

The time that a Brazilian station calling CQ on 21MHz hears you at -19 from 10W into a bit of wet string but never completes because the band is shutting down. That.

70MHz FM anyone?

Ok with a spare bit of decent coax into the loft as I said it seemed a shame to waste it so I stuck an Anyyone AT588 70MHz set on one end and made a 4m dipole for the other. So it adds 4m to my arsenal. Bit quiet here though! This is FM of course but it did pick up what sounded like SSB at 70.220 so I fired the SDR up (desktop aerial) and sure enough heard a chap up Sutton Bank (31 miles line of sight) in the 70MHz cumulative event today.

ex-CB

I’ve taken the CB out. I wasn’t making any use of it and the prices that the model sell for have gone up a lot recently, so it may end up on eBay. So… I have this nice run of coax up into the loft with a naff CB aerial on one end (to go) and a plug on the other. Seems a shame to waste it! I’m on the hunt…

144MHz UKAC

I caught the tail end of the 144MHz UKAC last night. Listening around on SSB it was useful to see how effective my basic loft dipole is. This is a cut-down old FM radio antenna I’ve had for decades. It’s fixed horizontal roughly east-west so should max north and south.

The closest heard was around 7 miles off the west end of the dipole and a clear path, and the furthest was 35 miles roughly ENE with a lot of buildings and a hill in the way. No idea the strengths of those because the S-meter packed in while I was listening,  but all were easy R5 and plenty of juice. I’ve also no idea what power they were using and this is all very unscientific but at least proves the stuff works. Hopefully I’ll be free to join in next month.

Now if I could just manage a rotatable 6/4/2/70 setup on one of the chimneys… one day.

RFI

Oh so now I’m giving myself RFI. I pinched a pair of powered speakers from one of the domestic PCs yesterday and wired them to the mixer. One speaker is powered from a USB adapter and it is then wired to the mixer via a 3.5mm stereo jack and to the other speaker. No idea if the wires are screened. There is an amp in the powered unit.

The YT-1200 upsets the speakers when it is operating, most so on 20m (which is the closest match for the loft antenna). But only the non-powered speaker is affected. A truckload of ferrite on the cable between the speakers has quietened it down for normal operation but it is still upset when tuning. The wire is currently wrapped multiple times through two decent ferrites, so much so that the speakers are now next to each other! Hmmm. Looks like I need to take these things apart to see what the cables are actually like.

 

QSLs

I received my first QSL cards via the bureau today, a pleasant surprise. 6 cards with dates spread across most of 2017 – a lot of the time I use eQSL so I didn’t expect many. Some request cards in return – which I will of course but I’m afraid the basic design of mine is no match for those received!