Tuesday, December 31, 2013

23cm repeater testing

went to Long Reef on the coast, to see if I could key up the Newcastle 23cm repeater, yes, it works, s0, not as strong as I thought it would, comparing to Somersby VK2RAG it was about s4.
It was enough to provide proof of concept of the path.
Could not key Chatswood or Dural 23cm repeaters.
Next will try from North Head.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Newcastle 23cm repeater

drove up north of Terrey Hills to a high lookout  overlooking Cottage Point & Akuna Bay ,  ( 33deg 38.06min S, 151deg 12.56min E, QF56OI  alt.177m)  using the Double-Quad antenna I could key up the Newcastle repeater VK2RTZ 1273.100 / 1293.100 it came back with a signal strength of 10/9.

In comparison to Somersby repeater VK2RAG 1273.400 / 1293.400 which came back with 60/0 signal. Both repeaters have voice ident.  Gave some calls, but nobody around.

Tried to key Dural repeater VK2RWI  1273.500 / 1293.500, no luck, it is deaf.  But switched  the Double-Quad antenna to horizontal polarisation, I could hear the VK2RWI beacon on 1296.420 ok

Chatswood repeater VK2RWC 1273.200 / 1293.200  was a no show,  but this was to be expected, as I was in its shadow.

Monday, December 9, 2013

23cm repeater update

operational 23cm FM Analogue repeaters:
1273.100 / 1293.100 VK2RZL  at Cardiff Heights, Newcastle
1273.200 / 1293.200 VK2RWC  at Chatswood
1273.200 / 1293.200 VK2RPW at Walcha area.
1273.500 / 1293.500 VK2RWI  at  Dural

Other 23cm repeaters, that are planned or under construction in NSW:
1273.300 / 1293.300 VK2RBM  for  Blue Mountains ARC , west of Sydney
1273.300 / 1293.300 VK2RPL Mt Nardi, Lismore area
1273.450 / 1293.450 VK2RRR at Razorback in Sydney's south west (Camden/Picton area)
1273.700 / 1293.700 VK1RJB in Jervis Bay on the South Coast

Friday, December 6, 2013

23cm FM activity

I been trying to hit the Somersby VK2RAG 23cm rptr on 1293.400  over the past month or so,  first I tried it  stationary mobile at Terrey Hills about a month ago just after it went live, I could just key it up occasionally, but it was noisy.

Last Saturday  I took a Double Quad antenna with me and tried it portable from Dobroyd Head / Tania Park at Balgowlah Heights, as this location is high and void of trees and other objects,  this time I could hear it  S0-Q5 and could key it and gave some calls, I heard Doug VK2MDC come back to my calls, but I was too noisy to be understood.   Same afternoon, I worked Dave VK2TDN and Ron VK2GO on the Chatswood 23cm rptr. 1293.200.  Also tried some calls on 1294.000 FM simplex to see if anyone was listening, but nothing.

On Wednesday I drove up past Terrey Hills out towards Cottage Point where there are a few high spots along the road and tried again, I found a good spot where I could key the VK2RAG 23cm reliabley, but made no contacts. I'll have to do a trip all the way to West Head and try again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WSPR & WSJT on Linux

after messing around for several weeks trying to get WSJT and WSPR compiled on various flavours of Linux, I finally discovered that most discussion forums and blogs on the subject missed an important dependancy, being python-dev.

Moving on,  I have now succesfully compiled WSPR 4.0 r3051 (svn3571) on Ubuntu 12.04 x86, Ubuntu 13.04 x86, Debian 6.02 (Gnome) x86,  Debian 7.1 (Gnome) x86  and Debian 7.1 (KDE) x86.   I have been running the two Debian 7.1 instances with WSPR 4.0 back to back to prove they can decode each other correctly, so that is looking good.  I have now have my confidence back in WSPR/WSJT on Linux again.

for the WSJT, successfully compiled  some old and latest version of WSJT on Ubuntu 13.04 x86, Debian 7.1 (Gnome) x86 and Debian (KDE) x86.   I was not expecting different behaviour from the Gnome based and KDE instances, but it did confirm consistency in the  build procedure, which is satisfying to know.
I downloaded and compiled WSJT 9.3 r2589  and WSJT 9.5 r3281 (svn 3564) for the Ubuntu 13.04 x86   and WSJT 9.5 r3281 (svn3571) on the two Debian 7.1 x86 instances.  I had picked the older versions based on what I had seen other people using, as a known stable release, once I confirmed it worked, then went and tried the latest version. That's using the source from the svn.berlios.de site.

Will do some more testing on the other combinations, followed by some RF testing. Then I will document my experiences on my web page to encourage more hams to switch to a Linux based WSPR / WSJT station.

And I also hope to do some 64 bit Linux compiles on a 64 bit server sometime.

What would be really nice to do in the future is get a Rasperry Pi board, get WSPR running on that, take it and a 2m radio portable up a mountain top.

Flag Pole Contest

my local club  (Manly Warringah Radio Society) VK2MB ran their inaugural Flag Pole Contest last weekend, where you go setup a portable station with something like a flag pole and make contacts with it.

I think they planning to make it coincide with 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' each year.

see   http://mwrs.org.au

Friday, August 16, 2013

ILLW - International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend - newspaper article for this weekend

Newspaper article: 

The Manly Warringah Radio Society (VK2MB) operating ILLW this weekend from Barrenjoey Lighthouse, at Palm Beach, northern beaches of Sydney.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WSPR on 144 MHz

a dissertation from Andrew VK3BQ on  using WSPR on 144 MHz


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

23cm FM activity

the Chatswood 23cm FM repeater on 1273.200 / 1293.200 has had a facelift last week with addition of a 20dB gain receive pre-amp, and has it made a huge difference, I can now get into it with just 1w and same for many other people across Sydney basin.  I heard a comment that 40+ people have been heard using this repeater recently, so this mkaes it very promising for increased microwave activity in the Sydney, well done to the guys that did this project.

Also noted listening to the VK2AWX re-broadcast of the WIA news from Hunter  region that they are now doing a test re-broadcast on 1294.000 FM simplex on Monday nights starting at 7.30pm.   I need to take the gear mobile to find a location with northerly aspect to see if I can hear the 1294.000 signal.  Presumably, places like Dobroyd Park (Balgowlah Heights)  or North Head (east Manly), or Queenscliff headland, or Dee Why headland  and Long Reef headland  to provide clear path up the coast to Newcastle.

I need to finish the 90cm dish with tripod and Double-Quad feed antenna, make it so it can be easily assembled and disassembled for relocation using a car to portable locations.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


currently playing with WSPR and WSJT,  just getting the hang of setting it up and trying to decode some signals,  joined the WSPR 2m group on Facebook, as my primary interest is weak signal activity on 2metre band. Need to make up the TX interface. Also dabbling with the Linux version of WSJT, have not compiled up a Linux version of WSPR yet, so presently running WSPR 2.0 on an old Win XP PC.

The idea is to run WSPR from home at times when I can't spend time in front of the radios, and WSJT for the times I can and when there is other WSJT activity, which would most likely be in summer E's and trop season. The idea of 6metre WSPR also interests me, but this will be low on the priority list for now.

VK2XAT maritime mobile on APRS

I been following  Alan VK2XAT's track on Winlink via APRS,


his yacht was due to leave Finike in May 2013, no new position reports yet.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Linux flavours

I have been downloading, installing, evaluating the various updates for the main Linux vendors, including Ubuntu 13.04, Fedora 18, Centos 6.4 and Debian 7.0, both in their Gnome and KDE variants on desktop PC's and notebook.

First is Ubuntu 13.04 (with Gnome desktop), built on Debian Linux, Ubuntu is very polished, geared uptowards future touch screen devices, which matches their future offerings for phone, tablet and TV, this provides a nice universal interface if you have and use all those type of devices, it's much the same device offering as to Apple's (BSD based) iOS, which is a universal OS across its itouch, iphone, ipad and laptop range.  The latest Ubuntu I feel is stripped of functional utilities for the base install, it's great if you want a straightforward desktop/touch device with basic functions, ie. music, video, browser & Office functionality. I installed Ubuntu 13.04 on an old Dell Inspiron 6000 Notebook, it works like a treat and is fast compared to the MS Windows XP that was originally on this device. The install was so easy and automated, very pleasant experience. You can download the "Live/Install" DVD so you can boot it and run it without trashing your existing O/S, you can try out the functionality and if you happy with it, then hit the Install icon to install onto your PC. If you prefer KDE desktop, then download Kubuntu 13.04)
(Ubuntu 13.04 and Kubuntu 13.04 do not work on Dell 450 Precision with Nvidia video from the standard installation, it will most likely require some manual installing of Nvidia drivers to make it work properly)

Fedora 18 (with Gnome desktop) - nice look and feel, easy access to some ham utilities, I installed this on a Dell 450 Precision desktop, works fine, I also tested it Live on the Dell Inspiron 6000 notebook, works fine. Fedora also has a Live/Install DVD so you can test without trashing your original O/S. Fedora also offers a KDE desktop version. I tested the KDE version on both Dell Precision 450desktop  and Dell Inspiron 6000 Notebook.

CentOS 6.4 - this is the first download.test.install of CentOS that I have tried, CentOS stands for Community Enterprise Operating System, it is a free distribution, of upstream version of the commercial RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), except with the logos and artwork replaced and with community support.
I knew IRLP was running on CentOS and I deal with RedHat at work, but running the Live/Install DVD, I found myself very impressed by the presentation, both in the Gnome desktop and KDE desktop variants, of course Centos (and RedHat) do not run the latest, cutting edge versions of  Gnome or KDE, but in practise, the older versions are better for a desktop/notebook environment.  I guess this is what Ubuntu and Fedora were like a few years ago. What I did like with the Gnome instalaltion, that it provided some of the best KDE utilities along with the Gnome utilities, it's the best of both worlds.

Debian 7.0  The old faithful Debian, like the Ubuntu/Kubuntu, it does not like  the Dell Precision 450 desktop with Nvidia video, you get blank panels, like on Ubuntu/Kubuntu.  I tested Debian with both Gnome desktop and KDE desktop,  the Debian provides the full featured desktop with all the utulities and tools required for true computing.

In summary,
 if you looking for basic functionality with latest cutting-edge technology, then the Ubuntu or Fedora is the way to go,  if you looking to play around with Amateur Radio programs like WSJT, PSK31, Hellscreiber, RTTY, CW and maybe do some development work on a desktop PC or Notebook, then  stick to CentOS or Debian Linux flavours. Whether you prefer a full featured desktop such as Gnome desktop or KDE desktop, then both CentOS and Debian cover both.
Of course if you want a set of devices that are locked down, but very stable and supported, and you have money to burn, then go buy your Apple devices, they still great devices for non-technical people. If you want to have multiple devices with some freedom, then go for Google's Android/Chrome (built from Linux) devices, although I suspect Android/Chrome will eventually become locked down like Apple iOS.  If you want choose when, what & how you do things, then stick to Linux. From a multi-device, universal O/S, I must admit I like the future offerings from Canonical with their phone,tablet,notebook,TV using Ubuntu, waiting to  see which OEM vendors pick it up (most likely Samsung). Visit the Ubuntu.com site and see the future devices on offers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Microwave transverter kits

If you interested in Microwave bands and transverter kits, then you  already probably looked at the VK5EME mini kits,   well, there are other sources of transverter kits covering up to 10 GHz,
see VK3XDK's website.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mountain top portable

I went up the mountain for a few days (18th to 22nd April) to do some DXing, the intention was to do some HF, VHF, UHF and SHF, but mainly only did  VHF and UHF, being 2m & 70cm SSB for AE activity. EME was out as the moon in the wrong place/time. Made some contacts with the guys in VK1 and far south VK2, mid-north coast VK2 and VK3.  No luck with VK4 contacts this time. The first morning was difficult with high winds, trying to keep yagis still and the wind howling made listening to weak signals very difficult.

Did manage to do some more work on the mountain top shack, by adding some more desk and shelf space,  to spread out the equipment, plus a place to sit the notebook. Also shuffled a couple antennas around. Did some testing of receivers for 2 & 70 against the Dural 2m and 70cm back in Sydney, the 4 x 8el yagi stack versus a single 8 el yagi didnt seem to make much difference, as expected. At least the Kenwood TR9130 and TR-9500 are receiving well in comparison to the Icom IC-910

We reviewed the mast/tower options, Dave wishes to get a triangular section tower up with a electric  rotator fitted so we can swing  yagis around without using the Armstrong method.(hihi)

Also went to Macquarie River crossing down near the Bridle Track to catch up with Ashley VK2XSO who detoured down from the north via Hill End to pickup some TRS80 gear for his collection, before heading back towards Narrabri for a job the next day up at Mt.Kaputar.

Also caught up with John VK2EJM and Jeremy VK2FLE who came to visit the farm from Orange.  Also had Colin VK2BCC stop in on the way  to Orange the next morning to see what we been up to on the mountain top. Discussed Bob VK2ABP/VK0BP (SK October 2012) in depth and also about Bob and Colin's experiences in Antartica.

The background photo used on this blogger is in fact a pic of Bob VK2ABP/VK0BP up on the mountain top, a place he visited frequently, both in setting up and  operating from.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Solar Cycle 24

Solar Cycle 24 not looking real good ...  I think this certainly points to the fact that there is little hope for Cycle 25,


(update graciously provided by NASA.)

I think the move to microwave terrestrial DX and EME  looks more inviting everyday.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

23cm repeater

a new 23cm FM repeater went live here in Sydney recently, VK2RWC on 1273.200 o/p 1293.200 i/p a top of a high building in Chatswood. It is co-sited with aanother WICEN 2m repeater on 147.150 o/p 147.750 i/p  and requires 91.5 Hz CTCSS tone. Both giving good coverage.

It must be 10 years since we had a WICEN repeater at Chatswood. The site is still missing its 70cm counterpart, but that is on its way, expecting to be on 438.350 o/p 433.350 i/p and presumably a 91.5 Hz CTCSS requirement.

the most important fact of all this was that we now have another 23cm FM voice repeater for Sydney, to compliment the WIA 23cm FM voice repeater at Dural on 1273.500 o/p 1293.500 i/p, which unfortunately is suffering issues due to broken antenna,  one day it is good, the next day it can be near impossible to access, depending on which way the wind blows.

Other 23cm repeaters ? some more that are planned or under construction in NSW:
1273.100 / 1293.100 VK2RZL for Westlakes ARC, in the Sugarloaf area near Newcastle
1273.200 / 1293.200 VK2RPW for Walcha area.
1273.300 / 1293.300 VK2RBM  for  Blue Mountains ARC , west of Sydney
1273.300 / 1293.300 VK2RPL Mt Nardi, Lismore area
1273.450 / 1293.450 VK2RRR at Razorback in Sydney's south west (Camden/Picton area)
1273.700 / 1293.700 VK1RJB in Jervis Bay on the South Coast  

plus some D-Star rptrs exist on 23cm too.