M6BBC - M0TTB Bloggy Thing Archive for 2008
Tuesday 9th December
Ooh, a month has elapsed since I have updated this, which isn't good. I haven't been active on HF since passing my Intermediate exam and getting the clunky 2E0KBC callsign, I'm not too sure why I haven't been active, although my mind has been on passing the advanced exam and getting my final callsign.

I haven't even been very active on 2m FM, although had a few good chats here and there. Caught up with Russell 2E0RUS and Colin 2E0NOC on Sunday, who both wished me well for the advanced exam.

I must admit, I was fairly confident going in to the exam, and even more confident leaving the exam. 2 questions really had me scratching my head and I left them until last but it now transpires that I got those two correct. Despite all the stories that 'this exam tests your understanding of the principals of radio', it is still pretty much basic recall and very little revolves around maths and the formula sheet. It's a bit like the intermediate exam but with a far larger syllabus to get to know. A big thank you to the invaluable QADV testing programme from G3KZB, a huge bank of questions which will help you... but still, don't over-do it.

An even bigger 'thank you' to the BRATS website and their advanced exam resource. The BRATS site has everything you need to pass, and it is presented in a very easy-going manner, notably the maths and formula... even telling you the exact calculator keystrokes. The official Advanced manual is very good to have and goes into more background detail but the BRATS site on it's own should be enough to actually pass.

Sunday 9th November
I haven't had much time on the radio since getting my 2E0 callsign, although my brief forays on HF since then have been met by rather poor propagation. The big news is that I am sitting the advanced exam on December the 8th, so I am quite busy getting my head in and around the advanced syllabus.

I'm finding the new material in the advanced amateur radio syllabus very interesting and rewarding, even though some aspects are a little tricky for my non-technical brain. To be fair, you don't need to know the entire syllabus to pass, there's scope to get over 20 questions wrong in the exam and still pass... so, although ideal to be au-fait with all aspects, it's not too serious if you flunk in one or two areas of the syllabus as long as you make up for it by getting fully to grips with the other areas. Transmitter/receiver theory and design is particularly interesting once you get in to it.

Thursday 30th October
I'm now 2E0KBC, well I will be on HF. Plenty of housekeeping to do with the new callsign, including QRZ database, HRD, eQSL and this website. Hopefully I will be sitting the advanced exam on December the 8th, and even more hopefully I will be doing more callsign housekeeping come next January.
KBC? No real reason other than fairly punchy phonetics on ssb and retaining the BC bit that I'm used to calling with. A few of my earlier choices were already taken, I knew BBC was long gone.

I took a spin with 2E0KBC on 2FM, just to get the feel of it, must admit it didn't feel right and I was close to going right off the rails a few times, but best to make an initial fool of myself on 2m to North London rather than the Northern hemisphere on HF.

Wednesday 29th October
With a layer of snow out there, I managed to finally work the PZ5Z dxpedition from Suriname, just in the nick of time as they only have one more day left. I always thought I'd work them on 17m, but they were strong on 20m this morning, and listening over a 5khz split. Again, they were not quite stating they were working split often enough... you always get a few calling on the tx frequency in a split operation, but the number doing it in this case (as with yesterday on 17m) was more than usual. Anyhow, great dxpedition guys, terrific hearing ability, and your stated aims proven by working this weak station.
Yesterday, there was a good strong sigs from CO8LY on 17m, and not the bunfight I'd have imagined, so I was very happy to get through to this new one. A huge sig from a genuine '6' in W'land did create a big pile-up, working many 'G' but not me I'm afraid.

Weekend 25th, 26th October
Well, the major news for myself is that i passed the Intermediate Exam on Sunday evening, 43 out of 45 questions wasn't too bad and the two I got wrong were just very oddly posed questions (yeah, they all say that ;-). Basically, and maybe I had a very easy paper, it was unbelievably simple stuff and an anti-climax in many ways.
So come Wednesday I should have a 2E0 callsign of some description.

The CQWW ssb contest was manic, even more so with an omni directional antenna (although I'm sure that Cobwebb has some nulls!!). I picked up a handful of easy new DXCC. Sunday seemed better on the bands than Saturday, certainly 15m, and I was loathed to leave the shack on Sunday afternoon to go off and do the IL exam. By the time the papers were marked (2 FL's + 3 IL) and a terrible drive home on a solid M25, things had died down on the bands. Still gutted not to have got through to the FY and PZ operations, though the PZ will be around for a bit and I should/could have better luck with 50w.

Friday 24th October
A couple of 'hard luck' stories from the last few days, both the PZ dxpedition and a 7Q failed to pick up my prefix, both on 17m. Suriname has, since childhood and for some unknown reason, always fascinated me as a country, so missing this one was a bit depressing if not unexpected. West Africa has been great over the last few days, and I have worked 9L1X on 20/17/15m as well as a 6W on 15m.
Some big signals on the bands in the run-up to the CQ contest and I managed 8P9JG on a surprisingly lifeless 20m frequency. If a strong 8P (on the cluster) puts out a call, you don't expect to be the sole station replying.
Sunday the 26th is the day I take the Intermediate exam, so hopefully I'll have a 2E0 call next week and 50w.

Saturday 18th October
Managed to work D44AC Carlos this morning. It was one of those that I didn't think I had a cat in hells chance of getting to, more through the sheer number of Europeans unleashed after they had waited an age whilst he worked JA land. When he finally opened the doors to Europe, it was the usual mayhem... but as he was such a strong signal here, his first few qso's with EU were to 'G' and current propagation seemed to favour 'G' to him, I gave it a go. I think I made it with just 3 or 4 calls!!
Propagation seems to be doing well to West Africa, as I managed to work the C57R dxpedition on 17m.
Heard Russell, 2E0RUS at the centre of a pile-up to W on 15m, and caught up with him shortly afterwards on 2m.
Back to 15m myself, and although things had dropped off to N.A. there was still some action and I worked J28JA to make 3 new DXCC for the day, all Africa. Massive signal from the 3DA0SS up on 21.365, but only working other JOTA stations.

Friday 17th October
Despite band conditions improving, with 15m & 17m lively, my own attempts on HF have been a bit disappointing. The prospect of using 50w with my 2E0 callsign in a couple of weeks is extremely inviting,
Those with impressive hearing ability over the last few days have included a couple of new DXCC in the shape of EK2790SA and finally getting through to Saudi Arabia HZ1MD on 15m. The EK is a bit suspect geographically and politically, the actual location looks like 4J/K country to me. The hours I've wasted calling strong HZ stations without reply is not something I'd like to dwell upon, but Mohamad came to the rescue on 15m.

Tuesday 14th October
A bit of a gap in updates, a wonderful week on holiday amongst the gap. As for radio, I completed my intermediate practical and just have the written exam on the 26th of October to do. I haven't had much time on the radio over the last few weeks, which is a shame as there has been activity on HF. When I have been on HF my signals have simply not been heard. I have picked up few W's on 17m though. Including a W.A.B. hunting K8CW Alan in Ohio and today a very strong WD8CCC Ben in West Virginia. I have heard the Willis Island VK9DWX expedition, quite strongly on 17m. Currently, a large portion of 17m seems to be taken up by a 9L operation working a big split. I surprised myself by working the 9L1X operation on 20m for a new DXCC.

Thursday 18th September
A brief after dinner visit to 20m revealed a strong signal from 5N9NDP Paolo. I didn't really expect him to hear me, but after calling patiently for 5 minutes or so, he picked out my suffix and a qso was made. Odd thing is, and I shouldn't really be saying so on here but I already have a qsl card from exactly the same town in Nigeria, but from 25yrs ago ;-)
Popped back to 2m FM and caught up with 2E0NOC and 2E0RUS for the fist time in a couple of weeks.

Monday 15th September
A brief tune through the bands didn't reveal much to my ears but I did pick up A61RJ and managed a brief qso on 20m, Mohammed got my callsign in the end, although it was only the 'C' that was the problem (Canada won in the end). This is the first Middle Eastern station I have worked on 20m but have spent many fruitless hours trying to, before now.
I did hear a TU reasonably well on 15m earlier on, but the opportunity to call didn't arise.

Weekend 13th, 14th September
Things didn't turn out as planned and I couldn't get to the LEFARS field weekend on the Sunday, which was a great shame as the weather was excellent.

Anyway, as anyone who tuned around the main HF bands over the weekend will know, it was the weekend of the Worked All Europe WAE contest. Although a contest 'qso' is hardly a satisfying way to work new dxcc, it does give the chance for the true minnows to be heard by the big contest stations who are always keen on a point, and credit to them, they will persist in trying to dig your signal out.

To some extent, a contest qso is no less brief than you're average dx qso, and even a few hardened contest ops can be quite chatty when things are a bit slow... my 'BBC' suffix often provokes interest and an extra 'over' to the qso. But still, my idea of even the briefest qso to get some satisfaction involves exchange of first name, I hate making a log entry without an operator name.

So 2 new dxcc for me were YV in the shape of YW4D and HI HI3T . A few new states were picked up (including Washington State and a VE7 over on the west coast), but again, no real joy involved until I work these states in normal circumstances.

Friday 12th September
One of those nice days when qrn was at low levels on the bands. 20m produced a new one for me in the shape of TF4M Thor and then a trip to 17m produced JA3JOT Teruo. I had heard JA3JOT on 17m before but today he was a genuine 5/9+, and I got in early, possibly his first cq. VR2XMT Charlie was heard and he was very strong again.

Weekend 6,7th September.
Contests galore this weekend, with the All Asia and Field Day event, in fact it all got a bit confusing for some qso's I heard. I picked up a couple of JA's and UA0 in the All Asia on 20m (JR5VHU JH4UYB RW0AA ) but failed to be heard by anyone else.
It's quite interesting with your age as your qso confirmation... I wasn't quite as young as I'd thought, with plenty of op's in their 30's active.

On Sunday morning and early afternoon, I ended up on 2m ssb and worked a few field day stations with my 10w into a colinear, which is hardly ideal for 2m ssb... but I'm amazed at how well I manage and could work everyone I could hear, with the exception of an F6. And low and behold I pick up a new dxcc in the form of PA6NL. Not being qrv below 20m and living in S.E. England, PA is a very tricky one on HF. My old Kenwood TS-711E has paid back every £ of the £140 I paid for it.

Friday 5th September
17m again, and produced 2 new ones for me today. SV5/DL4JU Yuri in Rhodos and then straight after was a huge signal from Valery UN7MMM in Northern Kazakhstan. WX in these locations had to be better than here!! There was also a 3DA but he wasn't blasting in, so I passed on that one and left the pile-up.

Wednesday 3rd September
17m is really producing the goods for me at the moment, it produces the dx yet there's none of the mayhem of 20m. Today I managed to work VR2XMT Charlie, he had a huge signal this end and managed to pick up my suffix early on. Looking at the cluster, he seemed to make a large number of op's happy... he certainly made me happy!! VR2/VS6 was always a nice catch back in my SWL days, brought a certain tingle but none of them ever seemed too strong.

Tuesday 2nd September
Very nice opening to North America on 17m today, even I managed a 'W' outside of a contest for the first time... ok, he was a contest station on a day off, practicing contesting skills ;-) Still, numerous 'W' coming through, not all of them big guns either.

Week ending 31st August
Woohoo, managed to work JA for the first time, a huge signal from JA1LZR Joe. Again, and it's pretty much a must if I'm to get through, I got in after his first cq call. 17m at around lunchtime has been quite reliable recently for JA's coming through, and I finally got one. Up until this JA, I'd really struggled on HF and was becoming a bit depressed at my tiny sigs not being heard by anyone. Seemed to be a YO contest over the weekend but a few exotic participants, although I never got through to the YB station who was 9+. I did work a non contest PY6 so that's another Brasillian state worked... as an SWL I was as keen on hearing all Brasillian states as I was the more common target of U.S.A states.
I did hear VK6LC coming through on 17m, and although I was first at the scene, he only managed 'BB' from my call. I put him on the cluster and I got to hear everyone else working him. In a way I wasn't too upset, as I knew it was a long shot and I'd only just worked JA for the first time, so it would've overshadowed that achievement.

Tropo was in evidence on 2m lately, and I had some good solid contacts with stations up to 100mile away, most of the action coming from the midlands and Nottinghamshire in particular.

Sunday 24th August
Just seen the latest Icom IC-7600 due for release, looks like an IC-7700 for mortals. Not sure on price point in the U.K, I'll have an early guess at between £2200 and £2500. Once the IC-7700 went through £4k, I lost all interest but the new IC-7600 radio does seem to have much of the attraction of the larger radio.

I've been off the radio for a while, had to go away on business for 5 days. Worked a SOTA activation from Botley Hill on 2FM on Thursday 21st. I'm not an avid SOAT chaser but I'll always go back to any activation that I hear... if someone can be bothered to activate a summit, then the least I can do is go back to them.

Friday 8th August
HF bands (20m and higher) seemed odd today, can't put my finger on it but it was just one of those days when it sounded different to the norm. Worked a huge signal from Mori PY2VA on 17m in the evening, and that was about it.

Thursday 7th August: 6m Opening
Good Sporadic E today, although 10m was lively, I decided to have another bash on 6m, as I haven't done much up there with my Cobwebb. Obviously a struggle but always a sense of achievement to be heard by anyone on a band your antenna wasn't designed for. Worked CT, EA and then things turned to Eastern Europe and worked OK and HA. Nothing amazing but it adds to my feeble dxcc list for 6m.

Wednesday 6th August: KH6!!
I have been spending far too much time trying to get my miniscule signals to the KH6's that are audible on 20m in the early mornings but today I managed it to KH7XS (not Kure Is). This was the 'Big Island Contest Station' that I missed out on during the IOTA weekend.
I was up early this morning, hoping to catch KH7XS before the big pile-up started and, although he was weaker than previous days (S9+ at times), there didn't seem to be the mad European rush of previous days.  Bill works split (good) calls by numbers (good) and instills fairly good discipline on his pile-ups (not quite in the league of ruthlessness as 6W1SJ), he also has a huge signal matched with big ears.

This morning, (0615 UTC), I missed out on the first pass for '6', in fact he skimmed thru 6-9 in a few seconds, obviously not hearing much at his end but not giving them much chance either. Although KH7XS was weaker at this earlier time than previous days, and consequently I would be as well, he was was giving reports down to 5/4, so my confidence was boosted by that.
Second time around (0645 UTC) I thought he done the same and skipped to '7' after working just one '6', but no, he seemed to come back to '6' and I got another chance and KH7XS came back with my suffix. I confirmed my call and gave him a genuine 5/7, to which I was rewarded with a 5/4 ... I acknowledged the 5/4 with thanks and he even heard that, so one can presume well behaved ops on the calling frequency or just a dearth of activity today.

Monday 4th August: Bletchley Park
Nice signal on S20 coming from Bletchley Park at the Milton Keynes club station, Bob M3DPQ, who has been testing a big Jaybeam collinear for a few weeks (either Dunstable downs or even at his home QTH) was demonstrating it to fellow club members up there. I usually hear the Bletchley Park station at S1-2 and a bit scratchy, but tonight they were S7 .... and there's some big hills between myself and Bletchley, so I was equally pleased to have a qso with Bob. Anywhere much further North than Luton is a struggle from Watford on 2m.

Saturday 2nd August:
I haven't been too busy on the radio over the last week, although the LEFARS net on Thursday 144.725 was lively for a change.

Sunday 27th July: IOTA Contest Weekend
Had a chat with West London regular 2E0YAZ Graham this evening, and were joined by Paul M0TZO (hamtests and hamradioforum.net fame).

This weekend's HF IOTA contest didn't really inspire me. The KH6 did, but QRN wiped him out and that probably saved me from wasting a lot of time, as there really wasn't much chance for me... the phrase 'p*ssing in the wind' seems appropriate for many of my calls but if you don't try, you don't get. I cling to my VP8 exploits to spur me on in dark times .... have I told you about how I worked VP8 on 10w ;-)

I did work a huge signal from a PY on 15m on Saturday evening, first call as well. Other than a TK, simply because that was new one, I didn't do much on HF.

To encapsulate what has happened with M6BBC so far.

Ofcom issued my license on the 21st May 2008.
My old Kenwood TS-711E attached to a homebrew 2m Slim Jim at about 20ft to the feedpoint, I have been using this for RX for a month or so, getting into the swing of things on 2m around North London.  HF set-up capable of rx but not tx, awaiting to get Cobwebb up in the air, postponed due to bad weather.

Very first qso on 2m FM on the morning of 21.05.08 with M3DSE, who was looking for a radio report. Doug lives about 100yrds away and I haven't spoken to him since about 1986!!  Nice guy, used to be a terrific darts player and I vividly remember getting a 180 whilst playing him back in the 80's.

Replied to an S20 cq from the familiar voice of G0NFJ. Good sigs both ways, this was good going as Harold is over in Essex. Good luck mate.

Other early highlights were making contact with familiar voices from the previous month of rx on 2fm, most notably 2E0RUS Russell and 2E0NOC Colin, both close to Heathrow. Colin and Russell are great value, especially when Russell tries to talk Colin through updating HRD ;-) All of us are of a very similar age and radio background and we all qso regularly and can get a bit of a net going.

Another very early qso, and still a weekly contact is with Ron G6LTT, who is a member of my club LEFARS and was on hand, with plenty of laughs, during my foundation license weekend. Ron is very active, in the sense that he seems able to be active on several nets at the same time ;-)

I've had qso's with over 80 people on 2FM in 2 months, so it's not really the barren wasteland that some say.

With 10w into my Slim Jim, I was able to work pretty well across the south east counties, down to Sussex, Surrey, Essex and Kent without much problem. About 67m ASL here, so a reasonable, if not particularly special take-off. However, my HF Cobwebb went up on the 1st of June and a Comet GP9 above it, and I had suddenly gained around 5 S points rx and tx. The West Sussex repeater went from S2 (albeit R5) to S7 and the Bedford repeater is now S7 as well... North from here is a bit of a struggle in general, the Chilterns kill off anything much further north than Luton.

More importantly, I'm on HF!!  10w may not be much but if the other guy is at 9+30, I'll always fancy my chances if he's not running a Kw, and even then, I'd still hope for the best.

I eased myself in by going back to a strong EA5, 5/9 for me and I've made my first HF qso... bit of a rubber stamper but an exchange of names or qth counts as a rag chew these days! Picked off a couple of those Euro Footie Finals special event stations, both HB and OE... which was pleasing enough. I was busy for a week so didn't get back on HF for another week.
I didn't hear anything particularly exotic but did work a TA special event, which at nearly 1600 miles was satisfying for 10w and was geographically Asia. Then I worked the regular 10m op 7X4AN, and from my old days, I thought this quite exotic. I used to love 15m and hearing exotic African dx in my SWL days, so this was nostalgic.

Picking off various dxcc in Europe, some good qso's in amongst more brief ones. Worked 4Z4DX and increased my maximum distance to 2,200 miles and then surprised myself at actually working A92GR at 3,170 miles on 17m one evening. I seem to struggle with the Middle East but no problems here.

Then, on the 16th June, I heard VP8LP Bob on 17m in the evening, classic greyline propagation. VP8 has always been a special one to me as an SWL.... not rare by any means, plenty of military forces ops from there over the years, but special. Bob was pretty strong here and had a reasonable pile-up going but I kept at it, and he worked a couple of QRP stations so I guessed he had good ears. Then that magical moment, I heard him come back with my suffix. A well behaved silence from other ops (which is WARC bands for you) allowed a reasonable qso with names exchanged. I was elated, and have bored rigid many with the tale ever since ;-)

At close to 8,000 miles, nothing since has touched that, but even if/when I do work further afield, that qso will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.

Since then, I had a couple of couple of W's and a VE during the HF field day contest, but hardly satisfying qso's really. Also picked up a PY special event, in fact 2 of them. More satisfying was a 5U (going back to my African DX nostalgia) on 15m and a 6W on 20m that was a madhouse of a pile-up... I have to say I really appreciated 6W1SJ Jovo's strong operating style. If people were calling him when he specifically called back another station, he would not work them and he let them know that. So, after effectively banning loads of ops, the competition had practically vanished and I made it through ;-)

Back to 2m, the VHF field day contest of the 5th and 6th of July and this saw me active on 2m ssb for the first time,  on the Sunday anyway. Conditions seemed quite flat but several close European stations could be heard, and I was amazingly heard by an ON. I also managed G3CKR/P at 121 miles and G0ROC/P at 160 miles. I didn't quite make it to a GM operation and another operation 'oop north' had a recorded call which was nice and strong but as soon as they went over to the microphone for a qso, they dropped well down... so I failed on that, as much through their weak sigs than mine.

More up to date, Saturday 27th July saw a touch of troppo, and allowed qso's with stations around 70-80 miles on 2fm.

Anyway, that's it for the round-up. Hopefully from now on, it will be more of a blog style and latest stuff at the top of the page.