Sunday, 21 April 2019

An Old Friend Returns + A Heads-Up For CLE243!



Over the years, one of the ‘most heard’ NDB signals from Alaska was the decades-old beacon located near the western tip of the Aleutian Islands at Adak.

'ADK' had been around in one form or another since WWII but it suddenly vanished from the air in 2012. Like numerous other NDBs in Alaska, as well as in the lower 48 and Canada, once officially NOTAM’d (Notice To Airmen) as shut down for ‘maintenance’, they often never return.

Such was the case assumed by all NDB DXers with regard to ADK, especially following the cryptic 2015 NOTAM announcing a permanent closure. It was hard to believe that this early-morning regular was now gone for good.

Transmitting on the lower edge of the AM broadcast band (530kHz), ADK was often stumbled upon by wayward BCB DXers or sought-out as a good propagation indicator for the pre-sunrise Asia-North America path on the BCB. I’m sure that some even heard it on their analog car radios back in the day when many of them would tune down as low as 520kHz!

All that changed this weekend when Dan, VE7DES, a regular weekend-contributor to the RNA database, found ADK had risen from the dead after all these years and was putting a nice signal into the southern west coast of Canada!

It seems that ADK’s antenna had been blown down in the summer of 2012 which explains its sudden demise. An FCC employee in Alaska has indicated to me that in recent months there had been much interest in reviving ADK which would apparently allow more airlines access to the field than had previously been the case ... whatever the reason, NDB DXers are delighted to hear their long-lost friend once again!

Hopefully it stays around for many more years yet, but just in case, why not give a pre-dawn listen for its CW identifier on 531.034kHz, with your receiver in the CW mode. Long haul propagation can often be excellent in this part of the spectrum in the early morning and ADK has been logged from Hawaii to Illinois.

Here’s how ADK's 25 watts sounded here this morning at around 0530 local time.

***************************

Heads up for CLE243 this coming weekend ... final details coming mid-week:

For our 243rd Co-ordinated Listening Event, coming in a few days, we can expect a bit of a challenge.
   
    Days:     Friday 26 April - Monday 29 April
    Times:   Start and end at midday, your LOCAL time
    Range:   270.0 - 319.9 kHz  

Yes, it does include most of the DGPS beacons - and 50 kHz wide is about three times more than usual, but we shall only be listening for the 'NORMAL' NDBs.

We last searched for NDBs on these frequencies in February 2018 when a record 59 of us took part in CLE229.

We shall all have at least one end of the range for some easy listening, but the main challenge will be to find the Morse signals among those DGPS noises.  

REU and RNA show that, in the last 18 months, about 310 and 200 normal NDBs have been heard in this range by listeners in Europe and North America respectively.

There are also several to be heard by members away from Europe and North America, as you can see in the map from RWW, below.

Please look out for the 'Final Details', which as usual will follow about two days before the start.
Happy Easter!
73
    Brian
-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA      ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location:  Surrey,  SE England    (CLE coordinator)

Friday, 5 April 2019

My End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW)

The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in the end fed half-wave wire EFHW antenna. A half-wave at the lowest band of interest will also work well on all harmonically-related bands which has become particularly attractive to those wanting a quick portable wire antenna.

It looked like an interesting antenna to try, as I was in need of a good 80m radiator and following several days of fine summer-like weather, I was able to get my new 80 / 40m wire vertical completed ... a half-wave on 80 and a full-wave on 40m. It’s built as an inverted-L, going up 80’ and the remaining 50’ being horizontal at the same height. It’s fed at the base through an impedance matching transformer and was pruned for the CW end of the band.

There's always a great sense of anticipation when first testing a new antenna and the experience only comes around once in a rare while ... it always brings back memories of my teenaged ham years, quickly scrambling off of my parent's steep three-story roof and tuning-up the DX-20 to see if the latest antenna was going to be something special. Yesterday was similar, except for the roof-top scrambling and the old DX-20.

By mid-afternoon everything was wired up ... but before waterproofing all the connections against the west coast rains, I went to the shack and warmed-up the FT-1000mp, setting it for exactly 10W out. Tuning across 40m, I immediately heard fellow NRR’r Howie, WB2AWQ down in Reno, calling CQ on 40m with one of his military transmitters. He came back immediately and we had a short chat, so at least I knew the new antenna worked!
 

 
Having  waterproofed all of the connections, I ventured to the shack once more, now just 45 minutes before sunset. I’ve always found that a quick way to gauge relative antenna performance is listening for my low-power signal via the vast KIWI online SDR network

With the power still set at 10W on 40m I listened on several east coast SDRs, from NH, PA, MD, NY, VA and immediately heard a surprisingly good signals on all of them. Even at 5 W, the signal was copyable. Several of them produced an audible copy when I reduced power to just 1W.

I then tried two SDRs in Brazil and immediately heard the 10W signal again! How about KH6 ... still late afternoon out there? Yes, easy copy in Hawaii as well. 

Dare I push my luck and try one more ... one of the SDRs in Iceland? 

I almost fell out of the chair when the 10W signal was good copy there as well ... still 15 minutes until sunset and with bright sky outside the shack window. 

One last thing to try was 80m although it was still very early here for 80 ... the SDR in MD returned a nice copy at 10W to complete my quick round of pre-sunset testing. 

From these early observations it would appear that the new antenna is working well but I had yet to do any A-B comparisons with my benchmark best performer, a 40m half-sloper which will be hard to beat. 

The 40m half-sloper has always outperformed any other antennas that I have tried. It's the same one that I completed my Tuna Tin 40m W.A.S. on, so its been well tested.

The following evening, I had a chance to A-B test the new antenna, listening on the Kiwi network once again with my power set at 10W.

N8DTT/6 (California)  EFW 1S unit better
NO2CW (Florida)   EFW slightly better
Jersey Shores, NJ    EFW slightly better
TF1VHF (Iceland)  EFW slightly better
ND7M (Nevada)     equal with slight edge to EFW
KA7EZO (Utah)      equal
RTM (Dominican Republic)   sloper ~ 1/2 S unit better
KP4CA (Puerto Rico)   equal
Paraguay   equal
PY2GN (Brazil)   EFW ~ 1/2 S unit better
AI6VN/KH6 (Hawaii)   equal
VE7HUN (BC)   equal  (groundwave)

Unlike 1/4 wave verticals that require a fairly robust counterpoise / radial system for effective operation, the counterpoise requirements for a half-wave are far less-demanding. Mine consists of about fifteen short turf-pinned radials and the first 50' of the coaxial feedline's shield. A common mode choke (CMC) is installed on the feeder at the 50' point, keeping any RF out of the shack and the rest of the feedline from radiating.

I was actually pretty surprised at these results but how they will relate to everyday operating is yet to be determined. My main goal was to get a good-performing 80m antenna and anything that works well on 40 would be a nice side benefit but not really required. Unfortunately I don't have another 80m antenna to run some A-B checks with but from what I can tell, performance on 80m seems to be good.

If you are on Facebook, there is a lot of good discussion and information available on the End Fed Half Wave Antennas group.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Building A Jones Push-Pull Oscillator


Just as my shelf space for new projects keeps expanding (and quickly running out!), so does my main web site, "The VE7SL Radio Notebook". I have just added a new page to the site describing the construction of my newly-completed Jones Power-Oscillator using a pair of 6L6s.

If you might be thinking of building a 'Jones', you may find something helpful or perhaps find inspiration for a new project. The new page may be found here.

I'm presently building the final version of my RK-39 crystal power-oscillator ... but I have no idea where I 'll put it when finished!


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Hunting For NDBs In CLE242

Online KiwiSDR Network


CLE242 runs this weekend and is a bit different than most. This time, listeners are required to use an online remote receiver to do their beacon-hunting.


There are many parts of the world where beacons have yet to be recorded to the database and this will be a great opportunity to find and report them.

Over the past few years, the number of online SDRs has grown immensely, as has their ease of use. Although there are several online systems, my favorite is the KiwiSDR network, where one can normally find over 400 receivers available at any time. As well, every one of them has the same familiar intuitive interface ... figuring out how to tune them and make them behave the way you want only takes a few moments.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database.

From CLE organizer Brian Keyte, G3SIA, come details via the The NDB List Group:

Hello all 

Our 242nd listening event starts this Friday.   The last time everyone
listened via remote receivers was 40 CLEs and over 3 years ago. Since
then the receivers have improved enormously – easier to use, better
design and a much greater choice of sites Worldwide for you to use.

If you don’t like the idea of remote listening we urge you to at least
please give it a try.  I predict that several of us who ‘have a go’ in this
CLE will be very pleased to discover a fascinating new world of NDBs.
You only need a modest PC and a slow internet connection - and the
ability to read slow Morse!   (Even a tablet is sufficient, though a bit
difficult to use without a mouse)

  Days:    Friday 22 March - Monday 25 March
  Times:  Midday on Friday to Midday on Monday, local time AT THE REMOTE RX
  QRG:    Normal LF/MF frequencies (190 - 1740 kHz)
  NDBs:   A MAXIMUM of 100 normal NDBs (not DGPS, Navtex, Amateur)
               (that’s not intended to be a target to reach!)

Choose any ONE receiver, remote from you, for all your CLE listening.
Remember that reception conditions will depend on the local time of
day/night at the receiver (no through-the-night listening for us this time?)

The ‘biggest and best’ of the remote receivers is probably still the SDR
at the University of Twente at Enschede in the east of Holland.
Several hundred listeners use it, all at the same time and all unaware
of each other.   Its PA0RDT mini-whip aerial high above the metal roof
of the building allows it to receive well on the NDB range of frequencies.
Just enter http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ into your browser.
In seconds you should see details of the receiver and advice on how to
use it.

If you want to choose a different location, or an easier-to-use receiver
with fewer facilities, the Kiwi receivers are also SDRs.  They are mostly
in radio enthusiasts homes and they usually only support a handful of
simultaneous users.
Go to https://sdr.hu
To display the Worldwide map use the button on the right side of the screen
- experiment with (multiple) use of the + and – buttons.
Some sites of any kind have aerials that are quite unsuitable for NDB
listening, but others are excellent.  Some of our members have been busy
recently researching them and their suggested ‘best ones’ are listed below.

For each receiver, whatever its kind, do read the helpful advice carefully
before using it.  There is no charge and you don’t register or 'log in', but
you may be invited to type your chosen identification in a 'Name’ or
‘Callsign' box.  There may be a time limit for each user (e.g. 2 hours in
any 24 hours) and ‘late comers’ may temporarily have reduced facilities.

Seeklists?   The REU/RNA/RWW Website can help a lot if you enter the
Locator of your chosen receiver in the From GSQ box there.
To avoid getting details of thousands of NDBs, initially set the DX limit
to something small and/or enter one or two nearby states or countries.


LOGS  (Please read CAREFULLY):

Please show the LOCATION details and the TYPE OF REMOTE RECEIVER
clearly  (and your own location to help us identify you).
Include on EVERY LINE of your log:

  #   the UTC date  - e.g. ‘2019-03-22' (or just '22')
       and UTC time  (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
  #   kHz   - the nominal, published, frequency.
  #   Call Ident.

Show those main log items FIRST.  Any other, optional, details such as
the NDB's location, etc., must go LATER on the same line.
You could include any UNIDs - e.g. separately if you already have 100
identified loggings.

As this is a special CLE, any extra comments in your log on your listening
experience (whether good or not!) will certainly be of interest.

Please post your log to NDB List, preferably as a Plain Text email
(not in an attachment) using 'CLE242' and ‘FINAL’ in its title.  We will
send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 21:00 UTC on Tuesday
so you can check that your log has been found OK.
(NB:  that is 3 hours later than usual)

Do make sure your log has arrived on the List by 09:00 UTC on Wednesday
27 March at the very latest.  Joachim and I hope to finish making the main
combined results later on that day or soon after.

REMINDERS:
    Only ONE remote receiver of your choice.
    Not more than 100 loggings
    Start and End at midday at the receiver.

Enjoy!
  Brian
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Brian Keyte G3SIA        ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location:   Surrey, SE England       (CLE Coordinator)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


To help you with your choice of a remote receiver, below are recommendations
and/or advice provided by from some of our members:



To help you with your choice of a remote receiver, below are recommendations
and/or advice provided by from some of our members:


The stations in yellow are among the ones that disable the waterfall when there are more than two users - 
they can still be used and are still excellent stations.


Advice about their own and other Kiwis have been given in emails to NDB List,
mostly in the last few days:

Roelof B:  His KiwiSDR is making all four channels available for the CLE

Tony C:  Has added his openwebrx NDB receiver to SDRHU.  3 or 4 users

Bill S:   Email to NDB List on 4 Feb  (A list of USA and CAN SDR's that may 
         be useful, compiled by Dave AB5S and posted on the Boatanchor List)

Joe N5PYK: The West Texas KiwiSDR welcomes CLE participants. 

We are grateful to all the above.


Any further advice about suitable remotes will be welcome. 
Do you fancy using something really basic for the CLE?  The Global Tuners
still exist – we used 6 of them successfully in CLE202.  There are usually
about 50 of them on-line and many are older traditional receivers that
support only one user and are seldom suitable for the NDB frequencies.
But there might still be a gem or two among them:
https://www.globaltuners.com/   (You need to sign up for a free account
and provide an email address for a password to be sent to you)


These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed
Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.


The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

My 2019 Novice Rig Roundup Summary





Once again the Novice Rig Roundup (NRR) has come and gone ... and once again, it was the most enjoyable 'contest' of the year for me.




What I have come to enjoy most about the NRR is that most participants do not really treat it as a contest but more as an opportunity to spend some relaxing CW time enjoying some of their favorite vintage rigs ... spread out over nine days of activity. Since there was never a Novice-class program in Canada, I was never a Novice, but the NRR brings back all of the good memories experienced as a newly-licenced radio-crazed 15 year old operator!

Back in those times, there was a gratifying sense of achievement with every contact. My clap-trap collection of parts and tin gutter-pipe verticals, mounted atop our old four-story city house, magically sent my tiny signal from coast to coast and over the pole.







Those were the dying days of big-daddy Cycle 19, and my station was proof that just a tiny bit of RF was all that was needed under such amazing solar conditions.






This year's NRR began by making a couple of contacts with my Drake 2NT and VF-1 VFO but my newly-finished 1936-style Jones Push Pull Oscillator was begging to be put to the test. This meant that the remainder of the week would be spent using crystal-control and in all likelihood, sending a hundred or more 'CQ NRR's, hopefully attracting some of the crowd.



Due to previous commitments, I missed a few nights of operating but ended up with 53 NRR contacts in 23 different states or provinces. Operating on 40m in the late afternoon and then for a short period on 80m after dinner, proved to be the best use of my time, as usually, much of the eastern activity had closed shop for the night, just as the band was getting good. There were two nights of superb 80m propagation but with very little NRR activity ... unfortunately for many participants, late-night operating (even with wonderful propagation) is not in the cards for those that must rise early for work the next morning!

There were several highlights for me once again and being able to create them while using my new homebrew rig was very gratifying.

Roger, VA1RST, back in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was one east-coaster that seemingly cherished the midnight-oil! His great Drake 2B ears were able to copy the little 'Jones' on 80m with no problem and his participation added an exotic DX-flavor to the NRR.



Michael, W3TS, managed to squeeze enough RF from his one-tube 6AG7 crystal oscillator to be heard and worked here on both 40 and 80m, with a respectable 559 on 40 and 569 on 80!




It wasn't until after the NRR was over that I realized why Mike's call was familiar as we had worked a couple of times already this winter on the 630m band (475kHz) ...doh!




More transcon magic was made when Tom, K3AJ, finessed a few watts from his single 6CL6 crystal-controlled DX-machine to the west coast on both 80 and 40m. The propagation gods must have been paying close attention as his 40m signal was a solid 579 while his late-night 80m signal was a whopping 589 here ... 80m propagation just like the good old days!




Not to be outdone by Tom, ex-Nebraskan Andy, KØSM in New York, kept his vintage '42' clipped together long enough to be worked back here as well. With just a couple of watts from the early '30s tube, his signal was no problem on both bands.



Gary, W8PU, with his newly-built mid-30s 6L6 tri-tet oscillator, was another treat from the east when his 559 80m signal arrived here from Ohio in good form.



A little closer to home, WB2AWQ, Howie down in Reno, had a whopping signal all week whenever I heard him on 40m. Howie can always be counted upon for 'NV' in most vintage rig operating events, including the 1929 BK Party. This time 'round, he was using his BC-458A, crystal-controlled at 35 watts out. It's a good bet that hundreds of Novices got their start with a surplus Command set such as this, which often sold for just a few dollars in the 50s ... still new in the box!



Even closer was new Oregonian, Dave, WB7WHG, who was still getting set up at his new location on the east side of the Cascades in Bend. Dave keyed his Knight T-60 for our NRR contacts on both 80 and 40 and was very much louder than when I used to work him at his midwest WB9WHG QTH!

The T-60 is a popular choice among NRR ops and it's diminutive size is somewhat misleading as the current-hungry sweep tube used in the PA stage packs a big wallop. If you happen upon one of these under a fleamarket table, don't pass it up ... it"s a lethal NRR weapon!



Heathkit stations were as popular in the NRR as they were in countless Novice shacks decades ago ... and they sound just as good now as they did back then.

KN8RHM (N8XI), Rick, made Michigan proud with his HW-16 transceiver, while Mark, VA7MM, handed out 126 contacts from western Canada with his all Heath vintage station. His newly added homebrew TR switching system provided hands-free break-in, saving wear and tear on the DX-60's precious function switch.




VA7MM wasn't the only west-coaster generating Heathkit RF. Toby, VE7CNF, used this efficient setup. The box under the VF-1 is its power supply, a QSK system plus a magic eye for tuning ... very nifty!



Not many Viking Rangers were heard this year but the one keyed by Markus, VE7CA, sounded very 50s-like with its oscillator being crystal-controlled for the event.



K9SB, Tim, used his Johnson Adventurer and Hallicrafters SX-101A vintage setup as well as a vintage Drake station to hand out 'IL' to many NRR ops.





There seems to be no shortage of era-appropriate Novice gear out there but as the years progress, it will get harder and harder to find and probably more expensive to own. It's wonderful to see so many amateurs that understand and appreciate this older gear and are doing their best to keep it all working ... and the NRR is just one of many opportunities to let these old beauties demonstrate their capabilities.

From what I can tell, NRR activity continues to increase every year and will hopefully be even bigger next year. If you were a participant, don't forget to get your log completed along with your photos and soapbox comments, all of which can be done through the NRR website here. If you enjoyed the NRR, all run by volunteers, consider making a small monetary donation to keep the event going. You can do this via the NRR site as well.

If you're one of the many NRR participants that didn't want the event to end, don't forget that every Monday is the NRN (Novice Rig Night). A short 'CQ NRN' in the usual CW watering-holes, will often provide some nice rag chew time with like-minded operators.

Thanks to all organizers and participants for the CW fun and for another great ride in the NRR time-machine ... see you again next year!