Friday 30 January 2015

'29 MOPA / NLOS Lightwave Progress


I've now completed a set of tank coils for the new'29 MOPA project. These were wound with 3/16" copper tubing which has become very difficult to source. Luckily, after much searching, I was fortunate enough to find several rolls locally at a very attractive price. Although I do see it quite often on e-bay, sellers either refuse to ship to Canada or their shipping charges are far too high to make it worthwhile. The larger 1/4" rolls are still readily available, but for any given inductance, will take up a lot more room on the breadboard if space is an issue.

These coils cover the amplifier tank, the Hartley oscillator's tank, and the antenna coupling link. Respectively, the coils measure 4.9uH, 4.0uH and 1.9uH.

Winding these is always fun but the method used requires that the needed length be predetermined and cut from the roll beforehand. The first time I did this, when building my TNT transmitter, I learned the hard way to always add at least another foot to cover the additional length eaten-up by turn-spacing and for coil end flattening and mounting.

While visiting Vancouver for a few days I was able to find a couple of pieces needed for my non-line of sight (NLOS) lightwave experiments.

I purchased a nice 4.25" magnifier lens, with suitable focal length, as well as an inexpensive page-size fresnel magnifying lens. What is particularly pleasing is that the fresnel is a rigid lens, about 2 mm thick, unlike most page magnifiers that are thin and floppy. I have yet to test its blur circle or determine its focal length.

I plan to use one or the other of these lenses in a small, portable lightwave receiver module that I can carry to the other side of the island to listen for the main large transmitter, aimed slightly above the horizon, in beacon-mode. If the smaller fresnel does the job, it will be an inexpensive source for anyone else needing a simple lens for either transmitting or receiving.

If the deep-red light tests prove successful, I'll switch the system to IR light but at this stage I'm not sure how focusing and optimizing receivers and transmitters can be done with a light source that is essentially invisible? Perhaps using an IR source that is right on the edge of deep-red will still have enough visible light to allow finding the optimum focus more easily.

More information on NLOS experiments can be found in  G3XBM' s 481thz blogs.

As well, anyone in the Vancouver lower mainland (as far as the northern Sunshine Coast area) that might be considering lightwave ... I'd love to work you! Pretty well any high spot in this region is direct LOS for me.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

'29 MOPA Progress

'29 MOPA Plan
I have completed manufacture of the three RF chokes required for my new MOPA project. Two of the chokes (the ones in the amplifier) are broken into three sections, presumably to reduce stray capacitance or unwanted resonances while the choke for the Hartley oscillator section is one single winding.

The choke forms were first turned on the wood lathe, using Mahogany hardwood scrap, to a diameter of 3/4", and then stepped down slightly, for the space occupied by the windings. The windings, using single silk enamel #31, were then done, still on the lathe, while rotating the spindle manually.

I've always been surprised at how little inductance is really needed for effective choking on HF and it would seem that the 'standard' 2.5mH is much more than is actually required. The single-ended version is just 190uH, while the three-section chokes measure just 240uH, about 10% of what normally might be specified today.

Monday 26 January 2015

CLE190 Logs

YJ-200KHz - Victoria Int'l
Listeners towards the central and southern portions of North America reported phenomenally good conditions this weekend, most unusual for a CLE event! Out west and here in BC, conditions were not noticeably enhanced and could best be described as kind of 'mushy' ... most signals were a struggle. The further south you went, the better the propagation became.

CFL Crud
Unfortunately, I am still struggling with noise pollution (cheap or failing CFLs) in a house about ten properties away, creating a constant 60 Hz hum and drifting birdies throughout the band ... as it was during the last CLE. Hopefully the owners of the home will return before the next CLE arrives!

25 04:00  198      DIW       Dixon, NC, USA
24 06:00  200     YJ          Victoria - Sidney Island, BC, CAN
24 04:00  200     YDL       Dease Lake, BC, CAN
25 07:00  200     UAB       Anahim Lake, BC, CAN
24 04:00  201     ZWN      Winnipeg, MB, CAN
24 12:00  201      IP           Lufthansa, AZ, USA
24 07:00  201      GV         Greenville, TX, USA

26 05:40  201      YVZ      Deer Lake, ON, CA
24 06:00  203     ZKI        Kitimat, BC, CAN
24 06:00  203     YBL       Campbell River, BC, CAN
24 06:00  203     TCY       Tracy Municipal Apt, CA, USA
24 04:00  204     ZQR       Regina, SK, CAN
24 11:00   205      XZ          Wawa, ON, CAN
24 04:00  205     COR      Corcoran, CA, USA
24 04:00  206     SOW      Show Low Regional Apt, AZ, USA
24 04:00  206     EF          Castlegar, BC, CAN
24 04:00  207     YNE        Norway House, MB, CAN
24 04:00  207     PY          Fort Chipewyan, AB, CAN
24 07:00  209     ITR         Burlington, CO, USA
24 04:00  209     IB            Atikokan, ON, CAN
25 14:00   209     HGT       Tusi AHP, CA, USA
24 04:00  209     CYT        Yakataga Apt, ALS
24 04:00  211     HDG       Gooding, ID, USA
24 04:00  212     YGX        Gillam, MB, CAN
25 04:00  212     MPZ        Mount Pleasant, IA, USA
24 04:00  212     CGL        Juneau, ALS
24 07:00  212     CFV        Coffeyville, KS, USA
24 04:00  214     LU           Abbotsford, BC, CAN
24 04:00  215     ZAB         Edmonton (Intl Apt), AB, CAN
24 11:00   215     TQH        Tahlequah, OK, USA
24 04:00  216     GRF        Fort Lewis, WA, USA
24 04:00  216     CLB        Wilmington, NC, USA
24 04:00  217     EC           Enoch, UT, USA
24 11:00   218      RL           Red Lake, ON, CAN
24 04:00  218     PR           Prince Rupert, BC, CAN
24 04:00  219     ZRS         Regina, SK, CAN
24 07:00  220     HLE         Hailey, ID, USA
24 04:00  221     QU          Grande Prairie, AB, CAN
24 04:00  222     WY          Wrigley, NT, CAN
24 04:00  223     YKA        Kamloops, BC, CAN
24 04:00  223     AFE         Kake Apt, ALS
25 11:00   224      MO          Moosonee, ON, CAN
24 04:00  224     DN          Dauphin, MB, CAN
25 04:00  225     X5           Vegreville, AB, CAN
24 04:00  225     LWG       Lewisburg - Corvallis, OR, USA
25 04:00  227     YAC        Cat Lake, ON, CAN
25 12:00   227     MHM       Minchumina, ALS
24 04:00  227     CG           Castlegar, BC, CAN
24 04:00  229     AKW       Klawock, ALS
24 06:00  230     YD           Smithers, BC, CAN
24 07:00  230     VG          Vermilion, AB, CAN
24 11:00   230     NRN       Norton, KS, USA
24 07:00  230     BI            Bismarck, ND, USA
24 07:00  233     QN          Nakina, ON, CAN
24 07:00  233     OKS       Oshkosh, NE, USA
25 14:00   233     LG          Seal Beach, CA, USA
24 04:00  233     BWP       Breckenridge, ND, USA
24 04:00  233     BR          Brandon, MB, CAN
25 12:00   233     AZN        Amazon, MO, USA
24 04:00  233     ALJ         Hinchinbrook Island, ALS
25 04:00  235     CN         Cochrane, ON, CAN
25 04:00  236     ZRJ        Round Lake, ON, CAN
24 04:00  236     YZA       Ashcroft, BC, CAN
24 04:00  236     FOR       Forsyth, MT, USA
24 04:00  238     MPA      Nampa, ID, USA
24 04:00  239     OJ          High Level, AB, CAN
25 04:00  381.5   SJX       St James, MI, USA

Listening for NDBs is a practical way to check out your LF receive capability, should you be interested in developing a good 630m station or in following the nuances of night-to-night MF propagation.

Friday 23 January 2015

Good TP On Medium Wave (BCB)

Early morning (Jan 22) saw BCB conditions vastly improved over what they have been for most of the season. Because I am on the wrong (none-Pacific) side of Vancouver Island, as well as on the eastern shores of Mayne Island, I usually don't listen for Asian signals on my Perseus recordings but a quick check of Thursday's recordings revealed some very solid signals from many Japanese stations, as well as Korea. Most signals were strongest at around 1500Z (7 a.m. local) but were first audible from about 1200Z.

Three of the good performers are shown in the video below:
  • JOBB  828KHz NHK2 Osaka
  • JOAK  594KHz NHK1 Tokyo
  • HLAZ 1566KHz Jeju, South Korea / Far Eastern Broadcasting Company

Numerous other signals, reaching similar strengths were audible throughout the broadcast band on their 9KHz-spaced channels. Interestingly, I had configured my LF inverted-L into a temporary version of a low noise vertical (LNV) by removing all of the loading coil and feeding with an isolating impedance matching transformer. I rather suspect that in this mode it is acting as a normal quarter-wave inverted-L however as its self-resonant frequency, without any loading, is around 1200KHz. Today's conditions were much poorer but several Asian signals were heard once again.

Should conditions improve, the next time I will use my large loop oriented to favor Japan and also take advantage of its ability to null many of the local blowtorch signals from Vancouver, off to the side.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Hunting For NDB's In CLE190

LU-214KHz - Abbotsford, BC
Once again it's time for the monthly Co-ordinted Listening Event (CLE) for NDB hunters....the 190th event. These always interesting and popular affairs take place over three nights, with this one starting on Friday, January 23rd, at local noon and running until Monday, January 26th, local noon.

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
This time, it's a normal event, focusing on a small (~ 15kHz) section of the NDB band. Here are the details from event organizer, Brian Keyte (G3SIA):

Our 190th Co-ordinated Listening Event is already less than a week away. 

Do join in if you can. First-time CLE logs will also be very welcome.

Days: Fri. 23 - Mon. 26 January, Midday-Midday, your local time

Frequencies: NDBs from 190 - 239.9 kHz

PLUS Normal NDBs on 'half-way' frequencies nnn.5 kHz
(from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz)

Both halves are for everyone to try.

Away from Europe the frequencies below 240 kHz are mostly busy with
NDBs. In Europe there are very few but some DX ones might be heard
from North America and maybe a few other places.

The normal NDBs (no DGPS please) which have carriers on the 'half-way'
frequencies (e.g. 284.5 DY, 333.5 VOG, 359.5 CDN, 370.5 LB, 403.5 LNL)
are scattered across Europe but there are very few of them elsewhere.
Some 'hot spots' are ENG, FRA, ITA and XOE.
These half-frequencies give comfortable QRM-free listening and probably
some good catches as a result.
America has only one or two (e.g. 381.5 SJX) but East and West coasters
might hear some DX ones.

We last used these 'rules' for CLE174 in September 2013.

Good listening - enjoy the CLE
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE co-ordinator)

(If you wish you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings,
stating the location and owner - with their permission if required.
A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, local or remote,
to make further loggings for the same CLE).

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. If you are a member of the ndblist Group, results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

The very active Yahoo ndblist 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.

If you are contemplating getting started on 630m, listening for NDBs  is an excellent way to test out your receive capabilities as there are several NDBs located near this part of the spectrum.

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

Reports may be sent to the ndblist or e-mailed to either myself or CLE co- ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. 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.

Monday 19 January 2015

The Low Noise Vertical

There's been a lot of discussion lately on the Yahoo Groups ndblist regarding the "low-noise vertical" (LNV) and it's seemingly excellent performance. Originally described by Dallas Lankford as a good performer from LF to SW, ndblist member, Phil (KO6BB), recently refurbished his earlier built 'LNV', but this time with better feedline and appropriate ferrite cores for the antenna's matching transformers. Some of his description appears below.

To recap. I put the LNV up last spring to overcome the bad IMD products
from local BCB stations I was seeing in the LF region when using the
Roelof Active Whip located about 36 feet AGL. The low noise vertical is
... about 30 feet of antenna, set at roof-line level in this mobile home. As I wasn't sure how well the antenna would perform, I first made it a "Zero Dollar" project, using items I had on hand. Those items included two toroid cores salvaged from a defunct computer PS. I figured that since the supplies operate in the kHz range (as witness what a dirty supply will do to your LF reception), they would be suitable for at least a trial run of the antenna. The balanced feedline was some CAT6 cable I had on hand.

The antenna was a great success, because while it had much lower signal
output than the active whip, it also had ZERO IMD from the BCB stations,
and also less local 'junk' (read noise). The tunable pre-amp I use more
than made up for the lower output of the antenna, after all Signal/Noise
ratio is EVERYTHING in this hobby, NOT how high you can make the "S"
meter read.

The central valley summer heat (often in the 100's) took it's toll on
the CAT6 feedline outer jacket insulation, and while it still seemed to
work OK, I figured that it wouldn't be long before water started to get
into the line and probably degrade it in rainy/foggy weather.

Anyway, I went ahead and ordered the proper toroid coils I needed along
with 25 feet of nice 300 Ohm foam twinlead, and got a couple plastic
boxes to put it all in and made the toroid units. While I was at it ordered
two Amidon FT193-J toroid cores to complete the LNV the way I REALLY wanted to.

Today I installed it all, putting a heavy twist in the feedline to try
to reduce any stray noise pickup on the balanced feedline. I'd say
probably not likely but why take a chance.

OK, here are the results. I took signal level readings of eight 24/7
stations, both before and after changing out the wiring/baluns. The
bottom line is, the new antenna IS an improvement in the NDB range,
tapering off slightly at the high end of the broadcast band. Yeah, it's
'only' a couple "S" units at it's best, but when you're digging for that
weak NDB even 1 "S" unit is a LOT! I'm going to 'assume' 6dB per "S"
unit as I have calibrated the "S" meter of the R-71A receiver.

NOTE: This is 'fuzzy' math, don't take them as 'exact' on the dB readings.

203 TCY S2 S4 2 S units (12dB)
205 COT S3 S5 2 S units (12dB?)
344 FCH S9+7 S9+15 (8dB)
374 LV S6 S7 1 S unit (6dB)
580 BCB Sta S9+35 S9+38 (3dB)
770 BCB Sta S9+32 S9+32 No Change
880 BCB Sta S9 S9 No Change
1450 BCB S9+10 S9+5 (-5dB)

SO, it looks like the antenna is definitely an improvement where I'm
REALLY interested in it (the NDB band). I could have probably tailored
the toroids for maximum performance, but just used the 81:9 turns ratio
on the outdoors (antenna) and 9:9 on the indoor unit as I'm FAR too lazy
to run up and down the ladder to remove the toroid box, change turns and
retry it again!!!

Some additional notes.

NOTE 1. I have three ground rods dedicated to just this antenna, two 8
footers and a 4 footer. While I was playing with the antenna taking
readings AFTER the work, I disconnected one of the 8 foot rods to see
what effect that had. Signal levels dropped approximately an "S" unit
across the board. So GOOD grounding on this antenna does make a difference!

NOTE 2. I'm NOT exactly sure why it happened, but after the antenna
work here, there was even LESS "local grunge" in the background than
before, even with the stronger signals, making for even better copy on
weak ones than I otherwise expected. . . It DOESN'T make sense to me,
but then, antennas ARE the magic art.

It appears that the grounding plays some importance in the performance of this "non-resonant" aperiodic antenna and the fact that it is non-resonant on the frequencies of interest likely also plays an important part in its good S/N performance.

Several years ago I noticed something similar. My own 10' tuned air-core loop made an excellent receive antenna on 160m, even though the loop was tuned to around 300KHz! Although signal strength was several S-units below my transmitting antenna, the loop was extremely quiet and weak signals were much easier to copy ... In fact I often heard signals on the mis-tuned loop that I could not hear on my resonant half-sloper radiator.

Another ndblist proponent of the low noise vertical is John, in Colorado, who employs three ... one of them a great-looking tilt-over version. The tilt-over is nicely demonstrated in his short you tube video below.

The antennas are also used in combination via his Quantum Phaser, when DXing the broadcast band. The excellent phasing results can also be seen in his short video, while using a wonderful, like new,  Hammarlund SP-600 JX.

Dallas Lankford's original article may be found here, while an earlier more encompassing discussion will be found here. A third Lankford article, discussing 'Signal To Man Made Noise Ratios' and comparisons of various receiving antennas, also makes for interesting reading.

Perhaps the 'LNV' might be the antenna you're looking for to boost your LF/MW reception.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Yet More 630m Activity!

Another VE7 has been bitten by the 630m bug ... well, intrigued enough to start building a station. On the weekend VA7MM (Mark), in Port Coquitlam, asked if I could take a listen for his low power signal. I'll let Mark describe his setup:

"My transmitter is a HP8640B signal generator. It is stable and has 1 Hz
frequency readout with maximum RF output of 20dBm. CW keying was done by latching the antenna on and off of the HP8640B. The latching relay was driven by the send relay in an IC-746Pro running with full break-in CW
turned on. A 1N914 switching diode was installed across the relay coil as
the back EMF from the relay was measured using my oscilloscope to be a +50V spike. This effectively attenuates the voltage spike. A good safety
precaution before installation.

A second HF radio, an IC-7600, was on a separate wire antenna for receive
only and with Spectran running for signal analysis.

In the final setup three series coils totalling 330 uH and a series of
parallel variable capacitors adjusted to about 1000 pf were installed in a
series resonance circuit outdoors at the base of a sloping dipole with the
apex at about 40 m. The antenna outside shielded and center conductor were connected effectively making the antenna a vertical. There was no impedance matching. One ground radial about 300' long was laid out laying on the surface of the ground. The resonance circuit was tuned using a combination of a Blackberry Z10 smart phone real time video chat link of Spectran from the ham shack in combination with a portable VHF audio feed to both visually and audibly tune the resonance circuit for maximum output. I tried a parallel resonance circuit but it did not work.

The straight line distances between QTHs from Google are:

VA7MM to VE7SL: 60 km
VA7MM to VE7CNF: 10 km

Amazing that a piece of lab equipment can be enabled with a few hours of
tinkering to transmit a signal on the 630 m band a distance of 60 km.

Thanks for the first 630 m band contacts. It was fun. Now I'm going to start planning a permanent capability on 630 m."

Mark's setup reminds me of a Rube Goldberg machine but it all worked well enough for him to put out a solid 559 signal at 60km distance and provide his first official 630m contact.

As of today, the following VE7 stations have now made two-way contacts on the new band:


It would be great to see some activity from northern BC, VE6, VE5 and points further to the east. How about it fellas?

Thursday 15 January 2015

Lightwave Article From 'TCA'

VE7SL Backyard Test
I have recently received permission from Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC), our national organization similar to the ARRL, to post a copy of an article that I wrote for their bimonthly journal, 'The Canadian Amateur'. I have posted a link to the article on my main web index page..."A West Coast Lightwave Project", which describes the building and operating adventure, shared with Markus, VE7CA. This link will also take you to the page.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Follow The Sun!

I like to follow the sun, but ... that doesn't mean that I pack-up and head to Hawaii every winter. I like to follow what is happening on the sun as it so profoundly affects every aspect of skywave propagation.

Where do you get your propagation information?

If you're anything like the rest of us, you probably have two or three favorite sites that you visit to collect the latest data. The news of NOAA's new solar page has been making the e-mail rounds of late and just in case you've missed it....the "Space Weather Enthusiasts Dashboard" (and what ham isn't a 'space weather enthusiast'?) can be found here.

The new site provides an all-in-one viewing experience, with up-to-the-minute reports on such things as the 'K' index, dynamic solar images from various satellites and at various wavelengths, auroral conditions, CME impact predictions (dynamic), a TEC (Total Electron Count) map, sunspot and Solar Cycle activity graphs and more. I didn't see anything showing the daily solar flux numbers (SFI) but it may be there. There is now a growing belief that the SFI value is not that great an indicator of what will or won't be happening, radio-wise, especially when it comes to 50MHz.

Another feature that would be nice, is a display of the latest DST index. This number, based upon equatorial ring currents, is a valuable indicator for the trend in LF propagation. I use the Kyoto site, which provides a real time look at the numbers. Anything positive, or a positive-going trend, is always a good thing to see.
My favorite site is still SolarHam, manned by Kevin (VE3EN). It also provides a smorgasbord of solar information, even more than the new NOAA site!

If you haven't checked these three sites out, have a look...they're well worth a bookmark and a daily visit ... and, you won't have to go to Hawaii to follow the sun.

Sunday 11 January 2015

A New 'VE' on 630m!

Interest in Canada's newest ham band, 630m, continues to slowly grow. Toby (VE7CNF) in Burnaby, BC, has made his first and second CW contacts on the new band!

Both myself and John (VE7BDQ) had the pleasure of working Toby on 473.000 CW on Thursday afternoon. Here is Toby's description of his station at present:

"I have put together a low-power 630m WSPR transmitter here. I have a USB-TG44A signal generator clocking a phasing-type SSB modulator with WSPR audio coming from a laptop. The modulator gives 45db suppression of the carrier and lower sideband. This drives a ZHL-32A 1-watt linear amplifier. I have a matching transformer and loading coil at the base of my 80-meter inverted-L antenna. Wire height is 10m.

John VE7BDQ has weakly received my WSPR signal. Are you able to receive WSPR?

The antenna series resistance is much higher than I expected, probably due to 10 year old antenna wire and only 4 ground radials. Right now the antenna match is poor and efficiency is very low. I may rewind the matching transformer tomorrow and gain a few dB. Maybe soon I’ll have enough signal to complete a 2-way CW QSO with you.

I have attached pictures of the hardware. After I determine the proper configuration I’ll make a more efficient loading coil."

Courtesy: VE7CNF

Courtesy: VE7CNF
Toby has indicated that he will soon start construction of a dedicated DDS-based transmitter, with more power to work with. Situated on a normal-sized suburban lot, and base-loading his 80m inverted-L, is proof once again that fancy antennas and a few acres are not needed to have fun on 630m. Toby's initial night WSPR tests were copied by WH2XGP (W7IUV), near Quincy, Washington, at a little over 200 miles (325km) and on the other side of the rugged Cascade Mountains!

Here is a short video of VE7CNF beaconing in QRSS mode before our QSO. The distance between us is approximately 53km (33 miles)...not bad for 1 watt!
It's great to see new activity. Both VE7PJR (Chuck, near Kamloops) and VE7CA (Markus in North Vancouver) are constructing rigs for the band at present. As well, VE6TA and VA5LF have expressed interest and both have completed crossband QSO's with me on 630m.

As I mentioned to Toby, I'm starting to believe that 630m is a very forgiving band when it comes to both skywave and groundwave as signals have always been much better than I had originally expected. Moving down from 2200m has been the difference between night and day as there is so much more potential for real-time communications on this band compared with 2200m.

Friday 9 January 2015

Grow Light Noise?

In response to an earlier blog about my recent neighbourhood noise problem, Matt (W1MST) , has passed along an interesting link to one ham's solution to a grow-op light source noise. Although I don't necessarily advise taking the same approach, W0IVJ's unique engineering skills may also provide an answer to some other amateur's noise problem, be it any type of ballasted noise-emitter. The rest of his website is well worth a close look as well.

Another type of noise problem was addressed in a posting to the topband reflector today by Don, WD8DSB.....the noise coming from a treadmill's, PWM speed-controlled DC motor.

" For many years my wife's treadmill caused strong interference on 160 meters when it was in use, and yesterday I was able to completely eliminate the RFI using a combination of two different filters (a commercial line filter that provides both common mode and differential mode filtering, and 14
turns of the power cord on a 2.4" OD Fair-Rite #31 mix toroid core based on
the K9YC hams guide to RFI document).

I created a simple website that documents my tests and the filters used,
and for those interested the website URL is:

The website contains a link to a video on youtube where you can actually
see the effectiveness of the filters. "

These two amateurs have developed slick solutions to their noise problems, but sadly, noise ingression is rising exponentially it seems and is becoming more and more challenging to mediate.

Thursday 8 January 2015

The Magic Lives

With the Bz component of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field turning southwards yesterday, an unexpected incoming stream from the sun was able to interact more intensely with the earth's magentic field , producing some fairly active auroral conditions overnight. The 'K' index numbers rose as high as '7'...a rare event, indicating a major disturbance. By dawn, much of the activity was winding down and the ensuing F2 MUF spike was not far behind.

I hope that you were one of the alert 6m operators (not me sadly) able to take advantage of the quick F2 lift. Several stations on the east coast were worked or heard in Europe (EA8, EA7, EA3, IK5, CT1, G3, EI4) while in the afternoon, lucky band-watchers found several loud KH6's to work.


The 6m prop map reveals the unexpected level of mid-winter of Wednesday evening, the Bz is still pointing south and the K has risen to level 4.

What might Thursday bring?

Tuesday 6 January 2015

The Sun, QRM and CLE189

Those of you following the CLE low frequency NDB listening events, will know that this past one was longer than usual, running from December 25th to January 6th. Once again, the sun demonstrated its nasty-side, right on schedule. Conditions from this part of the continent were dreadful, while others, further to the south, were not as badly affected.

The cause of the poor propagation was a continual coronal hole stream, from a very large area in the sun's southern regions, as shown here. Now it appears that Coronal Hole 649, in the north, is about to swing into a geoeffective position, and take over the task of disrupting propagation.

CLE189 covered the range of 275-425KHz, with the objective of logging at least one beacon (preferrably the farthest one) on each available channel (150 in total). There are a number of channels that have no NDBs as well as many that get completely clobbered by 1 Kw DGPS (digital QRM) navigation signals along the coasts and the Great Lakes. Additionaly, I was fighting the new noisemaker in my neighborhood, which has yet to be eliminated.

Here is a screen shot of my Perseus receiver, showing the crud being generated...every 60Hz and never constant...drifting in and out of the desired passband continually. The only way to hear signals was to wait until there was a short hole created by the drifters going by. I will be happy when this is issue is finally resolved.

My log shows 111 stations in total, a surprising number, considering the poor propagation and the QRM. If anything, this demonstrates just what a superb receiver the Perseus SDR is:

29 01:26 275 HIN 1053 Whitney - Chadron Muni Apt, NE, USA
31 13:00 277 ACE 1344 Kachemak - Homer Apt, ALS
31 15:00 278 1U 521 Masset Municipal Apt, BC, CAN
31 15:00 280 GYZ 1005 Camp Guernsey - Guernsey, WY, USA
31 15:00 281 CRN 1510 Cairn Mtn - Sparrevohn LRRS, ALS
31 15:00 283 DUT 1867 Dutch Harbor - Unalaska Apt, ALS
29 09:00 284 QD 1014 The Pas Municipal Apt, MB, CAN
31 04:00 286 EKS 600 Ennis - Big Sky Apt, MT, USA
29 09:00 287 ZWG 1168 Winnipeg, MB, CAN
29 09:00 290 YYF 171 Penticton, BC, CAN
29 09:00 292 ZET 518 Devon - Edmonton IAP, AB, CAN
29 09:00 293 MB 18 Mill Bay - Sidney, BC, CAN
29 09:00 295 8C 537 Fairview Municipal Apt, AB, CAN
31 15:00 296 LGD 349 La Grande, OR, USA
29 09:00 299 TV 417 Turner Valley, AB, CAN
29 09:00 300 YIV 1272 Island Lake Apt, MB, CAN
29 09:00 302 QW 705 North Battleford, SK, CAN
29 09:00 304 FH 485 Mc Leod (Whitecourt), AB, CAN
29 09:00 305 YQ 1362 Churchill / Eastern Creek, MB, CAN
29 06:00 308 ZZD 515 Calmar (Edmonton Intl Apt), AB, CAN
29 08:00 311 9Y 421 Pincher Creek, AB, CAN
29 08:00 312 UNT 173 Naramata, BC, CAN
31 08:00 317 VC 873 La Ronge, SK, CAN
29 12:00 320 YQF 469 Red Deer - Penhold, AB, CAN
29 12:00 323 HJH 1393 Hebron Municipal Apt, NE, USA
31 06:00 325 YJQ 312 Bella Bella (Campbell Island), BC, CAN
29 12:00 326 DC 131 Princeton Municipal Apt, BC, CAN
29 07:00 328 YTL 1465 Big Trout Lake, ON, CAN
29 12:00 329 YEK 1414 Arviat, NU, CAN
02 09:00 330 2A 1147 South Indian Lake Apt, MB, CAN
29 13:00 332 POA 2681 Pahoa - Hawaii Island, HWA
29 09:00 333 STI 540 'Sturgeon' Mountain Home, ID, USA
29 09:00 334 YER 1560 Fort Severn, ON, CAN
29 09:00 335 YLD 1813 Chapleau - Devon, ON, CAN
29 12:00 336 LF 1167 La Salle, MB, CAN
29 09:00 337 7D 956 Hudson Bay, SK, CAN
29 08:00 338 RYN 1316 Ryan Field Apt - Tucson, AZ, USA
29 09:00 339 6X 1237 York Landing, MB, CAN
29 09:00 340 YY 2452 Mont Joli, QC, CAN
31 15:00 341 ELF 1710 Elfee - Cold Bay, ALS
29 12:00 342 PFT 1232 Piney - Pinecreek Border Apt, MN, USA
29 12:00 343 YZH 571 Slave Lake Municipal Apt, AB, CAN
29 14:00 344 FCH 857 Chandler - Fresno, CA, USA
29 09:00 346 YXL 1401 Sioux Lookout Municipal Apt, ON, CAN
29 09:00 347 PA 814 Prince Albert, SK, CAN
29 12:00 348 MNC 112 'Mason Co' Shelton, WA, USA
29 09:00 349 GW 1999 'Teock' Greenwood, MS, USA
29 08:00 350 RG 1604 GALLY - Oklahoma City, OK, USA
31 08:00 351 YKQ 1948 Waskaganish, QC, CAN
29 09:00 353 LLD 2684 Lanai - Lanai Island, HWA
29 09:00 355 YWP 1572 Webequie, ON, CAN
29 09:00 356 ZF 995 Yellowknife, NT, CAN
29 09:00 358 SIT 750 Sitka - Biorka Island, ALS
29 09:00 359 SDY 879 Sidney, MT, USA
29 09:00 360 SW 1267 'Roadd' Warroad, MN, USA
29 09:00 361 E3 630 Wabasca, AB, CAN
29 09:00 362 YZS 1807 Coral Harbour, NU, CAN
29 09:00 364 4D 735 Helmet, BC, CAN
29 09:00 365 HQG 1362 Hugoton Municipal Apt, KS, USA
29 07:00 366 YMW 2179 Maniwaki, QC, CAN
29 09:00 367 R5 1038 Pukatawagan Apt, MB, CAN
02 10:00 368 PNM 1402 Princeton Municipal Apt, MN, USA
29 13:00 370 YBV 1169 Berens River Apt, MB, CAN
29 09:00 371 GW 1946 Jarpik - Kuujjuarapik, QC, CAN
29 09:00 372 ZPA 824 Glass (Prince Albert), SK, CAN
29 09:00 373 TF 1191 ARUBA - Pueblo Mem Apt, CO, USA
29 13:00 374 LV 776 REIGA - Livermore, CA, USA
29 09:00 375 BM 1163 Balmoral, MB, CAN
29 09:00 376 YAG 1345 Fort Frances, ON, CAN
29 09:00 377 EHA 1350 Elkhart - Morton County Apt, KS, USA
29 12:00 378 OT 381 EMIRE - North Bend, OR, USA
29 09:00 379 YBE 945 Uranium City, SK, CAN
29 09:00 380 OEL 1297 Oakley Municipal Apt, KS, USA
29 09:00 382 YPL 1461 Pickle Lake, ON, CAN
29 09:00 383 CNP 1146 Chappell, NE, USA
29 09:00 384 3F 792 Ile-a-la-crosse, SK, CAN
29 15:00 385 EHM 1693 Cape Newenham LRRS Apt, ALS
29 09:00 386 HAU 558 Hauser - Helena, MT, USA
02 09:00 387 CAV 1473 Clarion, IA, USA
29 08:00 388 AM 2596 'Picny' Tampa, FL, USA
29 13:00 389 CSB 1275 Harry Strunk - Cambridge Muni, NE, USA
29 10:00 390 HBT 1620 Borland - Sand Point Apt, ALS
29 09:00 391 DDP 3772 Dorado - Vega Baja, PTR
29 12:00 392 XVG 1344 Longville, MN, USA
29 09:00 393 BR 2101 'Depoo' Brownsville, TX, USA
29 09:00 394 RWO 1333 Woody Island - Kodiak, ALS
29 09:00 395 ULS 1342 Ulysses Apt, KS, USA
29 09:00 396 YPH 1923 Inukjuak Apt, QC, CAN
29 09:00 397 ZSS 760 Yellowhead (Saskatoon), SK, CAN
29 09:00 398 3D 965 Cumberland House, SK, CAN
29 09:00 399 ZHD 1371 'Thunder' Dryden, ON, CAN
29 09:00 400 FN 1071 COLLN - Fort Collins, CO, USA
29 09:00 400 CKN 1220 Crookston, MN, USA
29 09:00 401 YPO 1644 Peawanuck Apt, ON, CAN
29 09:00 402 L4 888 Nipawin, SK, CAN
29 13:00 403 AZC 971 Colorado City Municipal Apt, AZ, USA
29 15:00 404 GCR 1185 Glacier River - Cordova Apt, ALS
29 14:00 405 2K 538 Camrose, AB, CAN
29 09:00 406 YLJ 725 Meadow Lake, SK, CAN
29 08:00 407 CO 1157 PETEY - Fountain, CO, USA
29 09:00 408 MW 221 PELLY - Moses Lake, WA, USA
29 10:00 408 JDM 1270 Wheatfield - Colby, KS, USA
29 12:00 410 GDV 860 Glendive - Dawson Comm Apt, MT, USA
29 09:00 412 1W 996 Sandy Bay, SK, CAN
29 12:00 413 YHD 1361 Dryden Regional, ON, CAN
29 09:00 414 GRN 1094 Gordon, NE, USA
29 09:00 415 CBC 3129 Cayman Brac - West End, CYM
29 09:00 417 IY 1508 CHUKK - Floyd, IA, USA
29 09:00 419 RYS 1975 Detroit / Grosse Ile, MI, USA
29 09:00 420 FQ 1422 MONTZ - East Chain, MN, USA
29 09:00 421 VLY 1721 McKenney, TX, USA

Once again, the 10' x 20' loop was employed for the entire affair, surviving two bad wind storms during the listening event.

Sunday 4 January 2015

House Number Four

It seems that if I'm not chasing down noisy power poles or hunting for drifting wireless headsets, both of which have tried their best to tax my 6m reception this past year, I spend several hours each year chasing down delinquent noise generators!

I spent yesterday afternoon searching the neighbourhood for the source of an annoying and disruptive 120Hz hum. Testing my patience for about a week now, the AC buzz has been ripping-into my usually quiet LF reception, disrupting efforts to participate in the latest CLE (189) listening event. Although conditions have been poor, as usually occurs during these events, the signal-shrouding AC hum has made the event a real struggle.

I had been hoping that, whatever the source of the suddenly-appearing interference was, it would disappear as quickly as it had arrived. I had first noticed it several weeks ago, but it would always go off around bedtime and often was not there at all in the evenings...but the past week it has been there 24/7.

Yesterday I had finally had enough and with Sony 2010 in hand, along with its built-in ferrite bar antenna, I tuned the radio to 630m and started walking around the neighbourhood.

The first thing I noticed was that the signal was being propagated along the overhead powerlines and it was difficult to get a direction of the true source...all nulls pointed to the closest line. Walking to the north, the signal gradually became weaker and reversing direction to the south produced an ever-increasing AC hum...progress! I eventually found a corner where the QRN peaked, and walking in all directions from that point saw the noise diminish...getting warmer!

There were four possible homes here that could be the cause of the problem. I spoke with three of the four homeowners, all of whom seemed genuinely concerned about the source. They all let me into their homes and, with radio in hand, look for the source of the (by now) loud buzz. None of the three homes seemed to furnish the nasty noisemaker.

House number four was unoccupied but was, I was told, up until about a week ago. Venturing on to the property, the S9 buzz started to climb and by the time I had reached the porch, the Sony was on the verge of self-implosion...getting very hot now! A knock on the door confirmed that nobody was home but...behind the curtain, there it was...a floor lamp was turned ON!!

With the source now located I could now breath a little easier but unfortunately could not hear any quieter. Hopefully the owners, who go back and forth to the mainland frequently, will return soon and that LF will once again sound as it should.

What could be screwed into that floor lamp? I'm betting on a poor-quality or about-to-fail CFL bulb.

The one on the left is the actual bulb that I removed from a crawlspace, about four years ago, three houses away. It had been creating the same sort of buzz, only louder, as it was much closer. It was not emitting any light whatsoever yet continued to generate noise as well as present a real fire hazard. The house occupants had left it switched 'on' in order to discourage the local otter population from making a winter home in their crawlspace. Somewhere along the line the bulb had failed and started generating large amounts of AC hum.

This one was tough to find, as even several blocks away, it was very loud. It seems that power lines make wonderful LF antennas. I had to make a map showing signal strengths at many locations to find the source... my neighbours have since given me a key to their house, just in case it happens again!

So...what do you think is in house number four?

Friday 2 January 2015

New Year's Eve Magic

9el LFA at VE7DAY
When the winter solar flux numbers drop to dismal levels, many 6m guys just stop watching the band...myself included.
During the last solar rotation, flux values rose to near-Cycle highs and quickly plummeted, along with any hope of finding that six-meter Holy Grail...long-haul F2 propagation. Many six meter ops quickly found other things to do.

One person that didn't stop watching, and never does, was John - VE7DAY, in Campbell River, B.C., on Vancouver Island. John is VE7's iron man of 6m and spends almost 100% of his radio time seeking the magic.

For the past few winters, John has pointed his beam towards the south Pacific at around sunset, and called CQ from the VE7 black hole....on Tuesday evening he was justly rewarded.

At 00:50 UTC on the 31st, John's CQ was answered by Roger, ZL3RC in Christchurch, on New Zealand's South Island...12,021km from Campbell River.

6el Yagi at ZL3RC

One minute later, John worked Chris, ZL2DX, in Martinborough, on the North Island.

8el Yagi at ZL2DX

At 0111 UTC, John completed the hat-trick by working Paul, ZL4PW, in Oamaru, back on the South Island.

Paul, ZL4PW / 7el at 7m
The last contact was a new CW distance record for John, at 12,233 km! He also broke some records on the PNWVHF Society's Distance Scoreboard as announced in a congratulatory e-mail by K7CW, keeper of the books, and one of many dedicated 6m operators from Seattle:

"Decades ago, many DXers believed that Argentina was the world DX hot spot. DXers and contesters seemed to do the best down there. When I was in Brazil, one of the places I lived in was the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, PT9-land. It was only about an hour-and-a-half's drive to the Paraguay border, so conditions there were pretty near like those in Argentina, which was also nearby. I ran 100 watts to a vertical wire taped to a bamboo rod... and thought my QTH must have been included in the hot spot area.

I think now we are becoming aware of another hot spot, this one being in North America on Vancouver Island. I'm speaking, of course, of the your QTH, John! You seem to be doing quite well from that location. Keep it up!!

I see you worked clear down to ZL4. I'm envious. I've been looking for a ZL4 contact for a long time. Today when the band was open to ZL, I was on the road returning from Tacoma. Well, I'm glad you were able to work that great DX.

I will change the Distance Scoreboard to indicate the new records you established today. Congrats!

73, Paul K7CW"

With the present dismal solar flux and low solar activity, it is not likely that these contacts were via the F2 mode, but you wouldn't know it from the size of John's signal, recorded by ZL3RC. Being in the middle of our secondary sporadic-E season, north of the equator and at the peak of the major Es season down-under, I think a better candidate is an Es-link from both sides into the Trans Equatorial afternoon 'bubble'....certainly Es from both ends into whatever is happening in the ionospheric cauldron at the equator!

All four stations were running high power and big antennas, and with a little help from the seasonal E, it all seems to have come together nicely.

 Congrats to all involved, and especially John, as all of the other 6m ops in this part of the country, including myself, were asleep at the switch it seems!