All posts by j0n

Married, 4 radios, no cats or dogs, one stove!

APRS activity in Ireland

In a conversation  late last year (at the TAPR DCC)  I was asked what is the actual level of APRS activity in Ireland.  Thinking about the answer for a while, I realised that I really didn’t know, and that got me wondering how to go about visualising it.

I quickly came across  Leaflet.heat, a Leaflet plugin plugin for generating heatmaps, so I  bodged together some python to grab packets of moving stations from the APRS-IS backbone and put them into a format Leaflet.heat can read.  After gathering about 6000 data points, here is what it looks like:

So, there you go, it is fairly conclusive that Cork city has the most ‘on-air’ APRS activity. This is followed by Waterford area, Galway area and then the main motorways.

Ham Radio… Now What?

I was looking for something to watch/listen to while tidying up my inbox today after being away for three weeks or so.  We took in the ARRL/TAPR Digital communications conference while in Florida. As I enjoyed this years DCC so much,  i went looking for last years DCC banquet speech.  Ward Silver, N0AX, gave an excellent talk on the direction the hobby should take for it’s second century.  I particularly liked his comment about contesting and being “able to heard the world turn”. Thanks to Gary Pearce, KN4AQ for attending the DCC and working so hard to make the videos available (feed the pig!).

SSB Field day 2015

Last weekend, I joined other members of Tipperary Amateur Radio Group on the farm of Paul, EI3ENB for the SSB Field day.

EI5HBB operating
EI5HBB in Search and Pounce mode.

40m and 80m Dipoles, with the Tribander at the left of the picture.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any decent runs going on 20m or 15m which would have helped our score quite a bit, however Eoghan, EI5HBB was at the microphone when we got a decent run on 80m for about 90 minutes in the early hours of Sunday morning.


EI7IG's suite
My comfortable accommodation for the night.

Looking forward to next year already!

Irish Summers getting brighter?

I’ve been recording the “Monthly Average” output from my PV system for a while (Since 2011). Looking at the figures for this summer.  The “Sunniest” month was June (91 Watts), followed by August (83 Watts) and then July (81 Watts).

Ok, so July sucked, I think we all knew that.  However what surprised me was when I looked at the results from previous years. It appears that the system has produced more power on average this year than any previous year.

To be continued…

Is this normal?

Over the last while, I’ve been slowly plugging away at getting 100 confirmed DXCC entities on 15m.  Last Friday  I was on 89 confirmed on Logbook of the World (LOTW).

The International Amateur Radio Union HF Championship  was on last wekend, so, after a stint as EI0HQ Saturday evening on behalf of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society, I did some Search & Pounce operating on Sunday morning.

Since then the first thing I do when I get home is check the post for any new QSL cards, first thing in the morning I’m checking LOTW to see if any new confirmations have come in.  I’m even checking LOTW during the day, just in case (94 confirmed this morning).  It has become a bit of an obsession!

An outdoor weekend

I had two completely different outdoor experiences this past weekend, both hugely enjoyable in their own ways.

Saturday I took a trip in a Canoe (my first ever) with the Into The Wild Survival.

The view

Four of us were sheparded down the River Suir by Frank Deegan and John McGrath (John is pictured below).

Captain John

We paddled from the Swiss Cottage in Cahir to Clonmel on Saturday, camped overnight on the river bank, just east of Clonmel, then continued on from Clonmel to Fiddown on Sunday. A long trip, though very tiring, it was very enjoyable and I really can’t wait to get out for another trip.

Some videos Frank took during the trip.

You can see my best side in the clip below (I’m in the white hat).

Monday and Tuesday were a different story, two days at Millbrook Off Road Centre (Lantra accredited), being instructed on the finer points of driving off road. Kevin, Thomas and their team were excellent to work with, great instructors. Below is a taster of what you can expect.

They are having a 4×4 Festival the 11th and 12th of July, definitely worth checking out (get off the M9 at Castledermot).

In summary, a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a “long” weekend!

CQ WPX RTTY and memories.

So there I was early Saturday afternoon wondering what to do with myself before the England-Italy match kicked off. The CQ WPX RTTY contest was on, so I sat down in the shack, installed Fldigi, and configured it to work with my K3. I have a 15m Inverted V Dipole up which is my best antenna, so I operated in Search and Pounce (S&P) for a bit and was working away nicely with no real issues other than the operator hitting the wrong keys on the keyboard.

Last time I operated a RTTY contest from home like this I was using a Kenwood TS-2000X, I was very very disappointed with the radio at the time, so much so that I sold it pretty quickly afterwards. It appeared to suffer badly with strong signals capturing the automatic gain control (AGC) and completely blocking out out the weaker stations. The K3 was having no such issues (thankfully).

CQ WPX 2015

This left me with a quandary. What do do about the Rugby? Well, my Intel Nuc has a Mini DP connector so I borrowed the screen from my Mac Mini, opened up RTE Live  on it and voila!

I took a break from the contest for the Ireland-France game and resumed afterwards, finishing up with about 130 contacts (QSOs) in the log by Saturday evening.

I did not feel well Sunday morning, so I gave myself the modest goal of 200 QSOs. After a break to watch Scotland get robbed of a win against Wales, I ran for a bit, then hit 250 Q’s, returned to S&P again then 300, finally deciding that I had enough done at 329.

That said, I really really missed having a bandmap. A band map is a display of recent DX spots by frequency. You can see one in the middle of the picture below. This display is user-configurable in many ways including the length of time to display, the frequencies to include,  etc. It lets you see at a glance what activity is on the selected band and, if you see a station you really really really want to get into your log. You can pounce with a click of the mouse.

Last year after listening to the LHS guys interview Petr, OK2CQR, I was convinced to give CQRLOG a go. I have gotten so used to its bandmap that really missed it.

Screenshot of OK2CQR’s Desktop showing cqrlog.

After the contest I was chatting to G0HWW on IRC about my issue and he pointed me at an old blog post of his (thanks Darren), initial testing seems promising but rigctld seems to exit with errors now and again. More work is needed I think.

Sunday afternoon, in the melee, I was running and a callsign appeared on my screen that seemed familiar, N9TGR. I responded with my normal report and was trying to figure out how I knew the callsign. I saw the other stations report appear on the screen and at the end of it was “UP THE DUBS”.  The penny dropped.  In 2009 I travelled to Chicago to present at the ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference, somehow Andy Ronan, N9TGR (a dub, and no relation that we know of and also EI6KG), got wind I was going to be there and suggested that I call out for dinner with him and his family one of the evenings while I was there.  I also remember joking it would be highly unlikely that we would ever meet up on air! Suffice it to say I spent a most enjoyable evening with Andy and his family, they showed great hospitality,  great memories!