Wednesday, 6 March 2019

New Radios...

It's been a busy four weeks here in the VE3FI shack, three new radios have appeared and when I'm not on HF I've been playing around on C4FM digital VHF and UHF.  We don't have a digital repeater here in Kingston, but in my travels, I come across them on a regular basis.

First to appear was a new FT2D.  It's a great little handheld, and it really showed me the benefits of operating digital voice modes.  In simplex, using digital narrow, my signal goes about half as far again as it does in FM.   It's very easy to use and the programming software is pretty intuitive to use.  It also has GPS and APRS built into it.

Second up was an FTM-100DR mobile rig, this is now about to be installed in my vehicle.  It is a dual band with built-in GPS and APRS capability.  The learning curve to use it was steep, especially as I had no experience with digital radios before.  Once you get used to it it's a nice radio, and I suggest that you get the programming software as it just makes life so much easier.

The last radio (my wife will be very happy to read that...) is an FTM-7250D mobile rig that will live on the bench in the shack.  This radio was up and running within ten minutes of arriving at the house.  I bought the programming software with it, as I did with the other two, and it certainly makes things easier.  The RX audio is fantastic. This rig does not have GPS or APRS, which is why I will use it in the shack.

Overall I have been really happy with the audio reports I have had using these three rigs.  All of them have great built-in speakers, you do not need an external speaker to hear things clearly.  Using them locally in simplex I have been really impressed with their range, it's far better than plain FM.

Many people have asked me why I chose to go with C4FM instead of DMR or DStar.  That's an easy answer.  I like Yaesu, and having read all about the hacking and jamming of the DStar and DMR repeaters in Toronto by one individual, and the fact that the one individual managed to have all the DMR & DStar repeaters shut down because of his constant malicious interference, I simply chose to stay away from those modes.  Another great feature is that I can use these rigs on analog repeaters as well.

I also looked at the list of C4FM repeaters in Ontario listed on RepeaterBook, and was pleased to see that the current list of C4FM repeaters is twice as large as the other two modes combined.

It was a big learning curve, but I'm looking forward to moving forward with C4FM.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Lousy Propagation...

As expected the propagation for this years ARRL International DX Contest was pretty bad.  At 2020 UTC on March 2nd the propagation numbers were SFI = 70, SN = 0, A-Index = 24, and the K-index = 2.

The surprise of the day on Saturday was the fact that 15m was open.  I managed to work a pile of South American stations, but none from the EU.  It seemed to be strictly north-south propagation only.....however, 20m was open in the EU, but not into South America.

There were lots of stations calling CQ, and most of them had big pile-ups answering them.  Nevertheless, most of the stations calling CQ seemed to be using far too much power and their antennas couldn't hear those answering.

In fact, I received an on-air lecture from a KP4 station who after breaking in to ask what I was running, proceded to tell me that I was wasting peoples time by only running 100w into a wire antenna, and I should just go away and leave the contesting to the "real hams".  According to this master of amateur radio, a person needs at least a three element beam and 1000w to contest properly.  The poor guy had a major heart attack when I signed QRP.... I wasn't - but it was fun listening to the idiot fly into an even deeper rage for another five minutes about the evils of QRP, and the great damage it does to the hobby.  Maybe I should mention that the KP4 had been a ham for a total of two years ..........

Sunday wasn't much different from Saturday, lousy propagation and guys who couldn't hear too well. A number of hams mentioned that this year their scores were way down from last year, in fact, most were down by more than half.  I guess that's what happened at the bottom of the cycle.

The CQ World-Wide DX Contest is coming up at the end of the month, so I better get working on a new antenna system, so I too can become a "real ham" and compete with the big boys 😎