Grid Watch UK

Sunday 20 November 2016

New link HF Signals added

A new link for Ashhar Farhan's new BITX40 production website, HF signals added to the right hand side column of my blog. Sites that do it for me.

You can guess what I am going to write about next?

Thursday 3 November 2016

CQ CQ CQ from a beach using a Baofeng

Last week we took our late holiday to North West Wales (GW land), of course I had packed a Baofeng UV-82 at the side of my toothbrush.  Most of the week when we had been around, I had not heard much break the squelch while the rig had been left switched on and left on the table inside our caravan.

Later on in the week getting a bit bored, I decided to take the Baofeng down on the beach.

Our temporary QTH was situated mid way on the Cambrian coast, making it ideal for contacts over to the North (Abersoch and Cricceth area), and to the South of the bay which lies the seaside town of Barmouth.

I must admit after nearly a week of hearing nothing but noise on 2m I wasn't too hopeful of hearing anything.

But the first CQ I put out, straight away an instant reply! MW0RHD came back and give me a 5/5 reporting wind noise on top of my modulation, however we managed to exchange names and QTH's,  he was about 6 miles NW across the bay from me as the crow flies, near the coastal town of Pwllheli, using an Icom from an homebase with an excellent take off towards the South where I was situated.

The sun was begining to set, and so was my battery,  the radio started beeping low and interupted the short QSO. I had left the radio on all week in standby mode with no thought of topping it up on the charger.

What this does prove you might not think there is any one around when the band is so quiet, so do always try a CQ. Always make sure the battery is well topped up, or better still take a spare charged pack and you won't get caught out like I did.

Saturday 1 October 2016

MDT40 progress

It has been sometime since I bought the MDT40  (Minimalist Double Sideband Transceiver) kit from OZQRP.

Progress has been slow due to family commitments. But slowly it is now starting to take shape:

Hopefully in a few weeks time I will have it all boxed and complete.

Exciting times - Baofeng DM-5R arrives in the UK.

There has been much talk about the Baofeng dual band VHF/UHF DMR DM-5R recently.

I noticed while viewing ebay today, that one seller now has it available, but only ready out of the box for Tier 1, although I understand it can be easily upgraded to Tier 2. The price makes it even more exciting, at half the price of a single band model currently offered from TYT. Typical of Baofeng to get into the act at the right price!

I am in no rush to buy one yet, as there are very few DMR repeaters in my area, although one is due soon a few miles North of me at Stafford. So for the time being I will just sit back and await the many reviews to appear, before I decide.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Hand-carried QRP antennas VK3YE

The maestro of the Ham video VK3YE has written his 2nd ebook for the kindle. Peter kindly sent me the details as below:

Summary of Hand-carried QRP antennas

Whether through choice or circumstance, more radio amateurs than ever before are enjoying portable operating. 

Suitable equipment is widely available but what about antennas?  Manufactured antennas exist but only some suit lightweight portable activity.  And, it’s easy to overpay for something that’s too heavy and too lossy for successful QRP.  

Hand-carried QRP antennas takes the mystery out of portable antennas.  After inviting you to assess your needs, it discusses the pros and cons of popular types.  Its style is brisk and practical with almost no maths.

Many ideas for cheap but good materials suitable for portable antennas are given.   Beginners and those returning to radio after a break should especially find this section handy. 

Finally there’s construction details on a variety of simple but practical antennas and accessories suitable for portable operating.  All have been built and tested by the author over almost 30 years of successful QRP activity.  

Hand-carried QRP antennas is an ebook readable on most devices.  It’s the author’s second book, following on from the top-selling Minimum QRP, released in 2015. 


Peter (mis?)spent his youth at rubbish tips, taking apart given radios and TVs and building electronic projects that mostly did not work.  He avoided soldering until figuring out that new solder works better than reusing solder from terminal strips in valve radios.  

Milestones included the construction of a crystal set in 1980, discovering shortwave broadcasting on a valve receiver in 1981 and a simple ‘electronic organ’ in 1982 from a Dick Smith Fun Way book.  Hours were spent putting wires into springs on a Tandy 150-in-1 electronics set.  Amazingly some wires could be pulled out and the project would still sort of work with only half the parts in circuit. 

Two back to back AM/shortwave radios led to the discovery of amateur SSB activity and a novice licence in 1985.  The following year was spent building transmitters no one heard.  A one valve crystal controlled CW transmitter from the 1973 ARRL Handbook provided the first contacts – mostly CW/SSB crossmode on the 3.579 MHz TV colour burst crystal frequency.   The value of frequency agility was an early lesson and various VFOs were built, most of them drifty.  

The 1990s brought more bands, more modes and smaller gear.  Projects included a 7 MHz VXO CW direct conversion transceiver, 2m FM portable transceiver, and a 14 MHz CW transmitter for Cycle 22, then near its peak.  Later favourites included HF DSB and SSB transceivers (often using ceramic resonators, ladder crystal filters, NE602s and BD139 transistors) and phasing SSB equipment.  

Limited space led to experiments with magnetic loops and HF pedestrian mobile.  The joys of the latter (along with the perils of a trailing counterpoise) were first discovered with a converted Johnson Viking CB on 28 MHz.  This was mounted in a carpeted chipboard box with battery and 1.5 metre whip.  A move to a bayside suburb brought further HF portable and pedestrian mobile activity which remains an interest to this day. 

 More details from the VK3YE website

Tuesday 31 May 2016

BM-800 Mic support group opened.

Due to the intense traffic and interest in the BM-800 Microphone modification, and the amount I have noted sold since the last Blog.  I have opened a support group on Facebook for anyone interested using them for Amateur radio purposes..

Please note this is a Closed group. Anyone can find the group and see who's in it. Only members can see posts.

As well as the the G4IZH modification, it will be interesting hearing your own thoughts and modifications plus any further ideas.  Even if you just run a BM-800 into a simple audiomixer please join the group to help others.

73 Steve

Saturday 21 May 2016

Really cheap cheap BM-800's!

For those of you who read my BM-800 microphone, G4IZH modification Blog I wrote early April. A UK ebay seller is currently selling the BM800 at a silly price of £6.99 ($10) including UK delivery! These are branded Floureon BM-800 which are the same specification as the 48V ones I have already mentioned, making them ideal for conversion as the details on the link above or for using straight into an audiomixer.

The price proved so irresistable, I decided to purchase another pair and they arrived boxed with all the accessories within a couple of days of clicking the mouse: 

Really the price is so stupid, you could fill the cupboard with a load. If you make a mistake with the mods or a slip with the soldering iron you are not going to end up red faced or feel it on your pocket. The G4IZH project is now really viable for a club, to get your heads together, purchase a shed full and have a modification night.

Link to seller:

(3/7/16) The offer has now ended, so I have removed the sellers link. Hope you got yours? 

* Please note this is a UK seller and I don't know if they ship internationally? I have no connection with this company only to spread you Amateurs with the news.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Windows 7 says it's last goodbye!

Last night I switched on the PC it booted into Windows 7 as normal, after a quick look around at a few Ham sites I was called for my tea. After returning to my desk after eating my roast beef and Yorkshire puds I returned to something new!

Unknowing to me Windows 10 had downloaded in the background and installed itself on my PC without even informing me. Yes, Microsoft can take over your machine without you even knowing! It appears if you have got your settings set for auto updates it will do this. Beware! Big brother is really alive! Would Microsoft like it if I came in through the back door and took over their servers and PCs, I think not!

I must admit though, there were only a couple of little hiccups which I sorted in an hour or so, everything seems to have gone over clean. It appears you can revert back to your previous operating system but only within 30 days of the install.

Sunday 10 April 2016

BM-800 Mic something to talk about.

The BM-800 microphone has been around for a few years, search ebay and an abundance of them will flood your screen. The BM-800 and 700 versions are produced in China, the BM-700 version only has slight cosmetic differences but is basically the same. The BM-800 is well constructed for a price of around £10 "including delivery"  putting most expensive commercial microphones to shame for price! Infact you could buy a score of BM-800's to one well known branded studio microphone.

Until recently there were two types of the BM-800 available, one version was badged Shengyue BM-800, this had the advantage of an onboard 1.5V battery to feed the condenser insert. Thus the great advantage of this no external supply was required. This model has now become as rare as hens teeth and we are left with the 48V version. This type however requires an external 48V voltage fed up the cable to charge the insert. Some have overcome this problem using the microphone with an external audio mixer and feeding it using the 48V phantom power supply from the mixer. There is also another problem, the audio output is balanced, and again if not using a mixer you have got to find a method of changing it's output to unbalanced to feed your rig.

I have a couple of these microphones still wrapped up in their boxes and have been thinking for sometime how I could match them straight into my radio's without using a mixer etc.

Until recently there had been very few modification ideas around for this model, but a few nights ago I stumbled across a website from Pete G4IZH  who has not only done all that is required to convert the mic from 48V to around 9V that can be taken from your radio's external mic socket supply, or even using a 9V battery, which could be made to fit inside the BM-800 case. The board has then been hacked, to get rid of the balanced output and then fed directly into a filter to tame the HF and LF response ranges, making it more ideal for Amateur requirements. Of course you don't have to do it quite the same, especially if you want to fit a PP3 battery inside the case a bit more room will be required, but all the information is now there to customize the idea to your own requirements.

Reference G4IZH BM-800 modifications here

Saturday 26 March 2016

QSO Today interview with VK3YE

A peruse around the web I came across a recent interview with the multitasking amateur radio constructive video producer VK3YE.

This is well worth a listen, when having your midnight cocoa:

I can only reflect some of the similar things of visiting the dump, or being given old televisons & radios to pull apart that got myself interested in the hobby many years ago..

Monday 29 February 2016

Spring is nearly in the air, the new HF rig is ordered and on the way.

The decision was made and the piggy bank shaken empty right down to the last penny. I came to the conclusion the best HF radio within my budget was the Yaesu FTDX1200. Negotiation was done on the phone with the friendly team down at ML&S, happy with the deal I sent the cheque.

Obviously I have been a long time fan of Yaesu, I think they have made some very good radio gear over the years, still forefront leaders of the game with an excellent updated range to suit all pockets. How I came to choose this radio I will leave to another blog, but there was a budget which had to be strictly adhered too. 

Of course there is a little free offer thrown in with the radio at the moment, that made it a bit more attractive with a choice of one of three options. This has to be redeemed direct from Yaesu UK. I will opt to go for the FFT-1 unit, allowing additional AF-FFT scope along with CW, PSK31, encode/decode live on the radio's screen.

This morning I received an email the radio was on it's way from the warehouse and into packing:

All photo's ML&S

High on the rack along with the other stock my rig was about to leave the stores, destined for despatch and then on to it's new home.

Glad to see it is still made in Japan.

A bit heavy I hope he had his Weetabix?

Phew! Made it, ready for packing and then forwarding on to the courier, should be with you shortly.

Sunday 28 February 2016

RSGB grants permission to use images of book covers.

It has been sometime since I wrote the short review of the RSGB Radio Communication Handbook  12th edition:

Cover courtesy RSGB

At the time of writing I didn't have permission from the RSGB to include images from their books.. However I have recently been in touch with the RSGB and have been granted permission to include them on my blog, subject to asking at the time I require.

Thank you 

Mark Allgar, M1MPA
RSGB Commercial & Membership Manager

That particular blog has now been updated with the cover image, see link above.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

New Radio but which one?

It has been over 30 years since I invested in a big Amateur base station radio, that being the good old FT-736R which has certainly stood the test of time, and is still in good use today, doesn't that say something how well these radios were made. However HF, I have always managed with secondhand offerings, apart from a new Yaesu FT-817 I bought several years ago, and few QRP kit built projects, nothing has really taken my interest, until now!

                                                                     Good old trusty                                          

                                                               Unparalleled FT-817                                            

A major new rig purchase every 10 years I guess is not going to break the bank.

Yaesu have started off the New Year slashing the price of FTDX1200 making it  quite affordable, and within budget, plus a little free option thrown in on top, thus making this radio quite an attractive buy. But there is also the new Yaesu FT-991 to consider, which is also priced around the same, shack in a box offering 2m/70cm on top. Then along has come this new wild card, to throw my decison off course. The ICOM IC-7300 SDR is the new kid on the block, but there is not much to be seen in the flesh with this radio at the moment, apart from a few video's and snap shots.

Is it best play safe and stick with the name that has always served me well over the years?

Decision time, is not always easy, when there are a lot of good products on the market to tempt the money away from the purse, one can only afford to buy one, but which one?

Saturday 30 January 2016

Carrying On The Practical Way - Follow up

Since making it known to the world last weekend about the release of "Carrying on the Practical Way" from PW, written by G3RJV since August 1996. That particular Blog was proved to be the most eye catching article I have written so far, with Hundreds of hits over the first couple of days of it's issue. I also guess the tills have been busy ringing down at Practical Wireless HQ, at one stage it was marked as SOLD OUT but they soon pressed the restock button and reset this. Does this mean I get a Christmas card from them this year, or George gets a few extra Royalties to help his pension along?

What it does prove though is what I have said before and made well known to PW several years ago, that G3RJV's series is very popular, and well liked in our circles, and will always be the anchor for the Novice to find a good reference point and solid footing into our hobby. Another way of putting George's work, is like a fine Wine that matures with age, or a Matt Monro recording that never fades, that is of course if you appreciate Matt Monro?
I have now printed some of my missing early parts out and bound them up into a folder, allowing me to read it when I have a boring moment:

One or Two contacted me to ask if this will be available as a book? I just don't know, but judging by the intense interest of traffic, over to you Practical Wireless!

Saturday 23 January 2016

Carrying On The Practical Way - Practical Wireless - G3RJV

When anyone says QRP they always relate to the Low Power side of our hobby and the GQRP Club  founded by the Rev George Dobbs (G3RJV), over 40 years ago. Some may not know that George has written columns and many pages for technical radio hobby magazines over the years.

One being is Practical Wireless which he has written on average a two page monthly article for the last 20 years or so, called "Carrying on the Practical Way". The series consisted of simple electronic projects which could be built up out of a scrap box of components on a dark Winters evening. The projects have always proved to be very useful and popular, whether just a simple Colpitts oscillator, amplifier, low Pass filter. Or  maybe something a bit more technical to  get you on the air! A Receiver and a QRP Transmitter along with some simple test equipment to help you prove what you had built was functional, accurate and even transmitting a carrier. All which were covered by his simple designs in the series.

I had wrote to PW several years ago, asking them to collate the pages together and release this as a book, as it had been one of the most useful and methodical technical series, I thought this had fell on deaf ears?

 However, recently G3RJV retired from writing for Practical Wireless, and they have now decided the time was right to release the entire series on disk in PDF format.

Mine arrived in the post this morning, and it's something I will be busy looking over in my spare time, as some of the articles I have missed as I have a hole in my PW collection.
Carrying on the Practical Way is available from PW publishing LTD for £15 plus postage. Click on this Link for further details. Please note! I have no connection with PW so please don't contact me.

I recommend this series to the novice and those just starting out in electronics, or even the mature converted like myself. There is something in it for everyone, timeless, simple understandable electronics, that is a bonus in the shack and it is well worth a purchase.