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The Anorak Files

A blog dedicated to cool stuff like ham radio, birdwatching and bus timetables

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:32:37 +0000


Mother Nature

Wed, 19 Jan 2011 03:51:00 +0000

Up until a couple of days ago, I used to have a Comet H-422 in V configuration as my main antenna.

When I say used to, I mean I still have the antenna, it's just it isn't in V configuration anymore. In fact, I'm not sure what configuration you'd call it at the moment, Sloping dipole?


Why does it look like that? I hear you ask. Well it wasn't the huge floods that we've had in the area, nor was it one of the cyclones we get around this time of year. In fact it's stood up pretty well to strong winds since I put it up.

What did this was a flock of well fed Sulphur Crested Cockatoos that all decided to perch on it at the same time.

An adult cocky weighs around 800 grams and there were at least four of them all on one arm of the antenna. Now 3.2 kg (about 7 lbs) might not sound like much, but when they land these birds tend to strut around a bit, which means they were bouncing up and down on the antenna.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'm going to have to pull the antenna down, find a way of bracing it where it's bent, then work out a way of strengthening it so it doesn't happen again. Perhaps some kind of non-conductive bracing between the two elements.(image)

Things are looking up

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 23:35:00 +0000

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I got licensed about four years ago, near the beginning of the bottom of the sunspot cycle. Add to that the fact that I haven't been particularly active for the past couple of years and I don't have a huge beam antenna or an amp, it means I haven't had many European contacts.

That seems to be changing for the better now. Last week I had QSOs with someone in Holland and someone in Switzerland, within about half an hour of each other. They were both new ones for me, believe it or not. Last night I finally had my first contact with an English station, Rich G0BLB, near Bath.

There's several reasons why I was really happy about that particular contact. Firstly, I'm originally from England. Secondly, one of my cousins over there is married to a ham, Andy 2E0HPO in Hertfordshire. And third, my signal wasn't as week as I thought it would be. If conditions keep improving it won't be long before I'll be able to chat with Andy. I only met him for the first time two years ago when my wife Donna and I were over there on holidays.

Actually, with conditions improving now, I'm at that stage in my ham career where a lot of my QSOs are new ones, which makes it more fun.

73 Steve(image)

How to win the Black Sea Cup

Sun, 07 Feb 2010 11:05:00 +0000

I've been listening to competitors in the Black Sea Cup contest this evening. If you're one of those people competing, especially if you're in ITU zone 31, I've got a tip on how you can do better next year.

Shut the f%*& up and listen!

Seriously, I'm not an experienced contestor, but calling CQ contest, then waiting a maximum of two seconds for a reply is not going to get you many contacts. I timed most of the stations I heard and two seconds was the most that they were waiting, that's just long enough for me to hit the PTT and say Victor Kilo. By the time I finished and started listening again, they were half way through their CQs again. Those that were getting contacts were getting them maybe one out of ten CQs. God knows how many people were trying to call them and weren't getting through, I know I gave it a god try. Those that were getting contacts were getting mainly EU stations, or other stations in their area, ie, not the high scoring ones they'd like.

Now, I don't know if this is relevant or not, but 75% of the guilty stations had a nine in their callsigns. Yes, I did count them, I studied statistics at university last year as part of my science degree.

73 and good luck in the contest, Steve VK4VSP(image)

First CW QSO

Sun, 31 Jan 2010 05:30:00 +0000

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm learning the code.

Recently a group of Croatian hams visited Vanuatu for a DX-pediton and used the callsign YV0MM. Vanuatu isn't that far from VK land so it wasn't hard to get an SSB contact with them. In fact they were on so often I could have got them every day, but that wouldn't have been fair on those that were struggling to get them.

Then when I heard them down around 14.004 MHz I thought, hmm, should I?

It took me a while to be sure it was really them, since the operator was sending a lot faster than I can usually read. When I was sure, I turned on the heater on the TS-820S, listened some more until I thought the rig was warmed up then, with a shaking hand, sent my callsign when I heard a TU.

After a couple of attempts I heard them come back with a very fast VK4 and a 5nn, which I was pretty sure was in reply to my call, so I replied with a 5nn. I wasn't sure if I'd got him or not. He had slowed down a bit, as though he was making it a bit easier on a slow op, so I thought maybe I'd got him. I decided not to try again, since I would just be causing QRM for everyone else. I also decided not to log it as I wasn't sure.

Today I checked their online log, since they've now finished and gone home. I was pretty sure I'd gotten into the log with my SSB QSO, although you can never be too sure. I thought I'd gotten into the log for the last Clipperton DX-pedition TX5C, since he'd read back my callsign correctly, but he'd logged me as VK4VZP. Well there I was in YV0MM's log, not just for the SSB QSO, but also the CW one.

I learnt two things from today, when learning CW, you're probably more ready to start sending than you think you are. Some ops are very forgiving. Secondly, if you think you've got them, but you aren't sure, log it anyway with a question mark against it. You never know.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

Lost log

Sun, 24 Jan 2010 02:14:00 +0000

Since getting licensed just under four years ago, I haven't really been that active. It's easy to blame the fact that I got licensed just before the bottom of the sunspot cycle, but that's really no excuse, I've just had other priorities.

Anyway, back in March 2008, my brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I took part in the CQ WPX SSB contest. That added a hell of a lot of new countries to my log, I think we added about 97 contacts that weekend. I sent out a heap of QSL cards through the buro after that and confirmed a few through eQSL. Then last year my laptop crashed on me and I lost not only my entire log, but about 4500 photographs, 1400 of which were from our European holiday.

Just lately I've had a bit of time on my hands. I only work 5 till 8 in the mornings and my university studies don't start again till the middle of February, so I've been spending a bit of time on the radio again. With conditions improving I'm picking up at least one DX station a day, so my log is starting to grow again. I even tried Bob E32BJ on CW the other day, as I've been learning the code through the excellent Learn CW Online website.

I'm progressing pretty well with learning the code, so I thought I might try the CQ WPX CW contest in May. Then I had brain wave. What do they do with the old logs that are sent in for previous contests?

A quick e-mail to the organisers yesterday morning, and by the afternoon I had a reply from Randy K5ZD with my log attached, thanks Randy.

OK, it's not my entire log, but most of it is there. Now to transfer it all over and to make sure I always back it up.(image)

Learning CW

Sun, 12 Jul 2009 00:55:00 +0000

I've been meaning to learn CW for ages now, but never quite got around to it. I downloaded Ray's excellent G4FON Koch trainer a while ago, but university studies got in the way and the laptop I had it on died late last year anyway.

Well I have a break between semesters at the moment, but Ray's program doesn't work on my Linux EeePC, actually not much that I've downloaded to it does work, including the stuff from the Asus website.

Well, a few people have blogged recently about Learn CW Online, so I thought I'd check it out. I'm really glad I did. The beauty of it is, you can use it anywhere, on any computer, since you don't have to download anything. And it's so easy to use, all you do is run the lesson, type in what letter you thing is playing and then analyze it to see how you went. You can check your statistics to see if you're improving, or not. Usually, if I've got a bit of time to kill or I need a break from studying, I'll play a couple of games of Solitare or Soduko on the laptop. With the graph on LCWO I can treat that as a game instead, so it makes it more interesting.

If you've been thinking of learning the code and haven't got around to it yet, check it out.


73 de VK4VSP(image)

We won

Thu, 26 Feb 2009 05:52:00 +0000

Well, sort of.

My brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I teamed up last year for the CQ WPX SSB contest. We weren't really trying all that hard, in fact we even found time to go shopping, have a barbecue and feed all the animals in between contacts. We did get quite a few new countries into my logbook though. More about that logbook in another entry to come.

Anyway, a large white envelope turned up in my mail yesterday. It was addressed to VK4VSP, so I didn't open it straight away, thinking it was my licence renewal. When I did get around to looking at it, I realised it was to do with the contest.


I joked to my wife that they way the certificate is worded makes it look like we'd won. Reading it properly it does actually mean that we've won the multi-single category for VK4, which is the state of Queensland. Now that might seem to some like quite an achievement, but I have to be honest and tell you, we were the only multi-single station in Queensland. For some reason it doesn't seem to be as popular a category as the others.

I'm not sure if I'll compete this year as I'm probably going to be too busy with work and study. If I do, I might try a more minimalist category this time, maybe QRP on one band. First I have to find a decent contest program that'll work on my little Asus EeePC running Xandros.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

Eyeball QSO

Sun, 07 Dec 2008 22:24:00 +0000

I had an interesting eyeball QSO yesterday.

It was interesting not because of the topic, but where I was at the time. I was half way up a tree in a complete strangers front yard while they were out at a Christmas party. The QSO was with their next door neighbour.

No it wasn't anything naughty. As wildlife carers my wife Donna and I had got a call to go and pick up a baby bird. It had fallen out of the nest at the caller's house. They'd made a makeshift nest for it and put it back up in the tree, a big jacaranda, but the parents hadn't come back to feed it so it needed to go into care before it starved.

There were a lot of ants on the tree, so while Donna was getting some gloves for me and I was planning my climb I noticed a wire in the neighbour's yard going from the fence to a mast. On top of the mast was a rotator and a couple of antennas. Hmmm, thought I, the neighbour must be a felow ham. I could see him over the fence on the other side of his yard and I knew that as soon as I went up the tree, he was going to see me.

Sure enough, he wandered over to say hello, I told him what I was up to and to prove it removed the yellow ice-cream container from the other side of the tree where it was obscured from his view. I then asked if thy were Ham radio antennas I could see. From there it was an exchange of callsigns and what equipment we had. He explained that he wasn't very active as his main interest was astronomy, I explained that I wasn't very active as I'm usually too busy with the animals.

I could have sat there, up in the tree, and talked all day except for the ants and the fact we had five more birds of various species in the car and it was about 32 degrees celcius (90F) at the time.

I just wish I'd written down his name and callsign before I forgot it.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

Solar powered operation

Thu, 25 Sep 2008 22:50:00 +0000

I've come to the conclusion that the Icom IC-706 MKIIG isn't a good radio for operation in the field unless you have a decent size solar panel.

I've just spent the last couple of weeks away from home in Armidale, about six hours drive south of here on the New England Tablelands. I was down there for a couple of residential schools at the University of New England where I'm doing a BSc in zoology and had about five days to kill in between chemistry and vertebrate zoology.

My brother Laurie, VK4VCC asked if I wanted to borrow his 706 to use down there. I had been thinking of taking my IC-730 down, but liked the idea of trying out the little 706.

The entire station fitted into a smallish cardboard box. There was the radio, an MP1 antenna, a VSWR meter, coax, an antenna analyser for tuning purposes and a 7.2AH battery.

So on one of my free days I set everything up in the cabin I was staying in and turned the radio on. That's my cabin at the far end.


Now the battery wasn't fully charged, but it hadn't been used much, but within about five minutes of tuning around and just listening the radio started to shut down as the battery voltage was getting too low.

I turned on my laptop and downloaded the manual for the radio and was amazed to find it pulls 1.5A on receive. I'm not sure what current my 730 draws, it doesn't say in the manual, but I'm going to find out.

I might start looking for an FT-817 for when I go away, that or a big solar panel.(image)


Tue, 29 Jul 2008 05:44:00 +0000

Although we had plans for Sunday morning, I was going to put in a bit of time in the afternoon (VK4 local time) on the IOTA contest.

I like the idea of IOTA, it tends toward more unusual activations in remote areas. That's something I believe that keeps amateur radio relevant in this day and age. The IOTA contest is also a good opportunity to pick up a few new ones.

As it turned out I never even got around to turning the radio on.

We had our annual general meeting in the morning for the wildlife rescue organisation my wife, Donna, and I are involved with. During the meeting one of the members who is involved with a pelican and seabird rescue organisation got a call to a sick pelican. Needless to say, when the opportunity came up for Donna and I to assist, they didn't have to ask us twice.

So we spent that afternoon catching and assessing, not one pelican, but three. Two of them were released after being treated and the third was taken to Australia Zoo's wildlife hospital for further treatment.


Well, after that I forgot all about the IOTA contest until just before closing time.

Maybe next year.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

IARU contest

Mon, 07 Jul 2008 03:06:00 +0000

The IARU contest is on this coming weekend.

I was going to compete together with my brother Laurie, VK4VCC, at his new QTH. Unfortunately, his QTH isn't finished yet because the builders can't seem to get their act together.

I do have Laurie's FT-950 here that we used in the CQ WPX SSB contest back in March, but I'm doing a first aid course all weekend. If I do get on, it'll be in the evenings and I certainly won't be competing seriously.

Good luck to those of you that are competing this weekend.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

It's official

Fri, 20 Jun 2008 00:17:00 +0000

Finally, something official from Icom.

The IC-7200 should be released in Japan sometime in early August and the price will be 104790 yen as reported recently by JI1ANI, Yukito. Sorry Yukito, I believe you now.

The Icom Japan article is here, with a translated version here.(image)

IC-7200 price

Tue, 17 Jun 2008 04:20:00 +0000

According to JI1ANI, Yukito, on the Digital Ham Life blog, the price for the IC-7200 has been released.

It'll be 104790 yen according to Yukito, that's just under $1000 in the US and just over $1000 in Australia. Unfortunately, Yukito doesn't say where or when that price was announced, or who by. Without citing his source it's really a meaningless statement to make. I could just as easily make a similar claim and it would be all over the internet within a day.

I won't believe the price until I see it from Icom and there hasn't been a lot of news from them so far. One website was advertising it for US$9999.99, but I suspect that was just so they could get it on the website. Perhaps their software didn't allow TBA, who knows.

This advertisement from Icom in the UK has got me thinking. They say " The IC-7200 features military styling, which makes its suitable for all round use."

To me, military styling means it looks military, it doesn't necessarily mean it's rugged, just looks like it is. I could be reading too much into that though, as the brochure seems to suggest that it's built to take a few knocks as well as utilising technology used in marine radios. It's not waterproof, but it won't mind getting a bit damp.

I'm still looking forward to hearing more about the IC-7200, but since I'm going to have a lot more time on my hands soon, I'm starting to get tempted by a K2.(image)


Sat, 07 Jun 2008 02:18:00 +0000

My previous blog entry about DXpeditions was the first since Ben added the Anorak Files to Planet Ham.

Unfortunately, it shows up under IW3SOX, Elio's name. That's not unfortunate for me, because it means there are two links to my blog instead of one, but it's unfortunate for Elio. So until Ben gets a chance to fix up the error, here's a link to Elio's blog that's been translated into English by Google and the original Italian version.

It's well worth a look as it has some great pictures on it. I was in Italy earlier this year and it's nice to see the Italian countryside again.

73 de VK4VSP(image)


Fri, 06 Jun 2008 23:54:00 +0000

Looking at NG3K's DXpedition website, it appears there are quite a few DXpeditions coming up in my region soon.

A couple of those are ZS8T, Marion Island and VK9X, Christmas Island, both of which I've blogged about previously. They both have start dates listed, but I'm not sure how accurate they are, since there are no start dates on their own websites. Still, I'll be keeping an eye out (or and ear).

There are also a couple coming up in Vietnam, 3W2BMK and Cambodia, XU7BMK. If you think those callsigns look familiar, that's because they're both the same person, JA8BMK, Toshi. Having visited Vietnam last year for a holiday, I'd love to get it in the log.

It looks like I'll have more time to get on the radio soon too. After twenty four years with my present employer, my job has been outsourced and I'm being made redundant. I finish up on the 2nd of July. I'll be looking hard for another job, but until I get one I'll be making the most of my time at home.

My first project will be to make up a battery pack so I can use the IC-730 in the field.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

A new ham blog

Fri, 23 May 2008 03:12:00 +0000

I'm looking forward to seeing more of this blog.

Steve N0TU, lives in the Colorado Rockies and goes hiking with a QRP rig and his two goats, Peanut and Rooster.

He also has a website here, check them both out.(image)

Marion Island update

Fri, 23 May 2008 01:55:00 +0000


Still nothing from Petrus, ZS8T on Marion Island yet.

That's to be expected when you consider he's gone down there to work and amateur radio is his hobby. Add to that the fact that he's only one man, it's not a huge multi-op DXpedition like the recent one to Clipperton Island. In fact, it's not even what I'd call a DXpedition as such. It's a guy working hard in a remote area who, if he manages to get some time to himself and the weather conditions are right, might just be able to get on the radio.

Of course, that doesn't stop people criticising him for not letting us know when he's going QRV. I kid you not, someone moaned on the forum that they were wasting time listening for him on the radio and searching on the internet for news. Like Petrus has an obligation to the world's hams. There's always a chance that the person complaining was joking. If that's the case they didn't do it too well.

Lets not forget, he's down there for a year, there'll be plenty of time for a QSO with him. The only obligations he has are to himself, his team (he's the team leader) and his employer.

My only complaint is, I wish I could get a job like his.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

Hala Hut

Sun, 18 May 2008 06:12:00 +0000

I heard Wayne WH6OR briefly on 20m today.

If you're thinking of going to Hawaii for a holiday, the Hala Hut looks like it could be the place for you.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

IC-7200 at Dayton

Sun, 18 May 2008 01:35:00 +0000

If you're reading this because you Googled IC-7200, I'm probably not telling you anything you haven't already learned, but the IC-7200 is on display at the Dayton Hamvention.

No definite details on the price yet, although rumour has it, it'll be a bit more expensive than most of us were expecting, around US$1400. What that will equate to here in VK land is anybody's guess.

They may be going on sale in the US in September. Again, what that means in Australia I don't know. It could be ages before we see them here.

There's more info on Adam AB4OJ's website, including a link to the brochure.

73 de VK4VSP(image)


Sat, 10 May 2008 03:26:00 +0000

Back at the end of March, my brother Laurie VK4VCC and I competed in the CQ WPX SSB contest.

It wasn't a serious attempt by a long shot, we competed as a multi-one and the weekend included some last minute shopping for some bits for the laptop, a barbecue and two wildlife rescues. Not to mention having to feed all the animals on Saturday evening.

Anyway, we put our entry in, even though we only had 92 QSOs, for about 1500 odd points. There don't seem to be many multi-one entries in this contest, so even with our low score we were coming third in Oceania when ever I checked the submitted logs. Two more entries were submitted from New Zealand at the last moment, just before entries closed and they had much higher scores than us, so we missed out in a place.

Never mind, it was a good experience and I got a lot of new countries I hadn't contacted before. It was a good opportunity to check out some new gear as well, Laurie's FT-950 and my Comet H-422 especially.

Our next attempt will be the IARU HF World Championship in July. We'll be going that from Laurie's QTH at Jimboomba and taking it a bit more seriously. You may have noticed the countdown timer in my sidebar at right.(image)


Sat, 10 May 2008 02:59:00 +0000

BARCfest was on today. Now, if you're reading this from Boulder, Colorado, you're probably thinking, no it wasn't.

I'm talking about the Brisbane Amateur Radio Club fest, not the Boulder one which is held in September apparently.

Anyway, I got there nice and early and met my brother Laurie VK4VCC. The idea was to snap up a few bargains, then meet up with the boys from the VK contest club (VKCC). We both took our cameras and intended taking a few pics for our blogs.

As you can see, there aren't any pictures. I could have taken some, but it would have just been the backs of people's heads. The place was packed.

The planned VKCC meeting didn't happen, at least not while we were there, but I did get to meet a few of the members anyway, including Eddie VK4AN and his son Raj, VK4FRAJ. Eddie and Raj are off to Fiji on Tuesday to compete in the CQ WPX CW contest and to just generally have a good time and play radios. They'll be operating as 3D2A (Eddie) and 3D2B (Raj).

Did I pick up any bargains? Well let's just say my wife didn't have anything to complain about when I got home, a pile of 12V gel cell batteries and a low pass filter for a grand total of $55. There were lots of things I was tempted to buy, but I managed to resist, this time.(image)

Houston, we have a problem

Sat, 03 May 2008 01:25:00 +0000

I've got a couple of HTs at home that don't get used much and I've been thinking of trying them out with satellites. I tried one of them a couple of years ago when SuitSat was launched. Like the thousands of other people that tuned in to SuitSat, all I heard was static.

I thought I'd do a bit of research to find out how to do it (always a good idea) and came across a few videos by Randy K7AGE.

This video just goes to show, it can be just as much fun when it doesn't work.

(object) (embed)

73 de VK4VSP(image)

ZS8T - update 1

Thu, 01 May 2008 05:56:00 +0000



I'm not sure where I got the 5th May from (a bit of QRN between the eyes and the brain perhaps), but it's actually the 9th that Petrus is hoping to be QRV.

I've loosened the bolts and used the Armstrong method to rotate my antenna slightly. Whether it will make any difference or not remains to be seen.


There's a curious thing I've noticed when there's a DXpedition like this in progress. The DX clusters are supposed to be a way to let other hams know when a particular DX station is on air and where they're readable. So why do so many lids spot the stations with comments like "nothing heard". There's so much rubbish ends up on your screen it's hardly worth reading it.

And don't get me started on the guys that spot their mate down the street with comments like "59+ here", or "loud". Of course it is you idiot. It doesn't mean anyone else can hear him.

73 de VK4VSP(image)

ZS8T - Marion Island

Wed, 30 Apr 2008 00:10:00 +0000


Here's one to keep an ear out for. As I've mentioned before, I haven't been very active since getting licenced, so if I can get ZS8T into the log that'll be my first QSO with Antarctica. Then all I'll need is Africa to get worked-all-continents. Okay, that may not be much to some of you more experienced hams, but it's a stepping stone. Actually, come to think of it, my logging software will think it's Africa anyway.

The DXpedition to Marion Island is being done by one man, Petrus ZS6GCM and he should be on air sometime early next week, possibly May 5th. It just happens to be our labour day holiday here in Queensland, what luck.

Although Petrus will be operating alone, he has plenty of support back home and I can't finish this blog without mentioning three of them. Christian DL6KAC, Col MM0NDX and Stan SQ8X have created one of the best looking DXpedition websites I've ever seen.

I might have to turn the Comet H-422 around this weekend. It's facing toward Japan at the moment and I'm yet to put it on a rotator. It does seem to have a bit of directivity on 20m, but I managed to work Calgary, Canada on 40m last week with it facing the way it is. We'll see.

73 de VK4VSP

Edit: I've just looked at the rules for the WAC and Antarctica doesn't count as a continent apparently. That kind of takes some of the challenge out of it.(image)


Mon, 21 Apr 2008 12:13:00 +0000

I've got my brother Laurie's (VK4VCC) FT-920 and FT-950 at the moment while he's in rented accomodation.

I'm off to Armidale tomorrow for a uni residential until Sunday and I needed some shirts ironed. While Donna, the XYL, was upstairs washing the dishes I ironed my shirts. Something I'm not averse to doing, since everyone knows that men make better cooks and ironers.

Anyway, I needed some music to listen to. What better choice than to use a radio that can hear clear around the globe. So I have the radio tuned to one of the local AM broadcast stations 4BH 882, easy listening music. I grew up listening to 4BH, before the FM stations started up. I've got to admit, I was surprised to hear them play David Bowie, they wouldn't have played him 30 years ago. Marcia Hines, then Elvis (the King) Presley brought me back to the 4BH I remember.

I promise I won't waste resources like this too often*.

73 de VK4VSP

*Just when I'm ironing.(image)