Tuesday 23 February 2010

MKARS 80 LSB QRP transceiver

I have just finished my MKARS 80 LSB QRP transceiver kit - it took me about 10 weeks to complete on and off. The MKARS 80 is a kit from the Milton Keynes ARC and, while complex, can be built by anyone capable of reading and wielding a soldering iron. The slowest bit was cutting out the case and making the front panel.

I would like to say it worked first time, but it didn't. I wound the toroids incorrectly first off (read the instructions!) and had a short that I eventually fixed. Both builder error!

First QSO was with the homebrewers' net who said that it sounded great. I got 55-57/8 reports from around the UK using 5W and an 85ft end fed (W3EDP). If you are sharp eyed you will see that it says M6ELE on the box. This is my daughter's callsign and I thought it might encourage her to use it. I am using a cheap computer mic off Ebay, which came with two stones wrapped in Chinese newspaper inside for ballast! Maplin knobs as usual. The receiver is fantastic - I heard Japan when the board was just laying on the bench.

If you want more info see http://www.radio-kits.co.uk/mkars80page.html

I used Photoshop Elements to make front panel, which was then coated in plastic film and Spraymounted on. The case was sprayed with PlastiKote Velvet Touch - strange stuff , spray it when it is warm and keep about 40cm away. You end up with a stipple finish, but it is soft and marks easily.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Running Propagation Prediction Software on Mac OS X

I use a Mac for most of my work - I still have a couple of PCs, but prefer the user experience with a Mac. I gave PCs up after running anti-virus software, registry cleaners et al on my Windows XP machines every other day, but that is another story.

I can run Windows XP using Parallels on my Mac, but it is memory intensive and slows down the machine, not to mention making the fan run solidly. Also, while running XP the clock gets out of sync very quickly, making the IBP beacon software useless within a minute or so.

So can you run programs like W6ELProp and VOAProp on a Mac in any other way. Well, yes you can.

Download Wine for Macs or Wineskin and you can run PC emulation. This doesn't appear to use up as many resources as full-blown Windows and works well.

I now have both W6ELProp and VOAProp running as and when I want them, and the clock stays perfectly synchronised.

You can get Wine for Macs at http://www.winehq.org/ or Wineskin at http://www.winehq.org/

If you are not aware VOAProp was written by Julian G4ILO and is a brilliant HF prediction program that uses the VOACAP engine. It also has a real-time graphical display of the IBP beacon network. W6ELProp is older and written by Sheldon Shallon. It uses a Fricker model of the ionosphere and is better than VOACAP at low band (80m ) predictions. It is getting clunky now, but is still very useful.

Friday 12 February 2010

UK HF propagation charts, February 2010

Here are the latest HF propagation charts for the UK. Propagation has improved dramatically. We are seeing the occasional opening on 10m (Israel today) and 15m has been open to the mid west and west coast of the USA. VE7 (Vancouver) has been booming in on 14MHz at local sunset. These are based on 100W to a dipole at 35ft, with a smoothed sunspot number of 20. They are all short path too. You can try them here.

G0KYA's HF Propagation Podcast for February 2010

HF prediction podcast for February 2010. More positive this month as Solar Cycle 24 gets under way. Also a quick look at www.solarcycle24.com - click on the heading to listen to the podcast.