Jul 172011
 

The problem

For some time now, we’ve been putting up with interference from a few stations, who for now will remain nameless.  Foul language, deliberate interference, the list goes on…

Allegedly some of these people have been doing it for longer than I’ve been alive.

It is as if, these people, believe we are not entitled to use a small patch of radio spectrum to engage in a little friendly chat.

Some have even gone as far as vowing to do “everything they can” to “ruin” amateur radio.

This means war.

Well, we could complain to the ACMA… apparently some have done this already… many times.  If they haven’t acted after 20 years worth of complaints, I don’t think they’ll ever act.  Not without a very substantial amount of evidence.

There is nothing however, that stops us, getting on the band and having a chat, except one thing.  Someone parking on the frequency we choose and interfering with our communications.  Yes, we could QSY, but experience has shown the culprits just chase us up and down the band.

They cannot be on all frequencies however.  One big group, on one frequency, is vulnerable to attack.  Numerous smaller groups, scattered across the band however, is far more resilient.  They cannot be on all frequencies at the same time.  More to the point, more ears open and listening, means more data points … bonus points if those “ears” are directional.

My proposal

What we need to do is stir up some activity on the 80m band.  The 80m amateur band is a wonderful local chit-chat band.  It has almost guaranteed propagation for distances over 1000km on any given evening.  It is open to all license classes.  (Well, if you ignore the DX window.)  I’m proposing a contest with a difference.

Most contests, you make contact with a station, exchange numbers, then it’s ta ta… (or “73”) and you go your separate ways.  Not terribly exciting listening.

I’m proposing a social ragchew contest.  I want to encourage as many people, on as many groups, as possible.  The more people, the better.  Talk about anything you like.  QRP and QRO stations welcome.  Mobile and portable stations, also welcome.  Newcomers, especially welcome.  Make it a large group, or a small group, doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t have to be a formal net, just so long as there’s at least three people.

How will it be scored?

This is something I’m still thinking about… but I’m thinking something along these lines… I would love your input.

For every hour, or part thereof, each member of a group chatting on the same frequency, will get one point for each member of that group.

So if 3 of you talk for 2¼ hours, that’s 3×3=9 points.

Multipliers

  • Triple points for every station who has held their license:
    • Less than 12 months
    • Greater than 50 years
  • Double points for every:
    • Station that is “mobile” (i.e. moving between localities) or  “portable” (i.e. set up temporarily at some location for less than one week)
    • QRP station (running 5 watts or less)
    • DX contact (overseas)

I’m thinking these should be added together, so if in your group of VK’s you happen to score someone joining your group from Europe (for example) that only just got their license a month ago and is running QRP whilst mobile, add 24 points to each group member for every hour or part thereof that they participate on your group.

What about interference?

More than likely, this will stir up the trolls that seek to ruin our experience.  Part of the aim of this, is that a lot of people will be listening.  The following is something anyone can do, even the shortwave listeners.

  • Log the following:
    • the time in UTC
    • your location (latitude/longitude or Maidenhair Locater)
    • the signal strength
    • the nature of interference
  • If you can, record the interference
  • If you have a directional antenna, point that in the direction where the signal is strongest.  Use that to measure the signal strength, and log the bearing, along with the antenna type.

With enough evidence, we can flush out these serial pests once and for all.

When will it be held?

This is open to discussion… I’m thinking Friday or Saturday night.  I’m thinking it should start some time in the evening when the band opens up, maybe after 7:00PM.

The contest should remain open until the last group participating in the contest goes clear… if a group manages to successfully run to dawn the next day, good on them, maybe there should be bonus points for their efforts. 🙂

Let me know what your thoughts are… this is, as I say, a request for comment.  Feel free to get in touch with me directly or leave a comment here.

Jul 092011
 

(I’m not one normally for airing dirty laundry in this manner, but I feel it is marginally better than airing it on the air.)

Dear Mal,

Please.  What is your problem?

This evening, your behaviour on this band was absolutely appauling.  For someone who has apparently had a radio license for longer than I’ve been alive, I am disappointed.  Sadly this is not an isolated incident but for now I’ll turn a deaf ear to previous offences and just focus on tonight’s offence.

I’m not sure if you’re the one that has been playing music over the top of us… some have made this allegation.  I’m happy to give you the benefit of a doubt, but the tirade that followed is very unbecoming of a radio amateur.  Foul language, deliberate interference, not identifying, name-calling, and generally making a nuisance.  As best I can tell, completely unprovoked.

You claimed, “I was here first”.  I was listening on 3584kHz from around 9:15PM.  I did hear Danny ask “Is the frequency in use“.  Several times.  I was mobile at Red Hill at the time.  Prior to this the frequency, as best I could hear with my marginal antenna, was devoid of all activity.  None the less, we gave you the benefit of the doubt, and after listening to your protest, we did the respectful thing and QSY’ed to 3590kHz.

Not a minute after we had done so, there you were, trying to talk over us (and only succeeding with the exceptionally weak stations), and misbehaving as before.  We had left you 3584kHz, moved to 3590kHz, and you followed us up the band.  Why?

All I have heard, is the ramble from a seeming madman.  All I, and others want to do, is use of 2.4 kHz, to have our friendly weekly chit chat.  You are even welcome to join in if you wish to be civil and play by the rules.  If you wish to have a discussion with someone else, we are not going to stop you.

On the 80m band, you’ve got 3.503kHz to 3.700kHz and 3779kHz through to 3800kHz.  You can go anywhere on that spectrum which isn’t already in use, why pick the frequency we’re using?  If you still wish to use the frequency we’re on, why not do the gentlemanly thing, and ask politely?  We’re reasonable, we will move if you ask nicely.

Please, I am asking as nicely as I possibly can, please leave us alone.  We do not wish to interfere with you, please don’t interfere with us.

Regards,

Stuart VK4MSL, and other regulars of the Australia Wide Night-Owl and Insomnia Net.

Apr 292011
 

Well, the antenna I tuned up in my last post, I can say, while it doesn’t work that great on 80m, it did get a contact into Victoria this evening on the AWNOI net.  Terry VK2TEZ near Coffs Harbour gave me a 4-3 signal report, so still lots of room for improvement… part of that was due to static crashes from storms in NSW, but I think with a better tuned antenna, we should be able to get towards having a workable antenna.  At the moment the autotransformer I use has ~95 turns, with output taps at 0, 25, 50 and 75 turns.  I think one somewhere between 0 and 25, and/or some extra turns might help… so I might wind a new one and see where that gets us.

The headlight still continues to give me grief.  An interesting discovery though this evening.  Since the battery is no good, I’ve permanently mounted it to the bicycle frame.  This was achieved by removing the plastic bracket which is used to mount the headlight on the handlebars or on the helmet mount (using a rubber O-ring), and replacing this with a bracket bent out of a short piece of aluminium.  It fastens to the bicycle frame at the front right above the front wheel, using a bolt hole normally used for mounting rim brakes (my bike has disc brakes).

The upshot is that the headlight’s casing has a pretty good electrical connection to the bicycle frame.  Turns out this is a big no no with these lights.  Kiss goodbye HF if you do… you’ll get crap everywhere from 400kHz right up into the VHF.  I’ll have to do some further investigation, but I found that if I insulated the case from the frame, it helped on the 400kHz and HF emissions.  I think something parasitic is causing the 2m grief as this continues (that, or it’s less critical on the case being earthed).

For a while I thought it might’ve been something lurking around 415kHz… the standard IF frequency of most superhetrodyne receivers, but alas, can’t see anything there.  Otherwise it’d explain why it appears to be everywhere.  I definitely suspect it’s not supposed to be oscillating there though, so I think parasitic oscillations are the cause here.  I’m slowly researching my own power supply for the LED in this headlamp, so its days are numbered.

The insulation was achieved by breaking a cheap plastic picnic knife, drilling a couple of mounting holes, and mounting the headlight on that.  That quelled the HF interference quite a bit, and I was able to listen to the HF bands on my way into Brisbane.  At least it was nice to listen to something other than that sodding wedding in the UK.  (C’mon fellas, yes, great and all but can’t we just confine it to one station?)

I was concerned about the longevity of this arrangement however.  And as it turned out, I was right to be concerned.  It broke as I approached the Normanby Fiveways.  I went over a bump, heard a crack, and noticed the headlight dangling by the power lead.  I pulled over, threw it in the basket and grabbed the backup headlight.  At least there was one on the helmet, a 1W LED, so I still complied with local laws for night riding.  I didn’t have a mounting for the backup light, I just pointed it forward sitting in the bottom of the front basket, with it on flash as a warning to drivers.

Once at the destination, I reverted the headlight back to being directly mounted on the bicycle frame.  Interference was intermittent, but when it was acting up, it did wipe out 80m with S6 noise.  Not good when most stations are barely making S6 as it is.  I wound up turning off the main headlamp as for the most part I could see where I was going, and I knew the route.  As I got out of town this was less of an issue due to the lack of traffic, and of course I was on bicycle paths or the footpath for 90% of it.  That at least allowed me to hear what was going on with the net.

The other flaw I had was that the helmet’s speaker connections were acting up… wound up unplugging the earpiece side of the headset adaptor and using the internal speaker.  Thankfully I could still use the helmet’s microphone and the rest of the wiring harness… just not the speakers in the helmet.  I noticed this as I pulled out of my street, in fact I was aware there was a problem, but now I know where the problem is now.  I’ll get onto it tomorrow.  And I’ll look at a better way to mount this headlamp in an insulated fashion as an interim solution to a power supply replacement.

Sep 262009
 

Well, I really didn’t think I’d be writing a post like this.

This is following on from, and indirectly in reply to, an operator who decided to call in on the Australia-Wide Night-Owl and Insomnia net which is held every Friday night at 3595kHz.

Now, this net is pretty laid back… all are welcome. There are however, some things that just are not done on radio. Just as much as they are not done here on the internet. One of them, is to air dirty laundry on air.

Without going into detail… we had an operator call in from Victoria (a VK3V.. call, standard licensee) who then proceeded to make allegations about the off-air activities of another operator (VK2.., advanced licensee), in particular, the allegations involved claims of abusive phone calls and threats. The VK2 station responded pointing out some other misdemeanors allegedly purpotrated by the VK3 station, before (thankfully) moving on with the net. Thank heavens both had the decency to leave it there rather than tie up net time arguing.

Now, undoubtedly, the vast majority (me included) are not privy to all the information. They may be completely false, or there may be some truth to them. That isn’t for me to decide and does not concirn me. What I object to, is the usage of the amateur bands, as the platform for this kind of debate. It does not help any of the participants, or bystanders at all… and perhaps what both sides should realise here, is that by airing this material on-air, they are opening themselves up for a potential defamation case.

It is no different to me for instance, making similar allegations on this site… I could be sued for defamation. This is one of the reasons why I did not reveal the callsigns, or even the names of the guilty culprits. In the past, I recorded the net and provided it as a podcast (and had I done this, the recording would have been up for the world to hear)… but sadly the computer that I used for this is not operational at the moment. In any case, those who were listening, know to whom I refer.

I would ask that all people, who make use of radiocommunications services, whether it be amateur, citizen’s band, marine, airband or any other service out there… please bear this in mind. Your personal squabbles have no place on the air, as I for one (and likely countless others) am not interested in hearing them.

Jan 312009
 

Australia-Wide Night-Owl and Insomnia Net

The AWNOI net is a weekly evening net that starts at 10:00PM UTC+10 (or 9:30PM UTC+10 when daylight savings time is in effect) and continues until the last station falls asleep. This recording is produced by myself using my HF set (Kenwood TS-120S), Yaesu FC-700 tuner and G5RV-like outdoor antenna. My QTH is at The Gap, Brisbane, QLD. Most of the stations participating, bar 3, are VK4 stations (two VK2s and one VK1).

If you’re a licensed amateur with equipment for 80m communications, feel free to join us at any time.

This recording was made 2009-01-30 and is available as Ogg/Speex, Ogg/Vorbis or MPEG4/AAC codecs.
A short highlights recording is also available, in MP3, Ogg/Vorbis or Speex.
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