Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Lots more VHF activity in Melbourne compared to Sydney

Since moving to the new home here in Melbourne I've been trying to get some antennas up. I've purchased a vertical for 2m and 70cm but so far two antenna installers have not been keen to climb on the roof here and put it up. One says he'll come back when the weather has been dry for enough time for the metal roof not to be slippery.

In the interim, I've mounted a painter's pole to the fence and put the vertical up in the back yard.

I sat outside last night (a Wednesday) and listened around on 2m. Amazing amount of activity compared to Sydney - perhaps it’s because Sydney is very hilly and not so good for VHF.

From 20:00 there was an active net on 147.250 FM. Peter, VK3RV could be heard direct! I heard the WIA news broadcast on 147.175 FM. At 20:20 I tuned to the MERC net on 146.700 FM.

I've read that there is an SSB net on 144.100 and I listened and called at 20:30 but heard nothing.

Tuning around I found an active net on 144.150 which VK3MQ referred to as the “150 net”. I could receive VK3MQ very well and when he moved his beam he came up to S9. No other stations were strong though.

It wasn’t freezing outside last night but not an ideal operating position as I have to bring the gear in after use in case of rain.

While out getting some permitted COVID exercise this morning I noticed this amazing antenna on Clarke Avenue, Northcote. I will try to figure out who it is.


Something to aspire to? I'll be happy if I can get coax from my radio room to the back yard for a small dipole.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Interviewed on ABC Sydney

A pleasure again to be a guest on ABC Sydney breakfast with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer. I was on to talk about the Apple World Wide Developer Conference announcements but the interview covered a wide range of topics in the end.

My bit is in the audio here but you'll need to spool right through to about 3 hours and 26 minutes.

My internet here hasn't been connected to cable yet so unfortunately I'm on the phone. Re-scheduling the NBN connection is a story in itself.

My thanks as always to the hard working producers Stephen and Yuske for thinking of me in relation to one of my pet topics.

Vinyl record stores in Thornbury

We are settling in to our new home in Thornbury, Victoria. We're out of the rental place in Alphington and happily new tenants were found to take over the lease.

Each day I walk around the area and one thing is striking - there are lots of vinyl record stores plus shops with record players and even loud speaker repair is available.










Wednesday, June 17, 2020

On ABC RN's Download This Show

I haven't done a Download This Show since social isolation and also moving to Melbourne so it was fun to see how the technology has changed.

The (full) radio version goes to air a few times on ABC RN and one of the stories is shown on ABC News24 TV. You can see it here:


Initially I set myself up on an office connected via Wifi but we had audio problems and so I had to quickly re-locate next to the cable router and connect with ethernet. Video was recorded locally with an iPhone SE 2020 set to 4K 24fps and it looks passable on a big screen. Amazing what a phone's selfie camera can do these days.


Always good to talk with Marc and great to meet Sarah Moran who is based in Melbourne, where I now live.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Honest and dishonest reviews of the Spy Gear walkie talkie

Facebook's targeted advertising knows me too well and lately it's been repeatedly showing me ads for a pair of transceivers priced at just AU$15.

I wondered what frequency they are on and if they might be moved to a ham band just for fun.

When I was young my dad bought me a pair of 27Mhz transceivers and these were absolutely fascinating. All sorts of hide and seek games were devised where the hidden person could talk with the searchers and taunt them. CB was popular at the time and sometimes trucks could be heard and even remote stations in the evening.

Drilling in to the reviews on Target's web site soon reveals the truth...







But wait... there is one (incentivised) reviewer who really loves this product!


Peter, VK3YE, tests an even cheaper pair of transceivers that seem to operate better than the Spy Gear ones from Target.


Great work Peter. I would be interested to see the circuit traced out.

Currently preparing to move house here. All antennas are down and looking forward to the new QTH.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Radio communication with friends in NSW

I'm now 709km away from my ham radio buddies in Sydney. Propagation is not great and my antenna, for the next few weeks, is a very poor end fed hanging out the window.

Stephen, VK2BLQ, is humouring me and we've been trying to establish digital radio communications via 40m.

We can hear each other on WSPR, best reception was -6dB. We tried Olivia 8/250, Stephen could decode me but alas, I can't decode him. Presumably the noise floor here is too high.

Now we're trying JS8call and we had two-way communication for a short time this afternoon. The software was already in the Ubuntu software library so installation was a breeze.


The software's user interface is rather mystifying at first but after filling in your call and grid square, the trick is to wait for a call to appear on the right, click on them, enter text in the middle box (it says "TYPE YOUR OUTGOING..." and then press the Send button.

There's also a bunch of common messages in the "Directed to..." popup button.

Also, of course, you can call CQ and happily there is some activity here (unlike PSK which seems to have died).

Thanks VK2BLQ for your help with this. JS8 is more interesting to me that FT8 as you can at least have a bit of a chat with it.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Settling in to Melbourne and Joining MERC

Moving back to Melbourne after 30 years in Sydney means that I was keen to make contact with ham radio people here much as the group from the ARNSW Radio Experimenters group has become a circle of good friends in recent years in Sydney.

I joined the Melbourne Electronics and Radio Club (MERC) and was quickly and kindly welcomed by President Stuart, VK3SH and treasurer John, VK3ZX.


The club has four regular nets each week and I've joined the Wednesday & Friday nets at 8pm which are FM via the VK3RML repeater on 146.700. That repeater was down and so the net moved to a repeater on 438.225. This is good as I have much better reception of this one anyhow.

Stuart kindly sent me five recent editions of the excellent "MERC Almost Regular News Letter" which has a good sprinkling of home brew radio construction including antennas, filters, audio amplifiers, antenna switches, and also some wonderful shack photos.

I look forward to pandemic restrictions being eased so we can meet in person.

For now, I have a minimal shack set up.


I look forward to the day when all transceivers have a single USB socket with both audio and control over USB. It will make computer connection much less messy.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Virtual audio cable for macOS

Forgive me if this is old news but on Windows I've long used the excellent and free VB-Cable from VB-Audio Software for piping audio from SDR# into WSJT-X.

I mostly use macOS and Linux but for some reason SDR# seems to be the SDR software I like the most and it only runs on Windows.

A 2012 MacBook Pro is used to dual boot Windows for running this stuff as you see above right.

Today I noticed that there is a version for macOS and so far it looks good. (The software is free but "donation ware" and I've send them US$10 in appreciation of the macOS version).

A new device simply appears as an input and output device and settings are available in the Audio MIDI control panel.



I'm aware of Rogue Amoeba's Loopback but it is US$109 and seems more complex than is needed for this basic task. Their other software is excellent though.