Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Funny search terms

How people find this and other ham blogs

Blogger provides you insight into who is visiting your blog and how they found you. This can be helpful to decide how to improve your blog so it reaches the audience you are aiming at. 

Using Blogger for my own blog as well as the blogs for PAFF, COTA-PA and WWFF I see some interesting and funny ways in how people end up on these blogs. The most funny ones are the Google search terms from people that are very obviously not looking for a ham blog at all.

Writing about flora and fauna of course attracts people looking for info on nature. So I find the odd links from Google where people where looking for information on specific nature parks in The Neherlands. The same applies for blog items on castles in COTA-PA blog.

Today however I saw a real funny one - in the mismatch category: "welke ham plank". This is Dutch for "which ham board" - where board refers to cutting board, I assume. So, here we have an individual trying to figure out what type of cutting board to buy for his ham. Should it be wood? plastic? I don't know.

This is the first link he got in his Google results - - and he clicked it.

Now what was this person thinking when he saw that page. XYL, PAFF, activation, 40m, 20m, bands, 73, PA3FYG - WTF????

It is a shame Blogger doesn't show you how long this person was staring at his screen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

40m antenna test: end fed versus inverted v

The fairy tale of the poor performing end fed vertical

Last Friday I had a bad experience with my tried and trusted end fed vertical on 40m (actually a multi-band end fed for 10-20-40m). 

While listing around I stumbled upon Paul MM0ZBH on 40m. He is the one who recommended me the Sirio 4-element CB antenna for use on 10m. I was about to tell him how much I enjoyed the CQWW thanks to that beam. However he did not seem to hear me, even though I copied him with 58. After several attempts he was able to make out my call sign but there was not a chance for a decent QSO (report received: 33).

The multi-band end fed that I use is 12m long and has a coil at 10m from the network to make the wire resonant on 40m. I blamed this shorter wire for the lousy performance on that band. Frustrated I started looking at other possible antenna configurations for /P operations.

Inverted v
From all the available options the inverted v looked the most promising as it requires only one mast (as the end fed does), while you can still operate with a "full size" antenna (1/2L in this case). The inverted v would also be a candidate configuration for an 80m antenna. I do not have an 80m antenna at the moment and although I can get the 40m wire resonant on 80m when I work from my home (using the tuner of my IC-756P3), it is not a performer by any standard, nor does it help me when I am /P.

This weekend I was able to put something together that looked like it could work as an inverted v. I made the legs a bit longer so I could tune it to perfection. Today I was able to set the antenna up. It took me some fiddling to get it up in a way the Spiderbeam mast did not bend too sharply (the coax goes all the way up with this antenna, so you need to find a way that it does not pull the mast down). I decided to not use the last segment of the mast, so the top of the antenna was at about 11m. I roughly measured 11m from the mast to two opposite directions for the anchor points of the legs.
The Spiderbeam mast was fixed to the side of my car. To the other side of the car I fixed my extended Spieth mast (15m) with the multiband end fed on it. A lovely site: a car upgraded with impressive lengths of fibreglass and loads of wires. 

A-B test
Testing with an antenna switch I directly noticed differences in the received signals. I also saw that the inverted v was miraculously resonant on the whole 40m band, dipping around 7.150. How this can be, with the extra wire length I cut, I haven't figured out yet (wrong measurement surely).
The other thing I saw was that the end fed was not resonant by far. The FT-857 warned me for High SWR. This was peculiar... I had this once before when one of the wire ends attached to the coil broke. I took down the end fed to find... that the wire on the other end of the coil had broken (inside the shrink tube, hard to spot). This explains why Paul was unable to copy me: the antenna was 2m short and SWR was sky high.

Would this not have been the case I would not have started with the inverted v. Now however I got both antennas up (I temporarily fixed the end fed on the spot) - so I started testing any way.

19 OMs came to the rescue to provide me with a nice set of signal reports. The reports came in from DL, G, MM, I, HB9 and S5 - roughly from 300km to 1250km.
All OMs agreed on one point: the inverted v resulted in a stronger signal at the receivers end. The difference was not the same though. It varied from 2 s-points to "not a lot". Most of the times it was 6dB or 1 s-point difference. The same difference I saw on rx.

As the inverted v is a little less practical than the vertical end fed, I will test it a bit more before I decide whether to switch antennas for my /P operations. I am especially curious on how the difference in performance is on longer distances - as signal levels within Europe are hardly an issue worth the extra hassle.

Forgot to take pictures of the antenna park I created around my car. Will try to remember to do this next time.

To do
Next project: building the 80m version of the inverted v. With the nice results I got with the 40m version I will definitely add an 80m inverted v to my /P operating set. It will be nice to activate a PAFF or COTA-PA on 80m for the first time (for me).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four nature parks in two weeks

Activating three new PAFFs

The list of new PAFF references provides a nice incentive to go out and activate. With my youngest daughter going to school since recently I have some extra spare time.

In the past two weeks I visited four nature parks, logging 560 contacts in total:
  • Loenermark, PAFF-053 - 145 stations, 31 DXCCs, max QRB 8200km (YY) 
  • Buurserzand & Haaksbergseveen, PAFF-056 - 99 stations, 20 DXCCs, max QRB 3600km (UA9)
  • Planken Wambuis, PAFF-067 - 107 stations, 25 DXCCs, max QRB 7300km (K0)
  • Boswachterij Sleenerzand, PAFF-061 - 209 stations, 32 DXCCs, max QRB 9500km (PY1)

I have posted a bit of info on these activities on the PAFF website.

The most pleasant activation by far was the activation of PAFF-061. One of the operation positions I selected using Google Maps turned out to be very beautiful and serene. Just the place to spoil with some EMF ;-)

Operating in the sun - not much wrong with that
Spiderbeam 12m pole attached to the bench
The autumn leafs brought a lot of colour and the sun was out making it a warm 10 degrees Celsius. When I saw that the place was far from crowded I decided to operate from one of the benches overlooking a nice field. The bench was still a bit wet but nothing an old garbage bag could not solve. I stayed outside for almost 2 hours operating on 17m and 20m. Then rain came in (I was warned 15 minutes earlier thanks to a handy Android app) and I went back to the car. From the car I operated on 40m and 20m.

View from the operating position
The field itself was surrounded by wire of an unfriendly kind
I was slightly worried that the electric fence around the field would generate QRM but I did not notice it, apart from S7 QRM on 40m. But that is hardly extraordinary around lunch time.