Sunday, 28 August 2016

VQ Log, Junk Sale Hi&Low, plus TE 0552 Amp again.

It had to happen.

Someone who built radios at age ten, learned computer coding at 18, has built his own computers for 25 years, computer controls his rotator, runs a radio blog and even sometimes solders things together cannot continue to use a paper log book.

It finally became painfully obvious that things could not carry on last month. A couple of years ago I wrote a database program to keep track of my countries and squares worked. This was fine until I came to extend it to 6 metres. The process involved ploughing through log books, working out which contact was important, and entering details. Then it occurred to me that his was a waste of effort. If I had a system that included all the likely contacts then I would not need to do double entries, and it could work out what was important based on filters I entered myself.

Plus my memory is not what it was. For example, I discovered that I am capable of forgetting entire VHF openings, and for that I blame the fact that there are more and more openings to recall as "Time Marches On". My memory must have some finite limit. And the ultimate issue - this is a hobby. It should be as simple as it can be. Trying to store information on bits of paper and remembering specific openings is not a good use of my organic storage.

I could not ignore another great pointer either. I became self-employed in 1999 when my employer kicked me out on account of my failing health (I suspect their pension scheme did not expect me to be alive and kicking for so long). I took a spreadsheet which I had used to keep track of my non-employment earnings and expended it to cover the increasingly complex ways I earned my keep. Between 1999 and 2016 this grew and grew in complexity. But it was a product of its era. In 1999 I wrote it in Lotus 123. The fact that Lotus 123 still runs on Windows 10 is a bit of a surprise (the associated database stopped working years ago). But I had to admit that 123 no longer meets my needs, or at least the 1999 version doesn't. So, regretfully, I re-wrote it in a more modern format. Last week I did my 2015-2016 tax returns which are the last based on  accounts held in 123. Anyway, now that I am more retired than working my accounts are simpler.

Flags at half mast, end of an era. I just have to accept that MSDOS is dead. If only RTTY would go the same way.

So I have all the proof I need to show I have to move with the times. VQLog seemed the obvious solution as EA6VQ already provides my lifeline with DXMaps. Also, the great and the good of the VHF world already use VQLog. You can find VQLog if you follow the link on the sidebar to DXMaps and click on "Software" and then it appears on a drop down menu. I tried out the sampler version for 6 days before buying the supported version.

Unfortunately VQLog does not seem to do tax returns as well.

There are lots of things you can do with VQLog that I do not need. With five rigs turned on around me I cannot use the software to set or record my working frequency. At the moment it is 28.1261 (or 24.92461), 50.276, 70.230, 70.450 and 145.7625, and I am transmitting on two of those from time to time. Neither can it turn my rotator as I have two rotators. So I can leave those features out. It is the storage, sorting and mapping features I can make use of.

So more of that later but it has taken AGES to capture all the contacts I feel I need into the software.

D'oh. Maybe I should have changed years ago. But would I just have written my own log software in Lotus, or Quicken, or Scribe, or some now entirely defunct package? Probably.

At least now I am able to use logs from WSJT-X and HRD-Log to fill some of the gaps. Also, I can use my existing database information to identify the key contacts I need to enter. There are just too many of them. I am only covering my period at this QTH, about 8 years, as I re-set my logging clock when I moved here from G-land.
Well that is why I have been fairly silent on the blog lately. I have been too busy pressing keys.

I did find time to visit the Cockenzie and Port Seaton Club "Junk Night".
They really need a better name for it. I have seen it called a "mini-rally" which describes it better.

Anyway, the highs of Cockenzie are always the people you meet there. You always encounter like-minded individuals, people you knew from years ago, and others you just bump into. Then there are long conversations about common interests and radio problems you share. Usually there is a bit of belly-aching from me about the world in general. Actually buying and selling things comes last for most people.

I was surprised to be approached by Jim, GM4DHJ. Surprised because he reads this blog. How he recognised me is a bit of a mystery, but he did. We had a good blether about lots of things and it was great to meet him and his XYL. I did rather take over their stall, but then maybe selling things was not the only purpose they had either.

It says a lot about the spirit of these events that you can go along with nothing particular in mind, then meet people who you can talk to for ages.
Me, Jim GM4DHJ and Jim's XYL

It is a casual get together with some trade stands, a raffle and a very fine array of snacks and filled rolls. It is clear to see that the average age of the amateur in South East Scotland is getting higher. They are also getting heavier. At least the Cockenzie and Port Seaton club takes a sensible approach to training new amateurs of all weights. If only my local club would do the same.

I looked long and hard at two second hand (used) VHF rigs. One was a pretty ancient 2m one, and the other a more modern synthesised one which included 70cms. OK, the old one will be deaf by modern standards but I have a nice pre-amp. It is a pity that dedicated VHF rigs are no longer made by the main producers. I understand the economic arguments that brought this about, but from a technical point of view surely a single band rig must be capable of being better on a specific band than a multi-band one. Which I guess is why so many VHF enthusiasts use transverters. Anyway, I did not buy either of them.

Those were the highs. Now for the lows. What could offend me about this item for sale for £15?
It is a controller for a Yaesu G-600 rotator. The RC version, just the like the broken one I have.

Well, as I went into in some detail earlier in the blog, when my controller packed in I thought it was be impossible to replace. I bought an EA4TX ARS-USB controller, and very fine it is. But the computer controller was over £200. I feel pretty sure that I would have gone for this one had I known it was around. Bah. I could have spent the £185 on any number of things.

Not really a junk sale when it has useful things like this in it. I didn't buy it!

I didn't buy anything. For the first time in years, I left Cockenzie empty handed.
My TE Systems 0552G 6 metre band linear has been back under the soldering iron.

As was discussed earlier down this blog, I repaired a break in the switching circuits, or rather duplicated the 13.8V line to the switching panel, bypassing a break in some unknown place buried under the circuit board.

This was not quite prefect. The switches were not working correctly - the amplifier switch worked the preamp, the preamp switch did nothing. The whole thing could not be switched off using the switches. I had routed my extra wiring round the side of the board, thinking that the original path under the board might have been to avoid RF pickup.

Sure enough, it was picking up RF. This was not a problem with data modes, but with SSB it was showing a little bit of distortion and making a very odd noise. So I sidelined it.

At this stage I must admit to a habit of not going back into something after I have worked on it. I find it very hard to re-open things and go back over something I have done before. So the 0552G sat in the corner of the shack for several weeks until I found the energy to fix it.

I had two plans. Either, Plan A, I could find a way to insert the 13.8V more directly onto the board and cut out the long wire I had installed before. Then, Plan B was to replace my long bridging wire with screened cable. Plan B was a bit of a shambles but if it worked then it would do. Plan A was the one to go for, and maybe I could find the right track on the circuit board and get the switches working properly.

Once inside, it turned out that a variant on Plan A would work. There is a track on the board taking the 13.8V from the main "amplifier in" switch to the RJ socket in the back. It passes right past the main 13.8V input. So I used just a couple of centimetres of wire to bridge onto that track and, wow, the RF pickup stopped. No need for Plan B, which might not have worked anyway.

I forgot to take a photo and I am not about to open it all up again to take one now.

So my additional wiring is now about 450mm shorter than it was, giving less scope to pick up RF. Maybe that is why the original track was under the board. Anyway, the switches still don't work properly, but the way they work has changed. The preamp switch now works the preamp! Hooray. The "amplifier in" switch also works the pre-amp, but does not turn the whole amp on or off as it is supposed to. That is because I have wired the supply to the "wrong" side of it. But that is better than it was before and I can turn it off entirely by just cutting the DC supply from the power supply.

Speaking of the power supply, it turned out that it was making some of the odd noises I had blamed on the TE Amp. It is a "MyDEL MP-50SWIII", stated spec 50 Amp 13.8v PSU. They are available under many names all over the world. Mine creaks as you draw current from it.
It seems to work perfectly well. The odd thing was that it added noises to the clicking made by the 0552G. So now that the linear is fixed and silent, I can hear the creaks from the PSU.

I'll just ignore them.

These odd noises do not help my paranoia. Maybe the KGB have put a bug in it, so that is why it creaks. They want to know why I have a 70MHz meteor scatter QSO with the same station in Denmark every week.

Come to think about it, that is a odd behaviour.
I will keep working on the logging and maybe I will be able to review August soon. It has been an interesting "Month On The Air". But if there is an aurora on Monday expect me to be even more delayed.



Saturday, 13 August 2016

Analysis of a good day's radio

First of all, a credit to the female side of the operation who keep everything running ...
Mrs FVM and Katy are doing a bit of surfing on the net together, no doubt looking for things I never noticed we had run out of. This pair keep me in line and sometimes allow me a full day off to concentrate on radio. I owe it all to them.
If you ever come here expecting to be fed, you are taking a risk.

The FVM household is meat-less (except Katy who, despite being given meat, also catches her own supply).

Mrs FVM does not eat meat. I cannot eat high-iron food (at the extreme end of the scale - black pudding [blood pudding]), so I avoid red meat anyway. For different reasons I have to avoid dairy too, meaning no milk or cheese. I can manage a small amount each day which I reserve for a little ice cream or chocolate on special occasions. Most seafood is out for me. Highly acidic foods also cause me problems. Fish is pretty popular.

I am not a vegetarian although I do not generally eat meat here except on rare occasions, and then it would usually be chicken or turkey.

All this complex stuff caused my sister to ask a tricky questions "So, what do you eat?". I'll leave you to sort that out for yourselves. But in the days when I used to go to a radio club I used to be asked the question - "So what do you do on radio". In a similar sense, many amateurs who know I do mostly VHF cannot really conceive how I put the day in. They think I listen to scratchy FM stations, I suspect.

I thought that if they need an answer to that question and I no longer go to their meetings, I will try to explain it here instead.

A day in the life of Amateur Radio Station GM4FVM (9 August 2016 to be exact).

Firstly we note the date, late in the Es season here and in the general zone of the Perseids Meteor Shower. August 2016 is around the time of the first "spotless days" of the current Solar cycle. However, it turned out that 9 August 2016 was not spotless and the Solar Flux Index was 92 - quite good though I regard 100 as the trigger point for action on HF.

Secondly, I had more or less cleared the decks and this was a radio day. No interruptions were expected and I was in the house on my own.

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but I only worked on 3 bands at once. 10m, 6m and 4m. I did have some conversations on 2m FM but those don't count as proper amateur activity. I did keep a watch on 2m proper but nothing exciting happened, or I didn't see it, which amounts to the same thing.

All this scene setting is very good, but what about the actual radio?

On 10m, as usual I was using WSPR. As the sunspot activity is not great I have also been watching 12m using WSPR's band hopping settings. Here is the 12m result for the day:-
The pleasantly high solar flux index (well, for this point in the cycle) made the 10m activity look a lot more interesting than recently:-
Of course this is not the way I use these results. I do not wait until the end of the day and see what I have collected. I use WSPR dynamically to let me know where the Sporadic E openings are occurring. Once I get a picture from 10m I can go onto 6m and look there.

When thinking about what the day might bring I look at the geomagnetic sites to work out if a solar storm is underway and there might be some enhanced propagation. On this day there was some, but not enough to cause an aurora. However, therefore I could expect there to be enhanced Sporadic Es.

Looking at the air pressure charts suggested low pressure and no prospect of tropospheric enhancement.

So it seemed that, in the absence of Es, meteor scatter would be the way to go. I listened around the often used frequencies 50.230, 70.230 and 144.370. There were a couple of interesting stations spotted, but none could be worked.

Fiddling about on 6m I heard IS0AWZ (JM48ng 2024km) at 12:51. He was very strong and I quickly called him. He came back, first still calling CQ, and then he went back to a Scandinavian station. OK, I though I might just listen for a while. IS0AWZ had cleverly worked out that this was Es rather than meteor scatter. Therefore, when he did not get a reply from the other station he called me. We completed a very quick QSO which would have been 599++ using conventional reporting.

I was very pleased to work Sardinia on 6m at a great signal strength. This proves that there is always the chance of an Es contact while you are waiting for meteor scatter. Although the contact took place on JT6M meteor scatter mode, that mode works well on Es and is quicker than JT65 to complete a QSO. There was no other Es noted and the propagation quickly faded. I emailed Sergio to thank him for his quick wits and he wished me all the best for the Perseids meteor shower.

And that was it for the entire morning and afternoon from 10:00 to after 17:00. Yes, there are long pauses and times when conditions can suddenly recover ... or not.

After 17:00 10m WSPR started to pick up, with stations in HB9 and OE appearing. That got me calling on 6m and at 17:19 I worked Italy on 6m (IZ6FXP JN62 1841km). Signal strengths were good at -05 dB. That sends me scuttling for 4m to find some OIRT broadcast stations. Maybe I should point East.

At 17:50 there was a 20 minute opening to the East on 4m. I worked SP6MLK (JO80 1387), OM5KM (JN98 1612), OK2BRD (JN99 1524) and SP2MKO (JO93 1345). Mostly S9 and easy to work. That is how Es usually is, first nothing, then suddenly strong signals, then nothing again.

This time, although the pace lessened, I kept hopping up and down between 4m and 6m, picking off interesting contacts. First at 18:22 was HA5CD (KN07 1838) on 6m JT65. Then back to 4m SSB for SP7BUZ (KO00 1600) at 18:28. 19:10 found me back on 6m working EA4GPZ (IN80 1706). All 57 to 59 reports.

Back to 6m at 19:34 to try IZ2DMV but the propagation was unstable and he disappeared. I always give two or three more calls in case it is QSB, but in reality at this time of night it is probably the band beginning to close.

I know that there can often be a DX opportunity just as the bands are closing. As the ionisation fades there are often DX paths which become workable - briefly. Es (and all ionisation really) is at its best in DX terms when it is weakest in strength terms.

So I hung on just to see. I was calling on 70.230 on meteor scatter when I noticed something on the display of the IC-7300. I could see some CW which appeared to be on 70.200. So I moved down but by the time I got there I could just hear some very fast weak CW. I decided to take a chance - just sending a question mark and my callsign - once. I heard more of the fast CW and thought that it had nothing to do with me. Then I picked out my callsign, my report (559) and what appeared to be Ivan (S51DI's) callsign. So I felt that I had no option but to go back on CW, but at my standard 10 wpm plodding speed. Ivan just pressed on at his speed, no doubt knowing that the band was about to close. I was stuck with it. I just had to go on and try to keep up. Anyway, I completed the QSO on CW into square JN76 at 1618km.

I was a bit shaken by my first CW QSO for ages, and an unexpected one too. I knew that once 4m closes, 6m often has a bit to go. This last gasp can also be the best DX of the day. Right at the end of the day is my favourite DX window. Well, first thing  could be too, but I am asleep then. DX is important but not worth getting out of bed for. Anyway, after 21:30 local time in August is time for a CW on 6m JT65.

First I worked SV3BSF in Patras (KM08 2640) at 20:32 and a new square. Then even better was SV9CVY in Rethymno (KM25 3092) at 20:46, bringing a new DXCC and a new square. 3000+km on VHF is not a bad result, especially as I finished just short of 22:00 local time (and local midnight at his end). I gave them -05 and -01 signal reports, so good signals even then.

So what do we draw from all this? For anyone wondering what I do on VHF, this day's diary shows that although I was sitting here all day, I only worked one station until 17:00. Meteor scatter, right in the Perseids season, produced nothing at all. Every QSO was on Es. Every QSO has good signals. There was no scratching about in the noise. After a very long wait, there was plenty of action when the band did open.

Key points:-
1) I would suggest you don't take up VHF unless you are ready to wait for ages between openings
2) When the openings come they can be fast and furious
3) 12 QSOs, 6 DXCC on 6m (Sardinia, Italy, Hungary, Spain Greece, Crete), 4 DXCC on 4m (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia)
4) Best DX 3092km - average 1852km
5) Still going at 21:50 local time
6) Everyone was good signal strength
7) All the 10m operation was WSPR, all the 6m operation was JT65 or JT6M, and all the 4m operation was SSB or CW. That is my system of working on three bands. If I had a microphone for each band I would keep pressing the wrong buttons. This way one produces a map, one produces a readout and the other one makes a noise, so I can distinguish which one is which.

Not bad compared to what I might have done on 40m or 80m in 4 hours of operation. I had to wait all day for it, and it might not have happened at all. Then again, that is the joy of it for me.

I do not have a fancy station, no "competition grade" rigs, no kilowatt linears, and on 10m it is a simple vertical. On 6m just two elements. So I am pleased with that for a day's radio.

So that bring us a bit nearer the answer as to "what do I do on the radio". As to "what do I eat", well I manage to eat enough to be a bit overweight.

As I write this the Perseids meteor shower is doing fairly well so I hope to have something to report on that soon.



Saturday, 6 August 2016

All those USBs, Mixed Sporadic E and a 10 hour QSO.

I have spoken before about all the USB sockets and plugs in the back of my computer.

I happened to read this blog
the day after I had tried to sort out similar problems myself (it is his August 2016 posting).

Like Gary I also have had problems with an add-on USB-3 card failing to recognise USB connections. This seemed to happen a random and resulted in various crashes and sometimes damaged discs when the whole thing ground to a halt in an uncontrolled way.

A bit more investigation revealed that one PCI-E USB-3 extender was causing the problem. In fact, when I thought about it, I have similar problems with several USB-3 expansion boards over the years in various computers. As this PC is from the USB-2 era, the only way to get a USB-3 socket is to use one of these boards and I need USB-3 to do my backups in a timely fashion.

So I bulked up my USB plugs as best I could onto the existing USB-2 board and the motherboard sockets. That still left a need for a USB-3 extender. This sometimes failed to be recognise plugs. I tried to put things on it which did not matter so much. these could wait until they decided to join us, maybe a few minutes after booting up, or sometimes not at all. But there are only so many sockets, and one of the rigs or data cards could not be left off for a time, nor the keyboard, mouse etc. Eventually the pitfall of this system was the EA4TX rotator controller. I could hardly operate without turning the antenna sometimes. There was no other free socket to use.

Now we get into the nitty-gritty. This "low profile" computer (called, imaginatively "Office") has only one PCI slot and two PCI-E slots. The PCI slot has a 5 socket USB-2 card in it and it works 100% fine. The USB-3 card is in one of the PCI-E sockets and a Sound Blaster board is in the other one. I need to keep the USB-3 one just for the backup disc. So I need to sacrifice the Blaster board for more USB sockets, but I cannot trust the PCI-E extension cards. I have had three and they all failed to recognise the sockets at some time of other, often with nasty results.

So I went back to the drawing board. Why have I got to install a board with circuitry, driver and the potential to go wrong when we used to do this more sensibly? So I bought a dumb set of USB sockets from Amazon for £3.53.
I like solutions like this. The fancy PCI-E boards may be very good but they are complex and evidently often fail to work reliably. This device is just a pair of plugs, some wire and a pair of double sockets. It plugs directly into the motherboard. You can also get USB-3 versions too, but my Office motherboard does not have the right sockets. And I not only save some power drain and a thing to go wrong, I save another oscillator circuit to make noise.

I have used the two socket versions of these adaptors in many computers over the years but it had not dawned on me that I could use one now. What might seem old-fashioned may also work. They have proven to be completely reliable for me so far over years of use.

All you have to check, and this important, is that your motherboard has the right sockets. Certainly my two Asus boards do, and my Gigabyte whizzo fast machine has USB-3 equivalents.

OK, I still had to lose the Blaster sound board as I need to mount the sockets where that would normally be. However, all my rigs now connect by USB (hence the need for the sockets in the first place) and not by analogue audio connections. The IC7100 and the 7300 create their own virtual audio ports. The FT-450 and 817 connect via the ZLP interface which does the same. So all I need to do "audio-wise" is to find a home for the 3.5mm audio jack for the PC audio - and a cheap USB card does that. It uses one socket, and the items moved from the USB-3 board fill the rest. There we go - 4 sockets on the motherboard, four on the PCE card and four on this adaptor. Plus a USB-3 socket on the unreliable PCI-E board.

Everything is now running smoothly.

Amazon said when I ordered the sockets (25 July) that they would arrive - from China - between 3 and 23 August. That did not inspire confidence. They arrived on 2 August.

Low tech solutions often work. This one does. My rotator now works as soon as I boot up, as do the printer and scanner, which previously were unknown quantities depending on whether the USB-3 board would remember to connect them. And the USB-3 board - well it can join us now when it likes.

By the way, here is an image of my first computer (well, first if you ignore Sinclair ZX-81s and ICL main frames) ...
Minus the cat of course. This was sold to me around 1990 by a notable radio amateur. I pointed out to him recently that it has since failed. Mind you, it did have a 7.16 MHz processor and 384Kb of memory. It came with one 5.25" internal floppy disk drives. This current "Office" computer has a processor running at 4.2 GHz and 8Gb of RAM and it is in fact the lowest spec of my three desktops. And it does not have a floppy disc drive. But then the Tandy had no USBs, which had not been invented then. Maybe I have to accept that the Tandy is past its expected useful lifespan.
The geomagnetic storm produced by the recent coronal hole has continued for three days, producing good Es every day (usual space here for derogatory comment about Es predictions based on jet streams). This is what this coronal hole looks like.
So far we are into the fourth day of high speed solar wind and raised X-ray levels.

Day 1 I have already reported on. Day 2 created a large Es opening over most of Europe but I only had one contact (and an unfinished one - see later). Day 3 was very nice and I am writing this in Day 4.

Day 3 was pretty good here with Italy, Solvenia, Germany, Poland, Switz, Dodecanese, Spain, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Austria all worked on 6m.

On 4m I worked Czech, Croatia, Poland and Hungary. Despite the total I reckoned that signal strengths on 4m were lower than I expected. At one stage I had to go out to see the doctor and I decided to leave the mast cranked up. I usually crank it down if I go out, but this was short visit so I reckoned I could leave it up. Later on that night I went out to lower the mast only to discover that it had been down all day. Lowered both when I was working 4 countries and also while I was at the doctor.

No wonder I was not getting anywhere on meteor scatter. My antenna was pointing straight at the wall of next door's house.

The 6m antenna is on a different mast so it was not affected.

Grrr. I suppose we all make mistakes ....
On Day 2 the Es kept 6m open until 22:00 and only then did I work one station. A second station called me on JT65. I replied with a report and he called me again. I sent his report, and he called me again. This went on for about ten minutes. I sent his report but he just kept calling me. He did not send a report. So I sent messages in the 12 character space left for use in JT65. "U JUST CALL ME" and "MY RST PSE". But he just kept calling me. I then sent nothing and he called me again. So I turned off and went to bed. Returning the next day, I called and the same station returned with a report (note, not a call so, it was the same QSO) and we conducted a QSO, exchanged reports and then some friendly comments.

The whole QSO took 10 hours 49 minutes to complete. I cannot count it as breaking my longest QSO (3 hours) as my transmission was not continuous. But as he came straight back with a report, do you think that he was there for the whole night, calling me? Maybe.
The solar wind and Bz factor are all still high enough for an aurora, though we have just had excellent Es. There have been a few auroral contacts, but none here so far. I am still hoping that it might tip over into an aurora at some stage over the next few days.



Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Es, aurora and meteor scatter, my favourite odd modes. Plus pirates?

Es do not seem to have been as good as they normally are at this time of year. I have been scratching around for QSOs, maybe making one or two per day. Usually we would have had a big Es cloud arriving over Denmark by now, with glorious openings into the Baltic.

It finally happened yesterday. There was an aurora warning for that day. As I often find, an increase in solar (i.e. geomagnetic) activity short of an aurora often really enhances Es. And that is what happened. So much for the jet streams and the weather then.

For evidence look no further than this:-

Bz at 16.0! Wow.

And this:-

4m and 6m burst open with Es.

I worked Germany, Slovenia, and Hungary on 6m. On 4m I worked Poland, Hungary, Germany and another place.

In truth I could have worked a lot more. On the one hand I had to go out, and on the other hand 4m clogged up with spectacular OIRT broadcast stations.

Copying anything through that would be difficult, though I did manage to work SP2HHX and HA6ZB. The trick is to work stations before, after, and in the lulls. Jurek, SP9HWY was a nice contact in the lulls: he is a regular contact here with a splendid signal.

Another nice one on 4m was Bernie, DI2MN. There are only two German stations on 4m at the moment, both with "Experimental Service" licences. DI2MN has only one tx frequency, 69.950, so you need to work split to reach him (or them, as I understand that several amateurs are co-licencees of some of those stations). It is a bit of a struggle, but worth it. JN58 is not far away (1267km) and I have worked DI2MN before but very welcome all the same. Wonderful signal. It is a new country for this year - I try to keep a yearly list as well as an all-time one.

These German 4m licences are issued in the "Experimental Service" not the Amateur Service (as defined by the ITU). This creates an odd situation for UK licencees in working a station outside the amateur service, which is not allowed. The issue for us under Para 9(7) of our licences is whether they are radio amateurs. One could not, for example, work a radio amateur using an Aeronautical Service licence apart from during an emergency. However, this case looks OK to me, as these stations are licenced to radio amateurs to work other radio amateurs. It is a bit of a grey area though.

If that sounds like a storm in a teacup, then I was called by someone else. I had real doubts about this one. I worked him, and then went and looked up whatever I could find. He was working from a country that does not have 4m licences at present. Or so I believe. I cannot know the licensing situation in all jurisdictions. It was not a new country or square for me as they had licences before but the permission was time-limited and has lapsed. From what I read, it looks like this guy was not licensed to transmit on that frequency now. How do I know whether what I read is accurate?

This is completely different from the German situation. The German stations are legal, just my licence is unclear about things at my end. In this second case it looks to me now as if I worked a pirate. I did not know at the time. I still don't really know. Has he got a personal licence?

Does anyone care?

I do. We should only work genuine amateur stations on the correct frequencies or chaos will result. Contests and awards would degenerate into farce. We would lose our privileges (quite rightly).

Moving on, this time of year usually has me moving on in another sense: meteor scatter. I had a nice contact this morning on 4m with OZ2OE. I have calling CQ with no effect for hours over the past week, so I actually missed the first few minutes of Ole's reply. Every cycle he was transmitting I heard him. What a wonderful proof that MS works well over those sorts of distances on 4m. OZ2OE is in JO45 at 743km. Unfortunately I had no other takers for my CQs, but hopefully that will come soon.

As I write the 4m band is again full of broadcast stations. Yet, oddly, 10m and 6m are dead here.

What next?

I'll work them first and worry later.

Or perhaps not worry at all...