Monday, 27 February 2017

HF activity plus Shack Computers: some thoughts.

I was disappointed to have missed Dave, G4FKI, who was passing through the area recently. Altered plans due to some snow meant our paths did not cross. Dave mentioned that he is active on 160m WSPR. I decided to give it a try and failed to get a match on my cobbled-together antenna. However, I did spend that day on 80m WSPR instead. It was quite interesting - all Europe except for EA/LA3JJ. Good to see Jon Ove on my screen again, and to work Africa after a long gap!
80m WSPR activity at GM4FVM on 23 February 2017.
 My regular forays onto 40m have also been quite good (by my standards) this past week ...
40m contacts (mostly JT9) at GM4FVM 20 to 27 February 2017
Click to enlarge if necessary.

It was good to reach Afghanistan on 40m, which is a first for me. Especially nice is that I have not really been trying, just coming on for a contact before going to bed.

There is something pleasing about working a few stations on a simple low dipole.
Shack computers? Me?

Well after a few issues with MSK144 and one specific type of processor, which we will leave aside for now, I have been pondering about what makes a good shack computer, and what factors are worth taking into consideration in selecting one. So here are some questions and I hope useful answers.

1) Do I need one at all?
No. There is a lot of joy to be had just working with a rig and a key or microphone. You can keep a paper log (if you need to keep one at all) and use paper QSLs (if you bother with those as well). No problem with that.

All you will be missing is a well organised log, instant QSLs, and superb digital modes such as PSK, JT9, JT65, WSPR, MSK144, ...

2) Will a computer not make radio noise and interfere with my reception?
Yes, probably, but there are steps that you can take. Firstly, try turning the computer on and off while listening to the band noise. A small amount of noise from a computer is inevitable. It depends on where your antenna is placed in relation to your shack, and where the noise is coming from.

If there is a lot of noise you can still take some measures to reduce it.

Most desktop computers have metal cases and these form Faraday screens which stop a lot of the noise getting out. However, the leads coming out of the computer leading to the rig often conduct and then radiate noise. The main weapon we have against this is the clip on ferrite or the ferrite ring.
Clip on ferrites come in many grades and sizes. The more turns of cable you get the better.
I have dozens of these in place. The closer you can get to the plug the better. If I cannot solve it that way I can always use a ferrite rig, which allows a lot of turns.
There are various diagrams you can see on the web showing how to wrap cables through clip on ferrites and rings. With the ring, you can reverse the direction of coil half way through for even more effectiveness.

So you have stopped the computer itself radiating thanks to the metal case, you have stopped the radiation from leads, what else can go wrong? Well the display screen itself can radiate. There is not much you can do about that, other than to try a different screen...

3) Do I need an expensive, highly rated computer?
No. Generally most amateur radio programs run with very little use of computer power. The only exception I have encountered recently is the real time decoding on MSK144. This is heavy but most reasonably powered computers can handle it. For any other mode a fairly moderate standard is all you need. For example, you can buy a Linx Windows Tablet on eBay currently for £89 (a bit more for one including the plug-in keyboard). Here is the Linx running JT65 (not a great photo, sorry)
The station at the other end does not know I am using a low powered tablet computer (for interest, the processor is a 32-bit Intel Atom single core running at 1.33GHz with 2.0GB of RAM).

Be wary though. This is a Windows tablet. You can get some of the main amateur software for other operating systems, but if you use Android, Chrome, Linux, Apple or other operating systems your choice of commercially available software is quite limited.

Conventionally, laptop computers differ from tablets (in addition to being bigger) by having more powerful processors, more RAM and more storage. This division is becoming blurred, as is the convention for laptops to have mechanical hard discs. Many now have solid state storage. The Linx above has the feel and look of a laptop when it has the keyboard attached, and with solid state storage it runs for ages on battery power. Great for operating "holiday style" from apartments in Portugal.

Having said all that, a laptop with more power is more at home in the shack. More capable of handling the data, the log and all at once.

The failing of both portable computer types which arises when it comes to shack work is often the noise created by the power supply. You can run on battery power, for a while anyway. Many of the supplied power supplies radiate lots of noise, and generic ones bought on eBay are usually worse. If you find a quiet power supply, guard it carefully.

4) Why do you use a desktop then?
I use up to 14 USB connections, plus two on the front for temporary use. Most laptops only have three or four USB connections. I find that almost all the external USB extender units I have used have caused lots of radio noise. I prefer to have the important USB plugs connected directly to the computer motherboard, either on the provided sockets on the board or using extension sockets plugged into the header sockets on the board.
Left - USB3 sockets with header socket plug, Right - USB3 plug in PCI-E board
Another terrible photo - I would encourage you not to click to enlarge this one. Must take better photos in future. Anyway, with a desktop you can add sockets, whereas with laptops and tablets, generally, you have to use noisy outboard boxes, which are also slower.

I prefer the direct sockets plugged into the header pins on the board, but the PCI-E plug in boards are OK for things that do not matter if they are slow to connect (not rigs!).

I use a desktop because I can mix and match the elements I use. Everything is in a nice metal box for screening. It all hides beneath the desk which puts another metre distance between the antennas and the computer. Also, they can have mighty fast processors at lower prices than fast laptops. And finally, I can buy cheap add-on bits and fit them myself.

I am not saying that a desktop is for everybody, but it works very well for me.

5) So you don't get any noise then?
Erm, yes, sometimes. You never know how much noise something is going to make by looking at it.
I had this desk top PC power supply for several years before trying to use it in the shack. It made terrible noise on 40m
Perfectly suitable computer parts outside the shack become demons inside. Yes I could try to solve the noise problem with this power supply but I have another to use instead. 

I have had similar problems with display screens. Having had two good ones of a certain make, the next one put a nasty carrier right on the 4m calling frequency. Actually, I would not have minded that carrier being just about anywhere else in the spectrum, but it decided to appear right where I did not want it. Fortunately I could just move the display screen onto a non-radio computer somewhere else.

These are the trials and tribulations of managing in the modern "sell 'em cheap" world.

My philosophy is to avoid noise problems by shifting problematic items to other duties outside the shack (which I can do, luckily).  That is another reason why I do not use laptops in the shack, as they are pricy items to buy to find a noise problem which cannot be fixed.

For other things, there are ferrites.

6) How do you keep track of it all?
With several things going on at once, good question. I use two display screens.

I segregate the data programs and the rotator information and put them on one screen (with everything in the same relation as the rig are in the shack, e.g. IC-7300 bottom left). Then I use the main screen to show, DXMAPS, browser, email etc.

One computer, two screens.
Left hand screen - radio data, rotator etc.
Right hand screen - browsers, log (usually minimised), email, etc.
The shack photo on my page shows it working. I cannot actually keep track of it all unless I segregate it this way.

You can add an extra screen to many tablets, and almost all laptops and desktops. With a desktop you can also add a hardware laden display card which takes a lot of the display processing off the main computer processor.

In the past I have used two computers at once I found it very difficult to manage. Controlling them from one keyboard and mouse involved a KVM switch which was noisy (of course), using the home network to control them was slow, there was more noise ... I found it simpler for me to work with one computer and two screens.

7) So why don't you route everything through something like Ham Radio Deluxe.
I have no problem with HRD, and I do use it for certain data modes. I do not use it to try to control everything because I have several rigs and two rotators. Yes, you can have rotator control with HRD, but then I would need multiple instances of HRD and that is getting crazy. I found trying to route other data modes through HRD caused latency problems. 

I have also tried the remote control software from Icom and Kenwood. It is fine, but I think I am at the limit of what one person can control through one computer.

So I just turn the VFO knob, or cycle through the memories. Call me old fashioned ....
OK, that is the way I do it. Others will have different ideas. 

But I would suggest, 
 - do not spend too much in case what you buy is very noisy, 
 - there is no need to go for something expensive or even new (my current shack computer is based on a second hand, i.e. used, £79 eBay cast-off). 
 - noise is a problem but it is worth trying to sort it out.

I would encourage anyone to try to get the best out of their shack computer. Those data modes are great.




Monday, 20 February 2017

WSJT-X, MSK144 and low processing power

OK, this one is for the computer nerds out there, so for general amateur radio listeners it may not be in the main stream of this blog.

ASSERTION:- Running WSJT-X with MSK144 mode is very heavy on computer power, but particularly on computers with AMD processors.

I can only make this assertion based on my own experience of 4 computers.

I started to have problems with computer 1, my standard office machine. Then I drafted in machine 2, a higher specification "gaming" machine, which was better but not great. That got me thinking and it planted in my head the fact that both this machines have AMD chips. I did not have an Intel machine around, but I did try my Windows tablet, which has a tiny single core Intel Atom processor and it seemed to work.

Then I built up computer 3, a purpose made model with a fast gaming motherboard which I specifically built to allow me to test a fast machine. It has high speed discs and SATA 3.0 cabling to stop other processes slowing down WSJT-X. Despite all this is was not much better.

So, to answer the question one way or the other I bought a cheap Intel based computer second hand from eBay for £79. This came with a Celeron processor which I changed for a 4 core Intel i5 running at 3.3GHz and added as much RAM as I had or could rummage from dead PCs - 6Gb. If this could run WSJT-X and MSK happily then my assertion was probably right - then I could reasonably say that it is the AMD ones which don't cope well with it.
Click to enlarge (as usual)
The cheap refurbished Intel machine ran just fine. It was far better than any of the better specified AMDs.

So what do I mean by "problems with WSJT-X and MSK144"?
Top two traces - MSHV fine. Bottom two traces WSJT-X cutting short. Both running MSK on AMD machine 2.
Well, the image above (click to enlarge if you need to) shows at the bottom WSJT-X being cut short before 12 seconds of the 15 seconds receive segment. For reference the top two traces show MSHV running at the same time to show that the audio and timing on the computer are OK. I had to cut the upper trace in each about half a second short to stop the traces renewing, but you can see the difference on the upper traces too.

I am not talking about clipping half a second off the odd trace when there was a transient load on the processor. When I say "problems" I mean routinely chopping the end off the received trace every 15 seconds. This would be half a second minimum, often two or three seconds. That is enough to waste a lot of time on meteor scatter contacts.

I would expect other momentary demands on the processor to shorten the trace very slightly once in a while and that would be a "slight" problem, but honestly I would regard that as perfectly acceptable. Here we were seeing significant shortening happening all the time.

I did a lot of work to try to identify what was happening. With the AMD machines the processor load was relatively high compared to the Intel one, even though the AMDs were all far more capable machines. However, when I got to machine 3 there was plenty of unused processor capacity, plenty of unused RAM and the discs were idling. It seemed that adding more speed, cores, or anything to the AMD machines was getting me nowhere. There seems to be something in the architecture of the system which is causing a bottleneck.

By contrast here is a screen shot of two instances of WSJT-X running on the simpler Intel machine (number 4)
Not a second dropped from either trace.

By that way, in case you think that I was working LU on 6m, that was on 40m JT9, and I had switched over modes and bands without erasing the screen.

It actually got to the point before I tried the Intel PC where, if I tried two instances of WSJT-X and MSK144 on the AMD machines I could shorten the segments to 6.5 seconds, at which point the % processor time showing in WSJT-X had exceeded 200%, the PC processor was overheating and I stopped before something blew up. Shutting down did not prevent the PC crashing. I'll spare you that photo. It certainly looked as if three good fast AMDs had a problem where a modest Intel rescued from a skip seemed to run almost faultlessly.

So do I have enough information to definitively say that all AMD processors have  a problem running WSJT-X with MSK144. Probably not. Just four machines compared here. Do I suspect that this is an issue? Yes. But suspicion is not proof.

If you use WSJT-X and do not use the MSK144 mode, this need not worry you. The other modes do not have real time decoding and are not an issue to even a slow computer. However, if it was me advising on a new computer for WSJT-X and MSK144, I would advise an Intel processor.

In fact, something second hand "Intel Inside" from eBay looks like a good bet.

I do not know why I bothered with all those fancy machines.

Seriously though, a moderate specification Intel machine should be fine. Multi-core, maybe 3GHz+, as much RAM as you can afford (or scavenge - you can buy more second hand on eBay if your machine can run it). WSJT-X does not use the discs much but beware of other processes going on at the same time, so the better specification you can muster the better. It need not break the bank and I will cover shack PCs shortly in another posting.

If anyone else has experienced  shortened traces while running MSK144 I am sure we would all be keen to hear from them.

EDIT: Later I found that it is better to have multiple instances of WSJT-X feeding USB sockets on different USB hubs inside the computer. OK, so I have only used inboard USB sockets (outboard USB hubs are not good for this purpose), but clearly some on-board USB sockets also share hubs. So I put one rig on the USB3.0 hub, one on the motherboard USB sockats and another on a separate hub feeding an on-motherboard USB extension board. That seemed to solve the shortened trace problem. I suspect that sharing a hub means sharing bandwidth for the WSJT-X audio signal. 



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Two metre rigs, mast up, computers down.

The February 2017 edition of Practical Wireless magazine has a review of the Yaesu FT-891 HF rig. Nothing wrong with this rig, but it is not something I would be interested in.

As part of the review, G3WYW, who works for Yaesu UK, was asked why the rig covers only up to 50MHZ and does not include other VHF or UHF coverage. He is quoted as saying:

"Yaesu see the VHF/UHF market nowadays as being driven by their Fusion offering of a combined FM/digital voice capability."

In other words, future "offerings" for the VHF/UHF market will not be "driven" by SSB, CW or machine generated modes.  

This may indeed be true. Marketing is a matter for Yaesu and they are quite entitled to come to that conclusion. No doubt their cash box is telling them to do this. However, I think it is sad and a reflection, not on Yaesu, but on the radio amateur fraternity.

If there is a demand for equipment, somebody will make it. Some people will make their own, and some of them will sell it too. I believe that Adam Smith (1723 - 1790, the Scottish originator of the social science we now call Economics) go it right when he said that the "hidden hand" of the market would provide what we need. He was talking about pins, but rigs and components work the same way. But it is also true that if there is little demand there will be little supply.

I believe that the reason why the radio trade is backing off making high quality SSB VHF radios is that the demand is tiny and getting smaller. You do not have to look far to see the results of that, and the cause of it. Lack of activity breeds lack of activity.

When the RSGB tried to encourage VHF activity in Scotland by tweaking the UK Activity Contests there was a howl of complaint from those living in the South. Yet if you listen to 2m SSB here you may not hear any station call CQ all day. In Scotland, at least outside the Central Belt, activity is tiny to non-existent, unless someone whistles someone else up on the dreaded KST jungle drums.

There is no widespread enthusiasm for VHF DX-ing any more. It has become a tiny niche in the market. In the 1970s through to the 1990s it was alive with activity. Not now. I am not going to carp about Class B licences, because I do not believe that had too much to do with it. There are far more possible explanations than just that one.

A recently qualified amateur told me that he was taught on his training course that VHF was only for "line of sight" communication. Indeed he believed that VHF meant FM, that only FM was used on VHF, and when I suggested otherwise he did not believe me.

The evidence is that VHF use for low signal strength contacts is declining. In this part of the world it is already virtually non-existent. The number of regularly heard data or voice stations operating on any of the VHF bands within 50km radius of me is one. It cannot get any lower or it will be zero.

It is not Yaesu's fault that they see no market for VHF or UHF outside the FM/digital voice world. That is their experience. I am sure that the other mass producers feel the same. If we neglect the older range of Yaesu gear, only the FT991 features VHF and UHF. Icom have the expensive IC-9100 and Kenwood the TS-2000 which is rather old itself. That is it. Each of these three have their "issues".

We have been sleepwalking onto this for years. Soon, the paucity of activists will bring about a paucity of equipment. That will mean that there will be even fewer active and then .... ?
Following on from my previous post, I have now had the chance to crank up the MM0CUG mast. Not quite fully as I have not organised the cable correctly. Still it went up to about 9 metres which seems like plenty to me.
The antenna on the left is the 4 metre vertical. I am not exactly sure that it justifies its place as I only work one or two people on it on a regular basis. On the other hand 4m FM has brought me 11 DXCC over the years!

On the CUG mast is the 3 element 6m beam (which still has a 4m driven element) and a Diamond x30 vertical. It was a fairly calm day and even then I was somewhat concerned by the movement of the upper section of the mast. Unlike the Tennamast it does not inspire me to raise the mast in a strong wind. So far my 5 element 6m beam has remained in the garage.
In all probability I will not raise it very often. The real purpose is to make the mast tiltable. My various 6m antennas were at its lowered height for years. However, why buy a mast which can be raised and not raise it?

So with this in mind, and with an eye on the wind chart, I cranked it up a couple of metres during the RSGB UKAC 6m contest. Before it was raised I worked one station, GM4JJJ, and after I raised it I worked ... nobody. I have to say that working nobody is quite common for me during 6m contests. I have given up coming on for them, but Mrs FVM was out and therefore I had the time to come on in between searching through my parts boxes (!). However, I heard several stations, including a few who otherwise I had never heard before. Even a couple of metres elevation helps a lot with tropo.
I have mentioned a couple of times that my PCs are not fast enough to work MSK on WSJT-X 1.7.0. Further investigation reveals that they are not really fast enough to use MSK on MSHV either, so something has to be done.

As part of this I decided to try to restore a rather nice Asus motherboard with an Intel processor. Most of my computers are AMD powered, and this may be something to do with their dislike of MSK or heavy loads. Anyway, I do know that even rather simple Intel powered computers will power MSK quite happily.

This old motherboard was part of a computer which died thanks to having a power supply unit which blew up. This is in part why I dislike switch mode power supplies. It went down sending a large spike through everything, ruining most of the peripherals. The board limped on for a while before it stopped. As it seemed to survive the initial blast I hoped I might be able to breathe new life into it now.

As part of the exercise I decided to clean the heat sink and fan on the processor. I took it all apart and cleaned it up, cleaning off the heat transfer compound at the same time.

There is no room in the shack for this type of work so I do it in a small room called "the utility room". I have to bring parts and tools from the shack, but I am closer to the tea bags and the kettle. In the shack I have general parts boxes for little used things, and a set of labelled bags for more commonly used parts.

I know I have a tube of heat transfer compound. I even got it out when I worked on the 6m linear last year, but I did not use it then. There should be a full tube.

Now, I was not in good form at this stage. Earlier I had tried to get my car out to take a load of tree branches to the local "civic amenity site" (i.e. dump). I loaded the trailer, attached the trailer to the car in the drive, and then I found that the car battery had failed. It started when I wanted to move it, but when I wanted to leave the premises it died completely.

It was 2C, snowing, and the car and trailer were stuck in the drive. Mrs FVM was in Glasgow, and the spare leisure battery in the garage did not have enough charge to start the car. Given that the dump would close later, I only had 90 minutes to use my 5 amp charger on the car. The mains voltage socket and plug for the charger would be out in the snow. Nothing else for it but to try.

It was during those ninety minutes that I noticed that the heat sink compound was not in the box marked "computer parts".

Surprisingly the car eventually started, but I had to keep it running for the whole time I was out and for that  reason I could not get to the shops to buy any food for tea. So when I got back and got the car back on the charger (now fortunately with the mains connections out of the snow), I had another hour or so to search before I had to walk through the snow to the village shop to buy some (frozen) food.

After tea there was another 90 minutes or so of searching for the heat sink compound.

In total this involved three searching sessions during which I tried:-

1) searching the box marked "computer parts", which is where it should be
2) searching the box marked "radio parts" just in case
3) searching the box marked "audio/video parts" in desperation
4) searching the box marked "radio bags" with 26 individually labelled Jiffy bags
5) searching the box marked "general bags" with 11 individually marked Jiffy bags
At this point I ordered another tube using eBay, just in case I never found it.
Repeating stage (1)
Repeating stage (2)
Repeating stage (4)
Repeating stage (5)
6) searching the 6 smaller boxes marked variously "microphones", "PSUs", "PDA" (?) etc
Repeating stage (1)
Repeating stage (2)
7) searching the box marked "Stationery" (found a cork screw and some Blu-Tack)
Repeating stage (1)
Repeating stage (2)

At this point Mrs FVM returned from Glasgow and ordered me out of the shack. By this stage the floor was littered with boxes and cables and I was in tatters.

After a few minutes I returned to the shack and repeated stage (1) again and then Mrs FVM appeared again and commanded me to stop. She said that if she made me a cup of tea and I settled down to watch "Australian Masterchef" I would remember where it was within ten minutes. I objected to this but decided the best bet was to give in. Anyway, I enjoy watching Australian Masterchef, especially on an elimination night. The compound would, inevitably, turn out to be in the box marked "computer parts", which is where it belongs.

After 5 minutes distraction it occurred to me that the tube might already be on the bench in the utility room and I might have set the computer in front of it. I went in and, yes, the tube of heat sink gunk was sitting right beside the computer.

While I had been standing beside the computer earlier I felt sure it would be in the shack, and I did not look around me. My excuse is that I was dealing with the car battery and anyway  ...

I have no excuse.

I hoped to get some sympathy from MM0XXL on the radio. He said helpfully that this is what happens if you do not put things back where they belong.


The (spare) tube of heat sink compound is due to arrive on Wednesday.

Then I will have two to lose.
The previously lost tube of heat sink compound now located on top of the heat sink in case I lose it again.
The computer still is not working, by the way.

While I was hunting about I did find the microphone for the TS-590 in the "computer parts" box. Just was well as I needed it for the UKAC contest. I did wonder where that had got to. It certainly was not in the "microphone" box when I looked the previous day.

The sooner propagation improves and I have someone to work, the sooner I can forget about repairing things.



Thursday, 2 February 2017

More indignity, MM0CUG mast and what to do in February

I like to illustrate this blog with suitable photographs.

The image I just took perfectly reflects the latest developments here. Sadly I am not going to show it as it may trigger the "skin tone" decency filters in some systems. Yes, I know you have your filters set so that you should not accidentally see an image with too much flesh.

The photo in question shows a hairy FVM leg with a nasty gash in it. You should just imagine how gruesome that would look, even without the injury.

Yesterday I managed, again, to fall off the steps during an antenna swapping exercise. Not far to fall, only a three step height, but enough to cut, bruise and strain all sorts of things. I ended up in the flower bed and unable to move. I eventually had to use my mobile phone to ring Mrs FVM to come and pull me vertical again. At least this time she was here, last time I got stuck she was in London.

This was a silly fall, and was basically due to the damp conditions. Grrr.

I'll spare you the photo. It reminded me of my first proper job, working in a photo-finishing laboratory for £7.00 per week. I was in charge of the interneg machine, a device which copied transparencies. We did work for the pathology laboratory and the coroner, and I spent many happy hours re-photographing photographs of dead and mangled bodies. Wonderful grounding in the art of photography.
After the previous unwelcome intervention of gravity I decided to convert my second mast to tilt-over so that I could work from the ground. As a result I should not need to climb very far, but of course I still need to get the co-ax fed through into the house.

The MM0CUG mast has not been without its issues. To some extent I blame myself for not specifying a steel mast. I went for aluminium which tends to flex rather a lot in the wind. He gives the option of either steel or aluminium, but aluminium is cheaper.

Gary set it up as he usually does, with a lot of slack to allow the mast to be tilted sideways when lowered - apparently that is important for some users. The snag is that here is it so windy that the mast had a habit of tilting whilst being lowered. Then the cable got stuck on the pulley. At that point everything ground to a halt with the mast at a crazy angle and nothing for it but for me to climb up and apply heavy blows with a hammer whilst supporting the mast with my other hand.

After a lot of tinkering that problem is under control but I need to do more tightening and adjusting to get it entirely right.

Then the other pulley, which feeds the wire which raises the inner section of the mast, broke. Fortunately that happened with the mast fully lowered. Gary called in at some stage either late last night or early this morning and left a replacement pulley at our front door.
Broken pulley, left, replacement pulley, right
Gary has explained that he thinks he received a faulty set of pulleys. He tells me that the new ones are now welded in four places rather than two, and now painted to resist corrosion. Apparently after seeing my pulley, which at the time had been here for 2 months waiting for the installation, he had already decided to improve the weatherproofing. Certainly the new one looks better able to resist the conditions here which include both high winds and salty air from the nearby North Sea.

It only took me half an hour to install the new pulley. I was then able to extend the mast for the first time. The 6 metre band antenna is at about 6 metres above ground when the mast is lowered. I raised it a few metres, and in theory it should go up to about 11 metres when fully extended. Rest assured, a photo of that event will be featured here when it happens.
Ah February. Statistically the coldest month of the year here. As I write it is 8 degrees C, and scheduled to be 11C tomorrow. So it is unseasonably warm this year. There is still plenty of time for snow and gales this Winter.

It has been said that February is the worst month of the year for the VHF enthusiast too. Certainly, seasonal Es is a long way off, and Meteor Scatter is at its weakest. Meteor Scatter QSOs are possible all year, but they are harder and take longer at this time. We might get some tropospheric lifts or auroras, but that is unpredictable.

I read a book which suggested that February should be the month for getting your antennas ready for the season which is about to start. I have been shuffling the antenna pack, or at least when I can keep my feet on the ground I have.

Amongst other things I moved my 2 metre band vertical, leaving my Ecoflex co-ax hanging. I could bind it up and weatherproof it until I was ready to make more use of it, or just give in and put the 2m yagi back. So I put the 2m yagi back up. Take the line of least resistance.

The thing is, the arrival of the Kenwood TS-590 shows I am moving nearer getting the 2 metre band sorted out. That rig has not only fulfilled my HF and 6 metre needs, it is standing ready for the 2m transverter which would complete the process. But the treasury is empty and I cannot afford to take another step yet. At least the 2m antenna is up and ready.

I am getting there. Using February to get the antennas sorted out is a good plan.

Whether you are considering using a long wire or combating radio frequency interference, or just trying to feed in some co-ax while standing on some steps - please stay grounded.