Friday, 4 May 2018

At last, Spring is here

Finally, the time of year has arrived when the evidence is here - our long Winter's days of waiting are over.

It has started!

Of course I refer to the Giro d'Italia cycle race which started its 101st iteration today in Jerusalem.

Well, not just that. The Sporadic Es season has started in the Northern Hemisphere and meteor scatter propagation has picked up again too.
28MHz WSPR spots to/from GM4FVM 24 hours up to 17:00 on 4 May
I have been rather distracted by other things, so the Lyrid meteor shower in late April and the Eta Aquariids just about now have largely passed me by. Not without some activity though
QSOs by meteor scatter at GM4FVM 15 April to 4 May 2018
Es activity has really got underway. 50MHz FT8 has been heaving:-
Snapshot of 50MHz activity in a 15 minute period on 3 May 2018 on PSK Reporter
I even managed to capture a new DXCC for me on 6m on 4 May with S01WS in Western Sahara. I had seen this station on 6m last year but never made the contact. Today they were very strong, and I also managed to double my contacts in Algeria by adding 7X2TT to last year's scalp of 7X2KF, and indeed work them both today. Together with three new squares, that was not a bad haul from 6 QSOs on 50MHz today.

With general mayhem underway in the FT8 window I have been tending to sit on the sidelines and watch.

Nothing so far on 4m Es, though with German stations active again this year during the period May to August I managed two QSOs amongst the meteor scatter list above.

On the two metre side I have been much perplexed by miniscule drift in my TS-590SG/transverter combination. Not that this would count as drift were it not for FT8 and similar data modes. Both piece of equipment are fitted with high-specification oscillators. The drift is very slight. They both drift in the same direction. This is irritating, but it never seems to be enough to affect a decode. I can see it on the FT8 waterfall. Over a period of time it amounts to perhaps 15Hz, a laughably small total in the days of yore, but it annoys me.

Both the TS590SG and the ME2HT transverter are drifting the same way, making the beacons I check against and my GPS standard appear to drift downwards.

I did open up the TS-590 to check that it had the fans fitted the correct way round (no kidding, this is a fault which many of them have) and I even removed the TCXO and inspected it. I re-soldered the TCXO joints. Nothing seems to stop the TS-590SG gradually rising in frequency as it slowly warms up.  I never noticed this on 6m and it must just be because the transverter is also moving that it came to light. However, it is a tiny amount and very slow so I think I can say that the TS-590SG is stable.

The transverter, on the other hand, can be made to gradually drift downwards by 5Hz by placing a fan on the top slots. So why not leave the fan in place? Good point. I will probably fit a fan on the top of the transverter as a permanent feature.

It does not really bother me but I had hoped that my days of fitting fans to things were over.

I used to have an FL50/FR50B combination. They drifted like plastic in the oceans, bobbing up and down. In that case it was Kilohertz, not Hertz. It never bothered anybody then, but now I expect something close to perfection. Both the transverter and the TS590 are very good on their own, it is just a pity they both move together in the same direction, adding to my delusion that this matters.

The main cause of drifting is my own self-doubt, and my new-found ability to measure tiny changes in frequency.

The transverter/TS590 combination is fine. All it needed was a fan. It took me days to sort it out and it was a frustrating business as mostly it is in my head.

Just as well I am not a perfectionist.
Speaking of the Giro d'Italia, I am hoping for another scorching race like last year's. Tom Dumoulan, the handsome Dutch powerhouse is defending his title, with my hopes - Esteban Chavez, the ever-smiling Columbian 2nd in 2016 - the combative Fabio Aru 2nd and 3rd in the past - and the outsider Simon Yates - all in the mix.

The thing about the Giro, unlike the other Grand Tours, is that it is spirited and open. Last year Dumoulan made a heroic personal challenge to beat Nairo Quintana. The Giro is unlike the Tour de France, which in my view is too easy for a strong team to manage.

They will eventually get from Israel to Italy (not by bike). The race lasts three weeks. How I will find the time to watch it is still unclear.  After four series of Masterchef Australia (3 months each) I am now wading through Masterchef USA.

There are things like this which are more important than radio you know.




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