Having a few hours to spare and yesterdays afternoon taking a break from the lovely UK monsoon weather we are enjoying at the moment, I packed my portable data-comms gear into a small rucksack and headed for a nearby hilltop.
Antenna was a random length of insulated wire just strung around the outer brnaches of a nearby tree and tied off on the back of the bench I’d made my shack.
As this is a busy area with lots of children (schools out) and dog walkers, I did my best to make sure nobody was going to walk into the antenna. Did’nt worry about the length or bother with an earth because it was only for general receive (besisdes, digging in the dirt to install an earth does weird some passers by out!).
Receiver was the usual Realistic DX394 powered from a set of AA’s and the tiny (and lightweight) laptop is a Dell Latatude D430 running Windows XP.
A slight pain with the current laptop is the way it dulls the screen when running on batteries. It’s a major factor in how long the power lasts and although I could change it, I’m more than happy with the 4 hours(ish) this little beauty gives me. It was actually nice to see the sun dip down over the horizon and give the screen new vigor and my eyes as rest from straining to see was MultiPSK was doing.
Once the laptop had given its last it was time to switch over for HF SSB and spent an hour listening to a mass of European hams along with a few DX stations thrown into the mix.
Not sure how much impact running MultiPSK in RX and TX mode is gong to have on the laptop batteries life. The audio output is minimal so hoping that it won’t alter things too much. If it gives anything over 3 hours operating time, I’ll be very happy with that. Another option is finding a second battery for those overnight trips where I want to use this setup for longer.
Almost QRM Zero!
The most enjoyable part of this short outing was the general lack of noise on HF and finally getting on 40 meters for some PSK. The home QTH suffers from an unbelievable level of RF hash on 7MHZ and despite going the to desperate measures of unplugging everthing but one shortwave radio, its just won’t go away.
I have large families living either side of me and sometimes dread to think how many cheap arse power adapters they leave running all the time!
Was denied SSTV on 20 meters through the annoying fact that this laptop puts on a nice S3-S5 unmodulated carrier smack on 14.230 Mhz. My first thought was that a lightweight isolating transformer might do the trick, but even with the audio unplugged and the laptop a few feet away it still caused problems.
Not sure how I’m going to get around this and I’ll be taking a look at it this week. SSTV is a great fun and with 20 meters being the most busy band for this mode, it would be a shame if I could’nt use it outdoors.
Always amused by the looks I get from people when playing radio outside 🙂 I’m just thankful that most leave me alone and don’t ask too many questions because it can be a nightmare explaining what I’m up too, even more so when it comes to the data side of hobby radio. Children are usually the most ready to ask questions and I tell them its a ‘magic’ radio that lets me listen to people from all over the world.
Needing to go to the toilet when you have a bunch of electronics sat around isn’t easy in a busy place like the Lickey Hills. I did get a lucky break though (not a moment too soon) and managed to do the deed while keeping an eye on the radio gear.