The web form is now working again after failing silently for an unknown period (could have been days/weeks/months!). I am guessing the hosting provider made a change (possibly when forced to PHP 8.x) that stopped the mailer working using the php mail() function.
Apologies to those who have tried to contact me – I wasn’t ignoring you!
I only became aware of this today when someone mentioned via social network while letting me know my weather station was having issues.
For those eagle-eyed users, you will notice that you are now visiting www.vk7ben.au and not vk7ben.id.au. This is the story about why.
In 2007, I acquired my advanced license and callsign VK7BEN. At this time I was quite big on websites and domains and having my own identity online. However it was not possible to own a .com.au/net.au/org.au domain if you were not a registered business or organisation. However you could register for an id.au domain if the domain name contained your your name or nickname. Beauty – VK7BEN could indeed be considered a nickname. I applied for the domain with this information, application was approved, happy days.
Earlier this year however the happiness came to an abrupt halt with an email from my domain registrar shortly after renewing my domain.
I’m not going to lie, when I last posted to my blog, I didn’t think it was going to be 3 years until I posted again. Time flies at an amazing pace.
A big part of that was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and shortly after my last post it exploded in Australia and borders were closed and some time after that essential movement only. It wasn’t until mid 2021 and after vaccines that things started to open up again.
You would think this would have been a good time to play radio, however with all my gear hidden behind things and propagation conditions yet to improve, my interests lay elsewhere at the time, in video games and storm chasing.
The latter half of 2021 also allowed me to use my health insurance for the first time and a ride in the back of an ambulance thanks to the acute onset of kidney stones. While recovering from surgery and a subsequent stent I was introduced to the game Destiny 2, and so began another obsession that has consumed my spare time since.
It’s rare for me to get so invested in a video game, but the rich stories and lore, game mechanics, crafting and game lay along with having an amazing clan to play with just hits all the magic buttons for me.
All that time though amateur radio still hasn’t been far from my mind and certainly plenty of cajoling from fellow local operators has seen me gradually get my gear operational. Probably some of the notable radio things I have had going on include:
Purchasing an Icom IC-9700 to give myself easier access to 2m, 70cm and 23cm
Participated is several contests, including RD and VHF/UHF Field Days
Placed a dedicated small form factor Windows workstation in for the shack operations
During late December 2022 everything started coming together though and I am now starting to get back on air – mostly with FT8, which I can easily control out of my office. I am finding it amazing how much FT8 has taken over and how much the propagation continues to be active on the higher bands past midnight in some cases now.
Seems like a perfect time to start getting back into the hobby.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things going on here in VK7 is the surge in interest in communications above 30Mhz. I think this is largely due to the poor HF propagation conditions and the release of the Icom IC-9700. I think the most visible manifestation of this is that the VHF/UHF field day contests in Tasmania suddenly have quite a few people involved.
I haven’t been able to give it my all in contests of late due to having heaps of things going on but this time I was able to go mobile as a rover between grid squares QE36 and QE37.
This time around my operations were pretty basic, using the IC-2720 in the car for 2m/70cm operations and an FT-2311 for 23cm, all on FM. It was also my first opportunity to use the 23cm yagi I built with the help of VK7MO in November.
I made 33 contacts through the afternoon which was a pretty casual effort given the amount of local activity, however there were some significant lessons learnt about mobile contesting
Being in Tasmania, the idea of “Winter Field Day” is not very appealing, but I think what I would really like to is build some decent, portable VHF/UHF yagis to be able to operate 50,144,430 and 1296 portable.
It’s been a couple of years now since my first post on EFHW Antennas. Notably since then I have acquired a Mini 600 Analyser. Armed with technology it was time to revisit this “no-tune” portable antenna. What followed was 3 months of confusion, learning and experimentation.
Before I go any further I would sincerely like to thank David VK3IL for his patience and assistance over the last 2 weeks in helping me troubleshoot my issues and teach me a bit more about what I was doing along the way.
It all started when I thought it would be a good idea to re-test the end-fed antenna now I have a new analyser as I was preparing ready-to-assemble kits for my local radio club and didn’t want to see people ending up with an antenna that didn’t work as described. To my dismay, the antenna definitely was not working as originally described.
For a long time now I have had a home-brew antenna analyser based on the VK5JST design. While this has served me OK, the accuracy of the 6m frequency was questionable, as the notes on the side of the tool suggested, and I was really needing something for VHF and UHF with my new interest in satellite and antenna construction.
I had in the past drooled over the Youkits FG-01A, but this again was HF +6m only, and the costs of an MFJ analyser were just wildly out of my range taking into account USD – AUD exchange rates. However we’ve once again seen electronics commoditised over the last few years, and this has led to inexpensive alternatives becoming available. It didn’t take long for the Mini 600, based on the EU1KY design to catch my attention, ticking all the boxes.
As per my last post, I have been getting pretty excited about working satellites. However relying on the little ‘rubber duck’ antenna that came with the IC-T90A hand held does limit the range in a way that I could only really work the satellites at high elevation angles. With costs of commercial V/U antennas for satellite work usually over $200 AUD, it was time to build my own.
I did have some constraints around the antenna design:
It had to cost under $50 to make.
No speciality materials required – I could either readily purchase from a shop, or I already had materials on hand.
It had to be made using tools I had on hand.
The last point ruled out making a crossed yagi antenna to my standards as it would require a drill press to successfully fabricate (I am bad at drilling square!)
In the end a quick google found me looking at making a Moxon designed by LY3LP and modified by M1GEO, but I really wanted to get some close ups of some of the more important parts of the build. What follows is an abbreviated build guide with photos. In all, it took less than 2 hours to construct.
Update 22/12/2018 2.15pm – Yep, this antenna is a winner – here is the audio from the AO-91 pass @ 2018-12-22 1342 AEDT. Big improvement – action starts at around 2mins in.
I’d only ever heard it was possible to work amateur satellites with hand held radios, and all the accompanying photos usually involved waving around a modest sized handheld Yagi. All that changed when I saw a posted a video posted on the Central Coast Amateur Radio Club Facebook page showing AO-92 being worked with Yaesu VX8 handheld with an after-market whip antenna.
A quick check of the passes saw really favourable conditions to work AO-92 as it passed overhead on Friday 14th December 2018 from around 11.22pm local time.
I quickly set up the frequencies in my IC-T90A, gave a couple of friends a heads up to listen for me and waited.
We’ve had some fantastic weather down in VK7 recently, and today I decided to take full advantage of it with a solo trip to Mt Field National Park. This was mainly supposed to be a photography mission today, with the FT-817 thrown in “just in case”, however arriving at the park and seeing maybe around 100 cars I decided to put the photography on hold until later in the afternoon and headed up to Wombat Moore.
The linked dipole was in the car today, as fun as the EFHW is, the Dipole is much easier to set up as free standing.
The 2017 RD Contest was over the weekend of August 12-13 and I was keen to participate this year, having been unable to participate last year due to my involvement in the Festival of Bright Ideas. With Tasmania winning the state vs state competition, I was keen to do my bit to defend that title.
With the waning solar cycle leading to pretty poor propagation conditions in my near NVIS antenna setup, my focus had been working local stations on VHF and higher bands. Critically, I was now in a position to take advantage of the allowed RTTY digital mode, which was worth double points on 144Mhz and 430Mhz, 4 points on the 23cm band, and a triple multiplier between 1am and 6am meaning there was up to 12 points per contact on offer!