Thursday, August 14, 2008


Searching for information on an aspect of weak signal VHF/UHF activity can be a frustrating experience, even for experienced researchers. More so than in any other area of ham radio, the weak signal VHF community tends to be very specialized.

One guy may be the leading expert on low noise pre-amp design, another may be into Yagi optimization. Looking for information on how to build a 1st class Rover operation? Good luck with that.

Fortunately, Ron Williams, WZ1V has done all the heavy lifting for us. He has complied the most complete set of VHF/UHF "Links" that I've found to date. You can (and should) spend a day or more exploring the many sites that Ron has discovered. The best part is that he actively updates the list, which prevents wasting time on broken or outdated sites.

You can follow this link to Ron's VHF UHF Master Link Site.

Thanks've made it easy on this newbie.

73 DE N1LF

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's a marathon, not a sprint

I've posted the phrase, "It's a marathon, not a sprint" on a Post-It-Note, and placed it near my Grid maps for each band. As I work new grids, I mark them with a highlighter, which I suspect is a bit of a ritual for VHF Men.

Experience is quickly teaching me that the "hype" of big V/U events such as contests, meteor shower peaks, and others rarely translate into a large boost in the grid rankings. This week's Perseids peak proved no exception.

It was indeed thrilling to hear 15-20 second long meteor bursts on 2 Meters. My operating time was very limited due to huge commitments at work, but even with that I managed 14 QSO's on 2M MS. The problem was that those only translated into 3 new grids.

Maybe we should call it "USS". That could be short for the "Usual Suspects Syndrome". The VHF community is plagued by this condition, and it affects all bands and modes. A contest weekend approaches and hope springs eternal that you'll work some new ones. But reality sits in when you realize that you'll actually be working the "usual suspects".

Ditto for WSJT and big meteor events. The band is wide open, huge pings fill the air--but the same 15-20 guys who operate the mode almost daily seem to be the only ones who notice.

144.200 saw some long burns during the Perseids peak. I heard an XYL somewhere out there in the Western states happily ragchewing with a friend on Tuesday morning. Repeated calls never seemed to attract her attention. And after three or four burns without catching an ID or location, her voice never returned.

It's like being a fisherman, and talking about the "One that got away".

Since starting activity in late March, my progress to date is:

6 Meters-148 Grids Worked
2 Meters-37 Grids Worked
222-8 Grids Worked
432-11 Grids Worked
1.2ghz-3 Grids worked

On two meters, WSJT continues to be a G0d-Send, producing the bulk of my new grids. More activity from a wider range of stations would help the grid count, but the operators just aren't there.

(Trust me, it's as easy as PSK-31 on HF! If you haven't tried WSJT do it today) You need a multi-mode rig, a soundcard interface, and some patience. It sounds daunting, but it's easy if you just get on the air and try it out.

Six Meters continues to delight and surprise almost daily. And I actually look forward to this year's E-Skip season ending, because I can concentrate on Meteor Scatter on the Magic Band in earnest.

222mhz is my favorite band--as it's quieter than you can imagine, and signals are often stronger than over the same path on 2 Meters. Again, we just need more activity.

432 has also been a surprise, though I continue to hear stations that I cannot work. Hope to get the Beko 300 watt amp working here soon, and want to try EME again.

1.2ghz seems ripe for JT6M mode, but almost no one who uses the band seems to be active on JT6M. Maybe the EME crowd, but they're not as interested in terrestrial contacts.

Still, VUCC on 2 Meters and up seems a long way off. Those 37 grids didn't come easy, and finding about 63 looks nearly impossible to accomplish. But, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

Haven't yet experienced a wide spread 2 Meter E-Skip event, nor a big tropo event, which are actually supposed to be fairly common here in the South. Either would promise adding quickly to the grid total.

My hat is off to the operators who have accomplished VUCC, especially on 2 Meters. Quite an accomplishment. Given the handicap of indoor antennas, this race may take several seasons to run.

73 DE N1LF

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Improve your APRS Map Experience

The APRS Mapping web site has to be one of the most useful tools available to VHF DX'ers. Since it relies on real time 2 Meter APRS data it can help to determine both tropo and e-skip openings. You can visit it at:
My only complaint with the service is that it does not automatically update or refresh itself, the way that other tools such as the 144mhz Propagation Logger or the VHF QSO Real Time Maps do. For users of the Firefox web browser that isn't a problem. You can simply add an extension called "Reload Every" and set the interval that you want the page to refresh itself. I have mine set for about 10 minutes, and that seems to work well.
I haven't checked, but I'm sure that you can find a similar tool for Internet Explorer. Hope this helps others.