SOTA NEWS DECEMBER 2015 - Part 1 of 2
Editorial - by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the December 2015 edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Andy MM0FMF, Barry GM4TOE, Skip K6DGW, Mark G0VOF, Kevin G0NUP, Rob and Audrey G4RQJ, Geert PA7ZEE.
During the last week of November I have been experiencing problems with incoming e-mails, which have been delayed for up to three days, then all arriving at once. I think that the backlog has now been cleared, but if you have submitted input to the December edition of SOTA News and it has not appeared in this issue please try again and it will be inserted. If no QSL of receipt from me then forward to Mark G0VOF (address in “Top Band” report). - Editor.
The November edition of SOTA News was viewed 990 times.
DATABASE NEWS - From Andy, MM0FMF. Database Manager
After a fairly horrible October with database problems it’s looking like November has been much better. All of a sudden we seemed to be seeing our database code get repeatedly reset which resulted in anybody who was logged in being logged out. Most things continued to work as the database was designed to allow you to continue entering QSOs should you get hard logged out. Mapping updates and association stats failed to run. Our hosting company gave us some free memory upgrades which helped but didn’t cure the problem.
The end result was to move to a significantly bigger hosting package which costs quite a bit more than before but does put our code onto higher performance servers and gives us 4x the previous memory space. So far it is looking OK. During the attempts to figure out the problems I reviewed the code and found there are some areas for improvement. I hoped to work on them during November but I have not had time with a very busy work schedule and preparing for a vacation.
The second 6m/10m challenge window came in with a bang… the scoring code was not working as expected. This happened when I was out of the country but reviewing the database code I could see where I had failed to type the dates correctly. The fix has now been uploaded so scores should be correct now. If you think your score is wrong, email me and I’ll look into it.
A few other updates and fixes: CSV uploads now accept the correct specifier for AM and the number of items shown in the my statistics pages has been increased to 25 from 10.
Africa on the air
There aren’t too many African activations but the Canary Islands and Madeira both count as Africa and are popular with European activators.
All the exotica of radio from Africa with all the familiarity of being in Europe still
A big update to the Canary Islands pushed it onto the radar of Bernd DL2DXA plus myself and Caroline G6WRW and Helen M0YHB with Bernd visiting Gran Canaria and the rest of us deciding to visit Lanzarote.
Unbeknown to each other, the two ladies arriving 3 days after I left. 4 of the 16 new summits on Lanzarote have already been activated and Caroline and Helen have another 4 days on the island as I type. It will be interesting to see how many unactivated summits will remain by the end of their visit.
There are plenty of unactivated summits on Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria & Tenerife if anyone fancies a cheapish Winter Sun holiday with SOTA possibilities.
Sometime earlier this year Martyn M1MAJ asked me if I could enhance my spotter systems so they would work with the DeLorme Inreach GPS system.
This is a GPS receiver and Iridium transceiver. You can buy airtime packages that allow tracking spots from your GPS to be uplinked via the Iridium satellite system from wherever you are in the world. You can also use the unit to send an SMS to any phone number. These are ideal for activations where you cannot get mobile coverage for self spotting.
You can also use them for emergency calling but they should not be considered a replacement for an EPIRB.
I was able to support the InReach without any difficulties. Well until Victor Gi4ONL treated himself to one. Despite his best efforts, my efforts and lots emails to DeLorme and my phone provider we could not get Victor’s unit to talk to me. Oh sure DeLorme said the SMS had been sent and my phone provider, Twilio, told DeLorme they’d accepted it but nowhere was the SMS to be found. This made me reluctant to publicise the facility. However, I’ve now extended the software at both spotter systems to support DeLorme and whilst one system still never receives messages from Victor, the other one works like a trooper. So that’s Google 1, Twilio 0 in the virtual phone provider wars.
The upshot is I’m happy to make this service generally available from now on, just mail me for more info.
Taking radios/batteries on planes
A regular question in these troubled times is whether people have any
problems taking radios (and batteries) onto planes.
I’ve now made 11 flights (and 10 trips through security) in the last 6
months and every time I have had an FT817 plus or or two LiPos cells
with along with either a laptop or tablet and chargers. Every time has
Put everything you don’t need in your checked luggage. So in my case
mic+paddle, antennas, tent pegs, guys, mast, tools, LiPo charger,
feeders etc. all go into the suitcase and only the mandatory items
travel in the cabin. I’ve toyed with putting the 817 in the checked
luggage so I don’t have to carry it about but there are too many tales
of luggage being opened and high value items disappearing. It stays with
me so thieves will have to make do with rummaging about in my underwear!
Firstly large electronic items need to be removed from your cabin luggage
and placed in a tray. I always put my phone, tablet, laptop, FT817
together in one tray and my bag with all the chargers and batteries in
another tray. Just to make my bag stand out more I always have a box
syringe needles and finger prick lancets and a coolpack + pre-filled
syringe pen for my diabetes with me.
Whatever the security people are looking for when they see an X-ray
image of a bag, they are not bothered by LiPos. My syringe + coolpack
shows up as a dense opaque blob but hardly ever attracts attention. Nor
do the vast arrays of cables. If I have a laptop with me I’ll also have
a charger, mouse and ethernet cable as well. Always in the bag are a
selection of USB micro-B cables for charging my phone/tablet and a
4000mAHr emergency phone battery.
In all the flights in the last 6 months, the LiPos have not caused any
extra attention. I have each LiPo in a seperate “LiPo Safe” like these
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/291263550642 and the connectors are taped up.
The 817 has been swabbed for explosives twice, once in Edinburgh and
once in Dublin. I’ve never been asked to demonstrate it working but I do
have the internal battery pack fitted and the rubber duck in the bag too.
Apart from packing Lithium batteries correctly I always take the
following info printed with me.
- OFCOM Amateur radio licence
- CEPT TR 61/01 reciprocal licence information
- The airline’s own hazardous items requirements
- CAA hazardous items requirements
You can find the hazardous items data by searching on Google for you
airline name and hazardous items. i.e. “KLM hazardous items”.
With the above documents you can demonstrate that your radio and
batteries are perfectly acceptable to have with you as cabin baggage.
Whilst the batteries we often use for activations are large, if you
consider just how many mobile phones (Lithium battery), tablets (lithium
battery), laptops (lithium battery) will be on every flight, our
batteries will not significantly affect the amount of Lithium already in
Lithium batteries are not an issue if you follow the rules and neither is a radio.
SOTA AWARDS - November 2015, from Barry GM4TOE - SOTA Awards Manager
(This service is temporally suspended whilst Barry moves his home QTH).
The following update has been received from Barry:-)
I shut down the issuing of awards at the end of October to give me time to move house. Well, we have moved to a new QTH in Banff on the North East coast of Scotland where hills are just a bit further away; it was very stressful and even my lawyer told me not to plan moving ever again. Those who know my new address will appreciate that the next move is not very far from my front door (I will post a picture on the reflector when I can).
The house is chaotic and I cannot even find the SOTA stock (or my printers) right now. The good news is that my “man cave” was delivered on Friday and I should start construction straight away, the bad news is that BT Openreach (who have the monopoly on the supply and installation of telephone lines in the UK) failed to turn up to install my telephone/broadband line and I cannot get any sense out of them, or my ISP’s third world call centre, to find out when, or if, they plan to install the telephone line. Consequently all my communications are via a very poor mobile phone service and an intermittent 3G data connection. If anybody has an “IN” with BT Openreach any assistance will be warmly welcomed!
Several people have made very kind donations towards the costs of running SOTA and I will respond to them individually once I have some sensible connection to my email service. My thanks to all of you – you know who you are.
I will get the awards issue facility up and running by the new year but bear with me for another few weeks until I can get the house reasonably accessible.
Please take care when out and about on the hills.
SOTA Awards Manager
WINTER ACTIVATION FROM BELGIUM
On Wednesday 2nd December Frank PC7C (SSB) and Geert PA7ZEE (CW) will be in Belgium to activate two summits, ON/ON-010 and ON/ON-004.
Promotion of SOTA at The Netherlands Ham Radio Convention - from Geert PA7ZEE
As announced in SOTA NEWS of November, a team of dutch SOTA enthusiasts were promoting SOTA at the Ham Radio Convention (Dag voor de Radio Amateur) in the Americahal in Apeldoorn. There was a lot of interest in what SOTA stands for. We also met other SOTA enthusiasts.
The picture shows from left to right Hans PA0HRM, Hans PA3FYG, Sake PA0SKP and Geert PA7ZEE with the SOTA Bush Hat. Geert did not understand why people moved away when he puts the hat on…
73 Geert PA7ZEE
TOP BAND SOTA REPORT - from Mark G0VOF
Hello everyone & welcome to this month’s edition of SOTA on Top Band.
One activator ventured onto 160m this month when Miro OK1DVM/P dropped onto the band during an evening activation of OK/ST-074 Cukrák on 23rd November. Miro had a good run of 6 QSO’s on 80m followed by 2 QSO’s on 40m before trying Top Band where he made a further 3 QSO’s all using CW.
Being after dark Miro was good signal across Europe & was heard in the UK by Phil G4OBK in Pickering, North Yorkshire.
Phil says:” Miro OK1DVM was a good signal on 160m one evening earlier this week on a summit. I heard him 579 but there was a storm here at the time - heavy rain and wind and my tower was down at 10m height, so my top band inverted L was almost touching the ground. With high SWR 3:1 I called Miro with 100 watts but sadly I could not be heard!”
I too listened for Miro although as I did not see his spots until a good twenty minutes later, I also missed him.
Thanks & well done Miro!
At the time of writing, that was the only Top band activation during November that I am aware of, if I have missed any others please let me know.
On 23 November, Miro OK1DVM/P Activated OK/ST-074 Cukrák & made 3 QSO’s (3 CW / 0 SSB)
As always, If you do have any suggestions on things that you think should be included, or if you wish to contribute tips, ideas or anything else that you think may help others on the band please email them to me at email@example.com
Until next month,
QRS PSE - by Geert Pa7zee
Let me start by to stating that my code sending, aswell as my decoding, is far from perfect.
That is one reason why when I am on a summit, my speed is 18 wpm.
Working as a chaser in my armchair at home my code sending is reasonable and I try to adjust my speed to the speed of the activator.
During one of my last activations in Germany, there was a chasing station working QRS and we had a successful QSO. The next day I had a look on the spotlist of SOTAwatch.
That station had spotted me and wrote as a note: Nice QRS GL. That was for me the proof that not everybody can send and decode with high speed and that it was appreciated that I adjusted my speed.
With the winter bonus season coming, I would like to plea for adjusting the code sending to that of the other station. Wearing gloves and sometimes shivering from the cold, my code sending, decoding and writing is difficult, and I think that is the case with more activators in similar cumstances.
The SOTA is a community of friendly people so let’s add a little courtesy.
73 de geert pa7zee
THE VIEW FROM THE NORTH - 95 - from Rob and Audrey G4RQJ
An early start this time as we’re off to Llandudno on Saturday; unfortunately the rally is off and to make matters worse our local radio club has a mix up of dates which means that I (Rob) have to teach two 1 hour sessions for the Foundation candidates before we set off. All of this means that we cannot do Mynydd y Cwm on the way down as usual so it is Sunday before we can get out onto a summit, Tal y fan.
We always like this hill, the drive up from Tal y Bont is such a pleasure, only kidding, at this time of year the very steep narrow single track road is covered with wet fallen leaves, slippery and difficult especially with oncoming traffic. Today it is dry, leafless and traffic free and we sail up to the start point about half a mile from the car park at the end of the line. There is room for two of three cars close to the stile. The gated road from Rowan that joins this route close to the top looks to be impassable. The climb itself never seems to change, we usually avoid the route along the ridge by contouring along the north face path until level with the summit, then a short sharp climb to the top.
Today, just like last year, a gale is blowing in from the south and we are forced to operate on the north side of the wall with the short mast. As we struggle a cheerful walking party passes through They have seen SOTA before on Shining Tor, a bloke from Stoke. We bet it was Mickey YYY!
Monday and two hills, Penycloddiau and Mynydd y Cwm. We arrive at the car park for the first hill to find groups of walkers musing at the sight of a set of ladies underwear billowing in the breeze at the top of one of the trees. Unable to fathom the mystery we set off and are soon on the summit this is a grand little walk suitable for an active family and we always wonder why we did not find it earlier. We avoid the vertigo inducing path and use the wide logging road for about a mile, then up a steep grass path onto the now broad path and on to the summit with its extensive ancient earthwork fort. We operated from the shelter of the bank and had a long activation and when we emerged the wind had risen to a full gale along the ridge, not gusts just a constant blast into our faces as we descended.
In the car park either someone had climbed the tree and removed the large bra or the wind had claimed it, funny places car parks! By now we were quite late in reaching the second summit and what a change. Everything in the way of woods to the right of the path is gone completely changing the face of the hill. A second path leading into the woods has appeared close beside the the true path between the two big trees The correct one is the second path. We were quick on the summit as not too keen on woodland navigation in darkness and as usual beam headings on 2m were widely at odds with the compass. Think it is due to the trees. In the event we were back at the car just after sunset.
Tuesdays weather was not conducive to hill climbing so it was Wednesday when we set out to climb the Horseshoe Pass pair. First Moel y Gamelin and a great walk as always, we were passed by two motorcycle trail riders and marveled at the ease of their ascent as they vanished over the skyline. The two false summits later we were on top in sunshine. A fairly quick activation and we were on our way across to Cyrn y Brain in shirt sleeves, a beautiful day. Radio on the summit was a different matter, usually the breakthrough here is usually bad but can be minimised by operating away from the buildings not so today. The problem was a heavy crackling on 2m typical of arcing and nothing reduced it much although beaming away from the buildings helped a little. We checked our own kit as well as possible but could find nothing wrong and reports indicated that our transmission was clean so we struggled on and qualified the summit with frequent apologies to the chasers. We were down to the road in time to get into the gift shop where the young lady told us that yesterday the fog never lifted off the Pass!
Thursday and we decide on our usual early evening activation of Great Orme, we like to operate there while watching the sun go down and the lights come on in the town below. The last couple of years have seen windy conditions and we have had to hide in the lee of the buildings but tonight the weather is grand so we make our way to the trig point and set up beside the viewpoint pillar and are soon in action. The arcing crackling noise is here again on a hill with a lot of rf interference! Again we check our kit, no obvious fault and the trams, cable cars etc are finished for the day so we carry on regardless beaming in a quiet direction when ever possible. We are using our new led headlights that are a big improvement but why can no one build one with a switch that does not turn on in a bag of its own accord; strategic selotape seems to be the only answer. When we finally finish and look around we realize that the outside lighting on the buildings and the car park has all gone out, doubtless due to the cuts and the summit is black as your hat. Fortunately the new headlamps are well up for it and we make our way back to the car, the moral is try to prepare for everything cos it probably will happen.
Friday and our last hill for this trip Foel Fenlli. We like this hill but are pushed for time and I(Rob)dislike the alternative of Moel Famau which I find a total drag in spite of it being where we completed our first 1000 points. In the event Foel Fenlli is a great activation with no sigh of the crackling that plagued the previous two, has anyone else noticed the problem?
The next two weekends are a total disaster weather wise, the forecast for one of them basicaly says Closed for Business Keep Out! so it’s Sunday 22nd before we get out again.
Sunday 22nd Nov and the forecast for the higher fells is for more snow and a wind chill of minus 16,we decide on a small one near to home so Arnside Knott for a repeat visit it is. The approach was the normal but when we arrived on top we found a local fell race in progress with tapes etc round the trig We were hoping to operate from a nearby fallen tree trunk which makes a handy seat but the mild autumn has left the undergrowth still almost waist high and totally unsuitable for wire antennas etc. We eventually find an almost useable site with a fallen tree as a seat but unfortunately it is in woodland with lots of overhead branches to contend with. As we set up we realize that among the carpet of autumn leaves there is a secondary carpet thoughtfully provided by the resident herds of cows. Many of the fells are now cow ranges as an attempt to return them to the pre sheep years several hundred years ago. This includes re foresting and the introduction af ancient species so look out for the odd sabre toothed tiger in a few years time. Keeping the antenna wire off the floor and out of the trees is tedious but eventually we are set up and all goes well on hf until 10Mhz. By this time the cold is beginning to set in and my CW becomes worse than usual. As the pileup subsides the station we have just worked is called on the frequency by another station. The station called does not respond but another station does and the interlopers set up shop on the frequency! We retreat to 14Mhz. After two hours the wind chill is beginning to bite even on this little fell and we eventually beat a shivery cow encrusted retreat.
Sunday 29th Nov and another day from hell, it is difficult to stand out of the lee of the house and looking out to sea we can only hope that everyone is tucked up in safe harbour, not a day for the hills. Still winter bonus starts next week so things may look up. Also this is the last SOTA News for this year Soon Xmas will be upon us. We write this little section every month to try and bring the hills closer for those who have never climbed and those who now, usually because of age or illness can no longer visit the places they love and we will continue to do so as long as the years will permit. We just hope it brings pleasure to some folk and apologize if things are a little “Parish Pump” for the modern worldwide community that SOTA has become.
So now it’s time to wish everyone Seasons Greetings, Frohe Weinachten, Joyeux Noel and a
Very Happy Christmas from us both.
Take care out there
Rob and Audrey
********************** CONTINUED IN PART 2 **************************
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