Category Archives: Ham Radio

Getting involved in SOTA

So a few years ago, I discovered SOTA. Summits on the Air. Idea is to get some activity back into Ham Radio, by doing a scoring system based on how hard it is to get to a particular summit. For example, say Canberra, you can drive to the top of Mt Ainslie. And that’s classified as a Summit. Same goes for Black Mountain. However they are only scored at 1 point each.

That said, Mt Ginini is also a Summit to which you can drive. However that is only for 4, MAYBE 5 months of the year. And it’s a fairly hellish trip even during summer. Mt Ginini is scored at 8 points!

Back when i first discovered it, i asked on the SOTA lists about getting SOTA happening in Australia, but it was pretty much a case of ‘well, if you want it, you organise it’. Dunno about you, but I have no interest in trying to start something of that sort! I see the sh!tfighting that goes on on the North-American SOTA lists, and I’m not real interested in that..

However last week, I saw that VK1 finally had SOTA summits going live, and, well, I know the Vk1 guys, and they’re alright! So I asked ‘what about Vk2?’. And apparently VK2 is on the way, but needs folks to map out summits.

So its time to get my arse into gear and help out 🙂

First thing, you need some maps!

So off you head to Geoscience Australia. On the Right hand side of their homepage, is a section titled ‘Products’. In that list, you want to click on ‘Data/Applications’. Once on the Data and Applications page, you want to click on ‘Free data downloads’.

You’ll want to select ‘Topography’ here, and then pop in the area you’re interested in. I’m thinking I’ll look at Sydney, as that’s close to home, and noone is looking after it as yet. So I’ll pop in ‘sydney’, and click ‘Show me the results’.

On the Product Selection screen, I’ll select ‘Sydney Special’, and click on Continue to File Selection.

I use GRASS as a GIS tool in Windows, and occasionally MapInfo (I have a copy of 6.5, which is pretty old, but it still does the job for what I do..), so I’ll select the MapInfo native format, and ESRI personal geodatabase to pull into GRASS. I’ll also use the Georeferenced PDF, so i can dump it into dropbox, and use it on my ipad later 🙂

You’ll want to select a Sector and Industry which make some sense to keep GA happy.

And then off to download!.

Dipole up :)

Well yes, the TEV-1 sucks as ever, so I finally got my bum into gear and sorted out stringing up the 40m dipole.. Center is hanging from a tree in the back corner of our yard. One element comes back towards the house, strung up to a 6m pole conveniently stuck down between some formwork in the retaining wall at the side of the house (Pleasantly surprised to find a sturdy mounting point so easy without bolts required!).. The other element took a bit of work – trimming a bunch of dead branches from trees in the park behind our property, but finally (and after using the aforementioned 6m pole to get a pull-rope into the top of one of the trees, much to the amusement of the lady next door putting out her washing) it’s up and it’s all quite easy to take up and down if I want to finish the ‘fan’ part of the dipole build..

We’ll see how it works, I may just get off my butt and pull the buddipole out of its bag where it lives in the back of the Pajero, and set that up instead of having all the other stuff strung up permanently.. we’ll see 🙂

So far it’s working GREAT on 40m – put it up as it had been at the old house, and was getting a solid 1.2:1 SWR, so that’s good enough for me for now 🙂

Dipole center balun up, and west-side element strung into the park!
East-side element is up :)

Bahahah, ok, SWR problem fixed ;)

Ok, after much pulling apart of antenna mounts, re-terminating cables etc… I thought to open up the remote probe on my Welz SP-425 SWR meter, as one of the N chassis-mount connectors was a bit loose.. And what do you know? Broken track! Fixed that up, and voila, the big Diamond SG-7900 ground-independant dual-bander sits at 1.5:1 on both bands! The Mobile One M270 dual-bander sits on 1.2:1 on VHF, but 2:1 on UHF – Probably because the ‘ground plane’ is a 1/4 wave length (on VHF) of S/S wire vertically below the antenna. So it technically doesn’t HAVE a ground plane on UHF..

But all good 🙂

Oh, and the TEV-1? Yep still as useless as ever! I’m eyeing off the big tree in the back corner of the yard, and investigating the park behind us for stringing up a dipole 🙂

Shack partially setup :)

Well, I still need another two monitors at a minimum,and I’d like to find a discone somewhere to run the PCR-1000 off.. And need to get around to digging out Sharree’s old car battery to run float from the 60A PSU so I’m not mains dependant (yes, everything’s on a 3kva UPS, but that also needs new batteries.. like, EPICALLY needs new batteries – last blackout, my 700W of load got 45 seconds before the UPS gave out.. on an extended life pack.. So should be good for an hour at 3kW. Not looking forward to the ~400 worth of batteries to replace that..

Ahh well, at least I have a shack again 🙂

Now my problem is that NEITHER of my UHF/VHF antennas seem to be working.. 10:1 SWR on UHF, and I can’t get enoug power out of either of my rigs to calibrate the meter to GET a SWR reading on VHF.. I’m wondering if it’s bad cable???

Antennas Up!

Well, it took me bloomin long enough, but I finally have some antennas up at the new house.. Yes, it took me three months to settle in enough to get antennas up,, so bite me :-p

We’ll see how the TEV-1 goes here.. I only ever had luck with it mounted on the roof of the shed at the old place, otherwise it seems like a pretty useless hunk of aluminium? Thinking I might ebay it off, and put the money towards an antenna analyser and a Buddipole… (That way I can take them with us when we go on holidays too.. nothing like sitting in the car with the toughbook, working portable 🙂 )

Having a MUCH less private yard, and not being best friends with the one neighbour who can see into our yard (bloody everyone can see into the yard here!), I wanted to stick to the letter of our lease and council regs etc.. – aka ‘no permanent structures’.. *grin* So I’m utilising the back of the princess’s cubby 🙂 I mean I built the thing to withstand a hurricane, and it weighs in around 500KG, so a 3m mast hanging off the back isn’t even going to make it flex in the wind :-p

Turned out pretty well I think:

No permanent structures? alrighty, lets mount a mast to the cubby! *grin*
That's looking promising!
Woo, up!
Yup, that's lookin good!