Study, WSPR, Masts and SDRs

Thought I might just go over a few things that I'm working on at the moment. 🙂

Study

First up, the study for my license upgrade. Unfortunately this is going much slower than I had hoped. I'm thinking this is probably because I'm going into far too much depth and then writing up far too many detailed notes. I've been on Chapter 6 of the Radio Theory Handbook now since before the Christmas break (in which admittedly I did only one morning of study), but once I finish that – possibly at lunch today – I think I'll rethink my approach.

Currently my approach has basically been:
1. Read through chapter, and make a list of items to write up notes on;
2. As reading through chapter, also work through all the examples – do all the maths etc.;
3. Bit by bit write up the notes as I go – especially in the longer chapters – or just write them up at the end; and
4. Go through the sample questions at the end.

In this approach, I've spent the last several mornings just writing up notes…

I think I'll change my approach to:
1. Read through the chapter; and
2. Answer the questions at the end.

I'm guessing that will save about two thirds of my time and will at least enable me to make one pass over the material. Then at the end of that I can do a practice exam to determine the areas I should really be spending my effort on.

Oh, and my morse code seems to be coming along, but I really need to spend more time per day on it, but makes for good listening while going for my morning walk. I've pretty well memorised all the flashcards for the characters (in di-dah format) and am now just trying to embed the sounds (working at a character speed of 15wpm). I've tried listening to some of the QOTD 5wpm (and thereby 15wpm character speed) podcasts, but find I'm probably only identifying 10% of the characters – I'm too slow, but more practice will solve that.

WSPR

Well, I setup a laptop with Ubuntu 10.10 on the week-end and installed WSPR. Or, so I thought.

Turns out it's not working. It reports various errors on the command line at startup but then appears to run fine until it attempts to read from the audio input… when it crashes. So, it's good I found that out before I went to the effort to hook up my rig etc. And further, it's raining still so I've not had an opportunity to do that. But now I find myself having to attempt to build it from source – rarely is that as simple as it should be.

After finally installing all the packages required last night and getting it to successfully build, it now fails to run reporting it can't find its python script (wspr.py). I guess as a result, a simple configure; make is not the way it's done for WSPR. However, as of yet no build instructions for the source have jumped out at me, but I'm going to go and look a bit harder. 

Maybe in the end (and I've thought this before) the way to go for a laptop setup for amateur radio activities is Windows…. (That kind of seems odd to me, I would've expected a strong take-up of Linux with the HAM fraternity.)

Masts

Last night I almost completed the guy ring for my mast, just need to finish shaping it tonight. Although I'm not aiming to make it perfect – as long term I plan a steel guy ring – I still want there to be some basic level of quality. Once the shaping and sanding is finished (reminder, it's made from 6 ply wood) I'll post up some pics. Then I need to apply some varnish.

SDRs

While looking into peoples' setups for WSPR, I came across a number of people using SoftRock SDRs (Software Defined Radios). I've looked into SDRs before, but cancelled them out as something I'd only be allowed to use once I upgrade my license. However the units some people were using, were simply SDR receivers (not transceivers); and thereby this suddenly seemed like something I could probably play with and for minimal cost (the RX kits are normally about $20). So I'm currently waiting for the SoftRock maker (http://www.kb9yig.com/) to restock.

I've also found that Mike (VK2IG) has even gone about building a home brew one, and that there are also several others in and around VK1 with a good level of interest in SDRs so I'm really looking forward to giving this a go. The one question is though, should I first wait until I finish the study for my license upgrade – and use the time on study instead? The answer is probably yes, I wonder what the reality will be. 🙂

That said though, it is things like SDRs and digital modes of operation which are the real motivator for me to upgrade my license. The power limits don't worry me that much (actually, I'm keen when I upgrade to build a QRP CW 40m rig), but the other modes (mainly digital) and bands (especially UHF and above – although VK1SVs work with LF at the moment is really appealing to me) are the real benefits up upgrading. I just have to keep that in mind and realise once I upgrade, then all these possibilities open up for the long term!

Other Stuff

Oh, and other than the above I've still got a few existing antenna projects I need to get to – stacked 4el beams for 2m; beam for 70cm FM – and also a few new ones on the brew in the back of my mind – antenna for 80m: maybe trying a long wire again or maybe building a bottom loaded short vertical (~2m).

Again though, time should maybe be spent on study – but all work and no play…..
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