UTC Changeover – SOTA Double Points

Reuben VK7FREU and I decide to activate Collins Bonnet VK7/SC-002 for the UTC year changeover from 2019-2020.

Instead of the usual track from Myrtle Gully we decided to take the Mt Connection track and started out at around 8:00am. This track starts about two kilometers along the Big Bend track. The Big Bend Track is accessed off the Pinnacle Road just next to the Lost World Track.

About a kilometre in on the Big Bend track I lost my footing and landed heavily on my right knee! After about 10m of rest we decide to continue and take it easy with a note to self about putting some pain-killers in the first aid kit! The Mt Connection track is well marked with a signpost and heads down and across the swamp area that forms the source water the Mountain River. The track in the swamp area is all duck boarded.

You then head up and around Mt Connection with some great views to the North East and Mt Dromedary and towards Collins Cap and Bonnet.

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Looking towards Collins Bonnet on top of Mt Connection

The Mt Connection track eventually links with the East-West Trail and about two kilometres further on is well signposted track up Collins Bonnet. This is a rock hopping excercise for most of the distance with the track marked with long snow poles.

We summited around 10:30am (UTC 23:30) and setup the linked dipole and FT-817. There was plenty of activity however the power level on the FT-817 was down and we were struggling to be heard. We both managed three contacts before the UTC year changeover so, unfortunately did not activate for 2019.

The wind was strong and overcast clouds started rolling in. We made UTC 2020 contacts on 40m and local 2m to activate Collins Bonnet for 2020. Thanks to all those who contacted us. After the antenna collapsed due to wind and we put it back up I noticed that power level had increased on the in-build power meter. So there is definitely something that needs investigation including the possibility of a small power amplifier to boost our QRP power level given we are rock bottom of the sunspot cycle.

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On summit selfie

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Panorama South to North looking West – mid picture is the Huon Valley

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Panorama from North to South looking East – with Mt Wellington next to trig point

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Impressive ravine next to Trig Point operating position

At around noon local (01:00 UTC) we started back down and stopped for lunch before heading back up the Mt Connection track.

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Looking toward the North facing side of Mt Connection on the East-West Trail

It was about a 15km round trip using this track and was a picturesque walk on a part of Wellington range we hadn’t walked before. We got back to the car around 3:00pm.

Thanks to all who made contact with us during this UTC Year Change-Over event.

Posted in Amateur Radio, Bushwalking, SOTA Activation, UTC Year Changeover | Leave a comment

Gippstech 2019

I attended Gippstech 2019 over the weekend of 12-14 July 2019 along with five other VK7s which is a record number of VK7s for the event. Thanks to Hayden who passed on the group photo.

L2R: Rex VK7MO, Justin VK7TW, Richard VK7ZBX, Murray VK7ZMS, Larry VK7WLH and Hayden VK7HH.

The weekend was cold and wet but the presentations were inspiring as usual!

Starting with David VK5KK, Iain VK5ZD and Tim VK5ZT and their 5800km Epic Microwave DXPedition. This was a humorous presentation of the trip up through Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia over 12 days. They took every microwave band up to 122GHz and made many contacts with the locals in the area and set a few records along the way.

Then the Doug McArthur VK3UM (SK) award for last year’s best presentation went to Jim VK1AT and Alan VK3XPD’s Microwave Enthusiasts Award went to Stefan VK4CSD.

Coffee break and some nice goodies from Brian VK3YNG – thanks Brian.

David Smith VK3HZ then gave us a presentation on his experiments on an Azimuth finder. This uses the Real Time Kinematics (RTK) – Carrier Phase tracking feature available in some GPS modules and communicates between the modules using the 900MHz ISM band. It uses the NEO-M8P – C94-M8P02 evaluation kits and with a 3-4m baseline it gives 0.2 degrees accuracy and better than 0.1m with a baseline greater than 5m. This was used in ZL by Rex VK7MO for extending the 10GHz EME world record.

Mark Spooner VK5AVQ gave a wonderful presentation on Non-Ionising / RF Radiation Safety. Mark’s presentation simplified the elements of the ARPANSA RPS3 standards and how to interpret and apply these standards in amateur radio scenarios. The comment was this would normally be a 5 days course that was condensed into 45m! Great work Mark.

Peter Schrader VK4EA – a first time presenter gave a fascinating talk on the way that VK4RBB derives its frequencies for all the microwave beacons up to 10GHz by some interesting mixing of base GPS locked frequencies and mixing them all the way up to 10GHz.

We then enjoyed a yummy lunch.

The first presentation after lunch was Dale Hughes VK1DSH with an automatic satellite ground station for satellite telemetry reception. Dale has been experimenting with the Fox and Funcube satellites and how to use their respective data capture, logging and upload applications. Dale has also built a nifty azimuth controller for his yagi which is fixed at 45 degrees. This system uses an Arduino, magnetometer and some control circuitry. Dale has also build a nice user interface using NatSemi’s LabView development environment.

Yours truly then presented the next instalment of his 10GHz Microwave adventure covering the updating of the White Box transverter to a GPS Locked ZLPLL, low noise preamp and 3watt Power Amplifier.

Peter Pokorny VK2EMR then gave a most humorous outline of how we end up with the Leap Second and the Status of UTC. This started as a very serious expose of what leap seconds were and why they are needed and then a bureaucratic nightmare of Utopian size developed with more and more organisations becoming involved until Peter put the following slide up….

Peter then referred to his book of acronynms to decode and display some of the key relationships from the diagram. A most entertaining presentation.

A coffee break with more raffle tickets and goodies!

Rex Moncur VK7MO then presented how he and the ZL team extended the 10 GHz EME World Record from ZL to the United Kingdom. The talk covered how Rex managed to get a 1.13m dish from Australia to ZL in suitcase!

Roger Harrison VK2ZRH took the audience through an interesting presentation on the mechanisms of sunspots and the conveyor belt that powers the sun and creates and presents sunspots. The important question was pondered – namely “Are We There, Yet?” with a bottomed out sunspot cycle and the scientists are still unsure and much of the current thinking was presented.

We wrapped up the day and retired to a nice dinner at the Morwell Club.

On Sunday the first presentation was given by another first timer at Gippstech – George McLucas VK4AMG entitled – GPS Disciplined Frequency Reference – traps for Young and Not- So-Young Players. George took the audience through some thought provoking aspects of building a GPS Disciplined Oscillator and many of the things you need to take into account. This included the errors when generating a frequency, overcoming those errors and some other factors that need to be addressed. George then took the audience through his development of his frequency generators for a range of rigs and how they can be GPS Disciplined.

Our last coffee break and last chance for raffle tickets, goodies and books from Pages of Cobram, thanks to Peter VK3FPSR.

Tim VK5ZT then gave a quick talk on the 3.4GHz panel documentation that he has created which runs to over 60 pages about the panels and their modification and this is available of the EARC.org.au website.

Glen English VK1XX then presented the issues with the ICOM IC-9700 (in)stability and showed his work on developing an oscillator that can be GPS Disciplined for the IC-9700 to improve the stability of the rig for narrow band weak signal work on the microwave bands.

Another Gippstech first timer presenter Wayne Pearson VK5APN gave an entertaining presentation on Grid squares which then lead into his experiments with an independent location finder that gives a range of data including Maidenhead to 10 digits.

Yours truly finished up the presentations with a K3NG based AZ/EL GPS rotator for 10 GHz EME. This showed the applications and the equipment along with the easy of configuring. Pictures showed the Arduino based controller including GPS module that can be used to determine your location and the CCTV AZ/EL based mount to track the sun and moon.

We then retired to the common room for the raffle draw before enjoying pizza and heading in many different direction following another enjoyable Gippstech.

73, Justin, VK7TW

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SOTA Double Points Day

It’s been a long time between drinks!

Been a bit busy with other aspects of the hobby of amateur radio!

New Year’s Day 2018 – Reu VK7FREU and myself decided to activate Hartz Peak VK7/SW-008 for the Summits on the Air UTC Year changeover. The Eastern Seaboard of VK (Australia) offers the opportunity to activate a summit twice in one day and get double the points!

SOTA rules specify that you can only get the activation points for a summit once a year. However, on the first of January of each year in Eastern VK the UTC year change-over occurs at 11:00am local time. This allows for the SOTA activators to get to the summit before 11am – get at least four contacts and then reactivate after 11am for double points across two years.

Reuben and I did not activate Hartz Peak in 2017 so we chose this one!

You drive from Hobart through Huonville, Franklin and Geeveston. In Geeveston you turn right off down Arve Rd as if you are heading to Tahune Air Walk. On the Air Walk road there is a turn off to the Hartz National Park on Hartz Rd. It took about 1h:15m to drive from Hobart. You need a National Parks Pass to enter the Park. It was raining on/off from Franklin to the National Park.

We signed the walk book to see that a party before us had set off at 4:30am and returned at 9:00am – must have tried to see the sunrise of 2018 from Hartz Peak! We set off and only saw one family coming back down. It was raining on/off and the westerly (Roaring-40s) were strengthening. We were walking through mist all the way.

Duck board path into the misty distance

It took us about 70 minutes to climb to the top with some stops along the way. We didn’t see the summit until we were actually on it due to the thick mist.

Erie horned tree across a tarn

We setup on the leeward side of the Peak to get out of the wind and was setup around 10:44am. The propagation on 40m was crap and our signal reports reflected this.

Operating position on the leeward side of Hartz Peak

Selfie on the peak before heading back

We only managed to get three contacts each before 11am and therefore unfortunately did not activate the Peak for 2017. Oh well! We did manage to get seven contacts each after 11am. We had some early lunch and headed back to the car.

There were lots of plants in bloom along the track and one in particular was fascinating – the cushion plant.

Cushion plant flowering

Cushion plants ( Donatia novae-zelandiae ) are incredibly slow growing and take many years to get to this size plant. They have small five pointed flowers that embroider the cushion. Thanks to Reuben for this photo.

Another successful SOTA trip.

Hear you on a summit soon!

73, Justin, VK7TW

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WIA Election Results – Thank You

G’day All,

Thanks to all who voted for and supported me during the election process for the Board of Directors for the Wireless Institute of Australia.

WIA Election Results

I am humbled by the result and have this feeling of being in the foothills about the climb a very large mountain range.

There is much to be done to put the focus back on amateur radio and so little time to do it!

The hard work begins!

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Board Nomination, Hobby, WIA | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nomination Backgrounder

Why am I willing to be a candidate for election as a director of the WIA?

Good question!

I’ll start with some background information….

I have been an amateur radio operator for the last 30 years, my callsign – VK7TW – previously VK5ZJV, VK7ZTW, VK7KTW and have been “active” since about 2004.

Current amateur radio interests include:

I have written the VK7 column for AR magazine since 2003. I collate and write the Sunday VK7 Regional News broadcast for 51 weeks of the year and have done this since 2004. I have held President, Vice-President and Secretary roles in the local club since 2004. I am also a WIA Assessor.

I was awarded the 2007 WIA – Ron Wilkinson Achievement Award, the 2010 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award with Rex Moncur VK7MO and the 2012 WIA – Al Shawsmith Award.

My formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Science (Geology and Geochemistry), Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management and Graduate Diploma of Public Policy and Management.

I started my working life in 1983 in a small private IT firm where I learned my computing/IT trade. I then went back to study then started working in the Tasmania State Government in 1993 and have worked in a range of roles including IT, Policy, HR, IR, Project, Change and Management positions. A couple of highlights have been the project management of major government system implementations and being a member of the team that introduced new state government employment legislation. I am currently a public service manager within the Tasmanian State Service, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

I am 50 years old, married and we have a 14 year old son, Reuben VK7FREU.

Back to the question of why I nominated?

I bring a skill set that I hope will be of value to the WIA especially in the area of inter-government relations, process re-engineering, project, change & financial management and legislative interpretation.

I am passionate about my hobby of amateur radio however, I also realise it is just a hobby.

I am also passionate about getting more young people interested in amateur radio and this was highlighted for me through a recent experience where I was involved in the Festival of Bright Ideas for Science Week 2016. This demonstrated to me that there was huge un-tapped potential for amateur radio in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) learning and promotion. We as a national organisation need to provide practical material to support STEAM teachers to integrate amateur radio into their primary, secondary and tertiary curriculum.

We need to continue to foster and build on the relationship we have with the Australian Communication and Media Authority and ensure we are in a stable, financial and strong position when the opportunities present and future World Radio Conferences. We need to be a strong advocate, contributor and supporter of the IARU in Region 3 and continue to build on the fantastic work of Michael Owen and the many others who work tirelessly in a volunteer capacity for our National organisation.

I am concerned about the slow erosion of our National body and declining membership. We can only survive with a strong and effective national voice to represent, advocate and educate existing and new amateur radio operators throughout Australia. We have a great foundation upon which to build thanks to those before us.

If you are a financial WIA member and you are concerned about our National body then please 1). Vote and 2). Carefully consider who you want representing you at Board level.

There is a short YouTube video introducing myself and my platform available at:

I will be attending the AGM in Hahndorf, South Australia and if you would like me to be a proxy at that meeting then please contact me as I have a pre-filled proxy form I can send you.

Catch you on the bands and/or a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Board Nomination, Hobby, WIA | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

VK7/WC-005 & 013 – Rodway Range and Mt Field East – 17-19 January 2017

Reuben VK7FREU and I set off on the afternoon of the 17th January 2017 and drove up to Mt Field National Park, about an hour’s drive from Hobart. We called in at the Ranger station and signed in the Alpine walks book outlining what we were intending to do. Then a 20m drive up to Lake Dobson. Given the weather report we planned two and half days of bushwalking, camping and SOTA activations. There was rain forecast for the first night then two days of reasonable weather!

We walked up to Rodway Range via the Mt Field West track up past the ski lodges and ski tows.

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Panorama of duckboarding between Mt Mawson and Rodway Range

The path then takes you past the Rodway ski tow and the end of the Tarn shelf track and up onto Rodway Range where the low cloud started to roll in. We walked to the highest point and setup our SOTA station around 4:15pm. We were in low cloud the whole time.

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Walking across the top of Rodway Range

Condition on 40m were not good and we struggled to get contacts with poor signal reports. We moved to 15m and managed another two contacts. We decided to pack up and keep walking so we reached K-Col and Clemes Tarn with some light to spare. We walked down over Rodway Range and down the block field to the K-Col/Newdegate Pass track turnoff. We called in to the Peterson Memorial Hut and said hello to a couple who had setup for the night. We then walked about 500m further on to Clemes Tarn and setup our tent, had tea and went to bed – that’s when to fun started!!

Around 4am we woke to gusty wind that was hitting our little tent really hard. Unbeknown to us we were in an exposed saddle that was taking the full westerly wind and rain force. Around 5pm one of our aluminium tent poles broke (went off like a gun!) and ripped the tent. I was able to tape up the break with the roll of electrical tape but we decided to pack up  and head back to the Peterson Memorial hut. We then got some sleep and breakfast and bid the other bushwalkers goodbye as they were heading back down. The morning was still blustery and low cloud covered Mt Field West and Florentine Peak with bursts of driving rain and sleet.

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Panorama of Peterson Memorial hut and Mt Field West covered in cloud.

We hung around the hut for a few hours and read all about the hut as it was opened by Sir Edmund Hillary back in Easter 1960 and had recently been lined with Tassie Oak and is in really good condition. The cloud didn’t clear and we decided to abandon the Mt Field West and Florentine Peak activations and come back another day. We decided to walk back the K-Col Track over Newdegate Pass and along the Tarn Shelf as Reuben had never been along Tarn Shelf.

 

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Panorama view from Newdegate Pass to Florentine Peak left and Mt Field West still in cloud.

We had lunch just before Lake Newdegate and walked back along Tarn Shelf which is a great walk as you weave your way through many tarns and glacial features. This is an excellent ice age Permian landscape with some great geological features.

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Looking North along Tarn Shelf from Rodway Ski Tow – Rodway Range on the left.

We walked back to the car at Lake Dobson via the ski fields huts and signed out at the Rangers headquarters and headed home for a night. The next morning we headed back to Mt Field National Park and signed in and up to the car park near Lake Fenton for the Mt Field East walk. The day was glorious with blue clear skies! The walk into Mt Field East takes you past Lake Fenton and steadily up and over the saddle between Seegers lookout and Mt Crooke then down into Windy Moor and up the rocky knoll that is Mt Field East. It took us about 1.5 hours up and 1.25 hours back.

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Panorama across to Mt Mawson and Rodway Range from the saddle.

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Panorama looking toward Mt Field East across Windy Moor.

Windy Moor lived up to its name and it’s muddy as well! Definitely gators and walking boot are the go! We climbed to the summit and there is a rock walled enclosure that provides shelter from the wind. We setup our station and started calling CQ around 1pm. The contacts on 40m were slow and signal reports not strong. We moved to 15m and managed to contact ZL1BYZ and could hear JL2OES but he could not hear us. Back to 40m and contacted a few more and up to 144MHz and managed to get VK7DX at Arthurs Lake on the 40m dipole!

Given the bright sunshine the skinks were out in force and at one stage I counted 11 in the little rock enclosure.

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Friendly and curious skinks!

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More friendly and curious skinks – one even jumped on to Reuben’s back and explored!

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Panorama – North to South looking East from Summit.

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Panorama – South to North looking West from Summit – Florentine Peak and Mt Field West – Perfectly clear!!!!.

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Selfie L2R: Reuben VK7FREU and Justin VK7TW

Thanks to all who contacted us during our three days in Mt Field National Park.

In the words of Arnie…..”We’ll be bach”.

Catch you on a summit soon.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Camping, SOTA, SOTA Activation, Uncategorized, VK7 Association | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

High Performance Software Defined Radio (HPSDR)

I was invited to give a presentation at the Open Radio Mini Conference that was being held on the first day of the National Linux Conference 2017 being held in Hobart from 16-20 January 2017 thanks to Scott VK7LXX and Ben VK7BEN.

My topic – An Overview of the HPSDR – I jumped at the chance to bang on about my favourite Open Source Software Defined Radio platform – I only have three of them at last count 😉

The presentation was videoed and made available on You Tube:

I included some material that was drawn from the SDR generations presentation from Dr Howard White KY6LA who presented at the SDR Academy at Freidrichshafen Hamfest in 2016. This enabled and explanation of where the HPSDR fits in the SDR evolution.

I was also able to include information on the fantastic work that John Melton G0ORX/N6LYT and Dr. Warren Pratt NR0V have been doing in developing the Open Source PiHPSDR control surface.

I was able to demonstrate both the Apache-Labs version of the piHPSDR and I have written a review of this unit that will appear in the national AR Magazine for March 2017:

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Apache-Labs piHPSDR Serial Number 006

This unit was controlling a traditional HPSDR with Mercury, Penelope, Excalibur, Metis and Alex band pass filters with a Codan 100W power amplifier.

I also demonstrated the truly Open Source nature of the HPSDR project through my homebrewed HPSDR – Hermes based with piHPSDR control surface, Alex band pass filters  and Pennywhistle 20W power amplifier in a re-purposed Philips TX-815 case:

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Homebrewed HPSDR with piHPSDR control surface

There will be more on this unit in a future blog post.

Thanks to the Linux Conference organisers for allowing me time to bang on about one of my favourite subjects.

Catch you on the airwaves.

73, Justin, VK7TW

Posted in Amateur Radio, Hobby, HPSDR, LINUX Conf 2017, Software Defined Radio | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment