I was having some trouble getting reliable linking to provide the android tablet (a Lenovo Tab3/7) with internet access while on hilltops or in parks.
A bit of research found a lot of wave-away-the-problems type of solutions, which didn’t solve it at all.
Finally I discovered a comment about the type of hotspot that the iphone actually provides. It is not an infrastructure type but an adhoc hotspot. And more to the point, it does not advertise it continuously. It only advertises the hotspot for a limited time after being enabled, or after you visit the Personal Hotspot option in the Settings menu.
After some experimentation I now find that the tablet happily links to the iphone every time, provided I go to the Settings > Personal Hotspot item in the iphone and then wait about 10 seconds. Nothing else needs to be done, provided the wifi password has been set in the tablet.
The other solution I have used from some hilltops is to take a personal hotspot device with me. As my phone provider uses a provider that does not have as good coverage as Telstra, this provides my tablet with excellent network coverage from places without any service on the other network.
Here’s a pic of the hotspot lashed to a tree on the Boboyan Range summit, 40 km south of Canberra.
As in past years I operated in this event at Mt Ginini in two ways. On VHF/UHF bands I used my standard equipment powered by a Honda EU20i generator, with 100w output on 2m/6m, 75w on 70cm and 10w on 23cm. On HF bands I ran 10w from battery power, to be SOTA compliant.
I started the site setup at 5pm Friday night, setting up the tent and the HF antennas. Two squid poles supported these antennas. One was a linked dipole for the HF bands from 40 to 10m. The other antenna was a quarter wave vertical with elevated radials for 20m.
The VHF/UHF antennas were erected on Saturday morning. Matt VK1MA and Glen VK1XX arrived to perform some maintenance work on the tower for the repeaters run by the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club. When I was ready to lift my antennas they were ready to help and fortunately I only needed to adjust the guy ropes.
On VHF the band conditions seemed ok, with the VK3RGL beacons on 144.530 and 432.530 were both received with reasonable signals. Towards Sydney the beacons on 144.420 and 432.420 were weak but detectable. Propagation in the north east direction (Sydney and up the NSW coastline roughly) remained ordinary for the weekend.
By the late afternoon, I had logged a small number of contacts on 40m and on the VHF/UHF bands. There were a few other field stations, the most prominent on VHF being VK3ER and VK3KQ and I could work both on 6m/2m/70cm without much trouble. The 23cm signals were detectable but only workable on peaks of the fading always present on that band.
In the hour before sunset I was working some 20m CW contacts as a SOTA portable, conditions did not seem too good on 20m towards Europe but I made a handful of contacts with Europeans and some Australians. The planned ssb activations in Europe were basically inaudible, though with some imagination I could hear faint voices and stations calling them. When you cannot really hear the chasers you know it will be hard to work the activators.
Returning to the VHF/UHF bands I had some good contacts into the area west of Melbourne, then heard VK5SR in the Mount Gambier area with a big signal. Contacts with VK5SR were made on 144 and 432, but no signals heard on 1296. Contacts were made at much increased signal levels with VK3KQ and VK3ER on 1296 as well as the three lower bands. VK5RX was worked also on 144, a much more westerly contact in the PF95 grid.
During the recording you will hear a contact with vk3er on 1296 where they were so strong with their dish on my direction that I thought they were a local. Then I could hear vk3er at a distance of 460 odd km on 1296 even while they were beaming to Mt Gambier with their their dish 120 degrees off my direction. Conditions were unusually good! Following the contacts with vk3er on 1296 and 50 mhz there was a contact made on 1296 with vk3kq after several tries using 432 for liaison. There was an unsuccessful attempt, another set of dits used as a beacon, then finally a successful contact on ssb.
By about 10pm the wind had increased in strength and it seemed unlikely there would be any new contacts made. I didn’t plan to operate after midnight to make contacts in the next 3 hour period so I closed down for the night, lowering both antenna masts so as to protect the antennas from the wind. Having seen stakes almost completely ripped out of the rocky ground by gusty winds in past events, I didn’t want to risk damage to the antennas, the tent or the operator!
I woke at about 5am and was very cold, having packed the wrong sleeping bag. It was about 4C that morning which was an improvement over the 2C of Saturday morning, however I warmed up in the car for 20 mins before raising the antennas and getting the station back on the air. A few field stations were ready for contacts prior to 6am but despite trying to work them all before 6 on all bands, a few contacts were missed. Due to the 3 hour time blocks used in this contest it is possible to make contacts in each 3 hour time block, at any time. After the initial flurry of contacts with VK3ER VK3KQ and VK2WG it was time to check the beacons especially looking for VK5 beacons given the good conditions into VK5 the night before. Some of the VK3 beacons were audible, the VK3RGL were good signals on 144 and 432 but the Mt Gambier VK5RSE beacon was not heard. However the VK5VF beacon close to Adelaide was a good signal so I started making CQ calls beaming to Adelaide on 144.150. During the next few hours several VK5 contacts were made on 144 and 432, with a marginal contact made on 1296 with VK5PJ. Jeff VK5GF joined in the fun and his signal remained good for several hours. The VK5 signals were still good after 9AM so we were able to make several contacts for the field day log at these excellent signal levels.
Near Wagga the VK2WG club station was also making contacts into VK5 on 144 and some on 432, though signal levels were markedly lower than those received at Mt Ginini’s altitude of just over 1700m. John VK2YW was operating the VHF station there and he has since commented that he wants to get onto 1296 after hearing of the contacts made there.
I think this event was my most successful field day from a VHF/UHF perspective. The conditions on 144 and 432 were above their usual level but the results on 1296 were my best ever. The vhf and uhf bands are a lot of fun in these great conditions.
Wind and rain were the winners and highlights of this event.
To avoid a late start I packed the car on Thursday night and I set off for mount Ginini after work on Friday afternoon. I arrived on site at about 7 pm and put up the tent and the 20m vertical. I had a chat with a few other hams that night and tested out the antenna. A strong contact with a ZL2JBR was particularly encouraging. On the ic703 with 10w output I received very good signal reports.
The second hf antenna, a linked dipole, was set up on Saturday morning. I heard a bleat from SOTAGOAT on the iPhone and found it was my SOTA buddy Andrew vk1nam operating at the south coast about 120-130km away announcing he was calling cq on 28.490. I dropped the dipole and removed the links at the 10m position and walked back to the tent to set the radio on the right frequency. Tuning across the band I found a number of USA stations at good strength. Ok so 10m was in good shape but I had VHF antennas to assemble so I started back out of the tent. Before moving far I had to return to the radio as there was a loud cq call heard from vk1nam on a SOTA peak at the south coast. We had a good contact that surprised us both.
I continued the assembly process with a few breaks to make some SOTA contacts on 40m with some of the regular chasers.
The VHF and uhf antennas went together normally though I had made it more difficult by assembling them on the downhill side of the slope from the mast position.
By the time I was ready to lift the mast up a team of radio club members had arrived Onsite to make adjustments to the repeaters onsite. I asked Matt vk1ma to help with the mast so it was soon up and working.
VHF conditions seemed poor. Signals from vk2rsy and vk3rgl beacons were ok on 144.420 and .530 but neither was at a good strength and their 432.4 signals were weak or unreadable.
The contest got under way at midday local time but the poor weather had obviously kept a lot of operators at home. Progress on VHF was very slow.
One vk3 portable in the voctorian high country was worked on 50, 144, 432 and 1296 MHz. A few others were heard but not worked. Towards Sydney there were several on air and later on Saturday vk1pwe was worked at Mt Coree about 30km north of my position.
Saturday evening approached and the repeater team paid me a visit before leaving for Canberra. They cheerfully told me the forecast was for very cold conditions and possibly snow overnight.
A session on 20m cw and Ssb netted about 35 SOTA contacts running the 703 on battery power. The vertical worked well.
Later some more contacts were made on the VHF bands but generally it seemed like the VHF scores would be very low.
I set up my usual station on Mt Ginini QF44JL for this event.
On 50 MHz, a TS670 and a HL66V amplifier producing 60w to a 3 el cushcraft yagi on a 4m mast.
On 144 MHz, the IC910H 100w to an 8 el yagi at 6m agl. On 432 MHz the IC910H 75w to a 16 el yagi at 4.5m agl with an icom mast head preamp 1.5m from the feedpoint.
On 1296 Mhz I had unfortunately not packed the pair of 18el yagis normally used. As a token antenna to make some local contacts, I connected a 2m quarter wave vertical with about 3m of RG58 coax and laid that horizontally on the roof of the tent, bisecting the side and centre aluminium stressors that are part of the roof structure of my old Coleman tent. This “antenna” gave me some local contacts on 1296 and with effort, a contact with vk2smc near Nimmitabel.
On Saturday I found conditions ordinary with no unusual contacts made. On Sunday morning at 5AM local time I checked the usual beacons from Sydney, Mt Anakie in VK3, Mildura in VK3 and the Gippsland beacon, on both 144 and 432 where possible. With the very calm conditions overnight I wondered if I would hear any beacons from further afield and checked the Mt Gambier beacon VK5RSE on 144.550 and the Adelaide beacon VK5VF on 144.450. Both beacons were received at good strength, and during the following 5 hours both beacons remained audible, the Adelaide beacon being the strongest signal most of the time until it faded around 9AM, the Mt Gambier signal remaining audible but weak for a little longer. My log notes that VK5RSE was still audible at 2305 UTC, or 10AM local time. At that stage the Adelaide signal had vanished. With these beacon signals received so well, how about making some contacts into those areas?
I then worked Bill VK5ACY at 1922 UTC (6:22 local) vk5LA at 1939, vk5AKK at 2006, VK5PO at 2008, VK5DK at 2109, all on 144MHz. I also worked Vk5AKK on 432.
Much later at 2150 I was called by VK5PJ on 2m while beaming to Sydney direction (NE) and made a good contact with Peter on that band, followed by working him again on 432 MHz, still with the beams NE. Turning the beams around to the west produced signal levels of S9+20 (indicated) which is a rare event on 70cm dx. Peter asked whether I had 23cm and I told him that regrettably my real antennas were at home and all I had was a temporary lashup to make local contacts. He was keen to try it given the unusually good propagation we had on 70cm. We tried 23cm first with Peter running a series of dots, so I tuned for that signal on the Sub receiver on the IC910 and could tell him “yes I do hear that, I will send the same to you”… and the outcome was a good 5 x 1 contact on SSB.
Back on our “liaison frequency” 432.160 where signals were still s9+ I told Peter what the antenna was. “It’s a 2m quarter wave lying on the roof of my tent”. He asked for a photo…I took the following photo immediately while still sitting at the desk talking with him.
Note the precise calibration of the angles.
Here is what it looked like from the outside.
I then asked him to run the beeper again so I could try to optimise the orientation or location of the antenna. I tried vertical and horizontal polarisation in various orientations. Eventually I returned the antenna to its original position where by good luck, the signal was best. You would not read about it.
Later at 2223 I was encouraged to give this antenna a try working VK3ER where Peter VK3QI was keen to make the contact. And yes it did work, even on ssb. In the past we have made contacts with my real antennas but sometimes it has been quite difficult, cw-only. Clearly propagation was unusually good between us.
A later attempt to hear or work Gordon VK3EJ at Cobram was unsuccessful. Whatever atmospheric effect was allowing these longer distant signals to reach Mt Ginini was not active for the shorter distance to Cobram.
This is where the 1296 yagis would normally go… just below the 70cm yagi on the mast.
Summary: 145 or so contacts, some ordinary and a small number of extraordinary contacts, coinciding with very hot daytime weather and a calm morning.
Once again the beacons were a great indicator of the possibilities ahead.
As my brother Chris VK2DO pointed out, it looks like the many tickets purchased in the “field day lottery” over the past 20 years have finally paid off and I have certainly been rewarded with some great fortune this time. If only I had my real antennas for 1296, and how about the higher bands? Will never know, can only continue to take tickets in the lottery and hope it doesn’t take another 20 years to produce results.
For this event I took my usual station on 50 to 1296 MHz, plus my transverter and gridpack for 2403 MHz, Ted VK1BL’s transverter and gridpack for 3400 and Dale VK1DSH’s 10 GHz station (IC202, transverter, dish and tripod).
Contacts were made on all these bands.
Performance of the station on 1296 MHz was not as good as in previous years. This may be due to conditions, or to a problem with my antenna or my location on Mt Ginini. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find suitable places where even two required directions are not partly blocked by the trees on that mountain.
Field day station on Mt Ginini, after sunset (.4sec)
Field day station on Mt Ginini, after sunset
Southwest at Sunset on Mt Ginini
Only a minute later than the previous shot but looking southwest, into the sunset and the much brighter sky tends to darken the mountains and the distant lake.
Much more light though and this is a relatively "fast" 1/10 sec exposure.
18-55 IS lens. Hand held, EOS 350D. View in light box recommended (click on photo).
Southwest before sunrise at Mt Ginini
The same direction as the previous shot but taken early the next morning. The cloud over the lake and river makes it appear to be much larger than it really is.
18-55 IS lens. Hand held. View in light box.
Dawn view from Mt Ginini
Dawn view from Mt Ginini
Ginini sunrise near Canberra Australia
Sunrise on Mt Ginini
The antennas at sunrise. No-one was on the radio so it was a time to take photos.
The 1296 MHz yagis with the 3/4 wave splitter.
The 1296 yagis with one disconnected and the feedline bypassing the splitter.
The 1296 yagis, with only the top one connected to the feedline.
The new yagi style - no reflector
The crippled 144 MHz yagi without a reflector element (at the right hand end). I found the broken element in the grass at home when I got back on Sunday afternoon. The antenna directivity and gain were only slightly affected, but the front to back ratio was very different without the reflector. Not recommended for best performance!
The 16 element yagi for 432 MHz. The end feed is a problem for the relatively stiff coaxial cable as it is unsupported in this configuration. It would be better looping below the antenna.
Gridpack dish for 3.4 GHz
A view of the 3.4 GHz antenna and the foliage nearby which was similar in the direction I pointed this antenna to make a contact with VK1BL on Mt Ainslie in Canberra. The foliage would have absorbed some of the signal on this frequency. This is a standard gridpack dish for 2.4 GHz with a 5mm mesh added to the face closest to the feed. The feed is a cavity backed dipole as per the design by Andy Sayers VK3ES, which was presented to the Gippstech conference in 2007 or 2008. This dish and feed were set up and lent to me for this event by Ted VK1BL.
Gridpack dish for 2.4 GHz
Similar view of the 2.4 GHz antenna. This is the same "gridpack" dish as that used for 3.4 Ghz. The feed is the standard feed supplied with this dish by The RF Shop from Brisbane.
I could have used one dish and swapped the feeds over, but I thought it was possible some of my band changes may be at night or in the rain, so I took both and had single band luxury. As it turned out Ted was not available for additional contacts and no other stations within reach had gear for 2.4, 3.4 or 10 GHz.
The January 2010 event was much more successful for me than the Spring field day about 6 weeks earlier.
This time Dale VK1DSH and I operated as a multiop station on 50, 144, 432, 1296, 2403 and 10368 MHz.
Dale made several contacts on 10 GHz with Andy VK2AES operating south east of Bungendore.
Despite leaving the feed for the 2.4 GHz dish at home, we still made a contact with Andy on that band, using a “field day special” feed constructed onsite from a piece of wire and a N type socket connected to a piece of cable through the dish centre and attached to the normal feed hardware. Signals S9 over the 70 or 80 km path.
Several successful contacts with Dave VK2JDS near Bathurst on 1296 MHz. Some persistence was needed for the first contact, when conditions were not so good and we had to get our beam headings right. More power at both ends would have been a help.
Other than that, we had a fair contact rate on 144 with many throws to other bands.
For this event I used one of Owen VK1OD’s Roger Beep boards. I assembled the board on the previous weekend, mounting the board into a small box with the Icom mike plugging into a socket on the RB box, and mike output to the IC910 through a short section of shielded cable. I set the CW speed to 30 wpm and selected the K option.
Despite some thunderstorm activity in the area, we didn’t have to shut down.
Activity was a little lower than in the past. Chris VK2DO was away on a business trip and Matt VK2DAG was roving up and down the NSW coast and unfortunately we didn’t work him once. Our score was just over 2000 points, though, with the help of the additional microwave bands. We were grateful for Andy VK2AES’s efforts in going portable on both days and giving us contacts on all bands, in particular 2.4 and 10 GHz.
VHF field day antennas
The 8 element yagi for 144 MHz and 16 element for 432 MHz are on the main mast. The smaller mast carries a half wave vertical for 50 MHz, an 18 element yagi for 1296 and a gridpack dish for 2403 MHz.
Operating desk in the tent on Mt Ginini
From left: TS670S and amplifier for 6m, rotator control for small mast, clock for logging, second rotator control, Kbeep box, IC910H for 2m/70cm/23cm, power supply. Paper logs. Power supplies on floor. For 2.4 GHz an FT290R was used.
Field constructed dish feed for 2.4 GHz
The feed you use when the real one was left at home. Made from a piece of stiff coaxial cable, a type N socket a solder lug and some wire from the spare parts box. I knew there was a reason for taking that stuff.
For this year’s JMFD contest I thought weather and propagation conditions were fairly bleak.
The weather was wet and windy to say the least. Many field stations reported having their tents and masts blown down.
The high point for me was working 3UHF on 1296 with only a single 18 el yagi, and barefoot (10w nominal). The distance was 501 km according to the VK1OD distance calculator, using the VK1DA/p and VK3UHF locations from the VHF Logger.
I didn’t like my chances of having hf antennas stay up and didn’t want to extend the tear down process, so I limited myself to the vhf/uhf bands. I had a car full of antennas and several extra masts but in those conditions, there is no point in trying to do too much.
The temp in the tent at 5AM Sunday morning was 3.5 C though the official overnight minimum according to BOM was 2C. No wind gust peak data was available.
Operating techniques and problems observed.
There is a continuing tendency for operators to call and make contacts on only one frequency, 144.150. Can everyone please tell their club operators that there is no repeater there, they are allowed to move the big knob in the middle of the radio panel. It is ok, nothing will break, the rest of the band also works for making contacts. It would be better to train vhf ssb operators on HF so they get to know how to operate on ssb, how to work the tuning knob and how to tune around the band to find stations to work. FM channels and repeaters are quite the wrong training ground for SSB but I’m afraid that the FM repeater operation mode (staying on one frequency, as if it is the only conduit to any other station) is the method many operators learn and continue to use.
It is up to the experienced operators to teach new operators better techniques. I appreciated those experienced operators who I heard requesting a QSY as soon as initial contact had been made.
During the contest I tried many times to make contact with some stations in the greater Sydney and Melbourne areas, whose signals were perfectly readable, but whose operators seemed to want to chat to locals interminably, on 144.150. There are bonus points for working longer distances and these operators were ignoring those chances. eg. a contact with another local station is worth 2 points, but a contact with a station 300+ km away would be worth 50 points. This surely would make it worth listening to a weaker signal.
We should encourage people to operate in vhf events in a manner similar to the HF bands. Find a clear frequency (within the band plan) and call CQ. If looking for a contact, tune the band. If activity is low, don’t move too far from other activity (but be mindful of local interference problems – this is why I qsy 30 kHz up from 150, not just 5 kHz as I might on HF). If activity is high, move further out. Give the dx something to tune for. Don’t clump up and make it impossible!
My QSO tally
All contacts ssb. These scores are about half the corresponding number from the summer VHF/UHF field day in January.
As we had scheduled a house move one week prior to the January 17th VHF Field Day, I had to set aside the equipment needed for the field day so it wouldn’t get packed up and be lost for months, which can happen when you move house.
The antennas were no problem as I had to move them on the roof racks of the car. The cables were a possible problem, as were the connectors, camping gear, tent/poles, generator, power cables and distribution boards, power cables for radios, the radios themselves.
The one thing I could not put on hold was myself and I had worked very hard for 5 days straight packing and carrying boxes of household goods. The last move took ages and I had several weekends to sort through 3 garages and dispose of unwanted stuff. This time was a bit better, there was only one garage.
The upshot was that with some encouragement from Dale VK1DSH I did find the energy to pack the car early on Saturday morning and head up to Mt Ginini, a 70 km, 90 minute trip from the new QTH. It took a bit longer as I called in at the bakery and the supermarket for some essential supplies on the way.
We got the station set up by about 3pm and logged our first contacts on all bands. Right away there seemed to be antenna problems on 52 and 432 MHz. Both antennas came down, connectors checked. The 52 MHz vertical had been extended to make it work on 50 MHz on a previous field day. Removing a short length of tubing added for 50 MHz operation returned it to normal operation on 52 which was sufficient for local contacts.
On the 432 antenna, lowering that meant going off 144 as well so we had to get it done quickly. I inserted the Bird 43 meter inline with the 432 MHz feedline and first tried a dummy load on the antenna side of the meter. Perfect, very low reflected power, transmit power fine. Same with the dummy load at the antenna end of the feedline. But with the antenna, quite poor swr at about 2.6 measured at the transmitter end. Later I ran some simulations using the predicted loss in the feedline (CNT400, 10 metres) indicated that the actual SWR at the antenna was somewhat higher. This indicated the driven element of the antenna was not properly connected to the feedpoint connector. however it was sealed in epoxy and nothing I could do up the mountain to fix it. Note that I had previously used this antenna with poorer quality feedline RG/9. The increased losses of that feedline masked the antenna problem.
On other bands all appeared to be working fine, though I never made a complete contact on 1296 with Adrian 2FZ in Sydney, nor with Dave 2JDS near Bathurst. However I made a number of contacts at similar and greater distances into the vk3 area so it remains a mystery.
With Dale 1DSH operating the 6m rig and the IC910 running on 144, 432 and 1296 it was a noisy tent at times. The radios were all together on one table. The other radio on the same table was the FT290 which was the driver for the 13cm transverter.
Dale brought his 10 GHz equipment and made a contact back to Ted VK1BL on Mt Ainslie in Canberra on the Sunday morning. No other 10GHz stations were active within range. Unfortunately the power amplifier in Dale’s transverter suffered a failure so power output was limited to around 1 milliwatt.
Packing up only took 90 minutes, half what it had taken in November. A great pleasure to be on the road heading home at that time. On the way I heard Norm 7AC on 50.170 and had a 10 minute chat with him from the car. Just for a bit of extra radio for the weekend! But I forgot to get a Ross Hull contest number from him. 11 points lost from the RH log!
After scoring the log it appears we did fairly well on 2m and 432 despite the antenna problems. The log has been sent in on time so we will see what the increased activity level does to our position in the results.