Saturday, November 07, 2015

Data Radio

I've been trying to learn Morse Code (CW) for a while.
I'm still trying to learn.

After I fell out of love with Ham radio it's the thing that has got me interested again. I always saw Ham radio as a challenge and after getting my Foundation license it failed to be that. All the dull chat about what radios people had just wasn't what I considered communication. I went back to SWLing and after a while got FLDigi running and started listening to data modes. It was then that I decided that being able to listen to Morse without FLDigi would be good so I started learning.

All work and no play etc etc meant that I needed a distraction when not immersing myself in dits and dahs. I started listening to PSK31 and decoding with FLDigi and it was good fun. Long distance contacts were being made with low power and even with my dodgy split long wire I could still pick up distant stations. The thing was that without a data interface I couldn't transmit.

Anyway, last week someone told me that keying my mic while pressing it against a speaker would work and indeed there was plenty of testimonies on the web saying it had worked for them. Challenge on!

With a bit of audio re-routing I got together a small set-up and gave it a go last night. Nothing.
This morning though it did work and the building in the picture above in Italy was where my signal got through to, some 806 miles away.
So there we go, some down and dirty fun with data. It certainly has me interested again and I like the Heath Robinson approach I'm using at the moment.

Ham radio for me is once again a challenge.
As it should be.

Friday, November 06, 2015

In Need Of A Boost

I enjoy listening to my scanner but lately I haven't found many new channels.
I had a bit of a long shot idea to rectify this situation.

I've had a TV aerial booster lying around in a cupboard for a while. The frequency range it covers is quite wide so I thought why not try it between my discone antenna and the scanner. As I've said, it was a long shot but it was worth a go.

One newly soldered BNC cable later and I've got a 30-50% boost in existing signals and my next step is to scan for new frequencies to see what weak signals I can find, those that have eluded me before now.

I have another radio project to play with over the weekend and hopefully with some success I'll post here about that too.

In the meantime, back to the scanner.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

It Doesn't Add Up

On the rare occasions that I get out of the house to do some browsing of this world I like to go book shopping.
Any book shop will do but second-hand bookshops are the best. A few charities have decided that second-hand bookshops are the way to go. Indeed, I for one applaud the idea of a shop filled with second-hand books where the money goes to charity. For me it's a win win situation. It certainly trumps me having to tell charity canvassers that knock on my door, right in the middle of me eating supper, that their beaming faces are not welcome.

Recently though I've noticed that the price of the used books in said bookshops has been rising. Not that I'm against giving more money to charity but sometimes it just doesn't add up. I imagine that some bright spark has suggested that "the internet" is a great place to gauge prices. This is a good idea in one sense, imagine a charity shop selling a rare first edition for 99p! That just wouldn't do. The adverse side of this practise is that the lazy bright sparks just price everything on an internet average, or at least that's my theory.

Take for example today. I was in a local charity bookshop and a certain volume was £15. For what it was and its condition it seemed a little steep. I scanned the barcode and found that I could purchase a better copy online for half the price including postage. Guess who won that round?

If these charity bookshops continue to overprice books they're going to lose sales, as they did today with me. It doesn't add up! I don't give to charity, the charity loses money and they're left with dead stock.

The joy of charity shop book shopping is that great finds can be had for a few pounds. Over the years I've spent hundreds of pounds buying books from charity shops. But if they're going to price me out of their market we both lose.

A common sense rethink of pricing is needed to keep these valuable resources going.