Still waiting! But did get a new toy

Everyday last week I have picked up the newly delivered post with growing anticipation only to be disappointed. I am still waiting for the official notification of my foundation pass from the RSGB so I can apply for my call sign. They do say it can take six days from when they receive the tests, so hopefully it will be early this week.

Something did turn up in the post on Saturday morning, I was awoken at 7:30am by a knock on the door, bleary eyed I took delivery of my latest purchase from eBay, a Baofeng UV-5R+ handheld. This is a Chinese made VHF/UHF dual-band FM transceiver suitable for the 2 metre and 70cm bands. The package came with an official Baofeng USB programming lead and a small handheld speaker/microphone that can be plugged into the main unit all for the pricely sum of £37 including postage.

I can admit now to already owning a Baofeng UV-3R which I have had for some time but have only ever used for receiving and the odd transmission on the PMR446 band. It cost about the same price and considered it a bargain then but on first impressions the UV-5R+ seems even more of one. It is a much more substantial device, it feels very solid in the hand. The display is bright and clear and the proper volume control and keypad make for a more pleasant experience, you can actually turn it down unlike the UV-3R which is deafening or off! It came with a proper drop in charger, a USB programming lead and a small hand-held speaker/microphone/PTT unit.
These units are just stop gaps until I get around to getting a decent amateur rig, the current front runner being the Yaesu FT-857D which is a nice small affordable(ish) unit giving me all-modes on HF and VHF/UHF. The 2013 National Hamfest which takes place in couple of weeks, right on my doorstep, could be a dangerous place for my credit card!
As well as having a chinwag I have already got a plans for a project to investigate APRS. I am hoping to use an old echolink/eQSO interface I built, around 10 years ago, linked to the UV-3R and a computer sound card. I am still investigating it but it seems the software which will be AGWPE to act as a TNC driven by the APRSISCE/32 the Amateur Radio client for windows.
I am especially looking forward to trying to contact the digi-repeater on board the International Space Station, some details here.   

Old/Obsolete Computers – a great way to waste an afternoon

This weekend I decided to begin the task of clearing out some of the junk that has collected in the loft space over the last 20 years, since I need to renew the insulation and tidy up the antenna farm. It isn’t the first clean out, the last major clear out was back in 2008.

There were still a few old PCs, the first was a Windows 98 machine with a 5.25″ floppy, 3.5″ floppy and an ancient tape drive. Amazingly despite not being powered up for nearly six years the clock was still reasonably accurate and it booted with no problem and even connected to the internet. Not that anything was browsable using IE4.

Another one had Windows ME *shudder* which did boot and again had a clock that was more or less right despite it not being powered up and booted since 2004! I wasn’t sure why I still had this PC and once it had booted I realised why.. this turned out to be the PC I used for my shorted lived PMR446 eQSO Internet Gateway UK-139L See this earlier blog post for more details.

What is of major concern is why I have subsequently spent most of the afternoon trying to troubleshoot why the ISA Creative Sound Blaster card appears to no longer work.. returning a Code 10 error.. memories! Perhaps I should follow the on screen advice!

8 years ago – UK139-L

The other day while hunting around for a home made programming cable for my Alinco DJ-X3 I found this odd looking box hiding in the bottom of a drawer

It is an eQSO/Echolink PC interface which I built 8 years ago when I set up a PMR446 eQSO Internet Gateway. The Gateway which was designated UK139-L was short-lived mainly due to the fact no one ever used it and it required a dedicated computer running 24/7.

My recollection of that period is a little vague but licence free PMR446 two-way radios had been around since 1999 and around 2003 was when they officially replaced the Short-Range Business Radio (SRBR) service and had become more mainstream and a lot of hobbyists saw them as a replacement for CB radio. Shops like Argos had started selling them to the general public (many of the dog agility shows I attended used them for across site communication).

Obviously being a geek interested in radio I decided to get some and when I found out about the scheme to connect gateways using a VOIP system to allow people to talk all over the world I couldn’t resist. With my usual enthusiasm I set about building one, testing it by driving around the local area and even created a website on the now defunct Geocities.

I will have a backup of the website somewhere, but as it turns out it was one of the pages archived by the Geocities.ws project. I have downloaded it and mirrored it on my current website at UK139-L Newark-on-Trent Some of the internal links are broken (not sure what version was archived) but I will fix it in the near future.

It has been years since I last looked at PMR446 but it seems the original website that coordinated the whole eQSO pmr446 project www.446user.co.uk has shut down and the official eQSO project appears to have reverted back to be just amateur radio based. However there appears to be an unofficial eQSO PMR network and an alternative in the form of the Free Radio Network

I will have to do more research and perhaps even resurrect the gateway when I get around to kitting out the shack.