30 March 2008


For most of you, the title of this entry is meaningless. What it means is the ham radio contest was on this weekend.

Now you're probably wondering how you have a ham radio contest. Do hams all get together in one place with their radios and go "ooh" and "aah", and judge who's got the best one? No, what happens is we all try to contact as many people as possible over a certain period. We exchange a signal report and a serial number. The reason for the serial number is to cross check the logs when the entries are checked, otherwise you could just say you contacted someone when you didn't.

As you can see below, we got the rabbit's ears up and the reception is much better now.

That's Donna in the picture feeding the possums. I was actually on the roof of our shed when I took this one, cutting some flowers from some of the trees for them.

Anyway, over the course of the weekend we had 92 contacts. Some of them were with the same station, but on different bands. We had contacts from as far afield as Korea, Malaysia, Chile, USA, Barbados and Jamaica. Unfortunately we didn't get any European stations, the closest we got Europe was the Ukraine.

You can see in the picture my callsign is sitting on top of one of the radios. That's so Laurie didn't forget himself and use his own callsign for the contest. As we were working as a team we just used mine. With the number of contacts we made though, Laurie will probably forget next time he's on the radio and use mine. Not that we made many contacts, we were small fry compared to some of the people competing, but there's a lot more in my log than there were before the contest.

Even though there's a fridge in this next picture, don't be fooled. We didn't hijack the kitchen table for the weekend. We were downstairs next to where I usually have my radios. Those leftover crusts you can see just past my chin aren't mine by the way. I always eat my crusts that's why I've still got a lot of hair.

Now the contest is over and we know the new radios and antenna work I can stop procrastinating and get stuck into my uni assignments.

I didn't play radios all weekend either, we had a couple of rescues this weekend. This afternoon Donna and I took a young dove back to be released that she and my niece (Laurie's ten year old daughter) rescued yesterday. From there we went to someone elses house to pick up a young galah.

23 March 2008

Don't laugh at my erection

It'll look better when it's on the roof. It won't be an eyesore either, I hope.

The rabbit's ears you can see in this picture are a Comet H-422 antenna. Up until now I've been using a couple of bits of wire hanging from the eaves in the back yard as my ham antenna. The trouble is, since I made the antenna and installed it, the trees have grown. I used to get really strong signals from New Zealand, but that doesn't happen now. Since putting the new antenna in the vege garden, I've been able to hear, Bolivia, Korea, Japan, the US and plenty of other stations that are closer.

Considering it's sitting in the back yard, that's not bad. Eventually it'll be up over the roof. I may even be able to contact my cousin Nicki's husband, Andy the anorak, 2E0HPO. By the way Andy, register, on QRZ.COM.

Now, if you aren't into amateur radio, if you aren't a ham, all the above is probably meaningless. Basically, what it means is, I'll now be able to chat to people all over the world on the wireless a lot better than I could before. When I say chat, I mean really talk to them, not like on MSN or ICQ, (is ICQ still around?).

Next weekend, my brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I will be competing in the CQ WPX contest. That means, over a period of 48 hours, we'll be trying to contact as many hams around the world as possible. Sounds boring? It's a lot less boring than sitting in front of the tele and watching sport. you can still do it with a beer in your hand.

Oh, and contesting on the radio, it's a contact sport.

15 March 2008


Dave made a comment in my last blog entry about handing someone a charged up capacitor and I thought it deserved an entry in itself.

For those of you that are non-technical, a capacitor is basically an electronic component that stores an electrical charge. They're a bit like a battery, but if you short them out they'll discharge completely, sometimes with a bang and lots of sparks.

Back when I was working as a tech, we had some small tins that originally contained small plastic strips used as insulators to stop relay contacts contacting, handy for fault finding. These tins had a metal bottom, a metal lid and a cardboard middle. What we used to do was solder a two microfarad capacitor to the base and the lid. We'd then close it up, put a little notice on it telling people not to open it, charge the cap up to about 250 volts with a megger and leave it on someones desk.

Naturally, when you see something on your desk that says, do not open, you open it. It's human nature. People expect something to jump out of it when they open it. They don't expect to get zapped.

The funny thing is, sometimes someone would pick it up, get zapped and drop it, and the next person would pick it up and do the same thing, not realising that victim numer one had been zapped. Two for the price of one.

Maybe one day I'll tell you about the spiders and cockroaches I used to make from bits of wire, antistatic foam and heatshrink, or the time I hid a walkie talkie on someones desk and started transmitting from the other side of the workshop.

Ah, those were the days.

08 March 2008

New radio

There's two shiny new radios downstairs at the moment. One hadn't even been out of its box until I opened it.

They aren't my radios, they belong to my brother Laurie. He and I are both radio hams, Laurie's callsign is VK4VCC and mine is VK4VSP. Because Laurie is in the process of having a new house built, he and his family are living in rented accomodation, so he can't put up an antenna. While the house is being built he's been buying some new gear and he brought them around this morning so I could have a bit of a play.

After they'd left I went downstairs, unplugged one of my radios and made some room on the desk for one of Laurie's radios.

At the moment there's a DXpedition on at Clipperton Island. A DXpedition is where a bunch of hams get together and take their radios to somewhere remote. Usually it's somewhere where there aren't any other hams, so everyone wants to contact them while they're there, so they can say it's another country they've contacted. With all the bells and whistles Laurie's new radios have, they're ideal for contacting a station such as the guys on Clipperton, while half the world's hams are trying to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, I managed to blow a fuse in my one and only power supply. Why not replace the fuse? I hear you say. I'm going to, but the trouble is, the fuse is internal. There's two huge capacitors inside that thing and they're still charged up. There's no way I'm putting my hands inside the case while they're still charged. I've zapped myself that way too many times when I used to do electronic repairs years ago. The slightest sudden noise turns your bowels to liquid when you're working on something like that. In fact, it wasn't unusual for someone to sneak up behind you and clap back in those days. We were cruel buggers back then.

01 March 2008


We have a 2600 litre rainwater tank in our backyard.

With all the rain we've had just lately, it's been pretty much full since about late November. We had an electronic timer on it so that at 5:30 pm every afternoon it would water the veges for half an hour. The trouble is, sometimes the batteries would go flat and we wouldn't notice until the strawberries started to look a bit sorry for themselves.

So I took the timer off last week and relied on remembering to turn off the tap whenever it was on. This morning I put a good old fashioned clockwork timer on there, because this morning was when I remembered I'd turned the tap on about 5:30 yesterday afternoon and it was still on.

I hope it rains this week, because we have about 1400 litres of water to replace in the tank.

That's not as bad as a colleague of mine who lives on seven and a half acres near Samford, north of Brisbane. He turned the tap on from one of his tanks sometime last year to fill the horse trough up, then forgot to turn it off when he and the family went to Warwick for the day.

He relies on tank water and had to buy some in to refill the tank. I think he paid about three hundred dollars. You can imagine how pissed off he was when it rained heavily a week after he bought it.