RaDAR – Kobus ZS6BOS’s challenge results

Kobus ZS6BOS has become one of the leading competitors in ZS. His operating style and reporting is neat and friendly.

Kobus left his QTH at 08h30 UTC and made his first stop at KG33sp.  (See log sheet for contacts) Next stop KG33so94os where he made my 5 contacts and went on to KG33tp40be and spent the rest of his 4 hours as a field station. As per RaDAR rules, Kobus included a foto of each position.  Here is one of them.

Well done Kobus! Hope to see you in the November challenge again.

RaDAR – Challenge July 2019 review

I eventually found the time to write my review. Being recently retired I found I’m quite a busy man and wonder where I ever got the time to go to a “saltmine” for eight hours a day!

HF conditions are really a challenge nowadays and even under less strenuous timelines than the RaDAR challenge it’s days or weeks that I go without a QSO! That determined my strategy for the day.

Usually I don’t rely too heavily on satellite communications and I hadn’t done RaDAR SatComms in quite a while. Choosing my four hours I had to make the first attemt a test. I had a great QSO with Tom ZR6TG via the AO-91 cubesat.

In the background, my RaDAR training ground – a full 1.6 Hectare of dense bush.

Then the four hour challenge started. I made no attempt at setting up any HF antennas but there were two permanently in place in my RaDAR training ground, a 40m / 20m delta loop (In the background above) and another two hundred meters away, a linked dipole.

I at least walked to new locations for the satellite QSO’s deploying quiclky and making quick pass evaluations for direction and elevation. I used the SA AMSAT satellite antenna which is very lightweight and effective. It’s a wonder antenna as the theory behind it goes well beyond that of a straightforward yagi and diplexer.

A low elevation pass but three good QSO’s ZS1LEM, ZS1OB and ZS2BK . As could be expected it’s difficult to near impossible to get the full quota of five QSO’s as per RaDAR movement specifications, so I just returned to “base” after each successful deployment.

ISS Detector Android app for pass predictions

Three QSO’s via SO-50 with ZS2BK, ZS1OB and ZS6GL, Graham is very involved with the RAE and inspiring young people to become radio amateurs.

An area I cleared using a bush cutter and standard petrol lawnmower modified to handle the rough environment.

I had included the last hour for possible CW QSO’s through a local CW sprint that takes place every Saturday and Sunday between 4pm and 5pm. I managed one QSO using my X5105 Xeigu and the linked dipole.

Not a true RaDAR challenge but I had lots of fun and that what it’s all about.

RaDAR News – July 2019

It’s almost that time of the year when the mid year RaDAR Challenge takes place. A good place to start if you have not already done so, is to download the SARL Contest manual, alias “The Blue Book”. The URL is http://www.sarl.org.za/public/contests/contestrules.asp

The section to look out for are the RaDAR Challenge guidelines. The times and date are 00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 13 July 2019. You are free to choose your own four hour time within the twenty four hour window. Conditions have been really bad lately so it’s going to be a challenge of note!

A few months ago the author opted for the Xiegu X5105 all mode compact QRP HF radio for RaDAR ops but it is badly in need of reliable firmware. Fortunately one can revert to the last known good version but is pretty old already, November 2018! Unless some miracle happens, that would be the only route to success.

There is a massive drive in ZS for CW (Morse code) which is really ideal for RaDAR and with present conditions that may be the most effective way of getting your grid square through to the other stations. Keep your speed down to about 12 wpm with good spacing between the characters for easy copy.

South African Morse Code
Contact ZS6MSW to join the Movement !!!

Try to negotiate a common four hour time that we all operate within the same time frame. Advertise your intentions and others may follow and visa versa. We need each other, the challenge is not only a physical one, it is about communications and sharing accurate information while working in difficult conditions. We need those shack bound stations too. Don’t use too much power, if QRP stations can hear each other then the channel is open. A hundred Watts or more isn’t going to make it easier.

Of course there are also options for satellite communications but from experience The tight pass schedule is sometime detrimental to the overall plan unless it’s somewhere towards the end of the challenge. Note, you always need at least five QSO’s before moving and satellite communications may not always provide a full quota!

RaDAR Challenge exchanges are simple, the most important being an accurate grid locator. An awareness of more than 6 characters to a possible 8 or even 10 will make copy easier. The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Call sign, name, RS (T) report and grid locator. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations). Various smartphone apps are used for this or pre-planning using maps is an alternative.

Here’s hoping for a successful RaDAR challenge – Have fun!!!

Xiegu X5105 – Cutting my losses

I started this journey less than a year ago in September 2018. Yesterday I made the decision to cut my losses. I advertised my X5105 for sale but this final review will be mentioned so that any potential buyer will know what he or she is in for.

What would you pay for an immaculate FT-897d including a LDG AT-897 automatic ATU and optional internal DC power supply. My estimate on this around R16,000. That’s what I essentially paid for it …. I’m selling the X5105 for half that price which makes it affordable for someone with renewed patience for a potentially awesome trail radio. Let’s face it, the radio does have potential BUT is totally reliant on RELIABLE FIRMWARE. You’re in the hands of the Xiegu engineers.

I have become an unhappy ham ever since I went down this road but always kept an open mind and being part of the “work in progress”. The only problem is when is the work in progress going to come to an end, reliably?

With every version of firmware for this radio there have been improvements. The latest version 3, BETA 3 can be downloaded from https://www.dropbox.com/s/49uwifixuiqmqmt/X5105_App_V3.00_beta03.xgf?dl=0 which really looks awesome but is no where near free from bugs! Now where did this version come from? A friend got it off the Facebook group from which I and many others have been banned and although I’ve tried to renew ties with the admin I was left to start my own X5105 group. Why the politics? I know of really serious politics too, WHY? We’re hams playing radio but since going down this road I have had to contend with such unpleasant situations.

Yesterday was the final straw. I managed previously to store pre-programmed CW messages but with this version I can find no way to send them? Then I was testing a home brew CW paddle and I found no way where I could adjust the CW w.p.m. speed? The battery indicator showed full but with a superimposed 66 on it. The unit shut down without a warning – flat battery. You see I was calling CQ for about five minutes. Oh at one stage the power output was intermittent too.

I can’t revert back to the previous firmware because I lose my basic settings every time I do a power down. I got tired of doing that after a few weeks!

How long can one put up with BAD FIRMWARE???

I have lost patience with Xiegu and this radio. By the way, Xiegu does not provide the latest firmware on their website nor an updated manual. The new firmware is TOTALLY DIFFERENT!!!

So I’m looking for someone who can patiently wait for an update and try using the radio. I’m going back to my You Kits HB1A CW only QRP radio.

For sale

Selling my Xiegu X5105 160m to 6m all mode QRP radio.

It presently has the latest beta firmware installed. USB programming cable and external power cable included. (Has internal rechargeable battery). External multifunction mic. (Rig has internal mic too)

Asking price R8000 o.n.o.

Email negotiations only please and first come first served.

PostNet for buyers account.

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR and POTA news – May 2019

I had received and email from Jason Johnston W3AAX. Jason’s opening sentence was, “RaDAR has been such a hit with POTA that I am thinking of raising the stakes a little since I can’t even keep up with the numbers for awards”.

This is something that was initiated by Greg N4KGL and Jason and it has been mentioned before and maybe a good time to revisit especially the ZS community in South Africa.

Searching the Internet I came up with the following URL, https://parksontheair.com/pota-awards/ and summary of which is as follows :

Rapid Deployment (RaDAR) Awards

RaDAR – Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio adds movement to portable operating. A RaDAR transition is moving the prescribed distance from your portable deployment after making five or more contacts:
Vehiclesmotorcycles and motorboats, etc. (motorized transport) – 6km
Bicycles – 2km
On foot and paddle canoes – 1km
Wheelchairs – 500m

  1. Warthog Award: two RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
  2. Rhino Award: three RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period.
  3. Cheetah Award: five RaDAR* transitions at or between entities during a 24 hour period

Since these are based on distances traveled, you must apply by writing to W3AAX@outlook.com, and include your park numbers. Thanks!

Jason suggested the following,” It will become a one time type award, and instead of 2 (Warthog), 3 (Rhino), and 5 (Cheetah), I am thinking of 5, 7, and 10″.

I asked Jason to contact Greg and it does make sense to me too. Jason further asked in a later mail, ” As POTA expands to other countries, I’d love to see a presence in South Africa. Do you know any South African hams that might be willing to help me coordinate things there? “

– Of course, I made myself available!

Saving the IBM AT desktop

It has been saved! I was asked to write a short story about this very old desktop. The story starts on 1st May 1990 – over twenty nine years ago.

I applied for a computer technician position at NW Kooperasie and easily got the job. Jobs were easy to get in those days. I was a senior technician doing PABX installations and maintenance for Philips telecoms and data systems. I worked from home covering the Northwest province and Bophuthatswana.

After three days I wanted to go back to my old job. This was a disappointment as all I did was drive to the 65 odd branches to do computer maintenance which required blowing out dust and oiling printer shafts. Occasionally I’d build a file server running Novell. Most servers were cheap AT computers and the workstations were cheap XT computers, like the “Bondwell” booting off 360k floppy drives. The servers had 20MB or 40MB hard drives depending on the size of the branch.

This original IBM AT ran at one of the larger branches. It had only 1MB of RAM and a fancy 40MB hard disk

After about three years I requested a transfer to the mainframe section as a systems programmer / database administrator. I got the job but was thrown in the deep end when the mainframe facilities manager passed away just weeks after my transfer. I spent 6 months on IBM MVS doing DBA work on Adabas then became part of the team migrating to IBM’s VSE operating system still running Natural / Adabas. I spent months in Johannesburg building the new mainframe.

Then came the era of Windows 95. and many experiments were done. The IT manager, a rather tough man by the name of Johan Smith would often say I could take my wife out to the Spur for a hamburger saying thank you for my interest and passion getting this new technology working. He even sometimes said I should take my mother in law along as well! You knew where you stood with Johan, he’d never hold a grudge but he’d sort out a problem right there and then. You could trust a man like this.

It was the age of the Pentiums and all the XT, AT, 386’s and 486’s were pulled from the field as the PC’s were upgraded to the new technology. I think this was at the turn of the century. Many were concerned about the date, especially on the mainframe. I stood by as the the clock ticked on old years eve of 1999 and saw no problems as we entered the new century ….

There were heaps of old computer equipment. As a radio ham I needed better PC’s for our radio BBS networks and this hardware became available at R12.00 per item. And so I bought a few cases, power supplies, mother boards, RAM, floppy drives, hard drives, keyboards and mono screens.

This particular IBM AT I kept on a shelf in my back room all these years. I worked for the company for over twenty five years eventually landing up as technology manager. With the influx of new management and new ideas the stress started affecting my health and I opted out only to return as a PHP contract programmer for three and a half years. My contract came to an end and now needed to scale down, survival mode really and all my keepsakes needed to go with plans of renting out parts of my property.

I mentioned to my friends that I was dumping all the things I dearly cherished all the years. Luckily my ham friend Johnathan ZS1ARB in Cape Town halted my dumping plans and so the AT was saved and now on it’s way to a new home, including the software I once loaded on it when I had run a little business, “AGE Leighton Electronics CC”.

The system still booted but I had to find the hard drive type by trial and error. It happened to by type 8!

These were the days!!!!

RaDAR – April 2019 challenge

Kobus Boshoff ZS6BOS took part in the RaDAR Challenge for the first time in April 2019. His results were pretty good managing four deployment points moving as a mobile station but deploying out of vehicle.

Kobus ZS6BOS

Kobus used manual logging but sent in a logbook in Excel format which looked very professional as it should be.

According to his first page declaration he used his FT-857d and dipole antenna. He also used VHF and UHF simplex frequencies. modes SSB and FM.

Eddie ZS6BNE tried to combine his RaDAR challenge with a trip to Potchefstroom initially starting out as an on foot RaDAR operator but only managing two satellite QSO’s using a TH-D7A and SA AMSAT Satellite yagi but had to walk back anyway to be in time to drive through to Potchefstroom. The plan was to continue satellite comms from the university but the stop/goes along the way didn’t allow for the planned time frame and the opportunity was missed. Lesson to be learned, RaDAR challenges cannot be combined with other activities. Dedicated attention is a prerequisite!

In the meantime John ZS5J was trying to call RaDAR stations from Kenya using various antennas including magnetic loops. Conditions were not favorable for HF DX.