Hey, the 10 meter wire on the roof is doing its work splendidly: T8CW is coming in S7 on 24.945 kHz (T8CW is JH0IXE working from a hotel on Palau). 2400 km only, but still a nice catch. Also heard an unknown fax transmission on @18059 around 1045 UTC, which could be VMW from Australia. Will have to follow up on that one. And that concludes 2010. An eventful year with lots of things happening, not at least 5 radio exams. Hopefully next year will be eventful too, but with nice DX and lots of soldering. See you then.
After a disappointing day yesterday I decided to first find the source of noise plaguing me. As I suspected it was the switching PSU from my new laptop. Iris' laptop is also making some noise, but not as much. I also strung a wire on the roof and lo and behold, more signals coming in and stronger too. Heard some Japanese in LSB on 7050 kHz and an Australian in QSO with a Dutch PD station on 20 meters, peaking S9. Later on a good signal from DL5RBW in contact with BX1AAB on 14208 kHz, with DU7HF also calling in. All this around 9 am UTC.
According to DXScape the SSN is 28 right now and with a couple of meters of wire I was able to hear UA0SR from Irkutsk on 20 meters and BU2AQ on 12 meters, both in CW. On 17 meters I heard 9M6RMB from East Malaysia also CW. It is amazing how quiet the bands here are. No PSK or RTTY on 20 meters at all, although I did hear my first SSTV signal on 14230 kHz today. Didn't hear any SSB station either, on any band. At night 40 meters is also quiet, apart from maybe a lone Japanese cw signal. Yes, I do miss Europe a bit in this respect.
No sunspots, but the Voice of Indonesia coming in fine on 9526 kHz in Indonesian around 1445 UTC with music and short comments. Only the whip on my ATS-909 is enough.
With my licence sorted out I started to concentrate full time on my Morse code skills. The weather and the timing is not right to start putting up antenna's, so this is the next most useful thing I can do. But what a difference a word-per-minute makes!!! I use Learn CW Online to practise. (If you want to see my stats then look here). The first couple of Koch lessons went fine and I increased my speed from 10 to 12 wpm. After a while I thought it might be useful to increase again, but only with 1 wpm. Wrong! My accuracy went down 3% and I couldn't achieve a 100% score, even after 34 tries. Went back to 12 wpm and hit 100% in one try. Most people would be very happy with 12 wpm, so I guess I will have to be too. The smoothed sunspot number has hit 0 today. Darn!! But heard New Star Broadcasting at around 7240 kHz 04.30 UTC.
Went to the NCC today to get my HT certified. I shouldn't have worried. The lady who helped me so far was as nice as usual, Mr. Zeng was talkative and the testing of my HT was a piece of cake. They hooked it up to a professional power meter with Bird slugs, with an HP frequency counter attached to it. The lady told me to select a frequency in both the 2m and 70 cm band and she checked the power output and the frequency accuracy. And that was it! She made a mistake too, because she forgot to put the right Bird slug in for VHF, so my power output there was only 4.2 Watts instead of 5 Watts. After the paperwork was done and the money paid the lady gave me a laminated card with the licence and my call sign, which was a BM2-call!!! Blame the computer and another try and 5 minutes later: BX2ABT. Not the coolest call in the world, but not a bad one either. We're finally QRV!!!
Probably the nicest day of the year. Sunny, but not too hot, with a nice breeze: just perfect! We went to our sea-side apartment and had a good time there. I took out the very old transformer we shipped back and now we have 220 Volts again. Great for supplying power to the DVD player, but also to my soldering iron: the trusty old Weller I got from my father who had it for as long as I can remember. My HT needed a little modification to get back to the factory state, which means only transmitting on the amateur bands and not above and below. I ordered two types of replacement switching diodes as the original wasn't available from Digikey. The first one (an MA2S101) worked, but then the 70 cm band was reduced to 432-438 MHz. The other one (an MA2S077) worked better. Now I can get my transceivers to the NCC for inspection and my station licence.
A sunny Saturday and I took my HT with me on the roof for some frequency scanning. Found air traffic control on 125.100 and 125.500 MHz and VOLMET on 127.400 MHz. But otherwise only illegal taxi's starting below 144 and way up to 150 MHz.
Tried to find some SMD diodes to "fix" my TH-F7E. Couldn't find them, of course, but then again, even digikey.com didn't have any stock. Chris at Syntax was so nice to help me order similar diodes and they should be in next week.
Not radio related, but today I finally bought a scooter. Not just any scooter, but a Honda 125cc Duke. The Dutch Dukeis back! Only costed NT$17000. Jack BU2BA was so nice to sell me a 30 A power supply and a FT-690r mk2 6 meter transceiver, so I spent a lot of money today. Here is a picture of Jack and me in his shack.
We stored all our belongings in our dacha yesterday, but too tired to open the boxes. Today an off-day after seeing the physiotherapist yesterday. Played with the program Great Circle Maps by SM3GSJ, which has a Linux version as well. The result....a nice map centered around Taipei.
Our goods have passed customs and we can pick them up tomorrow.
Had a reply from the MOTC about the frequency allocation for radio amateurs in Taiwan.
In other words: we're not sure who is doing what, who is in charge, but we thank you for your attention. At least 10 and 40 meters conform to international standards now and 6 meters is finally expanded. Now, can you please make it official?
Passed the Class 2 test today. I came in just after nine, not feeling too well and a little nervous. There was hardly anyone in the office, just the one person taking the class 1 exam (he passed with no mistakes) and maybe five employees. After filling out the form and paying the NT$200 I started the exam with question 21, the electrical science part of the exam. After a couple of questions I got a bad feeling and it only grew: lousy questions, mostly not quite related to radio electronics. This continued with the radio science questions. Even the rules and regulation questions were not balanced well, with 3 similar questions in a row. After 35 minutes I had had it and finished the exams: 30 out of 40 correct, just two short of passing. But the NCC people were really nice again (no one else to be nice too but me, really), so they gave me a cup of coffee and I took a few minutes to reflect on my defeat. Then I paid the NT$200 again and this time I was flying: the right questions all the way. Some I remembered from practise, some were easy, some short, but overall a well balanced exam. When I handed the exam in I knew for sure I had 34 questions right, only two I absolutely didn't know and the remaining four up in the air. The computer did its calculation and...... 37 out of 40 correct!!! Victory again! Then the morse code test: I was quite tired by now and had difficulty concentrating. But the result: 16 out of 18 correct. Because of my own sloppy handwriting I mistook an O for a D and I missed one letter in another group. So here we are......another class 2 amateur in Taiwan. It costs a few bob, but at least they make you a nice laminated licence.
Made an improvised audio cable to connect my ATS-909 to my laptop and was able to pull in a weather fax fromz JMH, the Japanese weather agency. Had a really off day, so quite pleased with the result.
Brought the import permits to the shipper today. Our transport vessel, the Hanjin Xiamen has arrived in Gaoxiong, so our goods should be up in Taipei within a week.
Went to Sanzhi today to check the state of our dacha and to clean and reorganize. Hopefully within a week all our belongings will arrive - with all my radio stuff - and we'll store it there.
Went to the NCC again to apply for the import permits. Luckily they are only a 10 minute bike ride away from where we are living right now. Took more than half an hour, but then I had three pieces of paper in my hand and my wallet was NT$1500 the lighter. Oh well, at least we succeeded.
Horrible conditions again, but Radio Pilipinas was coming in strong on 15285 kHz at around 0215 UTC with a feature on Burma with some Burmese music. Parallel was 17770 kHz. Later around 0700 UTC the amateur bands were alive with contests. Heard some Japanese CW stations, RTTY on 20 meter and DU1LC in SSB from the Philippines also on 20 meter. VR2XLN was the strongest on 20 meter in CW in a mayhem around 14010 kHz. Later at night more activity and BU2AQ had a good signal on 160 m, but that is not surprising since he has a very good setup and he is probably running at least 1 kW. Just like in Europe I have a favorite shortwave station to listen to when I am busy with other things. It used to be called Radio Tanpa, the national commercial shortwave station from Japan. They changed their name to Radio Nikkei, but they sound the same. Signals are not strong with my present set up, but I could still enjoy them for a while around 0800 UTC on 9595 kHz.
Got a phone call from the NCC late afternoon telling me that the permission has been granted and I can apply for import papers on Monday. Victory again!!! On the other hand I got an e-mail from Chung Hua Telecom that the Taiwanese BSF time signal station has stopped broadcasting since 2004. Another station gone, just like JJY in Japan. Shortwave is certainly dying.
Turned on the radio this morning and heard BG5ROP around 7024 kHz in CW. Slow enough for me to understand, even though his hand was not so steady. Later, just after 0600 UTC a good old friend came by: New Star Broadcasting Station 新星廣播電臺, with the same routine as 11 years ago. This time on 9505 kHz competing with Voice of the Strait. It lasted till 0630 precisely. Checked the other frequencies too, but nothing heard there. Funnily Voice of the Strait was not strong at all and later an Arab speaking station emerged, which must have been Radio Omdurman.
Walked into the NCC today just after nine and the power was cut off for the entire block. Why was anybody's guess, but the people there found it a nice beginning of the week. My writings were deemed satisfactory and I was out of there in 15 minutes. Mr. Zeng gets nicer each time I visit. Finally hooked up my Sangean ATS-909 to a short antenna and was able to listen to Radio Australia on 9475 kHz after 1200 UTC. SINPO 35333. Later the Voice of Indonesia also came in fine on 9525 kHz with beautiful Indonesian music. Unfortunately only the 31 and 25 meter bands are in the clear. Especially 5-8 MHz is filled with noise and almost unusable. I'm not complaining: I'm reliving the olden days, hi hi. Finally pulled out the power supply from my notebook and 7 MHz came alive. Heard the beacon of BV2AP on @7060 kHz, but not much else. The broadcast band is fully alive, though.
Went back to the NCC today to show them the paperwork I prepared. Mr. Zeng was really nice and pointed me out my mistakes. Have to write another statement explaining why I want to import my stuff. Actually I'm kind of angry that I have to spend even more time on this, but alas, no use complaining.
Victory! Just for the heck of it I tried my hand at the third class licence exam. You fill out a form, pay NT$200 and then take a seat behind a computer screen for the 35 questions. I started getting a little nervous at the end, because there were some questions that I didn't understand and some that I didn't memorize well. I needed 25 answers correct and I passed with 26.
One problem solved now, because I can import my rigs with not much problem now. I already got the forms, but then again the lady now said that there is a difference between portable/mobile equipment and base equipment. The former category is easy, for the latter I need to write some extra statements. In three weeks the boat arrives with our stuff, so I better get moving with the forms. Had a busy night as well, because I visited the Amateur Radio Club of Taipei, which has a club home at Xin Sheng Road. Had a nice chat with Eddie (BV2DD), James (BV1CK), Tang (BM2AAV), Tall (BX9AAA), Evan (BV2KS) and James (BU2AT). The meeting was short, but I gained some insight in how to deal with the NCC, so it was useful.
My first visit to the NCC and it was worth it! With my usual charm and wit I had a good opener and immediately three people who wanted to help me. Only my questions were a little difficult to answer, because they were not your every day, garden variety ones. But nevertheless after some 30 minutes I had a nice chat with the supervisor and then the solutions came about. Yes, if I take the exam I can use my speak-sheet and if I really can't do it in the 40 minutes, then they can arrange a plain old "paper and pencil" test. And no, not smart to put my equipment on a ship to Taiwan, but then again, bring it in and they will seal it until I have the proper licence to use it. (No word about the customs/importing paperwork and I didn't ask :-) The supervisor, Mr. Zeng, explained to me a lot about the licences and other thing amateur radio related, but then again, I didn't have the feeling he knew everything indepth. Okay, so they prefer you buy equipment locally, but they don't know about availability and don't even make a difference between HF and V/UHF equipment. Since the majority of Taiwanese hams operate on V/UHF they still want to keep the CW practise test as a hurdle for HF. Besides V/UHF is better to control interference wise. He didn't know much about the restrictions regarding certain frequency bands, but he assumed it was because of military use. Makes sense, but also it doesn't if the rest of the world uses 28.0-28.1 MHz for amateur radio, only in Taiwan the military takes this small segment. I wonder if they complain about interference from CW, psk31 or RTTY then. Still, I left the building happily: one step closer in becoming a Taiwanese ham.
Went to roam around Taipei with Jack Huang (BU2BA) today. 光華商場 is still the place to shop around for computers, electronics and the occasional 2-way radio shop. The old 光華商場 is still the best for electronics, coaxial cable and the best....RF Parts from Mr. Dong. He stores a lot of old style components and is an avid HF listener.
In the new 光華商場 lots of computer stuff and two-way radio's. Most amateurs in Taiwan operate on V/UHF only, so you can find the occasional Kenwood or Yaesu FM mobile trx and lots of Chinese HTs. There is also a shop specializing in transformers and one with all sorts of antenna's, mostly V/UHF, but they also have a nice selection of SWR meters. No HF set in sight, so we need to look elsewhere for a 6 meter rig.
Taiwan's birthday today and my first contact with a Taiwanese ham, BU2BA (ex BX2AAL), Jack Huang, who lives just 5 minutes away from where we are staying in Banqiao City. Had a nice long chat, we listened to 20 meters a bit and I got his examination book to prepare for the test. A nice guy, so not bad for a first ham friend in Taiwan.
It took 11 years, but we're back in Taiwan. PA2BX is going to be QRT for a long while.