Monday, 25 March 2013

Shocked In The Shower!

It's early days yet, but I am quite optimistic, but also slightly cautious about something which has just happened. Cautious, because my life often feels like it is being run by "Sod's Law" and my initial findings might only be a coincidence.

Just over a year ago I had to permanently remove my aerial mast from the bottom of the garden because of complaints from the neighbours. This mast was home to my two Triax FM5 aerial masts. I then obtained permission to have one of the FM5s and a rotator erected on the roof of the property. From then on I noticed a degredation in general scatter conditions across band 2. Around that time we had been suffering a spate of deliberate vandalism of the aerial cables in which some had been cut and some stolen. Whether the following occurred at the same time is not absolutely certain, but the timing would be about right.

Firstly, a brief story about me having a shower! That's right, nothing to do with meteors, but the alternative to having a bath. What does this have to do with radio? Well, I became concerned after I had a few electric shocks while taking showers so I decided to report the matter to the local housing office. They came the following day and informed me that the main earth cable to the property had been stolen! Presumably taken for scrap value. This was immediately replaced.

After the electricians had gone I just had to have a tune around medium wave and band 2 to see if there was any noticeable reduction in background noise. Medium wave seemed to be a little quieter, though not by much. I typipcally have a background noise floor of -120dB across medium wave. Following the earth replacement it is close to -130dB. 10dB should make a difference so I am looking forward to checking the results on my next overnight Perseus session.

The main improvement was felt across band 2 where my previous "one bar" of noise has now disappeared. At least, it has for the moment. I don't want to shout too loudly just in case that old Sod's Law bites me back when I'm not looking, but I am hearing the following sites since the earth was reconnected:

Kleve (421km)
Lingen (477km)
Barbelkreuz (520km)
Steinkimmen (543km)
Ahrweiller (554km)
Nordhelle (554km)
Linz (560km)
Bielefeld (565km)
Bremen (565km)
Koblenz (590km)
Teutoburger Wald (591km)
Haardtkopf (593km)
Sackpfeife (612km)
Donnersberg (657km)
Torfhaus (707km)
Brocken (713km)

Inselberg (739km)

Some of these were not getting through at all before the reinstatement of the earth cable. The more regular continentals are also being received a lot more 'cleanly'. I wouldn't rate conditions as being particularly great either as we are still in the grips of the extended winter period at the moment with a wind chill of -7C.

There is also less interference across band 2 from the computer equipment. Until the earth was reconnected I had to turn off my PC monitor as it would cause noise on some frequencies. It is not necessary to switch it off since the earth has been put back. My noise from the north-east has also been reduced.

So, is this good news or just a fluke? Time will tell, as it always does. Right now, I am keeping my fingers tightly crossed, and I am not even superstitious!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Never Enough Time

It's been a while since I made an entry to this blog. Work and other commitments have taken over my life for the last few weeks, but that's good news of course. Time for a catch-up soon hopefully and I will fill in the blanks.

There are log updates for band 2 and medium wave, though conditions haven't been too inspiring. A half decent spell of tropo occurred earlier in March. Tropo seems to be a rare breed these days but that's probably understandable due to the time of the year and this awful extended winter we are having.

Most of my computer time has been devoted to updating my Google Sites website, but I am discovering an ever increasing amount of drawbacks with this, not least the lack of a site backing-up facility. While Google Sites is a free service I don't expect to have everything handed to me on a plate for nothing, but you'd think there would at least be a basic backing-up facility like you have with Blogger. I have therefore been looking at other free sites like Wix, but it seems they don't offer this either. I took a brief look at Webstarts, who offer HTML editing and site backups, but the control panel is so flaky it hurts. The free Webs service is also too basic for my needs. I really like the Wix system though. It's very easy to use and doesn't seem to fall over.

So it looks like I will still be using a combination of different facilities to achieve my aim. Blogger is a personal favourite - it's simple, but so easy to use and does the job well. I have tried platforms like Wordpress and Joomla in the past but they have always been hacked into, despite keeping the software and security side up-to-date. I will probably go with Wix for static web pages while using Photobucket, Picasa, Youtube, Box and Mediafire for various files, plus the excellent Google Drive for documents.