I visited my first RSGB convention last year and was impressed by the quality of event and this year was even better, since I knew what to expect. Having to read the GB2RS news on a Sunday and not wanting to upset the ‘Station Manager’ any more than I had to, I decided on going to the convention on the Saturday this year.
A quick one hour drive up to Milton Keynes meant I was there in time for the K1N Nevassa DXpedition talk, presented by Glen Johnson W0GJ. Facts and figures were delivered with great wit and professionalism and the upshot of it all was that as it only took man 8 years to get to the moon after Kennedy’s speech, it took over 12 Years to get to Nevassa, so in effect it is easier to get to the Moon than Nevassa! It was only marginally less expensive (well quite a bit), but still cost over $400,000 to put on, plus countless man hours of wrangling with officialdom. The US Tax dollars hard at work! The team that made it happen was huge. Questions at the end of the session were quite interesting, but got a little controversial when one gentleman, obviously hailing from the Caribbean, questioned some of the comments about Jamaica, and also accused the expedition team of contravening international law.. There was much tutting and shaking of heads by many in the audience as the feeling was this was not an appropriate line of questioning for our visitors! Someone thankfully chipped in with a technical question and moved away from the politics to lighten the mood… what a way to start the day!
Next I decided to have a look around and see what was in the exhibitors rooms as there was a little gap until the next lecture I wanted to attend. Special interest groups were in evidence, with representation from the Microwave Group, CDXC (DX Group), Radio Astronomy, YL Operators and more. In the coffee room, ML&S had a big stand, along with a show stand from Kenwood and Icom and the inevitable RSGB book stall, which I have to say closed early, so my plan to buy some books just before leaving so I did not have to drag them around with me all day was totally scuppered. I will have to buy them in-line instead! Staff from the conference centre did a grand job keeping the coffee, tea and biscuits coming all day to keep the delegates going.
Icom were still grinding their teeth when asked about the new 7300, with many people asking questions, but with no clear information from Icom Japan, the best they could say was “The release will be in the new year and it is expected to be sub £,1000”. Right that plays into my hands with my birthday being on the 1st Feb. I just have to decide whether I want to go down the Icom or Elecraft route for my HF transceiver upgrade.
On with the lectures then, and it was a fascinating talk on Live MUF by Dave Edwards,
G7RAU. He demonstrated data showing Sporadic E openings using data from various clusters, and run some animated representations from the software showing the development and migration of openings across Europe. It was a well attended lecture and I promised myself to download the software and try it.
After that it was time for a break and an eye wateringly expensive lunch. £10 for two courses of what was a good quality but fairly basic meal. Frankly I have eaten better for less, even here in London! After lunch I was going to seek out Steve Hartley G0FUW, the former chair of the RSGB Tech Committee, who was hosting the Convention Buildathon, practical construction session. This year they were building the Kanga Acorn 2 SDR kit. I wanted to take a look with the view of buying one to have a go at SDR radio. It is great as it is a through hole construction kit, with no pesky surface mount stuff you need a microscope to see, although they do a SMD version if you are so inclined!
I actually bumped into the only other LEFARS members I saw there on the Saturday, which was George Smart M1GEO and his Dad Chris G8OCV. They were also interested in the Kanga Acorn and followed me round for a look.. suitably impressed, it looks like both George & I will be having a play with one in a little while.. at only £29 it is hard to resist!.
George and Chris disappeared into a lecture about Meteor Scatter called, What makes the Pings go Ping? by Dr John Worsnop G4BAO, while I went to take a look at a lecture on using the Raspberry Pi in the shack with Mike Richards, G4WNC. This gave me plenty of impetus to get the Pi B+ out of the box that I won a while ago in the club raffle and also hopefully, I now know the difference in the models, so I will know if the 2nd Pi I won in the raffle last week is actually the quad core model 2! I have a few ideas for the use of both my Pi’s One idea was a shack control centre, controlling intelligent switching between radios & antennas and the like, the other I might use ‘headless’ to show a number of service displays for my companies IT infrastructure in my home office.
Log4OM was the next talk, given by Terry Genes, G4POP, who apologised for sounding ‘Cockney’, because “That’s where I come from”. He gave a comprehensive rundown of the capabilities of this great FREE logging software. It has come on quite a bit since I downloaded a version of it sometime back, and I am now seriously considering using it instead of HRD. Whilst it is not N1MM which is an out & out contest logger, Log4OM is a serious contender for general use in the shack and supports various DX Clusters, callsign databases, QSL systems and Cat IV rig control options and integrates well with FlDigi.
If you did not know what the advantages of using a masthead pre-amp are, you were left in no doubt after Ian White’s lecture (GM3SEK). Ian has had articles published in Radcom especially regarding his DG8 144Mhz masthead pre-amp. Plenty of people were there to listen to his words of wisdom.. if you want to check out this pre-amp take a look on the RSGB website in Radcom +. Renown microwaver and UHF evangelist Sam G4DDK stocks a short kit for this fantastic pre-amp.
Last but not least as I was preparing to brave the drive back to London I dropped into a great talk on HF Propagation by Steve Nichols G0KYA, who I recognised as being one of the authors of the propagation reports I read out every Sunday on GB2RS! He took everyone through an explanation of the our Suns fickle behaviour and it’s effect on our Ionosphere which directly influences propagation. The effects of sunspots, CME’s Coronal holes, K numbers, the grey line, X-Rays ,Proton flux and solar wind were all delved into. It all showed why explaining the propagation is easy and forecasting it is hard! he also gave many pointers as how to use VOACAP and other tools to predict openings based on current measurements of space weather from the sun. It definitely filled in the holes in my knowledge and explained some phenomena I have experienced recently with an opening to South Africa, that I only experienced once before on 11 Meters back in the 80’s!
All in all it was a packed day with some great talks by some very knowledgeable people, many of whom are top experts in their field. I only scratched the surface of some of the lectures available, with three lectures before lunch and 4 after, the most I could cover were 7 in a day and there were 34 to choose from on Saturday and 22 on the Sunday! There is definitely something for everyone. The funniest lecture title for me was ‘Is 3db worth a Divorce?’
Whilst some people might baulk at the entry price, and it can prove to be an expensive weekend if you take advantage of the overnight accommodation, attend the Gala Dinner and do all three days, I found the day visit well worth the effort and highly informative. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!