Hamshack Hotline

Hamshack Hotline (HH) is a FREE dedicated voip telecom service for the Ham Radio community. (taken from their website – see https://hamshackhotline.com )

I heard about this via, if I remember a post on Facebook. It sounded interesting, and free, and so I purchased a refurbished Cisco SPA504G VoIP phone from a trader on eBay. Once you register with them they send a link to a configuration file for the phone and this makes it all work. So, what do you get? Well, review the website but basically a VoIP phone and an online phone directory. The line is full featured with ‘do not disturb’ and an answering machine. The exchanges are set up in various places – I am connected to the European one (HHEU). There is also an exchange for unlicensed members. RF links are being set up too for those with an amateur radio licence.

As the service expands this could be a very interesting facility, and for the price of the phone – around £20 – one I could not resist.

They support a small range of SIP phones and I chose the 504G because it uses PoE, meaning no wall-wart as it gets its power via the Ethernet cable from our PoE switch.




The RSGB  certificate arrived today and Ofcom already had the licence waiting so I chose 2#0IGP (thus 2E0IGP from home at least, as I’m rarely out of England!). I tried other combinations but nothing that I wanted was available so I decided to keep the IGP, regardless of the fact it actually means nothing! I shall be rather more choosy when I eventually pass the Advanced exam.

Intermediate passed

Passed the Intermediate exam today – now wait for the 2E-whatever callsign… then I can wind the wick up if needed. Mind you, the autotuner can only cope with 30W digi anyway, and it’s been fun seeing how far I can get with 10. Actually, the important thing to me is access to those microwave bands that the Foundation does not give, and also the ability to use homemade transmitters. Time to tidy the workshop!


Network ‘radio’

The network radio rave continues and everyone will have, and will be perfectly entitled to their own views. Here’s mine.

I got into amateur radio after decades of not doing so but the interest began when I could pick up strange music and news from far away. This was in my childhood. I worked in electronics for some time and understand RF and all that jazz. I went through various SWL phases including getting heavily into RTTY, at one time having a couple of Creed 7E machines, a tape reader, a tape punch, and a TU connected to either my B40 or B41 receivers. Those are long gone but the number of radios I have is increasing. People ask me why bother with any of it when I can simply use the phone? But it still tickles me that electrons emitted from a bit of wet string in our loft can be picked up in the Falkland Islands. This is the essence of amateur radio to me.

Why bother? When asked why he wanted to climb Everest mallory famously and simply said “because it’s there”. Yet, I’ve seen photos of rock climbing vs climbing wall climbing used an an example of how network radio is the same as ‘real’ radio. I don’t see that. Climbing is climbing – a wall, a tree, a mountain. Yes, each is very different but all are still a physical exercise of getting oneself up a thing and defeating gravity. Extending this analogy, I would suggest that if climbing a wall were an analogy of radio, then taking a lift is an analogy of network radio.

Radio in the common sense differs, i.e. listening to local radio for example on a radio receiver vs streaming on a PC. But here, the listener wants to access whatever is playing regardless of the transmission medium. A colleague once stated the medium is not the message – when you need to access information, or music, or whatever it matters not what the medium is, only that you can access whatever you are after. But amateur radio is about RF. It’s about communicating for the sake of it rather than for the message. Here, the medium is the reason, regardless of the message.

True, lightwave radio is not RF, but it is cutting edge stuff and experimental and so still fits my idea of what the hobby is all about. Hotspots? These are just local repeaters – sort of anyway – and you still use an actual radio and RF to connect to it, as does the person the other end. And digimodes are kind of the inverse. A hotspot is RF – Internet – RF; digimodes are PC – RF – PC. Network radio is, well, Internet and nothing else. And remove the Internet, give me a decent battery and I can still talk to the world.

So I am solidly in the ‘if it does not use amateur frequencies it is not amateur radio’ camp. To me, network radio has more in common with a pair of tin cans and a string than with amateur radio. Skype, other VoIP, these are all a means to an end and not a means in themselves. You don’t Skype for a hobby, but you do ‘do’ radio. (that is not meant to belittle any hobby-Skypers out there!)

Meteor scatter

The Perseids are with us, peaking on 12th August apparently. Anyway, I’ve never received any MSK144 before so I left the rig running two nights ago on 50.280 and actually received two properly decoded CQs from a DK station. Now, if I had a decent aerial, and more watts…

D-Star registration blues

So I got an Icom ID-51 so I will have DMR, C4FM and D-Star. Well why not… it’s currently on its initial charge for 2 more hours or so. I though that a good time to read the manual and sort out registration. So far, not so good.

DMR was simple. I can’t remember what I did for C4FM but it all works. D-Star? I followed the guidance and looked for the nearest repeater in the list. But the nearest one in that list is now C4FM. Ok, next nearest. That has a registration URL which takes me to an information page on which there is no sign of anywhere to go to register. Right. Next nearest – and no way I could contact it from here – has a broken registration URL.

So I started at the top of the list. I gave up after 15 – most had no registration URL, the rest had broken links or had apparently gone over to DMR. I picked a few others at random, all follow the same tale.

Off to Icom UK via Google – it has a link to a registration form but it does not actually work, i.e. you end up back on the page with the link. Google finds an old form – I guess it’s old anyway and I’ve no intention of putting my details into it. But at least the Icom page has an email option… and that worked fine and I am set to go! Well, I will be once I read up about how etc.

Hyper bands

The bands were hyper last night, I’ve never experienced Es until now. 6m looked like 20m it was so crammed. I managed 3 FT8 QSOs in quick succession which is a lot for me and anyway 10W into a bit of wet string does not compare well when the waterfall is completely packed with strong signals. 10m was equally packed – I didn’t try further down as sleep beckoned. I did try a couple of voice calls but ended swamped in a pile-up but hey, next time. Quite a bit of morse on 6m too… my learning is way too little at the moment but hopefully will pick up next month. There was even a bit of 4m FM about.


70MHz FM anyone?

Ok with a spare bit of decent coax into the loft as I said it seemed a shame to waste it so I stuck an Anyyone AT588 70MHz set on one end and made a 4m dipole for the other. So it adds 4m to my arsenal. Bit quiet here though! This is FM of course but it did pick up what sounded like SSB at 70.220 so I fired the SDR up (desktop aerial) and sure enough heard a chap up Sutton Bank (31 miles line of sight) in the 70MHz cumulative event today.


I’ve taken the CB out. I wasn’t making any use of it and the prices that the model sell for have gone up a lot recently, so it may end up on eBay. So… I have this nice run of coax up into the loft with a naff CB aerial on one end (to go) and a plug on the other. Seems a shame to waste it! I’m on the hunt…