One month Solar Activity Plot

May I introduce myself ?

Hi Dear Visitor,

I am glad you had the interest to come and have a look at this blog.
I guess the first thing I have to do on this blog is to introduce myself.

As I am writing this bio I just turned 55. I am the proud father of three children: one boy and two daughters; 24, 21 and 16 years old, respectively.
I am divorced, split in 2009.

I am born the 2nd of February 1960 in Lausanne/Switzerland. The first 3 years of my life were spent in a family farm in the Fribourg country side. In 1963, the family moved to a little village of ~ 600 inhabitants (which is now more like 3000 inhabitants). We were the first one not originating from this village who built a house there. Back in 1963, we were a little bit seen as unwanted foreigners. This unfortunately followed me for the next few years (until the mid of my teenage).

Nevertheless, I spent a very nice and happy life in this place. I was spending most of my time in the forest (a few hundred meters of my house), building huts, fishing by hand in the river, lighting fires to eat the fishes I just managed to capture .. I had a good friend too with who I was often going for mushrooms and bays collecting. I had quite a few friends (children of farmers around) with who I have spent a lot of time too. At this time the school was a pleasure and I was fairly good at it (this really changed later in the teenage years during which I had a lot of clashes with authority :-) ). All in all, I had a joyful youth and very trustful parents who gave me a lot of freedom. I also traveled across north Europe for a month with the general rail pass .. this shows how my parents were trusting me. For many years my father has been riding horses and we have built a “ranch” beside our house. We were breeding pure blood Arabian horses (we had a registered Arabian pure blood stallion) and several mares. At times, we had around 9 horses altogether (yeah .. I know .. a small ranch). So, of course, I have been riding too from the age of 6 to the ages of 25. Mostly american style riding, cross country … Oh.. and I am not counting the numerous hours taking care of the horses …

I remember when I was around 9 years old, I was reading a comics book and in the middle of it, there was some kind of advertisement for technical professions. I can remember the black and white drawing of that technician, white blouse, glasses, short haired, bent over an electrical motor. This is at this time that I thought “Yes ! I want to be a technician … an electronician !”. After some excursion in classical studies in a college (very chaotic!)  I finally managed to enter an “Electricity / Electronic professional school” and this is were I made my first 4 years of learning my profession of “Electronic/Mechanic Technician” .. I was on the track I always wanted to follow. I was particularly good at anything having to do with digital electronic and computers (although at this time it was mainly just 8 bits microprocessors). I was not particularly god at analog electronics and radio matters but they still fascinated me.

When I was in the 3rd and 4th grade at this school, I had this professor for the practical electronic Labs who was a radio amateur (Late HB9RJ, Gaston) who was a passionate OM. We had a lot of talks with him and started to make some practical exercises on radio (hahah … basically building stuff for his station !). The amateur radio virus caught me and a few other guys in the class. I can still remember when HB9RJ was kind enough to lend me one of his first radio receivers (cannot remember the model though) a tube radio with a BIG quadrant and needle and this magic green glowing tube showing the signal strength and this huge button to tune frequency. I spent nights and nights scouting around the HF bands ….

Later, me and my class mates started on CB (as many did at this epoch), totally illegally without any license. We all had 5W-AM/FM / 12W-SSB CB transceivers. This is also at this time that I built my very first antenna, just a 1/4 vertical and not much later a 1/4 Gound plane… and of course, fiddled around so to be able to be on the 10m band.

In 1979, I decided to take a pre-military course on CW both just to learn CW and to have a chance to join the transmission troops for my military service (4 months at this time in Switzerland). Both goals were successfully reached ! I had a 12 WPM CW practice and I was recruited in the transmission troops as a “Radio Pioneer”. We were operating radio telex stations, embarked on little vans. 500 Watts HF radio station to which an electro-mechanical teletype device was hooked (with encryption device). Antennas were vertical multi-band and inverted V. We were also sometime operating in telephony. Unfortunately, I was not incorporated in the company where they were operating in CW. This, again, kept my interest for the radio alive. Also because, in Switzerland, after the initial 4 months, we had to go every year, for 3 weeks, for eleven periods between 21 and 42 years of age … So, every so on I was in contact with radio again.

I then carried on with my studies and followed an Engineering school as “low current Electricity Engineer” (this was 1980 to 1983 and there was no software school at this time). Again, my main area of interest was digital electronic, micro computers and software development. My final exam work was purely software (A task level debugger for a simulation of the ADA language written in CPM on Isis Intel systems (8086)).  So, I somewhat drifted away from my radio addiction to computer addiction and this remained so for many years after this.

My working carrier (started in September 1983) has always been in computer area as developer in assembler language (programming Telex exchanges)  then C language under UNIX, then many other languages on many platforms with some 5 years as a UNIX system administrator and then back to development under Windows. Today, I am taking care of IT environments. Basically in charge of a middle size IT hosting facility of virtualized environments (WMWare) within the company I work for.

However, I never forgot my interest in amateur radio. This was also revived every so on when I met my friends who now are real licensed radio amateurs. I just never found the time to pass the license (which,as an engineer I could get without technical exam, just prescriptions). This has been a big mistake as now, after the introduction of the “Bologna System” in Europe, we must ALL pass the HAM exams (HAREC+) and the prescriptions to get the license :-(

At the end of 2013, because of personal issues, I suddenly had more time and could again look into this area. The first thing I did was to offer myself an SDR (software Defined Radio). I bought the “FunCube Pro+ Dongle” and started to listen to real HF/VHF. By the way, this SDR USB stick dongle is marveless and a very cheap but very well performing receiver ! I use it it with several free software packages (SDR#  & SDR Console V2 and companion software like FLDigi, MMSSTV and EasyPal).

After a while, I became frustrated to only listen … I wanted to experiment real QSOs and try all sorts of radio modes …. But I cannot ! I have no license !!!

Shortly after I discovered HamSphere 3 .. AND HERE I AM !!!
Very quickly I also got HamSphere4 and became a subscriber.

Now, I spend a lot of time on this “Virtual Radio System” and I love it. Hamsphere, especially HS4 is really looking like real radio and has the amateur radio spirit. I regard it as a very good “exercise” to prepare my venue in the real HF world. Even if I get my license, I am pretty sure I will stay on HamSphere. I am making friends on it … Despite all the debates on “virtual radio” and whether or not non HAMs should have the right to use it I still think it is a real good way to introduce new comers to the world of radio. Many are saying that there is no discipline, no good following of the etiquette; I personally believe that this is not true, I listen to enough real HF to know that it is sometimes even worse there … Hamsphere will teach you how to conduct QSOs, how to listen before jumping on the running QSOs, how to respect the others, etc … It will allow you to experiment with many things without wasting the limited Ether space of real HF. Of course, for many, a day will come when they will want to experiment the “real” thing and they will be, we hope, well prepared.

I guess that at the end of the day, nothing replaces real operation, real RIGs, building your shack and maybe your antennas and have the satisfaction to make fantastic DXes with your creations. Hamsphere will never put several hundred volts in your body when you touch your virtual antenna while somebody else is pushing PTT on your rig :-)  (Although this should NEVER happen ….). You will never have burning lips either …. And you will never run back home when you realize that a big storm is coming and that you forgot to secure your shack against thunder ….

Currently, I am more into Digital modes and experiencing with various transmission modes on the HS3  30m band. I try PSK, RTTY, CW, SSTV, DRM SSTV, etc … The goal being to be ready and prepared to operate the various programs and know the operating procedures so I can apply them to real HF as soon as possible. Of course I also make voice QSOs and like to have some long QSOs to talk about everything, technical or not …. I will be very glad to talk with you on the QRG.

In parallel, I am currently re-learning CW (yes you almost totally lose it if you don’t practice for 30 years :-( ) and preparing for the HAREC+ amateur license exams.

As a last word, THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO KELLY Lindman 5B4AIT for inventing and bringing HamSphere to life!

See you on HamShere 3 / 4

Francis

 

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