Something did turn up in the post on Saturday morning, I was awoken at 7:30am by a knock on the door, bleary eyed I took delivery of my latest purchase from eBay, a Baofeng UV-5R+ handheld. This is a Chinese made VHF/UHF dual-band FM transceiver suitable for the 2 metre and 70cm bands. The package came with an official Baofeng USB programming lead and a small handheld speaker/microphone that can be plugged into the main unit all for the pricely sum of £37 including postage.
I can admit now to already owning a Baofeng UV-3R which I have had for some time but have only ever used for receiving and the odd transmission on the PMR446 band. It cost about the same price and considered it a bargain then but on first impressions the UV-5R+ seems even more of one. It is a much more substantial device, it feels very solid in the hand. The display is bright and clear and the proper volume control and keypad make for a more pleasant experience, you can actually turn it down unlike the UV-3R which is deafening or off! It came with a proper drop in charger, a USB programming lead and a small hand-held speaker/microphone/PTT unit.
These units are just stop gaps until I get around to getting a decent amateur rig, the current front runner being the Yaesu FT-857D which is a nice small affordable(ish) unit giving me all-modes on HF and VHF/UHF. The 2013 National Hamfest which takes place in couple of weeks, right on my doorstep, could be a dangerous place for my credit card!
As well as having a chinwag I have already got a plans for a project to investigate APRS. I am hoping to use an old echolink/eQSO interface I built, around 10 years ago, linked to the UV-3R and a computer sound card. I am still investigating it but it seems the software which will be AGWPE to act as a TNC driven by the APRSISCE/32 the Amateur Radio client for windows.
I am especially looking forward to trying to contact the digi-repeater on board the International Space Station, some details here.