Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The world of SO2V - some thoughts by a newbie operator.


 In the last 20 years or so I have taken quite a fancy to radio amateur competitions; known in Europe as radio sport. While I have won numerous section awards and even a few 1st place plaques, with the kinds of operations (mostly portable) that
I run, there has been a limit to my success.  To resolve this, in the last year I have been learning and perfecting the art of SO2-V (Single-OP 2 VFO's). 

I recently wrote a BLOG entry entitled:
LEARNING the ART of LEVERAGING DUAL RECEIVE 
[CLICK HERE] to read this article.
 
You may have heard about SO2-R (Single-OP 2 Radios).  Altho similar in concept SO2-R requires two radios and 2 amplifiers, along with a number of control units to allocate the antennas and other units between the two radios. In addition to being quite expensive, there is a significant increase in the number of things that can go wrong at any moment.

With SO2-V only one radio and one amplifier is needed. This reduces the cost
and the complexity
of the station setup significantly. It is also considerably easier to learn the art of SO2-V in contrast to the more complicated SO2-R method.


In 2014 I joined up with  George N6GEO to run the RTTY RU contest from Radio Reef (KP2M) on St. Croix using
the WP2/WQ6X callsign. 
 
For that contest we brought our own equipment to run:  a FLEX-1500 SDR radio and a Tokyo HY-Power 45b amp running the onsite Alpha 87 amplifier at a
cool 149 watts, qualifying as
a low power (LP) station. 
 
Before and after that contest I made use of the onsite Yaesu FT-1000mp transceiver to work CW & SSB contacts, instead of the Elecraft K3 which
(thanks to guest OP'ing @NX6T) I have become bored with operating. 
The FT-1000mp has more knobs to twiddle and is more fun to operate.

I was so taken with the Yaesu transceiver that a couple of years ago, I brought a fully-filtered FT-1000mp radio into my operating world, replacing the cherished Yaesu FT-920. Amongst all its advanced features (such as an incredible eDSP facility), the 1000mp is equipped with in-band dual receive capabilities. 

Most radios sport dual VFOs, but it is another world altogether having access to dual-receive capability.  With the 1000mp, SO2V (Single OP 2 VFOs) became
an operating possibility for WQ6X.

SO2-V in N1MM+ Logging Software
The major "rice box" manufacturers all offer radios sporting dual receive. 
With Kenwood, while the TS-950SDX is no longer made, the TS-2000 is still
being offered.  With ICOM, the retired 756 PRO III, along with the current 7600 & 7800 series provide dual receive. Yaesu weighs in with the FT-1000mp and the
MK-V, as well as the FT-2000 and FTDX-5000 radios. 

In the USA, Ten Tec offers the Orion II and of course the Elecraft K3 can be upgraded for dual-receive. Each manufacturer's approach to dual-receive
have their pluses and minuses.
 
Before I switched over to the FT-1000mp, I had the incredible FT-920 at the operating helm. Unfortunately, from the true dual-receive perspective, the
920's "DualWatch" is incapable of operating in a true SO2V fashion. 
The 920 DualWatch utilizes a "polling" mechanism between VFOs A & B.
As such, VFO-A & VFO-B cannot receive simultaneously.
It's either one or the other.



In contrast, the FT-1000mp utilizes two separate receive line circuits which can be
active simultaneously. 
(Of course during transmit BOTH receivers are silenced.). 

I configured WQ6X's 1000mp to split the audio between left/right ears, with independent volume control in each ear. 
 
 
Unfortunately, the eDSP operates ONLY with VFO-A's receiver.  My solution to this shortcoming was simply to route the VFO-B's receive audio to an outboard MFJ 752-C Signal shaper and/or JPS NIR-12 DSP unit (depending on my "mood"); units which have been languishing on the shelf after acquiring the FT-1000mp.
 
MFJ 752-C
While both of these units are well over 20 years old, sometimes it is the older technology which makes the difference.  In the early 1980's, many of the more expensive radios had Audio Peak Filters (APF) built-in. 


For the lower-end radios, the MFJ and JPS filters essentially accomplished
the same thing.

JPS NIR-12

Even the inexpensive Radio Shack outboard audio DSP filter made quite a difference
in most radios.


Because the FT-1000mp has no SUB-Rx shift/width/notch filters, the MFJ/JPS filters more-or-less accomplish the same thing.

One day I would like to test an old Radio Shack DSP filter on the FT-1000mp SUB-Rx.  This year during Field Day I test-drove running the FT-1000mp's
sub receiver audio thru the classic Autek QF-1A audio filter. 
I was surprisingly disappointed.

While the QF-1A is correctly a MONO device, not being able
to bypass it mid-contest (by flicking a switch) limited its possibilities.  
 
However the QF-1A is still the filter of choice when I run CW contests remotely from NX6T
in Fallbrook.
 
 
In the ideal world, dual receive allows me several possibilities:
  1. In a single mode contest, I can run a frequency (VFO-A) while
    tuning the band (VFO-B) looking for multipliers.
  2. In multi-mode contests such as state QSO parties or the 10 meter contest and Field Day, one VFO can tune the CW portion of the band while the
    other tunes the SSB segments. Either mode can be a RUN frequency
    while S&P'ing using the other mode.
  3. DX stations running "split" can use VFO-B to tune for stations while using and monitoring the RUN frequency. As mentioned earlier, in 2014, I spent
    10 days as WP2/WQ6X at Radio Reef on the island of St. Croix.
    Outside of the contest period WP2/WQ6X put over 2,000 QSOs into the log. In retrospect, running the CW and SSB pileups should have been done split, using VFO-B. Unfortunately the newness of dual-receive (and the nightly enjoyment of some island grog) kept the use of dual receive out of my reach.
  4. Dual receive also allows a technique known as "diversity reception",
    a methodology described briefly in the FT-1000mp operator's manual.
    Search the internet for "diversity reception" to discover what interesting things this approach can provide.  To help you with this I ran a web-search and came up with a lot of interesting items.
    [
    CLICK HERE] to see that search.

To accomplish SO2-V using the
FT-1000mp, I configured the radio to direct most of VOF-A's audio to the left ear and most of VFO-B's audio to the right ear. 
 
The Yaesu FT-1000mp is equipped with firmware menu settings allowing custom-configuration of the split audio.
 
The menu settings I use for the FT-1000mp allow both AF gain controls to act like gain controls. 
 
In contrast, with the old ICOM 756-PRO (about the same age as the 1000mp), those controls are labeled: AF Gain & BALANCE.


If you've never run split audio before, it might seem a little daunting at first. 
Before jumping into actual SO2-V contesting using dual receive, I spent a couple of weeks practicing using both VFO's together until I felt comfortable with the method.  Like SO2-R, SO2-V is largely an ART, employing radio technology.
 
Being one of the first transceivers to offer up dual-receive, the FT-1000mp was
well designed to locate the most used controls (for VFO-A) in the center of the radio and to the left of center. This correlates with the left ear.
 

The VFO-B knob is more to the right, correlating with the right ear. 
 
When running a frequency with VFO-A,
I LOCK that VFO on the run frequency so I don't inadvertently shift frequency when
I really mean to turn the VFO-B as I S&P elsewhere on the band.

In the contest world, properly taking advantage of dual-receive requires
CAT (Computer-Aided Transceive) software designed for this purpose. 
While WinTest and WriteLog can probably do the job, since N1MM has become N1MM+, I have found their approach to be the most effective
match to my way of operating.
 

 
To be most effective, I recommend the use of dual computer monitors. 
 
When I run portable @W7AYT the WIN-7 Toshiba laptop I use for contest operating has an HDMI port making this an easy configuration. 
 
 
 
Somehow, the Toshiba laptop even "remembers" the different monitors
I plug into it. Configuring the external monitor as the MAIN screen, leaves
the laptop to display things that do not need my immediate attention.

Then again, as you can see from the above photo, for the 2016 SSB Sweepstakes portable setup @ W7AYT I managed to fit everything (N1MM+ related) on the LARGE video monitor. Both methods have their advantages. 
 
To get used to the frantic nature of SO2-V using the contest pile-up trainer can help you work through the confusion before the actual contest weekend arrives.

  
Sometime ago, someone sent me a document with a detailed write up on running SO2V using N1MM. It is from this document that I learned the fundamentals of SO2-V contesting. From there, it was just practice, practice, practice. I searched the internet for this document and could not find it. Therefore, to make things easier, I uploaded a copy of it onto the WQ6X.Info web server. [CLICK HERE]
to read this document.

In summary, while a more complex method for running radiosport contests,
SO2-V can certainly increase your operating efficiency if you take the time to
learn the ins-and-outs of this method. I don't wish you luck with SO2-V.
Instead, I wish you SUCCESS.

Listen carefully for me during my next portable contest operation from
W7AYT - I may well be running SO2-V.



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WQ6X RUNS RTTY x 2

NX6T Web Cam watching STN-1 boot up
Typical to WQ6X last-minute remote operations from NX6T, this weekend was full of surprises.

The original plan was to run as a Multi-2 operation with one operator physically  in the chair @ NX6T

Station #2 while I remoted in from the
SF bay area  running Station #1.


By Friday evening the Multi-2 idea changed into my running Single-OP remotely with the score becoming one of the 5 stations in SCCC (Southern Calif. Contest Club) team #1 submission.


To make listening easier on the ears,
as I have done for several remote operations lately, I ran the laptop
audio through a classic Autek
Research QF-1A audio filter.

Doing this was WAY MORE effective than the DSP-NR circuits in the K3.


For RTTY, the QF-1A's PEAK filter is almost too good; switching to the HP (High-pass) mode allowed JUST the right setting to make the tones properly audible. Even tho I was running a frequency, hearing the tones allowed me to gauge the quality of signal conditions for marginal stations.

After some experimentation, the radio configuration became running the K3-radio at 4-watts in order to drive an ACOM-2000a amplifier to a perfect 100 watt level (qualifying as an LP operation for BOTH contests); all this into a C-31 Yagi for 15/20, a 2-element yagi for 40-meters, along with a droopy Inverted Vee for 80.

Using RCForb as the control software gave plenty of flexibility in changing radio settings when things need to
be done out of the ordinary.

While not exact by any means, the radio displayed in the RCForb software looks not unlike the Elecraft K3.
The only thing I have yet to figure
out is how to invoke the R.I.T. from
the RCForb software.

Part of my plan was to "warm up" by operating the 1st 6 hours of the DMC RTTY contest that began at 12:00z (NAQP contests start at 18:00z and end at 06:00z the following day). After the NAQP is over I would finish the last 6 hours of the DMC RTTY contest; convenient because the DMC
GiG has a special 12 hour category.  While the initial DMC activity followed by NAQP worked
out rather well, after 06:00z I was literally exhausted and went straight to bed, leaving the rest
of DMC to wait for another year.

Surprisingly, Space WX was in good form for this contest weekend. The SFI was UP and the A & K indices were
way down. It wouldn't remain that way, but for the NAQP portion of the
weekend everything was fine.

Setting up N1MM the night before, I encountered numerous occurrences
of the FLDIGI taking out the system (sometimes requiring a remote reboot, which is a BiG hassle).

Out of frustration I eventually downloaded the latest copy of the MMTTY decoder software configuring it to run as the default RTTY program under N1MM+. That computer problem was the first of many more to occur before the weekend's operation was over.

Out of bed early (early for ME anyway), I was ready to begin at 12:00z, hoping for the usual morning opening to Asia. I was disappointed to make only ONE Qso (W8AC), so after an hour I made the move up to 20 meters.


Not knowing which direction to point the C-31 yagi, I started N-E, shifting approx. 30 degrees every 5 minutes if the QSO rate dropped.

As 20 meters opened to the e. coast I received a bunch of calls from stations sending me an NAQP exchange
(Name and QTH).

I guess they thought "CQ DMC Test" had something to do with NAQP.
That simply means that they did not
PAY ATTENTION to my CQ call.


If they ACTUALLY thought this was part of the NAQP GiG then it's clear that they never read
the NAQP rules indicating the contest start time of 18:00z.  (It pays to check the WA7BNM
contest calendar before EVERY contest so you will know what OTHER events are happening simultaneously.)

Receiving an NAQP exchange I would press F6 to send "UR NR? AGN?". Then after a lengthy confused pause they would send back "001". The 1st rule for ALL radiosport contests is to READ THE RULES for that contest. The 2nd rule is to LISTEN (in this case READ) to what the other operator is sending. If you don't understand what was sent then DON'T TRANSMIT. KP3CO
went so far as to send me a LENGTHY diatribe describing his equipment, antennas, laptop configuration and QSL info; all in ONE transmission no less.

WQ6X 15-Meter Spots on DXMaps









At 16:00z I put out a "CQ DMC Test" call on 15 meters. WQ6X was immediately spotted; bringing
the one-and-only 15-meter QSO 8 minutes later. I read many reports of good 15-meter propagation during this contest weekend, however that must've been later in the day.

Just before the 18:00z NAQP start time I made DMC QSO #68 and then switched the RTTY
macros from DMC to NAQP, just in time for the first NAQP RTTY contest CQ. As I was running remote, I found it easier to RUN frequencies than S&P (no use of spotting assistance is allowed in NAQP). Because I have yet to figure out how to invoke the radio's R.I.T. function remotely I used SPLIT mode and tuned VFO-A for stations that were way off frequency; which turned out to be
RARE for this contest event.

WQ6X 20-Meter Spots on DXMaps

From the beginning 20-meters was wide-open for NAQP. While I usually run a frequency ABOVE 14.100 (the NCDXF Beacon frequency), for this GiG 14084.84 was the gateway to working WQ6X.

By the time 20 was worked out, there were over 200 QSOs in the log.


Something I have encountered occasionally in CW contests that is even more frustrating in RTTY events is people trying to "muscle in" on my frequency. I will be calling CQ and some station "say
a W5" calls me. Immediately a VE7 station calls the W5 (QRMing the QSO WE are trying to make). Then, hearing no response from the W5 (because he was transmitting the same time as the W5)
the VE7 then starts calling CQ Test. HuH?

For all these IDIOTS I have a specially designed FUNC key that sends "VE7 - QRL QSY";
and if they STILL don't get it "VE7 - QRL QSY LID!" - that almost ALWAYS works. In a way, RTTY brings us MORE options than on CW; allowing more creativity in our communications with the rest of the world. After all, in RTTY contests, QUALITY of communications takes priority over anything else.

I also encountered NUMEROUS stations who would BLINDLY start calling CQ EXACTLY on my run frequency. Because I choose oddball run frequencies, the fact that their CQ is PERFECTLY decoded means that they SPECIFICALLY chose my run frequency, it didn't happen by accident. On CW, being in the frequency vicinity is not uncommon; with RTTY it is purposeful - wassup with THAT?

NAQP Run screen

Another difficult in RTTY contests (especially NAQP) many stations get creative in what they
report and how they report it. On station (N3CR) sent his section as "Northeast PA" Just send "PA". 
Imagine if I sent "Northern CA"; that would be very confusing. Name-wise, the wildest one I heard
was "Rumplestiltskin" - HuH? One station reporting in on the 3830 Scores website complained that "Rumplestiltskin" would not completely fit in the name field of his logging program and hoped
he won't get DINGED for not typing the entire name.

A strange thing occurred on the run frequency when NT9E began calling "CQ FD" and then disappears. 2 minutes later he calls me, I send him the exchange and he disappears only to
call me and disappear once again. Once I sent "LID" he worked me no problem. HuH?

Throughout the afternoon, 20-meters kept stations coming to me so I kept running on 14084.84. Unfortunately, not having a SUB receiver in station-1's K3 radio I couldn't automatically keep an
eye on 15 meters while running a frequency on 20, so I relied on DXMaps.Com to give me
an idea of when to finally make the switch to 15. At 23:00z I switched to 15-meters to look
around.  Within a few minutes station-1's computer froze.

Bringing up the WEB cam showed that when the computer was rebooted it stopped partway into
the Windoze startup procedure, hanging on an error message. It took several text messages and telephone calls dispatching a resident at the Nashville QTH to enter the shack and give us error message text in order to resolve the problem.

For me, the most difficult part of single-OP NAQP is deciding which 2 hour segment to sacrifice. Unlike previous NAQP GiGs, I decided to gopherit
right from the 18:00z start.

Considering that the computer failure kept me off the air for 2+ hours, that turned out to be a good choice.


I wasn't back on the air until 01:35z on 40-meters. (Unfortunately, I missed out on whatever
opening existed on 15-meters.)

As the number of calling stations increased, I found use of the specially defined "NOW" key (F10 under N1MM+) was very handy. NOW, does the equivalent of pressing F3 ("TU QRZ?), logging
the QSO, sending "NOW", popping the top callsign off the callstack and sending an NAQP
exchange.  When it works it is WONderful. During this contest the few times I needed the
feature it worked great; although sometimes stations don't wait around.

WQ6X 40-Meter Spots on DXMaps

Overall, band conditions were quite good, altho I noticed a rapid signal flutter on many 40-meter signals which would DIP the signal below the MMTY demodulation capability. This is yet ANOTHER REASON to ONLY repeat information asked for, not the ENTIRE exchange; which is why I use
pre-defined function keys to send specific PARTS of the exchange information.

Usually during 40-meter contest operations I suffer lots of intentional QRM. Because NAQP ends
at 06:00z the intentional QRMers have not yet awaken from their nappy-POO. Not operating in the vicinity of 7.040, I was spared encountering the Russian military "Letter" beacons.


Because NAQP is about contacting N. American stations (which includes
the Caribbean and Central America) I was disappointed to hear so FEW
NA stations outside of USA & Canada.

Other than an XE1 & CM8 station, the only other NA country was from my friends Gayle & Mike at ZF1A.  In virtually EVERY QSO party I bitch about poor participation from the target contest areas; NAQP is no different - BUMMER Dewd!

On 40 meters, altho I am not used to working above 7.100, 7.103.03 was an attractive clear frequency that put 109 QSOs in the log. After a brief stint on 80 meters (starting @03:55z to work N6GEO) I was soon back on 40; this time on 7.101.01 and then 7.102.02 after a final run on 80 meters.

By the time NAQP was over there were 391 QSOs in the log;
taking 3rd place within the 5-person SCCC #1 contest team.

Overall, Space WX was quite reasonable for a change. Usually poor solar conditions happen JUST BE-4
a contest event.

For the DMC/NAQP weekend the disaster didn't set in until AFTER NAQP was over, with a CME devastating the HF shortwave spectrum. As I write this (on Monday July 17) the forecast is STILL Horrible.


Blaming poor operating performance on poor Space WX is an easy excuse. In this case however, success (or lack of) was ALL operator-based.


While my goal was to make 400 QSOs during the 2017 NAQP RTTY GiG, I came very close to that number.

It could be argued that were it not for
the 2.5 hour computer failure I might have made it well beyond 400.

As I mentioned earlier, for running frequencies during this RTTY weekend
I chose to synchronize both VFOs and then run in split mode; my emulation
of a typical R.I.T. control.

Altho I didn't need to use it much, a couple of stations were WAY OFF, requiring more precise tuning.


The downside to this method is that when I switch to S&P mode I must remember to turn off the
split in order to transmit on the frequency I am listening to, lest I end up calling stations on MY
run frequency - Ooops. If STN-1's K3 radio had the SUB receiver installed I could have configured N1MM+ to run SO2-V; allowing me to S&P on VFO-B while continuing to run a frequency.
I guess I have become spoiled by the FT-1000mp with dual-receive already built in.

NAQP ENDing Screen

At 06:00z the NAQP RTTY contest came to an exhaustive end.
Looking ahead to the 12:00z ending for the DMC contest, I could not manage to visualize continuing operations for another 6 hours. Instead, STAT screen shots were made and Cabrillo log files were generated before calling it a night at 07:00.

On Sunday I made contest submissions to the 3830 Scores website for the DMC RTTY
contest and the NAQP RTTY contest. Material from those submissions became the
basis for some of the text in this BLOG entry.

Did you work the DMC and NAQP RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

WQ6X joins NX6T to make a nice appearance in IARU

The IARU HF Championship radiosport contest happens on the 2nd weekend of July each year. Similar to the Olympics, every 4 years top operators from around the world converge on a eographically-related location to compete amongst themselves for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in this contest.



For 2018, that convergence will occur at select locations in Germany; the 2020 QTH (to my knowledge) has yet to be determined. Stations qualify to compete every 4 years by accumulating enough points from operations in contests such as the CQ WW DX, WAE and ARRL DX contests, among others.
In 2014, 44 teams converged on the hills outside of Boston, each with an identical operator tent and yagi antennas.

Because operators perform better with their radio of choice, each team brought their
own radio equipment - running 100 watts,
no amplifiers were allowed.

Describing the competition outside of
Boston was the focus of J.K. George's book "Contact Sport". In this book, George gives us an hour by hour account of the 44 teams progress.

While I am not necessarily a fan of George's writing style, for die-hard contesters the story is very compelling; especially if
you operated in the 2014 IARU GiG.

For the 2014 event I teamed up with N6GEO (George), putting together a last minute operation from his HOA-restricted QTH in Brentwood, N. California. [CLICK HERE] to read that WQ6X BLOG entry about our operation. We worked 22 of the above mentioned 44 stations; as evidenced by the QSL cards I received months after the contest ended.

For the 2017 IARU GiG, a business trip to So. California never materialized relegating me to run remotely from the SF bay area. Because running SSB requires a higher quality internet connection on BOTH ends, I chose
to run only CW. Altho I started the contest promptly at 12:00z, business commitments kept me away from
the computer most of the day.
Luckily we had a team of operators
to keep the dayshift well manned.


Beginning at 12:00z, after briefly S&P'ing I settled in on 7031.31, working over 100 callers before
I finally had to leave. K6AM remoted in on STN-#2 putting 126 20-meter CW QSOs in the log, in time for 16 years young KK6NON to fire-up on 20-meter SSB at 18:00z. At 20:34z 15-meter contacts finally made it into the log. At 02:00z the evening CW crew took over keeping 20-meters hopping.

At 03:15 I received the call to work the dinner shift, as I usually do. 40 meters was wide open so I S&P'ed for nearly
30 minutes before settling in to run 7050.50, adding another 100 QSOs
to the log. Because QRM surrounded 7.050 on all sides, running the Autek QF-1A audio filter on the laptop receive audio made ALL the difference.
Using the PEAK & LP filters, the desired signal could be peaked above other signals, while those other signals were attenuated somewhat.

Overall, the Elecraft K3 radio deployment into a pair of 1.3kw amplifiers put a potent wallop into the yagi's atop the two towers at Nashville. The 80-meter inverted vee managed to put 72 QSOs into the log.

After a brief nap, N6KI rousted me at 08:30z for the night shift to finish off the IARU contest. Noticing no
80-meter contacts operations began there, putting
58 QSOs in the log before switching back to 40-meters. Throughout the early morning 7.035 and 3.535 were alternate run frequencies until the final log entry @ 11:58z.

Something I like about N1MM+ and WinTest is the ability to produce after-contest statistics and graphs.

Each of these two programs detail different information and in a different way. Nevertheless after-information gives me an overview of what happened in the last 24 hours.

In this bar graph, there 4 time periods which PEAKed above the rest; 2 of which occurred while I was operating (predictably during the 12:00z start
and 04:00z during the dinner hour.

The other peaks occurred while KK6NON ran SSB on 20-meters (19:00z); with the biggest peak occurring at midnight, local time (07:00z) as N6KI fell into a zone and kept them coming
on 40-meters.

It's also interesting to note which continents produced the most QSOs. Because of our location on the Waste Coast, not surprisingly North America produced the most QSOs.

Unfortunately it also produced the greatest number of Zone confusions. Remember that the IARU contest requires us to report our IARU zone, NOT the CQ Zone.

For W6 stations that means we report
as IARU Zone-6, NOT CQ Zone-3.

While it was clear that some stations reported their zone incorrectly, I decided to "Log whut I Hear"; second-guessing can result in even more mistakes. Or as Ge'ldine! used to say "Whatchew see is whatchew git"; from which we get the computer term WYSIWYG.










Oh what a difference a day makes; or should I say 8 hours. You've heard me grumble about how space WX storms happen ONLY on contest weekends, or JUST BE-4 those weekends.
Statistically of course, it more likely doesn't happen as much as I claim it does.

The 2017 IARU weekend was somewhere in the middle. If was quiet Saturday afternoon (22:36z),
yet by 08:00z the ionosphere became noisier and noisier. The noise was more evident on 80 meters;
way more than on 40. Using the Low Pass setting on the QF-1A dulled the noise as good as any NR-DSP circuit I've ever used. I guess my $7 investment in this unit was well worth it.

Space WX storms statistically mean more noise to contend with while copying marginal signals; something we all deplore. For me, the promise of NR DSP circuits in most radios has been a
promise largely unfulfilled; one of the reasons I spend so much time with outboard audio noise
filters (like the MFJ 752, NIR-12 & QF-1A) or the MFJ-1026 antenna noise reduction phasing unit.

For this IARU contest, the QF-1A filter was an AMAZING addition to the
remote operation.

I originally intended it to become a
SUB-Rx (VFO-B) DSP-style filter for the
FT-1000mp; which has no eDSP-filtering (as well as no shift/width/notch circuitry). 

For portable operation, the QF-1A did
a HORRIBLE job. While intended for filtering audio going to the right ear, it added an artifact of reduced audio (by comparison) in the left ear - go figure.

However when used to process laptop audio monourally, it performs INCREDIBLY.


Who would have guessed that 40 year-old audio filtering technology could equal or surpass
the "magic" of today's DSP circuits?


At 12:05z I analyzed the resultant stats. Of the 1,059 total QSOs, 417 were made on SSB and 638 on CW; along with 78 HQ (IARU Headquarters) stations in a combined 86 ITU zones, yielding a score of over 500K points - not bad considering what we had to work with.

[Click here] to read the NX6T IARU score.

Did YOU work the IARU HF Championship?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WQ6X Racks one up in the RAC contest



Because WQ6X has never participated in the Canadian RAC day I made it a point to fit in some sort of RAC operation for 2017. Being new to the contest, reading the rules became a top/1st priority. [CLICK HERE] to read the rules that I read.

I originally thought of extending the Field Day (FD) setup @ W7AYT to include the RAC GiG
until client obligations obligated me to remain in Alameda.

Lately, remote operating NX6T has stabilized considerably. For the 2017 All Asian contest
I encountered no significant internet problems, leading me to give NX6T-remote a go for the
Canadian RAC contest. Internet-wise I was not disappointed; at least in the beginning.

C-31 Yagi

Equipment-wise, I ran NX6T's Station #1 K3 radio barefoot into a C-31 yagi for 20-meters, a 2-el yagi for 40 and a droopy inverted V for 80.

Signal levels were quite good. I worked everyone I could hear. However VE participation in this event left me utterly non-plussed; to say the least.

Typically in contests new to me unexpected things happen out of the nowhere. When I run onsite @ NX6T, any equipment-failure or internet outage can usually be remedied on the spot.


If I'm part of a multi-OP - but connecting remotely - at anytime, I can either phone/text/e-mail a team member to remedy any outage that occurs, usually within minutes.  However when I run Single-OP remotely, there is usually no one onsite. If a major outage occurs, all I can do is flip power-strip
power switches and then wait - praying that rebooting everything will eventually stumble into
remedying the outage.

Making this all work requires proper integration between the LogMeIn, RCForb & VPN Viewer software.

As you can see, the RCForb software screen looks remotely similar to the Elecraft K3 front panel; which for
running NX6T remotely is a good thing.

When it was over the RAC contest afforded me the opportunity to learn
a number of new quirks in remote
radio operation.

By the time I configured all the software components on both ends my contest start time was 02:00z (7pm PDT). While I missed out on a possible 15-meter opening, being wide-open, 20 meters seemed to make up for that. What surprised me was the dearth of VE signals and the abundance of stations from the south east. I later discovered that I mis-read the Stepp-IR rotor indicator - it was pointing 115-degrees all along. (For operation on Saturday morning I pointed it Northeast and lo-and-behold Canadian callsigns populated the 20-meter spectrum.)


WQ6X Spotted on 20-meters
Normally in contests like RAC, I expect the target-audience to be in great abundance, so I tend to Search & Pounce (S&P). For this RAC event I decided to run a frequency; on the premise that WQ6X is an attractive callsign. As you can see, the CW skimmers monitoring 20-meters seemed to hear my 100-watt signal all over North America. As it turns out, most of Friday evening's 20-meter QSO's were made by running a frequency. 


WQ6X Spotted on 40-meters
By 04:30 it was time to make the switch to wide-open 40 meters. Ironically, altho the 40-meter yagi was pointed northeast, the best signals were coming from the southeast, including Africa. Within minutes it became immediately apparent I could also run frequencies on 40. Again, with assistance
of the 40-meter skimmers I managed a very productive hour running frequencies. From time to time, either out of dropped-rate or boredom I would make a quick S&P sweep of the band

By 06:40z an 80 meter opening materialized, lasting just under an hour. On both 80 & 40 I was disappointed in the relatively small number of workable (let alone hearable) VE stations. 5 hours
of sleep gave me enough energy to work another hour on 40-meters starting at 12:45z. At 16:25z,
I managed 30 minutes on 20 meters before taking care of some non-contest business.

19:00z brought 25 more QSOs to the log before the internet DIED.

RAC Contest Ending Statistics
My internet connection was fine - something on the Fallbrook end failed; probably the microwave link. Listening on an SDR receiver in the area confirmed 15 meters was finally open. There's almost nothing more hopeless in a radiosport contest than hearing a wonderful band opening and not
be able to transmit. As my long-departed friend Mary used to say "It's Always Something!".



Did you work the RAC contest?

How many VE/VY/VA/CF/CG callsigns are in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Technology assists NX6T in 2017 All Asian CW Contest


NX6T's web cam view of Station #1 & #2
Last year, for the All Asian CW contest I made use of the Amtrak Surfliner arriving in Oceanside
with W6JBR taking on the UBER role giving me a lift to the NX6T contest site (aka "NashVille")
atop the hill in Fallbrook (north of San Diego @900' above sea level). While we won no awards,
the operation was a LoT of fun. We learned a lot as a result of integrating some remote operations
with a handful of top-notch CW operators.

This year found me bound to various events in the SF bay area, so *I* was one of the remote operators (in addition to Rick, N6CY) for the 2017 All Asian CW contest.  Being that this year's operation was another Multi-Single affair, we always had one station (STN-1 or STN-2) running a frequency (Calling "CQ Asia"). When operators were available a second station would work another band looking for MULT stations. Carefully orchestrated, running two radios in this fashion properly comes under the heading of a Multi-Single operation.

Because the Field Day event occurs the following All Asian weekend, I used this remote operation to test-drive running an "ancient" Autek Research QF-1A "audio shaper" between the laptop headphone jack and the Heil headset; more on that later.


Despite nearing the bottom of Solar Cycle 24, this contest event began
with horrible Space WX (A-Index=24 & K-Index=5) after being quiet for nearly 10 days preceding the All Asian contest weekend.

Why is it that solar storms happen "ONLY" during contest weekends? While things improved slowly, we were cheated out of a decent 15 meter opening to begin the contest, a poor showing on 80-meters and no openings on 10-meters anywhere (much less
Asia or even the Pacific).


To navigate us through the poor band condx., I made extensive use of DXMaps to spot band openings and with the assistance of the WQ6X Beacon tracker, listened on 14.100 & 21.150 for
the various NCDXF beacon stations positioned around the globe. I was amazed to hear ZL2B all
the way down to 0.1 watt of power and yet, no Asian stations could be heard during that period.


Using the NeuroLogik Solutions
"Snap-Shot!" software I am able to capture remote screens at a moments notice and store them as .JPG files
on the local data drive.

More than just Alt-Prtsc, with Snap-Shot I am able to capture, timestamp and organize the unique screen images that you see throughout the WQ6X Contest BLOG entries.
[CLICK HERE] to buy your own copy
of Snap-Shot! for only $19.95.


Originally, the CQ contest call was "CQ A A N6XT NX6T". Many stateside stations had no clue what A A was and would call us looking for a QSO.



For me, the solution to that was to change the CQ call to "CQ ASIA Test NX6T NX6T". For those people who still didn't get it I would send "ASIA ONLY" 2 - 3 times and they would reluctantly 

move on.

Realize that they were hearing the NX6T kilowatt+ signal off the BACK of the yagi's.
At 1.3kw, a 20-30 db. reduction in signal strength can nevertheless be a significant signal.



Equipment-wise we ran the usual assortment of Elecraft K3 radios into a pair of multi-band yagi's, 2-elements on 40 and a cheesy inverted V for 80 meters.

In recent contests we have been experiencing some cross-band interference between STN-1 & STN-2 - I consistently heard a background buzz noise when STN-2 was calling CQ on 20 meters.

Sometimes the QF-1A filter could help with this.

Unfortunately, nothing seemed to help with the atmospheric noise. Sometimes the K3's DSP circuits help, however for me, most of the time they do nothing; except add artifact to the receive audio.






Station #1 (which I ran remotely) was equipped with an ACOM-2000 amplifier putting out a consistent 1300+ watts on all bands. By way of an HTML-based application I was able to monitor the ACOM amplifier power levels. If there was an operator present in the shack they could keep an eye on the actual control panel for the amplifier. At one point an amplifier failure set in so I ran about 95 watts while N6KI resolved the problem and brought the amp back on the air Needless to say, running a 1/10 power level was noticeable to many people as they attempted to move in on the run frequency.


Because I love operating well after midnight, during most contests I run with NX6T, I usually
run station #1 during the local dinner hour (8:00 - 10:30pm) allowing the operators to head down
the hill to one of several restaurants.

When I am onsite (like last year) they always bring me back Shrimp Fu-yung or Italian meatballs; depending on their restaurant of choice.
(When I run remotely I usually order a double

order of takeout sushi before settling in for the 
8pm GiG.)

Once they are back from dinner I get some shuteye until about 2am when N6KI rousts
me from sound sleep to put Station #1 on
40 and/or 80 meters.

I can usually stay awake until sunrise and sometimes beyond when the low bands finally fade into oblivion. After a check for random QSOs on 20-meters, I go back to sleep. The "day shift" usually starts up around 12:30 local time.



While I love running the nighttime
 hours, it is always at this time when
the 40-meter QRM is at its worst.
This contest was no exception.
Both evenings I heard the "M" and "D" Russian military beacons on 7.039. Sunday morning I even heard the
"F" beacon sneak through.

Luckily, I rarely work CW contests that high in frequency. Saturday evening the OTH radar (now coming from Asia) made numerous appearances on 7.006, so I avoided working below 7.007 whenever possible. Unfortunately, around 10:20z, while running a frequency (7021.21) I was
plagued by what I call a "data cranker' sound followed by an SSB "howling" sound followed
by more data-cranking.

Numerous times during both late nigh operations I would find a CLEAR frequency only to have a station move 200hz below me and call CQ contest within minutes. HuH? On Saturday evening this happened 4 times in the timeframe of 30 minutes. At one point while calling CQ some guy would
send "545" or "454" after ever unsuccessful CQ call. Later on I was plagued by someone making
a space warbling sound on the run frequency.

Once on 20 meters while putting in a call to BY4AA (who was hearing nobody) some idiot would send "wats the point?" after every call I made on 14.038. The he sent "Z Z Z Z Z". When I still wouldn't give up, he started sending "JUNK" CW and then decided to tune his radio for nearly 5 minutes.
The band faded so he "succeeded" in my QSY'ing to 40-meters.

Sometime ago I purchased an "ancient" Autek Research QF-1A "audio shaper" unit for $7 - I didn't even know if it really worked. This weekend, it occurred to
me that because the QF-1A is simply processing analog audio, it should work equally well on the internet audio coming in by way of the IP-Sound facility.

The QF-1A did an AMAZING job during CW pileups when I was running a frequency.
In all honesty the QF-1A does a HORRIBLE job with SSB signals (when the bandwidth is <500hz); when SSB QRM showed up on the run frequency I had to either bypass the Autek unit or change frequency. 

In the 21st century we give praises to DSP audio circuits, when in fact, not only is analog processing just as effective, it often does so with less introduction of artifact. It was from tuning the QF-1A circuits that I was able to hear the Russian "F" & "D" beacons on 7.039 behind the dominant "M" beacon in Magadan. I have once again become a "believer"!


Typical to the All Asian contest, the last 8 hours present very little activity to the West Coast. European stations seem to have the best opportunity.  In the last of the contest hours, it would seem that most Asian stations are either sleeping or on their way to the workforce.

Nevertheless, at NX6T we don't give up. N6KI took over on 15 meters at 21:30z and managed a WHOPPing 19 QSOs
in the log; that's how few Asian stations were available during those last hours.

Propagation paths between Asia and West Coast were WIDE OPEN - there were simply no Asian stations on the air for us to work. Then again, Dennis adding P3X to the log made it all worthwhile,
I guess. I took a look on 40-meters at 23:30z in the dim and distant hope of an over-the-pole shot
to the middle east. Unfortunately, all the hoping in the world does not overcome non-existent propagation paths.



Per the 3830Scores Website, it would seem that NX6T took 2nd place worldwide; outside of Asia

we took 1st place. We also took 1st place for North America. When you consider what we were up against, it is amazing we did as well as we did.

Did YOU play around in the All Asian DX Contest?

How many Asian prefixes and countries made it to YOUR log?