Wednesday, November 25, 2020

WQ6X Survives another Frazzled Dual-OP Sweepstakes

As I enjoy the fresh air outside W7AYT's QTH after an after-the-fact (after-contest) wire antenna inspection, a smile broke out as I LooK back to how this weekend actually played out.  Overall,
the goal was to somehow dual-OP the November Sweepstakes Ssb contest GiG, winning another certificate for East Bay (EB) section and maybe, even another PAC Division plaque (as was done back in 2015).  I also had the same goal for my participating remotely in NX6T's Multi-OP (LP) run.

Before every Sweepstakes I review previous operations and stats to give me ideas for how the next Sweepstakes GiG should be run.  In 2017 I took a Look back and was amazed by the many different forms of operation WQ6X (often as W6K) has put together for Sweepstakes.

  • [x] -  BLAST from the PAST: November Sweepstakes.

Of ALL my favorite contests, Sweepstakes is my favorite, favorite.  However, Ssb contests always frazzle me; with Cw/RTTY I can quietly live in my headphones with Euro-electronic music blended thanks to the RockVille mixer I added to the equipment lineup in Concord.  The music is chosen to neutralize the RTTY signals in my listening - yet still copy signals.  With Ssb, I can also use music, but with varying voice-inflections, it becomes more tricky; and, sometimes I have to "shout" into the microphone to get the contact - not needed w/Cw and RTTY.

Considering the equipment array available to me, this would be a challenge.  If participation in the
Cw event is any indication of what to expect, because "anyone" can run Ssb, the expectation was
for there to be an increase in overall participation of more-ore-less 35%.  I guess an "EASY" way to estimate participation is by comparing reported QSO counts from both events, realizing that a station can only be worked ONCE in Sweepstakes GiGs.  As you can see (above), there was a considerable increase in participation for the Sweepstakes Ssb event.

Section-wise, Sweepstakes 2020 events seemed to produce more activity from areas of the country that have been lacking Sweepstakes activity in recent years; notably, NE, NNY, WV, NH, AL, AR & NV.  Lacking in this year's Ssb event were many of the "easy" Canadian provinces, whereas QC, PE and NL were relatively easy this year.  The ONE section missing from most logs (NX6T & WQ6X incl.) was of course NT (Northern Territories).

One thing that may well have contributed to increased participation over last year (and even from
the Cw GiG 2 weeks ago) is the incredible increase in Solar FLUX Index which jumped from 78 - 88 during the weekend; unfortunately accompanied by K-Index = 3.  Tuesday after the contest the SFI was recorded at a record-high of 100 with the K-Index down to 1.  wOw!  I guess Solar Cycle 25 is in FULL Swing!

For me Sweepstakes is all about NoT giving up.  This year brought with it all number of challenges.  While I love using the Electro Voice 664 microphone for ragchewing (yes, even I chew the rag once in awhile), it is NoT a contest microphone (with a narrow audio frequency PUNCH).  Because using the Heil PRO headset worked so well remotely, the 664 was turned upright creating a mic stand, thanks to a mini-bungee cord I found in the junk box.

Because Sweepstakes is a domestic contest, we rarely have to put up with the usual 40-meter intentional QRM, altho this year the National Tuneup Frequency was rampant.  The NTF is one
of my major beefs that I wrote about in 2019.  ([CLICK HERE] for more information on the NTF).
In that Blog I also documented the F-U monkey.  Tuning around 75-m Saturday evening I heard
N6JS loud and clear on 3.839.50 (right next door to the 3.840 "garbage dump" frequency).  I was
NoT surprised to see that he had been joined by the F-U monkey.  It evidently didn't phase him because he put up with it for over 1/2 hour.  Every time I tuned thru that area of the band, there
THEY were - the Bobsey Twins.

The BiG surprise came at around NooN when one-by-one, the USB ports on the computer
just stopped responding - HuH?  (On Monday it was discovered that the batteries in the wireless
keyboard were nearly dead, probably contributing to the problem).  After 20+ minutes of futzing
about, the only thing responding was holding down the laptop power button, in effect crashing
the computer.  Once rebooted, everything ran fine.  When you consider that I had not rebooted Windoze-7 in nearly 38 days, I guess something had to give.  The upside of that debacle is that
PE and SB sections made it to the log within less than 10 minutes after restarting, leaving us to
find NT (for our final section), which unfortunately, never happened.

I wrapped the 2020 Ssb Sweepstakes as WQ6X, managing a WHOPPING 82 QSOs in the log. 
One of the last sections for WQ6X was none other than EB section itself.  It would seem that WQ6X not only garnered a 1st-place for EB section, but possibly for the PAC Division as well.  HuH?  How'd THAT happen?  NX6T easily took 1st for SDG section and Southwest Division; missing that 84th section may well have cost us the overall 1st place, as we had the exact same QSO count as WW4LL.  Then again, it ain't over until the LCR (LoG Checking Robot) scrutinizes the logs. 
If the GA Contest Group made more logging errors than we did, the two top positions could
end up being swapped.

As they say, when all is said and done, remember this, Sweepstakes is STILL a traffic handling exercise.  When I view things from THAT perspective, it easily encourages me to do the BEST
that  I can while keeping an ACCURATE log.  When newcomers show up in the Sweepstakes
and are not sure how to put together an exchange, we veteran operators take the the time to
assist them thru.  After all, the veterans did that for US when we were first learning; which is
why we are now seasoned Sweepstakes operators.

Did YOU work the November Sweepstakes Ssb contest?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

WQ6X Uses JIDX Contest to Test Alameda Audio

This last weekend found me in in Alameda (instead of Concord) Takin' Care of Bizniss. 
The weekend in between Sweepstakes GiGs brings us the JIDX-Ssb, WAE-RTTY and OK/OM contests.  Dennis (N6KI) put out a call for JIDX operators and only Dan (N6ERD) responded; just enough for putting together a 3-man Multi-Single team, using both NX6T's STN1 & STN2 alternately.

While I have a K3/0-Mini on the way for use in Alameda, until then I rely on the RCForb software
to give me access to STN-1 in Fallbrook.  The software allows me to control the Elecraft K3 on the other end.  The problem is that I am not equipped with P-T-T control and have to rely on VOX to voice-key the radio, requiring me to speak LOUD enough to keep the P-T-T line keyed between syllables.  

Many times during the weekend, stateside stations reported that my audio was breaking up. 
The Japanese stations seemed to hear me well enough; why would a statesider who is not in the contest care about my audio breaking up?  Often their comments would obliterate a weak Japanese station I was trying to copy, requiring me to ask for a repeat.  Most of the time, any copy problems
I had were on the RECEIVING end, not in transmitting.

Because this weekend's main focus was the JIDX contest, I updated the WQ6X Software JIDX Prefecture Tracker application.  The APP has been designed so that inputting a Cabrillo .LOG
file the resulting prefecture counts (as well as band by band scores) can be tabulated.

Because I normally take the night shift, my 40-meter contest operations are often a target
for intentional-QRM'ers who are bored in the middle of the night and want to have some fun. 
On Saturday morning (10:50z) my 7167.67 run frequency was invaded by a VFO-swoosher
for several minutes followed by bursts of RTTY after the VFO-swishing was over.  

At 11:18z I was treated with a howling-wind noise, the kind often used by SWBC jamming stations. 
He eventually got bored with me and turned his antenna elsewhere (fading slowly into headphone-oblivion).  Then, at 11:30z, having moved to 7170.70, the ubiquitous Data Cranker made the scene, only this time it sounded like someone stirring a flushing toilet.  Sunday morning while running 7169.69, the Data Cranker was back, disappearing as quickly as it came; if only to taunt me. 
I've written about the Data Cranker before. (Read: Part1 and Part2 for my brief comments
about the Data Cranker AND the recently updated comments about the witch doctor).

Another weird one was a consistent caller 9Z6AH in Trinidad. He would NoT leave until I sent
him "5-9 Zero 3".  He sent me HIS zone and then disappeared into the night.  When he was
safely gone, Ctrl-W (WIPE) purged his non-JA callsign from the Log.  Remember: Read the
Contest Rules before calling a contest station.

On single sideband (Ssb), QRM is an interesting phenomenon.  During my brief stint on 20-meters,
I was constantly being "nudged" up frequency; from 14160.60 to 14161.61 to 14162.62.  The K3's Shift/Width adjustments can only do so much.  Sometimes I would have to move +/- 10-20 Hz within
an area to accomplish what the shift control could not.  Now of course stations have to re-tune me
in; and, as we know, Japanese stations tend to be notoriously OFF frequency during Ssb contests. 
If I was using the K3/0 I would just turn on the R-I-T and tune him in; with RCForb, there is no R-I-T
(or at least if there IS one, I can't find it).

My final comment about the 2020 JIDX Ssb contest is one I make EVERY year - NoT enough JA stations play in their own contests.  While I saw many spots in the band map (JH4UTP, JH4UYB, 7N2UQC, JI4WHS, JA6ZPR, JA9CWJ to name some of the prominent ones) those spots were for the WAE RTTY contest, NoT their own JIDX contest.  

Additionally, we heard NUMEROUS Japanese stations ragchewing amongst themselves rather than participating in
their own Dx contest (did they even know it was happening?).

 

After JIDX was over and a couple hours of sleep, I switched into WAE-RTTY mode. 
To get into the "spirit" of a European (as well as RTTY) contest, I re-read what I wrote last year:

  • [x] - WQ6X Wangles a Weird WAE RTTY Contest
  • [x] - WQ6X Wanders & Wonders about WAE

By the time the 00:00z end of the WAE contest, WQ6X only found time for 4-hours of actual
OP time as I had therapy clients in the middle of the day; unfortunately during the EXACT
time 20-meters was open to Europe.  By the time I got back to it, Europe was all but extinct. 
You can READ the WAE Rules [HERE].

Every QSO I made left me with one more unsent QTC message.  In the end, due to technical
screw-ups on my end, NoT a single QTC message ever got delivered to the other end.  OOPS.
Remember: In WAE contests, QTC messages can make up over 1/2 the score.

While I have MORE to say about the JIDX and WAE contest GiGs,
I will leave that for another pair of BLOG entries.


 

 

 

 

 

 

When it was all over, it would seem that NX6T took a World-Wide 1st-place by DEFAULT.

Meanwhile, DiD YOU work the JIDX and WAE contests?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?


Thursday, November 12, 2020

WQ6X Works a Wonderfully Weirdly WONKY November SS


Being my favorite domestic radiosport contest, Sweepstakes (SS) has found me operating from a number of different locations, including SB in Ojai (over a dozen times), Ohio twice (Cincinnati and Brookdale), Montana (MT) into Idaho (ID) and of course B-i-C in Fallbrook (SDG) as well as remotely.  In recent years most operations have been from Concord in Northern California (EB section) and even a dual-OP (remote to NX6T and local as WQ6X).  A pre-contest write-up of Sweepstakes was made last week ([CLICK HERE] to read it).

This year promised to be similar but yet different.  The goal was to somehow operate dual-OP from Fallbrook (SDG) and Concord (EB).  Because NX6T (as an operating entity) was "dark", that made both stations available to be utilized in some way.


Time on Friday was spent researching past Sweepstakes results for Single-OP operations in the
East Bay (EB) and San Diego (SDG) sections. with the goal of making sections wins for BOTH Northern and Southern California regions.  In order to make this all work, a last-minute registration
of the W6K callsign was made; which will make the 26th usage of W6K made by WQ6X.


Sweepstakes was started as W6K for the 1st hour to "find the Sweepstakes groove" before moving
to STN-2 as WQ6X.  K4RB ran most of the afternoon on 20 meters from STN-1 leaving me to work
15 meters as long as it would hold up, after which a shift was made to 40-meters.  Luckily, in recent months 40-meters has been opening to the east coast early to mid afternoons.  














The weird part of running 15 meters was that somehow RFI from STN-1 was causing the auto-tuner
in STN-2's K3 radio to think that there was high-SWR.  In the middle of transmitting an exchange
the power would drop to ZERO, requiring a press of the manual-TUNE button to keep on going. 
Probably a 1/2 dozen contacts were lost from that; luckily, no multipliers were forfeited.  Sunday morning, running 20-meters as K4RB ran on 15 found no RFI problems; one of those anomalies
we'll probably never understand.


Switching to 40-meters presented an interesting problem.  K4RB was running the Stepp-IR
for 20-meters which is on the same tower as the 2-el. Shorty-40.  In order for the 3-el. Stepp-IR to
be positioned more or less 30-degrees the Shorty-40 was then pointing to 305-degrees (essentially Alaska and Asia).  Usually when working Asia I am frustrated when ol' Billy-Bob calls in from the Southeast.  For Sweepstakes, Billy-Bob (and his brother Barry) were most welcome.  Additionally during that hour many VE's and Midwest stations made it to the log; more or less what I wanted anyway.  It was during this period when QRP station VY2ZM (in the newly added PE section)
gave WQ6X a call.

When the choice was made to run low power, because it was an ARRL contest, I was allowed to run up to 150 watts.  To do that would have required dialing the K3 back to a few watts in order to power the KPA-1500 amplifier to only 149.49 watts like we did back in 2014 in the RTTY/RU contest running as WP2/WQ6X.  Because this would've created an increase in shack temperature, a signal increase of barely 4db was not worth all the hassle.

Feeling-wise, it would seem that the level of participation actually INCREASED this year over 2019.  What were in the past "rare" sections were this year quite well represented.  There were multiple NE, VT, NH, WV and NNY sections.  Still lacking were ND, SC, EWA and DE.  For Canada, NL and PE were readily available if you looked long enough.  

Of course, the DIFFICULT section to work was NT.  I saw many false spots for NT; then late Sunday afternoon VY1OC showed up on 40-meters and was IMMEDIATELY barraged by a flood of unruly callers who knew how to transmit but NoT how to listen.  At one point I heard him send "6X?" and before I could press F4 ("WQ6X") a barrage of W4 & W5 stations covered me up.  Eventually it got
so out of hand that the operator gave up and shut it down.  It would seem that less than 75 stations made it to his log.  If stations would learn to STFU and follow the VY1's directions we would've ALL
had NT in our logs.  Lacking NT, WQ6X worked 83 out of 84 sections missing a clean sweep.

Late Sunday afternoon,  K4RB wrapped it up on STN-1 and turned the station over to N6KI to
put 271 QSOs into his log.  Dennis and I swapped bands frequently, giving us both a chance
to make November Sweepstakes "one more for the log".

When it was all over, both logs were filed with the ARRL Sweepstakes log submission
page as well as scores posted to the 3830 Scores website - it ain't over until the "paperwork"
is finished.

Based on the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took 1st-place from the San
Diego (SDG) section,
2nd-place for Southwestern Division and 28th-place overall in the SOULP classification. 
In East Bay (EB) section, it would seem that W6K took 1st place in the SOULP classification, 2nd for Pacific Division and 96th-place overall.

DiD YOU work the 2020 November Sweepstakes Cw Contest?

Are WQ6X, K4RB, N6KI or W6K in YOUR LoG?


Friday, November 6, 2020

WQ6X sets the stage to sweep another Sweepstakes


It's hard to believe that we are at that time of year when it is time to make time for the November Sweepstakes contest time.  As I put together a unique operating strategy for this weekend,
I was motivated to revisit some of what I have written about Sweepstakes and how it turned
out.

Here are some relevant things I have said about Sweepstakes altho I have written LoTs more
in the WQ6X contest blog alone:

  • [x] - The WQ6X.Info Sweepstakes page
  • [x] - (2019) WQ6X Wings another Cw Sweepstakes GiG
  • [x] - (2018) WQ6X Dual-op's November Sweepstakes for a Change
  • [x] - (2019) WQ6X Wings another Cw Sweepstakes GiG
  • [x] - (2019) For Cw Sweepstakes WQ6X LooKs back to move Forward.
  • [x] - (2017) Blast from the PAST: November Sweepstakes

Because this is a Cw contest, the bevy of filter combinations I've been perfecting in recent
weeks will get a REAL workout, under intense contest conditions.  If those filter-combos
can survive Sweepstakes, they can probably survive ANY radiosport contest.

Somewhat unique to this year's Sweepstakes in the shuffling around of QTH's in the 4 Ontario sections and the creation of an 84th ARRL Section, giving Prince Edward Island it's own section designator - PE.

LooKing back, I have run a wide-variety of Sweepstakes venues.  Probably the most unusual experience (altho there have been several) was driving a moving truck for a friend and operating
from Montana (MT) section during the 1990 Ssb Sweepstakes.  At noon Sunday I was informed
that if I didn't get the truck out of there soon, it would be snowed in for several days from the 1st blizzard of the year quickly moving in.  

The truck was promised back in Vegas on Tuesday, so I took down the sloper wires and made them into a rectangular BOX LooP around the top of the truck, tuning them (more-or-less) with a Dentron
JR line tuner.  The ICOM-740 and Dentron tuner never once jumped off the seat.

An overturned cardboard box created a makeshift table for a Toshiba T-1200 laptop running the CT contest software.  That was the only Sweepstakes where I not only ran mobile, but actually gave
out contacts from 2 ARRL sections (MT & ID); probably a violation of the rules, but in those daze
I never submitted a log, so they didn't get the chance to "D-Q" me.


Thanks to the ARRL Sweepstakes web page detailing past contest results
(https://contests.arrl.org/scores.php) it was easy to look at the log submissions from last year. 
While there were nearly a dozen stations running from the East Bay (EB) section, only 2 stations (outside of WQ6X) submitted a qualifying log.  I guess the choice to run Single-OP Low Power Unlimited was the correct choice.

Busy with other things, I've not
given much attention to the Space-WX numbers until just now.  At this stage
of Solar Cycle 25, an SFI=93 is nearly unheard of, except maybe back in the days of Solar Cycle 19 (1957-58).

I have a theory that solar flares occur more when the SFI is rising (than when its dropping) which implies that we could be "in for a surprise" Space-WX wise.  We will know how it turned out on Sunday evening.

I've not seen three GOOD forecasts on the display for a bunch of years.  If the POOR on 10-meters can be converted to FAIR this weekend, WQ6X may encounter a for-real 6-band Sweepstakes opportunity, the likes of which have not been known for a BUNCH of years.

You may remember me saying "When in Doubt, CHEAT! (But w/in the rules)". 
Reading the rules and studying past SS results gives me LoTs to Thingk about in this regard. 
As I write this I am considering 3 different ways to run yet another unique Sweepstakes..

Then again, if at anytime I get bored on Saturday/Sunday, I can always fire-up a LoG in the Ukrainian DX Contest, leaving the U.S. and Canada to survive for awhile w/o me.

Are YOU going to play in the 2020 Cw November Sweepstakes?

What CALLSIGN should I be looking for?


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

WQ6X 1/2 Sprints around a Russian Contest (by playing with audio)


It's a GooD thing I had no specific contest plans for this weekend as once again, everything
was all over the place.  Being an off-contest weekend (between CQ W.W. Ssb & November SS Cw),
I was not hoping for much beyond being able to test equipment configurations in Concord & Alameda; which I guess technically DiD happen.  I wrote up the latest experiments in a separate Blog entry
([CLICK HERE] to read it.)

As it turns out,  on the contest agenda there was only the Russian WW MM (Multi-media) Dx
contest and the NA Sprint on Ssb, which I had forgotten about until midway thru the event itself.  Unfortunately, the Russian WW MM contest turned out to be a BiG Ho-Hummer (i.e. a DuD). 
As I wrote in the contest soapbox,the event was more like a state QSO party which has 5x
out-of-area participants looking for those few brave enough to make it all happen for us. 

While it is true that JUST because I can't hear them, they are there nonetheless; spotting networks give us an overall accurate indication of run frequencies.  This weekend's bandmap was relatively empty; especially where Russia is concerned.  What good is it for me to run as an "Assisted" operation when there is no one around to "assist" me?!

By the time I got around to actual contest operation, 20-meters had already shutdown, much earlier than expected, leaving only 40-meters to run.

Surprisingly, there was a POOR turnout for Cw, leaving no alternative but resort to RTTY to have any chance in the Russian contest.


Nevertheless, in-the-end, the 240-point log WAS submitted to the contest website - the contest organizers appreciate it and once in awhile, even a low-scoring log can take an operating award.

Finding little to run, the focus was on continuing to rewire the dual-RX setup at the Concord location.  Tuning around 40-meters ssb while testing filter combinations, I was BLASTED OUT of the chair
by a well-in-progress NA Sprint Ssb contest.  Nearly 2 of the 4 operating hours were already gone. 
The goal became to run remotely as NX6T until it went dry, switch to WQ6X to run locally and then finish remotely again as NX6T.

Because STN-1's hard drive has recently been rolled back to a 2018 image, all the recently added N1MM keyboard macros where gone and MMTY.Exe did not exist in this configuration - work to do before the fun can begin.

Having consumed a 1/2 pint of Peanut Butter Stout, it made sense to load-up the K3's Voice Keyer memories to do most of the talking, leaving me to fumble on JUST the callsigns and operator names.  Then, once logged, it's forgotten.  Fortunately, when I switch bands, N1MM "remembers" your "Vitals" and fills them in for me to work you yet again, but on a new band.


The Sprint contests are unique in that there are no "run frequencies" per se'. Having to move every other QSO of course invites potential pandemonium.  Amazingly, the Sprint operators seemed to shoe-horn them selves around a number of of ragchewers who seemed almost oblivious to our frantic operations going on around them - proof once again that our frequency bands can be shared for multiple-purposes, all at the same time.

Eventually, 40 metes ran dry of new Sprint stations.  Switching to the FT-1000mp locally turned out
to be QUITE a disappointment.  Not only was the location's signal-vortex in full force, QRN levels of an approaching solar storm made an Ssb Sprint from Concord all but impossible.  This left me band-hopping between 40/75 meters as NX6T up to the 04:00z contest end.

What about YOU this weekend?

Did you run the NA Sprint or the Russian WW MM contest?

Is NX6T buried somewhere in YOUR LoG?


More Lessons Learned from Listening to the Dr.


It's a GooD thing I had no specific contest plans for this weekend as once again, everything
was all over the place.  Being an off-contest weekend (between CQ W.W. Ssb & November SS Cw),
I was not hoping for much beyond being able to test equipment configurations in Concord & Alameda; which I guess technically DiD happen.

In both locations I've been tweaking the RX audio lines looking for the correct cascade order for each device in each separate (Left/Right) audio line, using as a reference advice received from Joel Hallas (W1ZR) - the QST Dr. - back in 2014.  I even wrote a Blog Entry about this.  At the Alameda location
I recently brought back a classic Radio Shaft 15-band equalizer to process split-RX audio


I've used this equalizer during CQP expeditions to process (mono) RX audio - using the equalizer's Left Channel - and all TX microphone audio in the right.  Bringing in a classic FT-1000mp transceiver (w/dual-RX audio) and making the discovery of "Stereo Cw" has changed the RX-end of the WQ6X operating world considerably.  The "goeswith" in Stereo Cw is a doubling of equipment interaction possibilities; for better or for worse.

Cascading filters which use "infinite gain" IC's at the core of their design, is prone to outbreaks
of feedback; experienced as sudden sheiks/howls when the gain of the cascaded devices surpass
some specific (but unspecified) threshold.  In extreme cases, the feedback loop is so pervasive it requires cutting the power to the Rockville mixer (Concord) or equalizer (Alameda) and starting over.

Remember: amplifier circuits don't discriminate; whatever signals go into the amplifier are
processed indiscriminately by the bias-parameters of the amplifying device(s) along that audio path.  To be clear, noise (atmospheric or electronically created) is itself just another signal; albeit an undesired one.  DSP chips can extract/alter individual bits of any signal be-4 or after amplification; however the principle is still the same: What goes in to the amplifying stage(s) comes out more, or comes out less, depending upon the characteristics of the amplifying device (Tube, Transistor or IC).

In the world of electronics (and electron flow) we don't get something for nothing; every process has one-or-more "gotcha's".  In this blog's opening picture, the arrows represent audio flows for each side of my listening experience.  Each of those individual circuits (radio-based or external device) can easily contribute its own artifact to the audio-line that device is a part of; and, in most cases, the other audio stream (Left/Right) will be impervious to this artifact; another benefit of Stereo Cw.

After weeks of Empirical-Experimentation the various cable orders to the 4-Ch (stereo) Rockville
mixer have worked out quite nicely:

  1. CH-1: ICOM 7000 (mainly for shortwave listening)
  2. CH-2: Elecraft K3/0 - for remote radio access of NX6T in Fallbrook.
  3. CH-3: Stereo audio from the Yaesu FT-1000mp
             A) Left Side: Unprocessed raw audio
             B) Right Side: Audio run thru an enhanced MFJ 752-B Signal Enhancer
  4. CH-4: Processed audio from the Yaesu FT-1000mp
             A) Left Side: Autek QF-1A ---> MFJ-784 Audio DSP units
             B) Right Side: Autek QF-1A ---> JPS NIR-12 Audio DSP units

By combining audio from CH-3 & CH-4, mixing processed and unprocessed sound is possible. 
This helps with discerning different Ssb stations in each ear.  With a dual-RX transceiver like the FT-1000mp we get not only Stereo-Cw but Stereo-Ssb, with one voice in each ear.

Having an altogether genuine Japanese Yaesu SP-6 speaker allows switching (monurally)
between A/B audio for the Main/Sub RX audio paths from the FT-1000mp transceiver. 
Additionally, the AF-REV button on the bottom allows swapping audio channels as well.

The Bottom-Line: all this audio-processing equipment gives me more knobs to twiddle,
and knob-twiddling is what it's all about.

What about you?  Do YOU like to knob-twiddle?

What kind of knob combinations do YOU use?


Monday, October 26, 2020

WQ6X Joins NX6T for another CQ W.W. Ssb Contest


Ad-HOC wise, radiosport doesn't get
any more ad-HOC than this weekend.  The 48 hour Contest weekend brought us the CQ W.W. Dx GiG - complete
with crowded band pandemonium.

While plagued by space-WX anomalies throughout the long weekend, dogged persistence allowed our four operators
to conduct a more than reasonable operation - all remotely - from Fallbrook.

Work requirements kept me in Alameda relegating use of RCForb radio control software along with the VNC viewer to run the WINTEST program remotely.

We ran the usual bevy of Elecraft K3's & K3/0's into a KPA-1500 (STN-1) and an Expert 2-K (STN-2).  Functionally, the antennas were functional, except on Sunday when an erratic 6-Pack switch box caused the 3-element Stepp-IR yagi to report high SWR when switching over to the antenna on
15 meters.  It was too early for N6KI to be productive on 40, leaving me to run 20, 15 & 10 all
alone; using the C-31 yagi allowed for instant band change.

Despite the horrible space-WX this weekend, a number of reasonably-excellent band openings occurred on 10, 15 & even 160 meters. With the Solar Flux (SFI) consistently around 74, we are CLEARLY on the way up into Solar Cycle 25 (and yes, I've said this for nearly 3 years now). 
From my experience, more solar storms are experienced when the SFI is moving up than
when it moves down; either temporarily, or at the end of a solar cycle.


While I spent considerable focus on South America, that is only because there were band
openings to South America.  My only regret is that running remotely, RCForb would error out
anytime I attempted to trip the vox, making it impossible to run a frequency.  The weekend
in Alameda was spent engaging in an elaborate Search & Pounce (S&P) playing back DVK
(Digital Voice Keyer) files to run the radio.

When all of the equipment and internet connection are in top form, running NX6T at night is an overall exciting affair; with a unique feeling of aliveness.  A thrill is experienced from being able to control a radio 455 miles away.  

Sometimes in Concord I will monitor
an NX6T run frequency as WQ6X in
the bay area, giving me a perspective
on how others hear the NX6T signal.
Likewise, LooKing for WQ6X by
listening remotely is very telling.

One evening during an ad-HOC 75-meter ragchew with another Concord amateur, I connected to Station-1 in Fallbrook for listening to our signals, as well as others  with us on the frequency.

Another way to get a listen to your signal is by way of one-or-more remote SDR receivers scattered about the geographical globe.  The WEBSDR Website can take you into this exciting remote world.  When I was looking further into the Russian Military Beacons, I used several SDR's to get a better triangulation on signal levels.  Running a General Web Search brings you even more options.

Looking for 10-meter openings on Sunday led me to sweep thru the 28.200 - 28.300 beacon area listening for propagation clues.  As the radio was tuned up into the phone band, at 16:18z, out of nowhere (on 28.343) I encountered a CW QSO (I KiD you NoT) between WB6ZFG and K6GVG
(altho I only heard the K6GVG end of it).  

Today, running the numbers thru my calcutator, it would seem that 28.343 is the 4th harmonic of 7.086; not an unusual frequency to be ragchewing on at 9:20 in the morning.  Looking up Roy's callsign on QRZ.Com, it seems he is running a contemporary (but classic) ICOM-7610. 
I guess when we are just a hill or two apart, harmonics or overloads happen. 
I sent him an e-mail letting him know what I heard.

Also weird was seeing a spot (@16:18z on 3.796.11) for BY2RADAR.  Right next to it was a flood
of what was CLEARLY RTTY Data; certainly NoT RaDaR.  Have you ever encountered this before?

Based on the 3830Scores report for Mulit-2 operations, it would seem that NX6T is at the bottom of the heap; alto we took 2nd-place for Zone-3 and 1st-Place for W6 - NoT too shabby considering that we were ad-HOC'ing it all the way.

Did YOU participate in the CQ W.W. Ssb contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?


Saturday, October 24, 2020

WQ6X Fudges another WEIRD October Contest Weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend brought a number of divergent contest activities including:

  •  [x] - The JARTS RTTY Contest - run as both NX6T & WQ6X.
  •  [x] - The nearly non-existent NYQP event - 1 Ssb QSO for NX6T.
  •  [x] - The Stew Perry 160 contest - run as both NX6T and briefly as WQ6X.
  •  [x] - The Worked All Germany (WAG) Contest which I DiD NoT have time
             to figure out.
  •  [x] - The Illinois QSO Party - run as both NX6T & WQ6X.

There were other operating events happening throughout the weekend that not officially being contests, were not listed on the WA7BNM Contest Calendar; including a Cw event known as
"SSS" and an event for contest clubs in New Jersey who would sign their call with a /NN indicating how many years they have been a contest club member.  An example would be W2XYZ/34 - an op with 34 years as a club member.


For WQ6X, this was one of those on-again, off-again contest weekends.  The original idea was to
run the JARTS RTTY contest from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  Due to work commitments, operations from Concord would not happen until Saturday afternoon.  Not wanting to miss 18 hours of operating time, the plan was to run remotely from Alameda on Friday evening and the rest of the weekend could be run from Concord; except, STN-1 w/RCForb is down and STN-2 doesn't have RCForb installed - Oh what to do.

It occurred to me that being a RTTY contest, audio is NoT necessary on the remote end, as long
as I can see the RTTY decoder screen.  The decision was made to run the Alameda portion of the JARTS contest via VNC Viewer alone.  To do this required Axel (KI6RRN) to make a K3/0 connection to the radio setting the power levels for each band and "manually" adjusting the passband shift/width controls accommodating GooD copy RTTY.  Axel was my on-call control operator should that be required.  At midnight he handed over the on-call duties to N6KI.

As it turns out, things ran flawlessly during the Alameda leg of the weekend. 
Because I had no access to a tuning knob, I ran frequencies most of the time; except
when the lure of a juicy multiplier made its appearance.  It's a WEIRD Experience to tune
a station in by typing in decimal-point frequency changes.  Then again...... Whatever Works!


Over the years, RTTY contests have become quite a favorite.  Ssb contests can exact a toll on my voice and Cw requires me to copy code; running remote, a spotty internet connection can make this EXTREMELY Difficult, requiring NUMEROUS Repeats.

With RTTY, while the internet connection may "hiccup" frequently, decoded data is "waiting" to be shown when the internet connection resumes proper operation.  Having an effectively-complex audio-line setup allows the inclusion of Jazz/Classical music streams from my Pandora account (the best $48/yr I've ever spent).  With music in the background, I rarely get bored, even when the QSO rate drops considerably.


Indirectly, this weekend became another re-cabling weekend.  Brought back into service is a specially Mod'd MFJ-752b (to which was added an old MFJ CW-1 filter internally).  This has led me to roll out
a new Blog Entry on Rolling Your Own Audio.  We are so enamored w/built-in DSP's in our radios,
we neglect to consider that sometimes analog is STILL the way to Go. 
I even wrote a BLOG entry about this.

Monday evening, listening and ragchewing on 75-meters, we were plagued with low-level
but grating QRN.  Running split audio, the MFJ-784 cleaned up the Left-ear Experience. 
For the Right-ear, it gets a little complicated.  Earlier DSP radios (like my 1999 Yaesu FT-1000mp) have a caveat; the eDSP circuits are wired ONLY for the Main-RX audio path; the Sub-Rx is usually relatively wide-open.

While running the 5 contests 3-ways last weekend was WEIRD, all that matters is that the operations occurred.  Introducing new audio configurations for trial-run simply made this multi-faceted and more productive.  What about YOU?

DiD YOU have a protective radiosport weekend?

Is WQ6X and/or NX6T in YOUR LoGs?


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

WQ6X Dabbles in a "Little Bit of Everything" Radiosport Weekend


You've may well have heard me say "When in Doubt - CHEAT! (but within the rules)";
I even wrote a BLOG about that.  Having remote access to NX6T offers me the opportunity to
run one-or-more contest events remotely (as NX6T) and locally from Concord (as WQ6X or K6C).
There is no rule against my being a part of more than one radio operation during a given weekend;
as long as the activities remain separate and NoT Intertwined in any way, of course.

As it turns out, this weekend required a Bit of Everything.  The original operating goal was to stay
in Alameda and catch up on some work while slipping in hours of operating time, from time-to-time. 
A text message from N6KI late Wednesday evening washed-out the bridge from Alameda to Fallbrook (so to speak) - STN-1's hard-drive has failed.  

Unfortunately, we've never had RCForb running on STN-2; Why?  I haven't the foggiest. 
The only way to play radiosport this weekend was to hop near-empty BART trains to Concord;
the upside being that I can finish some of the radio and antenna configuration experiments started
the weekend before.

Radiosport-wise this weekend offered up a little bit of everything for my operating pleasure:
4 state QSO parties, 2 DX contests (one Cw and one Ssb) opening with the unusually fun
Makrothen RTTY GiG.  While I have the upcoming contests mapped-out months in advance,
I rely HEAVILY on the WA7BNM Contest Calendar for linking directly to the contest sponsor's information (website or .Pdf write up).

Altho all different radiosport events were happening throughout the weekend, in starting time order,
the ones WQ6X paid attention to included:

  • [x] - Makrothen RTTY Contest as WQ6X from Concord
  • [x] - Nevada QSO Party as NX6T & WQ6X
  • [x] - Oceania DX Cw Contest as NX6T & WQ6X
  • [x] - Scandinavian Activity Ssb Contest as NX6T
  • [x] - Arizona QSO Party as NX6T & WQ6X
  • [x] - Pennsylvania QSO Party as NX6T & WQ6X
  • [x] - South Dakota QSO Party as NX6T

Long before 2020 ever began, I took on a self-assigned challenge to work as many different radiosport contests /modes / locations as I can "shoehorn" into my operating activities from Alameda (all remote to NX6T) and Concord (remote as well as local) - a little bit of everything.  Last year's contest event total was 109 GiGs posted to the 3830Scores Website + 5 events that were NoT on the calendar.  With this weekend behind me, the numbers are 116 + 3.  With 10 more busy contest weekends
to go, it would seem I have set a new personal record.

The original goal was to run all QSO parties from both locations and somehow work the pair of DX contests in
the middle of both the parties.

Over the years, I've probably worked most counties thanks
to the state QSO parties.  I am thankful for the rover stations in QSO parties who activate multiple counties and sometimes straddle county lines for 2,3 and even 4 counties at once.

One of the goals for this last weekend was to further study propagation differences between the East Bay and Fallbrook.  Included in this investigation are the Russian military beacons which give indications of propagation to Asia from the West Coast.  I've been working on another installment of the Blog topic on the Russian beacons to document some new findings.  ([CLICK HERE] to read Part 2 of this series.)

Much of what I've been doing involves nothing other than Listening: Listening, Listening and MORE Listening.

 

You've prolly heard the saying "It's Always Something".  A portion of what we do in radiosport
is, in addition to actual operating, all about troubleshooting operational problems and equipment
failures; i.e. fixing equipment and analyzing antennas.

Unfortunately, with many WQ6X operations these activities don't occur until well AFTER the fact;
after the fun (or lack thereof) is already behind us.  I have an after-contest saying: "We will Do Better Next Time" (whenever "next time" is).

Last weekend a feedline break was found near the top of the 8JK trapezoid.  While the repair helped, some of the tuner settings were still quite sharp; transmitting on 160 would "BomB" the internet router, 3.5' across the room.  Because the CH-250 now tunes on 160 (a pair of long counterpoise wires were recently added), all along, my hope for the 8JK Trapezoid never quite materialized;
and, 160 IS a major goal.

While straightening the 8JK ladder line (traversing thru the closet into the radio room) yet another feedline break was encountered.  Was this NEWLY created, OR, has it been there all along? 
I guess we'll never know, however since the cable-splice, signal levels nearly tripled and WQ6X
signal reports are far more encouraging.  Best of all, a low SWR was obtained on 160 without
a single tweak to the internet router.  Prior to the fix, It would seem that RF was leaking out the
open feedline, filling up that tiny closet and overwhelming the router.

While the major fix attention was on antenna feedlines, thanks to re-cabling the equipment
the weekend before the FT-1000mp and it's bunch of related filters performed near-flawlessly.

When it was all over, 11 radiosport events were filed on 3830Scores.Com, which of course
set a new personal operating goal for WQ6X operations in a single calendar year.

What about You?

DiD YOU work any radiosport events last weekend?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Nov. 24 UPDATE:  It seems that TWO certificates were won from the NVQP GiG.