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?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WQ6X stumbles to safety in 1st GACW Contest

Until a week ago, I had never heard of the GACW South American contest. Thanks to PY1AX on Facebook I decided to run this 24 hour Dx contest.

Unfortunately, the 1st QSO in the log did not occur until EXACTLY 00:00z on Sunday - I was 9 hours behind from the start.  I didn't let that stop me from running frequencies and noting where the WQ6X signal was being heard; thanks to the incredibly elaborate network of CW skimmer stations that report up during contest operations.


Receiving Spot messages from the various skimmer stations became important once I discovered the rotor unit on tower #2 (which hosted both yagis I was using) was unable to turn due to a failed ancient control cable).

The 2-element 40-m yagi was position-frozen at 33-degrees (pointing to Europe) and the 3-element Stepp-IR yagi was frozen pointing more-or-less at 123-degrees more-or-less in the desired direction of South America.


As the contest progressed I set the Stepp-IR to BI-directional, giving me access to a few JA QSOs along with the occasional South American station; which after all is what this contest was all about.  Unfortunately my beef of not enough stations playing in their own contest was certainly evident this weekend.

The next challenge occurred at 03:00z. N1MM+ was on auto-repeat calling CQ when the local internet died. That meant the CQ calls kept on going.  I couldn't respond to calling stations, let alone "press" the [ESC] key to stop the CQ.

This is of course the risk in running auto-repeat; a broken internet connection can leave that on uncontrollable auto-pilot. OOOOppppssss...

 I found an Xfinity router in the vicinity and invested $7.95 for 24 hours access.
Once internet access was regained, I clicked on the [ESC] key and took a deep breath.

As I mentioned earlier, I used the GACW contest as an experiment in noticing where my CQ calls were being heard.

While WQ6X was not reported as being spotted outside of North America, the spots from USA and Canada helped me to pinpoint WHERE in the world the STUCK yagis were actually reaching. 

Although the Stepp-IR yagi was pointing between Japan and South America on 20-meters, I received more calls from Russia (RZ3, RZ6 & several R7 stations) as well as Spain (EW6) than anywhere else. In fact, the FIRST South American station I worked did not occur until I found LU6UO on 20-meters at 13:29z - virtually 90 minutes before the end of contest. Just after 14:00z propagation opened to South America on 15 meters putting a series of 5-point QSOs in the log. Unfortunately, in less than an hour the contest was over.

Every CW contest I report the various kinds of "intentional" QRM - this event was no exception.
On top of the heavy QRN on 40 & 80 meters, I was bombarded my RTTY signals on 40-meters
and the usual bunch of stations not listening before transmitting on the WQ6X run frequency.
Using VFO-B I would switch from 14036.36 to 14037.37 to avoid a careless CQ'er, coming back
to 14.036 approx. 5 minutes later when he made no QSOs, got BORED and split.  Because of the stuck yagi position, no Russian military beacons were heard on 7.039.

The weekend's band Condx. were perplexingly confusing. Space WX reports showed the A & K indices very low, yet the upperband forecasts
were listed as POOR.

The truth is that there were many upper band openings on 15 & 20, yet I couldn't FORCE 10-meters to open up. Running assisted I was able to work some obvious spots.


Then again, as I was running frequencies most of the time, seemingly dead bands would suddenly produce S-7 to S-9 calling signals from Europe. The FEW JA stations I worked were on 20-meters; amazingly NOT on 40 meters, as usually happens. 

My CQ calls at 08:00 produced NOTHING in response, except stations tuning up their amplifiers;
I guess 7017.17 was the National Tuneup Frequency (NTF) for this contest. After a few hours sleep
I finished the GACW contest on 20 meters, moving to 15 meters in the last hour.  Possibly I should have checked 15 sooner; it often opens up earlier in the morning during the summertime blues; despite the depths of Solar Cycle 24.

While running a frequency, I was continuously surprised to have stations call me (why they didn't know) and start to ragchew. I guess they didn't understand what "CQ WWSA WQ6X WQ6X Test" means. A common reply was to send me their state code - like in a QSO party.
When I asked for their Zone, they either went "HuH?" or sent me a serial #.

Because events like the GACW/WWSA contest are not well known, most operators have never heard of the event and don't realize they could look it up in the WA7BNM Contest Calendar; Calendar? What calendar? I allocated function key F6 to send "Zone?" and F7 to send "o3".


On the other side of things, when I worked N8OO on 20-meters, he all but PLEADED with me to work him on 80-meters that evening; which eventually happened.  As it turned out, N8OO was the ONLY 80-meter WQ6X contact; despite being spotted by numerous skimmers.

According to the 80-m CW skimmers, WQ6X was being heard as far N/E as Ohio and VE3 - not bad for a CRUMMY Inverted floppy Vee. Throughout the weekend I made LENGTHY CQ calls, being spotted IMMEDIATELY, and yet often times no QSOs came for several minutes. HuH?

At 15:00z it was all over with a WHOPPing 44 QSOs in the log; on 4 amateur bands in 17 Zones and 11 Countries.

After the contest event, according to the 3830Scores .Com website, WQ6X took 2nd place to PS8HF(appropriately in South America) and 1st place for North America; not bad for a contest I didn't even know existed before a week ago. Again, thank you PY1AX for tipping me off about this.

 
Did YOU work the GACW WWSA contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

WQ6X Dabbles in the AQP Alabama QSO Party


It's hard to believe that the WPX-CW contest is over a week behind us. My business trip to sunny downtown Blurbank followed by the operation in Fallbrook and then the Amtrak train ride back was quite exhausting. I couldn't wait to hit the bed and watch mindless baseball on TV when I got back. Because of the Memorial Day holiday, this week went by real fast. Before I knew it this weekend
(and the AQP QSO Party) was already here.

After client work on Saturday, I fired up the RCForb and VNC Viewer software @22:00z to attempt
a CW entry in the Alabama QSO party (AQP) from STN-1 @ NX6T ("NashVille") in Fallbrook, Ca. Everything set up fine except that for some reason the CW COM port (COM3) was allegedly being used by some other software. Rebooting the computer didn't resolve the problem so I resorted to a solution I discovered last month; namely, using CW macros in the RCForb interface to send the CW while using the N1MM software under VNC viewer to actually log the QSOs. Because I was only doing Search & Pounce (S&P), this was not much of a problem.

To make things simple I ran the Elecraft K3 barefoot into the Stepp-IR yagi on tower #2 which was lowered to it's 43 foot height but was high enough to do a reasonable job to Alabama. For 40 meters, the 2-el yagi on tower 2 also did a reasonable job. While not a super performer, the 80-meter Inverted Vee was good enough to put a dozen QSOs
in the log. 

For this event, high power was NoT needed - I was able to work everyone I could hear; most of the time being the 1st station responded to in pileups.

My usual beef with most state QSO parties is that there
are not enough "hearable" stations participating in their
own events. In fact, it would seem that mobile stations
were often louder than the fixed stations - Go Figure.
While I managed to put 61 QSOs in the log, the actual number of stations I worked was only 24.

For this event, I started too late for 15 meters to be of any value, relegating
20-meters as the starting band.

Despite the marginal space weather forecast, QRN-wise, 20 meters was relatively quiet.

However when I made the move to 40 meters at 00:15z the QRN was around S-8 and just as bad later on 80-meters.


The artifact from the K3's NR DSP circuits actually made copy WORSE not better, altho on 80-meters, the K3's NB (noise blanker) managed to successfully chop the tops off the static PoPs.

Having access to the Alabama Counties list on the QSO party website made things a LoT easier. Thanks of course go to the many mobile stations who activated multiple counties; altho in this
contest, according to the rules, straddling county lines was not permitted.
This is too bad because most state QSO parties allow 2 & 3 county straddling.


My operating goal was to put 60 Alabama QSOs into the log. Not only did I JUST make that at
the last minute, W4ER gave me the one and only MOBI (Mobile county) QSO, literally in the last
30 seconds of the QSO party - resulting in 28 of the 67 counties making it into the WQ6X log.



While I would have preferred another 6 hours or so to make more QSOs, many QSO parties, like this one are just 12 hour events.

I guess I am spoiled by the 30 hour California QSO Party (CQP) gigs every October. Nevertheless, it was a lot of
fun making this hokey operation
actually work.

Will I give it another go in 2018?
Sure, why not?!



This is what the N1MM screen looked like just after the contest;
not necessarily pretty, but certainly effective.

 
Do YOU work the Alabama QSO Party?
How many Alabama counties are in YOUR Log?
 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

2017 Weird Prefix Contest is weirder than ever

DL3YM & N6KI @ 23:55z be-4 WPX
In the last year, contest-wise, work commitments have largely kept me in the SF bay area.
However during the last 7 years I have made the drive (or hopped on Amtrak to Oceanside) to play live in a Multi-2 approach to WPX CW contest @ NX6T ("NashVille") in Fallbrook, north of San Diego.
(For the SSB WPX contest in March I ran single-OP as WQ6X but remotely from the NX6T station.)

For the Memorial day weekend, instead of another 10+ hour drive to "NashVille" I enjoyed another leisurely Amtrak ride allowing me to finish writing recent contest BLOG entry material along with internet research in preparation for the WPX contest event.

This year we were blessed with another top-notch CW operator - DL3YM, joining us before
heading onto a business conference in downtown Los Angeles. It was W6JBR who picked me up
at the Oceanside Amtrak station Friday afternoon and DL3YM who delivered me back there Sunday evening before taking I-5 to L.A. Thank you both.


This year we again ran as a Multi-2 station using three Elecraft K3 radios.  Stations 2 & 3 are interlocked, allowing only one station to transmit at a time.  When the OP at STN-3 finds a new station to work, a hand gesture to the STN-2 OP instructs him to standby
while STN-3 makes the QSO.

With 3 radios in action, the 2017 WPX CW contest was hardly a disappoint-ment; unless you factor in the NASTY space weather.  (More on that later).

With the proliferation of more and more unique callsign prefixes, it seems that the CQ WPX
(aka Weird Prefix) contest gets weirder with each event.  The WPX contest seem to bring out the WEIRDEST callsigns, which is why we call it the Weird Prefix Contest.

I believe the WEIRDEST callsign of ALL-TIME was present in this contest; namely: VC3C2C. 
Some of my favorites from this GiG include: AG1RL & JA2GAL, DF0WRTC, 8J1ITU, XE2X, WA0WWW & WI0WA, OE8TED, DS2FAG, 9A/E77DX, TI8/AA8HH, 7K1MAG/2, E51DWC,
5W1SA, ZL40BQD, AB5ZA/7 & CT9/R7KW, YC9FAR, 7N3WRE & VE3NRG.


Being physically present in Fallbrook,
as always we used my WQ6X callsign, making us the only WQ6 station in the entire contest and more sought after.

The San Diego contest club station was its usual organized clutter, except that one of the ACOM 2000 amplifiers was replace by an EXPERT 2kL linear amplifier.
This amp uses a set of 4 fans that are actually noisier than the ACOM units.

NX6T's Highly organized connect cabling setup
While the EXPERT amp performed reasonably well, RFI in the shack occasionally impacted the remote interface to the amplifier. 

Maybe the RFI had something to do
with the precise [sic] cabling behind the scenes (some changes were made
in the past week); but I'm getting
ahead of myself.

We were also PLAGUED with horrible space weather throughout the weekend. How come solar storms never hit mid-week, and "only" during contest weekends?

WQ6X waiting for 10-meters to open
Again, I'm getting ahead of things in this BLOG entry.
Being a 48 hour marathon, the WPX contest offers
multiple opportunities for operations on each band.

Because of RFI issues clobbering the internet router,
we were unable to run 160 meters.  Considering the
noise levels it makes me wonder if we missed out.  Checking the 383Scores log submissions, it would
seem that North American stations had little success
on 160; whereas the exact opposite was the case
for Europe.

Due to the continual decline of Solar Cycle 24, 10 meters becomes less of a factor, while 40 & 80 meters bring us increasing contest activity; probably to the dismay of
non-contest CW ragchew operators.

Surprisingly I was able to use the crowbar method and
put several dozen 10-meters QSOs in the log; and again,
I am getting ahead of myself.


Virtually every CW contest I engage in brings out new sources of intentional QRM. Most of my fellow Fallbrook operators don't notice it because the QRM happens usually on 40-meters after 08:00z - 09:00z while they are sound asleep. We nightshift people are the ones who get bombarded by careless and antagonistic radio operations. This contest was no different.

NX6T in the "wee hours"
Saturday morning around 09:55z while running a frequency on 7012.12 all of a sudden some very funky sounding CW showed up on the run frequency.

In the past, this weird CW has been attributed to E. Russia altho I haven't heard this CW style in a couple of years.

Being that the antenna was pointed more-or-less @345-degrees, UA9/UA0 is a possibility. I moved to 7013.13
to get away from the weirdness. 

YC9SWQ from QRZ.Com
Everything was fine until malicious SSB QRM showed up around 10:20z, prompting me to move back to 7012.12,
which was now quiet.

Stations were dutifully lining up to put WQ6X in their log until 10:47 when a Loud HOWLING noise appeared followed by
an Ssb-audio CW calling "CQ WPX de YC9SWQ.

This went on intermittently yet continuously.
The QRM got so loud that I moved to 7.027.27 to escape
the cacophony. Then at 12:53z YC9SWQ was now at it
again on 7.027 with that HOWL seeming LOUDer than ever. This station never worked anybody so it was clearly nothing more than harassment; or the guy was under the influence
of one of the witch doctor's concoctions.

After the contest, I looked up his callsign on QRZ.Com and found this WEIRD picture. Which one was the operator?
The guy on the right or the witch doctor on the left?




When I figured out that this was harassment, it was time to make the move to 7.025.25. Unfortunately, by 13:18z the illegal Indonesian SSB stations moved in on me.

Sometimes it seems that you can't win, you can't lose and you can't even QUIT the game.

Because we rely heavily on the JA prefixes to up the multiplier count I usually turn the 2-el 40-meter yagi Northwest, at the risk of encountering the illegal Indonesian SSB crap, or one of the Russian military beacons stations on 7.039.57.

While I normally hear 2 or 3 beacons every CW contest, this weekend, only the "M" beacon could
be heard; probably because the others were below the threshold of the nearly-S9 QRN levels on
40 meters produced by the weekend's solar storm.

K4RB fresh @ 8am (15:00z)
While I managed to operate straight-thru from 2am to noon (local time) on Saturday, doing that two days in
a row was not possible.

Luckily my relief came as it often does @ 8am Sunday morning when K4RB takes over for 4 - 6 hours, just in time for the "day shift" operators to take over until around 00:00z when sleeping OPs (like me) finally wander back into the shack.

I took the opportunity to make a brief YouTube video Saturday afternoon, only to discover that despite holding the cellphone "correctly", there was enough tilt that the GPS-circuit thought I was holding the phone sideways.

A Toastmaster's compatriot has offered up some video-editing help to turn everything 90-degrees, for eventually putting the video online. Stay Tuned.



Weekend Space WX Data
The BiG story regarding the 2017 WPX CW contest is the MAJOR solar storm that hit around 06:00z on Sunday morning (approx. 10pm local time).

This produced near S9 noise levels on both 40 & 80 meters, while 20 meters seemed relatively free of that atmospheric noise.


Altho no one else seems to have reported it, I noticed high noise levels nearly 24 hours before the reported storms. Unfortunately, the K3's noise blanker accomplished virtually nothing to take the
tops off the noise and the DSP noise reduction circuits altered signal readability more than it
actually removed any noise. 



In retrospect I should have brought my MFJ 1026 noise canceling signal enhancer or scrounged the JPS ANC-4 unit languishing in a box somewhere in
the NX6T shack.

Those units can often phase null noise sources. Under the right conditions, units like the MFJ-1026 and the ANC-4 can make a DRAMATIC difference in signal readability without the side
effects of DSP circuit artifact.



When it comes time to submit logs, 3830 Scores and BLOG entries, it's easy to say, "don't worry, I'll get around to it".  This weekend I found a round TUIT in the shack, so there was no excuse for us not to take care of business quickly after the contest.

We can thank N6KI for that. Results-wise, according to the 38330Scores website, the WQ6X WPX operation took 17th place worldwide, 5th place for North America and 1st place for W6; not bad for a motley crew of 6 aging OPs.

WQ6X (foreground) & DL3YM

Because we had several operators drop out just before the contest, having Andy (DL3YM) join us probably added 25% to our QSO total. Andy and I dual-OP'd the dinner hour on Friday evening and then he joined me again Saturday morning which helped keep me awake until noon, when Dennis (N6KI) rolled out of bed so I could roll INTO bed.

During recent contest weekends 10 meters has been a no-show with 15-meters not being much better. Nevertheless, if everyone is listening and no one is calling CQ, an open 10-meters can
often sound DEAD.  Even under seemingly poor CONDX., there is often a 10-meter opening
to South America.

For this weekend I made 59 QSOs on 10 meters and we put over 500 QSOs in the log on 15 meters. 20 meters was,
as they say, the "money band" with over 1700 QSOs.

40 meters gave us nearly 800 QSOs and 80 meters over 150; all despite the S-9 noise levels.

Imagine what we could have done had there
been no solar storm
this weekend.

Statistics-wise it is very clear that while we had a STRONG rate at the beginning of the contest, however (probably due
to the oncoming solar storms) that rate steadily declined all the way to the end of the contest.

Friday evening before the dinner hour
I sat in as a 3rd operator to work multipliers on 20 meters while N6KI
ran a frequency.

Otherwise, most of the time we lacked a 3rd operator. In exchange we had the benefit of N6CY running station #2 remotely Friday evening while I ran station #1. Saturday evening K6AM
remoted in during the dinner hour and beyond, adding some nice mults to the log.

When it was all over, this is what the final WINTEST screen looked like.



Before wrapping this BLOG entry allow me to make a few specific comments about contest
operating WPX in general.


  1. Be patient and DON'T GIVE UP SO EASILY!
    Because I run frequencies a lot I frequently encounter situations where several
    stations are calling me at the same time; often making it difficult to pick out a callsign. 
    I finally work one of those stations and call "QRZ?" only to find that ALL of the other callers have DISSAPEARED?  Huh?  Where are you going?  All you had to do was wait around 10 seconds and you would be next up.  Were you able to find another station and secure a QSO in 10 seconds?  I don't think so!
  2. I program the F6 WINTEST key to send JUST the QSO number w/o the 5NN.  When I ask NR?, do NOT waste time by sending 5NN + NR.  With horrible space WX like this weekend, the QSB-fading is often so fast that by the time you have sent me the unnecessary additional 5NN your signal has faded into the noise and I have to send "NR?" again.  Numerous times 3 or more repeats were necessary, all of which could have been avoided by the station sending JUST the number when asked.
  3. Stations who work CW at greater than 30 Wpm WASTE EVERYBODY's TIME! 
    We are NoT impressed by you sending CW @35wpm which nobody can understand.  Because the prefixes are often unique in WPX, it is important that you SLOW DOWN
    when you send your Callsign AND when you send the QSO #.  If I mis-read your callsign
    and enter it in the log incorrectly then YOU will get DINGED by the Log Checking Robot
    (LCR) because YOUR callsign does not show up in my log.
    In many cases I had to manually send "QRS".  If I can't understand you then I will
    NoT log you.  Likewise, when a station calls me at 20wpm or less, do you know
    what I do? - I SLOW DOWN to match the caller's speed.  Doing so is a show
    of respect and a guarantee that we make the QSO.
    Typically I run at 24 - 25 wpm.
    WINTEST allows me to set up the CW macros to speed up and slow down
    during the transmission such as:
    F1: CQ +++TEST--- WQ6X WQ6X +++TEST---
    -or-
    F2: W6XYZ +++5NN--- 1234
    -or-
    F3: ++TU-- WQ6X
  4. Before you start CQ'ing on a frequency or even asking "QRL?", LISTEN FIRST. 
    If you start transmitting while I am attempting to copy a weak signal, if I don't respond
    to your needless "QRL?" message, because you are not listening first, you will
    assume the frequency is now yours.  If I DO take the time so send to you "QRL!" then
    I have to follow that up with asking the calling station to repeat their exchange - a
    COMPLETE WAST of TIME.
    Bottom line?: LISTEN FIRST BEFORE TRANSMITTING!
  5. When I am attempting to pick out a callsign and I send something like "JA2?" if your
    callsign is something like "IK6xxx" I DO NOT want to hear from you.  I often work the
    1st station I start to hear, NoT the station who is the loudest.  So if you are LOUDer
    than the station I am attempting to work, you COVER UP that station requiring me
    to send "JA2?" again and again until YOU SHUT UP and let the JA2 station complete
    their QSO with me.  If you violate this enough times I will simply IGNORE you and
    you will NEVER end up in the WQ6X log.
  6. If you are a station running SO2R, then do it responsibly.  Calling CQ with a 1-second
    gap between calls is simply your way of HOGGING a frequency, not of actually working anyone.  With a 1 second gap, there is not enough time for me or anyone else to press
    F4 sending the callsign.  If you are S-9 and I know I am too... when I call you, if there is
    no one else on that frequency to give you a QSO then WORK ME.  If the reason you
    don't come back to me is because you are busy on another frequency - that is UNACCEPTABLE.  If I call you THREE TIMES and you do not respond to me or anyone
    else, I will then send "QRL?" 3 times.  If I still hear nothing then the frequency is MINE
    and I will call CQ.  If you now come back and immediately start calling CQ (without
    listening first) then you are QRM'ing a busy frequency which is a VIOLATION of FCC
    rules.  If you can't keep two frequencies going w/o delay then SO2R is NoT for you - so
    turn off VFO-B or the other radio.
    In a recent QSO party, a station would make a CW QSO and then solicit that station
    to QSO on SSB, often leaving the rest of us stranded for 20+ seconds - NoT ACCEPTABLE. 
    I reported this station to the contest organizer as a violation of contest ethics.
What is all the above saying?  It is reminding us that more important than ANYTHING in
radiosport is that we should operate with kindness, courtesy, respect and efficiency. 
When stations consistently violate proper contest decorum, after the contest is over
I send an e-mail to the contest host naming callsigns of the violators.
Have you ever been disqualified (DQ'd) from a contest? 
Maybe that's why.

Did YOU play in the 2017 WPX CW contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Sometimes just showing up... Part II

[In May of 2013 I wrote a Blog entry suggesting the importance of showing up to radiosport events and submitting a log, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. [CLICK Here] to read the original write-up.  Additionally, in August 20154 I wrote a BLOG on the importance of documenting contest activity. [CLICK Here] to read that write-up.]  
Here are some further thoughts on these topics.


It's no secret that I love radiosport; aka amateur radio contesting. Outside of my research and work with Introspection Therapy,
amateur radio (and radiosport in particular) occupies much of my time.

Back in the olden days I "played around" in the usual bunch of contests: ARRL Dx, CQ WPX & DX contests, November Sweepstakes and of course Field Day. While I knew about the many other kinds of contests (such as the many European contests and the state QSO parties in the USA), I rarely joined in.


W6ML Crew - 1st Place (2001)

After the Y2K hoopla settled down in 2000,
I got serious about contesting.

 During Field Day 2000 operating with the W6SW crew atop Mt. Abel, Jim (W6KC) proposed that it was time to put together a "serious" multi-multi CQP expedition at Mammoth Lakes (Mono county).



From 2000 - 2003 we operated as W6ML accomplishing a series
of 1st place wins.  As the sunspot cycle made its inevitable decline, W6KC switched over to running single-OP events from Mammoth taking many awards and I began portable operations from a multi-million dollar house under construction at the time in Ojai California.

Winning a couple of CQP certificates from Ventura county during
2004 - 2007 got me interested in contesting all over again.
One of the reasons I put together the WQ6X.Info website was
to document contest activity, as well as other things of interest
in amateur radio.

In late 2009 a chance encounter with N6GEO at a class reunion brought us together again and our dual-OP contest activities began. Documenting our activities was one of the reasons I began this
contest BLOG in the first place. A special CQP web section
on the WQ6X.Info website documents all my CQP activities.


If you look through the BLOG entries I've written you will notice that I have dabbled in all different kinds of contests.

I rely heavily on the WA7BNM contest calendar to see what is up and coming.



Many contests are single mode affairs. Other contests (like state QSO parties) give you a choice to run CW, SSB or mixed mode. In the last couple of years I have received certificates by submitting a CW only entry.  Then again, in other contests I have scored a winning entry by running mixed-mode when most of the competition wasn't; doing this netted Dennis N6KI & WQ6X a win running mixed-mode as NX6T in the South American SA-10 10-meter contest.

When I get interested in a contest I often go to the contest sponsor's website to look up the results of the last 3 years, giving me an idea of where the greatest and the least competition is.

Case in point: for the November Sweepstakes I thought there would
be more competition in the "assisted" categories so I avoided them.

As it turns out the competition in the unassisted category has been way
more fierce. Operating in the assisted category has resulted in several section wins and even a Pacific Division plaque.


During contest operations I find opportunities to keep side-notes
(on a note pad next to my operating position), and, thanks to a
screen capture utility I wrote called SNAP-Shot!, I take pictures
of the computer screens behind running the contest.
Finally, after leveraging a given equipment installation for
a given contest event (or events), I do several things:
  • I use the notes and screen shots to produce a BLOG
    Entry for the WQ6X Contest Blog
  • I make a score submission to the 3830 Scores website.
    [CLICK Here] to see the list of WQ6X's 3830Score submissions.
  • I submit the log to the contest host, no matter how FEW QSOs are in the log.  I have submitted 1, 2 & 3 QSO contest logs many times and frequently receive personal thank you notes from contest organizers.
    Submitting every log actually makes the log checking process faster and more accurate.



Doing the above has resulted in several surprise plaque and certificate awards showing up at my P.O. Box.

These awards are the final acknowledgement of a job well done; from making the actual QSOs to doing the follow-up work afterwards.

In the beginning I NEVER submitted contest logs, for many reasons; missing out on several awards. Now, no matter what I ALWAYS submit a log.



What callsign to use can be a contributing factor towards a winning contest event. For many events (such as the California QSO Party - CQP) I have been known to reserve a 1x1 callsign; such as W6C, W6E, W6K, W6R, K6A, K6M, K6S & K6T.

This allows the callsign to stand out, altho the downside is that some operators get confused by the short callsign and ask for a repeat on it. I once reserved N6K and set about a confusion between me and Dennis, N6KI - I'll never do THAT again!

For other contests, I am finding that my own WQ6X callsign is often more recognizable, making it the preferred choice in contests like November Sweepstakes, CQ WPX, the NAQP GiGs and most
of the state QSO parties (except CQP).

A MAJOR reason I engage in radiosport is my desire to maximize equipment utilization.  In other words, in an ideal scenario I endeavor to try out new ideas; either to improve signal/noise ratio, setup better contest screen layouts, or unique antenna configurations.

One of the newer ideas I have been toying with is to improve the "backend" of the FT-1000mp's secondary receiver. 

While the 1000mp sports a WONderful eDSP facility,
it only processes audio from the MAIN receiver (Rcvr-A), leaving Rcvr-B unprocessed.

Because Rcvr-B audio by default comes through the right channel,
it is easily rerouted through the JPS NIR-12 and then back to the
right channel in the headphones. I recently wrote this up in a Blog
on leveraging dual receive. {CLICK HERE] to read this write-up.

There are many reasons to show up for a radiosport event.

When did YOU last engage in a radiosport event?

Which contests are YOUR Favorite?

Monday, May 22, 2017

KING of SPAIN Contest teaches VALUABLE lesson

Stations 1, 2 & 3 @ NX6T in Fallbrook

Due to previous entries in the King of Spain (k-o-S) CW contest I am on the contest committee's mailing list, receiving a reminder of the upcoming 2017 K-o-S event about a week ago.
However as usual, I made last minute arrangements to run the contest remotely as
WQ6X from NX6T ("NashVille") in Fallbrook, California.

A number of operational goals were accomplished this weekend, the main thing being a test-drive
of a new air conditioning approach for use in the shack during unattended remote operations.
You may recall that a couple of contests back Station #1's laptop overheated and shutdown
creating a vicious circle making it impossible to continue operations that weekend; and this
was with the amplifier on, but in STBY mode. KW amplifiers generate almost as much
room heat sitting there doing nothing as they do during FULL keydown.

For this weekend, operations began at 100-watts, quickly escalating to 500, 750 and
finally 1.1kw; all with no laptop shutdown - Hurrah!


Space WX wise, things were quite horrible. Opening the weekend,
the K-Index was 4.

Although I made many forays onto 15 meters and was even spotted across the U.S., no contest QSOs were to be had.

80 meters was quite noisy and produced no contest QSOs even though I was spotted by skimmers in VE3 and W9.


That left 20 meters (with less than 20 QSOs), with the majority being made on 40-meters. After the contest was over it was a no-brainer to submit this year's K-o-S log as a Single-OP 40-meter entry.



Every contest operation I am a part of (be it live or remote) is visited by a number of operating anomalies. While some things tend to occur repeatedly, nearly every event brings something new.  This weekend's "something new" came
in the form of a "beeping beacon" sound on 7022.53 at 00:15z. It disappeared for a couple of hours (or was not hearable due to shifting propagation and/or solar storms) reappearing at 04:13z, but much weaker.

Fortunately the Indonesian illegal SSB operations in
the 7.015 - 7.025 region never materialized in Fallbrook; probably having more to do with the 2-el yagi pointing at Spain (~35-degrees) and not Asia (~330-degrees).  

Unfortunately, at 22:57z I was "heckled" by an IDIOT who would immediately send "N-I-L" after every CQ call I made on 14015.15.  Eventually he became even MORE Bored than when he found me and sauntered off to harass someone else.  Just in case, I took refuge on 40-meters,

Throughout the evening a phase-shit rushing sound could be heard ~7.029. Either this was a "professional" jammer, or more likely, some idiot amateur screwing around again (I've heard
this same cacophony during the last 3 contest weekends).

After midnight, hoping to catch some Asians (or at least JA's) playing in the K-o-S contest, I

pointed the yagi to 325-degrees. All I heard were the "M" & "D" Russian military beacons on
7.039, altho the "D" beacon was much weaker this weekend than the last two.



Windoze Device Mangler


This contest weekend, the lesson to be learned
is: CHECK EVERYTHING OUT.

While setting up N1MM+ on Friday evening, checking
the contest rules and finding out about the space weather problems, the one thing I neglected to check was whether or not N1MM+ could actually key the radio.

The RCForb remote access software was able to tune the radio and N1MM+ was able to CAT control the radio just fine. To keep the shack cool, I chose not to turn on the amplifier until actual contest starting time (12:00z).

Rolling out of bed and firing up a pot of coffee,
I fired up VNC Viewer and prepared to test-send
the radio - NOTHING! HuH?



After a number of experimental tests I concluded that the Winkeyer unit (which lives on the COM4 port) was not responding. Bringing up the Windoze XP Device Mangler showed that the comm port was not in the system. Rebooting the computer did NoT bring it back. Now what?


RCForb CW Macros

Remembering that in the WPX-SSB contest I used RCForb to access the 4 voice keyer memories of the K3 radio, it seemed logical that I should be able to accomplish something similar for CW.

That something similar came in the form of defining a set of Function Key macros under RCForb, running the contest by function keys and switching screens to N1MM+ to log the actual contacts.




At first I thought I was relegated to
JUST running S&P (Search & Pounce).

Eventually with a little practice I was able to actually run several frequencies, altho to stations on the other end I probably came off as a novice contester; which I was when it comes to this kind

of ad-HOC approach to operating.



Nevertheless, WQ6X's 1-kw signal was heard well enough (esp. on 40 meters) to be spotted by many skimmer stations, near and far. Many times I would make a single "CQ EA Test" call and receive a "WQ6X spotted" message within 10 seconds. AmaZing!

Because I had enough to deal with, I chose to forgo running SO2-V (Single-OP 2-VFO's) in this contest. To make things easier I found a chart on the EA contest webpage detailing all the
Spanish provinces and their abbreviation codes.



After running a frequency for awhile produced nothing new I would check other bands and/or S&P.

It was at this time I happened onto

a TEASE Spanish station (EA6NB)
who was calling CQ DX and was specifically NoT in the contest.


HuH? Whut? A Spaniard disrespecting the King by NOT playing in the King of Spain contest? HOORORS! If *I* can play in the King of Spain contest, so can they.

Did YOU play in the King of Spain contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?