Monday, February 27, 2017

WQ6X joins the 2017 NAQP RTTY action

The North American QSO party contests are unique events in that they do not allow high power entries. All stations must run 100 watts or less; putting more importance on the antenna and receiving systems.

Last month I participated in the CW & SSB NAQP events running my FT-1000mp portable from W7AYT. A couple of weekends back I ran the WPX RTTY contest remotely from NX6T in Fallbrook putting a 550 watt signal on the air.

For NAQP RTTY this weekend I setup another remote operation from NX6T. Because NAQP max power is 100 watts and RTTY is considered a full-duty cycle mode which can put a lot of strain on most radios, setting the k3 output power down to 4 watts and driving the ACOM 2000a amplifier to ~ 99 watts seemed to solve that problem; until the IP-remote control of the amplifier failed.

Without amplifier control I bypassed the amp and set the power to ~ 60 watts. Unfortunately I forgot to up the power for 80 meters and made the 1st 9 QSOs running only 4 watts - Oops. Nevertheless calling CQ on 3575.75, I received calls from: N0NI, NV9L, VE7FO, K9GWS, N7MDS & WB6JJJ - go figure. When I jumped the power to 62 watts several receiver front-ends probably received quite a BLAST.

(Left) 2-EL on 40 & 80-m Inv Vee
(Right) C-31 Yagi --- both @ 13mh
While I setup NX6T's station #1 the night before, before the 10 am contest start someone errantly removed the C-31 from the antenna switch. Because the ACOM 2000a kept faulting on high SWR, I set about discovering what the problem really was. Because single-OPs are only allowed to operate 10 out of the 12 contest hours, this became my first off hour. Suddenly, the antenna problem was resolved and WQ6X fired-up on 21104.04.

The last several contest weekends have happened amidst poor space weather conditions.  This weekend, while the predictions were more favorable, for NAQP 10 meters was non-existent with 20 & 15 being a toss-up for best band. Outside of one VK5 station on 20 (who called me off the back of the C-31 yagi), there were no QSOs outside of U.S. and Canada; no Central/South America, no EU and no JA - HuH?

The DX-Map spotting facility spotted WQ6X being heard in Japan
and yet there was no one there to work me - Bummer Dewd!

WQ6X spotted by 7L4IOU
During NAQP we exchange Name and QTH. We do NOT send signal reports so the 40% of reports I received that had a "599" in it were wasting time and bandwidth. When the fast QSB hits, sending additional data that is not only NoT needed, it then preempts proper receipt of name or QTH when the signal fades at the end; which necessitates unnecessary repeats.

On the plus side, I liked the creative use of names such as: BIGFRANK, HILLTOP, DOYLE, CJ & JERZY (who was actually in NY).

Because this was a remote operation I chose to run frequencies 99% of the time. Unfortunately, many stations would call me OFF FREQUENCY and then get mad when I told them to tune me in rather than using RIT (which is not possible to do using the RCForb software to run the K3).

So, instead of getting MAD at me or calling me LAZY (as one station did), the REAL solution is to BE ON FREQUENCY WHEN YOU CALL ME - HELLO!.......

If you can read my message saying your are off frequency, then synch your VFOs before calling me. If you cannot read that message then you ARE off frequency and need to tune me in. My message to these idiots is: "What part about being on frequency before making a radio transmission do you NOT understand?"

During the last hour while running on 3575.75 at 04:30z I got preempted by the RN6 CW traffic net so I setup camp on 3592.92. Unfortunately, stations seemed to have trouble finding me after that so I made the final 3 QSOs on 7.100.

To wrap the weekend, on Sunday while capturing the NAQP log, I remembered the North Carolina QSO party (NAQP) was also happening so I spent the final hour of the NCQP picking off a dozen NC stations on 20 and then 40 meters. I was amazed that I could be heard on 40 at 00:30z.


Did you play in the NAQP RTTY contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

Monday, February 20, 2017

WQ6X works the ARRL Dx Test remotely on CW

Station #1 @ NX6T
This weekend found WQ6X running another ARRL Dx contest remotely from the NX6T station in Fallbrook (aka "NashVille").

Last year I ran the station remotely from the Gold Strike casino hotel with relatively horrible internet access. This weekend, thanks to a super internet connection I had very few latency problems.

When the internet router would inevitably degrade, I ran a local reset program, waited about 4 minutes and voila! I was back in business.

Altho space weather predictions were horrible, not only were QSO rates quite decent, this weekend even produced a pair of 10 meter openings on Saturday and Sunday.  On Friday evening Fallbrook was plagued with a lot of atmospheric noise which was leveled off by the K3 radio's noise reduction circuits. Normally I don't like the K3's DSP noise reduction, however this weekend it made the difference.

WQ6X working KH6 on 10 meters

Despite reports that we are 2 - 3 years away from the bottom of the sunspot cycle, instinct tells me we are less than a year away; something we will not know for sure until around 2021, or thereabouts.

During declining sunspot cycle periods, 40 meter DX opportunities take on the profile that we encountered on 20 meters several years ago.

WQ6X spotted on 15 meters

This manifested in my being able to run pileups with stations deep into Europe early in the evening on 40 meters.

Even Western Europe made its way to the west coast on 80 meters Saturday evening. While I was unable to work 160 (it bombs out the internet router) I have heard many favorable west coast reports on 160 propagation.

The station setup included an Elecraft K3 front-ending an ACOM 2000a amplifier dialed back to 550 watts into an 80-meter inverted Vee and 2 elements on 40.

For the high bands I mainly used a C-31 yagi. Also available was a Stepp-IR attached to antenna #2 on the K3 although to use it I had to run barefoot. Running 100 watts on the Stepp-IR sometimes allowed me to make a quick QSO w/o having to wait for the C-31 to rotate around.

Stepp-IR + 2-el 40 (above)
C-31 Yagi (below)
This contest brought a NUMBER of questionable operating practices to light. While I don't normally "name names", I feel compelled to identify the violators in these cases; especially because they should know better.

Lets begin with stations operating OUT OF BAND.
At 08:42z I copied K3LR calling CQ with a run frequency that ZERO-beat was EXACTLY 3499.70. Later at 09:25z I copied K1ZM with a run frequency that ZERO-beat EXACTLY at 6999.89. Lest you conclude that the Elecraft K3 was off calibration; think again.

I verified these out of band signals with ANOTHER radio. So unless Elecraft has design flaws with their equipment, these stations were CLEARLY out of band.

This is yet another reason why we should avoid the bottom 2 - 3 khz of each radio band.

Next up is stations taking over frequencies ALREADY OCCUPIED. This entire weekend I counted less than a handful of times I heard a station ask "QRL?" before taking over a frequency. At 00:08z on 21049.49 (a frequency I had been using for over an hour) KH7Q jumped on top of me calling CQ.
I sent "QRL QSY" a 1/2 dozen times and was ignored. When I sent "QSY LID" 3 times he went away.

Later at 11:00z on 7037.37 (having been there for nearly an hour) 7J7AAI attempted to take over the frequency less than 200hz below me. He was S-9 on my end and I assume so was I on his end. 

I put up with him for over 20 minutes when he then shifted right on top of me and said "QRL QSY". Huh? My reply to him was "QSY LID" after which he disappeared.

What ARE these people NOT thinking?

Finally during the last hour of the contest I was running the frequency 21049.49. 20 minutes in K6RR asked QRL? I replied QRL QSY several times and was ignored. So, we BOTH shared the frequency with him desperately calling CQ, making about 5 QSOs during that 40 minutes while I not only made 50 QSOs, I also added several new countries to the log including a T88 and 5T0 (which came in by long path).

Either K6RR could not hear me (unlikely) or he obstinately remained on my run frequency.
Had he moved up 1.5kc (which was clear) he could have worked several dozen stations after they were done with me. Instead, I grabbed all the QSOs he SHOULD have had. 

Being stubborn is NoT the way to succeed in radiosport.

Near the end of the final hour BA4TB proceeded to tune up EXACTLY on top of me (obliterating other stations) and then give me a call. Normally I ignore stations that do that however he was so loud I worked him to get him out of the way so I could work the stations he would have otherwise obliterated.

WQ6X run frequency rates
Speaking of getting stations out of the way, another amazing situation is that over TWO DOZEN stateside stations called me looking for contest QSOs. Rather than try to explain to them that they can't work me, I simply sent "5NN CA", let them send their exchange and then did not log their callsign.
I take it that these stations DID NOT READ THE RULES.
How can you expect to get anywhere when you don't read the contest rules?

Another weird situation was WH6ASW on 21054.47 at 23:03z with a weird sounding signal. 1.6 khz above him was a raspy sounding spurious note on his signal. I hope his radio didn't blow up. 

Around that time I noticed a weird Doppler-type shift between my left and right ear in the headphones. Several marginal signals seemed to shift back and forth between the ears; and no, it wasn't anything I was smoking.

QRM-wise, in addition to what I mentioned above I encountered the usual intentional QRM after 09:00z on 40 meters. Typically of this time period much of the QRM was RTTY based. Other QRM was SSB-based. While we DO share the CW spectrum with SSB in region 1, this was clearly intentional as the station(s) would shift their VFO while speaking to be annoying.

Additionally, stations would simply send strings of dits on top of me as I attempted to copy weak calling stations.  Additionally, because the 2-element yagi was often pointed toward Asia, the Russian "M" beacon came through loud and clear on 7.040, however this contest the other Russian beacons could not be heard.

Overall, this was an enjoyable ARRL DX contest. While I probably won't win any awards, I certainly contributed to my DXCC total for solo operations from San Diego county.

Did YOU work the ARRL DX contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR DX station log?


Thursday, February 16, 2017

WQ6X Roars Remotely in 2017 WPX RTTY contest

NX6T Station #1 (on the Left)
WQ6X's participation in the 2017 RTTY contest was ad-Hoc from the beginning. I considered setting up the Yaesu FT-1000mp @ W7AYT's QTH or making the trip to Fallbrook ("NashVille") to run NX6T live.
Both ideas seemed like too much effort. KK6NON was originally scheduled to run station #2 @ NX6T but at the last minute elected to operate from his home QTH. With that in mind, running WQ6X remotely from Fallbrook made the most sense.

Thanks to new super-duper internet access @ NX6T I was able to operate station #1 remotely w/o the 15-second timeouts I experienced when running the RTTY RU last month.

Unfortunately, the internet router was not ready until 05:00z, meaning that I missed the Friday 15 & 20 meter openings.

While the A& K indices were down, so was the SFI so I chose to run station #1's K3 into an ACOM 2000a amplifier dialed back to 550 watts to keep things cool.

Nevertheless according to N6KI the shack temperature was nearly 80 degrees most of the time; even with an open window.

Antenna-wise, I ran a C-31 multi-element yagi on the high bands along with 2 elements on 40 and an 80 meter coaxial inverted vee - on separate towers bot at 13mh

There was virtually no noise so the monster loop antenna was not necessary. The real problem was fast-fade QSB which abruptly knocked signals out.

WQ6X spotted wkg A31MM
Because I was running remote I chose to RUN frequencies 99% of the time. What amazed me this year was how many stations would work me and then immediately call CQ on MY run frequency.  Or, they would hear me work a station and then immediately call the station I just worked, oblivious to the fact that it was MY run frequency.

Near the end of the contest while running a frequency on 15 meters, A31MM gave me a call. Immediately, 3 other stations called him on MY run frequency obliterating his signal. After NINE requests for a repeat he faded into the noise. The exchange I copied will probably be wrong - Thanks ASSHOLES!

To these operators I say this: Courtesy goes a LONG way towards scoring big in a radiosport contest. When a station is running a frequency, it is THEIR frequency, until they decide to vacate it; then YOU can use it, but NOT before. You can always do something I have found successful: when you hear a desired caller, move off frequency +/- 5Kc and call your own CQ; maybe that station will find you. Remember the reason I call CQ as much as I do: I have a recognizable and WPX-desirable callsign that I think will attract callers and bring me MORE QSOs then if I search & pounce (S&P).
You can do that too; however bullying people about on THEIR run frequency is NoT
the way to win friends and make QSOs.

What amazes me is how people can be OFF frequency when they call me. Attempting to use RIT to tune them in can be tricky over the internet so I defined the F-11 key to say: "You are OFF Freq - please tune me in" followed by pressing F3 ("TU QRZ" etc.). What I don't get is if they can copy me, then how are they off freq. If they can copy my F-11 message then why weren't they on frequency to begin with.
 One guy called me LAZY for not tuning him in - GO Figure.

W6JBR offered some interesting thoughts on this:

I think that the off-frequency callers are due to one of two issues:
  1. The calling station had engaged their RIT for a prior QSO,
    and did not reset it to Zero offset, so are transmitting split.
  2. They are running AFSK and have not calibrated their sound card,
    so the transmit tones are off frequency.
So, THEY are the lazy ones!

A concern I report EVERY RTTY CONTEST is that 14.100 (the NCDXF beacon frequency) is ALWAYS JAMMED WITH STATIONS. What? You didn't know 14.100 was a beacon frequency? WAKE UP folks!
Stations the world over rely on the 14.100 beacon to predict 20-meter propagation. Beacons are WORTHLESS if a dozen stations are transmitting on top of them. I ALWAYS give them a window. The closest I came to 14.100 was to run a frequency on 14104,44, giving the beacon PLENTY of space. Unfortunately, the corridor below me was LOADED with stations.

In my experience, intentional jamming is always a problem to contend with throughout any contest. There are some BORED anti-contesters who have nothing better to do than to disrupt other on-the-air operations; even though doing so is technically a violation of FCC (and other regulating authority) regulations. This contest found me plagued with tuner-uppers on 20-meters in particular. While auto-notch circuits don't work in a RTTY contest, manual notch controls certainly do. It is my fervent hope that the only thing these idiots accomplish in doing so is to flatten the finals on their amplifier tubes.

Typically, I encounter intentional QRM by way of RTTY on 40 meters during CW contests. During RTTY contests where we take over the majority of the upper-half of the CW segment, using RTTY to QRM RTTY stations makes little sense; altho several stations did try that. There were many BRAVE cw ops calling CQ in between RTTY operations on 40 meters - they have as much right to use of the spectrum as we do. I don't know if they actually established any QSOs doing so, however I acknowledge their right to be there.

In recent contests when I run the FT-1000mp I have been perfecting the art of SO2V (Single-OP 2-VFOs).
For this remote operation, running a frequency was barely all I could manage. SO2V will have to wait until my next live operation.

With the exception of 10 meters, the remaining bands provided a decent amount of activity.
With few exceptions calling CQ resulted in very little wait time. While 15 meters could have yielded more European and Asian stations, 40 meters picked up the slack, including a couple of callers from South Africa (ZS2 & ZS6); not easy from the Left coast.

Amazingly 40 meters remained open to Asia on Saturday well after 17:00z - I guess we REALLY ARE heading to the bottom of the sunspot cycle. RTTY contests typically don't operate on 160 which is a good thing because 160 operation tends to knock the NX6T internet router offline; even at low power. Luckily, I did not miss out on anything significant.

Did YOU operate the CQ WPX RTTY contest?

Did YOU miss anything significant?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?