Monday, April 10, 2017

JIDX - 2017 --- The Contest QRM made

In looking over the notes I made about this weekend's contest activities, I was looking for a BLOG theme to present itself. Beyond all the different weird-nesses throughout the weekend, the presence of [intentional] QRM
is what stood out the most.

However I'll take QRM over remote access failures; which happened throughout this weekend's 40+ hour contest period. While remote operating the JIDX Cw contest was my main focus, there were other "little contests" happening as well, begging for
inclusion in my operating schedule.
More on that later.

Beginning at 07:00z Saturday, N6KI started off our little group of motley operators @ NX6T
on the prowl for Japanese stations; more specifically: Japanese Prefectures - all 47 of them.
I put the remaining pair (#39 & #45) in the log during the FINAL HOUR of the JIDX contest.

One of the things I like about JIDX is its "point and shoot" aspect; we simply point the yagis and Inverted Vee's broadside toward Japan, call "CQ JA" and then forget about them all weekend. Unfortunately, USA stations hear the CQ's and call US, instead of JA stations (probably because
from the E. Coast they can't hear any). 2-elements on 40 meters does not provide much Front/Back when running 1.3kw and will end up being considerably LOUD; even off the backside.

To resolve this situation I programmed an Fkey in WinTest to send "JA ONLY" and most (but not all) eventually got it and moved on. Those that DIDN'T get it had to be NULLED with my brain's
"Ignore Filter", after which even the clueless eventually moved on.

WinTest + RCForb & IP-Sound remote software

Saturday morning at 10:00z Dennis (N6KI) rousted me from my slumber for my 1st remote-OP stint. While station #1 checked out completely BE-4 the 07:00z contest start, the minute I started things

up at 10:20z everything seemed to go out of synch; I could operate the radio but the VNC Viewer
VPN was only showing me a black screen. Several reboots did not seem to resolve the problem.

2 hours of frustration later we got so desperate that Dennis e-mailed me the Wintest .WT4 file with the contacts made thus far. The idea was to run Wintest on MY laptop, keying the radio by way of writing CW macros in the RcForb software's control panel. On the spot  I wrote and tested a series of function key macros, confident that if necessary, I could run with this configuration.

Then, without thinking I invoked yet another reboot of station #1's computer while I headed to the kitchen to warm my now COLD coffee. When I came back 5 minutes later, VNC Viewer not only looked as good as it did 3 hours ago, there were dozens of Japanese stations seemingly "waiting in line" from when N6KI had been running the same frequency 3 hours earlier; it's like we never left.

Once I settled in to about 24 WPM on 7021.21, happiness reigned; for all of

10 minutes anyway.

What was initially a WIDE-open CLEAR Cw frequency quickly degenerated into mild chaos as illegal SSB marine stations began encroaching on my precious previously-clear run frequency.

While this happens EVERY MORNING around 10:00z in the Extra Class segment of the Cw band, it doesn't
mean I have to like it.

Our 40-meter band has already been invaded with the Russian "M" and "D" beacons on 7.040
and foreign broadcast stations from 7.200 - 7.300.  Why must foreign governments operate shortwave broadcasts on AMATEUR frequencies?  There is PLENTY of room BELOW 7.00 in the Pirate Radio segment and above the 41 meter SWBC band (which ends at 7.500). Wassamatta? Are the governments afraid of PIRATE radio stations?

While running a frequency on 7021.21 an Asian sounding voice began making "YoY YoY YoY"
noises in his microphone. This went on for over 10 minutes so I sought refuge on 80-meters, 

where over all, NX6T handed out 45 unique QSOs doing that. Eventually, I was also forced
off of 3517.17 by more SSB QRM; which sent me back to 40.

When 40 meters finally faded I sought refuge in 3.5 hours of sleep. At 18:45z,
I turned the C-31 yagi again towards Japan and began calling "CQ JA" (on 14014.14) in an attempt to "force a DEAD band to open"; which it eventually did.

Virtually out of NOWHERE on this DEAD band some IDIOT began tuning up his amp right on top of the run frequency.
I could literally "hear" him dipping the
finals and loading the plate.

WHAT?!!? The band is DEAD and out of all the available frequency space on 20 meters you chose EXACTLY 14014.14
to tune up your amp?

Am I MISSING something? Dingle Dorks like that should have
their licenses REVOKED for reasons of STUPIDITY.

At 23:00z I turned over station #1 to a LIVE operator (KB7V) hoping he and N6KI would be able to bring 15 (and maybe even 10) meters to life. Monitoring 15 meters on the DX Maps website didn't offer any encouragement; for NX6T the upper bands never materialized, at least not to Japan anyway. This time around  I was not needed during the dinner period (8pm to 10:30 local) so
I took the opportunity to enjoy some extra sleep.

On Sunday morning around 10:00z,
I woke up and slipped onto a quiet frequency on 7007.07, only to be
quickly moved in on by OTH
radar on 7006.06, no less.

Because of the poor space weather, many signals at this time had
either a "hollow" sound to them
or sounded "pingy".

At 10:40 while calling "CQ JA", someone responded by sending "S 7" three different times. HuH? After that, when I received a call from 8J3HC50Y (/3 no less), I thought it was a joke at first.
However when he repeated the 8J3HC50Y/3 callsign 3 times I knew it WAS legit and added
that unique QSO to NX6T's log. How many of YOU worked 8J3HC50Y/3?

I took a DEEP breath just in time
for the OTH radar to again make the scene; time for another retreat to 80.

When I came back to 40 meters @ 11:30z, I cautiously "looked both ways" (up and down the band),
heard no OTH radar, asked "QRL?"
and settled in on 7004.04.

Within 5 minutes the OTH radar was back in action - right on top of me.
By now it was CLEAR that this was not a random occurrence.
HuH? WTF is THAT all about?

As it turns out, despite all the failures and the QRM, NX6T seems to have taken 1st place worldwide as a multi-OP setup; the certs/plaques usually label us the "Top MOP".

Our nemesis HG7T ran a distant second place. Because N6RO & K3EST were running single-band operations, we were spared the difficulty
of competing against their amps and MONSTER antenna layout operating in the SF East Bay.

Ironically, where I was running my remote operation from was less than 30 miles
away from N6RO's Oakley location.

In addition to the JIDX contest, this weekend also hosted the OK/OM SSB and Yuri Gagarin DX contests, which I could not find time for; especially with the antennas pointed towards Asia, not Europe. While the New Mexico NMQP started at 14:00z Saturday morning, it unfortunately ended
at 04:00 (8pm left coast time), so I missed that as well.  They could learn from the GAQP (Georgia)
QSO party coordinators by also adding a 14:00z - 23:59z segment on Sunday.

Late Sunday morning shutting down WinTest, station #1 was switched over to run N1MM+,
a superior logging program for state QSO parties. I spent 3+ hours looking for GAQP
stations on 20 meters (like JIDX, 15 & 10 never materialized).

At 22:40z I encountered a LOUD but barely copyable W4NT calling CQ GAQP, but @ 38WPM.
38 WPM? HuH? WTF? Wassup with THAT?! He was working NOBODY because NOBODY
(including me) could decipher his call @ 38 WPM. I typed "QRS" into the callsign field pressing
F5 after every CQ call he made. After 7 fruitless exchanges of his "CQ" followed by my "QRS"
he finally got the message and dialed things back to about 30 WPM; still too fast, but
infinitely more acceptable. He immediately worked WQ6X and 4 other stations.
I NEVER run a contest faster than 25 WPM and will always slow down to
match a slower caller's speed.

Your callsign is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can send; SLOW DOWN and send it succinctly. We can't work you if we don't know who you are. If I type the WRONG callsign into the log
then we will BOTH get "dinged" when the LCR (Log Check Report) bots attempt to match
up our callsigns. WAKE UP FOLKS!!!

GAQP Results

One of my complaints regarding state QSO parties is that (outside of CQP) not enough operators participate in their state's QSO parties.

While that was largely true with GAQP, 24 stations DiD make
it into the WQ6X log on 20 meters.

Similar to JIDX, several listens on 10/15 yielded NO signals whatsoever.  The propagation predictions were spot-on accurate in this regard.

With no one else to work, out of desperation (a LoT of desperation this weekend), at 21:30z I tuned up on 40 meters pointing the 2-element
yagi 90-degrees directly at Georgia, quickly encountering K4BAI
on 7.044 at about S-7.

He was shocked to work me early in the afternoon, asking me to repeat
my WQ6X call several times being that he first heard me with what he thought was a WQ5 prefix.

When he got that I was really in CA, he gave me a big "TU TU TU".

Today I received an e-mail from John, thus:
Hi Ron: Thanks for supporting the GQP.
I couldn’t believe how strong you were so early in the
evening on Sunday on 40M.
You sounded great. 73, John, K4BAI.

Unfortunately, it would be another HOUR before AA4CI, K4EA & W4NT would make it to the
40 meter log. Georgia stations should take notice that they MISSED OUT on an excellent
40 meter opportunity on Sunday (and probably Saturday too).

After those GAQP QSOs were safely preserved in the N1MM+ Cabrillo log, an RX
remote-audio problem developed ending WQ6X's operation in the GAQP.

Did you play around in the JIDX and GAQP contests?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

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