Tuesday, July 18, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WQ6X 15-Meter Spots on DXMaps

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

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

WQ6X 20-Meter Spots on DXMaps

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

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

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

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

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

NAQP Run screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WQ6X 40-Meter Spots on DXMaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAQP ENDing Screen

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

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

Did you work the DMC and NAQP RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

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