Sunday, November 19, 2017

JIDX SSB - the contest with even MORE QRM

WQ6X operating JIDX remotely at W7AYT's QTH
Back in April I was part of a 3 man team (N6KI - WQ6X - K4RB)
for the JIDX CW contest. ([CLICK HERE] to read about that GiG).
While we took 1st-place worldwide (even beating the Japanese in
their own contest), the intentional QRM headaches were monumental.
Because I am a perennial optimist, I couldn't imagine anything
worse (QRM-wise) - enter JIDX SSB 2017.

For this contest weekend there were 4 HF contests happening:

  1. Japanese International DX (JIDX) SSB contest
  2. Worked All Europe (WAE) RTTY Contest
  3. The OK/OM DX contest
  4. The Kentucky QSO party (KYQP)
For JIDX SSB, I chose to run NX6T's station #1 remotely, but from W7AYT's QTH (affording me the use of a 32 inch computer screen
for the Toshiba laptop). Being an SSB contest, JIDX in November requires much wider filter settings than for CW GiGs.

Fortunately, I recently discovered it is possible to route the IP-Sound remote laptop audio through a pair of refurbished Autek QF-1a filters (one for each ear).

Each QF-1a unit allows simultaneous PEAKing
and band-shaping of the receive audio, along with
a DEEP (65+ db) notch
filter for each ear.

Some adjacent channel SSB splatter and most heterodynes can
be easily notched into oblivion. Or, the desired signal in the audio passband can be significantly PEAKed (bringing it ABOVE the rest
of the passband), with relatively sharp filter skirts attenuating anything in the passband on either side of the desired voice signal.

Running the OK/OM contest made sense only from NX6T remotely (running high power into 22m high yagi's); attempting to work Europe using the CHA-250 vertical and 8JK sloper at W7AYT's QTH would have been frustratingly unproductive. As it turned out, myopic attention on the JIDX and WAE contests pushed the OK/OM GiG to the "back of the bus", to be forgotten - maybe next year.

KYQP was not much better. Many times I tuned the bands with my Yaesu FT-1000mp (portable setup @W7AYT) looking for Kentucky stations; mainly on CW.

Unfortunately this weekend's QSO party was like most other QSO parties (except CQP) wherein not enough stations participate in their own QSO parties.

Running WAE RTTY remotely

Like the OK/OM contest, KYQP never made it to the log.
That left the WAE RTTY event (starting at 00:00z for 48 hours) and
the JIDX contest (beginning at 07:00z for 30 hours). My goal was to run JIDX during the 2-8 am shift on Saturday, the dinner shift in the evening and the 2 - 5 am shift on Sunday, ending the contest.

During the JIDX off periods (Saturday morning and after the
JIDX finish on Sunday) I found time to work the WAE RTTY GiG.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed the WAE CW contest (where I learned to send QTC messages), I figured running WAE on RTTY would be even more enjoyable - which it was - altho ironically, not one European station ever made it to the log. I could not make QTC traffic handling work properly with N1MM+ and didn't want to spend inordinate amounts of time troubleshooting the problem (that should have done BE-4 the contest). I quietly dropped the QTC sending part for this year.
For 2018 I will be more prepared for WAE.

For several years running NX6T has won the JIDX 1st-place world plaque on CW as well as SSB altho we lost a couple of those bids to the Hungarian HG7T station (who have a more direct shot at Japan on 80-40 & 20 meters than we do on the
west coast).

Sometimes the certificates list
us as the ToP MoP. In April 2017,
our 3-man score significantly surpassed the Hungarian multi-OP run. The only time we ever hear HG7T is in the DX contests,
never in JIDX. 

For this year's JIDX SSB contest, space WX conditions were quite marginal. Most of the action was on 40 & 15 meters. Unfortunately, while JA signals could almost be heard on 75 meters, the signals
were not strong enough to actually work anyone. 10 meters never materialized at all, although the mid-day crew managed a significant run on 15 meters. Between N6KI and myself, the two of us made 40 meters happen despite all the intentional QRM, as I explain below.

JIDX SSB 2012 - JIDX CW 2014

I said in the opening of this BLOG, the JIDX CW contest earlier this year found us plagued by intentional QRM.  Back in April I couldn't imagine intentional QRM any worse than that.

For this JIDX SSB 07:00z contest start I had station #1 setup for remote access and decided to get 3 hours sleep while Dennis (N6KI) opened the contest on 40. When I awoke at 09:45z I received a text from Dennis urging me to call him before I fire up on 40 meters.

It turns out that NX6T was being heckle-jammed by some idiot (confirmed to be in California) repeat-playing a recording shouting "F*** You", over and over again. (I recognized that recording as
being one of the L-I-D OPs from the 3.840 "garbage dump"
ragchew frequency, occupied nightly by west coast hams.

I no sooner started up when the recording began playing out over and over again. I guess some people are so bored they have to QRM other stations to bring excitement into their miserable lives.

The idiot finally gave it up around 12:15z giving me about 2 QRM-free hours of operation before the band faded into oblivion (as far as Japan is concerned).

WQ6X Spots in WAE RTTY contest
After a few hours sleep I logged back in to station #1, brought down Wintest (for JIDX) and configured N1MM+ to run the WAE RTTY contest. Running the ACOM 2000a amp at about 600 watts (to keep the shack cool), I made several 50+ QSOs/hr runs on 20 meters accounting for 2/3's of the paltry 19.8k score.
WQ6X was CLEARLY being heard.

After the JIDX contest was over I managed nearly 2 hours in the
WAE GiG, running 40 meters until the D-Layer took over and long-skip disappeared. Then, with 4+ hours sleep behind me, I fired up WAE RTTY @ 20:00z, adding 106 20-meter QSOs into the log, ending
the WAE contest at 23:59z.

WAE RTTY QSO Breakdown

Because the QTC send facility in N1MM+ is slightly different than the CW version, I couldn't synchronize my brain to it.

Instead, I created a RTTY Macro to send "NO QTC - SRY". A final irony of this year's WAE RTTY contest is that NO European stations were ever heard at the Fallbrook QTH so
I missed out on all those juicy multi-point European QSOs and QTCs. Next year I will have this worked out.

Around 22:00z on Saturday Japan floated in on 15 meters so I turned the station over to N6KI and the afternoon crew. From that run alone 124 QSOs & 34 prefectures made into the log - for nearly half of the ending score. Surprisingly, the JA turnout on 20 meters was VERY poor, even tho the signal levels of the participating stations were

NX6T on the other end of the remote connection.
This BLOG entry was sub-titled "the contest with even MORE QRM" for a reason. If the Friday-Saturday QRM was all we had to contend with, it would've been just another Saturday morning on 40 meters. Unfortunately it got worse. When N6KI started on 40-meters Sunday morning he was relieved to discover that the "F-U" guy didn't return - that ham's parents probably told him to put on his jammies and go
to bed early.

Unfortunately, at 10:00z within 2 minutes of my calling CQ JIDX on 7135.35 a "data cranker" started cranking away. Unfortunately I am used to this idiot during most Asian contests. This is where the notch filter in the left-channel QF-1A filter made all the difference.

Starting at 10:15z, some idiot would send "T-E-S-T" on CW after every CQ call. 5 minutes later I moved to 7137.37. When I made another call on 7135.35 a few minutes later the "T-E-S-T" guy was back at it so I retreated to 7137.37. At 10:37z he found me and started up again - I moved back to 7135.35 and he eventually finds me. For the next half hour it became a game of leapfrog between 7135.35 and 7137.37.


At 10:48z suddenly there was a LOUD HOWLing noise on 7137.37 so it
was back to 7135.35.

At 11:00z I moved to 7143.43 to enjoy 20 minutes of QRM-free
JIDX operation.

7143 must be the National Tune-up frequency.

All of a sudden several stations decided to tune up on top of me. Japanese stations often do this before calling a CQ'ing station.
Unfortunately, this time no QSOs occurred - the signals sounded
like they were stateside based, not from Japan.

Next up was a series of stateside stations calling me for a QSO - I
had to send "Japan only - point your antenna to Japan and make
some QSOs". While I had the 2-el yagi pointed right at Japan, the
F/B ratio of a 2 element yagi is not all that great; probably half of the
1350 watts out of the amplifier were being heard off the back.

At 11:42 I moved to 7142.42 and enjoyed some quiet QSO making
until a RTTY jammer appeared at 11:47.  While the QF-1a notch filters helped, because the station purposely shifted frequency by approx. 50hz (back and forth), I had to keep readjusting the notch filters.

From time to time I would take a
listen on 75 meters for an opening. Unfortunately, signals were extremely weak - something better than the NX6T coaxial inverted Vee was needed.

The screwy 75-meter JA SSB band allocation didn't help matters.
That band plan was obviously designed by a bureaucrat, not the JARL.

At 11:59z a bunch of east coast ragchewers showed up on 7143 (probably their daily meetup frequency) oblivious to the fact that their sideband splatter was wiping me out barely 1KC away. As a test, I tuned them in and said "Break", receiving an IMMEDIATE reply; meaning they easily heard me and didn't care that I was there first.

At 12:00z I retreated to 7141.41, called CQ and the "T-E-S-T" guy showed up immediately. Then several stateside stations called me prompting another "Japan ONLY" reply.

Then the Test guy changed it to "H-I" after every CQ.

As annoying as the CW jammer was, he never once QRM'd me during a JA QSO; only after every CQ call. When he stayed on the same frequency, the notch filter could almost take him out. Then suddenly, he stopped, being replaced by a reprise of the National Tune-up frequency.

At 12:37z I moved to 7137.37 enjoying two minutes of quiet before
the data cranker returned. 5 minutes later a VFO swisher showed
up swooshing back and forth around my center frequency. Moving
to 7139.39 there were more calls by stateside callers and then the
"T-E-S-T" guy came back just in time for the 13:00z contest end.

Leaving the receiver on 7139.39 after the contest, the data cranker came back at 13:10z followed by a person whistling tunes. It is very clear that the whistler and CW guy were members of the 3.840 IDIOT gang.  After all these years, the genus of the data cranker has always eluded me.

I had considered running the JIDX contest as WQ6X from W7AYT's QTH during my off periods at NX6T, but got sidetracked with other matters. Had I done that I probably could have won a certificate for single-band operation. When the contest raw scores are published
I'll know if I missed out.

After the JIDX contest was over, N6KI posted our score to the
[3830 Scores website]. As it turns out, the paltry NX6T score not only trounced our rival HG7T, we ended with a nice 1st place (worldwide) finish - not bad when you consider that propagation and QRM were certainly NoT in our favor. Evidently signal levels in Hungary were even worse that in W6; surprising since they have a more direct
shot at Japan than we do.

Remember my motto: ALWAYS submit a log (even with a paltry score) as you never know when it will result in a win.
This year is yet another example of that fact.

Did YOU play in the JIDX SSB contest?
How many Japanese prefectures did you work?
Did YOU play in the WAE RTTY contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?
P.S.  It would seem that the QTC problem was an N1MM+ software flaw which was fixed on Saturday (the 11th).  Because N1MM+ never releases software updates on Saturday (usually on Tuesday or Wednesday) it never occurred to me to check for updates midway to WAE.

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