Sunday, December 23, 2018

WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING: SOUNDING OFF about SOUND

I C O M  R - 7 1 A + M F J  7 5 2 - B / 1 0 2 0 / 1 0 2 6

 
When you think about it, radio, and radio communication is ALL about sound; yet amazingly,
this is an area all too frequently overlooked, even with some of the "name brand" Super Stations across the country (you know who you are).  Amateurs and contest groups spend10's & 100's of thousands of dollars on more-gain antennas at 200' to pull the weakest signals into the receiver and super-KW amplifiers (powered by buffalo-driven treadmill generators) to be heard across the galaxy.   They follow all that with artifact-creating DSP signal shaping with horriblly filtered or distorted audio; obliterating proper copy of that weak signal they spent $1,000's of dollar$ to bring into the receiver's front-end.


Over the decades there have been evolving solutions to the poor audio
and noisy-audio "problem". 

As far back as the early 1950's, National's Select-O-Ject audio Q-multiplier provided significant audio improvements.  You may also remember the I-F based Q-multipliers, like the Heathkit QF-1 & GD-125 units.

In the 1970's, a number of external audio filters were produced by various manufacturers; my favorites of course being the Autek QF-1A and the MFJ-752 models.


When we fast forward to the mid-80's the size-reduction in CMOS devices and DSP chips heralded
a clear path for DSP units to appear in amateur radio; first in the AF-world, eventually working its way toward the IF (and even RF) circuits.  Be these circuits analog or digital, any attempt at "processing"  a signal (be it RF, IF or AF) we run the risk of artifact (I.e. some unintended alteration or distortion of the signal).

Noise-blanking is a perfect example of artifact introduction.  With many transceivers in the last 20 years the NB1/NB2 style of noise-blanking often exhibit signal "distortion" when turned past the 10 O'clock position (or thereabouts).  Surprisingly, the early 80's noise-blanking circuits are amazingly effective with virtually NO artifact; one of the reasons I loved my ICOM 740 "back in the day".



During sailboat trips from L.A. to Catalina island and back, running the 740 into a vertical wire up the main mast made the radio susceptible to QRN from distant lightrning storms.  In most cases the 740 NB blanker rooted the noise out completely.



Today, my vintage Icom R-71A receiver being from that era enjoys the same noise blanking success; who knows,
it may well be a near-identical circuit. 

When my current R71-A makes its way into "daily" service, it will be matched with an MFJ 1020 (Active Antenna),
an MFJ-752C, and of course, my favorite, an Autek QF-1A; all currently sitting on the auxiliary backup shelf.

Preliminary tests of the R-71A and the 752-C/QF-1A show them to be quite compatible, the same as with my FT-1000mp (@W7AYT).  Bottom-line: "audio out" is audio out, be the source an Icom R-71A, an ICOM-7000 or an FT-1000mp; it ALL processes the same.



You may remember one of the earliest noise-blanking devices - AEA's "Moscow Muffler" from the early 1980's. 

What is AMAZING about the Moscow Muffler is its design for operation in the FRONT-END of the radio/receiver; not the A-F or even I-F for that matter (as most noise blankers currently do). 

There is a 6db receiver preamp as well as dual blanking widths to knock rhythmic noise pulses out of the front-end BEFORE those pulses have an opportunity to overload the receiver's pre-amp and mixer stages.

Because the signal "processing" is done PRIOR to the Ant-IN socket, no "modification" to the equipment is needed; as is the case with IF-based NB's and Q-MULT's.  It recently occurred to
me that the WB-1, MFJ-1026 and the JPS ANC-4 "noise canceller" units may well be operating on different but co-operative approaches to removing the noise PRIOR to the radio - Absolutely GENIUS!

I've extoled the virtues of "Stereo CW" for shifting the audio "inside my head"
as an aspect of audio-QRM reduction.  ([CLICK HERE] to re-read that.)

I have learned to incorporate Q-Filtering into my SO2-V operations from W7AYT.  This is what I said about it in this last summer.

And then of course my favorite: Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit: Part-1 and Part-2.

Most of todays HF amateur transceivers are so complex and loaded with convoluted CMOS CPUs there is little we AMATEURS can do (internally) to improve radio performance.  However we DO have control over what comes IN to the radio and what goes OUT the audio exit lines.

What do YOU DO  to improve signal intelligibility?

Inquiring modems want to KNOW!


Sunday, December 16, 2018

2018 OK RTTY - the contest that never made it


I have a habit of checking the WA7BNM Contest Calendar at the last minute on Friday evenings
when looking for some last-minute radiosport action.  This Friday evening I noticed the 24-hour OK RTTY contest had just started.  With client commitments all weekend live operation from W7AYT
(in Concord) was not practical; however running WQ6X remotely from NX6T was available to me.

Piecing together the Elecraft K3/0, RRC-1258 (internet interface) and the MikroBit internet hotspot was easy this time around; I guess practice DOES make "perfect".  In 20 minutes I was ready to go; unfortunately the Common.Net router used for direct IP connection to Fallbrook was down, making K3/0 operations impossible.  Fortunately, I had access to another internet router; while it isn't capable of enabling K3/0 communication, all other internet access works perfectly.

It is important to always have a backup plan for things.  For this weekend the backup plan came
in the form of RCForb to run the remote K3 radio and VNC viewer to giving access to the desktop
on the remote computer.  For RTTY contests I prefer N1MM+ along with the MMTY demodulator (w/FLDIGI as a backup decoder).

Remote operations have two sets of variables to deal with:
  1. The remote location itself (in this case, NX6T).
  2. The remote access location (in this case WQ6X)
In the past, internet outages in the fiber-optic network (we access thru a satellite) has been either
out or overloaded.  Even when K3/0 radio access DOES work, we are still using VNC viewer to run the logging software.

It is not uncommon to see the logging screen FREEZE while the K3/0 audio continues streaming perfectly.  The problem with this is that I can HEAR stations calling me and yet (because of the frozen logging screen) I can't use the function keys to respond. 

Recently, I resurrected a circa-1982 Hamkey HK-1 for use with the K3/0.  Now when outages  occur,
I can hand-send the needed information and write down (remember how to do that?) the received information on a yellow-pad.  Then, when N1MM+ comes back to life the information can be quickly entered.

With the backup plan well laid out, RCForb and VNC Viewer started up quietly, the OK RTTY
log opened w/o a problem.  Turning the 2-element shorty-forty towards Europe brought a FLOOD
of strong signals on 40; one of the benefits of a Solar FLUX Index (SFI) of 70.

Testing the radio on CW showed a FULL 100 watts out.  Switching to AFSK mode I setout to call an EA8 station (Canary Islands).  The MMTTY screen showed dual tones being generated by the laptop; unfortunately, no AFSK audio made it out of the radio.

An hour+ spent troubleshooting the RCForb software (on both ends of the connection) found no problems.  All of the port settings under N1MM+ were the way I left them after the WAE RTTY contest.  I finally put in a call to N6KI for assistance and went to bed.

Dennis and John (K6AM) looked into the problem, eventually discovering a hardware gain control had been turned down to 0. OOOPs.  I tested the installation and was producing 75 watts of clean AFSK audio.  Unfortunately, by the this time (01:15z) the OK RTTY contest was long over.  Dennis correctly reminded me that I should have tested the installation on Thursday nite, rather than waiting until Friday.  True enough, except I had no idea on Thursday there was a RTTY GiG on Friday.

While the OK RTTY contest never materialized I learned a lot from all of the troubleshooting
and experimentation.

Did YOU work the OK RTTY contest?

How well did YOUR operation GO?


Thursday, December 13, 2018

ARRL 10-Meter GiG Fascinates & Frustrates


The final month of every contest year brings us the ARRL160 meter contest (last weekend) followed by the 10-Meter contest (at the opposite end of the HF spectrum).  For the 160 GiG I joined up with
the NX6T crew remotely.  For this weekend's 10-meter GiG the goal was to run from W7AYT's QTH, taking advantage of the onsite Hy-Gain "Long John" 3-element 10-meter yagi, waiting patiently to be put back into radio service.

The continuously low Solar Flux Index (SFI) will of course be a challenge, however it is amazing how band openings can be "created" just by showing up and calling CQ. Similar to FD and state QSO parties, the 10-meter contest is a multi-mode affair (Ssb & Cw); digital QSOs don't count in this contest.

Recently on the SCCC contest reflector several OPs have said they will use FT8 contacts to determine band opening details.  The 10-meter beacon signals between 28.200 and 28.300is another way to monitor band openings, beginning with the NCDXF beacons on 28.200.  Another approach is to call CQ, paying attention to the signal level reports on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) website.


On Friday, I arrived in Concord shortly after the 00:00z starting time. enabling the sorting out of 8-X coax cable intertwined with Yaesu rotor cable to the 3-element yagi.  A quick check with the MFJ-259b antenna analyzer demonstrated the yagi capable of tuning the lower 500khz of the 28 Mhz spectrum.

Beginning @02:00z, tuning the band (while swinging the antenna) put a whopping 14 contacts in
the log over 3.5 hours.  At 05:30z, calling CQ with the antenna pointed S-E, a QSO with N7EPD (in Washington state) made it to the log. Huh?  Am I missing something?  A probable contributing factor in this weekend's weird 10-meter contest is the K-Index of 3 which contributed to the quiet but quick fading of signals throughout the weekend.

Saturday morning while waiting for the 10-meter band to open up, a retrofit was made to the latest incarnation of the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper, replacing the EXPLODED 1.5 watt 100-ohm terminating resistors with custom-made 6-watt units.  This seemingly "minor" change turned the 8JK sloper configuration into a super sloper that easily tuned all HF bands; even 160 meters.

At 11am (19:00z) 10-meters seemed to spring to life across the country.  Over the next 90 minutes 33 QSOs made it to the log, including LW7, PY5 & P4.  Reading the 3830 Scores comments from other W6 stations confirms that the 18:00z opening was not a fluke, but a nation-wide phenomenon . The rest of the afternoon produced only 6 more contacts; all of them "local" to California. The last contact for the day was at 03:34z; another local.

Like Saturday, Sunday didn't begin until 19:00z.  Operating all day produced only 12 more QSOs; 3 locals on 28.400 Ssb, resulted in a mixed-mode assisted log submission.


This contest weekend was full of weird anomalies, culminating in a visit from the local cable technician who visited last year.  In the 2017 event it seemed that every time I pointed the yagi southwest it would overload a cable patch unit suspended from the 20-ft high cable pole. In all their wisdom, they chose an operating frequency of ~ 55.8 mhz; essentially a 2nd harmonic of 10-meters (28.0mhz).

This year the cable-tech said my signal was tearing up cable installations up and down the block.
Last I checked, "Electronics 101" dictates that when risk of harmonic-interference is a problem a simple $5 BANDPASS filter will solve that problem.  Also last I checked, the tech guy makes well over $20/hr.  He spent hours on Saturday and Sunday tracking down a problem that could have been fixed last year with a $5 filter.  Will they learn their lesson for 2019?   In all honesty, I really doubt it.


Did YOU work the 2018 ARRL 10-meter contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

 

WQ6X joins crew-NX6T for ARRL 160 Contest

E l e c r a f t  K 3 / 0 + D X - 1 6 0 Spkr (1972) + H K -1 H a m K e y (1982)

The final month of every contest year brings us the ARRL160 meter contest followed by the ARRL

10-Meter contest (at the opposite end of the HF spectrum). For the 160 GiG I joined up with the NX6T crew remotely. Dennis (N6KI) was mentoring PJ - WM6Y in the art of Cw contesting.  They put NX6T on 160 during the primetime hours and WQ6X kept 160 active from 09:00z to sunrise on both Saturday and Sunday.

 
The ARRL 160 contest is different from other contests in that it begins at 22:00z (2pm PST); a distinct advantage to E-coast stations.   The 1st 160 QSO made it to the NX6T log @01:22z.  By the time I took over (09:20z) the major work had already been accomplished.  While starting out with LU5CR on 160 would normally excite me, the multiplier had already been worked, making this just another QSO.


Because we rarely hear JA stations on 160 (until around sunrise), I was surprised to put a strong JH7XMO into the log @ 10:11z.  Several additional JA stations made it to the log over the next hour.  My goal was to put e-coast stations (just waking up) into the log, with whatever DX I can finagle. Finally, at 14:43 I put W6YI into the log and shut things down - 160 was done for the morning.


 
Saturday, at 22:47, WM6Y & N6KI were back at it.  At 01:29z the band went long putting back-to-back QSOs with NP2X & KP2M into the NX6T log, followed minutes later by YV5JDP & XE2MVY.
In the next hour NP4Z made it to the
log; not bad for A W6 QTH.

From the San Diego area working Europe (except maybe EA and CS3)

are all but impossible; working Africa is an unfulfilled dream.  For me, the BiG disappointment was that no VK/ZL activity made it up the hill to NX6T's Fallbrook location.


 
N6KI & WM6Y finally gave it up at 07:00z.  At 09:00z (1am) I rolled out of bed, made an enormous
pot of coffee and was in the K3/0 OP-chair by 09:30z.  More JA stations immediately made it to the log.  Because the evening shift mopped up most of the domestic QSOs, I looked for e-coast stations just waking up who decided last-minute to work the 160 contest.

A total of 53 QSOs made it to the log before the band abruptly faded @13:00z.  Technically, there were 2 hours left in the contest.  They were for South Pacific stations to wrap things up.  While 689 QSOs is not a lot, it is a rather incredible accomplishment for only 3-OPs and a double-bazooka inverted Vee.  Granted, the 1350 watt amplifier made a big difference.

 
As you can see, the Space-WX was technically not our friend (A-Index=12, K-Index=3).  Surprisingly (at least during my OP shifts) noise was not much of a problem.  Even MORE surprising was the K3's NB-Dsp ability to knock out most of the noise that was there.  While I am BUMMED by the rather lengthy sunspot cycle low, I am concerned that as the SFI finally moves out of the "cellar" we will loose what 160 activity we have.  Will that happen?  Check back with me in 5 years.




















Did YOU work the ARRL 160 meter contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

WQ6X Single-OPs CQ W.W. Cw Remotely

This was another last-minute remote operation from NX6T in Fallbrook.  Having finally worked out
a reliable K3/0 connection to NX6T in Fallbrook, it was time to give it a REAL radiosport test; the CQ W.W. Cw contest was the way to go about that.  Some contests I go all out to win.  Other contests are pursued to test antenna/equipment configurations or add counties, provinces and countries to the WQ6X logbook.
 
This was my first remote CW operation run entirely with the Elecraft K3/0 installation I recently cobbled together.  Unfortunately, internet outages kept me off the air Friday evening.
At 09:30z things cleared up allowing me to spend time on 80 & 40.
 
N X 6 T  @ N i g h t
 
Unfortunately pointing the Shorty-forty towards Japan yielded not a single JA contact. HuH?
The answer was to settle in on 80 meters; VE9, J86, CO2, KH6, C6 & VK2 easily made it to the
log; evidently, the 80-meter double-bazooka performs better than I have given it credit for..

At 15:00z (7am) the hoped for 40-meter opening to Asia finally materialized.  Highlights included:
JA, DS4,YB0 & YE.   Almost exactly an hour later, the band "went long" and then quickly faded out; no special "greyline" QSOs this time.   At 17:30z the MUF rose sufficiently for 20-meters to open bringing VE6, VE3, KH6.  A brief European opening put DP7 & EF8 into the log.
Then, unfortunately, life circumstances kept me off the air most of the day.

At 05:30z 40 meters delivered a solid opening to Europe, putting some unique callsigns in the log.; including: RA6, ED3, 9A7, S52, KP2, LX2, TK0, CR3, 9A9, LZ9, ES9, IR6, EV1, SZ1, 9Z4, XE1, CN3, VE4, DM6, OK2, YL2, EA6, US2 & D41; amongst others.
 
 
Sunday operations were largely a BUST. At 22:00 CE2 and an FG station made it to the log.
Just as I settled in, the internet connection took a dive and operation went off the air - QRT.;
it's a good thing the auto-CQ mode was not enabled when the connection died.  While I didn't
make a LoT of QSOs, at least the K3/0 remote operation worked.
 
N X 6 T  T o w e r # 2 (from below)

The 2-el shorty forty and Stepp-IR yagi's delivered the 100-watt signal to every continent except Africa; the biggest challenge from San Diego section.

Did YOU work this year's CQ W.W. Cw contest? How many Countries and Zones are in YOUR log?

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

WQ6X Signs up for another SSB Sweepstakes

Last year, events out of my control pre-empted any possibility of participating in the Sweepstakes phone contest. Levi (KK6NON) ran a superb SO2-R operation onsite @ NX6T in Fallbrook.
In addition to listening to Levi run a "rampant frequency". I managed a couple of webcam
pictures of him captured by way of the custom-designed SNAP-Shot software.
 

 
This year, in recent weeks I have been making external device changes to the FT-1000mp
operation being maintained @W7AYT's QTH in Concord, Ca. The current complement of
external audio filters (a pair of Autek QF-1A's and a JPS NIR-12) have worked well for RTTY
and Cw operation.  The REAL test occurs during SSB contests where audio-splatter can
dampen AGC circuits and "tear up" the audio passband irrevocably.

While it is empirical fact that no two Sweepstakes contests are alike, there was something

about this year's SSB GiG that found me largely out of synch throughout the weekend. 
To assuage the "Pain" (or was it shock) of the horrible band condx. in my neck-of-the-East-bay section, I turned to my friend, a tall cold "Peanut Butter Stout".  Ironically, a station in Pleasant Hill (approx. 5 miles from me) said the conditions were "GREAT!" at his QTH.  Hmmmm sounds like
proof of my belief that a signal-vortex exists in the vicinity of W7AYT.


For the 2018 SSB Sweepstakes weekend I cannot blame my woahs on rotten Space-WX; the SFI was up (73) and the A/K indexes were all but non-existent.   Unfortunately, the space-wx data only gives us solar-induced data. 

The noise-levels in Concord were quite high; altho probably typical for this time of year, influenced by the dense particulate matter from the raging California fires,
North of the East Bay.
 
Frustrated with the performance of the "Lazy" 8JK Sloper during the SS Cw contest, I set out to devise the "ultimate" configuration for W7AYT's limited square of Concord Real Estate.  Evenings were spent devouring sections on wire array antennas in a classic (1968) ARRL handbook.

Because the 8JK was a considerably less-noisy antenna,
it was considered for a receiving antenna, transmitting on the CHA-250 vertical, giving a lower take-off angle.
 
On Sunday afternoon it all came together. Transposing
a diagram from the 68 antenna handbook I devised what
I will call the "WQ6X Cobra Broad-Fire Array".

Immediately the RF which had been floating around the installation CEASED. Lower-angle and lower-noise
are the features of this latest antenna configuration.

During my next trip to W7AYT I will bring a set of 6-watt termination resistors to replace the 1.5 watt resistor sets that [literally] EXPLODED during high SWR tests awhile back.

While WQ6X won't win any awards for the SSB Sweepstakes it was an interesting challenge that opens new opportunities for upcoming operations at W7AYT.






Did YOU work the November Sweepstakes Phone contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

 

Friday, December 7, 2018

For WQ6X JIDX + WAE = Double Disappointment

R T T Y via  E L E C R A F T  K 3 / 0
Over the years, NX6T has taken numerous 1st-Place plaques for the JIDX (both Cw and Ssb) leaving me quite surprised when Dennis (N6KI) informed me that NX6T would be dark that weekend offering open operating opportunities for WQ6X.  Initially, it would seem that this solved the problem of how
I could participate in BOTH the JIDX & WAE-Rtty contests. What actually happened is something
else entirely.

In recent weekends I've been learning to leverage using an Elecraft K3/0 to run NX6T's station #1 remotely. I was hoping it would be an easy setup for this contest only to discover that while the internet network needed for connecting the RRC-1258 interface unit online worked, the internet connection needed by VNC Viewer was intermittent. While I was able to Search & Pounce (S&P)
with reasonably accuracy, the intermitent nature of the VNC Viewer made it nearly impossible to
run a frequency; attempting to pass QTC messages would have been a disaster.
N X 6 T  @ D U S K
The JIDX Ssb contest was even more frustrating. Every year I am frustrated by the lack of Japanese participation in their own contests. In my experience Japanese participation in the recent JARTS RTTY contest far exceeded that of the JIDX Ssb contest. HuH? Am I missing something?
At the last minute (12:00z) 4 Japanese stations made it into the 40 meter log.

For the WAE RTTY contest, 213 QSOs made it into the log along with 5 QTC messages.
With a more stable operating environment I might have been able to send the remaining
200+ QTC messages; maybe next year will be much better.

W A E  E n d I n g  S t a t s
While the overall operation left a lot to be desired, achieving a stable wireless RRC-1258 connection was successfully accomplished. The question to be examined is whether or not  this success can be repeated.

Did YOU work the JIDX and WAE RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

WQ6X Dual-OP's November Sweepstakes for a Change

It is no secret that CW Sweepstakes is my favorite domestic radiosport event.  In recent weeks I have been learning how to leverage a K3/0 for more efficient remote access to NX6T in Fallbrook. 
Running the K3/0 for this year's CQ W.W. Ssb contest worked nearly flawlessly.
K 3 / 0  +  F T - 1 0 0 0 mp + Rig Expert PLUS
That said, for the Cw Sweepstakes the goal was to put WQ6X on the air from W7AYT's QTH (in Concord) along with a not-insignificant number of hours joining up with N6KI (also running remote) looking for a Multi-Single win; not only for San Diego section but possibly even for the Southwest division.

The previous visit to W7AYT enabled the installation of a recently acquired Rig Expert PLUS.
While the RTTY configuration has yet to be worked out, the built-in Winkeyer works superbly,
just in time for this SS Cw GiG.  A major advantage of the Rig Expert PLUS is the freeing up
of several USB ports.

Unlike other radiosport events (with their 599 CA exchange), being patterned after the radiogram header (from the 1930's), Sweepstakes involves the exchange of SEVERAL pieces of information.  This format is detailed in the WQ6X Sweepstakes web section.

For example, if WQ6X works NX6T the exchange is: NX6T 123U WQ6X 69 EB.
In return NX6T will send the following exchange: WQ6X 234M NX6T 00 SDG.

Arriving Friday evening, pre-Contest checkout was FLAWLESS (for a change).  During this trip, the 10 year old (highly modified) West Mountain Radio Plug-N-Play interface was replaced with an even older (but highly superior), Rig Expert PLUS interface unit.  While the paddle sidetone sound is a bit funky, the Cw quality from the built-in Winkeyer logic is impeccable.

Throughout the weekend, operationally the K3/0 was a solid performer; altho the same cannot be
said for the [sic] Expert 1.5k amplifiers on the NX6T end of things (during the previous weekend's CQ W.W. Ssb contest).  Saturday morning found me re-cabling the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper for ladder-line AND coax feed.

Before the Sweepstakes started, time was spent configuring Dennis' newly acquired Buddipole @ W7AYT.  While Dennis intends this antenna to be used for portable operations, the signal levels in Concord were quite impressive; especially when you consider that the area itself seems to be an RF suck-hole (except to Oceania).  While the supplied tripod is only 10' high, we managed to put W1USA (Kansas City) on 14.270 in BOTH W7AYT & WQ6X logs with S-9 reports.
As more experimentation is done with the Buddipole, I will write up the results.


This year's Sweepstakes was only my 2nd Multi-OP section sweep (the 1st one was
with N6GEO as W6K back in 2013).

There was the usual dearth of such sections
as NE, DE & NT.  Our LAST section was NNY.  Because we were a multi-OP operation, we are allowed to use nearly any means necessary trolling for new sections. 

Here is Dennis putting out an internet plea
for NNY stations.  Eventually, 2 stations from Northern NY made it to the log - WHEW! 

However my BiG question is STILL:
"WTF is up with Nebraska"? ! ! !

Despite all the tweaking (with help from an MFJ-259b),
the 8JK sloper did not produce the "super" results I was hoping for.  Because of the scattered nature of stations in the WQ6X log, it was all but impossible to determine what the signal lobe was really like, altho there did seem to be a noticeable "pipeline" to W9-land.

Running frequencies as NX6T resulted in a number of unusual internet spots on 20 meters around 23:45z on Saturday.  After a spot by TF3Y (Iceland), I received a FLOOD of calling stations; two were new multipliers  JJ2VLY spotted NX6T at 00:09z resulting in another
flood of callers.  At 03:35 a 40-meter spot by F6ITT
resulted in another bunch of callers.

Operators new to Sweepstakes are often perplexed by
the rule allowing us to work a station only once during the contest.  Frequently stations would call me amidst heavy QRN.  After a half-dozen attempts to determination their callsign it eventually turns out to be a DUPE - WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Classic BENCHER paddle
and MFJ-1272 AFSK interface

While Cw sweepstakes is largely computer controlled,
there are moments when sending code by hand (using a paddle) when someone I know stops in to put a contact in the log.  Acknowledging operators by name is more personal, reducing the robotic-nature of contest operation somewhat.

Overall, this year's Cw Sweepstakes was an enjoyable GiG for WQ6X.  Not only did I manage another East Bay (EB) section win, it looks as tho NX6T may well have taken the Southwest Division for Multi-Single (HP),
altho overall we placed 12th in the multi-OP category.

Did YOU work the Cw 2018 November Sweepstakes?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Friday, November 30, 2018

WQ6X Wanders thru another CQ W.W. SSB contest weekend

I am usually not a big fan of SSB Dx contests (except for the DXCC improvement potential).
However the last weekend of October offered me the opportunity to test run the recently acquired Elecraft K3/0 remote radio control unit during an SSB contest.

For reasons beyond my control, the goal of working a recently acquired Mikrotik wireless hotspot
into the configuration never materialized.  That meant Friday evening required reverting back to the RCFORB & IP-Sound approach; a measurably archaic system compared to the K3/0 + RRC-1258 hardware configuration.

Unable to make transmit audio work via RCFORB, John (K6AM) loaded up NX6T's station #1 voice memories allowing efficient Search & Pounce (S&P) operation.  Using an Autek QF-1A audio filter on the RCFORB laptop audio made difficult voice accents more readable.  While I worked on things, Rick (N6CY) kept station #2 alive.

N 6 C Y  and  N 6 K I
The receiving end was no sooner made functional when N6KI came
back from dinner to relieve me for a nap (which never materialized because S&P'ing left me wired").  Before long
it was time for my 1am shift.

Because the SFI (Solar Flux Index) continues to hover around 69 or so,
80 & 75 meters were the primary evening bands, with a handful of contacts made on 160 to round
things out a bit.  By 7am (W6 time) the Dx disappeared returning 80 & 40 back to more-or-less local communications.



Saturday began with the monthly meeting of the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA) where we learned about the FT-8 digital mode,

After the club meeting, a drive was made to W7AYT'S QTH by way of a stop at Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) in Oakland to pickup
a 50' roll of RG-8X coax for Dennis' newly acquired Buddipole Deluxe. 

Saturday afternoon I helped Dennis put the antenna through
a thorough test-run.  While the Buddipole instructions are abundantly clear, the final secret to properly adjusting a Buddipole is an antenna analyzer such as the MFJ-259
which for me has provided years of exceptional antenna
design experience.




T o w e r  # 2
Typical of my portable operations from W7AYT, there are always some sort of surprise to be encountered; some good and some not so good.  Amazingly, no disasters occurred for this weekend; not even intentional QRM.  Once the K3/0 operation stabilized the CQ WW GiG became my first attempt at running an ssb contest remotely.

While our score (as reported by the 3830 Scores website) was nothing spectacular, our operation gave us the opportunity to test-drive the current Fallbrook station configuration, B-I-C & Remote.

Did you play in the CQ W.W. SSB contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

From JARTS to Pacificon: WQ6X does it all


Several weekend's back, the Pacificon convention seemed to appear out of nowhere (even though
I knew about it in September); the same way Visalia DX conventions appear "out of nowhere" in April. WQ6X plays around in so many different "flavors" of radiosport that it's easy to miss a GiG or two;
as happened with the recent Makrothen RTTY contest.
Oh well, "next year" (as we say nearly every year).

I will have more to say about Pacificon later. For now, suffice it to say, I never attended a Pacificon

I didn't enjoy; the woods setting of the San Ramon Marriot is superb.  Aside from Pacificon, my goal for the weekend was to update the WQ6X lazy 8JK sloper and then play in the JARTS RTTY contest running NX6T remotely from W7AYT, along with dabbling in the NYQP and ILQP state QSO parties.

Radio-wise @ W7AYT I got up early (or at least early
for me) on Saturday morning and reconfigured the Cobra slopers back into an 8JK arrangement; this time with a
coax feed on one Cobra and tuned feeders on the other.

In the end, the coax feed worked superbly, while the tuned feeder idea did not produce the hoped for result; something I will address in 2 weeks for the upcoming November Sweepstakes CW GiG.

After the antenna connections were finalized , W7AYT and
I made our way to Pacificon.  Wandering about the vendor area we paid close attention to the antenna vendors.

A lengthy conversation with Mr. Buddipole (W3FF) himself and his son Chris (W6HFP) resulted in Dennis placing an order for their Buddipole-Deluxe package, anticipating some upcoming portable operations.  I've worked W3FF in many contests; adding an eyeball QSO to the log is always appreciated.


K 3 / 0 REMOTE ACCESS to N X 6 T
 Once the hoopla was behind us, I found time for connecting remotely to NX6T to run the JARTS RTTY contest as NX6T (rather than WQ6X).   This was my first experience running a RTTY contest via the K-3/0 remote connection.  The idea was to QSO party hunt during lull periods in the RTTY contest.



Similar to the All Asian contests, the Japanese JARTS (Japanese Amateur Radio Teleprinter Society) GiG the exchange includes
sending of the operator's age.

 Thanks to N1MM's spreadsheet-like statistics screen, age statistics can be ordered chronologically.  If we compare stats from the JARTS contest to the All Asian GiGs, we will probably see the same age ranges represented in BOTH contests.

The bottom-line is that all but 7 QSOs (out of 190) made were with stations over 40 years of age; over 130 operators were over 60;
over 90 were over the age of 65.

I think it's time to bring some "young blood" into the JARTS contest.  What do you think?

QSO Party-wise, NY was a no-show; in BOTH Concord and Fallbrook. While ILQP participating stations were worked throughout the weekend, as usual, the QSO Party produced a dearth of Illinois stations - wassup with that?



N X 6 T  UNDER REMOTE CONTROL

All complaining aside the weekend was a resounding success; antennas were tweaked, K3/0 remote operations were perfected and another pair of contests were added to the 3830 Scores website.
Did YOU play in the ILQP, JARTS or NYQP contests? Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR log?



 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WQ6X as W6C Wanders thru CQP

W Q 6 X  a s  W 6 C
The California QSO Party is one of my favorite annually recurring radiosport events every year.
CQP has many things going for it; the most important being the time of year this event happens;
namely, the 1st weekend of every October. Before CQP I didn't know WHAT to do with that 1st weekend. Nearly 20 years later, I can't imagine NoT being a CQP OP, somehow, someway.

In the last 2 CQP events, WQ6X set back-to-back county records;
first from Twain Harte (Tuolumne County) and last year from W7AYT's QTH in Concord - Contra Costa County (CCOS). 
You can read about WQ6X's past CQP exploits in the web section devised specifically for this: http://WQ6X.Info/CQP
This years event is detailed at: http://WQ6X.Info/CQP/CQP2018.


T e s t i n g  t h e  K 3 / 0  I n s t a l l a t i o n
This year, anticipating another operation from Contra Costa county,
the W6C callsign (C=California, or, C=Concord, or C=CC)
was reserved.

During the week prior to CQP, components arrived to create an Elecraft K3/0 allowing the run of NX6T, not only remotely, but in style.

While I am still critical about some aspects of the Elecraft K3 front panel layout, "putting up with it" is FAR preferable than using the RCForb psuedo-K3 control software. Internet audio dropouts are now a thing of the past, thanks to the K3/0 interface to NX6T's STN-#1 & STN-#2 in Fallbrook.

Faced with running NX6T remotely, or focusing on W6C, I discovered BOTH activities could be accomplished. While W6C may not have set any new county records, CQP 2018 was an incredibly fun event and an unqualified success.

Anticipating an involved weekend, I arrived @ W7AYT Thursday evening.

Friday was spent reworking the WQ6X Cobra configuration by day and in the evening configuring the K3/0 for operation w/Stations #1 & #2 @ NX6T in Fallbrook - San Diego County (SDIE).  W6C also found time to join the 3630 "check-in" frequency prior to the 45 minute 7:15 practice event.

Using the K3, the ability to turn/twist knobs on the WQ6X end of things instead of RCForb's pseudo-K3 interface is SO WONDERFUL.   While I still prefer the ergonomic layout of the FT-1000mp, I am becoming increasingly conversant

with the K3 interface.   Altho I've run K3's for nearly 10 years, never outside
of Fallbrook.   It's a strange experience for me to be running a K3 in my own private operating environment; altho admittedly this is a gutless K3/0, an "empty" K3 box.

Lately, we've experienced a considerable shortage of operators for

NX6T events. As it turns out, this weekend was no exception.  
This of course is what motivates us to rely increasingly on remote operation.  
With CQP weekend's K3/0 implementation, at least for my operations, things have been taken to the next level.  Thanks to some clever audio cabling @W7AYT, 21st century Digital technology works well with analog late-70's
audio filters.



This event brought together
a wide array of disparate technologies to interlace W6C operations w/running CW from NX6T.

While W6C JUST missed the 200 QSO mark, NX6T put 1,640 QSOs in the log.  Over 425 of those QSOs are in the log thanks to the WQ6X ==>NX6T (via K3/0) connection. 

The audio codec in use by the RRC-1258 unit is SO sophisticated that audio streamed thru the IP connection, almost as if it were hard-wired to a radio in front of me.

In my mind, CQP is akin to emergency preparedness drills.
Learning new solutions to age-old operating problems helps "justify"

the fun we have doing it. This weekend, among other things I learned:

  • How to configure/run an Elecraft K3/0 setup.
  • A more effective way to configure the JPS NIR-12 DSP and QF-1A (x2) filters for the most effective use by the FT-1000mp.
  • I learned the ins and [mostly] outs of running Cobra Slopers: coax-fed, and fed with tuned feeders.
  • The WQ6X RTTY Rigger received a THOROUGH preliminary workout throughout the weekend (even though no RTTY signals could actually be heard).

A n t e n n a s  @ W 7 A Y T

When CQP actually started @1600z, anticipating condx. would be similar to 2017, W6C opened CQP calling CQ on 40 meter Cw. After 20 minutes of no replies, the "message" was received and a move was made to 20 meters.    VE6AO immediately came back to my  "CQ CQP de W6C W6C".
 
Stray RF was a problem throughout the weekend; specifically with the CHA-250 vertical but also with
the coax-fed Vee. With the tuned-VEE, the MFJ-949E
was able to balance things out significantly, only occasionally blinking the CFL lights.

Sunday morning during a routine inspection

of the sloper antenna wires the terminating resistors on all antenna legs were either "shattered" or at the very least noticeably discolored; evidently some excessive high current was making its way to the end
of the antenna, rather than radiating
properly from the feedpoint. 

(At one point Saturday evening, the SWR swings were so great the inductor switch on the MFJ-949 would occasionally ARC over.)


Q F - 1 a  &  N X 6 T  R i T
What was amazing was the duplicity of propagations
with this antenna setup. 
At any moment the band would seem dead; or worse, sound
as if the antenna system had failed. 

The next moment stations in Ontario or New England would PoP in S-8, Q-5 copy. 

 Slowww fades (innn and ouuut) were noticeable @ W7AYT but NoT @ NX6T, although NX6T was considerably noisier; some noise the K3's DSP could eliminate and some of it had to be processed by one of the QF-1A filters switched into the K3/0 audio line on the receiving end.

In the past, using the RCForb software to run the K3 remotely left me with

no RIT capability, relying heavily on the external QF-1A on my receiving end.
Now with the K3/0, I not only have RIT, SPLiT operation is considerably easier.  Adding an Autek QF-1A into the audio provides an audio peak to elevate weaker signals to Q-5 audibility.


On Sunday, after CQP was over, the station @W7AYT was reorganized making way for the Elecraft K3/0 to be more easily accessed. Having access to an Elecraft K3 and a Yaesu FT-1000mp is clearly an operator's DREAM for me. 
The next enhancement will be to revamp the tuned sloper configuration,
next time making it into a tuned 8JK sloper.

With CQP over a week behind us, the 3830 SCORE submissions make it clear that NX6T's 1640 QSOs took 3rd place in California and 2nd place in San Diego county. W6C took 8th place in California and 1st place for Contra Costa County.

DiD YOU work the California QSO Party? Is W6C or NX6T in YOUR LoG?