Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 2

I opened the first installment of this contesting series with the following quote:
"In radiosport, indeed during ALL on-the-air activities, in my mind, it goes w/o saying that respect for others should be an over-arching trait representing our on-air decorum."
Unfortunately, because ham radio operators are people too, they sometimes say/do some rather WEIRD things on the air; especially during radiosport contest events.  This 4-part BLOG entry series gives me an opportunity to air out the dirty laundry often lurking at the depths of [often] worldwide competitions.

In the first BLOG of this series we had BEEFS #1 --> #5.
[CLICK HERE] to read Part I of this series.

In this issue we will continue with BEEFS #6 --> #10, beginning with a pesky little "creature"
known as the WooDPecker.

In the EARLY 1980's the shortwave spectrum was PLAGUED by the Russian Over-the-Horizon radar. It's FAVORITE operating frequency was 13.856 mhz (or thereabouts) - right below the 20-meter CW allocation; although the radar pulses could be heard WELL-ABOVE 14.350. This radar was dubbed "the Woodpecker" because of its pulses which had a woodpecker-like sound.

A.E.A. Corporation immediately released what they called the "Moscow Muffler"; in an attempt to combat this menace. Since then, virtually every amateur transceiver is equipped with an NB-1 noise blanker, and sometimes an NB-2; although depending on who you ask, those blankers are effective only 1/2 the time and sometimes introduce their own artifact, in the form of circuit/audio distortion.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the Woodpecker all but disappeared. However now, in the last 2-years, a new Woodpecker has built a nest on 6.995 mhz or thereabouts. WTF is THAT all about? What Dingle Dorks decided that it is a GooD Thing to park a megawatt radar transmission right next door to the 40-meter CW band? If you're going to INTERFERE with broadcasts, I would think the illegal PIRATE Radio stations (clustered around 6.555 Mhz) would be fair game; not amateur CW.
Am I missing something?


Because I operate the night shift during most radiosport GiGs, that puts me on 40 meters
much of the time. The 40-meter amateur band is shared with a number of different radio services. Unfortunately, I have gotten used to data cranking on my CW run frequencies and RTTY during SSB contests. I NEVER hear the data crankers or RTTY in the SSB segments EXCEPT during radiosport contests - wassup with that?


Many stations (whether simply DX or running a contest frequency) simply REFUSE to ID.
When I run a frequency, I program Function Key [F3] to send "TU WQ6X", opening it up for
the next caller. Sending "QRZ?" (w/o a callsign takes just as long to send as a callsign.
What is so difficult to understand about that?

When running a frequency, sending your callsign advertises yourself as being open for communication. If we log your callsign incorrectly, then YOU get Dinged for the QSO.
Imagine the following: "CQ TEST WQ6X". If there is quick fading or the noise-level is significant,
one or more letters of the WQ6X call can be obliterated. Sending the call TWICE (or maybe even
3 times) "CQ TEST WQ6X WQ6X" gives us a chance to catch it on the repeat. Otherwise, we have
to wait around for another "CQ TEST WQ6X" call, only to have it obliterated as well.
Bottom-line?  Keep your CQ calls Informative, yet Quick.

As I said above intentional QRM on the 40 meter band happens nearly all 40-meter CW contests; everything from someone playing a voice recording repeating "F - U" over and over again, to this happening during the 2017 WPX-CW contest:
Stations were dutifully lining up to put WQ6X in their log until 10:47z when a Loud HOWLING noise appeared, followed by an Ssb-audio CW calling "CQ WPX de YC9WSQ". 
This went on intermittently yet continuously. The QRM got so loud that I moved to 7027.27 to escape the cacophony.
Then at 12:53z YC9WSQ was now at it again on 7.027 with that HOWL seeming LOUDER than ever. This station never worked anybody so it was clearly nothing more than harassment; or, the guy was under the influence of one of the doctor's concoctions.
After the contest, I looked up his callsign on QRZ.Com and found this WEIRD picture. Which one is the operator? The guy on the right or the witch doctor on the left?

As you can see, a lot WEIRD things happen during radiosport GiGs; especially during the Weird Prefix Contest.   My BEEFS get even beefier in the 3rd installment of this BLOG series coming soon to the WQ6X.BlogSpot.Com.

The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 1

In radiosport, indeed during ALL on-
the-air activities, in my mind, it goes w/o saying that respect for others should be an over-arching trait representing our on-air decorum.   Unfortunately, the desire for a "perfect whirrrrl'd" is
FAR from perfect.

This Blog entry began as a Top-10
list of BEEFS I have with radiosport operations and operators.

The list quickly grew way beyond the 10, relegating this BLOG to become
a 4 part BLOG series; this entry
being part 1. 

Normally with Blog entries I go to great lengths ensuring there is some sort of aesthetic beauty in what is written.

Because this is a blatant list of beefs, I am just going to list them without fanfare and share my thoughts about each one, as well as
a few relevant pictures as well.  To make things more meaningful,
I used poetic license in the choice of visual images.

BTW, the opening picture is a PERFECT example of one of my radiosport BEEFs.  ([CLICK HERE] to read the BLOG entry this
picture 1st appeared in.)

On CW, operators running radios with 2.0+ Khz I-F's often tune WAY OFF my run frequency.  They seem to think because they can hear me, I should also be able to hear their 20 - 50 watt signal into a mis-matched dipole.

When I run the FT-1000mp I can immediately switch-in the clarifier
knob and tune them in. However, if I am running remote, I have NO ACCESS to an R-i-T control; the RCForb software cannot invoke
that Elecraft K3 feature.

A work-around to this problem is to synch VFO-A & VFO-B and put the radio in SPLIT mode; listening on VFO-A and transmitting on VFO-B.
The CORRECT answer is for calling stations to call with no more
than a 1000hz offset. Do you think you can do that?

This is ESPECIALLY noticeable when running RTTY contests.
Out of NOWEHERE an S-9+ station opens up with "CQ TEST"
with PERFECT RTTY copy, meaning the station is EXACTLY
on the run frequency; it was NO accident.

A special N1MM+ Function Key (FKey-9) allows me to repeatedly
send "QRL / QSY" until they get the message and move on.
Amazingly some don't; XE2 stations in particular.  I-F notch filters
are the RTTY operator's answer to IDIOTS like this.

Now you know why I purposely choose frequencies like 14084.84.


HuH? He JUST worked me? Did he log the previous contact incorrectly? Should I work him again to be sure he's in the log?
I have done that only to have them call me a THIRD time 20
minutes later. I guess they don't hear too many contest stations.

Then again, I guess their attitude is that making DUP QSOs is
better than falling asleep at the radio.

HuH?  WTF is THIS all about?  Go find your OWN run frequency, or S&P (Search and Pounce) elsewhere.  What are these operators NoT thinking?  When a station does this, I press function key [F5] (their callsign) followed by [F9] ("QRL QSY") followed IMMEDIATELY
by the [F1] key("CQ Contest").  After that they usually LEAVE.

A variation on the BRUTE operator (described above) is the IDIOT who makes sure to work me FIRST, then moves down 200hz (but
still within the reaches of the Yaesu's 500 & 250 hz filters) to call
their OWN CQ Contest.  HuH?  WTF is THAT all about?

I have consistently noticed that they usually don't make any QSOS from those calls (because my signal is drowning them out).
Eventually, they find a new frequency.

The solution to THESE Idiots is SIMPLE - I move down 200hz and press [F9] again and again until they MOVE.   Then it's back to the
run frequency and back to the contest.

That's it for this 1st installment, Radiosport fans.
[CLICK HERE] to read Part II of this series.





Sunday, June 3, 2018

Beacon Tracking saves WQ6X from drowning in 2018 SEA NET

Radiosport-wise, the 1st weekend in June is usually very quiet. Thinking I may have missed something,
I took a gander thru WA7BNM's Contest Calendar for June.

All I came across was
the SEA net contest.
([CLICK HERE] to read the rules for this contest GiG.)

Altho the event started at 12:00z, there was NO WAY I was ready to get up THAT early; in fact, the WQ6X starting time was more like 23:00z (mid afternoon PDT).

Altho the contest was not a part of WQ6X's N1MM installation,
I downloaded the SEAnet.UDC (User Defined Contest) file and imported it into the N1MM+ software on the WQ6X laptop, as well
as Station #1 @ NX6T. It lists itself as the SEAnet RTTY contest
and yet sets the operating modes as CW+SSB - GO Figure.

To make a BORing long story short, bottom line: the 2018 SEAnet contest was - from the WQ6X perspective - a NO SHOW. Devising custom CQ macros for this contest, I auto-CQ'd from the NX6T station for what seemed like hours. The only comebacks were stateside idiots who sent me 5NN and their state CODE (ex: AL & NM), to which I pressed the F3 key (TU QRZ?) and then used Ctrl-W to WIPE the QSO rather than log it.

What is frustrating about this weekend is that there were JA's & VK's (amongst others) who QUALIFIED to be in the contest but in fact were not. HuH?! This is the beef I have with stateside contests - operators don't play in their own contests. Somehow I thought this weekend would be different; and, it wasn't.

Now I coulda moped around about how I got screwed, however instead, I used this weekend to learn a LoT MoRe about the radio beacons which populate the amateur bands; some you may know about, and some you may have never heard of before.

To open this discussion, I invite you to consider a set of beacon stations that have been around (in one form or other) since the
1930's; none other than WWV, WWVH & CHU Canada.

When I purchase a transceiver (such as
my Yaesu FT-1000mp
or its FT-920 & FT-900 predecessors) or a shortwave receiver

(such as the current Tecsun PL-600), one of the immediate things
I do is to load up the 1st 10 frequency memories with the WWV/WWVH/CHU frequencies (leaving #10 available). 

A couple of weeks ago at W7AYT's QTH during a non solar storm weekend, in the evening I was able to copy ALL of the WWV/WWVH frequencies: 2.5, 5.0, 10.0, 15.0, 20.0 & 25.0 Mhz., as well as CHU
on 7.850. Scrolling thru the time stations gives me a sense of what
the LUF & MUF frequencies are at that time of day.

As a backup reference, several more memory allocations allow listening to various commercial RTTY stations in the 7.5 and 8.5 Mhz frequency ranges as well as the Pirate Radio Spectrum (6.500 - 7.000 Mhz) giving an indication of the propagation on those frequency segments.

Manually scrolling or invoking a channel scan gives me a good overview of the shortwave spectrum. At W7AYT I use the CH-250 vertical to check band openings, BECAUSE it is a vertical, and because the FT-1000mp has a dozen+ auto tuner memories
set to match the vertical.  Within 5 minutes I can get a quick look
at overall propagation.   In addition to 100+ frequency memories,
the thing I like most about the 1000mp is it's antenna tuner and dual receive capability.

Russian "Letter" Beacons
I often bitch about military incursions into our amateur frequencies
(such as the Chinese military M8JF calling the Russian RIS9 on 3772.84 @13:00z).

Then again, an upside to their activities is that they give us inadvertent propagation information from North and North-Central Asia.

I often hear the 40-meter letter beacons (7.039 Mhz) nearly every
day after around 07:00z. Depending on where I am listening from (NX6T, W7AYT or N6GEO) one or more beacons will drift through.
This weekend, only the "M" beacon (Magadan) was heard at NX6T.

I've covered the lower frequency beacon offerings first because they are not well known to amateurs and shortwave listeners. More familiar are the 18 NCDXC beacons stationed strategically around the globe.

I devised the WQ6X Beacon Tracker to help determine which beacon
I am hearing at any given moment. While this is not necessarily a new idea, combining it with a Space WX sub-window and the ability to capture screen pictures IS unique.

3-EL Stepp-IR + 2-el Shorty-40
One of the useful functions of the NCDXF beacons is that they can give us an indication of whether or not a band
is actually open and to where.

Throughout this weekend
I set the Stepp-IR yagi
(atop Tower #2) to BI-Directional, pointing it in various directions to listen for several 3 minute periods as each beacon went through its 20 meter transmissions.

Considering that this weekend seemed to have a dearth of Oceania/Asia stations, I was surprised to hear the W6WX, KH6RS, VK6RBP, JA2IGY & VR2B beacons, altho ZL6B never made it to Fallbrook. While it didn't count for the SEAnet contest, signals from YV5B (Venezuela) were heard throughout the night and even on 15 meters Sunday afternoon along with LU4AA in Argentina (altho the rest of the band seemed dead).

It is BECAUSE I could copy KH6RS, VK6RBP & JA2IGY that I
spent as much time calling "CQ SEA Test" as I did. While it effectively accomplished nothing, it DiD get me into listen and evaluation mode; something I sometimes don't do enough of.

Do YOU ever make use of the various propagation beacons on the shortwave bands?

How man beacons have YOU heard?