Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WQ6X Stumbles Thru WAE Cw Contest

WQ6X Remote operation w/QF-1 & QF-1A Filters
Every radiosport event brings unique/different problems often requiring custom solutions.
For the 2018 WAE (Worked All Europe) GiG, the biggest problem came in the form of a repeating internet dropout approx. every 5 seconds. This continual outage defined the WAE contest weekend.

The Worked All Europe contest is considered by many (including myself) to be the most COMPLEX

of all radiosport events. In most contests, a regular QSO is worth 2 points. In WAE, each QSO is worth ONE point; to receive another 1-point you must send a different station a QTC message,
which is in effect a report to the 2nd station about the QSO made with the 1st station. 
For efficiency, QTC messages can be sent in sets/books of 1 to 10 to a single recipient operator.
[CLICK HERE] to read the 2018 WAE contest rules.

The 2018 WAE contest resulted in barely 10% of the 2017 score. Because of the internet dropouts, there was NO WAY I was going to reliably send 10 QTC messages (let alone 1).  Of course sending

a QTC message for every QSO effectively doubles the score. When stations would send "QTC?",
I would press the pre-configured F-10 key to send "NOQTC". It was frustrating to listen to all the
"boys and girls" sending QTC's and I couldn't - Bummer Dewd!

NX6T station during Friday nite setup
CW-wise, WAE brings us many SUPER European operators, like YQ6A who kept the code speed under 28 wpm, sending a fast 5NN and a much slower serial number; the correct way to operate.  Unfortunately, MANY European operators were trying to impress people by running 35wpm during their CQ calls.  When you combine that with QRM/QRN and internet dropouts, it often took 20+ seconds to JUST figure out the callsign.  By the time I am ready to call the station, he is now
receiving a packet of 10 QTC messages.  WQ6X ain't waiting around for that - Buh Bye!
Remember: Your callsign is your calling card, if we copy it incorrectly then YOU don't
get credit for the QSO - SLOW DOWN people.

Commitments with my Toastmaster's club prevented me from getting started until 05:30z; by then, Europe had already faded into Fallbrook oblivion.  I took the time to configure the N1MM+ software
for WAE, connected and tested the outboard audio filters and caught 8+ hours of sleep. 
The 1st WAE QSO did not make it to the log until after 15:00z.

As you can see from the graph, 20-meters was the primary band for working Europe.  Running the C-31 yagi (7-el on 10, 5-el on 15 and 3-el on 20) I took a number of looks at 15 and 10 meters. 

Unfortunately, a low SFI of 67 did not contribute to an opening on those bands, at least the A-K Indexes were reasonably low; while there was plenty of static QRN, amazingly, the K3 radio's NB circuits knocked it all out.

Starting late on Friday missed an opening on 40 and 80 never materialized to Europe from NX6T's NVIS coaxial (double bazooka) inverted Vee for 80.

In radiosport, no matter what the contest result, I always learn something new technically.  
Just before the WAE contest weekend, an original Autek QF-1 filter was added to the laptop audio, effectively in parallel with the already existing QF-1A.  While each ear was routed through one of the filters, because RCForb laptop audio is effectively monaural, technically, the same audio content was being filtered in two different ways for each ear; not quite stereo Cw, but certainly effective enough to raise even weak signals above the noise.

N1MM+ Ending Screen for 2018 WAE
While the 2018 WAE Cw contest was quite a disappointment, it did allow me to work things out at
the remote access site.  I also learned how to invoke the onsite air conditioning in Fallbrook, allowing me to be self-sufficient.  Running 550 watts allowed WQ6X to be heard while keeping the NashVille shack relatively cool.  How CooL is that?

Did YOU work the WAE Cw contest?

How many QTC messages did YOU send?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

WQ6X DUAL-OPS NAQP CW CONTEST (and other things)

WQ6X running barefoot for a change
Just when I thought summer was just getting started, the end-of-July NAQP RTTY contest came
and went. ([CLICK HERE] to read about WQ6X's participation in that event.) Right behind the RTTY GiG is of course the NAQP CW event.  Wanting to run another dual-OP GiG, Friday afternoon I made my way to W7AYT's QTH for the weekend. During the weekend a goal was to investigate different receive audio filter combinations for the FT-1000mp as well as test different antenna configurations for the custom-wired WQ6X antenna phasing switch.

Every remote operation with Fallbrook (whether run from W7AYT or from unknown locations in Alameda) bring with it a unique set of problems; most recently radio to RCFOFB audio connections.  Thursday evening I remoted in to verify the internet connection & the audio; everything checked out.

On Friday evening the audio again failed to come through. 
Troubleshooting the problem brought the realization that somehow some of the audio settings in the RCFORB software had "mysteriously" been changed.  When queried, no one owned up to changing anything; or, as my mother used to say: "then "Mr. Nobody" must have done it".  Nevertheless, once the settings were reverted back to their proper settings, everything worked FB.

WQ6X Equipment setup @ W7AYT
Once the NX6T remote access was resolved, then it was time to setup the Yaesu FT-1000mp @ W7AYT's QTH.  In recent weeks I have been running the 1000mp into various combinations of outboard audio filters.  Because I also run NX6T remotely during the same contest, I have worked
out a parallel cabling arrangement between the 1000mp, a Toshiba WIN-7 laptop and a HEIL Pro headset.  The cables are routed directing the internet audio from RCFORB into the input of the
Autek QF-1A filter, along with the transceiver's Main-RX audio.

Directing the radio and laptop audio run through separate isolation transformers keeps unnecessary ground-mismatch hum out of the ears.  Other annoying artifacts can be eliminated incidentally via the PEAK/Lo-PASS filter paths of the QF-1A.  For this weekend's operation, output of the QF-1A was fed into a long-used MFJ 752-C Audio Shaper, before making its way to the HEIL headset.

Running NX6T as a Multi-2 operation allowed a number of different operator configurations; some remote, some live in the shack atop the hill (900' high) in Fallbrook.  At 18:00z on Saturday, N6CY
ran 20 meters remotely while I alternated between 15 and 10 meters.

Because of the surprising 10-meter opening in the NAQP RTTY contest, I was hoping for a similar opportunity for NAQP CW; nope, lengthy S&P'ing and CQ calls yielded a WHOPPING 2 QSOs for
the log.  Luckily, 160 meters (at the other end of the spectrum) produced 32 QSOs to counter-balance the statistics.

For some reason, RF was getting into the K3 on 10 meters causing the radio to power itself off during each 2nd CQ call.  Reducing the power to 80 watts was enough to resolve the problem, but not enough to add more 10-meter QSOs to the log.  The 64 QSOs on 15 meters, while not a huge number, was to me a "bonus surprise".

Throughout the afternoon WQ6X ran station #1, taking breaks to put a few QSOs into the WQ6X Concord log.

23:00z on 20 meters & 01:15z on 40 were the longest runs for WQ6X.

By 03:00z I was back running remote during the "dinner hour".

N6KI joined me again around 05:10z and
we ran dual until 05:50
when I called it quits
with NX6T.

The last 10 minutes of NAQP were focused on 40 meters for WQ6X.  I was rewarded with QSOs from 8P5, WH6 and KH6, amongst some statesiders.  While WQ6X missed the minimum goal of 100+ QSOs, I DiD manage to fulfill several other operational goals for the portable operations from W7AYT's QTH.

Included in these goals was an innovative way to make use of the WQ6X antenna switch.  This allows running the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper and the CH-250 vertical, either separately or (using  switch position 3) paralleling the coax from those antennas, running the two simultaneously.  While the radiation lobe(s) of these combined antennas are probably WEIRD, a number of stations were heard with the combo that could not be brought through with the individual antennas run separately.

2-el-10 + Lazy 8JK Sloper + CH-250
Overall, the NAQP Cw weekend was a mixture of fun, frustration and WEIRDness.  In the Multi-2 classification, NX6T took 8th place for USA and North America.

While WQ6X barely made an appearance this Cw GiG,
at LEAST I took the opportunity to test antenna sharing
as well as audio sharing

In the realm of audio-sharing, this operation allowed consolidating the previous morass of different audio
cables and multiple "Y" connectors down to two cables
and one junction block.

Combining the laptop audio with audio coming from the radio allowed the possibility of streaming electronic music from Pandora while running frequencies, however occasionally the music would "beat" with the Cw making code copy difficult; which is what Pandora's PAUSE
button is for.
Tuning around 40-meter Cw after the contest I encountered Buddhist chanting on 7.020 Lsb.  The chanting would build to a fervor and then it would be quiet; repeating this cycle every 5 minutes or so.
HuH?  WTF?
Did YOU work the North American QSO Party (NAQP)?
Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR log?

Sunday, August 5, 2018


Like many WQ6X remote operations, the July NAQP RTTY contest was a last minute setup.
Earlier that week there was an attempt to run NX6T in the NAQP contest as a remote Multi-2 operation until they discovered there is no reliable/accurate way to remotely dial back STN-1's
ACOM 2000a amplifer down to exactly 99 - 100 watts (the power limit for NAQP contests).

Enter WQ6X. On Friday evening it occured to me that running STN-1's Elecraft K3 barefoot at 55 watts would result in only a 3db reduction in the signal level; an amplifier would not be necessary.

The BiG secret to running lower power operations is directing the RF energy into gain-producing antennas , such as the C-31 and Shorty-40 yagi's at NX6T's Fallbrook location; both 31mh.

The 80-meter coaxial dipole (atop tower #2 in it's 13mh lower elevation) was enough to put 15 RTTY QSOs in the
80-meter section of the log.

While the overall operation was ad-HOC, WQ6X managed QSO #1 by 18:01z. Running the Elecraft K3 @55 watts kept the radio and the shack relatively cool; had I run the ACOM 2000a with no one onsite to turn on the shack A/C, simple heat problems woulda become BiG problems.

Thanks to the DMC RTTY contest (which began at 12:00z), putting 11 QSOs in the DMC log from 16:00z - 18:00z allowed testing of the radio facilities in Fallbrook, as well as the internet connections on both sides of the radio operation.

NX6T on Friday evening
Pre-loading N1MM's keyboard RTTY macros on Friday evening, software operation ran nearly flawlessly; there were even 1/2 dozen opportunities to effect proper use of the F-10 "NOW"
key while running a frequency.

During S&P operations another 1/2 dozen QSOs made it to the log by way
of the other station's proper use of their "NOW" key.

As I often do during RTTY & CW GiGs, run frequencies are PRECISELY chosen such that when some IDIOT calls Cq EXACTLY on my run frequency, I know
it did NoT happen by accident.

 That is also why I have the F-11 key configured to send "QRL - Pse QSY". When a station attempts to move-in on my run frequency, I press the F-11 key TWICE for each time I press F-1 to call CQ. 
In most cases the intruder gets the message and QSY's to another frequency.

While we are still near the bottom of the solar sunspot cycle, the SFI was UP high enough and long enough that 15 AND 10 meter openings were a part of the daytime operation. In fact, more QSos made it into the log on 10-meters than on 15 - GO Figure. While running 10-meters a periodic scan
of the C-31 from North to East to South America and back again put dozens of QSOs in the log.
While contest goal of 300 QSOs was JUST missed (293), considering the 55-watt power level,
I was amazed how easy it was to keep run frequencies active.

Because NAQP GiGs are 12 hour contests beginning at 18:00z and ending at 06:00z it is reasonable to expect that encountering intentional QRM probably will not be a problem; especially during a RTTY contest. Unfortunately, when I started up on 40 meters around 02:00z, I no sooner put out the first "CQ NAQP" call, when a Spanish-speaking SSB station (with no callsign ID, of course) zero-beats
the 7094.94 run frequency EXACTLY; i.e., this was no accident. While I am used to Asian SSB signals in the upper portions of the 40-meter Cw/Digital spectrum, rarely does that occur before midnight (07:00z), and certainly not in Spanish.

Events of the day allowed working the allowed 10 out of the 12 NAQP hours (the limit for Single OP operations). Altho there are fewer stations operating the final 2 hours of the contest, it is not surprising to hear "new" stations during that period; possibly OPs who got on the air at the last minute to make a few QSOs.

What about you?

Did YOU play in the NAQP and/or DMC RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?