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?

Friday, October 12, 2018

WQ6X RUNS World Wide RTTY to it's WIDEST

Running N X 6 T  Remotely
Littered with radiosport competitions, the last 6 weeks have found me operating (and preparing equipment for operation) with little time for actual BLOG typing; altho DURING each contest event
I keep a notepad at the OP position, scribbling down details of EACH notable or bizarre event occurring during that each radiosport GiG. Sometimes, during multi-contest weekends, unique
events can combine in such a weird way, I feel COMPELLED to share them. That is essentially
how this set of WQ6X Contest BLOG Entries came about 5+ years ago.

If you want to see the most bizarre of the bizarre, read the 4-Part BLOG series detailing my BEEFs related to Radiosport events. [CLICK HERE] to read about that.  Now you didn't come here to hear about my BEEFs, you came here to read about RTTY.

The last weekend of September found me hanging out @ W7AYT's Concord QTH test-running Version 1.1 (now currently Version 1.12) of the WQ6X RTTY Rigger; a Heath HD-15 phone patch
unit repurposed into an AFSK RTTY interface.

While there, the weekend plan included an on/off remote run of the CQ W.W. RTTY Contest. A decision to make was whether to run Low Power (100 w. Max.) or High Power (around 660 watts)
and whether to run an all-band affair or a single-band GiG. The end result was a number of operating compromises that also taught me how to utilize a number of features of the Yaesu FT-1000mp more effectively; [and] in conjunction with the myriad of external audio filters constantly being circulated in/out of service with WQ6X's operations from W7AYT and the troubleshooting work board.

Because the solar flux (SFI) could
not be coaxed above 70, the only GooD thing to say about this weekend (Space-WX wise) is that the A & K Indexes
were almost as low as they can get.

Typical of this period in the sunspot cycle, 10 & 15 meters never materialized @ NX6T, and certainly not @ W7AYT.

By the time I got started Friday evening, 20 meters was already gone, relegating operations to begin on an already PACKed 40 meters.

It was at the last minute I made the decision to run as a low power entry (100 w. during S&P and
55 watts when running a frequency), relying on the antennas on Tower 2 to make up for the lack
of power - they did.

If everything went accordingly, I was hoping to run WQ6X via the WQ6X RTTY Rigger making QSOs from the SF bay area (ARRL EB Section). Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the RTTY Rigger cabling until AFTER the contest - between the RTTY GiG and the TX QSO Party, I had a LoT to contend with.   That relegated operations to running NX6T remotely.

Skimming the log prior to writing this BLOG entry, I was surprised that the first QSO didn't occur until 05:55z (nearly 11pm).  within the hour ZM1A, ZM2B, CR3W, GM3W and a VY2 were in the log.  ZM4T was also heard but his AFC kept jumping him around in frequency; I could not figure how to synchronize with him.

NO  D a t a  C r a n k i n g
Earlier, I mentioned I have many BEEFs with radiosport (over 20 issues thus far). One issue (detailed in BEEF #7) has to do with what I call "Data Cranking".

If you've ever been on 40 meter
CW / RTTY in the after midnite hours (PST) you have probably heard the occasional "data cranker" and didn't have a name for what you were hearing.

During this year's CQ WW RTTY
contest a data cranker began following me around; I would move frequency, get 3 minutes of "clear channel" and then more data cranking.

The fact that this QRM was "following me around" confirms that it was not accidental or some sort of spurious signal from another frequency or band.  The frequency shifts were just too precise to be a transmitter run by some sort of "QRM BoT".

40-meter propagation was surprisingly POOR, considering that at the bottom of the sunspot cycle 80/40 should be hopping during the late evening time period.  Eventually sleep overtook me. 
In the morning I found time (beginning 15:00z) to put a few TXQP contacts in the log.  Unfortunately, throughout the day tuning around for more Texas stations, finding NOTHING - Bummer Dewd!

W Q 6 X   R T T Y  R i g g e r
As I mentioned earlier, the CQ RTTY contest encouraged me to bring along the WQ6X RTTY
Rigger for its first connection to a radio.  While the interface cabling did not occur until AFTER
the contest, not only was there complete proof of concept (or converting a phone patch into an
AFSK RTTY interface), Dennis (W7AYT) drilled several holes into the HD-15 front panel allowing
the installation of several switches and pots, which will make way for switching the VU meter
between RX and TX and the implementation of a pair of diode NL (noise limiting) circuits to
process the AFSK receive audio BEFORE passing it along to the local computer decoding
the RTTY data.

E n d i n g   S c o r e
For a weekend that was focused/centered around the CQ W.W. RTTY contest, it didn't seem like there was much actual RTTY happening.  Saturday evening found 40 meters happening and even
a brief opening to South America on 80 meters - GO Figure.

When the contest was over, it was obvious that the 185 QSOs on 40-m was the biggest band total, convincing me to submit the log as a Single Band submission.

N X 6 T   A f t e r   C Q  W W   R T T Y  C o n t e s t
Did YOU work the CQ W.W. RTTY Contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

WQ6X Ponders and Prepares W6C for 2018 CQP

Scribble stats from last 8 CQP GiGs
This is the 1st time I've written about
a CQP event BE-4 it happens.

During the last 30 daze, I've been musing over what should happen for
the 2018 California QSO Party (CQP). 

I could join up with someone's mult-group or Expedition, or, I can take Amtrak to Oceanside and join the usual gang of Motley operators at NX6T,
up on the hill overlooking Fallbrook. 

While the C-31 tower trailer has been commandeered by the K6QK operation, there is STILL tower #2 (a 3-el STEPP-IR, 2-el Shorty-40 and inverted Vee's
for 80 & 160).

Tower #2 @ N X 6 T
Another possibility would be to stay in the bay area and remote in to NX6T (as I often do) using the RCForb software to control the radio and VNC Viewer to run the logging software.

Unfortunately with the internet dropouts in Fallbrook, running RCForb to run the radio seems like a HORRIBLE alternative.

Then again, an alternative to the alternative has come in the form of
an Elecraft K3/0 remote operating unit received as a birthday present
last week. 

Assuming I can get the K3/0 operational in time, I will be able to put in a few hours of OP-time remotely without the internet latency problems I normally experience when running the RCForb software; even running the audio thru IP-Sound is not enough to overcome the timing problems.  Because the K3/0 is a hardware ---> internet ---> hardware setup, software latency will hopefully
be a thing of the past.

During last weekend's CQ W.W. RTTY contest, I brought in Version 1.1 of the recently devised WQ6X RTTY Rigger - an old Heathkit HD-15 phone patch converted into an AFSK RTTY interface (look for an upcoming WQ6X contest blog entry about this).  Coupling output of the FT-1000mp's Main-RX audio line thru an Autek QF-1a audio filter into the RTTY Rigger gave it a thorough workout. 
Alas, the RTTY Rigger is back on the work bench awaiting the mods that will make up Version 1.2.  The QF-1a filter is also back in for evaluation and will be replaced with the original PAIR of QF-1A units, all of which have been upgraded to RCA plugs, replacing the antiquated mono phone plugs.

QF-1A PAIR - Final workbench tests
After spending a couple of hours researching the results pages from the CQP website, the decision was made to run as W6C ("Whiskey Six California") from W7AYT's QTH, in an attempt to surpass the record set by K6T
(WQ6X-Op) in the 2017 CQP for
Contra Costa County (CCOS).
[CLICK HERE] to read about that GiG.

Because I like to thoroughly document major contest event operations, a CQP page is put together for each year of operation (from 2010 - 2018) in the CQP Section of the WQ6X.Info website. 

As each contest date approaches, the CQP pages receive updates, almost up to the 9 am starting time on Saturday morning.  [CLICK HERE] to see the current CQP county station allocations for 2018.

Dennis (W7AYT) donated a stereo speaker set (including sub woofer) to
the WQ6X operation from Concord.
Not only do blue LED's look CooL, the audio (especially on SSB) is SUPERB.

The Yaesu FT-1000mp transceiver splits the Main/Sub receiver audio beautifully between left and right channel. 

LooK for WQ6X behind the Electro Voice microphone at W6C on 40/75 meters Saturday evening.

WQ6X running CQ W.W. RTTY remotely.
This upcoming 2018 California QSO Party promises to be one of the most active CQP GiGs EVER; even more than the CQP-50 event back in 2015.  Thanks to the best complement of audio filters ever used @W7AYT, revamped antennas and a 32" computer screen, the W6C event promises to be an overarching success.

Are YOU going to play in the 2018 California QSO Party?
If not, WHY NOT?