Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Russian Letter Beacons Rescue 40 meters

Combined Beacon Location Maps

Most DX'ers & Contesters are
familiar w/the NCDXF Beacons. 
Last year I described how I make
use of the NCDXF beacons, leading
to design of the WQ6X Beacon Tracker software.  [CLICK HERE] to read that original BLOG Entry.

I have long wished for a 40 meter equivalent of a NCDXF beacon, ideally, one that signal every second.

It occurred to me that the main use for such beacons would revolve around the middle east - thru Moscow and on to E. Asia.

As a member of the San Diego Contest club, I often joke that the only real reason they invite me to play @ NX6T in Fallbrook, is because I'm willing to run the 1am to 7am shift.  It was during one of my live visits to Fallbrook during a JIDX contest that during an S&P (Search & Pounce) session, pointing the Shorty-40 [yagi] to Asia revealed a series of "Letter" Beacons, on or about ~ 7.039.  Because their origin is various locations throughout Russia, they have been termed the Russian [military] "Single Letter" beacons.

If you have access to back issues of Popular Communications, the December 1984 issue contains an excellent write up on "Single Letter Beacons".  What amazes me is the timelessness of that article - 35 years later, most of the data is still relatively relevant.

The list (on the right) summarizes the stations more likely to be heard from the West Coast.

On the Left Coast, the beacons begin to "appear" around 07:00z (@ NX6T) and 07:30z (@W7AYT).   It is not surprising to hear ONLY Letter Beacons but no calling stations. 

If everyone is listening and no one is calling CQ, the band can appear to be dead.  When I hear the beacons coming thru, I find a relevant clear frequency (Ex: 7021.21) and call CQ.

Having access to these Single Letter Beacons (SLB's) is yet another reason for being capable of copying simple-CW.  Many of the letter beacons operate on numerous non-Amateur frequencies which bracket the amateur bands.  Saving these frequencies in the radio's memory allows propagation checking as band openings come and go.

Do you ever use the NCDXF and SLB beacons?
What discoveries have YOU made?

Last year I ran an internet search on the beacons and came up with the following significant entries:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

WQ6X turns K-o-S into WPX warmup Exercise

Having submitted a contest log in previous King-of-Spain Cw GiGs keeps me on the mailing list
for up-coming King-of-Spain contest events.  Experiencing exhaustion from 7 straight weekends
of radiosport action, I decided to dial this weekend back using it to make preparations for next weekend's CQ WPX (Weird Prefix) contest.

In recent weeks, I have been experimenting with various ways to combine different external audio filters by way of a switch box and various stereo pin-plug => RCA converter cables.  Doing this brought a number of unexpected discoveries on how certain things are actually wired.

When I bought this switch on eBay, I made the assumption that all switched outputs were separate.  In fact, if you look at the schematic closely, ALL +Lines on each side (L & R) are physically wired together, independent of the switches.  The switches switch ONLY the -Lines.  OOOPs!

In recent months, experimenting
with various "flavors" of audio filter combinations for stereo-Cw, I have relied on short 1/8"-female to RCA plug converter cables to split the input audio - one unit for each ear.  The output RCA connections are then recombined into another 1/8" stereo female jack.

Unfortunately, this configuration wasn't producing the usual left-to-right separation I was expecting - time to bring out the DVM.  Using the DVM's audible-buzzer, an incredible discovery was made. 

Plugging a Male-to-Male stereo jumper into the 1/8" jack, the ring was properly measured to be connected to the red RCA cable.  Surprisingly, the tip of the white RCA plug was connected to the cable ground and the tip of the 1/8" plug was connected to the RCA plug's shell.  HuH?
Thinking it was a fluke, I measured a duplicate splitter cable and found it also wired incorrectly;
not surprising since I bought the two cables together.  I clipped the white plug from each cable and tossed them into the recycle box. 

Luckily there were a set of replacement (albeit longer) splitter cables in the junk drawer, bringing true Left-Right stereo cw back to my ears, allowing me to get down to the business of the King-of-Spain Dx contest.  By my 23:15z contest start, station #1 (@NX6T) had it's long-time ACOM 2000a removed in preparation for a replacement Expert 1.5Kfa amplifier.  I decided to run low power until the Expert amplifier was inline.

While 20 meters produced a few QSOs with Europe (and yes, Spain), within an hour the only thing heard were stateside stations, making it time for a move on down to 40 meters. 

It wasn't until 03:00z that Europe made its way into the speakers.  Finding a run frequency added more QSOs to the log. 

While some stations were handing out 600+ QSO numbers, the actual amount of contest activity experienced on the Left-coast was incredibly lacking.  At 04:25z WM6Y made an appearance in Fallbrook, to put the Expert amplifier into the antenna line.  Within 45 minutes WQ6X was running as a high power entry.  Oh what a difference 1300 watts makes.

Amazingly, it seemed that the minute a switch was made to high power stations moved in on one run frequency after another.

Hoping for an Asian opening (similar to the previous weekend), the Shorty-40 was  turned to 300-degrees. 

Unfortunately, all I heard was the Russian "M & "F" beacons; not a single JA station was heard.

I decided to take a "short nap" and come back for those hoped for Asian stations.  Evidently I needed the sleep - I didn't wake up until 11:55z; with only 5 minutes left in the K-o-S contest.

Did you play around in the King of Spain Cw contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 5

The outdoor outhouse toilet for WQ6X/6 in OJAI (SB Section)
It has been nearly a year since I began the BLOG series under the moniker of "The Role of Respect in Radiosport".  While this is admittedly a "beef list", because these items have plagued me heavily,
I endeavor to NoT commit these mistakes.  Here are the original BLOG posts from that series:
  1. [x] The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 1
  2. [x] The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 2
  3. [x] The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 3
  4. [x] The Role of Respect in Radiosport - Part 4
While I thought everything needing to be said about this was expressed in the previous 4 entries, since that time, a handful of new items have surfaced.

On given radiosport weekends, the major activity is some form of a DX contest.  Specific weekends include: All Asian (A.A.), JIDX (Japan), WAE (Worked all Europe) and SA-10 (South America 10 meter contest).
For whatever reason, many stations in those countries fail to plant themselves on a frequency and call CQ Contest; we have do it for them.  During this year's JIDX contest, my calls of "CQ JA" on 40 meters in the early morning resulted in over a DOZEN stateside calls, mostly from the South and Southeast.  The interim solution was to define N1MM's function key F9 to send "JA Only". 
Even with that, many of the stations would call again and again.

Let's be clear how radiosport events should be run:
  2. Second: If the rules say that W/VE stations work JA ONLY, then, please, DO NOT CALL ME.
  3. Third: If I send JA ONLY, then, please, DO NOT CALL ME AGAIN and AGAIN.
  4. Having read the rules thoroughly, if you are going to send an exchange, be sure it is consistent with that contest event.  If the rules say that we send 5NN + ZONE, then send me 5NN 04; do NOT send 5NN FLA.
  5. In contests, where I am allowed to work stateside, then send the CORRECT EXCHANGE. 
    If you don't know the correct exchange then you obviously haven't read the rules. 
    NEVER engage in radiosport without FIRST reading the rules.
 Remember this:  JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN HEAR ME DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM TARGETING YOUR LOCATION.  Listen to my CQ call; if you don't understand it, don't call me. 
If you DO understand that I am not targeting you then don't call me. 
Is THAT so difficult to understand?

In many radiosport events it seems that I am often plagued by the National Tuneup Frequency. 
In JA & Asian contests I am used to being tuned-up on - at least they give me a QSO afterwards. 
In the past I have been plagued by an N-T-F that likes to follow me around.  WTF is THAT all about?

Intentional QRM comes in many flavors.  I've encountered data crankers, witch doctors, rogue
RTTY stations, microphone testers, chronic belchers and feedback producers.  One evening
during an Ssb JIDX contest N6KI was plagued by a relentless playing of a voice shouting
"F  U".  When Dennis turned over the Multi-Single operation to me I was warned about this IDIOT.

When I took over I immediately recognized the recording as one I've heard on the left-coast's rogue 3.840 "garbage dump" Ssb frequency.  Thinking it could be a fluke, I shifted frequency, only to have the monkey follow me.  I spent the next 90 minutes using VFO A & B to switch back and forth.  Eventually the idiot got bored, put on his jammies and skulked off to bed.

While radio amateur bands like 40-meters are shared resources allowing modes like Ssb & RTTY, IARU regulations do NoT allow non-Cw transmissions below 7.025.  Virtually any contest weekend, pointing the yagi to Asia or South America, Ssb traffic is heard (but w/o the required callsign-ID at least every 10 minutes).  Just because the signals resemble relatively weak squirrels, does NoT
mean they are weak at the receiving end of the stations I hope are copying my signal.
It's TIME to cleanup the mess.  Do YOU have any ideas how to fix it?

When running a contest run frequency it goes without saying a major focus should be the efficient utilization of time.  Because making a CQ call requires a not-insignificant amount of time, if stations are lined up to work me, a CQ call is unnecessary - I simply press F3 ("TU  WQ6X") and wait for the next caller to make themselves known.

In many cases while S&P'ing I encounter a run station who finishes a QSO and IMMEDIATELY calls CQ.  If the Run station had waited 1.5 seconds (allowing me to send him my callsign) there would have been no need for a 5 - 10 second CQ call; in fact, during that time we could have exchanged info sending me on my way, in time for the run station's next caller - ALL w/o the need to call CQ.
BOTTOMLINE: Don't be a hamster frantically running in your run wheel.
                         DIAL-it-BACK a bit. 
                         LISTEN BE-4 You Xmit.

While all 25 items in this BLOG series are listed as BEEFS, remember the context of this series is "the role of respect".  During radiosport events, indeed during ALL my on the air activities, I endeavor to NoT engage in one or more of my 25 radiosport BEEFS.  If it ANNOYS me, it will probably annoy You.

What about  YOU?

How does the role of respect figure in to YOUR radiosport activities?

WQ6X Trips thru another CQ-M Contest

As far as radiosport goes, this last weekend was rather slow; only
3 relevant contest GiGs,
as opposed to 5 or 6
(as in past weekends).  

The agenda included:
[12:00z]  CQ-M International DX Contest
[12:00z]  Volta RTTY Contest
[14:00z]  Arkansas QSO Party (AQP)

Friday evening, attempting to setup the K3/0 for remote access found the internet network used for IP radio access to be non-functional. 

Fortunately access to another network made it possible to run the remote K3 radio via the RCForb software.  For me personally, being president of the Alameda Tongue Twisters Toastmasters club found me at the District 57 conference representing my club.  By the time my obligations were over and I was behind the computer screen it was nearly 04:30z.

By the time I got started, the AQP GiG was long over - done - 1 down, two to go.  Tuning around the RTTY portions of 20, 40 & 80 yielded no RTTY activity, only FT-8; 2 down, only CQ-M left.  Luckily the CQ-M GiG allows working domestic, as well as DX stations - there was an abundance of stations to be worked.

Although running remote, the RX audio was funneled thru an Autek QF-1A audio (for the left ear) and an MFJ-751 (for the right ear) creating stereo Cw. I enjoyed the contest
but was disappointed by the luck of
Russian stations. 

The BiG surprise was the number of VK/ZL stations (off the back of the Shorty-40 yagi) calling in while I was looking for Europe.

Not knowing what to expect, the decision was to run high power (990 watts), guaranteeing the signal could reach just about everywhere (except, I guess, Africa).

Pointing the Shorty-40 to 330-degrees yielded a plethora of JA stations, each worth 2 points.  Normally when working Asia I am annoyed by stateside callers off the back of the yagi; in the CQ-M contest they are most welcome - as long as they read the contest rules and know to send 5NN + Serial #.  When they didn't send a number "001" was entered in the log. 
Not knowing the rules, they certainly won't be sending in a log.

Intentional QRM-wise, things were rather quiet until a data cranker showed up at 05:15z on 7.033.  After a pause, the cranking resumed and then erupted into a jamming sound; sounding like the kind used to jam SWBC stations.  Moving to 80-meters gave respite from the "cranker"; that is, until I discovered there was little CQ-M activity on the lower bands.

At 07:30z, 2.5 hours of sleep took over.  By 10:00z, with the assistance of some strong KONA coffee, 40 meters for the last 2 hours was the proper way to end a last minute contest.

Did YOU work the CQ-M contest?
If not, WHY Not?
If so, did WQ6X make it to YOUR log?

Monday, May 13, 2019

WHY I Do Radiosport - PT. 5 - FEEDBACK: It's ALL about Feedback

As a Bio/Neuro feedback therapist, in a nutshell, my work is about Performance Enhancement.
Not surprising, more sports fitness trainers are beginning to include feedback modalities as part
of their regimen.

A number of years ago (summer of 2011) a series of videos were made during the Cw NAQP contest.  The idea  was to track my left pre-frontal E-E-G while I ran various aspects of this contest; first S&P'ing then running frequencies.  In total, 5 video segments were produced.
  1. Part 2 - Running a frequency
  2. Part 3 - Running a frequency
  3. Part 4 - Running a frequency
  4. Part 5 - Running a frequency
Because the above exercise was done during a Cw contest, in order to enjoy a fuller understanding
of the implications of these videos, you need to be able to copy Morse code.  If plans hold up I am looking to repeat this experiment (now 8 years later) in the upcoming NAQP Ssb contest.
I am hoping that the many things I discovered/learned from this E-E-G exercise will be
similarly confirmed by repeating this exercise via Ssb or RTTY.

A measurement similar
to E-e-g - namely GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) - is another bio-indicator that, properly monitored, can assist us in improving operating performance.

At the heart of every GSR device is a circuit familiar to most radio amateurs - namely, a Wheatstone bridge.

GSR measurement provides an important yet indirect look at our base-level emotional state. 

During periods of intense operating, our negative-emotion state can rapidly rise.  Similar to the relaxation often experienced from meditation, we can learn to control our GSR-levels and remain calm, while at the same time remaining focused on making QSOs.

While use of GSR-readings can be incorporated immediately, to obtain maximum benefits from e-e-g feedback, it is more effective to begin with a baseline evaluation of relevant areas of the brain.  I call this a QEEG "Brainmap".  The Hemisphere Viewer (which I wrote for NeuroLogiK Solutions) turns
raw e-e-g data into useful evaluations for each hemisphere. 

FEEDBACK: It's all about Feedback.


Based on these recommendations, a custom-tailored program of neurofeedback therapy can be utilized to "balance" brainwave activity, which for the radio amateur translates into more efficient/effective operating ability; exactly what
top-notch radiosport players are looking to do.

Combining neurofeedback with meditation, proper diet, mild-exercise and properly developed sleep cycles offers up the possibility for taking the radiosport experience to the "next level".

"Exercise" equipment doesn't necessarily have to be complicated and/or expensive; likewise with neurofeedback - a single-sensor NFB headset
can be the start of a new beginning in radio sport.

What do YOU do to maximize YOUR radiosport performance?
I would like to hear about it.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

WHY I Do Radiosport - PT. 4

In preparation for the 4th installment of the "WHY I Do Radiosport" series I reflected back to my letter to the ARRL editor that was published back in May of 2017.  Here is the reprint of that letter along with a few thoughts to go along with it.

A long time ago, I had all number of excuses as to why
I was not able to engage in radiosport activities, including no "home QTH", poor antennas, inadequate radio equipment and no convenient place to setup that equipment even if I DiD have it.

In 2000, not only did I switch callsigns (from KX6H to WQ6X) I took a more pro-active approach to radiosport activities, beginning by guest-OP'ing with the crew @ the W6ML CQP operations from Mammoth lakes (MONO county).  ([CLICK HERE] to read about WQ6X's CQP involvement from 2000 and beyond.

As you can see from the CQP website, beginning in 2004 (when W6KC returned to solo CQP activities) I began running portable operations from newly-built houses in OJAI (Ventura County), allowing me to run CQP and SS (Sweepstakes) events from the SB (Santa Barbara) ARRL section.

Because I love camping and trying out different styles of portable operating, I did not allow not having a home QTH to keep me off the air during key radiosport events.

A major reason I do radiosport is to take advantage of my creative genius and find unique ways to make temporary operations work towards actually winning certificates and plaques.

2 0 1 2  A. A. Ssb (left) --- 2 0 1 3  A.A. Cw (right)
Eventually, some newer state-of-the-art radios were added to my repertoire however I was still lacking quality locations to operate from.  One solution was to operate the All Asian DX Contest from the W6SW campsite atop Mt. Abel (48 mi. N/E of LAX @ 8200' above sea level).  In Sept 2012 I made a special trip to the mountain to run AA-Ssb.  In 2013, I arrived at the W6SW mountain site a week in advance to run the AA-Cw, playing around with antenna configurations in time for the 2013-FD event.

N A Q P  J A N 2012  C w
When my Biofeedback practice brought me back to the SF bay area in 2010, trips to OJAI were no longer convenient and needed a replacement.  One solution was to house sit for people who were
ok with WQ6X operations from back patios and/or using the ever-cool Coleman Insta-tent.

N A Q P  C w (from Phoenix Lodge) & N A Q P Ssb (from N 6 G E O)
Hotel rooms (from above the ground floor) provided many operating operations.  The N6GEO QTH in Brentwood provided me many opportunities to run Single-OP or join up with George to effect some sort of Multi-2 event.

W Q 6 X Running HQP from M t.  D i a b l o
In 2011, WQ6X ran the Hawaiian QSP party from Mt. Diablo in the SF bay area.  While not as high up as Mt. Able, it did offer an easy access to the "Pacific Pond" (which is where the Hawaiian islands are located).

During 2012 & 2013 I operated HQP from the Phoenix Lodge 2nd floor - not very high, but high enough to score a 2nd place from W6-land.

As you can see, these events are ALL different; different contests, from different locations, for different reasons.  One of the reasons I do radiosport the way I do is that I am never bored; each location has its merits and its challenges.  While most portable events don't yield certificates and awards, the ones that DO win make it even more satisfying and keep me excited for the next set
of GiGs.

In 2017 WQ6X participated in 82 radiosport events; 2018 yielded a total of 74.  My 2019 goal is to surpass BOTH those years.  It's not even mid-May and there are already 43 events reported to the 3830 Scores website for WQ6X operations.

Have you ever run radiosport events from portable / field day-like settings?
How did it turn out?
Is WQ6X, N6GEO or NX6T in any of YOUR logs?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

WQ6X Wangles & Wrangles Stereo-Cw for yet another Cinco-de-Contest Weekend

L o o K  M a, no  w i r e s - Oh, the JoY of wireless headphones
While I have run nearly a dozen Cinco-de-Contest weekends over the years, looking back,
this is the first time to ever make use of an Elecraft K3/0 for remoting in.

When the operating schedule was initially drawn up, Dennis (N6KI) had me slated to run most of Saturday.  What ACTUALLY happened was more operators signed on the last minute requiring my "expertise" to run the cinco-GiGs only in the beginning (6 to 9 am, PDT time) and then to frantically finish the search for New England stations on Sunday and that "other" station in Delaware, altho
none were actually heard.

In summary, preparations were made for the following radiosport GiGs:
  1. 12:00z - ARI Dx Contest
  2. 13:00z - 7QP QSO Party
  3. 15:00z - INQP QSO Party
  4. 17:00z - DEQP QSO Party
  5. 20:00z - NEQP QSO Party
I arrived Friday to first spend some time re-cabling both installations @W7AYT; the 10-meter yagi now has a switch position, waiting patiently for the solar-flux (SFI) to bring the high-bands back to
real life.

In recent visits to W7AYT the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper was an in-shack RFI producer on 40 meters; allegedly the band it was tune-focused for. 

Of course the main recipient of that RF
was the RIGEXPERT PLUS that interfaces the computer to the radio - 2 of the 3 COM ports just disappear - "dematerialize". 

Restarting N1MM+ reactivates the com-port "Sniff" routine, resurrecting them once again (appropriate for the just-passed Easter weekend).

Connecting a piece of leftover yellow Butternut radial wire between the grounding wing-nuts of the FT-1000mp and the MFJ-949E tuner resolved the RFI problem on 40 - Nicely.  Unfortunately, it only succeeded in shifting the RFI problem to the next harmonic - 20 meters. 

Now, instead of bombing the computer interface, the errant rf corrupts the N1MM+ address space, resulting in a "software crash" message.  Restarting N1MM+, the remaining 20-meter time was spent using the CH-250 vertical and the Cobra sloper wire to finish the NEQP contest on Sunday.

This contest weekend space-WX condx. switched from a miserable SFI of 66 and a K-Index of 3 to an all-of-a-sudden SFI rise to 74.  While the K-Index dropped numerically, operationally the atmospheric noise was enough to distort communication in the SF bay area, while internet burbling put holes in Cw signals requiring additional repeats during access to NX6T.

When not hassling rf & noise problems in the shack, my attention was freed up to spend more
time learning to leverage the "Art" of stereo-Cw in a multi-contest environment.
You may recall that I have written about Stereo Cw before:
  1. [x] Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think
  2. [x] Some Further Thoughts regarding Stereo CW
Clever audio cabling allowed switching the outboard audio filters to between the FT-1000mp and
the NX6T internet access.  For handling noise, the FT-1000mp's NB circuits were all but worthless, altho the MP's audio DSP helped considerably (for the Main-RX).  For the Sub-RX, the JPS NIR-12 and Autek QF-1A accomplished essentially the same thing.

With the noise more-or-less under control, my attention turned to reducing adjacent audio-QRM by way of proper balance (at that moment) between the two QF-1A's/my ears.  In the above pic, notice that the left channel utilizes the high-Q Peak filter, while the right channel utilizes the more vague lower-Q HP (High Pass) filter setting.

Adjusting the Frequency knobs of both units, signals can be "moved around" inside my listening experience, to a better "position" where the signal is more readily copyable.   Making this work is
an "Art", requiring LoTs of patient practice.

Stereo Cw makes frequency running more effective.  I can either peak a desired signal by using
the radio's CLAR control, tuning it to maximum peak in the audio filters and/or adjust one of the
audio frequency knobs to effectively do the same thing.  When Searching & Pouncing (S&P'ing),
with the two QF-1A's, properly set, when I tune "through" a signal it shifts from one ear to the other, depending on whether I am tuning up or down in frequency.

With all this as a foundation, I attempted to make all the QSO parties happen, one way or another; with a variety of (but not unexpected) results.  Being on the West Coast, it's not surprising that 7QP was WQ6X's best performing event; then again at NX6T, NEQP was the main focus.

Other than 7QP the station turnout for NEQP, DEQP & INQP was quite a disappointment.  INQP produced only 1 QSO and DEQP produced two QSOs on different band, but with the same station.  While propagation conditions were far from ideal, this is EVEN MORE reason for stations to participate in their own QSO party; last weekend, Florida stations were out en-masse'; especially the rover stations.

Ending the QSO Party action at 03:00z (as with INQP) hardly gives us an opportunity for West Coast stations to experience QSO opportunities.  NEQP wasn't much better, ending at 05:00z, but at LEAST we get a 2nd run from 13:00z to 24:00z on Sunday.  While I would prefer a 7QP continuation on Sunday, at least running until 07:00z gives us QSO opportunities on40, 80 & 160.

While WQ6X did not take a 1st place in this year's 7QP QSO party,
all indications are that a 3rd-place was achieved.

A major disappointment was a lack of 7QP 160 meter activity.  Conditions on 160 were actually ideal.  Both the CH-250 vertical and the Lazy 8JK Sloper tuned 160 nicely.

Also lacking in activity was 10 meters; not because the band wasn't open, but
because everyone was listening for CQ's and no one (except WQ6X) was actually transmitting.

You may remember last June I wrote a series of BLOG entries detailing my beefs with various kinds of contest activities.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that series.)
A major BEEF this weekend were the DOZENS of stations hearing my "CQ 7QP" or "CQ NEQP" blindly calling me from outside of those areas?  Question: do you know who I am looking for when I call for 7QP/NEQP stations?  If you DON'T know, then FIND OUT BEFORE CALLING.  If you DO know that I am looking ONLY for 7th-area and 1st-area stations then why are you (W0,  KB5, or K4 stations) calling me.  Remember: Listen BE-4 you transmit.  If you don't know what I am doing then DON'T call me.

Like wise, if you are a station operating from the seventh call area and don't have a "7" in your callsign, either sign with a /7 (ex: WQ6X/7) or sign your call with the appropriate county designator
(ex: WQ6X/ORDES or WQ6X/WAKNG, etc.)

As for the ARI contest, too many things conspired against that happening for WQ6X - next year.

Did YOU operate in the Cinco-de-Contests?
Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Friday, May 3, 2019

WHY I Do Radiosport - PT. 3

Many people (radio amateurs & "civilians") often ask why I spend so much time engaging in radiosport.  This series of posts in the WQ6X Contest BLOG is an attempt to answer that question.
Click [HERE] for Part 1 and [HERE] for Part 2.

The 3rd installment in this series is about taking the understanding of our equipment and antennas
to the next level.  Over the years, the main transceiver in my operation(s) have grown in ability from
a Kenwood TS-50 & loaded TS-450s to an ICOM 7000 & Yaesu FT-900 and then to a Yaesu FT-920, eventually "trading up" to the current Yaesu FT-1000mp (with the IC-7000 as backup radio).

Despite the radio upgrades,  WQ6X operations have kept the same audio filters; either an MFJ-752 + JPS  NIR-12 combo (in past years) to the more recent Autek QF1-A and JPS NIR-12 combinations. 

It might surprise you that I go to the trouble of adding external filtering to radios (like the FT-1000mp & ICOM-7000) that already have their own DSP filtering.  In truth, no DSP or interference filtering is a panacea. 

It has been said that we don't get something for nothing. Example: many noise blanking circuits either add their own distortion (at high[er] signal levels) or make the receiver more susceptible to "AGC-pumping" in the vicinity of STRONG signals.

When the Collins 75-A4 was introduced, the noise blanking circuitry sampled the noise-blanking signal OUTSIDE the amateur bands (usually BELOW the Cw band segments); doing it this way reduces the likelihood of strong signals keying the noise blanker.

In recent months, I have added an Elecraft K3/0 to lineup allowing more effective remote of the facilities @ NX6T.  While K3 radios (in Fallbrook) have built-in IF-based DSP, no DSP is perfect.  Sometimes the K3's NB and/or DNR circuits seem to have no effect.  Other times - WoW - the
effect is DRAMATIC.  Nevertheless, the K3/0 audio is fed into one or more QF-1A filters.

Whether or not I make even a single QSO in a radiosport event, the GiGs offer the opportunity to learn the intricacies of the equipment configurations.  Listening to signals under QRM-ridden or QRM-free conditions allows experimenting with the built-in DSP and external audio-filter combinations.

In particular, the Autek QF-1A filter
can produce subtle (yet powerful) audio peaking; rivaling if not exceeding the APF knobs found on radios like the Kenwood TS-930 / TS-940.

I am always amazed how well the
QF-1A can boost a signal right out of
the noise or above other signals inside
the audio passband.

While the FT-1000mp possesses an audio-based "contour" control and DNF (Digital Notch Filter), those features work ONLY with the Main-RX, not the Sub-RX.  Inserting the QF-1A / NIR-12 pair in the sub-audio line offers up DNR & DNF functionally equivalent to those features present with the Main-RX.  Learning to leverage the entirety of these controls is what radiosport is all about.
And then, it's practice, practice, practice.

When I discovered the world of "Stereo Cw", these filter combinations took on new possibilities.  (CLICK [HERE] & [HERE] to read about that.  With an understanding of stereo-Cw, "playing around" with the various filter combinations & settings has transformed my radiosport operating enjoyment, and as a result, made a considerable improvement in scores WQ6X submits to the contest committees.

Put simply - a MAJOR reason I do radiosport, is because, for me, it's just FUN.

What about YOU?
Why do YOU do radiosport?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

WHY I Do Radiosport - PT. 2

The previous BLOG entry in this series gave me a chance to genuflect on the last 10+ years of radiosport activities.  In Part 2 of this series I want to share some further details from what was written up in Part 1.

Some radio amateurs spend their operating time engaged in emergency preparedness while deriding the time spent by other amateurs who spend time engaging in radiosport competitions.  Evidently it does not occur to them that radiosport operators are often more effective at getting the message through than anyone else; we "rehearse" doing so, nearly every weekend.

Because I often ran radiosport events from portable locations such as hotel rooms, these activities gave me a considerable amount experience in quick-setup an easy takedown of radio equipment and makeshift antenna configurations.

One of the more frustrating portable antenna designs was the 2010 WQ6X Classic Hamstick dipole.  Against a flat wall it had limited azimuth coverage but produced an amazingly low-angle signal.

Also in 2010 WQ6X ran a loaded Kenwood TS-450s from a number of hotel locations into the Hamstick dipole and an MFJ "Apartment" antenna.

While the TS-450s tuner can match/load nearly any antenna (it once produced a mobile QSO w/JA on 17-m Cw using a 2-m magmount) without an elaborate counterpoise system there was always nasty RF floating around the room.

Altho wonderful, cascading MFJ-7523C and JPS NIR-12 audio filters make operations more effective.

While the NIR-12 now runs in the RX-B audio line on my current Yaesu FT-1000mp, the MFJ-752's have been relegated to the "research lab", replaced by a pair of more capable Autek QF-1 filters.  Having a built-in audio-based DSP built-in to the transceiver (RX-A) and the external NIR-12 audio DSP (RX-B) gives the radio contest power of DSP-based transceivers costing $3K, and, with greater flexibility.

As equipment and antennas have improved considerably since 2011, each step of the way has taught me new approaches towards improving operating efficiency.  Should a "disaster" strike, having operators like WQ6X in your EOC (Emergency Operations Center) will help get the message
through - every time - because that's what we do.

How do YOU leverage your radiosport operating skills?

WQ6X prepares for Cinco-de-Contest Weekend - Pt. 2

I no sooner published the original BLOG entry about preparing for Cinco-de-Contest when I discovered more pictures from past 5-contest weekends in May.   In 2014, after securing a 1st-place (worldwide) win w/N6GEO in the RTTY RU, I enjoyed a number of multi-OP events w/the crew @ NX6T culminating in a 1st-place win for the NEQP QSO Party.

What I learned from 2014 I applied to a WQ6X SOAB portable operation from W7AYT's QTH to secure a 1st-place for W6-land (California).   While I managed a 1st-place plaque for 2016-7QP,
for 2017 the competition evidently wised-UP, leaving WQ6X with a 3rd-place certification; not too
bad, when I consider the limited antenna configuration in use @W7AYT at that time.

Also in 2017, WQ6X accomplished as a Single-OP something not possible @NX6T - finally taking a 1st-place in the Italian ARI contest.  Understand that the score I amassed in that event was HARDLY a BiG one; however it was greater than anyone in USA who submitted a legitimate LoG.

Additionally in 2017 was a 1st-place win in the INQP contest, with a whopping 8 QSOs for 804 points.  Ironically, in 2018 as a multi-OP with NX6T, we also took a 1st-place - with 8 QSOs resulting in 804 points.

What we learn from this is to ALWAYS submit a contest LoG, no matter how pitiful your score may seem.  If no other logs are submitted in your operating category, you win by default.

You may recall one of my operating mantra's: "When in Doubt: CHEAT! (but within the rules) ".  Because the concept is so easily mis-understood, I wrote a separate BLOG entry about it.  ([CLICK HERE] to read this BLOG Entry.)

As you can see, at NX6T we rely on unique operating aids to make for larger radiosport scores.  NYE Viking Kilowatt+ tuners give us
a more perfect match to the 160 & 80 meter double-bazooka inverted Vee's.

MR. Bill and the [EASY] button are also utilized, if for no other purpose than to give station operators more luck. 

Then again, I remember that Thomas Jefferson once said, "I am a great believer in luck; and I find, the harder I work the more luck I have.

Hard work becoming a success is no accident.

In radiosport, submitting a winning score is also no accident.  To give me a better chance of winning
a given even (or set of events), in advance of the contest weekend I read the rules of each contest, update the contest logging software, check the space weather forecasts and review previous year
log and BLOG submissions.

What about YOU?

What do YOU do to prepare for radiosport events?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

WQ6X prepares for another Cinco-de-Contest Weekend

If you've been following the WQ6X contest BLOG you are probably aware that I enjoy the many "flavors" of radio sport operations; including (but not limited to) Cw, RTTY, Ssb, low power, high power, DX contests, state/area QSO Parties, Sweepstakes and multi-OP events, including Field Day and various special events such as the SEQP and International Lighthouse GiG.

The first contest weekend of May offers up a variety of 5 radiosport events; 4 state QSO parties and the Italian ARI Dx contest.  In preparation for the 2019 Cinco-de-Contest weekend, I decided to review past involvement in these contest GiGs.  Documented in the WQ6X Contest BLOG are the following CQ de Contests:
  1. 2018 - Dual-OP as NX6T and WQ6X
  2. 2017 - WQ6X Survives another 5-contest Weekend
  3. 2016 - WQ6X runs 5 contests simultaneously
  4. 2014 - WQ6X joins Team NX6T for a 4-Contest Weekend
I first found about the May GiGs back in 2010, when as a newcomer to Team NX6T Dennis (N6KI) suggested that we tackle all 5 GiGs, somehow  integrating all the QSO party logs into one operation.

Because the ARI contest is first on the list for the weekend, we turned the yagi to 30-degrees hoping for a good Italian turnout.  Had we correctly read the rules, we would have realized that in the ARI contest, anyone can work anyone, altho Italian stations are worth more points per contact.  After turning away 50+ non-Italian stations we reread the rules realizing our mistake: we futilely attempted to woo lost QSOs into the log.

Over the years, practice makes perfect as demonstrated by NX6T's 2018 1st-place 7QP win. 
I was a part of that mult-OP operation, interlaced with a WQ6X operation from W7AYT.

Over the years, WQ6X made forays to Fallbrook, joining the various OPs who also like to play in State QSO Parties.  Those operations resulted in a number of NEQP Multi-OP 1st-place plaques.

In 2016, running the FT-1000mp from W7AYT's QTH into an early incarnation of the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Sloper, stupendously, WQ6X walked away with the 7QP 1st-Place Single-OP plaque. I was just "screwing around", but evidently was on the right frequencies at the right time, making it all work.

 Rereading the above referenced BLOG entries is giving me a number of operating improvements allowing WQ6X to run another Dual-OP GiG, similar to 2018.

As we often say in my Alameda Tongue Twisters Toastmaster's club, "We're not Perfect - we're always getting better"

The way to better ourselves in Radiosport is to revisit our previous operations and study the soapbox comments of contest competitors.  Remember: "He/She who does not learn from the past is doomed to repeat it".  What about YOU?  Do you review Your previous contest operations?
What do You learn from YOUR past?