Thursday, March 28, 2019

UK/EI & FOC Give WQ6X false hope

W Q 6 X  @ 0 6 : 0 0z  (11pm)
The weekend before March's WPX Ssb contest is typically a slow one in the radiosport world. 
As someone who loves the challenge of radiosport contesting, I'm willing to give most HF
radiosport events a GO.

K 6 J O  Running NA - S P R I N T ( S O 2 R)
This contest weekend, the only GiGs of interest to me were the FOC QSO Party, the UK/EI
contest and the Ssb NA Sprint.  K6JO had already reserved both stations @ NX6T for another
SO2R operation and I was too lazy to make the trek to W7AYT's QTH to run my FT-1000mp,
leaving WQ6X to run remote CW-only for the weekend.

F O C  Ending  Screen
The FOC (First-Class Operators Club) QSO party began at 00:00z, altho I didn't have a working
K3/0 setup until 05:00z.  It was purposely decided to run high[er] power; because I could, and because we needed all the help possible in being heard.  There are TWO kinds of FOC events;
the 1st for FOC members (earlier this month); the 2nd for all of us, FOC or not - while we can
work any station, FOC stations are worth more points.

U K / E I  Ending  Screen
For those of us on the Left-Coast, the UK/IE GiG was the "almost" contest; from beginning to end. 
It would be quite different altogether if the Solar Flux (SFI) was in the 100+ range instead of the current 68 - 72.

2 - Element  "S h o r t y  4 0"
Using the N1MM+ software, running as Assisted found the 40-meter bandmap to be populated with numerous UK/EI stations when the K3/0 was switched
to 40 @06:15z.

Immediately, 2 contest stations made
it to the log: GM4Z & GW4J.  After that, none, nada, ZIP.  Clicking on bandmap spots and making a call yielded nearly a dozen "almost" QSO, like: "WQ6?, WUQ6? W6QX?, but nothing more.

OH Wail.  Despite only 2 QSOs, a
log was submitted.  Unfortunately,
the contest was not on the 3830
scores list. 

An e-mail to Bruce Horn (Wa7BNM) resulted in it being added less than 24 hours later - Thanks Bruce!  [CLICK HERE] to view the overall contest stats and [HERE]  to see my minimal contest
write up.  If the reported scores are in anyway indicative of reality, technically, WQ6X's 2 QSOs
would take 1st-Place for USA; however I doubt it - not everyone who submits a log posts their
score on 3830Scores.Com.

Regardless of how any of this turns out, putting the K3/0 on the air from Alameda allowed a thorough test of IP-based internet connection for the K3/0 as well as the DNS-based VNC Viewer connection. 

The REAL test for this configuration will be running NX6T remotely the following weekend in the WPX Ssb (aka "Weird Prefix") contest using the K3/0, but from W7AYT's QTH in Concord, where I expect to be running as WQ6X during non-NX6T hours.

Did YOU work the SPRINT, FOC or UK/EI contests?
If not, y'all missed out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

WQ6X reprises Russian-BARTG Rigorously Reversed

W Q 6 X  in  A L A M E D A
In recent years (March 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2013) WQ6X has dabbled in  various combinations ("flavors"?) of the BARTG RTTY & Russian Dx contests with varying levels of success.

For 2019 I had not given the Russian GiG much thought until N6KI informed me NX6T would be running this GiG as a Multi-2 operation; with newer operators being added to the San Diego contest club roster, events like this one give newer operators a chance to improve their skills and the more seasoned operators to discover new operating variations and techniques that in the future will help take NX6T's Radiosport scores to the next level.

This year I was hoping to begin with the BARTG RTTY contest before the start of the Russian Dx contest.  Unfortunately internet disruption on the Alameda end of the remote connection prevented that possibility from becoming a reality.

N X 6 T  S t a t s  by  H o u r
For the Russian Dx contest, a lack of available Cw OPs relegated N6KI, N6NC and WQ6X
(all running remotely) to make it all work.  Thanks to N6NC a number of SSB QSOs made it
to the log; otherwise it was largely a Cw contest @NX6T.

After the Dx contest was done there was still an opportunity to make BARTG RTTY contacts and
look for stations in the VAQP.  While operations in these GiGs were minimal, at LEAST I can say
I participated.  How about you?

Did YOU work the Russian DX Contest?
Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

WQ6X Sprints thru yet another "Weird" Contest Weekend

W Q 6 X  Remoting in from A l a m e d a
It's no surprise that I like to work all manner of radio sport events that congregate over a given single weekend (almost nothing is off adventure limits for me); the March 9th weekend was no exception. 

Of the 9 major radiosport events that weekend, looking back I managed some sort of operation in
the following:
W Q 6 X  R e m o t e  @ S T N - 1
There was the prominent Commonwealth Gig; 'cept USA stations aren't part of the Commonwealth and are therefore excluded from the fun.  For the Tesla Memorial contest the log/macros were ready; unfortunately no "CQ Tesla" was ever heard and no one answered my Tesla CQ calls.

Antennas  @  W 7 A Y T
This was a portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.   Being too lazy "lug around" and install the K3/0,
I took my chances and "suffered thru" using the RCForb to run the radio and VNC Viewer to run the N1MM+ and WINTEST software.

Originally, Dennis (N6KI) msg'd me about the 160 contest.  I reminded him that we took 1st-place (world) in the 2016 SA-10 GiG and that maybe we can reprise
that win.  He bellered a "HaH!"

Once we resolved some cabling problems with STN-1 (it's ALWAYs something), the C-31 yagi was pointed to 120-Degrees (South America) and the listening began. 

At W7AYT, the 3-element 10-m yagi was also pointed to more-or-less 120 degrees.  RCVR-A of the FT-1000mp tuned the Cw band while RCVR-B tuned the Ssb portion - in the end NOTHING! NADA!

W h i t e b o a r d  C o m p a s s  for  S A - 1 0  Contest
Calling "CQ SA Test" throughout the day yielded no callers, South America or otherwise; not even a LOCAL ham via ground wave.  Well at LEAST we were READY to take another 1st-place - validate THAT fact.

F T - 1 0 0 0 mp + Q F-1A's, N I R-12 & Rig Expert PLUS
Event-wise, while there were a number of no-shows, luckily GiGs like the OK QSO Party (OKQP)
kept on going throughout the weekend to "keep me amused".  The OKQP web page is quite thorough.  The counties list is WELL laid out.

Arriving mid-afternoon @ W7AYT allowed me to thoroughly check the audio cabling just in time
for the 4 hour RTTY SPRINT GiG.  SPRINT is a unique radiosport GiG in that contestants are not allowed to "run a frequency"; the game is to make a QSO and move on.  While Sprints can seem a
bit chaotic (hence the 4 hour contest period), it's amazing how orderly things can become if everyone pays attention.

This weekend also gave us a visit from our favorite bird - the OTH WooDPecker.  Woodpecker interference is BEEF #6 in the "Role of Respect in Radiosport BLOG series from June-2018. 
WQ6X no sooner started calling CQ Tesla (on 7.007.07) when the Woodpecker began pecking
on 6.995.  The OTH radar pulse width seemed to diminish by moving to 7.018.18; unfortunately,
no callers came back to my "CQ Tesla" calls.

After all the other contest hoopla, I found time to contribute a few dozen QSOs to NX6T's Stew Perry 160-GiG.  Noise-wise, despite the poor Space-WX predictions, we did amazingly well for a screw-around operation.

Did YOU work one or more of the 9 contests?
Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Friday, March 15, 2019

ARRL Dx Ssb GiG: the contest RTTY Ruined

W Q 6 X  @  S T N-1 - R e m o t e l y
The ARRL Dx Ssb GiG completes the late winter contest trio, with last weekend's CQ-160 Ssb contest sandwiched in between the ARRL DX contests.  Every contest (esp. every Ssb contest) is riddled with challenges; some hardware-related and some OP-performance related.

I experience "weirdness" in nearly every contest, but this last weekend's combination of A-Index=24 QRN, along with a plethora of RTTY stations littered throughout the bands; particularly on 40-meters, both evenings.

S F I = 7 0  A-I n d e x = 24  K-I n d e x = 3
Because the competition is so strong in ARRL Dx contests @N6KI we don't usually expect to win
the overall BiG plaques, altho it would seem that we took 1st place for the Southwest division in the Cw GiG 2 weekends prior - overtaking the Arizona Outlaws, no less.

The  S a t u r d a y  E v e n i n g  s h i f t
For this event, it would seem that having a variety of operators and skill-levels added up to out-best the Outlaws.  In recent years some new operators have been perfecting their contest skills at NX6T up on the hill in Fallbrook.

The  F r i d a y  E v e n i n g  s h i f t
While there is a tendency to focus on the evening shift operations and operators, a significant amount of our score is made in the daytime on the high bands; 20 meters in particular.

The  S a t u r d a y  D a Y  s h i f t
With the solar cycle still near the bottom (SFI = 70) 40 meters often opens up eastward around
mid-afternoon in Fallbrook, giving us early access to Mexico and the Caribbean. 

N X 6 T  spotted by K H 7 M  on 160
Despite only a pair of coaxial inverted Vee's for 80 & 160, NX6T radiates a surprisingly strong signal; granted, running 1.35kw helps.  On 80 & 160 meters we are consistently heard much better than we can hear those who hear us.

Because I routinely run the nightshift, I routinely encounter intentional QRM on 40-meters;
altho usually only during CW and RTTY contests, not SSB GiGs.  Unfortunately, for THIS
Ssb contest RTTY stations were littered throughout the lower portion of the 40-meter phone band.

Around 09:00z several RTTY stations converged on my 7160.45 run frequency.   Moving down
to 7134.64 seemed like a good idea until an S-9+ MCW station began sending code groups, eventually, switching to RTTY; doing this repeatedly.  If I had been running the FT-1000mp
the RigExpert PLUS could've been switched in to decode the RTTY - maybe next time.

Taking refuge on 7194.94 quieted things down considerably; evidently RTTY stations don't operate above 7175.  While Saturday nite was somewhat more quiet on 40 meters, 75 was loaded with ragchewers (particularly from W5-land) grumbling about how contesters were ruining their evening, oblivious to the fact that 3680 is HARDLY a haven for Dx contest activity.
Other than the complainer's LOUD MOUTH, this ragchew frequency was relatively quiet;
atmospheric QRN was way more of a problem than "those pesky Dx contesters".

An operational advantage of NX6T's Fallbrook location is the relatively easy access ("across the pond") to Asia and Oceania. 

A majority of the VK/ZL stations made things easier
by running 400 watts.  On 40 meters, all the ZL stations worked were literally off the backside of the Shorty-40 2-element yagi.  On 20, switching the Stepp-IR into BI-Directional mode allowed simultaneously working CS3 & ZL3; PY7 & 7L4; KH6 & ZS6.

Numerous JA stations were running a KW+ giving them BiG signals.   Unfortunately, the completely insane Japanese phone band plan made working those
stations a bit tricky.

Of all my beefs in this ARRL DX contest, the biggest complaint were stateside stations responding
to my "QRZ the Dx contest".  I would reply "DX ONLY - you should be working Dx too". 
If these operators would READ the RULES, they would know that.

Did YOU operate the ARRL Dx Contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

NX6T's Fab-Four Fly Forward for CQ-160 Ssb GiG

R u n n i n g   1 8 1 5 . 1 5

After last weekend's [projected] S-W Division win in the ARRL Dx Cw contest, looking back, 160 was the low-band most lacking; altho incredibly, long-haul Dx (from the W6 viewpoint) made it into the log.
While Space-WX reports were optimistically favorable, those #'s did not take into account the reality of our being 900' up the hill, in Fallbrook.

Oblivious to this being an SSB contest weekend, several PTT switches were left languishing in various locations @W7AYT (in Concord).  Initially, shorting two wires created a crude PTT effect,
until it occurred to use one paddle of a Hamkey keyer paddle (with the unit on its side) as a pushdown PTT switch; oh what a difference technology makes

This weekend brought together a number of ssb contest-fluent operators as well as the
appearance of a nearly-new Kenwood TS-890 for use at STN-3, the multiplier-hunting OP-position. 
(I will have more to say about this TS-890 @STN-3 in coming BLOG entries - stay tuned.)

Dennis N6KI started the contest off with some B-I-C (butt in chair) action, while I cobbled together
the necessary audio cables putting the Heil HC-4 PRO into the mic audio line and then load up the Elecraft K3/0's 4 Voice Keyer memories.  With the coming of the 04:00z "dinner hour", N6KI enjoyed his traditional Sat. evening dinner break while I split the OP time between (first) S&P and layer running frequencies.

W Q 6 X  R e m o t e  S e t u p
For many years now, intentional QRM is part of WQ6X's 40 meter operations from NX6T; this weekend was certainly NO exception.  At one point a station moved atop the run frequency with a BiG carrier for 5+ minutes, followed by Ssb testing on USB.  While the K3 auto-notch works on the K3/0 eliminating it in MY ears, the IDIOT tuner-upper is STILL there and probably as LOUD as I am. 
When I changed frequency, so did the QRM; i.e., nothing accidental about that. 
I thought intentional QRM happened only on 40-meters after 08:00z.

N 6 K I  @  0 6 : 3 0 z
N6KI relieved me at 06:15z.  Less than 3 hours later WQ6X was back in the remote operator "chair".  Immediately after 09:00z the QRN-level jumped to S9+15db.  No setting of the DNR-Dsp was of
any value w/o destroying the voice quality of weak Ssb signals.

At NX6T, the 160 antenna is nothing more than a coaxial inverted vee (70' apex).  While we could
not hear many S9+ signals (due to the noise) I received e-mail notifications and spots indicating that our 1.35kw signal was being heard in Europe.  It is frustrating for me knowing that we are being heard (in the N/E - S/W direction) yet we can't hear those who are hearing us.  At one point, a VK2 station called in on Cw (which of course does not count in an Ssb contest).

N 6 E E G  +  N 6 K I
By 12:30z, continuing noise-levels and intermittent internet dropouts conspired against my continuing on further.  I shut things down knowing that NN6X and N6EEG will join up with N6KI in less than 12 hours to give it another GO.

N X 6 T  @  S u n r i s e
You may recall that last year I wrote a WQ6X BLOG series on my BEEFs regarding radio sport.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that series.)  For this year's CQ-160 Ssb contest, one of my biggest Beefs was #3 in the Beef-List: stations who work NX6T and then less than 10 minutes later they call in again.

HuH?  Am I missing something?  WTF is that all about? 
What part of DUP QSO do they not get?

Saturday evening was a slow go; partially from having "worked everyone" the night before, and partially from the fascination with the Kenwood TS-890 in Fallbrook and WQ6X (in the SF bay area) learning all the various DNR settings available via the Elecraft K3/0.

Being the nightshift operator again Saturday, operating time was split between S&P, running frequencies and dodging National Tuneup Frequencies; something, the K3/0's auto-notch DSP handled quite nicely. 

Sunday morning (14:20z), after putting RT0F into the log I finally shut things down. 
1-Qso every 8 minutes is not my idea of a GooD time; especially at 6am.

Overall the 160 contest was a mild amount of fun.
On the Fallbrook end, the test-run of the new TS-890 was (according to N6KI) a resounding
success; so much so that the new Kenwood seems to have become the current replacement
for the Elecraft K3, formerly installed at STN-#3.

Did YOU work the CQ-160 Ssb contest?
Is NX6T in YOUR Log?