Saturday, June 29, 2019

WQ6X Floats a 24-hour Field Day w/K6QLF - Part 1

WQ6X testing K6QLF Friday evening

It is no secret that ARRL Field Day (FD) is in my Top-5 list of favorite radiosport events each year.  Beyond multi-OP contest events, FD engages the spirit of cooperative effort like no other operating event each year.

From 1985 until I joined up with N6GEO in Twain Harte (in 2016), I went to great lengths to hook up with the crew @ W6SW.  While Geraldine and I made evening appearances on 40 & 75 meter Ssb, my main focus was to put 20-Cw on the air as W6SW himself (and other OPs) made 20-Ssb happen, and Jim W6KC lit up 15-meters on Cw and some Ssb.  Of course there was always a GOTA station to handle the 40-meter Ssb duties; we daytime Cw OPs would take turns putting 40-Cw QSOs in the log.  One year I reserved "K6F" for the GOTA station; or as Geraldine! ID'd it "Kilowatt 6 Foxytrot!".

In 2012 (with some Australian "encouragement") over 400+ Cw QSOs made it to the 20-m log before dinner time and 20-meter's closing. Later in the evening, "Geraldine" assisted me in creating a ruckus on 40-Ssb and later on 75-meters before calling it quits around 09:00z (2am).  Sunday morning, getting up @6AM (I NEVER do that), another 200 20-Cw QSO's made it to the log before FD
ended @ 11am.

While I was new to BLOG writing back in those days some FD events have been
documented, including:
  • [o] - W6SW does it's 18th Field Day from Mt. Abel (2013)
  • [o] - WQ6X joins team W6SW for its 19th Field Day on Mt. Abel (2014)
  • [o] - WQ6X & N6GEO Work 2016 Field Day from Tuolumne County as K6F (2016)
  • [o] - WQ6X runs 2017 Field Day solo from W7AYT as W6K
  • [o] - WQ6X 2018 FIELD DAY - a dual-OP Solution
            Operation with the ARCA group followed by a solo run @W7AYT
In 2018 (as in 2014) I had the opportunity to be present when one or more ARRL officials made the scene to checkout our operations.  In 2014, none other than SW division director N6VI (Marty Woll) made the drive up the mountain to witness our operation, offering a unique photo-OP opportunity.
In 2018 the visit to K6QLF was considerably easier considering the close proximity of the operation
in Alameda - because I was the photogger, my mug was not a part of the picture.

For 2019, I strongly considered a return to W6SW on the mountain (they did not operate last year).  The drive from San Fernando Valley to Mt. Abel is enough of a chore as it is.  The thought of loading up a vehicle with radios and camping gear followed by a 300 mile drive was not my idea of a leisurely time.  An invite from the ARCA club was all it took to convince me to take it easy.  When I heard that we would be operating from the Aeolian yacht harbor in Alameda (I.e. close to home-base) and that the Ssb station (I.e. me) would be operating from a 42' sailboat in the harbor, the decision became
a no-brainer.

Tom (WB6RUC) provided the 42' Catalina and a "place to park it".  The weekend before FD we
test-ran a cobbled-together ICOM 7000 running thru an SGC-257 auto tuner to a 55' Marconi (I.e. end-fed) sloper-wire to the top of the mast, allowing me to run part of the All Asia contest from the boat.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)  Although the All Asia event from the boat was largely a bust (the antenna favored N, N/E, E & S/E and not Asia) it turned out to be excellent prep for running FD the following weekend. 

The ICOM 7000 is a feature-loaded radio.  Because I haven't played with one in over 5+ years, the learning curve was a bit steep; altho easily remedied by way of the RTFM method using the excellent ICOM manual, as well as the Nifty mini manuals.  Once I got back into the "groove" I thoroughly enjoyed the numerous DSP features built-in to the radio.

Later Friday evening I rearranged the equipment structure on the galley table making it easier to access the computer and the audio filter knobs.  The rest of the evening was spent tuning the bands, checking signal levels and getting used to running "stereo Cw" with the ICOM 7000; something I've never done before.  While the ICOM's DSP is 2nd to none in its class, the addition of stereo cw takes things to the next level, making frequency running considerably more effective than without it.

By Saturday 8am, ARCA members were at it setting up the "land" stations.  As you can see, I helped out with raising an OCFD dipole antenna for the ICOM 7300 station indoors.  It's the least I could do.

Afterwards, it was back to the boat and assembling a goofy hamstick-dipole I brought along as a backup antenna.

Because this year's FD was a more involved event than last year (or even the GiGs on Mt. Abel), I've decided to document the event in several BLOG entries. 

This 1st part takes us right up to the 11am start.  It got WAY more interesting as the day moved forward.  Stay Tuned for Part 2.

Did YOU work the 2019
Radio Amateur's Field Day?


Part 2 of this BLOG has just been published.  [CLICK HERE] to read it.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Are Radiosport Contests REALLY Emergency Preparedness exercises?

This little Op-Ed piece is short, and, sweet.

Virtually every Friday/Saturday evening (local time) during a radiosport event, there is always at least ONE IDIOT who is bored out of his mind (YL OP's thankfully are never bored),  Finding nothing else better to do they intentionally QRM my radiosport activities, justifying it by complaining that we take
up too much bandwidth and therefore they can't pursue on-the-air activities that they like; altho what those activities are, are completely unknown to us as well as to them.

One November evening during the JIDX Ssb contest, when N6KI handed over frequency control he warned me that there was an "F - U!" recording heckler S-8+ on the frequency.  Sure enough, the minute I started up he was back at it.  I immediately recognized that recording as one I have heard nightly on the Waste Coast's 3.840 "Garbage Dump" frequency.  While he may well be an IDIOT, unfortunately he DOES have an amplifier - SO2V to the rescue.

Make that a modified SO2V.  Synchronizing the FT-1000mp's VFO's, I found a 2nd clear frequency and overwrote VFO-B.  When the monkey man would make the scene I would SWAP VFO's and continue on the alternate frequency.  Luckily the frequency difference was only 7.17khz apart; eventually, the spotting networks had both run frequencies so internet snoops could find NX6T
more quickly.  After 2-1/2 hours of intermittent playback, he put on his jammies and slinked off
to bed - he was probably EXHAUSTED!

While that IDIOT was a complete disruption to "normal" "peaceful" operating, in fact, this was just another emergency preparedness drill; can I copy vital information amidst horrible QRM and enter
it into the log.

Specific contests have numerous preparedness benefits; for example:
  • The North American QSO party (NAQP) and state QSO parties have a simple
    enough exchange that radiosport-newbies can figure it out rather quickly and
    become quite proficient before the event is over.  QSO parties also orient us
    to state/county/province abbreviations; often needed in an emergency. 
  • DX contests orient us to world geography, offering up the opportunity to
    study propagation and the effects of space WX.
  • RTTY / FT8 contest activities orient us to alternate modes of communication,
    beyond Ssb and Cw.
  • Operating from remote/portable locations as I often do is yet another way to be
    emergency prepared.  I've operated from hotel rooms, mountain tops, residential
    stealth setups, card tables in garages and even roadside portable.
  • For Field Day this year I joined up with K6QLF operating from a 42' sailboat, running
    a sloping 55' end-fed (Marconi) wire up the mast.  While not much Dx (outside of KH6)
    was had, for North American Field Day, a nearly 272-degree azimuth was made
    possible - exactly what we were looking for.
Outside of Field Day, the original emergency preparedness exercise was none other than the November Sweepstakes contest, with it's simulation of radiogram sending.  No other radiosport contest comes close to this format; except maybe the WAE (Worked All Europe) event with its sending of QTC packets.

Anyone who believes that properly conducted radiosport activities are NoT to some degree
all about emergency-preparedness needs to get a life and go to bed. 

1 8 . 1  2 8 . 2 8  S S B
If you are looking for quiet non-contest bands, that is what 30 & 17 meters are all about,  I frequently tune 30 meters looking for DX-goodies amidst the peace and quiet.  When operating as WP2/WQ6X from St. Croix (Jan 2014), I spent considerable time on 30 & 17 Cw as well as one afternoon on 17-m Ssb ([CLICK HERE] for the video).  Technically our REAL reason for being on St. Croix was the 1st-Place win (for DX) in the ARRL RTTY RU contest.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about all that.)

WP2/WQ6X running 17-m Ssb (from the video)
Amateur Radio has always been and always will be about Emergency Preparedness. 
Even the 2,004 non-contest QSOs made as WQ6X/WP2 constituted Emergency Preparedness.

So what about you?
What do YOU do for Emergency Preparedness?

For Little Pistols: Why CQ is Important

During radiosport contests, do YOU
ever call CQ during the event?
If NoT, WHY NoT?
If so, are those CQ's effective?

In a recent BLOG entry I made the point "if everybody is listening and no one is transmitting...", a band will appear to be dead when in fact it could well be WIDE-Open.

Despite the low SFI. I encounter this phenomenon regularly on 10 meters. 

In the early afternoon, tuning the band and not hearing anything, pointing the yagi towards South America and calling CQ, I am not surprised to have a half-dozen SA callers returning the call. 
As quickly as they come, the band again appears dead.  When I run radiosport events, depending
on the circumstances, operating time is divided between S&P'ing (Search & Pounce) and calling CQ.

There is a myth that we have to use high power amplifiers if we are going to call CQ and run a frequency, whereas the truth is something else entirely.  During the November Sweepstakes I have called Q-Power stations (QRP) calling CQ, running a frequency for an hour or more; now THAT
takes courage.

Ending this BLOG, I will suggest situations that are ideal for being the CQ-caller, regardless of the power level you are running.  It is manifestly provable that low power stations actually have several advantages that many high power stations don't.

In Part 7 of the "WHY I Do Radiosport" Blog, I suggested that utilizing SO2V as part of your operating-repertoire can improve the QSOs/hr rate considerably.

Essentially, the SO2V method is simply a combination of Search-and-Pouncing and calling "CQ Contest".

In order to run SO2V you must be comfortable with running a frequency, which implies being comfortable with calling CQ.

  • In The World of SO2V Blog I explain how VFO A & B are utilized to maximize the hourly QSO-rate.  Doing this requires you to be comfortable with dual (i.e. stereo) receive.
  • In the Learning the Art of Dual-receive Blog, I detail the importance of properly processing the audio in each ear as many sub-RX units have poor selectivity (compared to the main-RX) needing outboard filter assistance in order to be effective for SO2V.
  • In the WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING Blog, I explore the above problem more thoroughly.
As you can see, I am advocating the use of SO2V and dual-receive. 
Here are some things we can do with SO2V:
  • In single-mode contests (SS, NAQP, DX/160-GiGs, WPX GiGs and RTTY contests)
    • A) Search & Pounce w/VFO-A
    • B) Call CQ (same band) w/VFO-B
  • In mixed-mode contests (FD, IARU HF contest, 10-Meter GiGs & state QSO Parties)
    • S&P both modes (Ex: Cw w/VFO-A & Ssb w/VFO-B)
    • Call CQ in one mode (Ex: Cw w/VFO-B) and S&P using the other mode
      (Ex: Ssb w/VFO-A)
Now, back to the issue of Calling CQ. 
Regardless of power level, there are times when calling CQ is to your advantage:
  • When you activate a county in a state QSO party, or a state park.
    One of my beefs with state QSO parties (other than CQP) is that there is not enough
    in-state activity; put simply, not enough people participate in their own QSO parties.
    Several years ago I won the 7QP QSO party because I spent a considerable amount
    of time calling "CQ 7QP".  Most of those stations who called me should have been
    calling CQ for themselves, not me.
  • Being in a "Rare" ARRL section such as DE, NNY, VI, NE or NT.  Spend 2/3's of the
    time calling CQ - stations will FLOOD your passband.  Eventually you will have to S&P
    to find the other rare sections; then again, they may find you first.  Many a contest I have been surprised by a call from stations in VE8, VE9, VY1 & 2, VO1 & 2, SC, and yes, even Nebraska (NE).
  • Having a "weird prefix" (Ex: WQ6X or NX6T) is an excellent reason to call CQ in the WPX contests.  Each weird prefix adds to the multiplier count which makes calling CQ an obvious thing to do - contest participants are LooKing for us weirdoes.
Some operators are reluctant to call CQ Contest in Cw GiGs because their code speed is slow;
a couple of weeks listening to W1AW code practice bulletins will remedy that somewhat. 
Then again, when you run a frequency, YOU control the WPM speed you are comfortable with. 
Don't be intimidated by 30 Wpm callers; it's ok to send "QRS" - don't apologize for doing so. 
While I personally like to run at 23 - 24 wpm, if you are more comfortable running at 20 wpm or less, then that is what YOU should do.  Remember when you run a frequency, YOU control the parameters regarding how "business is conducted" on that frequency.

You may be ok with faster Cw speeds but are intimidated by running a frequency in a contest. 
There is "pileup trainer" software freely available on the internet that will allow you to work up
your courage-level.  (LooK for a separate Blog entry about this software soon.)

That's all I got for now on this subject folks.
Bottom line: Calling CQ is the heart & soul of radiosport.
Don't let running low power stop you from running a contest frequency.  As it turns out, in
general, there is less competition in most radiosport GiGs running LOW power, than running high. 
Most of my important contest wins have come from running < 150 watts than from running 1300.

When was the last time YOU called CQ and ran a frequency in a radiosport contest?

How did it turn out?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

WQ6X Triple-OPs the All Asia DX Contest via Maritime Mobile

As June ROARS on in the direction of Field Day, a lot of interesting things are quickly coming
into being.  For 2019 Field Day a major goal is to operate Ssb from a sailboat at Aeolian yacht harbor in Alameda.  This weekend allowed me the opportunity to operate from W7AYT to open the weekend, remote operate from NX6T in Fallbrook and most importantly, explore the viability of operating from
a boat installation in the harbor.

In years passed, I have run a portable setup for the All Asia Cw contest as a prep exercise for
the FD GiG.  In preparation for next weekend, the goal is to test a "hybrid" ICOM transceiver on WB6RCU's sailboat moored in the Oakland Yacht harbor.  At the same time, NX6T is running a
Multi-Multi operation from Fallbrook, with a mixture of B-I-C (Butt-in-Chair) and remote operators.

Arriving @W7AYT's QTH, the Space-WX report indicated a solar event had occurred moving the K-Index up to 4.  Checking in with VNC Viewer it would seem that NX6T was not much affected by
the storm.  Unfortunately, @W7AYT 20-Meters was all but worthless; all I heard was WH6R working Asia, yet I couldn't hear anything but silence. 

While waiting for 40-meters to "lengthen across the pond", I took the opportunity to test-run the old West Mountain Radio Plug-in-Play Cw keyer and the Touch Keyer units to use during the sailboat operation; both units had been languishing on the shelf for over a year and needed to be verified
as still functional.

To be different, I decided to operate as W7AYT from Dennis' Concord QTH but using my FT-1000mp transceiver, allowing me to operate using the WQ6X callsign from Tom's sailboat.  Around 07:00z, 5 W7AYT QSOs were made on 20 meters.  Then, after a brief midnight sleep N6KI rousted me for the 1am shift (08:00z) @ NX6T.

Dennis had me run 40-meters while he mopped-up 20 and then hit the Sleep-QRT button, leaving
me to run 40 & check for 80.  40 was HoT while 80 was NoT.  Other than LoTs of quick-fading, on
40 meters most signals (except the 5-watt JA's) were relatively quite strong.  5.5 hours later WQ5X had facilitated 200+ QSOs into NX6T's 40-meter log. 

On the letter-beacon front, only the "M" Beacon was heard, which is essentially due-North of Japan in Russia.  Amazingly, the "F" & "K" beacons were not to be heard.

Approximately every hour I switched audio lines back to the FT-1000mp to run S&P as W7AYT, eventually putting 11 more QSOs into that log.  At first I thought the poor/slow response to my calls was due to a weak signal. 

A more logical guess is that they were not used to the W7AYT call because it was not found in any callsign history list.

I called it quits at 13:15z, needing several hours sleep before heading to the sailboat in Oakland. 
For NX6T, other than a handful of JA QSOs on 20-m around noon, things didn't really fire up until 00:00 when a handful of 15-meter QSOs made it into the log; the rest being on 20.

During this time I made it to the boat and began the process of cobbling together the equipment and cables to make a maritime mobile operation possible. 

I brought to the sailboat a classic
25-yrold ICOM R-71 receiver for comparison evaluation.  At the very
least it would serve to put the hybrid ICOM-7000 at eye-level. 

This hybrid 7000 came about by combining the control head from
my defunct ICOM 7000 transceiver
to replace the defunct head on Tom's otherwise working ICOM 7000.  This created a fully functional unit.   The
other unit is headed to ICOM service.

The WMR Cw keyer came back to life on the COM2 port, just like it used to
5 years ago.

The hybrid-Icom's 100 watts out ran through an external SGC-257 auto-tuner at the base of a 55-foot "Marconi Sloper", favoring the N-E - perfect for FD; not so perfect for All Asia.  Remoting in to NX6T Saturday evening, I noticed a strong 20-meter JA presence in Fallbrook - having a 13mh C-31 yagi certainly helps.

With assistance of the ICOM 7000 manual and the Nifty reference guide, all the unique PBT & DSP features came back to me.  Thanks to the unique menu features of the 7000, triggering the SGC-257 to properly tune the Marconi sloper took less than 10 seconds.  Although the antenna more-or-less matched the radio on 80-m Cw, no signals were initially heard.  On Ssb, above 3800 signals were strong and WQ6X was easily heard throughout California and the Northwest.

Having a reasonable signal from Oakland harbor could not makeup for the lousy internet connection on board.  Attempting to run NX6T remotely, calling stations resulted in internet transmit dropouts.  With nothing to resolve the problem, N6KI ended up doing double-duty to cover my non-operation.

With operating time on my hands, it was time to give WQ6X/MM a whirl on 40 meters.  Because the sloper was clearly favoring the Northeast, working Asia turned out to be quite a challenge.  Only 3 out of the ten 40-meter QSOs came about as a reply to my CQ A A calls.  On most of the other QSOs, the /MM suffix evidently confused stations as WQ6X has never signed as Maritime Mobile before.

Because a major goal of the /MM operation was to check signal levels, I took the opportunity to Call CQ on different frequencies of both 80 & 40 meters, giving the RBN network an opportunity to record the signals.  Not surprisingly the antenna was shown to favor the N-E - perfect for radio amateur's Field Day next weekend.

While the All Asia contest is largely a JA-station fest, a number of wonderfully uncommon callsigns made it to the NX6T log including:TA1T, 3W1T, VR2EH, XU7AMG, XV1X, UD8A, UC8U, RU0LL, 9M2ZAK, 9M4DXX & 6K2IXF.  While the 7K, 7L, 7M , HL, HS, and 9V1 callsigns are not necessarily rare, at least they counted as prefix-multipliers.

On Sunday, while I was wrapping things up on the boat, NX6T ops managed to put a dozen JA contacts into the 15-meter log; unfortunately, with an SFI of 68, 10 meters did not exist beyond
500 miles or so, sputtering out of oomph in the D-Layer over the Southwestern Pacific.

While we put in a GooD showing, GooD was only good enough for 3rd-place as a Multi-Multi operation.  The K3EST crew (@N6RO) put in an outstanding performance (with mostly B-I-C operators); reading their 3830 Score report, it is clear that they had a Clear Band Plan devised
before the All Asia event.

While NX6T didn't take a 1st place this year (as we have running Multiple-Single operations in previous years), we did amazingly well considering the horrible noise levels and smaller group
of operators.

For WQ6X, operating maritime mobile was quite a revealing operating experience.

Did YOU work the 2019 All Asia contest?

Is NX6T, W7AYT or WQ6X in YOUR Asian LoG?

Friday, June 14, 2019

General PREP for Radiosport

While each radiosport contest is often different from those occurring before and after the event
I am currently working, we can classify events based on mode/type of contest. 
For example:
  • Mode: Cw, Ssb, RTTY/FT8, Mixed-mode
  • Type of contest: DX, Domestic, QSO Party, SPRINT
  • Contest Length: 4, 12, 24, 30, 36, 48 hours
  • Serious operation / Casual operation
Depending upon which of the above categories apply for a given contest weekend,
I make the required preparations enabling me to run the best contest event I can.

For example:
  • Before EVERY contest for WQ6X certain things apply, including:
    • Checking the Space-WX as well as the local WX
    • Eyeball the radio equipment, the antennas, the cables, and anything
      else hardware-related.
    • Make sure there is plenty of Kona coffee ready for brewing,
      along with a supply of Cherry Cola.
    • The rules of EACH contest are read thoroughly to determine:
      • Should I run Single-OP Assisted or Unassisted?
      • In single-band contests, should I run Cw-only, Ssb-only
        or mixed-mode.?
      • Should I run single-band or multi-band?
      • Should I run high power, low power or QRP?

  •  Before a Cw contest, a number of things should be attended to:
    • Code Practice - W1AW @048.5 Khz on each band.
    • Tune the band(s) testing the Cw-narrow/audio filters.
    • Load up and test the Cw memory keyer memories.
    • Check the Key/paddle cables and repair them if necessary.
    • Make TEST CQ calls and note the RBN statistics.

  • Before an Ssb contest I usually do the following:
    • Test the microphone(s) and their cabling.
    • Practice speaking your callsign & each element of the exchange.
    • Load up and test the voice keyer memories.

  •  Before an RTTY contest both ends need to be tested:
    • Tune the band(s) for RTTY signals ensuring proper decoding.
    • I transmit a special "Tasting 1,2,3...." message which allows determining the proper transmit audio levels and the duty cycle for the power level being run.  Luckily, my FT-1000mp can run full-duty at the full 100 watt level with barely
      a trace of dissipated heat.

  • Before Dx contests, a number of things are important:
    • Checking DX Maps at different times to see the propagation paths,
      offer a propagation picture as reported by the spotting websites/receivers.
    • Listening for signals at different times of the day give an indication of what propagation is REALLY like.
    • Listening to the NCDXF and Letter beacons can offer insight as to what areas of the world will be most beneficial to focus on.

  • Before domestic contest events like Sweepstakes and Field Day, certain things
    are important:
    • Tracking the Space-WX K-Index levels just-before/during the event offers
      an indication as to the continent signal levels that can be expected.
    • Checking the RBN stats from my test-CQ's on each band to determine
      what are the most effective "pipelines" to what areas of the continent.
  • Before state/area QSO parties I make it a point to find out what the county structure is.  Most state QSO party websites have information (or a link to such information) about the counties.  Logging software (such as N1MM+) has built-in county lists for each event.
Being well-prepared for every radiosport event makes a huge difference, not only when everything runs well, but most specifically when things go wrong.  Proper event preparation makes it easier to more easily switch to a "backup plan" immediately and continue forward as effectively as possible.

Do YOU make elaborate preparations for radiosport events?
What steps do YOU take?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

WQ6X Blast from the PAST: All Asian Cw Contest

Long before I got into today's current monthly radiosport activities I loved participating in the occasional Field Day (FD), November Sweepstakes (SS) and of course,
the All Asian Dx Cw contest. 

In my original blog entry "When in Doubt CHEAT - but within the rules" ([CLICK HERE] to read that)
I explained how I ran the All Asian DX Cw contest from the Data General Western HQ office, putting a tunable 2-el 8JK yagi on the roof of the 5-story. 

At the time, 5th floor was under construction.
The RG-58 coax I ran down the stairwell to the 2nd floor where my office was looked like it was part of the construction effort, raising no unwanted attention.  After 5pm on Sunday the coax cable simply disappeared.

Using a crude logging program developed in DG's extended-Basic (running on their MV/10000 micro-Mini computer) helped with DUP checking more than anything.  It was wonderful to be able to print the log sheet pages on the MV/10000's high-speed page printer before leaving the training center
that Sunday afternoon.

Fast forward nearly 20 years found WQ6X engaging in all manner of All Asian exercises; from atop Mt. Abel (in So. California), operating portable from Alameda and multi-OP'ing with N6GEO (2011
in Brentwood and 2012 from his Twain Harte cabin) and of course, the crew @ NX6T in Fallbrook.

For 2013, I decided to reprise my 2011 All Asian SSB GiG on Mt. Abel by making my annual FD excursion to the mountain a week earlier to run the All Asian GiG and then catch up on a LoT of
sleep before team W6SW began to arrive on Thursday.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)

In 2014, for A.A. Cw,
I decided to run a portable operation from a friend's house in Alameda as W6A.

The only trees on the property were barely 20 feet tall, so running any form of horizontal antenna was out of the question.

Being only 0.2 mile from the beach, it was decided to run an old Butternut HF2-V vertical (for 80 & 40) along with a a roof-mounted MFJ apartment antenna for the upper bands.  While signal levels were not the greatest, at least WQ6X was (more-or-less) heard in Asia.

[CLICK HERE] to read the Blog I wrote about WQ6X's involvement in the 2014 All Asian Cw contest.

For 2015, I decided to make a journey to Fallbrook joining up with the Cw team @ NX6T. 
([CLICK HERE] to read about this event.)

In 2016, WQ6X made another trip to Fallbrook.  When it was all over NX6T had taken 2nd place
for North America and 4th place worldwide; not bad, but not enough to satisfy the operators @NX6T.
([CLICK HERE] to read about this event.)

For 2017, having just made the long trip to Fallbrook for the Memorial weekend's CQ WPX contest ([CLICK HERE] to read about it), I was not up to making another long trip to Oceanside, deciding to join up with NX6T remotely.  ([CLICK HERE] to read more about it.)

As described in the 2017 BLOG entry,
this was an opportunity for test-driving technology; external audio filters on the one hand and Russian radio navigation beacons on the other.

Nearly a year later, around the time we were making plans for the 2018 All Asian Cw contest, N6KI received an e-mail with
a 1st-place (for North America) certificate
for our multi-OP GiG in2017.

This is the 1st time I can recall when the 3830 Score was actually a predictor of a major contest 1st-place win.  Morale boosters like that gave encouragement to attempt a repeat of that NA win for 2018.

While dual-OP'ing contests was nothing new for me
in mid-2018, I'd never dual-OP'ed an All Asian GiG before.  Additionally, I wanted to solve the mystery of why Asian propagation is so poor @ W7AYT's QTH.

While Dennis (N6KI) and Rick (N6CY) ran STN-2  live from Fallbrook, I ran the usual "dinner shift" and after 1am shifts.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.

From time to time in radiosport, history DOES repeat itself.  This week as we began preparations for the 2019 All Asian Cw GiG, N6KI received another e-mail from the JARL with another 1st-Place for North America certificate attached.  This was also the 2nd time that 3830 Scores predicted our 1st place win.

Preparing for this weekend's All Asian event took me on a trip down memory lane to make sense of the path from 2010 - 2019.  I have often said that variety is the spice of radiosport.  The All Asian Cw contest is an excellent example of the beauty of this variety.

Do YOU like to play in the All Asian Cw contest.

What unique stories do YOU have to tell?


Thursday, June 6, 2019

WHY I Do Radiosport - PT. 7 - MORE about Feedback

In Part 5 of this BLOG Series, I detailed the importance of Feedback.  What might not be initially apparent is that feedback can manifest in a number of different forms; you simply need to know
the significance of what you are "looking at".

Technically, the definition of "Feedback" is to take the output (or result) of something and feed it BACK to it's input, but, in a controlled manner.  A typical OP-amp circuit does just that.  Adding a
few minor complexities to the circuit allows us to create mixers, comparators, bandpass filters and even notching circuits.

In radiosport, feedback can come in many divergent "flavors"; some begin before the contest event, some during and even some forms of feedback come into play when wrapping up a contest event.  This contest BLOG entry attempts to explain this phenomenon.

For example, before each contest event I review last year's participation in that event. 
One of the reasons I document my contest activities in the WQ6X Contest Blog is so that a year from now I don't have to rely on memory to recollect what happened and why it occurred - it's already laid out, "with pretty pictures and everything".

Along with MY write up, I usually visit the "results page" for that contest to see how everyone ELSE did, comparing my results to their outcome.  If 3830 Scores data exists for that station I can get a close look at their band performance data to understand things that may have worked for them that may be reprise-able during the upcoming incarnation of that event.

Next up is to review the Space-WX numbers for the last week, allowing the projection of where
things will be (Space-WX wise) during the contest operating period.  Remember that space weather predictions are just THAT - predictions; in actuality, virtually anything can happen on the surface of the sun, changing everything operationally in a matter of minutes.

Because radio conditions can be rather unpredictably volatile an overall band plan was devised
with band alternatives for when things don't go as predicted/expected.

For Part 6 of this BLOG Series, the idea of  "Cheating (but within the rules)" was presented. 
This is hardly a NEW idea ([CLICK HERE] for the original BLOG on this topic).

Remember this: for WQ6X, running radiosport events offers up a variety
of completely different practice / training situations in order to accomplish the goal of emergency preparedness.

Running as assisted/unassisted at different times gives practice when
there is/isn't internet access. 

In all cases, I as an operator, want to know "how I/we am doing"; it is usually to our advantage to take advantage of every piece of information [feedback] available. When such information is not available, it is up to me to compensate for that fact.

One of the advantages of SO2-V is that I can be running a frequency (with RX-B) while populating
the bandmap via S&P (using RX-A).  Doing this provides additional feedback information. 
I have written several BLOG entries on SO2-V, including:
  • [O] - The world of SO2V - some thoughts by a newbie operator
  • [O] - WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING: Maximizing the Art of
Because a major radiosport goal is to maximize time utilization [practical] feedback offers a gauge
on how well we are doing at any given moment relative to:
  • 5 Minutes
  • 30 Minutes
  • 1 Hour
  • on this band yesterday
  • last year in this same contest [on this same band]
  • Etc.
In contests with expertly-designated multipliers (ARRL Sections, DXCC Countries, CQ/IARU Zones), keeping the mults-worked screen visual at all times gives feedback on what geographical areas to focus on.

If you are a more super-competitive type of person, utilizing the online scoreboards may fuel your competitive spirit.  While I select N1MM+ to SUBMIT my score for scoreboard inclusion, I don't follow the scoreboards; for me, it's too distracting.

Have you ever successfully run a frequency only to have QSO-making slow down to a near-absolute crawl?  Answer?: The RBN Network.  Checking the RBN network while calling CQ can give you an idea of where your CQ's are being heard geographically. 

Ex.: It accomplishes nothing during the November Sweepstakes (SS) if the only stations who can hear you are in Japan (JA) or South America.  With RBN assistance I can determine a better antenna azimuth to find waiting callers.  Checking the RBN 5 minutes after a CQ call offers feedback on where the signal is being heard.

Another idea is to scan the bandmap spots and point the antenna(s) based on the geographical location of those spots.  It is also important to recognize WHO made each spot.  Just because
a station can be heard by EA5UG does not mean that signal can be heard on the West coast.

I have written a LoT about the value of beacons (NCDXF and Russian letter beacons in particular [O]).  If I can hear a given beacon, then theoretically my signal should be "hearable" in that area
of the world (assuming reciprocal propagation characteristics). 

Additionally, even tho we are just now coming out the "bottom" of the sunspot cycle does not mean that 10-meters is not worthy of consideration.  The 28.200 ==> 28.300 amateur beacon area is a largely untapped resource.

Has it ever occurred to you that we have available to us a beacon system which is celebrating its
100 year anniversary?  Altho they have evolved (in terms of capability and geographical location),
the WWV / WWVH time stations not only give us beacon-like capabilities, they also offer up Space-WX reports at 18 & 45 minutes after EVER hour of EVERY day.

During this year's government shutdown, there was the (ludicrous) threat of defunding the NIST budget, threatening the shutdown of BOTH operations; WWV in Ft. Collins Colorado and WWVH in Kekaha Hawaii (Kauai).  A recent bill-passage by congress, not only reversed that ruling, but in fact actually UPPED the funding for NIST operations - HAW - HAW!

I consider the propagation-prediction value of the WWV & WWVH stations so important that every time I setup a new radio (Ex: TS-50, TS-450, FT-900, FT-920, ICOM-7000 & FT-1000mp) I assign
WWV/WWVH frequencies to the 1st-six memories, followed by the 3 CHU (Canadian) time stations. 
Flipping thru those 9 frequencies can give me a quick feel for LUF and MUF limits any time of day.

This morning, before shutting down the FT-1000mp, I did a quick scan of the WWV frequencies noting that 2.5 & 5 signals could not be heard, while copyable signals were heard on 10, 15, 20 & 25 mhz.  10-mhz WWV gives me a feel of what to expect on 30 meters, while 15-mhz WWV correlates
with 20-meters, 20-mhz WWV correlates to 15-meters and 25-mhz WWV correlates to the
10 & 12 meter amateur bands.

As you can see, radiosport Feedback comes in many "flavors" and forms. 
I have often said: FEEDBACK: It's alllll about Feedback.

Do YOU play radiosport?

What FEEDBACK do YOU rely on?