Monday, September 30, 2019

The Ritzy Road to RTTY Radiosport - Part 3: Learning to Listen

In Part 1 of this BLOG series, I suggested that the list of RTTY events detailed in Part 2 might inspire you to join in; or at least, give-a-listen, because when you come down to it, it all begins with listening.

I began my amateur radio "career" as a shortwave listener (SWL'er) before obtaining my first
FCC license; the more I listened, the more I learned about the HF spectrum (which has changed dramatically since the mid-1960's), and in particular the world of RTTY (and its early derivatives).  Additionally, I learned how much more I needed to learn; especially when it comes to RTTY & the
other digital technologies.

Then in 1984, along came the AEA mba-Reader unit.  Before committing to a full-featured
RTTY installation I purchased one of those Reader units (a WHOPPING $100 at the time). 
It was a thrill to see decoded messages scroll across the screen; unfortunately, often too
quick for making sense out of them.  Sadly, that Reader quietly disappeared into the junk
box of some long-forgotten ham.

It was during my reconnection with N6GEO in 2009 that (with his patient elmering) I "discovered
by watching" how simple RTTY communication has become, IF you run everything on a suitably-powerful Windoze/MAC/Linux computer, with a reasonably-performing soundcard.

If RTTY is something you would like to explore, I recommend beginning JUST with receiving
RTTY; when you become confident with this ability, then tackle the interesting world of RTTY Xmit. 
Learn what all the different software settings are for.  Try different settings and notice the difference.

My simple approach to RTTY is running the MMTTY decoder (and sometimes FLDIGI)
software in conjunction with N1MM+ logging software (both FREE).  Daytime listening
on 14.078 - 14.198 and nighttime listening on 7.080 - 7.100 for RTTY signals will give
you opportunities to learn the art of tuning RTTY signals. 
 
Do you remember when you first learned to tune in SSB signals?  For me, it was a bit tricky; now
I have no trouble quickly tuning in an Ssb voice.  With practice, the same can be true for RTTY.  Learning to tune signals by the sound of the tones is one way of doing it.  Then again, in last weekend's CQ W.W. RTTY contest, the RX audio on my end of the remote connection failed.  Using MMTTY's tuning display allowed me to run a frequency and even (with careful tuning)
Search & Pounce.
 
Another way to copy some more lengthy RTTY text is to listen every evening for W1AW's RTTY bulletins.  Rather than publish W1AW's operating frequencies, I instead refer you to the latest information in the latest QST magazine and/or their website: ARRL.Org.
 
There are of course other digital modes such as PSK, AMTOR, JT-65, FT-4 & FT-8; and I know nothing about them - I can barely run RTTY.  For me, running RTTY has become a LoT of fun.  Maybe one day I will consider the others.  For now I'm simply gonna Do RTTY.
 
If YOU Do RTTY like I Do RTTY.....
 .....then one day we can RTTY Along.
 
C U then.
 

WQ6X Runs CQ W.W. RTTY Remotely and Raucously

While this weekend's CQ W.W. RTTY was an overall success for many reasons), it was one of
the most frustrating RTTY events I've run in recent years.  Success in running events remotely
relies on having access to a clean "internet pipeline" between the Host and the Remote locations. 

This weekend for various reasons out of my control, while the connection SEEMED clean, internet dropouts (every minute or so) would result in the VNC Viewer software locking up.  If I seemed to "disappear" or be slow to respond, that is because I was having to start a new instance of the VNC software, not because I was too drunk or stupid; I don't drink during radiosport operations from Alameda.

My BIGGEST BEEF for the contest weekend were the BARRAGE of RTTY stations calling
CQ Test atop the 14.100 NCDXF Beacon Frequency.  You can't be a 20-meter RTTY operator
and NoT know about the beacon network; or at least, the beacon on 14.100.  At least NoW you know.  I don't transmit closer than 1-kc on either side of 14.100.  What GooD are propagation beacons if I can't hear them due to RTTY QRM?  Am I missing something here?


One of the MAIN reasons I ran this weekend was to test-drive another
dual-audio filter combination. 

The last several years, I have used the Alameda QTH to test-run different audio filter combinations, discovering the best filter configuration for my operations from W7AYT's Concord QTH. 

Finalizing that, next up was to discover the best configuration using the filters left over.  The best combination is an Autek QF-1A (for left ear audio) and
an MFJ-751 (for right ear audio).


Ironically, while this step was a success, because of the internet dropouts, much of Sunday
was run with the receive audio turned off.  Technically, audio is not necessary to run a frequency. 
Paying attention to the "waterfall" and decoder displays is enough to run stations most of the time.  During S&P running, while audio is a nice confirmation of being on frequency, in most cases, it was hardly necessary.

This contest was amazingly devoid of intentional QRM; even on 40-meters where I am notoriously plagued by idiot QRM'ers.  The only difficulty came when stations would exactly zero-beat my run frequency (so I know it is no accident) and call "CQ Test".  Function key F-11 is programmed
to send: WB6XYZ QRL QSY PSE".  One or two presses of F-11 and "message received".

Frequencies like 14089.89 are purposely chosen to create a pleasing aesthetic effect when operators properly tune in my "CQ W.W. Test" calls.  Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, some stations like to work me (get the QSO points first of course) and then immediately attempt a CQ call on the
run frequency - HuH?


Analyzing the log submissions to the 3830Scores website, it would seem that running as NX6T,
a 4th place was secured for W6 and 9th place for Zone 3 in the Single-OP assisted, high power category.  While I only ran the Expert-2k amplifier at ~700 watts, virtually every station I called
came right back, often over signals I considered to be twice as loud as NX6T.

For me, the BiG surprise came on Saturday and again on Sunday when a seemingly DEAD
15-meters delivered 2-dozen SA stations responding to my CQ calls on 21093.93, both during
the mid-afternoon. 

I ran the Stepp-IR yagi in BI-directional mode hoping to work BoTH JA and SA stations intermixed.  While that worked well on 20-meters, there were no JA's heard on 15-meters - Bummer Dewd!

Did YOU work the CQ W.W. RTTY contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Friday, September 27, 2019

RTTY: The Ritzy Road to Run Radiosport - Part 2

In Part 1 of this BLOG Series I explained some of things I like about RTTY.  While I have
struggled with several different RTTY configurations, it wasn't until I found (what turned out to be)
an inexpensive RigExpert Plus interface unit that I began to enjoy RTTY using my classic Yaesu
FT-1000mp transceiver.

As I pointed out, the FT-1000mp is able to run Full-Duty RTTY at 100 watts, giving me a 3-5 db LP advantage over radios dialing back to the 50-watt (or less) level.  As part of my preparation for this upcoming weekend's remote run of the 2019 CQ W.W. RTTY contest I took a LooK back at previously run RTTY GiG as I contemplate the different RTTY macros to be used for making remote operations more effective.

I promised a list of RTTY GiGs that may interest you.  Tooling thru the WA7BNM Contest Calendar, between Sept-2019 and August-2020 I found the following events of interest; most of which look for me to participate in:

  • [+] CQ WW RTTY Dx Contest
          This RTTY version of the classic CQ W.W. is a way to earn DXCC RTTY and possibly
          even WAZ in a single weekend.

    OCTOBER 2019
  • [+] Russian WW Digital Contest
          In addition to RTTY, this GiG also includes packet.
  • [+] Makrothen Contest
          This is an interesting event because the QSO points are determined by computing the
          Km distance between your grid square location and that of the stations you contact.
  • [+] JARTS WW RTTY Contest
          Sending our AGE in the JARTS contest makes this an All Asian RTTY contest.

    NOVEMBER 2019
  • [+] WAE DX Contest, RTTY
          This the RTTY version of WAE complete with QTC packet sending.

    DECEMBER 2019
  • [+] OK DX RTTY Contest
          Similar to the CQ W.W. GiGs, in this event we send our WAZ Zone.

    JANUARY 2020
  • [+] ARRL RTTY Roundup
    This is my overall favorite RTTY contest.  It is possible to achieve WAS and all VE
    provinces as well as DXCC all in one weekend like we did operating as WP2/WQ6X
    in 2014.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that).
  • [+] BARTG RTTY Sprint
          While they call this British event a SPRINT, it runs a full 24 hours,
          (not 4 hours or less).

    FEBRUARY 2020
  • [+] Mexico RTTY contest
          In this GiG, the BiG multipliers are the Mexican states.
  • [+] CQ WPX RTTY
          This is the first WPX GiG of the year.  It's a FUN way to do RTTY.
  • [+] Russian WW Multi-Mode Contest
          While multiple digital modes are allowed, this is mainly a RTTY GiG.
  • [+] North American QSO Party, RTTY
          This is the last of the Winter NAQP contest GiGs.

    MARCH 2020
  • [+] BARTG HF RTTY Contest
          Unlike the January BARTG Sprint, this is a full 48 hour DX contest.

    APRIL 2020
  • [+] SP DX RTTY Contest
          In this GiG, each DXCC country and each of the 380 Polish poviats
          count as multipliers.

    MAY 2020
  • [+] VOLTA WW RTTY Contest
          In this GiG we send TWO numbers: QSO NR & WAZ Zone.
  • [+] Aegean RTTY Contest
          While we send a QSO NR, each QSO with an SV5, SV8 or SV9 prefix is worth
          3X the QSO points.

    JULY 2020
  • [+] DL-DX RTTY Contest
          This is a High QSO-point RTTY contest, and of course, DL/DM stations
          count as additional multipliers.
  • [+] North American QSO Party, RTTY
          This the 1st of the summer NAQP GiGs.

    AUGUST 2020
  • [+] SCC RTTY Championship
          This is a fun little RTTY GiG on an otherwise quite contest weekend.
As you can see there are plenty of RTTY GiGs littered throughout the calendar year. 
Some events even have a sub-category for running the event with a real RAT-TAT-TAT
teletype machine.

Do you run RTTY?

Do you play in the above-listed GiGs?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

RTTY: The Ritzy Road to Run Radiosport - Part 1

Until about 10 years ago, I didn't know RTTY from a Kitty.  Today, to paraphrase
an old song : "If you know RTTY like I know RTTY then We can RTTY along".

CW is and always has been my favorite contest mode altho since 2010, RTTY contests have captured my fascination, right behind CW.  Both CW and RTTY are preferred over SSB contests
as they save voice-strain and allow me to wear wireless headphones.  (There has yet to be devised
a contest-quality wireless headset - with a functional mic).

I hardly claim to be an expert in the RTTY art, but know enough to run RTTY radiosport GiGs,
winning a few certificates and, with N6GEO the 1st-place DX plaque for our RTTY Roundup expedition as WP2/WQ6X from St. Croix. 
([CLICK HERE] to read the BLOG describing that event).

For many OPs, a drawback to RTTY is the need to reduce power levels by 50% or risk "burning up" their radios.  When I run RTTY GiGs remotely from NX6T, the onsite K3 only needs 15 watts to drive an Expert 2-K amp to approximately 680 watts - 50% duty.  There is only a 3.5db difference between 1350 watts and 680; not enough to be worth pushing the amp so hard.

My Yaesu FT-1000mp @ W7AYT is so well heat-sinked that it runs RTTY @100 watts full duty,
with only a trace of heat on top of the case.  To provide a hassle-free cable hookup between the
radio and the Toshiba laptop, a RigExpert PLUS unit was found on eBay for an incredibly cheap price.  The $48 custom Yaesu cable cost almost as much as the interface unit itself.

A unique advantage of RTTY over CW is that it is automatically decoded for me.  When running remote, with CW any internet disruption can corrupt the Cw tone hearing, losing those tones forever.  With RTTY, when the internet connection is regained the decoded text is still waiting for view on the MMTY decoder screen (I can scroll back if necessary).


Another RTTY difference is that stations don't appear EXACTLY on my run frequency by accident.  With Cw, being in the vicinity of my run frequency by accident IS possible; exactly on frequency w/perfect RTTY copy is NO ACCIDENT - it's intentional.  I wrote up this beef last year in the Role
of Respect in Radiosport series.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that)

One of my most interesting RTTY experiences comes from running the WAE (Worked All Europe) RTTY contest.  In the WAE GiGs to double our point score we have the option of sending QTC messages to European stations.  Using RTTY to send the QTC's is a satisfying thing to be a part
of; much easier than doing the same thing on CW and certainly easier than sending QTC's via Ssb.

Running RTTY Radiosport is to me a LoT of fun.  There are more RTTY contest events littered about the radiosport event calendar than you may realize.  In Part 2 of this BLOG I will include a list of contest event links so you can play for yourself; or at least, Listen In!

Do YOU do RTTY

Would YOU like to RTTY with Me?

Monday, September 23, 2019

WQ6X September Radiosport Dabbling a BiG Disappointment

While this last weekend offered 7 radiosport events of interest to me, when it was all over I ended
up with 1.2 events that actually went anywhere.  Unfortunately, this is hardly the first September weekend that has been like that.  According to the WA7BNM contest calendar, here are the
events I was looking to participate in:
  1. [x] Collegiate QSO Party
  2. [x] Scandinavian Cw Contest
  3. [x] All Africa Contest
  4. [x] Iowa QSP Party (IAQP)
  5. [x] New Hampshire QSO Party (NHQP)
  6. [x] New Jersey QSO Party (NJQP)
  7. [x] Washing State Salmon Run (formerly WAQP)
For starters, we have the Collegiate QSO party.  I believe this was the 2nd running of this event; same as last year, where was the collegiate station activity?  Last years event write up in QST surprised me as I heard NO stations calling CQ for this event.  This year was a duplicate. 
It's not nice to get us excited about your event and then no one can be heard. 
Am I missing something?

The Scandinavian GiG was another disappointment.  Other than a few weak OH (Finland) stations,
no workable signals made it to Fallbrook.  There were dozens of spots but virtually 99% we from W9,
W8 and W1 locations - Bummer Dewd.  As I say every year about this Gig, "wait 'til next year".

From the Waste Coast, Africa is the most difficult continent to work.  Not only did I hear NO Africa stations, there were no bandmap spots either - Double Bummer Dewd.

The Iowa QSO party had possibilities except I was in conference much of the day.  By the time I got on the air (23:00z), nothing was heard from Iowa.  Lemme see if I understand this - y'all advertise
a QSO party, don't play in your own QSO party and then QUIT (02:00z) just as 40 and 80 are
opening to your state.  HuH?  At LEAST give us another shot at Iowa on Sunday like they do
in New Hampshire and Washington.

New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington state all began their party events at 16:00z. 
Other than Washington stations, one WB2 guy in New Jersey made it to the log.  New Hampshire was not heard; even in Part 2 of the NHQP GiG on Sunday, no "1" stations were heard; much less worked.
How many dozen times each year do I have to bitch about vacant state QSO party activity before y'all get the message and start putting your counties on the air?

That leaves us with the Washington state Salmon Run (formerly the WAQP).  In May of course we have the 7QP QSO party, however in September, the Washingtonians go it alone, and do a pretty good job doing it.  Next to the California QSO party (CQP), Washington's Salmon run is the best single-state QSO party around; and, being on the Northwest coast, we Californians have a near-perfect skip shot at all those 7-Land callsigns.

Aside from my usual beef about poor in-state turnout, my only other disappointment with the S-R contest was lack of ROVER stations.  In other QSO parties I am used to working stations who are "straddling" 2, 3 & 4 county lines; we callers get more points per visit.  Of the 70 QSOs I made,
only NU7J handed out two counties at once - Bummer Dewd.

The real bottom-line of this weekend for WQ6X was the opportunity to troubleshoot different
network configuration settings for the Elecraft K3/0 equipment.  Only after it was all over than it
was discovered that my copy of VNC Viewer is horribly out of date.  Updating to Version 6 made a HuGe difference.  If you are a VNC user and haven't moved out of Version 5x, you are missing out.

Now that I have the K3/0 and laptop software updated, the next stop is a Dual-OP this
coming weekend of CQ W.W. RTTY, remote from Fallbrook and live from W7AYT in Concord.

Do YOU do RTTY?
Are YOU gonna play in the CQ W.W. RTTY GiG ??
I hope so - we BOTH need the points.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

WQ6X Blasts from the Past: a LooK back at a Look Back


One of the benefits of revisiting past radiosport competitions is that it allows me to genuflect on
what works and what doesn't.  Reflecting & Evaluating past events brings-to-lite changes that
can be made to the radio/antenna configuration(s) - as well as the software - for a given
operating location.

Recently I became curious about the many Blast-from-the-Past blogs I have written for the
WQ6X Contest Blog.  Here is a chronological list of what I have written thus far:

  • [x] BLAST's from the PAST: November Sweepstakes
         Why November Sweepstakes is my FAVorite Radiosport Contest

    • [x] BLAST's from the PAST: WQ6X in ARRL DX Contests
            From NX6T, to Stateline to W1AW/6
    • [x] BLASTS from the Past: JIDX Cw
            LIVE & Remote @ NX6T + W6J
    • [x] WQ6X Blast from the PAST: All Asian Cw Contest
            Mt. Abel, Fallbrook, Concord & Alameda
    • [x] WQ6X Floats a 24-hour Field Day w/K6QLF - Part 1
            With the W6SW crew, w/N6GEO, w/K6QLF and WQ6X solo
    • [x] WQ6X Blast from the PAST: IARU Hf Championship
            NX6T live/remote, Multi-OP w/N6GEO and WQ6X solo
    • [x] WQ6X Blast from the PAST: NAQP RTTY
            WQ6X/P WQ6X/Remote & Multi-2 w/N6GEO
    • [x] Blast From the PAST: Hawaiian QSO Party (HQP)
            From Mt. Diablo, Phoenix Lodge and remotely from NX6T.
    • [x] Blast From the PAST: All Asian DX Ssb Contest
            Portable from Mt. Abel, Twain Hart, Concord and NX6T live
    • [x] WQ6X California QSO Party (CQP) portable operations from the following counties:
            Ventura, Mono, Modoc, Sacramento, Tuolumne & Contra Costa
    • [x] WQ6X Blast from the PAST: NAQP Cw
            WQ6X @NX6T, w/N6GEO and /P from Alameda, Hayward & Concord in SF East Bay
    You have often heard me advocate radiosport contesting as a unique form emergency preparedness exercises.  I wrote a BLOG ([CLICK HERE]) about this subject.  The above variety of different contest activities and locations has allowed me to experience operating under a variety of conditions, while overcoming obstacles to make communication happen, often around the world.

    LooKing back on all this, I am amazed at the successes I and others have accomplished in the last 20 years.  It "takes a village" to make a radiosport event happen.  Even when we run solo operations, we are doing so in conjunction with the hundreds/thousands or participants in each event.

    While I may be in competition with the other participants, nevertheless, we endeavor to contact each other as that is what make a radiosport event work; and on top of that, we receive QSO points for doing so.  Working you in a contest also tips me off as to your progress in relation to mine;
    especially if we are handing out QSO numbers as we do in the SS, WPX, CQP & RTTY-RU
    contests.  Additionally with the online scoreboard reporting systems now available,
    non-participants can keep track of participant progress.

    How often have YOU engaged in radiosport contest events?

    Have you written those events up or kept some sort of a diary?

    If NoT, WHY NoT?
    Inquiring modems want to Know!.....

    Tuesday, September 17, 2019

    WQ6X Turns Birthday into Training Weekend

    Every birthday I remind myself the importance of learning everyday, until I finally drop - 30-plus years from now.  This last weekend was actually an expression of this learning.  It seemed like everyone was compelling me to "Doit" their way.  In the end, I DiD Doit their way; and when it was all over @00:00z Monday morning (5pm Pdt), looking back, we all made it all work.

    In my Biofeedback work, I encourage clients to take things to "the next level"; if you are not up for
    a challenge, then work with someone else.  Often, what SEEMS challenging is simply different "aspects" [of experience] not yet appropriately integrated into our conscious experience.

    This weekend began with running the FOC QSO party as NX6T remotely, first from Alameda, then Concord; it became SWL'ing, became sleep, became a Toastmasters "Train the Trainer" workshop, became a return to W7AYT just in time for the FOC BW QSO party to end. 
    The AQP (Alabama QSO party) never materialized at NX6T or W7AYT.  Before mode-shifting to RTTY, 4 (four) Texas QSO Party stations made it to the log.

    By 01:00z, switching modes to RTTY, I found 2 hours to run the NA Sprint remotely as NX6T, followed by the last 0:33 minutes as WQ6X running the FT-1000mp transceiver @ 100-watts (full duty) RTTY.

    Most more expensive but wimpy radios can only
    run RTTY at 50% duty-cycle, or risk heat-explosion. 
    The 1000mp is barely warm at 100-watts full-duty RTTY; a reason I like to run RTTY with the Yaesu.


    FOC QSO Party
    This is my 3rd participation in this September event commemorating Bill Windle, G8VG
    (hence the CQ BW call).  Most FOC GiGs are for members only, however THIS event not
    only allows non-members to play, but to work BOTH members and non-Members during this "operating event" (not a contest).

    The FOCBW event is unique in that log submissions are NoT wanted. 
    Instead, (per their instructions), I sent an e-mail (one for NX6T and one for WQ6X) detailing
    how many QSOs were made overall and the number of FOC members worked.  These e-mails
    are based on the honor system.  It's not difficult to verify my submitted numbers (behind the scene)
    so there is no point in my submitting false numbers. 

    Sending an e-mail like these in 2017 resulted in the above 1st-place certificate; something I was
    not expecting to receive.  This is yet another reason to follow the contest sponsor's "instructions"
    for score reporting.

    Before/during the RTTY Sprint event I tuned 20 meters (and then 40) looking for 'Bama stations;
    by AQP's 03:00z ending time the N1MM+ AQP log had 0 (count 'em, ZERO) QSOs in the log.  The Alabama people should follow TQP's example and give us some more time to work them on Sunday.

    RTTY SPRINT
    All by themselves, Sprint contests are "weird" events; take a weird event, run it in RTTY and
    it becomes REALLY Weird.  This year while there were no evident space-WX storms, overall
    the condx. SUCKED; the 3830 soapbox consensus said much the same thing.

    At W7AYT, 20-meters was largely a no-Show; making QSOs on 40 and 80 required the "crowbar" approach.


    After all the contest hoopla died down, I setup  a Zoom session with Jon (KK6VLO) giving him
    control of the desktop on this computer so he could poke around the Winbox APP to troubleshoot
    the RemoteRig's RRC-1258 connection problem to W7AYT's router.  Within the hour the Elecraft
    K3/0 was fully remotable once again. 
     
    I spent the next couple of hours listening to stations on 75-m Ssb, comparing signal levels between Fallbrook (SDG section) and Concord (EB section); what a learning experience.   I find it interesting
    to call CQ on one computer (the K3/0 or FT-1000mp) while listening for that call on the other end.  Overall, it would seem that NX6T is stronger in Concord than WQ6X is in Fallbrook.


    On Sunday only TQP (Part 2) was left to run.  Having K3/0 remote access to NX6T allowed me to test-drive remote running from the Cw context.  At 20:00z when it was all over I was confronted with the task of taking screen shots of the stats, making and submitting Cabrillo files and writing up each event for the 3830Scores website.  Because the FOC GiGs are not listed on the 3830 website there was nothing to write up about it, except here in the contest BLOG.
     

    To wrap the weekend, more time was spent SWL'ing.  While waiting for Radio New Zealand (RNZI)
    to sign-on @ 08:00z, I began tuning thru the "UTE" frequency areas just in time to hear some code groups in Spanish on 4.724 USB followed by an abrupt signoff. 

    At 07:45z I heard what sounded like a Cw beacon sending "3JWV 3JWV 3JWV de QH4P QH4P".  Checking back from time to time, these calls went on for a couple of hours.  While no one seems to "officially" know what these transmissions are about, from the DXWorld.Com website it is clear that these signals are being heard around the world.

    From beginning to end, this weekend was about learning something new. 
    Adding SWL activities to things makes it even more interesting.

    What about you?  Do YOU ever SWL?
    What have YOU found on frequencies in-between the amateur bands?

    DiD YOU work FOC BW, AQP, TQP or the RTTY Sprint contests?
    Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

    Thursday, September 12, 2019

    Why I Work State/Area QSO Parties

    "Littered" throughout the radiosport calendar each year are dozens of State and Area QSO party events.  The purpose of each QSO Party is to radio-activate areas of the USA and Canada over
    a short period of time (usually 12 to 30 hours), often activating counties and areas with a sparse amateur population.

    N6GEO & WQ6X activated S/W Modoc county in 2010, 2012 & 2013 (while the contest group
    from Bend Ore ran from N/E Modoc).  As you can see from the K6M & W6C QSL's, we were
    literally operating from out in the middle of literally nowhere.  In later years when George and I operated from other locations (Contra Costa, Sacramento & Tuolumne counties in particular)
    we were always thankful for the Bend group and one Modoc local who puts 50 - 100 QSOs
    from Modoc in the system.

    An immediately obvious benefit of state QSO parties is to assist amateurs in communicating
    with "new" counties towards the USA-CA (Worked All USA Counties) Award. 

    There are other benefits to working QSO parties that may not be so immediately obvious. 
    These benefits include:
    • Learning/Studying short/medium range propagation and the effects of
      Space Weather on this range of communication.
    • Learning new operating methods such as: SO2-V, SO2-R & RBN analysis.
    • Learning the Art/Science of rover and portable operations.
    • Testing new equipment/software configurations.
    • Testing new/different antenna configurations.
    For me (WQ6X) a MAJOR reason I play in QSO party events is to "collect certificates".....

     


    AND EVEN SOME WOOD
    So there you have it - a number of good reasons to play around in QSO parties.
     
    Do YOU play in state/area QSO parties?
     
    What are YOUR reasons for doing so?
     
    Whatever your reason, I invite you to play in the GRANDEST of all QSO parties - the
    California QSO Party - CQP.
     
    

    Tuesday, September 10, 2019

    WQ6X Blast from the PAST: NAQP Cw

    "As this weekend's NAQP is barely 12 hours away, even at THIS hour it seems appropriate to reminisce and relish the variety of different kinds of NAQP operations I have been a part of, beginning as far back as 2010."

    I wrote the above back in August with the intention of writing the rest of this Blog (below).  Somehow, contest participation itself kept me out of the "Blast from the Past" mode for this contest.  So, let's try
    it again.  As you can see, there is LoTs of material to draw from, beginning way back in the year 2011.

    JAN-2011
    My first exposure to running NAQP Cw was in January at N6GEO's QTH.
    More than anything this event taught me ingenuity thanks to N6GEO's idea of rigging two
    manual antenna tuners feeding the 6BTV vertical adding 17 160-meter QSOs to the log.


    AUG-2011
    For the August GiG I took a quite different approach.
    Making the drive to NX6T (in Fallbrook), I brought along a Neurosky Mindset to monitor
    my Left-Frontal E-E-G while running the contest.

    A series of videos were made from this event, now archived on YouTube.
    If you copy the Cw and pay attention to the color bars, the Brain-Pharts
    (tall RED bar on the left) become quite evident.

    You can view the YouTube videos by clicking on the [VIEW] links below:
    • [VIEW] - NAQP CW Aug-2011 while running a Frequency - Video #1
    • [VIEW] - NAQP CW Aug-2011 while running a Frequency - Video #2
    • [VIEW] - NAQP CW Aug-2011 while running a Frequency - Video #3
    • [VIEW] - NAQP CW Aug-2011 while running a Frequency - Video #4
    • [VIEW] - NAQP CW Aug-2011 while running a Frequency - Video #5
     




    JAN-2012
    For 2012 I put together a "tent station" in a back yard near crown beach in Alameda.  Having first used the tent during the 2011 Sweepstakes Ssb operation on Carpinteria state beach (near Santa Barbara), this operation allowed verifying the tent-contesting concept.


    AUG-2012
    For the August GiG I took a quite different approach operating from the 2nd story
    of the Phoenix Lodge using a pair of Hamstick dipoles and an MFJ Apartment antenna.



    JAN-2013
    For 2013 I began NAQP operations again from the Phoenix Lodge, only this time I ran a newly acquired ICOM-7000 into the Hamsticks and Apartment antenna, this time using an MFJ 949-E antenna tuner.  Oh, what a difference a properly tuned antenna makes.


    AUG-2013
    In August I ran the NAQP GiG with yet a quite different approach; this time running the dual-Hamstick dipole from W7AYT's QTH in Concord (altho he was not yet W7AYT).  Lacking a pair of 20-meter Hamsticks put me at quite a disadvantage over the January 2013 event.  If the Hamstick-dipole had been the same height as the 2nd story lodge window, signals would've been considerably louder. 
    I wrote this event up for the Contest BLOG.  [CLICK HERE] to read that.



    JAN-2016
    My next NAQP CW event came via a trip to Fallbrook to join the crew at NX6T for a Multi-2 event. 
    As you can see, I was quite jazzed by working NP2M (considering that w/N6GEO we won the 2014 RTTY-RU contest from that location).
    A YouTube video was made about this event.  [CLICK HERE] to see it.
    I wrote a Contest BLOG about this event as well.  [[CLICK HERE] to read that.


    AUG-2016
    In August we now had a Comet CH-250 antenna, the 1st of several antennas to make the scene
    at [the future] W7AYT QTH.  This was my 1st attempt at SO2-V with the recently acquired Yaesu
    FT-1000mp.  This even was written up in the Contest BLOG.  [CLICK HERE] to read that.



    JAN-2017
    WQ6X opened the new year with another semi-portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord. 
    When it was over, 258 QSOs made it to the log.  An unfortunate aftermath to this operation was
    my Honda Accord being STOLEN.  [CLICK HERE] to read all about that.



    AUG-2017
    For this August GiG I decided to join up with NX6T remotely from Alameda. 
    This was an early implementation of using an Autek QF-1A filter to process RCForb's
    remote audio.  [CLICK HERE] to read all about that.



    JAN-2018
    For 2018 I joined NX6T, again remotely. 
    For this event, I played around with a pair of MFJ-752 Signal Enhancers for the laptop
    receive audio.  [CLICK HERE] to read that write up.



    AUG-2018
    For August, as you can see, I chose to run barefoot in the already barefoot contest. 
    While I joined up with the NX6T Multi-2 crew, I also found time to run as WQ6X from the
    W7AYT QTH.  [CLICK HERE] to read the barefoot write up about this barefoot event.



    JAN-2019
    2019 is the year for Dual-OP operations of NX6T (remotely using an Elecraft K3/0) and
    WQ6X from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  [CLICK HERE] to read about this "not normal"
    NAQP Cw event.


    AUG-2019
    This brings us to the August NAQP GiG.  Because the K3/0 had connection problems, I ran the remote aspect of this Dual-OP GiG using RCForb to run the radio.  WQ6X & NX6T operations were interspersed throughout the day.  I wasn't so much interested in a high score as I was in making the Dual-OP operation work.   [CLICK HERE] to read all about that.


    Well folks, that's all we got.  ALL?  wOw! 
    I guess I have been busy during NAQP Cw weekends over the last 9 years.

    What about YOU?  Have YOU run the NAQP Cw during these last 9 years?

    Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

    Monday, September 9, 2019

    ...But HoW Do I KnoW if the band is Open?

    Awhile back (late-May) I wrote a Contest BLOG Entry on the Topic of band openings
    ([CLICK HERE] to Read it.).  However during recent radiosport weeks (and esp. the All Asian
    Contest this last weekend), it occurred to me that all too many contesters are often fooled by
    a lack of understanding what [it is that] constitutes a band opening.

    To begin with, in radiosport (and to some degree during ragchewing), it is important to understand
    in general what radio bands are open @ what time of day, and to WHERE geographically.
    Sometimes the only problem is that we are "pointing" the antenna in the wrong compass
    direction for that time of day, to that area of the globe.  Remember: at nearly any time,
    the plasma energy of a solar event can blanket the upper atmosphere and Change
    EVERYTHING!

    
    One of the "excuses" for a low turnout during a radio contest - like this last weekend's All Asian GiG - is Space WX.  The REAL reason the bands seemed too Quiet this weekend was CLEARLY due to the lack of Asian stations Calling CQ in their own contest event.  Notice that in May we MIGHT be able to blame poor WPX performance on a low SFI (67) or an A-Index of 10+, while Sept. finds us with and SFI of 73 and an A-Index of only 8. 

    In May we had POOR conditions forecast throughout, while in September we have many FAIR conditions forecasted.  Listening to 75-meter ragchewers from the SF East bay this weekend,
    it was clear to me that overall they were experiencing adequate enough conditions to QSO
    with friends throughout the Northwest.

    Because we are in the TRENCH of Sunspot Cycle 24, 10 & 15 meters often SEEM dead.  In fact, it may well be that everyone is listening and no one is transmitting.  When I make a 10/15 call these daze,
    I am often rewarded with a single caller
    who ALSO "Knew" the band was open. 

    Here in the SF Bay area (even during cycle 24's trench period), I am never surprised when I point the 10-m Long John to Azimuth-120, call CQ and receive calls
    from a PY7 or PX4.

    Admittedly, having a rotatable yagi makes
    a difference.  In a recent contest, I manual-tuned the 10-m Long John to resonate on 15-meters.  On 15, the antenna is more like a Buddipole (I.e., no-Gain); at LEAST it was rotatable.  Sweeping the yagi like a radar, 2 stations (Colorado & Indiana) were worked that could NoT be heard on the 8JK sloper - ingenuity Rocks!


    If the bands are TRULY DEAD, one of the reasons may have to do with "Poor" Space-WX.  If the A-Index is 62 and/or the K-Index is 5, of course band openings may be tricky; this is the time to use your creativity, NoT Quit.  It is at times like this when those "secret openings" are found, like the Springtime 05:30z (10:30pm) "pipeline" from the SF Bay area to Colorado, on 10-meters, no less!

    A major reason to identify Space-Wx for what it is,
    allows us the choice to do something else rather than futilely wrack our brains out over something we can't control and therefore cannot improve. 

    "Ya' gotta know when to hold'em, ya' gotta know
    when to Fold-em...".

    Then again, if your goal is simply to ragchew on 75 meters in the evening, it's going to take a rather nasty solar event to penetrate the 75-meter rag-o-sphere deep enough to ruin your Ssb QSOs.

    This last weekend, while Dx contesters were moaning about bad band conditions, that was for Dx contacts with Asian stations.  It seemed the "Bootleg" Hispanic and Indonesian stations (on 80 & 40) were enjoying THEIR ragchews no problem; altho their signals
    in the middle of our Asian contest - BiG problem!




    Sometimes the problem of band openings can be resolved by switching to a different antenna; one with different wave polarizations (or characteristics).  At W7AYT I have access to 4 different antennas; each with a different polarization characteristic: a 3-el 10-m Long John yagi, the Lazy 8JK Sloper, the [poorly performing] JA-Sloper, and a Comet CH-250 vertical.

    During this last weekend, the 8JK Sloper produced considerably LOUDER ham band signals, while the CH-250 vertical brought in Radio New Zealand (RNZ) on 5.940 w/5-9+20db signals, whereas tuning the 8JK sloper could only get an S-6 signal.  I guess the sloper REALLY DOES have a significant F/B ratio (RNZ is off the back of the N-E sloped Sloper).

    More than we realize, the MAIN reason bands seem dead during a radiosport contest is because no one (in the target area) has the courage or the wherewithal to call "CQ Contest".  In this year's All Asian Ssb GiG, I was amazed at how FEW Asian stations were actually calling CQ; WE had to DoiT for them, when it is their responsibility (being the host of the contest) to make their presence heard, encouraging US to call them, not the other way around.

    In June I even wrote a BLOG Entry on WHY we should Call CQ.
    [CLICK HERE] to read all about that.

    How have band conditions been for YOU during this sunspot trench?

    What steps do YOU take to make it all work for you anyway?

    WQ6X Sprints through another All Asian Weekend Affair

    N 6 K I  and  K N 6 D L G  on  20-Meters
    In a recent "Blast from the Past" BLOG entry on the All Asian contest, I described a typical All Asian weekend.  Because of it's calendar date, this year's A-A coincided with the [for me non-existent] NEQP event, followed by the 4 hour Cw Sprint contest.

    This year's A-A Ssb GiG was a SUPER disappointment; especially compared to years past when,
    no matter how bad we were, NX6T still managed some sort of a 1st-place.  While that is less likely
    to happen this year, on both sides of the operation (NX6T and WQ6X), All Asian "downtime"
    (of which there was LoTs) was filled in by other useful activities.

    The contest opened Friday afternoon/evening with a WEAK 20-meter opening.  We could hear numerous BG/BY stations calling CQ, as could stations all over the Northwest.  Unfortunately,
    they could not hear us back.  9V1YC was LOUD and CLEAR but could not hear us until later
    on 40-meters.

    At NX6T, on Saturday afternoon there were a number of visitors to NX6T's hilltop QTH in Fallbrook;
    in particular, 14 yr-old KN6DLG being groomed by N6KI (see the opening PIC) to join up with the NX6T contest crew.

    Later in the afternoon, NN6X and N6EEG made their usual trip to NX6T looking for some action; unfortunately, as you can see from the hourly stats, there was not much to be had.  Eventually the shack was shutdown (for B-I-C action) and N6KI ran the rest of the evening remotely from home
    and I ran the 3am to 6am shift remotely from Concord.

    Unfortunately, because of an internet audio problem, I could not run frequencies, only S & P. 
    We missed a LoT of QSOs from that as all too many Asian stations are either afraid or do not understand how, to run a frequency and call CQ.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you are hosting
    a QSO party or Dx contest, it should be YOU and YOUR OPERATORS who do 90% of the CQ'ing;
    relying on statesiders to pick up the slack should be the BACKUP PLAN, not S-O-P (Standard Operating Procedure).

    Unfortunately, business commitments delayed my trip to W7AYT's QTH. 
    By the time I had equipment properly setup and the antennas checked out, it was already past 5pm (00:00z), leaving less than 1 hour in the NEQP, along with POOR signal levels for the SPRINT GiG.

    Not hearing any signals from Nebraska (just like Sweepstakes), I deleted the log setup in N1MM+
    and focused on the Sprint.  Calling CQ rarely yielded any callers until the last hour, altho stations came right back to me when I called them. 

    Then again, altho I ran the FT-1000mp into the WQ6X Lazy 8jK sloper and CH-250 vertical,
    overall I must've been rather weak as I was constantly being asked to repeat EVERYTHING.
    When it was all over I had managed to Sprint a WHOPPING 64 QSOs into the LoG.
    WOO HOO.  Meanwhile with NX6T and All Asian, I went to bed "early" rousted at 2:45am
    (09:45z) to do one more 40-meter multiplier hunt.
     
    Now, you've heard me BITCH about 40 meter intentional QRM; especially in Ssb contests. 
    Well, this weekend there was good news and bad news:
    • GooD News: During All Asian on 40 Ssb there were NO Data Crankers
    • BaD News: During All Asian on 40 Ssb the phone spectrum (from 7.120 to 7.175) was LITTERED with RTTY stations.  I NEVER hear the errant RTTY stations on non-contest weekends.  WTF is THAT all about?  I guess for the next Ssb GiG I should pop up MMTTY and see what it is they are sending in all that data.
    • WeirD News: At 11:28z (Sunday morning) while listening to JF1NHD's LOUD CQ call, I could also hear some familiar 60's rock music playing in the background.  At first I thought it was an out of bounds broadcast station until tuning around I heard no carrier.  No, it was not only transmitting in LSB, it was EXACTLY Zero-Beat with 7.174.42 - I.e., NO accident.
    During my last couple of listening hours", at least I managed to add a handful of mults to the 40-meter log.  In the final couple of hours of the contest N6KI added a few 20-meter multipliers.  While QSOs are great, with a score as puny as ours, Mults are where it's at.
     
    I was so desperate to decipher the propagation to Asia that I took a listen for the Russian beacons
    on 7.039 (only the "M" beacon in Magadan was heard) and the broadcast stations above 3.900
    and 7.200 to determine propagation patterns.  
    ([CLICK HERE] to read my write up on the 40-meter Russian military beacons.)
     
    I am convinced that the bands WERE open; there was simply a LACK of participating Asian stations.  In fact, at one point there were more DU/DZ/DX and YB/YC stations (all in Oceania) than there were Asian stations.  HuH?
     
    When it was all over, we had managed to put 197 QSOs into the log on 40 & 20
    meters - pathetic, but it is whut it is.
     
    What about YOU?  DiD YOU work the All Asian contest?
     
    How many Asian countries made it to YOUR LoG?