Thursday, February 13, 2020

Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 3: The Journey Continues

For this WQ6X Contest Blog, I have written over a half-dozen BLOG entries on the various
aspects of audio filtering and how to leverage it for contest activity; in particular running SO2-V. 
Thus far, this particular BLOG series has been written during two separate evolutionary periods
of WQ6X station development @ W7AYT's QTH along with various flavors of remote operation
of STN-1 at NX6T in Fallbrook.  You may remember the first two installments of this Blog Series:
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit (March 2018)
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 2:
             What I've Learned So Far (August 2018)
Related BLOG entries include:
  • [x] - Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think  (March 2018)
  • [x] - The world of SO2V - some thoughts by a newbie operator (July 2017)
  • [x] - The DR. Validates Cascading Filters (March 2018)
            SOUNDING OFF about SOUND (December 2018)
  • [x] - Analog or Digital Audio - Which should we choose? (December 2019)
With all that has been written (above) you might think I have said all there is to say on the subject. 
In fact, re-reading those above BLOG entries got me to thinking about where this combination of analog/digital technology will fit in to the WQ6X operations during 2020 and beyond.

While most of the WQ6X operations are run as a portable setup from W7AYT's QTH in Concord,
test running the various filter combinations actually occurs in Alameda first; then, the best of the
best make their way to the Concord operation. 

Currently under evaluation is [yet] another Autek QF-1A filter - for processing audio to the Left Ear,
in conjunction with an old MFJ-751 (the predecessor to the MFJ-752) for processing audio to the Right Ear.  A 4-position audio switch allows switching laptop internet audio to a pair of cheesy i-Sound speakers, or to a pair of wireless headsets - either directly or through the QF-1A / MFJ-751 filter units.

In December, I brought my old ICOM-7000 radio to join the setup in Concord.  Altho the ICOM
unit can be switched through the external filter setup, thanks to a fully featured DSP filter setup,
the QF-1A filters do not show as dramatic effect as would be experienced otherwise. 

Then again, while the 7000's "mimic" of the 756-PRO III radio's DSP is truly AWEsome, the SHARP Peak filter in the QF-1A can "pull" weak stations out of the audio-mud in a way that no DSP circuit can equal.  It is for this reason I prefer utilizing Analog & Digital processing during intense contest periods; my ears need all the assistance they can get.

In Part-1 of this series I mentioned the classic Heathkit QF-1 Q-Multiplier.  After renaming it the HD-11 with a color scheme to match the Mohawk RX, the unit underwent one more evolution to the GD-125 matching the SB-series of equipment. 

It recently occurred to me that being a 455-kc circuit, it should be possible to run the GD-125 on
the FT-1000mp's Sub-RX, effectively providing a sort-of "Analog-DSP" at the IF-level, something absolutely necessary for improved SO2-V operation.  The test run of this concept will be with the
RC-71A receiver at my Alameda location.  While the RC-71 already has a notch, the GD-125
should nevertheless be able to augment the 455-khz 2nd-IF.

Thanks to the immense computer-controlled technology found in most radios in the last 35 years, I no longer have the technical acumen to effect much in the way of repairs.  When I accidently hooked the ICOM 7000 (fuseless of course) reversed polarity to a marine battery during Field Day, opening the unit it was clear to me that I lacked a steady hand to effect proper soldering on such a miniature circuit board, requiring ICOM service to bring the 7000 back to life.

However, I CAN make dramatic improvements to most ANY radio I come across by way of external audio/Dsp filters.  Being a "knob twiddler" I love being able to make filter adjustments with the hope of bringing about signal readability that might not be possible otherwise.  As I have shared in this BLOG series, some of the best QRM-ridding technology is over 2 generations old, yet it frequently surpasses the computer-based DSP circuitry found in today's transceivers.

I guess what goes around [eventually] comes around.  LooK for a Part-4 in this series reporting on the successful adaptation of 1965 technology (the GD-125) into 1985 technology (the RC-71A) 35 years later in 2020.

Do YOU like to spend time with external audio filters?

If SO, what lessons have YOU learned?

WQ6X Wrangles Another Weird Prefix RTTY Contest Weirdly

For over 10 years the Weird Prefix (WPX) Contest has been one of my top-10 radiosport events.  Once I got "hooked" on running RTTY GiGs, the WPX RTTY contest has figured into that Top-10.  Earlier this month I wrote a "Blast from the Past" BloG LooKing back at WPX RTTY GiGs that I have managed to stumble thru and evidently survive.  Because each unique prefix qualifies as a multiplier, ending scores in WPX contests can easily be in the tens of millions of points, and still NoT represent an overall winning entry. 

Last year, Dan (N6ERD) and I took a Multi-2 1st place for W6.  This year when I put out a call for operators, no one had the weekend available.  On that basis, my operating goal became to run NX6T remotely (around 775 watts throughout) from W7AYT's Concord QTH by way of an Elecraft K3/0. 
At key points (more-or-less) randomly chosen throughout the weekend WQ6X will put a RTTY
signal on the air from Concord.

The intro for this BloG I written back on Friday.  The specific details making up this Blog Entry is actually being written on Tuesday, 48+ hours after the WPX RTTY event became, as they say,
"One for the LogBooks".  In retrospect, writing the Blast from the Past Blog about this event
helped create an easily immersible mood for the entire weekend.

My overall goals for WPX weekend were to conduct another dual-OP operation, giving MOST of
the OP-time to running NX6T remotely via the Elecraft K3/0's remote access of STN-1 in Fallbrook. 
From time to time (or in case of internet failure in Fallbrook) I would find some time to run WQ6X
from Concord; all of this happened and more.

Arriving in Concord after the 00:00z start, I may well have missed out on a 15-meter opening to Asia - Bummer Dewd!  Beginning on 20-meters at 01:30z I was greeted with nothing but Hawaii and Asian stations during a 20 minute S&P session.  Determining the NX6T signal had penetration quality, 14114.14 became the run frequency.  Running the Stepp-IR yagi in BI-Direction mode allowed working JA and S.A. simultaneously; all worth 3 points.

Throughout the weekend time was divided between S&P (30%) and running frequencies (70%).
04:00z found NX6T running a casual 775 watts on 40-m (7092.92 & 7083.83).  05:40z brought a move to 80-meters, running 3596.96.  By 07:15 it was back to 7083.83 and then a shift to 7086.86 when the Asian Ssb QRM made the scene.

Looking to maximize the 6-point Asian QSO advantage, listening
to the Russian Letter Beacons
on ~7.039 was very telling.

At 11:40z, pointing the 2-element Shorty-40 yagi to 300-degrees brought the M-beacon and the K-beacon into the headphones, however the F-beacon was below the noise-level.

Pointing the antenna exactly 270-degrees brought the F-beacon just barely over the noise level, while the "M" & "K" beacons remained more-or-less at the same signal strength.

Because China is due-west of Vladivostok, the F-beacon offers up a reliable indication of propagation openings to the Chinese mainland.

Intentional QRM-wise, this weekend was rather quiet; although there was the local tuner-upper near the MARK frequency, the manual notch filter on both ends of the internet connection reduced that JOKER's signal down to about S-3. Anytime I hear a carrier on the Mark frequency, I immediately press F1 to call CQ.  As I've said before, the Mark-frequency jammer often HELPS decode a signal that has a weak Mark-signal in relation to its Space-signal.

If you look at the overall BAR Stats, 20 meters was the top QSO-making band for this contest.  LooKing at the per-hour statistics tells a different story however. 

For much of the contest, 40-meters was where the action was, with 20-meters in between.  Then on Sunday, 20-meters really came alive; again, running BI-Directional put dozens of 3-point
QSOs in the log.

On Saturday evening, someone in Fallbrook, shutoff a wrong 110-v. breaker killing the internet for VNC viewer but leaving the K3/0 connection intact.  Nothing worse than putting out a CQ call hear 6 stations come back and then discover the logging program is not responding.  While waiting for someone to resolve the situation, I put WQ6X on the air from Concord.

When it was all over, 1115 QSOs made it to the NX6T RTTY LoG - I believe my highest WPX total EVER; amazing when you consider I ran barely 27 hours out
of the 48.  It would seem that NX6T took 2nd-place for W6 and 1st-place for San Diego (SDG) section.

DiD YOU work the CQ WPX RTTY contest?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

WQ6X Blast from the Past: CQ WPX RTTY

In preparation for this upcoming weekend's WPX RTTY contest, I took a look back at the WPX RTTY GiGs WQ6X has been a part of.  It turns out that I have engaged in Multi-2 operations as well as running Single-OP.  These include:
  • [x] 2013 - A Multi-2 Operation w/N6GEO
  • [x] 2016 - An SOABLP event from W7AYT's QTH
  • [x] 2017 - An SOABHP operation remotely from NX6T
  • [x] 2018 - An SOABHP remote operation as NX6T
  • [x] 2019 - A Multi-2 remote operation as NX6T w/N6CY
The 2013 WPX RTTY contest was my entry-level entry into the WPX RTTY GiG. 
George (N6GEO) and I make a good dual-operator Duo.  We gave it everything we had and snagged a 1st-place win for W6; DESPITE our score being DINGED a whopping 89K points due to careless logging errors.  Fast-forwarding the clock to the January 2014 RTTY RU, it would seem that thanks
to this GiG (and other RTTY GiGs throughout 2013), we were well prepared for our triumphant 2014 RTTY-RU win as WP2/WQ6X from St. Croix.; ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)
For the 2016 WPX-RTTY GiG my newly acquired Yaesu FT-1000mp got its [probably] FIRST exposure to RTTY contesting.  Cabling problems and decoding software configuration issues found me spending more time troubleshooting than actually making QSOs.  Nevertheless, my WHOPPING 448 point score took a 23rd place overall - HuH? YEAH!
For 2017, the NX6T shack was scheduled to be "Dark" that weekend so I worked out a last-minute remote operation, running an ACOM 2000a amplifier scaled back to about 750 watts; just enough to submit a 560K score for 10th place in W6-land.  When you consider that I didn't really have a clue what I was doing most of the time, it's amazing WQ6X made it to #10.  Ironically, the Solar Flux in Feb-2017 was nearly the same as it is today; except, it was declining to eventually end up way below 70; whereas today, the solar flux is finally on it's way back UP from the bottom.
In 2018 I decided to run NX6T remotely as NX6T from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  Whether it was use of the NX6T callsign or my improved RTTY skills, CQ magazine awarded the operation a 7th-place finish in W6-Land; not bad for "winging it" and just screwing around.
For last year (2019), I teamed up with N6CY to run a Multi-2 operation as NX6T.  N6CY actually achieved about 6-hours actual B-i-C (Butt in Chair) insuring that the hardware configurations were properly functional.  Otherwise, we both ran remote to the tune of 1.1million points and a 1st-place
for W6 - How CooL is THAT?
This GiG had several advantages over 2018, due to the use of an Elecraft K3/0 to run the remote radio from Alameda, and of course, the EASY Button.  Thus far, I've yet to have anyone complain about my use of this button in Radiosport events, but I'm ready if someone does.
What can we expect for this year?  GooD Question.
I am in the process of rounding up a team; however if that doesn't happen, then I will run Single-OP High-power.  Either way I will be running the K3/0 from W7AYT's QTH in Concord; and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to dual-OP the event as BOTH NX6T and WQ6X.
Have YOU ever worked the WPX RTTY GiG?
Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR Log.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

WQ6X Stumbles thru a 5 Contest Weekend

I decided to start February with 5 different "little" contests to get into the radiosport spirit for 2020.  Business commitments kept me in Alameda, relegating me to using RCForb for running the K3 radio on STN-1. It was decided to run as a medium High Power station (around 700 watts) all weekend.  Friday evening, other than a couple of Vermont stations, what I mostly heard in the CW band segments were stations running the FOC (members only) operating event, which we non-FOC members are not allowed to participate in.

Ignoring the FOC, I found 5 contests available for the rest of us radiosport folk; including:
  • [x] - The Vermont QSO Party - VQP - beginning at 00:00z Saturday
  • [x] - The XE RTTY Contest - beginning at 12:00z
  • [x] - The Minnesota QSO Party - MQP - beginning at 14:00z
  • [x] - The British Columbia QSO Party - BCQP - beginning at 16:00z
  • [x] - The 4 hour NA Sprint CW GiG - beginning at 00:00z Sunday
Every contest weekend there is GooD news and BaD news.  The GooD news for February is that it would seem we are FINALLY on the way OUT of the sunspot low for Cycle 24 and edging our way into Cycle 25.  The SFI #'s are finally firmly into the 70's, finally leaving the 60's behind us - Hurrah!  The BaD new is that as usual, this weekend's QSO parties significantly lacked participation from operators in their own state; I am so used to a HUGE turnout in California's CQP contest, that
most other QSO Parties are a considerable disappointment by comparison.
When it was clear that there were no more VT stations, I caught some sleep early to be ready for
the 12:00z Mexican-RTTY GiG.  Somehow the buzz-call never came thru and I woke at 13:55z,
just in time for the MNQP QSO party which was in full-swing within minutes; starting @9am
Minnesota time they have the advantage of their arterial caffeine drip a couple of hours
before I do.

Eventually there were no more Cw Minnesota stations, offering permission to switch over to the
XE-RTTY contest.  While setting up the night before, I failed to notice that "someone" had removed
all the user-defined [Buttons] on the decoder screen - bummer dewd; not having time to make new ones, I "suffered" thru the contest w/o them.  Additionally, for some weird reason, it seemed that
75% of the time I made a band switch, the decoder's [REV] button got set.  At first I didn't notice
the GREEN button and couldn't figure out why there was no response to the "CQ XE Test" calls. 
Of course once the REV was reset, calling stations lined right up.

I began the XE-RTTY contest on 40 meters, pointing the 2-el Shorty-40 towards Asia. 
Listening for the Russian Letter Beacons on 7.039, only the "M" beacon was heard; the "K" may well have been off the air for all I know.  Thinking back, it has not been heard in Fallbrook, for some time.
The log opened with WQ6X running 7050.50, and immediately working YC2, JA3, UA0, BD3, DU1, and another UA0. 

A  P A I R  of  D i n g l e  D o r k s
Shortly thereafter, as the LUF rose above 40 meters, the D-Layer absorbed any further Asian signals, necessitating a move to 20 meters where an opening to Europe was already in progress; how CooL is that!

It always seems like as soon as I actually get settled in on a frequency, a pair of Dingle-Dorks make the scene to make my life more difficult. 

Case in point,  as soon as a move
was made to 14087.87. a new form of "heckler" made the scene - some IDIOT transmitting a single tone nearly exactly atop the MARK frequency.  Intermittently I also encountered a Tune-Up IDIOT slightly off the mark frequency, whose carrier made decoding more difficult.

The upside of this QRM is that when the tuner-upper went away, it was discovered that the single tone when EXACTLY on the Mark frequency actually made decoding EASIER because all I needed signal-wise was a strong space-signal,  Because fading often occurs on the Mark-signal, the QRM'er actually solved that problem, allowing me to run several dozen stations flawlessly.  Eventually the IDIOT got bored and left; the mark-fading immediately returned.  Based on the quality of the signal,
I am convinced it came in via ground-wave from a station local to Fallbrook.  Hmmmm..... I wonder who THAT could be?

By 19:00z my operation went QRT while I attended to other matters.  It wasn't until 03:30z that I was able to return to the remote operator chair, just in time to run the last 25 minutes of the NA Sprint Cw contest.  The Sprint GiG is one of the most insane 4 hours one can spend in Radiosport.  While I was bummed that over 3/4's of the contest was already over, I was actually relieved when 04:00z came, allowing a switch back to the XE-RTTY contest.

At 04:00z the MNQP was also over.  Why do so many QSO many QSO parties end at 04:00z? 
At least GiGs like the BCQP give us another opportunity on Sunday, at least for a few hours.  While the VTQP allegedly ran until 24:00z on Sunday, I heard no more VT stations.  What is the point of hosting a QSO party for your state if no in-state stations are willing to actually get on the air?  HuH?
Am I MISSING something or whut?

After an hour+ in the XE-RTTY GiG, at 06:45z I found time for 3 hours sleep, coming back at 09:30z to another 40-meter opening to Asia.  After a little over an hour, the desire for sleep again overcame me, but not before sneaking 2 80-meter QSOs into the log.

At 15:30z it was back to 20-meters and within minutes another European opening - HurraH!
On the dot at 17:00z a new single-tone jammer attempted to obliterate the 14094.94 run frequency.  This time however, the MNF (Manual Notch Filter) notched his tone (which was in between the two RTTY tones); it was as if he wasn't even there.  Eventually this single-Dork also got bored and moved on to other victims elsewhere.

Client commitments sent me QRT @21:00z and that was the end of the 5 contest weekend.  BTW, I should mention that officially no Cw/Ssb stations were heard or worked in the BCQP GiG.  However, tuning the 20-meter RTTY band Sunday afternoon found VE7BC calling CQ BCQP on RTTY, all but pleading for QSOs.  Working him allowed me to submit a single-QSO entry to the BCQP contest.

What about you?
Did YOU work, the QSO parties, NA Sprint or XE-RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

WQ6X joins KI6RRN & N6KI for CQ-160 CW Contest

This was one of those multi-contest weekends that was eventually whittled down to a pair of events.  Skimming thru the WA7BNM Contest Calendar, I found the following contest GiGs to be of interest:
  • [x] - The CQ-160 Meter Contest - beginning @22:00z
  • [x] - The Malaysia DX Contest - beginning @ 00:00z
  • [x] - The BARTG RTTY Sprint Contest - beginning @ 12:00z
  • [x] - The Winter Field Day (WFD) GiG - beginning @ 19:00z
Being a 160 meter contest, the CQ-160 GiG was first on the agenda, starting @22:00z on Friday (ending @22:00z on Sunday).  Because 160 is all but worthless in the daytime, having other contests to focus on during the weekend allowed me to maximize the time spent @W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

Malaysia is a difficult country to make contact with from W7AYT's Concord QTH.  Throughout
the weekend I heard no one operating this event, making it a no-show for WQ6X (explaining
the Strikeout on the above list).

With a limited bunch of operators for the 160 contest, making it all work was quite a challenge; especially when the IP-internet connection with the K3/0 coming and going.  For the WQ6X operations a classic CH-250 was used for bands other than 160 meters, which was handled
by the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Inverted Vee.

While the 8JK antenna worked reasonably well, the extraneous RF floating around the radio room made the dimmer-lights blink and my Samsung cellphone screen go crazy.  I guess it's
time to install a number of grounding straps sending that RF where it really belongs.

Time was also made for a number of equipment tweaks to the FT-1000mp, as well as audio-cable upgrades with Elecraft K3/0 and ICOM 7000.  Running Stereo-Cw (by way of a pair of classic Autek QF-1A outboard filters) is a challenge unto itself.  The RigExpert PLUS utilizes a custom-cable for
the FT-1000mp, intercepting the audio before it leaves the radio to the external filters.  For a more pleasing RTTY experience, the mark/space tones were peaked by the QF-1A filters, sending each tone to a separate ear.

Amongst the various equipment adjustments, I found time to tension-adjust the main tuning knob
on the FT-1000mp, per the instructions detailed in the 1000mp's operating manual.  Eventually,
the backlash experienced previously was reasonably smoothed out.

Saturday morning, preempting the BARTG and WFD events, I made a rather humorous power point presentation to the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA) on the subject of The Role of Respect in Radiosport

This presentation was based on a WQ6X Contest Blog series written nearly 2 years ago, by the same title.  The witch doctor (at left) was one of the BEEFs mentioned in Part 1 of the original BLOG series on this subject  ([CLICK HERE] to read the original posts and find out what role the witch doctor played in all this.)

Back @W7AYT by noon, it was time to check out the Winter Field Day (WFD).  For logging the event, I thought all that would be necessary to
log the contest would be to select the ARRL FD entry from the contest list.  Unfortunately, the software did not recognize anything entered. 

Searching the internet I discovered that N1MM+ has a UDC (User Defined Contest) file for WFD-RTTY which is supposed to work for Ssb and Cw
as well.  Installing that contest gave me the same data entry problems.  Eventually, to make it all work I simply setup a DX log which didn't care what data was entered into the entry fields. 

After the contest weekend was over I sorted things out, at least enough
to submit a WFD score to the 3830 Scores website.

In the middle of it all was the BARTG RTTY Sprint contest.  Unlike NA Sprint contests (which are
only 4 hours), what made this a sprint contest was the minimal exchange - only a serial # was sent; no 5NN, no name/state and no GRID locator.  While only 23 contacts ended up in the WQ6X log,
it was a fun diversion on Saturday in between running the CQ 160 remotely for NX6T and locally
as WQ6X.

Typical for 24+ hour contests I took the 2 am to sunrise shift both nights, altho with the K3/0 not seeing the internet, for Sunday morning I was relegated to running the RCForb remote software.  Luckily this was a CW contest, making it less of a problem, altho internet dropouts required a lot
of repeats on the exchange.  While I didn't make a LoT of QSOs as WQ6X in the CQ-160 contest,
at least I had no internet dropouts to contend with.
On Sunday, the log ended with two DUPs: JE1BUJ and surprisingly, KH6LC.  HuH?  How did that happen Lou?  Prior to that five JA stations and JT5DX made it to the log; an advantage of being on the West coast.  Hours earlier, N6KI put multiple stations in zone 14, 15 & 33 into the log; not an easy thing to do from the Left coast.

Considering that our only antenna was a coaxial bazooka inverted Vee @ 70' atop a hill 900' in the air, we did amazingly well.  It would seem that we were the top M/S team on the Left coast; not bad for 3 operators winging it remotely.

Did YOU work the CQ 160 meter contest?

Is NX6T (or WQ6X) in YOUR LoG?

Monday, January 27, 2020

WQ6X Reviews NAQP-Ssb w/NX6T (after-the-fact)

While I attempt to post a contest BLOG entry after every radiosport weekend, sometimes life gets in the way, creating a posting-delay.  The Ssb NAQP event was one of those times; however, the delay allowed me to include posting some new PICs related to NX6T and its operators.

Unable to make an appearance @W7AYT to run the K3/0 from Concord, I did have a Heil PRO-Set available in Alameda allowing NX6T remote Ssb operation by way of the RCForb remote radio access software.  While RCForb is nothing like the real thing, it does a reasonable job on Ssb to accomplish Remote B-i-C (Butt in chair) action.

For contests such as this one, N6KI often opens up NX6T for younger/newer operators.  For this GiG KK6ZEM and KN6DLG achieved B-i-C status, while KK6VLO remoted in to NX6T.

Other OPs included: W2PWS, W6ZAR, NN6X, N6EEG, WQ6X and of course, N6KI himself. 

GiGs like the Ssb North American QSO Party (NAQP) give newer operators the opportunity to experience radiosport (often for the first time) from a nicely equipped station like NX6T.  Additional B-i-C action gives us aging dinosaur operators a break for a change while keeping NX6T on the air.

Because the NAQP events are only 12 hours, scheduling operator shifts can be a tricky affair.  Business commitments kept me out of the office until late afternoon, which is normally notta problem as there are usually plenty of dayshift operators for Ssb contests.  For NX6T I normally run the dinner shift (8pm - 10:30) and then the 2am shift.
Being there was no 2am shift and a shortage of evening OPs, I connected remotely @04:00z to S&P on 75-m and then settled in on a quiet 3767.67 until a switch to 160-m @04:40z, eventually settling in on 1829.29.  The last 2 hours of NAQP are always slow, making patience crucial.  By 05:25z it was back to 75-m (3770.70) all but pleading for QSOs until the 06:00z contest end.
Looking at the M/2 scores submitted to the 3830 scores website, it would seem that NX6T took 14th place overall, 2nd place for CA (after N6RO) and 1st for SDG and the S/W Division; even surpassing NP2X and W7RN.

Because I was running from Alameda, there was no opportunity to put WQ6X on the air during this incarnation of the North American QSO party.  The RTTY version of NAQP comes up in February.  LooK for WQ6X to dual-OP that event, as well as the WPX RTTY GiG in early February.

S T N - 1  @ N X 6 T  (06:07z) - After-the-Fact
Did YOU work the North American QSO party Ssb GiG?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Monday, January 13, 2020

WQ6X Joins NX6T for NAQP Cw GiG

Depending on your point of view (RTTY or otherwise), the January NAQP Cw contest is the 1st W/VE radiosport GiG of the new year.  This year, a Toastmasters training conference @ Diablo Valley College (near W7AYT's QTH) found me in the area but unavailable for on-the-air action until 00:00z.

My original plan was to run the NAQP GiG as WQ6X for 3 hours and then remote in to NX6T at 03:00z to join the Multi-2 operation already underway.  The day crew did an OUTSTANDING job
on 15 & 20 meters.  By the time WQ6X began at 00:00z 20 meters had already gone "long" (trnsl. DEAD) so I high-tailed it to 40 putting 27 QSOs into the log.  I even heard N6KI running a HUGE pileup on 40.

At 01:00z a message from Dennis reported that operator-wise we were down to just him and myself.  By the time I remoted in, 20 meters had also gone long in San Diego, encouraging me to 80 meters.  Setting up on 3509.09 I began running a frequency.  A text from N6KI informed me that the in-shack 2nd harmonic was CLOBBERING him on 7.023 so a move was made to 3535.75 and I never looked back.

One of the cool things about the NAQP GiGs is that because we send our Name / QTH, some operations get real creative with the Name part of the exchange.  At NX6T, because we sometimes have a multi-gender crew, we use the name PAT (Papa - Alpha - Tango).

As a tribute to the recently-passed Neil Peart (drummer for the band RUSH), several stations used "YYZ" as their Name - you may remember that on one of their albums, they open a track
with "YYZ" in Morse code.
Other interesting names included:
- WA6JRZ - Hamlet in Ca
- WA5POK - Troll in TN
- VE3SST - Neil in ON
- W4SPR - Spray in FL
- N4OGW - Tor in MS
- NN7CW - Wolf in FL
- W1C - CWO in CA
- N1C - NJC in CT

Around the usual dinner hour (7pm) N6KI took off for dinner, relieved remotely by John K6AM, who kept the insanity going on 40-meters while I "pleaded" for QSOs on 80 meters.  At 04:45, I was about to send Dennis a text recommending someone take a listen on 160 when I begin to see 160 meter QSOs in the log.  Before the evening was over 66 160-meter QSOs made it to the log.

As I continued to run 80 meters, I found
an opportunity to listen to my signal on the ICOM 7000 @W7AYT, switching between the WQ6X Lazy 8JK Inverted Vee and a CHA-250 Vertical.

Oddly enough, that Comet vertical was often more low-noise than the inverted Vee.  Being a lower-angle antenna, the CHA-250 vertical often hears signals not discernible on the 8JK-Vee.

Then again the 8JK Inverted Vee is more highly directional to the N/E as well as Hawaii for other kinds of QSOs.

I have often joked that the 3-el Hy-gain
10-meter "Long John" acts a perfect capacity hat for the 8JK on 80 & 160.
A measurement of the 8JK VEE's end-termination resistors determined that the 100-ohm resistor packs (three 2-watt 300-ohm resistors in parallel) had "drifted;

one pack now @155-ohms and another pack @75-ohms - HuH?  For my next trip to W7AYT it's time to make new resistor packs.  It is the termination resistors that lower the 8JK antenna's radiation angle, altho evidently not as low as the CHA-250 vertical.

While I only managed to put 27 QSOs in the WQ6X Log from the SF East Bay section, I was OK with that - the 5 hours I spent on 80 meters for NX6T put 226 QSOs in that Log.  For WQ6X I just wanted 3830 Score credit for the brief operation as a solo-OP.

By the time it was all over, it would seem that NX6T took 5th place overall and 2nd place for California; not bad when you consider that 80/160 were run with a pair of "droopy" inverted Vees.

Did YOU work the North American QSO Party?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

WQ6X RACs one up w/NX6T and the SP-160 Contest.

With the transition between the 2019 & 2020 contest seasons being a little complicated, the scribbled notes for this BLOG entry almost ended up in the circular file.  In recent years I have run various single-OP events for the Canadian RAC contest, either from W7AYT's QTH or remotely from
NX6T in Fallbrook.

As I was planning the 2019 final contest weekend operating schedule, a message came in from
N6KI inviting me to join him and KI6RRN for a last-minute rogue NX6T operation of the mixed-mode Canadian RAC contest, followed by the CW-only Stew Perry (SP-160) contest.  Running remotely from Alameda on Friday evening, I could only run CW as the exchange includes a Serial-# which
can't be sent with a Digital Voice Keyer.  On CW, the memory keyer can effortlessly run a frequency, as well as Search & Pounce (S&P). 

The strange thing about this weekend's NX6T operation was a coax switch-failure, relegating STN-1 to using ONLY the 3-el. Stepp-IR and not the C-31 yagi.  Lately I have been purposely running the Stepp-IR in BI-Directional mode allowing simultaneous working of SA & JA / NA when the band condx. warrant it, so for me, being "stuck" with the Steep-IR was hardly a sacrifice.  Fallbrook
being 900' above sea-level gives the Stepp-IR a considerable BI-Directional advantage.

Much of my operating activities @W7AYT is about testing new equipment, new operating concepts and in general new ideas.  Now that the ICOM 7000 has itself a new home, I am able to reintroduce
it into the station setup as a secondary receiver, switchable to any antenna as is the FT-1000mp. 
It quite interesting to run NX6T's STN-1 with the K3/0 while listening to the signal in the SF East
bay area (propagation permitting of course).

The RAC event being a 24 hour contest was over at 4pm (PST), just in time for 160 meters to open in San Diego.  While the Stew Perry Contest began @15:00z we stations on the "Waste Coast", don't get to play until sometime between 22:30z and 01:00z.  While the RAC contest is a Canadian GiG, we are allowed to work anyone (for 1-point); Canadians are worth 10 points and Canadian RAC stations are worth 20 points.

In order add another operating to 109 2019 GiG total, I managed to put 9 QSOs in the 40-meter WQ6X log at W7AYT, giving the 8JK Inverted Vee a GooD test.  As horrible as the Concord QTH seems much of the time, there DOES seem to be a "pipeline" to Colorado, VE6, VE3 and the 9th
call area - GO Figure.

For the Stew Perry 160 contest, KI6RRN joined N6KI and myself to play around and try out new ideas for making 160 meters happen.  It won't be long before the CQ 160 Cw/Ssb contests are upon us.

Did YOU work the Canadian Winter RAC contest or the Stew Perry 160 GiG? 
Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Learning to PLAY in 2020

Because of the calendar placement of the Christmas and HNY holly daze, I've spent a considerable amount of contest down-time @W7AYT's QTH - PLAYing; yes, Playing - adults are just overgrown kids with BiGGer and more Expensive ToYs.

A revamped ICOM-7000 and a Classic Moscow Muffler have been recently added to the "portable" equipment lineup @W7AYT.  As wonderful as the Muffler is, I need to remember that because it works BE-4 the RX's front-end, it is absolutely worthless in treating the Woodpecker when it obliterates NX6T's passband; ironically, the 10-hz radar is rarely/weakly heard @W7AYT in
the SF East Bay area.

In preparation for last weekend's RTTY RU GiG, I have been playing around with cable and equipment configurations.  The 8JK Inverted Vee is for-now producing consistent results, so
I am leaving it alone.  (104 QSOs in the Stew Perry 160 GiG is proof this 8JK configuration is producing.  With the 8JK sloper configuration, as I recall only 6 local QSOs were possible in
the July 160 contest).

Thanks to the 500+ memory system in the ICOM 7000, the transceiver is being utilized mainly as
an SWL receiver; with the provision to switch in the Muffler at any time.  Ironically (or should I say thankfully), the 200+ already programmed memories were still intact when the radio made it's first
trial run in Concord (after a trip to the ICOM repair center).

While both the ICOM 7000 & FT-1000mp utilize state-of-the-art receiving circuitry, the MP is more optimized for ham band operation, designed secondarily for the frequencies in between.  Contrast
this with the 7000 which is entirely DSP-based and works reasonably well on virtually any frequency between 50-khz and 30-mhz (plus 2m & 440).  Listen-wise, I find that it is easier to locate and memo frequencies using the IC-7000, then later enjoy each station on the FT-1000mp, with it's far superior audio response. 

Having multiple sources of RX requires an elaborate switching arrangement with judicious use of isolation filters to reduce the AC-hum and mitigate overload effects of stray RF in the stereo audio stream.  An advantage to using UHF-based wireless headphones is their overall immunity from
HF-Rf.  For this year's RTTY RU contest, to integrate the K3/0 (remote) audio with "local" audio
from the FT-1000mp (direct & filtered) as well as the IC-7000, I utilized a 4 device 1/8" mini-switch.

For a more pleasing sounding RTTY experience, Autek QF-1A filters (one for each ear) were peaked for the MARK (Left) and SPACE (Right) frequencies.  When a station calls in EXACTLY on frequency, the audio tones resonate perfectly with each ear; if not, the R-i-T control can easily remedy that situation - when F3 is pressed ("TU QRZ?") the N1MM software resets the RX-offset back to
ZERO, ready for the next caller.

Before each external add-on unit is given a test run @W7AYT in Concord, I work out configurations
at my QTH in Alameda.  As you can see (above) the 1/8" switch is being tested in conjunction with an Autek QF-1A (L. Ear) and an MFJ-751 (R. Ear).  The switch allows sending the stereo audio directly to the headset, or thru the filter-set, as well as the I-Sound speaker-set.

It could be said that a significant amount of circuitry (and knob-twiddling) is being devoted to reducing unwanted interference (be it QRM or QRN based) or otherwise "shaping" the audio to raise the signal-intelligibility.  While cascading audio filters can make a BiG difference, feedback-based units (ex: Autek QF-1A and MFJ 751/752) can create such a high degree of amplification that eventually results in audio-howling.  However just prior to those excessive settings, high-Q selectivity can be attained.

Remember: All these devices are used to recover audio quality AFTER it has been "destroyed" by overloaded RF/IF stages and AGC circuitry.  Front-end devices like the Moscow Muffler as well as
the MFJ-1026 & JPS ANC-4 noise phase inversion units exist to eliminate the problematic noise BE-4 it makes it to the more-easily over-loadable RF front-ends of most receivers.

These are just a few radio things I have been "Playing around With" recently. 
As I continue with "play mode", LooK for random notes to appear throughout this BLOG.

Do YOU Play with YOUR Radio Equipment?

IF NoT - Why KNOT?